The Beauty of Creation

Three weeks ago, I started my garden.  I plotted out what I wanted to plant and began the task of putting seeds in the soil to (hopefully) produce my family some vegetables!  I started with nothing but seeds; I didn’t do any starter plants this year, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take to see growth or if I would even actually see growth at all.

So far, I have not been disappointed!  I am astounded when I walk back there every night and see little green sprouts shooting up from the ground!  My Parisian pickling cucumbers are just stems and two leaves and my excitement would indicate they’re practically ready to harvest.  I just can’t believe how these little tiny seeds can be placed in dirt and watered and they can grow into food for us to enjoy at dinner!

This reminds me that nothing is created under the sun that isn’t created by God.  Genesis clearly tells us that He made heavens and earth, mountains, trees, grass, plants, animals and humans.  There isn’t a single thing on this planet that wasn’t orchestrated by God and it shows! 

I think of Psalm 96:11-12, “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” where even His creation praises who He is.

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”  Romans 11:36 tells us that He created that seed to go in the dirt that He brought into existence.  How awesome is our Father that every intricate detail was thought of and planned.

I think that too many times I overlook simple things like this.  It’s… “second nature” to me!  I walk through the woods or see trees or gardens and I don’t even think about the fact that it was designed with purpose.  It’s incomprehensible to my human mind how complex creation is, and yet, God spoke it into existence knowing exactly how it should be!

I pray that as we go through this week, that we stop and truly see the world around us that God has allowed us to be part of.  Sing with joy for the beauty that He has surrounded us with.  Praise Him for His creation!  What He has given us is beautiful.

~Erin

A Well-Marked Path

Emily can attest to the fact that I’m not a hiker.  Let’s be honest…anything that’s related to being healthy, working out, enjoying oodles of outdoor time…not a fan.  I’m content to sit in my living room for the entire weekend secretly eating cake.  It’s just who I am.

On the RARE occasion, I decide to frolic along behind Emily in the woods, I like to know where I’m going, what the path will be like, and how high the elevation is.  If I have to exert myself, it’s likely to make me grumpy.  And if I’m getting hit by sticks in the face, tripping over roots and rocks, or guessing whether we go left or right, the Ranger Service is about to be called.

This makes me think about my faith journey.  Really, it makes me think about everyone’s faith journey.  When we accept Christ as our Savior and make the choice to live for Him, we do that by faith.  The biblical definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  We believe God is real.  We trust that He created us.  We know that He sent His Son to die for our sins and raise from the grave.  We accept His gift of salvation.  We are confident that we will live one day with Him in heaven.  While we don’t see Him, our faith dictates that He is the one true living God. 

Sometimes, I hear people talking about their faith in God in a way that makes my heart hurt.  I’ve heard statements about being lost in not knowing where God is taking them.  There are discussions about not really knowing what God has had for their lives or where He intends to take them.  But I have to encourage you, my friends, that our faith is not about aimless wandering, hoping that God will reveal His will.

Our Pastor Trey said something a few weeks ago that really stuck with me. “Faith is not about bumbling around.  It’s a well-marked path.”  It doesn’t have to be wandering, trying this path or that route to see what ‘sticks.’ We don’t need to trip over our own plans or our sins to take a guess at the direction God wants us to go!  When we choose faith, we choose to go down the marked path.  That path is marked ‘Obedience.’  It’s marked, ‘Trust.’  It’s marked, ‘His will.’  Because when we follow God and His ways, the path should and will go in the proper direction it’s supposed to go!  To Him!

When we stop wandering around trying to have faith in what we THINK is His will, we move onto the marked and worn path that has only one objective–to follow our faith and God no matter where it leads us.

I pray, Iron Porch, that we lean into the that well-marked path of faith and trust in a Savior who is ours.

~Erin

The Wind That Blows

My office has a large window that looks out into the woods behind my house.  It’s windy today, and I’ve been watching the wind blow the trees back and forth as the weather gears up for what could be a big storm tonight.  The very tall and thin trees sway in the breeze, and it’s actually beautiful to watch…as long as you don’t think about the damage they could do if the wind caught it just right and knocked it over a little too close to my house!

