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Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When I look at her, I see myself. Her anger used to be my anger. Her fear used to be my fear. Her sin used to be my sin. Last but not least, when I watch how the bondage impacts her, it’s almost as if I can feel the shackles of my own Christ-less life. She and I are so much alike.

She and I are also very different. My bitterness scared me, so I prayed. My fear crippled me, so I ran to the only One who could heal me. My sin broke relationships, so I asked the Spirit to give me courage to start the journey back to restoration. That journey nearly broke me, it was so long.

But Christ, hope, and truth made redemption my greatest gift. As I stand and watch my loved one sink deeper away from redemption, I can’t decide whether to bestow empathy or lose my patience. Why did I find freedom and she didn’t? Why did God wipe my eyes clean but not hers?

Believing in God’s goodness while observing a prodigal is probably the hardest thing my heart has ever experienced. How long before God brings this lost sheep back? How long before He lets this burden from my heart lessen? Why is He taking so long? Doesn’t God realize the sooner the better is the best approach to things like this?

But then I have to remember this person is God’s creation and her story is not the only story in the world. God is behind the scenes weaving a tapestry I’ll never begin to understand, but I can sometimes see its beauty as God reveals His zealous desire for every “lost sheep” to be found. I may understand this precious person’s struggle, but God understands her heart and has an intimate knowledge of how long she needs before coming Home.

Now and forever, that truth will be sufficient as I rest in God’s goodness.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t believe it! It was a classmate’s birthday, and my friend and I had wanted to host a celebration in one of the lounges of our dorm. So while my friend baked two round layers of cake mix, I made a big batch of frosting and started preparing different colored flowers to decorate the cake.

As soon as the layers were cool enough, I started the decorating process. My friend, not experienced at cake decorating, hovered in the background as I worked.

Now we had brought the cake out, and our classmate and all the party attendees were oohing and aahing over it. One of them turned to my friend and said, “Did you make it yourself?” I watched incredulous as she proudly answered, “yes.”

It’s embarrassing now to admit I had to leave the room. I was hurt and just plain mad. They hadn’t even cut the cake, so it wasn’t the flavor of her baking they were complimenting. The credit should have gone to me!

God has been working on me most of my life to help me overcome the need to get credit for everything I do. I may have, like my friend, even accepted credit that wasn’t totally deserved, figuring it made up for some I had missed out on.

More and more these days, I hear my Lord remind me, “Do you want to leave My mark on this world, or your own?” And more and more, I’m learning to answer from the heart, “Lord, I want every bit of credit for anything in my life to go where it belongs. I want it to go fully to you.”

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~ Written by Viki Rife

You know the feeling. You’re dashing out the door at the last minute and discover your car has a flat tire. You’re cleaning for house guests and there’s a power outage, leaving you with no water, much less the ability to run the vacuum.

It’s especially hard for those of us who are planners. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get all my ducks in a row. Not that I can claim that I’ve been very successful at it. In fact, most of the time it seems like God is determined to prevent me from ever managing to achieve that goal.

Few things can make me angrier than having my plans interrupted. God has been pointing out to me that the anger is actually evidence my schedule has been an idol most of my life. Furthermore, He’s shown me that my need to be on top of things is, in part, a way to get love and approval.

The other day He hit me with a verse out of Jonah that has convicted me deeply: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8—ESV).

There’s no need to waste energy and get emotionally worked up. I need to let go of my idols so I can truly experience His steadfast love.

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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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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding,” the mechanic said, laughing nervously. “Keep the receipt until your account agrees with the actual price of your alternator and you’ve been refunded. Again, I’m sorry.”

I chuckled silently as I mentally reminded myself I would have made the same mistake had I been in his shoes.

“It’s okay, Sir. We trust you.” I smiled warmly, trying to put the gentle man at ease. But instead of bringing peace, I obviously confused him.

“Trust? Trust me? Why would you trust me? You don’t even know me!” He exclaimed in shock.

“I don’t need to trust you,” I said gently. “I trust a God who happens to be bigger than you. Knowing Him makes this perfectly fine.”

He smiled and nodded in response, with a certain gleam in his eye. I recognized that look all too well. He wanted to call me foolish, naïve, stupid, awkward or all of the above. But he knew he couldn’t verbalize such insults.

The reality is, when it comes to proclaiming Jesus, I’ve come to accept that the world thinks less of me. What they consider an insult is actually a small reminder to my soul that Christ really has changed me and made me like Himself.

So, Christian, when was the last time those around you called you a fool for Christ? Did it make you smile? It certainly makes Jesus smile.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

My first real experience with the game of ping-pong was on a ship. There was a ping-pong table on a lower side deck. The deck was actually a long, narrow corridor with a railing separating it from the waves. The ping pong table was popular, so a ten-year-old like myself didn’t have much chance of getting a turn.

Then the ship hit a storm as we approached Rio de Janeiro. The storm was so intense that it delayed the ship’s arrival by two days. Virtually all the passengers and a good number of the crew took to their cabins, seasick. For some reason I felt fine, so a friend and I headed straight for the ping-pong deck.

You guessed it. Learning to land that ball on the table when the ship is tossing in a storm is not really the way to learn to play well. We never could predict where the table would be or at what angle. Ping-pong balls don’t handle well in high winds and high waves, either. To make a long story short, I concluded that I didn’t want ping-pong in my life.

I feel a similar frustration when I try to balance the messages that keep pinging into my life. I missed an important e-mail because it somehow went to my bulk mail. My husband sends a text asking me to pick him up at the car shop and the message doesn’t reach my phone for 52 minutes. I’m awakened at 1 a.m. by an urgent amber alert from a state 1,500 miles away, where I visited last week. A telemarketer calls from three time zones away just as I’m finally asleep.

We live in a world of ping-pong relationships. Information is coming at us much faster than our brains can keep up. The table keeps bouncing. How are we expected to manage it all?

The overwhelming communication demands of our society and the constant interruptions of every project we attempt is like ping-pongs constantly hitting our brains. We desperately need a break.

Jesus was aware of the danger of relational ping-pong. Luke 5:16 tells us that He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. I guess I’ll turn off my computer, leave my phone in another room, and spend some time seeking His advice for my bruised brain. I don’t have to live with a ping-pong mind.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Please tell your story to my daughter,” my friend wrote. “She needs to know there’s hope.”

As I read my friend’s request, I was shocked at the bittersweet emotions her plea conjured up within me. I was thankful she saw Christ in my journey, and there was nothing I wanted more than to point others to my Jesus. But to share my story meant I had to journey down a memory lane I tried so very hard to forget.

After sharing my story, I was reminded of the biblical practice to lay down stones of remembrance. In 1st Samuel, the prophet Samuel laid down an “Ebenezer” to remind all the generations to follow of the victory God had granted Israel. Every time the Israelites walked by the Ebenezer, it was to spur on memories.

They had two choices. They could either remember the strain and heartache of war, or they could remember that Yahweh was their Victory. Regardless of the memory the Ebenezer stone made them focus on, they had to remember the battle itself.

No one likes to think about heartache, or talk about a season where they felt abandoned by God. Too often, I’ve begged God to erase my memory of those times because the memories are too hurtful. But then I’m reminded that without the memory of pain, I wouldn’t have proof of God’s faithfulness.

My Ebenezer stone isn’t the heart filled with scars. No, my Ebenezer stone is my soul’s redemption handed to me by my ever-faithful God.

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