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Archive for the ‘Belonging’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

It was the first potted plant I tried to grow, and it had thrived so well I was beginning to hope it meant I had a green thumb. Then one day I noticed that some of the leaves were turning dark. They got drier and drier. I tried watering more. Nothing helped.

When I pointed it out to a more experienced gardener, she said it needed to be repotted. “Bring it over to my house,” she told me. “I have the perfect pot for it.”

I helped prepare the soil and she removed the plant from its pot and placed it in the new one. Then she produced a big tool that looked like a combination of a knife and a saw. I stared aghast as she started to slice at the roots all around my plant.

“What are you doing?” I cried. She smiled reassuringly. “This plant is rootbound. The roots have wrapped around themselves, and if you don’t cut them so they attempt to grow in a new direction, they will never go deeper.

Have you ever felt like God was doing that—sawing away at the roots that have sustained you? I do. He frequently tears up old assumptions about who He is and what life is supposed to be about. He destroys my comfortable ways of doing things.

When that happens, I need to do what plants do and expand my roots into the rich soil He has provided. He’s acting out of love, because He knows I need to go deeper into His nourishing truth.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

At 16 I graduated high school and got a job at a local hospital. One of my responsibilities involved making sure the radiologists had film cassettes loaded with new film.

One afternoon I got a call from a radiologist who was using the portable x-ray machine in the operating room. He needed more cassettes. I was to meet him in the scrub-room to deliver them.

When I walked into the room, my eye caught sight of the steel counter to the left. To my amazement, it contained five or six dead infants in various stages of development. I remember one had black wavy hair. My first thought was, “how could that many stillbirths occur in one day in our small town?” My teenage mind was horrified.

Just then, a nurse came out of the OR. She saw me staring over at the counter and frowned. “I don’t know why people can’t clean up after themselves,” she grumbled. She went over to the counter, grabbed a trash can, and with one quick move swept all the little bodies into it. Then she pulled out the bag and tied it shut.

I remember thinking, “How will the parents know which child is theirs when they’re ready to bury them?” My mind absolutely could not absorb the fact that the recent ruling of Roe vs. Wade had anything to do with it.

I hid the trauma deep inside and never told a soul.

But my heart was left very vulnerable when it comes to baby deaths. I grieve them with an intensity that has always seemed more than what the average person does. When my own granddaughter died in the womb the week before her due date, I was absolutely numb for two months. Something painful was stirring. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It was the memory of those beautiful dead babies.

Finally, as part of grieving my granddaughter, I allowed myself to examine the incident from so long ago and started processing the emotions that surround it. I was eventually able to share that operating room experience with my husband and a few trusted friends. They have been balm to my aching heart.

I thought I had worked through the trauma. Then last month a couple very close to me lost their baby at 25 weeks. The mother was induced, and I waited in the hallway while the baby was delivered. I saw the doctor leave the room, and a few minutes later a nurse came out carrying a tied trash bag.

The memory from that long-ago day hit like a fist to the stomach. I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

At that point I realized that my horror of living in a society that throws away its children is never going to go away. Thankfully, I soon was able to go into the room and see the baby in her father’s arms. She had not been in that bag. Her tiny body was being treated with dignity and respect by her grieving parents. And, in a strange way, I found the scene comforting. Parents should care that much about their child.

We cannot change our society, no matter what laws we pass. New York’s recent legalization of full-term abortion is only a symptom of our disease of devaluing human life. May God’s people go to our knees in prayer for our society, and may we reach out to help people see the God in whose image they’re made!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Mommy, please don’t let them do this. Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy? Why?!” I was three years old, and I was undergoing even more medical testing. Because I was so young, the MRI came with tightly-wrapped gauze and a foam wall surrounding my head to ensure I didn’t move during the excruciatingly-long test. I had worked myself into a horrible migraine and anxiety attack, and I wanted the test to be over now.

In my childish perspective, I was incredibly confused why my parents just sat there—obviously upset, but still doing nothing. I was in pain. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a good, cooperative little girl anymore. Why didn’t they rescue me? What was wrong with them?

