Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

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Cruise Ship Chapels

Erin and I just took our 1st cruise together and it was AMAZING!  Five days of nothing to do but relax without many expectations of either of us.  We have joked that all we did was eat and sleep. In full disclosure, we did a fair amount of both.

We also explored the entire ship.  We went to all the eating establishments and passed by every beverage station (both the coffee and alcoholic versions).  We attended the art auction.  We spent a very long-time watching people attempt to surf at the “Flow Rider,” as well as curvy slides and rock climbing.  We stepped into a silent disco (which was a surprisingly great time!), as well as entertaining the idea of watching a comedian, an ice-skating show and even a juggler.  We even watched a game of Bingo from the sidelines that brought many hoping they would win their next cruise.

We strolled through the casino but spent zero time there.  We went to the library and had a wonderful conversation with a college student leaving to join the Air National Guard soon.  We stumbled on the most delightful game of Lip-Syncing on the promenade.  We watched the ship leave port from the best Titanic location and we “supervised” the Captain from the behind the bridge on a viewing deck.

We even went to the fitness center.  Once. For a selfie.

Thank God we did not see the infirmary or the morgue, despite knowing they were both on the ship’s lower decks.

You know what we didn’t see? The Chapel.  We totally missed seeing the church area reserved on the ship.  It’s ironic that two Jesus loving girls who co-founded Iron Porch would miss that area, right?!?!?

Except that our ship didn’t have a chapel.  Many ships don’t have this area set aside for worship and/or prayer.  While some ships have chapels, but they are reserved for an exclusive wedding package.

I’ve been pondering on the lack of a chapel or religious services for a few days.  We were on a floating city for several days and had access to Wi-Fi, gambling, fitness center, spa and salon, entertainment, and impressive chef staff.  But we couldn’t go to a reserved spot to pray or read religious materials.

Interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

Does that mean the tourist and vacationing industry don’t see value in a religious space?  Is our spiritual walk not important on vacation? Does the average person take a “vacation” from their religion while they are on vacation?  In a politically correct world, are we so afraid of offending ship passengers that it was decided not to create religious space?

There are potentially bigger questions, as a result of the lack of vacation chapels.  When we aren’t on vacation, are we only seeking Jesus in a formal space, such as our churches or prayer closets?  Or are we seeking God in every and all situations, in any setting?

I’d venture to guess that many who make Jesus a priority in their lives will do it with or without a formal space, such as a chapel.  Erin and I found a way to stay close to God without a cruise ship chapel.  We prayed as we walked the outer deck and before meals. We had time to read devotions by the pool or on the balcony.

We made time to stay connected to the Lord on vacation.

I’m wondering if there were others like us who are deliberately making time.  Both on vacation and at home.  I’m wondering if the lack of formalized space, such as a chapel, leads to the temptation to step away from quality time with Jesus while on vacation…or in our everyday life.

Do you need the cruise ship chapel to be reminded to draw close to God?

~Emily

Cruise Ship Chapels

 

 

 

First Class Upgrades

This last week, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference in San Antonio.  As I was leaving the Montgomery airport, I stopped for a coffee.  There I overheard a customer order four black coffees.  He was told that they didn’t have any cup carriers.  He seemed perplexed as the cashier tried to brainstorm with him about how to get the coffees to his gate.  I interrupted and offered to carry one or two of the cups for him.  He was so grateful for the extra hands.  It was a very simple act of kindness at 5am in a semi-dark airport coffee shop.

I got on the plane and thought nothing of the coffee.  An announcement let us know that the doors had been closed and secured.  I was ready to take off for Texas.  Until I was startled by a gentleman’s voice saying, “Ma’am, can you please gather your belongings and come with me?”

**Side Bar…I’m an OCD-perfectionist who avoids conflict and trouble.  Please know my first thoughts were “I haven’t done anything wrong enough to get kicked off this plane!”

I looked up into the eyes of the coffee buyer.  And also, the pilot of the plane.

He was upgrading me to first-class simply for helping him carry the coffees for his crew.

