Stuck Like Glue

I’m pretty sure Winnie has separation anxiety.  I’m slightly teasing, but our 11-month old pup cannot stand to be away from me or Chris.  She gets up on the couch and will “nose” you to get you to start petting her.  She has the weird sitting stance where she sits up straight like a statue as you pet her and then she slowly falls backwards until she’s almost off the couch.  If you stop, she nudges you again with to get close and get some petting time. 

When we get up, she gets up.  When we walk to the kitchen, she’s right there.  It’s become the running joke in our house that we tell her that we’re just “going to the bathroom and we don’t need her to watch.”  She still follows.

As she followed me into the other room this morning, I thought about my relationship with God.  Is it the same way? 

We often lean in close to Him when we are struggling.  We praise Him when a prayer has been answered.  We go to church on Sunday or attend a Bible study once a week.  But what about the rest of the time?  There’s so much scripture about drawing close to Him.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” –Isaiah 55:6

“Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” –Hebrews 4:16

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.  He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.” –Psalm 145:18-19

The Bible tells us him can approach with confidence.  It doesn’t say TRY and seek the Lord.  It says SEEK the Lord.  When we are always making our day about Him, leaning into Him, praying with ceasing, praising without ceasing, what does that do for our emotional and mental well-being?!  It brings contentment.  It brings a joy and a peace.  It cloaks you with the Armor of God; it brings protection!

If I followed God as faithfully as Winnie follows us, there would be no room for Satan to step in between.  Oh, he’ll try.  But when we are firmly planted by Jesus, the devil’s plans will be thwarted.  God will have the victory because we have not left a gap in our walk!

Do you have a pet (or even a child) that can’t stand to leave your side?  As you go through the week and you’re spending time with them, remind yourself to stay that close to our Heavenly Father.

~Erin

Is He Watching?

There is no funny story today.  I’m here to tell you to read your Bible.  Why, Erin?  I’m glad you asked.  Because it’s God’s Word.  He fashioned it.  He formed it.  It’s God-breathed.  And while I may not get some spectacular “AHA!” moment every time I open those pages, reading it leads me to a beautiful place where I know God’s Word is just for me.

We started studying the book of Revelation recently, and I was reading chapter 2.  It’s the beginning of the seven letters to the seven churches.  Specifically, I was reading the letters to the church of Smyrna and the church of Pergamum.

The Church of Smyrna was known as the Suffering Church or Martyr Church because of the intense persecution the believers from that area received.  In fact, in the letter, there was not one weakness that God spoke of related to that church, only that they had fully endured suffering and despite that, continued to worship God.  God told them they were in for more suffering but to hold faithful even to the point of death and there would be a victor’s crown at the end of their life.

The Church of Pergamum was slightly different.  While they had some things God pointed out that were wrong, He says to the church that He see where they dwell, WHERE SATAN’S THRONE is!  He tells the church He knows they are right in the middle of something so evil, but He sees that they still remain true to Christ’s name.  He tells them of specific rewards that wait for them at the end of their life, too.

Let me tell you, Iron Porch, I felt such comfort in both of those letters.  Under normal circumstances, I might slide right past those verses only giving thought to how hard those two churches had it.  But what it really did was open my eyes to the idea that we’re never really alone.

Our circumstances can be difficult.  Many of you read my blog earlier this year that spoke of my younger daughter making a suicide attempt.  It’s been a hard year full of mental health challenges for everyone.  I have an AMAZING support system, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are times where I still feel by myself in the journey.

In these letters to the churches, God told them, “I see you.  I know what you’re going through.”  Even at what seems like some of the toughest times, He did not stop looking over them.  Rather, He’s reminding them that He’s there, and tells them there is a reward at the end of life for their faithfulness to Him.  How good is our God!

I am not truly alone.  God has seen where I’m at.  He’s not oblivious to what’s happening or what I’m going through.  He doesn’t hide in some corner, too busy to see the suffering.  He sees struggles and victories.  And through His Word, I can be assured of that promise.

No matter what you’re struggling with, friends, God is there.  He knows and you’re not unseen.  I pray that this week, you remember that He is forever watching over you and loving you as His child.

