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Archive for the ‘comfort’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Where do we go when we’re a mess? The prodigal son of Luke 15 went from having a lifetime supply of resources to absolutely nothing. He was so impoverished he would have gladly eaten the slops he fed his employer’s swine. Verse 17 quotes him saying, “…I’m dying here of hunger!”

People who find themselves that desperate probably don’t have the ability to conjure up enough soap and water for a shower, much less clean up their lives . Despite the mess the son had made of both his inheritance and his personal health, he went back to his father.

This chapter is often used as a story of a compassionate father (Jehovah), who gladly receives his prodigal son when he decides to return. A slightly less-common approach to this story is to focus on the way the son returned. He came back to his father despite the fact he had nothing, was as physically gross as the pigs he ate with, and had nothing of value to offer in exchange for restoration and forgiveness.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt your Heavenly Father calling you to return to him, and your quick inventory of your life is the hopeless equivalent of pigs’ slop? It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll come back when we have something of value, but before we know it, we give up trying because we never feel like we have enough.

May we all take our cues from the prodigal son. May we come back anyway. The truth is, God doesn’t see our worthlessness. He just sees his child, and honors the value of our return—mess and all.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“We won’t have enough.” I cringed as I muttered the words, my eyes begging the calculator to do the math differently. Our car had just been totaled, and as newlyweds neck-deep in school loans, the prices to repair or replace the car were equally impossible. Peter and I had a second car, but it was one car ride away from breaking down itself.

I choked on my prayers that night. I accusatorially repeated myself to God as I bemoaned what I felt were our impossible circumstances. “We don’t have enough for this, Lord. With school loans, hospital bills, rent, and groceries, the last thing we need is to buy another car. You promised you’d provide for us, but honestly? I’m not seeing it.” He’s been faithful before, he’ll be faithful this time, I mentally chided myself. You’ve gotta trust he knows what he’s doing.

The next day, friends of ours offered to loan us their vehicle while we made a decision on how to best handle our car troubles. My worries were only pacified for a few hours as I started trying to plan ahead. Thank you for this mercy, Lord, but we can’t keep this car forever. What’s going to happen when we have to give it back?

God led me to 2 Corinthians 9:8, which says, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (NLT). We’ll always have everything we need? If that were true, why hadn’t God provided us with a car?

I realized God and I had two very different definitions of providing for our needs. I wanted Him to grant us a car of our own so that we could be more self-sufficient and comfortable. He knew we needed a car, and we were given a car to use, but we still needed to depend on him for tomorrow’s unknowns. Through that season, we learned His faithfulness doesn’t make us comfortable. God’s faithfulness makes us long for him even more. Hallelujah, even when it takes us out of our comfort zone, his faithfulness never fails!

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~Written by Viki Rife

It was our last Zoom meeting together before summer break, and it was bittersweet. Yes, Zoom fatigue is real, but the need for each other was more real. We exchanged ideas for handling everything from teenagers socially distancing from their families to the longing to keep some of the lessons we learned during the lockdown. We confessed our struggles and our joys. We reminded each other of the good things the pandemic had accomplished in the spiritual growth of our ministry communities.

We had been meeting monthly over the past year, women ministering in different states from around the country. We shared our stories of quarantines and family adjustments to a very unusual year. One dear sister kept reminding us that although we were online, we were indeed meeting face to face.

This band of sisters has blessed me with their honesty, determination, and humor. We are all at different ages, different stages of life, but we have one Savior and one purpose—to bring God glory. These conversations have helped us through many hard times. Who knew others were struggling with the same thoughts that were haunting me? Who knew some had found viable solutions? And who knew I would have something to contribute to this group of warriors who are fighting for the souls God has given them to shepherd?

In the end, we all agreed that even if things open up, we want to keep meeting in the fall. Let me encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to be part of such a community. Women of Grace USA offers a number of opportunities to dialog through online encounters, book clubs, and classes. Keep an eye open for upcoming gatherings and find out what a rich blessing God has given us in our sisters.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

No one told us bonding with our son would feel impossible during pregnancy. Our first pregnancy resulted in our daughter being stillborn. To say we were cautious and hesitant to invest in our second child’s development would be an understatement. We wanted to be excited for our son, who we decided to name Judah, but what if he wasn’t placed in our arms, either?

Talking to Judah throughout the pregnancy often felt hollow as I battled deep anxiety and fear. Often the joy would be ripped away and replaced by immense sorrow with the thought, “What if we bury our son like we buried our daughter? What if we never get to witness the look of recognition on his face when he hears our voices?”

I forced myself to sing hymns out loud, telling myself I was singing to Judah as a compromise. If I couldn’t pour into him by bonding with him through motherly chatter, at least he could learn my voice some other way. I spent the entirety of my pregnancy begging Jesus to let that be enough, fearing it would be inadequate.

My husband, Peter, struggled just as I did. Only in the last weeks of my pregnancy could he bring himself to nickname Judah. He said very little, but what he did say always made our little boy flip in my womb in excitement over hearing his daddy. Still, I worried Judah hadn’t heard his dad enough to know his voice if and when he was placed in our arms alive and thriving.

I had no reason to worry. Judah made his arrival a month early and miraculously strong. There was one moment in the NICU, I’ll never forget. Judah was uncomfortable and scared, and though he would breathe more easily when I sang over him, he wasn’t calming down. The instant Peter leaned over Judah’s crib and said, “Hey, little dude, it’s okay,” Judah opened his eyes, stopped crying and just studied his daddy. He knew that voice, and he knew that voice was grounded by love.

Watching that interaction reminded me of my own spiritual journey with the Father. I don’t always feel like I hear God enough. I sometimes feel as if it’s been so long since I’ve heard him, I wonder if I’ll recognize his voice when I do. Yet the moment I do hear my Heavenly Father, the moment I can focus on his presence, all I hear is love. In the end, all I know is the Father wants me where I belong: In his arms listening as he declares his love for me.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Out for a walk during a break at the South Focus Retreat last week, I passed an animal that had been killed on the road. I didn’t think much of it until on the way back, I saw a bald eagle land near it. The
eagle tried to pick up the roadkill, but could only get it about six inches off the ground. The eagle flew less than a foot before it sank to the ground, the meat still in its claws. As I approached, it tried time and time again to fly with its burden.

It reminded me of the conversation I’d had earlier in the week with a friend about Isaiah 40:31, which talks about how those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength and will soar with wings like
eagles.

This eagle certainly wasn’t soaring. Why not? Because it was trying to carry something much too big for it! Does that sound familiar? It sure struck me. God says we will soar with wings like eagles, but even
eagles can’t soar when weighed down like that. Our worries and cares were never meant to be carried by us. God wants us to put our hope in Him so we can truly soar.

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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!

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~ 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?

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~ 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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~Written by Viki Rife

It was just another gray morning in the Midwest, not helped by the prospect of an early morning doctor’s appointment. It had been a rough night, mulling over a number of challenges, disappointments and “what ifs.” As we drove past the lake, the rising sun broke through the clouds and aimed straight for the opposite bank. Suddenly, it felt like the world was transformed. The colors of the trees left us breathless. The whole world now seemed alive and vibrant. It only lasted five minutes, but it was worth stopping and savoring the moment.

Sometimes I forget that my God is light and can see colors and nuances I can’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m trudging along in a gray, dreary world. Then, when I stop creating my own clouds and let His perspective enter my thinking, His light helps me see what is really there, in all its glory.

I keep this picture handy to remind me that what I see isn’t the full story. All it takes to change my view is to open the way for God’s light.

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