Mulberry Bushes…and a Little Faith

I have a necklace that features a tiny little glass globe with a mustard seed inside of it.  It’s a simple reminder to continue working towards greater faith in my walk with Jesus. 

I’d venture to guess most Christians know the adage that if you have the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains (Matthew 17:20-21). It’s the verse I’ve clung when I wear this necklace.  

During my morning devotion a few weeks ago, I re-read Luke 17:5-6 (NASB), which gave me a slight surprise.  The verses state, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ But the Lord said, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

There have been several times in my Bible Study times that I’ve been surprised by scriptures and clarifications on what I know…and what I don’t know.  I was surprised when I discovered that Ruth was King David’s Great-Grandmother.  I’ve been surprised by prophesy connections in the Old Testament to the New Testament.  And most recently, I was surprised that I missed the mulberry bush analogy with the mustard seed.  

It stuck with me for several days and I’ve been chatting with God about this verse a lot.  I have always associated the mustard seed with moving mountains…not with uprooting and replanting the mulberry bush.  

There are a couple areas of my life that I should have more faith.  As I’ve prayed about those areas the last few days, I’ve realized that if I had enough faith I could literally pick those issues up and re-plant them somewhere else.  No more worry or concern over bushes growing in my path.  

In all honesty, I like the surprises of scripture when I start to put the connections together. It gives me assurance that I’m studying the Word…and increases my faith that our all-knowing God has a very intricate plan in place.  That faith increases with each encounter I have with the Word.  And thus, could potentially move a mulberry bush to another location.

I pray that you’re finding surprises in the Word.  And that you have the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains…or mulberry bushes!

~Emily

Surprise Attack Prayer Warrior

Last week I needed a bow for a graduation gift and stopped at the local dollar store.  As I stood in the checkout line, a woman approached me while giving me a compliment. I thanked her and she continue walking past me.  Suddenly, I felt hands grab my shoulders from behind and she began praying.  Loudly.  And long-ly (I made that word up, but it seems fitting…it was a VERY long prayer).  

It was so uncomfortable.  I didn’t know how to politely get out of the scenario.  I watched the cashier ring up my item and then shrug his shoulders at me while rolling his eyes about the praying woman.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see small children staring at the situation.  I saw others rushing past in an effort to escape, lest she turn her boisterous reverse-hug prayer litany on them.  She said “Amen,” turned around and headed to another unsuspecting woman in the make-up aisle (who, by the way, was not having it…she actually told the lady to leave her alone). 

I know she meant well and likely felt as though she was doing the right Biblical thing.  

However. 

However, I was so taken aback and so completely out of my comfort zone, that I was not able to listen to what she prayed. I couldn’t join her prayerfully, as Sisters in Christ, because I was too “in my own head” rather than in my heart for Jesus.

Interestingly enough, I had read an article just hours before about a woman who made her New Year’s Resolution to pray for a stranger every day. The article described her interactions with those she prayed with and those that she silently prayed for.  At the time of the article publication, she’d being praying for a stranger daily for two full years. 

Maybe the Dollar Store lady had a New Year’s Resolution to pray for strangers.  Maybe not.

I’m intrigued by this praying for strangers idea. Part of me feels compelled to tackle a similar resolution.  Praying for one another is good.  It’s certainly Biblical, as there are countless examples instructing us to pray for one another.

Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

1 Samuel 12:23 (NASB), “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.”

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB), “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Here’s the raw truth of this from Emily’s heart. I’m all for praying over strangers.  But I think I want rules to this endeavor.  After what I experienced at the dollar store, I don’t want to ambush any strangers with prayer.   

Here are my proposed self-imposed rules:

1. A conversation has to happen prior to starting to pray (i.e.: introductions, common ground established, niceties, etc…).

2. Ask if you can pray for them—or if they have specific prayer requests (and be gracious if they say “no”).

3. Be intentional about who to pray with or over (don’t just pick someone willy-nilly because you have a daily “quota” to fulfill). 

4. Continue to pray for that person even after the interaction is over.  

I’d be interested to hear what those on the Iron Porch think about the proposed rules.  And of course, I’d be really interested to hear how you would have handled the surprise-attack prayer warrior at the dollar store!

~Emily

Acts 5:42 (NASB), “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news Jesus as the Christ.” 

Discovery: Nazirite Vow

I must have been under a rock during the day I was taught about the Nazirite vow in Sunday school.  Maybe I was day dreaming; maybe I was absent that day; maybe it wasn’t even a subject taught at my church.  A devotion I read several weeks ago mentioned the Nazirite vow and I’ve had to really dig in so that I could understand this concept.

Numbers 6:1-8 describes the vow as a way to make a special Covent with the Lord.   It was a strictly voluntary, special in its intent, and indicates a separation from a temptation.  It seems that the vow was used most frequently during a time of difficulty or extremely hard trials and temptation…at that time, the person could take this vow as a way to grow closer to the Lord. 

Interestingly enough, Numbers 6:3 commands that anyone taking the Nazirite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol.  More specifically, it called for an abstinent from wine and all products made from the grape plant. This would have included grape seed oil or cream of tartar.  

