Monday, December 9, 2019

What is Christmas?

Lots of things are attached to the real Christmas. It is like a Chinese box set. You take it apart piece by piece until you get to the center.

There are so many traditions. Eating special food. Family gatherings and eating more food. The smells of the season. Christmas trees. Baking cookies. Soapy romantic comedies like my favorite; While You Were Sleeping, set in Chicago with Sandra Bullock.

The sounds of Christmas. The rustling of paper as presents are wrapped. The joy of carols being sung. The doorbell ringing. The warmth of Christmas with decorations everywhere. Christmas parties and gatherings.

Christmas unfortunately in its outer box has lots of pressures and expectations but not much of a core. It is an empty box. So after all the food and the festivity, the presents are unwrapped and you have that feeling. Something is off!

That is because you need to keep taking the Russian babooshka boxes apart until you find the real Christmas. Download a Bible and Read Luke, chapters one and two. It relates the story not so well known these days of Mary, Joseph and their trip to pay taxes in Bethlehem.

While they were there in the city of Bethlehem she brought forth her baby and he was called Jesus. She "wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger..."

Meanwhile shepherds in the field were guarding the sheep when "...the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them: And they were afraid."

There is much more inside the last box for you, but you must take your time and think about this story. What is Christmas? Or should the real question be —

Who is Christmas?

Friday, December 6, 2019

What Christmas Actually Means

God is after you. He knows where your story is. He knows your deepest needs, longings and hurts. He knows you feel far away. 

BUT..... His love is infinite. He does not want to punish you for the wrongs you have done. He wants to forgive you for every single thing.

Jesus as a baby with Mom and Dad, Mary, Joseph and the three wise men.
The Lord's love is relentless. He gave his only son, Christ Jesus, from heaven to earth. As a baby, Jesus grew up and went about doing good. He had no sin but was punished by death on a cross. His blood poured down. His side was pierced. In agony, he cried out... "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO!"

Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
Jesus died on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven. This is an amazing gift. No one else could give this gift because only God can forgive sins. As such we also need to forgive others too.

When you get a wonderful unexpected gift, your only response is to say, "THANK YOU!"

Jesus came down from heaven to this dark, dirty and estranged world. GOD WAS IN CHRIST RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF. Believe and receive this! For you will have the gift of PEACE within you. This is the proof of the Father's forgiveness and acceptance of you. 

Say this special prayer:
Thank you God for sending Jesus Christ of Nazareth to us. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross and shedding his blood for the forgiveness of all my sins. Thank you God that your love is relentless. I receive you Lord Jesus into my life. I am trusting you to save me now.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

More to Thanksgiving than just food

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it does not have to be complicated. It can be, of course, all about the food and how the table looks. Food is important and being together with family and friends is certainly an American tradition. A Thanksgiving prayer is also part of that time with families.

The psalmist writes in Psalm 95. 
"Let us come before his presence with Thanksgiving..."

When believers give thanks it is not a tradition and hopefully not meaningless. What struck me is that true Thanksgiving is from the heart and ushers us into the presence of God.

Years ago we were invited to a Thanksgiving party. The couple had been renting for a number of years and this was the first year in their own home. As we stood in a circle of family before the meal the woman offered the most heartfelt prayer to God for their home. Why do I still remember this years later? Because suddenly we were all in the presence of the Lord!

Well, back to the picture of family, friends, and lots of food on a festive table with all the best.
What if we changed that picture?
Maybe a fire burned up their home?
Maybe family is elsewhere?
Maybe the money is not in pocket to feed the children? Maybe the rent went up, the car broke down, etc. How could there be Thanksgiving in poor circumstances? It is very difficult without a good support system.

The church needs to reach out with compassion. This Thanksgiving, Verbo Family Services in Redwood City, CA will extend itself to feed 500 families. This is a faith work started by Pastor Orlando Cardona and wife, Patty, our president, shortly after they arrived from Guatemala.

Now the church has grown from a small space to a large rented and refurbished warehouse. This Thanksgiving the church will become a gathering for 500 from many places. 500 people will sit down together and hear a message of hope because when God is really present there is always hope and help.

Imagine... A family enters. A mother and her twin boys about five, and another girl about 8. They have no food at home so all that happens here, will be remembered by them. Will their hearts be filled along with their stomachs? Will there be many Thanksgivings going up to God in this place? Yes and Yes again!

Look around. The poor, the hungry, the lost are all gathered together to eat. Yes, to eat and eat lots of everything. They also will be fed in their souls.

This is a welcoming place, a healing oasis in a mountain of human need. And yet, there will be music, laughter, and joy from above as the church ministers to the real needs of the people in this place.

Happy Thanks Giving and May You Enter into His Presence!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Your Kids May be a Victim

Let's talk about the boy on the porch. You may have seen him as you drive by. He sits in the porch of shabby, small house that needs demolishing. The boy sits on that porch doing nothing.

