Search and Rescue

I work in a military museum so “search and rescue” is not entirely a foreign concept to me.  We have an exhibit called “Star Catchers,” which showcases Airmen who were responsible for capturing satellites falling to earth.  A search and rescue of capsules containing cameras and film…and a race against time and sinking, as the capsule hit the massive ocean.  

Of course, there are also countless stories of Airmen searching for and rescuing other military members…in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the deserts of the Middle East.  Stories of POWs, downed aircraft, and special operations…all centered around the concept of search and rescue. 

There are plenty of times that I wonder if God feels like He’s continuously on a “search and rescue” mission.  He literally searches the Earth for His children who don’t know the Savior as their lifeline.  He searches and then offers them the rope for rescue.  He offers the solution to perilous situations.  He offers the ultimate rescue.  

Many accept God’s gift of His Son for our sins as their personal rescue.  Yet there are others who refuse that gift. 

Can you imagine the downed pilot who tells the rescue team, “No, no, I don’t need your assistance; I’ve got this under control”?

Can you envision the National Security impacts of a capsule with film sinking to the bottom of the ocean?

Can you even fathom the victim of the road side bomb refusing assistance from the first responders?

As sinful humans, our souls send out a distress signal that can only be answered by God.  When presented the Gospel, are we grasping the life-line?  Or are we refusing?  God leaves the choice up to each one of us.  Accept or reject God by accepting or rejecting the gift of salvation.  There are eternal consequences for either choice.  

Those who need rescue in an emergency situation do not refuse assistance. This next week, ask yourself if you’ve accepted the rescue of God.  I encourage you to take time in the next couple of days to pray for those who may be struggling with this decision…do they want to accept or reject their personal “Search and Rescue”?

~Emily

“To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” ~Acts 26:18

Saving Freedom & The Statue of Liberty

As an elementary school student, I remember collecting pennies to donate towards the restoration of the Statue of Liberty crown.  Can you imagine the coordination it took for millions of small children to collect pennies towards a National Treasure?  This amazingly oversized statue is not only special to the immigrants that passed by her in the 1800s and early 1900s, but is an iconic symbol of America.    

It has become a symbol of leaving everything behind, risking everything for a new life, and creating new life with freedom.  

This is the same picture of what must happen when we come to know Jesus Christ as our Savior.  We leave behind worldly items and behaviors, risking much for a new life in Him.  Jesus becomes the way to freedom…not just a resolute statue in symbolism, but rather real freedom.  

In John 8:12 (NASB), Jesus said “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Simply stated, Jesus as a lamplight towards freedom surpasses any amount of political, economic, or social persecution that could occur on earth.  That type of freedom is all encompassing.  Passing the Statue of Liberty as a new arrival must have been an awe-inspiring experience and sense of freedom, but knowing you are heaven bound is an even greater feeling.  

The freedom offered by the Father, through His Son, is the ultimate freedom.  As we celebrate the freedoms of America on certain days, such as the 4th of July, let us not forget that Christ’s freedom should be celebrated daily.  

Happy day after the 4th of July!

~Emily 

Do We Praise God?

Have you ever felt like you don’t praise God enough for who He is?  I know that probably seems like an odd question.  As I teach Bible study and encourage our group to memorize verses, I find that most verses and passages of scripture looked up and used are the passages of scripture about how God can help us when we’re in trouble; He’s the refuge in the storm.  And we pray these passages over our circumstances.  These are beautiful verses and are very important to remember as we go through trials that refine us.

But why am I not memorizing and praying the passages of scripture that talk about the glory of God?!  Why am I not praying passages of praise to my Father who made heaven and earth?  It seems like such an easy thing to do.  Yet, I find the beginnings of my prayers are “canned.”  I thank Him for the day or the weather or my family, but don’t really glorify Him for He is and what He has done!

There are so many passages in the Bible that speak to His majesty, and I believe we should be praising Him with those words along side the prayers for His intervention, peace, and help.  Praising Him aloud with passages of thanksgiving opens our heart to the joy that is given by God alone!  When we speak these words out loud, we publicly declare that He is good!  He takes great joy in hearing us praise His name.

I encourage you this month to find a passage in the Bible that praises the God in heaven who created and loves all things!  Here’s a Psalm below if you’d like to use it!

~Erin

The Food Program

I participated yesterday in my first summer food program through the Elmore County Child Nutrition Program.  In our county they are providing food for the summer for any child 18 and under.  It’s enough food to allow for 7 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  It’s an amazing program they’ve been offering since Covid-19 hit, and it’s been a huge blessing to the residents with children here in our region.

