Don’t Hit the Deer!

Emily and I just got back from a trip where we drove cross-country.  Our relationship is one where I’m always the driver (insert my control factor here) and she’s the navigator (she really does a fantastic job).  I’ve always loved road trips and have never backed down from one.  I travelled all over Germany as a child, so it’s practically in my DNA to make a batch of lemon stickies, throw our pillows and blankets in the car with the suitcases and drive rather than fly anywhere.

As I’ve gotten older, however, I find I’ve begun to prefer less driving at night.  Five years ago, my girls and I would drive 15+ hours in the car on the first leg of the trip, driving late into the night so that we would have a short day the next day in the car.  It didn’t bother me in the least.  As I’ve aged, I’m actually now afraid that my eyes aren’t going to efficiently catch my surroundings.  Do you know what I’m afraid of?  I’m afraid of hitting a deer.  (Emily, we will NOT discuss the raccoon from a week ago until I’ve sufficiently recovered.)

They dart out in the darkness of night and think nothing of the people driving along the highway other than “your road is in my way.”  I’ve seen them multiple times just grazing right on the edge of the road, and I keep thinking to myself as I get closer Please stay there!  I have to be on my guard to make sure that I see what’s on either side and am prepared for what may bolt out into my path.

I should be just as aware when it comes to the wiles of the devil.  The Bible says in I Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirt, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The devil prowls around.  He’s lurking along the edges of our walk with God looking for ways to interfere.  It’s typically not blatant or obvious.  It’s subtle and crafty.  He’s standing just close enough to see when he might pounce.  He’s taking his time looking to see what’s available to mess with.  Then before we’ve realized it, he’s bounded into our path and worked overtime to hurt our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

We must be constantly vigilant about satan trying to wreak havoc.  Just like I have to be on guard for the deer jumping out in the road, we must make sure we are prepared for satan’s temptations.

How do we do that?  We start by having a relationship with Jesus and asking Him to be our Lord and Savior.  We have a faithful prayer life, bringing our petitions to God.  We pray that we will consistently put on the whole armor of God.  We read His Word.  The Bible is God-breathed.  We need only look on those pages to see what God would have us do and how to be ready for battle.  We commune with fellow believers!  Surrounding yourself with other Christ-followers allow us to join together as we battle the tempter.

Sweet friend, I challenge you to be aware of your surroundings.  Be prepared and vigilant for the fight against satan!  And remember, God always gets the victory!

~Erin

Fishing Obsessions

On our first date, my husband told me that he loves to fish.

That may go down as the biggest understatement that he (or anyone in the history of the world) has ever said.  

Eight years after that first date, I would argue he doesn’t just love fishing…he’s obsessed with it.

I’d also contend that he’s really, really, really smart about fishing. He knows all sorts of nuances about line strength, reading water, colors of lures, how to make replica eggs for bait, predicting fish behavior, and how to tie flies.  

He works for a fishing related company. He owns a fishing related business.  He owns multiple boats for different aspects of fishing…freshwater, saltwater, lake, river, pond, or brush pile building. There is a ginormous barn/shop on our property dedicated to the art of fishing.  Not a week goes by where there aren’t at least 3-4 nights that fishing consumes the dinner table chatter.  

He fishes morning, noon, or night (*Well, not technically noon…if you are the wife of a fisherman, you know high noon and mid-afternoon are not good times to go fishing).  He can fish with a fly rod…fish with bait…fish with lures..fish with custom rods…fish with a center pin reel…and the list goes on and on.   

I’ll go with him occasionally, but I’m more obsessed with reading, hiking, or hanging with friends. In the last few months, I’ve been trying to increase my memorization skills for Bible verses.  For most of my life I’ve struggled with memorization of anything, but especially scripture. I’m now employing some new techniques in memorization and attempting to master an entire chapter of Bible.

A few days ago, I read an article about the importance of scripture memorization. A notation at the middle of the article captured my attention. In my own words, it said something to the effect of we memorize or remember what we make most important to us.  If you can memorize lines from a movie, or sing along with your favorite song, then you don’t struggle with memorization.  You struggle with what is a priority for your memorization.  

Talk about getting my toes stepped on.  Ouch.  That’s me.  I can insert movie lines or the chorus of all kinds of songs into just about any conversation.  And yet, I’m telling myself that I’ve got this block about memorizing verses. 

That gut punch reminded me that I need to make Bible verse memorization a priority.  I need it to be the most (or at least one of the most) important things to me…so that I can be successful at placing those verses in my heart.  

