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Archive for the ‘Value’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

I had struggled to walk across an icy parking lot on my previous stop, so I was determined to park as close to the door as possible on this one. There was one parking space only a few cars down—all the others were at the opposite end of the strip mall. I pulled into the space, trying to leave a bit of extra room to get out because the big black car on my drivers’ side was sitting over the line into “my” space.

I had forgotten, however, how limited my movement was because of a recent neck injury. As I started to get out, the car door touched the black car. I pulled the door back and tried again, holding the door carefully. As I maneuvered my foot onto the parking lot, however, I slipped on the ice and my door hit the car again. I tried once more, and my door touched the car, but at least I was out now. I carefully looked over the side of the black car and saw no sign of damage.

Walking gingerly alongside my car, I saw someone get out of the black car and head for me. A young woman, very irate. “Why are you beating up my car?” She exclaimed. “What do you think you’re doing?”

I’d like to say that I apologetically explained myself. But that isn’t what happened. I said, “There’s no damage. And by the way, you’re parked over the line.” With that I turned and made my way to my appointment, as she yelled after me that there were other parking spaces I could have used.

By the time I reached the door, I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. I think of myself as someone who is kind, caring, and concerned about others. But all I found in my heart was bitterness and a self-serving attitude. If things don’t go my way, it takes very little to get my defenses up.

The lesson I learned? The incident was a good reminder that I’m not as pure inside as I would like to think. I still react in fleshly ways on the slightest provocation. Praise God, though, there is hope. He is still working on me!

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~Written by Cassie Rayl

 If respecting Sean was hard, loving him was harder. From the day we met everything he said was mean, disrespectful, lewd, crude, and rude. He was one of those older gentlemen any decent person would follow around, if only to mutter, “I’m sorry; he shouldn’t have said that” to Sean’s latest victim. There was nothing wrong with Sean; he just didn’t like people.

The only thing he seemed to hate more than people was Jesus Christ. When most of his family came to the Lord, that somehow made his negativity worsen. We all watched the years go by thinking, “Lord, no heart is too hard, but will Sean ever see you?” In our human estimations, it definitely didn’t seem like it!

Just hours before he passed away from a fast-acting illness, the proverbial scales fell from Sean’s eyes, and he begged his family to lead him to the Lord. What victory! Sean would end his harsh life knowing full-well the saving grace and mercy of his savior, Jesus Christ. We all rejoiced him into Heaven, relieved that his fight was over.

Well, almost all of us. A young woman pulled me aside and simply asked, “How can Jesus have mercy on such a horrible man? It seems to me he’s the last person who deserves Christ’s mercy. Sean was evil!”

Although I didn’t share her sentiment, I understood it. How often have I decided Jesus’ limitless mercy was enough to cover my sins, but not the sins of those who left so many wounded? Jesus easily forgives my sins. Things like: gluttony, dishonesty, and pride. But isn’t there a different scale for the “bigger” sins which consigns the sinner in his wretchedness where he deserves to be?

The reality is, we can’t short-change the mercy of God over someone we believe has committed a greater offense. If we do that, we completely change the story of salvation and what makes Jesus different from any other false god.

We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus’ mercy isn’t fair, but it is what makes his love large enough to rescue the world.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Anna felt all alone. The husband who had needed her care night and day over the past decade had just passed away. Her own health had deteriorated during that time. Now she was left with no friends, no family nearby, and the huge specter of anxiety and depression hanging over her. The isolation of the Covid shutdown had her almost paralyzed.

One morning she decided to make a list of things she could do that day. She grabbed her walker and made her way to the desk, where she found a notepad in the drawer. She started to write: Take a shower. Organize meds into a labeled contained so she would know which ones she had taken. Read a Psalm as a prayer. She was surprised at the satisfaction she got from checking each item off the list.

The next day her list was a bit bolder. Reorganize her sock drawer. Dust one room of the house. Write a get-well card to someone from church. Call Betty, her old high school friend she hadn’t talked to for years, just to catch up.

Betty was delighted to hear from her. Anna was struck by how little it takes to encourage someone else. After that, Anna made a point each day of including in her list at least one item that would bless or encourage someone else.

