I Remember…

On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment.  I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted.  It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured. 

We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted.  Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured.  Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives.  For forever. 

Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units.  It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.  

The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning.  Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones.  In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.  

It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss.  In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad.  But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him.  The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.  

The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him.  It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness.  The road to rejoicing is often through mourning.  When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.  

Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors.  As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I remember them…and pray they have comfort.

~Emily

Mowing Time

Recently our family added one of those manual push mowers that are reminiscent of the 1950s.  My husband wanted it to mow the steep bank near the road. I wanted it to mow without an engine near the beehives.  While I calmly pushed the mower back and forth in straight lines by the hives, I watched the bees flitter to and fro. 

While doing a seemingly menial task, I had several moments to mentally review a scripture that my small group has been memorizing as a group this last month. 

Philippians 2:14-15 (NASB) “Do all things without complaining or arguments; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generations, among who you appear as lights of the world.”

I recited it a couple times, but I kept getting distracted by the rolls of sweat that were coming off my face and straight into my eyes.  I blinked several times and then started reviewing the scripture again.  Only to have it happen several more times.  

Finally, I stopped mowing, took off the bee suit hat and face shield, removed my glasses and started wiping my face off.  Put my glasses back on and they instantly fogged up.  Put the bees hat/face shield back on.  Sweaty hair stuck to my forehead and glasses.  Take hood off, fix hair, glasses smudged…and then…sweat rolls into my eyes.  

Insert frustration, some real tears, and a few choice words.

And then a bubble of laughter came out of my mouth.  There I was half in a bee suit in 100-degree heat of Alabama, with a 1950s-ish mower, and sweat stinging my eyeballs, when the first part of my memory verse came to mind.  “Do all things without complaining or arguments…”  

While the verse is specifically addressing the previous admonitions that Paul had mentioned in the Philippians letter, it sure did feel like it applied directly to me in that moment.  All the murmurings…all the discontentment…all the complaining in that moment were not useful. They weren’t assisting me with completing the task, nor were they going to exemplify Christ in that moment.  

I’m so grateful for the corrections that God’s holy word provides us; the conviction from the Holy Spirit for us to change course.  

It got me to reassess my own attitude in the moment of “lawn mowing time” with some heat, humidity, sweat and tears all mixed together.  

For each of us, I pray this next week will be one without complaining or argument.

~Emily

Fun vs. Folly: The Slippery Horoscope Away From God

Now that school is out for the summer, I feel like I can share a conversation that I had with one of my son’s teachers this last year.  The students were studying space; galaxies, planets, stars, and specifically the history of constellations and how to identify different constellations.  While in that section, the teacher taught of the constellations affiliated with what is commonly known as the zodiac signs.   

I was 100% behind the lessons to this point.  

Once they learned about the constellations associated with the zodiac, they were introduced to horoscopes. One step further; they were tasked with looking up their birthday, figuring out their zodiac sign, reading the personality traits associated with that zodiac, and then determining if they were aligned with their zodiac sign.  

My son came home that day and pretty innocently mentioned this activity that they’d conducted in class.  I must admit, I nearly lost my mind.  I asked dozens of questions to the point that Kambell became alarmed that something was clearly not right.    I contacted the teacher for further clarification.  I expressed my displeasure that Kambell was introduced to something that I believe is pagan and against scripture.  

She responded that it was “just a fun way for them to learn about the constellations.”  

Ummm. No, no it’s not “just a fun way…” for them to learn anything except the ways of the world and a path that Satan would love to have them on.  One that takes this kids away from God, not closer to God.  1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.” 

It only takes one introduction to something pagan…one careless thought…one glimpse at a worldly concept…one misstep, which can lead to something so much more sinister.  

Please know that I’m very pleased with the public-school education that my child is receiving and I’ve fallen in love with our school district and the teachers dedicated to assisting with raising future productive citizens of our Nation.   

Please also know that I recognize that I’m a tad hyper-sensitive to pagan activities, due to having being a practicing Wiccan for seven years.  

As a result, please know that I fully understand that some think I’m taking it too far to be upset about my 5th grader learning about horoscopes.  

Those some who think I’m taking it too far…they won’t be in front of God one day justifying how they raised this child.  They will be accountable for their own actions and behaviors.  As for me, I don’t want to explain to God why I made decisions (or allowed others around my child) to decide to introduce him to less-than-Godly behaviors.  Scripture shows us in 2 Corinthians and Romans that we will each be accountable.

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.” ~2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” ~Romans 14:12 (NASB)

When someone says “it’s just for fun,” but you still have unrest about the scenario in your heart, you should listen.  That is often the nudge of the Holy Spirit for you to further analyze and pray about the situation.  Remember also, you stand before the judgment seat by yourself.  Are you comfortable reporting to God regarding your behaviors, thoughts, and actions? 