I essentially want to take my husband’s approach to fishing and apply it to my own understanding of scripture. 

I want to be a subject matter expert.  I want to know it inside and out. I want to recall information instantaneously.  And I want to have confidence in my own abilities to appropriately handle the Gospel and scripture.  

I love that my husband has a fishing obsession.  I want to have a scripture obsession.

Come to the porch this week and let us know how you are making the scripture a priority in your life.

~Emily

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

The Trolls of Life

According to internet slang, a social media troll is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit (although it can be any site) by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking a typically negative emotional response from other users.

We’ve all seen them in action. 

On the Iron Porch, we’ve been blessed to have had minimal interactions with social media trolls.  However, the social media accounts that I am an admin for at work…those have plenty of social media trolls.  People who love to create conflict and drama. At work, we’ve found they use their real names, but they occasionally use fake accounts in an attempt to hide their cyberbullying.    

Some ways to spot a social media troll is that they occasionally use derogatory language, have an inability to listen to reason, and their internet fights seem to indicate lots of free time to start arguments.  They are soooooo persistent.  

Do you have the aggravating and provocative trolls in your personal life?  The people who create chaos and thrive in drama?  

In the world of social media trolls, the advice includes not taking it personally and not engaging with the troll.  

That’s hard to do with real-life people.  

As Christians, we’re often reminded to turn the other cheek, but that’s just as difficult in some scenarios. We’re are also reminded that our tongue becomes a weapon, so not speaking back to a troll is also a hard part of Christian living.  Of course, it’s also hard to not take it personally when we’re attacked in degrading ways.  

A verse that has been helping me keep the social media trolls at bay is Proverbs 20:3. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor” (NASB).  I particularly like the New International Version of the same verse that states, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” 

I keep the verse written out in the folder that holds all my documents concerning my work-related social media accounts.  It helps remind me that I don’t have to engage with the trolls, nor do I have to take it personally. 

I know it’s not easy to have a troll in your life…in person or on social media.  I’d love to hear what scriptures you have been using for yourself while dealing with the trolls of life.

~Emily

At Each Other’s Throats

There are days lately where my heart hurts to be on Facebook anymore.  So many people at each other’s throats about what they think or what they believe.  I see people on one side of the fence calling the other side ‘sheep’ who approve of socialism and government over-reach.  I see people on the other side saying if you don’t decide to vaccinate or wear a mask, you are a moron incapable of being able to do intelligent research.  I watch someone call the other a “stupid right-wing nut job” for thinking President Biden isn’t handling Afghanistan well.  The other side says you’re too blind to see that President Biden couldn’t handle tying his own shoes.  These are actual things I’ve seen on social media.

It’s enough to make me scream.  What happened to being loving and gracious?  When did we become a people that believe we are the only ones capable of rational thought?  When did we become a society that put politics over prayer?

As Christians, we have a responsibility to love one another whether we agree or don’t.  As people who were made in God’s image, we are called to honor what He commands us to do like praying for one another, being kind, and tender-hearted.  We’re not to prove who’s wrong or right.  We’re not meant to make sure people feel stupid for making a decision you would never make.  And loving them and praying for them doesn’t mean you approve of their decisions.  It means simply that…you’re loving them and praying for them. 

What I’m saying is that no matter what side of the vaccine, masks, or presidency we’re on, we should be coming together to love, to witness, and to pray.  Pray for our nation.  Pray for our leaders.  Pray for our friends and family.  Pray for other countries.  Pray for our neighbors.  Pray for the doctors, nurses and hospitals.  Pray for our enemies. 

Satan would love nothing more than to divide Christians and keep us from focusing solely on God.  He relishes the thought of people going after each other rather than coming together to pray to our Jehovah-Rapha, the God who Heals.

I implore you, dear friends.  Take the time to love and pray for each other, no matter what side of the fence you’re on.  At the end of the day, there’s only one side… God’s.

~Erin

Chicken Dinner

We lost a chicken yesterday.  And by lost I mean something came in and decided raw chicken was better than fried chicken.  There were feathers everywhere.  Our teeny tiny Bantam rooster was no match for whatever got in there, and little Truffles became a meal for some creature in the woods.  

Peyton and Chris felt they had made a great enclosure.  They knew it wasn’t foolproof.  It didn’t have a real roof, but with a coop inside the large closed-in space to lock them up at night, they felt it was rather safe.  However, as the chickens got older and as Peyton started working, it was less frequent that she remembered to close the coop at night.  There hadn’t been a problem since we bought the chicks 10 months ago, and we got lazy in doing the little bit extra to keep them protected.

