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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The once-sweet child reared his head and backed as far away from me as possible. His whining quickly escalated to screams and crocodile tears as he discovered I, the very mean aunt, wasn’t going to relent about giving him medicine.

“I know you hate this, Buddy. I do, too. But you need this. You’ll feel better before you know it. Trust me. I promise.” My attempts to reason with a panicked kindergartener fell on deaf ears. I decided to hold him tight and do what every guardian or parent has done—force the nasty liquid down his throat for the split second he wasn’t screaming.

In just a few moments, his gulps of air turned into sighs, his tears stopped, and his eyelids got heavy as the medicine went to work. Rest was the only thing which would help my nephew recover from what ailed him.

I’m not much different than my nephew—even as an adult. I often envision myself in the Heavenly Throne Room screaming, panicking, and resisting a new lesson or change God has made obvious to me. My life is fine the way it is. I did not give him the go-ahead to fix things his way instead of mine.

Yet when I finally calm down, trust Him, and let Him lead me to true healing, I see the truth. The reality is, He knew what I needed and is always willing to do the hard thing, even when I’m not.

And when I think back on those seasons, though I may remember some of the pain, I remember how I can see Christ more clearly because of the changes he made.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Earlier this summer, the hydrangea plant in the landscaping around my house started sprouting an odd-looking stem. When I first saw it I thought, “That’s a weed, I should pull it up.” But then I started to look closer and suddenly wasn’t sure exactly what it was. The leaves, though a darker color, looked like the rest of the plant. They all had jagged edges. I lifted the leaves to trace the stems to the roots and I could not separate the stems of this thing from the flower. I thought, “Let’s just see what happens. I don’t remember what it looked like last year.” So I left it.

Before long, the weed completely took over! You could hardly see the hydrangea under the looming weed. And it took everything my husband had to wrestle it out of there. We attacked the root with a shovel and took turns twisting and pulling until finally he was able to yank it out.  When he did, we realized that the root of the weed had grown about a foot directly into the roots—the foundation—of the flower.

That is exactly what happens in our thought life when we do not take captive the thoughts that threaten us, threaten our identity, security and freedom in Christ, the reality of who we are because of Him. It’s what happens when we let thoughts run wild about other people. When we compare ourselves to them or make quick judgments about them.

It’s what happens when concerns and worries about our circumstances plant themselves so strongly in our minds they threaten to steal our joy. And it is certainly what happens when our thoughts tempt us toward all kinds of destructive habits and attitudes. Even while everything on the outside still seems to blend in, that pesky little thought is burrowing its way into our very core.

We don’t have to be held hostage by our thoughts. Instead, we can tell them the truth about who God says we are in Him!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I don’t know what I need, Lord. I know I’m emotionally drained; that’s it. I don’t know where I need you to show up, I just know I need to see you. Show me something. Anything.”

The weary prayer was said with peace-filled confidence. My relationship with Jesus has gone on long enough I’ve learned that he hears the prayers of his people, no matter what. Too often it’s not whether he answers my prayer, it’s whether I’m allowing him to guide me in where or how I look for it.

Psalm 86 quickly came to mind. I opened my Bible, half-heartedly preparing myself for the possibility that the seemingly-random psalm might not provide the answer to my prayer. Oh, what little faith I have sometimes!

The psalm opens up with a simple plea from David:

Incline your ear, oh Lord, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy.

As I read the verse again, the Spirit quickly reminded me he knew how needy and afflicted I was. Sometimes, the beautiful truth of knowing he inclines his ear to his people is all I need to meditate on.

The Creator of the universe listens to my heart. I never need to wonder whether God understands my cries for help. He’s just waiting till I open my heart and simply ask.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I love the potential represented by a blank piece of paper. It doesn’t take long before my mind starts whirlingand my love of words fill the page’s emptiness with strokes of black which artistically paint a picture for my audience. There’s such satisfaction as the blank spaces slowly disappear!

I still have days, though, where blank pages and deadlines collide and I don’t even come up with enough intrigue to fill a kindergartener’s primer. Writer’s block feels suffocating and endless, whether it exists for weeks or minutes. There are literary exercises you can perform to think of something, but to this day, whenever I hit writer’s block, my brain conjures up one simple, mundane and wandering sentence:

“I walked into the Throne Room, looking for the Father.”

