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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

In the eight months we’d been married, prayer had never been a harder task. Words were said, expectations weren’t met, and feelings were hurt. After a long discussion, I kissed my husband on the cheek, walked away from him, and went on a walk alone. The moment the door closed behind me, I whispered desperately, “Please, Jesus. Please help me pray for my husband.”

The reality was, I knew I couldn’t pray for him in my own strength. Every prayer I’d initiated ended in self-pitied anger, complaints, and the good ole, “If you’d change him, Lord, this wouldn’t be so hard.” I wasn’t praying for my husband. I was licking my wounds.

Words eventually dried up, and I stopped in my tracks. I starting singing hymns I had learned as a child. I sang songs like Rock of Ages, Glorious Day, and Create in Me a Clean Heart. As my tears dried, I somehow went from focusing on the hurt between my husband and I, and started focusing on my Savior.

After a while, the songs faded, and I was able to pray. “Lord, I’m hurting. Make me more like Jesus anyway. What do you need to change in me so I can encourage Peter to become more like you, too?” The following season of prayer was more about restoring my brokenness at the foot of the cross, rather than fixing Peter’s humanity.

Sometimes, the greatest hurdle standing in our way of interceding for our spouses is ourselves. When those days come, there isn’t a self-help book out there that can truly fix that issue. Our only option is to run to the Father, and ask Him to change our hearts so we can love as deeply as He does.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I wish someone would make sure the children were quiet,” she said in exasperation. “This is church, after all.” I smiled at the woman’s complaint. I, too, was raised to believe children were to be seen and not heard — especially while sitting in a pew!

Despite being raised to cringe at noise during a church service, nowadays I can’t help but chuckle at the unabashed squeals, the stage-whispered questions, or unrelenting cries of the youngest generation. They don’t really seem to care what other people think of their behavior. The Bible calls us to have childlike faith. What’s more childlike than making your presence known before Jesus whether you’re laughing, screaming, joyful, scared, confused, or impatient?

Every time I hear the squawk of a kiddo, I’m reminded of Jesus commanding the disciples to let the children come to Him (Mark 10:14). He didn’t specify the children had to be on their best behavior, or in a good mood. He just told them to come—end of story.

What would happen to our faith journeys if we came to Him as uninhibited as children do?

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~ Written by Viki Rife

A few weeks ago, when I wrote a blog about keeping wonder in Christmas, I had no idea that a new kind of wonder awaited our family this season. The morning of December 22, my father slipped away from us into his Father’s waiting arms.

Christmas will never be the same for us. Yes, we grieve, and most likely there will be some grieving each year at this time. There is a big hole in our hearts. But overriding the pain is a confidence that the baby in a manger came to defeat death.

The hole is not forever. Our dear daddy—pastor, missionary, school administrator, chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, and all-around lover of God—was a work of grace. He is now experiencing the wonder of Heaven. And even in the pain, we are experiencing the wonder of peace that passes understanding.

Our family is entering a new season of life as the new year begins. You might be, too. May we all spend this new year focusing on the wonder of God’s amazing grace at work within us. Have a wonder-full year!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Can I pray for you two?” He asked while his hands, shaking because of Parkinson’s, grabbed both of us without waiting for an answer. As we do every time we go see my husband’s grandpa, we gladly agreed. Grandpa’s eyes filled with tears as he turned scripture into prayer, and prayer into a blessing over our lives.

He tagged onto the end of his prayer, “Jesus, they’re doing great things, um, this man and his wife. Just bless them. I love them so much. Amen.”

Then it was my turn to tear up. Parkinson’s and age have slowly been taking independence away from this man who has adopted me as his own because I married his grandson. His memory has slowly clouded out names and other important information. In so many ways, the frustration alone could have filled him with bitterness and anger.

But it doesn’t. Instead, those things make him press even more deeply into love and faith. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember our roles in ministry. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember our names. In that moment, he wanted Jesus in our midst, and nothing was going to stop him from being the tool Jesus used to bless our lives.

Grandpa didn’t have to know everything, he just had to know the Master.

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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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~ Written by Viki Rife

It’s time to speak up about fathers. Our society has become increasing hostile to the role of fathers in the family. Movies and sitcoms portray fathers as more of a hindrance than a help to their families. The concept of an absentee or clueless father seems to be the norm today.

As strong women who live by God’s values, we can have a part in helping our men reclaim their place in the family. This is not accomplished by reminding them of their failures.

Instead, we need to treat them with respect and consideration, and model for our children and grandchildren the importance we attach to their role. We need to affirm their strengths and their wise choices. Our support of dads can free our men to receive with joy the responsibility God has placed on them as fathers. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I know when people drive by on our road they think we´re crazy. There are at least two reasons for that. First of all, every fall when the apples start to fall off our trees, we let them sit on the ground and rot. The mess is visible from the road. We might be in the yard raking leaves, but the apples lie undisturbed.

The second reason appears at this season of the year. That same area under the apple trees does not get mowed. We carefully skirt around it, leaving tall grass blowing in the spring breeze. 

We have a very good reason for breaking the cultural rules of our neighborhood. If we leave apples on the ground, and if we don´t mow that area, the conditions are ripe for the growth of Morel mushrooms. Retailing at about $50 a pound, this delicacy draws people into the woods in droves for the spring tradition of mushroom hunting.

In other words, what doesn’t make sense to others makes perfect sense to us. All we have to do is wait patiently until the right time, then step out our door and gather our highly-prized feast.

It makes me wonder how many times I judge people’s actions without recognizing the treasure growing in their “mess.” Maybe I should try harder to give them the benefit of the doubt! 

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