The Scorpion Sting

Scorpions.  Who actually likes these horrifying creatures?  They are monstrous little pincher-bearing, tail –stinging beasts that make you want to burn your house down.  Never mind that the scorpions native to Alabama are generally about 1-2 inches long.  It’s 1-2 inches too long.

Enter my 16-year-old daughter, Peyton, into this discussion.  Today, as she sat completing school work in the safety and comfort of her bedroom, she noticed something fall from the ceiling to the floor, and for one brief second, she wondered what it could’ve been.  (She told me she actually thought it was a leaf in that brief second…..because we’re growing trees in our house???) 

Now, I wasn’t here to witness this event.  But as Peyton tells it, she leaned towards it.  And it started moving.  Recognizing it as a scorpion, she began screaming bloody murder, grabbed the closest tennis shoe and proceeded to beat it to death, yelling the words, “DIE! DIE, YOU STUPID SCORPION!”  Wouldn’t you know she actually left it for me to see as evidence rather than picking it up and disposing of it.  But whatever.

The sting of the scorpion could’ve produced much pain.  But she had the victory over it in standing firm against it and declaring it gone. 

Satan reminds me of that little scorpion.  He comes in, unseen, moving around without notice.  He drops in, unannounced, at the most random times and disguises himself as something that we might want to get a closer look at or notice.  And then, BAM.  He’s stung us, and we’re caught in some web of sin.  But thanks to God, we can have victory over that.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:56-57

We can let go of the sin and temptation when we do it through Jesus Christ.  He stands against satan on our behalf when we give it Him and let the victory be THROUGH Him.  Forgive me for sounding irreverent, but He’s the giant tennis shoe that stomps out that nasty devil as he crawls towards us!  He is our Savior!

How about you, dear friends?  Has there been a time where you’ve seen victory through Jesus as he stomped out a sin or sinful desire that needed to be gone?  Share how you feel led on Iron Porch!

~Erin

Packing Up the Memories

We’re still reeling from the loss of Allen, my father-in-law.  As you read this we’re driving up to Fort Bragg, California to go through his things and start packing mementos away.  This is an especially hard time for both Chris and Rita, his son and daughter, as they’ll begin to go through the memories of their life without him at their side.

With an ache, we’ll go through his clothes, his watch collection, his knives, hunting gear, and photos and sift through things that the grandchildren might like to have as a tangible item of their Grandpa.

I’ve often thought over the last couple of weeks how I could help them work through this coming weekend as we do this.  A verse in Romans comes to mind.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” –Romans 12:15

What beautiful words.  We will mourn for the missing piece from our family here.  I’m going to hold their hands as they cry, and I’ll feel the sadness along with them as they grieve.  I’ll comfort them as they remember.

But we’re also going to rejoice for the happy times.  We’re going to remember his laugh, his return from his hunting trips, the outings he had with his family.  We’re going to remember him constantly reminding his grandchildren to call him “Uncle Allen” instead of “Grandpa Allen.”  We’re going to remember his vibrant personality and his heartfelt desire to give to those in need.  We’re going to remember him for the great spirit he had and the love that he gave.

Thank you, Jesus, for providing me just the right verse to help us as we walk through this weekend.

~Erin

Preview of Iron Porch Interview: Christian Women and Race Relations in America

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come to share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that we felt God wanted to provide so that women could encourage and comfort one another.  In the past, we’ve encouraged guest bloggers to join us on the Iron Porch.

This week we have the honor of posting an interview on the porch concerning Christian Women and race relations in America.  The guest blogs and this interview are always posted under ‘fesharp’ rather than ‘Erin’ or ‘Emily.’

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read the thoughts of Khandi Wagner, our 1st interview of 2020.

~Emily & Erin

Khandi Photo

Khandi Wagner and her husband.

All Alone In This World

Do you ever feel as though you are all alone in this world?

You’re surrounded by people every day at work, at home, at church…even at the grocery store or gas station.  You’re with your mom, your best friend, your boyfriend or husband.  And yet, you feel alone.

Throughout our lives, women tend to have similar moments where we have felt especially alone.

The few moments after your High School graduation, when you feel excited about the future, yet there’s a moment of knowing you’re leaving home to “go it alone” in the world.

Some moments at church leave us feeling solo when we see groups of other women gathered in chatty-hug-filled circles.

There are moments in a marriage where you feel so misunderstood or undervalued that you feel completely and utterly alone.

Those nights where you can’t figure out why the baby is still crying and you’re exhausted or the nights after your last child has turned 18 and moved out of the house…those are also moments where you may experience that sense of complete aloneness.

In my own life, I’ve felt alone during military deployments, in the failure of IVF, in the aftermath of divorce, when hearing of someone’s cancer diagnosis, or in the misstep of dieting.  Often when I’ve felt most alone, I’ve also felt hopeless.  And right there in that hopelessness is the lie that the enemy tells us…that we are the only ones who have ever felt that “alone” time.

