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Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Our culture has adopted the mantra, “I am enough” as a way to achieve self affirmation. However as Christ followers, we must remember there’s a difference between self affirmation and living as if we don’t need God. I am not enough—you are not enough—but Jesus is.

I’m not enough. I see this small but heavy fact in every aspect of my life; as a believer, wife, mother, friend, and leader. Even in the most mundane tasks, I often look back on my actions and think, “I didn’t do enough. I could have done that better.” It’s taken me nearly three decades—and I’m still a work in progress—to not cry every time I admit I’ve fallen short in some way.

The fact is when I fall short, I’m reminded of my need for Jesus. My need for Jesus reminds me on a daily basis that I was created for him—he was not created for me. I never want to be enough because then my life won’t be a testimony to the power of Jesus and the strength of his love and grace.

I challenge each of us to focus on Jesus when we need a little extra affirmation. To run to the Bible and the Savior’s grace before clinging to a well-spun lie. Romans 3:23 says we have all fallen short—none of us are enough. And yet within that truth is the most beautiful reality we often forget on a daily basis. Jesus is not grouped into that verse. He has never fallen short, and he never will.

We might not be enough this side of heaven, but Jesus is, and he is all ours. We need only to let him transform us.

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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 Cassie Rayl

Her mind had to be running in a hundred different directions. She knew the cultural expectations. The woman was more than aware she had broken the Law. When the religious leaders found her committing adultery, she must have started envisioning the pain of countless stones hitting her body.

She had committed sin; her crime was known. Death by the hands of those more righteous was her penalty. And yet, this rabbi—Jesus, son of Joseph—spoke words which somehow kept the righteous ones from carrying out their punishment. Whatever he said made the ruckus stand still, but she wasn’t sure what was to happen next.

The screaming and taunting may have died down, but she had already sealed her own fate. She knew she was as good as dead. Even though there was an unusual sense of peace and introspection in the air, I imagine she kept her eyes closed—begging for time to speed by and death to come quickly.

But it never came. Instead the gentle, firm voice of Jesus spoke to a broken woman in front of a shrinking crowd. “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” He asks. When she responded that no one had, Jesus responds simply yet profoundly, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

I’ve sat in the rubble with that woman before. I know what it’s like to stand condemned. How many times have I gone before Jehovah, the Holy Judge, and ignored the grace in his eyes? Somehow, I’d forgotten that his love is deeper than my sin, and he truly can turn my life around. Sometimes, it can seem easier to swallow punishment rather than accept grace.

Yet, if we, just like the adulterous woman in John 8, look up and focus on Jesus, we quickly realize he wants to give us life! The only thing holding us back is our hesitation to trust that his mercy can truly make a difference.

What hope we’d experience if we simply trusted the Judge.

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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

Our New Year didn’t come in the way I had hoped. Although our plans hadn’t been huge, New Year’s was potentially the last holiday my husband, Peter, and I had before our son, Judah, arrives in early April. Ideas of games, movies, junk food and laughter were all I had thought about for days.

Instead, there were bowls strategically placed between the bathrooms so  I would be prepared any time my nausea hit. Peter militantly checked my blood pressure, managed my new medications, and gently understood when sleeping seemed better than looking at his face. As miserable as I was, I giggled every time Judah kicked my ribs.

Relief was on the horizon, though. My medical team had jumped into action, and as soon as my body adapted to new medications, I’d be okay. Still, I wasn’t focused on Jesus, joy, or Judah. I was adamantly focused on how God hadn’t given me what I wanted for the New Year.

At some point in my pity party, I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Will you sing me a song? Will you bring in the New Year praising me anyway? You’re obviously miserable. Will you actually let me help you refocus? Or would you rather just hear yourself complain?”

The songs started out quite begrudgingly, let me tell you. Honestly, I started singing out of mere obedience. Before I knew it, though, I wasn’t focusing on my discomfort, missed plans, or even my fears over my health or the health of our son. I was just singing to the Man who first called me Beloved. My thirty-minute, possibly-off-tune worship session ended in joy simply because God had shifted my perspective from myself to Him.

I’m fairly certain we’re all realizing that the strike of midnight on January 1st didn’t make our lives a bed of roses. As Christ has continually challenged me, I extend that same challenge to you: When your heart is filled with what you don’t have and what you can’t control in this new year, praise God anyway.

Even in times of uncertainty, focusing on our First Love is always the answer to finding freedom and living in joy.

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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 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 Viki Rife

We had no clue when we set out for the forest preserve that we would get to see bald eagles—three at the same time, to be exact. They were perched in a tree close to where we stood, easily visible. The preserve was trying to reintroduce them, and for several years we had thought from time to time we saw one fly over, but never were close enough to be sure. Now there they were, watching us with their sharp eyes.

Of course, the first thing my husband did was grab his camera and start shooting. We were thrilled at the amazing opportunity that had opened up for us. When we finally left, I was eager to view what must be sensational photos. When I pressed the button to review them, however, a square with a menu showed up over the photo, blocking everything but the edges.

“How do I get that out of here?” I asked my husband. He shrugged. “It’s been doing that for a long time. I can’t figure out what to do about it.”

It was frustrating to wait until we finished several errands and got home so we could download and get a glimpse of the photos. It gave me a resolve to get the camera situation fixed. Nothing I tried worked.

Finally, as a last resort, I sat down and read the manual. Guess what? There was an easy solution for the problem! Why didn’t I do that to begin with? My only answer is that sometimes I’m a lot like a two-year-old who insists, “Me do it!”

I’m afraid the same attitude is at work when I go through times when I can’t see God. I often try everything before I give up and pour over the Manual, His Word. But I find it’s the only way to eliminate what’s blocking His precious image. Only there will I find the answers my soul craves.

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