As time went on, she then started adding some occasion to celebrate God’s goodness each day. Eventually, the day came when she was able to sort and label a box of old photos, all the time thanking God for the memories rather than feeling sorry for herself. As she finished that project, the thought hit her: “I can choose to live in joy. And I’m doing it!”

Anna’s journey from anxiety and depression to joy seemed like a miracle to all of us. But as she summarized it: “Be Thankful. Bless others.”

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming, but lately I’ve found myself checking our credit score more often. It’s almost a compulsion. What if I accidentally forgot to make some payment? What if our credit score drops?

The funny part is that it really doesn’t matter. In the first place, we’re not planning on using our credit card for any Christmas shopping we can’t pay back at the end of the month. In the second place, I hear that a credit score only makes a difference if you’re trying to borrow money, which we have no plans to do.

So why do I have to keep checking that score? Basically, because I have a competitive spirit. It’s so intense, I even have to compete against myself! Is my number better than it was last month? I just have to check!

It’s not just credit scores which compel me to use math to one-up myself. It’s the number of steps I take a day. It’s how many leftovers are in serving-sized containers in our freezer in case we get Covid and are quarantined with no strength to cook.

Maybe that competitive attitude is what makes me wish Jesus would just give me a neat number by my name, telling me how pleased He is with me this month. Then I could know whether I need to try harder or if maybe I can go easy on myself.

Of course, that sounds extreme, but I wonder how many of us have that mentality deep in our hearts. As long as I can keep my credit score with Jesus in the right number range, I’m okay. He doesn’t oblige us, though. He keeps us on our toes by choosing to relate to us in deep ways that math could never measure.

I’m so grateful this season that he’s not just our scorekeeper—He is God With Us!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I used to think people who talk to their plants were a bit strange. Not any more.

I caught myself talking to my geraniums a few days ago. They’re having a hard time. All summer they thrive and bloom on the deck, enjoying the sun and fresh air. In the winter I bring them into my improvised greenhouse in the garage. They have a grow light, controlled temperature (although colder than they’re used to), and I still water them. But each year, they start looking dejected after the move indoors.

So I felt sorry for them, and as I cut off dead leaves and blooms, I found myself whispering: “I know you weren’t made for this. You were meant for much more. Just hang on through this season, and in due time you’ll be out in the sun where you can truly thrive.”

Then it hit me: God must look at me the same way. I wasn’t made for this world. It is so artificial compared with what He intended when He created us! I picture him watching me struggle along through life in less than ideal circumstances, and I hear him whisper: “Just hang on through this season. When you come home to Me you will truly thrive.”

Of all the things I’m thankful for today, this is the greatest: I can hang on during this season of life on earth because I know greater things are coming. Deeply grateful that I have a future and a hope.

For our God, death is the fulfillment of what He created us for. He will help us hold on until we can bloom in all His glory.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I don’t know what I need, Lord. I know I’m emotionally drained; that’s it. I don’t know where I need you to show up, I just know I need to see you. Show me something. Anything.”

The weary prayer was said with peace-filled confidence. My relationship with Jesus has gone on long enough I’ve learned that he hears the prayers of his people, no matter what. Too often it’s not whether he answers my prayer, it’s whether I’m allowing him to guide me in where or how I look for it.

Psalm 86 quickly came to mind. I opened my Bible, half-heartedly preparing myself for the possibility that the seemingly-random psalm might not provide the answer to my prayer. Oh, what little faith I have sometimes!

The psalm opens up with a simple plea from David:

Incline your ear, oh Lord, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy.

As I read the verse again, the Spirit quickly reminded me he knew how needy and afflicted I was. Sometimes, the beautiful truth of knowing he inclines his ear to his people is all I need to meditate on.

The Creator of the universe listens to my heart. I never need to wonder whether God understands my cries for help. He’s just waiting till I open my heart and simply ask.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I love the potential represented by a blank piece of paper. It doesn’t take long before my mind starts whirlingand my love of words fill the page’s emptiness with strokes of black which artistically paint a picture for my audience. There’s such satisfaction as the blank spaces slowly disappear!