Are we the same way about sin?  God gives us clear scripture telling us of the need to protect ourselves from the wiles of satan.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” –Ephesians 6:11

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” –James 4:7

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

“And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” –2 Corinthians 11:14

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:11

It is well known that satan will do whatever it takes to keep us from full fellowship with God.  If he can tempt us with thoughts of coveting, greed, or selfishness, he will.  If he can get us thinking about how nice it would be to skip your bible study or miss church, he’ll do it!  There’s nothing he won’t do to try and steal our devotion to God.

We should be prepared for this!  We shouldn’t only be praying “Father, keep us protected from satan.”  We should be studying scripture, digging into the word, putting on the FULL armor of God to protect ourselves.  The more we are submitting and surrendering to the will of God, the harder it is for satan to get that access to us. 

When we’re fully prepped and ready, we aren’t sitting around waiting for the attacks of the devil.  We’re ready to keep those sinful deeds at bay before they even get close enough to become an action!

Ladies, let’s stand strong in our faithfulness to God and prepare ourselves properly for a possible attack before that nasty thief even gets close! 

~Erin

Too Much To Bear

What do you do when it seems the weight of the worst in on your shoulders?  How do you handle the struggles of this life speeding straight at you?  Who are you leaning on when it feels like it’s just too much to bear?

We’ve all had these times in our lives.  The heaviness of a death, an illness, or an addiction has probably touched someone who’s reading this in such a difficult way.  And to the person in the thick of it, the man or woman dealing with it, it feels like it will never end.

I know that you may not think that God is really listening.  You feel alone and unheard.  And you don’t understand why this torture is happening to you.  Why can’t God just fix it?  Why can’t He turn back time and make it ok again?  It doesn’t seem fair that you must suffer when everyone else around you seems to go on with life.  When you’re left feeling like you’re picking up pieces all around you by yourself, it hurts the most. 

I know you might not want to hear it, but I know you need to hear it.  You need to know that there is One who hears you and sees you.  He feels your pain.  He weeps when you weep.  And when it feels like there is nothing left to hold onto, you can hold on to Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shake and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” –Psalm 46:1-3

To the person who struggling with exactly this in this moment, I’m praying for you.  I’m fervently asking that God make His presence known to you.  You are not alone, and God will see you through.  I promise.  And He will see you through to the other side.

~Erin

Prayer Prompts

A few weeks ago, I participated in a “No Amen Challenge,” which has gotten me pondering on what specifically triggers me to start praying.  I began looking around for my personal prayer prompts.  

When I see starving children on television, a car crash during my commute, or difficult conversations occurring at a business, I am fleetingly triggered to begin praying.  Frankly, as quickly as I pray for these items, I likely have forgotten the prayer prompt.  I’ve moved onto the next occurrence of my day.  If I’m reviewing prayer requests from my small group, friends, or family members, I have been guilty of pushing through the prayers without pausing to reflect on the requests and results. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

This verse caused me to start thinking that the ceaseless prayer, coupled with the “No Amen Challenge,” added to prayer prompts, would likely result in more deliberate…and remembered prayer time.  

The prayer prompts are a physical item that is attached to remembering a) to pray and b) what I prayed about.  It becomes a mental association between prayer and an object.  

For instance, I have a prayer board in my bathroom that has scraps of paper all over it with prayer requests from various people in my life.  As a brush my teeth or curl my hair, I have time to review my daily requests.  Initially, this began as a mechanism to “go through” the prayer request list.  Now, I can visualize where the prayer request scrap of paper is on the board and pray individually for each throughout the day.

Another example that I recently watched Erin use was setting an alarm on her phone.  Each time she heard the alarm, she was triggered to pray for a specific situation.   

At home, I wanted to be more deliberate about praising God.  As I watered the garden, I used the time to thank God for the availability of water.  As I collected eggs from the chickens, I praised Him for providing food.  As I drove down the driveway, I exalted the Lord for my employment that contributed to the purchase of our house.  

I also wanted to find a method to pray more frequently over my family.  In order to accomplish that, I took the mundane chore of laundry and began praying over the owner of each piece of clothing, as I folded.  

In my office, I have a ring of multiple verses on index cards that I switch out every week.  Each time that I read the verse of the week, I choose to pray the verse over a person or scenario associated with my workplace.  As I pass the US flag display first thing in the morning, I specifically pray over our country and our elected leaders.  

