Prayer as a First Choice: Not a Last Resort

Divorce, termination from a job, miscarriage, death, COVID, deer hits your car, child drops out of college…and there are countless other reasons for us to feel despair.  Reasons for us to turn to God.

In the middle of one of those storms have you ever heard someone say…or have you ever said, “All I can do is pray?”

In many instances, we use prayer as a last resort.  We can’t figure out a fix, so all we have left is a petition to God.  The only thing left to say is “all I can do is pray.”  

Do you really believe that?  Do you believe that ALL you have left to do is pray?  

All I can do is pray? That’s similar to saying “all I can do is offer you food” to the homeless person who is hungry.  It’s like saying “all I can do is offer you medication” to the person who is sick. 

I would argue that prayer should be our first stop.  I can think of countless times that I’ve tried to figure out a remedy myself rather than turn it over to God.  I can also think of just as many times where I sought the advice of others before seeking the will of God.  Perhaps we should revise “all I can do is pray” to a phrase like “all I want to do is pray” or “I will pray” or “I will continue to pray.” 

I would also contend that prayer is absolutely the answer.  It’s not all we can do…rather it’s all we should do. Prayer literally releases the power of God and opens the doors of heaven.  James 4:2 says, “You have not, because you ask not.” In Matthew 21:22 Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” 

When we utter a phrase that includes “all I can do is pray” it seems like we’re insinuating that is our last resort.  It’s our final hope.  When in reality, it is our one true hope and should be our first stop. 

When a situation arises where there seems to be no answers, prayer is the answer.  Not the last resort. 

~Emily

Talking to God

My women’s bible study group has been going through a Psalms study that looks at several different Psalms, how and why they are written, and what we can learn from them.  We are tasked throughout the week through prompts to write verses that eventually turns into a “Psalm” written by us.  It models the chapter we just studied but it is geared to what our individual hopes, laments and praises are to God.

It’s been a truly enlightening study.  It’s allowed me to dig deep and really reach for what I want to express to God.  Recently, we studied Psalm 42-43, and topic for the day was on worshiping in sorrows.  It encouraged us to really speak to God about how we truly feel.

“When we tell God the truth about what we feel and why, the Holy Spirit can minister to our needs.” –Discovering Hope in the Psalms

God knows everything.  He knows the number of hairs on our heads.  He knows what our path is.  He knows our desires, our sorrows, and our requests.  Often, however, we don’t tell Him about it.  We can discount it as trivial or simple.  Perhaps, we’ve prayed about it for days or weeks, and it seems that it’s unanswered.  Maybe you even feel it’s too silly to pray about.

Dear friend, we can go to Him with anything.  When we have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father, it allows us to come to Him with anything, anytime.  He wants us to come to Him with our needs.  It’s like any deep and close relationship with anyone.  It never gets tired of hearing I love you or I need you.  God desires us to come to Him, no matter how big or small.

He may not answer how we wish, but it doesn’t mean He’s far from us.  He’s simply walking us through something.  We can continually pour out our hearts to Him and He will never be tired of hearing it.  The psalmist often did just that, pouring out to Him over and over all the while putting their hope in God.   I pray that you may feel that you can do the same. 

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” –Psalm 55:22

~Erin

Embarrassing Corrections

If you have broccoli in your teeth, TP on your shoe, or a tag sticking up out of your shirt, I’m the kind of girl you want to have nearby. I will not only tell you, I’ll try to help you fix it too.  I would want someone to tell me if I had something going on, so as a young teen I vowed to always tell about something embarrassing that could be corrected. 

Those are easy scenarios for me to tell someone about.  What is hard for me to tell someone is when I think they’ve said or done something wrong.  Specifically, I struggle with telling people when there has been a perceived infraction with fellow Christians.

The Lord doesn’t want us pointing out everyone’s flaws; in fact Jude 1:16 condemns us finding fault with others deliberately.  Nor does scripture allow us to correct fellow Christians based upon second hand knowledge.  However, we are to gently and lovingly correct behavior when it is observed first hand and when the Lord prompts us too.  

Recently, I had to have a conversation with someone about her actions and conversations. I witnessed it first hand and it involved a women’s class that I was facilitating.  It was sooooooo hard for me! I prayed for several days about the situation before I did anything. I wanted to make sure that a) I had God’s authority to correct the behavior and b) I was doing it with the correct motives.  

I literally had to have a pep talk with myself before I called her.  Frankly, I would have rather done anything else than had that conversation.  And yet, the conversation went well and she stated that she didn’t intend harm. It was a productive chat.  