It is after school and as you wait for the light to change, you wonder why he isn't doing sports and why is he just there, alone? All of your kids are in activities every day after school and the non activity of this boy who must be about 10 years old and this is bothering you.

There is a rumble in the alley next to the porch and you see some older kids in a fancy car. Not much to guess these are drug dealers. The music blares and they are acting manic. The boy on the porch looks up and seems to be watching the kids in the car.

You think to yourself; "This can't be good"! But is it any of your business? The boy needs help. Parents? Someone to care? But maybe he has no one at all who can help.

Then the thought startles you. The boy clearly is on his own. Rents have gone up. Mother must be working more than one job to make it. Just as the light changes, you, observing this scene, remember something.

It tickles at the back of your mind. There is a free camp for disadvantaged kids. What's it called?
You think hard and as the light changes, then it comes to you — TOUCHDOWN CAMP in Verbo, Redwood City! Something about sports and free for kids. I should google this, she thinks glancing back at the boy.

The boy watches the woman zoom by in her car and knows nothing except he will have to get off the porch and go with the gang in a couple of years. That's just how it is.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Joyce at Le Petit Manoir

Purpose and Latest News on Expansion

Joyce Dueker  |   Founder, Advocate, Evangelist of Project Lost Sheep.

 Sharon Lee and David Ronald helped shoot this video at the
Bay Club, Redwood Shores, CA.
Go to:

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Camp Nurture Leaders

Camp is coming very soon. With volunteers included there will be around 175 for the week of Touchdown Camp 15 in Redwood City, California.

When you first walk into camp, you see the children and their leaders, in a "LEADER" T-shirt. The children are usually subdued the first day but camp puts them in groups, each with their own leader.

Camp is well organized and so the children get settled in quickly.

There are return campers each year. In fact, Touchdown Camp is so well known in the community that no notices have to go out! People call the church and ask for dates of camp. This is a high point of their summer!

At the end of camp, each camper gets a backpack filled with school supplies!

As President, Patty Cardona pointed out recently camp is producing a "Legacy of Leaders".
Many of these leadership skills were learned as former campers came back to volunteer as teenagers. In fact, now, most of the volunteers are from former campers!

We are thankful for all that God has given to bless children and for creating a a legacy of leaders. Over 1000 children have received a free week of day camp.

Let's up the numbers!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Responding From the Heart

Do you ever feel that you are just repeating the same thing over and over again? It may be in your home, business, or church.

Now we all need a certain amount of sameness but when there is "nothing new under the sun'" something is wrong because there is always something new to say, do, and think if we are inspired by God's heart.

Recently our president, Patty Cardona, got inspired to offer a new five week Academic Kids Camp. This started in June and runs into July for five weeks.
See Events.

She responded to the requests of parents who knew their children needed tutoring help. And Patty feeling moved in her heart prayed and talked to others and this new thing has happened and is happening as you read this. Children are receiving 16 hours per week of academic help. 

Patty recently received the Inspirational Leader Award from Second Harvest Food in California. Patty has been coming up with inspired ideas for some time like feeding 20 families a week at church and many others. But, an idea is only an idea until there is confirming action and this usually starts with one person who gets others to come alongside and take action. A true leader will be inspired and then be able to inspire others.

Programs should not be cookie cutter because one size does not fit all. From Chicago, I learned the importance of meeting the needs of the community and listening to what those needs are.

How can you break out to new things in your life, business or in church? In all those areas, we need INSPIRATION from a creator God who is infinitely creative. 

From personal experience, I say we do not get inspiration on our own because the world is so noisey and full of input, I believe we do need to unplug. Will the world end if I do not check my messages x numbe of times a day?

How To Unplug
Go for a walk early before work or listen to some calming music. Get alone and stay there for a few hours or days without input from others. Tune into God. Above all, after this, listen to your heart. The path will open for you. There are new things for you!

The really inspired visions and ideas will become in time visible works that bless others.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Summer is Here

Here we have seasons. Spring doesn't just become summer. There are dramatic changes. One day or week, it seems summer is almost arriving and then temperatures drop and we are back in almost winter again and again.

Rather like life, sometimes it seems that things are going along almost without changing but underneath, there are always currents of change. A bit like the current stock market.

So, what is this about? We like that the weather have seasons. There is nothing constant and that is why we need an anchor, a rock, beyond what we can see to keep us in peace whatever the season is. And the only constant is that if we have found the Rock of Our Salvation, we know who is in charge no matter what changes hit.
God is our hiding place. He is the rock and our refuge in a dry and weary place. Lately, I have been spending more time resting inside my rock and less time trying to figure it all out.

Just yesterday, suddenly, summer came. It was only a trip to the post office but people were enjoying the sun and wearing not only lighter clothes but more relaxed postures. I knew as sure as anything that summer was upon all of us. No more coats and boots or rain gear!

It is time to rejoice in the new season ahead. Be with family and friends. Enjoy a vacation or make one with a picnic at a park. Listen to more music.

