The Anticipation

I finally got to see my friend again!

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a blog about my new friend, Mr. Parker.  For those who are new, let me link that blog here.  It was a chance meeting.  I was given an earlier seat on a connecting flight in February 2019, and a friendship blossomed in just 40 minutes from Birmingham to Atlanta!  Mr. Parker calls it divine intervention.  I agree!

We’ve been hoping the last several years to figure out a way to see each other in person again.  I was looking forward to meeting his wife and spending time together.  But between Covid and us living across the country from each other, it wasn’t possible.  I cherished every phone call we had talking about so many things, our families, the state of the country, the people we knew.  But we both wanted to be able to sit with each other again and see each other’s faces.  We both looked forward to the day that would happen. 

Two weeks ago, we got our wish, and I took Emily with me just a short drive down the road to have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Parker! When I walked into the restaurant and saw them standing there and got to hug both of them, the joy I felt from anticipating this long-awaited meeting was overwhelming. 

I have the same anticipation for another meeting—the meeting of my Heavenly Father.  I think to Paul writing to the Philippians.  He was imprisoned at the time and looking to encourage the church in Philippi.  He wrote to them about the gospel being preached and how he was trusting God even during the time he was in prison.  And then he says this of his situation:

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;” –Philippians 1:21-23

He longed to be with Jesus.  He anticipated his time in heaven, worshipping the God of salvation.  While he loved his family and friends and he loved the ministry, he recognized that to be in heaven bowing at the feet of the Father far surpassed any wonderful thing he could experience on the earth.

I want to be the same way, and as we study the book of Revelation, I’m reminded even more about the joy that will come from seeing the face of Jesus.  I want to thank God for creating me.  I want show reverence to Him for His sovereignty.  I long to worship with the heavenly host singing praises about the glory of the King of Kings.

As much as I want to be here enjoying my time on this earth, I long even more to see the face of Jesus.

I pray that as we celebrate during this holiday season, we anticipate not only the celebration of His birth but the face-to-face meeting we will one day have!

~Erin

Christmas Returning

Christmas.  One of my most favorite times of the year.  At this time of year, we celebrate the arrival of our Savior.  We often call it Advent.

Definition of Advent:

According to Merriam-Webster, Advent is a noun that is defined as 1) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting 2a) the coming of Christ at the Incarnation 2b) Second Coming.

This year, Advent started the last Sunday of November.  While we celebrate this initial arrival each year in December, as Christians we’ve been awaiting the second arrival.

At this second advent, every knee will bow to Him in honor and reverence. The believers will rejoice. We will celebrate this arrival with immeasurable joy.

Jesus said, “Occupy till I come” in Luke 19:13 (KJV).  In that He meant, we are to continue working for the Kingdom and making disciples while we await that return.  While it is easy to become burdened by our daily trials and tribulations, it is important that we continuously focus on the fact that our destination is Heaven…and Jesus will come to get us during this second advent. 

In this waiting, we also must exercise patience for that arrival.  I joke often that I can’t wait for Jesus’ second coming.  However, James 5:7 tells us to be patient until the Lord comes.  Several scriptures tell us to be alert and sober while waiting on His coming.  It’s so hard to be patient when we know the prize at the end of the hard work.

Are you still working hard for the kingdom?

Are you excited about the second advent? 

Or are you scared of it? 

No need to be fearful dear reader…as long as you have committed your life to Christ and accepted his gift of salvation.  If you are in doubt about what will happen for you or your family when Christ returns, please reach out to Erin or I…we would love to talk to you about accepting Christ as your Savior.

~Emily

Thanksgiving Humble Pie

Several years ago at a Thanksgiving dinner, an extended family member said an unkind comment to me that I still remember each year as I reach for dessert.  A couple of months ago, I watched an eruption on social media over the dresses worn to the Homecoming dance.  Weeks before that, I’d seen outrage over a video that a football player posted.  In all three instances, there were comments from all parties that lead to apologies…in person and online.  And yet, we often know that apologies are helpful, but don’t always repair the hurt over some of those comments or judgments. 

Have you ever misspoken? Stepped out of line? Gotten caught gossiping or lying? Or worse sins?  Have you ever been confronted with your own sin-filled life…or have you ever confronted your own sin?  Have you ever had to delete a social media post?  Or a comment?

If so, you may have had a serving of humble pie.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, humble pie is a figurative serving of humiliation usually in the form of a forced submission, apology, or retraction. 

