Put Down Your Phone!

We were seated at a small table in the corner.  The restaurant wasn’t very crowded as we waited for our family to be served.  As we were talking, I noticed my younger daughter staring into her lap.  Her father, right beside her, pulls his phone out of his pocket and scrolls emails.  My eyes wide, I exclaimed, “We’re having a conversation!  Could you put your phone away?!”  To which he did the obvious….he threw his daughter under the bus.  “She’s checking her phone, too!”

Anyone else have a meal like that?!  Really, it doesn’t even have to be a meal.  It happens all the time.  People check their phones as they walk down the street with their friends, chatting with the neighbor, or standing in line with their sibling while waiting for their coffee.  We pull out the phone to keep busy as we wait for Bible study to begin or church service to start.  It’s as if we can’t function without that little piece of hardware! 

I’m guilty of it, too!  There is absolutely no condemnation coming from this end of the keyboard.  I’d like to think I’m much better about it than I used to be, but I know that I’m sometimes not any better than anyone else in this department.

For whatever reason, though, this thought has continued to pop into my head for the last couple of months:  Put down your phone! That phrase has plagued me when I’ve pulled out my phone in the middle of a conversation.  It’s hit me when I tried to film some event and realized that I’d spent so much time trying to make sure I got the perfect angle with no noise or movement that I’d missed the real enjoyment.  And it’s even hit me when I’m in the middle of my Bible studies and I pick it up to check my newest Facebook notifications.  Is it really that important?

Table 8 (my California Bible study crew) is currently going through the book of Romans, and there is a verse in there that I’m leaning into now more than ever.  In a society that’s burdened with this feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out), I’m clinging to this.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor,” –Romans 12:10

I don’t feel I’m being honoring to my friends when my face is buried in the most recent Facebook post about my neighbor’s horse.  I’m not honoring time with my family when I’m checking the headlines on an app.  I’m not honoring the work that someone put into something when I’m more worried about the right lighting than what they’re saying or performing.

I think relationships would be enriched if we all devoted ourselves as the Bible encourages us to do.  Paul, here, was encouraging the Romans to walk with one another in love as they navigated a life in Christ.  He advised them to be humble and honor others over themselves.  What better way than to put down the distraction and really engage with each other?!

I’m laying down a challenge to all of us.  Let’s spend less time on our phones and more time in real fellowship!  Let’s get back to the days where we forged our friendships and family time in conversations and face-to-face interactions.  Let’s honor each other with true quality time.  Let’s put down our phones!

~Erin

The Food Program

I participated yesterday in my first summer food program through the Elmore County Child Nutrition Program.  In our county they are providing food for the summer for any child 18 and under.  It’s enough food to allow for 7 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  It’s an amazing program they’ve been offering since Covid-19 hit, and it’s been a huge blessing to the residents with children here in our region.

As this is my first summer here, I had only heard stories of what it would be like.  I was shocked to see a well-oiled machine…three stations, each set up with their own volunteers, welcoming us as we pulled up, letting us know when they’d put their portion in and guiding us to the next station.  As we rolled up to each station, I couldn’t help but be shocked at what I saw them putting in my trunk. 

Fresh local produce, meat, cereal, milk, cheese, crackers, pasta—these were items with which you could build meals.  It seems as if it’s an opportunity to not only feed the children of Elmore County, but also bring families together during mealtimes.  This was an outpouring of love from a community onto its members.  Many communities are doing things like this, but just as many are not. 

The willingness and love given to these local families reminds me of a verse.  John 15:12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

This act of love helps those around us.  No, they’re not necessarily giving out of their own pockets.  However, they are giving so much time and energy and support into making sure that each child in this area has an opportunity to be fed and cared for through this outreach.  There are, I’m sure, countless hours being given to ensure a successful program. 

I encourage each of you to look around at what’s going on in your community.  If there’s a way to support the people around and show them some love, the way Jesus showed His love to us, get busy doing it!  Be a part of the programs in your community, as well!  The volunteers that dedicate their time love to see that people are taking part in the activities.  It shows just as much love to them as love to you!

Thank you, Elmore County Child Nutrition Program, for your dedication to our children.  It’s not unnoticed!  Does your community have something like this?  Share in the comments how your community is being loved on.