As this is my first summer here, I had only heard stories of what it would be like.  I was shocked to see a well-oiled machine…three stations, each set up with their own volunteers, welcoming us as we pulled up, letting us know when they’d put their portion in and guiding us to the next station.  As we rolled up to each station, I couldn’t help but be shocked at what I saw them putting in my trunk. 

Fresh local produce, meat, cereal, milk, cheese, crackers, pasta—these were items with which you could build meals.  It seems as if it’s an opportunity to not only feed the children of Elmore County, but also bring families together during mealtimes.  This was an outpouring of love from a community onto its members.  Many communities are doing things like this, but just as many are not. 

The willingness and love given to these local families reminds me of a verse.  John 15:12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

This act of love helps those around us.  No, they’re not necessarily giving out of their own pockets.  However, they are giving so much time and energy and support into making sure that each child in this area has an opportunity to be fed and cared for through this outreach.  There are, I’m sure, countless hours being given to ensure a successful program. 

I encourage each of you to look around at what’s going on in your community.  If there’s a way to support the people around and show them some love, the way Jesus showed His love to us, get busy doing it!  Be a part of the programs in your community, as well!  The volunteers that dedicate their time love to see that people are taking part in the activities.  It shows just as much love to them as love to you!

Thank you, Elmore County Child Nutrition Program, for your dedication to our children.  It’s not unnoticed!  Does your community have something like this?  Share in the comments how your community is being loved on.

~Erin

“God Knew” By Guest Bloggers: Jessie Lynn® and Kelsey Stahler

“God knew our mothers couldn’t handle us as sisters so he made us best friends instead…”

That’s Kelsey’s favorite quote to use when it comes to describing our friendship and how close we truly are! When I say close, I mean we are almost identical when it comes to beliefs, work ethic, goals, dreams, and visions for what we see in our future. We both carry the same love and passion for horses, barrel racing, rodeoing, traveling, and love a good productive day for either one of our businesses! Basically, we are sisters…not by blood but by choice!

Where did it all start? Originally the friendship started out as a coach-to-client relationship when Kelsey contacted me about barrel racing lessons and shared her dreams of making it to the NFR. At first, I was a little hesitant and explained to her that if we started lessons, especially with that type of goal, it was going to be for the long haul! Needless to say, that didn’t faze her. The most interesting thing about that moment in time is that we met at probably one of the most difficult times in both of our lives. God knew…

I often think back on that moment in time and how God most certainly knew that our paths had to cross in order for us to grow and challenge one another in a way that we both would appreciate and understand. Kelsey and I both agree that we challenge one another in the most positive and in some cases, most aggressive ways that pushes us past our comfort zones. Ironically, that’s what we both needed. It’s quite amazing to think that was only three short years ago…Kelsey and I have grown so much since then, not only in our friendship, but as individuals as well!

Kelsey is now the proud owner of a small western boutique in downtown Prattville, Alabama called “Wandering Coyote Company,” and has achieved great success on the road traveling to various equine and cattleman’s events across the Southeast. On occasion, we travel together when my singing career coincides with an event and we just decide to make a girl’s trip out of it! It’s work for sure, but we’re able to help one another and ensure that we each have what we need to be successful!

I happily spend majority of my time on the road touring with my country music career, but still find time to enjoy a barrel race or two on the weekends and an occasional vacation trip when Kelsey and I can find time! The best part about our friendship is that we don’t have to be together to be close and we both know we are just one phone call or text away if one of us needs something or just need a girl talk moment. Believe me, there are plenty of those!

Quite frankly, I believe if you had asked either one of us “did we expect this friendship to turn out the way it has,” I think we both would have said no. Funny thing is, when God is in control of the company you keep and the people you have to surround yourself with in order to make it, He sends the right person at the right time! There’re no questions, no doubts, and everything works out as it should!

Yes, we’ve only been best friends for three years now, but believe me when I say, it’s a friendship that has been built off of the Lord’s word, strength, direction, and most importantly His love for both of us! Kelsey and I often discuss our dreams and quite frequently reassess our goals and plans for the time at hand, and to see what the Lord has placed in both of us to help one another is indescribable! Both of us reach for the star that just so happens to be out of reach, but when one of us does, it encourages the other to boost them up and to keep working towards their goal and dream. To give you one word to describe it: Balance!

Kelsey and I hope that this story encourages you and your best friend to place the Lord first in all that you do and completely trust Him with every aspect of your life! You do that, and He will bless you richly for it! 

-Written by Jessie Lynn® with contributions by Kelsey Stahler

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Let Us Rejoice!

This weekend, my oldest daughter came to visit me and brought my two absolutely amazing grandchildren.  They are fabulous!  Andros exudes happiness when he gets excited.  Kalan’s mischievous grin just melts your heart. Watching two little boys light up a room make my heart sing!  I wish I could see them more than I get to, but when they come into town our world revolves around them.

