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Archive for the ‘Parable’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Where do we go when we’re a mess? The prodigal son of Luke 15 went from having a lifetime supply of resources to absolutely nothing. He was so impoverished he would have gladly eaten the slops he fed his employer’s swine. Verse 17 quotes him saying, “…I’m dying here of hunger!”

People who find themselves that desperate probably don’t have the ability to conjure up enough soap and water for a shower, much less clean up their lives . Despite the mess the son had made of both his inheritance and his personal health, he went back to his father.

This chapter is often used as a story of a compassionate father (Jehovah), who gladly receives his prodigal son when he decides to return. A slightly less-common approach to this story is to focus on the way the son returned. He came back to his father despite the fact he had nothing, was as physically gross as the pigs he ate with, and had nothing of value to offer in exchange for restoration and forgiveness.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt your Heavenly Father calling you to return to him, and your quick inventory of your life is the hopeless equivalent of pigs’ slop? It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll come back when we have something of value, but before we know it, we give up trying because we never feel like we have enough.

May we all take our cues from the prodigal son. May we come back anyway. The truth is, God doesn’t see our worthlessness. He just sees his child, and honors the value of our return—mess and all.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“My friend Michael Jehrig lives there!” My sister would announce proudly every time we passed the large log cabin on the hill. Whether we were passing the home in the wee hours of the morning or in the middle of the night after a long road trip, we all heard about Michael Jehrig. To my knowledge, I’ve never met the kid. I don’t know what he looks like. After living in the same town for 15 years, I don’t think I even had the smallest desire to meet him. But if I did conjure up the need to meet him, I knew where he lived, thanks to my sister.

Announcing Michael’s residence became a common routine for our entire family. We used the home as a land marker and memory jogger. At some point, I didn’t even notice when I started announcing, “Chelsie’s friend Michael Jehrig lives there,” whether I was with family, friends, or business partners.

In much the same way, I pray talking about Jesus is as common in my rhetoric as talking about Michael Jehrig’s house was to my sister’s. I hope those around me get a kick out of hearing about Jesus with the same amount of excitement every time simply because it’s important. I know that if I ever needed to meet Michael, Chelsie could lead me right to him.

I pray I live in such a way people know I know Jesus and I’ll gladly point them to him every chance I get.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Two years ago, my mom bought me a lilac bush for our first home. Her gift left me—someone whose thumb is more brown than green—equally elated and terrified. I was even more scared when she told me it wouldn’t bloom for at least the first year. How in the world am I supposed to know if it died or not? I thought in a panic.

The bush was dutifully planted where I would see it every day and remember to water it. I inevitably forgot about it, anyway—just like every other “brown thumb” I know. Occasionally, I’d water the plant faithfully for a few weeks, but overall, I was just too exhausted by life to spend much time nurturing it.

Imagine my surprise when my husband announced one day from his view of our backyard, “Hey! It’s blooming! The lilac bush. It actually has flowers on it!” I had considered the bush just another lost cause, but it had survived multiple years of not-so-great care and bloomed anyway.

Sometimes, it can seem like we all have a spiritual brown thumb. We come before the Throne of Grace and mutter, “This is all I have the energy to offer, Lord.” Seeds of belief and strength have been sown, but it’s hard to keep the faith when our faith feels dormant.

If that’s your experience, take courage. Maybe you’re like my lilac bush, and God’s allowing those seeds of truth to rest hidden in your heart for a time. Just because I couldn’t see the lilac bush’s growth didn’t mean it wasn’t there. If God can make a plant bloom after years of dormancy, he can do the same beautiful transformation in our hearts as well.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Our yard has two bluebird houses; at least, that’s what they are supposed to be.

I’m pretty sure no one can see an Eastern Bluebird without falling in love with these small, colorful birds. When I first moved to Indiana, they had all but disappeared from our area. Thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens and the Department of Natural Resources, we learned that providing the right kind of housing could make it possible for them to return.

So we have two houses with all the specifications. There’s one problem: sparrows also like the same kind of facilities, and they are much more aggressive than the happy little bluebirds.

Sparrows took over the first house this spring. We set up another, armed with the information that a certain kind of halogenic streamer placed near the birdhouse would deter the sparrows but not the bluebirds. It worked! A cheery little bluebird couple started making its home in the second house.

