Chicken Dinner

We lost a chicken yesterday.  And by lost I mean something came in and decided raw chicken was better than fried chicken.  There were feathers everywhere.  Our teeny tiny Bantam rooster was no match for whatever got in there, and little Truffles became a meal for some creature in the woods.  

Peyton and Chris felt they had made a great enclosure.  They knew it wasn’t foolproof.  It didn’t have a real roof, but with a coop inside the large closed-in space to lock them up at night, they felt it was rather safe.  However, as the chickens got older and as Peyton started working, it was less frequent that she remembered to close the coop at night.  There hadn’t been a problem since we bought the chicks 10 months ago, and we got lazy in doing the little bit extra to keep them protected.

Are we the same way about sin?  God gives us clear scripture telling us of the need to protect ourselves from the wiles of satan.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” –Ephesians 6:11

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” –James 4:7

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” –I Peter 5:8

“And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” –2 Corinthians 11:14

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:11

It is well known that satan will do whatever it takes to keep us from full fellowship with God.  If he can tempt us with thoughts of coveting, greed, or selfishness, he will.  If he can get us thinking about how nice it would be to skip your bible study or miss church, he’ll do it!  There’s nothing he won’t do to try and steal our devotion to God.

We should be prepared for this!  We shouldn’t only be praying “Father, keep us protected from satan.”  We should be studying scripture, digging into the word, putting on the FULL armor of God to protect ourselves.  The more we are submitting and surrendering to the will of God, the harder it is for satan to get that access to us. 

When we’re fully prepped and ready, we aren’t sitting around waiting for the attacks of the devil.  We’re ready to keep those sinful deeds at bay before they even get close enough to become an action!

Ladies, let’s stand strong in our faithfulness to God and prepare ourselves properly for a possible attack before that nasty thief even gets close! 

~Erin

Wasp Stingers & Convictions of the Holy Spirit

On Friday, just as I was getting ready to leave work, I felt a pin-prick stab in my stomach followed by an intense burning sensation.  I moaned ‘nooooooo’ in despair, as I watched a wasp fly away from my mid-section.  The last time I was stung by a wasp it took over a year before it stopped flaring up bright red and alternating between burning and itching. 

Earlier in the week at Bible Study, the teacher gave us a scripture with a nugget of truth that left me feeling the sting and burn of conviction. In that moment, I knew I wasn’t being prayerful, respectful, or loving in one area of my life.  Like the wasp sting, it hasn’t gone away after several days.  

The Bible is very clear that the feeling of conviction is from the Holy Spirit; the third part of the trinity. In my experience, these nudges from the Holy Spirit are in areas that the Lord finds displeasing.  Normally, they are behaviors that are sinful, that need repentance, and that are forgiven if we truly change our direction.  

John 16:8 (NASB) says, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness and judgement.” 

You see, the key to conviction is that there will be judgement associated with it.  Therefore, we can’t ignore it…we have to actually do something to change the behavior.  If we fail to change behavior as a result of conviction, or we ignore that pinprick on our conscious, then we stay in a sinful spiral.  And no good comes from that. 

Josh McDowell wrote, “Having convictions can be defined as being so thoroughly convinced that Christ and His Word are both objectively true and relationally meaningful that you act on your beliefs regardless of the consequences.”

Just like the wasp sting, with its immediate pinch and days of itchy burning, the moments during and after a conviction spurred by the Holy Spirit, should also invoke feelings of a sting and continuous burn…until the behavior has been repented and changed.  

This week I’m praying that the ladies of the porch will listen to the Holy Spirit when you feel that moment of conviction…and that the wasps stay away from you!

~Emily

Too Much To Bear

What do you do when it seems the weight of the worst in on your shoulders?  How do you handle the struggles of this life speeding straight at you?  Who are you leaning on when it feels like it’s just too much to bear?

We’ve all had these times in our lives.  The heaviness of a death, an illness, or an addiction has probably touched someone who’s reading this in such a difficult way.  And to the person in the thick of it, the man or woman dealing with it, it feels like it will never end.

I know that you may not think that God is really listening.  You feel alone and unheard.  And you don’t understand why this torture is happening to you.  Why can’t God just fix it?  Why can’t He turn back time and make it ok again?  It doesn’t seem fair that you must suffer when everyone else around you seems to go on with life.  When you’re left feeling like you’re picking up pieces all around you by yourself, it hurts the most. 

I know you might not want to hear it, but I know you need to hear it.  You need to know that there is One who hears you and sees you.  He feels your pain.  He weeps when you weep.  And when it feels like there is nothing left to hold onto, you can hold on to Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shake and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” –Psalm 46:1-3

To the person who struggling with exactly this in this moment, I’m praying for you.  I’m fervently asking that God make His presence known to you.  You are not alone, and God will see you through.  I promise.  And He will see you through to the other side.

