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)

The Knick in the Line

Who would’ve guessed that a cable buried underground would be buried so shallow?!  We didn’t.  Which is why we knicked it with an edger on Sunday as we were putting in the dog fence! 

We wanted our pups to have some space to roam on our property while keeping them away from the road that could lead to demise.  Chris used the edger to prepare the ‘trench’ as we walked around some of the woods.  An hour later, our daughter came outside and let us know the internet wasn’t working.  When we finished the project and came into the house, we found it still not working.  I went to turn the modem off and on again and realized it was genuinely broken, and the technician that arrived late Monday afternoon let us know that we had done the damage!  It turns out that because of fear of hitting pipes, they run the cable just a mere inch under the surface!

It’s amazing how some of the simplest things can wreak havoc!  Because of the cut line, my daughter couldn’t do her research online and I couldn’t perform my job functions the next day until it was fixed. 

It made me think about some of the simplest things I do, seemingly ‘surface level’ sins that knick the line of communication with God.  Please know that there is absolutely no difference from one sin to the next.  There are no “big” or “little” sins.  They are all measured on the same yard stick in God’s eyes.  But often we, as humans, give levels to our sins.  And the sins like a mean spirit towards someone or some of the words we say are overlooked because it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –James 4:17

Those examples (along with 100 others I could name), while not turning me away from God, prevent an open line of communication with God because of actions I take.  Sins, unrepented, can muffle what God is saying and teaching us because our hearts are clouded with the muck and mire that just keeps building.  One by one, these sins start piling up, and just like the wire that was knicked preventing us from accessing the important information we needed, we miss how God is speaking and maturing us.  We’re bogged down with the sins of this world instead of being lifted up with the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ.

I encourage you, dear sisters, to ask God to show you where the knicks are in your life.  Repent and reestablish that sweet connection with your Savior.  He’s longing to speak to you!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9

~Erin

An Ungraceful Fall

Kalan, my youngest grandson, and I were down on the ground playing in our living room.  I had his toys set up and was truly just enjoying a few moments when I needed to get up so I rolled over to get myself off the floor. 

As I was getting up, my foot stepped on Andros’ larger Power Ranger action figure and it hurt badly enough that my immediate reflex was to pull up.  However, I wasn’t in a fully upright position so what started out as me getting off the floor turned into me falling headfirst toward several metal chairs leaned up against the wall.  Followed by said chairs toppling on top of me.  It was a truly beautiful moment.  I was on the floor, laughing and crying at the same time.  My entire family was asking if I was ok, and I couldn’t even speak.  It wasn’t because I was hurt, but it was this weird combo of knowing how ridiculous I looked combined with the pain of falling into a wall that had me laughing until I couldn’t breathe.  With some effort, Chris finally got me off the floor.

Settled on the couch for a few minutes later, I looked over to Rylan, my son, and asked, “Did I at least look graceful as I fell?”  He immediately started laughing and replied, “Not even a little.”

Falling is never graceful.  I can remember many times where I’ve stumbled and fallen in my walk with God.  I’ve been disobedient to what He has told me and taken a tumble down a path I never should have gone down.  It’s a slippery slope and very easy to do.  I know I’d like to think it was a simple fall, not one that was noticeable, perhaps even a little graceful.

I know now that there isn’t a fall that involves moving away from God that even remotely looks graceful.  When we fall, it’s big.  It’s big because we’re not honoring our relationship with Him.  I’m thankful that He’s a God of many chances, and that despite those ungraceful falls, He still never leaves us.

He tells us in Psalm 37:24, “When he falls, he will not be hurled down, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”

He doesn’t just let us fall and not get up.  He’s right beside us, holding our hand to lift us back up from the floor, dusting us off, and setting us back on the right path.  I’m thankful He’s willing to forgive me for those sins that have me falling so that I may get back up again.

How about you, dear friends?  Is anyone else grateful that we don’t have to fall down and stay down, no matter how ugly it looks?  Praise God He never leaves us and holds our hand.

~Erin

The Free Gift

A few days ago, I put two boxes of books out on the corner of our lawn with a sign that says “Free books!  Help yourself!”  These were some books that we’d already read and decided not to keep in our collection.  We thought to ourselves that maybe someone walking by would see the books and grab one or four so that they could enjoy one of the titles we had left.

The pile started with about 40 books and slowly, we’ve whittled the pile to about half that.  I’m kind of surprised that they’re not gone.  I’ve seen people walk past, stop and peek in as if to see if there’s really something in there.  I’ve also seen people start to take them and then change their mind, looking around as if to see if there’s some kind of trap I’ve set up!  Like I’m going to spring out of the bushes screaming, “IT SAYS FREE, BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE ALL OF THEM!”

Sometimes, people can be that way when we present the truth of Jesus.  God encourages us to spread the gospel to every creature.  Telling everyone about the gift of salvation is so simple and the steps to accept Christ as your personal Savior seems so easy, yet does it really have the “FREE…take it!” sign in front of it?!  It’s ours to just take?!

The answer is yes!  Choosing to have a relationship with God is a gift that He gives us freely and openly.  We only need to repent of our sins, ask forgiveness, turn ourselves over to Him, and ask Him to live in us forever.  There’s nothing fancy about the request.  There’s no special handshake or secret code you have to know.  We can take that free gift, knowing that it completely changes our lives.  I’m so thankful that I accepted that free gift so long ago!

How about you, dear friends?  Is there someone you know that needs to hear about that gift of salvation?  We can be praying for them.  Or perhaps you want to accept that gift yourself?  Message us at the Iron Porch, and we’d love to show you how.

