I Remember…

On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment.  I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted.  It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured. 

We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted.  Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured.  Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives.  For forever. 

Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units.  It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.  

The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning.  Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones.  In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.  

It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss.  In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad.  But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him.  The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.  

The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him.  It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness.  The road to rejoicing is often through mourning.  When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.  

Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors.  As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I remember them…and pray they have comfort.

~Emily

Musings on Memorial Day

It seems that every year around this time, there are a number of posts explaining the differences between Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day.  I’ve posted something similar on my own social media platforms.  As a retired military member, it seems like a teachable moment that civilians would see the differences between the three military recognition days.  It seems to offend some people when others don’t know the differences.  

Memorial Day is one to remember those who have fallen.  When fellow citizens wish a “Happy Memorial Day,” it can get some upset.  There’s nothing happy about having lost our comrades in arms.  Nothing happy about remembering and reflecting on those who died as a result of their serve to our Nation.  

I heard a different perspective this last week.  One where the military member said, “Rather than be offended, I’d offer that we should appreciate the spirit in which they offer that.  It comes from a good place, with good intent, from people in our society who don’t understand us but are thankful for what we do.” 

This sentiment is so kind-hearted and simplistic.  Even now while writing about it, I feel chastised for previously thinking I needed to “educate” others on the differences of these dates. Perhaps I need to appreciate the spirit that they offer the comment in.

I’d like to carry that sentiment over to Christian beliefs.  While there are very important central beliefs to Christianity, such as Christ died for each of our sins and we individually have to claim that gift in order to spend eternity in heaven, not every single interaction with others has to be a teachable moment.  I need to repeat that for my own benefit.  Not every interaction has to be an overt teachable moment.  Sometimes the old adage of “actions speak louder than words” is true.  

Like with the non-military member wishing a Happy ‘whatever’ Day and being accepted where they are, the non-Christian’s interactions with Christians could be as simple as observing love and kindness in action.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t always be a Sunday School lesson or Gospel tract presentation.  The helping hand, the monetary donation, the passing smile…each of those things show others the love of Christ; even when we aren’t actively sharing the Gospel.  

As we reflect on this Memorial Day about the sacrifices of military members through the decades, I’m going to also reflect on how I can better serve our Lord by loving others through my own actions.  

~Emily

“All that you do must be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB)

Get on the Train…or Get Out of the Way

Last week I had a dream where a lady from my previous church was with her husband at a table across from mine at a charity luncheon.  In front of several people she leaned over and told me that she was sick and tired of reading my blogs on Iron Porch and that I should figure out what to do with my life.  In the dream I was shocked, as I imagine I would be in real life. I calmly told her she could easily unfollow the blog.  In my dream, I then said, “or you could write a guest blog about why you are so tired of reading other people’s blogs.”

I gave her two choices: stop reading the blog or help contribute to it.  

This was a leadership lesson that I learned early in my military career.  Get on the train (and help) or get out of the way (and stop complaining). 

In the Bible we see countless examples of complaining and grumbling.  Martha complains to Jesus about Mary.  In the Old Testament there’s complaining to Moses and Aaron.  The Disciples complain about all the riff-raff waiting for a millisecond to chat with Jesus (that was a total “Emily” paraphrase!). Even the Psalmist in Psalm 55:17 (NASB) stated, “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and moan, and He will hear my voice.” 

All these complainers need to consider getting out of the way of the train.

Instead, what would happen if they got on the train? If they helped those in need? If they started expressing gratitude for God’s blessings in their lives? If they started sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Think about the impact they could have on the kingdom!!!

We have guidance to help us pray for one another and become hospitable to each other, which is us choosing to “get on the train.” 

What if we followed Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  And what if we were able to “contribute to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” as seen in Romans 12:13 (NASB).  Would we be better equipped to pray for others? Would we know their needs before they had to ask for help?

Perhaps if we choose to get on the train, we’d be able to live out 1 Peter 4:9…while choosing to not get out of the way with our complains.   “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” ~1 Peter 4:9 (NASB)

Each day we get these choices. You can “stop doing” or you can “help contribute.”   Regardless of the circumstances of your choices to “get on the train or get out of the way,” they are yours to make.  I’ll be praying this week that you have peace with your choice.

~Emily

AC-47 Testimonies

For those who don’t know, I work as a curator at a military museum.  While we have fantastic displays and precious artifacts on display, my favorite thing about working there is interacting with veterans and their families.  This last week we hosted a group of Vietnam Veterans who had each been involved with one particular aircraft; the AC-47, known as Spooky or Puff the Magic Dragon. 