~Erin

The Lucky Charms

One of my fondest memories belongs to a Christmas many years ago when my daughters were around 6 and 12 years of age.  I was a recently divorced single mom, and we didn’t have a lot.  I had to learn to be ok with where we were at and with what we had.  While my children never went without what they needed, often it was more difficult to obtain higher price ticket items for the Christmases and their birthdays.    

I was fortunate enough to have been taught myself at a young age that the thought into the gift meant more than the gift, so I was prepared for just such a time.  My girls LOVE sweet cereal; they come by it honestly.  While Cheerios was a fine breakfast food, it didn’t compare to the goodies like Trix or Fruity Pebbles!  And they were always going at each other over who got the last of the cereal out of the box.  Many a tear was shed (particularly from the younger, Peyton) over the fact that McKenna got to it first!

This particular Christmas as the girls each unwrapped identical boxes at the same time, they were over the moon excited that they received their own individual family size box of Lucky Charms!  And let me tell you, lest they forget who had which box, they wrote their names on them so there was no doubt!

Is our response to what our circumstances are one of contentment or dissatisfaction?  I know culture today tells out that we don’t have enough.  We’re always looking for the better job, better car, more Instagram followers, or better pay.  We are a society that is me-centered, always trying to get more.  But what does God tell us about that in the Bible? 

Philippians 4:11-13 says, “Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

We should know how to live in both circumstances and should also know how to be content in both.  The Bible also reminds us that God supplies our needs.  The fact that He graciously supplies what we need should cause us to reflect on how content we are with where God has us!

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t go after a pay raise or a new job/title.  But we should examine our hearts and speak to the Holy Spirit to ensure that we are content with what we have and determine if we’re seeking something for ourselves or if it is God-led.

I pray that this week we all take a moment to recognize our contentment in our circumstances through Jesus and ask Him to fill our hearts with that peace.

~Erin

The Sting of Pride

Pride…what a seemingly two-edged sword.  We’re taught to be proud of who we are and of what we’ve accomplished.  We’re encouraged to be proud of the stand we take or decisions that we have made.  Yet there are multiple verses in the Bible that tell us pride is wrong.

“But He gives a greater grace.  Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” –James 4:6

“This is what the Lord says, ‘Let no wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast of his might, nor a rich man boast of his riches;” –Jeremiah 9:23

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor; but with the humble there is wisdom.” –Proverbs 11:2

“Through overconfidence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.” –Proverbs 13:10

You may be asking now, “Erin, how do you know whether the pride you feel is godly?”  That’s a great question!  Pride is not just an unbeliever thing, as we all know.  It’s something that I struggle with, and I’m constantly having to ask this question of myself.  That sin applies to all of us. 

I PRIDE MYSELF on the fact that I know a little about a lot in the Bible.  It makes me feel good to know that I can help people get an answer to something that they might not have previously known.  But am I being prideful in the wrong way?

Have I acknowledged that my parents, BECAUSE OF GOD’S MERCY, accepted the Lord as their Savior and took me to church from birth.  The Sunday School teacher, BECAUSE OF GOD, decided to answer the call to lead children and talk to me about the Bible stories.  The private school I was sent to that was affiliated with my church…GOD provided the opportunity.  GOD led the preachers to teach on topics.  GOD gave me my brain to be able to soak up the knowledge.  GOD directed conversations that I have with people that allow me to tell them what I know.

I know that’s a lot of capital letters in that paragraph, but the point is, I shouldn’t be taking pride in myself.  I should be humbled that through GOD, I was given amazing opportunities.  The difference in Godly pride and ungodly pride (if I may distinguish), is our humbleness about what we’ve achieved and WHO has allowed that achievement.  Who is really getting the glory?

We can be proud of every single accomplishment or decision or of the things we say.  But if we don’t understand and acknowledge that it would have been nothing without God’s kindness, grace and mercy allowing it, it’s simply sinful pride.  We must be able to have humility and recognize that apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:45).

I pray that as we go through this week, we can be humble in what we do and recognize what God has allowed us to do and who He has allowed us to be!

~Erin

A Hurting Heart

My heart is hurting tonight.  Really, it’s been hurting for several months.  I can feel spiritual warfare down to my bones happening in this house.  And it feels like I’m powerless against it.  The heaviness is oppressing.  It’s a sadness that I almost feel I can’t escape.  I long to have the joy of the Lord back in this home, but it’s seems like an uphill battle of biblical proportions. 

