The Culture

Last week was my two-year anniversary of living in the beautiful state of Alabama!  I’ve loved every minute of living here, and there are no regrets with making such a huge move to make our home in the south.  While I could do without temperatures of 143° and 923° humidity, I love the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and the home we’ve created.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between here and California (where I lived for five years before moving here) are the amount of people who say they’re Christians and talk about God openly.  Church is almost a culture out here, a legacy that’s been passed down from generation to generation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone’s membership to a local church started with their MawMaw or GreatGranny taking their kids so many years ago!

In California, the conversation was not as free-flowing about Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t nonexistent.  You just didn’t hear, “I’ll pray for you,” or “God bless” as you left your local grocery store.  No one was asking random strangers if the church’s youth group could help clean up your yard!

Now, hear me out on this one.  I’m not looking to step on toes.  I’m not looking to rile up the great people of the south (or of California).  But this idea of Christianity being a “culture” around here got me thinking.

Have you fully surrendered to God?  Are you a blood-bought believer, saved by the grace of God, living for Him in every aspect of your life?  Or is it just a culture….a legacy that’s been given to you because it’s what the family has always believed?

These are not questions I ask lightly.  And these are not questions I have not already asked myself.  My parents were Christians.  My father was raised in a Christian home.  It’s what I’ve always known.  But I would be remiss in not recognizing whether or not my salvation is because I made a choice to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ or because it’s what my mom and dad “did” so I did.  My actions, my attitude, and my heart should be clear indicators as to whether or not I am a new creation.

The Bible speaks clearly to being not of this world and being about the Father’s world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” –Colossians 3:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” –Romans 12:2 

While it’s important to attend a church, have your children going, have your children’s children going, there must be more to the story than just a legacy.  Does our faith show?  Does our faith produce works that show?  Is our heart truly surrendered to the Creator of the Universe?

Our actions and our life should reflect 100% submission to God.  There should be no room for doubt when someone sees us that we are committed to Christ.  I’m not saying perfection.  I’m saying active pursuit of righteousness.

There’s one way to heaven.  I don’t get to go because my mom and pop were Christians or because my Grandma prayed for me.  I get to be a citizen of heaven because I made the personal decision to accept Christ as my Savior.

Maybe you’re reading this and recognize that you haven’t done that yet.  I encourage, dear friend, call on the Lord.  Tell Him you’re a sinner and that you’re nothing without Him.  Repent of your sins and ask Christ to come live in your heart as Lord of your life.  There is no greater moment than knowing you have stopped becoming a citizen of this earth and are bound for your true home in heaven!

~Erin

Am I a Fruity Tree?

When the girls were younger, both Peyton and McKenna preferred to sit with me in “big” church.  They were never really ones to want to go to the kid’s room where everyone their age hung out.  They never ceased to amaze after the sermon when we would discuss the pastor’s message just how much they would know and understand what had been talked about.

One Sunday, Pastor Galen spoke of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22).  Jesus came up to the fig tree with his disciples and upon seeing that the tree was bare when it shouldn’t have been, He cursed the tree.  It withered up at once.  The disciples were shocked and from that moment, Jesus was able to speak to them on the power of faithful prayer.  

Pastor Galen expressed additional thoughts on the correlation to us living out the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to produce fruit in our walk with God.  It was rich with meaning and incredibly helpful to think about how empty our walk with God can be when we are bare and not producing fruit for the Kingdom.

On our way home, Peyton asked me if she could ask a question.  “Mommy, am I a plain tree or a fruity tree?”  At 6 years old, she was able to understand what the pastor meant in the difference between the two.  It shaped a beautiful conversation that ended with Peyton reminding herself that as a Christian she should always want to be the fruity tree and talk to her friends about Jesus.

To have the faith of a child, right?!

We sometimes think that being fruitful in our Christian life is difficult.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s hard to handle things like patience and long-suffering.  It’s scary to talk to a random stranger about God and who He sent as a sacrifice on our behalf.  It’s demanding to think that we must die to self daily.  But isn’t that we’re meant to do?

In Colossians 1:10, Paul writes to the people and says he is constantly praying for them so that they will be filled with the knowledge of His will, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I believe that if we came to God with the faith of a child, innocently wanting to just be a fruity tree for Him rather than a plain one, we would recognize we can trust God to help us be that fruity tree.  We aren’t meant to become fruit bearers by doing it on our own.  With faithful study and meditation on God’s Word, we can know that we are meant to lean on Him as well as walk with Him as we flourish and produce the fruit. 

