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

A Good Book

As a reader, I love a good book.  There’s something about diving into a story and recreating the scene in your head.  You can imagine yourself right there in the middle of it all, helping the main character figure out what to do.  While I don’t have to have a happy ending for the books I read, I do love for it to be finished, if you know what I mean.  I like to see development of a person-who they are, what they look like, the emotions they may be feeling.  I like to see the plot, no matter if it’s happy or sad.  It’s frustrating when I start reading a book and can’t really “get into it” the way I’d like.

Because of this habit, I’ve found that I’ve more than once been irritated with not knowing more about some of the people in the Bible.  What did Rahab look like?  What happened to her after the Israelites took down Jericho?  What happened to the widow and her son who fed Elijah?  Did they have an abundance of food afterward?  How about Cornelius in Acts 10?  He had a vision and was told to send men to Joppa to fetch Peter.  Were those men guards from his regimen?  Did they think he was off his rocker?  What was their conversation like on the way to Joppa?

I’d rather have the complete story.  But here’s what I’ve learned….

It’s not the point of the story.  Do we really need to know what Rahab looked like or if she took up new residence in a nearby town or went with the Israelites?  Is it necessary for us to know what the guards going to retrieve Peter were saying to each other about Cornelius’s vision?

In today’s society, we want the grand story, beginning to end, wrapped up as a complete package.  No stone left unturned.  If we don’t have the who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much, we decide it’s incomplete.  But the reality is that we are seeing exactly what God needs us to see.

In each and every one of the people I wrote about above, you know what they all had in common?  Immediate obedience.  They followed what they were told as directed by God and they were blessed because of it.  Rahab’s family was spared destruction.  The widow didn’t starve and her son was raised from the dead by Elijah.  Cornelius and his family made Jesus their Lord and Savior and are spending an eternity in heaven. 

Why?  Because they obeyed.  As we go through this week, listen and hear God’s direction in your life.  When He tells you to do something, I challenge you to obey immediately!  Don’t wait.  Follow what He says!  What a blessing it is to obey our Heavenly Father and trust what He says is good.

“But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” –Luke 11:28

~Erin

Bystander to the Hurting

I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”

I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain.  But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else?  For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.  

In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi.  It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)

Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.

Why only two and not four?  

During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism.  While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested.  Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.  

It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting.  I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished.  They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation.  Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.  

God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting.  Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain.  He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting.  If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from. 

It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt.  Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I.  I’m sure you have as well.

In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting.  Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.

~Emily

The Summer of Government Cheese

Have you ever been hungry with no means to get food?  

Have you ever been unable to purchase food for your kids?

I’d venture to guess it’s a hard place to be in, when you are concerned about how to feed yourself and your children.  It seems to me, that Luke 6:30 would be my favored verse if I were in such a situation.

“And He raised His eyes towards His disciples and began saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 (NASB)

Please know that this verse isn’t entirely focused on the status of being poor in the physical sense…it speaks partially to those who are poor are often richer in spiritual matters.  Regardless of the commentary about the verse, it does speak to my heart when I remember what it was like to be in the status of poor.  

There were times in my childhood when my parents needed government assistance to feed our family.  I distinctly remember the packet of tear-out papers, which were food stamps. I remember my mom getting our school lunches at a lower rate.  And one summer, I know that cheese and peanuts arrived at our house, which were stamped “Government Cheese” and “Government Peanuts.”  In all fairness, there could have been other “Government Food,” but I only remember the cheese and nuts.

Why do I remember the government cheese so clearly? Because it was a ginormous block of Velveeta type of cheese, which didn’t melt well, nor would it slice thinly for a sandwich.  It was just a gooey mess….one that gave us much needed calories (even if they were completely processed and fake).  

The peanuts, on the other hand, were as perfect as God intended them. They were blanched, but unsalted.  We ate them plain, in yogurt, mixed with popcorn, in salads, in pasta…we even tried our hand at making homemade peanut butter. That summer of the ‘government cheese,’ I became an expert on making peanut brittle.  I made so much peanut brittle, that I got to a point I didn’t even consult the recipe card. 

In the midst of being poor and my parents receiving assistance, my pre-teen self didn’t even realize we were in dire straits.  

Why?

Perhaps because my parents partially hid it from us.  

Perhaps because it was part of our lives and I didn’t question it.  

