Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Strappy Sandals

Since becoming a civilian, I’ve fallen in love with wearing strappy sandals and heels.  It’s a glorious feeling after 25 years of combat boots to wear cute girlie shoes.  Except that I feel so plump and inflexible, that I can’t really latch the straps very easily.  I struggle to lean over to the buckle, only to discover I latched onto a hole that is too loose or too tight.

I keep on trying because those shoes are so cute! I feel like the reward is worth the sweaty wrestling match with my tummy rolls to latch the straps.

There are times I feel the same way about my walk with the Lord.  I’m struggling to get the “strap” to fit just right.  I become really involved with my prayer life, only to draw back and not pray. I become really involved with a Bible Study, only to withdraw to mindless tv shows.  I volunteer for service projects, only to determine I want to be at home.

Like the cute strappy sandals, I keep struggling with my faith to make it fight just right, but often it’s too tight or too loose. That does not mean I’m struggling with my faith, but rather I’m struggling to make God my first priority. And that I’m struggling to make God a priority voluntarily, not out of a sense of obligation.

The Bible is very clear that God wants to be the first and only priority.  This is evident in Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV), “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

I want God to be the priority in my life, but how do we demonstrate that we truly love God and want His teaching placed first in our lives?

In 1 John 5:3, the apostle John offers this answer, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”  We illustrate loving God when we strive to keep His commandments.

John offers further encouragement in 1 John 2:4-5 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.”

Therefore, we keep trying to hold true to God’s commandments. We keep trying to show His love for others through our own obedience.  We keep trying to make our walk with the Lord a good fit, rather than too loose or too tight.

What isn’t fitting just right in your life?  How can you adjust to make God more of a priority?

~Emily

heels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kid Questions

“Do you have cancer?”

This was the question I heard a 5-year-old boy ask a balding gentleman, as I went into the aftercare building to pick up my son.

The adult responded with a chuckle and said, “No, I’ve just lost all my hair.”

My initial internal response was “what has this child seen or heard to make them instantly think bald equals cancer?”

My next response was “Thank you, Jesus, for the innocent questions of our little ones.”

Children have very few inhibitions when it comes to questioning the world around them.  They ask simply because they need understanding. They aren’t intimidated by politically correct wording or the emotions that questions may bring up.

Jesus asked a lot of questions too.  His weren’t always simple or designed for His own understanding. Most of His questions were crafted to get His followers thinking about God’s promises, about salvation, and about deliverance.  One of my favorite questions Jesus asked the disciples is “Who do you say I am?”

In several books of the Gospel, we read that Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus could have easily said, “I am the Christ.”  Instead, He challenged the disciples to answer the questions of their own heart.

Jesus taught using a questioning method of presentation. It creates a learning atmosphere where the disciples (and subsequently us) are able to interpret and deliver our own answers to questions.  This often lends itself to a longer retention of information…and a stronger belief in the answers that we declare ourselves.

Like small children asking strangers about lost hair and cancer treatments, we as Christians must ask about and interpret the world around us.  Lucky for us, if we’re in the Word, we’ll find answers!

What questions are on your mind this week?  Come to the Porch and share!

~Emily

Kid Questions

 

Coffee Shop Bold

I ordered a coffee and then had confusion cloud my brain as I began to doubt if I’d called the cashier by Ma’am or Sir. I called them something but then questioned if it was the correct gender reference.  The confusion was not because I’m middle-aged, rather because the cashier was exhibiting traits that appeared to be male and female.  I wanted desperately to ask them, out of sincere concern but didn’t want to risk being offensive with my questions.

I received my coffee and went to a table to begin working on bible study homework.

The ladies at the table next to me were having a very lengthy conversation about a nightly escapade with a guy they knew. It was loud. It was lewd.  The more I tried to ignore them, the louder they got.  I desperately wanted to ask them if they knew they were sharing intimate details in a public setting, but I didn’t want to risk being told off or cursed out.

I closed my study material.  I sat back.  I prayed silently.

The cashier’s shift was over and they left. The ladies with the wild night antics were done sharing and they left.

I remained.

I asked myself and God why I was so afraid to engage with these two scenarios.  Why was I reluctant to have a conversation with individuals?  What reservations overrode the need to be bold? What if I had been bold and had used the opportunity to share Christ’s love simply through my words?  What if this was the only time those three individuals encountered someone who could share the gospel through action, rather than by being timid or worse browbeating?

I immediately thought of the verse in 2 Corinthians where it states that because we have hope (in Christ), we are bold.  I couldn’t remember the context or even the exact verse, so I had to open the Bible and dig in.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold!

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

 I want to be bolder in my action.  I want to stand firmly for Christ.  I pray I’m bold as a lion!  Even if it’s simply engaging in a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop.

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold

 

 

Mental Health: When You Need More Than Prayers

I have been in a crazy-spiral for the last two weeks. I’ve been feeling anxious, depressed, and disengaged.  I want to sleep or eat all the time.  I don’t want to converse with people.  Or the opposite…I want to fight & argue with people (**insert public apology to my husband and son).

