Complaints via a Packers Fan

I’m a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan.  This last weekend’s loss in the NFL playoffs left several fans in a state of despair and complaint.  On social media, blogs, ESPN commentaries, and over the water cooler everyone had an opinion on the game and most had a complaint.  Interestingly enough, the Green Bay Packers are the only “publicly owned” team in the NFL, with fans being the stockholders.  When one purchases stock in the Green Bay Packers, they agree to not complain publicly about the team players/leadership/facilities, etc.  Apparently that did not dissuade hundreds from voicing complaints about the loss on Saturday night.  

Isn’t this true of any sports entertainment?  If your team loses, you complain about something regarding the game.  The referee made a bad call, the coach should be fired, the QB was lousy, politics have too much influence over the games, the baseball was greased up, the fans were obnoxious…or the special teams lost the game for the entire team.  The complaints are countless in the face of not winning.

Like when the Packers lose, I’m often tempted to complain to God about supposed loss in my life.  I’ve complained to God about military moves, finances, infertility, ex-relationships/ex-friendships, my weight, even my injured knee.  I’ve complained to God.  But I’ve also complained to others about all of those things.  More times than I’d like to admit, I probably even complained about God in relationship to those topics.  

I’m sure there are others that can relate to this train of thought. It’s easy to complain about not getting the promotion you prayed for.  It seems justified to complain about not receiving the child you’ve desperately wanted for years.  Perhaps the death of a friend or family member seems like a good time to let God know exactly what you think of His timing.  

Yet complaining is contrary to the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, as it flies in the face of joy, peace, and patience.  In fact, complaining about what God has or has not done in your life actually makes witnessing to the world much harder.  If we aren’t naturally drawn towards those who complain, what makes us think that we can present the Gospel while complaining and capture the attention of the unbeliever?  

There’s a distinction that is important to make…it’s not wrong to complain to God, but it is wrong to complain aboutGod.  He’s given us permission to grumble with Him; in fact, He’s asked us repeatedly to bring all of our troubles, cares, praises, and requests to Him through prayer.  We must be careful to not cross the line of bringing grievances to God and making God one of our grievances.  Scripture is full of examples, such as Moses’ sister Miriam, who complained about God and subsequently about the anger of God that they met as a result.  

Despite that distinction, it’s also important to strive towards not complaining and grumbling with God or amongst ourselves.  When we are grouchy in complaining, it is likely from a worldly perspective, such as unfulfilled desires which can lead to jealousy or coveting.  While it might be hard to always have a joyful heart, it certainly puts us in a better place to love others like Christ loved.

As with our favorite sports teams’ losses, it doesn’t help to complain regarding God.  If our team isn’t great, we’ll still support them if we are true fans.  If it feels as though God is or isn’t doing something for you, it’s important to stay true to your Christian path.  

This week’s challenge: Don’t be a fair-weather fan. And don’t be a lukewarm Christ-follower.

~Emily

P.S. Go Pack Go!

What Do Our Works Say?

A few weeks ago, my girls and I decided to get tattoos.  It wasn’t really spur of the moment in the true sense of the phrase.  Peyton has been wanting mother/daughter tattoos for a while and since the three of us were together, we just went for it!

We each have a different dinosaur on our wrist. The theme is the same, but they don’t match.  We were wanting something that identified us as a unit.

This got me to thinking about how I’m identified as a Christian.  When people see me or talk to me, do they know I’m a believer?  Do they recognize I put my trust in Him? Do my actions scream ‘I love Jesus!’? 

In James 2:17-18 it says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may say, “you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith BY (emphasis mine) my works.”

I LOVE that!  This doesn’t mean that works saves you.  What the scripture is telling us is that if you have faith (you are a believer), it compels us to do good work for the cause of Christ.  When we walk in Christ, we produce faith-filled works that represent who God is and what He commands us to do.  In Bible study, we say those actions are faith-based works and not a works-based faith!

The works we produce as believers bring about things like love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control….you might recognize these as some of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  I love looking at these two passages of scripture together! 