~Erin

Search and Rescue

I work in a military museum so “search and rescue” is not entirely a foreign concept to me.  We have an exhibit called “Star Catchers,” which showcases Airmen who were responsible for capturing satellites falling to earth.  A search and rescue of capsules containing cameras and film…and a race against time and sinking, as the capsule hit the massive ocean.  

Of course, there are also countless stories of Airmen searching for and rescuing other military members…in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the deserts of the Middle East.  Stories of POWs, downed aircraft, and special operations…all centered around the concept of search and rescue. 

There are plenty of times that I wonder if God feels like He’s continuously on a “search and rescue” mission.  He literally searches the Earth for His children who don’t know the Savior as their lifeline.  He searches and then offers them the rope for rescue.  He offers the solution to perilous situations.  He offers the ultimate rescue.  

Many accept God’s gift of His Son for our sins as their personal rescue.  Yet there are others who refuse that gift. 

Can you imagine the downed pilot who tells the rescue team, “No, no, I don’t need your assistance; I’ve got this under control”?

Can you envision the National Security impacts of a capsule with film sinking to the bottom of the ocean?

Can you even fathom the victim of the road side bomb refusing assistance from the first responders?

As sinful humans, our souls send out a distress signal that can only be answered by God.  When presented the Gospel, are we grasping the life-line?  Or are we refusing?  God leaves the choice up to each one of us.  Accept or reject God by accepting or rejecting the gift of salvation.  There are eternal consequences for either choice.  

Those who need rescue in an emergency situation do not refuse assistance. This next week, ask yourself if you’ve accepted the rescue of God.  I encourage you to take time in the next couple of days to pray for those who may be struggling with this decision…do they want to accept or reject their personal “Search and Rescue”?

~Emily

“To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” ~Acts 26:18

The Armoire

My office is a disaster zone right now.  There are piles everywhere, furniture moved, and painting tape along the edges.  A week ago, I had Rylan paint my office from Royal Blue to “White Pepper.”  I’m sure you can imagine how bright it is now!

I realized I wanted to change some of the furniture around at that time, using my armoire for my printer and scanner instead of random storage.  But using that armoire required me to clean out what was already inside. 

Have I told you that I’m also a packrat?  I keep my children’s baby teeth, the CD I got signed 12 years ago, every card, letter, and picture Emily has ever sent, along with 312 crafting tools that never get used in that armoire.  As I go through it now, the piles outside the armoire grow larger as I decide how I need to rehome each item.  It really is a mess!

Scripture can sometimes be like that to me.  I have a story or passage from the Bible in my head that I’ve known for a while.  Often, however, I like to go back and revisit those chapters.  It allows me to grow deeper in knowledge of the situation.  It gives me the ability to study it better in regards to context.  Reviewing them permits me to dig deep and get application from God’s words.

In order to do that, I can’t just read through and hope I understand.  I must unpack it, bit by bit, verse by verse, and lean into each word.  When I’ve considered it, I then need to determine what it means relating to my walk with God; I want to give glory to Him with everything I do.

Just like unpacking my armoire, I need to unravel the scriptures from thought that I may have had previously.  Maybe I was taught something inappropriately.  Perhaps I have a misunderstanding of the Bible because I didn’t do adequate research the first time.  It could even be that a sermon or Sunday School lesson I heard in my childhood was framed differently in my mind as I got older. 

I strive to unpack the scriptures!  I want them replaced in the right spot…the spot that allows me to have a deep understanding of who God is and what He has done for us.  I want to know that I’m accurately representing what I say to my Bible study groups and people around me with whom I share the Word.

I pray you begin to unpack the beautiful words in the Bible.  It is filled with God’s love, grace and redemption!  Perhaps you’ll find something new in an older story or verse that you hadn’t realized before!

~Erin

Saving Freedom & The Statue of Liberty

As an elementary school student, I remember collecting pennies to donate towards the restoration of the Statue of Liberty crown.  Can you imagine the coordination it took for millions of small children to collect pennies towards a National Treasure?  This amazingly oversized statue is not only special to the immigrants that passed by her in the 1800s and early 1900s, but is an iconic symbol of America.    

It has become a symbol of leaving everything behind, risking everything for a new life, and creating new life with freedom.  

This is the same picture of what must happen when we come to know Jesus Christ as our Savior.  We leave behind worldly items and behaviors, risking much for a new life in Him.  Jesus becomes the way to freedom…not just a resolute statue in symbolism, but rather real freedom.  

In John 8:12 (NASB), Jesus said “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Simply stated, Jesus as a lamplight towards freedom surpasses any amount of political, economic, or social persecution that could occur on earth.  That type of freedom is all encompassing.  Passing the Statue of Liberty as a new arrival must have been an awe-inspiring experience and sense of freedom, but knowing you are heaven bound is an even greater feeling.  