Once the conversation was over, I was relieved that I’d followed God’s lead.  I was glad that I had addressed the conversation privately, as is outlined in Matthew 18:15 (NASB) “Now if your brother sins, go and how him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Fear of offending or losing a friend/acquaintance often leads us to negate the task of correcting others.  In Proverbs 18:19 (NASB) we see that scripture warns us of rebuking leading to loss, “A brother who is offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And quarrels are like the bars of a citadel.”

When we negate corrective behavior with other Christians, we could be found guilty of sin ourselves.  While some may argue that salvation questions are the only corrective conversation, I would argue that we also need to correct behavior that brings a dark light on God or other Christians.  

What was my deciding factor that lead to a corrective conversation with this gal?  Pray & God.  

After prayerful consideration, I knew it was my obligation as a fellow Christian and as a leader to address the situation, despite how uncomfortable it made me.  

It would have been so much easier for me if she had broccoli in her teeth or toliet paper on her shoe…

Come to the porch this week and tell us about any scenarios where you had to correct someone or you were corrected.

~Emily

New Year’s Priorities with “Reasonable” Expectations

I love to scrapbook, but I feel like I can’t get caught up on decades worth of photos that are well organized in folders.  Each of these folders is waiting to be creatively placed with stickers on the pages of my books.  I have an entire basket of photos from the two years I was stationed in Europe…in 2010-2012!!!  What fun it would be to sit down and reminisce all the places I traveled, all the people I met, and all the food that I ate!   

While I want to eliminate the backlog of photos, I do not prioritize this as something that must be done.  Clearly other things have captured my attention over the years that have taken precedence over scrapbooking.   Things like getting married, finishing a degree, raising a child, or retiring from the military.  Other things were a greater priority to me than scrapbooking.  

If I were to set a goal to scrapbook the decades of photos that are waiting page placement, I would likely fail to meet the goal based upon it not being a priority to me. 

In fact, when I set goals in relationship to New Years, I tend to fail. I set unreasonable expectations.  And then I fail.  Finances, weigh-loss, relationship mending, Bible Studies, gardening…doesn’t matter what the topic, there seems to be a failure involved.  

As I assess the craziness of 2020 and what might come in 2021, I decided that I won’t make resolutions.  No resolutions this year. Instead, I’m setting priorities with reasonable expectations. 

And I’m only setting one.  

I’m making God a priority in 2021.  I want to make time each day to spend in the Word.  I recognize that some days may be an hour, while others might be 15 minutes.  The reasonable part of this priority is this: I’m going to spend time with my Bible each day and I am not setting a specific timeframe for how long it will be each day.  

I recently acquired a yearlong Billy Graham devotional, as well as a 90 day walk with Paul by Beth Moore.  Both of these resources have me excited to start.  However, I need to be clear about my priority of spending time with God in 2021…I’m committing to spending time studying the Bible each day…in addition to any other study or devotion that I might also be doing.  

In James 4:8 (NASB), we are instructed to spend time with God and we are told what happens when we do.   “Come close to God and He will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Come close to God and He will come close to you.

That is my priority for 2021.  I’m setting a reasonable expectation that I will do it every day without a time constraint. 

Come to the porch and share your priorities and expectations for 2021.  

~Emily

P.S.  I hope I get a little scrapbooking time too!!

A December Spelling Bee: “Jesus, J-E-S-U-S, Jesus”

My fourth grader made it into the finals at his elementary school spelling bee, which meant we were studying a lengthy list of spelling words for the first few weeks of December.  Words were given at random times, such as waiting in check-out lines, while driving to the dentist, and through the phone.  Erin was also recruited to help testing spelling words.

I’ll be honest, the words started blurring together over the days of helping prepare for the spelling competition.  We started getting creative and silly with the process.  If Kambell said he was hungry, I’d start to give him food related words that weren’t even on the list.  If I started a to-do list, he would start spelling items that needed to be on the list.  We spelled animals, neighbor names, places we’d like to travel…anything was fair game for spelling.

And then one morning my son suggested we spell Christmas words.  I started by giving him the word “Present” followed by the word “Candy-cane.”  He said the word, spelled the word, then repeated the word in both instances.  As I was thinking about the next word he looked at me and said, “I was thinking more of Christmas words like Jesus, Manger or Bethlehem.” 

It’s at this point that the judgey-side-eyes should be headed my way.  

In the midst of strange COVID related 2020 shenanigans, I was not focused on the truest meaning of Christmas.  It took a 9-year-old to remind me.  For real, y’all! My son straight schooled me on which words should be the true Christmas words!!!

It took that conversation to re-focus me on the intent of this season.  The remembrance of the birth of our Savior. The truest and most precious gift ever given to any of us by our Lord.  Give yourself the gift of remembering why we celebrate Christmas and share that gift with those around you who may not know Christ. 

