The Influencing Friends

Through the years, I’ve been blessed with friends from all over the world.   These friends have explored new cultures with me, traveled with me, drank with me, held me while I cried, celebrated life with me, and prayed with me. I truly have been blessed and touched by each of their roles in my life.

Three friends stand out as being the largest influences over my life.

The 1st is Lindy, who was my very first best friend.  We met at age three and lived two houses apart so we played together often. She had the most amazing collection of Barbie dolls, but my mom didn’t want me playing with her dolls because I had a horrible habit of biting the feet of barbies (yes, you read that correctly…I used to bite the barbie’s feet).   Lindy is the friend who taught me about sharing, about compromise, and about truthfulness.

The 2nd is Linina, who became my closest friend in the 7th grade.  We were inseparable for the next six years and I can’t imagine how I would have done High School without her.  We shared every teenage secret, church camp, wintergreen gum, and heartache over boys.  Linina is the friend who taught me about Christ’s unfailing love, about loyalty, about perseverance, and about loss.

The 3rd is Erin, who became my prayer partner mid-way through my military career.  While we lived in the same city for a short period of time, our daily phone calls for the last ten years have enhanced my life.  We stood by one another as relationships crumbled, as children grew, and our love for God became the center of our friendship.  Erin is the friend who taught me about strength, about growing, and about contentment.

As I look back on my life at these three stages of besties, I’m reminded that scripture tells us we will have similar stages of spiritual growth.

Infancy

As an infant/young child, we are just beginning our walk with the Lord.  1 Peter 2:2     relates that we are like newborn babies who desire the milk of the Word.  It’s essentially a developmental phase where we are learning about our new Christian walk.

In the flesh, a newborn is completely dependent on a caretaker.

In the spiritual, the newborn Christian must be taught how to study and read the Bible because there isn’t a developed ability to ‘feed themselves.’

I saw this phase distinctly with Lindy, as three-year old’s, embarking on our first friendships where we were being taught the principles and boundaries of friendship.

Adolescence

Maturing into adolescence, the Christian has a strong faith in God and has learned about prayer and fasting.  While spiritually strong, there is often a lack of maturity at this stage.  1 John 2:14 states, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” This stage is about learning submission and patience, rather than knowledge.

In the flesh, a teenager is knowledgeable and able to care for themselves, but they can be prone to missteps in decision making based on their experience levels.

In the spiritual, the adolescent Christian must practice restraint and continue to seek guidance from authorities.

As teenagers, I saw this phase in my friendship with Linina, when we thought we knew it all but still need to submit to the authority of our parents.  It was a season of becoming stronger in friendship and holding one another accountable, while still relying on guidance from wiser Christians.

Adulthood

In our Christian walks, maturity brings the realization that heaven is not our goal, but rather it is our destiny.  Our goal is to live as close as possible to the example provided by Jesus.  This includes continued growth in our personal relationship with God, as well as loving our neighbors deeply.  Paul reiterated this when he wrote, “..for me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21), which is indicating that from his own conversion until his martyrdom, everything he did was to advance the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.

In the flesh, an adult is comfortable with continued learning but is often the one sought for advice.

In the spiritual, the adult Christian strives to meet believers and non-believers, in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Bible and the gift of salvation. During this stage, there is conscious effort to win souls for the Kingdom.

I have seen the adult phase develop over the last decade, as my friendship with Erin has grown. This has been a season of building relationships and Iron Porch, as a space to share the gospel.

I can clearly track my spiritual growth through these phases, as well as in my friendships. I’m still friends with all three of these lovely ladies; Lindy, Linina, and Erin (obviously, Erin).  These three ladies influenced my “being” more than any others.

One started me on learning what friendship meant, one taught me about Christ’s love, and one has studied with me on how to bring Christ to the center of a friendship.

Each of those friendships is a reflection of the women influencing “Emily” and a reflection of the stages of a Christian’s development.

Come to the porch and share who has been influencing your development…

~Emily

The Influencing Friends

 

 

When Liars Become A Distraction

The enemy engages with us when we are least expecting it.  Often the enemy uses those around us to “get into” our head.  Occasionally, the circumstances seem genuine. Sometimes red flags are raised.  That’s how spiritual warfare works…sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

A “friend,” who I hadn’t heard from in years, contacted me via social media. This is a woman who I have had a challenging past with.  It’s also someone who thinks she has a vested interest in knowing about my life. Furthermore, it’s a gal who is very much into pagan paths of spiritualism.

