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Archive for the ‘Pursuit’ Category

~Written by Viki Rife

It was a small thing; it was a huge thing. Although my friend told me the story decades ago, it still burns in my bones.

When my friend was growing up in Cuba, his parents offered a Good News gospel-sharing club for the children in their neighborhood. One boy who often came was a troublemaker. He and his brothers disrupted the group, sassed the adults, and made life unpleasant for everyone. Finally, my friend’s parents told the boys they weren’t allowed to come onto their property.

Every week after that, the boy and his brothers would be waiting outside the fence to my friend’s family farm. As the other kids trudged down the dirt path, the banished boys would pelt them with stones and sticks. They had been a problem when they were attended but were even more of a problem when forbidden to come!

I’ve always wondered what might have happened if some of the adults involved had taken the main troublemaker, if not the others, under their wing. What if some man had offered to take the boy fishing, away from the kids he felt he could bully? What if someone had taken an interest in him and shown him there was a better way to spend his life? What if he had seen someone show him the unconditional love of Jesus?

You see, that boy’s name was Fidel Castro. If you know much about world history, you know the cruelty visited on the Cuban people by this dictator. I know friends who had to live under his regime and were able to escape, but who still bear physical and emotional scars.

Might the history of Fidel Castro have been different if someone who loved Jesus had reached out and shown that love? Because I don’t know, I am committed to reaching out to hard-to-love people with the love of Christ.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Anna felt all alone. The husband who had needed her care night and day over the past decade had just passed away. Her own health had deteriorated during that time. Now she was left with no friends, no family nearby, and the huge specter of anxiety and depression hanging over her. The isolation of the Covid shutdown had her almost paralyzed.

One morning she decided to make a list of things she could do that day. She grabbed her walker and made her way to the desk, where she found a notepad in the drawer. She started to write: Take a shower. Organize meds into a labeled contained so she would know which ones she had taken. Read a Psalm as a prayer. She was surprised at the satisfaction she got from checking each item off the list.

The next day her list was a bit bolder. Reorganize her sock drawer. Dust one room of the house. Write a get-well card to someone from church. Call Betty, her old high school friend she hadn’t talked to for years, just to catch up.

Betty was delighted to hear from her. Anna was struck by how little it takes to encourage someone else. After that, Anna made a point each day of including in her list at least one item that would bless or encourage someone else.

As time went on, she then started adding some occasion to celebrate God’s goodness each day. Eventually, the day came when she was able to sort and label a box of old photos, all the time thanking God for the memories rather than feeling sorry for herself. As she finished that project, the thought hit her: “I can choose to live in joy. And I’m doing it!”

Anna’s journey from anxiety and depression to joy seemed like a miracle to all of us. But as she summarized it: “Be Thankful. Bless others.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Being thrown into a pit wasn’t a part of his plan. Of all the dreams God had given Joseph, I hardly imagine his dreams of his family bowing down to him would involve his own enslavement. And yet, as we’re told in Genesis 37 and following, slavery was a key season in Joseph’s story.

Still, as Joseph sat in the pit his brothers threw him in (Gen. 37:23-24) to await being sold, his mind had to be whirling with questions. Wasn’t he the favored son? Why would God give him such favor if only to waste it in slavery? Was his father’s God even real, or had the dreams been a result of too much time in the sun? Weeks ago, Joseph had a handle on what God was doing.

Now? In the pit? Not so much.

As the story unfolds, God uses Joseph’s enslavement in immaculate and miraculous ways. Joseph’s God-given wisdom and insight eventually led him to be a trusted advisor to his master, the Egyptian Pharaoh. Through that trust, Joseph was able to advocate for his people when famine wrecked the known world.

What Joseph initially thought was the death of his future became the gateway to God’s goodness.

More than ever before, this election season has left Christians nervous and hesitant as we await the nation’s future. No matter which political party we’re referring to, truthfully, there are areas where we are all muttering, “How can this bring God glory?”

I challenge each of us to look back at the story of Joseph as our next national leaders are revealed in the coming days. There was nothing good about most of Joseph’s story. Joseph was left uncomfortable and stretched for most of his life, but he leaned heavily on God despite the unpredictability of his future.

