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Archive for the ‘Hope’ 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 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 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 Cassie Rayl

The trail sits across the road from my childhood home. Like countless other trails in the forests of Alaska, it remains hidden in plain sight. Only those who’ve wandered off the beaten path know it exists. Depending on how deeply into the trail you wander, you may even forget there’s a busy road and populous neighborhood 200 yards away.

It’s gorgeous. It’s simple. I’ve always been scared of it.

For some unknown reason, the trail represents my deepest trauma. As a young adult, just looking towards the trail gave me unrelenting anxiety, fear, anger, and panic. The fear of reliving the source of my trauma—whatever it was—guarded my feet from walking through the trail’s beauty for over a decade.

I recently had the chance to pass by the trail for the first time in several years. Initially, each step away from the safety of the sidewalk was hesitant and cautious. I couldn’t stop glancing around me, ready to confront danger. Why am I doing this? I thought angrily as my heart started to race.

A critter scurried by my feet, distracting me from my fear. As if for the first time, I noticed how the sun plays with the leaves on the trees. I saw the life thriving around me. In what had once represented spiritual death, I could finally see life. I could finally see Jesus.

Freedom and redemption don’t always feel “good.” But when we focus on Jesus and let Him be the center of our stories, he turns ashes into beauty and makes our ashes beautiful. If redemption feels hard, press into him anyway. In his perfect timing, he will be all you can see.

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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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~ Written by Viki Rife

My friend planted 100 tulip bulbs in her yard last fall. She couldn’t even remember where they were all planted! They lay under snow all winter, then under the mud, until they came up and started to bloom. The entire area was awash with color! A blessed view for anyone staying home all day in quarantine.

As she described her investment, I was struck by the similarities to what I’m observing and experiencing during this pandemic. Those who have invested in spending time with God seem to be more resilient. Each truth about God that was lying under the surface has started to spring up to bring comfort and blessing. The more they planted, the more they’re reaping.

As the Charis Fellowship discusses our handling of the pandemic, we’ve talked about three stages. The first is the blizzard that causes us all to hunker down. The blizzard will be followed by winter, a time of venturing out occasionally. But then will come a new spring of opportunities. The more we invest now in our relationship with God, the stronger we will be and the more ready to bless others with truth.

Keep planting, dear friends! We never know how God will use it.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’ve been struggling with a deep desire of the heart that, in all honesty, is yet unmet. While praying faithfully I have waited impatiently. I know my perspective is limited, but I can’t understand the why in the waiting. It feels unsafe to hope.

Has God ever given you a Bible verse at just the right moment? Maybe you were scrolling through Facebook and there it was, pretty script and all. Have you been doing your daily reading and the words practically leapt off the page at you? I had a similar experience with these words several months ago:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Since the day I read those words, Romans 12:12 has played over and over in my head. It has almost become a personal mantra. One day, a few months ago (before social distancing was a thing), I was walking through Target when I saw a canvas with a Bible verse on it. Sure enough, it read, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It was the last one available one.

That verse now hangs on the wall in my kitchen. I read it every day. And while I know God was speaking directly to my situation when He gave me that verse, the words have taken on a greater meaning in light of the pandemic. Just yesterday I realized God was preparing my heart for this time of uncertainty and isolation with that verse.

I am amazed by the provision and providence of the Almighty God. I am still waiting and praying as faithfully as I can for my heart’s desire. But I know that in these overlapping seasons of waiting, God is good.

Because of who he is, I can be joyful in hope.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

She could not understand what was happening. This was the place. She was sure of it. She had seen it with her own eyes just two days before. They had laid his body in that tomb and it took several men, straining against the immense weight, to roll the stone in place. Now it was gone and she didn’t dare look inside.

She ran to tell Peter and John, but she hardly had the words out of her mouth when they both sprinted past her, their eyes filled with disbelief and fear. She followed them back to the tomb. This was her second trip, though, and the heaviness of the morning’s events were weighing her down. Why was this happening? Had she not been through enough already? By the time she arrived back at the tomb, Peter and John were already gone. She was alone, out of breath and frightened.

She wept. It was all just too much to take.

Suddenly, a voice cut through the morning air. She turned to see who the voice belonged to, but her vision was blurred by her tears. She wiped her eyes and looked at his face. This time blinded by her anxiety and fear, she still did not recognize him. Until he spoke her name,“Mary.”

Then she knew. All at once her fear was gone, the weight she felt melted away and she knew who stood before her—it was her teacher, it was Jesus. He was alive!

That’s the kind of Savior we have. One whisper of our name and all the weight is lifted. Nothing cuts through anxiety and fear like the voice of Jesus. He is alive and he calls your name through the chaos of today. Like Mary, all you have to do is turn and listen.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I knew I could have done better. I walked off the stage, mentally chiding myself for choosing worship songs which had been played so often I could lead them in my sleep.

There’s a theory among worship leaders that if a song is more than five years old, it’s inadvisable to use it in worship sets anymore. The average copyright year of the songs we sang this particular Sunday had been 2002.

That fact alone bothered me more than it should have. I heard the enemy whisper, “You aren’t effective anymore. Stop trying. You’re failing.” I spent the rest of the service mentally fighting lies with Biblical truth, but peace still felt unobtainable.

As the service ended, a friend tapped me on the shoulder. With tears in her eyes, she explained how one of the songs—one of the oldest, in fact!—had been exactly what she needed to hear. She took it as confirmation that God was with her in her current struggles.

I heard God whisper to my heart, “It’s never about you, your leadership ideas or your theories, Child. It’s about being willing to let Me color outside the lines of your expectations in order to bring glory to Myself.

“Remember, I can use anything; even the things you consider ineffective.”

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’ve been thinking of Jonah. His experience, described in the book that carries his name, is brief and pointed. He receives instructions from God but chooses to run away and disobey Him. God intervenes and sends a storm. Eventually Jonah is thrown overboard. He is on the brink of death when God intervenes again and saves his life by sending a large fish to swallow him. Jonah remains in the fish for three days and three nights.

It would appear that this near-death experience, coupled with the quiet dark of the three day stay in the fish, was transformative for Jonah. While in the belly of the fish Jonah cries out to God. So the next time God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah obeys. If we stop reading there. it’s a beautiful story of second chances!

Unfortunately, there is more to the story. Jonah doesn’t celebrate when the people of Nineveh turning from their evil ways. He does not understand the Lord’s compassion and completely misses the parallels in his own story to that of the people of Nineveh.

Jonah’s experiences on the boat, in the stormy seas and in belly of the fish were transformative for one area of his life–his willingness to obey God. But the story ends with an obvious need for further transformation. This is why I relate to his story. I wish I could say that the transformative experiences in my life were long-lasting and all-encompassing. But that simply is not the case.

Still, I am encouraged by this truth: he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Even when it seems like I am learning the same lessons over and over, I can be confident that God hasn’t given up on me! He is patient with my shortcomings and gentle with my rough spots. His plans are unhindered by my imperfections and his love for me is unconditional!

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