I was shocked & surprised.  Frankly, it was embarrassing to be moved for something that I didn’t think much about.

While sitting in my new seat, I thought about Christ’s sacrificial death as an offering to first class.  We’re toiling away, doing life, occasionally being kind, when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit speaks into our lives.  “Why don’t you gather your belongings and come with me?”

Can you imagine how different life would be if we were all kind?  How different would it be if we offered help without any second thoughts…or thoughts of how it would benefit us?  How different would life be if we accepted the gift of an upgrade?

In the next week, try your best to be kind. Try your best to remind others of the “First Class Upgrade” available to all of us.

~Emily

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Cardboard Testimony

Do you remember in the early to mid-2000s the start of the phenomenon in churches called the “Cardboard Testimony”?  The premise is a sweet one…in a few words, you share your past before Christ on one side, flip the cardboard over, and share your “now” with Christ. Essentially a quick blip testimony.

I love this concept. Just a few words to showcase what God has done in your life.

Some of the ones that I’ve seen before include:

Battling Infertility to Adoption

Thief to Redeemed

Suicidal to Living for God

Single Parent to Raising Kids with God

Cancer Diagnosis to Fully Healed

Lonely to Fulfilled

Eating Disorder to Feasting on the Word

Inmate to Prison Ministry

If you are anything like me, you’re juggling thousands of tasks and titles.  The concept of a cardboard testimony reminds me to take a moment in the midst of all the tasks to think about my testimony at that moment. It’s potentially an opportunity to change a negative into a positive.

If you had to do one today, what would your cardboard read? 

Dirty Clothes to Clean Heart

Screaming Children to Still Soft Voice of God

Uncompassionate Traffic to More Time With Praise Music in the Car

Canceled Dentist Appointment to Bible Study Time

Wi-Fi Failure to Time for a Book

Regardless of if the cardboard testimony is truly your testimony or if it’s a moment to see positives in the negative, the concept gives us a moment to draw closer to God.

~Emily

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The Art of a “Thank You”

When was the last time you sent a thank-you note? Or just said thank you?  Do you routinely acknowledge when someone has given you something or offered a kind word?

There is an art to thanking someone.  According to my childhood teachings, it should be in writing, it should be timely (as in fairly soon after receiving the gift), and it should be thoughtful.  My grandma and mom taught my brother and I the art of drafting a thank you card and it’s a skill I still use today.

While my mother isn’t shocked to receive a thank you card from me or my child, there are countless examples I’ve seen where people have been surprised by one of my cards.

I’ve written to thank someone who interviewed me for a position I wasn’t offered.  I’ve drafted notes to managers of restaurants or event managers. When I made the rank of Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I sent dozens of thank you letters to people who had invested in me and my career over the years. I have even mailed a thank you to my car repairman.

In each of those instances, the thank you card prompted further conversation.  The surprise of being thanked has always been mentioned.  Why would someone be surprised to receive one?  Is it because we’re too busy to write one? Is it because we haven’t been taught to write one? Is it because we don’t find there to be a need for a thank you card?

Maybe I’m old fashioned, or of a different era, but I value sending and receiving a “thank you.” Why? Because it offers a chance to acknowledge that someone has done something kind for you.  It illustrates that you are grateful for their actions or words.  It also shows them the love of Christ through your behavior.

Scripture gives plenty of examples of how to say thank you, when to say thank you, and what to say when thanking someone.

May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 2 Samuel 2:6 (NIV)

And may the Lord reward you for your kindness … Ruth 1:8 (NLT)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation, so that you may know him better.  Ephesians 1:15-17 (NIV)

I encourage you to hone your skills in thanking others…it will not only recognize their actions, but it will likely open the door for more conversations.

~Emily

P.S.  Thank you, to all the Iron Porch readers….Erin and I are blessed to know that you are out there encouraging us week after week!!!

The Art of a Thank You

 

 

 

Why Was I Scared?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When is the right time?  When is the right time to share Jesus with someone?

