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Archive for the ‘Chlidhood’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When introducing myself, I struggled giving my name first to a new acquaintance. Whether it was a peer, teacher, or a friend of my family, I couldn’t bring myself to give them my name. First, they needed to know what was wrong with me so they could decide whether they liked me or not. “Hello, I’m Jim,” was often answered with, “Hi. I have cerebral palsy.” After perceiving their shock and confusion, I’d mutter, “Oh, um, my name’s Cass. Nice to meet you.”

I wasn’t shy—far from it! Rather, my disability had garnered enough shame for me, I felt as if it was all I had to offer someone else. The memory makes me cringe now, but when I was younger, there wasn’t much which could convince me my weaknesses weren’t my identity.

Too often, I think we approach God in much the same way. He opens his arms to greet us with reconciliation and love, and instead of accepting his grace, we respond, “Yes, but remember what I’ve done wrong?” What would happen if we actually believed our hope and identity was in Jesus, and not in the memory of our mistakes?

How would it change our lives if we truly trusted God when he promises to make beauty out of our ashes?

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“My friend Michael Jehrig lives there!” My sister would announce proudly every time we passed the large log cabin on the hill. Whether we were passing the home in the wee hours of the morning or in the middle of the night after a long road trip, we all heard about Michael Jehrig. To my knowledge, I’ve never met the kid. I don’t know what he looks like. After living in the same town for 15 years, I don’t think I even had the smallest desire to meet him. But if I did conjure up the need to meet him, I knew where he lived, thanks to my sister.

Announcing Michael’s residence became a common routine for our entire family. We used the home as a land marker and memory jogger. At some point, I didn’t even notice when I started announcing, “Chelsie’s friend Michael Jehrig lives there,” whether I was with family, friends, or business partners.

In much the same way, I pray talking about Jesus is as common in my rhetoric as talking about Michael Jehrig’s house was to my sister’s. I hope those around me get a kick out of hearing about Jesus with the same amount of excitement every time simply because it’s important. I know that if I ever needed to meet Michael, Chelsie could lead me right to him.

I pray I live in such a way people know I know Jesus and I’ll gladly point them to him every chance I get.

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~Written by Viki Rife

It was a small thing; it was a huge thing. Although my friend told me the story decades ago, it still burns in my bones.

When my friend was growing up in Cuba, his parents offered a Good News gospel-sharing club for the children in their neighborhood. One boy who often came was a troublemaker. He and his brothers disrupted the group, sassed the adults, and made life unpleasant for everyone. Finally, my friend’s parents told the boys they weren’t allowed to come onto their property.

Every week after that, the boy and his brothers would be waiting outside the fence to my friend’s family farm. As the other kids trudged down the dirt path, the banished boys would pelt them with stones and sticks. They had been a problem when they were attended but were even more of a problem when forbidden to come!

I’ve always wondered what might have happened if some of the adults involved had taken the main troublemaker, if not the others, under their wing. What if some man had offered to take the boy fishing, away from the kids he felt he could bully? What if someone had taken an interest in him and shown him there was a better way to spend his life? What if he had seen someone show him the unconditional love of Jesus?

You see, that boy’s name was Fidel Castro. If you know much about world history, you know the cruelty visited on the Cuban people by this dictator. I know friends who had to live under his regime and were able to escape, but who still bear physical and emotional scars.

Might the history of Fidel Castro have been different if someone who loved Jesus had reached out and shown that love? Because I don’t know, I am committed to reaching out to hard-to-love people with the love of Christ.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

She wasn’t really my aunt, but all my childhood I called her Aunt Bertha, a common courtesy for missionaries who worked together. Her apartment was always open to my family. She especially took an interest in me. When I was young and fighting health problems, our family traveled to her city and stayed with her for treatments and my surgery. When there were complications with the surgery, she was like a second mother to me, letting my mother get some rest. I trusted her with all my heart.

When we moved to her city several years later, I would stay at her house when my parents had to travel so I wouldn’t miss school. We’d ride our bikes (she never drove a car) to market and to care for her ministry responsibilities. The conversations during those bike rides were deep and inspired me in ministry.

Aunt Bertha had a problem, though. Her rheumatoid arthritis was progressing, and she was finally told she needed to leave the mission field. She returned to the US, moving in with her brother and family.

I was fifteen when my family had a chance to visit her. She lay engulfed in a hospital-type bed that seemed to fill the room. My heart was broken, and in my teenage awkwardness I couldn’t really converse with her. My parents were puzzled by my lack of engagement.

The problem was, at that moment I became very angry with God. Here was this precious woman who had done so much for His kingdom, lying helpless! Is this how He rewarded His faithful ones?

In the decades that followed, I couldn’t think of her without feelings of pain and anger. God just didn’t make sense. I served him, but there was an underlying root of distrust.

