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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

It started when I went back to a town I had lived in during high school and decided to track down a favorite teacher. She welcomed me warmly and led me through the living room into her “sitting room.” My jaw dropped. The huge room was a floor-to-ceiling library, with a curving stair leading to a reading loft high up among the books. I think it was inspired by the library in the 1964 film “My Fair Lady.”

A reading addict like me has trouble resisting the temptation to ignore everything else and start browsing the shelves. Even as we chatted, I found my eyes wandering. What amazing opportunities were tucked along those walls! I wouldn’t even know where to start.

That memory shows me such a picture of our relationship with God. Opening His Word is like being let loose in a library full of rich treasures. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There is so much to know about Him that we couldn’t possibly comprehend it all. We might choose to explore one aspect of Him one day, or for a month, then we check out other subjects about Him that expand our understanding of Him even more.

Yes, at times relationship with an all-knowing God can seem overwhelming. But the more we explore, the more we discover of His amazing character and how He wants to speak to our hearts.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t believe it! It was a classmate’s birthday, and my friend and I had wanted to host a celebration in one of the lounges of our dorm. So while my friend baked two round layers of cake mix, I made a big batch of frosting and started preparing different colored flowers to decorate the cake.

As soon as the layers were cool enough, I started the decorating process. My friend, not experienced at cake decorating, hovered in the background as I worked.

Now we had brought the cake out, and our classmate and all the party attendees were oohing and aahing over it. One of them turned to my friend and said, “Did you make it yourself?” I watched incredulous as she proudly answered, “yes.”

It’s embarrassing now to admit I had to leave the room. I was hurt and just plain mad. They hadn’t even cut the cake, so it wasn’t the flavor of her baking they were complimenting. The credit should have gone to me!

God has been working on me most of my life to help me overcome the need to get credit for everything I do. I may have, like my friend, even accepted credit that wasn’t totally deserved, figuring it made up for some I had missed out on.

More and more these days, I hear my Lord remind me, “Do you want to leave My mark on this world, or your own?” And more and more, I’m learning to answer from the heart, “Lord, I want every bit of credit for anything in my life to go where it belongs. I want it to go fully to you.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding,” the mechanic said, laughing nervously. “Keep the receipt until your account agrees with the actual price of your alternator and you’ve been refunded. Again, I’m sorry.”

I chuckled silently as I mentally reminded myself I would have made the same mistake had I been in his shoes.

“It’s okay, Sir. We trust you.” I smiled warmly, trying to put the gentle man at ease. But instead of bringing peace, I obviously confused him.

“Trust? Trust me? Why would you trust me? You don’t even know me!” He exclaimed in shock.

“I don’t need to trust you,” I said gently. “I trust a God who happens to be bigger than you. Knowing Him makes this perfectly fine.”

He smiled and nodded in response, with a certain gleam in his eye. I recognized that look all too well. He wanted to call me foolish, naïve, stupid, awkward or all of the above. But he knew he couldn’t verbalize such insults.

The reality is, when it comes to proclaiming Jesus, I’ve come to accept that the world thinks less of me. What they consider an insult is actually a small reminder to my soul that Christ really has changed me and made me like Himself.

So, Christian, when was the last time those around you called you a fool for Christ? Did it make you smile? It certainly makes Jesus smile.

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~Written by Viki Rife

I used to be frustrated by what I thought of as “The Great Divide.” It seemed to me growing up that Christians were divided into two categories: those who were “in ministry,” and those who were “not in ministry.” And the ones “in ministry” were viewed as being at a much higher level spiritually than those “not in ministry.”

Sometimes it was baffling. Why were those “not in ministry” sometimes much nicer to others than those “in ministry”? Why did I know so many people “in ministry” who were dissatisfied with their lives?

Lately, I’ve begun to see a whole new perspective on what it means to be in ministry. “In ministry” is a matter of how we view life. I can teach a class and be very proud of the praise I get, but if my purpose isn’t to see God get the glory, it isn’t really ministry. I can help someone out, but if I complain and feel taken advantage of, it’s not ministry.

On the other hand, when I spend time encouraging someone who needs to talk, I’m “in ministry.” When I transport someone who needs a ride, I’m “in ministry,” if I’m doing it as unto the Lord. When I smile and affirm the harried customer service representative at the airport when flights are being cancelled and tempers are high, I’m “in ministry.”

By my new definition, whenever I see the people around me through the eyes of Jesus and act accordingly, I’m “in ministry.” Let’s stop accepting labels that describe titles and occupations. It’s our attitude that determines whether or not we belong to the “in ministry” camp.

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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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