Go Away “Ms. Motivated Volunteer”

Recently I became interested in volunteering for a military-related non-profit organization that matches mentors to new hobbyists.  I’m too new to the hobby to be a mentor and I’ve already got a fabulous mentor of my own.  So how else can I assist? Fundraise? Graphics? Social Media?   They couldn’t really give me an answer, but a couple of suggestions were simple jobs.  I’m happy to do whatever will help them…even if it’s pushing a broom or passing out flyers.

It got me thinking about the excitement and motivation of the new Christian in our churches.  We tell them they are too new to teach a Sunday School or be in charge of a children’s program.  We may or may not assign someone to help disciple them, but I’d venture to guess most newbie Christ followers are not relying on others to mentor them.

That new Christian is motivated in their excitement to learn…and to serve.  And yet, we hand them bulletins to fold or a serving spoon for a potluck buffet line.  We give them simple jobs until they are deemed worthy in experience to perform other tasks.  The simple task may be exciting to the new person, but it could also be de-motivating.  In essence, we tell them ‘Go Away Ms. Motivated volunteer.”

Make no mistake; I understand that there is a need to have experience in any given field to teach and/or mentor.  I’m commenting on the perception that we give the newer people in any given field simplistic jobs in response to their high motivation. 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NASB) states, “ Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” 

This means that each of us has unique skills to offer and that those skills will impact with differing results.  What is most important is that we volunteer to serve our church communities.  The structure of the church lends itself to serving to be central to the growth of a Christian. The commandment of “love one another as ourselves” (Matthew 22:35-40) directs us towards love, but indirectly towards volunteering to serve. 

This nicely backs up the verse in Philippians 2:4 (NASB) where we are told “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Once again God lets us know that volunteering allows us to serve others rather than our own personal interests.

When a volunteer is able to give time, talents, or tithes, they should not withhold that ability.  Likewise, if they are able to serve, we should not prevent them from doing that.  This is an example of Proverbs 3:27 (NASB), “do not withhold good from those to whom it is due…”

In regard to the volunteer who is new to the field…we should be supportive of their desires to serve.  We should also take the time to discover their strengths and interests.  We may be surprised to discover that the new person, who doesn’t have the experience to teach and mentor, may be very qualified to fulfill other roles…not just the simple ones of folding Sunday bulletins or cleaning after an event.

In the next week, I pray you are able to concentrate on scenarios when you can encourage a volunteer…rather than indirectly tell them to ‘go away.’

~Emily


Childhood Nostalgia

Recently, my Mom and I were reminiscing about the chaos and joy surrounding the arrival of the Sunday Paper in our living room when I was younger.  Everyone pulled their favorite section and as a family, we poured over the paper for a couple hours. Before he could read, I remember reading the comics to my brother and later we would fight over who got them first.

This small conversation with my Mom had me recalling other aspects of my childhood that I remember fondly.  For instance, if the summer temperature in Oregon went over 100, we had ice cream and fruit for dinner.  I remember walking to the comic book store with my Brother so he could spend his allowance…and on the way, there was one particular ‘barkless’ dog that we would play with through the fence.  I remember going crawdad hunting with chunks of hot dogs tied to a string.  I also remember my parents dancing in the kitchen.

These are each endearing memories of my childhood.  Each remind me of how family can be structured in moments of happiness.  

I recognize that not everyone had such pleasant childhood memories or parents who were so involved in the children’s lives.  I also recognize that I’m remembering great memories and often gloss over the not so amazing memories.  It was not all sunshine and butterflies for me.  And I know it wasn’t for others either.  

However, the not so nice memories are cloaked in the comfort of scripture.  

A scripture that I often lean on when thinking about family is from Ephesians 3:15 (NASB), which reads “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

When reading this verse, it’s important to know that the word ‘family’ is closely transplanted in the original language as ‘father.’ In both the Old Testament tradition, as well as our current society, it’s easy to think this verse is referencing families taking the name of the Patriarch’s family.  This is still seen now, as brides take their husband’s last name.  

In reality, the verse is much deeper.  It refers to ‘every family,’ as in ‘all believers’ in Christ.  All of us…as one big family.  Furthermore, we all derive our names from that belonging to Jesus when we adopt the name ‘Christian,’ as derived from the name ‘Christ.’ 

This is a family of hope and love. Can you imagine how that family will interact?  How much greater Heaven will be than pursuing the comics out of the Sunday paper?!?!? There’s no need for nostalgia with a future like that!