Mostly because we were blessed.  Luke 6:20 assures us of that blessing, even in the midst of being poor.  God protected us physically and spiritually.  Even if we hadn’t eaten, we still were assured of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is good.  All the time.  Even with the government cheese. 

~Emily

The First Outdoor Christmas Concert: Shepherds in a Field

Several years ago, I attended an outdoor concert with all my favorites.  It was held at Red Rocks in Colorado, which is my favorite outdoor amphitheater.  It was a concert by Casting Crowns, which is my favorite Christian musical group.  It was with Erin and her daughters, my favorite girls to hang out with.  

Can you imagine…the brisk coldness of a Colorado night?  The sweet harmony of your favorite group, while sitting under the twinkling stars with your favorite humans?  It is one of my favorite concert memories.  

Despite being my favorite concert memory, I also remember on that evening feeling unworthy of God’s love and of His benevolence.  I remember thinking I was unworthy of that moment of complete and total contentment.  

In Luke 2:8-14, scripture tells us of another outdoor concert for people who may have also felt that moment of unworthiness that I experienced.  

Verse 8 of this passage tells us that shepherds were watching their flocks.  Shepherds were not necessarily the most respectable people.  They were transient and had a reputation of taking items that they needed from those whose towns they were passing through (for the record, we could refer to this as “stealing”).  In the times of the New Testament, shepherds were not allowed to even give testimony in a court of law, as they were seen as unreliable.  

Suddenly, in verse 9, an angel of the Lord appears to these unruly and unreliable shepherds and they were scared.  I think this is one of the most understated things written in this passage.  “They were frightened”?!?!?!?  Seriously, if an angel of the Lord appeared right now, I would be scared too!!!

In verse 10-12, the shepherds are reassured by the angel and told of the newborn baby who was born as a Savior for them…for those shepherds who were considered so unreliable they couldn’t even testify in court.  

Next we get the privilege to read about the first outdoor concert, when a “multitude of heavenly army of angels” appear and praise God.  First of all, that’s a lot of angels.  Secondly, if they are speaking, or “singing” all at the same time, it had to have been such a sweet-sweet sound!

Take a moment and think about your attendance at an outdoor concert.  Perhaps it was a real event, or it could be one of your imagination.  Now ponder on how this experience would compare to that of the shepherds during that first outdoor concert in a field.

They were unworthy with a negative reputation.  That’s how I’ve felt before.  And yet, God chose them to make the first proclamation of the birth of Christ.  He chose them to hear that first outdoor concert. 

As we get closer to Christmas, the date we celebrate the birth of that Savior, know this…you are chosen too.  It doesn’t matter what your reputation is or how unworthy you may feel.  God has chosen you, just as He chose the shepherds.

Imagine an outdoor concert.  And know you are invited to hear the singing.

~Emily

 “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night.And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying,‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.’’ Luke 2:8-14 (NASB)

Guests At The Table

When reflecting on my brother-in-law’s wedding to my sister-in-law, I remembered when I was seated in the second row with the groom’s family.  I turned around and saw my husband’s Uncle and Aunt seated several rows behind me.  I waved them forward to come sit by me since they were also part of the groom’s family. They moved forward.  

When I asked why they sat far back they responded, “Always sit towards the back and wait until you are invited to a more reverent position.”  

That sentiment has stuck with me for the last 2 years.

It also reminded me of when I was a Junior in High School and our Youth Group leader set up a dinner event for us at the church.  We could sit wherever we wanted at the table.  But it ended up being a lesson in choosing to sit at the head table verse sitting in “lesser” position.  Those of us that had sat at the head table were then asked to become the servers at the dinner party.

Both examples are reminiscent of the “Parable of the Great Banquet” or “Parable of Guests” from Luke 14:7-10.  

“And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

Luke 14:7-10 (NASB)

Pride dictates to us that we are worthy of sitting at the front table.  It’s pride that allows us to think we should sit in a place of honor.  

But it’s someone else’s authority that allows us to stay there. 

At a wedding, it’s the protocol of Emily Post.  At a dinner party, it’s the host or hostess’ decision.  

As a Christian, Jesus outlines that we are to wait until we are invited to move to that position of honor.   Jesus didn’t tell us this as a mean way of “keeping us in check.” Rather, He was teaching us how we can learn to control pride…before it controls us.  He was teaching us how to be humble…so that we can be an example to others.  

