Selfish Ambitions

I recently was given an opportunity to attend six college classes related to my museum-related career.  This opportunity includes not only attending the courses but a portion of the coursework would be financed.  It would only cost my family about 50% of the original price.  The coursework would culminate with a Master of Art in Museum Administration degree.  I’d love to do it!

The catch?  I have to apply within the next two weeks, as courses start at the beginning of March. That’s okay…I’d love to do it!

As a lifelong learner, this is right up my alley. I love school and learning.  As a historian, this thrills me to learn more about how to showcase history.  And a discount?  That is the icing on the cake.  For sure…I’d love to do it!

But do I need the extra degree? Should I take the discounted classes, when someone else could possibly utilize the scholarship?  I already have a terminal degree. I’m already employed in museum work.  This degree won’t help me get promoted.  And frankly, without the discount had I even been considering another degree?   Yes, but…I’d love to do it!

More than the career implications, I want to consider what God has to say about ambition.  Was I being selfish in considering my application? 

James 3:14-18 (NIV) states, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.   But the wisdom that comes from heaven is, first of all, pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The two-week deadline is what I initially struggled with.  I wanted time to pray about it and fully analyze the financial and time commitment that it meant for my family.  There’s nothing about selfish ambition that I want to be a part of.  It sounds horrible.  Even in my career, I want my ambitions to be God driven…God approved. 

Rather than jump the gun in selfish ambition, I’ve decided to wait. I’m changing that heartfelt desire to do this coursework to I’d love to do it…when it’s God’s timing for my career and my family’s schedule!

I pray that the Lord unveils any selfish ambitions in your own life!

~Emily

Tornadoes of Life

From my sliding glass door, I once watched a tornado form and touch down.  That was in Cheyenne, WY.  It wasn’t until I bought a house with my husband in Alabama that I was actually within a polygon for a tornado watch or warning.  And now…I’ve been in more than I can count.  It wasn’t until we settled into retirement in central Alabama that we found out this area is called “Dixie Alley,” as a parallel to “Tornado Alley” in the mid-west. 

In the last week, countless communities and lives have been impacted by a string of tornadoes that powered through Alabama.  The day of the storms was a tidal wave of emotions.  At first, very little concern over the weather.  Then I rush home to pick up outdoor furniture before deciding to go check my son out of school early.  While waiting in a mile-long line of parents picking up their own children early, we learned that a huge tornado had already touched down in Selma.  And we learned that the same supercell was heading toward the communities around us. 

It was a rare moment where I spontaneously began praying out loud while in line (although it was under my breath and not very “out loud”).  I prayed for protection over our small town that has already endured so many tragedies over the last year, but specifically, I was praying for the communities that had already been hit.  I had full confidence that the Lord heard these prayers.  Why?  Because in John 14:13-14 (ESV) we read, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Do you want to know what was more touching than my simple prayers in line?  The response to those who were in need.  Within hours, massive clothing and food drives were organized. Teams of chainsaw-welding men patrolled neighborhoods.  Linemen from in and out of state restored power to all the homes of Alabama.  Social media sprung to life trying to connect photographs tossed miles from home to families. 

Why was there such an intense outpouring of love and response in the moments after these tornadoes touched down?  In some cases, it may be out of kindness or because you would hope that someone would do the same for you. 

For the Christian, it may be because Jesus told us to.  In John 15:12-13 (ESV) Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   Jesus demonstrated an extravagant love for people.  While we can’t literally lay down our lives for others in daily life, we can choose to love extravagantly in smaller ways.  For instance, we can donate to those who need tangible items after losing everything in a natural disaster. 

God told us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  This means that we do not have to do life alone and that we should be trying to assist one another in burdens and tragedies.  When we see others struggling, we can choose to help with our support, our love, our finances, and any other resources that we may have.  This is a physical outpouring of the love Christ shows us and we in turn can show others.

