Stinky Lazarus

Lazarus had been dead for 4 days.  Jesus hadn’t come in time to heal him and Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were devastated that he was gone.  What a difficult time for them it must have been.  They knew and believed that Jesus is the Son of God and that He had healed and could heal again.  Yet, He didn’t get there in time to heal their brother. 

As Jesus came to the tomb, He told Martha and the gathering crowd to open the tomb up.  Practical Martha’s reply?! “Lord, he’s been dead four days.  He’s gonna stink!”  

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’” –John 11:40    

He didn’t address the problem of the smell that would come from the tomb.  He didn’t tell everyone to hold their nose and not gag.  He wasn’t worried about grossing out Martha.  He wasn’t focused on practical problems.  He was focused on the eternal one.

How often do we hear someone say they need to clean up their act before they get saved and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior?  Maybe we’ve thought about how far off we’ve strayed from God’s path and we feel there’s something we need to do before we can come to God and ask for forgiveness.  Often, we see it as a sensible step…God doesn’t want to see our mistakes.  He must want us shiny and new.  He wants us to see real progress before we can come to the throne of grace.  But none of those thought processes are even close to the truth.

Jesus isn’t worried about what we perceive as a solution to how He best sees us.  He’s focused on the eternal issue at hand…do you believe?  He’s not looking for the dance that leads up to showing your best self.  He’s wanting you to come to Him, stink and all!

When we accept and believe, at that point, we can give the practical issues to Him so that HE can work through us to fix it.  It gives Him the honor and glory.  It shows the world that we aren’t meant to work out those things on our own, rather with God’s help. 

I pray that if there’s something that’s keeping you from God, you turn to Him anyway.  Don’t worry about those “practical” problems.  He’s focused on the eternal solution.


Bee Stings of Life

I’m a beekeeper and my family will occasionally help with the inspections and honey collection.  We wear bee jackets, screened hoods with jeans, closed-toe shoes, and gloves.  We nearly always have the smoker lit and ready to puff.  I carry a spray bottle filled with sugar water to ‘distract’ the girls.  It’s as much protection as we can prepare for against their natural defense mechanism to sting predators.

Still, they manage to sting us occasionally.  Usually, it’s when I get careless or move too quickly around the bees.  Sometimes it’s when I least expect it, such as several yards away from the hives on my way back to the house. 

One sting leads to another. Why?  The bee’s message via stinging is a loud call to all her sisters that they are under attack.  If one bee stings, others will follow.

Beekeeping is like committing sinful behavior.

Once we become Christians, we try our best to protect ourselves against scenarios that tempt us into sin.  I remember in my adolescence; new Christian teens would purge their music collections of secular music.  I’ve seen couples create joint social media accounts to avoid the temptations of some sins. I specifically avoid the New Age/pagan/occult portion of bookstores.  Perhaps people start to dutifully pray against certain sins.  Job changes, blocked websites, financial overhauls, moving churches…the list goes on and on about how we try to protect ourselves from falling into sin. 

1 Peter 4-5 are great chapters instructing us on the battles of sin.  It opens with Jesus conveying that while on the cross, He sacrificed everything in the battle against sin. Literally everything; including his life.  The verses continue with Paul calling us to also give everything against sin in our lives.  Paul continues by encouraging and providing instruction that when we live fully for Christ, we tend to pull away from the longing to be involved in sin-filled behaviors. 

There are practical ways to guard against sin, such as avoiding certain books, changing social media activities, or even changing music habits.  The longer-term way to align with less sin is to draw closer to the Lord.  Increasing our prayer life, daily Bible reading, and surrounding ourselves with accountability partners are all additional ways to try to prevent one sin from becoming multiple sins. 

Like with bees, sin can circumvent the protective measures in place.  One sin often leads to more sin…just like the stingers of one bee leads to others following suit. So we must acknowledge sin in our lives and safeguard against it.  We then begin guarding against known stumbling blocks…just like the beekeeper who wears appropriate clothing and is prepared against stings with smoke and sugar water.


