No Service: A Distraction-Free Zone

Cell PhoneNo service or the spinning wheel of death usually causes a groan because I can’t access Google, Facebook or text messages. It often happens at the worst time, such as when I need directions in some remote area of Amish country.  Or worse, when I’m standing in a line…bored and needing some electronic entertainment. It’s annoying to not have service on my cell phone.

Except that there is one place where I don’t receive cell service that it isn’t annoying. It’s the one place I’m grateful I don’t get service.

At my church.

I don’t get one single bar.  A continuous spinning wheel of death.  Repeated “Not Delivered” messages.  Not a tiny, itty, bitty inch of service.

And I’m glad for it.  Why?  Because it’s a total and complete break from social media and obligations through my electronic lease.

It’s a relief to have that chain broken so that I can 100% focus on God and the people within the walls of the church. I literally have no excuse to not get involved, to not engage in conversation, to not fully worship and pray.  I have no buzz in my pocket tugging me away from being present in the moment.  No service means no distractions while I’m in the walls of the church.

Have you found yourself distracted while in your church?  It may be your phone, your child, your worries from work or even your spouse. Those distractions tear your attention away from God.

*Focus During Worship

Have you struggled with focusing on God while the worship music is happening? Are you self-conscious about singing in tune?  Perhaps you are wondering where the singer got her adorable dress? Fretting over clapping verses raising your hands in praise?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during worship time.

You can sing like an angel or roar like a lion, but not say one thing to God. You can be tone deaf or not care for a particular song, but speak to the Father fully from your heart.  I would encourage you to examine yourself and figure out if your words of worship are simply lip-service or if you are truly offering a song to the Lord.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” ~Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)

*Focus During Prayer

During times of prayer, does your mind wander? Are you making a grocery list? Thinking about your child’s homework? Wishing you could pray more eloquently?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during prayer time.

You can get loud and pray boldly, but your prayer still won’t touch Heaven. You can stumble and use verbal pauses…..ummmmmm….., but speak directly to the Father’s heart.  Examine yourself and figure out if you are just tossing words around or are you offering a sweet sound of praise and request to the Lord.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.” ~Psalm 18:14 (NIV)

*Focus During Service to Others

When you are serving others, are you considering other things you could be doing? Do you feel a sense of obligation rather than joy? Are you watching your watch, wishing the time away?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during times of serving others.

You can volunteer for dozens of organizations, but your service can be unpleasant to the Lord. You can serve one person in a seemingly mundane manner, but make the Father proud of you.  Examine yourself and figure out if you are serving others for yourself or are you offering the gift of your time as praise to the Lord.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” ~Mark 9:35 (NIV)

These are just three examples of where we, as Christians, need to focus:                     During worship. During prayer. During service to others.

Through focusing on God, we need to mitigate distractions.

While my phone is an asset for staying connected in business and personal relationships, it can also become a distraction.   A distraction that has been eliminated based on the lack of a service area.

I am grateful for the elimination of that distraction.  It’s one step closer to staying focused on the Lord!

I pray that you have deliberately focused week that is free from the distractions of the season!

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

 

 

The Heirloom Quilt

The room is a chilly 65 degrees. It’s super dark. There are half a dozen heavy blankets on the bed.  This, my friends, is my classic formula for a wonderful night of sleep.

Recently, my husband was asking for Christmas present suggestions and I casually mentioned that I wanted to try the weighted blankets.  (Have you seen these blankets?!??!?! They are 20 or 40 pounds and lull you to sleep like you are an infant rocking in your momma’s arms!)

He looked at me, as though I’d threatened to cut off his pinky toe.  He responded, “You don’t need a weighted blanket. You have THE quilt.”

THE quilt is my favorite quilt.  THE quilt is large enough to cover a full bed, but just a tad too big for a twin bed.  THE quilt needs febreze frequently, as it’s way past the washing machine phase.  THE quilt probably weighs about 40 pounds. And yes, I have THE quilt.

The quilt was first sewn in the late 1800s by my great-great-grandmother in a small farming community of Wisconsin.  It was originally sewn from worn-out garments and was the definition of a “patchwork” quilt.

In 1920, my great grandmother sewed over that quilt with another layer of worn-out garments and scraps of fabric.  She tried her best to find feminine colors, as this quilt then became my grandmother’s quilt.  My grandmother recovered the quilt when she got married and again when she had my Aunt.

By 1950, the quilt was passed to my mom as her baby blanket with another layer added.  My mom added her own crazy quilt patchwork layer in the late 1960s, as she headed off to college.  She recovered it again in 1975 as my first blanket.  She taught me to sew and let me recover the quilt when I was 10 years old. After joining the military, I recovered the quilt again.