God uses nature as lessons in the Bible a lot.  The wind is spoken of often, and since Table 8 (my Monday night Bible study) is studying James, chapter 1, verse 6 immediately came to mind; “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

The Bible speaks to our belief in our Creator.  We don’t want to be blown about as we seek God.  We want to be confident in who He is and what He does.  We should know that His promises to us are good and true and pure.  He has the best plan for us, the best future. 

The wind can cause great damage when we are not firmly rooted in the truth and knowledge that is God.  We should be sure of His character and not be tossed about by the winds of uncertainty and sin.  We need to firmly root ourselves in Him.  That involves a personal relationship with Him.  It involves reading God’s Word, ceaselessly praying, involving ourselves in a community of believers.  All of those actions allow us to plant deep.  When the wind comes and sways us back and forth, we can be confident that the roots are deep enough and our faith strong enough to withstand the potential storm.

I pray, Iron Porch, that we root ourselves deep in Jesus Christ so that the wind, though it staggers us back and forth, knows no power over our Heavenly Father.

~Erin

Tribute to a Student

This past Tuesday, Peyton and I attended the funeral of a young 16-year-old boy she went to school with.  Gardner was actually one of the first few people she met when she started at the high school, and he stood out as a larger-than-life presence.  The town and surrounding area is reeling from the loss of such a vibrant young man.  So many knew and loved him.  And at 16, he had already begun to create a legacy.

Between a vigil that we attended last Thursday following his accident and his funeral this week, many people had a chance to stand and speak about him.  Do you know what the one thing that every single person who spoke, from the high school students to the adults, said about him?

He loved Jesus.  “Jesus was his best friend.”  “He wanted people to know about Jesus.”  “He lived like Jesus.” “He was feeling called to be in ministry.”  “There wasn’t anyone that Gardner didn’t make feel at home.”  “Everyone felt like they were his best friend.” “His joy was infectious.”  “He wanted everyone to know how they could know God.”

What was said over and over again spoke to the fact that Gardner lived his salvation and belief in the Lord out loud for all to see.  It made me wonder if my salvation and belief in the Lord is as obvious to everyone as Gardner’s was.

I don’t presume to try to make it a contest between believers about who best represents God.  We all know Jesus had a hard enough time with the disciples wanting to figure out who was the best.  But what a living example of the Bible we had right before our eyes in this young man!

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” –1 Timothy 4:12

Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

We are consistently reminded to be the salt and the light, that we are to take care of the least of these, that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And often we got caught up in our own day to day lives, forgetting about the people around us that need to see what God’s love looks like. 

I’m praying that as I move about the days and the weeks to come, that I’m reminded of Gardner Cameron and the legacy he left behind.  I’m encouraging everyone that’s reading to reach out to people, smile and talk to them, share about Jesus with someone. 

And if someone reading this doesn’t know Jesus, we encourage you to reach out to Iron Porch or to a local pastor or friend that knows what it means to be saved. We would love for you to know what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It would be the best decision of your life.

Thank you, Gardner, for the beautiful example you have left for us.  It’s a legacy we’ll never forget.

~Erin

What Do Our Works Say?

A few weeks ago, my girls and I decided to get tattoos.  It wasn’t really spur of the moment in the true sense of the phrase.  Peyton has been wanting mother/daughter tattoos for a while and since the three of us were together, we just went for it!

We each have a different dinosaur on our wrist. The theme is the same, but they don’t match.  We were wanting something that identified us as a unit.

This got me to thinking about how I’m identified as a Christian.  When people see me or talk to me, do they know I’m a believer?  Do they recognize I put my trust in Him? Do my actions scream ‘I love Jesus!’? 

In James 2:17-18 it says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may say, “you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith BY (emphasis mine) my works.”

I LOVE that!  This doesn’t mean that works saves you.  What the scripture is telling us is that if you have faith (you are a believer), it compels us to do good work for the cause of Christ.  When we walk in Christ, we produce faith-filled works that represent who God is and what He commands us to do.  In Bible study, we say those actions are faith-based works and not a works-based faith!