As a child, I didn’t understand it as an act of humiliation.  Rather, I saw the phrase as a means of making things right when I had made things wrong.  To me, “eating humble pie” was an act of becoming more humble through an apology. 

One of the areas that I struggle with being humble is on social media.  Like many others, I share all aspects of my life on social media. I try to not be braggadocios or prideful in my posts. I find myself most guarded in my responses where I strive to not be condescending. 

Solomon gives us guidance here, which encourages us to have a deep reading with thoughtfulness, rather than quick skimming and indignation in our responses.  Proverbs 29:20 states “Do you see the man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Solomon also advises that “the wise will inherit honor” (Proverbs 3:35), which lets us know that wisdom is honorable.  This includes not being quick to respond…for often the hasty response will be one that later requires apologies.

As I’ve meditated on being humble in my responses on social media, I’ve come to realize that a   humble character is showcased through social media…but it must be cultivated before social media.  No other time in human history has it been so easy to display pridefulness (through social media), but likewise, there is no other time in human history that it’s been so easy to display humbleness.  The more we understand humility and pride, the less often we must eat that humble pie.

Next week, let’s concentrate on how pride versus humility is displayed in our lives.  Try to pay attention to how it is exhibited in our daily lives…and on social media.

And please, please, please have a Happy Thanksgiving with a slice of delicious pie!

~Emily

My Spicy Eyes!

This week, my daughter called me with an urgent request.  “Take a look at this photo.  What are your thoughts?” The left eye of my grandson, Andros, had turned sharply and suddenly veered inward, it was wobbling, and he was seeing double.  She made an appointment to see the eye doctor and as he sat in front of the provider that same afternoon, he was told that he would need some eyedrops.  The optometrist explained that just like when you get something spicy on your tongue, his eye would feel that way for just a minute but it would be ok.  Now, Andros does NOT like spicy food.  If it has a drop of pepper on it, he can taste it.  And as the gentleman placed the drops into his tightly squeezed, terrified,  waiting eyes, that sweet boy started crying and yelling, “MY SPICY EYES!  MY SPICY EYES!”  It’s a story we’re laughing about now days later.

I began to think of Saul as he lost his sight on the road to Damascus and reached for his story in my bible.  He was a man who took great pleasure in persecuting Christians.  He didn’t do it because he was a sociopath.  He did it because he was a Jewish scholar who genuinely believed that what the Christians were saying was blasphemy to God.  He felt he was expelling a problem.  He was even present at the first martyr, Stephen’s, death.  Then we see in Acts 9 him on the road to Damascus because he had found out about people there who were teaching about Jesus as the Son of God.

“Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.”  The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” –Acts 9:3-9

He was literally blinded by the light of Jesus!  What a way to get his attention, right?!  I wonder what he must have been feeling. There is nothing mentioned in the verses following about anyone witnessing to him.  I’m not sure if there was.  My personal belief is that he sat in his own darkness and fasted, recognizing the weight of what had just happened. 

An encounter with Jesus is nothing small.  Here was a man who felt confident his persecution of the Christians was acceptable.  And in one brief moment, everything he believed was turned on its head as Jesus revealed EXACTLY who he was. 

And lest we think that’s the only ‘WOW’ moment in that interaction, how about what Jesus told him to do!  He told him to go to the city and it would be told to him what to do.  Jesus didn’t give him the 3-year plan.  He didn’t tell him he was going to become one of the greatest missionaries of all time.  He wasn’t privy to knowledge that He would eventually be given direct revelation by God!  He was told to go and he would be told to what to do.

How many of us are willing to just take that first directive and then sit and wait?  I’m afraid disobedience would kick in for me.  I’d be calling my friends, asking my mom to come to me.  I’d be asking Emily to do some research.  I’d be thinking of every scenario of what “will be told to do” implies.  That, friends, is where we trip ourselves up. 

Sometimes, the wait is part of the answer.  There are times where God wants us to have a period of waiting until He’s ready to give us the next step in our walk, and we screw it up by thinking we know the next step.  How easy it seems to just sit and wait for God, and how hard we make it by trying to navigate it ourselves.

The rest of the story for Paul is beautiful.  He waits.  God sends Ananias to him and tells him what to do.  And literal scales fall from his eyes.  Paul not only regains his earthly sight, but he’s given his spiritual sight!  He goes on to lead thousands to the Lord and dare I say millions with how his words h shown people even today how to fully surrender to our Savior.