In the midst of a natural disaster that doesn’t directly impact your home, it’s easy to praise God for sparing you and yours.  However, Hebrews 13:16 reminds us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  This is a practical reminder to continuously look for ways to impact others with blessings.

The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week were devastating.  Yet, it’s been refreshing to watch how much love and care is being shown to the families who lost loved ones and those who are having to rebuild their homes and businesses.  The reality is this: we should react this way during a disaster.  But we should also react this way daily…even when it isn’t tragedy. 

I truly pray that we can act this way towards one another during a crisis and during the calm. 

~Emily

Become Forgettable

In the New Testament, there are five mentions of a man that you may be unfamiliar with.  I wasn’t familiar with him.  Honestly, I had read his name often but did not recognize his significance.  He’s mentioned in Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:12, and Titus 3:12. 

His name was Tychicus. 

And he’s quite forgettable within all the narrative of the New Testament. 

He appears near the end of Paul’s mission work in Ephesus.  He had been selected to deliver several letters for Paul.  He was with the former runaway slave, Onesimus, when he converted and went to Colossae.  Could he have witnessed the riots that started with Demetrious the silversmith whose business was impacted by Paul’s sermons on idol worship? Possible. Could he have been Paul’s scribe for some of the letters in the New Testament?  Possible.  Could he have been trusted to deliver more letters than we know? Also, possible. 

Throughout the second half of Paul’s ministry, Tychicus was likely present for nearly every significant event.  Yet, he was in the background.  He became forgettable.

We live in a society that demands we are remembered.  Social media imprints, how we dress, High School reunions, our speeches and volunteer work, board meetings, medals and decorations with a few promotions thrown in…all ways where we strive to be remembered.  We are seeing the creation of “mini-celebrities” in an effort for all of us to be remembered in some capacity.

Even within the church. 

Some leadership structures allow Pastors to have celebrity status.  Others create titles for ministry leaders that lead to elevation of status.  Social media platforms embellish ministry work or community impacts.  Slowly, we become enamored with our own voice and status and forget about the voice of the One we should be most reliant on. 

Yet, the church needs more servants like Tychicus.  Ones who want the Gospel known but don’t care if they ever are.  The ones who do seemingly tedious work in order to advance the Kingdom, but aren’t seeking their own recognition.

This week I’ll be praying that each of us can be more like Tychicus…that we become forgettable.

~Emily

Roman gods and the Changing of the Calendar

Time for a history lesson.

Did you know that the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus.  Janus was a god with two faces.  One face is filled with sadness and seems to look backwards.  The other face is filled with hope as it looks forward.  It becomes the two faces of the New Year…one that looks back at the previous year and one that looks forward to the new year. 

At what point in the year does that hope-filled face realize that it’s the sad face of despair again?  For me a couple weeks into January, I realize any concept of resolutions aren’t important and/or aren’t going to come into fruition.  Perhaps the hope filled face starts to slip a bit by the end of the first month of the year.

As believers, we can be assured that our hope doesn’t have to tie to the flipping of the calendar page to indicate a New Year.  Our God is the same “yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  God is over our past, our present and our future. He’s not just there on the 31st of December as we make promises to ourselves about how much better the next year will be.

And if that’s true, well then…it doesn’t matter what the date is on the calendar.  It truly doesn’t matter which way the face is turned…the reality is that there is hope in our face of happiness and sadness.  It’s the hope of a future with Jesus. 

One of the greatest promises we can read in the Bible is when God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. This promise stands year-round, year after year.

Read that again…a promise that stands year-round.  Every year.

Our God is an awesome God who provides for us through trials and tribulations.  And He provides for us through triumph and victory.  It does not matter what we are going through, He will be with us. It does not matter if we are happy or sad, He will be with us.  It simply does not matter what season of life we are in, He will be with us.


There’s no need for us to subscribe to the Roman god’s concept of having two faces for our year…we have the one true God to rely on.  I pray you know this now and every day of 2023. 

Happy New Year!