The freedom offered by the Father, through His Son, is the ultimate freedom.  As we celebrate the freedoms of America on certain days, such as the 4th of July, let us not forget that Christ’s freedom should be celebrated daily.  

Happy day after the 4th of July!

~Emily 

The Rooster and Jonah

We have a rooster now.  He’s young and just growing into his cock-a-doodle-doo.  He came to our home just a few days ago.  Emily inadvertently had a few too many roosters hanging around and since Peyton wanted to integrate a rooster into her flock, we got Squirrel, a tiny Bantam rooster. 

What we learned in the first day of receiving him is that he’s…lively.  Peyton had him separate from the hens but in the same chicken coop.   It’s an eight-foot-tall enclosure that ensures everyone has plenty of room.  Off Peyton went in the morning to get him out of his carrier when he decided to show her that he could fly.  Right out of the coop!  That teeny tiny bird flew right over the enclosure and wouldn’t get near Peyton again.  To make it even more comical, Squirrel flew up to a power line and hung out there all night! 

Even though that was his new home and he needed to integrate with the flock, he wanted nothing to do with the coop.  It wasn’t where he wanted to be.  But it’s where he needed to be.

Jonah was the same way.  The Lord told Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach to the city because of its abhorrent behavior.  They were desperately wicked.  But Jonah wanted none of it.  The man ran for a ship going to Tarshish instead.  Think about that; Jonah tried to outrun God’s calling.  When he was on the ship, it was involved in a great storm.  Jonah knew exactly why and when given the decision on what the shipmates needed to do to calm the storm, he told them to throw him into the sea.

The bible goes on to say that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and was inside the belly for three days and nights.  When Jonah repented, the fish spit him onto dry land and he went to the city of Ninevah, preaching to them and giving them the message received from God.  Thankfully, the Ninevites repented of their sins and the Lord spared them.

We have the same tendencies at times that both Squirrel and Jonah have.  We’re not wanting to be where we are supposed to be.  Often, we second guess what God has planned for us and decide we’d rather do what we want to do.  Perhaps we think it’s only a slight veer off course.  Or maybe we just don’t feel like stepping out of the world’s embrace.  We enjoy where we’re at because it’s comfortable and it’s known.

We need to remember, however, that we must obey the will of God.  No matter how scary it may be or unknown the circumstances are, God would have us obey Him and follow His direction.  He leads us; we don’t lead Him!  Everything we do should bring glory to our Father in Heaven, and obeying His will ensures exactly that.  We bring glory to Him in our faithfulness through obedience.

I encourage you follow God’s instructions for your life.  Perhaps you are being led to give up something or witness to someone.  Maybe He’s telling you to teach a Bible study.  He might even be calling you to the mission field.  Spend some time reading, studying, and listening to God’s Word to know where He would have you be today, tomorrow, and always!

~Erin

Yes….that’s Squirrel!

Hemingway-Type of Bad Day

Have you ever had the horrible day when all you can say is “Today was a bad day”?

Recently I had a bad day.  Nothing seemed to go right. Work, knee pain, angry drivers, parenting a pre-teen, call to mom, gym time…all of it seemed to have some horrible moment. I literally wanted to weep in frustration, anger, and pain.

Ernest Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us…”

I certainly felt that life was doing it’s very best to break me. 

I wanted all the badness (is that a word?) removed from that day.  In that regard, I relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians he asked the Lord three separate times for the thorn to be removed.  

In response to his plea, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB), “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I delight in weakness, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Ponder that for a moment; ”my grace is sufficient for you…” 

Well, yes God, your grace is sufficient for me.  But in the moment, it sometimes doesn’t feel as though my heart can embrace that phrase.  Continue reading…

“For power is perfected in weakness…”  If I’m feeling despair, frustration, or anger, I am essentially being perfected in that weakness.  Paul goes on to write that he’d rather boast about that weakness in order to glorify the power of Christ.  He’s excited to be weak so that he becomes stronger.  Interesting concept.  

The more and more I dive into the Word, the more and more I begin to understand that reading scripture for context is so very important.  In the midst of a bad day, it would be easy to fall back on a portion of scripture which states that His grace is enough.  Maybe that would make me feel better…or maybe not.  

However, when I continue the verse, I begin to understand that every experience can be used to worship the Lord. I can embrace His grace being enough, but if I embrace that when I’m weak, the Lord is working to make me stronger. 

As Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us.” I believe there is purpose in that breaking.  There is purpose in the bad days.  The badness used for goodness, in order for me to grow into a more mature Christian.

Pray with me this week that the bad days of weakness become examples of your strength in Christ.

~Emily

The Mustard Seed

The idea of faith has been on my mind a lot.  How much do I trust God?  How much faith does it actually take to move a mountain?  If God says that faith as little as a mustard seed can move mountains, then just how strong is my faith?  I have surrounded myself was some amazing and faithful people of God.  I see their faith poured out on everything they do.  Am I the same way?