I pray that in the next couple days leading to Christmas 2020, you are able to have time to reflect on that gift and what it means in your life. I’m praying we see a mighty movement of new believers as a result of the sharing of the Gospel.  And I’m praying health and wellness for all of the Iron Porch family.

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Mismatched Socks

My sister-in-law works at a sock company and often supplies us with fun-loving, colorful foot coverings.  In the past we’ve gotten fish, kittens, avocados, sloths, mermaids, firemen, dragons and countless other ankle or knee-high socks.  

My son has taken to wearing mismatched, knee-high socks.  He doesn’t care if he’s wearing shorts or pants and he certainly doesn’t care if the socks match. 

I want to believe that he’s making a statement of individual thinking.  However, I think his mismatched sock fashion is a result of his not wanting to match the socks out of the dryer.  

Sometimes our thoughts are like mismatched socks.  We try our best to think one way, but there’s another version of the thoughts right there.  Scripture in Matthew 14:29 (NASB) reminds us that Peter’s thoughts were on Jesus and the faith to walk on water.  Jesus called him, and Peter was able to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus on top of the water.  

Moments later, another thought enters Peter’s mind.  A mismatched thought; if you will.  He begins to doubt himself and subsequently begins to sink into the water.  Jesus saves him but chastises him for being of little faith.  

How often are mismatched thoughts entering your own mind?  

I’d like to help that single mother; contrasted with: I don’t have enough money to assist her.  

I want to spend more time studying the Bible; contrasted with: I have to pick up kids/make dinner/clean the house.  

I have an opportunity to present the Gospel to an unbeliever; contrasted with: I’m too scared that I’ll be rejected.  

Like my son’s mismatched socks, our thoughts are often in contrast with other thoughts.  This week, I’m praying that you have the wisdom and the strength to determine which thoughts you want to follow.  

~Emily

“And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” ~Matthew 14:29 (NASB)

Barn Raising; Not The Amish Way

A barn is being built on our property.  It’s a very large barn structure with electricity and a cement floor with super high rafters.  And it seems like it’s taking forever to complete.

The process has been tedious.  First trees stumps were removed.  Extra dirt was brought in and leveled.  Poles (or are they called studs?!??!) were cemented into place and structure began to take shape.  All this before the cement truck arrived to pour the flooring.  

We still need walls.  We still need a roof.  We still need two ginormous garage doors and a man door installed. We still need insulation and electricity.

If I’m honest, this barn raising process feels like it will never end!  There’s construction equipment and supplies all over my yard.  We play “shuffle” the vehicles every day to make room for whoever happens to be leaving for work first the next morning. If we were near the Amish, where my husband grew up in Pennsylvania, our barn would have likely been done in one weekend.

If this were a brick or stone building, we would have started with the cornerstone, which is the first laid stone and guides the construction of the rest of the building.  Most Christians have heard the metaphor of Jesus being the cornerstone of the church.  Jesus being the rock, in which we are each built upon.  He is he strength of the first laid stone; the guide for all the geometry that follows. 

For me, the barn raising journey isn’t a reminder of the cornerstone piece; rather it’s a constant reminder of my need to practice patience.  While I want the barn done and the yard cleaned up, I need to recognize that the process takes a little bit of time.  From a safely perspective, I don’t want this to be a rushed process. 

Patience is not natural to me.  For either the barn raising project or with the people in my life.  In my experience, the more I practice being patient, the more likely I am to actually naturally exercise patience.  When we are able to behave with kindness and patience, we are more often demonstrating Christ-like behavior towards others.  

As I struggle each day with the chaos in my yard during the barn raising, I am also reminded to be patience.   

~Emily

 “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love…” Ephesians 4:2 (NASB)

Busted Can of Biscuits

I was sitting on the couch when I heard an explosion in the kitchen.  It sounded like a shelf had fallen and multiple glasses were rattling around in the cupboard.  I jumped up and ran to the kitchen, praying I hadn’t just lost a family heirloom.  I searched the kitchen and found nothing amiss. 

Until about 2 hours later when I went to refill my sweet tea.

Inside the refrigerator, a can of biscuits had literally exploded all over the top two shelves.  When I say everything was covered in unbaked biscuit dough, I mean EVERYTHING was covered on those top shelves.  

I heard the explosion and knew glass had been rattled.  I search for the cause and the effect, but couldn’t find what had made such a racket.  I went back to life.

There are times in our lives that God speaks to us with a loud voice.  An explosion, if you will, but we can’t find the root cause.  So, we choose to simply go on with our lives without properly assessing God’s message for us. 

What type of loud explosive noise will it take for us all to pay attention to God?

