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Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

We had planned to mourn our daughter’s death in private. At 26-weeks gestation, our perfectly-healthy baby girl stopped breathing, and we were told the operation to deliver her would take mere minutes, leaving us with the hearts of parents, but no child to raise. We knew we’d mourn her passing, but we planned to do it alone.

That’s what we planned, but that’s not what happened.

We ended up telling our pastoral teammates about Faithe’s death, thinking they would be the only ones to actively carry our burden. Standing in their kitchen, we wept together as our friends promised to carry us through the heartbreak to the best of their abilities. That was the last thing I consciously remember.

The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital an hour away from home, hooked up to an IV drip, unable to speak, barely able to move, and still very, very pregnant. As I searched the hospital room for my husband, I made eye contact with him and a handful of other church members who had taken it upon themselves to actively stand with Peter and I as we said goodbye to our daughter. It took one phone call, but my hospital room was never empty. We were never alone.

What was supposed to be an afternoon of pain was actually a five-day journey fighting for my life as I succumbed to preeclampsia and my body refused to admit Faithe had passed away. Anytime I woke up from my magnesium-induced partial paralysis, my husband was being loved on, fed, and comforted by our church family as he vigilantly watched my vitals. My Christ-family gently walked Peter and I through the implications of Faithe’s death and the possibility of my own. At night, they took turns sitting by my bedside, while the others camped out in the hospital hallways and on guest couches.

A nurse leaned over my bedside one afternoon while I was lucid and whispered through tears, “These people aren’t your family, but they obviously love you and they keep talking about Jesus. I’ve never seen a family act more like a unit than you all, and it doesn’t make sense. I thought the Church had lost its effectiveness a long time ago. It’s so hard watching you grieve, but it’s so powerful, too.”

Our grief is still tender and raw, but the death of our daughter taught us one very clear lifelong lesson: Our faith in Jesus may be made up of an individual choice to follow Him, but it is kept alive because we stick together with other believers. Our daughter’s death made us unbelievably weak—in many ways, we still are—and yet our church Body held us together even when our grief made it impossible to hold them in return.

That’s what the Church is supposed to be, and that is what we need to become.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was six the first time my great grandfather handed me a polishing rag. He stood me in front of his silver collection and stated proudly, “You can help me make these beauties shine again.” I was responsible for a silver horse that had most assuredly seen better days, but my “Gramps” treated it with such treasured respect, I knew it had to be special.

He never told me the stories behind his collection. Born into a poor family and with only a 2nd grade education to his name, I can only imagine how priceless his three-tiered display case felt to him. As we worked together on his silver, he’d occasionally chuckle as he wiped grime off a certain piece, but the stories stayed safely in his mind.

That afternoon, sitting near one of my spiritual giants, I got a better glimpse of what it meant to first serve out of love. Even at six, I thought polishing silver was a waste of time. Yet I didn’t find myself asking hundreds of questions as to why I had to help. Gramps wanted to spend time with me, and polishing silver was important to him, so therefore, it became important to me. I didn’t need to know why. I knew Gramps and that was enough.

What would happen if I lived my life with Christ in the same way? I find myself peppering God with endless questions when He asks me to do something. I want to understand before I say yes. But too often, when that is my initial response, I miss out on sharing Jesus’ joy. What if I trusted Jesus enough to trust there was beauty in His presence, even when the task feels mundane?

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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 Viki Rife

I was just trying to start a conversation. When I asked the seventh-grader what her interests were, she answered, “Well, I’m not really good at anything.” Further discussion with her convinced me that she really believed there was nothing special about her.

I knew where she was coming from. I, too, went through some early teen years where I felt I had nothing to offer the world. Yes, my parents were affirming, but deep inside I believed they only loved me because they were my parents and that was their job.

So I have a new challenge for the rest of this year. I’m going to watch the teens in my church more closely. When I see them doing something good, or see a glimmer of potential in them, I’m going to go out of my way to make sure they know I see something special and valuable in them. In fact, I think I’ll do the same with the younger kids!

Our pastor shared on Sunday a goal for each child in our church to have five adults whom they know are praying for them and supporting them spiritually. I love that concept! We never know how far our words of affirmation and encouragement can go to inspire a young person to keep seeking God.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I’ll never forget the day a fifteen-year-old girl who had started attending our youth group told me, “I need to find a boyfriend so I can get pregnant.” Hiding my surprise, I asked her why. Through tears she said, “Because I need a baby so I have someone to always love me.”

We may smile at her naïve perspective, but the truth is that as parents, we are very concerned about how our children feel toward us. It takes great emotional maturity to resist parenting based on the question, “How can I make sure my child likes me?” I call it “the foolish parenting question.”

Many, many parents in our society are living by that question. They can’t bear the thought that their child might be unhappy with them, so they knock themselves out to please the child. When the effort wears them out, they end up blowing up at the child for being so demanding. Then they feel guilty and the cycle begins all over again as they try to get back into their child’s good graces.

For those of us who understand that our children, like ourselves, were created to give God glory, the wise question to ask is, “How can I prepare my children to be God-honoring adults?” It changes the way we respond in every situation of their lives.

When something is hard for them, we will help them develop an attitude of perseverance instead of doing it for them. When others hurt their feelings, we will show them grace while using the opportunity to teach forgiveness and help them develop healthy conflict-resolution skills. When they mismanage their allowance, we will lovingly but firmly let them go without what they want so they know irresponsibility has consequences. With each new challenge, our thought should be, “How can I use this to prepare them to cope well with future problems? How can I show them that this is a way to bring glory to God?”

In the end, we find the parents who ask the wise question while rearing their children often end up with children who appreciate and like them. The ones who ask the foolish question many times have children who are demanding and contemptuous.

It is the wise parenting question that helps us “train up a child in the way he should go.” Our children are not created to make us feel good, although that may be a pleasant side effect. We must always be mindful that God put our children in our lives so we could teach them to give glory to Him.

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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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