Christmas Returning

Christmas.  One of my most favorite times of the year.  At this time of year, we celebrate the arrival of our Savior.  We often call it Advent.

Definition of Advent:

According to Merriam-Webster, Advent is a noun that is defined as 1) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting 2a) the coming of Christ at the Incarnation 2b) Second Coming.

This year, Advent started the last Sunday of November.  While we celebrate this initial arrival each year in December, as Christians we’ve been awaiting the second arrival.

At this second advent, every knee will bow to Him in honor and reverence. The believers will rejoice. We will celebrate this arrival with immeasurable joy.

Jesus said, “Occupy till I come” in Luke 19:13 (KJV).  In that He meant, we are to continue working for the Kingdom and making disciples while we await that return.  While it is easy to become burdened by our daily trials and tribulations, it is important that we continuously focus on the fact that our destination is Heaven…and Jesus will come to get us during this second advent. 

In this waiting, we also must exercise patience for that arrival.  I joke often that I can’t wait for Jesus’ second coming.  However, James 5:7 tells us to be patient until the Lord comes.  Several scriptures tell us to be alert and sober while waiting on His coming.  It’s so hard to be patient when we know the prize at the end of the hard work.

Are you still working hard for the kingdom?

Are you excited about the second advent? 

Or are you scared of it? 

No need to be fearful dear reader…as long as you have committed your life to Christ and accepted his gift of salvation.  If you are in doubt about what will happen for you or your family when Christ returns, please reach out to Erin or I…we would love to talk to you about accepting Christ as your Savior.

~Emily

Thanksgiving Humble Pie

Several years ago at a Thanksgiving dinner, an extended family member said an unkind comment to me that I still remember each year as I reach for dessert.  A couple of months ago, I watched an eruption on social media over the dresses worn to the Homecoming dance.  Weeks before that, I’d seen outrage over a video that a football player posted.  In all three instances, there were comments from all parties that lead to apologies…in person and online.  And yet, we often know that apologies are helpful, but don’t always repair the hurt over some of those comments or judgments. 

Have you ever misspoken? Stepped out of line? Gotten caught gossiping or lying? Or worse sins?  Have you ever been confronted with your own sin-filled life…or have you ever confronted your own sin?  Have you ever had to delete a social media post?  Or a comment?

If so, you may have had a serving of humble pie.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, humble pie is a figurative serving of humiliation usually in the form of a forced submission, apology, or retraction. 

As a child, I didn’t understand it as an act of humiliation.  Rather, I saw the phrase as a means of making things right when I had made things wrong.  To me, “eating humble pie” was an act of becoming more humble through an apology. 

One of the areas that I struggle with being humble is on social media.  Like many others, I share all aspects of my life on social media. I try to not be braggadocios or prideful in my posts. I find myself most guarded in my responses where I strive to not be condescending. 

Solomon gives us guidance here, which encourages us to have a deep reading with thoughtfulness, rather than quick skimming and indignation in our responses.  Proverbs 29:20 states “Do you see the man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Solomon also advises that “the wise will inherit honor” (Proverbs 3:35), which lets us know that wisdom is honorable.  This includes not being quick to respond…for often the hasty response will be one that later requires apologies.

As I’ve meditated on being humble in my responses on social media, I’ve come to realize that a   humble character is showcased through social media…but it must be cultivated before social media.  No other time in human history has it been so easy to display pridefulness (through social media), but likewise, there is no other time in human history that it’s been so easy to display humbleness.  The more we understand humility and pride, the less often we must eat that humble pie.

Next week, let’s concentrate on how pride versus humility is displayed in our lives.  Try to pay attention to how it is exhibited in our daily lives…and on social media.

And please, please, please have a Happy Thanksgiving with a slice of delicious pie!

~Emily

Hot Flashes & Other Middle-Age Suckiness

I hate being hot.  Hate it.  Over the last weekend, Erin and I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast that had the heat on…I insisted on opening the bedroom windows because I was so hot. 

And I am so over these power surges that are also known as hot flashes. I’m over being hungry all the time but having to muzzle the urge to plow through a gallon of ice cream.  And I’m over this brain fog that my physician assures me will go away…when the hot flashes do.

Ugh.  I’m chatting causally about menopause.  Middle Age.  Transition. 

There are lists of all the symptoms, but not every woman experiences them all.  Nor is there a timeline for them, but it is a rite of passage for women experiencing this stage in their lives. 

Typically, the menopause process takes years to complete, but post-menopausal women say that they either feel stronger and content…or they feel old with less standing in society since they are past childbearing years.  Regardless of how they feel post-change, they went through the challenge of change.

And this challenge is not for the weak.

However, the Christian woman can take comfort in turning to God during middle-age transitions.  Hebrews 13:5 reassures us that God will not leave us, despite the aging process making us feel less than we were in our youth.  We have assurance from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness. 

