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Showing posts from 2014

Christmas: A Savior Has Been Born

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Welcome to Real Life. Not long after I surrendered my life to Christ as a teenager, I ran into a friend in the school cafeteria. She asked, “What’s new?”

“I got saved,” I said.

“Saved from what?” she replied.

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Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
At the launch of Jesus’ public ministry, he stood in his local synagogue and read these words from the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
[1] Then, Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

At that time, the nation of Israel was living under the oppression of the Roman Empire. When Jesus announces that he is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, his neighbors respond with incredulity. Isn't this Joseph’s s…

A Grateful Heart

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Welcome to Real Life. Earlier this month, I was out walking. The cold wind hit my face. Without thinking, I quoted the opening lines of a poem my mother used to say,
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind as man's ingratitude.”–William Shakespeare
She memorized it in high school. For some reason, it stuck. On a cold winter day, when the wind hit her face, the words resurrected from her memory.

My mother was known for her grateful heart. It’s funny, I never considered a connection to Shakespeare’s words … that is, until now. For, a few minutes after saying the lines myself, my thoughts turned towards Thanksgiving. It’s November, after all.

Thanksgiving is a holiday of gratitude. During the pilgrim’s first winter in Plymouth (1680-81), more than half their number died of starvation and disease. One year later, at fall harvest, Governor John Carver called for a special celebration to thank God for his provision of food, adequate shelter, and a critical friendship forge…

A Few Simple Words

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Welcome to Real Life.  Sometimes, a few simple words can be so much more.
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“I love that shirt on you. Is it comfortable?” Mom asked.
“Yep, it feels great,” I replied.

“You know, I like comfortable clothes. And if they look good, well, that’s even better.”

Simple words. A normal conversation. Yet, on this day, a normal conversation with my mother felt extraordinary. It had been a long time since we shared one.

My mother’s health was quickly deteriorating. As her body was breaking down, so was her mind. Her confusion poured out in fearful questions, “Where am I? Why do I feel so sick? When can I get out of here? Where’s Daddy (my father)?”

For months, a normal conversation had been beyond her ability. But, on that Friday afternoon, she and I were like two girls at a slumber party. I climbed into her bed, laid down next to her, and we chatted.

“We’re going camping this weekend. So, you won’t see me until Sunday.”

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Pymatuning State Park. On the …

They Misspelled Our Name

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Welcome to Real Life. How would my dad adjust to my mom’s death? They were so close, inseparable later in life.
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Before my mom passed away, she assumed we’d visit her grave often. “It’s near the shopping center. You can stop by to see me before you buy groceries,” she used to say, as if we were going to sit down for coffee and donuts with her at the cemetery. But, after she died, the thought of going to her grave made my heart ache. So, I didn't go.

However, as summer was ending, I felt an obligation to take my father to the cemetery before the weather changed. I knew that if dementia had not impaired his memory, he would have asked me to take him. I decided to ask him, “Do you want to visit Mom’s grave?”

“Momma zomrela (died)?” my father asked in Slovak.

“Yes,” I answered.

“How long?”

“Nine months.”

It’s hard to know how much Dad remembers. He knows Mom is gone. She no longer shares his room at the nursing home. I posted her obituary near his bed, to help him remember. …

Israel Had No King | Judges 18-21

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Welcome to Real Life. Who am I following? Who am I leading?

Iraq and Syria, lacking stable leadership, have been overrun by ISIS. Lawlessness reigns. It took a horrific act—the beheading of two journalists and an aid worker—for the world to take action to stop the Islamic State.

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 17:6 and 21:25
Also in the Middle East, some 3000 years ago, during the time of the judges, the nation of Israel was degenerating into a state of lawlessness. Israel had no king. For, God himself was to be their king.[1] However, theocracy can’t work if God’s people walk away from him and his laws and create their own rules. As with ISIS, it took a horrific act to rally the nation of Israel to action.

Judges 18 The tribe of Dan abandons their appointed inheritance. They attack the peaceful, unsuspecting people of Laish, burn the city, and settle there. They steal a man’s pagan idols to set up their own worship center, disregarding the hou…

Samson Steps Over the Line | Judges 13-16

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Welcome to Real Life. Samson—he’s a larger-than-life Bible character endowed with super-human strength. But, even Superman had his kryptonite.

As Samson comes of age, he falls for a Philistine woman. Here the trouble begins. At their wedding feast, he makes a bet tied to a riddle to gain a new wardrobe. Samson unfairly losses the bet. To pay his debt, he strikes down thirty Philistines. The offenses escalate until his bride is dead and—endowed with super-human strength—Samson takes out 1000 Philistines with a donkey's jawbone.

The good news:  Israel is free from 40 years of Philistine oppression! Samson rules as judge for twenty years. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end here.

