The Back & Forth Gifts

My Mom had her 70th birthday this last week and was once again the recipient of “The Card.”  It’s a tradition between my Mom and my Aunt that is decades old.  One sent the other a birthday card that had an implication that the card was recycled.  The other, thinking they were being coy about the recycling reference, saved the card until the next birthday. So on, and so on for decades.  The card started to fall apart, so they created a more permanent Linus cardholder, but continued writing birthday notes year after year.  The card got heavier and heavier to send so there are occasional gaps in the years where they agreed to stop sending the card in an effort to save on postage.  And when they were least expecting it…the card showed up again on a birthday.

Much like “The Card” between my mom and her sister, Iron Porch has a smacking doll that gets additions year after year.  The doll is sent between Erin and me when the other is least expecting it.  The additions are hysterical to us…and probably only us.  There’s a crazy-ill-fitting-camo dress, a little pink kitty cat, a yellow purse filled with memorabilia, a hard hat from when we went to Florida after Hurricane Michael, and recently added a COVID-19 mask of protection.

While I thought that my mom and I had this super-secret transfer between co-conspirators, I recently was told by a dear friend at church that she also had a back and forth gift.  One year at a white elephant event she battled another gal for a candy dish with cinnamon candies.  She lost.  But received it soon after from the winner as a gift.  They passed it back and forth as wedding gifts and other marked occasions multiple times. I didn’t ask her, but I assume they added new candy each time they passed the gift.

I present to you three examples of women passing a gift back and forth.  Occasion to occasion.  Year after year.  All in a means to acknowledge a special relationship and have detailed memories associated with a particular object (ie: card, doll, or candy dish).

Instead of the occasion by occasion sharing of a tangible item, we shared a piece of God each day? What if day by day, we shared a prayer with those closest to us? What if we shared a scripture with one another? What if it was simply a smile or a kind word?

What if we made each other a priority in an eternal way?

Scripture gives us a model of friendship, not between two women, but rather two men: Jonathan and David.  Jonathan was heir to the throne of Israel, as his father was King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 14: 6-15, we see that he is a man of action and ready to challenge the Philistines from a military perspective.  The Israelites, and specifically Saul, were terrified of the mounting Philistine army and the giant, Goliath, who was sent in to end the conflict.

And then a shepherd boy shows up and takes the challenge (hence the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17).  At that point, it’s easy for us to see how the friendship between David and Jonathan blossomed. They both acted and had courage despite the odds being against them.  They both had faith in God’s power and experienced deliverance in battle.  They were great leaders with integrity and loyalty.

In 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (NASB) it states, “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved his as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the rode that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”

You see, Jonathan loved David as himself.  They were dear friends.  Because of that friendship, Jonathan gave David his gifts.  More than just the tangible gifts of his robe and his armor.  Jonathan gave David the acknowledgment that this was the man God had chosen to be Israel’s king.  Jonathan loved David as we can only hope friends will love us.

True friendship with true giving and with an eternal impact.  Back and forth, year after year, occasion after occasion…or an acknowledgment of God’s work in their lives.

From the Iron Porch, I pray that you each have some type of “Back & Forth Gift” this week!

~Emily

The Back & Forth Gifts copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Know, You Know

Have you ever felt like something was wrong, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that might be wrong?

Call it a gut feeling, women’s intuition, or a sixth sense. You know something isn’t right.

You could call it discernment.  The small voice of the Holy Spirit letting you know there’s an issue needing your attention.  The spiritual gift of discernment is mentioned multiple times in scripture.

Over the last year, my husband and I felt like something was wrong at our church. I couldn’t put a name to what was wrong, but I felt unsettled.  It felt like there was discord amongst the members, a lack of communication, straying from the Word of God, and yet, there wasn’t anything specific to point out to support any of those claims.  It was “just” a feeling I had.

I considered resigning as the women’s ministry leader.  My husband did not want to attend services anymore.  I started researching other churches in our local area.  I engaged my prayer partners to start praying over the situation.

I felt like a fraud that I was continuing to serve in a ministry leadership role and praying about leaving the church.  While I was concerned about the situation, through prayer I had zero peace about resigning or leaving the church.  I did not hear God telling me that we were supposed to leave.

During our first week of the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order in March, our Pastor resigned.  The story of why he resigned is one for him or his family to share.  However, the few details I received began to make sense as to why there was a feeling of unsettlement at our church.