The Bible tells us that there will be a great trumpet sound. In most commentaries, the trumpet sound will be followed by an event we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around. Will that be the sound that gets our attention? 

 “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matthew 24:31 (NASB)

“…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:52 (NASB)

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet.” Revelation 1:10 (NASB)

I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’” Jeremiah 6:17 (ESV)

A point to ponder this week.

When the trumpet sounds, will you pay attention? Or will you be like those in the Jeremiah scripture who declare that they won’t pay attention?  Will you be searching for the sound and responding to God’s calling?

Or will you go back to living your life, like you heard the busted can of biscuits but didn’t find the cause?

~Emily

Humble Honey

As I was bragging about never messing up in the kitchen, I dropped a one-pound glass jar of honey, which promptly exploded and then oozed on the counter and floor.  An “eat your words” type of moment and a ginormous mess, to say the least.  It was a humbling moment considering I had just been boastful about not dropping items.

According to dictonary.com, humbling is a verb which means “to bring down the pride of another or to reduce her to a state of abasement: to humble an arrogant enemy.”  While I don’t classify myself as an arrogant enemy, I certainly had my pride reduced in that moment of oozing honey and glass shards.

For the rest of the day, I was humming a childhood song based on James 4:10. “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) And He shall lift you up. Higher and higher and He. Shall lift you up.”

The song, on constant repeat throughout the day, drove the question; “Why should we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

First and foremost, we should humble ourselves before God because we are instructed to imitate Christ, who was in fact, humble.  As seen in Philippians 2:5, we see that Christ did not state equality with God was an attainable goal, but rather Christ humbled himself to become human for our benefit.

Perhaps another reason why we should humble ourselves is found in James 4:10 and in the song itself.  As we humble ourselves, God promises to exalt us.  When we are humble in the sight of God, we receive His blessings and grace in a unique manner.  He will lift us up.

 The song, still on repeat, drove the next question; “How do we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

Speak well of others…on purpose (Ephesians 4:31-32).  When we speak negatively about others, we are putting them down and often making ourselves out to be better.  When we speak positively about others, we build them up and edify them.  Throughout my life, I have caught myself being less than humble in this regard.

Always Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  When we pray, we are acting in a manner of dependence and humility. Prayer becomes a declaration of weakness.  In the moment of prayer, we admit to God that we can’t make it without Him and that we need Him in requests and in praise.  There are plenty of times that prayer is an afterthought in my life when in reality it should be my 1st thought.

Confess your areas of sin to God (Luke 18:9-14).  All of us are sinful, but few of us routinely and honestly tell God about that sinful nature. Every day, it’s easy to ask God to “forgive my sins” as a blanketed statement.  For me, it’s much harder to specifically assess areas of my life that are steeped in sin and then admit them to God.

Confess your areas of sin to other Christians (James 3:2). A test of true humility is when we are willing to confess our sins to others, just as we would confess it to God.  Obviously, discretion is needed about who you confess sin to, but the act of telling someone about our sin allows us space to be completely honest with ourselves and ultimately with God.  I struggle with this one because I don’t want others to know where I am weak or where I am failing.  Thus, pride interfering with humility in my life.

As I hummed the song “Humble thyself in the Sight of the Lord,” I was reminded of why I should want to be humble and how I can practice being humble at the feet of God.

A broken honey jar is just one tangible reminder of how much work I have to do in this area…

To those on the Iron Porch this week, I pray you seek humility in your daily interactions this week!

~Emily

honey

 

 

Doritos Annoyed

My 9-year-old crunching Doritos, like I imagine a T-Rex would crunch through a bucket of KFC, is enough to drive me completely bonkers.

Loud, open-mouthed, chewing annoys me.

You know what annoys me even more than Dorito crunching?

Gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.

Christian women are usually fairly good at stopping themselves from outright and blatant gossip.  We understand that the Bible specifically calls gossip out as sinful.

However, some of us are guilty of gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.  We feel as though when sharing a prayer request, we are justified in sharing someone’s personal hurts or prayers.

As I have previously shared in the blog “The Sanctity of the Prayer Request” I take prayer requests very seriously and rarely will share them with someone else, as I want to make sure I have the original requester’s permission to share.

I recently heard an interesting thought about sharing prayer requests.  If the requester was standing right next to you, would you share their prayer request with a third party? If the answer is no, then you should not share.  Even if the answer is maybe, then you shouldn’t share the request.  This seems to be a fairly reasonable gauge to whether or not prayer requests are becoming gossip-centric.

Whether you get annoyed by chopping doritos or gossiping prayer requests, I’m praying that you are steadfast this week that your sharing does not become gossip!

~Emily

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” ~Proverbs 11:13

Dorito Annoyed