The Greatest Gift

As Good Friday comes upon us, I pray that we all can take time to remember the great sacrifice that was paid for our sins.  The Bible tells us in Romans that we are all sinners.  “There is none righteous, no not one,” Romans 3:10 tells us.  We didn’t deserve for Jesus to come to earth so that He could be a sacrifice for our sins. 

Yet, He loved us enough that He did exactly that. John 3:16 tells us just how loved we are by God.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  He became sin for us so that we might know eternal life with Him.

Jesus was beaten and tortured.  He had a crown of thorns pushed into His scalp.  He was scourged with a cat of nine tails which had metal and glass and nails attached to the leather straps.  His flesh was torn off.  And if that wasn’t enough, they nailed Him to a tree.  They mocked Him.  But they didn’t realize that they were completing what the prophecies had foretold.

The blood that poured from His body was meant to be the sacrifice.  Our very own spotless Lamb was willing to let His blood cover our sins.  It covered it all.  It washes us clean.  It makes us whole.  And when He rose on the third day, He showed His power, His glory and His might.  Our God is a living God who reigns today!

Maybe you’re wondering how you can be washed clean by the blood of a risen Savior?  I encourage you to examine your heart today, right now, as you’re reading this.  If you don’t know that He is your Lord and Savior, here is a prayer for you to speak to God:  I know that I’m a sinner.  I ask for Your forgiveness.  I believe You died for my sins and rose on the third day.  I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life.  I want to trust You as my Savior. 

If you prayed that prayer today, then congratulations!  You are a part of the family of God!  Don’t forget to share this decision with someone, and get connected with a Christian you know or a church that can help you learn and grow in God’s grace!  It’s the best decision you could ever make! 

May you have a blessed Easter!

~Erin

Puppy Dog Eyes

Our pup, Winnie, is a 5-month-old cutie pie!  She’s a little chocolate lab that’s so full of energy and mischief.  The one thing Chris doesn’t allow our older lab, Ruger, to do is get on the furniture.  But do you know how hard it is to keep a puppy off a couch?!

About 4 weeks ago, Winnie learned how to jump on the bed.  It’s a high jump, so we were really surprised!  Chris walked into the room, stopped in shock and told me to come take a look.  He sternly looked at her and said, “Winnie, you know you’re not allowed on the bed.  Get down!”

Do you know how hard it is to ignore a puppy gaze?!  That little dog looked up through her tiny eyelashes with the sweetest puppy-dog stare, and Chris completely caved.  That dog is sleeping on our bed now, and I have absolutely no room because Winnie doesn’t understand personal space!

I wonder how often we try to give God those same innocent puppy-dog eyes when we’re doing something that we know is a sin and/or out of the will of God.  We view it a “small” sin.  Perhaps we believe that as long as that thing we’re doing isn’t hurting anyone else, it isn’t a big deal.  Maybe we justify it because we know, at the end of the day, God is a loving God and “He understands.”

Is that really, though, what the Bible says? I don’t think so.

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” –James 4:17

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” –1 John 1:8

God does not fall for the puppy-dog eyes the way we do.  He isn’t happy when we give Him the little stare that says, “I’m know I’m wrong, but You love me anyway so I can get away with it, right?!”

The truth is, God DOES love us no matter what.  But He hates sin.  There is no middle ground when it comes to sin.  Disobedience is exactly that…disobedience.

Praise God that we have a forgiving God.  Rather than coming with the mentality of Him looking the other way or ignoring it, our posture should be one of repentance and prayer, asking for forgiveness.  This will keep that sin from festering and instead, make us whole again in our relationship with our Savior.

He promises us in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

We thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love and grace.

~Erin

Peyton and Winnie

All The Cursey Words

If there had been a swear jar in the room, I would’ve owed it a $10.  Maybe $20.  In a moment of anger, frustration, and worry, I said enough expletives to make a sailor cringe.  During a conversation with my daughter, I became angry and worried about a story she told me that involved her.  I was not cursing at her, but I definitely said some things about the situation and the other people involved.

Ironically enough, the week’s Bible study for Table 8 was on the taming of the tongue—not really what I wanted to think about in that moment.  In James 3:5-12, there is plenty of scripture that reminds us that the tongue, while such a little part of the body, carries a great weight.  What come from our heart flows out through the tongue. 

It’s so true.  In the moment, I felt anger, fury, irritation.  The words that came out were exactly those feelings.  At a time where I could’ve been an example to my daughter about being slow to anger or watching my words, I did exactly the opposite.  I simply showed her words with shock-value and no substance.  What exactly does an “F-bomb” bring to the table? You’re right…nothing.

Our words should bring glory to God.  They should show people who our Father is.  They should be edifying and spirit-lifting, without malice.  Yet, often we speak what we want without thought to who around us can hear, whether it be little ears or the Holy Spirit Himself.   

“Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29

How do we do that?  How do we strive to purify our speech?  We can’t do it on our own, friends.  We have to ask God to tame our tongue.  We need to ask Him to help control your tongue.  And then, Iron Porch, you lean in.  Lean into the God who saves and trust the Holy Spirit will continue to do a good work in you.  And fight….put on the armor of God that you might be prepared for your heart to stay strong and not allow vile speech to flow from it.

Praise God for forgiveness! I know that with my repentant heart, God has forgiven me for the sin of my speech in that situation.  Now, I must remember to guard my heart so that it may not tempt my tongue.

~Erin

The Broken Shells

As Chris and I walked along the beach, we jut could not believe the amount of broken shells we saw lying around.  Thousands of pieces, shards of clams and oysters, conch and olive shells rolling up and down the shoreline were a sight to see.  I told Chris that I couldn’t remember the beaches in California having this many shells and he agreed.  As we walked down to the edge of a waterway, the entire bottom of the bed looked like a mass of jumbled gravel…it was more shells!

We spent close to an hour every day that we were there walking around and picking up the shells to take home for display.  As each of us selected one, we exclaimed to the other about what we’d found and would decide if we wanted to add it to our collection.  However, as we chose, I told Chris how sad it seemed to see so many little pieces of shells scattered about.  So many of them were broken into tiny pieces—pieces that no one wanted to pick up.

Sometimes, I feel that way about circumstances in my life.  With sadness and pain comes the pieces of my heart feeling as if it’s broken into hundred of shards.  They’re pieces so small that I’m sure they will never be put back together.   It’s the brokenness from a damaged relationship.  It’s the brokenness from a death.  It’s the brokenness from a sin that I so willingly committed.  Those pieces can never be brought back together to make me whole again.  But is that really true?

Those broken pieces can be loved and healed by God.  The bible tells us in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.”  Those pieces that are broken due to sin…when we come to Our Father with the fragments and a repentant heart, He can restore that beauty.

When we come to him with the shards of pain from a hurt or a devastation, He molds them in His hands to heal them.

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.” –Isaiah 64:8

Thank you, Jehovah Rapha, for healing those broken pieces and putting us back together.  Without your loving touch, we cannot know what wholeness truly means.

I encourage you, dear friends, to lean into God and allow Him to take what’s broken and trust that He will make it whole.

~Erin

Traeger Pizza

My husband owns a Traeger smoker and it makes AMAZING pizza.  Next to brick oven pizza from Italy, this is my favorite way to have pizza.

Notice I said, my husband owns a Traeger smoker. Not “we.” Not “me.”  My husband. 

Years ago, when the Traeger was a fairly new addition to our house, my husband got it going with food happily smoking on its grates before leaving the property to take care of an errand.  I was left in charge of the Traeger and smoking meat.

It caught on fire.

Legitimately, I caught the darn thing on fire. There was smoke billowing up and I was confident the entire porch roof was going to go up in flames…and then I had visions of the entire house being engulfed in fire. I was a hysterical crying mess by the time my husband, father-in-law, and son came home.  

Since the Traeger fire catastrophe, I have not touched the Traeger. Not once. I won’t plug it in, I won’t monitor the temperature, I can barely bring myself to put the cover back on it the next day after it’s cooled down.  I DO NOT touch the Traeger.

I can think of countless times in my life when a crisis (like the Traeger fire) has caused me to completely withdraw and build up walls (as in, the vow to never touch the smoker ever, ever again).   A betrayal; wall built.  Lies; back away.  A broken promise; trust destroyed.  Double-cross; abandon the relationship.  Maybe it’s been a friendship, something at church, a fight with parents, grumbling with a significant other, work strife, struggles at schools…we’ve all been in similar scenarios.  Something happens that causes us to back away from those involved with the scenario.  

You know who never leaves?  Who never backs away?  Who doesn’t forsake us?  

God.  

Scripture repeatedly reminds us that the Lord is always near us and does not leave us when there are times we feel abandoned.  

“The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18 (NASB)

“And the Lord is the one who is going ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not desert you or abandon you. Do not fear and do not be dismayed.” ~Deuteronomy 31:8 (NASB)

“Teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:20

Regardless of the crisis, conflict, or tragedy and regardless of how we react, we only need to hang onto the promise that God will not leave us.  

I believe God is always near me and that my reaction to strife doesn’t always have to include extremes.  I’ll be praying this next week that we all have opportunities to see where we can react more gently in knowing God is with us.  

I’m still not willing to touch the Traeger.  

~Emily

Are They Trustworthy?

Trust is such a simple yet complex feeling.  We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  We believe that we can have confidence in the words that they say.  However, sometimes in our lives, we can be left burned and hurt.

I would love to believe that people are not untrustworthy on purpose.  I don’t think anyone likes to intentionally break that bond.  Most often, I see it when there is fear of being hurt themselves or perhaps even fear of being found out.  Sometimes, it’s just genuine misunderstanding of the circumstance that leaves a feeling of nagging doubt at the person’s words.

