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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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~ 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.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Freedom!” His unnaturally high-pitched voice echoed throughout the jail’s cold, cinderblock chapel after the chaplain had asked his audience, “What does every man want the most?” When my client’s announcement was met with shocked silence, he turned to me and signed angrily, “Tell him what I mean!”

With my hands corresponding with my voice, I explained to the audience that my client — we’ll call him Caleb — believed no man could know what he wanted if the person was not free. Mentally, I reminded myself he meant free from the jail cell he was confined in. He wanted freedom; he didn’t seem to know how to want God.

After my explanation, Caleb patted me on the back in affirmation that I had interpreted his anger efficiently. He seemed proud of himself for speaking up. He no longer wanted me to interpret the service and sat there annoyed and impatient, waiting for the guard to come and return the inmates to their cells.

My heart ached when I left work that day. Caleb may have had deaf ears, but he had a jaded and uninformed mind when it came to things about God, love, and true freedom. The week prior, I had asked him to define words like “salvation,” “grace,” “love,” and “sin.” None of his definitions made sense. None of his explanations came with conviction. He’d told me rather nonchalantly, “I don’t really know what these things mean, I just know you want to hear me say them. You are a Christian after all.”

I was reminded during my time with Caleb that often times people who need truth the most long for freedom, but don’t know how to ask for it. Such a reality means we as Christians — freedom and truth holders — must be watching for them and be willing to pour into them. 

They may think they’re free, but are they?

~ 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.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Can I pray for you two?” He asked while his hands, shaking because of Parkinson’s, grabbed both of us without waiting for an answer. As we do every time we go see my husband’s grandpa, we gladly agreed. Grandpa’s eyes filled with tears as he turned scripture into prayer, and prayer into a blessing over our lives.

He tagged onto the end of his prayer, “Jesus, they’re doing great things, um, this man and his wife. Just bless them. I love them so much. Amen.”

Then it was my turn to tear up. Parkinson’s and age have slowly been taking independence away from this man who has adopted me as his own because I married his grandson. His memory has slowly clouded out names and other important information. In so many ways, the frustration alone could have filled him with bitterness and anger.

But it doesn’t. Instead, those things make him press even more deeply into love and faith. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember our roles in ministry. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember our names. In that moment, he wanted Jesus in our midst, and nothing was going to stop him from being the tool Jesus used to bless our lives.

Grandpa didn’t have to know everything, he just had to know the Master.  

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I used to make a big deal out of prayer cards. Back in the day when fridges—not phones—were filled with prayer reminders, I thought it was my duty to make sure our family stayed up-to-date on every missionary’s prayer card. It was so much fun giving my mom new pictures every so often. In my seven-year-old mind, it didn’t matter that the people in the pictures were strangers.

They were missionaries, and my job was to pray for them. I rarely remember giving Jesus specific prayer requests as I looked at my treasured photo collection. To be honest, I’m fairly certain I barely grasped why praying for missionaries was important. I just knew praying for them made Jesus happy, and that’s what I wanted to do more than anything.

Don’t you love that we serve a God who listens to the hearts of children? Isn’t it amazing that the naïve, uninformed prayers of a child are treasured just as much as the wise prayers of a weathered saint? I grew a joy for praying for ministries as a young child because my parents encouraged my desire to talk to Jesus. They understood that my childish grasp on Jesus was enough because Jesus doesn’t wait until we reach a certain level of maturity to pursue us. (In fact, He pursues us even if we don’t return the favor!)

May we never squelch the childlike faith of the younger generations. Who knows where their pure desire to know and please God could take them in the years to come. 

Stop the Leak!

~ 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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