No matter what our childhood’s looked like, our future is one of hope through Christ. 

~Emily

Salt of the Earth

I love salt as an ingredient in food.  During culinary school, I ditched table salt for kosher salt, Himalayan salt, or crushed rock salt.  I like black salt, pink salt or white salt. Smoked or regular.  Added to pepper and garlic or finessed into a compound butter.  In short, I really enjoy salt. 

In today’s society you find salt easily available at every grocery store or restaurant.  However, in the ancient world, salt was a valuable commodity and coveted by the wealthy.  In fact, Roman soldiers were often paid in salt rather than money.  It’s where our phrase “worth his weight in salt” comes from.  

One of the reasons that it was such a valued trading commodity was because of its properties in preservation of other food.  Without salt, decay and rotting would occur.  

When Jesus told a gathered crowd, “You are the salt of the earth” it was a shocking statement.  You see, Jesus was essentially telling them that they were of great value, just like a currency used to pay for services and merchandise.  At the time of this declaration, Jesus had just finished teaching about the beatitudes (Matthew 5:13-21), so it’s important to note that Jesus was referring to those who had the characteristics of the beatitudes as “salt of the earth.”  

What are the beatitudes?

– blessed are those who are poor in spirit…

– blessed are those who mourn…

– blessed are the meek…

– blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…

– blessed are the merciful…

– blessed are the pure in heart…

– blessed are the peacemakers…

– blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…

Like salt’s value in the ancient world, people are also a valued commodity.  When we see one who embodies the beatitudes, we are likely to see someone who walks closely to the Lord.  This is someone who you can emulate, someone you can learn from, someone you can pray with.  

As the valued salt prevents rot and decay, so does the embodiment of the beatitudes.  Let us each strive to grow these characteristics of the beatitudes in our own lives.  Let us become the salt of the earth.

~Emily

Honey Extraction

In the spring, I got my first bee hives.  I’ve used the time learning about and caring for our bees over the last several months to pray for specific people and situations, as well as reviewing scripture. Because the extra time with God and the bees has been such a blessing to me personally, I made a vow to ‘gift’ the entire first batch of honey to family and friends…many of whom had been the focus of my prayers. 

I spun my first frames last week and harvested the first honey.  It was nerve-wracking.  It was exciting.  And it was time consuming.   

From the moment I opened the hives and started making decisions about which frames to harvest to the moment I tightened the last lid on a jar, I discovered that I had to dedicate a substantial amount of time for the entire process.  

The same deliberate dedication to time well spent also applies to the relationships in our lives.  Whether it’s repairing, maintaining, or cultivating relationships within our families, church or school it takes time and deliberate actions to make those relationships impactful.  

One of the most time-consuming relationships is the one where we are forging friendships or acquaintances with non-believers.  These types of interactions are important because we literally pouring into people who may make decisions to follow Jesus based on their experiences with us.  By no means am I saying that more time equals greater chances of them becoming a Christian.  Instead what I’m saying is that the more deliberate the time we invest, the greater the chances are of them seeing Christ’s love through us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB) stated, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.”

Deliberate investment of time…to encourage one another and build each other up.

Seems easy enough if we’re willing to make the time to do the investing.

The harvesting of honey seems easy enough too…if I’m willing to take the time to care for the bees and go through the process of extracting the honey.

In this case, I was also able to deliberately speak to all the honey recipients about how the first batch was all gifts. It offered a chance to tell people that the bees were a quiet time with God opportunity…and it’s lead to more than one conversation about how to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

I want to encourage you this week to find someone in your life that you want to make some deliberate time for…and then invest. 

~Emily

Am I a Fruity Tree?

When the girls were younger, both Peyton and McKenna preferred to sit with me in “big” church.  They were never really ones to want to go to the kid’s room where everyone their age hung out.  They never ceased to amaze after the sermon when we would discuss the pastor’s message just how much they would know and understand what had been talked about.

One Sunday, Pastor Galen spoke of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22).  Jesus came up to the fig tree with his disciples and upon seeing that the tree was bare when it shouldn’t have been, He cursed the tree.  It withered up at once.  The disciples were shocked and from that moment, Jesus was able to speak to them on the power of faithful prayer.  

Pastor Galen expressed additional thoughts on the correlation to us living out the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to produce fruit in our walk with God.  It was rich with meaning and incredibly helpful to think about how empty our walk with God can be when we are bare and not producing fruit for the Kingdom.

