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Archive for the ‘Belonging’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I wish someone would make sure the children were quiet,” she said in exasperation. “This is church, after all.” I smiled at the woman’s complaint. I, too, was raised to believe children were to be seen and not heard — especially while sitting in a pew!

Despite being raised to cringe at noise during a church service, nowadays I can’t help but chuckle at the unabashed squeals, the stage-whispered questions, or unrelenting cries of the youngest generation. They don’t really seem to care what other people think of their behavior. The Bible calls us to have childlike faith. What’s more childlike than making your presence known before Jesus whether you’re laughing, screaming, joyful, scared, confused, or impatient?

Every time I hear the squawk of a kiddo, I’m reminded of Jesus commanding the disciples to let the children come to Him (Mark 10:14). He didn’t specify the children had to be on their best behavior, or in a good mood. He just told them to come—end of story.

What would happen to our faith journeys if we came to Him as uninhibited as children do?

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~ Written by Viki Rife

A few weeks ago, when I wrote a blog about keeping wonder in Christmas, I had no idea that a new kind of wonder awaited our family this season. The morning of December 22, my father slipped away from us into his Father’s waiting arms.

Christmas will never be the same for us. Yes, we grieve, and most likely there will be some grieving each year at this time. There is a big hole in our hearts. But overriding the pain is a confidence that the baby in a manger came to defeat death.

The hole is not forever. Our dear daddy—pastor, missionary, school administrator, chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, and all-around lover of God—was a work of grace. He is now experiencing the wonder of Heaven. And even in the pain, we are experiencing the wonder of peace that passes understanding.

Our family is entering a new season of life as the new year begins. You might be, too. May we all spend this new year focusing on the wonder of God’s amazing grace at work within us. Have a wonder-full year!

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~ 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?

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~ Written by Erin Shuler

I wonder if God wishes we would all stay babies.

While preparing for my return to Uganda, I’ve been thinking a lot about how ready I am to be there and to love on the children (especially the babies!). I can’t wait to sit and hold them in my arms (Baby Fever, ha-ha).

I told my mom the other day, “I would be happy for the rest of my life if all I did was sit and hold babies!” For me, there is nothing like the feel of a baby in my arms. They have complete trust and faith in the one holding them. I don’t mind the dirty diapers, the messes, or the crying (which drives some people crazy). It is all far outweighed by the feeling of love that I get as they sleep in my arms, smile up at me, cuddle with me, and just be. I feel at peace with them resting in my arms.

I often have a hard time wrapping my mind around how God sees and loves me. Today the thought hit me, “Wow, I wonder if God thinks the same way about his children as I do about holding babies. Maybe God longs to hold us in his arms the same way I long to hold a baby in mine. Maybe he doesn’t mind all the chaos, the messes, the crying that we go through, if we are going through it with him. His love goes beyond our dirt. He wants us to rest in his capable hands and rely on him.”

I’m sure God doesn’t actually wish that we would stay babies, but I wonder if he doesn’t often miss some of the qualities that we have lost over time. How often do we place our lives in his hands? How often do we just lie in his arms and be?  

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I can’t imagine what was going through Aaron and Hur’s minds. They were charged with the task of holding up Moses’ arms to help Israel win the war. The significance always strikes me as odd, but I can’t imagine what was going through Aaron and Hur’s minds.

Their countrymen and fellow desert sojourners were at the bottom of the hill fighting with all their might. But there Aaron and Hur are, holding their aging leader’s arms up. If either of those godly men were even a fraction like me, I’m sure there was a time or two during the battle where their hearts groaned, “Seriously? Why can’t I be down there fighting? It’s my fight, too, ya know!”

But their seemingly small task held astronomical importance to their nation’s survival. If Moses’ arms fell, Israelites were slaughtered right before their eyes. If Moses’ arms stayed lifted, victory was in the hands of the Israelites and God received the glory.

It’s easy to compare our tasks with those of others. For the stay-at-home mom, it might be difficult to see her task as being equally as important as that of the single woman serving in Uganda. But we have no idea what impact our tasks – whether publicized or not – have on the eternal story our God is weaving.

There are days where God asks us to hold up arms rather than carry swords. Even when we can’t see the importance, our obedience impacts eternity.  

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t believe they weren’t twins. I had seen them many times playing together when I drove by. Then they showed up at our after-school SMM. They had lived next door to each other and had played together their whole lives. Now in first grade, they were inseparable.

Then one day one of them told me sorrowfully, “I can’t play with Mary* any more.” She went on to explain that they’d had a fight and her mom told her, “Just stay away from her if that’s how she’s going to be.”

As leaders, we tried to help the girls work things out. But they were too afraid of their mothers’ wrath if they spoke to each other. I hoped it would blow over, but it never did. They wouldn’t interact in SMM, although sometimes I saw wistfulness as one looked furtively at the other. Eventually one of them stopped coming.

That was over 20 years ago. I remember thinking at the time, “I hope the rest of their generation isn’t being raised with that philosophy.”

Sadly, I think they have. All it takes is one non-PC statement and people are writing each other off. It seems like the cultural norm has become, “If your opinion is different from mine, you must be a bad person.” In our society, I am the only one who has a right to free speech. And you will be condemned if you don’t agree.

As God’s people, we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. Our world desperately needs examples of gracious people who know how to bring warring factors together in the presence of our Lord. If there’s one way we can demonstrate Jesus, it’s by knowing how to be agents of change through reconciliation.

*Name changed  

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~ Written by Viki Rife

How are we to respond to the situation last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia? A look at our history can give us some important clues.

When the Civil War started, the Brethren, who were pacifists, remained committed to their refusal to wound another human. They did not enlist. This brought them under suspicion from both sides.

However, they also had strong abolitionist beliefs. Many were already involved in the Underground Railroad and in purchasing slaves in order to set them free. When the war started, they ramped up their efforts within the guidelines of their conscience.

Their part in the Battle of Antietam is an example of the spirit of followers of Christ. Soldiers from both sides were wreaking havoc on the farms and burning the homes of these peaceful people. Remember, they hadn’t taken sides, so neither side protected them as “theirs.”

However, these brave souls went out into the fields and even Antietam Creek. They rescued as many wounded Union and Confederate soldiers as they could, taking them into their homes.

When they ran out of room there, they took them to their church, turning it into a hospital where enemies were placed side by side for treatment. When you visit the Antietam Battlefield Memorial, you can see the church and hear the story.

These people lived within the boundaries they believed God called them to. However, that did not keep them from being ministers of reconciliation in the world. They went out of their way to care for the very people who were destroying their property. They showed grace to everyone, even though they stood against what the Confederates were fighting for.

The early Brethren were very aware that their citizenship belonged first to the kingdom of heaven. They put into practice the instructions of Jesus through the Apostle Paul, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

(To find out more about beliefs of the early Brethren on racism, read “The Better View” in the current issue of Women’s Spectrum magazine. Find out more here.

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