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Archive for the ‘Overcome’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

I really hated to do it, but I had no choice. I picked up the scissors. I could hardly bring myself to start cutting.

This was my favorite plant, the one I hang outside my window every summer to enjoy while I’m having my devotions each morning. Whenever I look up from my reading and writing, there it is, swinging gently in the wind, with the willow tree in the background and hummingbirds stopping by to visit. It’s my little piece of heaven.

We’d had a hailstorm, and ever since then it had looked more and more pathetic. I had tried to nurse it along, but it was obvious that drastic measures were needed. I had one more thing to try before throwing it in the trash heap.

I started cutting back the long, hanging stems. With them came the few blossoms that were left. It no longer hung over the edges of the planter. The short, stubby growth that was left was a pathetic shadow of what had once brought me so much enjoyment.

Fast forward a month, however, and the plant once again showed energetic growth. It was fuller than it had been before, and covered with flowers and new buds. Something about cutting it back had brought new life.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God prunes us. Why would He make us give up a ministry that is blossoming? Why would He allow us to lose someone who is precious to us? Why would He leave us feeling as if we had been cut down on all sides?

If only we can remember He only does it for our good! He wants to give us a fullness that is greater than anything we have experienced. And the way He does it is by removing the dead growth. I wonder if He feels sadness in making us suffer, but forges ahead because He knows it’s the only way to save us from ourselves.

I’m so glad He doesn’t give up. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

How are we to respond to the situation last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia? A look at our history can give us some important clues.

When the Civil War started, the Brethren, who were pacifists, remained committed to their refusal to wound another human. They did not enlist. This brought them under suspicion from both sides.

However, they also had strong abolitionist beliefs. Many were already involved in the Underground Railroad and in purchasing slaves in order to set them free. When the war started, they ramped up their efforts within the guidelines of their conscience.

Their part in the Battle of Antietam is an example of the spirit of followers of Christ. Soldiers from both sides were wreaking havoc on the farms and burning the homes of these peaceful people. Remember, they hadn’t taken sides, so neither side protected them as “theirs.”

However, these brave souls went out into the fields and even Antietam Creek. They rescued as many wounded Union and Confederate soldiers as they could, taking them into their homes.

When they ran out of room there, they took them to their church, turning it into a hospital where enemies were placed side by side for treatment. When you visit the Antietam Battlefield Memorial, you can see the church and hear the story.

These people lived within the boundaries they believed God called them to. However, that did not keep them from being ministers of reconciliation in the world. They went out of their way to care for the very people who were destroying their property. They showed grace to everyone, even though they stood against what the Confederates were fighting for.

The early Brethren were very aware that their citizenship belonged first to the kingdom of heaven. They put into practice the instructions of Jesus through the Apostle Paul, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

(To find out more about beliefs of the early Brethren on racism, read “The Better View” in the current issue of Women’s Spectrum magazine. Find out more here.

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~ Written by Pat Ashcraft

Barbara was the youngest of four children. Born in the early 1920’s, she lived through the depression. When she was seven, her mother died and she was raised by her dad and grandmother. She later met and married Bob Mason; together they had five children in six years. Their first child died at childbirth.

Barbara was very intelligent, funny, and outgoing. Everywhere she went, she was the life of the party. She was a good mother, wife, friend and neighbor. At the age of 33, after several years of problems, Barbara was hospitalized for the first time for bipolar disorder.

I know all this about Barbara because she was my mother. I am the youngest of her children.

My mother’s life and our family were greatly affected by her illness. In our house growing up, we never used the words “mental illness.” Our dad would just say, “your mom is sick, try to help out more.” We were all adults before we knew what her diagnosis was. We never discussed with anyone else that our mother was mentally ill.

My oldest sister took over running the household. My next sister took care of mom but also learned to cook at a young age. My brother coped by ignoring everything and keeping busy outside the home. I was the “baby” and was cared for and protected by the older kids. I probably had the most normal childhood, as I was allowed to be a child and not take on adult duties.

All of us had various issues that affected our schooling. It wasn’t until 12th grade that anyone asked me if there were problems at home. Even then, I didn’t tell the principal that life was a total upheaval at times because of my mother. At that point, I was soon going to graduate and leave home, so it seemed like a moot point.

When I was 16 years old, my mother was having a very bad manic episode. She hadn’t slept or eaten or stopped talking for about five days. She was totally confused. She would pick fights over the smallest things. We were all exhausted.

My dad decided to put her in the car and drive her to the hospital. She knew that meant another stay in the psychiatric ward and didn’t want to go. I was helping my dad get her shoes and socks on and helping with her coat. She was fighting us every step of the way. I was thoroughly disgusted with my mom. I had had enough of her and all we had to live with. I was tired and angry that I didn’t have a “normal” mom. I said to my dad, “How can you stand this?” He stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “I don’t ‘stand’ anything. I love your mother. And when you love someone, you take care of them. Don’t you ever say anything like that about your mother again.” Wow, what a lesson in love.

When my mother was at her worst, her least attractive and most difficult to deal with, my dad chose to love her. What a picture of God’s love for me! When I was at my worst, ugly from sin and full of pride, God chose to love me. He sent His only Son to save me. That’s unconditional love at its best!  

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~ Written by Rosa Munoz 

My life is full of new beginnings. In January 1983 I came to the USA, a new country, with great expectations of new adventures with my husband Hector Melendez. We had very little financial resources and connections. We had left our family and friends in our native land, Puerto Rico. Immigrating to a new country, culture, place, and environment was exciting but challenging.