One day I attended a women’s retreat where the speaker was a missionary to the same country. She shared that before she ever left for the mission field, she had the opportunity to meet a former missionary who was in her last days on earth. She shared that the veteran missionary told her that her disability was the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to her. “The past ten years have been the best of my life!” she told the new recruit. “I have gotten to know God in a way I could never have imagined. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world!”

At that moment, my bitterness melted away. God had taken care of Aunt Bertha in ways my physical eyes could not see. Since then, I’ve watched His faithful ones suffer and seen similar responses. We can see their suffering, but until we experience it ourselves, I don’t think we can ever know how God cares for His own.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

My friend and I rang for the elevator and were relieved to find no one was in it. Playing in the elevator was one of our favorite entertainments through the long weeks aboard the ship taking us to South America. Unexpectedly, my eight-year-old sister dashed around the corner and slipped in right behind us. As we turned to remonstrate with her that she wasn’t invited, a man with a little girl in his arms came running up, and we groaned inwardly even as we held the door for him as we had been trained. It wasn’t nearly as much fun when there were others in the elevator, especially adults or tattletale younger siblings.

As we descended to the next floor, suddenly the lights went out. The elevator jerked to a grinding halt. In the complete darkness, my ten-year-old brain started to fabricate an explanation. The night before I had been careful not to break any rules, but…

You see, our parents had told us we could not go into areas that weren’t reserved for our “tourist” class. However, the floor below us was showing a movie that evening, and it looked intriguing. It was about the sinking of the Titanic. My friend and I figured out that if we sat with our feet hanging through the railing at the top of the stairs on our floor, we could see just enough to watch the movie. At the time, my story-loving heart thought it was thrilling. Now I found myself associating loss of power with a doomed ship. Terror began to descend on me. What if the ship were sinking and we would go down trapped in the elevator, with no hope of getting out to try to swim to the surface?

I’ve always wondered if the man who was with us had also seen the movie. He began to yell something in Japanese, desperately shouting up the shaft of the pitch-dark elevator. His little girl started crying, and my sister dug her fingernails into my arm. I started confessing my sins to God as quickly as I could, bargaining with him to get me out of the predicament.

It was at that moment I ran into one of the great moral dilemmas of my life: Had I disobeyed by watching the movie? I knew my parents had to approve movies I watched in the movie room on our deck, but did it apply to a different deck? I hadn’t physically gone down there, so I had remained obedient, right? Suddenly, my conscience overrode my perspective on myself as a non rule-breaker. I might not have broken the letter of the law, but I realized I had broken the spirit of the law.

In the 45 minutes it took for the ship’s mechanics to rescue us, I experienced a huge change in my heart. I began to realize that just staying within the boundaries isn’t enough. I have to examine my motives and consider the reasons why the rules are made. That understanding has shaped my perspective on what the Old Testament law was about. People found ways to get around the rules. We have an advantage in that God has written his laws on our hearts and minds.

Praise God, we don’t follow rules, but His Spirit.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I finally found the place I had always dreamed of—that place where I would find perfect peace. You see, when I was a child, I had to have allergy shots every week. I would throw a fit every Thursday when the time came to go to the clinic.

My mom finally sat me down and helped me see I just needed to get used to it. She advised me to imagine a beautiful place and pretend I was there instead.

I knew exactly what to focus on. A painting I loved showed a babbling stream running downhill through the rocks, surrounded by forest trees and ferns. I dreamed of walking along the little path that wound alongside the brook. I pictured myself sitting on the rock under one of the trees and reading, journaling, maybe even trying some sketching. I would be completely at peace.

It became my mental go-to place when life got hard. Going to the dentist? Picture myself in my happy place. Waiting for a tow truck for a broken-down car? Mentally spend that time in my beautiful forest.

One day while traveling we passed it—a place that looked like my perfect place. We had to stop and enjoy it!

I stepped out of the car to the rich smell of balsam fir. This was even better than I had imagined. I hurried toward the little path. The fern slapped at my legs and the going wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. Then I felt a stinging sensation, followed by another and another. The little pools among the stones formed a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes! Soon I started sneezing uncontrollably. The strong scent of the firs was too much for my sinuses. I headed back to the car. As I tried to skirt the ferns, my foot sank up to my ankle in mud.

I had fallen in love with a two-dimensional picture! I never imagined the realities of my idyllic scenario. It helped me realize how I’ve deceived myself all my life. I keep thinking the next season of life will be easier/happier/freer.  I look at others and assume their lives are easier than mine. The truth is that the life of my dreams not very realistic.

It was a wake-up call. Life just isn’t going to meet my expectations. The real thing is sometimes hard. However, I’m glad I experienced the real thing. I no longer waste my time dreaming of the day life will be perfect.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Not knowing how God will provide for my needs is one of the hardest things for me to handle. I am, after all, a control freak. The only thing worse is not knowing when he will provide. I’ve never enjoyed learning how to rely on God’s unpredictable provision, but he’s given me a lifetime of circumstances which prove he always does.