~Emily

Word of God vs Word of the Year

In recent years it’s become trendy to assume a word that you will use to focus on during the coming year.  A modified New Year’s Resolution, if you will. 

Choose the word travel…and then plan more trips, read travel books, and travel more.

Adopt the word grace…and then practice extending grace to yourself and others.

Pick the word change…and then make the changes in your life you are striving towards.

It’s not a trend I’ve followed for myself, although I have seen it work well for some of my friends.  Those who know me best, know that I’m very goal oriented and find great joy in accomplishing new adventures.  So frankly…I struggle with selecting just one word for the New Year.  I want masses of words that I can form together for tangible accomplishments. 

Except now I find myself praying about making an exception.  In the next year, I want to focus on the word “Word.”  As in God’s Word.  I want to really concentrate on daily Bible Study, on memorization techniques, and on having His Word dwell in my heart.

Psalm 119:9-16 tells us that keeping God close to our hearts, spirit, and mind requires keeping our eyes on Jesus so that we can dwell in the presence of the Lord.  In order to keep those eyes focused on the goal, I need to be in the Word. 

What are the benefits of being in God’s Word?

Strengthened walk with Jesus

Forgiveness for sin & actively seeking to repent

Guarding against the enemy

Understanding of context and God’s intent

Sustainment against the stress of life

That’s a lot of words and it’s not even a dent in the reasons why we should want to be more fervently studying the Bible.  Even now, as I attempt to focus on one word…”Word”…I’m unable. I start finding all the words that support being more active in the Word.   

I’m back at square one.  Not picking a singular word for the year, but rather praying that I can focus on the Word. 

Whether you pick one word or draft a lengthy goal, my prayer for you, sweet reader, is that you will find the study of the Bible included in the next year.

Happy New Year!

~Emily

The Christmas $100 Bill

When my son was young, I deliberately started teaching him about using his time and his talents to help other people or causes. He loves to volunteer…his favorite was probably spending time at the animal shelter (usually petting kitties or reading to the shelter dogs).  Although, it does love combing through sales racks to find items for Isaiah 58, a ministry that provides a suitcase of items to women leaving prison.  He’s also spent hours coloring pictures for people he’s never met in nursing homes or military members in deployed locations. 

We also talked early about money: how to share it, how to save it, and how to sow it into causes that he most believed in.  Each month I budgeted $100 for him to spend in this manner.  He got to choose if he was donating it, tithing it, buying something for someone else…whatever he wanted. 

Never once has he chosen to spend the money on himself. 

Christmas becomes one of my favorite seasons to watch him choose how to spend the money that has been set aside for others.  In the past, he has used it to purchase angel tree gifts, foodbank items, presents for his friends, and blankets for the humane shelter.  This year the $100 bill went to a waitress who served us breakfast.  She literally started crying and hugging us both. 

Luke 3:11 (NASB) states, “And he would answer and say to them, The one who has two tunics is to share with the one who has none, and the one who has food is to do likewise.”

Scripture tells us that it’s our obligation to share what we have with others.  I understand that for some, $100 is too much for their personal budgets.  Likewise, I understand that $100 may be too little for other budgets.  The reason I’m sharing this on the iron porch is not to discuss the actual amount of money we budget, but rather so that we are aware of how much impact we have on others.  And how much influence we have over training our children to simply be kind. 

After sharing with the waitress, my son said, “I love doing this so much, mom…I wish we could do it every day!”  This presented an opportunity to have a conversation about how sharing the Gospel can be a daily activity…and that it is just as important as caring for others’ physical needs.  

A gentle reminder of this is seen in 1 John 3:16-18 (NASB).  “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters. But whoever has worldly goods and sees his brother or sister in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 

I’ve learned so much by watching the care of a toddler through a pre-teen in selecting how he will help others.  When I created a budget for my little guy, I had no idea how much of a lesson it would be for my own heart.  Do what you can financially…but know that you have the ultimate gift to share when you tell others about Jesus Christ.

