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~ 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

“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 Cassie Rayl

I got a glimpse of Heaven several years back. I sat in a room with friends who were German, Chinese, and Japanese. We each took turns reading portions of the Gospel story, simply taking time to revel in a God who doesn’t have a language barrier. I couldn’t understand my friends, and when I used Sign Language, they couldn’t understand me.

But we knew the same Jesus, and He was enough and would always be enough to bring us together.

Don’t you love the fact that we serve a God who doesn’t believe unity and uniformity are the same thing? We serve a God who made us differently for a purpose, and if we ignore that truth, we miss out on a level of Christ’s beauty that was never meant to be invisible. May we celebrate our diversity with our brothers and sisters no matter our differences. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

One of the greatest keys to success I’ve ever heard came from a comedian. He asked his brother, a successful business entrepreneur, what the secret was to his success.

His brother answered, “Well, you’ve seen all the episodes of Jersey Shore, right? When the comedian answered that he had, his brother simply said, “I haven’t.”

Most of us would say we desire to be successful in developing a relationship with God. However, we quickly forget that in order to accomplish something, we have to give up something. Truly knowing God requires sacrificing something we might like for something more valuable in the long run.

As with any other value in our lives, we will succeed only in what we invest in. Our time with God should not be our day’s leftovers, but rather the central focus that overrides every other option. 

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I stooped down to wash my kitchen floor and noticed the bruises and scrapes on my legs. I’d mistaken the distance between myself and a wooden pole the other day – hence the hues of black and blue blatantly displayed on my skin.

As a child, I remember thinking pastors’ wives were the most put together women known to the human race. I truly felt they never did anything imperfectly. I must’ve assumed they didn’t have clumsy days, or days where they weren’t exactly the greatest women in history. Now as a pastor’s wife myself, as I beheld my scrapes, bruises and frustrated attitude, I chuckled at my childhood naivety. I couldn’t have been further from the truth in my childish assumption!

Regardless of my reality check, there are still plenty of moments where I feel “less than.” Less than adequate. Less than perfect. Less than suited for this role as a support to a pastor and his ministry. In my weakest of moments, I try convincing God he chose the wrong girl. But then I remember:

Miriam was weak, yet she helped lead a nation.

Rahab was disregarded as “less than,” but she’s in Christ’s lineage.

Mary was a developing, not-at-all put-together teenager, yet she mothered God’s Son.

Sometimes, it’s a blessed gift to simply be reminded that we are not alone in our imperfections, and God uses us anyway.   

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