On our way home, Peyton asked me if she could ask a question.  “Mommy, am I a plain tree or a fruity tree?”  At 6 years old, she was able to understand what the pastor meant in the difference between the two.  It shaped a beautiful conversation that ended with Peyton reminding herself that as a Christian she should always want to be the fruity tree and talk to her friends about Jesus.

To have the faith of a child, right?!

We sometimes think that being fruitful in our Christian life is difficult.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s hard to handle things like patience and long-suffering.  It’s scary to talk to a random stranger about God and who He sent as a sacrifice on our behalf.  It’s demanding to think that we must die to self daily.  But isn’t that we’re meant to do?

In Colossians 1:10, Paul writes to the people and says he is constantly praying for them so that they will be filled with the knowledge of His will, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I believe that if we came to God with the faith of a child, innocently wanting to just be a fruity tree for Him rather than a plain one, we would recognize we can trust God to help us be that fruity tree.  We aren’t meant to become fruit bearers by doing it on our own.  With faithful study and meditation on God’s Word, we can know that we are meant to lean on Him as well as walk with Him as we flourish and produce the fruit. 

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with Him!  We don’t have to be scared because we aren’t doing it alone.  We produce the fruit as a faithful child of the King!

How about you, dear friends?  Tell me, do you long to be a fruity tree for the Kingdom of God?!  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Patience of God

I had my grandsons this last week for five days.  I love them.  They are amazing!  Andros is 4 and Kalan is 2, and they are sincerely so smart and funny!  But they WORE. ME. OUT.  Especially Kalan!  I didn’t realize just how much they are always on the go until I watched Kalan run in circles around the island of our kitchen for almost 23 minutes.  And I’m not exaggerating; it was hysterical!  He would take a turn around, go past our dog, Ruger, say ‘Scuse me’ and keep going around and around.

I don’t know where he has the energy.  However, the one thing I noticed because he’s non-stop is that my patience would start to wear thin.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but when a child that’s so focused wasn’t paying attention to what I was saying, I would start to get irritated trying to rein him in.

Thank goodness for a God who is patient with us!  Over and over in the bible, it says that He is slow to anger, gracious, and loving.  And that’s even after we run around and do what we want to do without paying attention to His words and commands!

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;” –Exodus 34:6

“But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindess and truth.” –Psalm 86:15

“’And rend your heart and not your garments.’”  Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindess and relenting of evil.” –Joel 2:13

“who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” –1 Peter 3:20

Even when the Lord was waiting for repentance from the people in the days of Noah, or when the Israelites were complaining in the wilderness, and when Jonah ran and hid (unsuccessfully), He had patience and gave time for them to repent and to turn back to Him!  He did not just immediately get mad and cut them off.  He gave us opportunity to walk our way back to Him and His ways.

I thank God for the patience that He has for us!  I’m thankful that He’s not like us where we can fall so quickly to irritation and getting upset.  I pray that this week we can see the patience of God in His love for us and model that towards those around us.

~Erin

Sweet Kalan who loves to run me ragged!

Appalachian Trail Conversation

I hiked last week.  A lot.  Emily is training towards a monumental goal in a couple of years, and so on occasion I’ll go on hikes with her.  And what I really mean is, we were on vacation and I had nothing better to do, so I let her take me all over northern Georgia area and got sweaty.

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I’m not shy, never have been and I never will be.  And on this particular day, she had picked a hike that was actually part of the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Because I know her goal, I make it my mission in life to talk to anyone that looks like a “serious” hiker.  If you don’t know what a serious hiker looks like, they have a pack that looks too heavy (even though it’s usually not), a bedroll or tent attached to make the pack look even bigger, filters or Life Straws in water bottles, great hiking boots, hair maybe a little messy, you get what I’m throwing down.

It was a great hike orchestrated by Emily.  However, there was a moment that God orchestrated that day that we simply would never have imagined on our own—a moment that you know was simply the hand of our Maker.

We walked around two miles of this particular stretch called Hog Pen Gap and were headed back to where we came from.  The group got separated and Chris and I ended up bringing up the rear at about 5-10 minutes behind Emily.  As we were walking, we passed a woman who looked like one of those serious hikers.  We exchanged hellos, but as she passed us, she stopped, turned around, and inquired about whether there was a water source ahead going in her direction. 

