Let Us Rejoice!

This weekend, my oldest daughter came to visit me and brought my two absolutely amazing grandchildren.  They are fabulous!  Andros exudes happiness when he gets excited.  Kalan’s mischievous grin just melts your heart. Watching two little boys light up a room make my heart sing!  I wish I could see them more than I get to, but when they come into town our world revolves around them.

It reminds me of how joyful I should be on a regular basis!  God has created this beautiful world we live in.  I sit on my deck in the morning and listen to the morning songs from the birds that fly around.  We feel the air in our lungs, and see the wind gently pushing tree limbs back and forth. We hear the laughter from children.  We feel the love of a grandparent’s touch.  It’s all so beautiful, and it should make my heart happy!

The bible reminds us of this, as well! 

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. –Psalm 118:24

Even on days when we’re not feeling the greatest, let’s remind ourselves of this.  We can be thankful for the day that our Father has made for us and be joyful that He created it for us!

~Erin

The Tornado Warning

Right about the time my weather alert went off on my phone on Tuesday night, my phone rang.  Emily was calling to tell me we were under a tornado warning and to shelter in place.  I tried to call Chris, who was still at work, and his words startled me.  “I need to call you back.  We’re about to get hit and I need to get everyone to a safe place.  I’ll call you back.”  I grabbed my go-bag (thank you, best friend, for making me one for my birthday), took two pillows and a blanket from the couch, and put on my tennis shoes to wait out the warning.  I wasn’t sure where the tornado had been spotted, but I needed to be prepared for whatever came. 

As the warning came and went, I was safe.  But the one thing I thought about during that period of waiting was how our weatherman, James Spann, recommends a helmet for sheltering in place.  It’s really the running joke around here.  But it’s a great safety precaution…especially if your house is about to fall in over your head or a projectile is headed for your brain!  And I didn’t have one.  I’ve talked about it.  I’ve joked about it with everyone else.  And still, I’ve never actually gotten one.       

Why am I the same way about the armor of God?  I’ve put on the breastplate of righteousness.  I’ve taken up the shield of faith.  I’ve got my sword of the Spirit at my side.  I walk out the front door prepared for battle and I’ve left my helmet of salvation behind.  Then I’m wandering through the day thwarting the devil’s stupid attempts at making me stumble and falter in my faith in God, and I’m wondering why I’m struggling so much.

The helmet of salvation reminds us that our salvation has secured a place in heaven at the Father’s feet.  It allows us to stay focused on the Almighty.  It help keep our eyes on the things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).  Really, EVERY piece of the armor of God is essential.  If we miss any piece as we prepare for war, we are ill-equipped for the fight.  It’s just that simple.

Let me encourage you, sweet friends, to put on the WHOLE armor of God as we face the day.  Let’s be completely prepared for what satan and the worlds throws our way.  We can trust that when we are fully assembled, we are ready to defend ourselves.

~Erin

A Spiritual Gift

Music is my thing.  It always has been.  I’m pretty confident that I came out of the womb singing some kind of tune.  Both of my parents can sing.  One is shy and won’t sing on a stage.  The other loves the spotlight and never minded singing in front of people.  I wonder which one I took after in that area?  From the time I started school, any time there was a play or musical or an opportunity to sing in church, I was there.  And I wasn’t going for the chorus line.  I wanted center stage.  I LOVE to sing loud and clear.

When I was little, it was because I liked the attention.  As I got older, I continued to sing in church, but the reason changed.  I now wanted to glorify God and give Him the praise.  And when I moved to a new and bigger church at the age of 30, it all changed.  There was no choir.  There was a praise band, a worship team and contemporary Christian music.  The church that I was going to didn’t do “specials” like they did in the church I went to growing up.  I felt far inferior to the professionals they had on stage!  There was no way I could bring anything to the table with them.   And so I stuck to singing with the congregation in the pews, knowing that God had given me a gift….but afraid to use it.

As I started looking for my new church here in Alabama, one of the things I was looking at was the worship time.  It wasn’t as important as other things like sound doctrine, or a gospel-sharing church.  But I love the peace I feel as I worship in song so it wasn’t far from the top.  Imagine my surprise that I’ve been repeatedly visiting a smaller church with old-fashioned hymns and a piano.  I just found out they have a small choir.  It’s like I’ve stepped back in time to my childhood!  And it’s not what I’ve been used to for 12 years.  And I think it might be right where God wants me.

