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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

It wasn’t until I was fifty years old that I discovered a shocking truth. I wasn’t my grandfather’s favorite grandchild.

Up until that moment, I had assumed our special times together were unique. Surely no one else spent hours sitting with him on the riverbank watching leaves float by, or on a park bench writing poetry to share with each other. Surely I was the only one who took walks with him through the nearby cemetery and made up stories for him about the people buried there.

I left California for college at 17 and settled in Indiana. It wasn’t until my uncle passed away and different ones of the cousins helped their elderly parents travel to the funeral that I had the joy of sitting with cousins and reminiscing. As they mentioned childhood memories, the truth hit me. They had special, tailored-to-them experiences with Grandpa, too. I was not the favorite grandchild.

It only shocked and disappointed me for a moment. Then I was overwhelmed with a wave of gratitude. Here I was, sitting with the few other people in the world who had enjoyed the beautiful experience of being valued by this amazing man I had loved so much. All I could think was, “This is what family is about.” We shared a bond that no one else could fully understand.

Since that day, there have been times when friends and I were sharing what God was doing in our lives and I got that same feeling, “This is what family is about.” The only way to explain the feeling is the word “Heaven.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

During my missionary kid days, silence used to terrify me. If no one was talking, that meant they might not feel connected with, treasured, or heard. I found myself filled with anxiety quite often, trying to make sure the silence on mission trips was rare. I never wanted my visiting team to think I wasn’t invested in the overall mission. In my childish mind, silence gave them a reason to doubt my passion.

I guess you could say it was common for visiting teams to get a “Cassie show,” whether they wanted one or not!

Looking back on that season now, I’m in awe that my little shoulders survived carrying such a heavy load. I thought people needed me much more than they actually did. I’ve now learned the world’s survival doesn’t pass or fail depending on my performance. My assumption was childish, and more than a little self-centered. I may have learned my lesson over the years, but I find myself slipping into that prideful worldview much more than I would like.

Though it’s a beautiful thing to actively pour into people around me, silence allows God the chance to speak in ways I never could. I’ve come to grips with the fact that, ultimately, God doesn’t need me as much as I may think He does. When I can focus on Who’s in control of the overall outcome, my passion for people and my desire to make God famous becomes more about Him, rather than me.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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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 

The leaky kitchen faucet was the bane of my existence. Its methodical dripping seemed to interrupt every quiet moment I had. Multiple times a day, I would glance at the leak, roll my eyes and think to myself, “Someday, we’ll actually get the stupid thing fixed.” We’d only been in our apartment a few months; we weren’t ready for repairs just yet.

So instead of fixing the sink, I cleaned up the aftermath of its messes. The bowl in the cabinet below the sink’s pipes caught so much excess water it would overflow onto the floor every few days if I wasn’t careful. My husband and I both became pros at mopping up murky water in our spare time!

Finally, months later, we had had enough; we called a plumber. We naively hoped our issue had a simple solution. The plumber took one look at the pipes and cabinet and glanced at me hesitantly. “You haven’t been coughing and wheezing a lot, have you?” He asked. “This is one of the worst sinks I’ve seen. You’ve been growing black mold by the bucketfuls down here.”

What had started out as just a leaky faucet — an easy fix — turned into a partially-gutted cabinet, torn up kitchen flooring, hundreds of dollars of repairs, and a concerning respiratory issue.

How many times do I treat my sin in the same way? I see some ungodly characteristic in my heart, deem it annoying but don’t bring it before the Lord to change me at the core? Why do I spend so much time “mopping up” the aftermath of my sin when truly repenting from it and letting the Holy Spirit change my ways saves me from unseen dangers?

Oh, may God give us the courage to address our spiritual leaky faucets! 

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I got a glimpse of Heaven several years back. I sat in a room with friends who were German, Chinese, and Japanese. We each took turns reading portions of the Gospel story, simply taking time to revel in a God who doesn’t have a language barrier. I couldn’t understand my friends, and when I used Sign Language, they couldn’t understand me.

But we knew the same Jesus, and He was enough and would always be enough to bring us together.

Don’t you love the fact that we serve a God who doesn’t believe unity and uniformity are the same thing? We serve a God who made us differently for a purpose, and if we ignore that truth, we miss out on a level of Christ’s beauty that was never meant to be invisible. May we celebrate our diversity with our brothers and sisters no matter our differences. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t get out of bed, not even to walk eight feet into the bathroom. If my feet touched the floor, my plans would be ruined.

I had asked God to wake me up at 5 a.m. because I couldn’t use an alarm. I had already learned that if I made any sound at all, at least one of my three children would wake up. I was desperate for time with God before the craziness of my day started.

I reached for my Bible. Two minutes later, there was a knock on the door. It had to be our two-year-old — he wasn’t yet tall enough to turn the handle.

Sighing, I went to let him in. “Come snuggle with me,” I told him. “Mommy’s going to pray.” I opened the small yellow notebook that contained my prayer reminders. At the top of each page was a name, and below was a list of ways I was praying for that person. As I turned each page, I would tell my son who we were praying for and what details were on the list. Then we would pray together.

After that he started coming in every morning. Within a few days he was volunteering to pray for certain requests. When a prayer was answered, I would let him place the check mark beside it.

One day he said, “Can I hold the book?” With great reverence he took the little prayer book and placed it on his lap. He opened it and said, “This page is about Daddy.”

“How should we pray for Daddy?” I asked him. To my surprise, he knew the entire list. That day he went through the prayer notebook telling me what each page said.

Now, thirty years later, I can look back and see that those morning interruptions were God’s way of answering my prayers. I had asked God to help my children be prayer warriors. He showed me how to help them develop their prayer life through helping them experience it. It leaves me wondering how many other interruptions in my life are opportunities in disguise.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

She walked into the office and proudly showed us her hands. Her nails, much longer than they had been the day before, were decorated with the most amazing designs and colors. As everyone stopped to admire the masterpiece, she highlighted her shopping savvy, “I got this done for only $80.”

Fortunately, no one saw how my mouth was hanging open. Two days earlier I had invited her, one of the few Christians among my co-workers, to a women’s conference. The cost was $65. Her immediate response was, “Oh, I could never afford that! The kids need school clothes.”

It’s not my place to judge, but I caught myself wondering, “What benefits her family more, her attendance at a Christian conference or her long, fancy nails?” I could almost feel Jesus sigh.

Sometimes I grieve over our misplaced priorities. I know I’m not immune to the same mentality. My investment in my spiritual growth is dependent on whether I have any energy, time or money left over after I’ve cared for my own needs and desires and met the expectations of everyone around me. I may not get a manicure, but there are thousands of things in this world that compete with my love for Christ.

It’s a pretty clear principle that we invest in whatever matters most to us. And what we invest most in is the part of our lives that will grow most. How we spend our resources is a very real indicator of where we’re headed. Jesus said it best, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)

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