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

Go Away “Ms. Motivated Volunteer”

Recently I became interested in volunteering for a military-related non-profit organization that matches mentors to new hobbyists.  I’m too new to the hobby to be a mentor and I’ve already got a fabulous mentor of my own.  So how else can I assist? Fundraise? Graphics? Social Media?   They couldn’t really give me an answer, but a couple of suggestions were simple jobs.  I’m happy to do whatever will help them…even if it’s pushing a broom or passing out flyers.

It got me thinking about the excitement and motivation of the new Christian in our churches.  We tell them they are too new to teach a Sunday School or be in charge of a children’s program.  We may or may not assign someone to help disciple them, but I’d venture to guess most newbie Christ followers are not relying on others to mentor them.

That new Christian is motivated in their excitement to learn…and to serve.  And yet, we hand them bulletins to fold or a serving spoon for a potluck buffet line.  We give them simple jobs until they are deemed worthy in experience to perform other tasks.  The simple task may be exciting to the new person, but it could also be de-motivating.  In essence, we tell them ‘Go Away Ms. Motivated volunteer.”

Make no mistake; I understand that there is a need to have experience in any given field to teach and/or mentor.  I’m commenting on the perception that we give the newer people in any given field simplistic jobs in response to their high motivation. 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NASB) states, “ Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” 

This means that each of us has unique skills to offer and that those skills will impact with differing results.  What is most important is that we volunteer to serve our church communities.  The structure of the church lends itself to serving to be central to the growth of a Christian. The commandment of “love one another as ourselves” (Matthew 22:35-40) directs us towards love, but indirectly towards volunteering to serve. 

This nicely backs up the verse in Philippians 2:4 (NASB) where we are told “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Once again God lets us know that volunteering allows us to serve others rather than our own personal interests.

When a volunteer is able to give time, talents, or tithes, they should not withhold that ability.  Likewise, if they are able to serve, we should not prevent them from doing that.  This is an example of Proverbs 3:27 (NASB), “do not withhold good from those to whom it is due…”

In regard to the volunteer who is new to the field…we should be supportive of their desires to serve.  We should also take the time to discover their strengths and interests.  We may be surprised to discover that the new person, who doesn’t have the experience to teach and mentor, may be very qualified to fulfill other roles…not just the simple ones of folding Sunday bulletins or cleaning after an event.

In the next week, I pray you are able to concentrate on scenarios when you can encourage a volunteer…rather than indirectly tell them to ‘go away.’

~Emily


The Perfect Last Word

How often have you been in a scenario where you thought of the perfect come-back or retort…after the conversation was done?

Last week I had an encounter with a guy who was hogging up a spot at a gas pump while eating a burger.  He had me blocked in and there were two other cars behind me waiting for their turn at the pump.  When I tapped my horn to get him to scoot out of the way, he shook his head at me…and then he flipped me off.

I was shocked. And in disbelief, I managed to get around him and leave the gas station.  

Over the next few hours, I revisited the interaction often.  I wish I had gotten out of my car to chat with the man. 

I know, I know.  That’s not necessarily safe in our society. But I do wish I had gotten more involved.  Why?  Because of some contextual clues.  He had out-of-State plates, a military haircut, and an Air Force sticker on his bumper.  As a retired military member, I wish I had engaged to let him know that his behavior was reflecting on the entire military service.  

I wanted to have the last word. 

In John 19:13, Christ said, “It is finished.”  

He had the last word.  

In this instance the Greek translation is that of an accounting term and means that it’s been paid in full.  


What is paid in full?  

Our debt due to our own sins, which trace all the way back to Adam and Eve’s original sins in the Garden of Eden is what was paid in full.  Jesus was saying that “it is finished” in regards to removing the consequences of our sin nature.  

Earlier in the book of John, we see Jesus praying to the Father prior to his arrest by the Romans.  In John 17:4 He prayed to ‘finish the work you have given me to do.”  

Not only did Jesus state “it is finished” in regards to covering our sins with his blood, but also that His work on Earth was finished.  While they seem to be the same implication, there is a slight difference in knowing that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy.  As part God and part man, He was able to fulfill that prophecy despite His own human experiences.  “It is finished” is the completion of the Old Testament prophecies.  

The will of God…The faithful service of Christ….The option for forgiveness of our sins…All of these are covered under the simple statement of “it is finished.”

Those famous last words of Christ, which are so much more profound than any last words we may have in an argument or altercation.  

In the next week, I pray your last words are ones of grace and love…and not just because you wanted to have the last word.

~Emily

Childhood Nostalgia

Recently, my Mom and I were reminiscing about the chaos and joy surrounding the arrival of the Sunday Paper in our living room when I was younger.  Everyone pulled their favorite section and as a family, we poured over the paper for a couple hours. Before he could read, I remember reading the comics to my brother and later we would fight over who got them first.

