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Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

~Written by Samantha Freds

I wanted to write about how we, as Christians, should have eyes like our Heavenly Father to see the world around us. It seemed fitting right after Father’s Day, but the words were not coming. I quickly realized why. I have been struggling with discontentment lately, and I doubt I’m alone. I needed to be real and raw this week.

Contentment. I don’t even like the word. It seems so nondescript. It’s not happy or sad, excited or melancholy. It’s not one extreme or another. Contentment is about being satisfied wherever you are. But, what if I don’t like where I am? How do I find contentment if my circumstances were supposed to be different by now?

Does God really expect us to be content if we are underpaid and under-appreciated at our jobs? Or if we are still waiting for marriage or for children while all our friends are enjoying both? How can we possibly be content after the latest diagnosis?

I think God does want us to be content in all circumstances, but I’m not pulling any punches. I started by saying I’m struggling with areas of discontentment, so I don’t pretend to have the answer. I am distinctly aware that even if I received all the things I thought I deserved or wanted, it would not be long before I was back to feeling discontent. That seems to be the nature of this life between two gardens.

I don’t take lightly the reasons for my own discontentment, and I certainly don’t mean to say “just get over it.” Here is the verse I keep coming back to: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). And the very next verse promises that the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will be ours.

Later in the same chapter, Paul says he has learned the secret to being content in all circumstances: God. No, seriously. It’s not a Sunday school answer and I’m not a simpleton. Discontentment is real, but the only way out of it is to give thanks to God for everything we do have.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

In the aftermath of a recent storm, my husband and I were walking a familiar trail, now littered with fallen branches and uprooted trees. According to the news, the damage had not been caused by a tornado, but by what is called a straight-line wind.

What struck me, though, was that some trees in the center of a stand were broken when those surrounding them weren’t. Even more puzzling was some trees looked like their trunks had been twisted. They had fallen in a different direction from the one expected by the way the wind hit. How could a straight-line wind cause such unpredictable results?

The answer, of course, is that in the end, whether—or how—a tree falls is not about the wind. It’s all about the integrity of the tree. Any weakness in the structure of the tree can cause it to twist and break. The flaws that developed in the tree as it was growing are literally its downfall.

As I look at the generations coming behind us, my heart longs for us to understand our role in helping them grow strong. More than opportunities, education and social justice, what they really need is to have integrity of heart. They need to know how to stand firm against the winds of change. It’s so easy for us as parents to try to orchestrate our children’s external circumstances to make sure they are comfortable. The result is that we fail to help them develop the strength to withstand the winds that will surely come into their lives. May we wait on the Lord’s instructions on how to help them develop according to His purposes.

“May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you” (Psalm 25:21).

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Do you think it’s okay that my Jesus isn’t White?” The question startled me, but not because I thought her question was out of line. When I asked her to tell me more, my friend fought back tears as she explained what she meant.

“I’ve been taught the Bible all my life. I have a theology degree. But the Jesus I see in all the books is White. When I think of Jesus, His skin isn’t white, He’s not afraid of dancing, and He speaks my Native language. Do you think that’s wrong?”

Her struggle to understand isn’t rare. But as I thought back through the Gospels, I saw one very strong correlation. Whomever Jesus was sitting with at the time, He found common ground. To the fisherman, He became a fisherman. To the leper, He allowed Himself to be touched so the leper felt accepted. With the Rabbi, He shared common knowledge. To the uneducated, He simply showed them love and reminded them of their worth.

Jesus is the God Who fully commits Himself to love and join together with all people and all cultures. How beautiful to be reminded that God unites us within our differences—even our different cultures—rather than despite them.

May we allow ourselves to learn from each other’s different perspectives of Jesus!

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~Written by Erin Shuler

Over the past month, I have gone through many transitions and big life changes. Between quitting my job, planning a wedding, and moving across the world to Uganda, two simple words—let go—have been following me around a lot lately. Several weeks ago, I started having anxiety attacks. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time, but not to a point of being crippled by fear or sobbing uncontrollably. The attacks came out of nowhere, and I had no defense for them.

Letting go didn’t feel possible. Right before I moved, a friend suggested that I should “let go.” God was in control. I finally realized there was nothing I could do about the circumstances themselves, but I could change how I responded to them. After that, when anxiety hit, I started praying through the attacks. I came out on the other side of an attack feeling closer and more connected to God. He was using my fear and my anxiety to draw me closer to himself and all I had to do was let go.

My anxiety wasn’t gone but it wasn’t as severe. As I learn to let go, I am learning to lean on God. As I left the USA and moved to Uganda, I was once again reminded I’m not done learning the lesson of letting go. I was going to be traveling with another family to Uganda, but a few days before our departure, I got a phone call saying circumstances had changed. Because of circumstances out of our control, I would be making the trip by myself. Deep breath. Let go.

