She Never Complains: A Thankfulness Story

I love to hike. Why? It’s peaceful, it’s out in nature, it’s time to chat with God, time to spend with family and friends, and it’s a way to get some exercise.   I have lofty hiking goals, like completing 52 hikes in a year or section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

As a result of my love of hiking and my goals relating to hiking, I never complain while on the hike. 

Until this last week.

I was on an easy 3-mile hike with Erin…my first in several weeks as a result of a knee procedure. The hike was miserable…I was miserable.  Miserable and grumpy.  Erin was quite amused by this shifting of roles on this particular hike….you see, she’s normally the complainer during our hikes.  

I immediately went home and tied myself to my ice-compression machine to get a little relief.  And as I settled into the couch with ice and Tylenol, I felt a nudge of the Holy Spirit about my complaining during the hike.  There I was trying to relax and compensate for pushing my knee so hard and I kept hearing the whisper of Philippians 2:14 in my head. 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” ~Philippians 2:14. 

But I was hurting.  But I was hot and sweaty.  But I hadn’t stayed on top of my hiking and workouts.  But there were more hills than I remembered. But, but, but. 

Excuse after excuse came to mind to justify my grumbling.  Within a short period of time, that nudging had me re-examining how I had behaved on the hike. 

Yes, I was hurting and probably pushed too hard to go on the hike so quickly after the knee procedure.  However, that did not justify my grumpy words about the hike.  With a repentant heart, I opened my Bible to read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

How do we ask for forgiveness for something that seems as trivial as complaining about the length of a hike? We identify the wayward behavior; we repent and ask for forgiveness…and then we shift gears. In that instance, I gave thanks to the Lord as directed by 1 Thessalonians.  I am thankful for medical interventions for my knee. I’m thankful I made it through the hike. I’m thankful for electricity and frozen water to help after the hike. I’m thankful for cool Fall weather and changing leaves.  Of course, I’m thankful for my friendship with Erin…who indulges me by going on hikes with me.  In all, I am grateful to the Lord who has provided each of these things.

She who never complains (about hikes)…she complained (about a hike).

And then this simple example of grouchiness, turned into a personal lesson about being thankful.

~Emily

Intention & Deliberate Action

For the last couple of months, I’ve been feeling like I need a nap all day, every day.  Coupled with my thyroid disease and the fact that I’m overweight, I knew I needed to be checked out.  Turns out my Vitamin D is low and so is my B12.  My thyroid (with my medication) is currently stellar.  My provider wants me to take some supplements she’s now recommended and thinks I should see a marked improvement in my lethargy.

Here’s the thing…I was actually told that two years ago.  So I know it’s a problem.  I was advised to take the supplements then.  I bought them, and I took them for about two weeks.  And then I forgot to take them because I’m just plain bad at taking pills.  I’ll remember at 1130pm at night and then be too tired to get out of bed to take them.  I’ll say to myself, Take them first thing in the morning.  But I forget in the morning, and by the time I remember…you see where I’m going with this.  I need to start being intentional about taking my medication.  If I don’t, I’ll never see any improvement and feel better.

Studying scripture needs to be the same way, and often it’s the quickest thing to be pulled off our daily list of things we want to do.  I’m guilty of this myself.  I want to start the morning off with my Bible study, but I oversleep.  I’ll do it on my lunch, but I scroll social media.  I think I’ll do it before I start dinner, but I still need to vacuum.  The to-do list goes on.  Before you know it, you’re able to squeeze five minutes in, if that, of time in the Word before you’re in bed and ready to end the day.

Intentionality is important.  The dictionary defines this as the fact of being deliberate.  While Bible study shouldn’t be just a thing we check off the list every day so that we can say it’s done, we still need to make sure our intention is to specifically spend time with God.  This is how we grow our relationship with Him.  This is how we prepare ourselves to speak with someone who might not know God as their Savior.  And with that intention must come the deliberate act!  We can have every intention to study, but we must also follow through!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” –2 Timothy 2:15

When we are intentional, when we are diligent in our study, we become accurate in how we know Jesus and how we present Jesus.

How about it, dear friends?!  Let’s strive to be deliberate in our study.  Do you have a method that you use that reminds or allows you to be intentional with Bible study?  Share in the comments!