This small conversation with my Mom had me recalling other aspects of my childhood that I remember fondly.  For instance, if the summer temperature in Oregon went over 100, we had ice cream and fruit for dinner.  I remember walking to the comic book store with my Brother so he could spend his allowance…and on the way, there was one particular ‘barkless’ dog that we would play with through the fence.  I remember going crawdad hunting with chunks of hot dogs tied to a string.  I also remember my parents dancing in the kitchen.

These are each endearing memories of my childhood.  Each remind me of how family can be structured in moments of happiness.  

I recognize that not everyone had such pleasant childhood memories or parents who were so involved in the children’s lives.  I also recognize that I’m remembering great memories and often gloss over the not so amazing memories.  It was not all sunshine and butterflies for me.  And I know it wasn’t for others either.  

However, the not so nice memories are cloaked in the comfort of scripture.  

A scripture that I often lean on when thinking about family is from Ephesians 3:15 (NASB), which reads “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

When reading this verse, it’s important to know that the word ‘family’ is closely transplanted in the original language as ‘father.’ In both the Old Testament tradition, as well as our current society, it’s easy to think this verse is referencing families taking the name of the Patriarch’s family.  This is still seen now, as brides take their husband’s last name.  

In reality, the verse is much deeper.  It refers to ‘every family,’ as in ‘all believers’ in Christ.  All of us…as one big family.  Furthermore, we all derive our names from that belonging to Jesus when we adopt the name ‘Christian,’ as derived from the name ‘Christ.’ 

This is a family of hope and love. Can you imagine how that family will interact?  How much greater Heaven will be than pursuing the comics out of the Sunday paper?!?!? There’s no need for nostalgia with a future like that!

No matter what our childhood’s looked like, our future is one of hope through Christ. 

~Emily

Mulberry Bushes…and a Little Faith

I have a necklace that features a tiny little glass globe with a mustard seed inside of it.  It’s a simple reminder to continue working towards greater faith in my walk with Jesus. 

I’d venture to guess most Christians know the adage that if you have the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains (Matthew 17:20-21). It’s the verse I’ve clung when I wear this necklace.  

During my morning devotion a few weeks ago, I re-read Luke 17:5-6 (NASB), which gave me a slight surprise.  The verses state, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ But the Lord said, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

There have been several times in my Bible Study times that I’ve been surprised by scriptures and clarifications on what I know…and what I don’t know.  I was surprised when I discovered that Ruth was King David’s Great-Grandmother.  I’ve been surprised by prophesy connections in the Old Testament to the New Testament.  And most recently, I was surprised that I missed the mulberry bush analogy with the mustard seed.  

It stuck with me for several days and I’ve been chatting with God about this verse a lot.  I have always associated the mustard seed with moving mountains…not with uprooting and replanting the mulberry bush.  

There are a couple areas of my life that I should have more faith.  As I’ve prayed about those areas the last few days, I’ve realized that if I had enough faith I could literally pick those issues up and re-plant them somewhere else.  No more worry or concern over bushes growing in my path.  

In all honesty, I like the surprises of scripture when I start to put the connections together. It gives me assurance that I’m studying the Word…and increases my faith that our all-knowing God has a very intricate plan in place.  That faith increases with each encounter I have with the Word.  And thus, could potentially move a mulberry bush to another location.

I pray that you’re finding surprises in the Word.  And that you have the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains…or mulberry bushes!

~Emily

“Vacation” on the Appalachian Trail

Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it. 

At times it was hard.  The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes. 

At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits.  It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets.  But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail. 

At times it was scary.  We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake.  There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights.  There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God.  Each day included a conversation with God.  Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord.  Every single hard step included a plea for help.  The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.

And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture.  I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it.  So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12

He went off to the mountains to pray.  Jesus went to the mountain to pray.  And then He spent all night in prayer.  Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night?  We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death.  We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will.  But did that take all night?  

Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God?  Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God.  No answers yet, but just talking to God.  

That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.  

What a beautiful example of how we should pray.  In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest.  Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God.  If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.  

Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while.  In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God.  And it was a remarkable time.

I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God.  Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.

It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”

~Emily

Salt of the Earth

I love salt as an ingredient in food.  During culinary school, I ditched table salt for kosher salt, Himalayan salt, or crushed rock salt.  I like black salt, pink salt or white salt. Smoked or regular.  Added to pepper and garlic or finessed into a compound butter.  In short, I really enjoy salt. 

In today’s society you find salt easily available at every grocery store or restaurant.  However, in the ancient world, salt was a valuable commodity and coveted by the wealthy.  In fact, Roman soldiers were often paid in salt rather than money.  It’s where our phrase “worth his weight in salt” comes from.  

One of the reasons that it was such a valued trading commodity was because of its properties in preservation of other food.  Without salt, decay and rotting would occur.  

When Jesus told a gathered crowd, “You are the salt of the earth” it was a shocking statement.  You see, Jesus was essentially telling them that they were of great value, just like a currency used to pay for services and merchandise.  At the time of this declaration, Jesus had just finished teaching about the beatitudes (Matthew 5:13-21), so it’s important to note that Jesus was referring to those who had the characteristics of the beatitudes as “salt of the earth.”  

