The Jalapeño Plant

I transplanted a jalapeño plant tonight.  It’s not something I’ve done before.  I had a vertical garden that I had planted a starter in and decided it needed to be in a container of its own.  So I put it into the new container.

I gently began working around the soil, loosening the dirt and getting rid of the dead plants in the vertical garden that were surrounding it.  I didn’t want to damage the roots, so taking as much time as I needed, this master gardener (that term is used VERY loosely for myself) did not rush the process, instead little by little loosening the plant for its extraction and into the fresh new home that was awaiting her.

When I’m doing things like this, I talk to my plants.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I tell her how brave she’s being letting me disrupt her work so that I can give her a new location, a better chance of survival.  And when I think of these things, I often think of how we, as humans, can be like those plants.

Sometimes, we’re uprooted and we take on new locations, new jobs, or new adventures.  It can be quite unnerving starting over with something different.  We can be scared and unsure of what it will look like even though we often know that what’s waiting on the other side of the newness is good and fresh.

I know a Master Gardener who has talked to us this very same way.  Joshua 1:9 says to us, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

God gently works in our lives, extracting the distractions, moving people or objects or places out of the way.  He lifts us in HIS time into more perfect surroundings—surroundings where we can praise Him better or trust Him more.  He tells us He loves us and He’s right there with us even though our new or upcoming circumstances can be changing drastically.  He does this because He knows that His plan is better.  We just have to trust.

I pray, dear friends, that you find the Master Gardener tending to you during a time of transition that you may be having at this very moment.  Or perhaps He’s already replanted you into a refreshing new spot that has allowed for growth and trust.  Come to the porch and share your story.

~Erin

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Pink Starbursts Type of Favorite

Do you have a favorite candy?  For the most part, I have seasonal favorites.  I love the Cadbury mini eggs at Easter, the peanut butter taffies at Halloween, and the peppermint taffies or jelly bellies at Christmas.  Year-round, I love the pink starbursts.  So much so that I will by-pass the other colors to just eat the pink ones…I especially despise yellow ones.  Seriously, who likes the yellow ones that taste like I imagine pledge would taste?!?!?

**I should take a moment to publicly issue a very heartfelt thank you to whichever executive made the decision to sell totally pink starburst bags!!! Huge win for me.  Huge.

If people were like candy, then I just admitted that there are favorites all year round, that there are seasonal favorites…and there are pledge smelling ones that are the least favorite.  You are probably able to name people in your life who fall into each of those categories.  I think we all can come up with some names for each of the lists.

Interestingly enough, God only has pink starburst favorites as His children.  He doesn’t even acknowledge the categories of seasonal or least favorite.  He loves us all equally and with abandon.  While He may hate our sinful decisions, He loves us completely, as though we were His year-round favorite candy.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

If we are striving to be like Christ, then we should be practicing loving and accepting like Christ.  And if Christ has no favorites or least favorites, then we should be practicing not having favorites.

Which brings me to the yellow starburst people in my life.  I throw yellow starbursts in the garbage.  If I’m being honest, the yellow starburst people in my life get less than my 100% attention, love, or prayers. While I don’t throw them in the trash, I don’t treat them the same as my favorite people.  In the model of Jesus, what I’m doing with those interpersonal interactions is not fair…and it’s not right.

Clearly, I have some work to do, if I want to be more Christ-like in my interactions with others!

In the next week, I’m going to challenge myself to treat everyone around me as though they are my year-round favorite.  I want to see them as Christ sees them.  Perhaps, you can join me with this challenge and tell us on the Iron Porch how it’s going for you!

~Emily

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The Free Gift

A few days ago, I put two boxes of books out on the corner of our lawn with a sign that says “Free books!  Help yourself!”  These were some books that we’d already read and decided not to keep in our collection.  We thought to ourselves that maybe someone walking by would see the books and grab one or four so that they could enjoy one of the titles we had left.

The pile started with about 40 books and slowly, we’ve whittled the pile to about half that.  I’m kind of surprised that they’re not gone.  I’ve seen people walk past, stop and peek in as if to see if there’s really something in there.  I’ve also seen people start to take them and then change their mind, looking around as if to see if there’s some kind of trap I’ve set up!  Like I’m going to spring out of the bushes screaming, “IT SAYS FREE, BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE ALL OF THEM!”

