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 

The Silence of God

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

Sometimes it feels like God is so quiet! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

Hear My Cry

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

Bystander to the Hurting

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

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

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

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

Why only two and not four?  

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

A To-Do List or a Desire?

We’ve been studying the book of Philippians in Emily’s Bible study group.  It’s been encouraging to use a unique approach to this book of the Bible, looking at each chapter in detail from four different perspectives. 

Last night, we got on the topic of feeling inadequate which led to conversation about our time with God.  You know I’ve been writing a lot about that, dear friends, and I’m not stopping now!  Satan is always trying to make us feel inadequate.  He can make us even feel inadequate in our time with God.  We worry about whether or not we are spending enough time reading the Bible or enough time studying God’s Word.  Did we pray long enough?  Did we pray the right way, the wrong way, the insincere way?  It’s a never-ending battle within ourselves.  

I, myself, am a proponent of carving out a specific time to read the Bible at a certain time every day.  However, I’m also guilty of thinking I “didn’t do enough” when I only get through four or five verses. 

One of the ladies said something last night that will forever change how I think about that time.  She said, “Is it my to-do list or is it my desire?” 

BOOM.  MIC DROP.

Are we communicating with God out of an obligation?  Bible reading done? Check.  Prayer complete?  Check.  Or are we communicating with God because He is good and Holy and sacrificed His son, Jesus, on the cross for our sins?  This changes everything!

I long for my time with God to be a desire because it’s time well-spent with the Father.  Four verses isn’t anything to snub my nose at when I spend my time studying and meditating on God’s Word and what He’s saying in those four verses.  And it isn’t anything to snub my nose at when I spend that same quality time reading and studying two chapters when it’s time studying to know our God.

Let’s strive this week and going forward to make our time with God a desire and not just an obligation.  Our lives are sweeter for it!

~Erin

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

The Knick in the Line

Who would’ve guessed that a cable buried underground would be buried so shallow?!  We didn’t.  Which is why we knicked it with an edger on Sunday as we were putting in the dog fence! 

We wanted our pups to have some space to roam on our property while keeping them away from the road that could lead to demise.  Chris used the edger to prepare the ‘trench’ as we walked around some of the woods.  An hour later, our daughter came outside and let us know the internet wasn’t working.  When we finished the project and came into the house, we found it still not working.  I went to turn the modem off and on again and realized it was genuinely broken, and the technician that arrived late Monday afternoon let us know that we had done the damage!  It turns out that because of fear of hitting pipes, they run the cable just a mere inch under the surface!

It’s amazing how some of the simplest things can wreak havoc!  Because of the cut line, my daughter couldn’t do her research online and I couldn’t perform my job functions the next day until it was fixed. 

It made me think about some of the simplest things I do, seemingly ‘surface level’ sins that knick the line of communication with God.  Please know that there is absolutely no difference from one sin to the next.  There are no “big” or “little” sins.  They are all measured on the same yard stick in God’s eyes.  But often we, as humans, give levels to our sins.  And the sins like a mean spirit towards someone or some of the words we say are overlooked because it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –James 4:17

Those examples (along with 100 others I could name), while not turning me away from God, prevent an open line of communication with God because of actions I take.  Sins, unrepented, can muffle what God is saying and teaching us because our hearts are clouded with the muck and mire that just keeps building.  One by one, these sins start piling up, and just like the wire that was knicked preventing us from accessing the important information we needed, we miss how God is speaking and maturing us.  We’re bogged down with the sins of this world instead of being lifted up with the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ.

I encourage you, dear sisters, to ask God to show you where the knicks are in your life.  Repent and reestablish that sweet connection with your Savior.  He’s longing to speak to you!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9

~Erin

Decisions

The heaviness of a decision lay at my feet, and it’s all I can do to figure out how to make the right choice.  Have I thought it through and how will it affect everyone?  I’m left feeling a weight on my shoulders as I calculate the cost.  What if it’s the wrong path?  Did I think it through enough?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, too.  Choices, both big and small, are always needing to be made.  The burden can be almost overwhelming when you must decide to do what’s best for you, for your family, for your life.  The chaos of this world tells us to do what we want; do what feels good or ‘right,’ but is what feels right really the right thing to do?

And while this world tells me one thing, my heart tells me another.  I have someone that I can go to.  I have someone I MUST go to when I have decisions that need to be made.  I want to hear His voice.  I NEED to hear His voice.  I know that He is good, and I know that He hears me.  Dear friends, are we going to our Savior with our decisions or are we trying to make them ourselves?

I found a verse tonight in the midst of my Bible reading.  I was actually looking up verses about knowing the Bible.  The internet led me to one verse…HE led me to more.  103 verses later, I found what my heart needed the whole time…

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.” –Psalm 119:114 

I realized I wasn’t looking for verses about knowing the Bible.  I was looking for a verse to tell me that it was ok that I didn’t make a decision the moment a choice was handed to me.  As a Christian I must give it to God and trust that He will provide the answer whether it’s an answer I like or not.  I do that because I trust in His unchanging and unfailing wisdom to direct me to the answer that will lead me closer to Him.