By no means am I saying that the Pastor’s reasons for resigning were the reason for my dissatisfaction at the church.  What I am saying, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for months and let me know that “something” was not right.  It also made sense why I hadn’t gotten a clear message that the feeling of unsettlement was worthy of leaving the church.

Essentially, I was being prepared for there to be some turmoil and chaos at our church.  The Holy Spirit was talking in my ear allowing me to discern that something was amiss, while also not allowing me release to leave the situation.

John 16:13 (ESV) states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Call it your gut, your female intuition, or your 6th sense.  I’m going to call it discernment.

And to me, the gift of discernment is the gift of truth.

I pray you have a truth-filled week of discernment.

~Emily

John 16-13

Mindfulness Exercises

In the last two months, I’ve started incorporating mindfulness exercises into my daily life in an effort to battle anxiety and depression.  Mindfulness exercises are 3-5 blips where you deliberately concentrate on an activity through assessing your senses, emotions, or memories.

For instance, you could do a “mindful listening” exercise where you put on classical music and then concentrate on only listening for the violin.  One that I really liked was the “mindful eating” challenge, where you take your favorite flavored skittle and really concentrate on eating that one skittle for the 3-5 minutes.  For me, it was the purple skittle, which was a walk down memory lane of my childhood with grape Hubba-Bubba gum.

This last Saturday I tried the “mindful walking” exercise while hiking with the 3-month-old puppy.  The task during the walk is to concentrate on the aspects of the walk for 3-5 minutes.  The crunch of dried sticks and leaves under my hiking boots.  The shimmer of sunbeams coming through the trees.  The tug on my wrist from the puppy’s leash.  The rustle of leaves in the wind. The coolness of the creek as it splashes on my shins as I cross a stone bridge.  The smell of water-moss-mud on the creek beds. The tension in my quads from climbing inclines.

For the first time, I also incorporated scripture in the mindful walking because scripture actually tells us to be mindful and meditate on what God has provided for us (including the nature found during a hike).

It seemed appropriate to start with Psalm 145:5 (NET) which states “I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds.” In the NKJV of the same verse, it states, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.”

Keeping in mind the scriptural guidance of focusing on the splendor of God and meditating on His wondrous works, brought a whole new level to the mindful walking exercise!

The tug of the puppy’s leash doesn’t just become a sensation of my arm, it becomes gratitude that God created this puppy and that the puppy is part of our family.  The rustling of the wind in the treetops doesn’t just become a wonderous noise in the background, it becomes a reminder of God’s faithfulness to give me shade from those treetops and a cool breeze on my sweaty brow.

I wasn’t just centering myself in an exercise to control my anxiety…I was actually acknowledging God’s abundant gifts that are literally all around us!  I was following the direction in Psalm 96:12 (NET) “Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.  Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy.”

A mindful exercise that is full of celebration and joy!  I hope this next week is mindful for you too!

~Emily

Mindful Walking Hike copy

The Wisteria Vine

One of the things that I love about our house is wisteria vines that line the barbed wire fence in the front yard.  It’s clear that the property was well-loved based on the dozens of bulbs and trees that were planted years ago. This wisteria plant is no different.  The roots are deep, the trunk is thick, and the vines have trellised for yards and yards.

While this wisteria vine is beautiful with its lush leaves and gorgeous purple flowers, there’s one small wisteria wisp that is even more precious to me.  It’s small. It’s tender leaves and vines are barely two feet tall.  To my knowledge, it’s never bloomed purple blossoms.

Why is this little wisp so perfect for me? It’s from Erin’s oldest daughter, McKenna’s Florida house.  This perfect little wisp was dug up by the roots, carefully wrapped in wet paper towels, and transported to Alabama in a bucket during the aftermath of Hurricane Michael’s wrath on McKenna and Indy’s house in the panhandle.

This perfect little vine that I’ve been carefully nurturing for a year and a half is standing tall this spring.  Yesterday, I had to provide ties to give it support on a decorative light pole.  As I worked to train this little vine, I was able to think about how these two examples of wisteria vines are so much like my knowledge of the Bible.

There are times that I’m strong in the knowledge of some verses or stories.  That knowledge has been nurtured for years and is like a thick wisteria trunk supporting vines running for yards and producing fruit.

There are other times that I’m small and tender in knowledge (if I’m honest, this is waaaaaaay more frequent than me being strong in knowledge).  That little vine represents new knowledge that is being tended to by a loving Father in the hopes that through the years it will grow stronger and stronger…. eventually producing flowers.

