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~ Written by Viki Rife

At 16 I graduated high school and got a job at a local hospital. One of my responsibilities involved making sure the radiologists had film cassettes loaded with new film.

One afternoon I got a call from a radiologist who was using the portable x-ray machine in the operating room. He needed more cassettes. I was to meet him in the scrub-room to deliver them.

When I walked into the room, my eye caught sight of the steel counter to the left. To my amazement, it contained five or six dead infants in various stages of development. I remember one had black wavy hair. My first thought was, “how could that many stillbirths occur in one day in our small town?” My teenage mind was horrified.

Just then, a nurse came out of the OR. She saw me staring over at the counter and frowned. “I don’t know why people can’t clean up after themselves,” she grumbled. She went over to the counter, grabbed a trash can, and with one quick move swept all the little bodies into it. Then she pulled out the bag and tied it shut.

I remember thinking, “How will the parents know which child is theirs when they’re ready to bury them?” My mind absolutely could not absorb the fact that the recent ruling of Roe vs. Wade had anything to do with it.

I hid the trauma deep inside and never told a soul.

But my heart was left very vulnerable when it comes to baby deaths. I grieve them with an intensity that has always seemed more than what the average person does. When my own granddaughter died in the womb the week before her due date, I was absolutely numb for two months. Something painful was stirring. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It was the memory of those beautiful dead babies.

Finally, as part of grieving my granddaughter, I allowed myself to examine the incident from so long ago and started processing the emotions that surround it. I was eventually able to share that operating room experience with my husband and a few trusted friends. They have been balm to my aching heart.

I thought I had worked through the trauma. Then last month a couple very close to me lost their baby at 25 weeks. The mother was induced, and I waited in the hallway while the baby was delivered. I saw the doctor leave the room, and a few minutes later a nurse came out carrying a tied trash bag.

The memory from that long-ago day hit like a fist to the stomach. I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

At that point I realized that my horror of living in a society that throws away its children is never going to go away. Thankfully, I soon was able to go into the room and see the baby in her father’s arms. She had not been in that bag. Her tiny body was being treated with dignity and respect by her grieving parents. And, in a strange way, I found the scene comforting. Parents should care that much about their child.

We cannot change our society, no matter what laws we pass. New York’s recent legalization of full-term abortion is only a symptom of our disease of devaluing human life. May God’s people go to our knees in prayer for our society, and may we reach out to help people see the God in whose image they’re made!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Mommy, please don’t let them do this. Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy? Why?!” I was three years old, and I was undergoing even more medical testing. Because I was so young, the MRI came with tightly-wrapped gauze and a foam wall surrounding my head to ensure I didn’t move during the excruciatingly-long test. I had worked myself into a horrible migraine and anxiety attack, and I wanted the test to be over now.

In my childish perspective, I was incredibly confused why my parents just sat there—obviously upset, but still doing nothing. I was in pain. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a good, cooperative little girl anymore. Why didn’t they rescue me? What was wrong with them?

What I didn’t understand was, though the test was painful, what was behind the pain would be worth every ounce of my discomfort. The test results gave my medical team a better understanding of the issues which plagued my body. Mom and Dad knew the end goal, and they had come to a heartbreaking but necessary decision. My temporary pain was acceptable pain.

I’ve come to understand as an adult that my loving and attentive God watches my life in much the same way. We live in a fallen world where life experiences bring agonizing pain, confusion and despair. It’s easy to look at my Heavenly Father and scream, “Abba? Why?! Why are You allowing this? Can’t You see I’m nearly shattered? Aren’t you supposed to be good?”

But He knows something I don’t. He knows the end goal. He knows just what I need to become more like His Son.

In the end, I can almost hear Him whisper with tears in His eyes, “Child, this pain is temporary. Hang in there. The end result will be worth every second of your pain.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Turn to Matthew 6:19 in your Bibles, if you have them,” the African pastor said as he opened the service. I looked down at my iPad and chuckled. In that little screen, I had access to every translation, version, or paraphrase ever written. Within a moment, I could view the Scriptures in Greek, Hebrew or English.