In 1 Kings 19:1-18, we read that there was a time that Elijah felt utterly alone and hopeless.  At that moment, the Lord gives Elijah questions that will allow Elijah to understand that he isn’t alone.  Rather than concede that God is with him, Elijah repeats the lie two times that he is alone.

In the middle of the chaos and fierce winds, God whispers to Elijah, “You are not alone!

I think it is time that women remind each other of God’s constant whispering, “You are not alone!”  God is literally with us each step of our journey.  Yet it’s easy in the moments of despair, the moments by ourselves, or the moments steeped in sin, to forget that God has a plan for us.  And the plan was never for us to be alone.  Ever.

If you are feeling alone, remember the whisperings of God’s promise that you aren’t alone.  Remember that you are always welcome on the porch if you need to be reminded of that soft-spoken promise.

~Emily

all alone in this world

Is it COVID-19?!?!?!

My throat is sore…is it a tickle?  Is it COVID-19?

I have a raging headache…can’t think.  Is it COVID-19?!?

Am I hot…or just warm? Do I have a fever? Is it COVID-19?!?!?

Every single little twitch or twinge these days leads me down a rabbit hole of wondering if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I start contemplating whether I’ve been diligent in wearing a mask or social distancing.  I wonder if I’ve been exposed…or worse, could I have exposed someone else?

Am I alone if hyper-analyzing each little upset tummy or ache and pain?

The crazy thing is that I’m not afraid of getting COVID-19.  I know my family is fairly healthy and we would likely weather the storm well.  More than that, I know that God would heal us in the physical or we would be healed completely in heaven.  There is great comfort in knowing that the believers will be healed no matter what.

This never-ending saga of not-knowing how the pandemic ends is wearing thin on each of us in different capacities.  In my case, I’ve been leaning heavily on Psalm 55:22 (NASB), “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

How are you dealing with the continued pandemic saga?  Come to the Porch as share your thoughts!

~Emily

Is It COVID-19?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual Sunburn

The first sunburn of summer 2020 is in the books.

Year after year, I never learn that my pale Scandinavian skin needs a thick lather of sunscreen… as evidenced by the annual first sunburn of the summer.

Once I suffer through the first searing, and subsequent shedding of peeled skin, I won’t likely burn again for the rest of the summer.  In the past, I would claim that I only started to tan after the first sunburn, as that sunburn is the “base” for the rest of the summer’s sun-filled activities.

While there may be some truth in the “base-tan-sunburn,” the reality is the pain of that first sunburn creates a scenario where I remember my sunscreen protection for the rest of the summer.

The same is true with our sinful nature.

As with the sunburn, often our first brush with a particular sin is the “base” for continued sinful activity with or without protection.  Sinful scenarios can cause pain. They can cause a tangible reminder of the sin.  They can have “peeling” regrowth, as a result.

Also, like the sunburn, our sin can be painful enough that we will remember our protection against it.  Essentially we will experience the pain of the sin and subsequently do our best to avoid experiencing it again, as with the use of sunscreen.

What is the sunscreen protection against sin? The Word of God.  He’s given us the instruction manual on how to protect ourselves, as well as what to do when we fall short within that sinful nature.  This is why it is so vitally important, as Christians, that we are studying the Word and placing it firmly in our hearts.  It is the protection that we need.

Remember what Paul shared with us in Romans 6:14 (NASB), “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Whether your sin/sunburn is a base for further activities, or if it is a stark reminder that you need protection, I would encourage the ladies of the Iron Porch to seek God’s will this week about how best to protect yourself.

~Emily

sunscreen

 

A Tribute to a Father

Life is so fragile.  I know you know what I mean.  We feel like we have all the time in the world to enjoy each other, to laugh with each other, to cry with each other.  We sometimes take for granted the hugs and the kisses, the jokes, even the fights because we’ll see them tomorrow.  Our family is invincible and we have forever.  But unfortunately, that’s not the case.  And our family felt it recently.

We pulled out a big box of pictures this week.  We started looking through it, and came across a home movie of a surprise party we gave Chris’s dad, Allen, for his 70th birthday.  That was 12 years ago!  It seems like a lifetime ago and yet so recent.  Last night, we popped it in and watched it.

There’s probably 50 family and friends laughing, eating, talking, there to celebrate an amazing man turning 70 years old.  Allen pops into the picture, and he’s larger than life.  He’s walking around the room talking to everyone, reminiscing about this story from the past or that friend they saw last week.  Old business partners are there.  Brothers are there.  His children-Chris and Rita, his grandchildren, nieces, nephews, everyone….there all there to celebrate a man that loves his family more than just about anything.  (Except maybe hunting.  He loves to hunt, and you can tell when he opens his gift of a rifle!)  You watch him belly laugh, head thrown back, the sound of happiness coming from him, hanging in the air.

You’d love to see his hair.  I tease him all the time about his “luscious locks” because Allen has the thickest head of beautiful white hair against his tan skin from enjoying the outdoors so much.  The man looks like he’s permanently retired on the beach!  He just looks like….joy in this video.