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with Him!  We don’t have to be scared because we aren’t doing it alone.  We produce the fruit as a faithful child of the King!

How about you, dear friends?  Tell me, do you long to be a fruity tree for the Kingdom of God?!  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Your Biblical Arsenal

From the time my children were little, they were taught gun safety.  They are aware of the ways in which to handle and carry a gun.  They know how to load and shoot guns, as well.  It was important as their parent for Chris to teach them how to use and take care of guns responsibly.

While I don’t believe in a “zombie apocalypse,” it HAS been the running joke for years that we need to have protection, know how to defend ourselves in the event of an attack and what an arsenal would look like in a situation like that. 

This makes me think of our own personal Biblical arsenal.  The Bible is the sword of the Spirit.  It is the part of the Armor of God that allows protection against the devil’s schemes and attacks against us.  It is to be used at all times!  A biblical arsenal can be a book of scripture or your actual Bible that you have with you.  Maybe you have a notebook that you’ve written some verses down in or a Bible study book that you keep handy.

Many verses in the Bible speak to knowing scripture and having scripture handy as a necessity.

This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.” –Joshua 1:8

“I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.” –Psalm 119:11

“The Law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” –Psalm 37:31

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” –Colossians 3:16

I know that I write a LOT about knowing scripture.  I do this twofold. 

The first, because I know how important it is to have a Biblical arsenal handy in times of struggle, attacks, and trials.  I can’t stress enough how calming it feels when a verse that you’ve memorized or read dozens of times pops into your head courtesy of the Holy Spirit during a time of need.  It’s comforting.  It feels like confidence.  It feels as if you’re not alone.  It also opens up the opportunity to take a moment to pray and thank God for the arsenal He’s given.

The second, because I need the reminder even now.  And I know I’m not the only one that needs this reminder.  It’s work to look up and learn verses.  But it’s work that isn’t regretted. 

When you are struggling to find joy in your day and the Holy Spirit lays on your heart Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” it allows for a moment to reflect and give praise to our Father.  It allows a change of direction in our attitude.  When we feel the attack of the devil, perhaps one of the verses you’ve got in your arsenal is “Go away, Satan!  For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only,’” Matthew 4:10, the words of Jesus to Satan.

If you’re not great at memorizing, I’d like to suggest something that has worked for me for years.  I’ve carried with me 3×5 spiral-bound notecards.  I found it in Walmart and started writing verses in it that were important to me.  There are verses about salvation and verses about God’s love.  There are verses like the previous ones mentioned.  There’s verses in it about prayer.  They are simply my own hand-written biblical arsenal that I can carry to help me through at a moment’s notice.

I encourage you to put together your own arsenal!  Let us know in the comments below what your biblical arsenal looks like!

~Erin

Maggie…And Some Kind Words

It’s been a hard week…again.

While I wouldn’t trade this last year in Alabama for anything and we’ve had such a wonderful time in our new home, we’ve had a year specifically marked with sadness.  This last week our 14-year-old sweet pup, Maggie, passed away. 

We got her when she was just 10 months old, the one that got left behind because no one wanted a solid sandy-colored Shih-tzu.  We wanted her, though.  The kids fell in love with her.  Peyton was just barely three when we got her, and it was hysterical to watch this little puppy chase her and grab onto her undies and tug.  Peyton was the little Coppertone baby!

She became a therapy pet for Peyton when she was diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder; this dog was attached to her at the hip!  Peyton even tried smuggling Maggie in a bag once when she had to go to work with me. 

But it was time, and I’m thankful that Peyton and I got to be there.  As we walked out of the vet’s examination room, we were greeted by little puppies and kittens in the lobby.  Peyton and I were visibly upset, and the waiting patrons were so kind to us as we sat and waited for them to bring Maggie out in her little burial box.  “I’m so sorry” scattered across the room, and one mother and daughter even stood up and asked if they could give us a hug.  As we left, the mother called out, “We’re praying for you.”

