Thanksgiving Humble Pie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

She Never Complains: A Thankfulness Story

I love to hike. Why? It’s peaceful, it’s out in nature, it’s time to chat with God, time to spend with family and friends, and it’s a way to get some exercise.   I have lofty hiking goals, like completing 52 hikes in a year or section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

As a result of my love of hiking and my goals relating to hiking, I never complain while on the hike. 

Until this last week.

I was on an easy 3-mile hike with Erin…my first in several weeks as a result of a knee procedure. The hike was miserable…I was miserable.  Miserable and grumpy.  Erin was quite amused by this shifting of roles on this particular hike….you see, she’s normally the complainer during our hikes.  

I immediately went home and tied myself to my ice-compression machine to get a little relief.  And as I settled into the couch with ice and Tylenol, I felt a nudge of the Holy Spirit about my complaining during the hike.  There I was trying to relax and compensate for pushing my knee so hard and I kept hearing the whisper of Philippians 2:14 in my head. 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” ~Philippians 2:14. 

But I was hurting.  But I was hot and sweaty.  But I hadn’t stayed on top of my hiking and workouts.  But there were more hills than I remembered. But, but, but. 

Excuse after excuse came to mind to justify my grumbling.  Within a short period of time, that nudging had me re-examining how I had behaved on the hike. 

Yes, I was hurting and probably pushed too hard to go on the hike so quickly after the knee procedure.  However, that did not justify my grumpy words about the hike.  With a repentant heart, I opened my Bible to read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

How do we ask for forgiveness for something that seems as trivial as complaining about the length of a hike? We identify the wayward behavior; we repent and ask for forgiveness…and then we shift gears. In that instance, I gave thanks to the Lord as directed by 1 Thessalonians.  I am thankful for medical interventions for my knee. I’m thankful I made it through the hike. I’m thankful for electricity and frozen water to help after the hike. I’m thankful for cool Fall weather and changing leaves.  Of course, I’m thankful for my friendship with Erin…who indulges me by going on hikes with me.  In all, I am grateful to the Lord who has provided each of these things.

She who never complains (about hikes)…she complained (about a hike).

And then this simple example of grouchiness, turned into a personal lesson about being thankful.

~Emily

The Culture

Last week was my two-year anniversary of living in the beautiful state of Alabama!  I’ve loved every minute of living here, and there are no regrets with making such a huge move to make our home in the south.  While I could do without temperatures of 143° and 923° humidity, I love the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and the home we’ve created.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between here and California (where I lived for five years before moving here) are the amount of people who say they’re Christians and talk about God openly.  Church is almost a culture out here, a legacy that’s been passed down from generation to generation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone’s membership to a local church started with their MawMaw or GreatGranny taking their kids so many years ago!

In California, the conversation was not as free-flowing about Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t nonexistent.  You just didn’t hear, “I’ll pray for you,” or “God bless” as you left your local grocery store.  No one was asking random strangers if the church’s youth group could help clean up your yard!

Now, hear me out on this one.  I’m not looking to step on toes.  I’m not looking to rile up the great people of the south (or of California).  But this idea of Christianity being a “culture” around here got me thinking.

Have you fully surrendered to God?  Are you a blood-bought believer, saved by the grace of God, living for Him in every aspect of your life?  Or is it just a culture….a legacy that’s been given to you because it’s what the family has always believed?

These are not questions I ask lightly.  And these are not questions I have not already asked myself.  My parents were Christians.  My father was raised in a Christian home.  It’s what I’ve always known.  But I would be remiss in not recognizing whether or not my salvation is because I made a choice to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ or because it’s what my mom and dad “did” so I did.  My actions, my attitude, and my heart should be clear indicators as to whether or not I am a new creation.

The Bible speaks clearly to being not of this world and being about the Father’s world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” –Colossians 3:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” –Romans 12:2 

While it’s important to attend a church, have your children going, have your children’s children going, there must be more to the story than just a legacy.  Does our faith show?  Does our faith produce works that show?  Is our heart truly surrendered to the Creator of the Universe?