When we see ourselves with a steadfast faith, we WANT to do things that show God in His glory.  When we do those things, the people around us see who our Creator is.  They see the power of an awesome Father who cares for His children.  People see something ‘different’ in the Christian who is doing works because they love God and want to honor Him as opposed to the person who is doing works for the rewards or accolades.

I pray that this year we see mighty works completed and that our faith-based works bring glory to the one true God!

~Erin

Bookworm Beliefs

True confession: I’m a self-proclaimed-avid-borderline-obsessed reader….a bookwork, if you will.  

What does this bookworm believe?

1. there are always more books to read

2. you can never have too many books waiting to be read

3. all children should be granted access to books

4. reading is my 1st choice for learning & recreation

I probably have more books in my house waiting to be read, than dollars in the bank account (now, that may be a tad bit of an exaggeration).   I always have a book in close proximity to me.  I have to check the copyright date of books prior to reading them.  I keep lists of books I have read, want to read, and want to read again.  I follow authors rather than celebrities on social media.  

My obsession with books is 2nd only to my obsession to Chapstick.  

One of my 2022 goals was to read the entire Bible.  So, when the Pastor of my church recently challenged the entire congregation to read the entire Bible together in 2022, it aligned perfectly with my own goal and with my fixation on reading.

During that challenge the Pastor also mentioned that our personal choices of how we spend our time often trumps our choices of how we spend time with the Lord.  He gave the example of how we may say we don’t have enough time to pray or read our Bible during our busy week, but we manage to make time to watch several football games.  The point?  What is more important…the football game or your relationship with God? 

That has marinated with me for several weeks.  Every single time I’ve picked up a book to read for recreation, I’ve questioned if I had finished my Bible reading plan for the day.  More often than I would have predicted, I had neglected the Bible for another book.  With some reflection of that revelation, I realized that the Holy Spirit was nudging me closer and closer towards focusing on Biblical reading before pleasure reading.  

In John 16:5 and in verse 16, Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that he was leaving them.  He was preparing them for a time that they would not be able to physically see Him anymore.  However, in between those two verses is an interesting statement about the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I tell you the truth; It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ~John 16:7 (NIV)

It’s easy as a Christian to think that being with Jesus forever would be the best thing for us.  Yet, in John 16:7, we hear Jesus tell us that it’s better for us to not be with him and that if he didn’t leave, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Essentially Jesus was saying that it’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit. With that assertion, comes the knowledge that having the Holy Spirit in our lives means that we will be open to feeling convictions about our behaviors.   

We’re a mere three weeks into the New Year and already I’m finding myself convicted by the Holy Spirit regarding my reading behavior and my goal to read through the Bible this year. 

It’s time for this bookworm to adjust my beliefs…I need to focus on my Bible goals. 

Are you open to those nudges from the Holy Spirit?  

~Emily

The Christmas Gift

We celebrated Christmas with my oldest daughter and her family this last weekend.  It’s exciting to go down and have a “second” Christmas with the grandbabies, watching their excitement as they see gifts they weren’t expecting as Christmas had long since been over.

I dutifully wrapped the gifts for each of them and handed them out, one by one.  Andros, that sweet little boy, opened his first gift.  He looked at me and said, “A shirt?  I have shirts!” Everyone started giggling, but the best part of the evening was when he went to open his second gift.  To an adult, the second gift was obviously too small to be an item of clothing.  As he slowly unwrapped it, he looked at me and said, “It’s not a shirt, right?!”

We got such a giggle out of that!  He’s only four, and while his momma is teaching him about being grateful and gracious about what’s given to him, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand and acts like the little boy he is!

Do you ever think that we are like my grandson with God?  He provides for us.  In fact the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t mean the needs that we’ve asked for.  It doesn’t even mean He meets the needs that we want!  God knows our needs and supplies them.  However, just like little Andros, we get something and we look at it and say, “Hmmmm…that’s not what I asked for!”   When He provides for us again, we pray and say, “It’s not that one thing is it, God?”