I don’t know if they are Christians.  I don’t know if they know the Lord.  But that moment of kindness and words of prayers reminded me that the Bible tells us to treat others exactly that way.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, –Colossians 3:12

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. –1 Peter 4:9

And as you wish that others would to do you, do so to them. –Luke 6:31

We are meant to show compassion to those around us.  When we are as God asks us to be, it brings glory to Him!  When someone needs a hug or a kind word, when we are the hands and feet of the body of Christ, we show honor to the Father that created us.  You may not know the person you’re helping.  Maybe you don’t realize what a simple hug can do or how kind words can put salve on a wound.  But those moments where we obey God’s command to love, be kind, or treat others respectfully gives someone a moment where they see Jesus.

And I saw Jesus at work as those sweet women hugged Peyton tight and told her they were so sorry for her loss.

Dear friends, let find opportunities this week to do what God would have us do for each other…be kind, loving, tenderhearted, and compassionate!

~Erin

One Bathroom

A house with only one bathroom is a recipe for disaster.  And I still have one teenager left living at home.  It’s practically unbearable!  It’s a juggling act, sometimes, to figure out who can get in for their shower and who gets to brush their teeth or wash their face first.  This week, was no exception.  Chris, Peyton’s dad, needed to go to work and I hadn’t thought to let Peyton know.  (I mean, he’s had the same Tuesday schedule for three years, so it didn’t even cross my mind.)

The idea that Peyton had to shorten her shower and get out was not a pleasant solution in her 15-year-old mind.  When she emerged she looked at me and said, “Why can’t he get up earlier to get ready?!”  To which I reminded her that he’s had the same schedule for years.  She retorted, “I’m irritated with you too, mom!  You should’ve told me he was going to work!”

Do we have that reaction when it comes to knowing what the bible says?  Someone else will give me the answer!  I expect that when I go to church my pastor as the leader should be telling me what the bible says.  When I attend a bible study the writer gives me direction in my homework.  When I’m speaking to my accountability partner or mentor I think they’ll give me the answers.

But as Christ-followers, we shouldn’t be waiting for the advice alone of our mentors and leaders.  2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the scripture is God-breathed.  The answers that we need are in the book that we should be studying!   We should be researching, reading, and seeking the answers for ourselves in the Bible.  We have a responsibility to do the work, as well.

I know I can be guilty of this.  Just like Peyton with the idea of ‘someone will let me know,’ I can very easily wait for a Sunday service, hoping the pastor will eventually touch on a topic that’s been on my mind.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You,” –Psalm 119:11

This verse reminds me that I should be in the Word, studying and growing in my walk.  I don’t need to wait for someone else to give me the answer.  God gave it to me in the form of a bible, and I’m going to make sure moving forward that I’m using it to mature my faith in Jesus.

~Erin

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

The Empty Seat

If your child didn’t get off the bus, would you worry where they were?  If you went to the hospital to visit your loved one and they weren’t in their assigned room, would you worry where they were?  If you had a business presentation and your partner was running late, would you worry where they were?

Of course you would! The woman inside of each of us would worry about where those individuals were and why they weren’t where we were expecting them to be.

Let me ask you a harder question.  Do you worry about the empty seat next to you at church?

I’m not asking about the seat that is empty due to sickness, injury, or planned vacation. I’m asking about the seat that is empty due to spiritual sickness, lukewarm responses to the Gospel, or flat out thinking there’s something more important to do than sit in the House of the Lord.  We are not speaking of the empty seat due to plans that backfired…we are talking about the empty seat due to someone not even planning to sit there in the first place!

This empty seat is unable to sing glory to God.  The empty seat is unable to testify to answered prayers.  The empty seat is unable to witness to the newcomer.  The empty seat is unable to serve. The empty seat is unable to teach.

But the empty seat is not silent.  No. It’s not silent.  It tells a story of apathy.  It tells a story of an Easter-Christmas Christian.  It tells a story of lukewarm faith.  This is a tragedy for the walk of the lukewarm Christian’s life.

Understand this…God does not want a lukewarm reception, nor does he want a lukewarm follower.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ~Revelation 3: 15-16 (ESV)

Both Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 & 24 state that the church is the body of Christ, over which Jesus is the head.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you know you should be attending church. This is where you connect with God, where you worship God, where you focus your prayers, and where you fellowship with other Christians.  In short, it’s where you are an active part of the body.