~Emily

Destroying the Busy-Body

“Busy-Body” is a phrase with a negative connotation that describes someone who is nosy, meddling, and very interested in what other people are involved with.  Often these are the folks who have many tasks on the “to-do” list, they offer unsolicited advice and are known for trying to help in scenarios whether they are welcomed or not. 

This time of year seems to bring out more of these to-do list types of nosy people.  The Christmas Busy-Body.  People who want to counsel on grief during the holidays, or offer financial inputs on how much you may be spending on gifts…or worse, someone who just wants to know your business for no apparent reason.    

Think of the busiest of all the busy “busy-bodies” in your circle.  It could be someone in your family, someone at work, or even someone with whom you volunteer at church.  Maybe you are so lucky, you’ve only run into a busybody in a novel or on tv.  Consider just how much work that person does, how crazy full their calendar is, or just how much they strive to accomplish. 

It’s exhausting to think of just how busy these people are.

And yet, Satan is even busier.  He’s a true busybody.

He’s so quick to whisper lies in our ears.  He’s crafty at preventing people from seeking the Truth of Christ’s gift of salvation.  He gets people to subscribe to our progressive and permissive culture…both in and out of the church.  John 8:4 reminds us that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies.”

As believers, we know with our hearts that this particular busybody doesn’t get to win. Jesus came to destroy him while providing us a hope that can only come through knowing Christ.  1 John 3:8 states, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Once we become believers, Satan does not have a claim over us…unless we become willing to listen to the lies, he tells us.  Thus, the work of the devil becomes null and void with the victory of Christ’s crucifixion. 

There is even more hope in knowing there will be the ultimate victory for Jesus’ followers.  Romans 16:20 promises us that victory.  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet.”

In the next week, I’d like to encourage you to pray about where Satan’s lies have come into your life.  Know that Jesus has disarmed the devil.  Believe that Jesus’ victory destroys the devil’s work in fear, lust, pride, hatred…and any other negative work he dapples with. 

We don’t need to have any more thoughts spent on the “captain of the busy-body club.”

~Emily

Go Tell it on the Mountain

“Go Tell it on the Mountain” is one of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs.  I am happy to sing it year-round.  The history of the song goes back to the American Civil War and is a spiritual song reflecting on the suffering of African American slaves.  It’s a reflection of their experiences and offers hope and faith despite their position of being so low on the social ladder of America. 

Another group of individuals who were also at the bottom of the social ladder was the shepherds on the first Christmas. Shepherds had a reputation for stealing and lying, as they often took what they needed to continue surviving in fields with their sheep.  As a young child, I thought running sheep in fields was a wonderful concept. Learning that they were actually scoundrels, was a significant departure from the high status I personally thought that they had. Their scandalous lifestyles is partly why when angels first appear to the shepherds.  Angels coming to the lower echelon on the social ladder makes it such a remarkable part of the Christmas story. 

It surprised me when I learned about the historic reputation of the shepherds. 

Upon reflection, it did not surprise me that they were the chosen ones to deliver the message of the birth of the Messiah.  Jesus’ whole life was focused on coming to the people whom others did not see as worthy.  These ‘lowly’ shepherds were about to be witnesses to the greatest birthday in history. 

During the song, we hear the lyrics reflecting that the angels told the shepherds to go and see.  They went and saw.  The song does not say that they were told to go tell anything.  Yet, they were so moved by the experience they could not help but give their testimony.  They went and “told.”  The next amazing part of that is that the shepherds had no idea that the baby they were celebrating would die on the cross for all of mankind’s sins.

This song’s beauty continues when it references telling the news “on the mountain.”  Bethlehem is located in the mountains of Judea.  The news would have been initially told to other shepherds on the hillsides.  Also, a remarkable detail of the story of Jesus’ birth.

The wonderment of this song is that we don’t have to confine our telling of the good news to the mountaintop.  We can literally share it anywhere in the world at any time. 