Iron Porch, I pray that as we encounter Jesus through Bible study, reading the scripture, and learning of God’s love, that each encounter is one that shows us who He is.  I also pray that we learn to wait on the Lord, that we be patient in the space between, and that we trust God to fill in the blank. 

~Erin

Hot Flashes & Other Middle-Age Suckiness

I hate being hot.  Hate it.  Over the last weekend, Erin and I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast that had the heat on…I insisted on opening the bedroom windows because I was so hot. 

And I am so over these power surges that are also known as hot flashes. I’m over being hungry all the time but having to muzzle the urge to plow through a gallon of ice cream.  And I’m over this brain fog that my physician assures me will go away…when the hot flashes do.

Ugh.  I’m chatting causally about menopause.  Middle Age.  Transition. 

There are lists of all the symptoms, but not every woman experiences them all.  Nor is there a timeline for them, but it is a rite of passage for women experiencing this stage in their lives. 

Typically, the menopause process takes years to complete, but post-menopausal women say that they either feel stronger and content…or they feel old with less standing in society since they are past childbearing years.  Regardless of how they feel post-change, they went through the challenge of change.

And this challenge is not for the weak.

However, the Christian woman can take comfort in turning to God during middle-age transitions.  Hebrews 13:5 reassures us that God will not leave us, despite the aging process making us feel less than we were in our youth.  We have assurance from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness. 

The reality is that a post-menopausal Christian woman should feel strong and content.  We’ve reached the stage where we can share our experiences and mentor others.  Those experiences may have included allowing the Lord to see those middle-aged anxieties and fears.  1 Peter 5:7 says, “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  At no time in our lives do we have to feel alone in our struggles…and this is true also of pre-during-or-post menopause. 

Challenges are always hard. When we have others around us encouraging and leading us through, it makes it easier to navigate. The ultimate gift is knowing that this is also part of God’s plan.

I’m over the hot flashes and the brain fog…but I’m taking comfort in God’s provision.  This too shall pass. 

~Emily

Grandpa’s Tomatoes

I wanted to make some vegetable soup, so I scoured my pantry for some tomatoes.  I knew that I had some of my Grandpa’s canned tomatoes still in there somewhere.  Out of the last few jars of his I had left, there was just one of what I was looking for! 

The man loved to can. He had what he called a garden and what I called a small farm of every kind of fruit and vegetable you can imagine.  And he would harvest it all.  He would can it, give it away, even trade with it.  When we went to visit them in South Carolina, my Pop would always take me out to Grandpa’s canning shed to dig through hundreds of jars of vegetables and jellies to find what I wanted to take home.  And as I opened that jar on Monday, I started to cry.  Grandpa passed away in 2016 and it made me miss him so much.

While I’m sad that he’s gone, I know he was believer.  When he left this earth, he was given a new body in heaven and is worshipping Jesus all day and night!  I can praise God that when my day comes and I take my last breath, I’ll see him and his smile again!

This made me think about the people I know that may not have that same assurance of their place in heaven.  I can be confident as a born-again Christian that when I die, I will be in heaven.  But I know that there are friends of mine who have told me they believe they hope they’ve been ‘good enough to get a pass’ into heaven.    

Please allow me just a brief moment to explain why this can’t be further from the truth.  The Bible is clear that there is no one on this earth who is good enough to get into heaven.  Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no not one.”  We can’t be kind of good.  We can’t be really good.  The Ten Commandments given by God has ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ and ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ all in the same list.  In humanity’s eyes, one of those sins is much worse than the other.  In God’s eyes, ALL sin is abhorrent.  We will never be righteous enough.

Because of that sin, what we deserve is death and eternal separation from God.  We are told in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Because of the wicked nature of sin, our penalty is death.  But the second half of that verse can give us hope!  It says God has given us hope for eternal life in the form of a spotless Lamb.

Romans 5:8 shows just how much He loves us.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  While God says the price that we must pay for sin is death, there is undeserved grace.  He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth.  He lived a sinless life with the sole purpose of becoming a substitution.  He was sent to be the sacrificial Lamb, covering our sins with His blood.

And because of that sacrifice, if we believe in Him, if we surrender our lives to Him and follow Him, we can and will go to heaven!