~Erin

Planting The Fall Harvest

For the last several weeks my husband has actively been planting food plots in preparation for deer season. It has required deliberate planning for locations, tilling plots, research of specific crops, and sowing seeds.  After that, lots of prayer for rain to come and birds to not eat the seeds sown.  All these plans to entice deer to come to a pre-arranged buffet location.

One of the things we’ve discovered through this process is that we had to repeatedly till up the land because there are residual weed seeds at multiple layers of the soil.  Each time we disked it up we had to wait a while to watch the weeds take hold…then till again.  Repeat, rinse.  It’s been quiet the process to get up all the weeds in order to plant the food plots.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the process that Jesus told us to do in regards to the evil weeds of the world.  Jesus told the parable in Matthew 13:24-30 (NASB) that we should let the weeds grow up with the wheat.

“Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. And when the wheat sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also became evident. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ And he said to them, An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; while you are gathering up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Jesus goes on to explain that this field represents the world, that Jesus is sowing the seeds which are the Word of God, and the enemy is Satan who has planted the poisonous weeds.  Yikes.  Both the church and the enemy are sowing seeds…one is worth harvesting, and one will be burned. 

While believers are game to spread the seeds of the Good News, we try in vain to stay away from sin and evil.  Of note, most of us want to pull up the weeds by the roots and be done with the enemy and evil that he sows.  But that is not our job.  According to Matthew 7:5, the only evil we are required to root out, is the evil in our own lives. 

That does not negate our calling to sow seeds generously in the harvest fields (Matthew 13:1-23).  We need to keep sharing, keep praying, and keep planting the seeds of the Gospel.  We speak truth.  We vote according to our beliefs and we work against injustces that we see happening around us.  We continue to work for the Kingdom as the hands and feet of Christ. 

The weeds in the food plot planting for deer season must be dealt with through continuously tilling the soil.  But the weeds sown by Satan?  We leave those alone…let God deal with them on Judgment Day. 

I pray you have a fruitful week spreading the seeds of Christ’s true love.

~Emily

Context is King

How many times have we read those memes about how punctuation can really change the context and understanding of the sentence?!  They’re some of my favorite things to see on my Facebook page.  You know what I’m talking about…the ones where one comma can change the sentence from “I like eating kittens and sleep” to “I like eating, kittens, and sleep.” What about the times we get just one part of story from someone and we realize we need to see the complete picture, not just the one piece they’re telling us? 

Context is king, and it’s even more important to understand the context of verses in the Bible to fully comprehend what God is saying in the passages of scripture!  It’s very easy to take a verse at face value.  We pick it out because it sounds helpful or we think it’s perfect according to our situation. 

While those verses ARE helpful, it’s important to understand what the verse is talking about as we use these verses.  There are many around us who may not fully understand scripture, and it’s important that we are not misrepresenting the Bible.

Let’s look at a few of the ones I’ve been researching:

James 1:5—“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

If my Table 8 Bible study group heard this from me once, they heard it from me 100 times during our study of the book of James that many use this verse to preach the prosperity gospel.  “If you ask, He gives and He gives GENEROUSLY!  Keep asking!” 

That’s not what He says, though.  He doesn’t say ask for stuff.  He says if you lack WISDOM, ask and He will give it you.  This isn’t about what financial gain you can receive but rather wisdom.  As well, if you read the verses before, James is talking about trials producing endurance  and allowing it to have its perfect result.  This is about wisdom as you endure!

1 Corinthians 6:19—“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

I actually love this verse.  I often heard growing up this verse being related to drinking, smoking, sex outside of marriage, overeating, etc.  While I won’t negate that because your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, it’s important to treat your body well in relation to all of that.  But when you look at the context surrounding the verses, this verse is referring to sexual immorality!  Paul is saying that sexual immorality can truly invade not only your outside self but your inner soul, as well.  Sex is not ‘just sex.’ It’s something that, when not honored in the biblical way, can hurt your heart and soul. 

Friends, as I study the Bible and dig deep, I’m gaining such a better understanding of the scripture.  The study clarifies how it pertains to me and it has me digging even deeper to see the entire Bible and not just the bits that I can fit into a catchy phrase to share as I’ve done in the past.