You see, I long to feel the presence of God with music.  But the truth is, I don’t need that music to feel the presence of God.  He’s all around me.  The Holy Spirit lives inside of me because I am a blood-bought daughter of the King.  The music and the words are there to help me praise Him, to rejoice in who He is and what He’s done for us.  The ability to sing is the spiritual gift that God has given me to use and honor for His glory.  And I feel like I’ve wasted it for 12 years. 

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

The Lord has changed what I see as beneficial for me in finding a church.  Rather than a church with a “stellar” worship hour, I long for a church that shares the gospel, who believes in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  Then show me that same church that allows me to use the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed on me to serve others.  In finding that, I find my church.

I’m thankful for a God who leads us exactly where we need to be.  We only need to listen, trust, and obey.  How about you, friends?  Do you have a spiritual gift that you’ve been tucking away?  Share in the comments below what it is, and let’s pray for opportunities to serve others with that precious gift from God!

~Erin

I’m Lost!

Last week, my family flew in from Cheyenne, Wyoming and I needed to pick them up from the airport.  It was a busy day full of many errands, so I quickly input my desired location into the GPS without giving it much notice and off I went. 

The drive was beautiful.  It took me along a more scenic route, and I was enjoying seeing the sweet little towns.  As I got closer to my destination, it seemed that I should’ve hit a sign that said I had rolled into Georgia, but I didn’t worry too much about, because not all side roads have these kinds of signs.  I finally saw the airport sign at my exit and turned to get off the road.  But I was getting confused because it still seemed rather….too-small-townish?  I quickly pulled up the “details” in my GPS and confirmed I was indeed right near my location.  But as I hit “End,” a flash of the abbreviation AL came into view.  Lightning fast, I clicked the GPS again.  VALLEY HEAD, AL.

That’s right….NOT Atlanta Airport.  Not Hartsfield-Jackson.  Not even Georgia.  I had directed myself to the quaint little town of Valley Head.  Where’s Valley Head you ask? NOT IN GEORGIA.  Turns out that as I was clicking on the Atlanta airport location in my phone, it downloaded several more locations I had been looking at recently, and I accidentally chose Valley Head. 

What was supposed to be a 20ish minute wait for my family while I completed the drive to get them turned into an additional 2 ½ hour wait.  It was awesome.  I cried like a baby.  And I felt so stupid!  I know it was a mistake, but it still stung of carelessness.  I trusted that when I rushed, what I had briefly read/seen was right without making sure my action of picking the correct location and following the right directions was true.

This reminds me of my walk with God sometimes.  I’ve been saved a long time.  I grew up in church and for the first 6 years of school attended a school that was affiliated with my church, so I’ve been around the Bible for as long as I can remember.  And sometimes the prideful nature in me that thinks, “I know what it says in the Bible and how to live uprightly” is quickly destroyed.  Just like being careless in not paying attention when I pushed the button on my GPS, it can be easy to spout off what I’ve learned from my years of following Jesus.  It’s simple to follow some Godly instruction, but not paying attention and not being firmly planted in the study of the Bible can lead you far of the course God has set for you.

There’s so much more in following Jesus and knowing what His Word says.  James 1:22 says “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.”  Am I really DOING what the Word says when I don’t pay enough mind to read, study, learn, pray, and meditate on His goodness?  Is it enough to remember a few stories from when I was 12 and hope I’ve remembered 30 years down the road? 

It’s not.  We need to be diving in, reading what He says and pursuing knowledge of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit!  When we do this, we are careful with our directions rather than careless.  We become knowledgeable in His truth and less mindless.  We become doers of the Word and not just hearers!

I encourage each one of you to not merely hit a button, take a quick peek, and walk away.  Dive in, paying careful attention to the words and commands that are in the Holy Bible.  I’ll be doing that!

Who wants to take on this challenge with me?  Comment in the section below!

~Erin 

Is It Necessary?

“Are you ready?!  Are. You. Ready?!  I’m getting excited!!  Romans…..3:10!  Who’s righteous? NO ONE!  Here wo go!  How about another?! Romans 4……22-25!!!!  Who was raised for our justification?  JESUS!”  Fists pumping in the air, grin from ear to ear; you would’ve thought I was trying to get a crowd of 200 excited at an event.  But it was me on Monday for our Table 8 Zoom call, yelling out some of our memory verses to the rest of my awesome Bible study group.  I like to THINK I facilitate a group of 200.  This go-around of Bible study, we’re a group of 6!