I don’t think we do this on purpose, either!  I think in sin, we assume that we know what’s best for us.  We know what will make us happy or content or pleased.  We think that this thing or that thing will be what we need to make everything better.  In reality, God already know our needs, and He will give them to us when it’s the right time.  Often times, even though it’s hard to admit, the things that He gives us we don’t even realize we need until we look back on that moment in our life and say, “Yes!  I see where you were, God, and how You provided for me!”

I encourage you, friends, let’s take the time to ask God to supply our needs, and then step back and take all that He gives us with open hearts and gracious spirits.  You never know if the one thing you don’t think you want is exactly the one thing you’ll need!

~Erin

P.S. His second gift was a book for us to read together!

My sweet grandson with his ever-present chocolate milk mustache!

Tales from an Insomniac

It’s the middle of the night and every breathing creature is asleep in my house…except me.  I’m wide awake listening to the husband, son, and dog snore.  I drink some tea, read a chapter, count some sheep, take a warm shower, pop a melatonin, and continue to toss and turn.  A true insomnia moment.  

Rather than continue to fight sleep, I get up and start something productive. 

It’s the middle of the night and I’m doing dishes, laundry, or blog writing. On the nights I can’t sleep, I figure that I might as well cross items off my “to do list” rather than lay in bed getting mad I’m not sleeping. 

How often am I fighting God’s direction for my life, just like I tend to fight sleep?  

The truth is, that I likely fight Him more than I recognize. It’s so easy to question God…“Are you sure that’s what you need me to do?” or “What if I do xyz?” or “Why don’t we try blah-blah-blah?”  Always questioning and always fighting His direction.

What If I just got up and started being productive instead of lying there questioning and getting frustrated?!?!?!   

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) states that we should, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  

If in a scenario where I can’t sleep, I’m willing to do all types of different tips to get to sleep, why would I also do things to draw closer to God? 

Instead of questioning His guidance in making my path straight, I could confer with God in prayer, read the Bible, meditate, journal, or sing worship music.  Any of those tips would be more productive than my natural tendency to question God in frustration.  I could just get up and become more productive. 

Regardless of sleeplessness or challenging the Lord, I know the most effective methods of not getting angry in the situation.  Now I just have to utilize them.

Happy sleeping this week!

~Emily

Intention

I’m terrible at resolutions.  I can make one, but it won’t take more than 16 days before I’ve already messed something up and my resolution has gone out the window. 

Once upon a time, I did the obligatory “I’m joining a gym.  I’m going to lose weight.  I’m going to read my Bible every day.”  All those sentences have potential to have great impact on me throughout the year.  But the list of this and that for someone who writes and then rewrites lists (only to lose them the second go-around and write it the third time), does not produce anything very worthy of accomplishment.

Fast forward to this year.  Now it’s about “THE word.”  We all know what I’m talking about.  It’s been the rage these last 5-10 years or so of coming up with a word that you want to resonate with you for the year.  I’ve been doing it the last several years.  And while I loathe being a band-wagoner (is that even really a word?), I like this concept.  It allows me to choose a word that should focus my actions to that rather than feeling like a failed at a resolution.

This year, the word is “Intention.”  (Closely followed by the additional words, FOLLOW THROUGH.) 

For me, this year is about being intentional with what I do.  I would like to learn how to can; not just because I think it might be fun.  I’d really like to take my meal prep further than week to week.  I’d like to use my grocery budget wisely and not have so much waste.  God gave us the veggies…I shouldn’t be wasting them.  Canning can help with that.  Intention.

I want to spend more time as a family.  It doesn’t have to be this long and drawn-out day and I don’t want it to be obligatory.  I want to sit down as a family and play a game, maybe go bowling, sit on the back deck and chat.  I want to purposefully have conversations or laugh or be serious.  I want my time with my family to be God-centered and God-honoring.  Intention.