Samson has a weakness for Philistine women. He's smitten with Delilah. Under duress from the rulers of the Philistines, she relentlessly prods Samson to reveal the secret of his strength. Finally, he can take no more. He spills the beans.
No razor has ever been used on my head. I am a Nazarite set ap…

Jephthah's Vow | Judges 10-12

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Welcome to Real Life. Our parentage affects us, for good and for ill.

His mother was a prostitute. Because of this, Jephthah’s brothers drove him out of his father’s home in Gilead. He settled in Tob. There, he grew into a mighty warrior with a following of angry young men.

When the Ammonites attacked, the men of Gilead needed a mighty warrior. They called on Jephthah. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he went out to meet the Ammonites in battle. But first, he made a bold and foolish vow:
If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.[1] Israel won. But, it was not due to Jephthah’s vow. God is sovereign. His will is not dependent on man’s promises. No, God had already raised up Jephthah to deliver Israel.

When Jephthah returned, his virgin daughter—his only child—came dancing out to meet him. At this point, he could have humbly admitted he made a r…

The Lord is With You, Mighty Warrior | Judges 6 and 7

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Welcome to Real Life. Have you ever been called to do something way over your head?

“But, Lord, how can I save Israel?” Gideon asked.
Again, the Israelites did evil, removing themselves from God and his protection. This time[1], the savage Midianites invaded. God’s people were so afraid that they hid in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds. Finally, after seven years of misery, they cried out to the Lord. He sent help from an unlikely source.

Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress (to hide it from the Midianites) when the angel of the Lord appeared and said, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.”

“Really? If God’s with us, why has he abandoned us into the hand of Midian?”

“I’m sending you, Gideon, to save Israel.”

“But, Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”

“I will be with you,” the Lord answered. We’ll do it together.

The Midianites and all their allies joined forces to attack Israel. They lay as thick as locusts over…

Deborah | If You Go, I'll Go | Judges 4-5

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Welcome to Real Life. If you go, I’ll go. Have you ever been afraid to walk into an unfamiliar situation alone?
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Under Joshua, Israel had conquered and occupied much of the Promised Land of Canaan … but, not all of it. Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites remained. After Joshua’s death, the Israelites intermarried with these foreigners. And, soon, the people of God were bowing to pagan idols. Because they had removed themselves from God and his protection, the Israelites were conquered and oppressed by one enemy after another. In their misery, they cried out to the Lord. He raised up judges[1] to lead his people back to physical and spiritual freedom.
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“I’ll only go, Deborah, if you go,” said Barack, the commander of Israel's army.

Israel was firmly held under the grip of Jabin, a Canannite king. Israel's judge, Deborah, had called for Barak and given him this order from God: Take 10,000 men to Mount Tabor. I (God) will lure Sis…

Choose This Day | Joshua 24

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Welcome to Real Life. Every hour of every day, I make choices.

"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." ~Nelson Mandela
Many of my choices have turned into habits, things I do without thinking: make my bed, brush my teeth, make coffee. Some are no-brainers: I need clean clothes, so I do laundry. The fridge is empty, so I buy groceries. Some are preferences: I feel like wearing pink. And then, there are the days when I make life-altering decisions: On March 5, 1983, I married my husband.

On this day in Israel’s history, Joshua calls the Children of Israel to make a life-altering decision. He’s old—110 years—and ready to die. He completed his mission. Israel has taken possession of the Promised Land. As Joshua prepares to leave this world, he calls the nation's leaders to assemble before God at Shechem. First, he reminds them of their history:
Long ago, our forefathers worshiped false gods in Ur beyond the Euphrates. From there, God called Abraham to father …

Commander of the Lord’s Army | Joshua 5

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Welcome to Real Life. Whose side are you on?

Joshua is ready to launch the campaign for the Promised Land. First stop: Jericho, a walled city, difficult to penetrate. The Israelites had no experience attacking a fortified city. It didn't matter. The victory was theirs. The Lord promised. They just had to show up. As Joshua neared Jericho …
He looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15)
This is no mere man. When Joshua encounters the commander of the Lord’s army,[1] he hits the dirt, face down, in reverence. He’s on holy ground.

Be Strong and Courageous! | Joshua 1

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Welcome to Real Life. Do you need courage today?

On the morning I began to read the book of Joshua, I woke up feeling anxious. I have suffered through a few bouts of anxiety/depression in my adult life. Lately, I’m battling it again. In the words of Dr. Timothy Keller, “I’m addicted to a high level of productivity.” I pile on projects and responsibilities until I overload. Then, I feel overwhelmed, anxious, can't sleep, etc. I've learned to view these symptoms as God’s check in my spirit: It’s time to back off and chill out, Peg.

