Speak Life! | James 3

Welcome to Real Life. Our words speak life or death.

Some things are better left unsaid,
which I usually realize after I say them.

My friend Sandy broke her leg. Her lack of mobility has been frustrating as she must rely on others to meet her needs. So, she begins each morning with her surrender prayer.

Help me be humble and grateful, Lord.  Keep me from acting ugly.  Guard my lips
Don’t you love it? Her prayer so practical. It’s easy to let ugly words fly as we face daily frustrations.

“The tongue is a fire” says James.[1] When we camp, evenings are spent around the campfire, eating s’mores, sharing stories, and watching flames dance. The campfire warms and cheers us. It's safe because it's controlled. But when fires rage out-of-control, like the ones in California, they destroy land, homes, and even taken lives.
So it is with the fire of our tongue. We can speak life or death. When our tongues are under control, they light fires of healing, peace, and love. The other d…

Do It Now! | James 1:22

Welcome to Real Life. Just do it!
We will never change the world by going to church. We will only change the world by being the church. –Unknown 
“If you’re waiting to do something for God, don’t wait. Do it now,” Pastor Schaeffer said in a sermon. His words ignited my spirit. I kept thinking God wanted me to start a women’s retreat. We were new at the church. When I asked, I discovered they didn’t have a women's retreat per se. Instead, they participated in a regional denomination retreat.
Retreats have impacted my life. The act of setting aside extended time to seek the Lord had resulted in breakthroughs, epiphanies, and a renewed sense of intimacy with my God. More practically, I needed a break from daily responsibilities to rest, reflect, and have fun with the girls, of course!

“Maybe God wants me to coordinate a retreat for the church,” I began thinking. “But I’m too busy now. I’ll do it when the kids are older.” However, after Pastor Schaeffer’s sermon, I contacted the church.…

The Pursuit of Holiness | Hebrews 12

Welcome to Real Life. What are you pursuing?
Run swiftly toward holiness,
for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 TPT Dark clouds gather. A storm brews. I try. But nothing I do-say-think seems good enough, pure enough for a holy God. Holiness feels daunting at times—like scaling One World Trade Center!

When I think this way, I'm caught in an old trap. I’m attempting holiness in my own strength. And it is impossible! It's also a form of legalism.
“Legalism is a matter of the heart, (legalism is) not obedience to God and radical love for others. Legalism is when we’re trying to earn God’s favor to be saved, not when we’re following Jesus because we’re saved by grace.”
 –John Piper[1] Legalism places us back on Mt. Sinai. The stormy mountain is ablaze. The ground quakes. God’s voice booms like thunder. “Please don’t speak!” we beg, trembling. “Who can stand before you?” In our own strength, we try. We offer endless sacrifices. But nothing removes the stai…

Ministry Spotlight: Rita Ballenger, Abolition Bakery

Welcome to Real Life! Join my conversation with… 

Rita Ballenger, Founder
Abolition Bakery

Mission: To raise awareness of human trafficking and to raise funds for organizations that serve human trafficking survivors.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
For the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
And to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”
Isaiah 61:1 NLT

I was shocked. I fully expected to hear about human trafficking in third world countries. Instead, I learned about human trafficking in our states, our city, and in every city!  Rita thought when she attended a human trafficking presentation by the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking.

Rita, how did Abolition Bakery happen?

After hearing the HT presentation, I immediately took their speaker training to promote HT awareness. At the time, I was enrolled in the Culinary Baking Track at Cuyahoga Community Co…

The Happy Place of Hardship | Hebrews 12

Welcome to Real Life. “Discipline yourself so no one else has to.” –John Wooden
Endure hardship as discipline. Honestly, I don't like this verse. Endure. Hardship. Discipline. Those aren’t happy place words. However, during a season of hardship, they earned a trophy in my heart.

Suddenly, life had grown difficult. It seemed terribly unfair. “Why?” I kept asking God. Just when things were getting easier. The kids were growing up. Dennis had left for his first year of college. Cal and I were homeschooling his final years of high school. I could breathe.

And then, BAM! My elderly parents needed assistance. They left Florida and moved in with us. Suddenly, I was drowning in pain. Emotional pain in grieving my parents’ loss of strength, health, and vitality. Physical pain as the added responsibilities stressed and exhausted me (and my back throbbed from lifting Mom). Spiritual pain as I vacillated between “If I had more faith, I could handle this” and “If God loves me, why is he allo…

Faith's Victory | Hebrews 11

Welcome to Real Life. Let’s talk faith.
Faith is like WiFi.
It’s invisible but it has the power to connect you to what you need.
–Unknown “I’m struggling with faith,” my friend told me. “I want to believe God. It’s not easy.” Perhaps you can relate. I sure can. The good news is we’re not alone. Most of us struggle with doubt from time to time. “Doubt is but another element of faith,” said St. Augustine of Hippo.

Hearing other faith stories can bolster our own. It’s the theme of Hebrews 11. But first, the chapter defines faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV We do not see God. Yet, we can be confident he exists. Though we don’t see his person, God leaves evidence of his existence all around us. Love, joy, and peace are all very real—though physically unseen. Their presence reveals a humanity created in God’s image. Physical evidence abounds as well. Sunset on the beach, the first flowers of spring, a baby’s smile…

The Power of Sacrifice | Hebrews 9

Welcome to Real Life. I'm thinking about sacrifice. A fitting topic for Memorial Day Weekend.
People who put themselves on the line and sacrifice their own safety for the greater good and for others, and anyone in any profession whose concern is the welfare for other people instead of the individual, are inspiring and important.
Chris Hemsworth  We’re a contradiction. In a culture averse to violence, it saturates our entertainment, and erupts all around us. Mass shootings are on the increase. Heroes emerge. Riley, a student at the North Carolina college.[1] Lori, a woman in the California synagogue.[2] Two ordinary individuals place themselves in harm’s way so others may live. We marvel at their bravery. In the same circumstances, would I be brave, selfless, willing to shed my blood?

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John the Baptist exclaims at first sight of Jesus. The crowd who overhears him understands the metaphor. For every year, the high priest …