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Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

It was the first potted plant I tried to grow, and it had thrived so well I was beginning to hope it meant I had a green thumb. Then one day I noticed that some of the leaves were turning dark. They got drier and drier. I tried watering more. Nothing helped.

When I pointed it out to a more experienced gardener, she said it needed to be repotted. “Bring it over to my house,” she told me. “I have the perfect pot for it.”

I helped prepare the soil and she removed the plant from its pot and placed it in the new one. Then she produced a big tool that looked like a combination of a knife and a saw. I stared aghast as she started to slice at the roots all around my plant.

“What are you doing?” I cried. She smiled reassuringly. “This plant is rootbound. The roots have wrapped around themselves, and if you don’t cut them so they attempt to grow in a new direction, they will never go deeper.

Have you ever felt like God was doing that—sawing away at the roots that have sustained you? I do. He frequently tears up old assumptions about who He is and what life is supposed to be about. He destroys my comfortable ways of doing things.

When that happens, I need to do what plants do and expand my roots into the rich soil He has provided. He’s acting out of love, because He knows I need to go deeper into His nourishing truth.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The century-old upright piano was gorgeous to look at. As I sauntered through the privately-owned war museum, I was struck by the stories the instrument obviously told in its worn keys, beat up wood, and fragile seat. I wondered how many war widows had sat at the piano to play their loved one’s favorite tune when their hearts really only wanted peace to show up again.

As my imagination drew me closer to the ivory keys, I asked if I could play the piano. I expected the chords to be out of tune and painful to hear, but I thought I’d hear something. Instead, I heard nothing as I pressed each key. Some of the ivory keys were stuck in place. Others didn’t even feel like they were attached to the strings within the instrument.

It quickly became quite obvious the piano was beautiful to look at, but nothing more. Then my imaginative thoughts took a different turn as I mourned the fact that such an elegant piano could be dead on the inside. What had happened to make it lose its inner beauty?

I never want to be like that piano—curiously captivating and beautiful on the outside, but useless and silent with the praises of God in my heart. In a hundred years, I pray my heart’s song to God can still be used for His purposes and glory.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When I look at her, I see myself. Her anger used to be my anger. Her fear used to be my fear. Her sin used to be my sin. Last but not least, when I watch how the bondage impacts her, it’s almost as if I can feel the shackles of my own Christ-less life. She and I are so much alike.

She and I are also very different. My bitterness scared me, so I prayed. My fear crippled me, so I ran to the only One who could heal me. My sin broke relationships, so I asked the Spirit to give me courage to start the journey back to restoration. That journey nearly broke me, it was so long.

But Christ, hope, and truth made redemption my greatest gift. As I stand and watch my loved one sink deeper away from redemption, I can’t decide whether to bestow empathy or lose my patience. Why did I find freedom and she didn’t? Why did God wipe my eyes clean but not hers?

Believing in God’s goodness while observing a prodigal is probably the hardest thing my heart has ever experienced. How long before God brings this lost sheep back? How long before He lets this burden from my heart lessen? Why is He taking so long? Doesn’t God realize the sooner the better is the best approach to things like this?

But then I have to remember this person is God’s creation and her story is not the only story in the world. God is behind the scenes weaving a tapestry I’ll never begin to understand, but I can sometimes see its beauty as God reveals His zealous desire for every “lost sheep” to be found. I may understand this precious person’s struggle, but God understands her heart and has an intimate knowledge of how long she needs before coming Home.

Now and forever, that truth will be sufficient as I rest in God’s goodness.

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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’ll never forget the day a fifteen-year-old girl who had started attending our youth group told me, “I need to find a boyfriend so I can get pregnant.” Hiding my surprise, I asked her why. Through tears she said, “Because I need a baby so I have someone to always love me.”

We may smile at her naïve perspective, but the truth is that as parents, we are very concerned about how our children feel toward us. It takes great emotional maturity to resist parenting based on the question, “How can I make sure my child likes me?” I call it “the foolish parenting question.”

Many, many parents in our society are living by that question. They can’t bear the thought that their child might be unhappy with them, so they knock themselves out to please the child. When the effort wears them out, they end up blowing up at the child for being so demanding. Then they feel guilty and the cycle begins all over again as they try to get back into their child’s good graces.