Smile from the inside of your heart.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Waiting for Spring

Here in the Northwest, where we live now, we do much waiting for Spring which came late in April this year.

In winter, I look out at my raised flower bed and it may have some snow. There isn't much to see and yet I know that under that bed I have planted bulbs that one day, they will appear.

Nature seems to be saying this year that spring will never come with February snow almost every day followed by cold and rain in March into April.
I wait and wait because from my former life in California. I expected Spring to start sometime in late February. Here it does not. We have something called seasons. Winter is real, long, and trying at times, especially when I gaze out of my kitchen window.

Last fall, we planted more tulip bulbs and unlike California bulbs, I did not have to refrigerate them. And to tell the truth, my California tulips never made much of a garden inpact. But here, nature seems to smile on tulips. Even an amateur, can plant the ugly bulbs and see great results.

Tulips are a marvel here... a kind of resurrecfion in glorious colors. God speaks in what we see in front of us. There is winter and there is death. But after that, there is so much more. Now in Spring, I look out my window and see a blaze of tulips. It is beautiful that the dead of winter has produced the glory of this Spring.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Working Together Is Not Impossible

It is one thing to read about the city and quite another thing to be in the city for a week, in the midst of a group of Christians from many US cities and beyond focused on changing the areas of the city's under belly.

I was acquainted on other trips with the Michigan Ave Miracle Mile, with hotels, high end stores, and the river. That was all I knew, and it was there in a hotel 13 years ago that I got called to Chicago.

This trip in July 2018, I was at Moody Bible Institute in a different area.

It was an adventure to revisit, living in a dorm, going to lectures and taking notes from people who were out to change the situation of the poor. Not by writing a check or visiting once a year, but actively engaging in the problems of the inner city.

However, it was not an intellectual conference for me, but much more, as God let me to experience the pain and the problems first hand on a trip to the emergency room after a fall on the broken cement. I have written more details, in the newsletter which is on-line, so please take a minute to check it out.

One thing we still need to learn is how to work together between groups of churches, and to walk in love together tackling big problems with little actions. If we are one body in the city and see ourselves as part of the whole body of Christ, we can make big advances. There is much interference to say Christians from various churches can't work together. I know from experience that we can.

At Moody, it was as if many parts of the body came together from all over the world, and one of the most moving times was when I was able to take communion together.

We are called to be salt and light. Together even Chicago can be changed!

I was reminded this morning, God hears and keeps all of the prayers. He has them all before him in heaven. Not one is lost.

We may not see answers for years but do not give up on your prayers for larger issues. Go on an adventure for God. Pray for your city. Dare to find friends from other churches and release prayers together for the wounds of the city.

God allowed me to feel the pain for Chicago. This is the start of the work ahead and I trust the findings of these people who welcome hope and allow us to give the vision. Like bridges over the rivers, impossible things are enabled because our God is limitless and we need to love each other to know the adventure God has for each of us.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Remembering 2018 - Being Thankful

It is easy to be thankful when things are going well but what happens when things go very wrong?

In California, you have to evacuate your home because of fires or maybe lose a home you have lived in all your life as in Paradise, CA.
What is happening in California is unbelievable. An entire city of Malibu evaluated and homes gone up in flames. So many evacuated with little warning in other cities. The dense clouds of smoke over many cities. Fear on every side.

How can anyone be thankful in the midst of all these things? Only by the discipline of giving thanks to God in all circumstances. I don't think the first Thanksgiving was a pretty picture.
The people were only in survival mode and they were alive. Give thanks to God that they had food that day, and each other. Be Thankful.

If you know those who don't, express your Thanksgiving by giving to the poor. Serve food at a shelter. If you are rich, be aware that richness will fade away like a wild flower. What you have is temporary. Become a benefactor in a cause you believe in.

It is not what we are doing that counts: it is the hearts' attitude. The road to being a thankful person is tough but wherever you are you can start to change in this direction in 2019.

God's Love

God is after you. He knows where your story. He knows your deepest needs and longings and hurts. He knows you feel far away. BUT.....

His love is relentless. He does not want to punish you for the wrongs you have done. He wants to forgive you every single thing.

His love is relentless so in the baby Christ Jesus, Gods son, came from heaven to earth. He grew up and went about doing good. He had no sin but was punished by death on a cross. His blood poured down. His side was pierced.

In agony he cried out.....
Jesus asked for your forgiveness for your sins from the cross. This is an amazing gift. No one else could give this gift because only God can forgive sins. When you get a wonderful, unexpected gift your only response is to say "THANK YOU! THANK YOU!"

Jesus came down from heaven to this dark, dirty and estranged world. GOD WAS IN CHRIST RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF. Believe this and receive this and you will have the gift of peace inside you. This will be the proof of the Fathers forgiveness and acceptance of you.

Thank you God for sending Jesus Christ of Nazareth to us. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross shedding his blood for the forgiveness of all my sins. I thank you God that your love is relentless and I receive you Lord Jesus into my life trusting you to save me now.