That led to a small conversation with her.  She was, in fact, one of those serious hikers!  She explained she was “couch-to-trail” meaning no training.  She just got up one day, decided she wanted to hike the AT, made a few plans, put some stuff together and hit the trail!  She then explained that she was hiking by herself and that one of the hardest parts of hiking that way was the loneliness that sets in.  She said in one stretch, she went four days without seeing another soul!  As she spoke, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging.  I wanted her to know that she wasn’t alone.

I asked her for her name.  She said “Rochelle.”  I said to her, “Rochelle, I don’t know if you’re a believer, but I am, and I’m going to be praying for you on this journey.  I want you to know that you have people everywhere rooting for you.  And I’ll be praying that you won’t feel alone.”  She replied she was and thanked me.  Before we left, I told her Emily was right up the trail and I was going to tell her about Rochelle, too.  I told her I was going to have Emily look her up on the Appalachian Trail FB groups to find her and we would be rooting for her and praying for her!  And then we went our separate ways.

When I got back to the car and told Emily, she knew exactly who I was talking about!  She’d seen her on the trail, but hadn’t really had a chance to talk.  And wouldn’t you know, that going off of only her first name and a guess of the way it was spelled, we found her on FB among dozens of Rochelle’s in about five minutes later that day!  We were able to connect with her, shoot her a word of encouragement and keep up with her journey!  God knew exactly what He wanted when He planned that moment.

You see, maybe that moment was meant for Rochelle.  Maybe God wanted her to hear from another sister in Christ that she wasn’t alone and to be encouraged.  But I think that moment was just as much for me.

While I’m no stranger to strangers, it still takes courage to talk about God to people.  I constantly have to exercise that commandment, and it means sometimes I have to open the conversation and be willing to be vulnerable.  In today’s culture, while we don’t have it as bad as the apostles did with persecution and stoning, we still have to be prepared for rude remarks, demeaning comments, and ridicule.  It can be nerve-wracking!

The bigger lesson, however, to me was a reminder that even when we feel alone, we are never really alone. 

I’ve been walking through some very rough waters these last few months.  Just read a few of my blogs since March, and you’ll understand my need to completely rely on God.  I know there are many people around me that are doing and feeling the same.  It can feel lonely and discouraging, wishing the heartache would just stop.  We want God’s miracle and we want it now because the feeling of being alone in the storm feels so heavy.

Because of that moment with Rochelle, I was reminded of a verse in the Bible that I can hold on to in those moments, Isaiah 41:10.

“Do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be afraid, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you, I will also help you,

I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

We do not have to feel alone.  Our greatest strength, our Heavenly Father, is with us as we navigate through sickness, mental health, and despair.  He hasn’t left our side as we struggle through marital problems and job worries.  And He even walks with us when we’re alone on the Appalachian Trail.  Even when we feel the heaviness, we can be assured that He will carry the burden and that He will uphold us.  We never have to do it alone. 

I pray, Iron Porch, that each of us always feel His presence in our moments of loneliness. 

~Erin

A German Experience

I miss living in Germany.  I loved everything about it while I was there for two years…from the food to the people to the ease of travel to the crazy driving…even the obsession with Christmas markets and ornaments.  I loved it all.  

I didn’t recognize just how much I missed it until this last week, when we were on summer vacation in Helen, Georgia which is modeled after a little Bavarian town.  This town has it all…the cool temps, the lazy tubing river, the schnitzel, the German bakery…even the spaghetti ice cream.  

It’s interesting how you don’t know you miss something until there is a memory jogger.  If you think about it, I’m sure there’s a song or a scent that takes you to another place.  Perhaps the song takes you back to your first dance.  A smell has you reminiscing about Grandma’s kitchen.

It makes me wonder if these experiences happened to people in scripture.  Was there a moment after Jesus’ death, where Mary was preparing his favorite meal and it made her miss him more than normal?  Did Paul ever pass a well and think about his boyhood well in Tarsus?  If Peter passed a fishing net, did the smell take him back to his time as a fisherman?  

Did the disciples miss Jesus after His death?

In Luke 24:44 (NASB) scripture reads, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  

This offers an assurance that all prophesies about Jesus will be fulfilled.  And if that is true, then it is also true that God has provided us with a means to be continuously surrounded by aspects of the Trinity.  Jesus’ departure from the Earth enabled Jesus, as the Son of God, to no longer be subject to time, but rather embody the full power and authority of God in Heaven. 