The reality is that a post-menopausal Christian woman should feel strong and content.  We’ve reached the stage where we can share our experiences and mentor others.  Those experiences may have included allowing the Lord to see those middle-aged anxieties and fears.  1 Peter 5:7 says, “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  At no time in our lives do we have to feel alone in our struggles…and this is true also of pre-during-or-post menopause. 

Challenges are always hard. When we have others around us encouraging and leading us through, it makes it easier to navigate. The ultimate gift is knowing that this is also part of God’s plan.

I’m over the hot flashes and the brain fog…but I’m taking comfort in God’s provision.  This too shall pass. 

~Emily

Post-Halloween Lack of Awareness: Spiritual Warfare

Once upon a time, I was a practicing Wiccan.  I acted like a rebellious teenager and turned my back on God.  I participated in pagan religious activities for seven years.  There was a time that I was in Wiccan leadership positions, I was an advocate for military chaplains, and I was even involved in Congressional Legislation regarding Wicca being acknowledged as a religion. 

After leaving Wicca and re-aligning myself with a Christian walk, I have been very deliberate about pagan influences in my life.  I’ve stopped associating with those who were in my life during my pagan days.  I am careful about what my family is exposed to.  I avoid sections of bookstores.  I try not to notice full moons or solstices.  I don’t want to slip back into a pagan walk, so I guard myself very carefully in this regard. 

Each year, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, I pray extra hard and pay closer attention to the occult/pagan/satanic/societal influences that are happening around me.  Over the last few years, I’ve noticed apologetic Christians shining light more on the testimonies of former witches and Satan worshippers.  The time of year lends itself to others…and me being more aware. 

But in the weeks after Halloween, I often found myself letting my guard down.  It’s as though I’m relieved to be passed Halloween and able to focus on the coming celebration of Jesus’ birth. 

So here I am. A week after Halloween. Relieved.  Guard down.  Then I was confronted with a scenario where my pagan past was thrown in my face while I was at work.  Something I influenced while practicing Wicca, coming back to a military item that is being considered for display in the museum where I am employed. 

I was relieved and yet, I should not have let my guard down.  We, as Christians, absolutely must be constantly aware of the spiritual warfare that is always going on around us.  Scripture tells us that the enemy is on the prowl….he is always looking to create chaos and destruction in our lives.   1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”    

In regard to spiritual warfare, is your guard up for you and your family?

Or are you like me and it’s up sometimes, but also falls down occasionally?

In the coming days, I will be concentrating on specifically praying about our post-Halloween awareness of pagan practices in America.  Will you join me?

~Emily

False Modesty

Have you ever given a compliment and heard a “who me?” with a hand on the chest type of response?  (for instance: What a beautiful dress.  What, this old thing?).

When I think about it, I see it as a strange response and one that I know I’ve been guilty of giving.  In these instances, the receiver of the compliment is normally appreciative of the accolade but is resting on the desire to appear modest.  Often it comes across as fake. 

False modesty is a difficult sin for us to identify in ourselves because it can be cloaked in what we convince ourselves to be true. It works its way into our prayers, our culture, and our everyday lives. 

The bottom line is that false modesty is a sin that is deceitful.  It’s filled with a lie we tell ourselves, as well as others. It requires that we mask our true emotions, as well as potentially re-writing truth in our own minds.  The one who falls prey to false modesty could pretend to appear poorer, sadder, or more sacrificial than the next person.  While these could seem to be great Christian attributes, it is really a giving into human indulgences (Colossians 2:23).

This is also a sin that is filled with pride.  In Colossians 2:18, Paul cautions against those who have false humility as being “puffed up without reason.” (*sidebar* when would it be with reason to be puffed up?). When we are puffed up with big heads, we are self-focused, rather than God-focused.  This isn’t an overt sin that others may see in us but make no mistake…our all-knowing and loving Father sees this exactly for what it is.  Lies wrapped in pride = sin.

False modesty when found out by others impacts our own reputations.  Subsequently, it impacts how others are willing to interact with us.  If we don’t have true humility our co-workers could see us as a show-off, our families could see us as know-it-alls…and worst non-believers could make decisions about their own salvation based on their interactions with our falsely modest selves.  

If you are seeing this as a sin in your own life, I pray that you can confess that to the Lord and work at repenting.  The last thing we want to do is impact someone’s decision about where they will spend eternity based on a dumb comment (what, this old thing?!?!) in order to simply dismiss a compliment. 

~Emily

She Never Complains: A Thankfulness Story

I love to hike. Why? It’s peaceful, it’s out in nature, it’s time to chat with God, time to spend with family and friends, and it’s a way to get some exercise.   I have lofty hiking goals, like completing 52 hikes in a year or section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

As a result of my love of hiking and my goals relating to hiking, I never complain while on the hike. 

Until this last week.

