Prepper for Heaven

True confession time…I’m a prepper.

Seriously, I’m prepped for an electromagnetic pulse, a tornado, zombies, drought, or Armageddon.  I spend time watching videos, participating on discussion boards, learning about water purification, or researching homeopathic medical treatments. I have an elaborate “bug-out” bag for each of my family members, which includes three days of food and water for each of us.  In light of the most recent tornados in Alabama, I have recently added whistles to the outside of the backpacks so that we would be able to identify ourselves to first responders if we happened to be buried in debris.

I’m prepared for a disaster.  And I’m okay with both my husband and my best friend making fun of me for it.

I believe that in life, you must be ready for anything.  If you have a plan and don’t need it, does it hurt anyone? No.  But if you don’t have a plan and need one, then it hurts those around you.  I understand that not everyone subscribes to this thought process.  In some instance, I believe people think they have plenty of time to develop a plan so they procrastinate.

I think people also procrastinate when it comes to God.  I believe everyone must be ready for Jesus, for He will come like a thief in the night.

Matthew 24: 42-44 (NIV) says, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

If everyone knew when He was coming, then everyone would accept His plan.  But many don’t see the merits of having an eternal plan.  They procrastinate their decision.  Essentially they haven’t acknowledged the need for Christ’s gift of eternal life.

If you were to die tomorrow, would you be prepared? Would you have your spiritual “bug-out” bag already packed with Jesus? Or would you be wandering and helpless in the face of eternity without Christ?

While I am concerned about the lost souls who don’t know a personal relationship with Christ, I am also concerned with the Christian woman who does not know how to share her faith with non-believers.  Just as I am a prepper for the natural needs of humans, we must also be preppers for the souls who do not yet know Christ as their Savior.  It is our role and responsibility as Christians to share the gospel.  It is our role to be Preppers for Heaven.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV), “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life.  And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”

If you don’t know how to share the Gospel, if you are intimidated by the thought of sharing the Gospel, or if you don’t see that you have any opportunities to share the Gospel, please come to the porch…Erin and I would love to chat with you about how to become comfortable sharing Christ’s love at any time with anyone.

~Emily

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Preppers for Heaven

 

 

Soda Doctrine

I haven’t had a dark colored soda since December 31, 2015.  No Cokes, no Root Beer, no Dr. Pepper.  I do love carbonated drinks though.  Flavored sparkly water, sprite and ginger ale are all on the menu.  My husband makes fun of my distinction between clear and dark soda…he claims that I can’t say I haven’t had soda in 3 years.  I contend there is a difference and that it’s a matter of semantics.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations about semantics in regards to Protestant denomination doctrine. One doctrine doesn’t allow musical instruments, another recognizes immersion baptism over sprinkling, and yet another believes in praying in tongues.  Each justifies their position with specified scriptures.  Each compels members to believe their individual doctrine while rejecting the thoughts of others.

Think for a moment on the many ways that someone describes their own salvation.  Some Christians have a “decision for Christ” while others refer to “being saved.” Still, others call it being “born again” or “giving their life to Christ.” Most of those phrases are specific to various denominations.  Don’t they all relate to the basic premise that one acknowledges their own sin, the death of Christ for their sins, and the acceptance of that gift as salvation?

Is doctrine a simple matter of semantics? This is a topic that is very much over my head in terms of my own education.  However, I know that the Bible is specific in telling us that there is one way to heaven and that is through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.

No matter the semantics differences in soda doctrine, carbonation is the foundation that justifies a beverage being called a soda.

No matter the semantics differences in church doctrines, belief in Christ is the foundation that justifies a person being called a Christian.

~Emily

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.             ~Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Raise Your Glasses! copy

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

 

 

 

The Day Before Surgery

Last month my mother-in-law, Renee, earned herself a helicopter ride to the ER after having stroke-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, she was scheduled for surgery to remove a brain tumor that had metastasized from kidney cancer.  The day before her surgery, five days after her helicopter escort, she still hadn’t regained use of her right arm.

Through all the visitors who trickled in and out of Renee’s room the day before surgery, our little family was well aware that these may be our last moments with her.  We had spent much of the day laughing and storytelling.  Brittney, my sister-in-law, had the outstanding idea to pack a picnic lunch so that the grandkids could share “snacks” with Grandma one more time.

As the evening drew to a close, Brittney and I offered to wash Renee’s hair, which hadn’t been washed the entire time she’d been in the hospital.  We kicked the husbands and the kids out of the room (We weren’t sure how wet we would get, let alone how much skin would be revealed!).  We gathered towels, basins, warm water, and a little bottle of baby shampoo.  While Renee sat upright in bed with pillows propped up against her lower back and a slack right arm, Britt and I pour water and lathered suds.  We rinsed and rinsed.  We controlled drippy water like experts and Renee hummed in the satisfaction of having her hair washed.