As I write this, I want to be clear that I acknowledge that I am often the empty seat.  It’s all too easy to sleep in on the only day of the week that is alarm clock free.  It’s easy to let errands and chores take precedent. It’s easy to make excuses that I don’t want to sit by myself when my husband is out of town or working.  It becomes a slippery slope of not going. One Sunday becomes two; two becomes three; three becomes a full month, and so on. Suddenly, it’s been months or years that the seat has been empty.

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” ~Hebrews 2:1

I know I should be in church. I know that the Bible states church must be a priority in my scheduling. To not go is tragedy.  It’s a tragedy that causes our Lord sorrow.

 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~James 4:17

The empty seat represents a lack of spiritual preparedness.  It represents a willingness to allow the world to be more important that the Lord.

If women worry about an empty seat on a school bus, in a hospital room, or the boardroom, then we should certainly be concerned with the empty seat in church!

Ladies, this is our chance to exalt the Lord, to learn, to encourage one another…and frankly, these are the front row seats to Heaven that we are discussing!  We are talking about seats for our children, our neighbors, our friends, our families…and we are absolutely failing them if we are not filling the seats of our churches!

Let’s start with assessing ourselves to ensure we aren’t the empty seat.  Then let’s start to look at the empty seats around us to see if there are members we should encourage to come back to church so they can fill their seat.  Finally, we need to seek the unbelievers, so that they can fill empty seats reserved for them.

Churches should be busting at the seams.  There should be a distinct need for additional service times.  It should be standing room only.  There shouldn’t be even one empty seat…

~Emily

 

A Sports Mom & Grace

I have a love-hate relationship with baseball season.

I’m not talking about Major League Baseball—not the Yankees and the Red Sox.  I’m talking about 7-8 coach pitch baseball.  Coaches pitching to 7 and 8 year old boys.  This was my son’s 2ndyear playing ball and his 1styear as catcher. The regular season ended last week and has provided an opportunity for me to reflect on this love-hate relationship.

I love how happy my son is being on a team, while exercising, and learning a sport. I love watching his eyes dance when he catches the ball or hits a run.  I’m content being behind the camera catching the intense moments of concentration.  I adore that the coaches pray with the boys before practices and games.  I’m grateful that he hasn’t been on a team that chose white uniform.

Despite the “love” part of being a baseball-mom, I have some issues with baseball season.  I hate 7 pm games, which means I’m in a dinner dilemma…to feed before or to feed after???  I hate that late weekday games equals cranky mornings…for the kiddo and for me.

And I have come to hate the group texting with parents for snacks and practice times.  Each time my phone indicates a text message; I start dreading the massive text chain. Why?  Probably because I’m a very organized, type A personality, who has been in the military for over 20 years. I have a hard time with loose schedules and lack of pre-planning.  I want lists of snack responsibilities.  I want to know who has scoreboard or dug out duty for each game.  I want to know when the team party and photos are scheduled. Not knowing these things in advance makes me cringe.

Not knowing makes me less gracious.

Grace has been defined in several different ways.  Typically, we think of God’s grace in relationship to His providing a way to salvation through acceptance of His son.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Essentially grace is God providing for us even when we don’t deserve it.  Knowing about God’s grace is not enough. We have to accept God’s grace. Then the hard part…we have to demonstrate God’s grace by showing grace to one another.

Grace for others is demonstrated in our thoughts, words, and actions.

If we think dreadful thoughts, we aren’t illustrating grace.  When I have grouchy thoughts about a 7pm, mid-week game, I’m not demonstrating grace in thought.  We are given guidance on our thoughts in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If we speak negative words, we aren’t speaking grace.  When I complain to my husband about the lack of snack organization, I am not demonstrating grace in speech.  We are given guidance on our voice in Colossians 4:6 (NIV), “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If we roll our eyes or have huffy behavior, we aren’t acting in grace. When my Type A personality encourages me “take over” team mom responsibilities, I am not demonstrating grace in action.  We are given guidance on our actions in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

If we act in grace, then we honor the grace God has provided for us.   I need to work on turning my thoughts, words, and actions into grace-filled examples of God’s love for each of us.  I need to turn my love-hate relationships into love-love relationships. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

phdLadies,

I want to have grace flowing from my heart….not just behind the camera, but rather in all of my thoughts, words, & actions.

Do you?

~Emily