John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Asking Jesus to come into your heart isn’t something that you do to put in your back pocket ‘just in case.’  When you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, there is change in you.  The Holy Spirit is residing in you!  We become a new creation in Jesus, and the earth becomes just a temporary home.

Romans 10:9 tells us how we can know for sure when we die that we will be in heaven.  “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus and you’ve haven’t surrendered your life to Him, I encourage and plead with you to call on the name of the Lord.  Tell God that you know you’re unworthy of His grace, but grateful that He’s given it.  Tell Him that you believe He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and that you believe He rose again and lives in heaven.  Confess your sin and surrender your life to Him, asking Him to live in your heart.

If you realized that you needed Jesus and prayed, giving your life to Christ, make sure you tell someone!  Share it in the comments, tell a friend, you can even message me or Emily.  But it’s too wonderful of news not to share!

If you still have questions about what it means to surrender your life to Him, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  We would love to talk with you and help you know that you have a home in heaven!

~Erin

Post-Halloween Lack of Awareness: Spiritual Warfare

Once upon a time, I was a practicing Wiccan.  I acted like a rebellious teenager and turned my back on God.  I participated in pagan religious activities for seven years.  There was a time that I was in Wiccan leadership positions, I was an advocate for military chaplains, and I was even involved in Congressional Legislation regarding Wicca being acknowledged as a religion. 

After leaving Wicca and re-aligning myself with a Christian walk, I have been very deliberate about pagan influences in my life.  I’ve stopped associating with those who were in my life during my pagan days.  I am careful about what my family is exposed to.  I avoid sections of bookstores.  I try not to notice full moons or solstices.  I don’t want to slip back into a pagan walk, so I guard myself very carefully in this regard. 

Each year, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, I pray extra hard and pay closer attention to the occult/pagan/satanic/societal influences that are happening around me.  Over the last few years, I’ve noticed apologetic Christians shining light more on the testimonies of former witches and Satan worshippers.  The time of year lends itself to others…and me being more aware. 

But in the weeks after Halloween, I often found myself letting my guard down.  It’s as though I’m relieved to be passed Halloween and able to focus on the coming celebration of Jesus’ birth. 

So here I am. A week after Halloween. Relieved.  Guard down.  Then I was confronted with a scenario where my pagan past was thrown in my face while I was at work.  Something I influenced while practicing Wicca, coming back to a military item that is being considered for display in the museum where I am employed. 

I was relieved and yet, I should not have let my guard down.  We, as Christians, absolutely must be constantly aware of the spiritual warfare that is always going on around us.  Scripture tells us that the enemy is on the prowl….he is always looking to create chaos and destruction in our lives.   1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”    

In regard to spiritual warfare, is your guard up for you and your family?

Or are you like me and it’s up sometimes, but also falls down occasionally?

In the coming days, I will be concentrating on specifically praying about our post-Halloween awareness of pagan practices in America.  Will you join me?

~Emily

My Reflection

The other day, I was on the phone with Andros, my 5-year-old grandson.  I may sound biased, but the sweet boy is so smart.  He knows the most unusual facts and uses words that usually come from adults.  As we FaceTimed, I told him, “You know, Andros.  You’re so handsome!”  And he replied, “I know.”  I giggled and retorted, “How do you know that, buddy?!”  Without skipping a beat he said, “Because I look at my reflection!”  Well alright then!  Not only is he witty but he’s coming at me with the big words!

The truth is, he IS handsome!  And how does he know that?  Because his mom and dad tell him.  Because his Mimi and Grandpa tell him.  His Gigi and Pop Pop tell him.  He recognizes that the people who love him most would never steer him wrong.  What they tell him about himself is truthful.

Why do we have such a hard time recognizing that what God tells us about ourselves is true?!  He is our Heavenly Father, the Creator of us all.  He says so many wonderful things about us.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)

“Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” –Psalm 100:3 (emphasis mine)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” –1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis mine)

These are just a few examples in the Bible that say we are special to Him.  Yet, we often look down at ourselves.  We struggle with feelings of not being enough, not being a good mother, wife, friend, co-worker. We recognize all the flaws and forget about the facts.

We are chosen.  We are redeemed.  We are loved.  We are set apart.  No matter how we may feel about ourselves, we need to recognize that our Father tells us TRUTH and that truth is that we are His.

I pray that we stop listening to the lies of the devil that tell us we aren’t worthy and lean into God-breathed scripture that tells us our identity is in Christ!