A trio of women focused on a humanizing task…no one else in the room.  Two serving one.  Not just because Renee needed her hair washed (which she did), but because two daughters-in-law loved their mother-in-law enough to want her to feel special.

In the hallway, a nurse said, “She’s so lucky to have a family to care for her with servants’ hearts.”

That statement sat in my heart for several weeks. I wasn’t sure that “servant’s heart” was the correct phrase.  Perhaps it was; perhaps it wasn’t.  I didn’t feel like I had a servant’s heart at that moment.  I just knew that Renee had been subjected to humbling tests and treatments…ones that strip a person of their privacy.  I knew at that moment, I wanted to tag team with my sister-in-law to make Renee feel “human.”

Scripture tells us to regard our family members with acts of service.  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ~1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV).

Scripture also tells us how to regard our elders with acts of service.  “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” ~1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

The act of washing hair may be worthy of saying “servant’s heart,” but it was definitely a moment where family was taking care of family. It was an act of love.  It was one where humility was exhibited by all three women.

God blessed that action; just as He has blessed every act of service done while modeling Christ’s love for one another. He’s blessed this family and He has wrapped His arms around Renee as she has faced the uncertainty of life and death this last year.  She survived brain surgery.  After a few complications, she is doing well in rehab and is starting to regain movement in her right arm.  God is good. All the time.

Cancer is a terrible road.  I wouldn’t want this reality for any family.  But I will freely admit that I wouldn’t change one moment of that “day before surgery.”  I wouldn’t change the picnic lunch or grandkids’ giggles.  I wouldn’t change the parade of visitors or watching my husband hold his mom’s hand.  I wouldn’t change the group prayer around her bed, as we left for the night.  And I certainly wouldn’t have changed any part of the hair washing.

~Emily

Love is…Bible Study Time

More often than not, I get stumped while reading the Bible.  I want to know all the details and frankly, the Bible doesn’t always give all the details.

The OCD in me wants to know who’s who and why of the Bible.  So, I spend time cross-referencing family lineage.

The historian in me wants to know what is happening on a timeline.  So, I spend time looking up historical references about what was happening during certain parts of the Bible.

The researcher in me wants to know why some versions use particular words, while others have selective different verbiage. So, I spend time cross-referencing different versions of the Bible.

The woman in me wants to know how it applies to me. Right Now.  In 2019.  So, I spend time in prayer and journaling in an attempt to fully understand a scripture.

A new technique that I’ve recently employed is putting myself into the scripture or the scenario.  This has afforded me an opportunity to hear God’s voice in a manner that I hadn’t previously tried.

For instance, imagine yourself as one of the disciples being asked to pray for Jesus the night before His death.  As you are sitting in the dark garden, would you have been faithful in praying?  Would you have fallen asleep? Would you have sat up chatting with the others in an effort to stay awake?

In that scenario, you can begin to picture what the disciples were feeling that night.  Perhaps you get a glimpse into how Jesus reacted that evening.  Whatever your reaction to this exercise, you begin to see the Bible through a new set of lenses.

Let me present you with a challenge to put yourself into a scripture.  I’m sure you are familiar with the scripture of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV), but for the purpose of this exercise, I’m asking you to break it into individual lines (you can do this in your journal or on a scrap piece of paper).

Love is patient,

love is kind,

it does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Now, the harder part of studying and applying this passage.  Replace the word “Love” and the word “it” with your own name.  Once you do that, prayerfully ask the Lord and yourself if the statement is still true.  Ask the Lord for help to strengthen you where there is weakness and continue to protect you where there is a strength.

In this challenge, “Love is patient” becomes “Emily is patient.”  “Love is kind” becomes “Emily is kind.” So on, and so on.

Guess what?  Love is patient all day, every day.  Emily, not so much.  I lose patience all the time.  And that is an area I need to take to the Lord in prayer.  What happens in this Bible study time, through putting myself into a scripture scenario, I identify an area that I need to prayerful consider in time with the Lord.

Take the challenge.  See what God speaks to your heart through a new lens.

~Emily

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.  It penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

love is

Unbiblical Teachings

bible“It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” Job 34:12 (NIV)

Dealing with untruths, when spoken as though they are the words of God, is one of the most difficult scenarios that a Christian can face.  Churches split, relationships are damaged, and hearts break over this very issue.

A few years ago, my husband and I each had a nudge from God to attended an established church that we fell in love with.  There was a large church following without multiple services. This was a church without debt. They added on to the building when they had funds.