And while I can feel this settling into the cracks and crevices, I know that I have a God that is greater than any spiritual warfare in this home and in my life. 

He promises me that He is faithful and assures me that He is protection. “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” –2 Thessalonians 3:3

He tells me that I am His.  “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” –John 1:12

He gives me strength.  “He gives strength to the weary, and to the one who lacks might He increases power.” –Isaiah 40:29

He gives me armor.  “Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” –Ephesians 6:14-17

He gives me respite.  “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

He is my Defender.  “The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.” –Exodus 14:14

I’m flooding this home with praise music.  I’m reading my Bible out loud.  I read it from room to room.  I pray throughout the house.  I know that even while I’m facing spiritual warfare, my God is defending me from every hit Satan and his minions try to take.  And I’m not giving up without a fight.

Thank you, God, for who You are.  

Is anyone else currently struggling with spiritual warfare?  Share in the comments below and know that Emily and I are praying faithfully for you.

~Erin

False Teachers

I often get asked by my Bible study group or people that know I’m a Christian what I think of Pastor X on the TV or Pastor Y who has a large following.  Sometimes, I get asked about prominent national Bible study leaders and whether or not I listen/like/follow them.

Coincidentally, those types of questions have been lining up with our current Bible studies.  As we talk about false gospel or religion and heretical teachings, our group is diving into scripture to see what the Bible says.

Satan is always roaming around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  One of his greatest tactics is to manipulate Christians.  If he can get us to start interpreting scripture to meet our needs rather than the true context, he’s got a foothold.  If he can push us into sinful pride of wanting people to hear US as opposed to God, he’s gaining ground.  If he can mislead us we, in turn, can mislead others.

Because of that, the Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t be surprised at false prophets who are around us. 2 Peter 2:1 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

It happened in Biblical times, and it’s happening even today.  At least 180 Bible verses speak to false prophets and how they will distort the gospel and teach false doctrine.

The Bible also gives clear direction on what we are to do when we hear pastors/speakers/influencers.  We are not to just accept what they say but rather look at it, read it, study it, and examine whether it is biblical.  If it is not, we should reject that which is evil. 

Do not quench the Spirit, do not utterly reject prophecies, but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil.” –1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1 John 4:1

One of the best ways we can recognize false teaching is to be in the Word.  I’m not talking quick devotionals that give us a pick-me-up.  I’m talking the in-depth study and understanding of God’s Word.  We need to be taking time to dive into the Bible.  It’s how God speaks to us.  I used to say that I didn’t have time, that I was too busy.  And then my pesky iPhone started giving me my weekly updates!  Learning you’ve had 5 hours of screen time during the week is obnoxious!  That’s time I could’ve stepped away from Instagram or Facebook or YouTube and spent time reading the Bible.

I would also encourage you to pray and ask that the Holy Spirit give you discernment as you prepare to hear one of these speakers.  The Holy Spirit is one of our greatest lines of defense!  We underuse Him, and the Lord gave Him to us after Jesus left so that we could have the Helper within us.

Dear friends, we live in a time where heretical teachings are prevalent.  We must be on guard and aware of those false teachers so that we do not blind ourselves into walking down a path that allows us to stray from God!  I pray that the Holy Spirit gives each of us the discernment we need to see God’s truth!

~Erin

The Weeds

I have the most annoying vine looking weed that has thorns on it growing in one of the raised beds in my garden.  When I set it up two years ago, I fluffed the soil and added additional dirt, but I didn’t really pay attention to what was already around the area.  As a result, we’ve got this vine that chokes out whatever it is that’s planted along where it snakes around.  I went to grab it one day last year only to be stuck with one of the thorns.  Because I didn’t take it out by the root then or remove it properly from the garden, this year, it’s weaved its way around my flowers and nothing is really growing.  My flower garden is stagnant.

This is what happens when we allow sin to enter our lives.  When bitterness, resentment, and sin come into our lives, without taking the proper steps to ensure it doesn’t take root, it’s allowed to grow and fester.  It begins to take over our lives in ways we could never imagine.

