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~ Written by Viki Rife

I’ll never forget the day a fifteen-year-old girl who had started attending our youth group told me, “I need to find a boyfriend so I can get pregnant.” Hiding my surprise, I asked her why. Through tears she said, “Because I need a baby so I have someone to always love me.”

We may smile at her naïve perspective, but the truth is that as parents, we are very concerned about how our children feel toward us. It takes great emotional maturity to resist parenting based on the question, “How can I make sure my child likes me?” I call it “the foolish parenting question.”

Many, many parents in our society are living by that question. They can’t bear the thought that their child might be unhappy with them, so they knock themselves out to please the child. When the effort wears them out, they end up blowing up at the child for being so demanding. Then they feel guilty and the cycle begins all over again as they try to get back into their child’s good graces.

For those of us who understand that our children, like ourselves, were created to give God glory, the wise question to ask is, “How can I prepare my children to be God-honoring adults?” It changes the way we respond in every situation of their lives.

When something is hard for them, we will help them develop an attitude of perseverance instead of doing it for them. When others hurt their feelings, we will show them grace while using the opportunity to teach forgiveness and help them develop healthy conflict-resolution skills. When they mismanage their allowance, we will lovingly but firmly let them go without what they want so they know irresponsibility has consequences. With each new challenge, our thought should be, “How can I use this to prepare them to cope well with future problems? How can I show them that this is a way to bring glory to God?”

In the end, we find the parents who ask the wise question while rearing their children often end up with children who appreciate and like them. The ones who ask the foolish question many times have children who are demanding and contemptuous.

It is the wise parenting question that helps us “train up a child in the way he should go.” Our children are not created to make us feel good, although that may be a pleasant side effect. We must always be mindful that God put our children in our lives so we could teach them to give glory to Him.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Does your heart break at times when the news is full of violence? Do you ache when you see injustice? You are in good company!

Throughout the history God’s people have had to face a world where things are being done the opposite of what He intended for humanity. We recognize that all is not as it should be.

It’s comforting to read how God views those who long for the world to do His will. In Ezekiel 9, the prophet has a vision of God’s judgment. The Lord calls for those appointed to execute judgment on His people, and He appoints one to “go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” He then commands the destroying angels not to touch anyone who has the mark.

If we are not grieved by the decline of our society, it may be that we are not in tune with God’s ways. On the other hand, our pain over what is happening is evidence of our awareness of how right God’s ways are. May we intertwine our laments over our world with prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was spiritually dry. For weeks, I would sit with my Bible open, reading its words, yet comprehending nothing. I’d open to a blank page in my prayer journal and struggle to write anything beyond, “Hi, Jesus.” Some days, even writing those two words took an amount of energy my mind and spirit didn’t have.

At one of my lowest points, someone asked me what I was learning through my personal time in the Word. Because I didn’t want to be a discouragement to my friend, I simply told her I was learning patience. Understandably so, she assumed I meant patience in regards to normal newly-married things.

I wasn’t sure how to tell her I was learning patience in waiting for God to show up in an otherwise seemingly endless spiritual desert.

Coming to Christ through my distress was difficult. Late one night I whispered, “I don’t feel like coming to You, Jesus, but I’m here. I’m not here out of desire, but I’m here out of obedience. Right now, that’s all I have to give You.”

It wasn’t an easy fix. My dry season had left my heart so parched, joy wasn’t immediate. But Christ honored my obedience to come to Him, and slowly revived my joy.

Obedience can often feel like a sacrifice—especially when we don’t understand every aspect of that obedience. Yet God honors the sacrifices of our hearts, even the sacrifices which were made in a spiritual desert.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I understand.” It’s a two-word sentiment meant to comfort and console, but it often doesn’t. When facing heartbreaking trauma, loss, or a new medical hurdle, the last thing you want to hear is, “I understand.” Those words are always uttered in well-intentioned ways, but I’ve caught myself mentally mumbling, “How could you understand?! You have no idea what it’s like to feel pain like this!”

A while back, I asked God to help me learn how to keep my thoughts to myself when sitting with a grieving friend. Instead of looking their grief in the eye and telling them I understand, I’ve started praying, “God, I want to understand, but I don’t. Help them know you bear their pain just as deeply, and your consoling love brings healing once they’re ready for it.”

Most humans don’t grieve well. We are even worse at witnessing the grief of someone they love. But what a breathtaking assurance—we can hand them to the God Who really does understand heartbreak, loss, and trauma! We serve a God who is not afraid to grieve, because He understands it better than any of us could ever imagine.

Isn’t it awe-inspiring to know we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God who humbles Himself enough to come alongside us in our pain? Isn’t it amazing that when we hear Him whisper to our grieving hearts, “I understand, Child,” He really does?

Oh, the glory of serving a Savior who meets us in our valleys just as easily as He celebrates us on the mountain tops!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

It’s kind of mind-blowing. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Increase our faith!” Great request!

He affirmed its value by saying, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

Then He launched into a discussion about a servant out plowing the field or keeping sheep. When the servant comes in, does his master offer to serve him? No. The master tells him to prepare and serve him a meal, and then the servant can sit down and eat.

Then Jesus says, “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?” Of course, the answer is that he doesn’t owe the servant a “thank you” for doing his job. Jesus concludes by saying, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Could it be that the two concepts tie together? Could it be that an understanding of God’s authority helps us gain perspective and increase our trust in Him? Those who are looking for glory or appreciation for themselves will not have the faith to accomplish the great deeds they dream of. Only those who are humble enough to fully accept God’s Lordship will have a faith that grows.

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~Written by Viki Rife

I lay in bed, unable to face the day. I had agreed to do something way out of my comfort zone, and now a sense of dread had me immobilized.

Sure, I could call and back out of my commitment. From a human perspective, it would be understandable. Nothing was worth that much stress, after all.

But I had accepted the challenge because I believed God was calling me to do it. So while I wasn’t too hesitant about backing out on a human being, I knew deep inside it would not be right to shrink back from what God had clearly shown me.

As I wrestled with fear, a phrase I had read the night before from Isaiah 61:3 suddenly echoed in my mind, “to give them…the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (ESV).

God wanted to replace my faint spirit with something better! I began to praise Him for His power and ability to work despite my weakness. The more I thought about Him, the more I realized He was big enough to handle even my potential failure.

Praise overrides fear any day!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I wrote out the check to the hospital, all the while trembling with anxiety and frustration. The bill hadn’t taken all our money, but it certainly made life a bit more uncomfortable. My husband and I rewrote our summer plans, cut corners on our budget, and found ourselves saying, “no,” on a more regular basis.

There was no way around the truth, though. I had needed to be in the hospital. The consequences were just a hard pill to swallow.

“God, we were doing so well. You promised you’d provide for us; but then stuff like this happens,” I wrote in my prayer journal. Quickly, God reminded me that He had, in fact, provided. The bill was paid, and all our needs remained met. We weren’t homeless or hungry, and our marriage wasn’t in danger. God had faithfully provided. Just because I didn’t like His method of providing didn’t mean He’d upheld His promise any less.

How many times do we miss a chance to experience the fullness of God’s goodness simply because He’s taking us out of our comfort zone? What would our lives be like if, instead of focusing on how much we dislike the ways He provides for us, we broadened our hearts to see that He’s teaching us to depend on Him?

After all, don’t we believe He is enough?

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