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

Too Much To Bear

What do you do when it seems the weight of the worst in on your shoulders?  How do you handle the struggles of this life speeding straight at you?  Who are you leaning on when it feels like it’s just too much to bear?

We’ve all had these times in our lives.  The heaviness of a death, an illness, or an addiction has probably touched someone who’s reading this in such a difficult way.  And to the person in the thick of it, the man or woman dealing with it, it feels like it will never end.

I know that you may not think that God is really listening.  You feel alone and unheard.  And you don’t understand why this torture is happening to you.  Why can’t God just fix it?  Why can’t He turn back time and make it ok again?  It doesn’t seem fair that you must suffer when everyone else around you seems to go on with life.  When you’re left feeling like you’re picking up pieces all around you by yourself, it hurts the most. 

I know you might not want to hear it, but I know you need to hear it.  You need to know that there is One who hears you and sees you.  He feels your pain.  He weeps when you weep.  And when it feels like there is nothing left to hold onto, you can hold on to Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shake and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” –Psalm 46:1-3

To the person who struggling with exactly this in this moment, I’m praying for you.  I’m fervently asking that God make His presence known to you.  You are not alone, and God will see you through.  I promise.  And He will see you through to the other side.

~Erin

Hemingway-Type of Bad Day

Have you ever had the horrible day when all you can say is “Today was a bad day”?

Recently I had a bad day.  Nothing seemed to go right. Work, knee pain, angry drivers, parenting a pre-teen, call to mom, gym time…all of it seemed to have some horrible moment. I literally wanted to weep in frustration, anger, and pain.

Ernest Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us…”

I certainly felt that life was doing it’s very best to break me. 

I wanted all the badness (is that a word?) removed from that day.  In that regard, I relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians he asked the Lord three separate times for the thorn to be removed.  

In response to his plea, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB), “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I delight in weakness, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Ponder that for a moment; ”my grace is sufficient for you…” 

Well, yes God, your grace is sufficient for me.  But in the moment, it sometimes doesn’t feel as though my heart can embrace that phrase.  Continue reading…

“For power is perfected in weakness…”  If I’m feeling despair, frustration, or anger, I am essentially being perfected in that weakness.  Paul goes on to write that he’d rather boast about that weakness in order to glorify the power of Christ.  He’s excited to be weak so that he becomes stronger.  Interesting concept.  

The more and more I dive into the Word, the more and more I begin to understand that reading scripture for context is so very important.  In the midst of a bad day, it would be easy to fall back on a portion of scripture which states that His grace is enough.  Maybe that would make me feel better…or maybe not.  

However, when I continue the verse, I begin to understand that every experience can be used to worship the Lord. I can embrace His grace being enough, but if I embrace that when I’m weak, the Lord is working to make me stronger. 

As Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us.” I believe there is purpose in that breaking.  There is purpose in the bad days.  The badness used for goodness, in order for me to grow into a more mature Christian.

Pray with me this week that the bad days of weakness become examples of your strength in Christ.

~Emily

Pride, Love & A Christian Walk

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

For nearly a year, I’ve been researching and preparing to conduct a presentation, during Pride Month 2021, on the history of LGBTQ+ Airmen in the United States Air Force.  Last week I gave this presentation, which was filled with history, policy changes, and individual stories of Airmen who have served in the military from the 1940s through today.  As a note of consideration to the reader, I’m a historian who works as a curator of an Air Force Historic Research Institute and museum.  My job is to tell the story of Airmen and research the history of the Air Force.  

In the days leading up to the presentation, I started getting nervous.  It was an honor to be asked to speak and public speaking seems to be a universal “get nervous” activity.  Likewise, I wanted to present accurate information and not go on the record with any incorrect policies or historic examples. 

So, I asked a several people for prayers in that last week of practicing and refining slides.

I was shocked at the responses to these prayer requests.  While there were some positive and encouraging Christians in my corner, the overwhelming response was skepticism, questioning, and even one that expressed outrage.  How can I call myself a Christian and endorse LGBTQ+ people?!?!?!?

Let me say this part again…it’s my job to tell Airman Stories.  All Airman stories.  

But I need to further expand on the rationale behind this presentation so let me also declare this:

It’s my job…my responsibility…my task, as a Christian, to LOVE humans. 

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV) states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

In this passage, John is specifically addressing loving other believers with the love of God. While that seems easy to say, the reality is that the believer is just as unlovable as the non-believer. The believer and non-bleiever are both sinful. Therefore, as a believer, I hold fast to the thought that Christ has an expectation that I will love other believers…regardless of it I agree or disagree with them…regardless of if I like their personality or not…regardless of it I sin like them or not.

The non-believer deserves love and respect, as well. How do Christians expect to present the Gospel without being kind and respectful towards others? How do we show Christ’s love for all, when we aren’t being loving ourselves? 

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) states, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I may not love the sinful choices or behaviors of someone.  I don’t like that my friend stole a pen from the bank, or that my child told a lie, or that I said a swear word.  According to scripture, it is absolutely appropriate to dislike sinful thoughts, deeds, and words.  But scripture is also VERY clear that we are to love our brothers and sisters, as Christ loved the church.  

I acknowledge that there are Christians who absolutely believe that the LGBTQ+ community is wrong in their sinful lifestyles.  Hence the reason so many felt they could speak negatively about my prayer request in regards to the presentation.

I also acknowledge that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  

All of us.  All of us.  ALL OF US.  For those in the back, ALL of us have sinned…so why are we judging someone else with such absolutes and harshness?  

Perhaps it’s time to stop judging one another based on our sins and start really loving one another past those sins, just as Christ loved us. 

