The Silence of God

In a European prison cell, the following inscription was found; “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.  I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Sometimes it feels like God is so quiet! 

This last week, I had several conversations with God about this particular issue.  Yet, it felt like there was complete silence from God.  Several of my prayers started with something to the effect of, “I know scripture tells us that you hear us…that you hold each of our tears in your hand…but why does it seem that you aren’t responding!!!”  *Insert whining and moaning*  

Talk about the quintessential child who knows that the parent is parenting, but the child continues to question the methods!!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  If I’m honest with myself, questioning the silence of God is a dangerous place.  It causes me to question if I’m important to God or if my thoughts and requests are trivial compared to some of the bigger requests that He must receive on a daily basis.  It leads to doubt, which leads to fear, which leads to loneliness and a host of other negative emotions.  

As I should do often, I turned to the Word.  I started at Isaiah 41:10, which tends to be my “go-to” verse when I am in a funk.  However, mindless flipping through scripture had me landing on Job 34:29.  The NASB version reads, “When He keeps quiet, who can condemn? And when He hides His face, who then can look at Him, That is, regarding both nation and a person?”

Basically, scripture reaffirms that what God does is good. Always. Even when it appears that He is being silent.  Who am I to question that? Who am I to condemn the perceived silence?

Interestingly enough, I was sent a note later that day that said, “…often when God seems to be silent, it’s because we are too exhausted to listen.”  

Perhaps the silence is an indicator that I’m not listening well.  Just like that child questioning the parenting methods…

In some regards, we live in figurative prison cells, which God still works in.  Just like that European prison cell and the intuitive inmate who once wrote “I believe in God even when He is silent.” 

~Emily

Goodbye, California!

I was struck with the weirdest thought on Sunday.  I was putting my freshly laundered sheets onto my bed when I suddenly thought to myself, ‘This is the last time I’ll be washing my sheets here in California, and it made me a little sad!  This weekend, my belongings get packed up into a moving truck, and they’ll be bound for Alabama.  I bought a house directly across the street from my best friend, and I’m set to begin a new adventure.

It seemed like such an odd thought to have.  I have actually lived in California for four years.  I’ve said for the last four years that California wasn’t a place I really wanted to live and I couldn’t wait to move!  So to have a pang of sadness seemed like such an odd reaction.

The truth is, I AM a little sad.  While I’m so excited to be closer to Emily and positively thrilled over the fact that we can work on other Iron Porch projects, God brought me to California for a reason.  For almost a year, I couldn’t figure out why but the fact is that I’ve had tremendous growth in the Lord during this time.  I’ve had to rely on what God’s vision was for me instead of my own.  He allowed me to be a part of the most amazing community of women from different backgrounds that all came together to study and grow in God’s Word through Bible study.  He taught me how to truly lead a group of women.  He also gave me a valuable lesson in learning to not always lead them and to let them teach me.  He taught me that it’s never my time, but His.  God also taught me how to be courageous in my witness for Him.

I’ve prayed for four years that I would find a church that was strong in the Lord, fearless in their declaration of God’s glory, and bold in the Truth.  I found Doxa Church right before I’m leaving! It’s almost comical that by the time I was led there, it’s time to go.  But the eight short months I’ve been a part of that church, I’ve been fed the biggest, fattest spiritual steak you could ever imagine!  Pastor Scott has lived out Hebrews 5:12-14 and given me some serious spiritual food to gnaw on!  I now have an even bigger arsenal in my spiritual backpack with which to boldly proclaim the gospel.

While I’m sad to be leaving, I must lean into what the Word of God says in Isaiah 1:19.  The prophet proclaimed, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;”  I am willing.  I strive to be obedient.  And because I do, the Lord will allow me to know what the good things of the land were in California and what the good things are in Alabama.

I’ll miss you, California!

~Erin

If you are good

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

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Dinosaurs & Dragons

The COVID-19 precaution that has caused school work to shift to home has increased the number of questions from a third grader that this mama needs help with.  I’ve had to do research on polygons versus quadrilaterals, as well as the differences between handwriting practice and daily writing prompts. Questions have included astrology, science, animal behavior, and computer technology.

This week’s questions:

If archeologists can find dinosaur bones to put on display in museums, then where are the dinosaurs and dragons in the Bible?  Were dinosaurs real?  Were dragons?

After a silent prayer that included a plea for guidance, I told my son we would do some research on that topic.  Guess what? There’s a ton of information regarding the thought process behind dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible.