One day, my little “McKenna” wisteria vine will grow into a big flower producing machine.  Each year it will be a reminder of my extended family and how we support one another.  More than that, it will also remind me to stay focused on the continuous learning of God’s Word.  Each day I know I need to keep watering it, tending to it, strengthening it with support, and loving on it.  I can’t wait to see the McKenna flowers!

~Emily

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 (NIV)

The Wisteria Vine

Dinosaurs & Dragons

The COVID-19 precaution that has caused school work to shift to home has increased the number of questions from a third grader that this mama needs help with.  I’ve had to do research on polygons versus quadrilaterals, as well as the differences between handwriting practice and daily writing prompts. Questions have included astrology, science, animal behavior, and computer technology.

This week’s questions:

If archeologists can find dinosaur bones to put on display in museums, then where are the dinosaurs and dragons in the Bible?  Were dinosaurs real?  Were dragons?

After a silent prayer that included a plea for guidance, I told my son we would do some research on that topic.  Guess what? There’s a ton of information regarding the thought process behind dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible.

Most Christians acknowledge that there were dinosaurs at some point in the world, as a result of those archeological digs that produce museum displays.  However, most fall into two schools of thought regarding the timing of dinosaurs.  Young Earth Creationists believe that the world was created by God, as illustrated in Genesis, approximately 6,000-10,000 years ago.  This they believe that dinosaurs likely co-existed with humans and may have even been included on Noah’s Ark. The other group, Old Earth Creationists, believes many theories, but most acknowledge that earth’s creation is much older.  They tend to believe that dinosaurs were extinct well before the creation of humans.

But back to the 3rd grader question…where are they in the Bible?

Nowhere does it say “dinosaur,” “T-rex,” or “brontosaurs” in the Bible.  However, there are 28 times in the Old Testament that the Hebrew word tanniyn is used to describe an unknown animal creature that is close to a reptile.  English translations of tanniyn use the word dragon, sea-creature/sea-monster, or whale, as the term is used for water and land monsters.  Some would argue that the dragons, leviathans, behemoths, and birds with four legs are all “honorable mentions” of dinosaurs in the Bible.

Dragons:

In Ezekiel 29:3 (ESV), we see scripture specifically refer to dragons.

“…speak and say, Thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.”

In Job 41:1-34, we see scripture describe a serpent-like fire breathing creature, like a dragon.

“His sneezing flash forth light…out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke…His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.”

In Job 7:12 (NLT), we see scripture refer to a dragon or monster of the sea.

“Am I a sea monster or dragon that you must place me under guard?”

Leviathans:

In Psalm 74:13-14 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to the leviathan, which is typically understood to be a water monster similar to a dragon.

“You divided the sea by your might: you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan: you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.”

In Psalm 104:26 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to leviathans.

“There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.”

Leviathans & Dragons:

In Isaiah 27:1 (ESV), we see scripture refer to a leviathan, as a ginormous sea dragon.

“In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Behemoths:

In the book of Job, we also see scripture refer to a mighty beast as a Behemoth, which some argue was a vegetarian eating giant creature, such as stegosaurus.

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.

“He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants, he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?” Job 40:15–24 (ESV).

Birds with Four Legs:

In Leviticus 11:20-21 (KJV), we see scripture describe a bird with four legs, which some have argued could be flying reptiles, such as pterosaurs.

“All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.”

If a 9-year-old is asking about the dinosaurs and dragons of the Bible, why haven’t I ever thought to look at it?  After this week of digging into the verses, I recognize that many of the scriptures identify creatures that aren’t familiar to us in today’s age.  I also acknowledge that there are Biblical scholars who have differing points of view on this subject.

More than that, I love that my son and I were able to dig into the Bible and come up with answers to his questions about dinosaurs and dragons.

~Emily

Dinosaurs & Dragons-3 copy

COVID-19 Puppy

For months we’ve been preparing to add a puppy to our family.  I thought that we may be getting the puppy by May or June.  When we went into “social distancing” in March (which included me teleworking and our son’s school being canceled), I made the comment that it would be amazing if we could get the puppy while we were all home.