I pray that as we go through our studies this week, as we dig into the scripture, that we are asking God to allow us to see it as a whole.  Let’s challenge ourselves to see the full context of what we’re reading and allow God to reveal exactly what His word says!

~Erin

Blind Man with a Tattoo

A couple weeks ago, I saw a blind man in the airport while I was traveling for work.  I stood for a moment admiring how he was navigating the crowds with his blind cane.  He was moving quickly and with purpose…and that white stick with red reflective tape was swooshing back and forth.  As he passed, I noticed a fairly large tattoo on the back of his right calf. 

I was taken aback.  Why would someone get a tattoo that they wouldn’t ever see?  How does he know that it was what he asked for? How would he have known which colors were depicted?

I thought about this gentleman for several days and the reasons for him getting a tattoo.  Maybe he had gotten the tattoo and then later became blind; therefore, he’d know exactly what the tattoo looked like.  Maybe he never saw it, but it was the same tattoo with a best friend or family member, so it was special from that perspective.  Or maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about why this stranger had a tattoo without sight. 

As I’m questing this blind man’s reasons for having a tattoo, it got me thinking about if strangers question our faith and the reasons for our faith. Are people seeing us walking in “blind faith”?

In John 20:29, we read that Jesus told us that blind faith is rewarded with blessings.  “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

As believers in modern America, it’s safe to say none of us have actually seen Jesus in the flesh, as the apostles had.  So what does our faith rest on?  It rests on our assurances of all things hoped for, that’s what Hebrews 11:1 says.  The next scriptures also tell us it’s the conviction of things not seen.  All things we hope for and things we have not seen assists with defining “blind faith.”

At yet…blind faith is a super hard approach to convince an unbeliever about the gift of grace through Christ’s death.  Subsequently we must have a plan ready to assist others with knowing Jesus in a way in which they also can exhibit blind faith.   Scripture tells us to prepare a defense in order to tell the Good News that gives us hope.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” ~1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

I’m sure if I had the time, or the moment of bravery, I could have asked the blind man with the tattoo his reasons behind his ink.  And he likely would have had a wonderful story behind it. 

I’m hopeful that if someone were to ask me about my blind faith, they would find that I had a planned approach that defend that faith while I gave them the story behind the greatest hope ever provided.  Jesus Christ.

If you don’t have that hope…if you haven’t given your life to Christ…if you don’t have the blind faith, please message Erin or I at Iron Porch.  We would love to chat with you about the plan God has provided us.

~Emily

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” ~Hebrews 11:1-40 (ESV)

The Hard Decisions: Labor and Delivery

When I was a young Airman, I worked in Labor and Delivery as the primary surgical technician for c-sections. More times than I care to count, I was present when hard decisions were made about maternal or baby health.  Sometimes those choices had to do with a plummeting baby heart rate, a few times it had to do with a prolapsed cord, and once it had to do with a teratoma mass (this is a very rare cell tumor that can contain fully formed tissues, teeth, hair or bones).  The outcomes of those decisions were typically positive with both mother and baby surviving.  Sometimes those outcomes were much sadder.

In Exodus, we know there was a pharaoh trying to control Israel’s population through hard labor and ultimately by ordering Hebrew midwives to kill any male infants that they delivered (Exodus 1:15-16).  This is a much hard decision of the labor and delivery kind.

Within the scripture we see Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, put into a scenario where they had to choose to follow the orders of the earthly leader or the commandments of the heavenly one.

It’s important to note that Moses refers to these two midwives by name.  Perhaps out of the multitude of other midwives, these two are most important because of their seniority in the area.  Perhaps they were mentors or teachers of the other midwives. Perhaps because of that leadership role, they would have been expected to follow the pharaoh’s orders and become an example to the rest of the midwives.  Perhaps they are remembered in the Old Testament scrolls because of their fear of the Lord and their disobedience of the murderous order (Exodus 1:17).

They could have been simply lost to the years as historically insignificant. 

But they were not. 

Why? Because they refused man and chose to obey God (Acts 5:17-19).  They did not kill any babies, let alone just the male infants.  In that choice, they remained faithful to the Lord.  They were able to stand before God as righteous servants rather than wretched ones.  They changed the course of world history by preserving God’s chosen people.

