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~Written by Cassie Rayl

“Is that all you have to say? Aren’t you gonna fix this like you’ve fixed everything else?” My friend’s disappointment in my response to his crisis broke my heart. I really had done my best to always rescue him in the past. Once upon a time, fixing loved ones’ issues is where I secretly found my worth. I truly believed I always had their best interest at heart.

And yet, when my lifelong friend’s world crashed yet again, this time I firmly heard the Spirit whisper, “Do not steal my glory, Child.”

Tears came to the surface. I obediently gritted my teeth and repeated, “I’m sorry you’re angry. I’m sorry this doesn’t make sense. God is big enough to hear those complaints and handle your anger.” As I knew would be the case, my words did not go over well.

Our phone call ended on a sweet note, but I could tell he felt like I had ripped the already-shaking ground out from under him. But I couldn’t stop mentally repeating what the Spirit had just whispered moments before, “Don’t steal my glory.”

As is often shared among Christians, “Our ways are not God’s ways.” It’s tempting to find an easier path. It feels better to tangibly do something for a loved one in crisis, rather than stand in the wings merely praying. It’s more comfortable to try doing God’s work for him rather than stand by and watch someone suffer.

Right?

But when we push ahead of God, we steal his glory. Spiritual growth is born in crisis, and if we take away the crisis, we cripple the other person’s ability to see Jesus for who he is.

After all, in the end, do we want people to need Jesus and know he can handle anything, or need us and watch as we fail them every time?

~ Written by Viki Rife

I thought I was done with Christmas for another year. As I drove up to my house the other day, though, I realized the Christmas decoration on the front door had been overlooked in packing up. Boldly it proclaimed, “Joy to the World.”

My first thought was, “It doesn’t belong there now.” My next one was, “Why not?”

I had been feeling like the year had gotten off to a rough start. Suddenly, the responsibility of truly bringing joy to the world hit me. The joy we expect to have at Christmas was intended to be for every day of the year. It has nothing to do with presents or family gatherings. Joy is something we can choose to have no matter what our circumstances. It is an attitude we can convey to the watching world around us as we rejoice in who our God is.

Can 2021 be a year of joy, even if nothing is going the way we hoped? Let’s resolve this year to celebrate daily the joy of personally knowing the Savior of the world. Our choice to live in joy instead of complaining, criticizing or despairing will do more to draw the world to Christ than anything else we could do.

As God’s dearly loved children, let’s focus together this year on bringing joy to the world.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Our New Year didn’t come in the way I had hoped. Although our plans hadn’t been huge, New Year’s was potentially the last holiday my husband, Peter, and I had before our son, Judah, arrives in early April. Ideas of games, movies, junk food and laughter were all I had thought about for days.

Instead, there were bowls strategically placed between the bathrooms so  I would be prepared any time my nausea hit. Peter militantly checked my blood pressure, managed my new medications, and gently understood when sleeping seemed better than looking at his face. As miserable as I was, I giggled every time Judah kicked my ribs.

Relief was on the horizon, though. My medical team had jumped into action, and as soon as my body adapted to new medications, I’d be okay. Still, I wasn’t focused on Jesus, joy, or Judah. I was adamantly focused on how God hadn’t given me what I wanted for the New Year.

At some point in my pity party, I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Will you sing me a song? Will you bring in the New Year praising me anyway? You’re obviously miserable. Will you actually let me help you refocus? Or would you rather just hear yourself complain?”

The songs started out quite begrudgingly, let me tell you. Honestly, I started singing out of mere obedience. Before I knew it, though, I wasn’t focusing on my discomfort, missed plans, or even my fears over my health or the health of our son. I was just singing to the Man who first called me Beloved. My thirty-minute, possibly-off-tune worship session ended in joy simply because God had shifted my perspective from myself to Him.

I’m fairly certain we’re all realizing that the strike of midnight on January 1st didn’t make our lives a bed of roses. As Christ has continually challenged me, I extend that same challenge to you: When your heart is filled with what you don’t have and what you can’t control in this new year, praise God anyway.

Even in times of uncertainty, focusing on our First Love is always the answer to finding freedom and living in joy.

Hope For 2021

~ Written by Viki Rife

Three days before Christmas, as I prepared for my morning devotions, I sat and just cried instead. It was the third anniversary of my father’s death, and we lost my mom this year as the shadow of Covid-19 kept us from ministering to her as we would have liked.

Through my tears, I finally was able to open my Bible to the bookmark where I had left off. I read:

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:6-10).

It was a timely reminder of the joy my parents are experiencing and what I hope to experience some day. However, more than comfort, it gave me resolve for the upcoming year.