In the end, Joseph could say with confidence, “God used it all for good.”

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Our yard has two bluebird houses; at least, that’s what they are supposed to be.

I’m pretty sure no one can see an Eastern Bluebird without falling in love with these small, colorful birds. When I first moved to Indiana, they had all but disappeared from our area. Thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens and the Department of Natural Resources, we learned that providing the right kind of housing could make it possible for them to return.

So we have two houses with all the specifications. There’s one problem: sparrows also like the same kind of facilities, and they are much more aggressive than the happy little bluebirds.

Sparrows took over the first house this spring. We set up another, armed with the information that a certain kind of halogenic streamer placed near the birdhouse would deter the sparrows but not the bluebirds. It worked! A cheery little bluebird couple started making its home in the second house.

Then one day I came home to find sparrows trying to get into the second house. A piece of farm equipment had come by and apparently torn the streamer off and carried it away. We never found it.

I rushed around trying to find a substitute as the bluebirds watched from the safety of a high branch of the nearby apple tree. Finally, I was able to find another streamer and attach it. The sparrows stopped trying to get in.

But it was too late. The bluebirds had given up. All summer that second house stood empty, with a half-finished nest bearing witness to the bluebirds’ defeat.

I keep asking myself: Why didn’t they try again? Why didn’t they stick around a bit longer to see the sparrows back off? And the one that makes me the saddest: Did they give up because they saw me by their house? Did they choose not to trust me?

It’s convicting because I’ve done something similar with God most of my life. I give up too soon. I assume the bullies in the world will always get their way. And when God steps into the picture, I assume he’s a threat instead of a Helper.

Those two bluebird houses are a stark reminder of what happens when I don’t trust my God. What a crucial lesson!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

As I picked up my computer bag to pack up at the end of the week, the temptation to just not bother began to take over. The whole week seemed to have been spent on nothing but tiny details, troubleshooting, and unexpected setbacks. It felt like nothing at all had been accomplished.

I’m putting in so much effort and just spinning my wheels, I thought. Maybe I shouldn’t even waste my time trying. Nothing I do really has any significance in the long-term.

My computer cord caught a small clear-plastic ball and knocked it off my desk. As I picked it up, I realized I hadn’t really paid attention to it for a long time. It was something I had bought twenty years ago. It had inspired me then. The ball is full of sand, with two halves: One has a perforation that says, “Perseverance moves mountains….” “The other half has holes and reads:” …one grain of sand at a time.” It doesn’t take long to see the sand sift through and form mountains every time I turn it over.

It hit me that twenty years ago, when I bought the desk ornament, I had been feeling the same way. It felt like I was getting nowhere. But now I can look back and see what God has done in those twenty years. Impossible dreams have become reality. Many things that didn’t turn out my way actually turned out better.

All I have to do is give my little grains of sand to God. He’s the one who moves mountains, and each grain does matter.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’m sure we made a peculiar sight—six adults following two small puppies around the yard. My sister-in-law had brought her new pets to meet the family. As they explored their new scenery, their wobbly little legs could hardly go fast enough to keep up with their curiosity.

All of a sudden, one of the pups made a quick dash towards the pool. Before anyone could stop her, she jumped in! (I should add that it’s winter, so the little thing landed in the frigid foot-and-a-half of water on top of the pool cover.)

Within seconds, my father-in-law swooped in and grabbed the puppy out of the water. She was unharmed, but frightened and shivering. Mere moments later, though, the little thing was running around again as if nothing had happened.

I can’t count how many times my Heavenly Father has swooped in and saved me from danger like that. Not to mention the countless times He undoubtedly spared me from hardship I didn’t even know was lurking in the shadows.

But, I forget the danger just as quickly as that little puppy did at the pool.

If I’m honest, I constantly struggle to really trust God with my whole life. I’m convinced that part of this struggle is due to my puppy memory. When I forget all the things God has done, how he has provided and what he has saved me from, I jeopardize my trust in Him. What better season than Lent to practice remembrance! Instead of skipping right to the joy of Easter morning, we can spend the next six weeks pausing to remember the trustworthiness of God.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I think it was the biscuits that were the final straw. I had been rushing around trying to get dinner ready so we could head off in our different directions for evening meetings. I was running late, and I knew the young woman I was mentoring had only a short time to spend with me. It had been hard enough to find one hour to meet.

