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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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~ Written by Viki Rife

Does your heart break at times when the news is full of violence? Do you ache when you see injustice? You are in good company!

Throughout the history God’s people have had to face a world where things are being done the opposite of what He intended for humanity. We recognize that all is not as it should be.

It’s comforting to read how God views those who long for the world to do His will. In Ezekiel 9, the prophet has a vision of God’s judgment. The Lord calls for those appointed to execute judgment on His people, and He appoints one to “go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” He then commands the destroying angels not to touch anyone who has the mark.

If we are not grieved by the decline of our society, it may be that we are not in tune with God’s ways. On the other hand, our pain over what is happening is evidence of our awareness of how right God’s ways are. May we intertwine our laments over our world with prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I understand.” It’s a two-word sentiment meant to comfort and console, but it often doesn’t. When facing heartbreaking trauma, loss, or a new medical hurdle, the last thing you want to hear is, “I understand.” Those words are always uttered in well-intentioned ways, but I’ve caught myself mentally mumbling, “How could you understand?! You have no idea what it’s like to feel pain like this!”

A while back, I asked God to help me learn how to keep my thoughts to myself when sitting with a grieving friend. Instead of looking their grief in the eye and telling them I understand, I’ve started praying, “God, I want to understand, but I don’t. Help them know you bear their pain just as deeply, and your consoling love brings healing once they’re ready for it.”

Most humans don’t grieve well. We are even worse at witnessing the grief of someone they love. But what a breathtaking assurance—we can hand them to the God Who really does understand heartbreak, loss, and trauma! We serve a God who is not afraid to grieve, because He understands it better than any of us could ever imagine.

Isn’t it awe-inspiring to know we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God who humbles Himself enough to come alongside us in our pain? Isn’t it amazing that when we hear Him whisper to our grieving hearts, “I understand, Child,” He really does?

Oh, the glory of serving a Savior who meets us in our valleys just as easily as He celebrates us on the mountain tops!

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