I still have days, though, where blank pages and deadlines collide and I don’t even come up with enough intrigue to fill a kindergartener’s primer. Writer’s block feels suffocating and endless, whether it exists for weeks or minutes. There are literary exercises you can perform to think of something, but to this day, whenever I hit writer’s block, my brain conjures up one simple, mundane and wandering sentence:

“I walked into the Throne Room, looking for the Father.”

Every time a blank page intimidates me rather than inspires me, I write that sentence and mutter, “Just show me something, Jesus. I’ve got nothing.”

Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus “…the author and perfecter of our faith.” It always makes me smile to think of Jesus as a fellow wordsmith who takes joy in weaving a story. But, unlike myself, Jesus is never intimidated by the blank pages of a life.

Even when our life choices slow down His plot, or sin patterns fill our lives with mistakes which take years to erase, He still thrives writing on the pages of our lives. Not once does Jesus sit down, contemplate furthering the story of our individual lives and think, “I’ve got nothing on this one.”

If we truly trust Jesus as the ultimate Author, we can always trust that he can make beauty out of nothing, and gold out of our biggest mistakes.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

As a teenager, I hated singing harmony. I strongly disliked not being the first voice people heard in a song. Why do you listen to music, anyway? It’s certainly not for the often repetitive and unnoticed notes sung in the background! Melody is where the strength and the beauty lie, and I wanted to get the credit for making that beauty happen.

Through the years, I learned how short-sighted my musical view was. Making music isn’t about what notes are heard the loudest, or even what part is most valuable. Music is about different notes coming together and not downplaying their differences. Melody is beautiful, but without the harmony, it’s not nearly as rich and impactful as it could be.

I see a lot of similarities between how I viewed music when I was younger, and how so many of us struggle in viewing people who have different passions than our own. No matter what you’re passionate about, if Christ is at the center of that passion, you can rest assured it has an eternal impact and purpose.

If, however, God gave us all the same exact passions, his love for his people wouldn’t be as deeply defined for those around us. It’s not about which purpose is most important; nor is it about making everyone passionate about the same exact thing. Christ’s love is most beautiful when we learn to trust that our passions are put together for a reason.

Unity never means uniformity. Unity means different passions being refined for one purpose: Christ’s love reaching a dying world.

Don’t make the same mistake I made in music. Learn to rely on Jesus to make every difference you see in your neighbors a thing of beauty. Without their differences, your life wouldn’t be nearly as rich.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The past few weeks have been hard as we’ve watched racial tensions escalate around our country. There are no words to express the range of emotions we are all experiencing. It seems like everyone has ideas about how the situation should be handled.

As we deal with our grief over this broken world, we cannot afford to let our differences of opinion divide us. We need to recognize together that there is only one solution for the injustices we see. Better laws won’t fix the situation. Politicians can’t fix it. Education can’t fix it. Nothing on earth can keep human beings from hating one another. Nothing except the love of Jesus.

I’ve been deeply convicted that before pointing a finger, I need to examine the extent to which I’m going out of my way to show the love of Jesus. Does my “holiness” really lead to God’s righteousness? Through the prophet Isaiah God explained to his people the purpose of the special days of fasting to honor him: “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

The next few verses give hope: “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and he will say ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58:8-9a).

As daughters of the King, let’s agree to actively seek ways to worship God with our actions. May they know we are followers of Christ by our love for each other and the world during this difficult time.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

A group of us recently spent time lamenting the things we had lost throughout the quarantine. Jobs we no longer held. Weddings or funerals we couldn’t attend. Trips we couldn’t take. Loved ones we couldn’t hug. I noticed something beautiful develop as we grieved each loss together.

No one chided the men for tearing up. No one told the kids their grief over a closed playground wasn’t important. No one gave immediate solutions to the losses mentioned. We just let each other talk through the things we had to release. Collectively, we sat in companionable acceptance of each grief.

Too often, we try to mask grief by quickly replacing it with things we can celebrate. It’s no secret celebration is easier to stomach than grief. But as I watched my friends come together and support each other, I glimpsed the unity of the Body of Christ come to life.

The pandemic has taken things from all of us, but it has also given us a deeper understanding of what it means to live in unity. As the Lord strengthens our bond with one another in the Body of Christ, may we be a beacon of hope to those who believe grief is something they need to bear alone.

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