Cardboard Testimony

Do you remember in the early to mid-2000s the start of the phenomenon in churches called the “Cardboard Testimony”?  The premise is a sweet one…in a few words, you share your past before Christ on one side, flip the cardboard over, and share your “now” with Christ. Essentially a quick blip testimony.

I love this concept. Just a few words to showcase what God has done in your life.

Some of the ones that I’ve seen before include:

Battling Infertility to Adoption

Thief to Redeemed

Suicidal to Living for God

Single Parent to Raising Kids with God

Cancer Diagnosis to Fully Healed

Lonely to Fulfilled

Eating Disorder to Feasting on the Word

Inmate to Prison Ministry

If you are anything like me, you’re juggling thousands of tasks and titles.  The concept of a cardboard testimony reminds me to take a moment in the midst of all the tasks to think about my testimony at that moment. It’s potentially an opportunity to change a negative into a positive.

If you had to do one today, what would your cardboard read? 

Dirty Clothes to Clean Heart

Screaming Children to Still Soft Voice of God

Uncompassionate Traffic to More Time With Praise Music in the Car

Canceled Dentist Appointment to Bible Study Time

Wi-Fi Failure to Time for a Book

Regardless of if the cardboard testimony is truly your testimony or if it’s a moment to see positives in the negative, the concept gives us a moment to draw closer to God.

~Emily

cardboard Testimony-2 copy

 

 

 

The Art of a “Thank You”

When was the last time you sent a thank-you note? Or just said thank you?  Do you routinely acknowledge when someone has given you something or offered a kind word?

There is an art to thanking someone.  According to my childhood teachings, it should be in writing, it should be timely (as in fairly soon after receiving the gift), and it should be thoughtful.  My grandma and mom taught my brother and I the art of drafting a thank you card and it’s a skill I still use today.

While my mother isn’t shocked to receive a thank you card from me or my child, there are countless examples I’ve seen where people have been surprised by one of my cards.

I’ve written to thank someone who interviewed me for a position I wasn’t offered.  I’ve drafted notes to managers of restaurants or event managers. When I made the rank of Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I sent dozens of thank you letters to people who had invested in me and my career over the years. I have even mailed a thank you to my car repairman.

In each of those instances, the thank you card prompted further conversation.  The surprise of being thanked has always been mentioned.  Why would someone be surprised to receive one?  Is it because we’re too busy to write one? Is it because we haven’t been taught to write one? Is it because we don’t find there to be a need for a thank you card?

Maybe I’m old fashioned, or of a different era, but I value sending and receiving a “thank you.” Why? Because it offers a chance to acknowledge that someone has done something kind for you.  It illustrates that you are grateful for their actions or words.  It also shows them the love of Christ through your behavior.

Scripture gives plenty of examples of how to say thank you, when to say thank you, and what to say when thanking someone.

May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 2 Samuel 2:6 (NIV)

And may the Lord reward you for your kindness … Ruth 1:8 (NLT)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation, so that you may know him better.  Ephesians 1:15-17 (NIV)

I encourage you to hone your skills in thanking others…it will not only recognize their actions, but it will likely open the door for more conversations.

~Emily

P.S.  Thank you, to all the Iron Porch readers….Erin and I are blessed to know that you are out there encouraging us week after week!!!

The Art of a Thank You

 

 

 

“Dog Down”

I was 19 years old the first and only time that I hit a dog with my car.  I was traveling on a lonely stretch of I-40 from Albuquerque, NM to Altus, OK at about 10pm.  It was dark and I was one of several cars pacing slightly above the speed limit when out of nowhere a dog bolted across four lanes of traffic.   I slowed down as much as possible, but was unable to swerve, as there was a car in the lane next to me.  The front, left bumper clipped the dog in the back left hip.  This caused the dog to spin into a summersault landing in the medium.

During this time, I had been chatting on a CB radio with my then-husband who was in the truck in front of me.  As soon as I hit the dog, I yelled over the radio “DOG DOWN!”