God has led us to the book of Romans, and I decided that we’ve talked long enough about the need and the desire to memorize Bible verses.  We’ve attempted to do it a few times over the last five years we’ve met but have never really made it a priority.  This time, we’re going at it hard core.  We are going to be memorizing no less than 17 verses in the book of Romans!  Maybe more as God leads…let’s not box us in just yet!

Why should we be memorizing Bible verses?  Why is it important to remember the words of God?  The list is endless but let’s chat about a few.

Satan is lurking around trying to distort our thoughts and actions, keeping us from a relationship with our heavenly Father.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. –1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. –Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” –Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)

There are still people around us that need to know about the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And He said until them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” –Mark 16:15 (KJV)

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. –Romans 10:17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

It allows us to have a deeper relationship with God.

I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You. –Psalm 119:11

But He answered and said, “It is written:  ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’” –Matthew 4:4 (NASB) (reference to Deuteronomy 8:3)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. –Romans 15:4

A wonderful Bible study leader of mine years ago, Laura Whitmore, said that when we stain God’s Word into our hearts and into the core of who we are, just a like a piece of wood receiving stain, it soaks in, changing you…the way you think, the way you feel, the way you do things.  It’s not just at the surface.  It deepens your faith in our Savior and becomes a part of who you are.

And that’s why we’re going to memorize verses at Table 8.  We desire a closer and deeper relationship with God that allows us to trust Him and Him alone as our Hope.

How about you, dear friends?!  Can I encourage you to start memorizing Scripture with us?  What tips do you have to help memorize verses?  Share in the comments below!

~Erin

The Frost

There’s a frost coming here in the area where I live.  This wouldn’t mean much except for the fact that I got antsy and planted my garden two weeks ago!  I was told by many a faithful Alabamian that I should not start planting until after Easter, because there’s always one last frost.  However, I just couldn’t wait and after some discussion, forged ahead with our raised beds.  You can imagine my nervousness over tonight’s potential freeze.  I don’t want to lose my very first southern garden.

We have plastic and blankets that we’ll be putting over the plants to help them during the night.  We’ll carefully drape them, protecting them from the overnight chill.  I’ll also be praying faithfully for the next few hours that my plants will make it. 

Just as cautious and careful I am to protect those sweet baby plants that are growing in the ground, I should be equally careful with what I place in my heart.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

I’d like to say that I’m always mindful about what I’m listening to and reading, what I’m watching on TV, or the attitudes and actions that filter through me throughout the day.  However, I know that I’m not always good at it.  God instructs us to be careful with our hearts because the things that consume our heart bleeds out into the actions of our everyday interactions and activities.  If I’m not guarding my heart from worldly desires it can very easily lead me astray and down a path that can not only hinder me but those around me as well.

When we guard our hearts and only fill it with the things of Christ, the love of Christ is what spills out onto others.  I long to guard my heart so that it’s filled only with the goodness of Jesus rather than the things of this world.

Dear friends, commit with me today to guard your heart at all times!

~Erin

Hear My Cry

Today was one of those days.  Everything seemed to be the number one priority and I couldn’t seem to grasp on to a schedule that put things in order.  Pulled in every direction is my absolute least favorite direction to be, and yet it had my head spinning as I ran full force into task after task.  I was worried things wouldn’t be done in a timely fashion.  I struggled with the feeling of being overwhelmed, of not being enough for my work, not enough for my home, not enough for my Bible study.

At the end of the day as I clocked out, my neck and shoulders tense from the stress, I realized not once did I take my burdens and my overwhelming feelings to God to bear the weight.  I tried to handle the day on my own.  How many of us do that on the daily?  I’m guilty of it, especially today.  I’ll get so frazzled and forget that my first call out should be to my Heavenly Father.

Psalm 61:1-2 says, “Hear my cry, God; Give Your attention to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Even when my heart is faint from the heaviness of the load, God will still hear my cry to Him.  He’ll lead us to the Rock of our Salvation and hold us up during the battle that rages around.

Dear friends, I pray that this week as you struggle with the overwhelming tasks that have you weary from handling it by yourself, that you know that you are not alone.  Call out to our Savior, “Hear my cry, God!”  and let Him take you into His shelter.

~Erin

A To-Do List or a Desire?

We’ve been studying the book of Philippians in Emily’s Bible study group.  It’s been encouraging to use a unique approach to this book of the Bible, looking at each chapter in detail from four different perspectives. 

Last night, we got on the topic of feeling inadequate which led to conversation about our time with God.  You know I’ve been writing a lot about that, dear friends, and I’m not stopping now!  Satan is always trying to make us feel inadequate.  He can make us even feel inadequate in our time with God.  We worry about whether or not we are spending enough time reading the Bible or enough time studying God’s Word.  Did we pray long enough?  Did we pray the right way, the wrong way, the insincere way?  It’s a never-ending battle within ourselves.  

