Showing posts from 2018

The Miracle of Christmas | Luke 1

Welcome to Real Life. In the midst of this festive season, I long for the supernatural to invade my natural.  “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
—The Grinch He pulls aside the heavy curtain and silently slips inside. “Don’t hurry,” Zechariah tells himself. “Savor this. It may be the only time you enter this holy place.” His eyes survey the room, taking in the detail of resplendent gold articles. “Lord, you are present,” he whispers. The thought disquiets him. But then, he hears his fellow priests praying for him beyond the curtain. His courage rises. He approaches the altar and lights fresh incense. As its sweetness adorns the room, Zechariah is overcome by a sense that he is not alone. 

Zechariah serves as a priest in the Temple of the Lord. Though every priest is intimately acquainted with the building, not every priest has entered the Most Holy Place. Each morning and evening, a single priest is chosen by l…

Be Thankful... In All Circumstances

Welcome to Real Life. It’s November, the month of Thanksgiving.

I was young, only married a year, when my first husband left. When I told my mother, she cradled my hands in her own and said, “Peggi, we’re supposed to thank God in all things.” Then, she prayed and thanked God.

Definitely not the reaction I expected! 
God had prepared my mother's heart. She had been reading a book on praise and thanksgiving.[1] I felt immense relief at her reaction. Even a bit hopeful. And I sure did love my mom in that moment. She taught me the power of giving thanks . . . in all circumstances.
Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 NLT A thankful person is conscious of a benefit received.[2] Everything we have—life, breath, strength—are God’s gifts.[3] Let’s recognize them and be grateful.

It’s easy to give thanks for good things—sunshine, friends, weekends. Being thankful in all c…

Remain in Me | John 15

Welcome to Real Life. Where was God today?
“Prayer is a moment of incarnation—God with us.”
–Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life “Where was God today?” Anna wondered. She'd had a busy day working as a court reporter. That evening, when our group met for Bible study, she confessed she hadn’t thought of God all day.

Remain in me. Like Anna, I have yet to learn the secret of staying vitally connected to Jesus in the midst of busy days, weeks, months. Recently, I’ve been meditating on “I am the vine, you are the branches” passages in John 15. The timing was perfect. Because it was an especially busy month. Every day, I was running out the door, praying on the road, distracted by a flurry of activities. I needed Jesus more than ever. Repeating three simple words “remain in me” helped me stay connected to my God.

. . . as I also remain in you.Jesus’ words wrap a warm, fuzzy blanket around my soul. He’s with us. Not only on the days we’re aware of his presence. He’s with us on the running-out…

The Secret Life of Church Bells

Welcome to Real Life. Do you hear the bells?
“For bells are the voice of the church;
They have tones that touch and search the hearts of young and old.”
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me,” I sing out loud. Though I’m not in church. I’m walking down a street in my neighborhood. The church bell tower is ringing out a hymn as it does every evening at six. Hearing the bells takes me to my happy place.

The presence of church bells is a cool benefit of living in an old neighborhood. The church I attend meets in a newer building in the suburbs. It has a steeple sans bell tower. (Which is fine, by the way. I love my church!) But new churches don't usually have bells. Church bells seem better suited to past generations, my parents' generation. When summertime meant open windows and doors (before air conditioning closed them). Evenings on the front porch. People walked to church, the store, the ice cream parlor. And they hear…

Sin. Plain and Simple | Psalm 51

Welcome to Real Life. Others sin. I make mistakes.
Counting other people's sins does not make you a saint.
–Anonymous What is sin? Our definition tends to change with perspective. If you wrong me. It's sin. Plain and simple. Yet, I excuse the same behavior in myself. I may have been a little rude. But I’m tired and he aggravated me.

David sinned. Plain and simple. But he didn’t see it. He saw what he wanted and took it. It didn’t matter that what he took belonged to someone else. He was king of Israel, after all—the highest authority in the land.

Except, David didn’t hold highest authority. God does. He is King of Kings. No one is above God’s law. David could deceive himself. After all I sacrificed for Israel, I deserve to get what I want. That is, until God sent his prophet Nathan. The prophet told David a story.

Two men lived in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many sheep and cattle. The poor man had one small lamb. He raised it in his home w…

Come and Talk with Me | Psalm 27:8

Welcome to Real Life. Let’s talk.
Communication is depositing a part of yourself in another person.
―Author Unknown
“Hi. It’s me. I’m sorry we haven’t spoken in a while,” I told him.

“I miss you. I've been calling, but you haven't answered. I’m glad you did today,” he replied. I could hear the smile in his voice.

“Really? You called? I didn’t get your messages.”

“Have you checked your messages?”

“Um . . . guess not. Sorry! I didn’t mean to ignore you. It’s just life gets crazy. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to think, much less talk.”

“I know. But you’re here now. So, let’s talk. Tell me. What’s on your heart?”

We all desire to be known and loved. This happens in the context of relationships. But relationships can be difficult. They require time, energy, and commitment. Those resources can get stretched pretty thin in our busy world. We often hurt each other—at times purposefully, other times cluelessly. We withdraw. Drift apart.

It’s true with people. It’s true w…

Ministry Spotlight: Elizabeth Englehart, Titus 2 Mentoring Women

Welcome to Real Life! Join my conversation with Elizabeth on mentoring.

Elizabeth Englehart, Coordinator
Titus 2 Mentoring Women
Grace Church Women’s Ministry

They (older women) can urge the younger women 

to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home,
to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands,
so that no one will malign the word of God.