These have been just a few of my thoughts as I’ve had my morning time with God.  I’ve been reading in the book of Joshua, bits at a time as to not miss anything.  I’ve heard the story of Jericho my whole life, so this passage of scripture is not new to me.  However, at 42 I see it differently than when I was eight.

Joshua told the army to march around the city of Jericho once a day for six days.  They didn’t say anything or attack the people.  They simply walked around the outer wall of the city.  However, on the seventh day, they walked around it seven times.  When the priests blew the trumpets after the seventh time, they gave a “great shout” and the walls came tumbling down!

This was all because of direction given to Joshua by God.  He told Joshua that He would give him the city.  I think about Joshua hearing that from God and maybe thinking, “Did I hear Him right?  We don’t say anything?  We don’t fight?”  I wonder about the men called to battle.  They were perhaps ready to go and defeat the city and then hear the directions and think to themselves, “Walk around the perimeter once a day?  Aren’t we just giving them open targets?  You want us to just shout at the end and that’s it??” 

Yet, they obeyed.  They had faith that what Joshua told them came from God.  They had faith that God would protect them and give them the victory.  They had faith that Jericho would be theirs.  Oh, to have that kind of faith!

I would like to think I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at God’s instruction, but I do it constantly.  My idea of faith is so worldly…I’m given a direction and I add my own 14 steps to the mix.  As a Christian, I have faith that the Bible is real, that God is real, and that Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be fully God and fully man to die on the cross for a sacrifice and raise from the dead.  But often, I second guess decisions and directions.  How silly of me when we have been given example after example of faithful men and women in the Bible who just had relentless faith that God would lead them. 

When we truly have faith, we don’t need to worry or pick our problems back up.  It doesn’t mean that things won’t be a struggle for us.  We’re fallen people in a fallen world.  However, when we have faith even as little as a mustard seed, we need not hold it the way we would without our Faithful Father. 

To have the faith as a mustard seed…this is my prayer.  Now to watch it flourish!

~Erin 

Prayer Prompts

A few weeks ago, I participated in a “No Amen Challenge,” which has gotten me pondering on what specifically triggers me to start praying.  I began looking around for my personal prayer prompts.  

When I see starving children on television, a car crash during my commute, or difficult conversations occurring at a business, I am fleetingly triggered to begin praying.  Frankly, as quickly as I pray for these items, I likely have forgotten the prayer prompt.  I’ve moved onto the next occurrence of my day.  If I’m reviewing prayer requests from my small group, friends, or family members, I have been guilty of pushing through the prayers without pausing to reflect on the requests and results. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

This verse caused me to start thinking that the ceaseless prayer, coupled with the “No Amen Challenge,” added to prayer prompts, would likely result in more deliberate…and remembered prayer time.  

The prayer prompts are a physical item that is attached to remembering a) to pray and b) what I prayed about.  It becomes a mental association between prayer and an object.  

For instance, I have a prayer board in my bathroom that has scraps of paper all over it with prayer requests from various people in my life.  As a brush my teeth or curl my hair, I have time to review my daily requests.  Initially, this began as a mechanism to “go through” the prayer request list.  Now, I can visualize where the prayer request scrap of paper is on the board and pray individually for each throughout the day.

Another example that I recently watched Erin use was setting an alarm on her phone.  Each time she heard the alarm, she was triggered to pray for a specific situation.   

At home, I wanted to be more deliberate about praising God.  As I watered the garden, I used the time to thank God for the availability of water.  As I collected eggs from the chickens, I praised Him for providing food.  As I drove down the driveway, I exalted the Lord for my employment that contributed to the purchase of our house.  

I also wanted to find a method to pray more frequently over my family.  In order to accomplish that, I took the mundane chore of laundry and began praying over the owner of each piece of clothing, as I folded.  

In my office, I have a ring of multiple verses on index cards that I switch out every week.  Each time that I read the verse of the week, I choose to pray the verse over a person or scenario associated with my workplace.  As I pass the US flag display first thing in the morning, I specifically pray over our country and our elected leaders.  

Each person’s prayer prompts will look different.  Just in the last few weeks, some that I’ve noted included prayer boards, phone alarms, gardening, driving, laundry, index cards or US flags.  It doesn’t matter what the prayer prompt looks like, rather what does matter is that it triggers the moment of prayer.  This in turn, becomes prayer without ceasing in the “no amen challenge” and subsequently are prayers that are remembered.  

I’ve even got a prayer prompt for Iron Porch…the blog, the dreams, the contributors and the readers.  I’ll use it, as I pray that the visitors of the Iron Porch will have their own prayer lives strengthened through the use of prayer prompts.

~Emily