Finally, remember that what is fun for some is likely folly for others.    

~Emily

A German Experience

I miss living in Germany.  I loved everything about it while I was there for two years…from the food to the people to the ease of travel to the crazy driving…even the obsession with Christmas markets and ornaments.  I loved it all.  

I didn’t recognize just how much I missed it until this last week, when we were on summer vacation in Helen, Georgia which is modeled after a little Bavarian town.  This town has it all…the cool temps, the lazy tubing river, the schnitzel, the German bakery…even the spaghetti ice cream.  

It’s interesting how you don’t know you miss something until there is a memory jogger.  If you think about it, I’m sure there’s a song or a scent that takes you to another place.  Perhaps the song takes you back to your first dance.  A smell has you reminiscing about Grandma’s kitchen.

It makes me wonder if these experiences happened to people in scripture.  Was there a moment after Jesus’ death, where Mary was preparing his favorite meal and it made her miss him more than normal?  Did Paul ever pass a well and think about his boyhood well in Tarsus?  If Peter passed a fishing net, did the smell take him back to his time as a fisherman?  

Did the disciples miss Jesus after His death?

In Luke 24:44 (NASB) scripture reads, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  

This offers an assurance that all prophesies about Jesus will be fulfilled.  And if that is true, then it is also true that God has provided us with a means to be continuously surrounded by aspects of the Trinity.  Jesus’ departure from the Earth enabled Jesus, as the Son of God, to no longer be subject to time, but rather embody the full power and authority of God in Heaven. 

As promised, Jesus is available to all of us for guidance, for prayerful conversation, for forgiveness, and for grace.  Most of all, He is available as the Savior to those who believe.  

Did the disciples miss Jesus after his ascension into heaven?  From a human perspective, I’m sure the answer is yes. Mostly because the face-to-face immediate responses were gone.  However, God’s fulfillment of the Holy Spirit allows for continued relationship.  Perhaps, the promise of God’s continued presence in a believer’s life mutes that emotion of missing the physical Jesus.  

Missing Jesus in our lives isn’t as simple as missing Grandma’s cooking or the experiences living in another country.  It can’t be replicated by something similar, like going to a small mountain town.  

In this instance, you need the real deal relationship with Jesus to fulfill the emotion of “missing.”

If you are missing Jesus in your life, please come to the porch and let us know…we’d love to tell you how to become a believer!

~Emily

Musings on Memorial Day

It seems that every year around this time, there are a number of posts explaining the differences between Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day.  I’ve posted something similar on my own social media platforms.  As a retired military member, it seems like a teachable moment that civilians would see the differences between the three military recognition days.  It seems to offend some people when others don’t know the differences.  

Memorial Day is one to remember those who have fallen.  When fellow citizens wish a “Happy Memorial Day,” it can get some upset.  There’s nothing happy about having lost our comrades in arms.  Nothing happy about remembering and reflecting on those who died as a result of their serve to our Nation.  

I heard a different perspective this last week.  One where the military member said, “Rather than be offended, I’d offer that we should appreciate the spirit in which they offer that.  It comes from a good place, with good intent, from people in our society who don’t understand us but are thankful for what we do.” 

This sentiment is so kind-hearted and simplistic.  Even now while writing about it, I feel chastised for previously thinking I needed to “educate” others on the differences of these dates. Perhaps I need to appreciate the spirit that they offer the comment in.

I’d like to carry that sentiment over to Christian beliefs.  While there are very important central beliefs to Christianity, such as Christ died for each of our sins and we individually have to claim that gift in order to spend eternity in heaven, not every single interaction with others has to be a teachable moment.  I need to repeat that for my own benefit.  Not every interaction has to be an overt teachable moment.  Sometimes the old adage of “actions speak louder than words” is true.  

Like with the non-military member wishing a Happy ‘whatever’ Day and being accepted where they are, the non-Christian’s interactions with Christians could be as simple as observing love and kindness in action.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t always be a Sunday School lesson or Gospel tract presentation.  The helping hand, the monetary donation, the passing smile…each of those things show others the love of Christ; even when we aren’t actively sharing the Gospel.  

As we reflect on this Memorial Day about the sacrifices of military members through the decades, I’m going to also reflect on how I can better serve our Lord by loving others through my own actions.  

~Emily

“All that you do must be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB)

Guest Blog by Heather Kaufman Pamplin: Distractions

These days I’m at an age and a point in my faith where I tend to not overtly sin. Of course I slip up here and there with a bad word or a silent judgment, but for the most part I’ve got Christ in my spirit and God on my mind. That being the case, now what I find is Satan using even sneakier tactics to interfere in my hardline connection to my Savior. 

