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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 don’t know what’s wrong with my husband,” the woman told me with tears in her eyes. “I thought he loved God, but I don’t see any evidence. I don’t see him praying much, or reading his Bible very often.”

Something in her comment hit a nerve. It sounded way too familiar. Those words could have come out of my mouth at one time.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, my husband and I are opposites. I feel closest to God when I’m praying alone; he draws great satisfaction from corporate prayer. He worships best with a whole congregation singing; I prefer to sing at the top of my lungs when no one’s home.

I like to read whole chapters at a sitting; he can mull over the same verse for days. I commune with God best through my journal; he does it on a riding mower or a walk in the woods.

If I judge by my relationship with God, it looks to me like he doesn’t have one. If he judges me by his, it looks like I’m too introspective and self-concerned, maybe even holier-than-thou.

Over the years, I’ve been learning to trust the Spirit of God at work in the man I love. I need to respect God and my husband enough to let them work out what his faith should look like, just as He does with me.

When I back up and look at it from God’s perspective, I’m thankful we are so different. It offers each of us a fuller dimension for our faith.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The best example of discipleship I’ve ever seen came from a three-year-old. At least, the best example of a discipleship mentality.

I was all set to talk online with my granddaughter Eva. When she came on camera, she had her two favorite dolls tucked under her arms, as usual. When I asked her what she had been doing that day, she said, “Well, I have kids, don’t you know.” Her dolls occupy her mind no matter what else is happening.

Just the other day I asked her in our online chat what she’d been doing, and she answered, “Teaching my kids to ice skate.” Then she told me how she could slide on their new wood floor in her socks, and proudly explained that she had socks that “look just like ice skates.” But of course, she couldn’t just experience it by herself. She was conscientiously teaching her “kids” to skate also.

We might laugh, but I wish I had the same commitment to discipling others. Am I aware of opportunities to help them learn what I’m learning? Do I care about living human beings as much as a child cares about her dolls?

Eva is always aware that she is responsible for the care of her dolls. May we have that kind of enthusiasm for those God gives us the opportunity to disciple.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

My friend made it clear she felt as if I was her only way out. As she explained her problem, my heart ached as she told me I was her only friend, and the only one who could rescue her from her situation. It would have been so easy for me to drop everything and go rescue her. To be honest, it would’ve stroked my ego as a faithful friend in the best of ways.

Being *Katie’s savior in such a moment seemed like an excellent idea for both of us. Katie would get what she wanted — a quick fix to her problem — and I would have felt needed and indispensable to God’s grander plan.

Katie had just told me she hated God, and because of that, she didn’t think her family would want to help her get through her distress. In her panic, she wanted me to rescue her in secret, without the help of her family, and without speaking Biblical truth.

As I weighed my options of how to help Katie, I firmly heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Don’t rescue her. Comfort her, but do not stand in the way of her need of Me.”

I didn’t give my friend what she wanted that day. She was insistent I didn’t understand her need. But I knew in that moment I was guarding her from vulnerability with her Savior. Though Katie didn’t understand at the time, I knew her pain would lead her back to Jesus.

Letting go of my savior complex, and allowing God to work without my help, allowed Katie to find her real Savior.

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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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