Prickly Ball Things

I don’t really know what else to call them.  I never really thought that much about them when I first moved here, except that they were all over the ground and they fall from some kind of tree.  They reminded me of something you might see in a Dr. Seuss book! 

But I sure thought about them the other day when I walked out onto my bedroom deck and stepped on one.  I will say that I did not use any cursey words.  I will also say that about 14 of them, however, ran through my head.  It hurt.  I’d put it on the same level as a Lego, so captivating.  Until it’s 1030 at night and your child needs a drink of water.

These little thingies from the tree remind me of how sin can sometimes be.  We see it.  Something attracts our attention.  Maybe at first we don’t think much of it.  Perhaps we think it’s interesting or different.  We get used to it being around.  We know it’s there but it’s not really that big of a deal.  And then…  

WHAM!  You misstep.  You take your eyes off of Christ and the sin has ensnared you.  You didn’t even think it was that big of a deal, but before you even realize what you’ve done, satan has sucked you into something that you know isn’t the thing that you’re supposed to be doing!

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” –1 Peter 5:8

We must be aware of our surroundings.  We must be on guard at all times.  This is why our daily Bible reading is so important.  This is also why studying scripture is key.  When we study the scripture, we know what is pleasing and honorable to God.  When the little innocent looking objects/surroundings/people come our way, we can be better equipped to recognize the dangers or missteps that can happen.  This, then, allows us to avoid them and keeps the devil from devouring!

Iron Porch, let’s begin to recognize where those pitfalls lie around us and working on keeping them at bay and our Heavenly Father right in front of us!

~Erin

P.S.  If anyone knows what these prickly ball things actually are, you can leave it in the comments!

Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

Regaining Quiet Time with God during Quarantine copy

Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Loneliness Blues

Have you ever experienced a moment of unexpected loneliness?  A moment that leaves you feeling all by yourself?  One that takes you by surprise?

Yesterday I took my husband and son to the airport so they could visit an ailing family member over spring break.  I wasn’t able to travel with them since I just started a new job three weeks ago.  If I’m being 100% honest, I had been looking forward to the week of quiet homework-free evenings with zero expectations of dinner preparations or housekeeping chores. I was dreaming about bubble baths, kitty snuggles with a good book, and early bedtimes for this tired mama.

When I arrived home from the airport, I wandered around the house.  I was aimless and restless. I had planned to clean the house and work in the garden so that I’d have the whole week of evenings free.  That didn’t happen. I couldn’t focus on the to-do list.  I wasn’t interested in the book I was reading. I couldn’t find anything interesting on tv.

I was lonely.  I was missing my boys, even though I had just seen them a few hours earlier.  Frankly, it took me by surprise because I had been looking forward to the alone time.

Rather than wallow in my loneliness blues, I decided to do something about it.  I got up and cleaned the bathrooms top to bottom.  I transplanted blueberry plants. I changed all the sheets.  A whole bunch of busy work which still left me unsatisfied and still feeling alone.

That’s when I changed my tactic. I opened my Bible.

While reading chapter 5 of 1 Peter, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief in reading verse 7.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

My loneliness blues were cast on Him at that moment.  I felt immediate relief. You see, the feeling of loneliness was one that I could have given to God at the very moment I identified my unrest.  But I didn’t.  Why? Because I am human…and I tried to fix it myself.  Me “fixing” things hasn’t worked for me in the past…why would I think it would this time?!?!??!

In all seriousness, I should have known.  I should have remembered. I should have trusted…that God would take the loneliness from me.  That He alone would settle my unrest.

How do you deal with your loneliness blues? Are there specific scriptures that bring you comfort?  Come to the Porch to share….

~Emily

cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5_7 copy

 

 

 

Cockroach Leg Eyebrows

As a small child, my mom would smooth down my eyebrows as soon as I woke up in the morning.  As a teen, I would make my eyebrows a mess by pushing them backwards against the grain…just to see if my mom would notice. She always did.  Apparently, those eyebrows were wild!

Interestingly enough, my mom has never worn make up.  Therefore, she didn’t teach me about make up.  Other than smoothing my eyebrows down, she taught me nothing about taming the beasts above my eyes.  It wasn’t until I had been in the Air Force for over four years that friends took me to a tweezing session.  That first tweezing was HORRIBLE!  My eyes were welled up and I was sneezing. I thought my brains were being pulled out!