It reminds me of how joyful I should be on a regular basis!  God has created this beautiful world we live in.  I sit on my deck in the morning and listen to the morning songs from the birds that fly around.  We feel the air in our lungs, and see the wind gently pushing tree limbs back and forth. We hear the laughter from children.  We feel the love of a grandparent’s touch.  It’s all so beautiful, and it should make my heart happy!

The bible reminds us of this, as well! 

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. –Psalm 118:24

Even on days when we’re not feeling the greatest, let’s remind ourselves of this.  We can be thankful for the day that our Father has made for us and be joyful that He created it for us!

~Erin

A Spiritual Gift

Music is my thing.  It always has been.  I’m pretty confident that I came out of the womb singing some kind of tune.  Both of my parents can sing.  One is shy and won’t sing on a stage.  The other loves the spotlight and never minded singing in front of people.  I wonder which one I took after in that area?  From the time I started school, any time there was a play or musical or an opportunity to sing in church, I was there.  And I wasn’t going for the chorus line.  I wanted center stage.  I LOVE to sing loud and clear.

When I was little, it was because I liked the attention.  As I got older, I continued to sing in church, but the reason changed.  I now wanted to glorify God and give Him the praise.  And when I moved to a new and bigger church at the age of 30, it all changed.  There was no choir.  There was a praise band, a worship team and contemporary Christian music.  The church that I was going to didn’t do “specials” like they did in the church I went to growing up.  I felt far inferior to the professionals they had on stage!  There was no way I could bring anything to the table with them.   And so I stuck to singing with the congregation in the pews, knowing that God had given me a gift….but afraid to use it.

As I started looking for my new church here in Alabama, one of the things I was looking at was the worship time.  It wasn’t as important as other things like sound doctrine, or a gospel-sharing church.  But I love the peace I feel as I worship in song so it wasn’t far from the top.  Imagine my surprise that I’ve been repeatedly visiting a smaller church with old-fashioned hymns and a piano.  I just found out they have a small choir.  It’s like I’ve stepped back in time to my childhood!  And it’s not what I’ve been used to for 12 years.  And I think it might be right where God wants me.

You see, I long to feel the presence of God with music.  But the truth is, I don’t need that music to feel the presence of God.  He’s all around me.  The Holy Spirit lives inside of me because I am a blood-bought daughter of the King.  The music and the words are there to help me praise Him, to rejoice in who He is and what He’s done for us.  The ability to sing is the spiritual gift that God has given me to use and honor for His glory.  And I feel like I’ve wasted it for 12 years. 

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

The Lord has changed what I see as beneficial for me in finding a church.  Rather than a church with a “stellar” worship hour, I long for a church that shares the gospel, who believes in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  Then show me that same church that allows me to use the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed on me to serve others.  In finding that, I find my church.

I’m thankful for a God who leads us exactly where we need to be.  We only need to listen, trust, and obey.  How about you, friends?  Do you have a spiritual gift that you’ve been tucking away?  Share in the comments below what it is, and let’s pray for opportunities to serve others with that precious gift from God!

~Erin

I’m Lost!

Last week, my family flew in from Cheyenne, Wyoming and I needed to pick them up from the airport.  It was a busy day full of many errands, so I quickly input my desired location into the GPS without giving it much notice and off I went. 

The drive was beautiful.  It took me along a more scenic route, and I was enjoying seeing the sweet little towns.  As I got closer to my destination, it seemed that I should’ve hit a sign that said I had rolled into Georgia, but I didn’t worry too much about, because not all side roads have these kinds of signs.  I finally saw the airport sign at my exit and turned to get off the road.  But I was getting confused because it still seemed rather….too-small-townish?  I quickly pulled up the “details” in my GPS and confirmed I was indeed right near my location.  But as I hit “End,” a flash of the abbreviation AL came into view.  Lightning fast, I clicked the GPS again.  VALLEY HEAD, AL.

That’s right….NOT Atlanta Airport.  Not Hartsfield-Jackson.  Not even Georgia.  I had directed myself to the quaint little town of Valley Head.  Where’s Valley Head you ask? NOT IN GEORGIA.  Turns out that as I was clicking on the Atlanta airport location in my phone, it downloaded several more locations I had been looking at recently, and I accidentally chose Valley Head. 

What was supposed to be a 20ish minute wait for my family while I completed the drive to get them turned into an additional 2 ½ hour wait.  It was awesome.  I cried like a baby.  And I felt so stupid!  I know it was a mistake, but it still stung of carelessness.  I trusted that when I rushed, what I had briefly read/seen was right without making sure my action of picking the correct location and following the right directions was true.