For many of us, 2020 is the year we’d like to forget. The fact that 2021 is starting under the same cloud has been weighing on me. But courage says that whether we are in our body or away from it, we make it our aim to please God. That’s all I have to do: seek to please him every day, even when the media is assaulting me with threatening headlines or my body is experiencing symptoms that could be Covid. Seek to please him whatever happens in 2021.

How would the world change if we truly walked by faith, not sight, and sought to just please God? So many anxious, fearful moments would be avoided! So much anger and bitterness would be dissolved.

Please God. Just seek to please God. May that be our focus for this new year!

He opened the hatch of his truck with a grand flourish. As I walked out to greet him, I chuckled as I tried imagining what deserved such grandeur from my date on the night he was meeting my family.

He piled my arms with Christmas presents before he loaded his own arms with even more. He shrugged comically as he said around the boxes, “I think this is it, but I’ll come back and look in a bit to make sure.”

My family graciously received the Christmas presents from this perfect stranger, but Michael was quick to realize it made all of us—even me—incredibly uncomfortable. Trinkets, games, books, and candy lined a couch as everyone in my family had the same mental thought. What’s the point?

I honestly believed he was doing so much to impress my parents. When we finally had a moment alone, I discovered that wasn’t the case at all. “I assumed you never really experienced a Christmas full of presents as a kid since you were missionaries. I thought every family needed to experience being overloaded with stuff at least once. Based on your reactions, I guess I was wrong.”

Achieving simplicity for Christmas is difficult when you’ve forgotten what it means to truly long for something money can’t buy. As Christmas makes its appearance this year, I’m hearing more and more families confess, “It’s just going to be simple this year—really simple.”

It’s not wrong to lavish our loved ones with gifts and grand memories. However, maybe the simplicity of this Christmas comes at the exact moment we needed to step away from all the “extra” and just focus on Jesus. He doesn’t care about how big or small our gatherings, celebrations, or gift exchanges are.

He simply cares about whether we’re focused on what his love means for our lives, whether or not our Christmas feels “normal.”

Have a Christ-filled Christmas!

~ Written by Viki Rife

Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming, but lately I’ve found myself checking our credit score more often. It’s almost a compulsion. What if I accidentally forgot to make some payment? What if our credit score drops?

The funny part is that it really doesn’t matter. In the first place, we’re not planning on using our credit card for any Christmas shopping we can’t pay back at the end of the month. In the second place, I hear that a credit score only makes a difference if you’re trying to borrow money, which we have no plans to do.

So why do I have to keep checking that score? Basically, because I have a competitive spirit. It’s so intense, I even have to compete against myself! Is my number better than it was last month? I just have to check!

It’s not just credit scores which compel me to use math to one-up myself. It’s the number of steps I take a day. It’s how many leftovers are in serving-sized containers in our freezer in case we get Covid and are quarantined with no strength to cook.

Maybe that competitive attitude is what makes me wish Jesus would just give me a neat number by my name, telling me how pleased He is with me this month. Then I could know whether I need to try harder or if maybe I can go easy on myself.

Of course, that sounds extreme, but I wonder how many of us have that mentality deep in our hearts. As long as I can keep my credit score with Jesus in the right number range, I’m okay. He doesn’t oblige us, though. He keeps us on our toes by choosing to relate to us in deep ways that math could never measure.

I’m so grateful this season that he’s not just our scorekeeper—He is God With Us!

Paid To Pray

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

His question couldn’t have come at a harder time. I had just lost my job and was walking the tightrope of paying the bills but knowing my heart was called to ministry. It felt more hopeless than it was, but at 21, I was convinced God had it out for me.

Then, to pour salt on the wound, a deacon in my church approached me and asked, “If God provided a sustainable job for you where your main job was to pray for the Body of Christ and its ministries, would you take it?”

What? I remember exclaiming mentally. I mean, absolutely, but there’s no way God could do that. None. Thanks for reminding me ministry doesn’t pay, friend.

Still, my mind wandered through his inquiry for months. What would that look like? Is it feasible? Are there really employers out there who just want believers behind them as a prayer force? If that’s true, sign me up! Ultimately, my dreams of having an office with an ever-growing online prayer database and a warm reading chair to pray in eight hours a day never turned into reality.

I think often of my friend’s inquiry about getting paid to pray for a living. My current job is the farthest thing from “ministry” I’ve gotten in my lifetime as an employee. I sit at a computer and punch numbers, verifying an endless number of accounts and faceless customers. It’s a blessing of a job for my family’s current situation, but it’s not the glorious ministry position I once envisioned.

