Wasp Stingers & Convictions of the Holy Spirit

On Friday, just as I was getting ready to leave work, I felt a pin-prick stab in my stomach followed by an intense burning sensation.  I moaned ‘nooooooo’ in despair, as I watched a wasp fly away from my mid-section.  The last time I was stung by a wasp it took over a year before it stopped flaring up bright red and alternating between burning and itching. 

Earlier in the week at Bible Study, the teacher gave us a scripture with a nugget of truth that left me feeling the sting and burn of conviction. In that moment, I knew I wasn’t being prayerful, respectful, or loving in one area of my life.  Like the wasp sting, it hasn’t gone away after several days.  

The Bible is very clear that the feeling of conviction is from the Holy Spirit; the third part of the trinity. In my experience, these nudges from the Holy Spirit are in areas that the Lord finds displeasing.  Normally, they are behaviors that are sinful, that need repentance, and that are forgiven if we truly change our direction.  

John 16:8 (NASB) says, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness and judgement.” 

You see, the key to conviction is that there will be judgement associated with it.  Therefore, we can’t ignore it…we have to actually do something to change the behavior.  If we fail to change behavior as a result of conviction, or we ignore that pinprick on our conscious, then we stay in a sinful spiral.  And no good comes from that. 

Josh McDowell wrote, “Having convictions can be defined as being so thoroughly convinced that Christ and His Word are both objectively true and relationally meaningful that you act on your beliefs regardless of the consequences.”

Just like the wasp sting, with its immediate pinch and days of itchy burning, the moments during and after a conviction spurred by the Holy Spirit, should also invoke feelings of a sting and continuous burn…until the behavior has been repented and changed.  

This week I’m praying that the ladies of the porch will listen to the Holy Spirit when you feel that moment of conviction…and that the wasps stay away from you!

~Emily

Search and Rescue

I work in a military museum so “search and rescue” is not entirely a foreign concept to me.  We have an exhibit called “Star Catchers,” which showcases Airmen who were responsible for capturing satellites falling to earth.  A search and rescue of capsules containing cameras and film…and a race against time and sinking, as the capsule hit the massive ocean.  

Of course, there are also countless stories of Airmen searching for and rescuing other military members…in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the deserts of the Middle East.  Stories of POWs, downed aircraft, and special operations…all centered around the concept of search and rescue. 

There are plenty of times that I wonder if God feels like He’s continuously on a “search and rescue” mission.  He literally searches the Earth for His children who don’t know the Savior as their lifeline.  He searches and then offers them the rope for rescue.  He offers the solution to perilous situations.  He offers the ultimate rescue.  

Many accept God’s gift of His Son for our sins as their personal rescue.  Yet there are others who refuse that gift. 

Can you imagine the downed pilot who tells the rescue team, “No, no, I don’t need your assistance; I’ve got this under control”?

Can you envision the National Security impacts of a capsule with film sinking to the bottom of the ocean?

Can you even fathom the victim of the road side bomb refusing assistance from the first responders?

As sinful humans, our souls send out a distress signal that can only be answered by God.  When presented the Gospel, are we grasping the life-line?  Or are we refusing?  God leaves the choice up to each one of us.  Accept or reject God by accepting or rejecting the gift of salvation.  There are eternal consequences for either choice.  

Those who need rescue in an emergency situation do not refuse assistance. This next week, ask yourself if you’ve accepted the rescue of God.  I encourage you to take time in the next couple of days to pray for those who may be struggling with this decision…do they want to accept or reject their personal “Search and Rescue”?

~Emily

“To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” ~Acts 26:18

Saving Freedom & The Statue of Liberty

As an elementary school student, I remember collecting pennies to donate towards the restoration of the Statue of Liberty crown.  Can you imagine the coordination it took for millions of small children to collect pennies towards a National Treasure?  This amazingly oversized statue is not only special to the immigrants that passed by her in the 1800s and early 1900s, but is an iconic symbol of America.    

It has become a symbol of leaving everything behind, risking everything for a new life, and creating new life with freedom.  

This is the same picture of what must happen when we come to know Jesus Christ as our Savior.  We leave behind worldly items and behaviors, risking much for a new life in Him.  Jesus becomes the way to freedom…not just a resolute statue in symbolism, but rather real freedom.  

