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Archive for the ‘Story-telling’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

“Blame my dad.” That was my answer when a friend, somewhat annoyed, said, “Do you have to spiritualize everything?”

To my dad, everything was an illustration of a spiritual reality. He took his cue from Jesus, turning anything in life into a teachable moment. Even when I was too young to fully understand it, he would point out a butterfly and tell me about how its time in a cocoon transformed it. Packing our barrels for the mission field became a reminder that we must prepare well for our spiritual journey (any other MKs remember taking jars of peanut butter or else we wouldn’t taste it for the next five years?).

Dad was a master at object lessons. Our evening family devotions included healthy doses of them. I still remember when he put different powders in water until it turned black, then poured in some red liquid and the water became clear again. My young heart embraced the illustration that Jesus could remove all sin.

I couldn’t yet have been five when he used an illustration that has deeply affected my life. He borrowed a spool of black thread from Mom and had me hold out my wrists. He wrapped the thread around them once and asked me to break out. It was a bit hard, but I did it. Then he wrapped the thread around my wrists five or six times and asked me to break out again. It was impossible.

He went on to tell me that sin was like that. You try it once and you might be able to escape. But it might make you overconfident, and as you continue to allow it in your life it will trap you. He used the object lesson to help me understand the meaning of the word “addiction.” It left me with a healthy fear of dabbling in something that could entangle me.

As a parent, Dad took seriously the command in Deuteronomy 6 to teach God’s laws to his children. It sounds as if maybe God meant for us to spiritualize everything!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

This week is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, but as it turns out it feels like I threw a rock into the air and it came down on my head.

Yesterday we released the newest issue of our magazine, Women’s Spectrum. The theme of this issue is “Boundaries.” Does that give you a clue to what hit me on the head?

After all we did as an editorial team to see that the subject was covered, you would think I’d have boundaries pretty well figured out. I guess God has to really work at keeping me humble. So in the last few weeks leading up to our fellowship’s Access conference in Ohio, as we prepared for the various responsibilities that fall to national organizations, it felt that my boundaries were being tested to the limit.

First, I got shingles. The itching was nothing compared to the pain and the fatigue that came with it. The doctors said to rest, but we were getting ready for conference! And we had a week-long module to train facilitators for the Women’s Leadership Studies classes.

Then my mom fell and broke her hip. In the days of waiting until they could do surgery, my focus shifted from the many details of getting ready for conference to trying to keep her from climbing out of bed in her confused state. Frustration mounted as I tried to work by her bedside with my laptop on my knees, getting kicked off the internet for some reason every ten minutes or so

In the midst of my chaos, God stood quietly by, waiting for me to let go of my agenda enough to hear His voice. Then He hit me, more intensely than I’ve ever experienced, with the reminder that the limits to my time and energy are actually boundaries He has placed on me. Those boundaries force me to weigh my priorities. The “aha” moment of returning to His priorities refreshed my soul and burned the significance of boundaries on my heart. I’m so glad the rock came back. 

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl 

It was a heartbreaking and tumultuous time. I found comfort in a weekly walk to a babbling brook at the foot of a mountain. When it seemed as if everyone was against me, seeing God’s peaceful yet constant stream of water made me breathe more slowly, think more clearly, and let God speak words my heart couldn’t hear otherwise. Within those moments, I was reminded of God’s gentleness, peace, and quiet creativity.

Recently, almost a decade later, I stood before the majestic Niagara Falls in Canada and laughed joyously at the roaring water and the mist that hit my face. There was nothing peaceful and quiet about being a stone’s throw away from such a breathtaking display of God’s creation! But still, in a quiet moment with my husband next to me, I felt God’s power and His gentle but confident and loving voice whisper, “I’m still here. I will never leave you.”

The God of the roaring Niagara Falls is the same God of the babbling, peaceful brook. When we need Him to instill peace in the midst of our turmoil, He can. When we can step away from our circumstances and glory in His power and faithfulness, He’s in those moments as well. In every season, in every circumstance, He is exactly what we need when we need it.

No wonder we call Him Savior!

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~ Written by Nicole Miller

The story was not a new one, but on this day it resonated with us in a way that amazed us. We were sharing with our SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission) girls in our after-school discipleship ministry the story of Abram. God asked him to leave his homeland and go without knowing the details. We asked them, “What do you think his response was?” They had a variety of answers ranging from “maybe he had questions” or “maybe he hesitated.” They landed on the answer, “Abram said yes!”

