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~ 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 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 Cassie Rayl

Where do we go when we’re a mess? The prodigal son of Luke 15 went from having a lifetime supply of resources to absolutely nothing. He was so impoverished he would have gladly eaten the slops he fed his employer’s swine. Verse 17 quotes him saying, “…I’m dying here of hunger!”

People who find themselves that desperate probably don’t have the ability to conjure up enough soap and water for a shower, much less clean up their lives . Despite the mess the son had made of both his inheritance and his personal health, he went back to his father.

This chapter is often used as a story of a compassionate father (Jehovah), who gladly receives his prodigal son when he decides to return. A slightly less-common approach to this story is to focus on the way the son returned. He came back to his father despite the fact he had nothing, was as physically gross as the pigs he ate with, and had nothing of value to offer in exchange for restoration and forgiveness.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt your Heavenly Father calling you to return to him, and your quick inventory of your life is the hopeless equivalent of pigs’ slop? It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll come back when we have something of value, but before we know it, we give up trying because we never feel like we have enough.

May we all take our cues from the prodigal son. May we come back anyway. The truth is, God doesn’t see our worthlessness. He just sees his child, and honors the value of our return—mess and all.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“We won’t have enough.” I cringed as I muttered the words, my eyes begging the calculator to do the math differently. Our car had just been totaled, and as newlyweds neck-deep in school loans, the prices to repair or replace the car were equally impossible. Peter and I had a second car, but it was one car ride away from breaking down itself.

I choked on my prayers that night. I accusatorially repeated myself to God as I bemoaned what I felt were our impossible circumstances. “We don’t have enough for this, Lord. With school loans, hospital bills, rent, and groceries, the last thing we need is to buy another car. You promised you’d provide for us, but honestly? I’m not seeing it.” He’s been faithful before, he’ll be faithful this time, I mentally chided myself. You’ve gotta trust he knows what he’s doing.

The next day, friends of ours offered to loan us their vehicle while we made a decision on how to best handle our car troubles. My worries were only pacified for a few hours as I started trying to plan ahead. Thank you for this mercy, Lord, but we can’t keep this car forever. What’s going to happen when we have to give it back?

God led me to 2 Corinthians 9:8, which says, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (NLT). We’ll always have everything we need? If that were true, why hadn’t God provided us with a car?

I realized God and I had two very different definitions of providing for our needs. I wanted Him to grant us a car of our own so that we could be more self-sufficient and comfortable. He knew we needed a car, and we were given a car to use, but we still needed to depend on him for tomorrow’s unknowns. Through that season, we learned His faithfulness doesn’t make us comfortable. God’s faithfulness makes us long for him even more. Hallelujah, even when it takes us out of our comfort zone, his faithfulness never fails!

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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

The day started with an early morning phone call from a neighbor who had an emergency and needed help. When I got back, I had a half hour left until my alarm, so I crawled back in bed. Immediately the phone rang again. A friend had to take her child to the hospital and needed someone to pray with her. I finished that conversation and headed for the shower, only to receive a tearful call from another friend whose boyfriend had broken up with her.

When I finally made it to work, I had a message that an initiative we had been working on wouldn’t work, and we needed to develop a Plan B. I hadn’t factored that extra time into my weekly plan. At noon I met a friend for lunch. She spent the time explaining to me that if I didn’t cancel my weekend plans to accompany her to a protest, I must be racist.

And so the day went. I arrived home that evening exhausted and emotionally drained. Curling up in my favorite chair, I poured out my frustration to God.

“I can’t do this!” I told him. “How am I supposed to manage all this?”

I’m almost certain I heard a tender chuckle as the Holy Spirit planted his thoughts in my head: “Who do you think was running the universe before you came along?. Why don’t you let me take it back?”

Humbled and at peace, I sat and enjoyed the quiet with my Lord as he took back what was his to begin with.

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~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

Have you have ever seen salmon during spawning season? Thousands of salmon struggle against the current to reach their destination of calm pools where they can lay their eggs. In their pursuit of survival they end up fighting against their own kind.

This past year I have felt like a salmon. First it was masks or no masks, then it was this president or that president, and now it is vaccine or no vaccine. I always admired salmon for their strength and determination, but I never wanted to be one.

I am not alone in all the mixed feelings and thoughts swirling around from the impact of the last year. People talk about a new normal, but aren’t we all reaching for the old one? Although we may get back to our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly trips, will relationships will get back to the old normal?

I want to be human again. I want to have a simple conversation without conflicting opinions on this or that. I want to talk about what is important like how are you, and how are you managing it? Because that is the real matter at hand.

The last year has unveiled diversity of thought. I find it hard to rest easy re-emerging into friendships because we are no longer focused on common ground. I don’t want to be so shallow as to cut off relationships of those who think differently than myself. I love my people with an undying passion.