A simple ‘non-traditional’ Christmas song, which tells the story of American slaves as well as one of a barn-yard birth of a Savior.  One that I love to sing year-round with a beautiful message of salvation to be shared at any time. 

This week, let’s make it a point to “Go tell it on a mountain!”

~Emily

Christmas Returning

Christmas.  One of my most favorite times of the year.  At this time of year, we celebrate the arrival of our Savior.  We often call it Advent.

Definition of Advent:

According to Merriam-Webster, Advent is a noun that is defined as 1) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting 2a) the coming of Christ at the Incarnation 2b) Second Coming.

This year, Advent started the last Sunday of November.  While we celebrate this initial arrival each year in December, as Christians we’ve been awaiting the second arrival.

At this second advent, every knee will bow to Him in honor and reverence. The believers will rejoice. We will celebrate this arrival with immeasurable joy.

Jesus said, “Occupy till I come” in Luke 19:13 (KJV).  In that He meant, we are to continue working for the Kingdom and making disciples while we await that return.  While it is easy to become burdened by our daily trials and tribulations, it is important that we continuously focus on the fact that our destination is Heaven…and Jesus will come to get us during this second advent. 

In this waiting, we also must exercise patience for that arrival.  I joke often that I can’t wait for Jesus’ second coming.  However, James 5:7 tells us to be patient until the Lord comes.  Several scriptures tell us to be alert and sober while waiting on His coming.  It’s so hard to be patient when we know the prize at the end of the hard work.

Are you still working hard for the kingdom?

Are you excited about the second advent? 

Or are you scared of it? 

No need to be fearful dear reader…as long as you have committed your life to Christ and accepted his gift of salvation.  If you are in doubt about what will happen for you or your family when Christ returns, please reach out to Erin or I…we would love to talk to you about accepting Christ as your Savior.

~Emily

Thanksgiving Humble Pie

Several years ago at a Thanksgiving dinner, an extended family member said an unkind comment to me that I still remember each year as I reach for dessert.  A couple of months ago, I watched an eruption on social media over the dresses worn to the Homecoming dance.  Weeks before that, I’d seen outrage over a video that a football player posted.  In all three instances, there were comments from all parties that lead to apologies…in person and online.  And yet, we often know that apologies are helpful, but don’t always repair the hurt over some of those comments or judgments. 

Have you ever misspoken? Stepped out of line? Gotten caught gossiping or lying? Or worse sins?  Have you ever been confronted with your own sin-filled life…or have you ever confronted your own sin?  Have you ever had to delete a social media post?  Or a comment?

If so, you may have had a serving of humble pie.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, humble pie is a figurative serving of humiliation usually in the form of a forced submission, apology, or retraction. 

As a child, I didn’t understand it as an act of humiliation.  Rather, I saw the phrase as a means of making things right when I had made things wrong.  To me, “eating humble pie” was an act of becoming more humble through an apology. 

One of the areas that I struggle with being humble is on social media.  Like many others, I share all aspects of my life on social media. I try to not be braggadocios or prideful in my posts. I find myself most guarded in my responses where I strive to not be condescending. 

Solomon gives us guidance here, which encourages us to have a deep reading with thoughtfulness, rather than quick skimming and indignation in our responses.  Proverbs 29:20 states “Do you see the man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Solomon also advises that “the wise will inherit honor” (Proverbs 3:35), which lets us know that wisdom is honorable.  This includes not being quick to respond…for often the hasty response will be one that later requires apologies.

As I’ve meditated on being humble in my responses on social media, I’ve come to realize that a   humble character is showcased through social media…but it must be cultivated before social media.  No other time in human history has it been so easy to display pridefulness (through social media), but likewise, there is no other time in human history that it’s been so easy to display humbleness.  The more we understand humility and pride, the less often we must eat that humble pie.

Next week, let’s concentrate on how pride versus humility is displayed in our lives.  Try to pay attention to how it is exhibited in our daily lives…and on social media.

And please, please, please have a Happy Thanksgiving with a slice of delicious pie!

~Emily