~Erin

The Free Gift

Culinary School Expectations

My husband and I often tag-team in the kitchen.  We normally work as a pretty good team on favorite recipes, but new ones tend to create drama. I begin to lose patience and get some attitude.  It’s usually accompanied by a snotty comment. Inevitably, my husband throws up his hands and says something to the effect of “you’re the one who went to culinary school, you do it.”

I think this is a more common reaction than we recognize.  When we lose patience or when we get aggravated, we have similar reactions.  When we feel we know better or when we feel that someone should behave a certain way, we have similar reactions.  It’s the reaction of literally or figuratively throwing up your hands and saying “you’re the one who…blah, blah, blah” and you’re able to insert whatever finish to that statement that you want.

At work, one could add “you’re the one who is in charge or has the degrees.”

At the grocery store, one could add “you’re the one who works here.”

At church, one could say “you’re the one who went to seminary or has been a Christian longer.”

I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, and I’ve concluded that when we use this reaction at work, in relationships, and especially at church, it’s not helpful.  It becomes blame-shifting in a passive-aggressive manner while justifying why we should be held more accountable for the interaction.

When you look at the Garden of Eden, you see Adam react in this blame-shifting manner when God asks what has happened after they ate the fruit.  In Genesis 3:12-13, Adam states “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Adam blames God and the woman.  In turn, Eve replies, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”   Neither takes responsibility for their own role in the sin.

Because we don’t accept our own sinful behavior, we end up not exercising grace. And that dear sisters is when we start to say things like “you’re the one who….blah, blah, blah.”

Even though I really did go to culinary school, I’m going to try to control my patience level and not push my husband to the point he throws his hands up at me.  I challenge you to find an area of your life that you can work on too!
~Emily

chef

Brick by Brick

When I was about nine and attending Sunday School, large cardboard blocks laid stacked against the wall for free time.  They looked like real oversized bricks, allowing us to build life-size forts around the room.  They were usually our favorite things to play with.

One morning, the teacher called us to our seats.  She sat at her table and started talking to us about Jesus and His love for us.  She picked up a block and placed it in front of her.  She reminded us that Jesus loved us so much that He came to earth to die for us.  She told us how it was so important that Jesus lives in our hearts.  She stacked a large block on top of the first.  She talked about how just like we have an earthly father, we have a Father in heaven who loves us.  She arranged another block.  Another example, another cardboard block.   With just a few examples, while we could hear what she was saying, we couldn’t see her.  We wanted to see her as she told us the story.  So someone in the class asked her if she could move the blocks.  That’s when the real lesson began.

Sometimes, she said, sin is like that wall she had in front of her.  When we have Jesus in our hearts and sin, we put up our own block.  It doesn’t seem so bad and we don’t ask for forgiveness.  It’s just a block.  But then we sin again.  Another block goes up.  And brick by brick, we create a wall between us and God.  We can hear Him and He can always hear us, but it’s a wall between us that doesn’t let us have a real relationship that He really wants to have with us.

When we talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the bricks are removed.  And she pushed one block off and then another until they were all back on the floor.  We could see her again.  We could hear her better.  When the bricks were removed we could have a real conversation filled with interaction.

When God gives forgiveness, He breaks down that barrier.  He removes the shame, judgment and condemnation and replaces it with a love that only He can give.  Our closeness is restored to the Creator.

I pray that each of us removes any bricks that may be holding us back from having full communion with God.

~Erin

Stop Complicating it!

Why do we always try to complicate things?  Why can’t a simple direction mean exactly as it sounds?  We find ourselves following unnecessary steps or skipping the direction to get the solution because we’ve added in perceived ideas of how the journey is supposed to look.

Look at Naaman for instance.  In the bible, it was said he was captain of the army of the king of Aram.  He was highly regarded and a “valiant warrior.”  But he was also a leper.  Back in those days, leprosy was no joke.  They usually separated you outside the city, and when you saw people coming from afar, you had better be shouting ‘UNCLEAN!’ so as to warn them not to get close to your flesh-eating zombie self.

Upon recommendation, Naaman went to Elisha, a prophet of God, to seek healing from the bacterial nightmare.  Elisha sent a messenger to him advising to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be cleaned.  That’s it.  End of discussion.  Go dunk in the Jordan, not once, not twice, but seven times and the leprosy will be gone.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But the dude needs to complicate it!  Naaman gets angry and beings to leave shouting how there are better rivers than the Jordan to do something like that in!  Why can’t Elisha just wave his hand and do a little hocus pocus and cure him?!

Thank goodness for the faithfulness of his servants who reminded him in 2 Kings 5:13, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

And so that’s exactly what Naaman did.  He went to the Jordan, dipped himself seven times and saw the miraculous healing of God through the words of His prophet, Elisha.

Our Christian walk doesn’t have to be so difficult, an elaborate and legalistic 27-step process to know Him better.  Salvation isn’t some intricate series of steps we think we need to do in order to have full fellowship with Him.  He says Believe in Me, Trust in Me, Follow Me, and Go.  The rest comes with faith and devotion.  The Holy Spirit comes to live in you and helps you in your walk with our Heavenly Father.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, there’s never a time like right now.  Speak to Him, confessing your sins, admitting you’re a sinner, and asking Him to live in you and make you whole.  If you’ve turned your relationship with Jesus into a tricky maze of do this, do this, do that, and you’d like to renew that desire to let go of “steps” and just fall into His arms of grace and listen to what He’s telling you, now’s the time.  Ask Him to renew your faith and allow you to trust Him wholly and with abandon.

He’s right here, waiting for you.

~Erin

_My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it_ How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'__