Their decisions were life and death ones with eternal implications.  Like modern obstetrics, they were making the hard decisions of labor and delivery. 

~Emily

“The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

The Owner’s Manual

I bought a new car a few weeks ago.  I wanted something just a bit bigger, and it seemed like the right time to take the plunge.  One of the things the salesman handed me as I walked out the door with keys in hand was a ginormous owner’s manual.  It amazes me how detailed the manual is, giving you specific instructions on not only the strange button you find on the side of your console but how to properly put your car in Drive.  If I need the owner’s manual to learn how to put it in Drive, I’m not sure I should be buying a car just yet!

As Christians, we also have an owner’s manual!  When we accept Christ as Lord of our life, we have the Bible that teaches us about how to live for God every day.  It teaches us seemingly small things like being kind.  It teaches us big things like how to apply appropriate church discipline.  It reminds us that to love the world means we hate the Father.  It also gives us reminders of what can happen when we look back after God has taken us out of the ungodly situation (pillar of salt, anyone?).

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

He also says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

The Bible is meant to guide us and shape us.  It’s God letter to us, rich in wisdom.  When we read it daily, it’s a direct line to our Heavenly Father.  Even when there’s something tough to read or hard to swallow, it’s our Father giving us the right way to live our lives.  We need no other book!  It loves.  It corrects.  It chastens.  It guides.  It heals.

As we read our Bibles this week, I pray that we hear God’s voice in the scriptures.  And if this will be the first time you’ve picked up your Bible in a while, I pray that God’s love pours over you in words.  If you’re looking for a place to start, try starting with the book of John.  It will remind that you God is love.  And that love allowed Him to become a sacrifice for you so that you might know what eternity in heaven is.

~Erin

Hiding Under the Couch

In the late 1990s, I was stationed in California.  While there, I lived next door to a young family in a condo-style building.  The oldest child, Merissa, was about 3 years old when I first met her.  Anytime she was in trouble or afraid, she’d hide under the couch in the living room.  Imagine the sweet little face of a toddler half smooshed under the couch, peeking out to see if the coast was clear. 

Do you have a spot you “hide under” when you’re in trouble or scared? Is it under the covers? In a bubble bath? In a tub of ice cream?  Does that hiding spot also include times you want to try to hide from God?  Notice I used the phrase “try” to hide from God.  Trying to hide is a human quality that does not consider God’s omnipresence.

Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB) shows us that God is everywhere.  “’Can a person hide himself in hiding places so that I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.”

The infinite spirit of God includes omnipresence, which means He is present everywhere in creation. And that my friends…is really hard to wrap our minds around. That omnipresence is awe-inspiring and difficult to understand, but it should also motivate our own sanctification. 

In regards to sin: It helps us with blatant and deliberate sin to remember that God is in all places at all times.  He is a literal witness to all of our sinful behavior.  When I remind myself that God is watching, it often makes me more hesitant to commit the sin.  On the other hand, when I let myself forget that God is omnipresent, I find myself making poor choices.   

In regards to service: It helps us with creating a ‘servant’s heart’ in our own life when we remember that God is in all places at all times.  He is witness to our kindness, our sweet words and actions, and our giving of talents, time, and tithes.  We should not be acting kindly simply because God is watching, but rather it should assist us with becoming more eager to please Him.   

Regardless of if you are hiding under the couch like a toddler or under the covers with ice cream, remember that God’s omnipresence misses nothing. 

~Emily

Clean the Dishes

I hate doing dishes.  Any by hate doing dishes, what I really mean is that all housework feels horrific to me and I’d rather chew my nails down to stubs than do clean my house. (Don’t ask my husband.  I don’t want him to have to hurt my feelings by acknowledging this sad fact!) 

Now, there are fewer people eating in my house as my children grow up and move out, but it feels like there are just as many dishes as there ever have been.  I’m going to chalk it up to me deciding to be a gourmet cook and the necessity of needing 32 bowls to make macaroni and cheese.  There are dishes everywhere!  And as I was scrubbing out the inside of a bowl yesterday, my mind went to Matthew 23.

Jesus was among a crowd of people that included not only the average townspeople but also Pharisees and the disciples.  Jesus spoke of the Pharisees, essentially stating that they do not practice what they preach.  He went on to give Eight Woes, one of which is in verse 25 and 26.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may also be clean.”

