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Patricia Raybon

Patricia Raybon

Patricia Raybon, a former Sunday Magazine editor at The Denver Post and former associate professor of journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder, now writes bridge-building books “to inspire people to love God and each other.” Passionate for God’s Word, she also supports Bible-translation projects worldwide. Her award-winning books include My First White Friend and I Told the Mountain to Move. A mother of two and grandmother of five, she and husband Dan live in Colorado where they enjoy movies, popcorn, cozy mysteries, and soapy PBS dramas. Find her at patriciaraybon.com or on Facebook or Twitter @patriciaraybon.

Articles by Patricia Raybon

Ending Envy

The famous French artist Edgar Degas is remembered worldwide for his paintings of ballerinas. Less known is the envy he expressed of his friend and artistic rival Édouard Manet, another master painter. Said Degas of Manet: “Everything he does he always hits off straightaway, while I take endless pains and never get it right.”

It’s a curious emotion, envy—listed by the apostle Paul among the worst passions, as bad “as every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip” (Romans 1:29 nlt). It results from “foolish thinking,” Paul writes—the result of worshiping idols instead of worshiping God (v. 28 nlt).

Author Christina Fox says that among believers envy develops “because our hearts have turned from our one true love.” In our envy, she said, “we are chasing after the inferior pleasures of this world instead of looking to Jesus. In effect, we’ve forgotten whose we are.”

Yet there’s a remedy. Turn back to God. “Offer every part of yourself to him,” Paul wrote (Romans 6:13)—your work and life especially. In another of his letters Paul wrote, “Everyone should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4).

Thank God for His blessings—not just things, but for the freedom of His grace. Seeing our own God-given gifts, we find contentment again.

In God’s Image

When her beautiful brown skin started losing its color, a young woman felt frightened, as if she were disappearing, losing her “self.” With heavy makeup, she covered up “my spots,” as she called them—patches of lighter skin caused by a condition called vitiligo. It’s a loss of skin pigment, melanin, which gives skin its tone.

Then one day, she asked herself: Why hide? Relying on God’s strength to accept herself, she stopped wearing heavy makeup, gaining attention for her self-confidence. Eventually she became the first spokesmodel with vitiligo for a global cosmetics brand.

“It’s such a blessing,” she told a TV news host, adding that her faith, family, and friends are the ways she finds encouragement.

This woman’s story invites us to remember we each are created in God’s image. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). No matter what we look like on the outside, we each are image bearers of God. As His created persons, we reflect His glory, and as believers in Jesus we are being transformed to represent Him in the world.

Do you struggle to love the skin you’re in? Today, look in the mirror and smile for God. He created you in His image.

Never Alone

While writing a Bible guide for pastors in Indonesia, a writer friend grew fascinated with that nation’s culture of togetherness. Called gotong royong—meaning “mutual assistance”—the concept is practiced in villages, where neighbors may work together to repair someone’s roof or rebuild a bridge or path. In cities too my friend said, “People always go places with someone else—to a doctor’s appointment, for example. It’s the cultural norm. So you’re never alone.”

Worldwide, believers in Jesus rejoice in knowing we also are never alone. Our constant and forever companion is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Far more than a loyal friend, the Spirit of God is given to every follower of Christ by our heavenly Father to “help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16).

Jesus promised God’s Spirit would come after His own time on Earth ended. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus said (v. 18). Instead, the Holy Spirit—“the Spirit of Truth” who “lives with you and will be in you”—indwells each of us who accepts the Lord as Savior (v. 17).

The Holy Spirit is our Helper, Comforter, Encourager, and Counselor—a constant companion in a world where loneliness can afflict even connected people. May we forever abide in His comforting love and help.

Enjoying Beauty

The painting caught my eye like a beacon. Displayed along a long hallway in a big city hospital, its deep pastel hues and Navajo Indian figures were so arresting I stopped to marvel and stare. “Look at that,” I said to my husband Dan.

He was walking ahead, trying to find the elevator to a doctor’s office. But I hesitated, bypassing other paintings on the wall to gaze only at that one. “Beautiful,” I whispered.

Many things in life are beautiful, indeed. Master paintings. Scenic vistas. Inspired crafts. But so is a child’s smile. A friend’s hello. A robin’s blue egg. A sea shell’s strong ridges. To relieve the burdens life can bring,  “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In such beauty, Bible scholars explain, we get a glimpse of the perfection of God’s creation—including the glory of His perfect rule to come. 

We can only imagine such perfection, so God grants us a foretaste through life’s beauty. In this way, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, God “has also set eternity in the human heart” (v. 11). Some days life looks drab and futile. But God mercifully shows us moments of beauty to ponder.

The artist of the painting I admired, Gerard Curtis Delano, understood that.  “God had given me a talent to create beauty,” he once said, “and this is what He wanted me to do.”

Seeing such beauty, how can we respond? Thank God for eternity to come. But let’s also pause today and enjoy the glory we already see.

Surrounded by God

In a busy airport, a young mother struggled alone. Her toddler was in full tantrum mode—screaming, kicking, and refusing to board their plane. Overwhelmed and heavily pregnant, the burdened young mother finally gave up, sinking to the floor in frustration, covering her face, and starting to sob.

Suddenly six or seven women travelers, all strangers, formed a circle around the young mother and her child—sharing snacks, water, gentle hugs, and even a nursery song. Their loving circle calmed the mother and child, who then boarded their plane. The other women then returned to their seats, not needing to discuss what they had done, but knowing their support had strengthened a young mother exactly when she needed it.

This illustrates a beautiful truth from Psalm 125. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem,” says verse 2, “so the Lord surrounds his people.” The image reminds us how the bustling city of old Jerusalem is, indeed, flanked by surrounding hills—among them the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, and Mount Moriah.

In this same way, God surrounds His people—supporting and standing guard over our souls “both now and for evermore.” Thus, on tough days, look up, “unto the hills,” as the psalmist puts it (Psalm 121:1 kjv). God awaits with strong help, steady hope, and everlasting love.

Swept Away

When he invented the pencil eraser, British engineer Edward Nairne was reaching instead for a piece of bread. Crusts of bread were used then, in 1770, to erase marks on paper. Picking up a piece of latex rubber by mistake, Nairne found it erased his error, leaving rubberized “crumbs” easily swept away by hand.

With us too the worst errors of our lives can be swept away. It’s the Lord—the Bread of Life—who cleans them with His own life, promising never to remember our sins. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake,” says Isaiah 43:25, “and remembers your sins no more.”

This can seem a remarkable fix—and not deserved. For many, it’s hard to believe our past sins can be swept away by God “like the morning mist.” Does God forget them so easily? Especially God who knows everything?

That’s exactly what God does when we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Choosing to forgive our sins and to “[remember] them no more,” our heavenly Father frees us to move forward. No longer dragged down by past wrongs, we’re free of debris and cleaned up to serve, now and forever.

Yes, consequences may remain. But God sweeps sin itself away, inviting us to return to Him for our clean new life. There’s no better way to be swept away.

The Spirit of Fika

The coffeehouse in the town near my house is named Fika. It’s a Swedish word meaning to take a break with coffee and a pastry, always with family, co-workers, or friends. I’m not Swedish, yet the spirit of fika describes one thing I love most about Jesus—His practice of taking a break to eat and relax with others.

Scholars say Jesus’s meals weren’t random. Theologian Mark Glanville calls them “the delightful ‘second course’” of Israel’s feasts and celebrations in the Old Testament. At the table, Jesus lived what God had intended Israel to be: “a center of joy, celebration and justice for the whole world,” as Glanville puts it.

From the feeding of 5,000, to the Last Supper—even to the meal with two believers after His resurrection (v. 30)—the table ministry of Jesus invites us to stop our constant striving and abide in Him. Indeed, not until eating with Jesus did the two believers recognize Him as Risen Lord. “He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened” (vv. 30–31) to the living Christ.

Sitting with a friend recently at Fika, enjoying hot chocolate and rolls, we found ourselves also talking of Jesus. He is the Bread of Life. May we linger at His table and find more of Him.

Seen by God

My first pair of eyeglasses opened my eyes to a bold world. I’m nearsighted, meaning objects close up are sharp and defined. Without my glasses, however, items across a room or in the distance are a blur. At age twelve, with my first pair of eyeglasses, I was shocked to see clearer words on blackboards, tiny leaves on trees and, perhaps most important, big smiles on faces.

As friends smiled back when I greeted them, I learned that to be seen was as great a gift as the blessing of seeing.

The slave Hagar realized that as she fled from her mistress Sarai’s unkindness. Hagar was a “nobody” in her culture, pregnant and alone, fleeing to a desert without help or hope. Seen by God, however, she was empowered, in return, to see Him. No longer a vague concept, God became real to her, so real that she gave God a name, El Roi. “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (v. 13).

Our seeing God sees each of us, too. Feeling unseen, alone or like a “nobody”? God sees you and also your future. In return, may we see in Him our ever present hope, encouragement, salvation and joy—both for today and for our future. Praise Him today for this gift of amazing sight, to see the one true and Living God.

A Big Deal

A family member needed help with his December rent. To his family, the request felt like a burden—especially with their own unexpected expenses at year’s end. But they dug unto their savings, grateful for God’s provision—and blessed by their relative’s gratitude.

He handed them a thank-you card filled with grateful words. “There you go again . . . doing nice things, probably passing it off as no big deal.”

Helping others is a big deal, however, to God. The prophet Isaiah made that point to the nation of Israel. The people were fasting but still quarreling and fighting. Instead, said Isaiah: “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. . . . Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:7 nlt).

Such a sacrifice, said Isaiah, shares God’s light but also heals our own brokenness (v. 8). As the family helped their relative, they looked hard at their own finances, seeing ways they could manage better all year. This was God’s promise for being generous: “Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind” (v. 8 nlt). In the end, giving to their kin blessed them more. And God? He already gave His all—with love. 

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