The pastor had questioned whether I had one Bible. Little did he know I had countless digital Bibles and had at least five hard copies at home!

Despite the momentary humor, I was struck by the contrast between my attitude toward the Word of God in comparison to my African brother’s attitude.

He knew the price of having a Bible. Many of his loved ones had never seen a Bible—let alone owned one. He understood the preciousness of it. He knew what it meant to hunger for it. I, on the other hand, have never had to experience that hunger. I’ve never felt what it was like to long so deeply for a Bible of my own and wonder if that dream would ever come true.

What if I started treating the Bible as this pastor does? What if I continuously approached the Word of God with a fresh reminder of the privilege it was to freely read God’s truth? What joy would I experience which I may have forgotten?

May I never overlook the freedom I’ve been given to access God’s Word!

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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 Viki Rife

You know the feeling. You’re dashing out the door at the last minute and discover your car has a flat tire. You’re cleaning for house guests and there’s a power outage, leaving you with no water, much less the ability to run the vacuum.

It’s especially hard for those of us who are planners. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get all my ducks in a row. Not that I can claim that I’ve been very successful at it. In fact, most of the time it seems like God is determined to prevent me from ever managing to achieve that goal.

Few things can make me angrier than having my plans interrupted. God has been pointing out to me that the anger is actually evidence my schedule has been an idol most of my life. Furthermore, He’s shown me that my need to be on top of things is, in part, a way to get love and approval.

The other day He hit me with a verse out of Jonah that has convicted me deeply: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8—ESV).

There’s no need to waste energy and get emotionally worked up. I need to let go of my idols so I can truly experience His steadfast love.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Transitions. It’s the one word which describes my life right now. My husband and I are house hunting, preparing for our first child in March, dealing with medical upheaval, working through a master’s program in seminary, learning firsthand how fluid being a pastoral family gets to be, and paying off student loans. On any given day, we are either disappointed because some of those transitions haven’t progressed, or both stressed and excited because one or two of them are moving too quickly.

Ever been there?

Truthfully, our entire lives on this earth are filled with never-ending transitions. But some of those seasons seem more comfortable than others. At this point in our lives, my growing family seems increasingly uncomfortable as God calls us to move forward but doesn’t clarify all the unknowns in that command.

I’m actually addicted to routine. Transitions don’t come with routine. When my life doesn’t seem to afford such luxuries, being grounded in Jesus isn’t just the good, Christian ideal. It’s the only way I keep moving.

Recently, I recounted the many things I’ve tried to call “my rock” other than the Lord. Whether it was food addictions, relationships, talents, or affirmation, using those things as my firm foundation secured my peace of mind for no longer than a few days. All those “pseudo-rocks” quickly disappeared and were nowhere to be found when I needed them most.

But Christ on the other hand, never changes. Even in the tumultuous unknowns of transitions, He remains the same. In this season of life, I’ve finally begun to realize that He is not just the one who gives me a foundation to stand on, peace, and strength. He is my foundation, peace and strength.

Transitions come and go. Jesus, my Rock, is consistently by my side.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

She didn’t believe me. I told her I saw Christ in her—that I’d seen Christ-like reconciliation at work within her—and she felt as if I was merely tickling her ears. I stopped trying to verbally encourage her after a while simply because it was obvious she wasn’t hearing truth above the lies her mind was fostering.

Before I walked away from my friend that afternoon, I simply said, “You’re Christ’s masterpiece. Just because you don’t believe that right now doesn’t make it any less true. I’m treating you with the value you deserve, simply because you belong to the Lord.”

During our time together, I was reminded just how powerful the Body of Christ should be in each other’s lives as Christians. There are seasons where doubts, lies, and confusion overtake us. No matter how strong our faith in God is, sometimes this fallen world speaks just as strongly.

It’s during those times we need to lean on each other to speak truth when we can’t hear it ourselves. After all, if we are the Body of Christ, if we all play different roles, doesn’t that mean we constantly need each other?

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