What are the beatitudes?

– blessed are those who are poor in spirit…

– blessed are those who mourn…

– blessed are the meek…

– blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…

– blessed are the merciful…

– blessed are the pure in heart…

– blessed are the peacemakers…

– blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…

Like salt’s value in the ancient world, people are also a valued commodity.  When we see one who embodies the beatitudes, we are likely to see someone who walks closely to the Lord.  This is someone who you can emulate, someone you can learn from, someone you can pray with.  

As the valued salt prevents rot and decay, so does the embodiment of the beatitudes.  Let us each strive to grow these characteristics of the beatitudes in our own lives.  Let us become the salt of the earth.

~Emily

Naughty Words & a Kindergarten Class

When my son was 5-years old, a classmate convinced him to say a bad word while in class.  Then the other child tattled to the teacher that Kambell had used a swear word.  

It’s been quite a while since I thought about that incident, but during a speech this last week I used it as an example of learning the leadership principles of trustworthiness, conviction, and discernment.

In the bad word example, Kambell trusted the other child.  He learned about trustworthiness from the perspective of “not” trusting the child that is coercing you into saying naughty words.    He learned that trust is earned over a long time, but is broken in seconds.  

From scripture we learn that trust is mutual and when trust is violated it can cause disappointment.  For instance, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake and pray with Him while He went alone to pray to God.  When He returned, they had fallen asleep.  He expressed disappointment in their sleeping in Matthew 26:40 (NASB), “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” 

My sweet little kindergarten student also learned a leadership lesson about conviction.  Conviction is something inside of us that allows us to know what is right and wrong.  In the swear word instant, Kambell knew it was wrong to say the bad word; yet he did it anyways.  Immediately after saying the swear word, he felt awful.  That is also part of conviction.  As a leader, we want to tune into ourselves when we feel conviction.  It allows us to be better at leadership.  

Within scripture we see conviction working through the Holy Spirit.  This is the guidance that also allows us to know right from wrong…but just as importantly it’s the correction in our hearts when we are doing something inappropriately.  It’s the rudder that steers us away from sinful behavior.  It’s also the gauge by which we will be judged by God for our sinful and righteous behavior.  In John 16:8 (NASB) scripture tells us, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgement. 

Finally, Kambell learned about discernment.  Not his; nor the other child’s discernment.  Rather he learned about discernment through the teacher’s interactions.  From a leadership perspective, discernment is the ability to look at a scenario and react to the situation.  In the naughty word scenario, the teacher had to discern who said what and why.  

From a Christian perspective, discernment is one of the spiritual gifts.  Like conviction, it allows us to know right from wrong.  More than that, it also allows us to ‘know’ and ‘feel’ things that may be hard to explain. It’s almost as though you get a glimpse into truth without being able to fully understand it. Within our society it’s important to exercise discernment in regards to false teaching, twisted scriptures, and inaccurate theology.   Titus 1:9 (NASB) states, “holding firmly the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it.” 

The leadership lessons of trustworthiness, conviction, and discernment are also applicable to our Christian walks.  I hope this week’s memory lane with a naughty words and a kindergarten class help remind you of the importance of each of these leadership principles.

~Emily

Honey Extraction

In the spring, I got my first bee hives.  I’ve used the time learning about and caring for our bees over the last several months to pray for specific people and situations, as well as reviewing scripture. Because the extra time with God and the bees has been such a blessing to me personally, I made a vow to ‘gift’ the entire first batch of honey to family and friends…many of whom had been the focus of my prayers. 

I spun my first frames last week and harvested the first honey.  It was nerve-wracking.  It was exciting.  And it was time consuming.   

From the moment I opened the hives and started making decisions about which frames to harvest to the moment I tightened the last lid on a jar, I discovered that I had to dedicate a substantial amount of time for the entire process.  

The same deliberate dedication to time well spent also applies to the relationships in our lives.  Whether it’s repairing, maintaining, or cultivating relationships within our families, church or school it takes time and deliberate actions to make those relationships impactful.  

One of the most time-consuming relationships is the one where we are forging friendships or acquaintances with non-believers.  These types of interactions are important because we literally pouring into people who may make decisions to follow Jesus based on their experiences with us.  By no means am I saying that more time equals greater chances of them becoming a Christian.  Instead what I’m saying is that the more deliberate the time we invest, the greater the chances are of them seeing Christ’s love through us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB) stated, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.”

Deliberate investment of time…to encourage one another and build each other up.

Seems easy enough if we’re willing to make the time to do the investing.

The harvesting of honey seems easy enough too…if I’m willing to take the time to care for the bees and go through the process of extracting the honey.

In this case, I was also able to deliberately speak to all the honey recipients about how the first batch was all gifts. It offered a chance to tell people that the bees were a quiet time with God opportunity…and it’s lead to more than one conversation about how to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

I want to encourage you this week to find someone in your life that you want to make some deliberate time for…and then invest. 

~Emily