And yet, the job pays. My mind is allowed to wander often, and it wanders towards people and ministries within the Body of Christ. Often, while inputting data, my mind is in the Throne Room, interceding for whoever comes to mind. Eight hours out of the day, if my spirit is willing, I’m paid to pray.


This year has countless people—including myself—muttering, “This isn’t what I wanted!” It’s so easy to focus on the negativity that statement presents, and yet, what if we just need to step back and look for how God works within the shadows of these otherwise-inconvenient changes?

After all, of all the things that have changed, Christ and his character have not.

~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

I witness the most in my powder room. Yes, you read that correctly! It is in that room the walls are plastered with inspirational scriptures and thought-provoking questions about life. I did it more for me, but has been noted by visitors.

One picture says: “What will you choose? Love, Hate; Rejoice, Wallow; Gentle, Harsh; Surrender, Control; Prayer, Anxious; Forgive, Resent; Teach, Condemn; Pause, Rush.”

There are many things during this Covid season which are out of my control. As these things pile up, the weight of them has me feeling out of control! What can I do? Everything is at God’s mercy. I have felt overwhelmed with my feelings, and they have been going crazy with irrational thoughts. I feel out of control—so I am. I feel all is lost—so it is.

We are powerless when it comes to many things. Yet from the beginning of time, choice is the one thing God told us we have.

I have a choice. I can’t control the virus. I can’t control people around me. I can’t control how other people feel and act. I can’t control the decisions made by my leaders. I can’t control what people say.

I can, however,  control how I respond. I can chose humility over pride. I can chose obedience over disobedience. I can chose prayer over anxiety.

I can chose to seek and trust God over my fears and insecurities. I can chose to allow others to be who they are, even if I don’t understand the side of them I am seeing. I can chose love over hate. I can chose to love my enemies rather than condemn them. I can chose to get up and read my bible and seek truth over the lies from the devil. I can chose to praise God when I am feeling empty or full. I can chose gratitude over grumbling.

I can choose grace over judgment. I have a choice! What will you choose?

~ Written by Viki Rife

I used to think people who talk to their plants were a bit strange. Not any more.

I caught myself talking to my geraniums a few days ago. They’re having a hard time. All summer they thrive and bloom on the deck, enjoying the sun and fresh air. In the winter I bring them into my improvised greenhouse in the garage. They have a grow light, controlled temperature (although colder than they’re used to), and I still water them. But each year, they start looking dejected after the move indoors.

So I felt sorry for them, and as I cut off dead leaves and blooms, I found myself whispering: “I know you weren’t made for this. You were meant for much more. Just hang on through this season, and in due time you’ll be out in the sun where you can truly thrive.”

Then it hit me: God must look at me the same way. I wasn’t made for this world. It is so artificial compared with what He intended when He created us! I picture him watching me struggle along through life in less than ideal circumstances, and I hear him whisper: “Just hang on through this season. When you come home to Me you will truly thrive.”

Of all the things I’m thankful for today, this is the greatest: I can hang on during this season of life on earth because I know greater things are coming. Deeply grateful that I have a future and a hope.

For our God, death is the fulfillment of what He created us for. He will help us hold on until we can bloom in all His glory.

Living The Song

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was just a teenager when I started losing everything. While friends were learning how to drive, getting their first kiss and dreaming about college, my life was filled with hospitals. At first it wasn’t that horrible: I got out of school early on appointment days, and got to sleep as much as I wanted. Epilepsy was hard, but it wasn’t impossible.

But then, the seizures drastically increased. I was taken out of school, my circle of friends became nearly nonexistent, and my life goal was to survive multiple brain surgeries and be able to tell people my name.

My family was comforted by the song, “Give Me Jesus.”  I had little else to lose as a 15-year-old who was confined by the cage of her own body. Singing, “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus” was heartfelt yet simple. Why would I want to cling to this world? All I wanted was Jesus!

Decades later, I think back on that time of desperation and I smile. God gave me abundantly more than I could ever ask or hope. As my medical baseline became more and more normal, I started falling in love with this world simply because I now expected to live. Proudly proclaiming that Jesus is all I ever wanted got harder.

My heart started mumbling, “You can have all this world, but make sure I have my comfort. Don’t even think about touching my loved ones. You can have all this world, but make sure I’m in control, with a little slice of Jesus because he’s still a great idea.”

In reality, stating, “Give me Jesus” is so much more than vocalizing our stance as devoted christians. It’s a declaration of divine trust. “No matter what happens, Lord, I only need you.”

What would happen if we allowed ourselves to live fully submerged in that trust?

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