Sometimes, people can be that way when we present the truth of Jesus.  God encourages us to spread the gospel to every creature.  Telling everyone about the gift of salvation is so simple and the steps to accept Christ as your personal Savior seems so easy, yet does it really have the “FREE…take it!” sign in front of it?!  It’s ours to just take?!

The answer is yes!  Choosing to have a relationship with God is a gift that He gives us freely and openly.  We only need to repent of our sins, ask forgiveness, turn ourselves over to Him, and ask Him to live in us forever.  There’s nothing fancy about the request.  There’s no special handshake or secret code you have to know.  We can take that free gift, knowing that it completely changes our lives.  I’m so thankful that I accepted that free gift so long ago!

How about you, dear friends?  Is there someone you know that needs to hear about that gift of salvation?  We can be praying for them.  Or perhaps you want to accept that gift yourself?  Message us at the Iron Porch, and we’d love to show you how.

~Erin

The Free Gift

Poop Talk Transparency

In a world full of COVID precautions, it’s been months since I have been in routine scenarios with lots of people around me. Over the weekend I went to a farmer’s market to look at the fresh produce. While strolling by the tomatoes and cheese, I overheard the most endearing conversation between two middle-aged women who were clearly friends enjoying a kids-free outing to pinch peaches and sniff homemade soaps.

The first woman turned to the other and said, “I’m about ready to talk about where we should go eat lunch.”

Her companion laughed and said, “It’s only 9 am Mary!!! Let’s go to the bookstore next, then talk about lunch.  Plus, I have to poop and I know the bookstore has a decent bathroom.”

I HAVE TO POOP!!!  She said, “I have to poop” like it was a normal conversation topic to discuss with a close friend in a public farmer’s market!

I want that poop talk transparency in my life and I want these women as my friends.  Now, don’t get it twisted…I don’t need the bathroom habits of my friends in order to have transparency, but what I do need is women in my life that are willing to say what they mean and mean what they say!

You think the pants make my butt look big…tell me! You don’t think I should date that dude…tell me!  You wish I had a different outlook on a particular topic…tell me!  I want my friends to have the ability to be transparent about their own lives and to help me be transparent in mine!

When I reflect on that type of transparency between friends, it makes me also think about if others see transparency in my life as a Christ-follower.  It makes me think to myself, “Do strangers interact with me and leave knowing I have Jesus in my heart?”

In 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

There is a nuance in this scripture that lets us know that transparency in a Christian walk includes presenting ourselves in a Godly manner, in an unashamed manner, and that we handle the Word of God with the truth.  The transparency of our walk with Jesus should be prevalent and it should be readily seen by others.

I’m not advocating for telling strangers or your best friends about your pooping needs….but I am praying for each of us to be just a little more transparent this week with sharing the love of God through our own actions and words.

~Emily

In 2 Timothy 2_15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”-2 copy

My Big Mouth

I have a big mouth.  I don’t mean I share secrets or anything like that.  I just know that sometimes the things I say gets me into trouble.  I’m sarcastic to a fault and my humor is often biting.  (When I write it like that, it doesn’t sound so humorous or witty!)  I don’t mean to be.  I’ve been this way for so long that it just naturally comes right off the tongue and out into space before I think about who’s around me.  And currently, the person around most to hear it is my 16-year-old daughter, Peyton.

I know I should be careful and more diligent.  I want to raise a respectful child, not one who thinks sarcasm or cutting humor is the way to go.  I want her to build people up, not say something funny at their expense or feelings.

There are about 9,245,479,111 verses in the bible about watching your speech, and of course, I ran into one when I was reading my Bible yesterday morning.

“The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. –Proverbs 13:3.

Really, God?  I need this lesson?  And the answer is YES, I DO.  I have children and grandchildren watching what I’m doing.  I have a Bible study group that counts on me to be a leader.  I have friends who need community around them that support them and share the gospel with them.

While none of these reasons hold me to a higher standard, my faith in Jesus Christ does.  He made me in His image. The last time I checked, there wasn’t a Bible verse that said I can just spew words willy-nilly out of my mouth without thought and not have an impact on my life or the lives around me!

I’ve now written this verse from the Bible on sticky notes and have it posted around the house.  My prayer and goal moving forward is that the words I speak are exactly as Christ intended.

How about you, faithful friends?  Anyone else have this speech issue?  Come to the porch and share.