The Dirty Words

I’m about to step on toes.  And by that, I mean mine are going to get a bruising, as well.  Sometimes we, as Christians, struggle with the idea that we’re held to a different standard.  Society has normalized certain actions, behaviors and words and, in turn, we’ve chosen to normalize some of these even though we walk in Christ.  However, lately I’ve really been struggling with one sin in particular…the sin of the tongue.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about…swearing, cussing, naughty words.  Whichever way you want to put it, it’s not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

I can count the number of times I heard my parents cuss on two hands growing up.  The people we were surrounded by until I was 12 and moved to the States didn’t curse, at least not around any children.  Some call it sheltered.  I just called it a community of believers that didn’t use those words.  We only heard those words on TV or in movies.

Once I got outside of my tight-knit Christian community and into the U.S., expletives abounded!  I heard kids and adults using words I would never have dared to say before–until I thought I looked lame and boring.  I started using them.  And then I became a walking cussing dictionary.  I could spew them out with the best of them. 

Into my adulthood, for the most part, I decided to make a conscious choice not to use the words.  Did they really bring value to my speech?  And to date, my children have rarely heard me use these words.  In fact, if I use one in front of them, they actually giggle and make fun of the fact that mom used a “bad word.” 

Lately, though, it’s gotten bad.  My language has gotten looser, and I find myself not cultivating the right kind of speech.

I’ve heard all the excuses before (and used them, too). 

                They’re just words unless you give them meaning.

                They have an appropriate place in your speech if you use it right.

                Is that word really that bad?

While God didn’t give us an English book with a list of words to use that are correct, He did provide us with some great direction on how to determine what’s right and wrong. 

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” –Matthew 12:36.  Jesus was talking here about words revealing our character.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” –Proverbs 18:21.  We know the fruits include love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, etc.  Does using a wordly word for poop demonstrate any of those?

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” –Ephesians 5:3-4.  Here, we see Paul describing how we are to be imitators of God.  

We are held to a higher standard by God as Christ-followers.  He tells us that we are set apart.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” –Colossians 3:2

I’ve let this kind of speech become normal, but the reality is that the world judges Christians.  While some of the judgment might seem unfair, I need to remember that my words have an impact on the people around me, both Christians and non-Christians alike.  What we say matters.  The world is looking at us to be different, and what we do is representative of Jesus Christ. 

As I struggle with this, I picture this very scene:  Jesus walks towards me as I’m chatting with friends, and I drop an F-Bomb.  I don’t think His first words to me are, “Great use of the word there!”  Instead, I envision Him wondering how that was meant to edify.

My prayer and goal moving forward is to be thoughtful in my speech and intentional with my words!  Join me on this journey!


Oh Beloved S’mores

For me, summer officially starts with an evening of family and friends gathered around the fire pit with sticks a-ready for toasting marshmallows. I’m happy to provide graham crackers and chocolate to go along with the marshmallows.  I’m even willing to “go gourmet” and get fancy with cookies, peanut butter cups, or york peppermint patties.  More than once, I’ve initiated a conversation about the toasting methods and preferences (for the record, Erin’s burning of marshmallows is wrong).

As you imagine that perfectly toasted, gooey mess, melting into a perfect square of chocolate placed onto a crispy vessel for eating…remember this; there is no polite way to eat a s’more.  You can’t delicately eat it with a pinky finger up expecting that the entire bite will go nicely into your mouth. No, indeed, you will make a mess.  On your mouth, on your fingers, and maybe even on your shirt.  You have to go all in so that you can enjoy the fullness of the s’mores experience.

Like eating a s’more, you have to go all in when following Christ. It’s all or nothing.  It’s all-encompassing for your life…and at times, it will get messy.  But the reward of being a Christ follower is worth it.  The closeness of a personal relationship with God will produce infinite benefits to your life, not to mention your assurances for eternity. 