I want to build a garden.  I’ve joked on previous blogs about being a master gardener.  I just wrote about it in a Facebook post and Emily commented that I was not a master gardener but rather a fiction writer!  (I MAY have exaggerated my gardening skills.) But I don’t want to build just any garden (like I did last year and never ate anything that came from it).  I want to plant what I know we will eat.  I want to plant appropriately and at the right time.  I may have to succession plant.  But you know what that takes, friends?  Intention.  I must be intentional about what I’m doing.

I want to talk to God more.  I love being in the Word, but I don’t feel I’m in it enough.  I pray, but I don’t pray without ceasing.  I want to see what God is showing me in the Bible.  It’s going to take being intentional with my study time.

These are just a few examples of what I want to do throughout the year.  How am I going to put actions to that word you ask?  Not only do I remind myself daily, I very specifically ask God every morning to show me ways to be intentional…and to give me the fortitude to complete them.  And then I go for it! 

I’ll fail sometimes.  Other times, I’ll hit a home run.  That’s the beauty of having the word.  I recognize where my weaknesses are.  The word helps me stay more focused on how to do better and be better.  And none of it works if I’m not constantly seeking God to keep my actions on a path that ultimately honors and glorifies Him!

Friends, do you have a word or a goal or a resolution that you’d like to share?  Let us know what yours is in the comments!

Happy New Year!

~Erin

New Year: New Goals

I can’t remember any time that I’ve created a New Year’s Resolution.  I’ve never seen value in financial or weight loss promises on January 1st…I know myself well enough that a resolution would not work well for me.  However, I’ve always set new goals for the beginning of each year.  When I was child, the goals were more simplistic, such as not being mean to my brother or being more helpful to my parents.  Those weren’t tangible or measurable goals, so it would have been nearly impossible to determine if they were attained.  As I got older, making the soccer team or getting particular grades became more measurable goals.

In adulthood, my goals have been fanciful.  For instance, one year I made it a goal to say “bless you” to anyone who I heard sneeze…even if they weren’t close enough to hear me.  Another year I had the goal to buy myself fresh flowers weekly, while years before that I went on a “no spending full price on clothes” for a full year.  There was even one year that I made the goal to travel to a new location every month (that was a tad easier because I was already stationed in Europe). 

The secret to effective goal setting is to make mini-goals, also known as objectives.  It gives you milestones to check and re-evaluate how close you are to attaining the goals you have set.  

Scripture is clear that goal-setting is not only desirable, but that God encourages us to practice growing through goal setting.  Proverbs 21:5 (ESV) states, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Hence, a Biblical example of us needing to create plans to lead to better things.  It’s important to remember that we have to put in some hard work to attain these goals. God’s will allows us to attain or fail to attain goals, but nothing happens at all if we don’t strive towards the objective.  

It’s equally important to remember that our best planning is not a guarantee that we will achieve those goals.  In James 4:13-15, James reminds us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring and that we should continue to lean into the Lord’s will for our lives.  

We must set the goals.  We must work hard towards the goals.  We must recognize that God’s possible change of our plans are because His thoughts for our lives are so much bigger (and better) than our own…see Matthew 6:33-34.  

Ultimately, God’s purpose for each of us will prevail.  In Proverbs 19:21, we are reminded that “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord will stand.”  

So what the heck is the bottom line for our lives in 2022?  Set the goals, make them attainable and measurable, and then submit those goals to God for His blessing and intervention on the purpose He has for your life.  Be intentional, but also know you have to be flexible to the changes God has in store.

It’s a new year…time to set some new goals.  

~Emily

P.S. I have two goals for 2022: 

1. Read the entire Bible (I’m using a one-year reading plan that has me reading four chapters a day between the Old Testament and New Testament with a one day break each month).

2. Complete a 52-hike challenge throughout the year (the hikes can be back-to-back or once a week, at least two miles-but no upper limit to length, not on asphalt/gravel, can repeat trails, any friend/hiking partner/group can join me on any given trail, and the hikes can be anywhere in the world).  

Puppies Are Work! Are We?

