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 Silence of God

In a European prison cell, the following inscription was found; “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.  I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Sometimes it feels like God is so quiet! 

This last week, I had several conversations with God about this particular issue.  Yet, it felt like there was complete silence from God.  Several of my prayers started with something to the effect of, “I know scripture tells us that you hear us…that you hold each of our tears in your hand…but why does it seem that you aren’t responding!!!”  *Insert whining and moaning*  

Talk about the quintessential child who knows that the parent is parenting, but the child continues to question the methods!!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  If I’m honest with myself, questioning the silence of God is a dangerous place.  It causes me to question if I’m important to God or if my thoughts and requests are trivial compared to some of the bigger requests that He must receive on a daily basis.  It leads to doubt, which leads to fear, which leads to loneliness and a host of other negative emotions.  

As I should do often, I turned to the Word.  I started at Isaiah 41:10, which tends to be my “go-to” verse when I am in a funk.  However, mindless flipping through scripture had me landing on Job 34:29.  The NASB version reads, “When He keeps quiet, who can condemn? And when He hides His face, who then can look at Him, That is, regarding both nation and a person?”

Basically, scripture reaffirms that what God does is good. Always. Even when it appears that He is being silent.  Who am I to question that? Who am I to condemn the perceived silence?

Interestingly enough, I was sent a note later that day that said, “…often when God seems to be silent, it’s because we are too exhausted to listen.”  

Perhaps the silence is an indicator that I’m not listening well.  Just like that child questioning the parenting methods…

In some regards, we live in figurative prison cells, which God still works in.  Just like that European prison cell and the intuitive inmate who once wrote “I believe in God even when He is silent.” 

~Emily

Hear My Cry

Today was one of those days.  Everything seemed to be the number one priority and I couldn’t seem to grasp on to a schedule that put things in order.  Pulled in every direction is my absolute least favorite direction to be, and yet it had my head spinning as I ran full force into task after task.  I was worried things wouldn’t be done in a timely fashion.  I struggled with the feeling of being overwhelmed, of not being enough for my work, not enough for my home, not enough for my Bible study.

At the end of the day as I clocked out, my neck and shoulders tense from the stress, I realized not once did I take my burdens and my overwhelming feelings to God to bear the weight.  I tried to handle the day on my own.  How many of us do that on the daily?  I’m guilty of it, especially today.  I’ll get so frazzled and forget that my first call out should be to my Heavenly Father.

Psalm 61:1-2 says, “Hear my cry, God; Give Your attention to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Even when my heart is faint from the heaviness of the load, God will still hear my cry to Him.  He’ll lead us to the Rock of our Salvation and hold us up during the battle that rages around.

Dear friends, I pray that this week as you struggle with the overwhelming tasks that have you weary from handling it by yourself, that you know that you are not alone.  Call out to our Savior, “Hear my cry, God!”  and let Him take you into His shelter.

~Erin

Bystander to the Hurting

I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”

I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain.  But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else?  For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.  

In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi.  It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)

Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.

Why only two and not four?  

During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism.  While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested.  Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.  

It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting.  I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished.  They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation.  Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.  

God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting.  Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain.  He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting.  If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from. 

It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt.  Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I.  I’m sure you have as well.

In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting.  Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.

~Emily

Crashing onto the Garage

There’s a small step from my laundry room into the garage.  

One that I completely missed a couple days ago.  The misstep had me crashing to the ground in an ungraceful, slow-motion, plump-middle-aged-lady-winning-money-on-America’s-Funniest-Home-videos, type of way.  

As I stayed still on my hands and knees for a moment, I did a mental inventory of my body.  

Palms, scuffed up but no blood-check.

Knees both in terrible pain, but no blood-check.

Right ankle/foot in an awkward folded position, but not broken-check.  

Tears-check.

Fast breathing-double check. 

My first thought after “owwwwww” was “that was a lot of weight to come crashing down on my knees!”

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not pleased about the amount of weight I’ve gained since I retired from the military.  I know the magic formula…eat less calories and exercise more.  Of course, I also know all the tricks and techniques of years of yo-yo dieting.

At that “hands and knees on the ground” moment, I realized that I needed to be more serious about evaluating what I can do with myself. I need a food and exercise game plan. I wondered what the Bible had to say about exercise-besides the “your body is a temple” type of verse. I found that in 1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB), the Bible states “…for bodily traning is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for hte present life and also for the life to come.”

That verse was so convicting! I don’t just need a game plan for food and exercise…I need to have an accountable increase in spritural matters too! While the bodily training has small benefits, it is the godliness benefits that are larger. Ironically, I had just told Erin that I thought my own preparations for Bible Studies, church, devotions, and even Iron Porch could be classified as a casual Christian walk.