Despite that past and her religious thinking, I wanted to believe the best of her intentions.   I chatted via emails over the course of a couple days.  Then she wrote something about one of her recent accomplishments, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked several questions, to which she had some interesting answers that also didn’t sound right.

God bless my Spidey-senses. God bless the Google-machine.  God bless a best friend who listened to my thoughts, helped investigate, and agreed with my assessment.  I reached the conclusion that her story was false. It was a farce. An untruth.

This seems like a fairly small and possibly benign daily encounter.  Except it interrupted my day. It took up space in my mind.  It made me question her motives.  And it frankly took time away from my family and my own endeavors.

Satan wants our minds to be cluttered with nonsense so that we lose focus on what is most important to us. I could have been reading with my son, exercising, cooking, or studying.  Instead, I was surfing the internet to investigate this woman’s claims.

A subtle form of spiritual warfare.

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”

What can you do if there is a liar in your midst that is causing a distraction?

  1. Pray. There’s nothing better than prayer to calm a troubled heart or mind. Bring the situation to the Lord and allow Him to work on your behalf.  When we bring our angst to the Lord, He opens our eyes and our ears to truth.
  2. Create Distance. This may require a few days away from the individual. It may require a social media break. It may require a complete severing of the relationship. Distance allows us to evaluate a situation and it allows us time to spend with the Lord.
  3. Evaluate Yourself. Ensure that you reflect on your role in the situation or scenario. Have you encouraged or discouraged behavior?  Perhaps there is nothing you have done…perhaps there was.  God will help you with that self-reflection and the conclusions you come to.

I don’t need a false friend, nor do I want to condone untruths.  Yet, I didn’t want to assist the negativity by confronting her or escalating the situation.  I didn’t want to become a malicious witness.  I simply deleted the conversation.  I blocked the individual on social media.

This scenario is one small example of how we can discern if the interaction is glorifying to God.  Or if it’s one that the enemy is using to distract us.  I choose to be focused and undistracted.

I pray that God continues to allow the gift of discernment to work in my life. I pray it works in your life as well.

~Emily

Liars

 

 

When Your Calling Isn’t “Ministry”

“God placed His calling on my heart to be a Minister/Pastor/Sunday School Teacher.”

“Writing or Speaking is God’s calling on my life.”

“God has called me to go on a mission.”

All valuable statements. All truths in someone’s life. But…

But what if the calling on your life isn’t a “traditional” Christian role? What if that calling has nothing to do with what most would see as a typical Christian position?  Does that make it less valuable? Does it make it less God honoring?

I know this gorgeous gal, Chaunte Myers, who is absolutely in love with the Lord.  The calling on her life, and that of her family’s lives, has been to establish a non-profit organization that assists military members, veterans, and their spouses with transitioning into civilian jobs.  It would become a delicate balance to walk because of dealing with government agencies that do not overtly discuss religious views.

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

Nearly a decade ago, this family of seven veterans followed God’s urging and created Centurion Military Alliance (CMA).

Is this a traditional “positional” calling from God? Most would say no.

Why? Probably because we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that a worthy calling on a Christian’s life is narrowly confined to leadership roles in the church, such as Pastor, worship band, small group leader, etc.

Perhaps it’s time to re-define what we believe is a “calling” on our lives.  I would contend that anytime God calls you to do something…anything…that is a calling on your life.

How do you know that you have a God-ordained calling on your life?  It’s because the work you are doing touches people. It changes them for the better. It robs you of your sleep as you pray and collaborate on how to impact lives.

CMA is able to do that. They touch lives in a ton of different ways.

Tangibly, they assist veterans with building robust LinkedIn profiles, practicing elevator speeches, and crafting military lingo into civilian verbiage on master resumes. They create space where military members are able to become gainfully employed civilians.

Intangibly, they touch lives through living a Christ-like lifestyle.  This may be one of the few times a military member is able to see a family functioning together for the pure joy of fulfilling God’s calling. It may be the first time military members are seeing someone help them without expectations of return.  It may be the first time that individuals are able to witness God’s love without feeling condemnation.

God’s calling doesn’t have to be to a traditional Christian platform.  God’s calling is simply used to touch people.  It influences the basic human needs, as well as the heart.  It answers the question of how God shows up in people’s lives.

The members who attend a CMA workshop will see how God has shown up in Chaunte’s life.  They will see how He’s showing up in their lives, through her example. They may not see it immediately, but it’s there.

The sleepless nights thinking about drafting grants or dispositions, using the traveling points to go to the next location, missing the events of the littles, and praying through development and delivery of curriculum…all of it worth it…if it touches one person’s life.