Our actions and our life should reflect 100% submission to God.  There should be no room for doubt when someone sees us that we are committed to Christ.  I’m not saying perfection.  I’m saying active pursuit of righteousness.

There’s one way to heaven.  I don’t get to go because my mom and pop were Christians or because my Grandma prayed for me.  I get to be a citizen of heaven because I made the personal decision to accept Christ as my Savior.

Maybe you’re reading this and recognize that you haven’t done that yet.  I encourage, dear friend, call on the Lord.  Tell Him you’re a sinner and that you’re nothing without Him.  Repent of your sins and ask Christ to come live in your heart as Lord of your life.  There is no greater moment than knowing you have stopped becoming a citizen of this earth and are bound for your true home in heaven!

~Erin

Dog Days

Last week I had a big scare with our dog, Ruger.  Ruger is a sweet 8 year old lab who Chris has had since he was a pup.  I was home alone with him when he started acting funny.  He was opening up his mouth and leaning toward the sky like he was trying to grab something.  When he would look down, his jaw was tremoring, and then he would dig his nose into the floor for 15-20 seconds at a time.  I truly thought this loveable lug was having a stroke.  I shot off a couple of quick videos to Chris at work and then called him, begging him to watch them right away and tell me if I needed to get him to the vet ASAP.

After 2 minutes or so, Chris called back.  “He’s acting like he’s get something stuck in his nose?  Does he have something in there?”  To which I dutifully picked this dog’s nose like a newborn with a raisin up his nostril (THAT happened the week before).  Nothing.  Chris said, “Then check his throat.  I think he’s got something stuck somewhere!”  Ruger let me gently open his mouth.  In the very back, stuck between his farthest molars was the cap of a marker that he had chewed and managed to wedge in there!

That dumb dog, despite the fact he’s been trained as a duck dog and knows not to chew things, decided to enjoy an awesome plastic snack that ended up causing him pain and discomfort.  I was so grateful I called Chris and asked what he thought.  After I pulled it out, I started crying because I had truly thought that the dog was going to die on my watch!  I was glad he was ok.

As I sit and write this blog and share the story, I can think of so many biblical applications oddly enough that resonate with me and hit me in the eyes.

How about the fact that my husband knew what to look for?  He has taken the time to get to know his dog and how he acts.  He knows what a dog looks like stressed.  He took years of experience with dogs and was prepared for odd circumstances like this one.  Am I that prepared for the sneak attacks of Satan?

We should be vigilant because the Bible tells us to be!  It clearly tells us that satan isn’t just letting us be.  He roams around seeking those to devour (I Peter 5:8).  Have we trained ourselves to be ready for whatever affliction comes our way?  And the best way for us to be prepared is to fully surrender to God, be in constant prayer with Him and use our Sword–the Bible–daily!  When we have trained ourselves well, when things come up unexpectedly, we will be equipped with the proper outlook to help us.

How about that silly dog knowing he’s not supposed to be chewing things like that and yet he did it anyway?  Do I hide from sin that stupidly?!  Do I know what I am commanded to do biblically and still slink away trying to hide what I’m about to do as if God doesn’t see it or doesn’t know about it?!

I’m guilty of this more times than I can count!  I wish that I was constantly in God’s Word as much as I should be.  I wish I didn’t lose my temper and say mean or hurtful things.  I wish that my past didn’t include drunken nights and sexual immorality.  But I’ve done exactly as Ruger has done.  It looked fun.  It looked inviting.  So I took part.  Then shame takes over as I hide my behavior, knowing that what I’ve done is pure and simply sin.  The reminder of the disobedience, however, is never far away and then like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or a dog caught with a marker top stuck between his teeth, our sin has found us out and God is waiting for repentance!

My prayer, Iron Porch, is twofold.  First, I pray that we are vigilant and aware of our surroundings, building up our faith with active prayer, Bible reading and worship so that we may know when we have a problem.  Second, I pray that we don’t hide in our sin.  I pray that we are so steadfast in our relationship with God that we actively pursue a sinless nature.  And when we DO sin, I pray that we are immediate in our repentance and turning away from the sin.  God is quick to forgive when we come to Him with a broken and repentant heart.

~Erin

Our Buddy, Ruger!

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