Titus 2:4–5 NIV

“I always wished I’d had a mentor.” After my youngest left for college, I began asking God, “What do you want me to do with this season of my life.” I wanted to be fruitful for God. I’m a wife of 29 years, a mother of four wonderful kids, and I have one incredible grandson. Mentoring has always been on my heart and mind. I always wished I’d had a mentor. Beth Moore became a type of mentor in that I did all her Bible studies. But I never had a formal or even organic relationship with an older woman of faith. And I really hungered for it. 
If I hungered for a mentor, I thought other women …

The Cornerstone | Matthew 21:42

Welcome to Real Life. “Everyone feels like an outcast.” –Lina AbuJamra[1]
“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”
(Matthew 21:42 NIV) Everyone else did it right. The workshop leader gave a writing prompt and five minutes to create. Then, one-by-one, she asked us to read our work. (Wait a minute. Did she say we’d be sharing?) Everyone else wrote a short essay—complete with beginning, middle, and ending. While I journaled disassociated thoughts and prayers inspired by the prompt. The class was kind when I read it. But I felt like the reject.

That feeling of rejection was small compared to others I've experienced. No doubt, you can relate.
Friends plan an event. You're not invited. Applied for a job. Didn't get it. They never even called.A book, article, writing submission is rejected—multiple times.The one you love left. Never came back.  What’s amazing is that God, yes God himself, can relate. Because thousands followed Jesus when he walked th…

Jesus is Alive! | Luke 24

Welcome to Real Life. Jesus is alive. I spoke with him this morning.
On the first Easter Sunday . . . “What are you two talking about?” the man asked.

We’d been so deep in conversation. We didn’t notice the stranger walk up behind us.

“You must not live around here. Everyone’s talking about it,” Cleopas answered.

“About what?” the stranger asked.

“What happened to Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet—no, he was more than a prophet. He spoke with the authority of a king. He opened blind eyes, raised the dead, even quieted a storm. Tell me. Who commands the wind and it obeys? And he spoke of God as his father. The religious leaders hated that. They accused him of blasphemy, arrested, and beat him. On Friday, they crucified him.

“We’re trying to make sense of it. I mean, Jesus Christ was so powerful. Why did he let it happen? We believed in him. We thought he was the One, the Messiah. Now he’s de-ad!” Cleopas's voice cracked. He wiped away a tear.

“That’s not all,” I continued for him.…

Flee Like a Bird | Psalm 11:1

Welcome to Real Life. There have been days when I’ve felt like a bird.
“Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.”
–Jenny Curran, Forrest Gump Alone on my porch, I sat watching a solitary sparrow perched on a wire. I was a young mom then, battling postpartum depression. I was home alone. My husband had taken our baby and toddler to a family graduation party. I normally love parties. But the thought of maintaining a semblance of normalcy was beyond me that day.

Sitting outdoors—feeling the breeze, seeing the grass, trees, and animals of God’s creation—heals my soul. It did then. It does now. That’s me, Lord, a bird alone on a wire. I told him. Somehow the image brought me comfort.

Birds are skittish creatures. Easy prey if not for their ability to vanish in an instant. My husband and I have recently become avid bird watchers. We’ve learned to keep absolutely still. Scratch your nose. They flee.
In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a …

Ministry Spotlight: Michelle Virnelson, Love INC

Welcome to Real Life. In today's Ministry Spotlight, join my conversation with . . .

Michelle Virnelson
Love INC (in the Name of Christ)
Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly,
for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.
There will always be some in the land who are poor.
That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11 NLT
Michelle, tell us about your position at Love in the Name of Christ.

I’m the Clearing House Coordinator as we partner with local churches to help people in crisis. Every person who calls Love INC for help eventually goes through me. We take their information and then I match them with resources to meet their need.

2019 Update:  Michelle is now Executive Director of Love INC Cuyahoga County.

How do people in crisis find Love INC?

They are often referred to us by their church, or an agency like United Way or Catholic Charities, and sometimes word of mouth.

Tell us more about the ministry.


The Sunshine Blogger Award

Welcome to Real Life. Happiness is being nominated for an award!

Why did you start blogging? To inspire. My blog is called Real Life. Some would say our work-eat-sleep-repeat existence is real life. And I guess it is, because survival is real. But I want more, don’t you? God’s planted this something more desire in our hearts.[1] Jesus came to give us an abundant life. That’s the life I’m talking ‘bout. My blog is a reminder, an invitation, an inspiration to an extraordinary Real Life in Christ.

Who is your favorite blogger? I’ve listed a few below. Most recently, the wife of a blogger friend launched her own “my life with girlie” blog about their special needs daughter. Her posts grow my heart.

What keeps you going and motivated? God gave me a passionate desire to encourage others. That’s why I write. I didn’t start writing until my late 40’s. So, my skills aint the best, and I get discouraged. Still, I love it. When I write, I enter that parallel universe where I lose all sense of time…

Grandma's Gift

Welcome to Real Life. Some gifts never stop giving.

“Peggi, can you come over?” my grandmother asked by phone. “I want to give you something.”

I was a young wife then. My grandmother, the once robust matriarch, had grown frail after a recent by-pass operation. As I entered her kitchen, I noticed a box and some newspaper on the counter. She opened a cupboard.

“Peggi, I want you to take my china,” she said. My heart sank. Her china was gorgeous. I loved it. I felt deeply honored. But accepting her gift meant closing the door of an era.

“No! Grandma, you’ll use these dishes again,” I protested, fighting to keep that door open. Oh, the culinary delights I devoured on these dishes while safe and warm in childhood’s womb. I picked up the sugar bowl. And I saw my younger self in a gaggle of siblings and cousins. We huddled around our treasure on my grandparents’ dining table in the basement. We sucked our index fingers, dipped them in the sugar bowl, and licked off the sweet crystals. Sugar…