Showing posts from 2017

Kneeling at the Manger (with Job) | Job 38-42

Welcome to Real Life. It’s Christmastime. So, I took Job with me to the manger.

Where are you, God?
Why are you punishing me when I did nothing wrong?

Why won't you answer me?
I just finished reading the book of Job. Through most of it, he questions God. With good reason, for God allowed Job to lose everything—children, wealth, health, respect.

Finally, in chapter thirty-eight, God speaks. He doesn't directly answer Job's queries. Instead, he throws down a few questions of his own.
Where were you when I laid earth’s foundation?Who kept the sea in its boundaries and said, “This far and no farther will you come”?Have you ever commanded morning to appear and dawn to rise in the east?Have you visited the storehouses of snow?Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?Would you condemn me to justify yourself? “I am nothing. I cover my mouth with my hand. I repent in dust and ashes,” Job replies.

My own response mirrored Job's. “I stand in awe. I am almost nothi…

Ministry Spotlight: Kamila Burgess, Building Hope in the City

Welcome to Real Life.  Today's post is the first in a new Ministry Spotlight Series. Join my conversation with . . .

Kamila Burgess, Refugee Program Assistant
Building Hope in the City

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33–34 NIV)
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your position at Building Hope in the City.

I work with refugees and immigrants. I manage The Hope Center, coordinate volunteers, and direct the Refugee Mentoring Program.

The Hope Center is a community center where we provide three levels of free ESL Classes (English as a Second Language) taught by Tri C. We also offer tutoring to those applying for U.S. citizenship. The Center is the only place that provides free childcare (nursery and preschool) so mothers can attend classes. These children have never experienced an…

Autumn in the Neighborhood | November 2017

Welcome to Real Life. It's autumn in my neighborhood. Chilly. Dark at suppertime. Winter is on its way. Before creation naps in blankets white and grey, the leaves wave their vibrant farewell!
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

One of Those Days | Colossians 3:15-16

Welcome to Real Life. I awoke this morning tired, sad, and mean.
“I've had the sort of day that would make St. Francis of Assisi kick babies.”
― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul I'm having one of those days. Actually, two of those days. Yesterday, wasn’t great either. I made some stupid mistakes at work. Then, last night, I offended my husband. He went to bed without speaking to me.

If I felt brave enough to face the mirror, I’m pretty sure I'd find an “F” for failure scrawled in permanent marker across my forehead. I'm ready to quit everything and hide in a corner of my attic.

Instead, I grab a cup of coffee, sit at my desk, and open my Bible. (Thank God for deeply ingrained routines.) The first verse I read is,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:15 NIV) “How can I let your peace rule when I feel so unpeaceful?” I ask my God. As I'm writing the question …

Imagine Jesus | Gospel of John

Welcome to Real Life. What’s God like? My late friend Bob pictured him as the bald “Mr. Clean” from the detergent bottle.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. –A.W. Tozer
Jesus Christ. He’s my savior, my friend, my God. I know him. But not well enough. I want to know him better. Though I’ve never seen his face, I will one day.

John saw his face. As apostle and intimate friend, he knew Christ as well as a person could. In his Gospel, John uses imagery to help us know Jesus too.
WORD In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1, 14 NIV) Words express reason and thought. Our words reveal who we are, what we’re like. We think in words; our essence is the sum of our thoughts. As a writer, words are my medium. Words holds power to infor…

Unwelcome Guest | Nehemiah 13

Welcome to Real Life. Not every guest is welcome.

Perched on death-defying cliffs. Walls three-feet-thick. Moats lined with razor-sharp objects meant to maim. I toured five castles in Slovakia last month.  Unlike Disney's Cinderella castle, these fortresses were designed to repel enemy invaders.

Jerusalem's city wall provided such fortification. Empowered by God, Nehemiah and the remnant Israelites rebuilt it in a mere fifty-two days. (See previous post, Ask Boldly). However, upon his return from reporting to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah received disturbing news.
"I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room. Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense" (Nehemiah 13:7-9 NIV). Eliashib welcomed in the very enemy Israel built a wall to keep out. T…

Ask Boldly | Nehemiah 1-2

Welcome to Real Life. I’m amazed by those who ask boldly.

“Buď tak dobre . . .” my mother would begin in Slovak and then pause with a mischievous grin. We knew what was coming. Translation: Be so good as to . . . Mom was about to beg a favor. She wasn’t shy about asking. Anita told me this anecdote at her funeral.
“Once I called for your sister. Your mom told me she wasn’t home. But then she asked me to come over and drive her to Bingo. Of course, I couldn’t refuse your mom.” I thought of Mom as I read Nehemiah. He, too, made bold requests, though a bit more serious than a ride to Bingo. His story begins with sad news. A group just returned from Jerusalem. Nehemiah asks for an update. They give this report.
“Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”[1] Stunned, Nehemiah sits and weeps. For days, he mourns, fasts, and prays.

Nehemiah is cupbearer to Artaxe…

What Pleases the Lord? | Ephesians 4-5

Welcome to Real Life. The best gifts come from the heart.

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:10, NLT
In my early years of marriage, I found it difficult to buy gifts for my mother-in-law. Though she graciously received them, nothing thrilled her. Her daughters’ gifts, however, never failed to make her eyes shine. Over time, I came to understand what pleased Mom. Her favorite gift: a dinner-date with her son. She really didn’t need one more pretty thing. Time with her only son was a precious gift.

What gifts make my Father-God's eyes shine? Maybe it's easier to start with what doesn't please him. Let’s stop lying and stealing. Let’s get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among us. (Ephesians 4:25, 28, 31, 5:3).

I often write about love and grace. God’s love is unconditional. His grace is bottomless. I can’t get enough of either. This doesn’t mean God’s okay with sin. He’s not. The kingdom of Ch…

Sweet Simple Faith | Galatians 3

Welcome to Real Life. I’m pretty good at complicating simple faith.

“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”  (Galatians 3:3, NIV, 1984)
In the weeks leading up to the writer’s conference, I was preparing like crazy. For at the conference, I'd have the rare opportunity to meet one-on-one with publishers, agents, and editors to tell them about my book, Do You Really Love Me, Lord? It’s God’s story really. The story of how he convinced me of his unconditional love.

I thought if I could craft the perfect pitch, maybe I could interest a publisher. I was feeling the pressure. I have to make this happen!

Or, do I?

While preparing for the conference, I was also reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians. They had come to sweet, simple faith in Christ. Then, some rule-keepers infiltrated espousing a new message: Do you really think faith in Christ alone will save you? Paul’s wrong. You must be circumcised. You must keep the Jewish law. You …

Come Home to God | 2 Cor. 5:19-21

Welcome to Real Life. Is God mad at me?

“The grace in God’s heart is always bigger than the sin in my life.”
–Pastor Jonathan Schaeffer
While listening to Moody Radio the other day, I heard a man named Julian call in and tell the program host, in tears, “It’s time. I want to come home to God.”

Julian knew God. He believed in Christ as his Savior. Earlier in life, he had walked with God, attended church, and prayed. But, somewhere along life’s journey, Julian walked away.

Far from God, Julian had become addicted to cocaine. His life was crumbling. He knew he needed God. So, he began looking for a way home. He turned to Christian radio.

Along with thousands in Radioland, I listened as Julian prayed with the host. I witnessed his homecoming. It was holy ground. Julian wasn't the only one in tears.

Are you and God at odds? Do you think God is mad at you?

As a young woman, I lived far from God. Though I believed in God and attended church, I did not know him. My heart was far from him.…

Love Never Fails | 1 Corinthians 13

Welcome to Real Life. What drives me? There is only one pure motivator.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. –Charles Schulz
February is the month of love. No one would deny that love is real. Though, you can't touch it. Love is both noun and verb. It can be hard to define. (I tried once: What is Love?)

God is love.[1]It is the sum of his character. He is the author, creator, originator of love. I am His child. Do I take after my Father in heaven? Is my life characterized by love? Are my actions motivated by love?

1 Corinthian 13 is the chapter of love. It begins by examining motivation. After all, isn't that where every action begins? Recently, after reading it, I wrote my own paraphrase, to help me get a better grip on love.

If I fill endless blogs with my thoughts about God and Real Life, and
If I teach, mentor, parent, tweet, post, and discuss,
But I do so to be heard, to fill my need for significance, or prove I am right, and
Not because …

Only God Can Make a Tree | 1 Corinthians 3

Welcome to Real Life. Who do I follow?

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.(1 Cor. 3:6)
It seems we cannot help but idolize people. A popular TV show held a competition to see who would become the next… American Idol. A vocalist, actor, or athlete tends to garner the largest fan base. My Cleveland's superstar athlete, LeBron James, has 34 million followers on Twitter. However, at the moment, our nation is most deeply divided over whom we follow politically. Who will save America?

The church is not exempt. Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and C.S. Lewis are a few of our favorite mega-saints. Those whose lives inspire most are most admired. Many of us follow (i.e., attend the church of) the pastor we hold in highest esteem. In California, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is attended by 22,000 weekly.[1]  We further divide allegiance to Christ by denomination—theological camps formed by men.

Early on, the first century church also followed their favorites. Bel…