Romans 8:30 reassures us of our calling, “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

 In the end, doesn’t that mean that every single calling on one’s life is a ministry?

What’s the calling on your life?

~Emily

This is my shameless plug for Centurion Military Alliance.  If you know anyone with a military connection that needs transition assistance, please have them contact CMA…they love to connect the military member with the next chapter of their employment!

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Friendships & Disciples

“It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone and a day to love someone—but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.” ~anonymous

I find this to be a very profound statement and strikingly relevant to my own life. How easy is it to forget the people that we run into on a daily basis…the lady at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, the teen who cut you off on the freeway, or the man that held a door open for you. But how much harder it is to forget those who touch your soul…those whom you love.

This is the way of the girlfriend…we drift in and out of each other’s lives, but we are always there for one another. It could be 5 years, or 5 minutes, but when a girlfriend is in need; we rally. This is especially true for those of us who are constantly moved via the military. I have girlfriends all over the world-or down the street-who email me, text message, snail mail and call.

We remember good times with cheer and cry while laughing through the bad times. We tease each other about former fashions and reminisce about past boyfriends (*insert cynical laughter here). We take trips and share all our hopes and fears. We encourage career changes then cry over divorces and miscarriages. We plan wine parties and paint our toenails crazy colors. We judge-apologize for judging-and judge under the term “advice.” We protect one another…in the bars, from credit card debt, from bad hair.

When we find treasure in a friend, we bring them into our fold…we add them to our family.  We allow them into the tribe.  We invite them to the circle.  We introduce them to our other friends.  Hence, the circle becomes larger and larger of those who you can call upon in times of triumph and trial.

All of these are amazing qualities to have in our friendships. But how strong are those friendships if you don’t mention your relationship with Christ? How much do you love the ladies in your life, if you aren’t concerned about their salvation? Will you mourn when you miss the opportunity to share the gospel with the unbelievers in your circle?

Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) states “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our mission on Earth is to create disciples for the kingdom.  The love we feel for others should include being concerned about their soul.  There is simply nothing more important than knowing if someone has been introduced to Jesus.  If I’m willing to introduce my new friends into my circles, my family, my tribe…then why wouldn’t I be willing to introduce them to the best friend anyone could ever imagine…Jesus?!?!?

There are different levels of “best friend” in my life. There’s my best friend from 7thgrade through High School, my best friend from college, my best friend from church, my best friends from the Air Force, and of course, my sister-wife best friend.

Best friend is a loose term in my vocabulary, simply because I have so many dear friends that I consider the best…the best at the moment that I needed them or they needed me. I pray that I am half the friend that these wonderful ladies are to me.  Above all, Jesus is that best friend…every time I’ve ever needed Him.

Everyone will hear what you say…

Friends will listen to what you say…

Best Friends will listen to what you don’t say…

When we aren’t speaking of Christ to our friends, we should act in a Christ-like manner…our best friends will listen to what you don’t say.

~Emily

Friends

Blubbering to Bliss

Blubbering to Bliss

Have you ever watched a friend go from meltdown to joy…all in a matter of hours?

Erin and I are on a week long road trip/writing conference…and guess what?  I watched it happen this week.  I got to witness Erin go from blubbering, overwhelmed, messy crying in a Wal-Mart parking lot to complete contentment while putting her grandson to sleep.

And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

I’m not saying her messy crying is a beautiful thing to watch.  What I am saying is this:

~How privileged am I that I get to stand next to this amazing woman while we are doing life together?

~How blessed am I to witness the meltdown and help her make sense of the nonsense while she puts the pieces back together?

~How amazing is it that God gave us an opportunity to hang out and bond with all of our kids and grandkid?

~How beautiful is it that I got to rock her grandson to sleep while praying over him? (before she came and stole him from me…I mean seriously, he was already asleep in my arms!!!)

~Or better yet, how beautiful is it that I got to watch Erin sing hymns to him while he fought desperately to stay awake? (after she woke him up from my arms)

The point is this…the meltdowns happen so quickly and sometimes for no reason that we can pin point. But the bliss erases the memory of the meltdown.

I watched my best friend blubber in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

And then just an hour later, I got to watch her love on her Grandson in a way that only Grandma’s can.

I loved watching her in both moments.  Simply because she’s amazingly real, amazingly strong, and amazingly there for everyone.  Simply because she sharpens me just by being herself.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I thank God everyday for this girl who makes me a better woman…she truly is a treasure trove of friendship.  I hope and pray each of us is blessed with someone like her in our lives!

~Emily