As I read God’s encouragement to Joshua, I knew his words were for me as well:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”(Joshua 1:9 NIV). Joshua was justifiably anxious. Moses, the awesome prophet—who stood up to Pharaoh, called plagues down on Egypt, and led Israel out of bondage and across the desert wilderness—just died. Joshua had served as…

The Prodigal Son | Luke 15:11-31

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Welcome to Real Life. We call it “The Prodigal Son.” However, the parable is really more about the father. The religious leaders were accusing Jesus of welcoming sinners. He tells this story to help them understand the heart of our Father God.

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It’s been a long day. I’m tired. Since Peter left, most days feel long. Without my son’s help, my workload has greatly increased. But, my exhaustion is more emotional than physical. I ache for Peter. Will I ever see him again? Where is he? He should be home, here, with me. I have so much to say, to teach, to give him. How do you love a child so far away?

Peter’s departure didn't shock me. I sensed his growing discontent. But, it was his demand for an early inheritance that gauged a hole in my heart. He might as well have said, “I wish you were dead, Father.”

I begged Peter to see the folly of his decision. He left anyway. How do you force an adult son to change his mind, to stay home, to love his father? It’s impossible. Love i…

Entitlement vs. Duty | Luke 12 and 17

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Welcome to Real Life. Does God owe me?

Recently, an 18-year-old sued her parents for child support and access to her college fund:
Canning, an honor student at Morris Catholic High School, claims her parents threw her out of the house and would not support her beyond her 18th birthday unless she gave up her boyfriend.[1] She lost the first round in court. That the case even went to court marks a cultural shift. Legally, an 18-year-old is an adult. An adult is responsible for his or her own financial support. This was generally understood decades ago. After I turned 18, I no longer expected my parents to foot my bill.

The world has changed. A college degree is more necessary today than ever before. Therefore, the need for parental support has extended into a child’s 20’s. However, this hasn't changed: parental support is tied to parental influence. When a child rejects a parent’s guidelines and expectations, should they expect that parent to fund their rebellion?

This mindset of e…

Rich Man and Lazarus | Luke 16:19-31

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Welcome to Real Life.
“You made many, many poor people. I realize of course it's no shame to be poor, but it's no great honor either. Now what would be so terrible if I had a small fortune?” –Tevye (addressing God), Fiddler on the Roof “Oh, I’m so hungry,” the man groaned, “Can anyone spare some money for food?” Recently, I visited Chicago for the first time and rode the “L” train in from the airport. A tall middle-aged man boarded and began to beg. Fear was my initial response. This guy’s either high or mentally unstable. Will he pull a gun on us?  Then, I prayed—for his needs and for our safety. 
At the next stop, a lovely young woman boarded. She sat directly across from the man. “Oh, I’m so hungry,” he began again. I watched the woman nonchalantly dig into her purse, reach across the aisle, and place a folded bill in the man’s hand. He thanked her and exited the train at the next stop.

"Who is this brave young woman?" I wondered. Whether fearless or foolish, her …

Love Sacrifices

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Welcome to Real Life. On Good Friday, we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. We do so knowing what's coming on Easter morning. But, the apostles didn't. Here’s how the events of that weekend might have looked through John’s eyes.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”[1]
I've never seen Jesus so visibly shaken. It scares me. So, I stay and try to pray. But, the hour is late. I fall asleep along with the other disciples.

I’m just beginning to dream when I’m awakened by angry voices and the light of torches. A mob is approaching. Can it be? Is that Judas leading them? What’s he doing? He greets Jesus as he normally does, with a kiss. Yet, something’s horribly wrong.

“Am I leading a rebellion,” my Lord asks, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”[2]
The guards grab hold of …

Noah | Genesis 6-9

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Welcome to Real Life. I saw the movie Noah. I heard the hype. Still, I wanted to see and judge it for myself.

Since the recent success of The Bible miniseries, Hollywood has rushed to capitalize on biblically-inspired movies. However, not every movie with a biblical reference is inspired by the Word of God. Such is the case with Noah. The director, Darren Aronofsky, considers the flood a myth. His film is inspired by his own childhood imaginings of the flood,[1] as well as the teachings of a mystical sect of Judaism known as Kabbalah.[2] Aronofsky calls Noah the least biblical biblical film ever made.[3]

In the biblical account:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with…

The Narrow Door | Luke 13:23-30

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Welcome to Real Life. How well do I know God? If I knocked on his door, would he open it?

Ten years ago, I accompanied my parents on a trip to their homeland, Slovakia. My father fled his country at the close of WWII to escape the incoming communist takeover by Russia. Some sixty years later, on the day we arrived in Slovakia, Dad was overcome with fear that somehow his past might catch up with him. That is, until we arrived at the home of his sister, Františka. The moment she opened the door and he saw her face, he lit up like a sunrise. He said, “I’m in heaven!”
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Do many doors lead to God?

Will all who die enter heaven?

“Will only a few be saved?” someone asked Jesus while he was teaching.

He answered, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Though they knock, no one will open the door. For, the Owner of the house won’t know them.

Does God know me? In one sense, God knows everyone for he …