In 2013, I recovered the quilt one more time. But this time, I could not help but really concentrate on the love and history in this blanket.  The last four generations of my mom’s family have added to this blanket, simply by covering it up with another layer.  That concentration translated to an insatiable curiosity about what the layers-upon-layers looked like.  Could I touch fabric that my great-grandmother had sewn?

As I sewed the new covering, I thought about generational blessings.  I understand that the phrase “generational blessings” is not overtly found in scripture; however, there is evidence of how generations are blessed throughout the years.

Think about Matthew 1:1, where we see the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  This is a verse that presents evidence of Jesus being the seed of Abraham.  While it does not say, “you will be blessed through all the previous generations,” it does indicate that we are indeed blessed by generational lineage.  A lineage that created the provision of the perfect Son of God, who came solely to die for us.  That is a generational blessing, indeed.

With scriptures in mind, I paused to give thanks to the Lord for that blessing and for providing a way to heaven through His Son. I also gave praise to a family of women who were resourceful in getting supplies to sew a quilt over 100 years ago.

And then I carefully cut through a seam in the middle of the quilt covering from when I was 19 and 10 years old. I cut through the quilt seam of my early childhood to my mom’s college years.  I cut through another seam and another seam…all through the years until I came to the very first thin layer of well worn-garments that was first sewn in the late 1800s.

It was dingy grey and threadbare.  Paper thin to the point I thought it may fall apart in my hands.  The tiny hand sewn stitches still holding fast after a century. As I sat looking at the seamstress work of my great-grandmother, I cried tears of happiness to have seen the center of the quilt.

I put a few loose stitches into each layer of the quilt and finally slipped the newest cover onto the old, yet still new, quilt.  A quilt of generational blessings.  THE quilt.

What family heirlooms that make your heart cry and smile in the same breath? Come tell us at the porch…

~Emily

 “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” ~Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

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Little Moments and the Main Event

A week ago, my family was involved in one of the most beautiful weddings that I’ve ever attended. The bride was gorgeous and the groom was dashing.  The floral arrangements were perfect in the soft glow of candle light. The food was amazing and the blueberry wine was fantabulous.

The main event, as at all weddings, was the moment the bride and groom meet at the altar and pledge their love and faithfulness before God and all their friends and family members.  This wedding was no different.  The main event was a covenant between two people and their God. Everyone attending was sure to witness the main event.

But there were dozens of little moments that lead up to the main event.  These little moments are missed by many as they focus on helping the bride and groom. For instance, how many saw all the breakfast preparations that morning?  How many saw the wedding coordinator triple checking the details? How many saw the DJ take a moment to chat with the mother of the bride? How many witnessed the night-time prayers of the flower girl and ring bearer?

In the midst of constantly being told to keep their clothes clean, to be quieter, or stay off the grass, how many got to see that flower girl and ring bearer trying to blow dandelions without getting dirty clothes?UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_d611These are snapshot moments that make up the entire day.  They are the little moments that lead up to the main event.  They are examples of how each moment is in support of the bride and groom…each moment in support of a covenant with God.

It made me reflect on all the little moments that lead up to another main event that created a covenant between all of us and God: The Crucifixion of Christ.

Imagine the events of the crucifixion, as you would a wedding.  All the preparation and planning.  Ensuring all the right people were in place.  The long walk.  The prayers to the Father.  The declaration “it is done.” Everyone attending saw the main event.

But how many little moments were missed?  Who was responsible for the tree being cut down and the cross being constructed? Who was witness to the beatings and whippings of Christ the day before? Who was bore witness to the nails being created? Who watched Mother Mary weeping for her child?

All little moments that lead up to the main event.

But each of those moments were snapshot memories that made up an entire day.  They lead to the main event.  Examples of how God’s perfect plan was in motion before any of them…or us…knew we needed that perfect plan.

The little moments, such as the flower girl and ring bearer blowing on dandelions, are mere memories offered to a selected few. Yet they represent the love and support that lead up to the main event of a bride and groom uniting as one.

Each of the seemingly little moments leading to Christ’s death were seen by few. Yet they represented God’s love and support of all of us.  All of us.

This week, I’m praying that each of us takes a moment to reflect on the little moments that lead to the main events of life.

~Emily

When God Calls Your Name Twice

All children fear the dreaded call of both the first and middle names.  I still think I’m in peril of getting a swatting if I hear “Emily Elizabeth!”

I knew I was in serious trouble if Mama yelled both names.  God help me, if it was my Dad yelling both.

That role switches slightly when you become a parent. The constant “Mom-Mom,” “Mama-Mama,” “Mommy-Mommy” is a double name call that takes on a whole new meaning. You become skilled at interpreting if the double name call is an emergency, boredom, or revelation.