~Erin

Outdoor School

“Your word I have treasured in my heart,

That I may not sin against You.” ~Psalm 119:11 (NASB)

This verse is a reminder that when we memorize scripture, we are preparing ourselves for when we need to rely on the Word and don’t have access to a physical Bible.  Who is preparing you for that moment you won’t have a Bible, but desperately need scripture?

When I was in the 6th grade, I went to outdoor school.  All Oregonian children go to outdoor school, which is a one-week “camping” experience that is part of the public-school system and a beloved portion of most childhood memories in Oregon.  Essentially the week teaches different aspects of surviving in the woods, as well as the ecological purposes of respecting and assisting nature.

We learned about how to collect morning dew as a water source, as well as how to effectively catch lightning bugs for a homemade flashlight.  I remember finding the North Star as a navigation tool during night hikes.  I distinctly remember each of us “licking” a slug in order to experience a slug’s natural numbing attributes.  Good to know if you are ever injured in the woods and need a numbing agent.  Another useful lesson was that the pollen pods on the back of fern leaves are useful to rub on a rash caused by stinging nettles…both found readily in some of the forests of the Northwest.

In Oregon, the taxpayers feel that it’s an important part of life in the Northwest for children to learn about respecting nature and about surviving in the woods.  They’ve determined that it’s important enough to add to a public-school curriculum.

The question then becomes, is tucking God’s word into your heart, as important to you, as Outdoor School is to Oregonians?

While I’m grateful to know survival techniques, in the awful possibility that I was lost in the woods, I more often than not feel lost in the world.  Therefore, I have a much greater need to have the survival techniques of pulling out God’s scriptures that I’ve memorized.

In an effort to have full disclosure, I have a difficult time memorizing scriptures. However, I know important so I keep trying to add to my arsenal in my heart and mind.

This week I want to encourage the ladies of the Iron Porch to prepare your hearts with scripture…in the event, you become “lost” and need those survival tactics!

~Emily

Outdoor School

 

 

 

 

Packing Up the Memories

We’re still reeling from the loss of Allen, my father-in-law.  As you read this we’re driving up to Fort Bragg, California to go through his things and start packing mementos away.  This is an especially hard time for both Chris and Rita, his son and daughter, as they’ll begin to go through the memories of their life without him at their side.

With an ache, we’ll go through his clothes, his watch collection, his knives, hunting gear, and photos and sift through things that the grandchildren might like to have as a tangible item of their Grandpa.

I’ve often thought over the last couple of weeks how I could help them work through this coming weekend as we do this.  A verse in Romans comes to mind.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” –Romans 12:15

What beautiful words.  We will mourn for the missing piece from our family here.  I’m going to hold their hands as they cry, and I’ll feel the sadness along with them as they grieve.  I’ll comfort them as they remember.

But we’re also going to rejoice for the happy times.  We’re going to remember his laugh, his return from his hunting trips, the outings he had with his family.  We’re going to remember him constantly reminding his grandchildren to call him “Uncle Allen” instead of “Grandpa Allen.”  We’re going to remember his vibrant personality and his heartfelt desire to give to those in need.  We’re going to remember him for the great spirit he had and the love that he gave.

Thank you, Jesus, for providing me just the right verse to help us as we walk through this weekend.

~Erin

Humble Honey

As I was bragging about never messing up in the kitchen, I dropped a one-pound glass jar of honey, which promptly exploded and then oozed on the counter and floor.  An “eat your words” type of moment and a ginormous mess, to say the least.  It was a humbling moment considering I had just been boastful about not dropping items.

According to dictonary.com, humbling is a verb which means “to bring down the pride of another or to reduce her to a state of abasement: to humble an arrogant enemy.”  While I don’t classify myself as an arrogant enemy, I certainly had my pride reduced in that moment of oozing honey and glass shards.

For the rest of the day, I was humming a childhood song based on James 4:10. “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) And He shall lift you up. Higher and higher and He. Shall lift you up.”

The song, on constant repeat throughout the day, drove the question; “Why should we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

First and foremost, we should humble ourselves before God because we are instructed to imitate Christ, who was in fact, humble.  As seen in Philippians 2:5, we see that Christ did not state equality with God was an attainable goal, but rather Christ humbled himself to become human for our benefit.

