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Archive for the ‘encouragement’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Do you think it’s okay that my Jesus isn’t White?” The question startled me, but not because I thought her question was out of line. When I asked her to tell me more, my friend fought back tears as she explained what she meant.

“I’ve been taught the Bible all my life. I have a theology degree. But the Jesus I see in all the books is White. When I think of Jesus, His skin isn’t white, He’s not afraid of dancing, and He speaks my Native language. Do you think that’s wrong?”

Her struggle to understand isn’t rare. But as I thought back through the Gospels, I saw one very strong correlation. Whomever Jesus was sitting with at the time, He found common ground. To the fisherman, He became a fisherman. To the leper, He allowed Himself to be touched so the leper felt accepted. With the Rabbi, He shared common knowledge. To the uneducated, He simply showed them love and reminded them of their worth.

Jesus is the God Who fully commits Himself to love and join together with all people and all cultures. How beautiful to be reminded that God unites us within our differences—even our different cultures—rather than despite them.

May we allow ourselves to learn from each other’s different perspectives of Jesus!

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~Written by Tabby McMonagle

“For God’s sake, come undone,” said no one ever. But what if it is exactly what we need to do in order to see God? Personally, I have been trying to hold it together for years now. Not until this past year, when I have come completely undone, have I been able to surrender the control I thought I had.

Growing up I felt like the message I heard was, “Keep it together. Be strong. You’ll figure it out. Keep trying.” All good ideas, but none of them encouraged me to rely on anyone but myself. If I could will it, I could do it.

What a different reality I face today than what I was prepared for! Things don’t always go my way. My good deeds and hard work don’t always get me what I want.

The biggest disappointment was no matter how much faith I could muster, the answers to my prayers were still in God’s hands. They depended on His approval not my persuasion or the faith I brought. In fact, I learned my faith is a gift from God; nothing I do can get me more of it.

How I want to grasp at control. I want to know what happens next. The unknown of my circumstances has me at my wits’ end. My mind, my body; all of it is undone. I told a friend I could probably walk on water, I feel so weak. The Bible says when we are weak He is strong. In the very depths of my heart, the despair I have in understanding I have no control over anything in my life, or in anyone else’s, has me to the very end of myself. I have to put God as my only hope.

When we take life, and all it has to offer, and break it down, the only thing that matters is saving souls for Christ. It has nothing to do with our moment in history but it has everything to do with God’s plans. It is then we realize that we need to come undone. So, for God’s sake, come undone. We need a new perspective. We need God’s perspective.

I am not there yet. I am still sifting through the ashes of what is left of my control issues. I don’t want to look for anything to salvage; I want only to move forward with God’s help. I want to rely on Him; not what I have to offer but what He can do with me as I am. I don’t want to hear, “For God’s sake, keep it together.” For God’s sake, I pray I come undone.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

It was the first potted plant I tried to grow, and it had thrived so well I was beginning to hope it meant I had a green thumb. Then one day I noticed that some of the leaves were turning dark. They got drier and drier. I tried watering more. Nothing helped.

When I pointed it out to a more experienced gardener, she said it needed to be repotted. “Bring it over to my house,” she told me. “I have the perfect pot for it.”

I helped prepare the soil and she removed the plant from its pot and placed it in the new one. Then she produced a big tool that looked like a combination of a knife and a saw. I stared aghast as she started to slice at the roots all around my plant.

“What are you doing?” I cried. She smiled reassuringly. “This plant is rootbound. The roots have wrapped around themselves, and if you don’t cut them so they attempt to grow in a new direction, they will never go deeper.

Have you ever felt like God was doing that—sawing away at the roots that have sustained you? I do. He frequently tears up old assumptions about who He is and what life is supposed to be about. He destroys my comfortable ways of doing things.

When that happens, I need to do what plants do and expand my roots into the rich soil He has provided. He’s acting out of love, because He knows I need to go deeper into His nourishing truth.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

At 16 I graduated high school and got a job at a local hospital. One of my responsibilities involved making sure the radiologists had film cassettes loaded with new film.

One afternoon I got a call from a radiologist who was using the portable x-ray machine in the operating room. He needed more cassettes. I was to meet him in the scrub-room to deliver them.

When I walked into the room, my eye caught sight of the steel counter to the left. To my amazement, it contained five or six dead infants in various stages of development. I remember one had black wavy hair. My first thought was, “how could that many stillbirths occur in one day in our small town?” My teenage mind was horrified.

Just then, a nurse came out of the OR. She saw me staring over at the counter and frowned. “I don’t know why people can’t clean up after themselves,” she grumbled. She went over to the counter, grabbed a trash can, and with one quick move swept all the little bodies into it. Then she pulled out the bag and tied it shut.

I remember thinking, “How will the parents know which child is theirs when they’re ready to bury them?” My mind absolutely could not absorb the fact that the recent ruling of Roe vs. Wade had anything to do with it.

I hid the trauma deep inside and never told a soul.

But my heart was left very vulnerable when it comes to baby deaths. I grieve them with an intensity that has always seemed more than what the average person does. When my own granddaughter died in the womb the week before her due date, I was absolutely numb for two months. Something painful was stirring. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It was the memory of those beautiful dead babies.

