The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

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Waiting for Something: The Case for a Puppy

My 8-year-old recently asked, “Why don’t we have a dog yet?”

Our family has been talking about getting a puppy for a couple years, but we’ve always had parameters associated with it.

As soon as we buy a house, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as I retire from the military, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as this or that is done, we’ll get a dog.

My son has had enough of the waiting and now just flat out asks why we are still stalling.

I tried to think of a way to explain to an 8-year-old using a Bible story.  Sarah waiting on a baby, offering her maid to her husband? Nope, not a good 3rd grader type of story.  Lazarus raised from the dead? Pretty complicated for the 3rd grader. Woman healed with the blood issue? Not sure I know enough about it to explain it….

It’s so hard to be patient waiting for something we desire! Often it’s difficult to be patient with God too.  What does it mean to “wait on the Lord”?

There are a couple of key components to waiting on God. The first is a complete dependence on God and the second is a willingness to allow Him to dictate the timeline.  Both sound easy. Neither are.

I find myself praying, “Lord, give me patience…like, now.  Yep, now is when I need the patience.”

Practicing patience with God often involves waiting. When we wait on the Lord, we are developing strengthened character in our Christian walk.  That patience showcases our ability to trust the Lord. It strengthens our prayer life. In some instances, it may strengthen our desire to be into the Word more frequently.

The timing of the Lord is always perfect.  We just have to wait patiently.

The timing of the Shade puppy will also be perfect. My son just has to wait patiently.

~Emily

The case for a puppy

Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

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Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth

“I Know”

“Make sure you wash your hair in the shower.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old

“Today’s the day you need to turn in your globe project at school.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old.

If I said, “Neil Armstrong did Michael Jackson’s moon-walk while defending Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and discussing Thomas Edison’s impact on the death penalty in 2019, my son would say ‘I know.’”

It’s enough to drive a mother crazy!

How many of us ask God for guidance and then tell Him “I know”?  I’d venture to guess that most of us have told our Heavenly Father “I know” on several occasions. In fact, I’d argue there are two different types of “I know” that we tell God.

The first is similar to what our children say.  “I know” implies, I already have that information and you aren’t sharing anything new with me.  Often in human form, it is accompanied by an eye roll or heavy sigh.  An example of this is when God gives us a nudge, usually in regards to something we are doing that is displeasing to Him, and we reply with the “I know.”  For example, you are harboring unforgiveness towards someone for a perceived slight.  You feel convicted, as though you should reach out to that person.  You respond with the “I know, I know.  I should speak to this person and offer forgiveness. But….

This type of “I Know” does not always include action.  In fact, sometimes, this “I know” isn’t really acknowledging knowledge at all.  Rather, it’s a phrase to make the other person feel like you agree with them.  News flash: God knows you don’t really know…just like a mother knows that about her child.

The second “I know” comes with an exclamation point and often a bit of emphasis that indicates that we’ve just figured out the solution to a perplexing issue.  Essentially it’s the EUREKA of the “I know” world. An example of this is when we ask God’s guidance on a situation but then we implement our own solution with an “I know…I’ll do this or that.”

This type of “I Know!” often includes making a bigger mess.  We haven’t waited on God, but rather try to solve issues on our own. News flash: We tend to mess things up more with our tracts of solutions.

Whether we are answering “I know” to something He’s asked of us, or we say “I know!” like we’ve come up with our own answer to prayer requests, we are not honoring God or our parents with our know-it-all attitude.

A look at Scripture reveals that one of the best ways to determine if God is telling us to do something is to see if it is consistent with God’s teachings.  John 16:13 teaches, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” In other words, God’s Spirit will only guide you to do things that are consistent with what God has already taught as truth.

Another way to know when God is telling you to do something is through prayer.   James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” If we are uncertain, we are to pray and ask for wisdom from God.

Rather than thinking you know, seek the Lord through scripture or through prayer.  If God’s Word is consistent with where you are being led and your prayers appear to confirm that leading, then maybe God is revealing a course of action for you…one that you don’t know about.

~Emily

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Mental Health: When You Need More Than Prayers

I have been in a crazy-spiral for the last two weeks. I’ve been feeling anxious, depressed, and disengaged.  I want to sleep or eat all the time.  I don’t want to converse with people.  Or the opposite…I want to fight & argue with people (**insert public apology to my husband and son).

In a casual conversation I was having with someone last week (**please, refer to the last paragraph where I admitted I didn’t want to talk to people), she told me that my “funk” just needed to be turned over to God. I needed to pray about it, give it to God, and move on with life knowing that He would take care of all those worries.

Ummmm, hello ‘Linda,’ I know that.  (**for the record, her name isn’t Linda, but I often use that name as a substitute when trying to protect the innocent).

I know I should pray about it and turn it over to God.  The truth of the matter is that there are other things that I need to do for my mental health too.  I need to take long deep breaths. I need to exercise and eat right. I need a long bubble bath.  I need to journal.  I need to speak to a therapist or counselor. I need a little white pill. All of that, in addition to praying and taking it to our Father.

This woman was trying to be helpful.  She was trying to remind me to take the issues to God. The reality is that this woman’s words were hurtful. She made me feel like I hadn’t already discussed this with God…and if I had, then I wasn’t doing it right if it wasn’t resolved.

Within Christian circles, there is often a stigma associated with mental health assistance. I needed help these last two weeks. Yet, some Christians around me were thinking that I just need to pray.  I did pray.  But for these last two weeks that wasn’t enough.

I believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer for healing and changing lives.  I also believe in seeking help holistically or through modern medicine. I think there is value in combining these approaches and I think that each person will find what combo works best for them.

If someone breaks their leg, we pray for their healing.  However, we’d be appalled if we heard that they were at their home setting the break themselves with just an herbal tea for pain management.  We have an expectation that for physical health, we’d combine prayer, modern medicine, and potentially holistic medicine.

Why don’t we extend that grace to mental health, as well?

As Christians, we are doing a disservice to those with mental health illness when we have a judgmental attitude or if we are superficially saying that prayer alone will fix these issues.  Prayer alone may work for someone.  However, if they need more tangible help of medication or therapy sessions, then we should support and encourage those steps too.

I promise it’s okay to do the combo.   I also promise you aren’t alone.  There are plenty of us rocking on the porch trying to figure out our combinations.

~Emily

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

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Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

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