Every time a blank page intimidates me rather than inspires me, I write that sentence and mutter, “Just show me something, Jesus. I’ve got nothing.”

Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus “…the author and perfecter of our faith.” It always makes me smile to think of Jesus as a fellow wordsmith who takes joy in weaving a story. But, unlike myself, Jesus is never intimidated by the blank pages of a life.

Even when our life choices slow down His plot, or sin patterns fill our lives with mistakes which take years to erase, He still thrives writing on the pages of our lives. Not once does Jesus sit down, contemplate furthering the story of our individual lives and think, “I’ve got nothing on this one.”

If we truly trust Jesus as the ultimate Author, we can always trust that he can make beauty out of nothing, and gold out of our biggest mistakes.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The young boy had captured my heart, and it seemed, despite his mental differences, I had captured his. My journey of building a friendship with Zach had been simultaneously monotonous and riveting, and looking back, I can’t remember when I became “his.” Zach was safe with me, and he knew it.

Zach’s greetings were special, heartwarming, and even entertaining. Regularly, he’d smile wide, kiss my hand and adamantly ask me in Sign Language, “You’re mine? You? Me?” As long as I answered affirmatively, his day was made.

Our ritual became a highlight of my day. As Zach got older, though, he quickly realized he was not my only friend, and the ritual became almost an hourly occurrence. I did the only thing I could think to do: I answered his questions almost every time.

Decades later, I have to smile at the glimpse of Jesus’ patience and love I saw through my friendship with Zach. Sometimes, even after 25 years of following Jesus, I find myself feeling just as unsure of myself with Jesus as Zach felt with me. Even though I know I’m safe, loved, heard, and even cherished, I climb up into Jesus’ lap and whisper, “You? Me? You love me? Still?”

Sometimes, my patience ran out with Zach, and I didn’t answer his need for affirmation. But Jesus always answers me. Often, it’s in a whisper which I have to quiet my heart in order to hear. Occasionally, Jesus’ affirmation of love comes across loud and clear.

Regardless of how, I’ve learned over the years that I’m safe with my Jesus, and I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t need Him.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

As a teenager, I hated singing harmony. I strongly disliked not being the first voice people heard in a song. Why do you listen to music, anyway? It’s certainly not for the often repetitive and unnoticed notes sung in the background! Melody is where the strength and the beauty lie, and I wanted to get the credit for making that beauty happen.

Through the years, I learned how short-sighted my musical view was. Making music isn’t about what notes are heard the loudest, or even what part is most valuable. Music is about different notes coming together and not downplaying their differences. Melody is beautiful, but without the harmony, it’s not nearly as rich and impactful as it could be.

I see a lot of similarities between how I viewed music when I was younger, and how so many of us struggle in viewing people who have different passions than our own. No matter what you’re passionate about, if Christ is at the center of that passion, you can rest assured it has an eternal impact and purpose.

If, however, God gave us all the same exact passions, his love for his people wouldn’t be as deeply defined for those around us. It’s not about which purpose is most important; nor is it about making everyone passionate about the same exact thing. Christ’s love is most beautiful when we learn to trust that our passions are put together for a reason.

Unity never means uniformity. Unity means different passions being refined for one purpose: Christ’s love reaching a dying world.

Don’t make the same mistake I made in music. Learn to rely on Jesus to make every difference you see in your neighbors a thing of beauty. Without their differences, your life wouldn’t be nearly as rich.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

“Hey Sam, you ready for the game tonight?” she asked almost rhetorically before continuing down the hall. I watched as she and her friends popped their heads into one classroom after another informing whoever was in the room they had a game that night and asking who was going to come and watch.

Of course I was ready for the game! It was my game after all. I would be one of the players out on the court giving it everything I had. They would be on the sidelines—cheerleading.

This was a frequent scene in the halls of my high school and it used to drive me crazy. I just wanted to yell, “It’s not your game!” I see such a response for the ugliness it is now, but I didn’t get it back then.

I’ve come to realize the gift in cheerleading. I never went around telling people about the home girl’s basketball game that night at 7 o’clock. I couldn’t be concerned about who would be at the game. I needed to focus on playing well.

But when the fourth quarter came around and we needed an extra helping of encouragement to finish strong, the cheerleaders were there. They faithfully kept the crowd they had rounded up shouting from the sidelines. Unfortunately for our team, most of the time victory was out of reach by then, but it mattered—we still had people cheering us on!

