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Showing posts from 2020

God With Us | John 1

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Welcome to Real Life . Before he laid the foundations of the earth, God had you in mind! The beauty of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence! We usually start a story at the beginning. For this reason, John doesn’t begin his Christmas story in Bethlehem. Instead, he takes us back to the very beginning, even before the dawn of creation.  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.  (John 1:1,14 NIV Emphasis mine)  Jesus Christ is God! If we miss this, we will never fully embrace the miracle of Emmanuel. Our all-powerful God chose to inhabit the least powerful human form—a newborn babe. [1]  An infant is completely dependent on others for survival. He or she cannot speak, eat, or move without assistance. But does an infant have no power?  Does a baby do nothing? . . . Is it nothing that the baby opens such fountains of love in almost all the hearts around? Was not Jesus going to es

Why I Love to Decorate Our Christmas Tree!

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 Welcome to Real Life . O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree. How lovely are thy branches. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.   – Roy L. Smith Our Christmas tree isn't elegant or themed to match our d├ęcor. Rather, it's a cozy mix of eclectic ornaments spanning a lifetime. Many tell a story. This is a sampling. Our holiday season begins at Fred's Tree Farm. [1]  Our first time there, we left our infant son Denny with my parents to meet Terry's family at Fred's. Denny is now thirty-three. We've cut our fresh tree at Fred's Tree Farm every year since.  My brother Joe, a retired 82nd Airborne Army Sergeant, served in the first Gulf War—Operation Desert Storm. He bought me this Arabian Oil Lamp ornament as a souvenir. Each time I hang it, my heart swells with pride over my brother's military service. I thank God for protecting him in dangerous places! As a young mom, I served as a Care Group Leader in our church's MOPs (M

999: Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz

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Welcome to Real Life . Some stories, though horrendous, must be told.  People are still writing about the Holocaust? That was my first thought when my friend Michelle texted me this image of the book she was reading. Two previously unknown facts about the Holocaust piqued my interest. First, the transport was from Slovakia. As a daughter of Slovak immigrants, everything about Slovakia interests me. And second, the transport contained women, 999 of them, ages 16–36. As a woman, I was curious about their experiences.  The edict was announced February 28, 1942. In select Slovak cities, single Jewish females ages 16-36 were to report for three months of government work. Though disconcerting to Jewish parents, remember, this was new. There had been no transports to concentration camps. It was rumored the girls would work at a Slovak shoe factory. As anti-Semitism increased, some Jewish families considered this an opportunity to prove their patriotism and support their government. Few of the

Will You Lay Aside Your Crown? | Philippians 2

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Welcome to Real Life . A recent sermon reminded me of a question. We can't all be princesses. Someone has to clap when I walk by. -Anonymous Little girls often dream of becoming a princess. A few years ago, we encouraged women to embrace their identity as princesses by attending our Daughters of the King Retreat . In preparation for the event, I was preparing a devotional for a committee meeting. I fell asleep asking God what he wanted to say to these women. The next morning, I awoke with a question on my mind.  Will you lay aside your crown?  Retreats provide a much-needed break from responsibilities, as well as an opportunity to rest, have fun, and draw near to God. At this retreat, we sought to pamper the women like princesses. We decorated with jeweled, satin pillows, and crowns; each woman received a tiara; and a princess greeted attendees (photo below). Although we, the committee, are also daughter-of-the-King princesses, we didn't attend expecting to be pampered. We had

My Prize, My Pleasure, My Portion | Psalm 16

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Welcome to Real Life . It (real life) doesn't always turn out as expected.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass. –Anonymous  2020 has been the year of disappointments. Wedding receptions cancelled or downsized. Baby showers on Zoom. Hospitalizations (and even deaths) without loved ones near to comfort. Jobs lost. Businesses closed for good. Milestone birthdays with no big parties. So many trips cancelled. Sporting events minus spectators. Oh, how I miss the excitement of a crowd, the festivals, and celebrations! 2020 has taught us to appreciate community. In the midst of disappointments and cancellations, I take comfort in the words of King David.  Lord, you are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands. As people of faith, our richest treasure is knowing Jesus Christ. Because we placed our faith securely in Christ, we have a hope that reaches beyond the disappointments of this life. No virus can rob

His Treasure | Deuteronomy 7:6

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Welcome to Real Life . What’s in a name? “What you believe about yourself will determine the direction of your life.” [1] When you see Amazon , what comes to mind? It's probably the online retailer that carries everything from A to Z, right? Our name is our brand. It’s who and what we are. But more than that, it can be who we become. Amazon did not always carry 12 million products. They began as an online bookstore. Amazon grew into their name. Clearly, God recognizes that names are tied to destiny. For this reason, he sometimes renames individuals to align with their calling. Abram (exalted father) was renamed  Abraham (father of many). At the time, he had no child with Sarah. But Abraham would eventually become the patriarch of Israel. [2]   When the Lord first appeared to Gideon, he called him a mighty warrior . [3] At that moment, Gideon so feared his enemies he was hiding in a wine press. But with God’s help, Gideon defeated the Midianites and grew into his calling. [4]  

Can These Bones Live? | Ezekiel 37

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Welcome to  Real Life . Nothing is impossible with God! [1] “Son of man, can these bones live?” the Lord asks Ezekiel.  “Sovereign Lord, only you know,” the prophet answers. He’s afraid to hope. Israel had turned away from God. When they did, God removed his blessing and protection.  King Nebuchadnezzar's army marched in, overthrew Israel, and carried them away captive. “Our bones are dried up. Our hope is gone. We are cut off,” the Children of Israel cried from their captivity in Babylon. They were removed from their homes, their villages, their lives. They believed their nation was dead. But it's not over until the Lord says it's over.  The Spirit of the Lord transports Ezekiel from Babylon into the midst of a valley covered with dry human bones—the remains of a people long dead. It's an image of the nation of Israel. "Prophecy to those bones, Ezekiel, saying, ‘ Hear the word of the Lord. You will come to life! ’”  When he does, the prophet hears a