We are to love as Christ loved, as dictated in John 13:34 (NIV), “A new command I give you; Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  

As we love others, our hands will get dirty.  In the world, human relationship is hard. It’s messy. So to show kindness to the homeless may require being dirty.  To tend to the ill or infirm, it may be distasteful.  Caring for widows or orphans may be hard and mentally taxing.  All types of love and service require us to get into the trenches and get dirty. 

When we get dirty when loving others, we are serving the Lord.  And He is pleased way more than we are when we get messy eating s’mores. 

Eat the s’mores.  Enjoy them.  Get messy.

But remember to love, serve, enjoy one another…and get messy being the hands and feet of Christ.


Guest Blogger: Esther Welling “Who Am I?”

It has been a little over a month since my retirement ceremony from the military.

By the time one is eligible to retire from the service at 20 years, or in my case 22 years, you’ve encountered others whom you’ve served with begin to retire as well.

One thing evident by attending multiple retirement ceremonies is noticing the existential crises many endure.

You become keenly aware that “who I am” comes into question after years/decades of wearing our nation’s cloth to sacrifice and defend her way of life.

Who am I outside of this uniform? Who am I, other than Rank Last Name or Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Guardian? The military life is the only life I’ve known. I spent my childhood and teen years as an Army child and then joined the Air Force at 18 years old. After 20 years in the Air Force I transferred into the military’s newest branch, the Space Force, where I had to adjust my identity from Airman to Guardian.

There are many articles online that depict the tale of the veteran. The one who, after a brief feeling of excitement soon after transitioning, a period of post-separation angst and anxiety descends. Some feel alone and isolated, in search of purpose. The military emphasizes “in-group” identity, where an individual prioritizes the values and norms of the group over their own. In the Air Force, this was one of the core values of Service before Self.

As I prepare to step away from military life, I am reminded that my identity is not rooted in my military service, yet it is rooted in Jesus Christ.

How often do we do this as Christians? We proudly wear our titles of professional, mother, daughter, wife, or even our own measures of success. We proclaim our identity as Christians, but do we truly recognize the peace we have as being a child of God? John 1:12 reminds us, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”. And though our positions and titles may change, God is unchanging. (Malachi 3:6). We can stand fast and have hope in the gift of our identity in Christ.

I might not be Chief or the Senior Enlisted Leader anymore, but I’m always Esther, a daughter of the king. Our identities in this world are temporary, stand firm in your eternal identity in Christ.


Guest Blogger: Esther Welling

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that Erin and Emily felt God wanted to provide so that women could encourage and comfort one another.  After prayerful consideration, we would like to encourage potential guest bloggers to submit a post for consideration.  

On Saturday. 27 May 2023, we will be posting a submission by our sweet sister in Christ, Esther Welling. Esther is a wife to Eric, mother of three small boys and bonus mom to two adult daughters.  She lives in Wetumpka, Alabama with her family, and she and her husband are both retired military members.  She enjoys serving in her local church, cooking for her family, and coffee dates with her sisters in Christ. 

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read Esther’s thoughts in the guest blog “Who am I?” 

~Emily & Erin 

Sin Will Get No Sympathy From God

This has been a week where I’ve really been studying the Bible about sin.  It’s been a topic in the Bible studies I’m working on.  We talked about it at church on Sunday.  It’s something that touches us in some way or another and it made me think about how sin is viewed by God.

We see in Genesis, Noah found favor with God and as a result, he was told to build an ark.  Eight people were allowed on that boat—Noah and his wife along with his three sons and their wives. 

God had seen that the earth had become a cesspool.  It says in Genesis 6:5 “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  God chose to save Noah and his family and start again.  Not a single other living soul was on that ark when God shut the door.  I can imagine the fear as people who had most likely never seen rain before, saw water gushing down on them and even from below come gushing up (Genesis 7). 

While we will never see God do something like this event again, we do know that God feels exactly the same about sin now as He did then…

Sin will get no sympathy from God.

When the time had come for the door to be closed, He shut it.  And when the water started pouring from every direction, He didn’t open it back up for the people who banged on the door begging to be let in.  I know it appears harsh, but sin and wickedness has its consequences.  God is a just God and reclaimed the world to be renewed.