One of my earliest memories of God making me wait was when my parents informed me and my two siblings we were moving to Alaska. They didn’t have answers for any of my anxiety-driven questions. Where would we live? Did Dad have a job? Did they know who I’d become friends with? How could we afford the move?

Throughout the entire 12-day drive to Alaska, I had more than enough time to remind God I hated not being comfortable. I just wanted proof my family would be okay. Any time I voiced my concerns to my mom, she would smile and promise me God would provide exactly what we needed. We were moving out of obedience to God, and that was enough.

God did provide us a home, but not until hours after we arrived in Soldotna, Alaska. Looking back on that memory, it’s obvious why he waited. He waited so I would learn—even at the young age of nine—just how faithful and powerful he is in my most uncomfortable seasons.

As a whole, our nation has had to redefine what it means to be provided for and have enough. It’s hard, uncomfortable, and the future is unknown, but the proof of God providing for his children is always evident.

He provides what we need, when we need it. Look for him in the unknown. I promise you, he’s still there.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

We had no clue when we set out for the forest preserve that we would get to see bald eagles—three at the same time, to be exact. They were perched in a tree close to where we stood, easily visible. The preserve was trying to reintroduce them, and for several years we had thought from time to time we saw one fly over, but never were close enough to be sure. Now there they were, watching us with their sharp eyes.

Of course, the first thing my husband did was grab his camera and start shooting. We were thrilled at the amazing opportunity that had opened up for us. When we finally left, I was eager to view what must be sensational photos. When I pressed the button to review them, however, a square with a menu showed up over the photo, blocking everything but the edges.

“How do I get that out of here?” I asked my husband. He shrugged. “It’s been doing that for a long time. I can’t figure out what to do about it.”

It was frustrating to wait until we finished several errands and got home so we could download and get a glimpse of the photos. It gave me a resolve to get the camera situation fixed. Nothing I tried worked.

Finally, as a last resort, I sat down and read the manual. Guess what? There was an easy solution for the problem! Why didn’t I do that to begin with? My only answer is that sometimes I’m a lot like a two-year-old who insists, “Me do it!”

I’m afraid the same attitude is at work when I go through times when I can’t see God. I often try everything before I give up and pour over the Manual, His Word. But I find it’s the only way to eliminate what’s blocking His precious image. Only there will I find the answers my soul craves.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I asked God to keep you alive as proof that He exists.”

The young man’s words were filled with emotion as he told me of his recent spiritual battle. Praying for my survival while undergoing multiple brain surgeries seemed like high enough stakes to bet on. His mental game had been simple.

Childhood friend dies: Christianity was pointless. She lives: He’d try surrender out; see if he liked it.

Hearing Cody’s declaration as a 16-year-old myself was a weight no shoulders should ever carry. Regardless, I heard my Master whisper, “You prayed for release from this life around the same time he prayed for proof that I exist. His search for me is thin, but your life gave him a reason to at least look for Me. Your pain isn’t pointless. You’ve no idea what I’m planning on doing with you both!”

Nearly two decades later, God brings me back to that moment on a consistent basis. At the time, I had been so angry at my Jesus for apparently not hearing my prayer for Heaven. However, I had no idea He was using my seemingly unanswered prayer, and my journey through it, to glorify Himself in the life of someone who needed Him to do big things.

Surrender isn’t always beautiful. But it is, in fact, always for the same purpose: To let the world know our God is real, and He is faithful to make Himself known to those who call on Him.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Christmas is a season of anticipation. Children of all ages struggle to sleep the night before Christmas as their little hearts are filled with excitement of the next morning. Families have countdown calendars and preparatory traditions leading up to the joyous day. The Christmas season should remind us of another season of anticipation long ago.

For generations, Israel awaited the promised Messiah. Parents and grandparents would have gathered their children around to tell them the prophesies of the One who was to save them. They anxiously awaited freedom from Roman oppression. They expected a Savior King.

They got an infant. A baby so weak it could be contained in a blanket. A child so insignificant he was born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. Jesus was far from what they expected.

But as he grew, there was promise of greatness. He impressed the religious teachers in the temple as a boy. He performed miracles and drew huge crowds when he spoke.

Then the real unexpected happened. Jesus stood silent before his accusers next to a political insurrectionist named Barabbas. Barabbas was a voice in the rebellion. He was the leader Israel wanted. So though Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty under Roman law, his death was called for by the very people he came to save.

They were disappointed with Jesus.

Are you disappointed with Jesus? Has He been too slow in answering your heart’s deepest prayer? Did you expect Him to rush in and save the day? Are you wondering where the mighty Savior is? Have you been hurt by the lack of justice in your life or in the life of someone you love?

If you are disappointed with Jesus know you are not alone. And know that Jesus isn’t deterred by your disappointment. His love is unconditional. He knew He would be despised and rejected, but He came anyway. This season we celebrate the birth of a Savior who exceeded all expectations when He willingly went to the cross for each and every one of us.

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