In John 8:12 (NASB), Jesus said “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Simply stated, Jesus as a lamplight towards freedom surpasses any amount of political, economic, or social persecution that could occur on earth.  That type of freedom is all encompassing.  Passing the Statue of Liberty as a new arrival must have been an awe-inspiring experience and sense of freedom, but knowing you are heaven bound is an even greater feeling.  

The freedom offered by the Father, through His Son, is the ultimate freedom.  As we celebrate the freedoms of America on certain days, such as the 4th of July, let us not forget that Christ’s freedom should be celebrated daily.  

Happy day after the 4th of July!

~Emily 

Hemingway-Type of Bad Day

Have you ever had the horrible day when all you can say is “Today was a bad day”?

Recently I had a bad day.  Nothing seemed to go right. Work, knee pain, angry drivers, parenting a pre-teen, call to mom, gym time…all of it seemed to have some horrible moment. I literally wanted to weep in frustration, anger, and pain.

Ernest Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us…”

I certainly felt that life was doing it’s very best to break me. 

I wanted all the badness (is that a word?) removed from that day.  In that regard, I relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians he asked the Lord three separate times for the thorn to be removed.  

In response to his plea, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB), “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I delight in weakness, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Ponder that for a moment; ”my grace is sufficient for you…” 

Well, yes God, your grace is sufficient for me.  But in the moment, it sometimes doesn’t feel as though my heart can embrace that phrase.  Continue reading…

“For power is perfected in weakness…”  If I’m feeling despair, frustration, or anger, I am essentially being perfected in that weakness.  Paul goes on to write that he’d rather boast about that weakness in order to glorify the power of Christ.  He’s excited to be weak so that he becomes stronger.  Interesting concept.  

The more and more I dive into the Word, the more and more I begin to understand that reading scripture for context is so very important.  In the midst of a bad day, it would be easy to fall back on a portion of scripture which states that His grace is enough.  Maybe that would make me feel better…or maybe not.  

However, when I continue the verse, I begin to understand that every experience can be used to worship the Lord. I can embrace His grace being enough, but if I embrace that when I’m weak, the Lord is working to make me stronger. 

As Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us.” I believe there is purpose in that breaking.  There is purpose in the bad days.  The badness used for goodness, in order for me to grow into a more mature Christian.

Pray with me this week that the bad days of weakness become examples of your strength in Christ.

~Emily

Prayer Prompts

A few weeks ago, I participated in a “No Amen Challenge,” which has gotten me pondering on what specifically triggers me to start praying.  I began looking around for my personal prayer prompts.  

When I see starving children on television, a car crash during my commute, or difficult conversations occurring at a business, I am fleetingly triggered to begin praying.  Frankly, as quickly as I pray for these items, I likely have forgotten the prayer prompt.  I’ve moved onto the next occurrence of my day.  If I’m reviewing prayer requests from my small group, friends, or family members, I have been guilty of pushing through the prayers without pausing to reflect on the requests and results. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

This verse caused me to start thinking that the ceaseless prayer, coupled with the “No Amen Challenge,” added to prayer prompts, would likely result in more deliberate…and remembered prayer time.  

The prayer prompts are a physical item that is attached to remembering a) to pray and b) what I prayed about.  It becomes a mental association between prayer and an object.  

For instance, I have a prayer board in my bathroom that has scraps of paper all over it with prayer requests from various people in my life.  As a brush my teeth or curl my hair, I have time to review my daily requests.  Initially, this began as a mechanism to “go through” the prayer request list.  Now, I can visualize where the prayer request scrap of paper is on the board and pray individually for each throughout the day.

Another example that I recently watched Erin use was setting an alarm on her phone.  Each time she heard the alarm, she was triggered to pray for a specific situation.   

At home, I wanted to be more deliberate about praising God.  As I watered the garden, I used the time to thank God for the availability of water.  As I collected eggs from the chickens, I praised Him for providing food.  As I drove down the driveway, I exalted the Lord for my employment that contributed to the purchase of our house.  

I also wanted to find a method to pray more frequently over my family.  In order to accomplish that, I took the mundane chore of laundry and began praying over the owner of each piece of clothing, as I folded.  

