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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

God Wants Us to Know Him | Hebrews 8

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Welcome to Real Life . Relationships matter! It’s not what you know that will get you places. It's who you know. –Proverb I work for an international firm with thousands of employees. I know the name of our CEO. But I don’t know him personally. We’ve never met. He works out of our office in Athens, Greece (which is a bit of a drive from Cleveland). If perchance we passed in an airport, I might recognize him from photos. But he wouldn’t recognize me. He doesn’t know me. I simultaneously work for a massive corporation with offices in every city around the globe. When I joined the firm, I met our CEO. Though he runs a universal network of millions, he always takes my calls. In fact, he encourages me to reach out to him often throughout the day. He knows my name. He also knows my husband and kids, my favorite ice cream, my allergies, and the deepest secrets of my soul. Whether you’ve met him or not, God knows you, too. The God of the Universe knows you. Let that sink in a minute. What

Why? | Hebrews 4

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Welcome to Real Life . Why do we do what we do? Praca nie je zajac. Neutekuje. Work is not a rabbit. It will not run away! –Slovak Proverb I am always busy. There is much I want to do and feel I need to do. “Why?” I sensed God’s Spirit whisper when I finally slowed down to spend time in his Word today. I try to seek God early. Because once I get moving, it’s hard to stop and quiet my heart before him. That is exactly what happened today. I did a hundred little things before I finally sat down and opened my Bible at noon. When I did, I read this. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13 NIV) It’s no accident that on the day I delayed opening God’s Word, he reminded me of its im