Finally, as part of grieving my granddaughter, I allowed myself to examine the incident from so long ago and started processing the emotions that surround it. I was eventually able to share that operating room experience with my husband and a few trusted friends. They have been balm to my aching heart.

I thought I had worked through the trauma. Then last month a couple very close to me lost their baby at 25 weeks. The mother was induced, and I waited in the hallway while the baby was delivered. I saw the doctor leave the room, and a few minutes later a nurse came out carrying a tied trash bag.

The memory from that long-ago day hit like a fist to the stomach. I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

At that point I realized that my horror of living in a society that throws away its children is never going to go away. Thankfully, I soon was able to go into the room and see the baby in her father’s arms. She had not been in that bag. Her tiny body was being treated with dignity and respect by her grieving parents. And, in a strange way, I found the scene comforting. Parents should care that much about their child.

We cannot change our society, no matter what laws we pass. New York’s recent legalization of full-term abortion is only a symptom of our disease of devaluing human life. May God’s people go to our knees in prayer for our society, and may we reach out to help people see the God in whose image they’re made!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Mommy, please don’t let them do this. Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy? Why?!” I was three years old, and I was undergoing even more medical testing. Because I was so young, the MRI came with tightly-wrapped gauze and a foam wall surrounding my head to ensure I didn’t move during the excruciatingly-long test. I had worked myself into a horrible migraine and anxiety attack, and I wanted the test to be over now.

In my childish perspective, I was incredibly confused why my parents just sat there—obviously upset, but still doing nothing. I was in pain. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a good, cooperative little girl anymore. Why didn’t they rescue me? What was wrong with them?

What I didn’t understand was, though the test was painful, what was behind the pain would be worth every ounce of my discomfort. The test results gave my medical team a better understanding of the issues which plagued my body. Mom and Dad knew the end goal, and they had come to a heartbreaking but necessary decision. My temporary pain was acceptable pain.

I’ve come to understand as an adult that my loving and attentive God watches my life in much the same way. We live in a fallen world where life experiences bring agonizing pain, confusion and despair. It’s easy to look at my Heavenly Father and scream, “Abba? Why?! Why are You allowing this? Can’t You see I’m nearly shattered? Aren’t you supposed to be good?”

But He knows something I don’t. He knows the end goal. He knows just what I need to become more like His Son.

In the end, I can almost hear Him whisper with tears in His eyes, “Child, this pain is temporary. Hang in there. The end result will be worth every second of your pain.

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~ Written by Cassie a Rayl

“You’re one of the most joyful people I know,” my friend said as she hugged me tighter. “For someone to go through as much as you have, it’s just shocking, I suppose.” I smiled and thanked her for the compliment, and then walked away trying not to cry. I’m joyful?

People actually see joy in me? How?

Life hasn’t been easy lately. Friendships have disappeared, dreams have been put on hold, and loved ones are in constant turmoil. I feel as if my entire countenance is filled with processing these things and begging God for relief and restoration. Nothing seems joyful about that right now.

But then I have to remember joy, unlike happiness, is a choice. Joy doesn’t mean the tears stop, the heart burdens are lifted, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Joy means I know Who holds the future, and I’m willing to trust the God Who holds all my unknowns.

Proverbs 31:25 (ESV) says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” It doesn’t say anything about her troubles disappearing, but it does speak of the God she trusts. Her trust in God is her identity. It’s her joy.

At times, joy may not feel joyful. But God remains our absolute constant when circumstances change and our hearts experience valleys. Because of that—because of Him—joy can always be our first choice.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Transitions. It’s the one word which describes my life right now. My husband and I are house hunting, preparing for our first child in March, dealing with medical upheaval, working through a master’s program in seminary, learning firsthand how fluid being a pastoral family gets to be, and paying off student loans. On any given day, we are either disappointed because some of those transitions haven’t progressed, or both stressed and excited because one or two of them are moving too quickly.

Ever been there?

Truthfully, our entire lives on this earth are filled with never-ending transitions. But some of those seasons seem more comfortable than others. At this point in our lives, my growing family seems increasingly uncomfortable as God calls us to move forward but doesn’t clarify all the unknowns in that command.

I’m actually addicted to routine. Transitions don’t come with routine. When my life doesn’t seem to afford such luxuries, being grounded in Jesus isn’t just the good, Christian ideal. It’s the only way I keep moving.

Recently, I recounted the many things I’ve tried to call “my rock” other than the Lord. Whether it was food addictions, relationships, talents, or affirmation, using those things as my firm foundation secured my peace of mind for no longer than a few days. All those “pseudo-rocks” quickly disappeared and were nowhere to be found when I needed them most.

But Christ on the other hand, never changes. Even in the tumultuous unknowns of transitions, He remains the same. In this season of life, I’ve finally begun to realize that He is not just the one who gives me a foundation to stand on, peace, and strength. He is my foundation, peace and strength.

Transitions come and go. Jesus, my Rock, is consistently by my side.

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