I was so upset to think I may have killed the dog.  I pulled over to check the dog.  Several others pulled over too.

The gentleman who had been in the car one lane from me said, “Thank you for not swerving….you would have hit me for sure and then we’d both likely have gotten hurt.”  By then I was crying.  A local man offered kind words by saying, “Don’t worry…that dog lives right over there and runs into the interstate a couple times a week.  This isn’t the first time he’s been hit.”

How many times in life have you been the dog…running into traffic…running straight into the hurt you’ve already experienced…running straight into sinful behavior?

Continued sinful behavior hurts in many ways:

  1. It hurts us personally.

When we sin, we typically end up hurting ourselves in some capacity.  Lot’s wife hurt herself with sinful behavior.  She disobeyed her husband’s instructions, given by a loving God.  She then faced very serious consequences by giving into the temptation of sin.   “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26)

  1. It hurts others.

Catastrophic events can occur for others when we continue to sin.  For instance, when King Herod was angry about the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:3), he ordered the death of all male children in the Bethlehem region who were under two years old (Matthew 2:16).  In Herod’s rage, his sin caused tremendous hurt to the children and families in that area.

  1. It creates more sin…more hurt.

Often sinful behavior creates more sinful behavior. In Genesis, we see Eve sin by eating from the one tree that was forbidden. That sin creates a scenario where she tempts Adam to commit sinful behavior.  In turn, hiding in shame and covered with lies also becomes sinful behavior.

Sin can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss but know this…we are all sinners.  Every single one of us! And we all have the opportunity to accept this amazing gift of forgiveness and salvation.  After accepting that gift, continuing to deliberately sin is a cycle that creates hurt to yourself, towards others and it potentially cycles into more sin.

You become the dog that runs into traffic repeatedly, even at the cost of hurt.

This week I want to encourage you to turn from sinful behavior…it’s only causing some type of hurt.

~Emily

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

~1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

Dog Down

 

Advil or a Diuretic?

The other day at work I was battling a screeching headache.  I finally gave in and I reached for a bottle of Advil out of my desk drawer.  I shook out two pills and swallowed them down, praying that the pain would leave asap.  Then I looked down at the bottle in my hand and realized that I had just taken two diuretics!

Have you ever made such a mistake?  I’d venture to guess I make mistakes at least once a day.  The mistake between pain medication and a water pill is one that could have been easily avoided.  I just needed to slow down and pay more attention.

Think about the story of Joseph bragging to his brothers about his dream.  He boasts of future greatness and being chosen.  The brothers naturally resent this boasting.  Then they begin to plot the removal of Joseph from their midst. What if Joseph has slowed down and paid more attention? What if he had gauged the reactions of his brothers? Would he have continued to boast if he’d noticed that they were getting angry? Perhaps Joseph could have avoided years of turmoil if he’d simply slowed down and paid attention.

I should slow down and pay more attention throughout my day too. I could have avoided hurting a co-worker’s feelings if I’d paid attention to my words.  I could have avoided spilling water over a pile of bills if I’d slowed down.  I could have avoided swearing if I was watching the road and other drivers’ reactions.

I could have avoided taking two water pills for a headache.

Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, but God can work mightily despite those mistakes.  He redeems sin. He knows I’m weak and He works in my despite that weakness. In fact, he works through my weakness, as long as I admit those mistakes and sins instead of covering them up.

Sweet girls of the Iron Porch, be encouraged in your mistakes! Press in and watch what God will do with those mistakes. Proverbs 24:16 (NIV) states “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”

~Emily

Advil vs Diurectic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time of Their Lives

On the end of the fishing pier, there were about 20 adolescent boys fishing their hearts out.  There was no talk of school projects or grades.  No talk of girls.  No talk of parents or problems at home.  Just teenage boys razzing each other and slinging fishing rods over the Atlantic Ocean. Every day for the entire summer they were planning to meet at this pier at sunrise and wait for parents to pick them up at sunset.  They were having the time of their lives.

