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Archive for the ‘Risk’ Category

~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

We went to Maui on our honeymoon, and decided to go snorkeling for first time. As I approached the water, I assumed it would be your typical beach entry. To my surprise, it dropped straight down, like falling into the deep end of a pool! I was caught off guard; however, I was quickly distracted by the beautiful depths around me.

I was in God’s aquarium.

The waves were crashing by the edge of the drop off which made it a challenge to get out. My husband, being a stronger and more experienced swimmer gracefully exited the water. I, however; bobbed around in the crashing waves, looking ridiculous.

When I finally made it to shore I was wrapped up and spit out by a wave. My suit, half hanging off my body, was full of sand, as well as every orifice in my face. I was a pitiful, disoriented mess. My husband had to rescue and help me.

Unlike my time in Maui’s waters, at the beginning of the pandemic I had a better handle on things. I was caught off-guard but I found things to be grateful for. Everyone I knew was freaking out, and we were all being held to the same standards. We were all even struggling on what to do with our groceries, but we found community in our frustrations.

Now, each state has its own rules, everyone has to make decisions based on their own health restrictions or work guidelines. Nothing feels the same, except we stopped bleaching our groceries. It is hard to feel grateful now. I don’t feel like we are all on the same page. Are we all just stuck in the waves?

I can’t look ahead, behind, or beside me. I have to be grateful for the mana given each day. I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I might find myself wrapped up and spit out by a wave, but I can rest in one thing.

God will get me to shore.

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~ 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

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 Viki Rife

The past ten days or so have shaken us as a nation as we watch news of one mass shooting after another. We’re horrified, and the outcry for gun control is becoming louder in the wake of such tragedies.

As politicians, pundits and the population debate gun control, there’s a huge factor that no one seems to be paying much attention to. Something has changed about us as a society.

I remember as a child that my siblings and myself, as well as most of our friends, were taught never, ever to point a toy gun at a human being (an exception was made if we had an approved water-gun fight). My dad explained that even the act of pointing a toy gun at a person might cause our brain to start thinking it was okay. If he saw us start to do so, he’d quickly warn, “Don’t even think of it!”

Fast forward to when our children were growing up and video games became the rage. All of a sudden, children were playing games in which the objective was to shoot an opponent. Our son once saved his money and, without consulting us, purchased a video game in which blood splattered everywhere as you shot your enemy for points. We confiscated the game. For a long time he resented our meddling with a possession he had bought with his hard-earned money.

Now that he’s a dad, however, he has actually thanked us for that move. He believes it protected him during a very vulnerable time in his life, and has even commented that he realizes the condition of his heart at the time was leading him into dangerous territory. He says giving up violent games was one of the best things that could have happened to him!

The problem with guns is about more than the weapon itself—it is a reflection of what is happening in a human soul. Before we waste time arguing about gun control, let’s talk about violence control—in video games, in movies and TV shows, and in the home. That’s where the heart of the matter lies. Our job is to direct our children’s hearts as they are shaping their worldview so that using a gun against someone isn’t even a consideration.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I almost never got what I wanted when I was a little girl. Birthdays, Christmases, random special occasions—they all brought gifts (some of them were fantastic!), but they were rarely what I really wanted. The gifts were well thought out, but I remember thinking more than once, “My siblings got what they wanted, why didn’t I?”

It wasn’t until adulthood that I brought it up with my mom and I understood why. Apparently, I had never told her I wanted a Suzy Homemaker Oven, a specific instrument or special trinket. I remember believing as a child that if I needed a toy, my parents would just know. Otherwise, I didn’t need to be so selfish as to ask them outright to give me what I wanted.

“Why didn’t you just ask?” My mom asked when I told her the truth. I didn’t ask because I was afraid I’d disappoint her. At times, she knew exactly what I wanted, ended up getting it for me, but would have enjoyed hearing what I thought about the gift first.

Although the memory makes me chuckle now, I can’t help but see a correlation between myself as a kid and myself as an adult in front of the Father. His patience is never-ending with me. Often, though, when anxiety, fear, or misunderstanding keeps me silent from truly telling Him what I want, I can hear Him whisper, “Child, why don’t you just ask? Can we talk about it?”

He doesn’t always give me what I want. He doesn’t give me exactly what I want when I want it. But I’m learning it’s okay to climb up on His lap and just ask Him because I trust Him. Whatever the outcome, those conversations increase my intimacy with the Father. Simply because I asked.

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~Written by Erin Shuler

There it was—the full blow! It was time to make a choice. Was I in or was I out?

For a long time I have had an idea of where God was calling me. I was so excited to follow it and see what would come of it! God placed a desire on my heart to leave the comforts of home as I know them and pursue Him through caring for and loving on orphans in Africa. After visiting Africa for the first time, I came home ready to leave everything behind and dive right into the life I felt I had been called to live. But time passed, and even though I knew my calling hadn’t changed, I felt myself wishing it would.

Driving down the road one day, I realized for the first time how alluring the idea of the American dream was to me. I didn’t realize how hard a fight it was going to be to walk away from ideas that had been engraved in me since birth. I finally realized the impact of what a decision to move across the world was going to mean. It was no longer just giving up a career I didn’t want anyway or money I could have made. I was missing out on all the big and small things that would happen in the States while I was absent. It meant possibly missing my siblings’ weddings. It meant missing the birth of future nephews and nieces. It meant losing the chance to be a part of the lives of people I suddenly realized I wanted desperately to be a part of. It meant risking relationships I already have and can’t imagine not having. It meant no house with a white picket fence, no being one of those soccer moms, no elaborate thousand-dollar weddings or expensive car. 