It had been a hard day, and I was working myself up to a stroke. Then I smelled the biscuits burning. At that moment a verse I had read earlier in my devotions came to me in my Father’s gentle voice: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I need to ask myself throughout the day: “Can I cook this meal for His glory?” “Can I drive to my appointment sensibly for His glory?” “Can I be patient with my neighbor for His glory?” “Can I get up for His glory and go to bed for His glory?”

Of course, the context of this verse is talking about idolatry and abuses of communion. But at that moment, I realized that my efforts, frustrating as they seemed to me, were something that needed to be done, and I could fall apart, or I could do it joyfully for God’s glory.

How I handle the most frustrating times in my life are my greatest opportunity to demonstrate the glory of my Lord. It’s how I handle things like burnt biscuits that shows me whether I truly care about honoring Him.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I asked God to keep you alive as proof that He exists.”

The young man’s words were filled with emotion as he told me of his recent spiritual battle. Praying for my survival while undergoing multiple brain surgeries seemed like high enough stakes to bet on. His mental game had been simple.

Childhood friend dies: Christianity was pointless. She lives: He’d try surrender out; see if he liked it.

Hearing Cody’s declaration as a 16-year-old myself was a weight no shoulders should ever carry. Regardless, I heard my Master whisper, “You prayed for release from this life around the same time he prayed for proof that I exist. His search for me is thin, but your life gave him a reason to at least look for Me. Your pain isn’t pointless. You’ve no idea what I’m planning on doing with you both!”

Nearly two decades later, God brings me back to that moment on a consistent basis. At the time, I had been so angry at my Jesus for apparently not hearing my prayer for Heaven. However, I had no idea He was using my seemingly unanswered prayer, and my journey through it, to glorify Himself in the life of someone who needed Him to do big things.

Surrender isn’t always beautiful. But it is, in fact, always for the same purpose: To let the world know our God is real, and He is faithful to make Himself known to those who call on Him.

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~Written by Samantha Freds

Do you know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Both tools measure temperature but while a thermometer adjusts to the temperature around it, a thermostat sets the temperature. The difference is simple, but if applied to how we act in a room full of people it can be convicting.

During the four years I worked at a GM manufacturing plant, I behaved like a thermometer. I used the language my coworkers used, told the jokes they told, and let the environment affect my attitude. While I held firm to some convictions, maintaining my “Christian” identity, I tried to fit in any way I could.

Too often I still act like a thermometer and adjust to my surroundings. Not completely changing who I am, but certainly hiding some aspects while accenting others. I’ve heard integrity defined as “how you live your life when nobody is watching.” But what about when only my church friends aren’t watching? Do I talk differently at church than I do at home? Or at work?

The apostle Paul had something to say about this. In his letter to the Romans he wrote, “do not conform to the patterns of this world.” Don’t be like a thermometer, constantly adjusting to the patterns of the world around you. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Be like a thermostat, “able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I want to be a thermostat! I want to learn to set the temperature of whatever room I am in instead of being changed by it.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Curiously looking for information on the Third Temple project being discussed in Israel, I stumbled across a Jewish discussion forum. The debate involved the question of whether or not animal sacrifices would be a part of the new Temple. Many argued that animal sacrifices were cruel, bloody, disgusting, barbaric, and unthinkable; they didn’t belong in this enlightened age. Others added reminders that such sacrifices were a law of Jehovah himself given to Moses, so they were still necessary.

A participant in the discussion then made a comment that gripped my heart. He said, “I think that when the Messiah comes, as great as he’s supposed to be, he’ll have the intelligence to come up with some ingenious plan for eliminating the animal sacrifices while still satisfying Jehovah’s demands.”

Doesn’t that make your heart ache and rejoice at the same time? My heart aches because this person is so close to the truth yet does not recognize that the Messiah has already come. But I rejoice because it is such a real-to-life description of what Jesus did. He did indeed come up with an ingenious plan—to sacrifice Himself to satisfy God’s demands.

As we celebrate this holy week, may we be aware of the brilliant solution God provided that frees us from the ugliness of the eternal consequences of our sin.

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