When was the last time you had the time of your life?  Hanging out with friends?  No cares in the world? When was the last time you had the time of your life in your Christian walk?

While in High School, I had the time of my life every summer for a week at church camp. Started the mornings with a nature walk chat with God and prayer time in small groups followed by group Bible Studies in between playing in the pool during the days, ending with worship songs and smores around a campfire in the evenings.  Learning the Word and praising God, while hanging out with my closest friends in the foothills of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

When we’re having the time of our lives, do we even recognize it? Do we know we’re in a moment that won’t ever be recreated? Do those boys know that they are living their best lives getting tan and fishing with one another every day of the summer? Did I know that I was having the time of my life at a summer church camp?

In the months leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, did the disciples know that they were in a space of time with Christ that could never be recreated? Did they recognize the miracles, the travel, the teachings, even the rebuking for what it was? It was the time of their lives.

They may have missed it.  Just like the boys on the fishing pier this summer.  Just like me at summer camp.

As summer becomes fuller with activities, I’m praying that you are taking a moment to recognize what is happening around you. Are you living in a moment where you are having the time of your life?

~Emily

Fishing

The Influencing Friends

Through the years, I’ve been blessed with friends from all over the world.   These friends have explored new cultures with me, traveled with me, drank with me, held me while I cried, celebrated life with me, and prayed with me. I truly have been blessed and touched by each of their roles in my life.

Three friends stand out as being the largest influences over my life.

The 1st is Lindy, who was my very first best friend.  We met at age three and lived two houses apart so we played together often. She had the most amazing collection of Barbie dolls, but my mom didn’t want me playing with her dolls because I had a horrible habit of biting the feet of barbies (yes, you read that correctly…I used to bite the barbie’s feet).   Lindy is the friend who taught me about sharing, about compromise, and about truthfulness.

The 2nd is Linina, who became my closest friend in the 7th grade.  We were inseparable for the next six years and I can’t imagine how I would have done High School without her.  We shared every teenage secret, church camp, wintergreen gum, and heartache over boys.  Linina is the friend who taught me about Christ’s unfailing love, about loyalty, about perseverance, and about loss.

The 3rd is Erin, who became my prayer partner mid-way through my military career.  While we lived in the same city for a short period of time, our daily phone calls for the last ten years have enhanced my life.  We stood by one another as relationships crumbled, as children grew, and our love for God became the center of our friendship.  Erin is the friend who taught me about strength, about growing, and about contentment.

As I look back on my life at these three stages of besties, I’m reminded that scripture tells us we will have similar stages of spiritual growth.

Infancy

As an infant/young child, we are just beginning our walk with the Lord.  1 Peter 2:2     relates that we are like newborn babies who desire the milk of the Word.  It’s essentially a developmental phase where we are learning about our new Christian walk.

In the flesh, a newborn is completely dependent on a caretaker.

In the spiritual, the newborn Christian must be taught how to study and read the Bible because there isn’t a developed ability to ‘feed themselves.’

I saw this phase distinctly with Lindy, as three-year old’s, embarking on our first friendships where we were being taught the principles and boundaries of friendship.

Adolescence

Maturing into adolescence, the Christian has a strong faith in God and has learned about prayer and fasting.  While spiritually strong, there is often a lack of maturity at this stage.  1 John 2:14 states, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” This stage is about learning submission and patience, rather than knowledge.

In the flesh, a teenager is knowledgeable and able to care for themselves, but they can be prone to missteps in decision making based on their experience levels.

In the spiritual, the adolescent Christian must practice restraint and continue to seek guidance from authorities.

As teenagers, I saw this phase in my friendship with Linina, when we thought we knew it all but still need to submit to the authority of our parents.  It was a season of becoming stronger in friendship and holding one another accountable, while still relying on guidance from wiser Christians.

