The Tornado Warning

Right about the time my weather alert went off on my phone on Tuesday night, my phone rang.  Emily was calling to tell me we were under a tornado warning and to shelter in place.  I tried to call Chris, who was still at work, and his words startled me.  “I need to call you back.  We’re about to get hit and I need to get everyone to a safe place.  I’ll call you back.”  I grabbed my go-bag (thank you, best friend, for making me one for my birthday), took two pillows and a blanket from the couch, and put on my tennis shoes to wait out the warning.  I wasn’t sure where the tornado had been spotted, but I needed to be prepared for whatever came. 

As the warning came and went, I was safe.  But the one thing I thought about during that period of waiting was how our weatherman, James Spann, recommends a helmet for sheltering in place.  It’s really the running joke around here.  But it’s a great safety precaution…especially if your house is about to fall in over your head or a projectile is headed for your brain!  And I didn’t have one.  I’ve talked about it.  I’ve joked about it with everyone else.  And still, I’ve never actually gotten one.       

Why am I the same way about the armor of God?  I’ve put on the breastplate of righteousness.  I’ve taken up the shield of faith.  I’ve got my sword of the Spirit at my side.  I walk out the front door prepared for battle and I’ve left my helmet of salvation behind.  Then I’m wandering through the day thwarting the devil’s stupid attempts at making me stumble and falter in my faith in God, and I’m wondering why I’m struggling so much.

The helmet of salvation reminds us that our salvation has secured a place in heaven at the Father’s feet.  It allows us to stay focused on the Almighty.  It help keep our eyes on the things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).  Really, EVERY piece of the armor of God is essential.  If we miss any piece as we prepare for war, we are ill-equipped for the fight.  It’s just that simple.

Let me encourage you, sweet friends, to put on the WHOLE armor of God as we face the day.  Let’s be completely prepared for what satan and the worlds throws our way.  We can trust that when we are fully assembled, we are ready to defend ourselves.

~Erin

A Spiritual Gift

Music is my thing.  It always has been.  I’m pretty confident that I came out of the womb singing some kind of tune.  Both of my parents can sing.  One is shy and won’t sing on a stage.  The other loves the spotlight and never minded singing in front of people.  I wonder which one I took after in that area?  From the time I started school, any time there was a play or musical or an opportunity to sing in church, I was there.  And I wasn’t going for the chorus line.  I wanted center stage.  I LOVE to sing loud and clear.

When I was little, it was because I liked the attention.  As I got older, I continued to sing in church, but the reason changed.  I now wanted to glorify God and give Him the praise.  And when I moved to a new and bigger church at the age of 30, it all changed.  There was no choir.  There was a praise band, a worship team and contemporary Christian music.  The church that I was going to didn’t do “specials” like they did in the church I went to growing up.  I felt far inferior to the professionals they had on stage!  There was no way I could bring anything to the table with them.   And so I stuck to singing with the congregation in the pews, knowing that God had given me a gift….but afraid to use it.

As I started looking for my new church here in Alabama, one of the things I was looking at was the worship time.  It wasn’t as important as other things like sound doctrine, or a gospel-sharing church.  But I love the peace I feel as I worship in song so it wasn’t far from the top.  Imagine my surprise that I’ve been repeatedly visiting a smaller church with old-fashioned hymns and a piano.  I just found out they have a small choir.  It’s like I’ve stepped back in time to my childhood!  And it’s not what I’ve been used to for 12 years.  And I think it might be right where God wants me.

You see, I long to feel the presence of God with music.  But the truth is, I don’t need that music to feel the presence of God.  He’s all around me.  The Holy Spirit lives inside of me because I am a blood-bought daughter of the King.  The music and the words are there to help me praise Him, to rejoice in who He is and what He’s done for us.  The ability to sing is the spiritual gift that God has given me to use and honor for His glory.  And I feel like I’ve wasted it for 12 years. 

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

The Lord has changed what I see as beneficial for me in finding a church.  Rather than a church with a “stellar” worship hour, I long for a church that shares the gospel, who believes in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  Then show me that same church that allows me to use the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed on me to serve others.  In finding that, I find my church.

I’m thankful for a God who leads us exactly where we need to be.  We only need to listen, trust, and obey.  How about you, friends?  Do you have a spiritual gift that you’ve been tucking away?  Share in the comments below what it is, and let’s pray for opportunities to serve others with that precious gift from God!