The Way of Love | Ephesians 5

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Welcome to Real Life . What does it mean to follow the way of love? “The way you just smiled reminded me of your mother,” Nora told me. She surprised me. No one tells me I resemble my mother. I take after my father’s side of the family. But Nora’s comment pleased me. Because my mother’s smile was bright, generous, and irresistible. You couldn’t help but smile in return. I want to follow Mom’s example, and smile as she did.  My Mother's Smile Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1–2, NIV  This verse used to intimidate me. Because I wholly focused on follow God’s example. All I could see were the many ways I fell short. Not surprisingly, I also struggled to believe God loved me. I didn’t think I was worthy of it. I tried following God’s example apart from knowing his love. It’s impossible! Over the years, God conv

More of God | Ephesians 3

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Welcome to Real Life . Do you want more? “All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” –Charles Schulz I am satisfied with too little of God. The realization struck me while reading Ephesians 3. And I pray that you… may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. I crave more. More of God. More of his fullness. More of his love. For a number of years, I downplayed the importance of God’s love. I didn’t think I was worthy of it.  Is anyone worthy?  So, I tried harder. I focused on my performance for God. Do this. Don’t do that. But we live from our hearts. When my heart lacked love, I was turning in a daily homework assignment for a grade, instead of writing God a love letter. Love is foundational. Every person needs love. That’s how God designed us. Only he can fully satisfy this craving.

Called to Be a Lifegiver! | 1 Timothy 2:15

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Welcome to Real Life.  Happy Mother's Day! In January, I was in church on a Sunday morning praying fervently that God would give me his message for the women of MUMs (Moms Uplifting Moms), our mother's ministry. I had been asked to speak at their Mother's Day Brunch. "Women will be saved through childbearing" popped into my mind. The entire verse reads, But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2:15 NIV Childbearing does not saves our souls. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Rather, childbearing saves us in giving us a powerful purpose and calling— Lifegiver! Since Coronavirus prevents large gatherings, my church ( www.gracecma.org ) recorded the message instead. ( Message Notes/Resources ) Go and be God's lifegivers!  Please consider sharing this with a mom who could use some encouragement. Thanks so much!  

Children of Easter Sunday Morning | Ephesians 1

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Welcome to Real Life . Death, where is your sting? “Some day you will read in the papers, ‘D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.’ Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal.” –D.L. Moody (1837–99) Will I die of Coronavirus? Perhaps like me, you’ve asked yourself this question. Daily, the death toll rises from this insidious disease. We stay home. We wash our hands. We work from home. We worship at home. What if it’s not enough?  “I’m ready,” I told my son on the phone the other day. God has blessed me with a wonderful life. I don’t want to die. I have much to live for! But if I die, I’m content. I am a child of God. He knows me. He loves me. He protects me. I rest securely in his hands. My Heavenly Father has already determined the day of my death. If I die from Coronavirus, then God allowed it and nothing could keep me alive. A

Coronavirus: Our Unexpected Journey

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Welcome to Real Life . Courage is not lack of fear, but facing the challenge despite the fear. “Why the halfling?” Lady Galadriel asks. “I don't know. Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I've found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid and he gives me courage,” Gandalf replies. Stuck at home due to the Coronavirus, my husband and I needed an epic film series to divert our attention. What better than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings ? As we began  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey , I recalled Tolkien wrote these books during World War II, a time of great fear, suffering, and death. The very woes we face in this pandemic. The tale begins when the wizard Gandalf hosts a battle summit in Bilbo’s home—without the hobbit’s consent. The dwarfs ar

Spring Cleaning | Psalm 32

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Welcome to Real Life . Coronavirus has us disinfecting every surface. But maybe we need to clean below the surface. The key to spring cleaning is to be ruthless!  Throw out anything and everything you never use.  (Or that may be incriminating. Burn, if necessary.)  –Josie Brown [1] Spring is awakening! On a recent Saturday, glorious sun rays burst through my window shattering the gray, dreary spell of winter. The sunshine warmed and delighted me. But it also illuminated the dirt and dust that hides on cloudy days. I was suddenly overcome by an urge to spring clean. (This happens rarely. So, when it hits, I go with it.) Later, the nightly news declared, “Spring cleaning is good for our mental health!” When our houses are less cluttered, clean, and organized we feel better, less stressed, and less depressed. [2] I was living the truth of it. My house was clean. My heart was happy! Spring is awakening! With it, comes Lent. Traditionally, this is a season of rep

Holy Ground | Exodus 3

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Welcome to Real Life.  Where do we find holy ground? Pochvalen bud Pan Jezis Kristus!  “Praised be Jesus Christ!” my father would proclaim in Slovak as he entered our childhood home. Na veky vekov. “For ever and ever,” we replied. “Amen!” he concluded. So be it!      _____ Nowadays, upon entering our house, we remove our shoes. Our home is our sanctuary. It is an intimate, private space and not a common thoroughfare. Some cultures consider this an act of respect.      _____ “Take off your sandals,” the Lord told Moses, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” At the time, the Israelites were cruelly oppressed as slaves to the Egyptians. “Save us!” God’s people cried. God heard. He cared. He chose Moses to deliver them. One problem. Moses didn’t know God. So, God introduced himself. He manifested in a bush aflame, yet not consumed. As Moses drew near to investigate, the Lord called out, “Take off your sandals.” Moses was standing on holy ground. He