This reminds me of my walk with God sometimes.  I’ve been saved a long time.  I grew up in church and for the first 6 years of school attended a school that was affiliated with my church, so I’ve been around the Bible for as long as I can remember.  And sometimes the prideful nature in me that thinks, “I know what it says in the Bible and how to live uprightly” is quickly destroyed.  Just like being careless in not paying attention when I pushed the button on my GPS, it can be easy to spout off what I’ve learned from my years of following Jesus.  It’s simple to follow some Godly instruction, but not paying attention and not being firmly planted in the study of the Bible can lead you far of the course God has set for you.

There’s so much more in following Jesus and knowing what His Word says.  James 1:22 says “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.”  Am I really DOING what the Word says when I don’t pay enough mind to read, study, learn, pray, and meditate on His goodness?  Is it enough to remember a few stories from when I was 12 and hope I’ve remembered 30 years down the road? 

It’s not.  We need to be diving in, reading what He says and pursuing knowledge of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit!  When we do this, we are careful with our directions rather than careless.  We become knowledgeable in His truth and less mindless.  We become doers of the Word and not just hearers!

I encourage each one of you to not merely hit a button, take a quick peek, and walk away.  Dive in, paying careful attention to the words and commands that are in the Holy Bible.  I’ll be doing that!

Who wants to take on this challenge with me?  Comment in the section below!

~Erin 

Soup Explosions of Encouragement

I was employed as a personal chef, preparing a sweet and savory butternut squash soup, when I made the mistake of the year.  I put hot, freshly roasted butternut squash into the blender with broth.  Then hit the pulse button.  Without venting the lid to the blender.

About 10 seconds into the spin cycle, the lid catapulted vertically.  Before I could react, I was covered in butternut squash soup.  It was soaking my hair; it was in my shoes; it was literally dripping off the tip of my nose. 

Worst…it was covering my client’s kitchen.  The ceiling, the microwave, the floor, the curtains over the sink…all of it had evidence of orange splatter.  

As I stood in the center of the kitchen, covered in what looked like baby poo, I felt the tears start—plus I literally wanted to say a swear word.  

Of course, that was the moment that the lady of the house chose to come around the corner.  She took in the scene of her chef, and more importantly, her kitchen covered in orange goo…hours before a dinner party.  Her reaction?  She immediately started laughing. Then she started helping me clean.

To this day, when I think about how to build another up or how to encourage someone, I immediately think of her reaction to my mistake of the year. I think of her example because she found humor in the situation, because she assisted in the aftermath, and because she took the time to build me up.  In Romans 14:19 (NASB), we are told “so then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”  

We’ve all heard advice over the last year of COVID that includes being kind.  We’ve all heard reminders that we don’t know what others are going through.  We’ve probably all even observed scenarios where a nice gesture would have made someone’s day.

What’s more important than the advice, reminders, and observations is that scripture demands that we encourage each other.  In most instances provided by scripture, we are to encourage other believers.  In some instances of life, we provide insight into the Christian life and the Gospel when we encourage non-believers.  When we encourage the believer or the non-believer, we are making a difference in someone’s day. 

In the midst of the butternut squash soup explosion, I was encouraged.  I pray this week that you are able to encourage others…and that you notice when others encourage you.

~Emily

 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)

The Beauty In Creation

We hit the crest of the hill and just beyond was the most beautiful landscape I’d ever seen in my life.  The greens, oranges, yellows and reds were so vibrant.  The sun hit the peaks of the Ozarks, and the clouds created the most beautiful shadows in the gorge as we meandered down the road.  It took my breath away.  The only time I’d seen something so stunning was in a beautiful painting, and that painting didn’t even compare to the sight that I was witnessing.  Deep in the valley, as we rounded the bend sat a small white church in the middle of a soft green meadow.  I was simply awestruck.  God’s beauty was all around, and it brought these verses in Psalm to mind.

For the Lord is a great God

And a great King above all gods,

In whose hand are the depths of the earth,

The peaks of the mountains are also His.

The sea is His, for it was He who made it,

And His hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us worship and bow down,

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

–Psalm 95:3-6

God is Elohim.  He is my Creator.  He formed nothingness into beauty, and we are the chosen ones to live in His beauty and creation.  How amazing is it that our Heavenly Father has given us such a beautiful space in which to call home!

Part of our daily prayer should be dedicated to the adoration of our King.  As we talk to Him, praise Him for what He has made!  Glorify Him for the splendor that is around us!  Thank Him for the exquisite gift of Earth that He’s given us to be a part of! 

I challenge you, dear ones, to spend time this week praising Him for the beauty that is all around us.  Thank Him each day for something different that you see as you drive around, take a walk, or look out your window.  Thank Him for this gift of creation!

~Erin