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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I’d never ridden a horse. I’m fairly certain I was clueless in regards to chariots. But that didn’t matter. Memorizing a Bible verse about chariots and horses was exciting and mysterious. I loved declaring my trust in the Lord my God alone as I quoted Psalm 20.

For an innocent kid, it was an easy declaration. As life grew more intense and lonely, as everyone’s life does, declaring my trust in Christ got harder. Did I trust Him when my family seemed as if it was falling apart? Did I trust Him when health problems stole my childish abandon at an early age? Did I actually trust Him more than any other resource my life provided? Could I?

I had my moments of doubt. Honestly, I had my seasons of doubt that Christ was enough. Why should He be enough, when the comfort of money and modern medicine were easily accessible? However, as I look back on nearly 30 years of life, I’m refreshed by a very tangible truth.

The things I could depend on in addition to, or instead of, Christ, will always fail at some point. Though there have been moments where God hasn’t done exactly what I wanted Him to do, He does, in fact, keep His promise.

He always answers me when I call out to Him. My life has tested His faithfulness, and His faithfulness has never been found wanting.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I wish someone would make sure the children were quiet,” she said in exasperation. “This is church, after all.” I smiled at the woman’s complaint. I, too, was raised to believe children were to be seen and not heard — especially while sitting in a pew!

Despite being raised to cringe at noise during a church service, nowadays I can’t help but chuckle at the unabashed squeals, the stage-whispered questions, or unrelenting cries of the youngest generation. They don’t really seem to care what other people think of their behavior. The Bible calls us to have childlike faith. What’s more childlike than making your presence known before Jesus whether you’re laughing, screaming, joyful, scared, confused, or impatient?

Every time I hear the squawk of a kiddo, I’m reminded of Jesus commanding the disciples to let the children come to Him (Mark 10:14). He didn’t specify the children had to be on their best behavior, or in a good mood. He just told them to come—end of story.

What would happen to our faith journeys if we came to Him as uninhibited as children do?

Beyond the Hole

~ Written by Viki Rife

A few weeks ago, when I wrote a blog about keeping wonder in Christmas, I had no idea that a new kind of wonder awaited our family this season. The morning of December 22, my father slipped away from us into his Father’s waiting arms.

Christmas will never be the same for us. Yes, we grieve, and most likely there will be some grieving each year at this time. There is a big hole in our hearts. But overriding the pain is a confidence that the baby in a manger came to defeat death.

The hole is not forever. Our dear daddy—pastor, missionary, school administrator, chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, and all-around lover of God—was a work of grace. He is now experiencing the wonder of Heaven. And even in the pain, we are experiencing the wonder of peace that passes understanding.

Our family is entering a new season of life as the new year begins. You might be, too. May we all spend this new year focusing on the wonder of God’s amazing grace at work within us. Have a wonder-full year!

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

At first glance, things weren’t going well. The once booming church’s numbers had dwindled drastically. The offering plate struggled to provide funds to keep the church’s doors open—though they still were. The elephant in the room was no longer being ignored.

Things had changed. Those changes had come at a great price. But redemption wasn’t lacking when you spoke to the people who remained in the pews. Bitterness which had lined the halls for decades had finally been brought to light and resolved. Unbiblical teaching had been eradicated from the pulpit. Relationship with each other and their Savior was now more important to the remaining congregants than their religious traditions.

They were seeing God more clearly than they had in many years.

Sometimes, change hurts. Every time, no matter how good the changes are, starting anew is scary. However, letting the fear of pain stand in the way of taking the plunge and starting new would be a tragedy. Starting over and being given a new opportunity doesn’t always make sense; nor does it always feel good. The joy of a fresh start is we have a chance to depend on the Jesus who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

May your New Year be laced with the adventure of depending on our faithful God!

~ Written by Viki Rife

Wonder. I’ve heard that word throughout my entire life in reference to Christmas. I remember as a child seeing commercials showing delighted kids receiving just what they wanted, or being surprised with a superbly decorated tree, and the announcer saying something like, “give them the wonder of Christmas.”

Wonder is a very good word to use in reference to Christmas. But our world has stopped far short of the real wonder of Christmas. And we can miss it, too, as we rush around to make sure everything is just as perfect as what we see on TV or Pinterest.

The true wonder of Christmas is that no matter what my circumstances, I am deeply and truly loved. It is a wonder that the God of the Universe would look at me and say, “I want much more for you than what you deserve.” It is a wonder that God is so wise that He sent His Son as a baby, someone who had to endure everything we do from the start.

Just as we fit trimming our tree and shopping for presents into our schedule, let’s carve some time this season to sit and ponder the wonder of “Christ with us.” And let’s put as much thought and energy into sharing that wonder with the children in our lives as we do in giving them the world’s image of the wonder of Christmas.

Give It A Chance

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

In the last two years, my sight has slowly returned. A brain surgery left the peripheral vision in my right eye almost 75 percent blind. However, with each eye appointment, test results show more and more improvement in my blind eye.
At my last appointment, my doctor shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as he showed me the test results. “Brain surgeries are a testy thing. We’re told to wait ten years before giving a final diagnosis so your brain can heal. I guess we just needed to wait a little while longer for you. Your blind spot is completely normal, Ma’am.”
I should have been happier about the news. So many things would be easier with both my eyes fully functioning. But if my eyes were testing “normal,” why was I still walking around as if I was working with an enormous blind spot? When I sat back from the test, I still couldn’t see anything in my peripheral vision.
When I explained my confusion to the doctor, I could tell he was fighting back laughter. “You’re not blind anymore, Ma’am. But now you have to tell your eyes that. They’ve gotten so used to being blind, they don’t know how to work normally. It’ll take time. But it’s there, I promise. Let your brain believe in what it’s seeing.”
Sometimes I think I do the same thing with trusting Jesus with my redemption. My spirit knows it is free from sin, but sometimes my spirit can’t see itself as free because it lived in captivity for so long. Just like with my optometrist, my spirit has to be reminded of the obvious.
I’m not blind anymore.

~ Written by Viki Rife

Many families love to review anecdotes when they get together over the holidays. One of my personal favorites is about our oldest grandchild, Natalie. She was such a “little mommy” that our daughter had to forbid her from taking care of her little brother so that he could learn to do things for himself.

Shortly after our other daughter’s second son was born, she planned a visit to her sister. When Natalie was told, she did not seem excited as her mom had expected.

“Three little boys?” she asked doubtfully. “That’s a lot of work for me.”

We might laugh at how preposterous it is for a five-year-old to think so much responsibility is on her shoulders. But I can’t help but wonder if God is amused when we look at a situation and think, “That’s a lot of work for me.” Let’s give him credit for being the responsible Father he truly is.

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