I call these interferences “distractions,” and the tactic is a lot like distracted driving. I think most people immediately think of texting, but if we’re honest, messing with your seat, changing the radio station, taking a drink of water…all of these seemingly benign actions also distract your eyes and attention from the road, and you have important business to perform when you are driving! 

Applying this to Christian life, we are “at the wheel” during all waking hours (1 Cor 15:58). God has a purpose for our lives (Jer 29:11) and we are called to always be a beacon of His light (Matt 5:14-16), intended to point to His glory. And yet, how often do you find yourself focused on a myriad other things in life, from what’s for dinner to the laundry that must be washed before Saturday morning’s little league game? There’s a reason our earthly culture keeps us busy: it is a well-devised strategy employed by the enemy to keep us focused on anything other than bringing God glory. 

Listen, there is no perfection in this world outside of Jesus Christ; don’t beat yourself up because you live in a broken place temporarily. Rather, simply be aware that the enemy is always looking for ways to set stumbling blocks in our path and disconnect us from our Lord and Savior (1 Pet 5:8). Develop habits of continual conversation and returning your thoughts to Heavenly Father. Let it be a normal part of your routine to talk to God while doing laundry or washing the car, and when you notice your mind wandering to all of the chores next on your list, extend yourself lots of grace and gently return your thoughts to your relationship with the King of Kings, knowing one day you shall live in the place he prepared for you (John 14:2). 

~Heather

Guest Blogger: Heather Kaufman Pamplin

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, we will be posting a submission by our sweet sister in Christ and fellow blogger, Heather Kaufman Pamplin.  Heather is a wife, mother of two, and Nonna to one sweet 4-year-old boy. She lives in Battle Ground, Washington with her family, and she and her husband own a small bookstore (replete with cat!) as well as a local real estate company. Besides her relationship with Abba, Heather enjoys community-building, volunteering, serving others, cooking, and she recently purchased a piano with intentions of learning to play like Beethoven – we’ll be expecting updates on how it goes!

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read Heather’s thoughts in the guest blog “Distractions.”

~Emily & Erin

Surprise Attack Prayer Warrior

Last week I needed a bow for a graduation gift and stopped at the local dollar store.  As I stood in the checkout line, a woman approached me while giving me a compliment. I thanked her and she continue walking past me.  Suddenly, I felt hands grab my shoulders from behind and she began praying.  Loudly.  And long-ly (I made that word up, but it seems fitting…it was a VERY long prayer).  

It was so uncomfortable.  I didn’t know how to politely get out of the scenario.  I watched the cashier ring up my item and then shrug his shoulders at me while rolling his eyes about the praying woman.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see small children staring at the situation.  I saw others rushing past in an effort to escape, lest she turn her boisterous reverse-hug prayer litany on them.  She said “Amen,” turned around and headed to another unsuspecting woman in the make-up aisle (who, by the way, was not having it…she actually told the lady to leave her alone). 

I know she meant well and likely felt as though she was doing the right Biblical thing.  

However. 

However, I was so taken aback and so completely out of my comfort zone, that I was not able to listen to what she prayed. I couldn’t join her prayerfully, as Sisters in Christ, because I was too “in my own head” rather than in my heart for Jesus.

Interestingly enough, I had read an article just hours before about a woman who made her New Year’s Resolution to pray for a stranger every day. The article described her interactions with those she prayed with and those that she silently prayed for.  At the time of the article publication, she’d being praying for a stranger daily for two full years. 

Maybe the Dollar Store lady had a New Year’s Resolution to pray for strangers.  Maybe not.

I’m intrigued by this praying for strangers idea. Part of me feels compelled to tackle a similar resolution.  Praying for one another is good.  It’s certainly Biblical, as there are countless examples instructing us to pray for one another.

Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

1 Samuel 12:23 (NASB), “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.”

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB), “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Here’s the raw truth of this from Emily’s heart. I’m all for praying over strangers.  But I think I want rules to this endeavor.  After what I experienced at the dollar store, I don’t want to ambush any strangers with prayer.   

Here are my proposed self-imposed rules:

1. A conversation has to happen prior to starting to pray (i.e.: introductions, common ground established, niceties, etc…).

2. Ask if you can pray for them—or if they have specific prayer requests (and be gracious if they say “no”).

3. Be intentional about who to pray with or over (don’t just pick someone willy-nilly because you have a daily “quota” to fulfill). 

4. Continue to pray for that person even after the interaction is over.  

I’d be interested to hear what those on the Iron Porch think about the proposed rules.  And of course, I’d be really interested to hear how you would have handled the surprise-attack prayer warrior at the dollar store!

