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Archive for the ‘Value’ 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 Viki Rife

The feds are watching our barnyard. There’s actually a sign to let people know.

The sign says, “Do not climb tower! Federally protected migratory bird nest.” It’s by the cell phone relay tower that sits in our barnyard.

The endangered osprey first appeared about six summers ago. We saw them circling the tower with precious building materials, fighting to gain altitude because of their load. Soon, we heard the unmistakable cry of the fledglings in their nest, always hungry.

By the next summer, there was no doubt the nest had attracted the attention of officials. We would arrive home to find conservation officers parked in our driveway, intently peering at the top of the tower through their binoculars.

I find myself wishing that human babies were protected the way these eggs are. While I love sharing our barnyard with these interesting birds, something inside me cries about the injustice of the mixed-up priorities of our society.

This issue is only the tip of the iceberg. My prayer is that, as a country, we will learn to value what God values. Will you join me in that prayer? God is able to turn our countrymen’s hearts to His desires as we band together in prayer.

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~ Written by Sue Knight

Forgive and forget.

Forgive and move on.

Forgive, but return to the offense and allow it to overwhelm you once again.

Forgive and plot your revenge for later.   

You can fill in the blank to this familiar phrase using a variety of words. Personally, I do not adhere to the “forgive and forget” camp (nor to any of the other options listed above). It is true that memories can be triggered at a most unexpected moment and an avalanche of thoughts comes rushing back into our hearts and minds. However, it is what I do with those thoughts that counts.

When I look back on the hurts and offenses I have experienced in my life, I am learning to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”

Forgiveness is as much for the offended as it is for the offender. God granted us forgiveness before we even knew we were sinners and separated from Him. Ephesians 4:29-32 speaks directly to forgiveness – “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” A powerful step to take, one which can bring God’s healing balm to soothe our pain as we ask God to give us a Christ-like heart of forgiveness.

But does a painful ordeal end with forgiveness? While forgiveness can be both thrilling and powerful, if we are able to experience reconciliation as a result of that forgiveness, it is even more exciting. Max Lucado has said, “The key to forgiving others is to quit focusing on what they did to you and start focusing on what God did for you.” Forgiveness is required by God. The next step, reconciliation, is forgiveness in action.

The process of reconciliation depends upon the attitude of both the offended and the offender. The wounds which hurt so deeply in the beginning have been replaced by scars. Forgive and forget? Forgetting is just about impossible because of the way God uses painful experiences to shape our lives. The scars left behind are just that, something we don’t think about a lot, but every once in a while, we notice them. Ask our Father to use these times as a reminder to thank Him that they represent forgiveness and perhaps reconciliation—reconciliation as illustrated by the Cross.

The purpose of the Cross is to repair the irreparable. Jesus Christ reconciled the human race, putting it back to where God designed it to be. We have not only experienced that reconciliation through our salvation, but recognize that reconciliation has brought us back together into oneness with God. Praise God—forgiveness is the prelude to reconciliation. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“You have an app for that?” my friend laughed as her 80-year-old father whipped out his phone. Someone had mentioned, “I wonder what size that TV is” as we set up for an event in a room we had reserved. Sure enough, he had a way to measure the screen! 

It seems there’s an app for everything. One I recently heard about helps people who are non-verbal because of autism communicate their thoughts. The person selects images in a sequence that the app then interprets into a text message. 

In that context, I’ve been thinking about God’s Christmas app. He sent us images that resonate with what our hearts can understand. A virgin mother helps us understand that God can override the laws of nature, and that Jesus is human, yet also God. Angels filling the heavens with light and song help us understand His glory. Wise men making a pilgrimage to follow a star helps us understand belief and perseverance. Our compassion for a baby in a manger helps us understand His compassion and willingness to sacrifice for us.  

Thank God, He has chosen to communicate in a way we can understand. Enjoy exploring His app this Christmas season. May you truly have a merry Christmas! 

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~ Written by Cassie Harris 

“You give people the ability to offend you. You don’t have to do that.” 

My friend’s words stuck with me throughout my career working in the homeless community. My culture told me I had a right to be offended by a lot of lifestyles, addictions, and belief systems I saw. Even more so, it seemed as if my culture was telling me that when I became offended, no one would blame me if I stopped reaching out to my offender again. 

There’s a problem with that approach, though. Walking away (and never returning) because I was offended by something said or done short-changed my ability to show Christ’s love to a hurting world. So, I had to learn how to cling to my identity in Christ in such a way that when I came up against a disagreement, I could walk away unscathed.  

In today’s day and age, we as Christians need to stop only hanging with the acceptable crowds, the less offensive crowds. With how marginalized Christianity is becoming, if we hide in our comfort zones, our spheres of influence will only become smaller and less powerful. 

Look at Jesus. He stuck to His convictions while surrounded by people who did terrifyingly offensive things. Not once did He not love those He disagreed with. What if we did the same thing? 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

She walked into the office and proudly showed us her hands. Her nails, much longer than they had been the day before, were decorated with the most amazing designs and colors. As everyone stopped to admire the masterpiece, she highlighted her shopping savvy, “I got this done for only $80.”

Fortunately, no one saw how my mouth was hanging open. Two days earlier I had invited her, one of the few Christians among my co-workers, to a women’s conference. The cost was $65. Her immediate response was, “Oh, I could never afford that! The kids need school clothes.”

It’s not my place to judge, but I caught myself wondering, “What benefits her family more, her attendance at a Christian conference or her long, fancy nails?” I could almost feel Jesus sigh.

Sometimes I grieve over our misplaced priorities. I know I’m not immune to the same mentality. My investment in my spiritual growth is dependent on whether I have any energy, time or money left over after I’ve cared for my own needs and desires and met the expectations of everyone around me. I may not get a manicure, but there are thousands of things in this world that compete with my love for Christ.

It’s a pretty clear principle that we invest in whatever matters most to us. And what we invest most in is the part of our lives that will grow most. How we spend our resources is a very real indicator of where we’re headed. Jesus said it best, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)

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