Since then, I’ve experienced cultural eyebrow grooming throughout the world.  Most notably, the string technique in Turkey, a wicked stinky mix of wax in Korea, and a hefty German woman plucking away while swilling beer.

My eyebrows have been beaten into submission.

My husband’s eyebrows? They are a different story.  He has one that shoots out like cockroach legs. I’m constantly smoothing his eyebrows down.  What I would give to take a pair of tweezers to his caterpillars!

Alas, last week while wiping a roach leg into place, I suddenly had a thought.  Does anyone, let alone God, really care about the appearance of our wild brows?  Instantly a verse came to mind.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”                ~1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)

Each of us have such potential to be great in God’s sight…with or without the outward adornments. God doesn’t equate the outward adornment of our eyebrows with our inner worth.

My eyebrows will continue to be tamed.

My husband’s will probably continue to get my attention.

With 1 Peter in mind, I’m going to try to give his brows less attention.

~Emily

Eyebrows

Spiritual Battles

Last Friday, I made good on a ridiculous commitment I made while my husband and I were dating.  I had casually and thoughtlessly agreed that sometime in the future I would attend a heavy metal concert.  I dodged that bullet for years.  But Friday, I finally went to my first and last head-banging-metal concert.  I am free of that commitment from this point forward.

I may be free of the commitment to go, but I’m not free of the overwhelming pain my heart felt leading up to the event, while being at that concert, and in the days afterward.

True confession #1:  I hate…seriously hate…heavy metal music.  It’s so freaking loud.  And repetitive…every song sounds like exactly the same yelling.  I don’t understand 80% of the lyrics and the few phrases I can discern I don’t believe are in concert with my Christian faith.  I despise that many of the bands in this musical genre utilize symbolology that I deliberately avoid, as a result of my own pagan past.  In truth, in the weeks leading up to this concert I was praying that something would happen that would prevent our attendance.

As it became apparent that I was going to have to actually attend, I engaged my prayer warriors to form a hedge of protection around my family while we attended the concert. I was fervently praying for God to close our ears to the enemy, to open the hearts to the non-believers, and to assist with protecting us as we entered a spiritual warfare battlefield.

I prayed as we drove to the venue. I prayed in the parking lot. I prayed in the concession line. I prayed in our seats.  I prayed for God to be with us and that Satan would get behind us. I prayed for complete and total intercession.  I prayed specifically for my family, but then I prayed for those in my row, in our section, and in the entire audience. I even prayed for all of the band members.  I prayed that everyone present would know God…would know His love…would profess Christ as their Savior.

I was praying super big prayers.

True confession #2: I was surprised at how pleasant everyone was around us.  Between sets, folks were chatting with us and offering ear plugs (little did they know I had packed several sets of plugs in my purse!).  No one was cursing. No one was fall-on-their-face drunk.  No one was spouting off about Devil worship.

Everyone was nice.  No one was directly threatening towards me or my family.  I felt God’s arms around us.

And that’s when I let my guard down.  I had prayed through most of the afternoon into the evening, but by dusk I had relaxed a little.

The sun went down.  The drunks became rowdy.  The smell of weed was prevalent.  All around us, people were super excited to hear the first beats of the drum from the headlining band.  I stood up to see the stage and when the curtain fell I was in absolute shock.  There were images that were blatantly disrespectful of Christ.  There were huge areas of literal fire balls.  When pentagrams began bouncing all over the screen, I literally burst into tears and fell back into my seat.  I know I was the only person in that arena sitting down, but I may have been the only one that was crying and praying out loud to the one true God.

Satan made his presence known.

True confession #3: Spiritual Warfare in America is real and I am fearful that many Christians are turning a blind eye to this fact.  I know it’s real because it’s a slippery slope I’ve tumbled down.  I know it’s real because I see it in daily aspects of our society.  I know it’s real because I just pitched a book about it.

It scares me to death to see how spiritual battles have influenced American society.   And yet, I took my family on a trek to see the battle field in action.   You read that correctly… “my family.”

True confession #4:  My 7-year-old son was with us.  He was one of a dozen kids that I saw in attendance.