I got to the airport and my first flight was delayed, made it just in time to board the next flight and then sat for over an hour as the flight crew was dealing with baggage issues. Sigh. Let go. I made my next connecting flight just to sit on the runway for another hour and a half. Let go. When I finally arrived, I was exhausted and was without my luggage because it didn’t make the connecting flight in Amsterdam. Okay, God! I get it. I need to let go. I’m clearly not in control!

After sleeping through the night and partially through the next day, I sat on the front porch and drank in the stillness and the quiet. I decided to take time to process and do something to calm my anxious thoughts. Flipping through a coloring book, I found a page which read “Let Go” in big bold letters. As I sat coloring and listening to worship music, the same reoccurring phrase played song after song. Can you guess what it was? Let go.

So, I’m sitting here, working on letting go because my God is never going to let go of me.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Mommy, please don’t let them do this. Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy? Why?!” I was three years old, and I was undergoing even more medical testing. Because I was so young, the MRI came with tightly-wrapped gauze and a foam wall surrounding my head to ensure I didn’t move during the excruciatingly-long test. I had worked myself into a horrible migraine and anxiety attack, and I wanted the test to be over now.

In my childish perspective, I was incredibly confused why my parents just sat there—obviously upset, but still doing nothing. I was in pain. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a good, cooperative little girl anymore. Why didn’t they rescue me? What was wrong with them?

What I didn’t understand was, though the test was painful, what was behind the pain would be worth every ounce of my discomfort. The test results gave my medical team a better understanding of the issues which plagued my body. Mom and Dad knew the end goal, and they had come to a heartbreaking but necessary decision. My temporary pain was acceptable pain.

I’ve come to understand as an adult that my loving and attentive God watches my life in much the same way. We live in a fallen world where life experiences bring agonizing pain, confusion and despair. It’s easy to look at my Heavenly Father and scream, “Abba? Why?! Why are You allowing this? Can’t You see I’m nearly shattered? Aren’t you supposed to be good?”

But He knows something I don’t. He knows the end goal. He knows just what I need to become more like His Son.

In the end, I can almost hear Him whisper with tears in His eyes, “Child, this pain is temporary. Hang in there. The end result will be worth every second of your pain.

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~Written by Viki Rife

I used to be frustrated by what I thought of as “The Great Divide.” It seemed to me growing up that Christians were divided into two categories: those who were “in ministry,” and those who were “not in ministry.” And the ones “in ministry” were viewed as being at a much higher level spiritually than those “not in ministry.”

Sometimes it was baffling. Why were those “not in ministry” sometimes much nicer to others than those “in ministry”? Why did I know so many people “in ministry” who were dissatisfied with their lives?

Lately, I’ve begun to see a whole new perspective on what it means to be in ministry. “In ministry” is a matter of how we view life. I can teach a class and be very proud of the praise I get, but if my purpose isn’t to see God get the glory, it isn’t really ministry. I can help someone out, but if I complain and feel taken advantage of, it’s not ministry.

On the other hand, when I spend time encouraging someone who needs to talk, I’m “in ministry.” When I transport someone who needs a ride, I’m “in ministry,” if I’m doing it as unto the Lord. When I smile and affirm the harried customer service representative at the airport when flights are being cancelled and tempers are high, I’m “in ministry.”

By my new definition, whenever I see the people around me through the eyes of Jesus and act accordingly, I’m “in ministry.” Let’s stop accepting labels that describe titles and occupations. It’s our attitude that determines whether or not we belong to the “in ministry” camp.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I wrote out the check to the hospital, all the while trembling with anxiety and frustration. The bill hadn’t taken all our money, but it certainly made life a bit more uncomfortable. My husband and I rewrote our summer plans, cut corners on our budget, and found ourselves saying, “no,” on a more regular basis.

There was no way around the truth, though. I had needed to be in the hospital. The consequences were just a hard pill to swallow.

“God, we were doing so well. You promised you’d provide for us; but then stuff like this happens,” I wrote in my prayer journal. Quickly, God reminded me that He had, in fact, provided. The bill was paid, and all our needs remained met. We weren’t homeless or hungry, and our marriage wasn’t in danger. God had faithfully provided. Just because I didn’t like His method of providing didn’t mean He’d upheld His promise any less.

How many times do we miss a chance to experience the fullness of God’s goodness simply because He’s taking us out of our comfort zone? What would our lives be like if, instead of focusing on how much we dislike the ways He provides for us, we broadened our hearts to see that He’s teaching us to depend on Him?

After all, don’t we believe He is enough?

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