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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 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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Written by Cassie Rayl

With a child-sized Superman cape over his shoulders, the little boy hero walks the streets of Birmingham handing out McDonald’s chicken sandwiches to the homeless. At four years old, he recently learned the meaning behind the word “homeless.” He told his daddy he wants all his allowance to go towards buying sandwiches so he can “show love” to the people in need in his hometown.

Watching the news story about Austin made me tear up for several reasons. First off, he’s adorable. Second, my family has been closely impacted by the trial of homelessness, so I take Austin’s joy of being a Good Samaritan personally.

But most importantly, I’m in awe of his childlike faith and his confidence that he can impact the world for the better.

He obviously doesn’t care that his monthly allowance only buys a handful of sandwiches. He doesn’t approach only the “acceptable” people on the streets. He doesn’t stop to weigh a person’s potential success rate before helping them. He and his daddy walk through Birmingham giving out food until there is no food left—simply because Austin wants to show love to the best of his ability.

What if we as adults had that type of faith? What if we served the “least of these” simply to show them love, with no ulterior motive?

Would Christ be easier to see and His love feel more tangible?

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Please tell your story to my daughter,” my friend wrote. “She needs to know there’s hope.”

As I read my friend’s request, I was shocked at the bittersweet emotions her plea conjured up within me. I was thankful she saw Christ in my journey, and there was nothing I wanted more than to point others to my Jesus. But to share my story meant I had to journey down a memory lane I tried so very hard to forget.

After sharing my story, I was reminded of the biblical practice to lay down stones of remembrance. In 1st Samuel, the prophet Samuel laid down an “Ebenezer” to remind all the generations to follow of the victory God had granted Israel. Every time the Israelites walked by the Ebenezer, it was to spur on memories.

They had two choices. They could either remember the strain and heartache of war, or they could remember that Yahweh was their Victory. Regardless of the memory the Ebenezer stone made them focus on, they had to remember the battle itself.

No one likes to think about heartache, or talk about a season where they felt abandoned by God. Too often, I’ve begged God to erase my memory of those times because the memories are too hurtful. But then I’m reminded that without the memory of pain, I wouldn’t have proof of God’s faithfulness.

My Ebenezer stone isn’t the heart filled with scars. No, my Ebenezer stone is my soul’s redemption handed to me by my ever-faithful God.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

What is it that makes kids want to help in the kitchen? There is something in the human soul that longs to be a part of creating something, of contributing to the community.

It takes a lot of patience on the part of the parent. Letting a child help can double the length of time it takes to prepare a meal or bake a batch of cookies. But something happens to a child in the process of helping. The child develops new thinking skills and begins to understand the chemistry of ingredients. Competencies develop that the child can build on.

It’s important for us to let our children help, even if it makes it harder to get a project done. Sometimes I wonder if God does the same with us. He certainly could run the world without us, if He chose, but He allows us to be a part of what He’s doing in the world. That joy we see on the face of a child who is helping in the kitchen? It reminds us that God wants us to experience the joy of working with Him.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I love watching you walk by my house every day. You don’t know me, but thanks for being you. You’re a breath of fresh air. Something is different about you.” The complete stranger who spoke those words had caught me mid-bite and mid-giggle at a local restaurant recently. I wanted to laugh harder at the awkwardness of his statement. But the look of confusion in his eyes made me choke on a possibly humorous response.

I stuttered out a shocked, “It’s Jesus, Sir. It’s all and only Jesus.” He smiled sadly, and responded, “Yeah, okay. Well anyway, just wanted you to know. Have a nice day.”

Jesus-induced joy has always been a piece of what makes His followers stand out from the crowd. But in our current culture, when violence, fear, and cynicism have become a main event, joy is so rare it’s confusing to those who don’t know our Savior. Some days, choosing joy feels like a sacrifice of praise. I’ve come to the realization, though, that if I don’t choose joy, I’m missing out on testifying about Christ.

If we truly live in the truth that our Savior is alive, how can we not choose joy despite our circumstances? It’s what makes us different, and obviously, the world around us is watching.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The best example of discipleship I’ve ever seen came from a three-year-old. At least, the best example of a discipleship mentality.

I was all set to talk online with my granddaughter Eva. When she came on camera, she had her two favorite dolls tucked under her arms, as usual. When I asked her what she had been doing that day, she said, “Well, I have kids, don’t you know.” Her dolls occupy her mind no matter what else is happening.

Just the other day I asked her in our online chat what she’d been doing, and she answered, “Teaching my kids to ice skate.” Then she told me how she could slide on their new wood floor in her socks, and proudly explained that she had socks that “look just like ice skates.” But of course, she couldn’t just experience it by herself. She was conscientiously teaching her “kids” to skate also.

We might laugh, but I wish I had the same commitment to discipling others. Am I aware of opportunities to help them learn what I’m learning? Do I care about living human beings as much as a child cares about her dolls?

Eva is always aware that she is responsible for the care of her dolls. May we have that kind of enthusiasm for those God gives us the opportunity to disciple.

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