There is incredible power in encouragement. The cheerleaders at my high school knew it, and they were invested enough to consider the game their own.

Who can you be a cheerleader for today?

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~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

I don’t want to brag but I am an expert on being oblivious. It is human nature to be self consumed and society encourages it. Being oblivious feels comfortable. I was so oblivious I was oblivious to being oblivious.

For years in my oblivion, I was running the show in my Christian walk. I believed I was allowing God to be in charge. The fact was I saw God as my puppet and I held the strings. I told Him what to do and how to serve me.

One day I found an old journal. As I flipped through the pages, I watched my prayers go from humble fervent requests to micromanaged demands. I realized my daily Jesus time routine went from something I enjoyed and needed to a reason I deserved God’s love.

One day it all came together. All the little hints turned into a picture that I then recognized as myself. It was not the picture I had in my mind. I was an ugly prideful twit. I had to repent and ask God to help me.

My Heavenly Father began to readjust my thinking in my times of prayer. Slowly but surely, He held up the mirror. I could only see a little piece at a time.

I’d like to say I did this willingly and all went well and quickly. It did not. I was ashamed of what I saw and who I had become. I wept bitterly, and had a long pity party.

In attempts to fix myself, I allowed lies from the devil to comfort me. I began to believe I’d never be enough for God. I stopped writing. I even stopped praying. I was mad and hurt, but I still made feeble attempts to seek HIm.

One night I woke up and heard the words “God doesn’t want to hear what I have to say.” I realized that was the lie I had been clinging to.

I repented. I asked God to help me be a servant like Him. I surrendered myself up to His work and asked Him to transform me. I couldn’t do it myself.

With God’s help I am stepping out of being oblivious to become more self-aware for God’s glory. Won’t you join me and ask God to continue His good work in you?

Humble us, Lord, that we may receive Your grace.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

You know what it’s like to face a giant. The broken relationship you can’t mend; the bill you can’t pay, the habit you can’t quit. Some opponents just seem too strong, some obstacles too monstrous, some problems too complex, and some situations too painful for hope of victory.

The young shepherd boy, David, once stood in the shadow of a literal giant—the champion of the Philistine army. Goliath was over nine feet tall. His coat of armor weighed almost as much as I do! The fact that he stood arrogantly on the battlefield that day was proof that he’d never lost. No one had ever faced Goliath and lived to tell about it.

Cue David. David was confident he would defeat the giant, even without the armor of a soldier. If we pause and read the story of David and Goliath with fresh ears, David’s confidence is crazy! He is only a young shepherd. While David spent years walking the hills with his sheep, Goliath was training for battle. Then we read why David was so confident:

The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” David had seen God’s hand of protection and provision before. Goliath was not the first giant David had faced. He wouldn’t be the last. When David stood in the Goliath’s shadow, he remembered the giants God had already given him victory over.

God is bigger than any giant His people face.

God reminded the Israelites over and over, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, who rescued you from the bondage of slavery.” God wants us to remember who He is and what He has done.

By remembering that, we can be confident in Him when we face our own spiritual giants.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I found my old Bible in my parents’ closet this summer. Finding this obviously-forgotten treasure immediately brought back a torrent of emotions as my fingers traced the embossed leather, and the Bible’s pages flipped to passages I’d dog-eared 10 or 15 years ago.

I’ve had the heart of a writer long before anyone had ever seen my name in print, and this Bible was proof of that. Most of the pages’ margins were completely filled with questions, elaborations, and prayers corresponding with a passage.

It was like stepping into a timeless memory reacquainting myself with my youthful spiritual growth. My faith had been tested early on due to life-threatening medical issues, but I was captivated by the obvious innocence of my deep faith. In the margins of one page I wrote, “May you always be enough.”

Over the years, I had forgotten about this Bible. I had forgotten my passion for learning God’s word. I had forgotten so many things, but God never forgot that prayer. Through the highs, lows, gains and losses in my life, he knew he’d bring me back to that simple prayer.

Even when I didn’t think God was enough, he stayed faithful. Even when I thought I’d lost everything, he remained. I prayed such a simple prayer out of innocent desperation, and he used it to give my life purpose.

He’s always enough, even if we don’t understand how deeply we need him.

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