Perhaps another reason why we should humble ourselves is found in James 4:10 and in the song itself.  As we humble ourselves, God promises to exalt us.  When we are humble in the sight of God, we receive His blessings and grace in a unique manner.  He will lift us up.

 The song, still on repeat, drove the next question; “How do we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

Speak well of others…on purpose (Ephesians 4:31-32).  When we speak negatively about others, we are putting them down and often making ourselves out to be better.  When we speak positively about others, we build them up and edify them.  Throughout my life, I have caught myself being less than humble in this regard.

Always Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  When we pray, we are acting in a manner of dependence and humility. Prayer becomes a declaration of weakness.  In the moment of prayer, we admit to God that we can’t make it without Him and that we need Him in requests and in praise.  There are plenty of times that prayer is an afterthought in my life when in reality it should be my 1st thought.

Confess your areas of sin to God (Luke 18:9-14).  All of us are sinful, but few of us routinely and honestly tell God about that sinful nature. Every day, it’s easy to ask God to “forgive my sins” as a blanketed statement.  For me, it’s much harder to specifically assess areas of my life that are steeped in sin and then admit them to God.

Confess your areas of sin to other Christians (James 3:2). A test of true humility is when we are willing to confess our sins to others, just as we would confess it to God.  Obviously, discretion is needed about who you confess sin to, but the act of telling someone about our sin allows us space to be completely honest with ourselves and ultimately with God.  I struggle with this one because I don’t want others to know where I am weak or where I am failing.  Thus, pride interfering with humility in my life.

As I hummed the song “Humble thyself in the Sight of the Lord,” I was reminded of why I should want to be humble and how I can practice being humble at the feet of God.

A broken honey jar is just one tangible reminder of how much work I have to do in this area…

To those on the Iron Porch this week, I pray you seek humility in your daily interactions this week!

~Emily

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Iron Porch Interview with Khandi Wagner: Christian Women and Race Relations in America

The following is the transcription of an Iron Porch Interview with Khandi Wagner concerning race relations and what Christian women should know.  Khandi is a Christian wife and mother, as well as an Active Duty Airman who is active in her church, her community, and her family.

Khandi, please describe yourself, as you would imagine God describing you.

I believe that at times He would describe me as lost.  I’m a fairly new Christian and often feel like I have no idea how to be a Christian.  He would be proud of me for finding my way back to Him. He would call me a sinful being who is repentant.  I do feel bad about my sin and I try to do the right thing.  I think He would also describe me as hungry for knowledge about Him and His Word.

 Tell us about your testimony.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and I hated it because I never understood the Pastor. The church was corrupt and the Pastor had very sinful behaviors, which caused several members to leave.  The next church I attended I loved, but I wasn’t ready to commit to being a Christian because I identified as a lesbian.

During my college years, I stopped going to church because I was going to school and working full-time.  I thought I had no time for church.  Later I was sexually assaulted in college and partially blamed God.  I couldn’t understand how a God who is so loving could allow this hurt.  No one told me that God was just and loving.

I then got married to my High School sweetheart, who happened to be a girl.  I joined the military and still didn’t go to church.  I wasn’t happy and felt my soul was at unrest.  I was in constant turmoil, which only got worse when my wife decided to transition into a male.  After his medical transition, he brought a woman to the house and cheated on me.  My heart was broken with a hurt I’d never experienced before.  I did not think I would survive the hurt.

At that point, I found God on my back porch as I begged Him to take the hurt and pain.  At that moment, the weight of all my life’s heaviness was taken away.  I knew I needed to find a church and after weeks of church shopping, I was given an invitation to a church called Crosspoint.

It was a strange transition to see casual clothes and a coffee shop, but the music was great and the first message touched my heart.  That first sermon was titled, “Loneliness is a Liar.”  Essentially the pastor stated that the enemy wants you to think that you are the only one with your hurt, sadness, anger, situation, hatred in your heart, but you have to surround yourself with love and those who are good Christians (they will share your weight). Jesus said, lay your problems at my feet. After service, the pastor introduced himself and knew me by name the following week.

A change had happened in my heart.  I no longer was interested in women.  I had a fire inside of me.  It was a hunger to know God and His Word.  I knew then that Jesus was the only love I’d needed my entire life.

In light of the recent conversations being had Nationally about race relations and social injustice, what would you want Christian women, and specifically white Christian women, to know about the discussion?