~Emily

The Birthpain Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

Floundering Without Ministry

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a project desperate to quit?  Or have you seen someone in the background that you believe to be more qualified to fulfill your commitment?  There are a ton of reasons why we step away from projects…there are even more emotions associated with those decisions. 

Almost 7 months ago, I resigned my membership at a church and concurrently gave up my position as the Director of Women’s Ministry.  It was an angst-filled decision that came with a small measure of relief.  

I truly love women’s ministry and all that comes with it.  However, I needed to step back from the ministry in order to focus more fully on what God had for me and my family. In listening to the Lord and resigning, I gave up serving in a capacity that I adore.

Since then, I’ve felt like I’m floundering without the ministry position.  Frankly, I’m a series of contradictions.  I’m sad to not be involved, but I’m ecstatic to hear news of how well the ladies are doing without me.  I’m unsettled without teaching, but content to wait on the next chapter.  I’ve struggled to define purpose, but recognize that there is purpose around the corner.  

I’m a happy, relieved, lonely mess that is floundering without a ministry.  

Psalm 46:10 (NIV), “Be still and know…” is a much-quoted verse for Christians who are focusing on being still and quiet. In the past, I’ve typically used this particular section of the verse to settle myself; essentially so that I stop trashing around making my own way.  

In the season of floundering without directly contributing to a ministry, this seems a like it would be a good section of scripture to focus on.  

Digging into the verse, I’ve realized that not only does God want us to be still (to be quiet, to rest, to sit still), but rather He continues with a very important portion of scripture that I’ve often glossed over.  “…and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Because the psalm was written during war, it is likely there is messaging to Israel concerning her enemies.  Knowing who God is requires acknowledging that He is in control of the outcome of all things.  Thus, there is no sense in worrying over the fighting as God will take care of it.  

In light of knowing God and what He is about, it’s much easier to understand being still & knowing as not just sitting still, but rather to stopping the fighting of circumstances…to stop doing things our own way and to know God will control all aspects of the fight.  

If I’m truly still,  

If I’m truly knowing God,

Then I truly stop trying to do it my way.

And that is comfort to my heart when I feel like I’m floundering without a ministry.

What areas of your life do you need to be still and know God in this week?

~Emily

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

If My Life Was A Mess-Free Coloring Book…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

Artist: Andros Minjarez

Funeral for a Church

As a military member, leaving a church has been a small part of my reality of orders and transition to a new location.  I never had to make the decision to leave a church without the military being the reason for moving on.  When having to make that decision on my own, I’ll be the first to admit that it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.  I prayed over the situation for nearly two years before I felt God releasing me to move to another location.

During that two years, I continued to serve and tithe.  I continued to join small groups and lead women’s ministry.  I also educated myself about differences in doctrine, about healthy churches, about how to leave in a graceful manner. I asked questions of my church leadership and I felt comfortable in presenting any of my concerns.  I created an excel spreadsheet phase of pros and cons of nearby churches.  Ultimately, I listened to the Lord…stayed when He told me to stay…moved on when He told me to move on.  

Emotionally, the decision felt like a horrible breakup; like a divorce of the worst kind. It felt like the death of a loved one; like I was planning a funeral.  

Let me be very clear–I’m not saying the church I left was bad.  It was very right for the people who remained.  What I am saying is this; God has released me from serving at that particular church.  My focus shifted to finding another church.  However, finding a new church home has been a challenge that I wasn’t anticipating during this stage of my life.  

There are many things to consider when looking at a church.  Is the leadership teaching from the Bible? Is there sound doctrine? What are the children and youth programs teaching?  What are the affiliations?  How is the leadership structure?  Are the finances available and transparent? 

Is it a healthy church?

According to Thom Rainer in “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” there are several ways to recognize if a church is not going to survive a season of illness and to recognize if they are unhealthy.  In other words, I’ve been able to use this as a gauge to check the health of churches that we’ve been visiting.  Usually it’s a slow erosion, which highlights that there is focus inwards on the church rather than the community, as well as a distinct focus on the past (and how the “good ole’ days” used to be).  When the church doesn’t have a clear purpose, becomes obsessed over the facility or individual preferences, or worse…when the budget moves away from ministry and is primarily focused on staff or facility, then there is a disconnect in what is occurring within the church walls.  As a new visitor, it’s nearly impossible to see if these things are occurring within a church without deliberately asking questions.

Rainer contends that only 10% of churches are truly healthy, while 40% are showing some symptoms of sickness, another 40% are very sick, and the last 10% are in the final process of dying.  I know that every church has some semblance of issues.  I recognize that churches are not perfect.  However, as a result of Rainer’s analysis, I’ve been praying for my family to find a church in the healthy 10%.  I’ve also been focusing on praying for the churches in the other 90% to have open eyes and ears to become the healthy 10%.  

Through the process of finding a new church, I realized that I’m not the first one to face the challenge of church transitions.  In the past, I searched for churches based on the style of praise music, the pastor’s speaking ability, or the programs available.  Those things were important to me at the time, but now I’ve got a different set of items I’m looking for.  Specifically, I am now analyzing churches for the breadth of teaching scripture, speech on Word and truth, the management of the budget, as well as the health of leadership of the church.  

Ephesians 4:11-16 has given me direction and hope that my family will find fellowship in a new healthy church!

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

I acknowledge that leaving a church should be a hard decision. It truly was. In so many ways, this season of transition has allowed me to rely more fully on prayer and direction from God.  I know that the building up of the body of Christ will allow our family to grow roots in a new and healthy church.

~Emily

RAINER, T., 2017. AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH. [Place of publication not identified]: LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCE.

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