~Emily

Acts 5:42 (NASB), “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news Jesus as the Christ.” 

Financial Management Lessons

There’s an elderly couple who each have new vehicles plus new recreational vehicles.  Awesome for them.  I hope I’m financially savvy enough & hip-to-the-jive in my 70s or 80s to want a new car.  

The problem is that they are financing all of the items.  After monthly minimums are paid, they have very little left over and often can’t pay to heat or cool the house.  Sometimes is challenging to even purchase food to fill their bellies.   The local church and neighbors help extensively with small chores and tasks, as well as filling gas tanks and getting groceries.  

This is a beautiful example of generosity and of the kindness of others to care for this elderly couple.  It’s “do unto others…” and “love your neighbor…” in practice.  

There is also a reminder in this scenario about financial management. Jesus spoke frequently about how we should manage our money.  Who knew that the New Testament is filled with financial management lessons!?!?!?!?

1. Finances Are a Test of Our Trustworthiness

Most of us hate the idea that we’re being tested daily based on our thoughts, words, and actions.  But our finances can be boiled down to yet another test.  In Luke 16:11, we see that if we can’t be trusted with our worldly wealth, then it’s difficult to believe we can be trusted with Christ’s true riches.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? ~Luke 16:11 (NIV)

In visiting scripture concerning the Parable of the Talents, we are able to see the test of finances, as Jesus described them.  The parable tells of a supervisor who trusts finances with three different employees…essentially to see how they will react to the management of money.  Each employee was given a different amount of money: five talents, three talents, one talent.  The man with the most success ended up doubling his money, while the man with the least, buried his thinking saving was good enough.  The manager took the one talent back and gave it to the man who was able to make money with wise investments.  

The test was to see how they managed the money.  God will also test us in order to gauge what else we can be trusted with; perhaps once tested we’ll be trusted with ministry positions, adoptions, Gospel sharing or countless other things.

2. Financial Management Must Include Making a Budget

It may come a surprise that Jesus gave us instructions about creating a budget…and staying with it.  In Luke chapter 14, we see the example of budgeting with estimates of final costs when investing in a new building.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ~Luke 14:28-30 (NIV).

God does not want his children to be in a scenario where we can’t finish what we’ve started due to poor planning.  We must be financially responsible to plan our purchases, our investments, and our long-term projects.  

You could argue that the design and execution of a budget is an extension of the test regarding our finances.  If we are able to budget, as well as manage money, we should be trustworthy enough to manage God’s true wealth.

You can purchase new vehicles, go on fabulous vacations, purchase wonderful gifts, and have nice items in your life.  However, those items need to be within your individual budget and managed appropriately.  

~Emily

Two Lanes at the Drive-Thru

True confession time.  If I pull into a drive thru and there are two lanes taking orders, I always (as in 100% of the time) contemplate leaving the establishment.  Seriously.  It does not matter if I’m thirsty, if I’m hungry, if I lack caffeine or even if I have screaming children in the back seat.  I despise the two-lane drive-thru concept.  

Inevitably, someone doesn’t understand the zipper concept and cuts into line ahead of the other lane.  At the window, chaos ensues due to the cars being out of order. It happened today when the lady in front of us ended it with our son’s chicken nuggets and our bag held her child’s cheese burgers without onion.  

I understand that the two-lane ordering assists with quicker service, but I still dislike the process.  I wish there was a green-yellow-red light for the merging part of ordering.

While I wish there was a green-yellow-red light at the drive thru, we often use the green-yellow-red thought process when it comes to sharing the Gospel.  We may use yellow as a caution (or red as an out-right stop) that the person isn’t ready to hear the Gospel.  We think they may not be ready, so we decline to fulfill our portion of the Great Commission.  Perhaps a better approach would be to assume that everyone is a green light and start sharing with everyone. 

Like the merging of two lanes requiring patience and a little intuition, the sharing of the Gospel also requires both.  The patience needed when sharing God’s love with the world is most often seen when presenting the Good News repeatedly to the same person or groups of people.  We may get frustrated that they don’t “merge into their lane at the right time” when in reality, God has their hearts ready at His time.  

In Matthew 28:19 (NASB), we read the following command, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

God said, “Go…”  He didn’t say, “convince them” or “argue with them” or “brow beat them.”  He simply said, “Go.”  We can rest assured that our God is going to take care of the rest.  

If we approach the unbelievers in our friend circles, in our workplaces, and even in the grocery store, as though they are a Green-Light, we will have accomplished the “Go.”  God will handle the rest. 

The merging of two lanes into one at a drive thru will likely always cause me grief.  But that merging of believers “going” with God’s “doing” will create an eternity filled with sinners who heard the Gospel and believed.  

This week let’s strive to be the green light and Go!

~Emily