Mr. Parker

You know those events in your life where you see the handiwork of God and you just have to sit back and shake your head in awe at how He does it?  You think you’re making these great decisions and good choices only to realize in the middle of it or at the end that you didn’t really make that decision at all.  It was already made for you.  You just didn’t know it.  And when you realize what it truly is, you can’t help but thank Jesus for how he formulated it for you.  To describe it as magic is too worldly.  Destiny is too chancy.  It’s just….Jesus.

I attended a Connecting Women’s Conference this last weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.  I was scheduled to return home on Sunday afternoon, my flight leaving shortly before 2pm.  However, due to a personal scheduling conflict, I arrived at the airport around 8am.  When I checked in at the ticket counter I told the agent, “I know I’m a million hours early, but is it possible to at least check my bag so I don’t have to roll it around with me?”

The agent looked through the computer and let me know that if I wanted to, an earlier flight into my Atlanta connection was available.  I took it.  (Atlanta is a much larger airport with many more food options, so that was a win for me!)

An hour and a half later, I boarded the flight and took my middle seat.  An older gentleman sat down next to me, an obviously well-read book gripped in his hand.  Now, I love to read.  And I’m nosy.  So once he got settled, I asked him what he was reading.  “King Leopold’s Ghost” was his reply.  I asked him if it was any good, and told me it was his third time reading it!  Any book worth reading more than once was a book I wanted to read, so I took the information down.  That brief interaction started a 40 minute conversation and ended with a hug at the concourse and a promise to email his son’s art information.

We talked about his grown sons who are artists and chefs and his beautiful wife of 40 years, an educator in the special needs field of middle school.  We spoke about his desire to help end an epidemic of fatherless homes.  We talked about my ministry.  He gave me practical advice about working on relationships.  And we spoke of how God orchestrates random events into life-changing moments.

At the end of our conversation, we both agreed that me getting on that plane was not by chance.  It was a divine appointment.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (NASB)  Isn’t that the truth?!  I can think I’m making the choices, but God directs the steps I take.  He took me directly to a Jesus encounter that will forever impact my life.

Thank you, Mr. Parker, for your words of encouragement.  My world is a better place for knowing you.  And thank you, God, for taking this brief moment in my life and turning into a miracle of just Jesus.

Do any of you have moments in your life that you’d like to share?  Perhaps you’ve had a moment where you can only explain it as “just Jesus”!  Share in the comments below and encourage others!

~Erin

tHE MIND OF MAN PLANS HIS WAY, BUT THE LORD DIRECTS HIS STEPS.

Family Discipleship

Women’s Christian Conferences are a chance for me to refresh and reconnect to the Lord without the everyday distractions of life. It’s a time where I can literally focus 100% on the Bible and prayer with other women.  During every conference I’ve ever attended, I’ve always left with at least one new friend and a pile of scripture nuggets & observations to study further.

Last year, I was blessed to attend the Connecting Ministries, Connecting Women Conference in Birmingham, AL.  I actually blogged about a Prayer Warrior that the Lord specifically told me to engage with while I was at the conference. Prayer Warriors

Fast forward to this year’s Connecting Women’s Conference.  That Prayer Warrior and her mom sat right next to me!

You see, that appointment with God last year has led to my front row seat to watching this Prayer Warrior grow into her new role of leadership for the Kingdom.  She went from a non-volunteer-volunteer on the prayer team last year, to the prayer team leader this year.  She went from receiving daily prayer request emails before the conference to crafting them this year.  She went from praying faithfully privately to praying on the stage this year.  She went from a quiet prayer warrior to a bold and public prayer warrior.

Normally, I would take that as the significant observation and “take away” from this weekend.

But there was one other observation about this Prayer Warrior that is significant….

The Prayer Warrior was with her mother!

They sat side by side. They prayed together and with others. They raised their arms in worship together. They wept and laughed together. They illustrated family worship in a very precious way.

In Matthew 22 and in Deuteronomy 6, we see that Jesus highlighted the most important commandment in the Bible.  He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise’” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV).

Interestingly enough, as soon as Jesus answers the question of the Great Commandment, God focuses our attention on family life.  He speaks specifically to parents on how to pass along the power of faith to children.  At the heart of the Great Commandment is family discipleship…how parents are a primary spiritual teacher for their children.