Most Christians acknowledge that there were dinosaurs at some point in the world, as a result of those archeological digs that produce museum displays.  However, most fall into two schools of thought regarding the timing of dinosaurs.  Young Earth Creationists believe that the world was created by God, as illustrated in Genesis, approximately 6,000-10,000 years ago.  This they believe that dinosaurs likely co-existed with humans and may have even been included on Noah’s Ark. The other group, Old Earth Creationists, believes many theories, but most acknowledge that earth’s creation is much older.  They tend to believe that dinosaurs were extinct well before the creation of humans.

But back to the 3rd grader question…where are they in the Bible?

Nowhere does it say “dinosaur,” “T-rex,” or “brontosaurs” in the Bible.  However, there are 28 times in the Old Testament that the Hebrew word tanniyn is used to describe an unknown animal creature that is close to a reptile.  English translations of tanniyn use the word dragon, sea-creature/sea-monster, or whale, as the term is used for water and land monsters.  Some would argue that the dragons, leviathans, behemoths, and birds with four legs are all “honorable mentions” of dinosaurs in the Bible.

Dragons:

In Ezekiel 29:3 (ESV), we see scripture specifically refer to dragons.

“…speak and say, Thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.”

In Job 41:1-34, we see scripture describe a serpent-like fire breathing creature, like a dragon.

“His sneezing flash forth light…out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke…His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.”

In Job 7:12 (NLT), we see scripture refer to a dragon or monster of the sea.

“Am I a sea monster or dragon that you must place me under guard?”

Leviathans:

In Psalm 74:13-14 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to the leviathan, which is typically understood to be a water monster similar to a dragon.

“You divided the sea by your might: you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan: you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.”

In Psalm 104:26 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to leviathans.

“There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.”

Leviathans & Dragons:

In Isaiah 27:1 (ESV), we see scripture refer to a leviathan, as a ginormous sea dragon.

“In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Behemoths:

In the book of Job, we also see scripture refer to a mighty beast as a Behemoth, which some argue was a vegetarian eating giant creature, such as stegosaurus.

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.

“He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants, he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?” Job 40:15–24 (ESV).

Birds with Four Legs:

In Leviticus 11:20-21 (KJV), we see scripture describe a bird with four legs, which some have argued could be flying reptiles, such as pterosaurs.

“All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.”

If a 9-year-old is asking about the dinosaurs and dragons of the Bible, why haven’t I ever thought to look at it?  After this week of digging into the verses, I recognize that many of the scriptures identify creatures that aren’t familiar to us in today’s age.  I also acknowledge that there are Biblical scholars who have differing points of view on this subject.

More than that, I love that my son and I were able to dig into the Bible and come up with answers to his questions about dinosaurs and dragons.

~Emily

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This Sucks

I had this upbeat and optimistic blog written.  But then I remembered that the Iron Porch is a place for real conversations and truth. A place of transparency.

The truth is that I’m not really upbeat and optimistic this week.  I’m overwhelmed and discouraged about being at home trying to beat technology to telework while figuring out this quasi-homeschooling thing and dealing with an 8-week-old puppy that acts like a drunk toddler.

The truth about COVID-19 shelter in place/quarantine/social distancing…the truth is that this sucks.

It sucks.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m not stuck at home, I’m safe at home.”  While I believe that statement, I’m struggling to embrace it.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m enjoying some much-needed family time.”  While I believe that statement, the constant family time is starting to create impatient moments of longing for some alone time.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I know that God has a plan and will see us through this.”  While I believe that, I’m having to constantly remind myself that God does have a plan.  This is not something that’s been easy for me to embrace.

In the midst of this sucky week, I’ve been praying a lot.  And holding onto the verse Isaiah 26:20, “Go into your houses, my people, and shut the door behind you. Hide yourselves for a little while until God’s anger is over.”

Come to the porch and let us know how you’re doing with all the COVID-19 changes.

~Emily

Isaiah 26-20

 

 

 

 

Suicidal Dream

Recently, my 9-year-old son came to my bedside in the middle of the night asking to lay down with me.  He said he’d had a bad dream and wanted to snuggle. I asked him about the dream and he shared that it included a pretty explicit description of me committing suicide in front of him.

Through the years, I’ve comforted him several times after a bad dream, but nothing had prepared me for him dreaming that I’d shot myself in front of him.  I held him tight and prayed with him to have a calm spirit so that he could fall back to sleep.  He recalled a scripture from Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord, your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I felt his heart rate slow down and his breathing level out as he fell asleep.

I, however, was wide awake and troubled by his dream.  Why on earth would his little mind have created a scenario where I would abandon him in such a manner? Are these residual ideas from his birth mom and the adoption process?  For that matter, how did he even know something so horrific could happen to a mom or a child?