In a casual conversation I was having with someone last week (**please, refer to the last paragraph where I admitted I didn’t want to talk to people), she told me that my “funk” just needed to be turned over to God. I needed to pray about it, give it to God, and move on with life knowing that He would take care of all those worries.

Ummmm, hello ‘Linda,’ I know that.  (**for the record, her name isn’t Linda, but I often use that name as a substitute when trying to protect the innocent).

I know I should pray about it and turn it over to God.  The truth of the matter is that there are other things that I need to do for my mental health too.  I need to take long deep breaths. I need to exercise and eat right. I need a long bubble bath.  I need to journal.  I need to speak to a therapist or counselor. I need a little white pill. All of that, in addition to praying and taking it to our Father.

This woman was trying to be helpful.  She was trying to remind me to take the issues to God. The reality is that this woman’s words were hurtful. She made me feel like I hadn’t already discussed this with God…and if I had, then I wasn’t doing it right if it wasn’t resolved.

Within Christian circles, there is often a stigma associated with mental health assistance. I needed help these last two weeks. Yet, some Christians around me were thinking that I just need to pray.  I did pray.  But for these last two weeks that wasn’t enough.

I believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer for healing and changing lives.  I also believe in seeking help holistically or through modern medicine. I think there is value in combining these approaches and I think that each person will find what combo works best for them.

If someone breaks their leg, we pray for their healing.  However, we’d be appalled if we heard that they were at their home setting the break themselves with just an herbal tea for pain management.  We have an expectation that for physical health, we’d combine prayer, modern medicine, and potentially holistic medicine.

Why don’t we extend that grace to mental health, as well?

As Christians, we are doing a disservice to those with mental health illness when we have a judgmental attitude or if we are superficially saying that prayer alone will fix these issues.  Prayer alone may work for someone.  However, if they need more tangible help of medication or therapy sessions, then we should support and encourage those steps too.

I promise it’s okay to do the combo.   I also promise you aren’t alone.  There are plenty of us rocking on the porch trying to figure out our combinations.

~Emily

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Let's fight the Darkness together copy

Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

Lest we regret-2 copy

 

 

 

Cruise Ship Chapels

Erin and I just took our 1st cruise together and it was AMAZING!  Five days of nothing to do but relax without many expectations of either of us.  We have joked that all we did was eat and sleep. In full disclosure, we did a fair amount of both.

We also explored the entire ship.  We went to all the eating establishments and passed by every beverage station (both the coffee and alcoholic versions).  We attended the art auction.  We spent a very long-time watching people attempt to surf at the “Flow Rider,” as well as curvy slides and rock climbing.  We stepped into a silent disco (which was a surprisingly great time!), as well as entertaining the idea of watching a comedian, an ice-skating show and even a juggler.  We even watched a game of Bingo from the sidelines that brought many hoping they would win their next cruise.

We strolled through the casino but spent zero time there.  We went to the library and had a wonderful conversation with a college student leaving to join the Air National Guard soon.  We stumbled on the most delightful game of Lip-Syncing on the promenade.  We watched the ship leave port from the best Titanic location and we “supervised” the Captain from the behind the bridge on a viewing deck.

We even went to the fitness center.  Once. For a selfie.

Thank God we did not see the infirmary or the morgue, despite knowing they were both on the ship’s lower decks.

You know what we didn’t see? The Chapel.  We totally missed seeing the church area reserved on the ship.  It’s ironic that two Jesus loving girls who co-founded Iron Porch would miss that area, right?!?!?

Except that our ship didn’t have a chapel.  Many ships don’t have this area set aside for worship and/or prayer.  While some ships have chapels, but they are reserved for an exclusive wedding package.

I’ve been pondering on the lack of a chapel or religious services for a few days.  We were on a floating city for several days and had access to Wi-Fi, gambling, fitness center, spa and salon, entertainment, and impressive chef staff.  But we couldn’t go to a reserved spot to pray or read religious materials.

Interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

Does that mean the tourist and vacationing industry don’t see value in a religious space?  Is our spiritual walk not important on vacation? Does the average person take a “vacation” from their religion while they are on vacation?  In a politically correct world, are we so afraid of offending ship passengers that it was decided not to create religious space?

There are potentially bigger questions, as a result of the lack of vacation chapels.  When we aren’t on vacation, are we only seeking Jesus in a formal space, such as our churches or prayer closets?  Or are we seeking God in every and all situations, in any setting?

I’d venture to guess that many who make Jesus a priority in their lives will do it with or without a formal space, such as a chapel.  Erin and I found a way to stay close to God without a cruise ship chapel.  We prayed as we walked the outer deck and before meals. We had time to read devotions by the pool or on the balcony.

We made time to stay connected to the Lord on vacation.

I’m wondering if there were others like us who are deliberately making time.  Both on vacation and at home.  I’m wondering if the lack of formalized space, such as a chapel, leads to the temptation to step away from quality time with Jesus while on vacation…or in our everyday life.

Do you need the cruise ship chapel to be reminded to draw close to God?

~Emily

Cruise Ship Chapels