In the next week, I’m going to get more serious about all my game plans. Meal planning, exercising…and a more deliberate approach to my prayer life and studying the Bible. Come to the porch and let me know what types of plans you have…and how you remember that little step that has you crashing onto the garage floor.

~Emily

The Summer of Government Cheese

Have you ever been hungry with no means to get food?  

Have you ever been unable to purchase food for your kids?

I’d venture to guess it’s a hard place to be in, when you are concerned about how to feed yourself and your children.  It seems to me, that Luke 6:30 would be my favored verse if I were in such a situation.

“And He raised His eyes towards His disciples and began saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 (NASB)

Please know that this verse isn’t entirely focused on the status of being poor in the physical sense…it speaks partially to those who are poor are often richer in spiritual matters.  Regardless of the commentary about the verse, it does speak to my heart when I remember what it was like to be in the status of poor.  

There were times in my childhood when my parents needed government assistance to feed our family.  I distinctly remember the packet of tear-out papers, which were food stamps. I remember my mom getting our school lunches at a lower rate.  And one summer, I know that cheese and peanuts arrived at our house, which were stamped “Government Cheese” and “Government Peanuts.”  In all fairness, there could have been other “Government Food,” but I only remember the cheese and nuts.

Why do I remember the government cheese so clearly? Because it was a ginormous block of Velveeta type of cheese, which didn’t melt well, nor would it slice thinly for a sandwich.  It was just a gooey mess….one that gave us much needed calories (even if they were completely processed and fake).  

The peanuts, on the other hand, were as perfect as God intended them. They were blanched, but unsalted.  We ate them plain, in yogurt, mixed with popcorn, in salads, in pasta…we even tried our hand at making homemade peanut butter. That summer of the ‘government cheese,’ I became an expert on making peanut brittle.  I made so much peanut brittle, that I got to a point I didn’t even consult the recipe card. 

In the midst of being poor and my parents receiving assistance, my pre-teen self didn’t even realize we were in dire straits.  

Why?

Perhaps because my parents partially hid it from us.  

Perhaps because it was part of our lives and I didn’t question it.  

Mostly because we were blessed.  Luke 6:20 assures us of that blessing, even in the midst of being poor.  God protected us physically and spiritually.  Even if we hadn’t eaten, we still were assured of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is good.  All the time.  Even with the government cheese. 

~Emily

Speeding Tickets of Life

Over the weekend, a police officer handed me a ticket for doing 80-mph in a 70-mph zone.  As I pulled away, tears started dripping down my face.  My son, who had been fascinated by the flashing blue lights and had waved with a smile to the 2nd officer that was standing near the back-seat window, was now concerned about my water works.

“Are you sad you got a ticket mama?”

When I answered no to being sad, he continued trying to guess the cause of my tears.  

My tears were ones of frustration. I had a lot on my plate.  I was exhausted, having already driven 9 of the 14.5 hours in order to get home.  It was starting to snow, causing me another level of worry about driving. My husband was another week behind coming home.  Baseball tryouts were being re-scheduled for Monday evening and new cleats/bats/gloves hadn’t been purchased yet.  Laundry and bills to be paid were waiting my arrival home.  

Now, I also had a speeding ticket.  

As I started to search vigilantly for a hotel to stop at, I began reflecting on what that speeding ticket meant.  It became symbolic.  I speed a lot.  If I’m honest and fair, I likely speed every day.  It’s easy for me to nudge up to the speed limit, as well as go over…even if it’s only one or two mph over. 

The kicker is that I don’t get caught every day.  I don’t catch myself, nor does law enforcement. Yet, I know I speed. I know I should try harder to stop speeding. I acknowledge that I deserve the accountability and discipline of a ticket nearly daily.

Sin is like that.  

We often commit sin without even acknowledging that it’s sinful behavior.  Perhaps, we exhibit a particular sinful behavior so frequently that we begin to lose the knowledge that it’s sin. We can go days, months, and even years without being held accountable for those behaviors.  Romans 3:23 states, “…for all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”  The longer we go without being called out on it, the easier it is to continue doing the behavior.  

Like speeding. 

This was the 1st speeding ticket I had gotten in the US since 1996; although I did get enough speeding tickets while stationed in Germany, that I actually had my US-European drivers licenses suspended for 30 days (it’s even easier to go super-fast in Germany).   

But this weekend’s speeding ticket was a reprimand for errant behavior.  It was also representative of all the other times I had broken the law by speeding…and hadn’t gotten caught.  

I deserved the ticket.  The tears weren’t ones of sadness that I had gotten caught; rather they were ones of frustration at the situation.