Then one day I came home to find sparrows trying to get into the second house. A piece of farm equipment had come by and apparently torn the streamer off and carried it away. We never found it.

I rushed around trying to find a substitute as the bluebirds watched from the safety of a high branch of the nearby apple tree. Finally, I was able to find another streamer and attach it. The sparrows stopped trying to get in.

But it was too late. The bluebirds had given up. All summer that second house stood empty, with a half-finished nest bearing witness to the bluebirds’ defeat.

I keep asking myself: Why didn’t they try again? Why didn’t they stick around a bit longer to see the sparrows back off? And the one that makes me the saddest: Did they give up because they saw me by their house? Did they choose not to trust me?

It’s convicting because I’ve done something similar with God most of my life. I give up too soon. I assume the bullies in the world will always get their way. And when God steps into the picture, I assume he’s a threat instead of a Helper.

Those two bluebird houses are a stark reminder of what happens when I don’t trust my God. What a crucial lesson!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

My walls are filled with my husband’s paintings. I love watching my guests walk around my home, taking note of his pieces. Every canvas is gorgeous, and each one depicts a little piece of Peter’s character, style, and personality. Showcasing his art for our friends is almost as fun as hearing him talk about it.

I can’t help but ponder what Peter’s audience doesn’t see, though. They don’t see the frustrating paint-free evenings grumbling over a split paintbrush. They don’t see my confusion over his wisdom in walking away from a piece for awhile. As he waits till his heart is passionate enough to make the end result a masterpiece he’s proud of, I worry he’s given up on his passion.

No, they don’t see all that. They only see the beautifully painted scenes. Although all our friends show genuine appreciation for Peter’s talent, I often wonder if their appreciation would deepen if they saw the struggle behind the beauty. It’s the struggle behind the finished art piece which gives it value, after all.

Watching Peter’s artistic process makes me admire the Master Artist himself even more. While he creates an art piece—my life—he’s more than aware of the trials which give his creation value. Each hardship I’ve experienced endears me to the Artist because I know He’s more committed to seeing the end product than I am. He’s willing to push through until everyone sees the value he’s created.

The Artist, unlike my husband, however, never walks away from his creations. He never loses his passion for finishing his masterpiece. After all, each of our lives is a canvas he loves perfecting. The Master Artist won’t give up until our lives showcase to the watching world the immaculate love of the Artist himself.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Christmas is a season of anticipation. Children of all ages struggle to sleep the night before Christmas as their little hearts are filled with excitement of the next morning. Families have countdown calendars and preparatory traditions leading up to the joyous day. The Christmas season should remind us of another season of anticipation long ago.

For generations, Israel awaited the promised Messiah. Parents and grandparents would have gathered their children around to tell them the prophesies of the One who was to save them. They anxiously awaited freedom from Roman oppression. They expected a Savior King.

They got an infant. A baby so weak it could be contained in a blanket. A child so insignificant he was born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. Jesus was far from what they expected.

But as he grew, there was promise of greatness. He impressed the religious teachers in the temple as a boy. He performed miracles and drew huge crowds when he spoke.

Then the real unexpected happened. Jesus stood silent before his accusers next to a political insurrectionist named Barabbas. Barabbas was a voice in the rebellion. He was the leader Israel wanted. So though Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty under Roman law, his death was called for by the very people he came to save.

They were disappointed with Jesus.

Are you disappointed with Jesus? Has He been too slow in answering your heart’s deepest prayer? Did you expect Him to rush in and save the day? Are you wondering where the mighty Savior is? Have you been hurt by the lack of justice in your life or in the life of someone you love?

If you are disappointed with Jesus know you are not alone. And know that Jesus isn’t deterred by your disappointment. His love is unconditional. He knew He would be despised and rejected, but He came anyway. This season we celebrate the birth of a Savior who exceeded all expectations when He willingly went to the cross for each and every one of us.

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~Written by Samantha Freds

Do you know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Both tools measure temperature but while a thermometer adjusts to the temperature around it, a thermostat sets the temperature. The difference is simple, but if applied to how we act in a room full of people it can be convicting.