I, myself, am a proponent of carving out a specific time to read the Bible at a certain time every day.  However, I’m also guilty of thinking I “didn’t do enough” when I only get through four or five verses. 

One of the ladies said something last night that will forever change how I think about that time.  She said, “Is it my to-do list or is it my desire?” 

BOOM.  MIC DROP.

Are we communicating with God out of an obligation?  Bible reading done? Check.  Prayer complete?  Check.  Or are we communicating with God because He is good and Holy and sacrificed His son, Jesus, on the cross for our sins?  This changes everything!

I long for my time with God to be a desire because it’s time well-spent with the Father.  Four verses isn’t anything to snub my nose at when I spend my time studying and meditating on God’s Word and what He’s saying in those four verses.  And it isn’t anything to snub my nose at when I spend that same quality time reading and studying two chapters when it’s time studying to know our God.

Let’s strive this week and going forward to make our time with God a desire and not just an obligation.  Our lives are sweeter for it!

~Erin

The Beauty In Creation

We hit the crest of the hill and just beyond was the most beautiful landscape I’d ever seen in my life.  The greens, oranges, yellows and reds were so vibrant.  The sun hit the peaks of the Ozarks, and the clouds created the most beautiful shadows in the gorge as we meandered down the road.  It took my breath away.  The only time I’d seen something so stunning was in a beautiful painting, and that painting didn’t even compare to the sight that I was witnessing.  Deep in the valley, as we rounded the bend sat a small white church in the middle of a soft green meadow.  I was simply awestruck.  God’s beauty was all around, and it brought these verses in Psalm to mind.

For the Lord is a great God

And a great King above all gods,

In whose hand are the depths of the earth,

The peaks of the mountains are also His.

The sea is His, for it was He who made it,

And His hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us worship and bow down,

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

–Psalm 95:3-6

God is Elohim.  He is my Creator.  He formed nothingness into beauty, and we are the chosen ones to live in His beauty and creation.  How amazing is it that our Heavenly Father has given us such a beautiful space in which to call home!

Part of our daily prayer should be dedicated to the adoration of our King.  As we talk to Him, praise Him for what He has made!  Glorify Him for the splendor that is around us!  Thank Him for the exquisite gift of Earth that He’s given us to be a part of! 

I challenge you, dear ones, to spend time this week praising Him for the beauty that is all around us.  Thank Him each day for something different that you see as you drive around, take a walk, or look out your window.  Thank Him for this gift of creation!

~Erin

The Knick in the Line

Who would’ve guessed that a cable buried underground would be buried so shallow?!  We didn’t.  Which is why we knicked it with an edger on Sunday as we were putting in the dog fence! 

We wanted our pups to have some space to roam on our property while keeping them away from the road that could lead to demise.  Chris used the edger to prepare the ‘trench’ as we walked around some of the woods.  An hour later, our daughter came outside and let us know the internet wasn’t working.  When we finished the project and came into the house, we found it still not working.  I went to turn the modem off and on again and realized it was genuinely broken, and the technician that arrived late Monday afternoon let us know that we had done the damage!  It turns out that because of fear of hitting pipes, they run the cable just a mere inch under the surface!

It’s amazing how some of the simplest things can wreak havoc!  Because of the cut line, my daughter couldn’t do her research online and I couldn’t perform my job functions the next day until it was fixed. 

It made me think about some of the simplest things I do, seemingly ‘surface level’ sins that knick the line of communication with God.  Please know that there is absolutely no difference from one sin to the next.  There are no “big” or “little” sins.  They are all measured on the same yard stick in God’s eyes.  But often we, as humans, give levels to our sins.  And the sins like a mean spirit towards someone or some of the words we say are overlooked because it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –James 4:17

Those examples (along with 100 others I could name), while not turning me away from God, prevent an open line of communication with God because of actions I take.  Sins, unrepented, can muffle what God is saying and teaching us because our hearts are clouded with the muck and mire that just keeps building.  One by one, these sins start piling up, and just like the wire that was knicked preventing us from accessing the important information we needed, we miss how God is speaking and maturing us.  We’re bogged down with the sins of this world instead of being lifted up with the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ.

I encourage you, dear sisters, to ask God to show you where the knicks are in your life.  Repent and reestablish that sweet connection with your Savior.  He’s longing to speak to you!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9

~Erin