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Can I Handle It?

~ Written by Viki Rife

Many families love to review anecdotes when they get together over the holidays. One of my personal favorites is about our oldest grandchild, Natalie. She was such a “little mommy” that our daughter had to forbid her from taking care of her little brother so that he could learn to do things for himself.

Shortly after our other daughter’s second son was born, she planned a visit to her sister. When Natalie was told, she did not seem excited as her mom had expected.

“Three little boys?” she asked doubtfully. “That’s a lot of work for me.”

We might laugh at how preposterous it is for a five-year-old to think so much responsibility is on her shoulders. But I can’t help but wonder if God is amused when we look at a situation and think, “That’s a lot of work for me.” Let’s give him credit for being the responsible Father he truly is.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

It sounded like a really good idea. My husband was working late in Valparaiso, an hour and a half west of us. Knowing he would get home late and be too tired to remember, he decided to set his phone alarm for the next morning before he left the office.

Guess what? The alarm did not go off at the time he needed it to. Even though the alarm was clearly set for 7 a.m., it went off at 8 a.m. our time, which was 7 in Valparaiso.

It made me wonder how many of God’s wake-up calls I miss because I set my goals in “earth time” instead of my home time, heaven. Do I really live in God’s zone, or in this world’s? I have to remember constantly which zone I belong in.

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Felt-Board Jesus

~ Written by Maria Houston

I serve a different Jesus now than the one I knew before. Gone is the fabric character I placed on a felt background as a child. I imagined him gently speaking to the children gathered around his feet. He was safe and undemanding, without any risk involved.

That Jesus did not ask much of me, but I expected much of him. He was to ensure the job I wanted, the husband I dreamed of, the family I desired, and the life I deserved. I knew he would fulfill all my requests, because he loved me.

But as my faith adventure went on, the road became difficult. I encountered mountains that were hard to climb and valleys that were impossible to navigate. I clung to my felt-board Jesus, but he was of no help. He was not answering my prayers. He was silent. The mountain was not removed; I was struggling to climb it. As with a gust of wind, my felt-board Jesus was ripped from my hands. I watched him go up into the air. I stood there motionless. My Jesus was gone. The stories I heard as a child must be untrue. I was all alone.

Instead a new Jesus appeared. I could not hold Him, see Him, or touch Him, but I could feel Him standing there. I asked Him to explain why He allowed this mountain to remain. Couldn’t He just make it go away? If He would just listen to me! I had a better idea. He could make an easy path—one that was straight and flat without any hardship. I sensed Him motioning me to follow Him.

As we climbed the mountain together I realized He was in charge. He had places He wanted to show me, places that might involve pain, but also bring about more joy than I knew before. The more time we spent together the more I started to think like Him. I even started praying for things we needed for our adventure together.

It has taken time to get used to this new Jesus. But as I look at scripture I see that this Jesus is not actually new, but was the one who always existed. This is the Jesus who has changed lives for centuries. My felt-board Jesus could never have done that.

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Kiss the Knees

~ Written by Viki Rife

She sat on the floor with her dollies. Carefully she picked up each one and lovingly gave it a bottle. Then she methodically lined them up and began changing diapers, carefully wiping each baby with tissues she had stuffed into an empty box of baby wipes.

After three days I had stopped trying to coax her to sit on my lap. It isn’t easy for a timid two-year-old to get to know a grandma she only sees once a year. I contented myself with sitting nearby and working on a crochet project. Of course, she had no idea that the yarn was turning into a gift for her.

Suddenly, she jumped up, ran over, and kissed my knee, which was the only part of me low enough for her to reach. Before I could respond, she had scampered back to her dolls.

She was showing love for me in the only ways her shy heart could handle. The impromptu demonstration of affection touched me deeply. I still longed to hold her in my arms, but realized this was all she could handle at the moment. And it was enough.

I often picture myself approaching God as a child. All I can handle is kissing His knee. Thankfully, He’s a good Father who delights in my attempts to demonstrate my affection. I sometimes picture Him smiling to Himself as he works to weave the thread of my life into something that will delight me.

Because He understands me, He accepts my feeble love as enough.

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Who Do Your Friends Love?

~ Written by Viki Rife

A friend and I were having a heart-to-heart in the lobby at church when all of a sudden her eyes widened in panic. She made a beeline for the bathroom. Concerned, I followed to make sure she was okay. I found her in front of the mirror, frantically rearranging her hair. “Why didn’t you tell me I had a spike sticking up?” she exclaimed when she saw me walk in. Apparently a glimpse of herself in the lobby mirror had triggering her actions.

I wasn’t sure how to apologize. Honestly, I hadn’t noticed. It really wasn’t that obvious. But she had an idea of how she should look, and was embarrassed to be seen any other way.

It made me think of how many expectations I put on myself that no one else has. For example, we are mortified if anyone sees us without makeup, or in any way that doesn’t meet what we think people expect. We even have unrealistic expectations with our homes, and are embarrassed to let anyone see anything less than a magazine-worthy showpiece.

It makes me wonder what it will take for us to be real, to be comfortable with who we are. I remember when a friend died, several people reminisced that she was comfortable in her own skin. That’s how I want to live. The problem with wearing a mask is that it’s the mask that gets love, and we are left feeling unloved.

What if we let go of the mask and let people love us for who we really are? How would that change our satisfaction with our friendships? Let people love the real you.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“How about that Midwestern welcome last night?” I asked my friend. She was visiting from Alaska and rarely witnessed lightning storms. I knew the storm from the night before was a memory maker. Vicky’s eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “The lightning was so bright! The thunder was awesome. I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. I couldn’t with such a show!”

I nodded enthusiastically, remembering my own first Midwestern storm after living in Alaska most of my life. Vicky chuckled and said, “I grew up falling asleep to recordings of thunderstorms, so I didn’t think experiencing one would be much different. Man, was I wrong. The real this is so much better!”

I think we can treat our spiritual growth in much the same way. We often settle with where we find ourselves in our faith walk. Somewhere along the way, we stop looking for the “real deal” in our relationship with God. We can forget that we were offered so much more than what we’ve settled for out of convenience, fear, or doubt.

May we always strive for the spiritual growth that makes us more like Christ Himself.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl 

The leaky kitchen faucet was the bane of my existence. Its methodical dripping seemed to interrupt every quiet moment I had. Multiple times a day, I would glance at the leak, roll my eyes and think to myself, “Someday, we’ll actually get the stupid thing fixed.” We’d only been in our apartment a few months; we weren’t ready for repairs just yet.

So instead of fixing the sink, I cleaned up the aftermath of its messes. The bowl in the cabinet below the sink’s pipes caught so much excess water it would overflow onto the floor every few days if I wasn’t careful. My husband and I both became pros at mopping up murky water in our spare time!

Finally, months later, we had had enough; we called a plumber. We naively hoped our issue had a simple solution. The plumber took one look at the pipes and cabinet and glanced at me hesitantly. “You haven’t been coughing and wheezing a lot, have you?” He asked. “This is one of the worst sinks I’ve seen. You’ve been growing black mold by the bucketfuls down here.”

What had started out as just a leaky faucet — an easy fix — turned into a partially-gutted cabinet, torn up kitchen flooring, hundreds of dollars of repairs, and a concerning respiratory issue.

How many times do I treat my sin in the same way? I see some ungodly characteristic in my heart, deem it annoying but don’t bring it before the Lord to change me at the core? Why do I spend so much time “mopping up” the aftermath of my sin when truly repenting from it and letting the Holy Spirit change my ways saves me from unseen dangers?

Oh, may God give us the courage to address our spiritual leaky faucets! 

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