God tells us that the fruit of the Spirit include joy, peace, patience, and self-control.  But when we aren’t properly weeding our faith garden, it affects those fruits.  The weed takes hold of the peace and leaves us with a feeling of jealousy that someone has something we aren’t able to have.  It stunts the patience we have learned to understand when the anger takes over at being passed over for a promotion we thought we deserved.  It strangles the self-control we have as we find ourselves trying to live in the world but not be of the world (Romans 12:2).  Those menacing vines steal the joy we have in the Lord when we don’t remove them…and remove them at the root.

Just as it is in gardening, we can pick the weed out.  We can pull at the vine to remove it to allow for more growth on the surface.  However, when we don’t remove the full root that it’s attached to, it’s allowed to continue growing and being a menace.

We can’t just ask for forgiveness of sins and “hope” it doesn’t come back.  We must repent—meaning to turn away—from what we have allowed to grow.  Then we must take the root out.  It may mean removing certain music from your life to prevent you from feeling a certain way.  It may mean reexamining your friendships.  It may mean recognizing that you need deeper study in the Word and less time on social media.  But when we take out the root, we remove the hinderance and can see the beauty in the growth of a full and complete garden.

This doesn’t mean that other choking vines or weeds won’t come, but when we take out the root of the issue, we can find our hope in the Lord that says we can be more vigilant about what may come next.  We can be prepared for what satan sends our way.  God can have the victory in our lives!

This week, I’m praying that God reveals what the weeds are in my garden so that I can take them by the root and remove them!  How about you?

~Erin

Am I a Fruity Tree?

When the girls were younger, both Peyton and McKenna preferred to sit with me in “big” church.  They were never really ones to want to go to the kid’s room where everyone their age hung out.  They never ceased to amaze after the sermon when we would discuss the pastor’s message just how much they would know and understand what had been talked about.

One Sunday, Pastor Galen spoke of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22).  Jesus came up to the fig tree with his disciples and upon seeing that the tree was bare when it shouldn’t have been, He cursed the tree.  It withered up at once.  The disciples were shocked and from that moment, Jesus was able to speak to them on the power of faithful prayer.  

Pastor Galen expressed additional thoughts on the correlation to us living out the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to produce fruit in our walk with God.  It was rich with meaning and incredibly helpful to think about how empty our walk with God can be when we are bare and not producing fruit for the Kingdom.

On our way home, Peyton asked me if she could ask a question.  “Mommy, am I a plain tree or a fruity tree?”  At 6 years old, she was able to understand what the pastor meant in the difference between the two.  It shaped a beautiful conversation that ended with Peyton reminding herself that as a Christian she should always want to be the fruity tree and talk to her friends about Jesus.

To have the faith of a child, right?!

We sometimes think that being fruitful in our Christian life is difficult.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s hard to handle things like patience and long-suffering.  It’s scary to talk to a random stranger about God and who He sent as a sacrifice on our behalf.  It’s demanding to think that we must die to self daily.  But isn’t that we’re meant to do?

In Colossians 1:10, Paul writes to the people and says he is constantly praying for them so that they will be filled with the knowledge of His will, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I believe that if we came to God with the faith of a child, innocently wanting to just be a fruity tree for Him rather than a plain one, we would recognize we can trust God to help us be that fruity tree.  We aren’t meant to become fruit bearers by doing it on our own.  With faithful study and meditation on God’s Word, we can know that we are meant to lean on Him as well as walk with Him as we flourish and produce the fruit. 

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with Him!  We don’t have to be scared because we aren’t doing it alone.  We produce the fruit as a faithful child of the King!

How about you, dear friends?  Tell me, do you long to be a fruity tree for the Kingdom of God?!  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Dog Days

Last week I had a big scare with our dog, Ruger.  Ruger is a sweet 8 year old lab who Chris has had since he was a pup.  I was home alone with him when he started acting funny.  He was opening up his mouth and leaning toward the sky like he was trying to grab something.  When he would look down, his jaw was tremoring, and then he would dig his nose into the floor for 15-20 seconds at a time.  I truly thought this loveable lug was having a stroke.  I shot off a couple of quick videos to Chris at work and then called him, begging him to watch them right away and tell me if I needed to get him to the vet ASAP.

After 2 minutes or so, Chris called back.  “He’s acting like he’s get something stuck in his nose?  Does he have something in there?”  To which I dutifully picked this dog’s nose like a newborn with a raisin up his nostril (THAT happened the week before).  Nothing.  Chris said, “Then check his throat.  I think he’s got something stuck somewhere!”  Ruger let me gently open his mouth.  In the very back, stuck between his farthest molars was the cap of a marker that he had chewed and managed to wedge in there!