I was on an easy 3-mile hike with Erin…my first in several weeks as a result of a knee procedure. The hike was miserable…I was miserable.  Miserable and grumpy.  Erin was quite amused by this shifting of roles on this particular hike….you see, she’s normally the complainer during our hikes.  

I immediately went home and tied myself to my ice-compression machine to get a little relief.  And as I settled into the couch with ice and Tylenol, I felt a nudge of the Holy Spirit about my complaining during the hike.  There I was trying to relax and compensate for pushing my knee so hard and I kept hearing the whisper of Philippians 2:14 in my head. 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” ~Philippians 2:14. 

But I was hurting.  But I was hot and sweaty.  But I hadn’t stayed on top of my hiking and workouts.  But there were more hills than I remembered. But, but, but. 

Excuse after excuse came to mind to justify my grumbling.  Within a short period of time, that nudging had me re-examining how I had behaved on the hike. 

Yes, I was hurting and probably pushed too hard to go on the hike so quickly after the knee procedure.  However, that did not justify my grumpy words about the hike.  With a repentant heart, I opened my Bible to read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

How do we ask for forgiveness for something that seems as trivial as complaining about the length of a hike? We identify the wayward behavior; we repent and ask for forgiveness…and then we shift gears. In that instance, I gave thanks to the Lord as directed by 1 Thessalonians.  I am thankful for medical interventions for my knee. I’m thankful I made it through the hike. I’m thankful for electricity and frozen water to help after the hike. I’m thankful for cool Fall weather and changing leaves.  Of course, I’m thankful for my friendship with Erin…who indulges me by going on hikes with me.  In all, I am grateful to the Lord who has provided each of these things.

She who never complains (about hikes)…she complained (about a hike).

And then this simple example of grouchiness, turned into a personal lesson about being thankful.

~Emily

Planting The Fall Harvest

For the last several weeks my husband has actively been planting food plots in preparation for deer season. It has required deliberate planning for locations, tilling plots, research of specific crops, and sowing seeds.  After that, lots of prayer for rain to come and birds to not eat the seeds sown.  All these plans to entice deer to come to a pre-arranged buffet location.

One of the things we’ve discovered through this process is that we had to repeatedly till up the land because there are residual weed seeds at multiple layers of the soil.  Each time we disked it up we had to wait a while to watch the weeds take hold…then till again.  Repeat, rinse.  It’s been quiet the process to get up all the weeds in order to plant the food plots.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the process that Jesus told us to do in regards to the evil weeds of the world.  Jesus told the parable in Matthew 13:24-30 (NASB) that we should let the weeds grow up with the wheat.

“Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. And when the wheat sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also became evident. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ And he said to them, An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; while you are gathering up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Jesus goes on to explain that this field represents the world, that Jesus is sowing the seeds which are the Word of God, and the enemy is Satan who has planted the poisonous weeds.  Yikes.  Both the church and the enemy are sowing seeds…one is worth harvesting, and one will be burned. 

While believers are game to spread the seeds of the Good News, we try in vain to stay away from sin and evil.  Of note, most of us want to pull up the weeds by the roots and be done with the enemy and evil that he sows.  But that is not our job.  According to Matthew 7:5, the only evil we are required to root out, is the evil in our own lives. 

That does not negate our calling to sow seeds generously in the harvest fields (Matthew 13:1-23).  We need to keep sharing, keep praying, and keep planting the seeds of the Gospel.  We speak truth.  We vote according to our beliefs and we work against injustces that we see happening around us.  We continue to work for the Kingdom as the hands and feet of Christ. 

The weeds in the food plot planting for deer season must be dealt with through continuously tilling the soil.  But the weeds sown by Satan?  We leave those alone…let God deal with them on Judgment Day. 

I pray you have a fruitful week spreading the seeds of Christ’s true love.

~Emily

Blind Man with a Tattoo

A couple weeks ago, I saw a blind man in the airport while I was traveling for work.  I stood for a moment admiring how he was navigating the crowds with his blind cane.  He was moving quickly and with purpose…and that white stick with red reflective tape was swooshing back and forth.  As he passed, I noticed a fairly large tattoo on the back of his right calf. 

I was taken aback.  Why would someone get a tattoo that they wouldn’t ever see?  How does he know that it was what he asked for? How would he have known which colors were depicted?

I thought about this gentleman for several days and the reasons for him getting a tattoo.  Maybe he had gotten the tattoo and then later became blind; therefore, he’d know exactly what the tattoo looked like.  Maybe he never saw it, but it was the same tattoo with a best friend or family member, so it was special from that perspective.  Or maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about why this stranger had a tattoo without sight. 

As I’m questing this blind man’s reasons for having a tattoo, it got me thinking about if strangers question our faith and the reasons for our faith. Are people seeing us walking in “blind faith”?