I untangled myself from the blankets and the kiddo so I could get on my knees and place this burden at the feet of our Lord.  While I don’t understand the dream or why my child had it, I do know that I felt relief in sharing my concerns with God.

In the days after that situation, other verses of comfort came to both me and my son.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4

For the Lord says…do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine. ~Isaiah 43:1

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” ~Isaiah 35:4

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Iron Porch is a place to be transparent about real-life events.  With that in mind, I’ve got to admit my son’s dream has shaken me up for a few days.  The one thing that has kept me calm is scripture and prayer.  The constant provision of God’s word has encouraged me and reminded us that he does not want us to fear anything.

~Emily

Deuteronomy

 

No Boundary Society

I went to a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery last week.  As you would expect, it was a somber experience filled with military honors and traditions.  When we were departing, we noticed two young people taking a “selfie” with a coffin in the background.

To say I was shocked was an understatement.

Is this where we are in society? We take selfies at funerals?  We videotape young children in fights? We try to be the 1st to post accidents on social media? Rather than becoming a first responder, we want to be the first reporter?

Have we lost all common sense or are we in a spiral where we’ve failed to teach others boundaries?

The Bible’s book of Judges illustrates the mess that humans can make when we lack boundaries.   “Everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes” Judges 21:25. This was a time in Israel when there wasn’t a king who was able to set the structure for society to follow.  Thus, everyone starts making their own structure rather than turning to God for structure.

Essentially we start to see a scenario when man’s “anything-goes” attitude is used in place of God’s stand for what is acceptable and what is not. When we have unstructured thought and behavior, harm results.  Isaiah 5:20-21 warns of what comes to people and nations as a result of this attitude.  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.”

I understand that cultures change and evolve.  In most regards, there are positive advancements; women can vote, slavery was abolished, public school accessible to everyone, liberty granted to all (just as a few examples).

But a lack of boundaries in our nation has allowed cursing on network television, roadside signs of scantily clothed women, questionable music lyrics, ‘PG’ movies that would have been ‘R’ 20 years ago…and selfies at a funeral.

While the world seems to be going nuts, we are blessed to have the book of standards that creates boundaries; the Bible.

At any point that behavior seems questionable, we only need to go back to the Bible.

At any point that we feel boundaries lacking, we only need to go back to the Bible.

At any point we question authority, we only need to go back to the Bible.

I can’t control young selfie-takers; nor can I control what their parents teach them.  I can control myself and what I teach my own child.  I want the Godly boundaries in our life.  I need only go back to the Bible to define those.

~Emily

Society

Are You Hungry?

It was quiet.  Almost too quiet.  I was working in my office while McKenna and Andros were visiting from Florida.  While McKenna was in the living room, I’d seen Andros walk into the kitchen.  He’d been holding a couple of toys and I could hear him playing, pushing the stool around the room.  And then….silence.  When I decided to peek my head around the corner, I couldn’t help but giggle and grab my phone for a quick picture.

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Caught in the act!

 

Andros had moved the stool over to the counter and with great stealth, had managed to step up to grab his contraband!  He had in his little arms the large tub of toddler drink mix and an empty bottle.  He was taking it to his mother in a desperate attempt to get a little extra treat!  He was thirsty and hungry, but more importantly, he simply wanted it.  He loved the taste as it was a sweet indulgence and couldn’t wait to get some more.

We should be that way with the Word of God.   The book of Jeremiah is the story of the prophet who told of Jerusalem’s impending destruction because of the lack of repentance to God.  In it are not only the words that Jeremiah prophesied but also the prayers he spoke to his Heavenly Father.

Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts. –Jeremiah 15:16

Several times in the bible God, scripture, and the growth through study are identified as Living Water, milk, and solid food.  In Isaiah 58:11, he speaks of the Lord as a spring of water that does not fail.  In John 6, Jesus talks about being the Bread of Life.  In Hebrews 5:12-14, the author describes spiritual development as starting out on the milk but needing to move on to solid food in order to mature in your walk with God.

Jeremiah was crying out to God that He was devouring every word God was speaking to Him, letting them become the delight of his heart.  He was allowing God’s conversations to penetrate his soul.  It wasn’t just lip service.  He took what God was saying and used it as fuel to ignite the joy that God gave him while preparing for a heavy responsibility of prophesying to a nation that didn’t want to listen.

What a great example of a man who trusted that God would not only provide him the joy he needed during his life but also the sustenance needed to deal with a difficult season of life.  I pray that we can always look to the scriptures, God’s words, as a way to fill our hunger!

~Erin

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.                                    ~Isaiah 41:10

This is my “go to” verse. It’s the first verse my grandmother helped me memorize as a small child.  It brings me comfort.  It’s one I use routinely in prayer.  I recently got this verse on a keychain, in a covenant of prayer, along with two special girls from my husband’s family.