What I didn’t understand was, though the test was painful, what was behind the pain would be worth every ounce of my discomfort. The test results gave my medical team a better understanding of the issues which plagued my body. Mom and Dad knew the end goal, and they had come to a heartbreaking but necessary decision. My temporary pain was acceptable pain.

I’ve come to understand as an adult that my loving and attentive God watches my life in much the same way. We live in a fallen world where life experiences bring agonizing pain, confusion and despair. It’s easy to look at my Heavenly Father and scream, “Abba? Why?! Why are You allowing this? Can’t You see I’m nearly shattered? Aren’t you supposed to be good?”

But He knows something I don’t. He knows the end goal. He knows just what I need to become more like His Son.

In the end, I can almost hear Him whisper with tears in His eyes, “Child, this pain is temporary. Hang in there. The end result will be worth every second of your pain.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The century-old upright piano was gorgeous to look at. As I sauntered through the privately-owned war museum, I was struck by the stories the instrument obviously told in its worn keys, beat up wood, and fragile seat. I wondered how many war widows had sat at the piano to play their loved one’s favorite tune when their hearts really only wanted peace to show up again.

As my imagination drew me closer to the ivory keys, I asked if I could play the piano. I expected the chords to be out of tune and painful to hear, but I thought I’d hear something. Instead, I heard nothing as I pressed each key. Some of the ivory keys were stuck in place. Others didn’t even feel like they were attached to the strings within the instrument.

It quickly became quite obvious the piano was beautiful to look at, but nothing more. Then my imaginative thoughts took a different turn as I mourned the fact that such an elegant piano could be dead on the inside. What had happened to make it lose its inner beauty?

I never want to be like that piano—curiously captivating and beautiful on the outside, but useless and silent with the praises of God in my heart. In a hundred years, I pray my heart’s song to God can still be used for His purposes and glory.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Turn to Matthew 6:19 in your Bibles, if you have them,” the African pastor said as he opened the service. I looked down at my iPad and chuckled. In that little screen, I had access to every translation, version, or paraphrase ever written. Within a moment, I could view the Scriptures in Greek, Hebrew or English.

The pastor had questioned whether I had one Bible. Little did he know I had countless digital Bibles and had at least five hard copies at home!

Despite the momentary humor, I was struck by the contrast between my attitude toward the Word of God in comparison to my African brother’s attitude.

He knew the price of having a Bible. Many of his loved ones had never seen a Bible—let alone owned one. He understood the preciousness of it. He knew what it meant to hunger for it. I, on the other hand, have never had to experience that hunger. I’ve never felt what it was like to long so deeply for a Bible of my own and wonder if that dream would ever come true.

What if I started treating the Bible as this pastor does? What if I continuously approached the Word of God with a fresh reminder of the privilege it was to freely read God’s truth? What joy would I experience which I may have forgotten?

May I never overlook the freedom I’ve been given to access God’s Word!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I drove in the driveway and a three-year-old shot out of the house like a bolt of lightning. After giving me an intense hug, he started dragging me toward the house.

“Grandma, come see our tomato plant,” he urged as he pulled at my hand. “You know what? Daddy has a new bike,” he added. After about six months of not seeing me, he had a lot to show. He barely stopped to breathe as he took me on a whirlwind tour and described all that had changed in their home since I last visited.

Finally we reached the living room. He led me to one corner, and with a proud flourish of his hand announced, “And look, we have this!”

There in a baby swing was his two-week old brother, who had decided to make his appearance in the world sooner than I was scheduled to fly out. Of all the wonders of new things a three-year-old took pride in, this was the crowning glory.

I’ve thought about that incident often as this has been a rough year of losing loved ones. I draw great comfort from imagining them exploring heaven, rejoicing constantly in discovering the greatness of God in ways that cause them to fall before Him in worship again and again. In my mind, I picture them sharing their joy with me as I arrive, and delightedly announcing, “And look, we have Jesus!

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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.

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