Through a deliberate lesson geared towards teenagers, my youth group leaders taught me the lesson early.  Years later, by demonstrating this behavior, my husband’s Aunt and Uncle illustrated a real-life lesson in that humility.  

This week, I pray that we are each humble in our decisions about where we choose to sit at the table.

~Emily

Humble Honey

As I was bragging about never messing up in the kitchen, I dropped a one-pound glass jar of honey, which promptly exploded and then oozed on the counter and floor.  An “eat your words” type of moment and a ginormous mess, to say the least.  It was a humbling moment considering I had just been boastful about not dropping items.

According to dictonary.com, humbling is a verb which means “to bring down the pride of another or to reduce her to a state of abasement: to humble an arrogant enemy.”  While I don’t classify myself as an arrogant enemy, I certainly had my pride reduced in that moment of oozing honey and glass shards.

For the rest of the day, I was humming a childhood song based on James 4:10. “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) And He shall lift you up. Higher and higher and He. Shall lift you up.”

The song, on constant repeat throughout the day, drove the question; “Why should we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

First and foremost, we should humble ourselves before God because we are instructed to imitate Christ, who was in fact, humble.  As seen in Philippians 2:5, we see that Christ did not state equality with God was an attainable goal, but rather Christ humbled himself to become human for our benefit.

Perhaps another reason why we should humble ourselves is found in James 4:10 and in the song itself.  As we humble ourselves, God promises to exalt us.  When we are humble in the sight of God, we receive His blessings and grace in a unique manner.  He will lift us up.

 The song, still on repeat, drove the next question; “How do we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

Speak well of others…on purpose (Ephesians 4:31-32).  When we speak negatively about others, we are putting them down and often making ourselves out to be better.  When we speak positively about others, we build them up and edify them.  Throughout my life, I have caught myself being less than humble in this regard.

Always Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  When we pray, we are acting in a manner of dependence and humility. Prayer becomes a declaration of weakness.  In the moment of prayer, we admit to God that we can’t make it without Him and that we need Him in requests and in praise.  There are plenty of times that prayer is an afterthought in my life when in reality it should be my 1st thought.

Confess your areas of sin to God (Luke 18:9-14).  All of us are sinful, but few of us routinely and honestly tell God about that sinful nature. Every day, it’s easy to ask God to “forgive my sins” as a blanketed statement.  For me, it’s much harder to specifically assess areas of my life that are steeped in sin and then admit them to God.

Confess your areas of sin to other Christians (James 3:2). A test of true humility is when we are willing to confess our sins to others, just as we would confess it to God.  Obviously, discretion is needed about who you confess sin to, but the act of telling someone about our sin allows us space to be completely honest with ourselves and ultimately with God.  I struggle with this one because I don’t want others to know where I am weak or where I am failing.  Thus, pride interfering with humility in my life.

As I hummed the song “Humble thyself in the Sight of the Lord,” I was reminded of why I should want to be humble and how I can practice being humble at the feet of God.

A broken honey jar is just one tangible reminder of how much work I have to do in this area…

To those on the Iron Porch this week, I pray you seek humility in your daily interactions this week!

~Emily

honey

 

 

The Green Coffee Mug

Coffee

As my mom handed me a cup of her freshly concocted Folgers instant coffee she said, “Here’s your frappa-wrappa-crappa with extra whip, almond milk, Hershey’s syrup and a drop of peppermint.”  We both laughed.  She loves to make fun of what she calls “the foofie coffee” that I prefer to drink.

The best part of this scenario?

My mom handed me that gross instant coffee in my grandma’s mug. It’s a tiny little 1970s avocado green cup, which I distinctly remember my grandma using in her own kitchen.  At age three, while waiting for news of my brother’s birth I drank OJ from a real glass cup and she had coffee…in the green mug. I remember her using the green mug when we visited at Christmas each year…a trek from Oregon to Arizona.  She had it in her hand while we picked grapefruit off the tree in her back yard and while she supervised her grandchildren’s use of her old-fashioned wooden clothespins. I remember my Grandpa bringing her the green mug with a fresh refill.