In my office, I have a ring of multiple verses on index cards that I switch out every week.  Each time that I read the verse of the week, I choose to pray the verse over a person or scenario associated with my workplace.  As I pass the US flag display first thing in the morning, I specifically pray over our country and our elected leaders.  

Each person’s prayer prompts will look different.  Just in the last few weeks, some that I’ve noted included prayer boards, phone alarms, gardening, driving, laundry, index cards or US flags.  It doesn’t matter what the prayer prompt looks like, rather what does matter is that it triggers the moment of prayer.  This in turn, becomes prayer without ceasing in the “no amen challenge” and subsequently are prayers that are remembered.  

I’ve even got a prayer prompt for Iron Porch…the blog, the dreams, the contributors and the readers.  I’ll use it, as I pray that the visitors of the Iron Porch will have their own prayer lives strengthened through the use of prayer prompts.

~Emily

Pride, Love & A Christian Walk

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

For nearly a year, I’ve been researching and preparing to conduct a presentation, during Pride Month 2021, on the history of LGBTQ+ Airmen in the United States Air Force.  Last week I gave this presentation, which was filled with history, policy changes, and individual stories of Airmen who have served in the military from the 1940s through today.  As a note of consideration to the reader, I’m a historian who works as a curator of an Air Force Historic Research Institute and museum.  My job is to tell the story of Airmen and research the history of the Air Force.  

In the days leading up to the presentation, I started getting nervous.  It was an honor to be asked to speak and public speaking seems to be a universal “get nervous” activity.  Likewise, I wanted to present accurate information and not go on the record with any incorrect policies or historic examples. 

So, I asked a several people for prayers in that last week of practicing and refining slides.

I was shocked at the responses to these prayer requests.  While there were some positive and encouraging Christians in my corner, the overwhelming response was skepticism, questioning, and even one that expressed outrage.  How can I call myself a Christian and endorse LGBTQ+ people?!?!?!?

Let me say this part again…it’s my job to tell Airman Stories.  All Airman stories.  

But I need to further expand on the rationale behind this presentation so let me also declare this:

It’s my job…my responsibility…my task, as a Christian, to LOVE humans. 

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV) states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

In this passage, John is specifically addressing loving other believers with the love of God. While that seems easy to say, the reality is that the believer is just as unlovable as the non-believer. The believer and non-bleiever are both sinful. Therefore, as a believer, I hold fast to the thought that Christ has an expectation that I will love other believers…regardless of it I agree or disagree with them…regardless of if I like their personality or not…regardless of it I sin like them or not.

The non-believer deserves love and respect, as well. How do Christians expect to present the Gospel without being kind and respectful towards others? How do we show Christ’s love for all, when we aren’t being loving ourselves? 

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) states, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I may not love the sinful choices or behaviors of someone.  I don’t like that my friend stole a pen from the bank, or that my child told a lie, or that I said a swear word.  According to scripture, it is absolutely appropriate to dislike sinful thoughts, deeds, and words.  But scripture is also VERY clear that we are to love our brothers and sisters, as Christ loved the church.  

I acknowledge that there are Christians who absolutely believe that the LGBTQ+ community is wrong in their sinful lifestyles.  Hence the reason so many felt they could speak negatively about my prayer request in regards to the presentation.

I also acknowledge that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  

All of us.  All of us.  ALL OF US.  For those in the back, ALL of us have sinned…so why are we judging someone else with such absolutes and harshness?  

Perhaps it’s time to stop judging one another based on our sins and start really loving one another past those sins, just as Christ loved us. 

~Emily

The ‘No Amen’ Challenge

Years ago, when Skype became popular, I was living in Germany.  There were plenty of occasions that, with the time difference, I would fall asleep while Skyping someone in America.  I’d wake up and see my mom making dinner with Skype still going, or my friend also napping, or my brother reading.  

I love remembering that they didn’t disconnect the Skype call while I slept, but rather they went about their normal activities.  They didn’t say goodbye to me while I was sleeping, but waited until I woke up from my snooze.  

They left the video call open…

What would happen if we left our prayer life open?  

As we read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB), “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” consider what would occur if we actually didn’t cease incremental talking with God. 