Each person’s prayer prompts will look different.  Just in the last few weeks, some that I’ve noted included prayer boards, phone alarms, gardening, driving, laundry, index cards or US flags.  It doesn’t matter what the prayer prompt looks like, rather what does matter is that it triggers the moment of prayer.  This in turn, becomes prayer without ceasing in the “no amen challenge” and subsequently are prayers that are remembered.  

I’ve even got a prayer prompt for Iron Porch…the blog, the dreams, the contributors and the readers.  I’ll use it, as I pray that the visitors of the Iron Porch will have their own prayer lives strengthened through the use of prayer prompts.

~Emily

The Birthpain Trail

I made a mistake.  I told my best friend I wanted to go hiking with her.  It would’ve been fine if I had shut my mouth and pretended not to be covetous.  But noooooooo, I had to say how much I envied the fact that her and a friend went on these hikes and were getting some fun exercise in their lives.  And that is how I ended up on the trail that is straight from the pit of H-E-double hockey sticks. 

This “easy” trail consisted of a 4.7-mile winding path that took us up a 900-foot incline.  What I knew was that it had a beautiful creek running along the path and was wonderfully shaded for most of the hike.  What I didn’t know was what a 900-foot incline really meant, and that I was going to be walking uphill, both ways, barefoot in the snow.

I know that it appears I’m dramatic.  But when a person who has been on the trail says that it should be named “Birthpain Trail” because you forgot how hard the hike is from the previous time, you recognize that I’m not that far off the mark!  I thought I was going to die.  I asked Emily if I could change my mind about the hike and not be the friend that does the hike but instead the friend that has lunch ready for them at the end of the hike when they’re done.  She laughed at me.

I know I’ve had struggles that feel like that hike.  It feels like it’s an uphill battle.  You see there’s a little tough spot and you push through.  It appears there’s a reprieve, a beautiful trail along softly running water.  And then you realize that your trial has just begun and it’s about to get TOUGH.  Every step you take is pressure on your body.  You’re out of breath and tired from fighting to get ahead.  You’re weak and winded.  You feel like you’d rather quit and give up the fight.

I encourage you, friends.  Do. Not. Give. Up.  You need only cry out to God.  He says in Psalm 138:3, “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” 

He is fighting the fight with you and is walking with you.  When we call out to our Father, He hears our prayers and our desires.  He sees our fears and frustrations.  God desires us to lean into Him for our strength.  When we cry out to Him, we surrender the fight to HIM so that He can give us the strength to complete the journey.  When we call, He is glorified.

Let’s make sure we are calling to Him so that we may become bold with strength through Him!  Is anyone going through a struggle that we can pray for today?  Share with us in the comments, and we’d love to come along side you and pray.

~Erin

If My Life Was A Mess-Free Coloring Book…

We have the cutest coloring page on our refrigerator.  It’s one of those special pictures that only colors with the mess-free markers.  Those Crayola geniuses come up with some of the most amazing things!  It’s every parent’s dream invention that prevents those “innocent” little babies from markering up your entire dining room wall with Picasso scribbles only a toddler can make.

With Andros visiting, I wanted him to have something he could be creative with, and he just loves coloring the pictures and watching the ink appear on the page.  When he’s got the page on the table, I don’t have to worry about when he colors outside the lines or off the edge of the page.  It’s clean and neat!

Don’t we sometimes wish our lives were the same way?  If our life was the special paper and our choices and circumstances were the mess-free markers, would we stumble in what we do and how we act?  Would our reaction to trials be one of trusting God or trusting self? 

It would be great if everything stayed on the page.  When everything goes according to plan, exactly as it’s supposed to, we have no worries and no anxiety. It appears there’s no trouble.  But when our choices are not the mess-free choices that keep us within the bounds of our walk with God or hardships that we face are not within the lines of what we expect, it’s very easy to fall into despair.  How do we handle the trials that bleed off the edge of the page and throw us into frustration, fear, or confusion?    

God tells us in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” 

How do we remain steadfast under trial? We do it by remaining steadfast in our Lord.  He is beside us all the time.  He has given us the Comforter to live inside of believers.  We trust that our Almighty God will do exactly as He promises in Scripture.  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).  He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He will strengthen us and will help us (Isaiah 41:10).

I challenge you, friends.  Trust that whatever life has thrown at you, you have a Father that will hold you through it.  It’s ok if the marker falls off the page.  We have a God who is right there with you when it does.

Do any of you have a verse that helps you remain strong in the Lord when you are going through trials?  Share in the comments!

~Erin

Artist: Andros Minjarez

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