Another aspect of the vow included continually growing one’s hair.  If one temporarily forgot the vow, a simple look in the mirror would remind them.  It became not only a reminder of the vow, but a testimony opportunity when asked why they were growing out their hair.  

This led me to another question…are there any examples in the New Testament that speak to the Nazirite vow?  Guess what? Of course, there is! 

In Acts 18:18 (NASB), Luke wrote “Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow.” 

Why was Paul exhibiting behavior associated with Nazirite vow?  He was traveling from Corinth towards Syria when he cut his hair.  His recent experiences in Corinth and in Athens, where he had apathetic encounters with non-believers, very few conversions to Christianity, a lack of new church establishment, and cult-like behaviors of worshiping Aphrodite.  His decision to take a special vow with an outward showing of cutting his hair was a way to mark the growth of his hair from the moment of the vow, as well as a means to protect himself and draw closer to the Lord during his trials.  

Most Americans would be able to tell you about the unique attributes of the wedding vows.  Heck, most would even acknowledge it’s a convent with/before God.  All would recognize that the wedding ring is the outward sign of the wedding vow having been taken.  We know about the wedding vows because we’ve attended ceremonies, watched them on tv, or even taken part in our own commitment with this vow.  We are comfortable with the concept of the wedding vow.

Why am I not as comfortable with this vow mentioned in Numbers and Acts?  How did I know about this very personal “Nazirite vow?”  In a moment of self-doubt, I felt like a horrible Christian that wasn’t studying her Bible enough.  And in the next instance, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I just need to keep studying…keep digging…keep praying.

What Biblical revelations have you had this week? Come to the porch and share!!

~Emily

Numbers 6:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.’”

Flattened Frogs

My cats would not leave the pantry alone and I couldn’t figure out what was intriguing them so much about cases of bottled water.  I moved the cases out and found two flattened frogs on the ground.

Flattened, like they’d been dead for a very long time.

Flattened, like dehydrated beef jerky.

Flattened, like smashed, dried, and brittle.

I was totally grossed out to think that these two frogs were once alive in my pantry. More than that, I was grossed out to think about how long they had to hang out in order to become so flattened!

As I cleaned up frog carcasses, I reflected on the passage in Exodus, when the Lord sent frogs (through Moses and Aaron) to catch the attention of Pharaoh.  Imagine frogs being all over your body and your house. Imagine them on your family members and your friends.  Imagine them taking over the kitchen and being in your ovens and bread bowls!?!?!?!  That would certainly have gotten my attention!

I’m grateful that the Lord hasn’t sent hordes of frogs to my house to get my attention, but I imagine that He gets frustrated when I don’t pay attention…or worse become deliberately disobedient.  I’d argue that God uses other tactics to get my attention.

Some of those tactics include:

-Feeling convicted by the Word or a sermon

-Lack of peace

-Stormy days (ie: work, relationships, finances)

-Hitting a rock bottom AKA: a road to Damascus Moment

-Unusual or unexpected blessings

Even if you aren’t picking up flattened frogs in the pantry, I urge you to conduct some self-reflection about how God is getting your attention.  Are you listening? Or do you need to have the frogs sent in?

~Emily

Exodus 8:2-14 (ESV)

But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls.  The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants. And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’”  So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.  But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.  Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.”  And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.  The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” So, Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the Lord about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields.  And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank.

Frog

 

 

 

 

Advil or a Diuretic?

The other day at work I was battling a screeching headache.  I finally gave in and I reached for a bottle of Advil out of my desk drawer.  I shook out two pills and swallowed them down, praying that the pain would leave asap.  Then I looked down at the bottle in my hand and realized that I had just taken two diuretics!

Have you ever made such a mistake?  I’d venture to guess I make mistakes at least once a day.  The mistake between pain medication and a water pill is one that could have been easily avoided.  I just needed to slow down and pay more attention.

Think about the story of Joseph bragging to his brothers about his dream.  He boasts of future greatness and being chosen.  The brothers naturally resent this boasting.  Then they begin to plot the removal of Joseph from their midst. What if Joseph has slowed down and paid more attention? What if he had gauged the reactions of his brothers? Would he have continued to boast if he’d noticed that they were getting angry? Perhaps Joseph could have avoided years of turmoil if he’d simply slowed down and paid attention.

I should slow down and pay more attention throughout my day too. I could have avoided hurting a co-worker’s feelings if I’d paid attention to my words.  I could have avoided spilling water over a pile of bills if I’d slowed down.  I could have avoided swearing if I was watching the road and other drivers’ reactions.

I could have avoided taking two water pills for a headache.

Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, but God can work mightily despite those mistakes.  He redeems sin. He knows I’m weak and He works in my despite that weakness. In fact, he works through my weakness, as long as I admit those mistakes and sins instead of covering them up.

Sweet girls of the Iron Porch, be encouraged in your mistakes! Press in and watch what God will do with those mistakes. Proverbs 24:16 (NIV) states “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”

~Emily

Advil vs Diurectic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trivia: Did you know?

Did you know that Ruth was King David’s Great-Grandmother?!?!?