This house just seemed a little quieter and a little sadder with Maggie gone.  So I did what any sad mom would do.  I hopped on the interwebs and took a peek around to see if maybe I would ever like to have another dog.  Because the answer is no.  Unequivocally, absolutely, positively no more dogs.  Until I saw a puppy online on December 22, contacted the owner, and then drove three hours the next day to pick her up! 

She’s sweet and funny and has so much personality!  The best part of the entire process was surprising Peyton with her when she got home from work that night.  This little pup has stolen our hearts.  Ruger, our seven-year-old lab even likes her!

But let me tell you…having a puppy is work (which is why I didn’t want one in the first place).  The amount of energy, time and effort that goes into working with an animal is exhausting!  You think you make a bit of progress until, oops, here’s a puddle on the floor.  “No chewing” turns into new slippers being purchased because you left them in front of the couch.  Work, I tell you, work. 

I wouldn’t change anything!  We love her and we know she’s worth the energy and focus.  She’s part of the family, and we’ll do whatever is necessary to make sure she is loved and cared for.   No matter what she does, we’ll never turn her away because she belongs to us.

This reminds me, honestly, of how God loves us.  When we accept the Lord as our Savior, we are His.  He bought and paid for us with Jesus’ shed blood.   No matter how much we mess up, He doesn’t walk away.  He doesn’t get fed up with our antics and cast us aside.  He patiently and lovingly teaches us and trains us.  Even when we’re more spiritually mature or “grown”, when we make a mistake, He doesn’t assume we’ll never be any good to Him.  On the contrary, He gave us the Holy Spirit to admonish, direct and guide us back to what is good and pleasing to the Lord.

“For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you,” –Hebrews 13:5b

And Romans 8:35, 38-39 clearly tells us that nothing will separate us from God.  This means no matter how much work is needed or how many dumb mistakes I make, as a child of God I will never be separated from Him.  He won’t give up on us!

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

PRAISE GOD!

Just like that puppy, even though we are work, there’s no chance God turns His back on us and says “nevermind.”

I pray that we are challenged this week to see where we are rough around the edges.  Let’s work on those commands and precepts that we read in the Bible given by God!  He will never give up on us.  Let’s put in the work!

~Erin

Meet Winchester (‘Winnie”)

The In-Between Time: The Days Between Christmas and New Years

The days between Christmas and New Years are so strange to me.  I find that there’s a relaxing element to the hustle of Christmas preparations being done, but there is also a time of being bummed that it’s over.   Then there’s the anxiety I feel in getting Christmas packed away and my son’s birthday prepped all before going back to work after the New Year.  

There are other times in our lives that we feel this roller coaster of emotions in the “in-between time.”  For instance, the days between finding out you’re pregnant to your tummy actually rounding; the days between a college application and an acceptance letter; the days between a job interview and a return phone call…even the days between Sunday to Sunday for church services.  Each of these examples is like the days after Christmas, which are all involving excitement, disappointment, relief, worry or anxiety, and hopefully the return of excitement. 

The Bible is filled with examples of people experiencing the “in-between days.”  Noah had days of waiting in between being told to build an Ark and the day the flood began.  Ruth had days of waiting between leaving with Naomi and being married to Boaz.  Saul had days of waiting between being blinded on the road to Damascus and being able to see again…and share the Gospel.  Even the disciples and the Mary’s experienced the in-between days emotions when Jesus was crucified and later raised from the grave.  

Whether we’re in our own examples of in-between days or reading of Biblical examples, we are able to determine that God is teaching us to wait on Him.  Here are several scriptures that show us there is guidance in the Bible about our waiting during the in-between times: 

The Lord is good to those who await Him, to the person who seeks Him. ~Lamentations 3:25 (NASB)

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 27:14 (NASB)

Therefore, be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. ~James 5:7 (NASB)

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me.” ~Acts 1:4 (NASB)

There are countless examples of waiting in the Bible….and many teaching moments where the Lord wants us to know about waiting.   In the days immediately after Christmas and leading into New Years, I’m reminded that I’m not alone in the rollercoaster of emotions of the “in-between” time.  

I’m praying that we are all patient this week while we are in those “in-between days.”

~Emily