As promised, Jesus is available to all of us for guidance, for prayerful conversation, for forgiveness, and for grace.  Most of all, He is available as the Savior to those who believe.  

Did the disciples miss Jesus after his ascension into heaven?  From a human perspective, I’m sure the answer is yes. Mostly because the face-to-face immediate responses were gone.  However, God’s fulfillment of the Holy Spirit allows for continued relationship.  Perhaps, the promise of God’s continued presence in a believer’s life mutes that emotion of missing the physical Jesus.  

Missing Jesus in our lives isn’t as simple as missing Grandma’s cooking or the experiences living in another country.  It can’t be replicated by something similar, like going to a small mountain town.  

In this instance, you need the real deal relationship with Jesus to fulfill the emotion of “missing.”

If you are missing Jesus in your life, please come to the porch and let us know…we’d love to tell you how to become a believer!

~Emily

Sweet Home Alabama

Last week I spent several days with my Mom going through my Dad’s belongings after he died.  After a few days of sorting items and helping Mom with paperwork that follows a death, I realized I really wanted to go home.  I love my Mom and I love hanging out with her.  But I wanted to be home.  Home to my husband, my child, & my pup.  It’s taken seven years, but at some point over those years Alabama became home.

I’ve been thinking about home in relationship to our walk with God.  I’ve heard sermons that reference the statement “this is our earthly home, but heaven is our eternal home.” I’d venture to guess most of us think of heaven as our true home.  It got me thinking about if there are other aspects of being a Christian where we feel that we are at home.

There are times that I feel great peace with the Lord when I’m praying, singing worship music, or journaling.  Other times, I feel that connection to the Lord while admiring nature or fellowshipping with other believers.  I even feel the love of the Lord while I study His Word.  

In Hebrews 3:4 (NASB) we read, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” 

God, the builder of all things, has made us a home.  In John 14, Jesus told us that he will go before us and prepare a room in the mansion of his Father’s house.  I can’t wait to see that mansion.  I can’t wait to see the room for me that was prepared by Jesus himself. I can’t wait to be home.  

Here’s the reality.  I can feel peace, connection, or love during aspects of my Christian walk but I’m not truly home until I reach heaven.  Heaven.  Our true home.  

Even if Sweet Home Alabama is the temporary one.

~Emily

Care for the Widows

Losing a parent is a roller coaster of emotions.  

My Dad died on Saturday morning and I felt like it was a chaotic series of ups and downs.  Joy that he was finally pain free.  Sadness for the loss.  Relief that my Mom doesn’t have to be the primary caretaker anymore.  Anxiety over all the paperwork.  Annoyance that the screen door was broken by the Funeral Home employees.  Amusement that the 1st visitor from my parents’ church brought lemon muffins and toilet paper.  

I’m not worried about my Dad. He’s home with Jesus. Not a darn thing for me to worry about there. 

But I am concerned about my Mom.  She’s got plans to create a craft room and start going to water aerobics.  She wants to shampoo the carpets and purchase a new couch.  From a grieving perspective, she’s got a healthy thought process about staying in the house for at least a year before she makes big life-changing plans.  She’s going to keep herself busy…and she’s going to get some rest.

I’m most concerned about when the sun sets.  When she has to go to bed alone after having slept in the same bed with her husband for 52 years.  I’m concerned about her finances as she waits for Social Security to transfer over.  I’m concerned about when she has to go to the funeral home alone to pick up paperwork.  I’m concerned about her safety, her sanity, her well-being.  

How can I be so assured about where my Dad is, but be so concerned about my Mom’s well-being?  It’s a sliding graph of hypocrisy to trust God with my Dad’s eternity, but question my Mom’s earthly care as a widow.  

Scripture has helped these last few days with answering those questions.  

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.  God makes a home for the lonely…” ~Psalm 68:5-6

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” ~James 1:27 

“Learn to do good;  Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” ~Isaiah 1:17

When I turn to scripture, I’m comforted and know that God will take care of my Mom better than I ever could.  God has already put in place a plan for us, as believers, to care for the widows and the orphans.  From across the country, I will rest assured her church family will care for her when I geographically can’t.  

Losing a parent is such a hard rollercoaster, but so is caring for the parent left behind.  

I’m requesting prayers this week for all the widows of the world, but most especially for those who are newly titled “widow.”

~Emily