My amazing husband delivered the puppy to our house the 1st week of our quasi self-quarantine and it’s been a wonderful time to bond with our new family member.  There’s been lots of laughs, lots of potty training, and lots of scratches and nip-bites.  Assuming the adults of this house were working 40 hours a week out of the house and the child was still going to public school, this puppy would have been alone much of the day in a crate. Instead, he’s able to play, run, nap, and train with us throughout the day.

This pandemic is causing chaos in our lives on every level.  It’s forcing us into roles we didn’t prepare for and perhaps, never wanted.  Stay-at-home parent.  Teacher. Homemaker. Chef. Teleworker.

Yet, for our family, it’s bringing a small period of “pause” to focus on puppy training.

We need this pause, just like the puppy needs to pause and nap.  Jesus knows that each one of us needs a pause too.  We can get just as crazy, cranky, and barking-rebellious without proper rest in our lives.  All of God’s children need quiet time.

It’s challenging to develop a strong relationship with God if we are constantly on the run.  A pandemic, with all of its horror, is a vehicle for pausing to develop a stronger relationship with God. Like having a new puppy, it’s time to bond with God. It’s time to spend time in His Word. It’s time to find the praise in the storm.

I’d like to encourage you this week, as I have to encourage myself.

– Be a regular worshiper.  According to Scripture, it was the habit of Jesus to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath.  If your church doors are closed during the pandemic, find an online option. Put worship on your calendar, so that you don’t forget what day of the week it is in the midst of crazy schedules. Sing, read, or praise in any way that you can during the day.

– Remember you are a daughter of the one true King.  When feeling overwhelmed with new titles, know that ‘Child of God’ is the only one you absolutely should embrace.  Focus on this throughout your day.

– Build quiet time into your life.  If you hadn’t had a strong prayer life prior to the pandemic, now is a perfect time to create space for prayer. Make time to reflect and converse with the Lord. Pray, journal, or reflect in any way that you can throughout the day.

My question is this…what do you want to do with your “pause” time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

~Emily

Covid-19 Puppy Dog copy

Passion For Us

Over the Easter weekend, my family watched the movie “The Passion of The Christ,” directed by Mel Gibson. It’s an incredible account that puts vision to what Christ did for us as we celebrate Easter under quarantine.

Right before it started, my child asked me if I remembered the 1st time I saw the movie.  I told him I saw it in the theater when it first was released.  I remember everyone around me crying.  In fact, I distinctly remember hearing sobbing.  There was soberness in the audience that is rarely if ever, felt in an American movie theater.

I wasn’t one of the masses who were crying.

Why?

At the time of the movie’s release in 2004, I was fully immersed in a pagan lifestyle by participating in Wicca as a High Priestess.  I was being stoic and detached from the visions of the movie.  More than that, I was being stoic and detached from the knowledge that spoke to my heart through the movie.

The kicker about why I wasn’t crying?  I was in shock. I was in shock that God would love me so much that He sent His Son to be tortured and killed for me.  And what was I doing with that gift?

I was throwing it back in His face by practicing false religion.

The passion God has for us is amazing.  It is always enough for each of us.  While we acknowledge that God’s gift is enough, we also need to be aware that the enemy is constantly trying to divert us from our walk with the Father.  In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.”

In my life, it wasn’t enough that I was raised in a family knowing God. It wasn’t enough that I gave my life to Christ as a teenager.  It wasn’t enough that I knew scripture. I was still deceived and turned my back on God.

The good news is that our Father is a forgiving one.  A year after watching “The Passion of The Christ” in the theater, I denounced that false religion and returned to my walk with Christ.

Each time I’ve watched that movie since I’ve joined the masses who were crying.  I’ve cried for the utter destruction of a man who willingly died for me. I’ve cried for my own sins against God.  I’ve cried for those under the bondage of false religions. And I’ve cried for those who don’t know Christ as their personal savior.

On this Monday after Easter, this is my prayer:

Father God,

We are so thankful for your passion for each of us and that you were willing to provide the ultimate sacrifice of your Son on our behalf. I pray that those who have hardened hearts toward you will find their hearts softened.  That those with scales on their ears will be able to hear the truth of the Gospel.  That those who are worshiping idols and false gods will discover You, as the truth.  That those who are vulnerable will be barred from falling prey to deception. If someone doesn’t know You, please put someone in their path that will speak truth into their life. Father, I pray a hedge of protection over any and all who are drawing away from you…let them see your love in a way that is fresh and new.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sweet sisters of the Iron Porch, remember that the Father has a passion for you.

~Emily

1 Peter 5;8