Ruth, as in ‘Where you go, I’ll go…’ Ruth.  She’s the one.  The one who was the Great-Grandma to King David. KING DAVID!!! Did she read to toddler-King David on her lap?  Tell him to ‘go get a switch’ when he was naughty?  Did she sing to him?  Present him with horribly handmade sweaters?  Why am I the only one who is freaking out about this genealogy nugget?

I figured this out while remotely completing a Ruth Bible study with Erin and the Table 8 ladies. It was early morning. I read the daily passage.  I answered the questions.  And then…I started outlining Ruth’s lineage.  I sat in shock and then quickly shot off a text to Erin about my discovery. With different time zones, early morning revelations in Alabama translate to middle of the night texts in California. I can only imagine that Erin was giggling and shaking her head at my excitement over this shocking discovery. Apparently, this Ruth-David connection is common knowledge.  Where the heck have I been?

While ecstatic about this newfound knowledge, it made me think about other connections throughout the Bible that I had possibly missed.  I started researching some trivia and unusual occurrences within the Bible.  Have you missed some too?

Did you know?

-Ehud was the 1stleft-handed man mentioned in the Bible (Judges 3:15)

-Dogs are mentioned 41 times in the Bible, but cats aren’t even mentioned once.

-Job stated that his wife claimed he had bad breath. (Job 19:17)

-Genesis never says Adam and Eve ate an apple, only that they ate fruit.

-Andrew was a disciple of John The Baptist before following Jesus. (John 1:35-37, 40)

-David is second only to Jesus in number of times mentioned in the Bible.

-Elizabeth, mother of John The Baptist, was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) and John The Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. (Luke 1:36)

-Miriam is the 1st woman recorded singing in the Bible (Exodus 15:21)

-Prior to the incident at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), everyone spoke the same language.

I already knew some of these, such as the relationship between Jesus and John The Baptist.  Their relationship is often mentioned around Christmas when retelling of Elizabeth and Mary meeting, while both were pregnant. I knew that at some point all humans spoke the same language, but I didn’t know it was the incident at the Tower of Babel that changed our languages.

This book we study, the Word of God, it is filled with wondrous facts and illustrations of relationships.  None of them are coincidences and all of them are divinely God’s plan.  I love stumbling on these bits and pieces that are so perfectly overlapping.  It makes me love the written word of God even more than I had previously.  It makes me want to read more…study more…find more curiosities that I had previously missed.  Who else is the great-grandparent to a notorious Bible figure?!?!?

Come to the porch and share something from the Bible that you have previously missed…I’m super intrigued!

~Emily

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was not supposed to be my life…

Bear

I walked into the living room and stopped dead in my tracks.  Apparently my husband and my father-in-law had been busy trying their “Chip and Joanna” decorating skills in my living room while I had been at work. As my husband came around the corner, he paused–looking at me and innocently asked, “What do you think?”  As I stood there with my hands on my hips, mouth hanging wide open, remembering how to breathe, I tried desperately to come up with any appropriate response. All that came out of my mouth was “this wasn’t supposed to be my life.”

There was a bear mounted on my wall.  A BEAR. Yes, yes, yes–you read that correctly. A bear. Is. Mounted. On. My. Living room. Wall.  When I called Erin to tell her, she was imagining a bear skin mounted to the wall.  No, no, Erin.  This is a fully stuffed, hanging on a tree limb, black bear.  Did I mention this is in the living room?!??!  Seriously, what had I possibly done to give him ANY indication that this would be an “Emily approved” action? Never, ever, ever did I imagine I would be the woman who has dead animals mounted in her living room.  Never.

This was not supposed to be my life.

I wonder if this is how Esther felt about being a Jewish woman taken as a concubine to the King. The Bible tells of a woman who played a dangerous game between a powerful King and her mentor, Mordecai. I bet she was thinking, “This was not supposed to be my life.”

When Saul was removed from a life of taxes and dishonesty…when he was given a new name and occupation, did he think, “This was not supposed to be my life.”?

I wonder if Mary felt complete dismay at being chosen to birth the Savior of the world.  Did another Mary feel unworthy of forgiveness after years of prostitution? Did either of them think, “This was not supposed to be my life.”?

When a barren Sarah, brought Hagar to her husband so that they may have offspring, did she look at a child that was not hers and think, “This was not supposed to be my life.”?

One could argue that Jesus was the only human who has ever walked the Earth and was able to say, “This was supposed to be my life.”  He was the only one who had ideas, hopes, and dreams that were not altered in any capacity. He had a destiny and He fulfilled each part of it with grace.

Whether living a life that was or was not supposed to be, each of us are living the path God has planned for us.  Jesus lived the life God intended and He knew it.  The rest of us…well, we are also living the life God intended.  We just don’t always know it.  Which is why we question and make statements like “this was not supposed to be my life.”

Looking at the bear on my living room wall, I still think about how this was not supposed to be my life. I’m in good company with others who lived a life they didn’t think was supposed to be theirs.  Honestly, I’m quiet content with the life I have been given. I’m not fond of the bear on my wall, but it’s part of the life God wants me to live.

~Emily

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”~2 Peter 1:4 (NIV)