The works we produce as believers bring about things like love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control….you might recognize these as some of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  I love looking at these two passages of scripture together! 

When we see ourselves with a steadfast faith, we WANT to do things that show God in His glory.  When we do those things, the people around us see who our Creator is.  They see the power of an awesome Father who cares for His children.  People see something ‘different’ in the Christian who is doing works because they love God and want to honor Him as opposed to the person who is doing works for the rewards or accolades.

I pray that this year we see mighty works completed and that our faith-based works bring glory to the one true God!

~Erin

Bookworm Beliefs

True confession: I’m a self-proclaimed-avid-borderline-obsessed reader….a bookwork, if you will.  

What does this bookworm believe?

1. there are always more books to read

2. you can never have too many books waiting to be read

3. all children should be granted access to books

4. reading is my 1st choice for learning & recreation

I probably have more books in my house waiting to be read, than dollars in the bank account (now, that may be a tad bit of an exaggeration).   I always have a book in close proximity to me.  I have to check the copyright date of books prior to reading them.  I keep lists of books I have read, want to read, and want to read again.  I follow authors rather than celebrities on social media.  

My obsession with books is 2nd only to my obsession to Chapstick.  

One of my 2022 goals was to read the entire Bible.  So, when the Pastor of my church recently challenged the entire congregation to read the entire Bible together in 2022, it aligned perfectly with my own goal and with my fixation on reading.

During that challenge the Pastor also mentioned that our personal choices of how we spend our time often trumps our choices of how we spend time with the Lord.  He gave the example of how we may say we don’t have enough time to pray or read our Bible during our busy week, but we manage to make time to watch several football games.  The point?  What is more important…the football game or your relationship with God? 

That has marinated with me for several weeks.  Every single time I’ve picked up a book to read for recreation, I’ve questioned if I had finished my Bible reading plan for the day.  More often than I would have predicted, I had neglected the Bible for another book.  With some reflection of that revelation, I realized that the Holy Spirit was nudging me closer and closer towards focusing on Biblical reading before pleasure reading.  

In John 16:5 and in verse 16, Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that he was leaving them.  He was preparing them for a time that they would not be able to physically see Him anymore.  However, in between those two verses is an interesting statement about the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I tell you the truth; It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ~John 16:7 (NIV)

It’s easy as a Christian to think that being with Jesus forever would be the best thing for us.  Yet, in John 16:7, we hear Jesus tell us that it’s better for us to not be with him and that if he didn’t leave, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Essentially Jesus was saying that it’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit. With that assertion, comes the knowledge that having the Holy Spirit in our lives means that we will be open to feeling convictions about our behaviors.   

We’re a mere three weeks into the New Year and already I’m finding myself convicted by the Holy Spirit regarding my reading behavior and my goal to read through the Bible this year. 

It’s time for this bookworm to adjust my beliefs…I need to focus on my Bible goals. 

Are you open to those nudges from the Holy Spirit?  

~Emily

The Christmas Gift

We celebrated Christmas with my oldest daughter and her family this last weekend.  It’s exciting to go down and have a “second” Christmas with the grandbabies, watching their excitement as they see gifts they weren’t expecting as Christmas had long since been over.

I dutifully wrapped the gifts for each of them and handed them out, one by one.  Andros, that sweet little boy, opened his first gift.  He looked at me and said, “A shirt?  I have shirts!” Everyone started giggling, but the best part of the evening was when he went to open his second gift.  To an adult, the second gift was obviously too small to be an item of clothing.  As he slowly unwrapped it, he looked at me and said, “It’s not a shirt, right?!”

We got such a giggle out of that!  He’s only four, and while his momma is teaching him about being grateful and gracious about what’s given to him, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand and acts like the little boy he is!

Do you ever think that we are like my grandson with God?  He provides for us.  In fact the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t mean the needs that we’ve asked for.  It doesn’t even mean He meets the needs that we want!  God knows our needs and supplies them.  However, just like little Andros, we get something and we look at it and say, “Hmmmm…that’s not what I asked for!”   When He provides for us again, we pray and say, “It’s not that one thing is it, God?”