~Erin

I’m Lost!

Last week, my family flew in from Cheyenne, Wyoming and I needed to pick them up from the airport.  It was a busy day full of many errands, so I quickly input my desired location into the GPS without giving it much notice and off I went. 

The drive was beautiful.  It took me along a more scenic route, and I was enjoying seeing the sweet little towns.  As I got closer to my destination, it seemed that I should’ve hit a sign that said I had rolled into Georgia, but I didn’t worry too much about, because not all side roads have these kinds of signs.  I finally saw the airport sign at my exit and turned to get off the road.  But I was getting confused because it still seemed rather….too-small-townish?  I quickly pulled up the “details” in my GPS and confirmed I was indeed right near my location.  But as I hit “End,” a flash of the abbreviation AL came into view.  Lightning fast, I clicked the GPS again.  VALLEY HEAD, AL.

That’s right….NOT Atlanta Airport.  Not Hartsfield-Jackson.  Not even Georgia.  I had directed myself to the quaint little town of Valley Head.  Where’s Valley Head you ask? NOT IN GEORGIA.  Turns out that as I was clicking on the Atlanta airport location in my phone, it downloaded several more locations I had been looking at recently, and I accidentally chose Valley Head. 

What was supposed to be a 20ish minute wait for my family while I completed the drive to get them turned into an additional 2 ½ hour wait.  It was awesome.  I cried like a baby.  And I felt so stupid!  I know it was a mistake, but it still stung of carelessness.  I trusted that when I rushed, what I had briefly read/seen was right without making sure my action of picking the correct location and following the right directions was true.

This reminds me of my walk with God sometimes.  I’ve been saved a long time.  I grew up in church and for the first 6 years of school attended a school that was affiliated with my church, so I’ve been around the Bible for as long as I can remember.  And sometimes the prideful nature in me that thinks, “I know what it says in the Bible and how to live uprightly” is quickly destroyed.  Just like being careless in not paying attention when I pushed the button on my GPS, it can be easy to spout off what I’ve learned from my years of following Jesus.  It’s simple to follow some Godly instruction, but not paying attention and not being firmly planted in the study of the Bible can lead you far of the course God has set for you.

There’s so much more in following Jesus and knowing what His Word says.  James 1:22 says “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.”  Am I really DOING what the Word says when I don’t pay enough mind to read, study, learn, pray, and meditate on His goodness?  Is it enough to remember a few stories from when I was 12 and hope I’ve remembered 30 years down the road? 

It’s not.  We need to be diving in, reading what He says and pursuing knowledge of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit!  When we do this, we are careful with our directions rather than careless.  We become knowledgeable in His truth and less mindless.  We become doers of the Word and not just hearers!

I encourage each one of you to not merely hit a button, take a quick peek, and walk away.  Dive in, paying careful attention to the words and commands that are in the Holy Bible.  I’ll be doing that!

Who wants to take on this challenge with me?  Comment in the section below!

~Erin 

The “I” in Team

As a retired military member, I’ve been to plenty of leadership trainings that make sure to remind students that there is no “I” in “Team.”  It’s a sentiment that is often repeated in the workplace and indicates that there is no one person whose contributions are greater than another’s on the team.

At my work center, I’ve often encouraged others to use “we” or “ours” in referencing programs, processes, and successes.  I am a firm believer in acknowledging superb performance of individuals, but overall, the team seems to be more successful when there is cohesive ownership.  

On my son’s baseball team, I’ve often seen the coaches acknowledge an individual’s great job in a game, but they win & lose together as a team.  They practice together as a team.  They rejoice and they are disciplined…as a team.  Not as individuals.

If the concept of “no I in team” holds true for the workplace and for a sports team, does it also hold true with the church…with the disciples of Jesus Christ? 

In terms of the twelve disciples of Jesus, outlined in the Gospels, Jesus drew together a team of men who had a few things in common, such as fishing and tax collecting, but they each had differences, such as their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.  As we walk through the New Testament, we can see that they collectively were working towards professing Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior for the sinners of the world. 

While some were praised for answering questions correctly (Peter answering “Who Do You Say I am?” in Matthew 16:17), or providing insight to others, none are raised above the others in terms of accomplishing the mission that Jesus gave them. 

While some were rebuked for betrayal (Jesus acknowledging that Judas would betray him at the Last Supper or that Peter would deny knowing him three times-John 13:21 and Mark 14:30), none of the others were raised above them in terms of accomplishing their ultimate mission.

