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Archive for the ‘Belonging’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

A group of us recently spent time lamenting the things we had lost throughout the quarantine. Jobs we no longer held. Weddings or funerals we couldn’t attend. Trips we couldn’t take. Loved ones we couldn’t hug. I noticed something beautiful develop as we grieved each loss together.

No one chided the men for tearing up. No one told the kids their grief over a closed playground wasn’t important. No one gave immediate solutions to the losses mentioned. We just let each other talk through the things we had to release. Collectively, we sat in companionable acceptance of each grief.

Too often, we try to mask grief by quickly replacing it with things we can celebrate. It’s no secret celebration is easier to stomach than grief. But as I watched my friends come together and support each other, I glimpsed the unity of the Body of Christ come to life.

The pandemic has taken things from all of us, but it has also given us a deeper understanding of what it means to live in unity. As the Lord strengthens our bond with one another in the Body of Christ, may we be a beacon of hope to those who believe grief is something they need to bear alone.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

My walls are filled with my husband’s paintings. I love watching my guests walk around my home, taking note of his pieces. Every canvas is gorgeous, and each one depicts a little piece of Peter’s character, style, and personality. Showcasing his art for our friends is almost as fun as hearing him talk about it.

I can’t help but ponder what Peter’s audience doesn’t see, though. They don’t see the frustrating paint-free evenings grumbling over a split paintbrush. They don’t see my confusion over his wisdom in walking away from a piece for awhile. As he waits till his heart is passionate enough to make the end result a masterpiece he’s proud of, I worry he’s given up on his passion.

No, they don’t see all that. They only see the beautifully painted scenes. Although all our friends show genuine appreciation for Peter’s talent, I often wonder if their appreciation would deepen if they saw the struggle behind the beauty. It’s the struggle behind the finished art piece which gives it value, after all.

Watching Peter’s artistic process makes me admire the Master Artist himself even more. While he creates an art piece—my life—he’s more than aware of the trials which give his creation value. Each hardship I’ve experienced endears me to the Artist because I know He’s more committed to seeing the end product than I am. He’s willing to push through until everyone sees the value he’s created.

The Artist, unlike my husband, however, never walks away from his creations. He never loses his passion for finishing his masterpiece. After all, each of our lives is a canvas he loves perfecting. The Master Artist won’t give up until our lives showcase to the watching world the immaculate love of the Artist himself.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’ve been struggling with a deep desire of the heart that, in all honesty, is yet unmet. While praying faithfully I have waited impatiently. I know my perspective is limited, but I can’t understand the why in the waiting. It feels unsafe to hope.

Has God ever given you a Bible verse at just the right moment? Maybe you were scrolling through Facebook and there it was, pretty script and all. Have you been doing your daily reading and the words practically leapt off the page at you? I had a similar experience with these words several months ago:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Since the day I read those words, Romans 12:12 has played over and over in my head. It has almost become a personal mantra. One day, a few months ago (before social distancing was a thing), I was walking through Target when I saw a canvas with a Bible verse on it. Sure enough, it read, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It was the last one available one.

That verse now hangs on the wall in my kitchen. I read it every day. And while I know God was speaking directly to my situation when He gave me that verse, the words have taken on a greater meaning in light of the pandemic. Just yesterday I realized God was preparing my heart for this time of uncertainty and isolation with that verse.

I am amazed by the provision and providence of the Almighty God. I am still waiting and praying as faithfully as I can for my heart’s desire. But I know that in these overlapping seasons of waiting, God is good.

Because of who he is, I can be joyful in hope.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The chatty young cashier and I joked about the kinds of things people have been stockpiling and having to wear masks. Then as she handed me my receipt she said seriously, with fear behind her eyes, “Some people say these are signs the world is about to end.” She watched me, apparently waiting for a response from me. Just then the bagger asked a question, and she turned to take care of the matter. I had missed my chance.

The question has haunted me, though. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to expect the end of the world without the framework the Bible gives us. It just so happened that I had been reading in Luke about the final week of Jesus. As I read Chapter 21, I was struck by the contrast between the way the cashier seems to view “the end” and how God calls us to respond.

Jesus talks about people fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world (vs. 26). For his followers, however, he offers these words of encouragement:

“And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified” (vs. 9).

“This will be your opportunity to witness” (vs. 13).

“By your endurance you will gain your lives” (vs. 19).

“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (vs. 28).

What a different perspective he calls his own to have! He then adds this caution: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life [I wonder if that includes toilet paper], and that day will come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

Is the world about to end? We don’t know the day or hour, but we have some pretty clear instructions on how to respond! Praise God, we have nothing to fear if we keep his perspective. Let’s use our opportunities to share the hope we have.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I  have thick skin when facing personal suffering, but when I have to watch others suffer, I’m easily rattled. As I recently read the latest statistics impacting our globe, I could only pray one thing. “Jesus, what is the purpose of this season?”

I sat in silence as I pondered the question, trying desperately to hear Biblical truth over the roar of global unknowns. At some point, I heard the Spirit whisper, “When you want people to see my power, what do you talk about?”

I immediately realized that, though suffering is hard to experience, it is that same suffering which opens the door for me to talk about Jesus. Throughout my life, in seasons of deep unknowns and seemingly-unending hardship, God’s faithfulness takes the main stage, despite my circumstances.

Maybe this season of nearly-global lockdown is our opportunity, as a united Body of Christ, to collectively proclaim, “He’s been faithful before, and he’ll be faithful again!”

So, how about you? In the decades to come, when talking about this season, what stories will you tell to highlight the God of love whose faithfulness superseded our season of global suffering?

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

She could not understand what was happening. This was the place. She was sure of it. She had seen it with her own eyes just two days before. They had laid his body in that tomb and it took several men, straining against the immense weight, to roll the stone in place. Now it was gone and she didn’t dare look inside.

She ran to tell Peter and John, but she hardly had the words out of her mouth when they both sprinted past her, their eyes filled with disbelief and fear. She followed them back to the tomb. This was her second trip, though, and the heaviness of the morning’s events were weighing her down. Why was this happening? Had she not been through enough already? By the time she arrived back at the tomb, Peter and John were already gone. She was alone, out of breath and frightened.

She wept. It was all just too much to take.

Suddenly, a voice cut through the morning air. She turned to see who the voice belonged to, but her vision was blurred by her tears. She wiped her eyes and looked at his face. This time blinded by her anxiety and fear, she still did not recognize him. Until he spoke her name,“Mary.”

Then she knew. All at once her fear was gone, the weight she felt melted away and she knew who stood before her—it was her teacher, it was Jesus. He was alive!

That’s the kind of Savior we have. One whisper of our name and all the weight is lifted. Nothing cuts through anxiety and fear like the voice of Jesus. He is alive and he calls your name through the chaos of today. Like Mary, all you have to do is turn and listen.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Something hard must have been going on in my life March 28, 2012. The other day something I posted that day showed up in my Facebook memories.

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” Isaiah 33:6.

It couldn’t be more timely for all that’s happening right now! Whatever I was concerned about at the time I posted it must not have been as big as I thought it was, since I don’t even remember what it was. But I’m sure I felt I needed it every bit as much then as I do now.

Even in the most unstable of times, our God is still as rich as ever in salvation, wisdom and knowledge. And he has given us, his dear children, access to the key to this treasure! Whatever your situation as you watch the world crisis and battle your own challenges and anxieties, God has already anticipated and provided the opportunity for the stability your soul needs.

We are richly blessed!

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