The Pastor spoke words from the altar that defied political correctness. He was passionate. He provided offensive sermons and was unapologetic for those messages.  More than once I questioned his Biblical basis for his claims in sermons.  Yet my husband enjoyed the church and the services.

When the Pastor came to our house, he railed my husband about not being a “true” Christian head of the household.  Again, offensive and unapologetic.  Still, my husband was drawn to him and his teaching.

When this Pastor had a sermon on being fruitful and multiplying, the stage was set for my feelings to be hurt, based on my past experiences with infertility and miscarriages.

He preached that those who did not have multiple babies were being “unwilling” or “unfaithful” to spreading the Word of God.  He stated that if you weren’t pregnant, trying to get pregnant or having babies then you weren’t a strong enough Christian.  If you weren’t able to get pregnant, you weren’t praying hard enough. He stated that God gives His faithful and prayerful people what they ask for.  Therefore, if you are not receiving what you are praying for, then you are either unfaithful or don’t have a healthy prayer life.

Imagine my shock. The dagger to my heart when I realized that he was saying that my 20+ years of praying for a baby was not enough. That I wasn’t a strong enough Christian.

It was the first time I had been in doubt about my Christian walk based on the words of a Pastor. And it was the first time I defied my husband’s lead regarding the church.

You see, my husband liked this church and he liked the Pastor.  However, that was the last day I went to that church. My husband wanted to go back, but I refused. I did not believe it was Biblical teaching coming from the pulpit. I did not believe he was speaking to the hearts of Christians about God’s message.

It was not the first time that my husband saw the spiritual gift of discernment being used in our house, but it was certainly the first time that it caused chaos and contention.

After prayerful consideration, we found another church.  That decision was not easy.  It’s not always easy to follow your heart when you hear the true voice of God speak to you.

Come to the porch and share an experience where following the voice of God was not an easy road…

~Emily

unbiblical truth

Your Roots Are Showing

In my favorite movie Steel Magnolias, Ouiser Boudreaux tells Clairee, “Have your roots done!”

If someone tells you to “have your roots done,” or worse “your roots are showing” you may immediately get on the defensive regarding your hair coloring.

There may be another way to interpret those comments.  Perhaps someone telling you that your roots are showing is referring to the roots of your character.  These could be positive or negative characteristics.

If you are a cynical person, you are rooted in negativity. Your cynicism will show.              If you are a joyful person, you are rooted in positivity.  Your optimism will show.

If you are an untruthful person, you are rooted in distrust.  Your lies will show.                  If you are a trustworthy person, you are rooted in integrity.  Your truth will show.

If you are a gossiping person, you are rooted in meanness.  Your ugliness will show.          If you are a humble person, you are rooted in concern.  Your heart for others will show.

Deep roots of our childhood, our present circumstances, our education, or our faith make up who we are.  Those roots will show eventually.  Both the positive and the negative.  The good news is that with Christ in our heart, we can overcome the negative roots and strengthen the positive roots.

Life with Jesus is much like a tree.  It must be deeply rooted in order to continue to grow and produce fruit for the kingdom.  In Jeremiah 12:2 (NIV) God promises goodness for us if we dare to grown deep roots for Him; “You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit.  You are always on their lips, but far from their hearts.”

In the parable of the seed, Jesus warns of the danger of having shallow roots that are not deeply developed.  “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Mark 4: 5-6 (NIV).

We need to have deep spiritual roots.  We need those strong roots in order to improve our churches, our marriages, our families and our communities.  Deep roots take an effort to develop.

If you are willing, you can develop strong roots through prayer, Bible studies, and serving others.  Share the Gospel, practice grace, work for others to know Christ.

When someone tells you that your roots are showing…be confident that they are strongly developed, deep roots in Christ that are showing.

~Emily

roots

The Christmas Guessing Game

GiftIn 1953, my Grandpa responded to my Grandma’s exasperation at not being able to keep track of gifts for the purpose of writing thank you notes by inventing our family’s Christmas tradition: The Guessing Game.

The premise is fairly simple.  Everyone gets a gift from under the tree and then one-by-one we guess what the gift is and then open.  We keep score of rights and wrongs.  At the end of the present opening, whoever has the most “rights” gets a silver dollar.

Through the years, it has evolved into very creative wrapping procedures in order to trick the receiver into a false guess. Small gifts get large boxes.  Larger gifts get scavenger hunts. Items get wrapped with decoy noise making material. It prolongs gift giving and opening, but the reward is that you get to truly enjoy someone’s reaction to their gift. And every mom in the family is grateful for the chance to write down what needs to be included in thank you notes.

There’s a gift that we don’t have to creatively wrap. It’s one that you don’t even have to guess.

It’s the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus as our Savior.  He came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for all of our sins…and offered himself as the only gift we will ever need.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ over the next couple of days, please think about those around you who need this gift…who don’t know about this gift…who have previously rejected this gift. Think about who you could share the gift with.

Christmas is the time we celebrate the arrival of the Messiah.  Take the guessing out of the gift-giving and prayerfully consider sharing the Gospel with those who need to hear it.

On this Christmas, 65 years after my Grandpa invented the “Guessing Game,” I pray that you will have opportunities to speak of Christ as a gift.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

~Emily

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” ~Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

 

 

No Service: A Distraction-Free Zone

Cell PhoneNo service or the spinning wheel of death usually causes a groan because I can’t access Google, Facebook or text messages. It often happens at the worst time, such as when I need directions in some remote area of Amish country.  Or worse, when I’m standing in a line…bored and needing some electronic entertainment. It’s annoying to not have service on my cell phone.

Except that there is one place where I don’t receive cell service that it isn’t annoying. It’s the one place I’m grateful I don’t get service.

At my church.

I don’t get one single bar.  A continuous spinning wheel of death.  Repeated “Not Delivered” messages.  Not a tiny, itty, bitty inch of service.

And I’m glad for it.  Why?  Because it’s a total and complete break from social media and obligations through my electronic lease.

It’s a relief to have that chain broken so that I can 100% focus on God and the people within the walls of the church. I literally have no excuse to not get involved, to not engage in conversation, to not fully worship and pray.  I have no buzz in my pocket tugging me away from being present in the moment.  No service means no distractions while I’m in the walls of the church.

Have you found yourself distracted while in your church?  It may be your phone, your child, your worries from work or even your spouse. Those distractions tear your attention away from God.

*Focus During Worship

Have you struggled with focusing on God while the worship music is happening? Are you self-conscious about singing in tune?  Perhaps you are wondering where the singer got her adorable dress? Fretting over clapping verses raising your hands in praise?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during worship time.

You can sing like an angel or roar like a lion, but not say one thing to God. You can be tone deaf or not care for a particular song, but speak to the Father fully from your heart.  I would encourage you to examine yourself and figure out if your words of worship are simply lip-service or if you are truly offering a song to the Lord.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” ~Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)

*Focus During Prayer

During times of prayer, does your mind wander? Are you making a grocery list? Thinking about your child’s homework? Wishing you could pray more eloquently?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during prayer time.

You can get loud and pray boldly, but your prayer still won’t touch Heaven. You can stumble and use verbal pauses…..ummmmmm….., but speak directly to the Father’s heart.  Examine yourself and figure out if you are just tossing words around or are you offering a sweet sound of praise and request to the Lord.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.” ~Psalm 18:14 (NIV)

*Focus During Service to Others

When you are serving others, are you considering other things you could be doing? Do you feel a sense of obligation rather than joy? Are you watching your watch, wishing the time away?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during times of serving others.

You can volunteer for dozens of organizations, but your service can be unpleasant to the Lord. You can serve one person in a seemingly mundane manner, but make the Father proud of you.  Examine yourself and figure out if you are serving others for yourself or are you offering the gift of your time as praise to the Lord.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” ~Mark 9:35 (NIV)

These are just three examples of where we, as Christians, need to focus:                     During worship. During prayer. During service to others.

Through focusing on God, we need to mitigate distractions.

While my phone is an asset for staying connected in business and personal relationships, it can also become a distraction.   A distraction that has been eliminated based on the lack of a service area.

I am grateful for the elimination of that distraction.  It’s one step closer to staying focused on the Lord!

I pray that you have deliberately focused week that is free from the distractions of the season!

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

 

 

Feeling Gratitude

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ~A.A. Milne

Several years ago, I posted on Facebook daily in the month of November, something or someone that I was grateful to have in my life. I did it for three years in a row. Which means that at this time of the year, Facebook likes to provide the memories of what I was grateful for in the past.

Sometimes they were silly things like kittens, warm showers, or hugs.  Other times they were more serious, like my brother’s cancer treatments, the breath of a newborn baby, or having my grandmother’s crotched blanket to keep me warm.

In all that time, I never wrote that I was thankful for my salvation.  I never wrote that I was thankful for a loving God, who gave His only son so that I can have eternal life.  I never wrote that I was thankful for Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice on my behalf. I never wrote that I was thankful for the written word.  I never wrote that I was thankful I lived in a country where freedom of religion means I can openly be a Christian.

I never wrote any of that.

But I am grateful for all of it.  I am probably more grateful for my salvation than for anything else I’ve ever considered.

On this week of Thanksgiving, what are you most grateful for in your life?

~Emily

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” ~1 Chronicles 16:34

Pooh Bear