That dumb dog, despite the fact he’s been trained as a duck dog and knows not to chew things, decided to enjoy an awesome plastic snack that ended up causing him pain and discomfort.  I was so grateful I called Chris and asked what he thought.  After I pulled it out, I started crying because I had truly thought that the dog was going to die on my watch!  I was glad he was ok.

As I sit and write this blog and share the story, I can think of so many biblical applications oddly enough that resonate with me and hit me in the eyes.

How about the fact that my husband knew what to look for?  He has taken the time to get to know his dog and how he acts.  He knows what a dog looks like stressed.  He took years of experience with dogs and was prepared for odd circumstances like this one.  Am I that prepared for the sneak attacks of Satan?

We should be vigilant because the Bible tells us to be!  It clearly tells us that satan isn’t just letting us be.  He roams around seeking those to devour (I Peter 5:8).  Have we trained ourselves to be ready for whatever affliction comes our way?  And the best way for us to be prepared is to fully surrender to God, be in constant prayer with Him and use our Sword–the Bible–daily!  When we have trained ourselves well, when things come up unexpectedly, we will be equipped with the proper outlook to help us.

How about that silly dog knowing he’s not supposed to be chewing things like that and yet he did it anyway?  Do I hide from sin that stupidly?!  Do I know what I am commanded to do biblically and still slink away trying to hide what I’m about to do as if God doesn’t see it or doesn’t know about it?!

I’m guilty of this more times than I can count!  I wish that I was constantly in God’s Word as much as I should be.  I wish I didn’t lose my temper and say mean or hurtful things.  I wish that my past didn’t include drunken nights and sexual immorality.  But I’ve done exactly as Ruger has done.  It looked fun.  It looked inviting.  So I took part.  Then shame takes over as I hide my behavior, knowing that what I’ve done is pure and simply sin.  The reminder of the disobedience, however, is never far away and then like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or a dog caught with a marker top stuck between his teeth, our sin has found us out and God is waiting for repentance!

My prayer, Iron Porch, is twofold.  First, I pray that we are vigilant and aware of our surroundings, building up our faith with active prayer, Bible reading and worship so that we may know when we have a problem.  Second, I pray that we don’t hide in our sin.  I pray that we are so steadfast in our relationship with God that we actively pursue a sinless nature.  And when we DO sin, I pray that we are immediate in our repentance and turning away from the sin.  God is quick to forgive when we come to Him with a broken and repentant heart.

~Erin

Our Buddy, Ruger!

Patience of God

I had my grandsons this last week for five days.  I love them.  They are amazing!  Andros is 4 and Kalan is 2, and they are sincerely so smart and funny!  But they WORE. ME. OUT.  Especially Kalan!  I didn’t realize just how much they are always on the go until I watched Kalan run in circles around the island of our kitchen for almost 23 minutes.  And I’m not exaggerating; it was hysterical!  He would take a turn around, go past our dog, Ruger, say ‘Scuse me’ and keep going around and around.

I don’t know where he has the energy.  However, the one thing I noticed because he’s non-stop is that my patience would start to wear thin.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but when a child that’s so focused wasn’t paying attention to what I was saying, I would start to get irritated trying to rein him in.

Thank goodness for a God who is patient with us!  Over and over in the bible, it says that He is slow to anger, gracious, and loving.  And that’s even after we run around and do what we want to do without paying attention to His words and commands!

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;” –Exodus 34:6

“But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindess and truth.” –Psalm 86:15

“’And rend your heart and not your garments.’”  Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindess and relenting of evil.” –Joel 2:13

“who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” –1 Peter 3:20

Even when the Lord was waiting for repentance from the people in the days of Noah, or when the Israelites were complaining in the wilderness, and when Jonah ran and hid (unsuccessfully), He had patience and gave time for them to repent and to turn back to Him!  He did not just immediately get mad and cut them off.  He gave us opportunity to walk our way back to Him and His ways.

I thank God for the patience that He has for us!  I’m thankful that He’s not like us where we can fall so quickly to irritation and getting upset.  I pray that this week we can see the patience of God in His love for us and model that towards those around us.

~Erin

Sweet Kalan who loves to run me ragged!