I don’t think we do this on purpose, either!  I think in sin, we assume that we know what’s best for us.  We know what will make us happy or content or pleased.  We think that this thing or that thing will be what we need to make everything better.  In reality, God already know our needs, and He will give them to us when it’s the right time.  Often times, even though it’s hard to admit, the things that He gives us we don’t even realize we need until we look back on that moment in our life and say, “Yes!  I see where you were, God, and how You provided for me!”

I encourage you, friends, let’s take the time to ask God to supply our needs, and then step back and take all that He gives us with open hearts and gracious spirits.  You never know if the one thing you don’t think you want is exactly the one thing you’ll need!

~Erin

P.S. His second gift was a book for us to read together!

My sweet grandson with his ever-present chocolate milk mustache!

Intention

I’m terrible at resolutions.  I can make one, but it won’t take more than 16 days before I’ve already messed something up and my resolution has gone out the window. 

Once upon a time, I did the obligatory “I’m joining a gym.  I’m going to lose weight.  I’m going to read my Bible every day.”  All those sentences have potential to have great impact on me throughout the year.  But the list of this and that for someone who writes and then rewrites lists (only to lose them the second go-around and write it the third time), does not produce anything very worthy of accomplishment.

Fast forward to this year.  Now it’s about “THE word.”  We all know what I’m talking about.  It’s been the rage these last 5-10 years or so of coming up with a word that you want to resonate with you for the year.  I’ve been doing it the last several years.  And while I loathe being a band-wagoner (is that even really a word?), I like this concept.  It allows me to choose a word that should focus my actions to that rather than feeling like a failed at a resolution.

This year, the word is “Intention.”  (Closely followed by the additional words, FOLLOW THROUGH.) 

For me, this year is about being intentional with what I do.  I would like to learn how to can; not just because I think it might be fun.  I’d really like to take my meal prep further than week to week.  I’d like to use my grocery budget wisely and not have so much waste.  God gave us the veggies…I shouldn’t be wasting them.  Canning can help with that.  Intention.

I want to spend more time as a family.  It doesn’t have to be this long and drawn-out day and I don’t want it to be obligatory.  I want to sit down as a family and play a game, maybe go bowling, sit on the back deck and chat.  I want to purposefully have conversations or laugh or be serious.  I want my time with my family to be God-centered and God-honoring.  Intention.

I want to build a garden.  I’ve joked on previous blogs about being a master gardener.  I just wrote about it in a Facebook post and Emily commented that I was not a master gardener but rather a fiction writer!  (I MAY have exaggerated my gardening skills.) But I don’t want to build just any garden (like I did last year and never ate anything that came from it).  I want to plant what I know we will eat.  I want to plant appropriately and at the right time.  I may have to succession plant.  But you know what that takes, friends?  Intention.  I must be intentional about what I’m doing.

I want to talk to God more.  I love being in the Word, but I don’t feel I’m in it enough.  I pray, but I don’t pray without ceasing.  I want to see what God is showing me in the Bible.  It’s going to take being intentional with my study time.

These are just a few examples of what I want to do throughout the year.  How am I going to put actions to that word you ask?  Not only do I remind myself daily, I very specifically ask God every morning to show me ways to be intentional…and to give me the fortitude to complete them.  And then I go for it! 

I’ll fail sometimes.  Other times, I’ll hit a home run.  That’s the beauty of having the word.  I recognize where my weaknesses are.  The word helps me stay more focused on how to do better and be better.  And none of it works if I’m not constantly seeking God to keep my actions on a path that ultimately honors and glorifies Him!

Friends, do you have a word or a goal or a resolution that you’d like to share?  Let us know what yours is in the comments!

Happy New Year!

~Erin

Puppies Are Work! Are We?