I’ve heavily relied on this verse the last few months. I’ve been struggling.  And those closest to me have been having a rough time too.   I have immediate and extended family, as well as very close friends battling cancer.  I’m anxious about the transition between military and civilian life.  My stepdaughter is excelling in a rehab program, but recently betrayed by her best friend.  I’ve been stricken with doubts about finishing my degree.  The suicide of a celebrity chef had me reeling for days.  It’s just been a Debbie-Downer type of season in my life.

In light of feeling “out of sorts,” I’ve taken the last few days to contemplate the words of this passage. Essentially I’ve been deciphering why it feels so special to me.

So Do Not Fear:  This gives me the security that God has chosen me. He will provide.  He has told me not to be fearful of what is next.  His plan will prevail.

For I Am With You: This is the promise of God, which is the reason we should not fear.  God is with us. He literally is telling us that He is with us.  He’s standing next to us…holding our hands…helping us lift our head in times of shame or sorrow…catching our tears…cheering for us.  If He’s with us, what do we have to fear?

Do Not Be Dismayed: When one is dismayed, they are typically looking around themselves in a state of alarm or danger.  I think about an active shooter scenario…would I spring into action or stand there dumbfounded?  This statement from our God tells us that we can be calm and can shed any apprehension that we may harbor. We don’t have to look around in a state of alarm.

For I Am Your God: The Great I AM.  Asserting His place in our lives.  He is our God, the God of Heaven and Earth, He is God of all power and protection.  In this portion of the verse, He states His dominance of our life. I love that He isn’t just reminding us of His position, but rather He is also telling the world that He is our God.

I Will Strengthen You:  This verb “will strengthen” provides us with the emotion of attaching to someone else.  As in Isaiah 44:14, we become chosen.  We are made stronger as a result of our relationship with God. Again, we see the promise from a God that He will see us through the turmoil.

I Will Uphold You: He will enable us to bear any and all of our trials. He will stand us upright.  I have this vision of something happening that is so horrible, I want to faint away with fear or saddness…but God is standing right behind me, with His hands under my arms…”propping” me up to face the world.

With My Righteous Right Hand:  God’s hand is faithful.  It is one to rely on.  It’s on that hand that He will secure us.

When broken down, this verse provides so much insight into the heart of our God.  And it is so refreshing and reassuring that I do not have to worry about anything, as long as I believe God’s word.

Ladies, I encourage you to lean in this week and really digest a verse…any verse.  Figure out how it plays out in your life.  I’m praying we all have a week remembering that God will strengthen each of us.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle When You Tinkle

White-Elegant-Victorian-BathroomI just wiped a grown woman’s urine off of a public toilet seat. Literally. I took wipes out of my purse (I’m a mom, of course I have wipes in my purse) and I literally wiped down a toilet seat. In a public restroom.

I get that there is a ‘school of thought’ that you get heebie-jeebies from toilet seats so you don’t want to sit down. I admire the strength of your thighs to hold you in the “hover position.” But if you don’t want to sit on germs, what on God’s green Earth, makes you think I want to sit in your PEE?!?!?!?!

I don’t even want to clean the toilets that I own. I certainly don’t want to clean a public toilet. However, I don’t want to sit in someone else’s urine even more!

It makes me question the woman who was in here before me. Why did she do that? Why did she squat, pee, flush, see pee on seat, leave pee on seat, and walk out…presumably to wash her hands? I can’t wrap my mind around the ‘why’ of this scenario. I want to face-palm my forehead while asking “why?!?!”

While a little “sprinkle when you tinkle” is trivial to some, it may be truly detrimental and disgusting to others.

The same is true with sin. Sins can be perceived as trivial to some while devastating and reproachable to others.

God sees all of the sin. Is one trivial and another grandiose? Do you think that one sin is greater than another in the eyes of the Lord? Do you ever stop to think that maybe…just maybe…God wants to face-palm His forehead screaming “why?!?!?” when we act sinfully?

Isaiah 1:1-8 talks about how God sees the persistence of sinful people rebelling against Him. Furthermore, the Bible discusses how God acknowledges that we are a broken people who may be generally good at heart, but must be rejected because of our sinful nature. Flip several chapters to the right and find that the New Testament offers us salvation through Christ on the cross. Our sinful nature should get us immediately rejected. Instead it is forgiven when we accept Jesus as our Savior.

Sin is sin to our Father. But sin is forgiven by the act of Christ’s crucifixion and our acceptance of that gift.

He might be face-palming some of our decisions, but He has also provided the wipes to clean up the mess.

~Emily