Back to last night when we watched this video.  It’s been 12 years, but we wish it was yesterday.  Because following a leukemia diagnosis just 2 ½ months ago, this man, this father, this brother passed away on June 7th.  It still doesn’t seem real.

We all wish there was one more moment with him.  A moment to joke with him, a moment to squeeze our arms around him, a moment to watch the news with him (it seemed to be one of his other favorite things).  And we’re left with memories.  But good ones.  Great ones.  He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of man.

Allen, you were….you are…an amazing human being.  And your legacy lives in every life you touched over your 82 years.  We love you and we miss you.

~Your family

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2005, Idaho Family Trip

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May 2020, 82nd birthday

Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

Regaining Quiet Time with God during Quarantine copy

Cops and Robbers

As we stopped at the little mini-mart for a drink on our way to the entrance of Disneyland, a man walked into the store past Peyton and Chris, her dad, grabbed a pair of sunglasses off the kiosk right inside the door and walked back out.  He never said anything to either of them, but they saw what he did and let the owner know.  Two minutes later, we were on our way again.

We hadn’t gotten more than half a block when a cop car flew past us and cranked hard into the parking lot a few yards in front of us, lights flashing.  We heard the police officer before we saw him.  “GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!” was being shouted repeatedly, a shotgun raised at the perpetrator.  It was the man that had just stolen the glasses.  Two, three, then four cars with flashing lights were surrounding the area, and I wasn’t about to let my 15-year-old daughter walk out across the open driveway when I didn’t know what kind of threat was right before us.  So we stood just out of sight behind the giant hotel sign, Peyton holding my hand while Chris stood around the edge to see what was going on.

The man didn’t comply with their commands to get down and, in fact, started walking towards them (and in our direction).  That’s when we heard the shots.

Ten seconds can feel like a lifetime when you’re in that moment.

I can tell you in that 10 seconds, Peyton rushed into my arms as I grabbed her and put myself in front of her just in case.  I worried that Chris had been watching and perhaps something could happen to him and leave Peyton without a dad.  I wondered if I was going to see my other children again.  I didn’t know if the other man had a gun or if it was the police.  I just wanted to be safe.

In that 10 seconds, however, I can tell you that the police saved not only everyone stuck on that sidewalk with us but themselves and the perpetrator as well.  Chris glanced back at us and told Peyton the man was going to be ok.  They were shooting bean bag rounds.  It turns out the man had been in an altercation with someone just moments before he walked past Chris and Peyton at the store and had not only punched a man but had also busted a window with his bare hands.  That had been what brought the officers.

When it was all over, I realized just how much God had protected us that morning.  It could’ve very easily been Chris or Peyton who the man attacked at the store.  He could’ve been stopped at a different location that would’ve provided no shelter for us from the stand-off.  God had his hand all over the morning.  This verse popped into my head in that moment, “He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings.  His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” –Psalm 91:4

Thank you, Father, for the protection you provided us not only on that day but every day that we breathe.

~Erin

Good morning Quotes

When You Know, You Know

Have you ever felt like something was wrong, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that might be wrong?

Call it a gut feeling, women’s intuition, or a sixth sense. You know something isn’t right.

You could call it discernment.  The small voice of the Holy Spirit letting you know there’s an issue needing your attention.  The spiritual gift of discernment is mentioned multiple times in scripture.

Over the last year, my husband and I felt like something was wrong at our church. I couldn’t put a name to what was wrong, but I felt unsettled.  It felt like there was discord amongst the members, a lack of communication, straying from the Word of God, and yet, there wasn’t anything specific to point out to support any of those claims.  It was “just” a feeling I had.

I considered resigning as the women’s ministry leader.  My husband did not want to attend services anymore.  I started researching other churches in our local area.  I engaged my prayer partners to start praying over the situation.

I felt like a fraud that I was continuing to serve in a ministry leadership role and praying about leaving the church.  While I was concerned about the situation, through prayer I had zero peace about resigning or leaving the church.  I did not hear God telling me that we were supposed to leave.

During our first week of the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order in March, our Pastor resigned.  The story of why he resigned is one for him or his family to share.  However, the few details I received began to make sense as to why there was a feeling of unsettlement at our church.

By no means am I saying that the Pastor’s reasons for resigning were the reason for my dissatisfaction at the church.  What I am saying, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for months and let me know that “something” was not right.  It also made sense why I hadn’t gotten a clear message that the feeling of unsettlement was worthy of leaving the church.

Essentially, I was being prepared for there to be some turmoil and chaos at our church.  The Holy Spirit was talking in my ear allowing me to discern that something was amiss, while also not allowing me release to leave the situation.

John 16:13 (ESV) states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Call it your gut, your female intuition, or your 6th sense.  I’m going to call it discernment.

And to me, the gift of discernment is the gift of truth.

I pray you have a truth-filled week of discernment.

~Emily

John 16-13