How Often Do You Share?

Disclaimer:  I know that some may have concern that I’m writing on this topic because the anecdote is about my younger daughter.  I asked Peyton if she would be ok with me sharing this, and she told me that she would be fine with it.  In fact, her exact words were, “Everyone at school knows I see a counselor, because I’m not afraid of my mental health…”  (Only my kid.)

 

Every other week Peyton heads into the office of a counselor to chat about what’s been going on in her life.  And every other week I tease her going in with, “Don’t forget to tell her how awesome I am,” and coming out with, “Did you tell her how I awesome I was!”  I’ve said it to her for a year and a half now.  She’s knows I’m joking, and she laughs every time and replies, “We don’t even talk about you, mom!”  It’s become this ‘thing’ between us that cracks us up.

This last visit as she got into the car, we did the routine.  You could’ve blown me over with a feather when she said, “Actually, yes I did.  I told her how you helped me with something I was struggling with and it was nice.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond….except in true Erin-fashion, “YES!!!!  I’M AWESOME!” which of course had us both laughing.

Truth is, in my heart I was truly happy that she had talked about me positively.  Whether selfish or not, I adore my kid and would do anything to help her.  I loved that she had vocalized that to someone else.  I wonder if God feels the same way.

There are times where, sadly, I don’t take opportunities to share Him with the people around me.  I get busy or distracted and the chance to witness to someone about His love passes me by.  When I share the Good News, does He get excited because it finally happened?!  Is He surprised that I actually said something?

He directs us to be telling the world about the gospel and His Son’s sacrifice, and I get sidetracked with chatting about what was on TV last night.  I don’t want it to be this way.  I desire for my conversation with Him to be not “did you FINALLY tell her how much I love her” but rather “who did you tell how much I love her” because He’s not astonished that I actually spoke up.

I would encourage you to be bold in your words about Jesus and His sacrifice.  Share and share often!  Don’t let days or weeks go by without telling the people around you about a love that knows no bounds.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Come to the front porch and share your own stories!

~Erin

The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

The Outsider copy

The Tracking System

When you think of someone working from home for their full-time job, you probably think of a person lounging in their pj’s and slippers, 2½ days into their no-shower streak.  Perhaps they’re slowly drinking that steaming mug of coffee as they casually peruse their emails.  They check out a quick half-hour of the news while scanning what’s on their to-do lists.  No real accountability.  No real focus.  Just an awesome opportunity to be able to be at home while everyone else is head-long into their hour commute.

Well, the pj’s and slippers describe me fairly accurately.  To complement by hobby job at the bakery, I work full time for a hospital in Wyoming.  I’ve worked for them for six years, and I love it.  But three years ago, I made the move to California and I thought I was going to have to find a new job.  Except I didn’t have to.  My boss opted to send me with my work equipment and here I am, three years later, in my pj’s and slippers (and yes, I’m drinking that coffee as well) working from home.

We were recently told we have a new time-tracking system being installed in our computers so that the hospital can monitor what we’re doing with our time.  It’s truthfully a genius idea to make sure people aren’t just watching YouTube all day instead of working, but it really got me thinking about how much work I actively do.  And even more important, what if God tracked our work this way?

Bear with me a moment.  I know God knows and sees everything we do, just like I know that the hospital sees my final work done every day.  But what if we KNEW God had a tracking system that monitored how faithful we were to sharing the gospel with friends, co-workers, strangers, neighbors?  What if He was checking to see if we served the orphans, the widows or the less fortunate?  Or how about our attitudes—what if the checker determined how many times we were short-tempered or didn’t give grace?  How well would we do?  Would He be seeing strong effort from us, or would He see us lounging around on break all day?

Please hear me when I say that I KNOW that the bible teaches that works do not save you.  But I believe that when we begin a relationship with Jesus, our faithfulness and devotion DO push us towards honoring God’s commands, which include loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and taking care of others (James 1:27, Psalm 82:3).  He teaches to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15).

I know when I look at it like that, I fall short far more than I meet the expectation.  I know that I need to be doing more to be told, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”   I shouldn’t be relying on a time tracker to make sure I’m doing the job.  I need to be doing it and doing it to the best of my ability every day.  God deserves that from us for what He did for us.  Today, I choose to raise the bar!

~Erin

Waiting for Something: The Case for a Puppy

My 8-year-old recently asked, “Why don’t we have a dog yet?”

Our family has been talking about getting a puppy for a couple years, but we’ve always had parameters associated with it.

As soon as we buy a house, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as I retire from the military, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as this or that is done, we’ll get a dog.

My son has had enough of the waiting and now just flat out asks why we are still stalling.

I tried to think of a way to explain to an 8-year-old using a Bible story.  Sarah waiting on a baby, offering her maid to her husband? Nope, not a good 3rd grader type of story.  Lazarus raised from the dead? Pretty complicated for the 3rd grader. Woman healed with the blood issue? Not sure I know enough about it to explain it….

It’s so hard to be patient waiting for something we desire! Often it’s difficult to be patient with God too.  What does it mean to “wait on the Lord”?

There are a couple of key components to waiting on God. The first is a complete dependence on God and the second is a willingness to allow Him to dictate the timeline.  Both sound easy. Neither are.

I find myself praying, “Lord, give me patience…like, now.  Yep, now is when I need the patience.”

Practicing patience with God often involves waiting. When we wait on the Lord, we are developing strengthened character in our Christian walk.  That patience showcases our ability to trust the Lord. It strengthens our prayer life. In some instances, it may strengthen our desire to be into the Word more frequently.

The timing of the Lord is always perfect.  We just have to wait patiently.

The timing of the Shade puppy will also be perfect. My son just has to wait patiently.

~Emily

The case for a puppy

Are You a Consumer Or A Follower?

I mark up my bible.  I’m one of those women that highlights, makes notes, and writes the day that I heard something profound for my life from the pastor.  I was taught to do it and saw it modeled from the time I was a little girl.  It doesn’t make my bible more special than someone else’s, but it does allow me to see what I’ve learned in my journey with God and shows my children that journey, as well.

Recently, I was reading through John and I came across one of those notes.  In this particular note, I didn’t mark who preached about it, but the thought intrigued me and I wrote it down.  In John 6:1-13, he tells the story of being with the disciples and feeding thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  In the middle portion of the scripture (verses 14-65), John goes on to talk of Jesus walking on the water and then Jesus speaking to the crowds about how He is the Bread of Life.  At that point, the bible says that many disciples left.  But a few stayed…THE disciples.  In verses 68-69, Simon Peter (having been asked if they want to leave as well) says to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.  We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.

The first series of verses show the consumers of the gospel, but the last part of the verses show the followers of the gospel!  What a profound way to look at this.

In the beginning, we’re all consumers.  We don’t know Jesus, but maybe we check out a bible-believing church because we’re curious.  Possibly a neighbor or a friend talks to us about having salvation.  Any way we find out about Jesus, we are consumers of His word.   But what we DO with that is up to us.  We can continue to be consumers, going to a church and hearing the Word or listening to Christian music or reading a devotion, but never really digging in and fully committing to Christ.  Or we can be followers of the gospel, dedicated to following His commands and reaching out to others in service and discipleship.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be just a consumer.  I want to be a true follower!  Join me today in making the commitment to letting go of a consumer lifestyle when it comes to Jesus and instead becoming a follower of Jesus.

~Erin

Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

Roots of Bitterness copy

 

Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth