Time of Their Lives

On the end of the fishing pier, there were about 20 adolescent boys fishing their hearts out.  There was no talk of school projects or grades.  No talk of girls.  No talk of parents or problems at home.  Just teenage boys razzing each other and slinging fishing rods over the Atlantic Ocean. Every day for the entire summer they were planning to meet at this pier at sunrise and wait for parents to pick them up at sunset.  They were having the time of their lives.

When was the last time you had the time of your life?  Hanging out with friends?  No cares in the world? When was the last time you had the time of your life in your Christian walk?

While in High School, I had the time of my life every summer for a week at church camp. Started the mornings with a nature walk chat with God and prayer time in small groups followed by group Bible Studies in between playing in the pool during the days, ending with worship songs and smores around a campfire in the evenings.  Learning the Word and praising God, while hanging out with my closest friends in the foothills of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

When we’re having the time of our lives, do we even recognize it? Do we know we’re in a moment that won’t ever be recreated? Do those boys know that they are living their best lives getting tan and fishing with one another every day of the summer? Did I know that I was having the time of my life at a summer church camp?

In the months leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, did the disciples know that they were in a space of time with Christ that could never be recreated? Did they recognize the miracles, the travel, the teachings, even the rebuking for what it was? It was the time of their lives.

They may have missed it.  Just like the boys on the fishing pier this summer.  Just like me at summer camp.

As summer becomes fuller with activities, I’m praying that you are taking a moment to recognize what is happening around you. Are you living in a moment where you are having the time of your life?

~Emily

Fishing

He Is My Refuge

You have your life planned out.  You know what college you’re going to, who you’re going to marry, how many kids you’ll have, where you want to create a home.  You have this idea of what your life is supposed to be like.  It’s like this perfect movie playing slow motion in your head.

But life doesn’t always work out that way.  You don’t get accepted to the college of your choice.  You marriage ends in a mess of a divorce.  The house you intended to make memories in is just a memory itself.  Nothing is the way you ever envisioned, and you cry out wanting to know why this shamble of a life you feel is not the dream you ever envisioned.

You cry out, “God, where are You?  Where WERE You?  I thought I heard You and where You wanted me.  And yet, here I am. Lost and feeling like I’m fighting this battle all on my own.”  It’s so easy to feel the loss of a dream by yourself, not recognizing His presence there with you.

Are we really alone, though, in the middle of our pain?  The truth is, I’ve felt that way more than once.  I’ve never questioned God as to where He was.  But I’ve certainly prayed that I wanted to feel Him closer to help take away some of the ache of change and loss.  Even when we’ve helped create that change, it can still be difficult to manage that hurt on our own.

God tells us often that we’re not alone…that He sees us even if it feels like we don’t see Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”  For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.  –Psalm 91:1-4

I’ve had to play that verse over and over in my head.  One too many times, I felt the shift of my life in a direction that I never imagined.  I’ve gotten to the point where I decided I had to work through transition on my own.  But I didn’t.  Our Father saw me then and He sees me now.  He covered me with protection and comfort then, and He does the same even now.  He is my shield from the uncertainty and struggle.  He doesn’t remove the hurt, but He protects me as I go through it.

What about you today, dear friends?  Have you reached a moment in your life where you’ve had to remind yourself that God sees you and that you’re not going through life alone?  Share in the comments below how we can pray for you.

~Erin

His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.

The Influencing Friends

Through the years, I’ve been blessed with friends from all over the world.   These friends have explored new cultures with me, traveled with me, drank with me, held me while I cried, celebrated life with me, and prayed with me. I truly have been blessed and touched by each of their roles in my life.

Three friends stand out as being the largest influences over my life.

The 1st is Lindy, who was my very first best friend.  We met at age three and lived two houses apart so we played together often. She had the most amazing collection of Barbie dolls, but my mom didn’t want me playing with her dolls because I had a horrible habit of biting the feet of barbies (yes, you read that correctly…I used to bite the barbie’s feet).   Lindy is the friend who taught me about sharing, about compromise, and about truthfulness.

The 2nd is Linina, who became my closest friend in the 7th grade.  We were inseparable for the next six years and I can’t imagine how I would have done High School without her.  We shared every teenage secret, church camp, wintergreen gum, and heartache over boys.  Linina is the friend who taught me about Christ’s unfailing love, about loyalty, about perseverance, and about loss.

The 3rd is Erin, who became my prayer partner mid-way through my military career.  While we lived in the same city for a short period of time, our daily phone calls for the last ten years have enhanced my life.  We stood by one another as relationships crumbled, as children grew, and our love for God became the center of our friendship.  Erin is the friend who taught me about strength, about growing, and about contentment.

As I look back on my life at these three stages of besties, I’m reminded that scripture tells us we will have similar stages of spiritual growth.

Infancy

As an infant/young child, we are just beginning our walk with the Lord.  1 Peter 2:2     relates that we are like newborn babies who desire the milk of the Word.  It’s essentially a developmental phase where we are learning about our new Christian walk.

In the flesh, a newborn is completely dependent on a caretaker.

In the spiritual, the newborn Christian must be taught how to study and read the Bible because there isn’t a developed ability to ‘feed themselves.’

I saw this phase distinctly with Lindy, as three-year old’s, embarking on our first friendships where we were being taught the principles and boundaries of friendship.

Adolescence

Maturing into adolescence, the Christian has a strong faith in God and has learned about prayer and fasting.  While spiritually strong, there is often a lack of maturity at this stage.  1 John 2:14 states, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” This stage is about learning submission and patience, rather than knowledge.

In the flesh, a teenager is knowledgeable and able to care for themselves, but they can be prone to missteps in decision making based on their experience levels.

In the spiritual, the adolescent Christian must practice restraint and continue to seek guidance from authorities.

As teenagers, I saw this phase in my friendship with Linina, when we thought we knew it all but still need to submit to the authority of our parents.  It was a season of becoming stronger in friendship and holding one another accountable, while still relying on guidance from wiser Christians.

Adulthood

In our Christian walks, maturity brings the realization that heaven is not our goal, but rather it is our destiny.  Our goal is to live as close as possible to the example provided by Jesus.  This includes continued growth in our personal relationship with God, as well as loving our neighbors deeply.  Paul reiterated this when he wrote, “..for me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21), which is indicating that from his own conversion until his martyrdom, everything he did was to advance the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.

In the flesh, an adult is comfortable with continued learning but is often the one sought for advice.

In the spiritual, the adult Christian strives to meet believers and non-believers, in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Bible and the gift of salvation. During this stage, there is conscious effort to win souls for the Kingdom.

I have seen the adult phase develop over the last decade, as my friendship with Erin has grown. This has been a season of building relationships and Iron Porch, as a space to share the gospel.

I can clearly track my spiritual growth through these phases, as well as in my friendships. I’m still friends with all three of these lovely ladies; Lindy, Linina, and Erin (obviously, Erin).  These three ladies influenced my “being” more than any others.

One started me on learning what friendship meant, one taught me about Christ’s love, and one has studied with me on how to bring Christ to the center of a friendship.

Each of those friendships is a reflection of the women influencing “Emily” and a reflection of the stages of a Christian’s development.

Come to the porch and share who has been influencing your development…

~Emily

The Influencing Friends

 

 

Father’s Day

On Father’s Day weekend 2017, our family decided to drive to Fort Bragg, California to spend some time with Chris’s father.  While we were there, we took our 12-year-old daughter, Peyton, to Pudding Creek Beach, a small and inviting beach not far from the family home.  The 70 degree weather was a cooling reprieve from the 107 degree scorching heat in Sacramento, just four hours away.

Chris and Peyton went off to walk the beach and look for shells, and I chose to stay back and just sit near the water’s edge, listening to the sound of the waves and watching the people surrounding me.  As the ocean waves rushed in and out every few seconds, I watched the foamy surf attacking a small child’s feet.  The bubbly waves would, on occasion, come in a little strong and the little girl would become nervous and unsteady in the wet sand and water.  From several yards away, her daddy saw her fear and walked over to the little girl, the older hand calmly resting on this younger girl’s arm.  As the wave would roll in, he would softly grip her upper arm, not in a hard squeeze, but with a gentle pressure to keep her steady.  This gave that sweet little girl the confidence to know she wasn’t alone and wouldn’t get swept out into the endless ocean while she enjoyed the salty water on her toes.

How sweet is it that our heavenly Father does the same thing for us?  As a wave of trial hits, He stands right beside us.  Yes, that wave may or may not be strong enough to knock us off of our feet, and it’s not likely strong enough to toss us around in those harsh and unyielding waves.  It may possibly, though, hold us back and prevent us from having the courage to stand still and weather the issue.  We step back from the unknown out of fear and uncertainty, not sure if we can handle it.  But God is there.  Know that you can have confidence in that whatever trial or hardship you may face, Jesus said He would never leave us.  He sees us.  He knows us.  He’s right there, His hand on our arm, applying that gentle pressure to keep us steady and secure.  We never have to weather the uncertainty alone.

Today, ask God to sow the following words into your heart:  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9.

When Liars Become A Distraction

The enemy engages with us when we are least expecting it.  Often the enemy uses those around us to “get into” our head.  Occasionally, the circumstances seem genuine. Sometimes red flags are raised.  That’s how spiritual warfare works…sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

A “friend,” who I hadn’t heard from in years, contacted me via social media. This is a woman who I have had a challenging past with.  It’s also someone who thinks she has a vested interest in knowing about my life. Furthermore, it’s a gal who is very much into pagan paths of spiritualism.

Despite that past and her religious thinking, I wanted to believe the best of her intentions.   I chatted via emails over the course of a couple days.  Then she wrote something about one of her recent accomplishments, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked several questions, to which she had some interesting answers that also didn’t sound right.

God bless my Spidey-senses. God bless the Google-machine.  God bless a best friend who listened to my thoughts, helped investigate, and agreed with my assessment.  I reached the conclusion that her story was false. It was a farce. An untruth.

This seems like a fairly small and possibly benign daily encounter.  Except it interrupted my day. It took up space in my mind.  It made me question her motives.  And it frankly took time away from my family and my own endeavors.

Satan wants our minds to be cluttered with nonsense so that we lose focus on what is most important to us. I could have been reading with my son, exercising, cooking, or studying.  Instead, I was surfing the internet to investigate this woman’s claims.

A subtle form of spiritual warfare.

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”

What can you do if there is a liar in your midst that is causing a distraction?

  1. Pray. There’s nothing better than prayer to calm a troubled heart or mind. Bring the situation to the Lord and allow Him to work on your behalf.  When we bring our angst to the Lord, He opens our eyes and our ears to truth.
  2. Create Distance. This may require a few days away from the individual. It may require a social media break. It may require a complete severing of the relationship. Distance allows us to evaluate a situation and it allows us time to spend with the Lord.
  3. Evaluate Yourself. Ensure that you reflect on your role in the situation or scenario. Have you encouraged or discouraged behavior?  Perhaps there is nothing you have done…perhaps there was.  God will help you with that self-reflection and the conclusions you come to.

I don’t need a false friend, nor do I want to condone untruths.  Yet, I didn’t want to assist the negativity by confronting her or escalating the situation.  I didn’t want to become a malicious witness.  I simply deleted the conversation.  I blocked the individual on social media.

This scenario is one small example of how we can discern if the interaction is glorifying to God.  Or if it’s one that the enemy is using to distract us.  I choose to be focused and undistracted.

I pray that God continues to allow the gift of discernment to work in my life. I pray it works in your life as well.

~Emily

Liars

 

 

Tremble

I am a music person.  Always have been.  From the time I was a little girl, I always loved to sing…at church, in the car, the grocery store, at home.  It didn’t matter.  Music was like air.  One of my fondest memories of childhood is singing to my mom’s records of Reba!

There’s something about finding the right song to match your mood or lyrics that are exactly what you wanted to say but couldn’t figure out how to say it.  I’ve spent hours searching for the perfect piece of music that would hold me captive to what was going on for that day.  Anyone else like that?

I was struggling recently with a decision I needed to make.  I couldn’t wrap my head around what to do.  I had been praying so fervently for God’s answer.  I pored over scripture, looking for the clarity that I wanted to have. I knew what God was saying, but I was struggling with His answer to me.

Full disclosure, I haven’t been to church in many weeks.  I’ve felt the absence in my heart.  But Sunday morning, I just knew I needed to be back.  I needed to find peace in His answer.  And because music is so wired into who I am, I knew I needed to worship through music.

I walked through the doors of the church and when worship began, it was as if the Holy Spirit poured right over me.  I begged God to remove distractions from the devil, show me that I didn’t need to fear the answer—to know that He gave me the answer in love, and I was to trust Him.  And then the band began to play Tremble…..”Jesus. Jesus.  You make the darkness tremble.  You silence fear.”  Just like that, this perfect peace settled over me.  It was almost unnerving.  In that moment, I felt so calm and I knew I was supposed to let go of the fear in the answer.  It was a true gift.  It was one of those moments you have in your life that you know you’ll never forget.  It was that powerful.

My words are for you who may be struggling with a decision.  Maybe you’re not sure what you’re hearing from God because the answer seems so different from what you thought it would be.  Perhaps you don’t know why your circumstances are what they are.  You’re afraid of the question.  And you’re even more afraid of the answer.  Lean in.  Speak His name over you.  He silences the fear.  His name is so powerful, it brings a peace that only He can give.  There’s no need to be afraid anymore.

Is there a worship song that has been spoken over you that has changed how you heard Jesus?  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Jesus, Jesus

 

The Shell Seekers

The first full day at the beach started with the boys leaving at 4:30am to go fishing and me headed to the shore to watch the sunrise over the waves.  While walking, I spent my time chatting with God.  About a mile into my conversation, I came across three siblings who were gathering seashells into plastic buckets.

The youngest girl was grabbing any shell in a willy-nilly manner.  She had no concern whether the shells were whole or broken and jagged.  She simply wanted an abundant collection and it seemed her only discriminatory thought was if they were “pretty.”

The boy was only picking up shells that were deemed “perfect.”  He disregarded dozens before he would place one gently into his bucket.  Unlike his younger sister, he had very few shells in the bottom of his bucket.

The oldest of this group was only selecting shells that had a small hole near any of the edges.  She wanted the shells that had a “pre-drilled” hole from their time with relentless ocean waves.  She was planning to string these shells into a necklace but did not want to have to create the hole herself.

I continued walking, but these three shell seekers stayed on my mind.  It reminded me that during our Christian walk we fall into one of these three categories when we allow people to speak into our lives: The abundant collector of people, The seeker of perfect people, and The one who searches purpose in people. Shells

If we are the youngest girl, we allow anyone to speak advice into our lives.  These people could speak the truth, but there is a risk that they won’t.  They may not be saved and therefore will speak from the world rather than from scripture.  I’m not saying we can’t have broken-jagged people in our lives, but rather I think we need to be careful about how much influence they have over our lives.

If we are the middle boy, we search only for the seemingly perfect people to allow into our lives.  These people are a façade.  They frankly don’t exist.  Because there has only been one perfect person to walk the earth, we will be disappointed in the lack of people we can associate with.

If we are the older girl, we align with people who serve a purpose in our lives. We know they may not be perfect on the edges, but there is something in them that is useful for enhancing our walk with Christ. Perhaps they speak truth into our situations or they offer new study techniques or they may even encourage us in a manner we weren’t expecting.

This week think about those who you allow to influence your life.  Are you the youngest, middle or oldest child?

~Emily

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”        ~Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

The Shell Seekers