I realized for the first time that day I had spent my entire life filling my head with ideas that matched the American dream. When I pictured my future, I never saw myself in Africa. I saw myself in America with the “perfect home and family.” So could I still do it? Was I willing to give up what was asked of me?

The truth is the life I have is not mine. It was given to me with the intention that I use it to bring God glory. My purpose is not to live the life I dream but rather the life I have graciously been given to further the kingdom of Christ. Christ has loved me and I in return will love. I will fall in love a hundred times over with every smiling face and every child I hold and touch.

I will love well because Christ has perfectly loved me.

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~ Written by Erin Shuler

(Erin Shuler is spending the month of January ministering at Sonrise Orphanage in Uganda. She is a sophomore at Grace College.)

There are too many little hands!

Everywhere I go there are little smiling faces looking up at me. They either want to hold my hand or beg to be picked up and held. I am a complete stranger. My skin is a different color. I speak a different language. I come from a different background. But for some reason, these children trust me. They love me and they want to be with me.

While I settle into living in Uganda, going on a walk is a daily activity. As I’m walking, my hands and my heart are full. I have a child (or two or three) holding on to each hand and they don’t let go. But there are too many children. I can’t hold all their hands at once. As they are shoving and fighting over my hands, I have to calm several screaming or crying children because someone else stole my hand from them. I wish I could pick them all up and hold them forever. But I know I will never be able to do such a thing.

My heart is overflowing with love for these children. I wish they all had a family member who could give them the attention they crave and deserve. I wish being held, hugged, and having their hand held was a normal daily activity for them. They have been through more than anyone should ever have to go through. Yet despite their past and their current circumstances, you will never encounter a happier or more loving child than these.

I am incredibly thankful there is Someone who can, and is, holding on to these children and will never let them go. There is Someone who loves them more than I ever could. Someone whose hand is holding not only these children but the entire world. God desires to hold everyone’s hand.

When I am not enough for these children, He is. He is walking hand-in-hand with me, helping me up when I get knocked down. He comforts me when I get hurt, and is always there when and where I need Him. His hands are enough. I can let go and rest in His capable embrace because He has everything under control.

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~Written by Cassie Harris

Will this really effect my eternity?  

I’ve had to learn to ask this question throughout the day. It’s been even harder to answer the question honestly. 

I’m such a planner and routine-lover that when my expectations aren’t met, I have a tendency to feel as if my world is shattering. It can be caused by anything from a forgotten dinner date to a ruined possession. If it’s not in the equation of what I planned my day to consist, I get frustrated. If I can stop the frustration from cascading off my lips, I at least get sarcastic and short with those around me. 

Though my reactions are wrong, the heart of the matter is I am in desperate need of consistency and dependable things in my life. When things don’t go correctly, I often walk away feeling hurt.  

At one point, like so many times before, God came to my rescue several years ago with one simple yet bold truth. He is my constant. He is dependable. 

John 10:28-29 promises that if we are His, if we have chosen to follow Him, no one can snatch us out of His hand. Therefore, our eternity is secure. The one thing that truly matters is never effected and never changed. 

What a perspective shift to remember that when I’m looking for consistency and a firm foundation when my plans crumble, the reality is, Jesus Christ never left.   

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~ Written by Cindy Shuler

The beauty brought a smile to my face.

The other morning as I drove through a local neighborhood, one particular house stood out. Sparkling Christmas lights outlined the eaves, dormers and windows. The colors were vibrant and seemed to sparkle in the brisk, frosty air.

A few hours later, as I returned for the second round of my bus route, I once again noticed this house. Something was different and it took me a minute to figure it out. The lights were still lit, however, the sky, which had been clothed in darkness, was giving way to the dawn. With the breaking of day, the brilliance was fading.

In that moment, the Lord whispered, “Don’t fear the darkness.” 

It’s easy to look at our world and despair. The days are growing darker and evil often seems to triumph. Yet it is in this darkness that the light of Jesus can shine brightest. As I reflected on this concept, I was struck by the awesome privilege we have to bring the Light of Jesus into the dark world around us. True joy and hope are found only in Him and our world is in desperate need of both. Rather than turning off our lights in fear, we need to abide in Him, thankful for the opportunity to let our lights stand out as the world’s darkness grows.

I’m pretty sure I’ll view Christmas lights differently this year. Maybe you, too, will see them and be reminded to shine a little brighter.

May Jesus truly shine through us this Christmas season.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Let’s be honest. We just can’t reach our full potential alone. Strength comes when we partner with others.

That is a foundational belief of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. We rejoice in the number of brothers and sisters whom God has brought into our circle throughout the world, and realize that we must learn to partner together. Cultural differences must not stand in the way of the mission God has given us. We need to work together to determine how our beliefs can strengthen us to reach out to a world in need.

That’s why you should feel a vested interest in what will happen in Bangkok, Thailand, next week. As delegates representing at least 19 countries meet together, their decisions will help set the stage for greater impact as we collaborate globally to make disciples for Christ.  
For some of the delegates, just getting to the meeting is a major challenge. Some of them come from war-torn countries; some are at risk of persecution. They need our prayers. It’s the best contribution we can make to bless these representatives and to help our Fellowship become effective around the world.

Please commit to spend least fifteen minutes in prayer at some point next week for the future of the international Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Help the delegates know who “has their backs” by signing up in the prayer chain. Details can be found at http://charisalliance.org/english/prayer-chain.html.   

Thank you for your valuable contribution. 

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