This shows that Jesus’ leadership included acknowledging strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately He was more concerned with saving souls for eternity than praising and rebuking those on the team. Each disciple was part of the team and they were collectively being trained for a time when Jesus was no longer with them physically.  In my opinion, it’s a solid example of thereTea being “no I in team.”  

The secular leader in me wants to know if you are embracing the concept of team at work and on sports teams.  

The women’s ministry leader in me wants to urge you desperately to endorse this concept of teamwork (without acknowledging the I’s) so that we can work together on the mission we were given by Christ: to share the Gospel, to show the lost how to be found for all eternity, and to make disciples.

Does your team have an “I” on it?

~Emily

Is It Necessary?

“Are you ready?!  Are. You. Ready?!  I’m getting excited!!  Romans…..3:10!  Who’s righteous? NO ONE!  Here wo go!  How about another?! Romans 4……22-25!!!!  Who was raised for our justification?  JESUS!”  Fists pumping in the air, grin from ear to ear; you would’ve thought I was trying to get a crowd of 200 excited at an event.  But it was me on Monday for our Table 8 Zoom call, yelling out some of our memory verses to the rest of my awesome Bible study group.  I like to THINK I facilitate a group of 200.  This go-around of Bible study, we’re a group of 6!

God has led us to the book of Romans, and I decided that we’ve talked long enough about the need and the desire to memorize Bible verses.  We’ve attempted to do it a few times over the last five years we’ve met but have never really made it a priority.  This time, we’re going at it hard core.  We are going to be memorizing no less than 17 verses in the book of Romans!  Maybe more as God leads…let’s not box us in just yet!

Why should we be memorizing Bible verses?  Why is it important to remember the words of God?  The list is endless but let’s chat about a few.

Satan is lurking around trying to distort our thoughts and actions, keeping us from a relationship with our heavenly Father.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. –1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. –Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” –Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)

There are still people around us that need to know about the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And He said until them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” –Mark 16:15 (KJV)

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. –Romans 10:17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

It allows us to have a deeper relationship with God.

I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You. –Psalm 119:11

But He answered and said, “It is written:  ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’” –Matthew 4:4 (NASB) (reference to Deuteronomy 8:3)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. –Romans 15:4

A wonderful Bible study leader of mine years ago, Laura Whitmore, said that when we stain God’s Word into our hearts and into the core of who we are, just a like a piece of wood receiving stain, it soaks in, changing you…the way you think, the way you feel, the way you do things.  It’s not just at the surface.  It deepens your faith in our Savior and becomes a part of who you are.

And that’s why we’re going to memorize verses at Table 8.  We desire a closer and deeper relationship with God that allows us to trust Him and Him alone as our Hope.

How about you, dear friends?!  Can I encourage you to start memorizing Scripture with us?  What tips do you have to help memorize verses?  Share in the comments below!

~Erin

Not All Who Wander are Lost: Packing List for Heaven

I’m a self-declared lover of travel.  It could be one town over, the next State, or another country.  I love exploring new location, eating the local food, and meeting people who live in those destinations.  I have wanderlust and am most content planning the next trip. 

I completely embrace the quote “Not all who wander are lost.” 

One of the things I enjoy about traveling is the preparation.  I love the planning and researching to make the most of a vacation.  If it hasn’t been selected for me, I choose the location, the amount of time to travel, and the mode of transportation.  I make lists of foodie-related places to check out.  I figure out the historic or notable attractions to explore.  I game plan if I have any friends or family in the vacation location.  I count down to the departure date.  And then I pack.

Preparing for your vacation is similar to preparing for a journey to heaven.  Like a vacation destination selection, you must make the decision of if heaven is a location you’d like to go.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NASB) 

You must accept the gift of Jesus’ death for your sins, which essentially becomes the selection of your transportation.  The difference between an earthy vacation and a journey to heaven is that Jesus paid the price of the ticket for you to go to heaven.  Only Christ’s blood is a sufficient payment for this particular trip.  

Like earthly vacation research, our preparation for heaven does not end with choosing the destination and transportation.   No, we still have work to do.  Once we become Christians, our entire life should be focused on the journey and preparations that God has for our lives.  This could include Bible study, mission work, sharing the Gospel, tithing, holy living and even attending church faithfully.  

Are you a traveler?  

Are you going to heaven?