Now I don’t know the Prayer Warrior and her mother enough to know their entire backstory.  I don’t know when they came to know the Lord and what their trials and tribulations have been.  I don’t know if this is a relationship where the mother taught the daughter about God or if it happened in reverse.

I’ll tell you what I do know:

I know these two women love the Lord.  I know they love each other fiercely. I know they love other women.  I know they model the behavior of Christian love.  I know it was an absolute joy to watch them interact with one another and watch a Christ-focused relationship between a mom and her daughter.  I know it was a beautiful thing to watch.

I am honored to have watched this faithful sister in Christ grow in her prayer life and step into a leadership role for God over this last year.

I am humbled to have watched a mother and daughter praise God side-by-side over this last weekend.

I am grateful to a loving Father who outlined family discipleship and allowed me to witness how it works in 2019.

Watch for the Prayer Warriors.  Watch for the Family Disciples.

~Emily

P.S. Mark your calendar to join us Feb 21-22, 2020 at the Connecting Women’s Conference to see how the Lord is going to move in the next 12 months…

Children

Arm-Knitting and Parenting

About 2 months ago, an ad came across my screen on Facebook for a local business in my area.  The business, Gather Marketplace and Studio, offers classes throughout the month that include paint ‘n sip, making succulent wreaths, macramé, knitting, and even painting your furniture.  It looked super cute and fun, and after checking with Peyton, I enrolled us in a Saturday morning “Arm Knit a Scarf” class.

For you knitters out there, I applaud you.  I’m insanely jealous of the talent it takes to know where to go over and under and what goes through which confusing hole of string.  It’s a gift that I’ve attempted a couple of times which has always resulted in a stunning store bought blanket being given to a sweet infant.

This style of arm knitting seemed more our speed, and we embarked on the hour and a half journey to making a scarf.  At first we had a hard time catching on.  However, after some brief trial and error we ended up with a beautiful product.

As Peyton got into the first few stitches, there were some misunderstood directions given (by me to her) to which she told me that if it got ruined, it would be my fault!  Luckily, about 15 minutes later as she was arm knitting at the speed of light, she looked over at me and said, “Mom, I’m killing it!”

One of the other ladies that was participating in the class giggled and asked if it was always my fault if things weren’t going well.  “Definitely!” was my reply….if it’s going badly, it’s my fault.  If it’s going well, she’s a rock star and it had nothing to do with me!

Anyone else have a child like that?!

There are many times I wonder if I’m doing this parenting thing right.  The teenage years are often packed with drama-filled days, feelings of insecurity, and tumultuous friendships.  There are days when your children are riding high on the joys of being a child.  Then there are days where nothing you can say or do will be able to console them from the tears they shed because of someone’s mean comments or the struggle of grades in school.

I’m often asking God why He can’t just fix it and make it better, then backtracking and reminding myself that God is there in the middle of the struggle.  I don’t have to worry about whether He sees the pain.  He’s trying to take it off our shoulders.  If only we’ll let Him.

Psalm 29:11 speaks to me in this time of my life. “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

I don’t have to create this strength to endure the struggle.  It comes from Him.  And with the strength He gives during this time of raising kids, He provides a peace that passes all understanding.  I can rely on Him to cover me and my children with that peace that I so desperately seek.

Parenting will always have its ups and downs.  But my faith in God allows me to lay those ups and downs at His feet and trust that He’s weaving a beautiful story in my and my daughter’s life.  Just like that perfect scarf Peyton made!

What do you struggle with when it comes to your kids?  Share at the porch and know you’re not alone!

~Erin

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Peyton working hard! She’s a natural!

Love is…Bible Study Time

More often than not, I get stumped while reading the Bible.  I want to know all the details and frankly, the Bible doesn’t always give all the details.

The OCD in me wants to know who’s who and why of the Bible.  So, I spend time cross-referencing family lineage.

The historian in me wants to know what is happening on a timeline.  So, I spend time looking up historical references about what was happening during certain parts of the Bible.

The researcher in me wants to know why some versions use particular words, while others have selective different verbiage. So, I spend time cross-referencing different versions of the Bible.