~Erin

Photo Cred: Amanda Jones Photography

False Modesty

Have you ever given a compliment and heard a “who me?” with a hand on the chest type of response?  (for instance: What a beautiful dress.  What, this old thing?).

When I think about it, I see it as a strange response and one that I know I’ve been guilty of giving.  In these instances, the receiver of the compliment is normally appreciative of the accolade but is resting on the desire to appear modest.  Often it comes across as fake. 

False modesty is a difficult sin for us to identify in ourselves because it can be cloaked in what we convince ourselves to be true. It works its way into our prayers, our culture, and our everyday lives. 

The bottom line is that false modesty is a sin that is deceitful.  It’s filled with a lie we tell ourselves, as well as others. It requires that we mask our true emotions, as well as potentially re-writing truth in our own minds.  The one who falls prey to false modesty could pretend to appear poorer, sadder, or more sacrificial than the next person.  While these could seem to be great Christian attributes, it is really a giving into human indulgences (Colossians 2:23).

This is also a sin that is filled with pride.  In Colossians 2:18, Paul cautions against those who have false humility as being “puffed up without reason.” (*sidebar* when would it be with reason to be puffed up?). When we are puffed up with big heads, we are self-focused, rather than God-focused.  This isn’t an overt sin that others may see in us but make no mistake…our all-knowing and loving Father sees this exactly for what it is.  Lies wrapped in pride = sin.

False modesty when found out by others impacts our own reputations.  Subsequently, it impacts how others are willing to interact with us.  If we don’t have true humility our co-workers could see us as a show-off, our families could see us as know-it-alls…and worst non-believers could make decisions about their own salvation based on their interactions with our falsely modest selves.  

If you are seeing this as a sin in your own life, I pray that you can confess that to the Lord and work at repenting.  The last thing we want to do is impact someone’s decision about where they will spend eternity based on a dumb comment (what, this old thing?!?!) in order to simply dismiss a compliment. 

~Emily

Is Complaining Contagious?

Emily was right, you know.  In her last blog she said she rarely complains, and she’s right.  Her right foot could be broken with her fingernail barely hanging on by the cuticle and head split open, and her response would be, “I’m alright.  I’ll be fine.  I don’t think I need Advil yet.”  She just doesn’t complain. 

Unlike me who’s favorite hobby is to forever think of some “horrible thing” that is going on in my world and to harp on it endlessly.  Like hiking…seriously, people, who ACTUALLY LIKES HIKING?!  I mean besides my best friend.

Anyway, while Emily was being convicted by the Holy Spirit about her instance of complaining and recognizing the truth of Philippians 2:14, I was being convicted of that very same thing but from a different perspective.  Between my time with her on Sunday while we were hiking to my Monday night Bible study, it was weighing heavily on me about how my complaining affects my worship.  Follow me on this….   

The Bible has so many verses on worship.  Psalm 95:6 says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”  Psalm 100:2 tells us, “Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing!”  “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name,” Hebrews 13:15.

There are instances where we see Abraham, Daniel, David, the woman at the well, the creatures and elders in heaven…all of them are worshipping Him.  And it wasn’t just a one-time thing.  Worship of our Savior should be a sunrise to sunset thing.  It should be all hours of the day and night.  Every time we are awake, our posture should be one of worship.

But how does that work when you’re constantly complaining about work or family or the stresses of your life?  I’m not saying everything has to be roses.  In fact, God tells us to bring our burdens to Him; He recognizes there are moments and seasons of struggle, sorrow, or anger.  But taking our burdens to Him rather than complaining IS worship!  When all I’m doing in mindlessly whining about my woes to those around me, I’m robbing myself of the honor of worshipping Him and robbing HIM of the rightful worship and adoration!

My complaining should be worship in the form of prayer to God asking Him to remove my negative thoughts that, let’s be honest, are probably trivial and not worth complaining about anyway.  My time spent cooking dinner could be worship as I listen to praise music in the background, singing out loud about how great our God is!  My worship can be a few extra moments reading and meditating on the scriptures that God has given us.  There is so much more to worship and so many ways in which to worship Him!

Dear friends, this week my prayer is to ask the Holy Spirit to remove the complaining thoughts and replace them with a desire to continually worship Him.  With my eyes fully focused on God and in a posture of constant worship, I can strive to be grateful about what I have or am doing through Him!

~Erin