During the ceremony, one of the pilots of this aircraft during the Vietnam conflict was the guest speaker.  His speech, titled “Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow” started with what it meant to be part of the “Spooky Brotherhood.”  

He discussed where they were yesterday and when each of their yesterday’s began.  

Then he recapped how they came to design monuments, selected where they were placed, and how they have reunions.  It was the today portion of his speech.

Finally, he spoke about their tomorrows.  At that pivotal point in his speech he told them he was concerned about their salvation and if he would see them as a brotherhood in their tomorrows.  He launched into sharing the Gospel and challenging them to get right with the Lord.  

I could not believe my ears!  You see, it’s rare at a military event for the Gospel to be presented in such an overt manner.  I was so proud of him for his boldness to speak truth in a military group.

He was truly living Romans 1:16 (NIV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

While I’m not ashamed of the gospel, there are plenty of situations I find myself in where I lose the opportunity to share. Maybe it’s the timing, or maybe it’s my own fear of rejection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere.  Regardless of why I don’t share, it’s a lost chance to win souls for heaven. 

I love that this Vietnam Vet took the step to care for the eternal souls of those in the audience.  He was not ashamed…not at all.

~Emily

Dear Army Dad,

Memorial Day, 2021

Dear Army Dad,

Last week I was driving behind you, when I saw your non-descript truck with the personalized license plates: ARMYDAD.  Initially I thought, “What a proud Father that must be to get a personalized plate.”  Then I felt an overwhelming urge to pray for you.

I know that may sound random, but I typically use my 30-40-minute morning commute to chat with God. It’s not that unusual for me to pray for strangers while driving.

The unusual part was that I started to cry.  While praying for you and a hypothetical Army Mom, I also started praying for your Soldier.  I prayed for tactics and knowledge in any situation. I prayed for health and well-being.  I prayed for safety. I prayed for peace and tranquility…for the Soldier and for the parents.  Because John 14:27 (NASB) say, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful,” I know that your family is able to have that peace. 

I don’t know you, your family, or your Soldier, but I do know that I would never want a parent to face losing a child on a battlefield.  One who is proud enough to get a personalized plate, probably could handle a loss…but it’s not a loss I want you to have. 

2 Timothy 2:3 (NASB) reads, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him.”

On this Memorial Day, I know that there are parents, siblings, spouses, friends and countless others who are mourning the loss of their military members.  Take comfort in knowing you are not alone…I will stand with you and suffer the hardship in Christ while continuing to pray for you.

Army Dad, keep being proud, keep parenting, and keep praying.  I will too.

~Emily (USAF, Retired)

Promotion Responsibilities & Expectations

Today, my sweet friend, Nancy will promote to Chief Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. 

As many around the military know, this promotion is the highest grade an enlisted member can attain and only 1% of the military will make it to this particular rank.  With this promotion, comes much responsibility…and expectation.

There is an expectation that a Chief will be knowledgeable.  They will correct poor behavior and praise good.  They will advise, they will mentor, they will excel, they will speak well, they will encourage others, they will say the unpopular things…they will support other Chiefs.  These expectations, as well as countless others can be a burden to the one responsible for maintaining them.  

In Genesis 41:1-45, we see Joseph receiving a promotion from Pharaoh….and we know that he also had great responsibilities and expectations placed upon him.  

For instance, in Genesis 41:37-45, Pharaoh not only promotes Joseph to second-in-command of Egypt, he specifically tasks Joseph with preparing for the coming famine.  Based on previous verses, we know that Joseph is humble and repeatedly requests assistance from the Lord.  He confesses his sin and inability to meet challenges.  If we do that in our workplaces, we create an environment that attributes success to God, rather than ourselves.  

Joseph’s promotion brought overt signs of his new position of leadership.  He was offered fine clothes, official transportation, a signet ring, a new Egyptian name…and even an Egyptian spouse.  His response to these trapping could have been prideful.  However, Joseph exhibited great restraint from a worldly perspective and allowed God to receive the glory.  In short, Joseph gets a ton of stuff simply by being promoted.

In the modern military, this is true of the promotion to Chief Master Sergeant.  You’ve earned the most stripes…recognizable from a distance. You have an official parking spot at certain locations on base.  There is a reverence for the title.  You may get a bigger office or a government paid smart phone.  You even receive the new name of “Chief” and when the word Chief is mentioned, those who hold this title will respond.  This title and name “Chief” stays with you even into retirement. 