This house just seemed a little quieter and a little sadder with Maggie gone.  So I did what any sad mom would do.  I hopped on the interwebs and took a peek around to see if maybe I would ever like to have another dog.  Because the answer is no.  Unequivocally, absolutely, positively no more dogs.  Until I saw a puppy online on December 22, contacted the owner, and then drove three hours the next day to pick her up! 

She’s sweet and funny and has so much personality!  The best part of the entire process was surprising Peyton with her when she got home from work that night.  This little pup has stolen our hearts.  Ruger, our seven-year-old lab even likes her!

But let me tell you…having a puppy is work (which is why I didn’t want one in the first place).  The amount of energy, time and effort that goes into working with an animal is exhausting!  You think you make a bit of progress until, oops, here’s a puddle on the floor.  “No chewing” turns into new slippers being purchased because you left them in front of the couch.  Work, I tell you, work. 

I wouldn’t change anything!  We love her and we know she’s worth the energy and focus.  She’s part of the family, and we’ll do whatever is necessary to make sure she is loved and cared for.   No matter what she does, we’ll never turn her away because she belongs to us.

This reminds me, honestly, of how God loves us.  When we accept the Lord as our Savior, we are His.  He bought and paid for us with Jesus’ shed blood.   No matter how much we mess up, He doesn’t walk away.  He doesn’t get fed up with our antics and cast us aside.  He patiently and lovingly teaches us and trains us.  Even when we’re more spiritually mature or “grown”, when we make a mistake, He doesn’t assume we’ll never be any good to Him.  On the contrary, He gave us the Holy Spirit to admonish, direct and guide us back to what is good and pleasing to the Lord.

“For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you,” –Hebrews 13:5b

And Romans 8:35, 38-39 clearly tells us that nothing will separate us from God.  This means no matter how much work is needed or how many dumb mistakes I make, as a child of God I will never be separated from Him.  He won’t give up on us!

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

PRAISE GOD!

Just like that puppy, even though we are work, there’s no chance God turns His back on us and says “nevermind.”

I pray that we are challenged this week to see where we are rough around the edges.  Let’s work on those commands and precepts that we read in the Bible given by God!  He will never give up on us.  Let’s put in the work!

~Erin

Meet Winchester (‘Winnie”)

The In-Between Time: The Days Between Christmas and New Years

The days between Christmas and New Years are so strange to me.  I find that there’s a relaxing element to the hustle of Christmas preparations being done, but there is also a time of being bummed that it’s over.   Then there’s the anxiety I feel in getting Christmas packed away and my son’s birthday prepped all before going back to work after the New Year.  

There are other times in our lives that we feel this roller coaster of emotions in the “in-between time.”  For instance, the days between finding out you’re pregnant to your tummy actually rounding; the days between a college application and an acceptance letter; the days between a job interview and a return phone call…even the days between Sunday to Sunday for church services.  Each of these examples is like the days after Christmas, which are all involving excitement, disappointment, relief, worry or anxiety, and hopefully the return of excitement. 

The Bible is filled with examples of people experiencing the “in-between days.”  Noah had days of waiting in between being told to build an Ark and the day the flood began.  Ruth had days of waiting between leaving with Naomi and being married to Boaz.  Saul had days of waiting between being blinded on the road to Damascus and being able to see again…and share the Gospel.  Even the disciples and the Mary’s experienced the in-between days emotions when Jesus was crucified and later raised from the grave.  

Whether we’re in our own examples of in-between days or reading of Biblical examples, we are able to determine that God is teaching us to wait on Him.  Here are several scriptures that show us there is guidance in the Bible about our waiting during the in-between times: 

The Lord is good to those who await Him, to the person who seeks Him. ~Lamentations 3:25 (NASB)

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 27:14 (NASB)

Therefore, be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. ~James 5:7 (NASB)

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me.” ~Acts 1:4 (NASB)

There are countless examples of waiting in the Bible….and many teaching moments where the Lord wants us to know about waiting.   In the days immediately after Christmas and leading into New Years, I’m reminded that I’m not alone in the rollercoaster of emotions of the “in-between” time.  

I’m praying that we are all patient this week while we are in those “in-between days.”

~Emily