I remembered praying and telling God, “I will look to you, follow your will with all my heart and mind. Oh! my Heavenly Father, my Lord all the days of my life.” The Bible reminds us about God’s faithfulness in Lamentations 3:21-24. His hope, faithfulness, goodness and provision have been evident throughout the 34 years of my life here in the USA.

We started out in Miami, Florida, for seven years. I experienced growth in a different aspect of my life. We then moved to Tampa in 1990. We had hoped for a baby, but it wasn’t until September 1992 that our miracle baby, Matthew, came to us. We rejoiced in God’s faithfulness in giving us a child.

A year later, my husband died in a car accident. I began a new, different life as a young widow with my little one-year-old in Tampa. Once again I waited on God, looking to Him and relying on His faithfulness, hope and provision. My focus became seeking God’s direction for taking care of my little boy and pleasing Him. I praise God for the godly women He brought to my life and the prayer partners who strengthened and helped me to grow daily in Jesus Christ. I was learning that I was not alone.

The next summer I met a widower, Jesus Munoz, with three children. He had been through similar life experiences through losing his wife in a car accident. God was preparing a new beginning for our lives. After four years of friendship and God’s perfect timing we married in July of 1998. This brought on another new beginning as we embarked on blending two families, church planting and leadership development. It has been a great gift to our lives. I have been richly blessed to meditate on my memories of new beginnings and remember that God is faithful. Our hope is in Him.

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~ Written by Erin Shuler

(Erin Shuler is spending the month of January ministering at Sonrise Orphanage in Uganda. She is a sophomore at Grace College.)

There are too many little hands!

Everywhere I go there are little smiling faces looking up at me. They either want to hold my hand or beg to be picked up and held. I am a complete stranger. My skin is a different color. I speak a different language. I come from a different background. But for some reason, these children trust me. They love me and they want to be with me.

While I settle into living in Uganda, going on a walk is a daily activity. As I’m walking, my hands and my heart are full. I have a child (or two or three) holding on to each hand and they don’t let go. But there are too many children. I can’t hold all their hands at once. As they are shoving and fighting over my hands, I have to calm several screaming or crying children because someone else stole my hand from them. I wish I could pick them all up and hold them forever. But I know I will never be able to do such a thing.

My heart is overflowing with love for these children. I wish they all had a family member who could give them the attention they crave and deserve. I wish being held, hugged, and having their hand held was a normal daily activity for them. They have been through more than anyone should ever have to go through. Yet despite their past and their current circumstances, you will never encounter a happier or more loving child than these.

I am incredibly thankful there is Someone who can, and is, holding on to these children and will never let them go. There is Someone who loves them more than I ever could. Someone whose hand is holding not only these children but the entire world. God desires to hold everyone’s hand.

When I am not enough for these children, He is. He is walking hand-in-hand with me, helping me up when I get knocked down. He comforts me when I get hurt, and is always there when and where I need Him. His hands are enough. I can let go and rest in His capable embrace because He has everything under control.

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~ Written by Sharon MacMillan

The Carrier Pigeon, a state-of-the-art clipper ship, ran aground 500 feet off shore in 1852 in fog and bad weather. It had traveled from Boston around Cape Horn at the southernmost point of South America, was only about 50 miles from its final destination, San Francisco. The disaster highlighted the need for a lighthouse at this particular location on the west coast. As a result, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse sent its first beacon of light out into the dark ocean on November of 1872 to warn ships and their crews of the impending dangers near the shore.    

A Fresnel lens was placed at the top of a 150-foot tower to direct focused light into its hundreds of prisms and lenses, sending out a strong bent beam of light every 10 seconds. That pattern is  known as a lighthouse’s “characteristic” pattern and identified it to sailors as the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. In those early days of the lighthouse, there would be no pattern of light without a diligent light keeper who would keep the candle burning, usually with sperm oil or lard.   

The Church projects God’s light to the world with her “characteristic” pattern. What do people learn about your Father through your speech, your actions and your attitudes? What is your  individual “characteristic” pattern of light?   

As we come to 2016 we are aware of the great need for the world to see our “characteristic” pattern of light. God designed us to be a people who intercede for the world, are inclusive with messy people, value them enough to train them for their place in Christ’s body, and encourage them along the way as they learn to participate in God’s purposes and plans for His Church. “They shall know you by your love.” That is our “characteristic” pattern for the world. 

We want to learn to pray for those who need light. In your daily prayers, please intercede for the design and implementation of the Women of Grace USA Prayer Summits that we hope to begin this year. Pray for Sue Knight, Nicole Miller and Sharon MacMillan as we seek the Lord for His direction in providing life-changing opportunities to grow deeper in the school of prayer and  intercession, enabling His women bring many to the Light.   

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~ Written by Viki Rife

As we enter the new year, predictors of doom abound. We can’t deny that society is less accepting of Christian values than it has been in the past. We find ourselves wondering what will happen next.

Some of our questions are similar to those asked by Daniel millennia ago. What was God doing? What would happen to God’s chosen people?

The reassurance the Lord gave Daniel in the midst of disturbing prophecies is something we can use today. “The people who know their God will stand firm and take action” (Daniel 11:32—ESV).

So our first step to overcoming whatever comes against us in this new year is to invest in knowing our God. We need to develop a strategy to understand Him better.. Dig into His Word. Pray fervently. See the many dimensions of who He is, from humble suffering Servant to conquering King astride His white horse.

Our next step is to stand firm. We can do this when we know who our God is. We can plant our feet firmly on the foundation of His truth.

The third step is to take action. We do not need to be intimidated by whatever the enemy of our souls tries to use to discourage us. Instead, we need to be proactive, seeking ways to demolish his strongholds in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Those three steps will help us be overcomers in the new year. Maybe God bless you as you seek to know your God.

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