The woman in me wants to know how it applies to me. Right Now.  In 2019.  So, I spend time in prayer and journaling in an attempt to fully understand a scripture.

A new technique that I’ve recently employed is putting myself into the scripture or the scenario.  This has afforded me an opportunity to hear God’s voice in a manner that I hadn’t previously tried.

For instance, imagine yourself as one of the disciples being asked to pray for Jesus the night before His death.  As you are sitting in the dark garden, would you have been faithful in praying?  Would you have fallen asleep? Would you have sat up chatting with the others in an effort to stay awake?

In that scenario, you can begin to picture what the disciples were feeling that night.  Perhaps you get a glimpse into how Jesus reacted that evening.  Whatever your reaction to this exercise, you begin to see the Bible through a new set of lenses.

Let me present you with a challenge to put yourself into a scripture.  I’m sure you are familiar with the scripture of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV), but for the purpose of this exercise, I’m asking you to break it into individual lines (you can do this in your journal or on a scrap piece of paper).

Love is patient,

love is kind,

it does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Now, the harder part of studying and applying this passage.  Replace the word “Love” and the word “it” with your own name.  Once you do that, prayerfully ask the Lord and yourself if the statement is still true.  Ask the Lord for help to strengthen you where there is weakness and continue to protect you where there is a strength.

In this challenge, “Love is patient” becomes “Emily is patient.”  “Love is kind” becomes “Emily is kind.” So on, and so on.

Guess what?  Love is patient all day, every day.  Emily, not so much.  I lose patience all the time.  And that is an area I need to take to the Lord in prayer.  What happens in this Bible study time, through putting myself into a scripture scenario, I identify an area that I need to prayerful consider in time with the Lord.

Take the challenge.  See what God speaks to your heart through a new lens.

~Emily

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.  It penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

love is

To-Do Lists

Anyone else a fan of lists?  I adore writing down a lengthy list of to-dos every day.  The checking off of each box feels like you’ve accomplished something.  And then I have lists of lists.  Yes…you read that right.  I inevitably lose the first list I’ve written, and I rewrite them.  Only to find the original list under a book or sitting on another table.  (Tidy is NOT my strong suit.)

For someone who works almost exclusively from home, it may seem as if a list of things I need to do is a little excessive, but here’s what the list for me looked like three days ago.

  • Make coffee
  • Colossians study
  • 2 Samuel study
  • Clean bathroom
  • Prayer time
  • Email group about dinner
  • Blog
  • Mail package

(No need to laugh over my first bullet point.  I put it on there so I know I get at least one checked off every day, and it makes me feel like a winner!)

People sometimes think I read my bible ALL THE TIME and pray 24/7 because I lead a bible study and write a blog.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s a discipline that I’ve had to learn.  I have to write it on my to-do list, because it’s still something that I struggle with completing every day.  Am I light years from where I used to be?  Yes.  Am I perfect at it?  Not even close.  It’s sometimes one of the things that I think is the easiest to cut from my list.  When I skip it, I feel it in my interactions with others and my interactions with God.

In Psalm 119:105 David writes, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’  The Word of God guides me as I go through the day.  It illuminates the path I take and leads me in truth and grace.  It helps remove the darkness that Satan tries to blind me with and allows me to hold on to God’s promises for my life and my future.

If you’re one that struggles with Bible reading like me, I would encourage you to make your list.  Put that on it.  Remind yourself that the Word of God is your lighthouse-not something that should be ignored.  And then get to checking it off every day as you soak up His words and light up your path!

~Erinyour word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Unbiblical Teachings

bible“It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” Job 34:12 (NIV)

Dealing with untruths, when spoken as though they are the words of God, is one of the most difficult scenarios that a Christian can face.  Churches split, relationships are damaged, and hearts break over this very issue.

A few years ago, my husband and I each had a nudge from God to attended an established church that we fell in love with.  There was a large church following without multiple services. This was a church without debt. They added on to the building when they had funds.

The Pastor spoke words from the altar that defied political correctness. He was passionate. He provided offensive sermons and was unapologetic for those messages.  More than once I questioned his Biblical basis for his claims in sermons.  Yet my husband enjoyed the church and the services.

