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Joseph Embraces the Unexpected | Matthew 1:18–23

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Welcome to Real Life . God often shows up in the unexpected. We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is interruptions are real life . —C.S. Lewis I wonder about Joseph before he was engaged to Mary. Did he have his future all planned out? Marry a godly woman, raise a bunch of kids, and grow old together in the neighborhood where he grew up. But then, life happens. Plans wave goodbye. Even before the wedding, Joseph learns his fiancé is pregnant—and it’s not his baby. He likely wrestled through jealousy, anger, and grief, before deciding to quietly break off the engagement. How could he trust a woman who was unfaithful before the wedding even took place? Joseph falls asleep, but doesn’t rest. For God sends a messenger. Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from th

Utterly Meaningful | Ecclesiastes

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Welcome to Real Life. What makes life meaningful? “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 If this was my teacher, I’d probably drop the class! Who is this jaded educator? He is generally accepted to be Solomon, son of David, King of Israel. [1] He is considered the wisest man who ever lived. In his latter years, Solomon ponders a lifetime of seeking fulfillment in power, projects, and pleasure. His vast wealth [2] enabled him to chase every dream, scratch every itch, and indulge every desire. What does he find at the end of his rainbow? Everything is meaningless. Some wonder how Ecclesiastes found its way into the holy writ. Had Solomon lost his faith? The key is recognizing his perspective. Most of the Bible is written from God’s eternal perspective. In Ecclesiastes, however, Solomon focuses primarily on our cradle-to-grave experience. Chasing every dream, scratching every itch, and indulging every desire is

Beside Still Waters | The 23rd Psalm

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Welcome to Real Life . Where do you find peace? “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” –John Muir Our family often camps at Pymatuning State Park. A few quiet days serenaded by crickets is good medicine for the soul. The still waters of Pymatuning Lake never fail to calm me. They bring to mind the words of Psalm 23. He leads me beside the still waters. David wrote this psalm. Before he rose to be king of Israel, David was a humble shepherd. He tenderly cared for and protected his flock. God chose a man after his own heart, a good shepherd, to become the most beloved king of Israel. David walked in vulnerable honesty and intimacy with his God. When I long to feel God’s nearness, when I’m anxious, when I can’t sleep, I often pray David’s words. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  Lord, you are our Good Shepherd. We are your flock, your sheep. We trust you to provide everything we need—love, peace, strength, healing, finances, faith, and hope for our tomorro

Who is My Neighbor? | Luke 10:25–37

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Welcome to Real Life. The other day, I found myself living a parable. Helping a person will not necessarily change the world, but it will change the world for that person. –Anonymous “I had an accident on my bike. I need to get to the emergency room. Come quickly!” I told my husband Terry on my cellphone.   On a perfect summer morning, I headed out for a bicycle ride on the MetroParks trail. Five minutes in, I approached my first hill. I should have downshifted. Instead, I attempted to muscle my way up, even standing for more power. Standing shifted my weight. The bike flipped over my head and I landed on my backside (thankfully). Somehow though, as the bike flew, the gears ripped open my upper calf. Small globs of fat protruded from the 4” laceration that gushed blood. I immediately pulled out my cellphone and called Terry for help. As I was hanging up, a young man cautiously approached. “Are you okay? Do you need help?” he asked. “I just called my husband. He should be here in ten

I Am Weak | 1 Corinthians 12

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Welcome to Real Life. What’s more spiritual than weakness? “Our strength grows out of our weakness.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson My name is Peggi Tustan and I am a weak. I often struggle with anxiety, insomnia, and… Sorry, that’s the extent of vulnerability I can handle today. Because we hate to admit our weaknesses, don’t we? We want to appear strong, vibrant, and successful! In contrast, the Apostle Paul boasts of his weakness. I never think of Paul as weak, do you? Not Paul, the evangelist, healer, church planter, Epistle writer, and saint extraordinaire. However, amidst his impressive resume, Paul confesses to a weakness so intense it tormented him—a thorn in his flesh. He repeatedly begged God to remove it. Suddenly, we can all relate to super-saint Paul. For though we all have strengths and weaknesses, it is our weaknesses, our difficulties, our thorns in the flesh that torment us. What’s surprising is Paul’s thorn had a God-ordained purpose. Though Paul begged, God refused to remove

Movement is Evidence of Life | James 2

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Welcome to Real Life . Show me your faith! People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day. –A.A. Milne Out hiking, my husband and I spied a momma robin in her nest. She sat so still. We assumed she did so to camouflage her presence. As we approached, however, she never turned, blinked, or even closed her beak. That’s when we realized. She’s dead. Movement is evidence of life. Like that momma bird, unless our faith results in some form of action, it’s dead. Movement is evidence of life. So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17 NLT By grace we are saved through faith. [1] That faith, however, should move us to pray, give, forgive, help, serve, and more. These good deeds don’t save us. If we could drum up enough goodness to earn heaven, Jesus did not have to shed his blood. But we can’t. We need Jesus! We cannot achieve righteousness. We can only receive it when we kneel at the cross and say, “Lord, I beli

We're Not Home Yet | Hebrews 11

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 Welcome to Real Life . Are we there yet? I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. – Mark Twain “Where are we?” I asked my husband as I yawned and rubbed sleep from eyes. We were driving sixteen-hours home from Florida. “We just crossed the Ohio River. So, another two and a half hours,” he replied with a straight face. With my seat fully reclined, only sky and clouds were visible. We could have been driving the Autobahn for all I knew. But when I sat up, I spied a landmark, the KSU College of Podiatric Medicine. It’s less than ten minutes from our door. “Liar!” I laughed and gently punched him. “We’re almost home!” We’re almost home. But we’re not there yet. I need the reminder. Because lately, this world feels as cramped and crabby as a sixteen-hour road trip. No matter which side we're on, we're choosing sides and we're passionate about it. Some of us have lost trust in institutions and