I vowed to become more cognisant of my prayers ceasing, so I made up some rules to challenge myself.  Then I recruited others to try the challenge with me. 

Recently, I challenged the women of a Bible Study group that I facilitate to try my newly made up “No Amen Challenge.”  The premise is that you begin praying to God in the morning, but refrain from saying “amen.”  Instead, you start the norms of your day, and continuously talk to God throughout those tasks…again without ever ending these conversations with “amen” until you are ready to fall asleep.   

When I started deliberately leaving my prayer life “open” without the closing salutation, I found myself talking to God a lot more frequently throughout the day.  God wants us to have a more intimate relationship with Him through our prayer life.  It’s easy to bring concerns and requests to Him…it’s an entirely different thing to bring exhalations and thanksgiving.  It’s even more unique to chat about random thoughts, motivations, observations, or even things you find humours or concerning.  

In the moments of talking to God, as though He was a friend sitting next to me throughout the day, I found that I was much more aware of His continuous presence.  I was also much more aware of my own reactions to situations when I had an open line of communication going with God.  

For me, the “no amen challenge” became similar to the open Skype call that is on-going while one party is snoozing (**mark my words, I’m not saying that God snoozes on a Skype call while we wash the dishes).  Without the “amen,” I didn’t say “goodbye” nor did I hang up with God.  Instead, I knew He was still on the line as I started daily tasks.

How often are you praying without ceasing?  Do you want to talk more often with God?  Are you ready to try the “no amen challenge?”

Share your thoughts on praying without ceasing!

~Emily

Dear Army Dad,

Memorial Day, 2021

Dear Army Dad,

Last week I was driving behind you, when I saw your non-descript truck with the personalized license plates: ARMYDAD.  Initially I thought, “What a proud Father that must be to get a personalized plate.”  Then I felt an overwhelming urge to pray for you.

I know that may sound random, but I typically use my 30-40-minute morning commute to chat with God. It’s not that unusual for me to pray for strangers while driving.

The unusual part was that I started to cry.  While praying for you and a hypothetical Army Mom, I also started praying for your Soldier.  I prayed for tactics and knowledge in any situation. I prayed for health and well-being.  I prayed for safety. I prayed for peace and tranquility…for the Soldier and for the parents.  Because John 14:27 (NASB) say, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful,” I know that your family is able to have that peace. 

I don’t know you, your family, or your Soldier, but I do know that I would never want a parent to face losing a child on a battlefield.  One who is proud enough to get a personalized plate, probably could handle a loss…but it’s not a loss I want you to have. 

2 Timothy 2:3 (NASB) reads, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him.”

On this Memorial Day, I know that there are parents, siblings, spouses, friends and countless others who are mourning the loss of their military members.  Take comfort in knowing you are not alone…I will stand with you and suffer the hardship in Christ while continuing to pray for you.

Army Dad, keep being proud, keep parenting, and keep praying.  I will too.

~Emily (USAF, Retired)

Floundering Without Ministry

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a project desperate to quit?  Or have you seen someone in the background that you believe to be more qualified to fulfill your commitment?  There are a ton of reasons why we step away from projects…there are even more emotions associated with those decisions. 

Almost 7 months ago, I resigned my membership at a church and concurrently gave up my position as the Director of Women’s Ministry.  It was an angst-filled decision that came with a small measure of relief.  

I truly love women’s ministry and all that comes with it.  However, I needed to step back from the ministry in order to focus more fully on what God had for me and my family. In listening to the Lord and resigning, I gave up serving in a capacity that I adore.

Since then, I’ve felt like I’m floundering without the ministry position.  Frankly, I’m a series of contradictions.  I’m sad to not be involved, but I’m ecstatic to hear news of how well the ladies are doing without me.  I’m unsettled without teaching, but content to wait on the next chapter.  I’ve struggled to define purpose, but recognize that there is purpose around the corner.  

I’m a happy, relieved, lonely mess that is floundering without a ministry.  

Psalm 46:10 (NIV), “Be still and know…” is a much-quoted verse for Christians who are focusing on being still and quiet. In the past, I’ve typically used this particular section of the verse to settle myself; essentially so that I stop trashing around making my own way.  

In the season of floundering without directly contributing to a ministry, this seems a like it would be a good section of scripture to focus on.  

