Showing posts from 2019

We Belong Together | 1 Peter 2

Welcome to Real Life. I need you!

If we have no peace it is because
we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
–Mother Theresa[1]
I spent an hour talking to someone on the phone the other day. I know… a whole hour feels extravagant. I almost felt guilty. I could have done laundry, exercised, or worked on a project. But she and I hadn’t talked in a long while, both of us busy with work and family. After we hung up, I felt connected to her. It felt good!

Days race by. We work, study, go, and do. All the while, we're often surrounded by people and feel alone. We comment on social media. We text (to avoid an hour phone call). Time is precious. We’ve grown rich in belongings, poor in belonging.

And yet, we need to belong! God hard-wired us for relationships. You and I were born into a family. We are meant to exist within a community. From others, we learn, grow, and develop. Through others, we discover who we’re meant to be, what we love to do, where we shine, and where we don&…

The Reveal | Luke 1

Welcome to Real Life. Sometimes a pregnancy elicits mixed reactions.

“I think that carrying a baby inside you is like running as fast as you can. It feels like finally letting go and filling yourself up to the wildest limits.” –Author unknown[1]

“Have you heard?” the woman asks her neighbor, “Mary’s pregnant.”

“Joseph’s Mary? But they aren’t married yet,” her friend replies.

“Joseph isn’t the father. It probably happened in Judea while she was visiting her cousin Elizabeth, and away from her parents’ watchful eyes.”

“No, I can’t believe it. Sweet, innocent Mary?” the woman’s eyes pop. “Poor Joseph. What will he do?”

“Well, you know Joseph. He’s an upright man. He’ll deal with it quietly. I hope he finds a good, faithful wife who will appreciate him.”

God rarely arrives as expected. The king of kings didn’t enter a capital city with pomp and ceremony. He came quietly. As a helpless infant. Born in a humble village, to a young virgin, in a family lacking prominence—except in Go…

Just Ask | James 4

Welcome to Real Life. What do I need?

Dear Lord, As your humble servant 
let me prove to you that  winning the lottery won’t change me. Amen.[1]
“You don’t have because you don’t ask God.” This gentle chide in the book of James never fails to encourage me to pray. If you need something, ask for it. Easy-peasy. The Lord is handing out blank checks. So, I begin contemplating. What do I need? What do I want to see happen? 

But James’ next words give me pause.
When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:2–3 NIV Yikes! Motivation is key. Maybe the lottery prayer isn’t a good idea. God’s blank check comes with a caveat. What's driving my desires? Do I need a better car or just want a shiny, new, candy-apple-red one? Do I seek success in writing because I love to encourage people or has selfish ambition crept in? I usually begin with pure intentions, but along the way my focus easily shifts to me, me, me.

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 …

Today, If We Hear His Voice | Hebrews 3

Welcome to Real Life. In a noisy world, we tune out voices. Politician. Parent. Boss.

At the sound of her voice, I switched stations. Nancy’s  Revive Our Hearts program replaced Elizabeth Elliot’s when she retired. Young Nancy couldn’t match Elizabeth’s wisdom and experience. I tuned her out.
Fast forward a few years. I work at Moody Radio. Revive Our Hearts airs on their network. At work, when I heard Nancy's voice, I couldn't switch stations. I grew to love and respect her voice. I even traveled to Indianapolis to attend Nancy's True Woman Conference.

Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness.
Hebrews 3:7-8 NIV 1500 BC. Israel is perched at the border of the Promised Land. “Go! The land is yours,” says the Lord.
“But giants dwell in the land. They’ll devour us,” Israel resists. God rescued them from Egyptian bondage, parted the Red Sea, showered manna from heaven. None of it mattered…

Ministry Spotlight: Bob Hershey, Cleveland Pregnancy Center

Welcome to Real Life. Join my conversation with…

Bob Hershey, Executive Director
Cleveland Pregnancy Center

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
and that you may love the Lord your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
Deuteronomy 30:19–20 NLT

I’m a junior in high school. I’m pregnant. My parents don’t know. The man involved doesn’t care. Abortion seems to be my best option. What would you tell me? (This was my friend’s situation when we were in high school.)

First, I listen—well and with compassion. Then ask, “Are you certain you’re pregnant?” If not, we schedule an appointment to confirm the pregnancy.

If she is pregnant, we (CPC) help eliminate the crisis—not the child. Most women want to have their babies. But they can’t see beyond the crisis. They believe abortion is the only solution. “I was pro-life before I got pregnant. Now that I’m pregnant, I don’t know what to do,” many will say.

“What is abortion?” I ask.


The Cleansing Power of Grace | Titus 2

Welcome to Real Life. Our world sorely lacks grace. Lines are drawn. Judgment is swift. We hear without listening. Decide before seeking to understand.

While grace listens, understands, loves.
Grace issues a warning instead of a ticket. Grace wipes the spill with a smile. Grace likes us—even tired and crabby. Grace finds beauty beyond wrinkles.Grace hugs a rebellious child.Grace hears the hurting heart behind harsh words.Grace is a gift, never earned, most appreciated when least deserved.
We want grace, don't we? I want you to like me even tired and crabby. But we don't always want to give it.

“Grace isn’t fair. Evil people should be punished,” someone once told me. A terrorist falls on his knees, begs God’s forgiveness, and trusts in Christ. He doesn’t deserve grace. Until I see. I am the terrorist. I can be cruel, arrogant, ugly. None of us deserve it. That's grace.
When we don't get what we deserve that's a real good thing
When we get what we don't deserve