The day she had a stroke, that mug sat next to the sink with a coffee ring gluing it to the counter. An offensive stickiness that she would have never allowed had she known her kitchen looked less than her normal perfection.  And the morning after she died, I remember holding that mug in her backyard as the sun woke up.  I held that mug to my heart and told my God that He had better take good care of her until I could see her again.

There are so many memories wrapped up into this small mug.

It is a tiny mug in comparison to most American mugs.  It looks dwarfed by my Starbuck’s city mugs.  It’s not as tall as the pretty flowery mugs I love.  It’s itty bitty next to my ‘dreaming of owning my own bakery’ macaroon mug. It stands short next to the clay Air Force mug my parents gave me when I made my final promotion.

Ask Erin. I have dozens of mugs. I love them all for various reasons. They remind me of dreams, people, and places. I use them all.   Some at work, some at home. Some for coffee or tea…some for water.  Even the broken ones find their way into usefulness as penholders or new planters in the flowerbeds.

But the avocado green mug with its tiny little stature is my favorite mug.

All because of the memories associated with that little mug.  Good memories. And hard memories.

Our God is an amazing provider, who doesn’t hold anything back from us.  How many precious memories has He given me…and let me hold on to? Too many to count. And yet, here I am looking at this tiny little mug that represents the memories I have of one woman.  Imagine all the memories you have.  Both good and bad.  All those memories are markers of how much our God has provided for us.   The good memories to reflect on, the bad memories to learn from.

I am so very grateful for that little mug. For all my grandma memories associated with that mug. And for the new ones that mom continues to make for me.  Take a moment and reflect on what memories you have that remind you just how amazing our God really is for us.

~Emily

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” ~Philippians 1:3-5 (ESV)

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.’” ~Luke 16:25 (ESV)

 

Trivia: Did you know?

Did you know that Ruth was King David’s Great-Grandmother?!?!?

Ruth, as in ‘Where you go, I’ll go…’ Ruth.  She’s the one.  The one who was the Great-Grandma to King David. KING DAVID!!! Did she read to toddler-King David on her lap?  Tell him to ‘go get a switch’ when he was naughty?  Did she sing to him?  Present him with horribly handmade sweaters?  Why am I the only one who is freaking out about this genealogy nugget?

I figured this out while remotely completing a Ruth Bible study with Erin and the Table 8 ladies. It was early morning. I read the daily passage.  I answered the questions.  And then…I started outlining Ruth’s lineage.  I sat in shock and then quickly shot off a text to Erin about my discovery. With different time zones, early morning revelations in Alabama translate to middle of the night texts in California. I can only imagine that Erin was giggling and shaking her head at my excitement over this shocking discovery. Apparently, this Ruth-David connection is common knowledge.  Where the heck have I been?

While ecstatic about this newfound knowledge, it made me think about other connections throughout the Bible that I had possibly missed.  I started researching some trivia and unusual occurrences within the Bible.  Have you missed some too?

Did you know?

-Ehud was the 1stleft-handed man mentioned in the Bible (Judges 3:15)

-Dogs are mentioned 41 times in the Bible, but cats aren’t even mentioned once.

-Job stated that his wife claimed he had bad breath. (Job 19:17)

-Genesis never says Adam and Eve ate an apple, only that they ate fruit.

-Andrew was a disciple of John The Baptist before following Jesus. (John 1:35-37, 40)

-David is second only to Jesus in number of times mentioned in the Bible.

-Elizabeth, mother of John The Baptist, was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) and John The Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. (Luke 1:36)

-Miriam is the 1st woman recorded singing in the Bible (Exodus 15:21)

-Prior to the incident at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), everyone spoke the same language.

I already knew some of these, such as the relationship between Jesus and John The Baptist.  Their relationship is often mentioned around Christmas when retelling of Elizabeth and Mary meeting, while both were pregnant. I knew that at some point all humans spoke the same language, but I didn’t know it was the incident at the Tower of Babel that changed our languages.

This book we study, the Word of God, it is filled with wondrous facts and illustrations of relationships.  None of them are coincidences and all of them are divinely God’s plan.  I love stumbling on these bits and pieces that are so perfectly overlapping.  It makes me love the written word of God even more than I had previously.  It makes me want to read more…study more…find more curiosities that I had previously missed.  Who else is the great-grandparent to a notorious Bible figure?!?!?

Come to the porch and share something from the Bible that you have previously missed…I’m super intrigued!

~Emily