As we asked the girls what their responses would have been, many of them replied that they would have said yes too, even if they had questions. It’s easy as young people, and even as adults, to hope, even believe deeply, that we will always respond “yes” when God asks us to do things. Knowing this, my co-leader Santina and I wanted to draw in a bit of our own story and tie it into the 7th grade girls’ lives.

We had previously asked the girls how important SMM was to them now that they are in middle school. The answer was unanimous: “Very important.” So we shared with them, “Last year when you asked us to have SMM in the middle school we could have said no.”

The look on their faces was showed their shock. They couldn’t believe we could have made that choice. When they asked about it in the elementary school SMM last year, though, we had no idea how to make a middle school program happen. But it felt as if God was asking us to do it. So we answered yes without knowing how it would happen. Through our efforts, but mostly God opening doors, we were able to start our after-school SMM in the middle school this year.

As we retold this story, we wanted to share the complete picture with our girls. So we kept going back. If Santina hadn’t decided to serve in SMM several years ago, she would not have met these girls when they were in 4th grade. In fact, if she hadn’t said yes to going to Grace College she would not have been able to say yes to SMM.

Following this line of thought brought us back to a series of “yeses.” If I hadn’t said yes to leading the elementary SMM, there would never have been a program in the first place. On and on, the series of single “yes” moments went. A simple opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to God may seem like a small moment, but you never know where one “yes” will lead. This train of thought was a great lesson to teach our girls, but ultimately it gave us as leaders joy and hope.

Sometimes ministry can begin to feel tedious. It is easy to lose sight of how big God’s story is. As we took time to connect to these girls’ lives, God moved our hearts to recognize how precious our “yeses” have been. We have had the chance to know one another, to know our girls, to serve God, just because of a mindset of simply answering yes when God asked. 

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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 Cindy Bushen

I’ve been told that I’m lacking in the laughter factor; that I take life to seriously. When my daughter suggested that I knit vests for their six chickens for Christmas, I thought, “Ok, that’s funny.” I imagined my son-in-law, who finds humor in the smallest of things, would be delighted with this Christmas gift. He was.

As the evening was winding down at our Christmas gathering, with just a couple friends and family remaining, Mike brought in a chicken to model a vest. The chicken appeared to be quite pleased with her new attire as she strutted around the family room. But true to a chicken’s nature, in just a few minutes there was a mess on the floor to clean up. My daughter headed upstairs to gather some paper towels to take care of the task. Mike disrobed the chicken and perched her on his arm to return her to the coop. Just as he reached the stairs, he stopped to comment to a guest. My daughter was coming down the stairs. Her eyes widened as she proclaimed, “Mike, this chicken is going to lay an egg! Seriously, it’s laying an egg!” Her eyes were three times wider than normal. We all participated in deep hysterical laughter that occurs when the totally unexpected happens.

Psalm 37:4 is a favorite passage of mine. The verse reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your hear.” While it may be a stretch to apply it to my chicken story, I believe that God orchestrates turns of events into unexpected humor for our delight.

This passage states that the desires of my heart will be given if I delight in the Lord, but I am certain that God delights even more when observing us enjoy (even to the hysterical point) the opportunities for laughter He creates. Only a close daily walk with the Lord will keep our hearts light and ready to observe what has been placed in our path for the purpose of delighting us. Today, slow your pace, observe the commonplace with an eye for the unexpected. God has a delightful experience just waiting for you.

   

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~ Written by Rosa Muñoz

It all started with a wake-up call in July of 2015: extreme unexplained abdominal pain, gastritis, and fatty deposits in my liver. At that stage of life, I couldn’t find an answer to my physical problems. One day, desperate, I fell to my knees and cried out to God for wisdom.

I heard God speak to my heart, “Rosa Lydia, start walking and change your eating habits, and you will have better health.” I decided to set up short-term goals to become more active physically and to lose my extra weight. I began by walking three days a week for the first month; the second I added much more activity. As the months passed, I began to see changes in my health.

Two passages helped me keep going: Hebrews 12:1-2 and Romans 12:1-2. Although I am not physically running, I can say that God has allowed me to live and see good results in this new endeavor. During this difficult process, He has given me strength, wisdom, and energy to celebrate small victories in the loss of thirty pounds. I realized how much my physical health was affecting my emotional state, and that I needed to be a better steward of this body God has given me.

I have come to understand that being intentional, persistent, and totally dependent on God will give me the power to keep running toward the goal.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c]but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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