Take a moment this week to ask the Lord to reveal where there is repeated sin in your life so that you can repent before you end up with one of the speeding tickets of life.

~Emily

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

Confidence Shaken

It is no secret that I’m a bigger girl.  I love food far more than I should and exercise far less than I even care to admit.  The only time you’d ever catch me running is if a bear were chasing me, and if you want some real truth, I’d probably just turn around and accept my fate of being dinner.  It’s way too taxing to exert my energy into exercise.  (Please, to all health-conscious reading this, don’t come for me!)  While sometimes it’s a struggle to think about how heavy I’ve become, it is who I am, and I’m ok with it.  This weekend, however, my confidence was shaken. 

I was shopping for a dress in Birmingham with Emily and my youngest daughter, Peyton.  We went to the mall and hit the first store. I asked the associate if the location we were in had plus size dresses, to which she replied they had a “few” in another location. 

Now, I’m not looking for an entire store full of dresses, but I would’ve loved to have seen more than just six dresses for larger women, and it just didn’t happen.  In fact, every major department store we went to informed me that “IF” they had any, they’d be in whatever section to which they pointed.  Two stores said they had eliminated plus size dresses.  It was disheartening, but I was fine.  Until the last store.

The lady was kind.  And she was caring.  She did absolutely nothing wrong.  When I asked her about whether they carried plus-size dresses she replied, “I’m afraid we don’t.  We should, and I’m sorry about that.”  And it broke me!

I teared up for whatever reason.  She was so sweet, but when she said it, she might as well have said, “Hey fattie, I’m sorry we don’t carry anything big enough for you to fit in.”  The day had chipped away at my self-esteem and when the sales associate told me they “should carry them,” it just made me feel like a failure.

The bible teaches us just the opposite, however.  Powerful words in Psalm remind me that I’m not a failure and that God made me who I am.  Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

God made me and I am beautiful to Him.  While my weight may fluctuate or my skin might wrinkle, what matters is that God formed me to be me, and those traits that society may base opinions on are not what God sees. 

My inner beauty that reflects God’s goodness makes my outer beauty radiant.  And I’d much rather shine from the love of Jesus.  It makes me beautiful!

The feelings I had about myself stung, because I am human.  But when we’re struggling with how society sees us, I encourage you, dear friends, to remember who made you.

You were made in His image, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

~Erin

P.S. I found a dress!

Embarrassing Corrections

If you have broccoli in your teeth, TP on your shoe, or a tag sticking up out of your shirt, I’m the kind of girl you want to have nearby. I will not only tell you, I’ll try to help you fix it too.  I would want someone to tell me if I had something going on, so as a young teen I vowed to always tell about something embarrassing that could be corrected. 

Those are easy scenarios for me to tell someone about.  What is hard for me to tell someone is when I think they’ve said or done something wrong.  Specifically, I struggle with telling people when there has been a perceived infraction with fellow Christians.

The Lord doesn’t want us pointing out everyone’s flaws; in fact Jude 1:16 condemns us finding fault with others deliberately.  Nor does scripture allow us to correct fellow Christians based upon second hand knowledge.  However, we are to gently and lovingly correct behavior when it is observed first hand and when the Lord prompts us too.  

Recently, I had to have a conversation with someone about her actions and conversations. I witnessed it first hand and it involved a women’s class that I was facilitating.  It was sooooooo hard for me! I prayed for several days about the situation before I did anything. I wanted to make sure that a) I had God’s authority to correct the behavior and b) I was doing it with the correct motives.  

I literally had to have a pep talk with myself before I called her.  Frankly, I would have rather done anything else than had that conversation.  And yet, the conversation went well and she stated that she didn’t intend harm. It was a productive chat.  

Once the conversation was over, I was relieved that I’d followed God’s lead.  I was glad that I had addressed the conversation privately, as is outlined in Matthew 18:15 (NASB) “Now if your brother sins, go and how him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Fear of offending or losing a friend/acquaintance often leads us to negate the task of correcting others.  In Proverbs 18:19 (NASB) we see that scripture warns us of rebuking leading to loss, “A brother who is offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And quarrels are like the bars of a citadel.”

When we negate corrective behavior with other Christians, we could be found guilty of sin ourselves.  While some may argue that salvation questions are the only corrective conversation, I would argue that we also need to correct behavior that brings a dark light on God or other Christians.  

What was my deciding factor that lead to a corrective conversation with this gal?  Pray & God.  

After prayerful consideration, I knew it was my obligation as a fellow Christian and as a leader to address the situation, despite how uncomfortable it made me.  

It would have been so much easier for me if she had broccoli in her teeth or toliet paper on her shoe…

Come to the porch this week and tell us about any scenarios where you had to correct someone or you were corrected.

~Emily