Yikes!  The Pharisees were a group of Jewish men who were typically well versed and knowledgeable in the legal traditions and laws of the Jews.  They were constantly reminding people of the correct ways to worship, how to tithe, and how certain rituals and festivals were correctly completed.  They were considered scholars in Jewish law.

Jesus wasn’t very fond of them by all accounts because of the hypocrisy in not only their lives but in the worship of the Father.  They were often known to ignore their own sins but to willingly point out everyone else’s.   

In these verses, Jesus was telling them how they made themselves look pure, clean, and just on the outside so that people could SEE their righteousness.  They appeared polished and pristine.  But their inside…what a mess!  Sins of pride, ego, arrogance soiled them and perverted the process of sanctification.  There was nothing clean about them.  By not truly surrendering to God, repenting, and cleaning up their minds and their hearts, they made their outside actions futile, unworthy of praise.  I would even offer up that because of this, they could’ve easily caused an unbeliever to continue in their unbelief or perhaps a new/seasoned Christian to stumble.  They were doing for themselves and not for the Creator of this world!

The question for us then becomes, how does we relate to this?  I’m so glad you asked!  Our outward actions and life should reflect the inner surrendering of self to God.  When we have fully surrendered and accepted the free gift of salvation, we should then be striving for daily sanctification.  Our eyes should never leave Him.  Our inner thoughts of devotion to the Father should match the outward devotion to Him.  This, in turn, allows friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, strangers, ANYONE to see Christ shining through us!

Friends!  Let’s clean the inside as much as we try to clean the outside!  Let our prayer be that we keep the inside and the outside clean, solely focused on His perfect will in all aspects of our lives.

~Erin

Go Away “Ms. Motivated Volunteer”

Recently I became interested in volunteering for a military-related non-profit organization that matches mentors to new hobbyists.  I’m too new to the hobby to be a mentor and I’ve already got a fabulous mentor of my own.  So how else can I assist? Fundraise? Graphics? Social Media?   They couldn’t really give me an answer, but a couple of suggestions were simple jobs.  I’m happy to do whatever will help them…even if it’s pushing a broom or passing out flyers.

It got me thinking about the excitement and motivation of the new Christian in our churches.  We tell them they are too new to teach a Sunday School or be in charge of a children’s program.  We may or may not assign someone to help disciple them, but I’d venture to guess most newbie Christ followers are not relying on others to mentor them.

That new Christian is motivated in their excitement to learn…and to serve.  And yet, we hand them bulletins to fold or a serving spoon for a potluck buffet line.  We give them simple jobs until they are deemed worthy in experience to perform other tasks.  The simple task may be exciting to the new person, but it could also be de-motivating.  In essence, we tell them ‘Go Away Ms. Motivated volunteer.”

Make no mistake; I understand that there is a need to have experience in any given field to teach and/or mentor.  I’m commenting on the perception that we give the newer people in any given field simplistic jobs in response to their high motivation. 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NASB) states, “ Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” 

This means that each of us has unique skills to offer and that those skills will impact with differing results.  What is most important is that we volunteer to serve our church communities.  The structure of the church lends itself to serving to be central to the growth of a Christian. The commandment of “love one another as ourselves” (Matthew 22:35-40) directs us towards love, but indirectly towards volunteering to serve. 

This nicely backs up the verse in Philippians 2:4 (NASB) where we are told “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Once again God lets us know that volunteering allows us to serve others rather than our own personal interests.

When a volunteer is able to give time, talents, or tithes, they should not withhold that ability.  Likewise, if they are able to serve, we should not prevent them from doing that.  This is an example of Proverbs 3:27 (NASB), “do not withhold good from those to whom it is due…”

In regard to the volunteer who is new to the field…we should be supportive of their desires to serve.  We should also take the time to discover their strengths and interests.  We may be surprised to discover that the new person, who doesn’t have the experience to teach and mentor, may be very qualified to fulfill other roles…not just the simple ones of folding Sunday bulletins or cleaning after an event.

In the next week, I pray you are able to concentrate on scenarios when you can encourage a volunteer…rather than indirectly tell them to ‘go away.’

~Emily