For those of us who understand that our children, like ourselves, were created to give God glory, the wise question to ask is, “How can I prepare my children to be God-honoring adults?” It changes the way we respond in every situation of their lives.

When something is hard for them, we will help them develop an attitude of perseverance instead of doing it for them. When others hurt their feelings, we will show them grace while using the opportunity to teach forgiveness and help them develop healthy conflict-resolution skills. When they mismanage their allowance, we will lovingly but firmly let them go without what they want so they know irresponsibility has consequences. With each new challenge, our thought should be, “How can I use this to prepare them to cope well with future problems? How can I show them that this is a way to bring glory to God?”

In the end, we find the parents who ask the wise question while rearing their children often end up with children who appreciate and like them. The ones who ask the foolish question many times have children who are demanding and contemptuous.

It is the wise parenting question that helps us “train up a child in the way he should go.” Our children are not created to make us feel good, although that may be a pleasant side effect. We must always be mindful that God put our children in our lives so we could teach them to give glory to Him.

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~ Written by Sue Knight

Forgive and forget.

Forgive and move on.

Forgive, but return to the offense and allow it to overwhelm you once again.

Forgive and plot your revenge for later.   

You can fill in the blank to this familiar phrase using a variety of words. Personally, I do not adhere to the “forgive and forget” camp (nor to any of the other options listed above). It is true that memories can be triggered at a most unexpected moment and an avalanche of thoughts comes rushing back into our hearts and minds. However, it is what I do with those thoughts that counts.

When I look back on the hurts and offenses I have experienced in my life, I am learning to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”

Forgiveness is as much for the offended as it is for the offender. God granted us forgiveness before we even knew we were sinners and separated from Him. Ephesians 4:29-32 speaks directly to forgiveness – “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” A powerful step to take, one which can bring God’s healing balm to soothe our pain as we ask God to give us a Christ-like heart of forgiveness.

But does a painful ordeal end with forgiveness? While forgiveness can be both thrilling and powerful, if we are able to experience reconciliation as a result of that forgiveness, it is even more exciting. Max Lucado has said, “The key to forgiving others is to quit focusing on what they did to you and start focusing on what God did for you.” Forgiveness is required by God. The next step, reconciliation, is forgiveness in action.

The process of reconciliation depends upon the attitude of both the offended and the offender. The wounds which hurt so deeply in the beginning have been replaced by scars. Forgive and forget? Forgetting is just about impossible because of the way God uses painful experiences to shape our lives. The scars left behind are just that, something we don’t think about a lot, but every once in a while, we notice them. Ask our Father to use these times as a reminder to thank Him that they represent forgiveness and perhaps reconciliation—reconciliation as illustrated by the Cross.

The purpose of the Cross is to repair the irreparable. Jesus Christ reconciled the human race, putting it back to where God designed it to be. We have not only experienced that reconciliation through our salvation, but recognize that reconciliation has brought us back together into oneness with God. Praise God—forgiveness is the prelude to reconciliation. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife 

I had slipped into my parents’ bedroom to hide my toys from my little sister, who was learning to crawl. I must have been about three. Immersed in my fantasy play, I talked aloud to myself. Then my mother called for me from the kitchen, and as I stood up, I saw her. A stranger was standing in my parents’ room, watching me. She had a square face, droopy blonde hair, and squinty green eyes. 

I hated her on sight. Not only was she ugly, but she was spying on me. How dare she!

I took a step toward her and raised my hand to slap her. Only then did I realize I was standing in front of a mirror. That ugly creature was me!

The discovery rocked my world. There was only one solution. I would have to become as invisible as possible. If no one noticed me, they wouldn’t realize how ugly I was.

Invisibility became my security. When people don’t notice you, they don’t expect anything out of you. You don’t get attacked for your opinions. You can creep unnoticed through the back passages of life, observing but not participating in the drama.

My efforts to be a wallflower did not succeed—for one simple reason. We were not created to hide. My soul longed to be a part of the dance of life, to contribute something to the conversation. Only through time spent in God’s Word did I finally realize I was not created for invisibility. 

I am created in God’s image, and He has called me to represent Him. While it is true that I must decrease, it is also true that He must increase. We must not hide from our commission to take Him to a needy world.

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