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~ Written by Viki Rife

It started when I went back to a town I had lived in during high school and decided to track down a favorite teacher. She welcomed me warmly and led me through the living room into her “sitting room.” My jaw dropped. The huge room was a floor-to-ceiling library, with a curving stair leading to a reading loft high up among the books. I think it was inspired by the library in the 1964 film “My Fair Lady.”

A reading addict like me has trouble resisting the temptation to ignore everything else and start browsing the shelves. Even as we chatted, I found my eyes wandering. What amazing opportunities were tucked along those walls! I wouldn’t even know where to start.

That memory shows me such a picture of our relationship with God. Opening His Word is like being let loose in a library full of rich treasures. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There is so much to know about Him that we couldn’t possibly comprehend it all. We might choose to explore one aspect of Him one day, or for a month, then we check out other subjects about Him that expand our understanding of Him even more.

Yes, at times relationship with an all-knowing God can seem overwhelming. But the more we explore, the more we discover of His amazing character and how He wants to speak to our hearts.

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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 Viki Rife

I’ve seen hate before, but I could hardly believe the corrosive language pouring across my computer screen. The writer was venting on social media about the individual who had been nominated for the Supreme Court.

I’m not the possessor of evidence to qualify me to judge who is right and who is wrong in the debate over what someone did or didn’t do in the past. So I was surprised to see this person not only claim to already know who was in the wrong, but use very strong language to tear that individual’s character in every way possible.

While I’ve come to expect this “guilty until proven innocent” judgmentalism from non-believers, I never expected to see such hate streaming across social media from a person who claims to be in ministry for Christ. Especially surprising was the fact that the individual posting this tirade has complained to me often about being judged by others who don’t have all the facts. So why was this okay?

Brothers and sisters, we are called to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). We are citizens first of heaven, so our involvement in earthly politics needs to be run through the filter of what Christ desires from His followers. We are not called to broadcast a message of hate to the world. There’s plenty of that already. We are called to be reconcilers, not dividers.

Let’s show that we believe in grace by offering it to others, whoever they may be.

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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

My first real experience with the game of ping-pong was on a ship. There was a ping-pong table on a lower side deck. The deck was actually a long, narrow corridor with a railing separating it from the waves. The ping pong table was popular, so a ten-year-old like myself didn’t have much chance of getting a turn.

Then the ship hit a storm as we approached Rio de Janeiro. The storm was so intense that it delayed the ship’s arrival by two days. Virtually all the passengers and a good number of the crew took to their cabins, seasick. For some reason I felt fine, so a friend and I headed straight for the ping-pong deck.

You guessed it. Learning to land that ball on the table when the ship is tossing in a storm is not really the way to learn to play well. We never could predict where the table would be or at what angle. Ping-pong balls don’t handle well in high winds and high waves, either. To make a long story short, I concluded that I didn’t want ping-pong in my life.

I feel a similar frustration when I try to balance the messages that keep pinging into my life. I missed an important e-mail because it somehow went to my bulk mail. My husband sends a text asking me to pick him up at the car shop and the message doesn’t reach my phone for 52 minutes. I’m awakened at 1 a.m. by an urgent amber alert from a state 1,500 miles away, where I visited last week. A telemarketer calls from three time zones away just as I’m finally asleep.

We live in a world of ping-pong relationships. Information is coming at us much faster than our brains can keep up. The table keeps bouncing. How are we expected to manage it all?

The overwhelming communication demands of our society and the constant interruptions of every project we attempt is like ping-pongs constantly hitting our brains. We desperately need a break.

Jesus was aware of the danger of relational ping-pong. Luke 5:16 tells us that He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. I guess I’ll turn off my computer, leave my phone in another room, and spend some time seeking His advice for my bruised brain. I don’t have to live with a ping-pong mind.

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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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~Written by Viki Rife

I used to be frustrated by what I thought of as “The Great Divide.” It seemed to me growing up that Christians were divided into two categories: those who were “in ministry,” and those who were “not in ministry.” And the ones “in ministry” were viewed as being at a much higher level spiritually than those “not in ministry.”

Sometimes it was baffling. Why were those “not in ministry” sometimes much nicer to others than those “in ministry”? Why did I know so many people “in ministry” who were dissatisfied with their lives?

Lately, I’ve begun to see a whole new perspective on what it means to be in ministry. “In ministry” is a matter of how we view life. I can teach a class and be very proud of the praise I get, but if my purpose isn’t to see God get the glory, it isn’t really ministry. I can help someone out, but if I complain and feel taken advantage of, it’s not ministry.

On the other hand, when I spend time encouraging someone who needs to talk, I’m “in ministry.” When I transport someone who needs a ride, I’m “in ministry,” if I’m doing it as unto the Lord. When I smile and affirm the harried customer service representative at the airport when flights are being cancelled and tempers are high, I’m “in ministry.”

By my new definition, whenever I see the people around me through the eyes of Jesus and act accordingly, I’m “in ministry.” Let’s stop accepting labels that describe titles and occupations. It’s our attitude that determines whether or not we belong to the “in ministry” camp.

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