When the Pastor came to our house, he railed my husband about not being a “true” Christian head of the household.  Again, offensive and unapologetic.  Still, my husband was drawn to him and his teaching.

When this Pastor had a sermon on being fruitful and multiplying, the stage was set for my feelings to be hurt, based on my past experiences with infertility and miscarriages.

He preached that those who did not have multiple babies were being “unwilling” or “unfaithful” to spreading the Word of God.  He stated that if you weren’t pregnant, trying to get pregnant or having babies then you weren’t a strong enough Christian.  If you weren’t able to get pregnant, you weren’t praying hard enough. He stated that God gives His faithful and prayerful people what they ask for.  Therefore, if you are not receiving what you are praying for, then you are either unfaithful or don’t have a healthy prayer life.

Imagine my shock. The dagger to my heart when I realized that he was saying that my 20+ years of praying for a baby was not enough. That I wasn’t a strong enough Christian.

It was the first time I had been in doubt about my Christian walk based on the words of a Pastor. And it was the first time I defied my husband’s lead regarding the church.

You see, my husband liked this church and he liked the Pastor.  However, that was the last day I went to that church. My husband wanted to go back, but I refused. I did not believe it was Biblical teaching coming from the pulpit. I did not believe he was speaking to the hearts of Christians about God’s message.

It was not the first time that my husband saw the spiritual gift of discernment being used in our house, but it was certainly the first time that it caused chaos and contention.

After prayerful consideration, we found another church.  That decision was not easy.  It’s not always easy to follow your heart when you hear the true voice of God speak to you.

Come to the porch and share an experience where following the voice of God was not an easy road…

~Emily

unbiblical truth

Go…And Be Perfect?

I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into.  I love leading Bible study.  I mean I LOVE IT!  I enjoy meeting with this community of women (Table 8) I’m surrounded by who love the Lord and have a desire to know Him better every day.  We’ve used the Beth Moore Daniel study and studied the Names of God by Kay Arthur.  We learned how to Open Your Bible with She Reads Truth, and read Romans with the Time-Warp Wife.

But I’m in whole new territory.  To quote the ever popular FB post going around, ‘Never Have I Ever’… studied a book of the bible on its own.  Like, with no help or answer key.  No prompts or suggestions.  Why, Erin?  Why did you agree to this?!  (Just kidding about that part.  Obviously it’s because God directed me to go there.)

We started studying the book of Colossians last night, and I’ve prepped for this for weeks.  I have a designated “Colossians notebook” for notes and thoughts.  I purchased a commentary on Colossians.  I have three different bible translations to see the difference in how the verses are worded.  I took copious notes on Paul (the author of the book) and Colossae (the town) so that everyone would know the background.  I even bought maps to show ‘then and now’ to get a feel for the area we’re learning about.

And when we started last night, we started with a bang.  I talked F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  If you ask Table 8 how I did, they will lovingly tell you I was wonderful.  But friends, I was NOT.  Don’t get me wrong…I wasn’t horrible.  But a lot of the information I had written in my notes, and thankfully I didn’t share all of it, was random.  Much of it as I looked to share had nothing to do with what we were talking about at the moment.  And my notes were less organized than I had remembered!

I didn’t even remember to tell them that Colossians is considered a ‘prison epistle’ because Paul wrote it while he was in prison.  That may not seem to matter to some, but for the story as it relates to Paul’s life, it’s a big deal!  Thank you, Dianne, for bringing it up with the group!

I beat myself up a little about it, and then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a wonderful verse:

Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  Mark 16:15

God gave me a calling, and I’m following it.  I’m living out this command.  God was in the middle of those two hours, and He knew exactly what was going to be said and who would say it.  He didn’t say “Go, but your delivery better be perfect when you talk about Me.”  He simply said, “Go.”  My weakness is His strength, and He’s right there assuring me that He will cover that weakness.

This gave me a completely different outlook on last night’s study.  I still have all three of my bible translations, my maps, and my commentary.  I’m still taking copious amounts of notes!  (I am, however, simply streamlining said notes to be more effective and helpful.)  But I’m reminding myself that Jesus told me to go and that’s exactly what I’m doing.  He’ll do the rest.

~Erin

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