In John 20:29, we read that Jesus told us that blind faith is rewarded with blessings.  “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

As believers in modern America, it’s safe to say none of us have actually seen Jesus in the flesh, as the apostles had.  So what does our faith rest on?  It rests on our assurances of all things hoped for, that’s what Hebrews 11:1 says.  The next scriptures also tell us it’s the conviction of things not seen.  All things we hope for and things we have not seen assists with defining “blind faith.”

At yet…blind faith is a super hard approach to convince an unbeliever about the gift of grace through Christ’s death.  Subsequently we must have a plan ready to assist others with knowing Jesus in a way in which they also can exhibit blind faith.   Scripture tells us to prepare a defense in order to tell the Good News that gives us hope.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” ~1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

I’m sure if I had the time, or the moment of bravery, I could have asked the blind man with the tattoo his reasons behind his ink.  And he likely would have had a wonderful story behind it. 

I’m hopeful that if someone were to ask me about my blind faith, they would find that I had a planned approach that defend that faith while I gave them the story behind the greatest hope ever provided.  Jesus Christ.

If you don’t have that hope…if you haven’t given your life to Christ…if you don’t have the blind faith, please message Erin or I at Iron Porch.  We would love to chat with you about the plan God has provided us.

~Emily

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” ~Hebrews 11:1-40 (ESV)

The Hard Decisions: Labor and Delivery

When I was a young Airman, I worked in Labor and Delivery as the primary surgical technician for c-sections. More times than I care to count, I was present when hard decisions were made about maternal or baby health.  Sometimes those choices had to do with a plummeting baby heart rate, a few times it had to do with a prolapsed cord, and once it had to do with a teratoma mass (this is a very rare cell tumor that can contain fully formed tissues, teeth, hair or bones).  The outcomes of those decisions were typically positive with both mother and baby surviving.  Sometimes those outcomes were much sadder.

In Exodus, we know there was a pharaoh trying to control Israel’s population through hard labor and ultimately by ordering Hebrew midwives to kill any male infants that they delivered (Exodus 1:15-16).  This is a much hard decision of the labor and delivery kind.

Within the scripture we see Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, put into a scenario where they had to choose to follow the orders of the earthly leader or the commandments of the heavenly one.

It’s important to note that Moses refers to these two midwives by name.  Perhaps out of the multitude of other midwives, these two are most important because of their seniority in the area.  Perhaps they were mentors or teachers of the other midwives. Perhaps because of that leadership role, they would have been expected to follow the pharaoh’s orders and become an example to the rest of the midwives.  Perhaps they are remembered in the Old Testament scrolls because of their fear of the Lord and their disobedience of the murderous order (Exodus 1:17).

They could have been simply lost to the years as historically insignificant. 

But they were not. 

Why? Because they refused man and chose to obey God (Acts 5:17-19).  They did not kill any babies, let alone just the male infants.  In that choice, they remained faithful to the Lord.  They were able to stand before God as righteous servants rather than wretched ones.  They changed the course of world history by preserving God’s chosen people.

Their decisions were life and death ones with eternal implications.  Like modern obstetrics, they were making the hard decisions of labor and delivery. 

~Emily

“The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

Hiding Under the Couch

In the late 1990s, I was stationed in California.  While there, I lived next door to a young family in a condo-style building.  The oldest child, Merissa, was about 3 years old when I first met her.  Anytime she was in trouble or afraid, she’d hide under the couch in the living room.  Imagine the sweet little face of a toddler half smooshed under the couch, peeking out to see if the coast was clear. 

Do you have a spot you “hide under” when you’re in trouble or scared? Is it under the covers? In a bubble bath? In a tub of ice cream?  Does that hiding spot also include times you want to try to hide from God?  Notice I used the phrase “try” to hide from God.  Trying to hide is a human quality that does not consider God’s omnipresence.

Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB) shows us that God is everywhere.  “’Can a person hide himself in hiding places so that I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.”

The infinite spirit of God includes omnipresence, which means He is present everywhere in creation. And that my friends…is really hard to wrap our minds around. That omnipresence is awe-inspiring and difficult to understand, but it should also motivate our own sanctification. 

In regards to sin: It helps us with blatant and deliberate sin to remember that God is in all places at all times.  He is a literal witness to all of our sinful behavior.  When I remind myself that God is watching, it often makes me more hesitant to commit the sin.  On the other hand, when I let myself forget that God is omnipresent, I find myself making poor choices.   

In regards to service: It helps us with creating a ‘servant’s heart’ in our own life when we remember that God is in all places at all times.  He is witness to our kindness, our sweet words and actions, and our giving of talents, time, and tithes.  We should not be acting kindly simply because God is watching, but rather it should assist us with becoming more eager to please Him.   

Regardless of if you are hiding under the couch like a toddler or under the covers with ice cream, remember that God’s omnipresence misses nothing. 

~Emily