I pray that you can know this sense of assurance that I felt tonight reading that verse.  If you have a decision that needs to be made, trust it to our Father.  He is Jehovah Jireh-The Lord Will Provide.

~Erin

Barking My Fool Head Off: Stuck In the Drain Pipe

Today my nearly one-year old lab was in the drainage pipe…in the creek…under our driveway, where he had trapped an unlucky duck.  He was barking his fool head off inside the pipe-tunnel when I arrived on scene.  He was making such a commotion, that for a moment I thought he was possibly stuck in the drainage pipe.

Don’t you know that I tend to make such a commotion during crisis moments that I begin to think I’m stuck?  Just last week, I had a series of overwhelming moments, conversations, and decisions that had me in tears.  After sobbing in the closet so my son didn’t hear me, I realized that my melt-down was an ugly crying ruckus.  Today I realized it was comparable to the puppy panic of being trapped.  The difference between the puppy’s commotion and mine, is that I am often stuck.

God knows we are flawed as humans and that we get stuck.  The best news, we’re already given our escape plan to get unstuck.  We simply need to share the concerns, the complaints, the commotion with Him.  We won’t always get answers immediately.  And we sometimes won’t like the answers.  But there is reassurance in knowing that our God has ears that hear our every prayer…and that there is nothing more that He desires than to guide us through our ‘stuck-ness.’

Psalm 55:22 (ESV) tells us “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

After my sob-fest-pity-party, I turned it over to God.  I poured out the complaints, the injustices, the fears, the griping…and even the anger.  I immediately felt better. Not because the overwhelming stuff was gone…no, it was all still there.  But rather, I felt better because I spoke it out loud to the Lord.  

This next week, I’m praying that you turn it all over to the Lord.  Give him all the ugly truth and watch what He will do with it.

For the record, the puppy wasn’t stuck.  The duck was trapped by the puppy’s excitement, but the duck was fine too.  It was seriously just a loud commotion!

~Emily

Bruleed Grapefruit

Our girls shopping trip included breakfast at a well-reviewed Alabama restaurant, “Big Bad Breakfast.”  The order included a grapefruit that had been sprinkled with sugared and then torched…just like a crème brulee.  As a culinarian, the combo sounded intriguing but I wasn’t completely confident that I would like it.  The results were amazing! They were absolutely delicious and I wished that we had ordered multiple ones.    

I was surprised at how wonderfully sweet the fruit was and how amazing the crunch of melted sugar tasted on my tongue.  As I reflected on the taste, hours after leaving the restaurant, I realized that my reaction reminded me of Proverbs 27:7 “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” 

The supposedly tart-and possibly bitter- grapefruit was sweet like honey.

While the verse does not mean that bitter food will become sweet to us, it does have a deeper meaning about those who are hungry.  Within the Proverbs verse, the honey signifies your walk with God, your relationship with the Trinity, and possibly even the value you place on studying God’s Word.  

Specifically, the verse is also referencing those who are hungry to have a deeper relationship with the Lord.  If one feels as though they are “full” or perhaps they think there isn’t room to grow within their spiritual walk, they aren’t desperate to seek God.  The end result is that they begin to loathe the honey…essentially they pull away from God, from biblical teaching, and fellowship with other believers. 

The second half of the verse speaks to the believer who is desperate to know God more deeply.  They are hungry.  As a result of that hunger, they taste the sweetness of walking closer to God through study, prayer, and fellowship.  

What do you do about that hunger you may be feeling?

– Spend time with God in prayer: write down your prayer requests and answers to prayer

– Study the Bible…seriously study…not just read.

– Fellowship with other believers: at church, in a small group, one-on-one

Only when we initiate knowing God more fully, will we actually get to know God more fully.

Just like the bruleed grapefruit that appears to have a bitter taste but really is super sweet, our walk with the Lord should be filled with hunger to know Him on a more intimate level.  Only then can we taste the sweetness through any bitterness.

I praying for everyone on the Iron Porch to have a sweet week with God.

~Emily

Bruleed Grapefruit

2 red or pink grapefruits

2 Tbl Sugar (coarse, brown or raw)

*Optional ¾ tsp coarse sea salt, sprinkled nutmeg, sprinkled cinnamon)

  1. Halve each grapefruit crosswise, and cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half to stabilize the pieces. Remove all seeds from the grapefruit, and loosen the segments with a paring knife. Remove any excess liquid with a paper towel patted on the top of fruit.  
  2. Sprinkle each half evenly with the sugar (and optional items).  Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a golden brown and crispy surface.  You can use the broiler in your oven, but pay careful attention to not burn the sugar.