After that confession, you would be partly justified in asking about my parenting skills.  If spiritual warfare scares me so much and if I was so concerned that I dispatched my prayer warriors, why on God’s green earth would I introduce my son to such a scene?

Why?  Because I’m raising a prayer warrior.  I’m raising a child to someday become a head of household.  I’m raising a young man who is in love with the Lord.  I can’t shield him completely from the world.  But I can teach him how to hold onto his faith, his beliefs, and his focus on God.

Do you know who was praying with me in the weeks up to the concert?  My son.

Do you know who prayed in the car that God would protect us?  My son.

Do you know who was praying that just one person would come to know the Lord that night? My son.

Do you know who shielded his eyes from the fire on stage and also prayed out loud? My son.

Spiritual warfare is alive and well in our country.  Christians are doing a disservice to the next generation if we aren’t allowing them to become equipped to fight a battle that they may not understand.  Shoot, that many of us don’t understand!

Some will say that a heavy metal concert wasn’t the place for a child.  I agree.  It wasn’t an ideal situation.  But because it was one that occurred, I used it as a teaching tool for my child to understand that God listens.  He will defend us.  He will equip us.  He will protect us.

I’m free of the commitment to ever attend another one of these concerts…but I will continue to be vigilant to the spiritual battlefield all around us.

~Emily

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ~1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

1 Peter 5-8

Rough Patch

There was evil in the air last Saturday.

A horrific tragedy unfolded in my community when a husband decided to kill his wife and children, before lighting their home on fire and subsequently committing suicide.  On the same day, a friend had her basement renters also commit suicide.  On the same day, an Airman I mentor lost his brother in a terrible car accident.

These three separate events, in three separate cities, have impacted my life this week.  Not because I knew the key players, but because it has impacted people I care about. It has impacted my church’s youth group. It has impacted my military community. It has impacted the elementary school.

When I found out about my Airmen’s brother’s death, I told him that I was available if he needed to chat. He’s Muslim.  I’m Christian.  I wanted to offer prayers, but was unsure how to say that without offending him or his family.  I was treading softly, as we are both Active Duty.  He told me, “Chief, I’m going through a rough patch.”  And my immediate response was this:  “It’s okay to be going through a rough patch. It’s not okay to stay there for a long time.”

No one enjoys hard times….the rough patches.  And yet, we’ve all had a rough patch.  The rough patches could be unemployment, divorce, infertility or the rough patch could be health related.  The rough patch could be gossip, slander, low self-esteem or loneliness.  The rough patch could be death:  a family member, a murder, or a suicide.  There are thousands of reasons for the rough patches. Rough Patches are really hard when you feel as though you have done everything correctly, but you still have to suffer through the rough patch.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”        1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

 In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we read that there will be suffering for the Christian.  We will see and experience the rough patches. Essentially, we should expect some amount of trial and tribulation, and yet we should also continue to press forward looking towards God for help and comfort.

The rough patch offers us time to examine ourselves while in the trial and allows us to entrust ourselves to God within the trial.

Peter warns us in verse 12 that the trials are expected. Yet, we are often surprised by the intensity of the trials.  Peter refers to the trials as a “Fiery Ordeal.” I don’t know about you, but the adjective “fiery” makes me feel like this is a super big deal!  Fiery is intense.

More than the intensity, I think I’m often surprised by the purpose of the rough patch. On a brain level, I understand that God is allowing us time to draw closer to Him.  On a heart level, I want so desperately to have everyone healthy and happy around me!  I understand the trial’s ultimate purpose, but like most of us, I would rather not fulfill the purpose through a rough patch.

When there is evil in the air…when we are facing hard times…when we are going through a rough patch, it’s so much easier to bear the burden in remembering that our God is for us. He is with us. He is allowing us to stretch and grow through trials in order to be closer to Him.

The rough patches suck.  They’re horrible.  But it’s okay to be in the rough patch.  They have purpose. They let us grow.

Just don’t stay there for too long.

~Emily

P.S. If you are contemplating staying in the rough patch too long, I am praying that you seek Godly council.Find a strong Christian woman to pray with, talk to your Pastor, call a suicide hotline…please, please, please get help.

The rough patch is meant to grow you…not break you.