Handling promotions with all these types of extras is hard. Joseph remained humble by continuously falling back on the lessons he learned in childhood…but more than that, he also remembered where the true credit belonged: God, the Father Almighty.

When one makes Chief in the Air Force, they will often give credit to those before them who mentored them. They will acknowledge previous supervisors and mentors…they may even acknowledge those they’ve personally led.  They will thank family and friends.  And some will credit God for His hand in their promotion.  This is applicable to any job…not just the military.  

Regardless of the promotion, the expectations, or the trappings that mark the new position, leadership is difficult. It’s a challenge that stretches each person’s humbleness vs. pride.  Yet, if we look to the newly promoted leadership of Joseph, we can glean hope that it’s not an insurmountable challenge.  

While surrounded by other Chief Master Sergeants, today will mark the day that Nancy takes on the challenge.  Today marks the day she begins to comprehend a little of what Joseph faced under Pharaoh.  

I can’t wait to see how she excels as a leader and as a sister Chief!

~Emily

All Alone In This World

Do you ever feel as though you are all alone in this world?

You’re surrounded by people every day at work, at home, at church…even at the grocery store or gas station.  You’re with your mom, your best friend, your boyfriend or husband.  And yet, you feel alone.

Throughout our lives, women tend to have similar moments where we have felt especially alone.

The few moments after your High School graduation, when you feel excited about the future, yet there’s a moment of knowing you’re leaving home to “go it alone” in the world.

Some moments at church leave us feeling solo when we see groups of other women gathered in chatty-hug-filled circles.

There are moments in a marriage where you feel so misunderstood or undervalued that you feel completely and utterly alone.

Those nights where you can’t figure out why the baby is still crying and you’re exhausted or the nights after your last child has turned 18 and moved out of the house…those are also moments where you may experience that sense of complete aloneness.

In my own life, I’ve felt alone during military deployments, in the failure of IVF, in the aftermath of divorce, when hearing of someone’s cancer diagnosis, or in the misstep of dieting.  Often when I’ve felt most alone, I’ve also felt hopeless.  And right there in that hopelessness is the lie that the enemy tells us…that we are the only ones who have ever felt that “alone” time.

In 1 Kings 19:1-18, we read that there was a time that Elijah felt utterly alone and hopeless.  At that moment, the Lord gives Elijah questions that will allow Elijah to understand that he isn’t alone.  Rather than concede that God is with him, Elijah repeats the lie two times that he is alone.

In the middle of the chaos and fierce winds, God whispers to Elijah, “You are not alone!

I think it is time that women remind each other of God’s constant whispering, “You are not alone!”  God is literally with us each step of our journey.  Yet it’s easy in the moments of despair, the moments by ourselves, or the moments steeped in sin, to forget that God has a plan for us.  And the plan was never for us to be alone.  Ever.

If you are feeling alone, remember the whisperings of God’s promise that you aren’t alone.  Remember that you are always welcome on the porch if you need to be reminded of that soft-spoken promise.

~Emily

all alone in this world

Wreaths Across America

I had the privilege of laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery last Saturday.  As an Air Force museum curator and advocate for enlisted history, I had a list of Airmen that I wanted to visit while I was at the cemetery. Despite being ready to walk miles in the rain laying wreaths, I wasn’t ready for the emotional reaction I had to visiting some of these graves.  I started crying at the headstones of Airmen I had met and those I’d never met.  I was truly surprised by my tears.

After the emotional morning, I did a little digging on the history of the Christmas wreath.

– Wreaths are typically evergreen as a symbol of the strength of life

– Holly symbolizes immortality

– Cedar symbolizes strength and healing

– Red of the ribbon is the bloodshed (some say by militaries; others by Christ)

– In ancient Rome & Greece, wreaths were a sign of victory of achievement

– By the 16th century, Christians in Germany used wreaths as the hope in Christ

All of these facts about the Christmas wreath seem so fitting for the fallen heroes at our National Cemeteries.

Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization that started in 2007 as a means to honor our fallen war heroes at National Cemeteries.  Each year they coordinate the wreath-laying in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 24 countries around the world.  https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

Their mission includes three simple words:

Remember. Honor. Teach.

In remembering fallen military members at Arlington in learning the meaning of the wreath, I found that I focused on the three-word mission statement.  “Remember. Honor. Teach.”

Beautiful words about our military members, which are also applicable to our Christian faith.

As we head into the final weeks of madness leading to Christmas, let’s take a moment to reflect this week on what God did for us by allowing his only Son to come to earth to die for us.  Let’s remember, honor and teach this Christmas season.

~Emily

Snow Graves

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

Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

Lest we regret-2 copy