The truth is we are called to be like salmon. We are called to go against the flow of this world. We are not; however, called to fight amongst ourselves.

Lord, help us keep our eyes on you through the strong currents.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The furnace had the potential to erase their faith instantly when you think about it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego stood up for their faith in Yahweh. Their reward for doing so was to be thrown into a furnace so hot, it melted flesh and turned bone to dust.

Were these three men anything like me, I wonder? Did they proclaim their faith, confront the threat of death by fiery inferno, and then silently pray God would deliver them before the flames truly touched their skin? Wouldn’t that be just as powerful a divine plan as making His followers actually burn?

But that’s not what happened. The men were still conscious when they were tossed into the flame. They had made their allegiance to Yahweh clear, but I wonder if, even for a split second, they felt the heat on their faces and wondered if their faith was worth the burden.

In Daniel 3:24-25, we see a glimpse of the divine reason Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego weren’t rescued. King Nebuchadnezzar—the man who had ordered the men’s deaths—had to see how his power stacked up against Yahweh’s power. He had to see the flames. He had to see the trial take place. Only after he observed those things did he come to realize that Yahweh was truly God and worthy of worship.

More often than not, our own trials—our own fiery furnace—is so the world can see God at work in an undeniable way. No matter how hot the flames get, it is so the world can say with undeniable certainty, “God was with you in that fire.”

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~Written by Viki Rife

It was a small thing; it was a huge thing. Although my friend told me the story decades ago, it still burns in my bones.

When my friend was growing up in Cuba, his parents offered a Good News gospel-sharing club for the children in their neighborhood. One boy who often came was a troublemaker. He and his brothers disrupted the group, sassed the adults, and made life unpleasant for everyone. Finally, my friend’s parents told the boys they weren’t allowed to come onto their property.

Every week after that, the boy and his brothers would be waiting outside the fence to my friend’s family farm. As the other kids trudged down the dirt path, the banished boys would pelt them with stones and sticks. They had been a problem when they were attended but were even more of a problem when forbidden to come!

I’ve always wondered what might have happened if some of the adults involved had taken the main troublemaker, if not the others, under their wing. What if some man had offered to take the boy fishing, away from the kids he felt he could bully? What if someone had taken an interest in him and shown him there was a better way to spend his life? What if he had seen someone show him the unconditional love of Jesus?

You see, that boy’s name was Fidel Castro. If you know much about world history, you know the cruelty visited on the Cuban people by this dictator. I know friends who had to live under his regime and were able to escape, but who still bear physical and emotional scars.

Might the history of Fidel Castro have been different if someone who loved Jesus had reached out and shown that love? Because I don’t know, I am committed to reaching out to hard-to-love people with the love of Christ.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

She wasn’t really my aunt, but all my childhood I called her Aunt Bertha, a common courtesy for missionaries who worked together. Her apartment was always open to my family. She especially took an interest in me. When I was young and fighting health problems, our family traveled to her city and stayed with her for treatments and my surgery. When there were complications with the surgery, she was like a second mother to me, letting my mother get some rest. I trusted her with all my heart.

When we moved to her city several years later, I would stay at her house when my parents had to travel so I wouldn’t miss school. We’d ride our bikes (she never drove a car) to market and to care for her ministry responsibilities. The conversations during those bike rides were deep and inspired me in ministry.

Aunt Bertha had a problem, though. Her rheumatoid arthritis was progressing, and she was finally told she needed to leave the mission field. She returned to the US, moving in with her brother and family.

I was fifteen when my family had a chance to visit her. She lay engulfed in a hospital-type bed that seemed to fill the room. My heart was broken, and in my teenage awkwardness I couldn’t really converse with her. My parents were puzzled by my lack of engagement.

The problem was, at that moment I became very angry with God. Here was this precious woman who had done so much for His kingdom, lying helpless! Is this how He rewarded His faithful ones?

In the decades that followed, I couldn’t think of her without feelings of pain and anger. God just didn’t make sense. I served him, but there was an underlying root of distrust.

One day I attended a women’s retreat where the speaker was a missionary to the same country. She shared that before she ever left for the mission field, she had the opportunity to meet a former missionary who was in her last days on earth. She shared that the veteran missionary told her that her disability was the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to her. “The past ten years have been the best of my life!” she told the new recruit. “I have gotten to know God in a way I could never have imagined. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world!”

At that moment, my bitterness melted away. God had taken care of Aunt Bertha in ways my physical eyes could not see. Since then, I’ve watched His faithful ones suffer and seen similar responses. We can see their suffering, but until we experience it ourselves, I don’t think we can ever know how God cares for His own.

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