The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

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Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth

He Knows Your Name

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a talker.  I’m a people person and I love getting to know someone’s story.  And I’ve written before about my hobby job.  (For those who don’t know, I work from home in California for the hospital in my hometown.  And BECAUSE I’m a talker, I went and got a small part time job at Boudin here in Roseville so that I could be around people!)

One of my favorite things about this job is learning our regular guests’ names when they come in to get their lunch.  I love to remember who they are and what they usually order!  They’ll laugh when I tell them they’re throwing me off by buying something different.  Sometimes, their eyes light up and get excited when I ask them how newly married life is or how their son is doing in football this season.  It just makes me happy to connect to someone.

I know this probably feels like a lot of back story, but indulge me!  I have a guest who comes in every week after ordering online and just tells me her name, takes her bag from me and leaves.  She’s pleasant but I haven’t had a chance to really talk to her.  I have, however, gotten to know who she is by name.  The last few times she’s come in I’ve said, “Hey, Debbie!  How’s it going,” repeated her order to her and told her to have a great day.

Last week, she didn’t just say ‘thank you’ and leave the counter.  She stopped and said this to me, “Erin, it amazes me that you know me just by seeing me when I walk in.  You make me feel so special that you know who I am!  You just made my day!”  It was a great feeling for me to know she felt that way!

God sees us too.  In John 10:3, Jesus say, “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  He goes on to say in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me.

He knows who we are.  Sometimes, we feel as if we’re just existing in this world.  Everyday life comes at us, sometimes good and sometimes bad.  Maybe you feel as if you’re unnoticed and alone.  Perhaps you feel unworthy.  I’m here to tell you that you are not an afterthought to our Heavenly Father.  You are known and you are loved.  He knows your name.  He knows your heart and your hurts.  You are His.  And you are special.

~Erin

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I love my job!

The Last Time

What would you do differently if you knew it was the last time?

The last time your little one hugged you in public…

The last time you would kiss your spouse goodnight…

The last time you went to a movie theater/roller skating rink/bowling alley…

The last time you would spend Christmas with your parents…

The last time you would fall asleep peacefully…

The last time you saw a particular friend…

The last time you watched the sunset…

 

What would you do differently?

Would you pause at that moment and breathe in the sweetness of that “last” experience…?

Would you be sad or would you be happy…?

Would you take a mental photograph…?

Would you say one last “I love you” …?

While the question “what would you do differently” is applicable to death or dying, reflect on your last times because of anything that isn’t death related.  The last times could be because of a divorce, an ill-timed comment, a sickness/disease, the passage of time/growing up, a move, a promotion, finances, etc., etc.

The last times are only last times, once we recognize they were the last time.  In most instances, we don’t know that it’s the last time we’re experiencing a particular event.  It won’t be until much later that you think back “when was the last time that xyz happened?”

There’s one “last time” that we know will happen, even when we don’t know the exact timing–the last days and the last times people will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel in order to make decisions about their own salvation.

We see the phrase “end times” and “last hour” in several scriptures, such as 1 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:20, or 1 John 2:18.  In fact in 1 John, “the last hour” is the closest adherence to Greek.  The concept of the last hour or last day is a foreshadowing that Christ will come to Earth once more to gather all the believers to heaven.

While scripture is not clear about the exact timing of Christ’s second coming, the prophecy of what is to come is very clear.  Christ is coming. Believers go home to Heaven. Non-believers stay on earth and they will endure unimaginable horrors.  This means we, as Christians, are tasked with fully understanding that more “last times” are coming.  Some would argue they are coming soon.

The most important thing you can do in your lifetime is to share the Gospel. With an impending end times prophecy, sharing the Gospel becomes even more important.

Don’t let the last time create a scenario where the question “what would you do differently?” includes your regret about not having shared the precious gift of God.

~Emily

The Last Time

Jealous of the Disciples

I’ve always had a secret jealous streak when I think about the relationships that the disciples had with Jesus.  They walked with Him, slept near Him, and ate with Him. They literally had a front-row seat to His teaching, to His storytelling, and to His faithful prayer life. They had THE model right there with them…day in and day out.

There are times in my Christian walk that I’ve struggled with following the guidelines provided by Jesus.  I’ve prayed and felt like I didn’t hear an answer. I’ve failed again and again.  I have this irrational thought that if I had walked at the same time as Jesus, that somehow that would make my relationship stronger with Him.

I know it’s irrational.  Yet, it makes me slightly jealous that the disciples were able to ask questions face to face. They were able to make a prayer request and hear the voice of God respond.  I wish I had the literal face-to-face time with Jesus, in the flesh.

This week, while doing my homework for my small group “Maximum Joy” by Dr. David Anderson, I had a realization.  We all have the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord, much like the disciples did.  In 1 John 1:1:3, John wrote “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Scripture tells us that if we are following the direction of the Word, as well as the insights provided by the ones who walked with Christ, then we too can have the sweet joy of fellowship with the Lord.

I’m excited that the next several months studying 1 John will help me have deeper intimacy that leads to fellowship rather than just a relationship.  I’m also excited that it’s going to dispel this idea that I should be jealous of the disciples when I too can have a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Who else is harboring secret jealousy? Come to the porch and tell us…

~Emily

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Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Strappy Sandals

Since becoming a civilian, I’ve fallen in love with wearing strappy sandals and heels.  It’s a glorious feeling after 25 years of combat boots to wear cute girlie shoes.  Except that I feel so plump and inflexible, that I can’t really latch the straps very easily.  I struggle to lean over to the buckle, only to discover I latched onto a hole that is too loose or too tight.

I keep on trying because those shoes are so cute! I feel like the reward is worth the sweaty wrestling match with my tummy rolls to latch the straps.

There are times I feel the same way about my walk with the Lord.  I’m struggling to get the “strap” to fit just right.  I become really involved with my prayer life, only to draw back and not pray. I become really involved with a Bible Study, only to withdraw to mindless tv shows.  I volunteer for service projects, only to determine I want to be at home.

Like the cute strappy sandals, I keep struggling with my faith to make it fight just right, but often it’s too tight or too loose. That does not mean I’m struggling with my faith, but rather I’m struggling to make God my first priority. And that I’m struggling to make God a priority voluntarily, not out of a sense of obligation.

The Bible is very clear that God wants to be the first and only priority.  This is evident in Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV), “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

I want God to be the priority in my life, but how do we demonstrate that we truly love God and want His teaching placed first in our lives?

In 1 John 5:3, the apostle John offers this answer, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”  We illustrate loving God when we strive to keep His commandments.

John offers further encouragement in 1 John 2:4-5 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.”

Therefore, we keep trying to hold true to God’s commandments. We keep trying to show His love for others through our own obedience.  We keep trying to make our walk with the Lord a good fit, rather than too loose or too tight.

What isn’t fitting just right in your life?  How can you adjust to make God more of a priority?

~Emily

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