Sometimes, it feels hard to share my testimony.  There’s that moment before I contemplate if now’s the right time to share and the moment I share where I wonder what they’ll think of me.  Will they think I’m going to shove the bible and religion down their throats?  Maybe they’ll see me as a fanatic.  Or as someone who pretends to play the part of a Christian.  I wouldn’t say it’s ever stopped me from sharing, but there seems to be a brief second where I allow satan to try and convince me that it’s not the right time.

I felt this way recently.  I was nervous to talk to someone about who I am in Christ.  I found myself alluding to it, but never really being brave enough to come out and stand strong in my faith and what that means for my belief system.  I caught myself holding off saying “I’ll pray for that” out of fear that they would think I was weird.  And honestly, this devastates me even writing this now.  Why?  Why would I be scared?  Because they might think differently of me?

Friends, let not be afraid to shout our love for Jesus from the rooftops.  He has provided for us.  He has sustained us.  He came to earth as a man and became a living sacrifice so that we could escape that penalty.  The gift of salvation in that is free, and we should be sharing it joyfully!

Shake off the fear of what people may think!  The very Spirit-led happiness that is given to you by God may be what causes someone to ask you, “What is it that you have, and how can I get it?”

Today, I ask Jesus for forgiveness for being afraid.  I stand firm in my faith and salvation, what I believe, and how I should live.  I encourage you to stand firm, too!

Share a moment when you were joyfully shouting about God’s love for you in the comments below!

~Erin

Servant vs. Slave

Several years ago, I served at a large church as the event coordinator for the monthly women’s events.  Because of the size of the events, there was a need for immense organization and planning months in advance.  There was a lack of commitment to pre-planning and subsequently, I ended up with a lot of last-minute changes dictated by the church leadership.   Initially, I was excited and joyful about the experience, but as time went on I became bitter about my role.  I had volunteered for this role, yet I began thinking of how I could resign gracefully.  I no longer wanted to serve in that capacity.

When you hear the word servant what do you think of? Within the context of the church if someone asks you to serve on a committee or in a ministry does it strike up an image in your head?  In your mind, does servant and slave have a different definition?

Servanthood is typically a voluntary position.  It involves willingly acting on behalf of another. It could be offering to get someone a cup of coffee. It could be sitting with nursing home residents playing bingo. It could even be assisting someone with changing a tire.

How does that differ from slavery? The definition of slavery is a distinctly negative one, which expresses that someone does not have a choice in their title or in the expectations for their performance.  It historically has involved hard labor with less than ideal living conditions.  We’ve seen slavery in our nation from before the Declaration of Independence.  We know that the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians in the Bible.  Even today, we are seeing an increase in slavery around the globe.

Think about this…what if within the walls of our churches, people are identifying unconsciously as a servant or as a slave?

What if I’m on a committee or involved with a ministry out of a sense of obligation? What if I’m tired, but I was guilted into staying in the nursery during service?  What if I’m in a position that is a mismatch with my spiritual gifts or natural talents?  Am I doing things out of fear of judgment?  Isn’t that a form of self-imposed slavery?

This is in contrast to the joy that is received with willingly volunteering in servanthood.  The person who is functioning in the perfect position for them. The member who is using the skills God gave them.

There’s a distinct difference in the attitude of the joyful servant and the obligated slave.  When this difference occurs in a church, there is a risk for tension to arise. People want to have a particular ministry program, but no one steps up to lead. Probably more common is that the faithful volunteers supporting the ministry programs of a church become over-extended and subsequently quitting.

When we serve, we need to be responsible for where we serve.  We need to have the discernment that we are serving where we are called by God to serve. For instance, if my spiritual gift is teaching, then I know I should not be on the evangelism team.

When we serve responsibility, we are witnessing to the goodness of Christ.  We begin to give visible, real, and tangible displays of God’s love.

 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracle of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and dominion forever and ever.

~1 Peter 4:10-11

Ultimately, we serve not for our own glory, but to honor our Lord.

I urge you to volunteer and become involved in your church through a servant’s heart. Do not volunteer out of obligation or through guilt…or you risk slipping into a mindset of slavery.

~Emily

@servantsheart