During the four years I worked at a GM manufacturing plant, I behaved like a thermometer. I used the language my coworkers used, told the jokes they told, and let the environment affect my attitude. While I held firm to some convictions, maintaining my “Christian” identity, I tried to fit in any way I could.

Too often I still act like a thermometer and adjust to my surroundings. Not completely changing who I am, but certainly hiding some aspects while accenting others. I’ve heard integrity defined as “how you live your life when nobody is watching.” But what about when only my church friends aren’t watching? Do I talk differently at church than I do at home? Or at work?

The apostle Paul had something to say about this. In his letter to the Romans he wrote, “do not conform to the patterns of this world.” Don’t be like a thermometer, constantly adjusting to the patterns of the world around you. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Be like a thermostat, “able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I want to be a thermostat! I want to learn to set the temperature of whatever room I am in instead of being changed by it.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Free Wash

For over thirty years I’ve wanted to put a sign up on our road from time to time that says “Rife’s Free Undercar Wash.” The county would not think it’s funny.

The family farm has a field with a natural spring. It has made farming that area rather challenging, but its location next to the road has made it a nightmare for the county.

They’ve brought engineers in to design ways to change the flow of the water. But no culvert, no field drain, absolutely nothing, can long prevent the flow of that spring along the road. The water ends up running downhill until it finds a place to cross the road, leaving potholes in its wake.

Sometimes a week after a heavy rainfall the water is still running, making its own streambed along and across the road until it reaches its goal—the neighbor’s pond a quarter-mile away.

I can’t help but admire that stream. I want to have the same determination to pursue my soul’s true home, my Lord Jesus, no matter what stands in the way.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

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~ Written by Cindy Bushen

I’ve been told that I’m lacking in the laughter factor; that I take life to seriously. When my daughter suggested that I knit vests for their six chickens for Christmas, I thought, “Ok, that’s funny.” I imagined my son-in-law, who finds humor in the smallest of things, would be delighted with this Christmas gift. He was.

As the evening was winding down at our Christmas gathering, with just a couple friends and family remaining, Mike brought in a chicken to model a vest. The chicken appeared to be quite pleased with her new attire as she strutted around the family room. But true to a chicken’s nature, in just a few minutes there was a mess on the floor to clean up. My daughter headed upstairs to gather some paper towels to take care of the task. Mike disrobed the chicken and perched her on his arm to return her to the coop. Just as he reached the stairs, he stopped to comment to a guest. My daughter was coming down the stairs. Her eyes widened as she proclaimed, “Mike, this chicken is going to lay an egg! Seriously, it’s laying an egg!” Her eyes were three times wider than normal. We all participated in deep hysterical laughter that occurs when the totally unexpected happens.

Psalm 37:4 is a favorite passage of mine. The verse reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your hear.” While it may be a stretch to apply it to my chicken story, I believe that God orchestrates turns of events into unexpected humor for our delight.

This passage states that the desires of my heart will be given if I delight in the Lord, but I am certain that God delights even more when observing us enjoy (even to the hysterical point) the opportunities for laughter He creates. Only a close daily walk with the Lord will keep our hearts light and ready to observe what has been placed in our path for the purpose of delighting us. Today, slow your pace, observe the commonplace with an eye for the unexpected. God has a delightful experience just waiting for you.

   

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Nothing makes me more angry than injustice. I cry with the psalmist, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Recently, a situation that seemed completely unfair really got to me. Frustrated, I kept asking, “God, you could deal with this person and stop their cruelty to others. Why don’t you?”

Then I read Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:24-30. A farmer has planted his field, but weeds start to grow. When his servants give him the news, the insightful farmer tells his servants, “An enemy has done this!” When the servants offer to pull them up, the farmer tells them to leave them until harvest. Then the weeds would be pulled first and tied in bundles to be burned.

When we see injustice, we cannot blame God. Cruelty, murder, cheating, bullying, even sickness, are the work of the enemy. All those things we know should not be in our “field” have been planted by him. But our Lord knows what He’s doing. A time will come when He makes all things well, and will harvest us into His Kingdom. Meanwhile, our anger should be directed toward the enemy, and we should seek to thwart him by drawing closer to our Lord.

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