Today, we see God’s attitude for sin hasn’t changed.  He has no sympathy for it because there is no place for sin in His kingdom.  Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.  He doesn’t ignore it.  He doesn’t let it slide.  He doesn’t excuse it.  Sin gets you death. 

BUT, He does offer us forgiveness when we come to Him.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

He’ll forgive that stain of sin and wipe it clean, bringing us back to right relationship with God.  While He has no sympathy for sin, He graciously has a heart of forgiveness for His children!

As we go through our week, let’s be reminded that sin is sin and there is no room for it as a child of God.  When we do, let’s be quick to confess!


Down In The Dumps

I’m four weeks past having had a major surgery and I’m exhausted from laying around doing nothing.  And yet, doing nothing is all the energy I have.  Recovery is tough for someone like me, who has an extremely busy schedule.  It makes me feel “down in the dumps” when I can’t do everything that I want to do…or that I normally do. 

Have you ever noticed that when you are out of your comfort zone or doing something hard that your spiritual life becomes more important?  I’ve also noticed that more often than not, my spiritual life also becomes less apparent in my life when the times are most hard. 

When facing struggles, we often believe that it’s a natural battle; one that may be a result of surgery or an altered schedule.  The reality is that it may be a spiritual attack that has been launched at a time when you are least expecting it.  One of the primary tactics of the enemy is to deceive us to the point we don’t really realize what is taking place.  These spiritual attacks are often a series of events that have us disbelieving the promises of God, oppressing a believer, or circumventing our faith.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul reminds us, “lest Satan should take advantage of us.  For we are not ignorant of his devices.”

Throughout the Bible, we are told that the devil uses various schemes and lies to get us to a place where we question our faith and fall away from our walk with God.  It’s important to remember that Satan is smart and he’s been studying humans since the beginning of time.  He knows exactly what will tempt us. 

How have I been identifying spiritual attacks over the last few weeks?

-Frustration Increases: The enemy works to oppress my mind and create chaos, which in turn, creates frustration.  It leads me to feel anxious and panicky.

-Lack of spiritual passion: Perhaps our prayer life slows down.  Our faith is tested, but we feel like we’re failing the test.  In particular, I feel like I’m going through the motions of my Christian walk. This leads to…

-A Sense of Confusion About Purpose: Laying here in bed for weeks upon weeks, makes me question what my purpose is in sharing the Gospel. Am I using my spiritual gifts? Am I doing enough?  Am I doing what God wants me to do? Questioning my role in the Kingdom leads to…

-Unrest:  The continued temptation to give into negative thoughts steals my sense of peace and causes me to have unrest.  It leaves me exhausted mentally and quite frankly, irritated. It leaves me frustrated, which is the first thing I identified.

Thus the cycle continues, over and over again. 

While I have felt like I’ve been down in the dumps over the last few weeks, I’ve also realized that Satan has used this time to mess with my mind.  I’ve been distracted, anxious, irritable, and just plain grumpy.  I’ve allowed Satan to overwhelm me, which has impacted my walk with the Lord.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “…without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” 

Once I acknowledged I was faltering, I turned to James 4:7. “Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  A simple prayer, in which I told the Lord that I was turning this over to Him in submission. At once, I felt peace and was no longer “down in the dumps.” 

My circumstances have not changed.  I was still post-op from major surgery with pain, medications, restless nights, and physical therapy. However, my negative attitude and doubt about my faith had turned around and I felt aligned with God again.

If you’re facing a scenario that has you feeling “down in the dumps” please know that you are not alone.  God is with you always.  And the ladies of the Iron Porch are willing to pray for you, so comment if you need us to pray!


The Tarnished Bracelet

I took apart my Pandora charm bracelet this afternoon.  I hadn’t worn it in quite a while and it was tarnished.  The charms attached were dark and dingy from lack of care and cleaning.  It looked old but I knew I wanted to start wearing it again.  I wished for it to look as fresh and beautiful as the day it was purchased.  Each charm represents a moment or a person in my life.  Parts of my story is laid out in those tiny pieces. 