Digging into the verse, I’ve realized that not only does God want us to be still (to be quiet, to rest, to sit still), but rather He continues with a very important portion of scripture that I’ve often glossed over.  “…and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Because the psalm was written during war, it is likely there is messaging to Israel concerning her enemies.  Knowing who God is requires acknowledging that He is in control of the outcome of all things.  Thus, there is no sense in worrying over the fighting as God will take care of it.  

In light of knowing God and what He is about, it’s much easier to understand being still & knowing as not just sitting still, but rather to stopping the fighting of circumstances…to stop doing things our own way and to know God will control all aspects of the fight.  

If I’m truly still,  

If I’m truly knowing God,

Then I truly stop trying to do it my way.

And that is comfort to my heart when I feel like I’m floundering without a ministry.

What areas of your life do you need to be still and know God in this week?

~Emily

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Funeral for a Church

As a military member, leaving a church has been a small part of my reality of orders and transition to a new location.  I never had to make the decision to leave a church without the military being the reason for moving on.  When having to make that decision on my own, I’ll be the first to admit that it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.  I prayed over the situation for nearly two years before I felt God releasing me to move to another location.

During that two years, I continued to serve and tithe.  I continued to join small groups and lead women’s ministry.  I also educated myself about differences in doctrine, about healthy churches, about how to leave in a graceful manner. I asked questions of my church leadership and I felt comfortable in presenting any of my concerns.  I created an excel spreadsheet phase of pros and cons of nearby churches.  Ultimately, I listened to the Lord…stayed when He told me to stay…moved on when He told me to move on.  

Emotionally, the decision felt like a horrible breakup; like a divorce of the worst kind. It felt like the death of a loved one; like I was planning a funeral.  

Let me be very clear–I’m not saying the church I left was bad.  It was very right for the people who remained.  What I am saying is this; God has released me from serving at that particular church.  My focus shifted to finding another church.  However, finding a new church home has been a challenge that I wasn’t anticipating during this stage of my life.  

There are many things to consider when looking at a church.  Is the leadership teaching from the Bible? Is there sound doctrine? What are the children and youth programs teaching?  What are the affiliations?  How is the leadership structure?  Are the finances available and transparent? 

Is it a healthy church?

According to Thom Rainer in “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” there are several ways to recognize if a church is not going to survive a season of illness and to recognize if they are unhealthy.  In other words, I’ve been able to use this as a gauge to check the health of churches that we’ve been visiting.  Usually it’s a slow erosion, which highlights that there is focus inwards on the church rather than the community, as well as a distinct focus on the past (and how the “good ole’ days” used to be).  When the church doesn’t have a clear purpose, becomes obsessed over the facility or individual preferences, or worse…when the budget moves away from ministry and is primarily focused on staff or facility, then there is a disconnect in what is occurring within the church walls.  As a new visitor, it’s nearly impossible to see if these things are occurring within a church without deliberately asking questions.

Rainer contends that only 10% of churches are truly healthy, while 40% are showing some symptoms of sickness, another 40% are very sick, and the last 10% are in the final process of dying.  I know that every church has some semblance of issues.  I recognize that churches are not perfect.  However, as a result of Rainer’s analysis, I’ve been praying for my family to find a church in the healthy 10%.  I’ve also been focusing on praying for the churches in the other 90% to have open eyes and ears to become the healthy 10%.  

Through the process of finding a new church, I realized that I’m not the first one to face the challenge of church transitions.  In the past, I searched for churches based on the style of praise music, the pastor’s speaking ability, or the programs available.  Those things were important to me at the time, but now I’ve got a different set of items I’m looking for.  Specifically, I am now analyzing churches for the breadth of teaching scripture, speech on Word and truth, the management of the budget, as well as the health of leadership of the church.  

Ephesians 4:11-16 has given me direction and hope that my family will find fellowship in a new healthy church!

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

I acknowledge that leaving a church should be a hard decision. It truly was. In so many ways, this season of transition has allowed me to rely more fully on prayer and direction from God.  I know that the building up of the body of Christ will allow our family to grow roots in a new and healthy church.

~Emily

RAINER, T., 2017. AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH. [Place of publication not identified]: LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCE.