A German Experience

I miss living in Germany.  I loved everything about it while I was there for two years…from the food to the people to the ease of travel to the crazy driving…even the obsession with Christmas markets and ornaments.  I loved it all.  

I didn’t recognize just how much I missed it until this last week, when we were on summer vacation in Helen, Georgia which is modeled after a little Bavarian town.  This town has it all…the cool temps, the lazy tubing river, the schnitzel, the German bakery…even the spaghetti ice cream.  

It’s interesting how you don’t know you miss something until there is a memory jogger.  If you think about it, I’m sure there’s a song or a scent that takes you to another place.  Perhaps the song takes you back to your first dance.  A smell has you reminiscing about Grandma’s kitchen.

It makes me wonder if these experiences happened to people in scripture.  Was there a moment after Jesus’ death, where Mary was preparing his favorite meal and it made her miss him more than normal?  Did Paul ever pass a well and think about his boyhood well in Tarsus?  If Peter passed a fishing net, did the smell take him back to his time as a fisherman?  

Did the disciples miss Jesus after His death?

In Luke 24:44 (NASB) scripture reads, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  

This offers an assurance that all prophesies about Jesus will be fulfilled.  And if that is true, then it is also true that God has provided us with a means to be continuously surrounded by aspects of the Trinity.  Jesus’ departure from the Earth enabled Jesus, as the Son of God, to no longer be subject to time, but rather embody the full power and authority of God in Heaven. 

As promised, Jesus is available to all of us for guidance, for prayerful conversation, for forgiveness, and for grace.  Most of all, He is available as the Savior to those who believe.  

Did the disciples miss Jesus after his ascension into heaven?  From a human perspective, I’m sure the answer is yes. Mostly because the face-to-face immediate responses were gone.  However, God’s fulfillment of the Holy Spirit allows for continued relationship.  Perhaps, the promise of God’s continued presence in a believer’s life mutes that emotion of missing the physical Jesus.  

Missing Jesus in our lives isn’t as simple as missing Grandma’s cooking or the experiences living in another country.  It can’t be replicated by something similar, like going to a small mountain town.  

In this instance, you need the real deal relationship with Jesus to fulfill the emotion of “missing.”

If you are missing Jesus in your life, please come to the porch and let us know…we’d love to tell you how to become a believer!

~Emily

The In-Between Time: The Days Between Christmas and New Years

The days between Christmas and New Years are so strange to me.  I find that there’s a relaxing element to the hustle of Christmas preparations being done, but there is also a time of being bummed that it’s over.   Then there’s the anxiety I feel in getting Christmas packed away and my son’s birthday prepped all before going back to work after the New Year.  

There are other times in our lives that we feel this roller coaster of emotions in the “in-between time.”  For instance, the days between finding out you’re pregnant to your tummy actually rounding; the days between a college application and an acceptance letter; the days between a job interview and a return phone call…even the days between Sunday to Sunday for church services.  Each of these examples is like the days after Christmas, which are all involving excitement, disappointment, relief, worry or anxiety, and hopefully the return of excitement. 

The Bible is filled with examples of people experiencing the “in-between days.”  Noah had days of waiting in between being told to build an Ark and the day the flood began.  Ruth had days of waiting between leaving with Naomi and being married to Boaz.  Saul had days of waiting between being blinded on the road to Damascus and being able to see again…and share the Gospel.  Even the disciples and the Mary’s experienced the in-between days emotions when Jesus was crucified and later raised from the grave.  

Whether we’re in our own examples of in-between days or reading of Biblical examples, we are able to determine that God is teaching us to wait on Him.  Here are several scriptures that show us there is guidance in the Bible about our waiting during the in-between times: 

The Lord is good to those who await Him, to the person who seeks Him. ~Lamentations 3:25 (NASB)

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 27:14 (NASB)

Therefore, be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. ~James 5:7 (NASB)

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me.” ~Acts 1:4 (NASB)

There are countless examples of waiting in the Bible….and many teaching moments where the Lord wants us to know about waiting.   In the days immediately after Christmas and leading into New Years, I’m reminded that I’m not alone in the rollercoaster of emotions of the “in-between” time.  

I’m praying that we are all patient this week while we are in those “in-between days.”

~Emily

What does Christmas Mean To You?

What does Christmas mean to you?  I’ve thought about this question often over the course of the last few weeks.  I think it’s important to reflect on the season and not just run through the month as if it barely exists!

There have been years where it’s meant presents and stockings.  That’s been usually as a small child.  There’s been periods of time in my life when the girls were celebrating holidays with others, and Christmas meant loneliness and sadness.  More recently, when I’ve thought about what Christmas meant to me, it was about family and time spent together.  And most often, I feel Christmas means the birth of Jesus.  It’s a beautiful time to remember the baby in a manger who came to save the world.

Sitting down this holiday season, I’ve found that my thoughts are different than the usual.  While I always remember the virgin birth, I heard something that resonated with me….the birth of Jesus, the Christmas story doesn’t end with our Savior’s birth.  It’s just the beginning of the beautiful Christmas story of Love come down to earth.

God allowed his beloved Son to become fully God, fully man.  He allowed a young girl, Mary, and a wonderful foster father, Joseph, raise Jesus.  Jesus grew up teaching people, showing love, foreshadowing what was to come and leading people into an understanding of what salvation by grace meant.  This man willingly took on our punishment, a debt we so easily deserve and yet so readily avoid.  They nailed Jesus to a cross to become the sacrificial Lamb only to see Him resurrected three days later!  Praise God that our Savior lives!

“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” –Isaiah 9:6

That’s how I’d like Christmas to feel to me…as the start of a beautiful and redeeming story of God’s perfect love!

How about you, Iron Porch friends?  What does Christmas mean to you?  Share in the comments!

~Erin  

Expectation Vs Reality

We took a trip this last weekend to Mississippi for a concert.  Because it was over four hours away, we decided to get a hotel.  For road trips the task of choosing a hotel has always fallen to me.  Emily says it’s because I’m bougie.  I say it’s because it’s because I don’t want to find a cockroach sleeping next to me on my pillow when I wake up in the morning.  (It does not help that I used to be a travel agent and I also worked for a hotel, so I KNOW what hotels can be like!)

This time, I was looking at prices and trying to be a little practical and chose a hotel I wouldn’t normally choose.  Nothing is wrong with this particular chain, but if the name of the hotel doesn’t usually rhyme with Fyatt or Filton, it’s not on my radar.  Let’s just say that the pictures of this hotel and the reality of the hotel were, to quote scripture, as far as the east is from the west.  It was ok.  I didn’t die.  We got a good night’s sleep.  But my expectation versus reality was disappointing.

Aren’t we lucky that we have a Heavenly Father that is exactly as He says?! We don’t need to worry that He’s not the same as He’s portrayed in the Bible.  There were eyewitness accounts of who God and Jesus are!  Passages in the Bible show Jesus’s loving words and actions. 

We don’t have to worry about Him changing how He feels about us, because the Bible tells us that we are His children when we accept Him as our Savior.  He listens to our pleas, feels our pain, and knows our stories.  He doesn’t change His mind on a whim or lead us in a direction to say, “GOTCHA! I just wanted to mess with you!”  He’s constant, ever-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  He does not change!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

I praise God that He is this way.  In a world where the ebbs and flows seem to be dramatic and wildly moveable, I give thanks that we have a God whom we can count on.  We know what He expects of us, and we know what to expect of Him.

Join with me this week in praising God for being an unmovable and unshakeable Creator.   Let’s find ways to praise God for being exactly who He says He is!

~Erin

The “I” in Team

As a retired military member, I’ve been to plenty of leadership trainings that make sure to remind students that there is no “I” in “Team.”  It’s a sentiment that is often repeated in the workplace and indicates that there is no one person whose contributions are greater than another’s on the team.

At my work center, I’ve often encouraged others to use “we” or “ours” in referencing programs, processes, and successes.  I am a firm believer in acknowledging superb performance of individuals, but overall, the team seems to be more successful when there is cohesive ownership.  

On my son’s baseball team, I’ve often seen the coaches acknowledge an individual’s great job in a game, but they win & lose together as a team.  They practice together as a team.  They rejoice and they are disciplined…as a team.  Not as individuals.

If the concept of “no I in team” holds true for the workplace and for a sports team, does it also hold true with the church…with the disciples of Jesus Christ? 

In terms of the twelve disciples of Jesus, outlined in the Gospels, Jesus drew together a team of men who had a few things in common, such as fishing and tax collecting, but they each had differences, such as their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.  As we walk through the New Testament, we can see that they collectively were working towards professing Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior for the sinners of the world. 

While some were praised for answering questions correctly (Peter answering “Who Do You Say I am?” in Matthew 16:17), or providing insight to others, none are raised above the others in terms of accomplishing the mission that Jesus gave them. 

While some were rebuked for betrayal (Jesus acknowledging that Judas would betray him at the Last Supper or that Peter would deny knowing him three times-John 13:21 and Mark 14:30), none of the others were raised above them in terms of accomplishing their ultimate mission.

This shows that Jesus’ leadership included acknowledging strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately He was more concerned with saving souls for eternity than praising and rebuking those on the team. Each disciple was part of the team and they were collectively being trained for a time when Jesus was no longer with them physically.  In my opinion, it’s a solid example of thereTea being “no I in team.”  

The secular leader in me wants to know if you are embracing the concept of team at work and on sports teams.  

The women’s ministry leader in me wants to urge you desperately to endorse this concept of teamwork (without acknowledging the I’s) so that we can work together on the mission we were given by Christ: to share the Gospel, to show the lost how to be found for all eternity, and to make disciples.

Does your team have an “I” on it?

~Emily

A December Spelling Bee: “Jesus, J-E-S-U-S, Jesus”

My fourth grader made it into the finals at his elementary school spelling bee, which meant we were studying a lengthy list of spelling words for the first few weeks of December.  Words were given at random times, such as waiting in check-out lines, while driving to the dentist, and through the phone.  Erin was also recruited to help testing spelling words.

I’ll be honest, the words started blurring together over the days of helping prepare for the spelling competition.  We started getting creative and silly with the process.  If Kambell said he was hungry, I’d start to give him food related words that weren’t even on the list.  If I started a to-do list, he would start spelling items that needed to be on the list.  We spelled animals, neighbor names, places we’d like to travel…anything was fair game for spelling.

And then one morning my son suggested we spell Christmas words.  I started by giving him the word “Present” followed by the word “Candy-cane.”  He said the word, spelled the word, then repeated the word in both instances.  As I was thinking about the next word he looked at me and said, “I was thinking more of Christmas words like Jesus, Manger or Bethlehem.” 

It’s at this point that the judgey-side-eyes should be headed my way.  

In the midst of strange COVID related 2020 shenanigans, I was not focused on the truest meaning of Christmas.  It took a 9-year-old to remind me.  For real, y’all! My son straight schooled me on which words should be the true Christmas words!!!

It took that conversation to re-focus me on the intent of this season.  The remembrance of the birth of our Savior. The truest and most precious gift ever given to any of us by our Lord.  Give yourself the gift of remembering why we celebrate Christmas and share that gift with those around you who may not know Christ. 

I pray that in the next couple days leading to Christmas 2020, you are able to have time to reflect on that gift and what it means in your life. I’m praying we see a mighty movement of new believers as a result of the sharing of the Gospel.  And I’m praying health and wellness for all of the Iron Porch family.

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Serving at Christmas: And Beyond the Holidays

During the Christmas season, we have a unique opportunity to build our own leadership skills while teaching others how to serve. Repeatedly throughout scripture, we see that Jesus used everyday circumstances to train his disciples (and us) how to serve and minister to others.  An example that immediately comes to mind is when Jesus feeds five thousand.  In John 6:1-13, notice all the times that Jesus had his disciples minister to the people. 

While conducting the miracle of feeding so many, Jesus taught others about ministry and serving.  He was modeling intentional relationship building with others.  He provided first hand experiences of how to minister…and what the rewards would be when service happens.  While Jesus showed us how to do this daily, we can use the holidays as a mechanism to “jump start” serving and ministry.

Often the holiday season becomes a time where serving is routine.  Without too much thought, we toss some change into a red kettle.  Perhaps we bring extra canned goods for the entrance to a craft fair.  We purchase small items for a shoebox ministry.  We take an angel tree tag and purchase a toy for a child.  

I’m not discounting those tasks as bad.  All of those are good things to do.  I am pointing out that they can become routine and we don’t pause to think or pray about the why…or the who…is behind these acts of service. I’m suggesting that before we toss change into the pot or purchase a toy for a stranger that we stop to pray.  Pray over why we are giving and pray over who will be receiving. 

I would also propose that we need to encourage others in serving during the Christmas season.  Jesus brought the disciples alongside him while He fed the 5000.  Why? Because it was a first-hand opportunity to learn how to serve effectively. 

– If you already serve in a ministry, ask someone to serve alongside of you.  This is a chance to ask those who are not typically involved to step out of their own comfort zones.  It may create relationships that develop into other serving opportunities. 

– If there isn’t an opportunity within ministry organizations, ask someone to come to a volunteer project outside of the church.  It could be as simple as writing letters to nursing home residents, or supervising a children’s event or doing yard work for those who need help.

– If you have children you are leading, brainstorm ideas with them of how to begin serving at Christmas and how that can continue into the new year.  Maybe your kids want to volunteer at the food bank for Christmas week and that evolves into a weekly or monthly volunteer project.

Once you’ve invited someone to serve with you, a scenario is created where they are empowered to continue serving on their own.  It requires that you are an intentional leader in assisting others in serving.  In the next few weeks, look for Christmas opportunities to encourage others to serve…and encourage service past the holidays.

~Emily

P.S. I’m so encouraged by the women of my church who chose to forgo a typical Christmas party this year to focus on raising awareness for The Elmore County Pregnancy Resource Center, Isaiah 58 Ministry, The Backpack Ministry, as well as writing Christmas cards for Nursing Home residents and deployed military members…they truly modeled Jesus’ behavior in serving others this season!

Breaking Bread: Recipes for a Happy Mouth

Food is such a valued part of the American experience.  If someone is celebrating a birthday, wedding, promotion, or new house, we use food to expand that celebration. If someone is mourning the death of family member, the loss of a job, the devastation of a natural disaster or the end of a relationship, we use food to comfort.  Want to catch up with a friend? Go to lunch.  Need to exchange a gift at Christmas? Give fruitcake.

Breaking bread with others is a very special occasion, regardless the reason for food exchange.  The early believers in the Bible understood this concept of expanding community through the breaking of bread.  They further understood that Christ did not intend for us to live in isolation, but rather to interact with others.  In our culture, that often requires the use of food for those interactions.  

Jesus modeled the behavior of interacting with others while breaking bread for us.  We see him feasting at Matthew’s house with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10).  We see him dining at Martha’s home.  We see His last and very impactful last “breaking of bread” while in the Upper Room prior to his trial and execution.

Jesus did not retreat from others while they were celebrating or in pain.  He used it as an opportunity to reach out and connect with others.  Like in the time Jesus was on Earth as a man, we are also surrounded by those who are longing for the invitation to break bread with us.    They want connection and inclusion.  

The American way is through food.  More importantly, it’s also the Jesus way.

As we move into the craziness of the Christmas season, think about inviting someone to share a meal with you this week…break bread with them.  If you’re feeling really ambitious, take them a baked good or casserole and encourage them to break bread with others.  

Break bread together…make happy mouths!

~Emily

During Thanksgiving through Christmas, my “go-to” breaking-bread-dessert is my Great-Grandmother’s Cranberry Pudding, which is a dense cranberry cake with a warm buttery sauce to pour over the top. The recipe is listed below:

Great-Grandma Johnson’s Cranberry Pudding

Cake Batter:

6 TBl Butter

2 cups white sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 cups evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk!)

1 (12 oz) package of fresh (or frozen) cranberries

Hot Butter Sauce: (I double the sauce recipe because I LOVE extra on the cake slices)

1 cup butter

2 cups white sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan (or you can use a 8×8 pan). Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the 6 tablespoons butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the evaporated milk. Stir in the cranberries. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the Hot Butter Sauce:

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve slices of cake generously covered with hot butter sauce. (Sauce can be re-heated for leftover cake)

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

Jealous of the Disciples

I’ve always had a secret jealous streak when I think about the relationships that the disciples had with Jesus.  They walked with Him, slept near Him, and ate with Him. They literally had a front-row seat to His teaching, to His storytelling, and to His faithful prayer life. They had THE model right there with them…day in and day out.

There are times in my Christian walk that I’ve struggled with following the guidelines provided by Jesus.  I’ve prayed and felt like I didn’t hear an answer. I’ve failed again and again.  I have this irrational thought that if I had walked at the same time as Jesus, that somehow that would make my relationship stronger with Him.

I know it’s irrational.  Yet, it makes me slightly jealous that the disciples were able to ask questions face to face. They were able to make a prayer request and hear the voice of God respond.  I wish I had the literal face-to-face time with Jesus, in the flesh.

This week, while doing my homework for my small group “Maximum Joy” by Dr. David Anderson, I had a realization.  We all have the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord, much like the disciples did.  In 1 John 1:1:3, John wrote “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Scripture tells us that if we are following the direction of the Word, as well as the insights provided by the ones who walked with Christ, then we too can have the sweet joy of fellowship with the Lord.

I’m excited that the next several months studying 1 John will help me have deeper intimacy that leads to fellowship rather than just a relationship.  I’m also excited that it’s going to dispel this idea that I should be jealous of the disciples when I too can have a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Who else is harboring secret jealousy? Come to the porch and tell us…

~Emily

Bible2