I would want to remind her that we are all God’s children and that some of His children are hurting right now. I would want her to know that I wish she would read the Bible and really understand it rather than using it to justify current events.  I wish she would understand there is love, sadness, defeat, and immense power right now in America.

White Christian women have an enormous platform that they may not even realize that they have, just based on the color of their skin.  They could spread so much love while spreading the Word.  Because love is the Word.  Because the Bible is love. Because God is love. With that platform, white Christians need to take that love and run with it.

White people have a power that they may not even realize that they possess. For instance, your presence alone can deescalate a situation.  Your presence alone can keep an unnecessary killing form happening.  Your presence alone can get the truth out.  There is an obligation to use your whiteness to help people.  Perhaps it means you could intervene with the police.

What do you find the most challenging when dealing with Christians and racial injustice? 

One of the things I find most difficult is when Christians are selective about what parts of the Bible they use to justify their thoughts or actions. There are examples in the Bible of people fighting for freedom, but there’s an expectation about Christians, especially African American Christians should be passive in fighting for their freedom.

For example, a lot of Christians reference Jesus being non-violent as a way to justify a stance against protesting, looting, or rioting that is currently happening in US cities.  They fail to use examples like Joshua marching around Jericho for 7 days before taking the city.  To some Joshua is an example of protesting for the promised land.  It was violent. It was not passive.

I find it difficult that Christians say “don’t judge” when they fail to realize that God did not say “don’t judge,” but rather He said, “judge righteously.” This means that he’s given us permission to judge those who know the love of Christ.  Therefore, you can’t stand in judgment of the wicked who haven’t accepted the gift of salvation.

What do you find the most rewarding when dealing with Christians and racial injustice?

One of the things I find most rewarding is that Christians seem to be the group of people most willing to listen and amend their preconceived notions about race.  When I give examples of black suppression (need another word?), Christian people seem receptive and are willing to open eyes for Biblical examples. Christians are open to a fresh perspective and it’s rewarding to get them to see something in a new light.

Another thing I find rewarding about recent conversation opportunities is that it’s creating an atmosphere to establish relationships.  These relationships are likely with those who you wouldn’t have previously had conversations or friendships with.

In your opinion, how can Christians help with race relations?

Khandi Graphics

  • Get involved. The time for being passive is over.  White allies are needed in order for there to be equality for all in America.
  • Give a black person a hug.  You have no idea how much this would mean to some people.  We are tired and we need encouragement.
  • Listen to the discussion.  Don’t just hear the words, listen to the struggle, and see it through someone else’s eyes and experiences.
  • Pray for us and with us.  We are in desperate need of uplifting prayers.
  • Educate yourself and those around you.  Do some research on black history, watch documentaries, read books, listen to experts or podcasts.   In today’s climate, social media is GIVING you tons of information…read it!

 Do you feel there is a difference between a person being racist and having a racial bias?

There is a difference, but it’s a fine line.  Racial bias is something everyone has and it could be subconscious.  For instance, you may begin picking up behaviors from others like if a mom grabs purse every time an African American man walks by, then the child begins to identify with that bias even if they don’t understand that they are behaving a certain way.

Racism cross over the line when someone has a closed mind and aren’t open to new experiences in regards to an entire grouping of people.  It’s closed-minded and it festers until it directly begins to impact behavior and thoughts.  This type of behavior is also taught and can be as subtle as a tone or demeanor or as overt as racist comments or violence.

To counteract that racism, people might simply have a conversation, which could lead to an epiphany. Much like when Christians realize that they need to accept Jesus as their Savior.

The Iron Porch is grateful for the time and energy Khandi spent sharing her testimony and her thoughts on race relations.  If you have any further questions for Khandi, please do not hesitate to contact us on the porch!

~Emily & Erin

Khandi Photo

Khandi Wagner and her husband.

Preview of Iron Porch Interview: Christian Women and Race Relations in America

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come to share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that we felt God wanted to provide so that women could encourage and comfort one another.  In the past, we’ve encouraged guest bloggers to join us on the Iron Porch.

This week we have the honor of posting an interview on the porch concerning Christian Women and race relations in America.  The guest blogs and this interview are always posted under ‘fesharp’ rather than ‘Erin’ or ‘Emily.’

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read the thoughts of Khandi Wagner, our 1st interview of 2020.

~Emily & Erin

Khandi Photo

Khandi Wagner and her husband.