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Archive for the ‘Friends’ 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 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

“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

When our church opened up again after the shutdown, a friend who was going through a rough time asked to come with me. Naturally I said “yes,” but wondered how I would juggle my usual Sunday interactions while keeping her from feeling abandoned in this strange, socially-distanced world.

Sure enough, we had just found a seat when someone asked me to help them find something. That mission accomplished, I was just heading back to sit down when someone stopped me to ask a question. Others joined the conversation and it was important enough I didn’t feel I could leave.

You know how awkward it is, though, to be left alone in a strange place with a bunch of people you don’t know. Every minute seems like an hour! You’re not sure what to do with your eyes, how to not find yourself staring at people as they pass by, etc. I was gone for over ten minutes!

There was no need to worry. What I love most about our church is that we truly act like family. Each time I glanced over to see how my friend was doing, someone had stopped to talk to her and get acquainted. Probably at least five people engaged her in conversation during that time.

When I sat down, my friend leaned over to me and whispered, “I feel so welcome here!” As the service began, I found myself gratefully worshipping the God who brought my brothers and sisters together at our church. They saw my friend was alone and went out of their way to help. I don’t have to minister to people by myself. They didn’t act as if she was just my responsibility—they took it upon themselves.

They have my back!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Anna felt all alone. The husband who had needed her care night and day over the past decade had just passed away. Her own health had deteriorated during that time. Now she was left with no friends, no family nearby, and the huge specter of anxiety and depression hanging over her. The isolation of the Covid shutdown had her almost paralyzed.

One morning she decided to make a list of things she could do that day. She grabbed her walker and made her way to the desk, where she found a notepad in the drawer. She started to write: Take a shower. Organize meds into a labeled contained so she would know which ones she had taken. Read a Psalm as a prayer. She was surprised at the satisfaction she got from checking each item off the list.

The next day her list was a bit bolder. Reorganize her sock drawer. Dust one room of the house. Write a get-well card to someone from church. Call Betty, her old high school friend she hadn’t talked to for years, just to catch up.

Betty was delighted to hear from her. Anna was struck by how little it takes to encourage someone else. After that, Anna made a point each day of including in her list at least one item that would bless or encourage someone else.

As time went on, she then started adding some occasion to celebrate God’s goodness each day. Eventually, the day came when she was able to sort and label a box of old photos, all the time thanking God for the memories rather than feeling sorry for herself. As she finished that project, the thought hit her: “I can choose to live in joy. And I’m doing it!”

Anna’s journey from anxiety and depression to joy seemed like a miracle to all of us. But as she summarized it: “Be Thankful. Bless others.”

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~Written by Cassie Rayl

“Is that all you have to say? Aren’t you gonna fix this like you’ve fixed everything else?” My friend’s disappointment in my response to his crisis broke my heart. I really had done my best to always rescue him in the past. Once upon a time, fixing loved ones’ issues is where I secretly found my worth. I truly believed I always had their best interest at heart.

And yet, when my lifelong friend’s world crashed yet again, this time I firmly heard the Spirit whisper, “Do not steal my glory, Child.”

Tears came to the surface. I obediently gritted my teeth and repeated, “I’m sorry you’re angry. I’m sorry this doesn’t make sense. God is big enough to hear those complaints and handle your anger.” As I knew would be the case, my words did not go over well.

Our phone call ended on a sweet note, but I could tell he felt like I had ripped the already-shaking ground out from under him. But I couldn’t stop mentally repeating what the Spirit had just whispered moments before, “Don’t steal my glory.”

As is often shared among Christians, “Our ways are not God’s ways.” It’s tempting to find an easier path. It feels better to tangibly do something for a loved one in crisis, rather than stand in the wings merely praying. It’s more comfortable to try doing God’s work for him rather than stand by and watch someone suffer.

Right?

But when we push ahead of God, we steal his glory. Spiritual growth is born in crisis, and if we take away the crisis, we cripple the other person’s ability to see Jesus for who he is.

After all, in the end, do we want people to need Jesus and know he can handle anything, or need us and watch as we fail them every time?

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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 Samantha Freds

There is an odd tendency in golf when two people (who aren’t exactly professionals) ride in the same cart. Both players start hitting the ball in the same direction. The first golfer hits to the right and sure enough, the second one hits in that direction, too. One player ends up in the sand trap and the other golfer follows close behind. Now, there are always a few unique shots, but the pattern seems to emerge nonetheless.

I’ve heard it called, “Ride together, golf together.”

The same thing happens in life. It’s unintentional and not all at once. Slowly but surely, though, we start becoming like the people we ride with. We begin to think, talk, act and even look like the people we encounter most frequently.

Ride together, golf together.

The tendency isn’t good or bad on its own, though. It depends on whose shot we are following out on the course and in life.

While we are familiar with this concept when it comes to choosing friends and other influences, we often forget its importance when in regards to prioritizing our time. Spending quality time with Jesus is not about accumulating knowledge or checking off a list. It’s about letting His life mold ours.

When we spend time in the Word, in prayer and in worship we inevitably begin to look more like Jesus!

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~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

I am tired of wearing a mask. I’m tired of trying to figure out what is safe for my family. This pandemic is causing a whirlwind of emotions. My mind has gone from fear, to seeking God, to “I am throwing in the towel.”

My ears ring with voices saying different things. One voice says, “Just trust,” while another reminds me not to test God. I hear, “Hug your friend,” which is countered by the hesitation of respecting her space. Part of me says, “Business as usual, I want to go shopping without a mask;” reality encourages caution.

This morning, I read in 1 Samuel 8 how the people asked Samuel to appoint them a king. He thinks they are rejecting him:

“And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt…so they are doing to you also” (1 Samuel 8:7-8 NKJV).

The people were afraid. They thought a king was safer than God.

We are so predictable! We get fearful, impatient, and seek our own wellbeing. I was ready to throw caution to the wind, give up my patient and humble spirit and quit trusting God.

Thankfully 1 Samuel reminded me this morning that God is ultimately in control. I am called to wait on the Lord, be patient and have faith.

This is not about me. It is a season. Masks are important where we live. We are taking extra precaution for my husband’s work, our family, and to teach our children to follow recommendations for our own safety and for those we care for. All these things I can give to God.

My frustrations and rebellions will only hurt me and my family. God is in charge of this pandemic. I want to throw in the towel. God calls me to trust in Him.

So, I’m holding the towel!

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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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