Have you started packing?

~Emily

For we know that if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NASB)

The Master Gardener

We’re heading into planting season, and this will be my first year planting a full-fledged, on-the-ground garden in the state of Alabama!  I’m so excited to get started, and Chris graciously took up the previous owner’s garden bed and is reconfiguring it so that I can have a few beds rather than one big space.  I’ll be ready to go any day!

Now that you know how excited I am about this, let me acknowledge that I generally kill most plants.  For those who read my previous blog on gardening, I’ll remind you that I only tried gardening for the first time last year.  I kill most houseplants.  In fact, Emily doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve already killed one of the plants in the pot she gave me as a birthday gift in September by over watering it.  (Sorry, Emily!)  I want so badly to grow fresh veggies so that we can eat what I’ve grown myself, but I’m already in worry mode that I’m going to kill it all off; we’ll be destined to eat Piggly Wiggly lettuce and tomatoes for the rest of our lives!

Aren’t we blessed that our Heavenly Father is a Master Gardener!?  We are called to spread the good news to all people.  The good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ!  People all over the world need to know that Jesus came down to earth, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave on the third day.  They need to accept the gift of salvation.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” –Mark 16:15

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of age. –Matthew 28:19-20

That can be nerve-wracking!  Reaching out to people and sharing God’s gift can cause anxiousness out of a fear of rejection.  It’s scary to feel as if we are responsible for leading people to the Lord and helping them grow in their relationship with God once they’ve accepted Christ as their personal Savior.  However, God tells us in the bible that we are to plant the seed, but that it’s God that causes it to grow!

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this very thing.  He let them know that he planted the seed by preaching the good news and getting them established, Apollos had watered it by continued teaching and encouragement, but that God was what caused the growth.

So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. –I Corinthians 3:7

Isn’t that comforting!?  Our job is to tell everyone the joyous news of our God-plant the seed.  Once they accept the free gift of salvation, we can encourage them as they dig in to the Word-water the plant.  But God will grow them in the knowledge of the Truth.  He is the one who will deepen their relationship with Him. 

We don’t need to be afraid to plant the seed, sweet friends!  We can be delighted in the fact that we are doing what God has called us to do.  He will do the rest!

I encourage you to reach out to at least one person this week and share the gospel.  Plant the seed so that God may tend His garden.

~Erin

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.”


The Polishing Cloth

I took apart my Pandora charm bracelet this afternoon.  I hadn’t worn it in quite a while and it was tarnished.  The charms attached were dark and dingy from lack of care and cleaning.  It looked old but I knew I wanted to start wearing it again.  I wished for it to look as fresh and beautiful as the day it was purchased.  Each charm represents a moment or a person in my life.  Parts of my story is laid out in those tiny pieces.  

I began to wipe them down with the cloth.  But it wasn’t just any cloth.  It was a polishing cloth that had some seemingly magical ability to take the tarnish away and make it look as if it was brand new!  It was fascinating.  I don’t know quite how it worked, but following the directions, the dullness was gone!  Before me sat my first charm gleaming as if I’d just procured it.  I quickly finished the others, and the bracelet came to life with a cleanness I hadn’t seen from it in a very long time.  It may not have been perfect-looking, but it was so very close.

Our sins can be taken away in the same fashion.  No, it’s not some magic miracle that makes us clean and whole again.  It’s the gift that God gave us through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah 1:18b says “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Our heavenly Father sent His Son to be born in a manger over 2,000 years ago.  The gift He gave to Mary and Joseph was actually a gift to all of us.  That gift, the man—Jesus, would live a sinless life only to be tortured and sacrificed on a cross to cover our sins.  His shed blood alone would make us clean again…as white as snow. And thank you, Jesus, for that sacrifice!  He tells us plainly that the wages of our sin is actually death (Romans 6:23), but because of this generous gift of Jesus on the cross, He agreed to pay the penalty so that we wouldn’t have to.  How great is our God?!

Like that polishing cloth cleaned the charms, His blood cleans our sins.  When we accept salvation and ask Him to live in us we, like the charms, are restored.  Yes, we may have wear and tear, the scars from our former life.  But we are made complete in HIS image. 

If you haven’t yet made the decision to ask God to come live in your heart, please reach out to us or someone you know who is a Christ follower.  We’d be happy to share the plan of salvation so that you might receive the best Christmas gift you could give yourself…eternity in heaven!

~Erin