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Archive for the ‘empathy’ Category

~ Written by Samantha Freds

There are few things I enjoy more this time of year than puzzles. I love piecing together a beautiful landscape or a colorful scene. I find it relaxing yet challenging. I relish the satisfaction of tracking down that one piece I have been looking for. Recently, I’ve discovered what I believe to be a near-perfect combination of favorite things: fuzzy socks, a cup of hot coffee, and a puzzle.

My love for puzzles goes back to my childhood. My mom and I used to do them together when the weather forced us to stay inside. It was my mom who taught me proper puzzle strategy. First, you must separate the edge pieces from the middle pieces. Next, you put the outside together so you have a boundary to work within. Then you lay out all the middle pieces and put the box away.

Mom always encouraged me to not look at the picture on the box because she thought that was cheating. I, on the other hand, called it using my resources!

Fortunately, Mom had a very different strategy when it came to life. She encouraged both her kids to return to God’s puzzle box as often as possible. Just like puzzle creators provide a guide, our Creator gave us a guidebook for life. And just like the picture helps direct my efforts when I get stuck working on a certain section of a puzzle, the Bible is the life-giving direction I so desperately need.

I’ve been in a bit of a valley lately – a dry season spiritually. So I write to remind myself of the beauty of the Word of God. I so desperately need it to guide my life!

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

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~Written by Viki Rife

If you haven’t yet seen Overcomer, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But for me personally, the most challenging part of the movie is when John Harrison stops in to visit Thomas Hill. Hill observes, “You said you would pray for me. Did you?” Harrison has to admit he didn’t.

Many years ago I made a commitment to always follow through after telling someone I would pray for them. You know what? It’s really hard to do! When your own life is swirling with unexpected issues, and when there are many people you run into who need prayer, it’s sometimes hard to find the energy and focus to follow through.

Of course you can stop and pray with them right then and there. That has a lot of value. I’m asking the Lord, however, to give me the courage and persistence to pray more for the people I encounter, and to remind me to pray when I’ve made a promise.

A Christian leader I once had the privilege to interview shared with me that his life goal was to fulfill the instructions of Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”(NIV) If all God’s people devoted themselves to pray for those around them, how might our world change? May devotion to prayer be the deepest longing of our hearts.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“What if you were born like this for someone else?” A friend once asked me that question as I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t think I was strong enough to live a disabled life anymore. I’d been run ragged with terrifying changes to my diagnoses, the medically overwhelming theory of “pre-mature death,” and an overarching soul desire to just be myself, rather than being caged by my body’s inabilities.

I was angry. But my friend ignored that, and pointed me back to the Throne Room, so I could ask The Architect of my life what He really wanted from me. I was gently reminded of the prayer I used to pray like it was a broken record, “May I know You, and become like You.” How do we know Christ if we do not first understand the need for Him?

After we understand our need for Him, isn’t it enthralling to realize that He doesn’t correct our physical inadequacies nearly as quickly as He changes our character and our hearts? What if we’re given trials, limitations, and seasons of doubt not because God “has it out for us,” but because He knows we want to become like His Son, and in order to do that, we must take our eyes off ourselves and simply need Him and lean on Him?

Isn’t it true that what we call weakness, He calls glory? What if, instead of trying to “fix our weakness,” we truly accepted the fact that our weaknesses exist so that God can be seen, and therefore, our legacy as His faithful followers can remain eternally strong?

Oh, may that be our heart’s desire!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The past ten days or so have shaken us as a nation as we watch news of one mass shooting after another. We’re horrified, and the outcry for gun control is becoming louder in the wake of such tragedies.

As politicians, pundits and the population debate gun control, there’s a huge factor that no one seems to be paying much attention to. Something has changed about us as a society.

I remember as a child that my siblings and myself, as well as most of our friends, were taught never, ever to point a toy gun at a human being (an exception was made if we had an approved water-gun fight). My dad explained that even the act of pointing a toy gun at a person might cause our brain to start thinking it was okay. If he saw us start to do so, he’d quickly warn, “Don’t even think of it!”

Fast forward to when our children were growing up and video games became the rage. All of a sudden, children were playing games in which the objective was to shoot an opponent. Our son once saved his money and, without consulting us, purchased a video game in which blood splattered everywhere as you shot your enemy for points. We confiscated the game. For a long time he resented our meddling with a possession he had bought with his hard-earned money.

Now that he’s a dad, however, he has actually thanked us for that move. He believes it protected him during a very vulnerable time in his life, and has even commented that he realizes the condition of his heart at the time was leading him into dangerous territory. He says giving up violent games was one of the best things that could have happened to him!

The problem with guns is about more than the weapon itself—it is a reflection of what is happening in a human soul. Before we waste time arguing about gun control, let’s talk about violence control—in video games, in movies and TV shows, and in the home. That’s where the heart of the matter lies. Our job is to direct our children’s hearts as they are shaping their worldview so that using a gun against someone isn’t even a consideration.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Do you think it’s okay that my Jesus isn’t White?” The question startled me, but not because I thought her question was out of line. When I asked her to tell me more, my friend fought back tears as she explained what she meant.

“I’ve been taught the Bible all my life. I have a theology degree. But the Jesus I see in all the books is White. When I think of Jesus, His skin isn’t white, He’s not afraid of dancing, and He speaks my Native language. Do you think that’s wrong?”

Her struggle to understand isn’t rare. But as I thought back through the Gospels, I saw one very strong correlation. Whomever Jesus was sitting with at the time, He found common ground. To the fisherman, He became a fisherman. To the leper, He allowed Himself to be touched so the leper felt accepted. With the Rabbi, He shared common knowledge. To the uneducated, He simply showed them love and reminded them of their worth.

Jesus is the God Who fully commits Himself to love and join together with all people and all cultures. How beautiful to be reminded that God unites us within our differences—even our different cultures—rather than despite them.

May we allow ourselves to learn from each other’s different perspectives of Jesus!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I love how you work to serve the ‘least of these’ just like Jesus!” I heard that sentiment quite often working with the homeless community. There was a certain romance people envisioned when observing those of us who ran the shelter. We got to rock babies, love on parents, and see the gratitude on kids’ faces when we provided them new shoes, or a brand new toy. Who wouldn’t love doing that for a living?

What most of our observers didn’t understand was in order to bless the least of these, in many ways, we had to become like them, too. We had to learn how to look at a dumpster and see the treasures. We had to learn why an iPhone was more important than a house. We had to stop expecting them to uphold our moral compass, and had to learn what they determined was right and wrong.

Only when we had done that could we gently nudge our friends to make beneficial changes. It took a lot of work. We were constantly walking the line between compromise and sacrifice.

While working within our homeless community, I learned so much about how gentle Jesus is with those of us who may not see ourselves as the “least of these.” He was willing to become like us to reach us. Although He never sinned, He learned our ways in order to gain our trust.

How is it, then, that we often forget to do that for those we are burdened to love?

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