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~ 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

“If you don’t like how they treat you, take the time to teach them a different way.” The advice seemed so simple. Despite my disabilities, my parents always tried to make sure I could operate in mainstream culture. To help people grow comfortable with my differences, I learned to make jokes about my limp, my leg braces, or the spasticity in my hands caused by cerebral palsy.

It wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, there were hundreds of times I went home crying because the mocking didn’t stop. But every time I tried to give up, my parents were quick to remind me, in not so many words, that giving up on others wasn’t showing them godly love. So, I spent many days of my childhood repeating the same conversations and dealing with the same people, while they held to their ignorance about individuals in situations like mine.

It took patience and perseverance. Some people never got it. Even to this day, I’m cute, but their understanding of my life ends there. But there are so many more people who finally understand my differences are something to enjoy, rather than something to be afraid of, mocked, or coddled.

By no means do I have that skill mastered. However, that struggle taught me what relational discipleship can look like. Often, I approach non-Christians, share with them the Gospel truth, and if they don’t accept it right away, my initial desire is to give up on them. But when I stay with them, grow a friendship with them, and give them a reason to stick around me, God works when I don’t even realize He’s working.

I had to keep offering friendship to people who couldn’t understand me so they could change their minds over time. We have to keep offering love to people who don’t accept Christ so that, over time, they have a better chance to see that Christ really can make a difference.

Never give up on a person simply because they seem impossible. God thrives in impossibilities.

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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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Comparison Buster!

~ Written by Janet Minnix

My insecurities were having a heyday. They were telling me I didn’t measure up, that I wasn’t spiritual enough, because I wasn’t like her. Resentment began to build.

I struggled to internalize the truth that I was God’s unique creation. I printed Ephesians 1:3-12 from the Living Bible and placed it with my devotional notebook, chewing over phrases like “we who stand before him covered with his love” and “because of what Christ has done, we have become gifts to God that he delights in.” Precious, life-giving truths, but I seemed to sink deeper into a pit. I was in bondage to the sin of comparison.

Years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll preach on Galatians 6:4: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (emphasis added). I’ve never forgotten the title of his message, Comparisons are Odious. Those words echoed through my mind as I struggled to stop comparing.

I have read that when dealing with feelings of resentment toward someone, you should pray for that person. I tried that. But I seemed to run out of words.

Then one day, as I was talking to God about my feelings and faulty perceptions, the Holy Spirit brought to mind a song I had sung in college choir. The words are from the Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

It seemed God was telling me to pray that blessing for her. Here were words when I had no words; a biblical prayer for her well-being when I felt stymied. I began to pray those words, or sometimes sing them mentally, when thought of her and resentment started to build. Gradually it became a habit to pray the blessing when she came to mind. And as I pray for her blessing and peace, I’m finding that the struggle with comparison is melting away. God is giving me peace as well.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Rarely has God woken me up in the middle of the night to sit at His feet in prayer. Typically, when I’m awakened past the midnight hour, my prayer is a simple, “Jesus, please, put me back asleep.” But the other night, my eyes weren’t tired, my heart kept racing, and I heard the Spirit whisper, “Get up, Child. We need to talk.”

I’ll be honest, I laid in bed counting ceiling tiles for a few minutes. My alarm would officially wake me up in five hours; God could wait till then, right? But before I knew it, I was on the couch with my prayer journal in hand. The second I wrote the words, “Hi, Abba Daddy,” the tears flowed with heart-wrenching intensity.

In the previous 48 hours, my hopes and anticipations for the future had been crushed. No one knew about it other than my husband, and life had continued on at a breakneck speed. The only healing I’d allowed my heart was a quick, “Thanks Jesus; you’re sovereign. We’re trusting you.” I hadn’t taken the time to realize how broken my spirit was, or to acknowledge the self-resenting lies my disappointments had created.

I learned that night what it meant to be honest before the Lord. I had to let myself weep till there were no more tears. I had to actively acknowledge the lies before the Spirit could refresh my heart with truth. I had to sit in silence before God could administer healing I didn’t realize I needed. I had to be broken before I was ready to receive truth which brought me closer to the heart of my Heavenly Father.

There are moments God requires us to go through more pain before He brings healing. It doesn’t make sense at first. But the reality is, God is not afraid of our tears. He knows exactly when all we need is to be held and reminded that we’re loved.

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Eye on the Clock

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Fine. I’ll do it. Please don’t make me do it forever, though.” That was the final prayer of surrender I uttered as I agreed to pick up a leadership role I’d always dreaded picking up. I knew the catch, though. Telling God I’d go willingly—or at least not kicking or screaming—meant He’d take me up on it!

I found myself sounding like King David in the Psalms, just maybe not so eloquent. “How long, oh Lord? Six months? A year? You wouldn’t make me lead like this for longer than a year, would you? Oh. You would. Well, can I ask you not to? Please hear the despair in my voice and turn to someone else!”

I did my responsibilities to the best of my ability and never a second more than the time constraint first agreed upon. My surrender to God’s plan wasn’t exactly genuine. Every morning as I switched from “participant” to “leader,” I could hear my heart whine like a toddler, “Are we done yet?”

One day, I heard the Spirit whisper, “Stop looking at your watch and start looking for Me. Love the people I’ve called you to serve as I love them. Rather than praying about your inconvenience and discomfort, pray their hearts find Me.”

Sometimes, I think we get caught up in being disappointed that God has called us to something against our will. While we’re distracted by God’s differing opinion, we miss out on so many people’s lives we can touch, hearts we can bless, and even lessons we can learn.

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