~Erin

The Birthpain Trail

I made a mistake.  I told my best friend I wanted to go hiking with her.  It would’ve been fine if I had shut my mouth and pretended not to be covetous.  But noooooooo, I had to say how much I envied the fact that her and a friend went on these hikes and were getting some fun exercise in their lives.  And that is how I ended up on the trail that is straight from the pit of H-E-double hockey sticks. 

This “easy” trail consisted of a 4.7-mile winding path that took us up a 900-foot incline.  What I knew was that it had a beautiful creek running along the path and was wonderfully shaded for most of the hike.  What I didn’t know was what a 900-foot incline really meant, and that I was going to be walking uphill, both ways, barefoot in the snow.

I know that it appears I’m dramatic.  But when a person who has been on the trail says that it should be named “Birthpain Trail” because you forgot how hard the hike is from the previous time, you recognize that I’m not that far off the mark!  I thought I was going to die.  I asked Emily if I could change my mind about the hike and not be the friend that does the hike but instead the friend that has lunch ready for them at the end of the hike when they’re done.  She laughed at me.

I know I’ve had struggles that feel like that hike.  It feels like it’s an uphill battle.  You see there’s a little tough spot and you push through.  It appears there’s a reprieve, a beautiful trail along softly running water.  And then you realize that your trial has just begun and it’s about to get TOUGH.  Every step you take is pressure on your body.  You’re out of breath and tired from fighting to get ahead.  You’re weak and winded.  You feel like you’d rather quit and give up the fight.

I encourage you, friends.  Do. Not. Give. Up.  You need only cry out to God.  He says in Psalm 138:3, “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” 

He is fighting the fight with you and is walking with you.  When we call out to our Father, He hears our prayers and our desires.  He sees our fears and frustrations.  God desires us to lean into Him for our strength.  When we cry out to Him, we surrender the fight to HIM so that He can give us the strength to complete the journey.  When we call, He is glorified.

Let’s make sure we are calling to Him so that we may become bold with strength through Him!  Is anyone going through a struggle that we can pray for today?  Share with us in the comments, and we’d love to come along side you and pray.

~Erin

If My Life Was A Mess-Free Coloring Book…

We have the cutest coloring page on our refrigerator.  It’s one of those special pictures that only colors with the mess-free markers.  Those Crayola geniuses come up with some of the most amazing things!  It’s every parent’s dream invention that prevents those “innocent” little babies from markering up your entire dining room wall with Picasso scribbles only a toddler can make.

With Andros visiting, I wanted him to have something he could be creative with, and he just loves coloring the pictures and watching the ink appear on the page.  When he’s got the page on the table, I don’t have to worry about when he colors outside the lines or off the edge of the page.  It’s clean and neat!

Don’t we sometimes wish our lives were the same way?  If our life was the special paper and our choices and circumstances were the mess-free markers, would we stumble in what we do and how we act?  Would our reaction to trials be one of trusting God or trusting self? 

It would be great if everything stayed on the page.  When everything goes according to plan, exactly as it’s supposed to, we have no worries and no anxiety. It appears there’s no trouble.  But when our choices are not the mess-free choices that keep us within the bounds of our walk with God or hardships that we face are not within the lines of what we expect, it’s very easy to fall into despair.  How do we handle the trials that bleed off the edge of the page and throw us into frustration, fear, or confusion?    

God tells us in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” 

How do we remain steadfast under trial? We do it by remaining steadfast in our Lord.  He is beside us all the time.  He has given us the Comforter to live inside of believers.  We trust that our Almighty God will do exactly as He promises in Scripture.  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).  He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He will strengthen us and will help us (Isaiah 41:10).

I challenge you, friends.  Trust that whatever life has thrown at you, you have a Father that will hold you through it.  It’s ok if the marker falls off the page.  We have a God who is right there with you when it does.

Do any of you have a verse that helps you remain strong in the Lord when you are going through trials?  Share in the comments!

~Erin

Artist: Andros Minjarez

Let Us Rejoice!

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

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

The bible reminds us of this, as well! 

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

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

~Erin

The Tornado Warning

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

A Spiritual Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

I’m Lost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin 

Is It Necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It allows us to have a deeper relationship with God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

The Frost

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin