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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Despite living in Indiana for over five years, I still find cornfields intriguing. After a childhood in Alaska, any produce which can grow well fascinates me. On a trip from Indiana to Ohio recently, my fascination with corn kept me quite content on the otherwise mundane and boring drive on Highway 30.

As we entered Ohio, a animated raven on the edge of a cornfield caught my eye. He bounced around contentedly in a muddy puddle, obviously very happy with his circumstances. It seemed he had no idea there was better water just a flight away, or that he might find a few stray kernels of corn if he looked beyond his little mud bath.

The sight made me chuckle; but I had to wonder. How many times does God observe us doing something similar to the oblivious raven in the cornfield? We find ourselves in bearable circumstances, get comfortable, and forget to look around to see if God has provided something even better. We settle with the convenient, rather than wait on the Lord for what is ultimately beneficial.

We’re not ravens. Let’s not be content playing in the mud of this world when just beyond God may have something much better.

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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.

~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!

~ 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?

~ Written by Viki Rife

It wasn’t until I was fifty years old that I discovered a shocking truth. I wasn’t my grandfather’s favorite grandchild.

Up until that moment, I had assumed our special times together were unique. Surely no one else spent hours sitting with him on the riverbank watching leaves float by, or on a park bench writing poetry to share with each other. Surely I was the only one who took walks with him through the nearby cemetery and made up stories for him about the people buried there.

I left California for college at 17 and settled in Indiana. It wasn’t until my uncle passed away and different ones of the cousins helped their elderly parents travel to the funeral that I had the joy of sitting with cousins and reminiscing. As they mentioned childhood memories, the truth hit me. They had special, tailored-to-them experiences with Grandpa, too. I was not the favorite grandchild.

It only shocked and disappointed me for a moment. Then I was overwhelmed with a wave of gratitude. Here I was, sitting with the few other people in the world who had enjoyed the beautiful experience of being valued by this amazing man I had loved so much. All I could think was, “This is what family is about.” We shared a bond that no one else could fully understand.

Since that day, there have been times when friends and I were sharing what God was doing in our lives and I got that same feeling, “This is what family is about.” The only way to explain the feeling is the word “Heaven.”

~ 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.

~Written by Cassie Rayl

“If you don’t like how they treat you, take the time to teach them a different way.” The advice seemed so simple. Despite my disabilities, my parents always tried to make sure I could operate in mainstream culture. To help people grow comfortable with my differences, I learned to make jokes about my limp, my leg braces, or the spasticity in my hands caused by cerebral palsy.

It wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, there were hundreds of times I went home crying because the mocking didn’t stop. But every time I tried to give up, my parents were quick to remind me, in not so many words, that giving up on others wasn’t showing them godly love. So, I spent many days of my childhood repeating the same conversations and dealing with the same people, while they held to their ignorance about individuals in situations like mine.

It took patience and perseverance. Some people never got it. Even to this day, I’m cute, but their understanding of my life ends there. But there are so many more people who finally understand my differences are something to enjoy, rather than something to be afraid of, mocked, or coddled.

By no means do I have that skill mastered. However, that struggle taught me what relational discipleship can look like. Often, I approach non-Christians, share with them the Gospel truth, and if they don’t accept it right away, my initial desire is to give up on them. But when I stay with them, grow a friendship with them, and give them a reason to stick around me, God works when I don’t even realize He’s working.

I had to keep offering friendship to people who couldn’t understand me so they could change their minds over time. We have to keep offering love to people who don’t accept Christ so that, over time, they have a better chance to see that Christ really can make a difference.

Never give up on a person simply because they seem impossible. God thrives in impossibilities.

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