Adulthood

In our Christian walks, maturity brings the realization that heaven is not our goal, but rather it is our destiny.  Our goal is to live as close as possible to the example provided by Jesus.  This includes continued growth in our personal relationship with God, as well as loving our neighbors deeply.  Paul reiterated this when he wrote, “..for me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21), which is indicating that from his own conversion until his martyrdom, everything he did was to advance the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.

In the flesh, an adult is comfortable with continued learning but is often the one sought for advice.

In the spiritual, the adult Christian strives to meet believers and non-believers, in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Bible and the gift of salvation. During this stage, there is conscious effort to win souls for the Kingdom.

I have seen the adult phase develop over the last decade, as my friendship with Erin has grown. This has been a season of building relationships and Iron Porch, as a space to share the gospel.

I can clearly track my spiritual growth through these phases, as well as in my friendships. I’m still friends with all three of these lovely ladies; Lindy, Linina, and Erin (obviously, Erin).  These three ladies influenced my “being” more than any others.

One started me on learning what friendship meant, one taught me about Christ’s love, and one has studied with me on how to bring Christ to the center of a friendship.

Each of those friendships is a reflection of the women influencing “Emily” and a reflection of the stages of a Christian’s development.

Come to the porch and share who has been influencing your development…

~Emily

The Influencing Friends

 

 

When Liars Become A Distraction

The enemy engages with us when we are least expecting it.  Often the enemy uses those around us to “get into” our head.  Occasionally, the circumstances seem genuine. Sometimes red flags are raised.  That’s how spiritual warfare works…sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

A “friend,” who I hadn’t heard from in years, contacted me via social media. This is a woman who I have had a challenging past with.  It’s also someone who thinks she has a vested interest in knowing about my life. Furthermore, it’s a gal who is very much into pagan paths of spiritualism.

Despite that past and her religious thinking, I wanted to believe the best of her intentions.   I chatted via emails over the course of a couple days.  Then she wrote something about one of her recent accomplishments, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked several questions, to which she had some interesting answers that also didn’t sound right.

God bless my Spidey-senses. God bless the Google-machine.  God bless a best friend who listened to my thoughts, helped investigate, and agreed with my assessment.  I reached the conclusion that her story was false. It was a farce. An untruth.

This seems like a fairly small and possibly benign daily encounter.  Except it interrupted my day. It took up space in my mind.  It made me question her motives.  And it frankly took time away from my family and my own endeavors.

Satan wants our minds to be cluttered with nonsense so that we lose focus on what is most important to us. I could have been reading with my son, exercising, cooking, or studying.  Instead, I was surfing the internet to investigate this woman’s claims.

A subtle form of spiritual warfare.

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”

What can you do if there is a liar in your midst that is causing a distraction?

  1. Pray. There’s nothing better than prayer to calm a troubled heart or mind. Bring the situation to the Lord and allow Him to work on your behalf.  When we bring our angst to the Lord, He opens our eyes and our ears to truth.
  2. Create Distance. This may require a few days away from the individual. It may require a social media break. It may require a complete severing of the relationship. Distance allows us to evaluate a situation and it allows us time to spend with the Lord.
  3. Evaluate Yourself. Ensure that you reflect on your role in the situation or scenario. Have you encouraged or discouraged behavior?  Perhaps there is nothing you have done…perhaps there was.  God will help you with that self-reflection and the conclusions you come to.

I don’t need a false friend, nor do I want to condone untruths.  Yet, I didn’t want to assist the negativity by confronting her or escalating the situation.  I didn’t want to become a malicious witness.  I simply deleted the conversation.  I blocked the individual on social media.

This scenario is one small example of how we can discern if the interaction is glorifying to God.  Or if it’s one that the enemy is using to distract us.  I choose to be focused and undistracted.

I pray that God continues to allow the gift of discernment to work in my life. I pray it works in your life as well.

~Emily

Liars