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Archive for the ‘Belonging’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

It wasn’t until I was fifty years old that I discovered a shocking truth. I wasn’t my grandfather’s favorite grandchild.

Up until that moment, I had assumed our special times together were unique. Surely no one else spent hours sitting with him on the riverbank watching leaves float by, or on a park bench writing poetry to share with each other. Surely I was the only one who took walks with him through the nearby cemetery and made up stories for him about the people buried there.

I left California for college at 17 and settled in Indiana. It wasn’t until my uncle passed away and different ones of the cousins helped their elderly parents travel to the funeral that I had the joy of sitting with cousins and reminiscing. As they mentioned childhood memories, the truth hit me. They had special, tailored-to-them experiences with Grandpa, too. I was not the favorite grandchild.

It only shocked and disappointed me for a moment. Then I was overwhelmed with a wave of gratitude. Here I was, sitting with the few other people in the world who had enjoyed the beautiful experience of being valued by this amazing man I had loved so much. All I could think was, “This is what family is about.” We shared a bond that no one else could fully understand.

Since that day, there have been times when friends and I were sharing what God was doing in our lives and I got that same feeling, “This is what family is about.” The only way to explain the feeling is the word “Heaven.”

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my husband,” the woman told me with tears in her eyes. “I thought he loved God, but I don’t see any evidence. I don’t see him praying much, or reading his Bible very often.”

Something in her comment hit a nerve. It sounded way too familiar. Those words could have come out of my mouth at one time.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, my husband and I are opposites. I feel closest to God when I’m praying alone; he draws great satisfaction from corporate prayer. He worships best with a whole congregation singing; I prefer to sing at the top of my lungs when no one’s home.

I like to read whole chapters at a sitting; he can mull over the same verse for days. I commune with God best through my journal; he does it on a riding mower or a walk in the woods.

If I judge by my relationship with God, it looks to me like he doesn’t have one. If he judges me by his, it looks like I’m too introspective and self-concerned, maybe even holier-than-thou.

Over the years, I’ve been learning to trust the Spirit of God at work in the man I love. I need to respect God and my husband enough to let them work out what his faith should look like, just as He does with me.

When I back up and look at it from God’s perspective, I’m thankful we are so different. It offers each of us a fuller dimension for our faith.

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Written by Cassie Rayl

With a child-sized Superman cape over his shoulders, the little boy hero walks the streets of Birmingham handing out McDonald’s chicken sandwiches to the homeless. At four years old, he recently learned the meaning behind the word “homeless.” He told his daddy he wants all his allowance to go towards buying sandwiches so he can “show love” to the people in need in his hometown.

Watching the news story about Austin made me tear up for several reasons. First off, he’s adorable. Second, my family has been closely impacted by the trial of homelessness, so I take Austin’s joy of being a Good Samaritan personally.

But most importantly, I’m in awe of his childlike faith and his confidence that he can impact the world for the better.

He obviously doesn’t care that his monthly allowance only buys a handful of sandwiches. He doesn’t approach only the “acceptable” people on the streets. He doesn’t stop to weigh a person’s potential success rate before helping them. He and his daddy walk through Birmingham giving out food until there is no food left—simply because Austin wants to show love to the best of his ability.

What if we as adults had that type of faith? What if we served the “least of these” simply to show them love, with no ulterior motive?

Would Christ be easier to see and His love feel more tangible?

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~ Written by Viki Rife

What is it that makes kids want to help in the kitchen? There is something in the human soul that longs to be a part of creating something, of contributing to the community.

It takes a lot of patience on the part of the parent. Letting a child help can double the length of time it takes to prepare a meal or bake a batch of cookies. But something happens to a child in the process of helping. The child develops new thinking skills and begins to understand the chemistry of ingredients. Competencies develop that the child can build on.

It’s important for us to let our children help, even if it makes it harder to get a project done. Sometimes I wonder if God does the same with us. He certainly could run the world without us, if He chose, but He allows us to be a part of what He’s doing in the world. That joy we see on the face of a child who is helping in the kitchen? It reminds us that God wants us to experience the joy of working with Him.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I love watching you walk by my house every day. You don’t know me, but thanks for being you. You’re a breath of fresh air. Something is different about you.” The complete stranger who spoke those words had caught me mid-bite and mid-giggle at a local restaurant recently. I wanted to laugh harder at the awkwardness of his statement. But the look of confusion in his eyes made me choke on a possibly humorous response.

I stuttered out a shocked, “It’s Jesus, Sir. It’s all and only Jesus.” He smiled sadly, and responded, “Yeah, okay. Well anyway, just wanted you to know. Have a nice day.”

Jesus-induced joy has always been a piece of what makes His followers stand out from the crowd. But in our current culture, when violence, fear, and cynicism have become a main event, joy is so rare it’s confusing to those who don’t know our Savior. Some days, choosing joy feels like a sacrifice of praise. I’ve come to the realization, though, that if I don’t choose joy, I’m missing out on testifying about Christ.

If we truly live in the truth that our Savior is alive, how can we not choose joy despite our circumstances? It’s what makes us different, and obviously, the world around us is watching.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

They were promised no one on the ship would die. Their voyage was divinely promised safety. For those on the ship with Paul in Acts 27, though, the squalling winds and terrifying leaks on their vessel didn’t encourage thoughts of safety. As the crew unloaded valuables into the towering waves, there had to be only one thought shared among the men.

Paul’s God isn’t with us. We’re going to die.

But then, Paul says something which seems even crazier. “We’ll all be safe, but first we will run aground.” Paul didn’t sound apologetic. He was simply repeating what the Angel of the Lord had told him. Safety, but not without risk. Life, but not without pain.

Too often, I find myself complaining to God, “You said you’d be faithful! You said I’d prosper! This pain doesn’t look like prosperity. It looks like torture. Where are you?”

Only when I stop to realize the God who holds my life and prosperity in His hands is the same God who sees the big picture, do I stop to thank Him for my own “shipwrecks.” After all, without those terrifying experiences, I may never have had the opportunity to test God’s divine faithfulness. Those shipwrecks taught me my God’s faithfulness never fails.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Free Wash

For over thirty years I’ve wanted to put a sign up on our road from time to time that says “Rife’s Free Undercar Wash.” The county would not think it’s funny.

The family farm has a field with a natural spring. It has made farming that area rather challenging, but its location next to the road has made it a nightmare for the county.

They’ve brought engineers in to design ways to change the flow of the water. But no culvert, no field drain, absolutely nothing, can long prevent the flow of that spring along the road. The water ends up running downhill until it finds a place to cross the road, leaving potholes in its wake.

Sometimes a week after a heavy rainfall the water is still running, making its own streambed along and across the road until it reaches its goal—the neighbor’s pond a quarter-mile away.

I can’t help but admire that stream. I want to have the same determination to pursue my soul’s true home, my Lord Jesus, no matter what stands in the way.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

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