I began to wipe them down with the cloth.  But it wasn’t just any cloth.  It was a polishing cloth that had some seemingly magical ability to take the tarnish away and make it look as if it was brand new!  It was fascinating.  I don’t know quite how it worked, but following the directions, the dullness was gone!  Before me sat my first charm gleaming as if I’d just procured it.  I quickly finished the others, and the bracelet came to life with a cleanness I hadn’t seen from it in a very long time.  It may not have been perfect-looking, but it was so very close.

Our sins can be taken away in the same fashion.  No, it’s not some magic miracle that makes us clean and whole again.  It’s the gift that God gave us through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah 1:18b says “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Our heavenly Father sent His Son to Earth as the spotless Sacrifice on a cross to cover our sins.  His shed blood alone makes us clean again…as white as snow. And thank you, Jesus, for that sacrifice!  He tells us plainly that the wages of our sin is actually death (Romans 6:23), but because of this generous gift of Jesus on the cross, He agreed to pay the penalty so that we wouldn’t have to.  How great is our God?!

Like that polishing cloth cleaned the charms, His blood cleans our sins.  When we accept salvation and ask Him to live in us we, like the charms, are restored.  Yes, we may have wear and tear, the scars from our former life.  But we are made complete in HIS image. 

If you haven’t yet made the decision to ask God to come live in your heart, please reach out to us or someone you know who is a Christ follower.  We’d be happy to share the plan of salvation so that you might receive the best gift you could give yourself…eternity in heaven!


Snack Money & A Mother’s Love

I recently gave my son $5 as he left for school.  He said, “What’s this for?” as he looked at the bill in his hand.  I told him to get something he wanted for school snack time.  It was a treat…not something I would normally fund for his daily school activities.

The moment I explained he could get anything he wanted for snack time, I had a flashback to my own Middle School experiences when my Dad handed me extra money for a treat from the lunchroom.  I had forgotten he did that until I did it with my own child.

It was a small gesture of love.  Much like praying over their sleeping bodies, running your hand over their head as they pass by, cheering for them during a home run hit, or simply making their favorite meal.  A small gesture of a mother’s love.

One of the first gestures we see of a mother’s love is the gentle caress of a pregnant belly. You know exactly the gesture I’m talking about.  The one where a pregnant woman runs her hand over her baby bump. Doesn’t matter if it’s small, medium, or large…that pregnancy belly gets a lot of hands running over it!

The Bible doesn’t specifically speak of mothers running their hands over a pregnant stomach, but I can only imagine that it’s a universal sign of impending motherhood.

When Elizabeth found out she was pregnant, she went into five months of seclusion (Luke 1:24).  In her sixth month, Elizabeth was visited by her cousin, Mary, who had just been told by the angel that she was also going to have a baby. 

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” ~Luke 1:39-41 (NIV)

While scripture does not say this, I have a visual of Elizabeth running a soothing hand over her unborn child while he was “leaping” in her womb over being near the mother of Jesus. 

As much as a mom loves her child, imagine how much more the Father loves us.  An unimaginable amount more than we can fathom…that’s how much more He loves us.  It’s more than a pat or some extra snack money.  God’s love for us is so big, He took steps to ensure that we could accept the gift of His mercy and forgiveness, through the death of Christ. 

1 John 4:9-10 states, “This is love, it is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.”

No matter how much I love my child…no matter how much snack money I give him.  No matter how much Elizabeth loved John the Baptist as he was leaping in her tummy.  No matter how much Mary loved Jesus…in the stable and at the cross.   None of it holds a candle to the amount of love our Lord has for us. 

I pray each of us has a week of maternal love, but more importantly the Father’s love.  If you don’t know the love that God has provided through our personal Savior, Jesus Christ, please contact us at the Iron Porch.  Erin and I would love to chat with you about what your salvation looks like.