Recently, I had to deal with this issue of trust.  The words appeared calculated and dishonest.  The first thought that came to my mind is something my mom used to say to me when I lied as a child, “Do I have ‘stupid’ tattooed on my forehead!”  The visceral reaction was to be angry.  I felt injured by the words.  I can’t even be 100% sure that what was being said was a lie, but every bone in my body went into full can-I-trust-this-answer mode.

Despite there being people in our lives that can break that trust bond, there’s someone who will never break that bond. That’s our Heavenly Father.

God is the ultimate trustworthy Creator.  We see it over and over in scripture.  He repeatedly saved the Israelites.  He sent judges to help them be victorious.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to walk the earth and take on our punishment of death.  He sent apostles to teach us about a relationship with Christ and salvation.  He’s, even now, preparing a place for us in heaven.  We can trust Him.

Psalm 9:10 says, “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”

No matter what happens with the humans surrounding us, trust of God need not ever waver.  He created us and He loves us.

Friends, are you dealing with issues of trust in your life this week?  Come to the porch and know you’re not alone.  Our Father is forever trustworthy!

~Erin

What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

Do We Really Think We Can Hide?

Many years ago when McKenna was 14, she called me to ask if she could go do something with a friend.  As I was going through the list of common parenting questions and rules, I stopped and said, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me, McKenna,” to which she instantly replied, “HOW DID YOU KNOW?!”  She quickly told her friend what I had said.  We got such a kick out of it, and I used that moment to remind her that parents know everything—there was nothing she could do that was wrong and get away with it!  We still laugh about it to this day.

I thought about that story when I was reading my Bible this morning.  I’m working through the book of Joshua with Table 8 (my California Bible study group).  In chapter 7 we see that Achan has taken spoils of the battle in Jericho and has hidden them in his tent from Joshua, the other Israelites, and God.  As a result, the initial advancement into the next city of Ai results in the defeat of the Israelites.

Joshua falls to his knees and asks God why He turned His back on his people and let them be defeated.  God reveals that Israel sinned against Him by taking spoils of war when He explicitly told them to take nothing.  He led Joshua through the process of determining who it was that sinned.   Joshua 7:21 shows us that Achan admitted that he had coveted, taken, and concealed some things from the city.

The rest of the story is rich with great material to study, but let’s pause right there.  The spoils of war were taken at the battle of Jericho, and Achan decided he could hide them.  From God.  I’m guessing his coveting of the objects was so great, that he forgot that God, the Creator of the world, knows everything.  There isn’t anything that’s hidden from Him.

At first I thought, What a bonehead!  But of course, conviction set in because you know who else does that?  I do!  There are areas in my life where I covet the things around me, where my speech isn’t seasoned with love and grace, or where my thoughts are not kind and generous.  I blow those sins off as minor or simply try to forget them because “I’m human.  Mistakes happen.”  I might as well be trying to hide those sins from God.

But there are consequences for our sin.  When we try to hide our sin, it creates a wedge between us and God.  His heart is hurt for the disobedience of His child.   It can start a slippery slope of leading us further from God and the path He has called us to.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9

We are called to repent of those sins so that He may forgive us and cleanse us.

Dear friends, I urge you to stop trying to hide your sins from God.  I’m taking this week to really reflect on areas where I have tried to hide sin as Achan did and then repent of it to our Heavenly Father.  He is eager to forgive.  Will you join me?

~Erin

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

Regrets vs. Repentance

While I like to remind myself that every decision that I’ve made in my life has been used to make me the person I am today, I still have many regrets.  There are relationship regrets, professional regrets, travel regrets and even financial regrets.  

Every person walking the Earth has some type of regret, but not all have repented of the behavior that have lead to regrets.  

The grieving process of repentance is not crying in self-pity.  It’s not regrets over loss; nor remorse that our sins have been publicized. 

It is very possible to be deeply sorry because of the devastation which sin has wrought into our lives…and yet still not repent.  It is possible to be deeply sorry about the devastation which sin has brought into the lives of those around us…and yet still not repent.  It’s possible to have anguish over publicized sin…and still not repent.  

True repentance is so much more than simply being sorry. It’s more than an apology.  It’s more than regret about sin shattering our lives.  

True repentance is about a deliberate, conscious turning towards God and away from sinful behaviors and thoughts.  It is a commitment to follow God’s will for our lives, not our own will.  I’ve heard repentance described as a 180 degree turn…a change in direction.  More than that, it’s also a change of attitude and a yielding of our own desires and will.  

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” ~Acts 3:19 (NASB)

The act of repentance does not make us worthy…nor does it make us saved.  It’s a reflection of the condition of our hearts for God.  Once we repent of sinful behavior, God does the converting, the transforming, the changing…and the forgiving.

Sinful behavior and thoughts are like having issues with your back or neck.  When you schedule an appointment with a chiropractor for help with your skeleton system, you have a re-alignment and feel “straightened out.”  When you turn towards God in order to turn away from sin, He is able to re-align your heart in repentance…you feel “straightened out.” 

This week, I’d encourage you to look at your regrets and analyze if repentance is needed.

~Emily


“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning…” ~Joel 2:12 (NASB)