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The Richest Room

~ Written by Viki Rife

It started when I went back to a town I had lived in during high school and decided to track down a favorite teacher. She welcomed me warmly and led me through the living room into her “sitting room.” My jaw dropped. The huge room was a floor-to-ceiling library, with a curving stair leading to a reading loft high up among the books. I think it was inspired by the library in the 1964 film “My Fair Lady.”

A reading addict like me has trouble resisting the temptation to ignore everything else and start browsing the shelves. Even as we chatted, I found my eyes wandering. What amazing opportunities were tucked along those walls! I wouldn’t even know where to start.

That memory shows me such a picture of our relationship with God. Opening His Word is like being let loose in a library full of rich treasures. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There is so much to know about Him that we couldn’t possibly comprehend it all. We might choose to explore one aspect of Him one day, or for a month, then we check out other subjects about Him that expand our understanding of Him even more.

Yes, at times relationship with an all-knowing God can seem overwhelming. But the more we explore, the more we discover of His amazing character and how He wants to speak to our hearts.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When I look at her, I see myself. Her anger used to be my anger. Her fear used to be my fear. Her sin used to be my sin. Last but not least, when I watch how the bondage impacts her, it’s almost as if I can feel the shackles of my own Christ-less life. She and I are so much alike.

She and I are also very different. My bitterness scared me, so I prayed. My fear crippled me, so I ran to the only One who could heal me. My sin broke relationships, so I asked the Spirit to give me courage to start the journey back to restoration. That journey nearly broke me, it was so long.

But Christ, hope, and truth made redemption my greatest gift. As I stand and watch my loved one sink deeper away from redemption, I can’t decide whether to bestow empathy or lose my patience. Why did I find freedom and she didn’t? Why did God wipe my eyes clean but not hers?

Believing in God’s goodness while observing a prodigal is probably the hardest thing my heart has ever experienced. How long before God brings this lost sheep back? How long before He lets this burden from my heart lessen? Why is He taking so long? Doesn’t God realize the sooner the better is the best approach to things like this?

But then I have to remember this person is God’s creation and her story is not the only story in the world. God is behind the scenes weaving a tapestry I’ll never begin to understand, but I can sometimes see its beauty as God reveals His zealous desire for every “lost sheep” to be found. I may understand this precious person’s struggle, but God understands her heart and has an intimate knowledge of how long she needs before coming Home.

Now and forever, that truth will be sufficient as I rest in God’s goodness.

~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t believe it! It was a classmate’s birthday, and my friend and I had wanted to host a celebration in one of the lounges of our dorm. So while my friend baked two round layers of cake mix, I made a big batch of frosting and started preparing different colored flowers to decorate the cake.

As soon as the layers were cool enough, I started the decorating process. My friend, not experienced at cake decorating, hovered in the background as I worked.

Now we had brought the cake out, and our classmate and all the party attendees were oohing and aahing over it. One of them turned to my friend and said, “Did you make it yourself?” I watched incredulous as she proudly answered, “yes.”

It’s embarrassing now to admit I had to leave the room. I was hurt and just plain mad. They hadn’t even cut the cake, so it wasn’t the flavor of her baking they were complimenting. The credit should have gone to me!

God has been working on me most of my life to help me overcome the need to get credit for everything I do. I may have, like my friend, even accepted credit that wasn’t totally deserved, figuring it made up for some I had missed out on.

More and more these days, I hear my Lord remind me, “Do you want to leave My mark on this world, or your own?” And more and more, I’m learning to answer from the heart, “Lord, I want every bit of credit for anything in my life to go where it belongs. I want it to go fully to you.”

~ Written by Cassie a Rayl

“You’re one of the most joyful people I know,” my friend said as she hugged me tighter. “For someone to go through as much as you have, it’s just shocking, I suppose.” I smiled and thanked her for the compliment, and then walked away trying not to cry. I’m joyful?

People actually see joy in me? How?

Life hasn’t been easy lately. Friendships have disappeared, dreams have been put on hold, and loved ones are in constant turmoil. I feel as if my entire countenance is filled with processing these things and begging God for relief and restoration. Nothing seems joyful about that right now.

But then I have to remember joy, unlike happiness, is a choice. Joy doesn’t mean the tears stop, the heart burdens are lifted, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Joy means I know Who holds the future, and I’m willing to trust the God Who holds all my unknowns.

Proverbs 31:25 (ESV) says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” It doesn’t say anything about her troubles disappearing, but it does speak of the God she trusts. Her trust in God is her identity. It’s her joy.

At times, joy may not feel joyful. But God remains our absolute constant when circumstances change and our hearts experience valleys. Because of that—because of Him—joy can always be our first choice.

My Love Plan

~ Written by Viki Rife

You know the feeling. You’re dashing out the door at the last minute and discover your car has a flat tire. You’re cleaning for house guests and there’s a power outage, leaving you with no water, much less the ability to run the vacuum.

It’s especially hard for those of us who are planners. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get all my ducks in a row. Not that I can claim that I’ve been very successful at it. In fact, most of the time it seems like God is determined to prevent me from ever managing to achieve that goal.

Few things can make me angrier than having my plans interrupted. God has been pointing out to me that the anger is actually evidence my schedule has been an idol most of my life. Furthermore, He’s shown me that my need to be on top of things is, in part, a way to get love and approval.

The other day He hit me with a verse out of Jonah that has convicted me deeply: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8—ESV).

There’s no need to waste energy and get emotionally worked up. I need to let go of my idols so I can truly experience His steadfast love.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Transitions. It’s the one word which describes my life right now. My husband and I are house hunting, preparing for our first child in March, dealing with medical upheaval, working through a master’s program in seminary, learning firsthand how fluid being a pastoral family gets to be, and paying off student loans. On any given day, we are either disappointed because some of those transitions haven’t progressed, or both stressed and excited because one or two of them are moving too quickly.

Ever been there?

Truthfully, our entire lives on this earth are filled with never-ending transitions. But some of those seasons seem more comfortable than others. At this point in our lives, my growing family seems increasingly uncomfortable as God calls us to move forward but doesn’t clarify all the unknowns in that command.

I’m actually addicted to routine. Transitions don’t come with routine. When my life doesn’t seem to afford such luxuries, being grounded in Jesus isn’t just the good, Christian ideal. It’s the only way I keep moving.

Recently, I recounted the many things I’ve tried to call “my rock” other than the Lord. Whether it was food addictions, relationships, talents, or affirmation, using those things as my firm foundation secured my peace of mind for no longer than a few days. All those “pseudo-rocks” quickly disappeared and were nowhere to be found when I needed them most.

But Christ on the other hand, never changes. Even in the tumultuous unknowns of transitions, He remains the same. In this season of life, I’ve finally begun to realize that He is not just the one who gives me a foundation to stand on, peace, and strength. He is my foundation, peace and strength.

Transitions come and go. Jesus, my Rock, is consistently by my side.

~ Written by Viki Rife

I’ve seen hate before, but I could hardly believe the corrosive language pouring across my computer screen. The writer was venting on social media about the individual who had been nominated for the Supreme Court.

I’m not the possessor of evidence to qualify me to judge who is right and who is wrong in the debate over what someone did or didn’t do in the past. So I was surprised to see this person not only claim to already know who was in the wrong, but use very strong language to tear that individual’s character in every way possible.

While I’ve come to expect this “guilty until proven innocent” judgmentalism from non-believers, I never expected to see such hate streaming across social media from a person who claims to be in ministry for Christ. Especially surprising was the fact that the individual posting this tirade has complained to me often about being judged by others who don’t have all the facts. So why was this okay?

Brothers and sisters, we are called to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). We are citizens first of heaven, so our involvement in earthly politics needs to be run through the filter of what Christ desires from His followers. We are not called to broadcast a message of hate to the world. There’s plenty of that already. We are called to be reconcilers, not dividers.

Let’s show that we believe in grace by offering it to others, whoever they may be.

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