God calls our names twice too. When he calls our name twice, there is typically a reason.  Perhaps it’s a test and trial of faith.  Sometimes it’s to grab our attention.  Sometimes it’s an emergency.  On multiple occasions throughout the Bible, God calls someone’s name twice. In each instance, a significant teaching ensues.

In Genesis 22: 11-13, we see God call “Abraham! Abraham!” as Abraham is ready to obey God in sacrificing his child, Isaac.  In this scenario, Abraham is faithful and has passed a trial of faith. God is calling his name twice to stop Abraham’s actions before he actually sacrifices his son.

When Jacob finds out that his son Joseph hasn’t died, but rather he’s in Egypt, Jacob has a vision.  In Genesis 46:1-4, the vision includes God calling, “Jacob! Jacob!” when he tells him not to be afraid.

In Luke 10:41, we read “Martha! Martha!” In Exodus 3:1-10, we see “Moses! Moses!” Within the text of 1 Samuel 3:1-10, we read of God saying “Samuel! Samuel!” Jesus calls Simon Peter “Simon, Simon” in Luke 22:31-32.  “Saul, Saul” is called when Paul is blinded by the vision of a risen Jesus in Acts 9. Even Jesus calls on the Lord from the cross, “My God! My God!”

No matter who is being called twice, it gets our attention.  Something significant is occurring if a name is called twice.  Immediately, the occasion is elevated when names are called twice.  The double call requires that we understand the significance and respond.

Consider this:

  1. Has God called your name twice? When? And for what reason?
  2. Are you paying attention to when God calls your name twice?
  3. Have you heard God call someone else’s name twice?

Much like being a young child with your first and middle name called by a parent, the calling of your name by God should get your attention…for any reason.  As a sibling, I would also pay attention if I heard both my brother’s names called.  Perhaps we should also be paying attention to when God calls twice to those around us.

~Emily

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Looking Backwards

I play a lot of what if games with myself.  Mostly I play these mental games with myself when I’m driving on my long commute.

What if I won the lottery? I start thinking of all kinds of scenarios that could occur if I won the lottery.  Nevermind that I’d have to actually play the lottery to win.  What would be my first purchase? What charities would I support? What vacations would I take? Who would I buy a house or car for?

What if I ever won an Academy Award? I think through my acceptance speech.  Nevermind that I would actually have to be in the film or music industry.  Would I thank God first? Who else would get thanked?  Do I talk louder and faster as the music starts cueing me to get the heck off the stage?

I also play this what if game with relationships from my past. Both those I’ve dated or married, as well as those I was friends with.  What if I had done such and such differently? I wonder what would happen if I saw so and so on the street.  Would this friend recognize me? Did I tell them about Christ?  Would I ever go back to that relationship?

All of these what if games are seemingly innocent.

Or are they?

The lottery and the academy award acceptance speech indicate a fanciful longing for something I don’t currently have.  Does that mean I’m not content in my life, as it is?  For some, this may indicate a dissatisfaction with what you have or perhaps a desire for more…more…more.  In my case, it’s an exercise in thinking through what is important to me.  Who would I thank? Who would I support financially?

However, the other…the thinking of past relationships. That’s more dangerous.  In an age of social media, it’s super easy to track down the ex-boyfriends to “see how they are doing.”  What is the end result? Satisfaction or glee that they aren’t doing well?  Jealousy when you see they are doing well?  Anguish over your “what if it had worked out” scenario? Guilt and a feeling of betraying your current relationship?

That look backwards at the exes isn’t good for us. Looking back isn’t ever good for us. During the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his family are leaving the burning of the city…the wrath of God for blatant disobedience.

In Genesis 19:17 (NIV), the angels speak to Lot “…Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!  Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

They flee. And they are specifically told not to look back. They run from the wrath and towards protection.  Except Lot’s wife can’t resist the temptation to look back. She was disobedient to God’s command.

“But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:26 (NIV)

 While the rest of her family…the rest of her life ran forward, she lagged behind.  She turned and watched fiery sulfur fall from the sky consuming the city she had grown to love.  And that fire consumed her as well.  The scripture isn’t clear exactly why she was turned to a pillar of salt. It could be because she valued her past more than her future. It could be a consequence of disobeying God.  Regardless, she looks back over her shoulder and pays more attention to a burning city than she does the future, her family, and the command of her God.

When I play the “what if” game in regards to the relationships of my past, then I’m doing the same thing as Lot’s wife. I’m glancing back over my shoulder.  Nothing good comes from looking over our shoulders and staring into the past.  It takes our eyes off the Lord. It takes our eyes off of the future.  It takes our eyes off our current friends and family relationships.

While social media makes it easy, resist the temptation to become Lot’s wife. Don’t look back ladies…let’s encourage one another to look forward.

~Emily

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