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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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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 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 Viki Rife

The feds are watching our barnyard. There’s actually a sign to let people know.

The sign says, “Do not climb tower! Federally protected migratory bird nest.” It’s by the cell phone relay tower that sits in our barnyard.

The endangered osprey first appeared about six summers ago. We saw them circling the tower with precious building materials, fighting to gain altitude because of their load. Soon, we heard the unmistakable cry of the fledglings in their nest, always hungry.

By the next summer, there was no doubt the nest had attracted the attention of officials. We would arrive home to find conservation officers parked in our driveway, intently peering at the top of the tower through their binoculars.

I find myself wishing that human babies were protected the way these eggs are. While I love sharing our barnyard with these interesting birds, something inside me cries about the injustice of the mixed-up priorities of our society.

This issue is only the tip of the iceberg. My prayer is that, as a country, we will learn to value what God values. Will you join me in that prayer? God is able to turn our countrymen’s hearts to His desires as we band together in prayer.

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