Recipe Follower

I have this thing about following a recipe.  While I sometimes try to go off-the-cuff with food, I more than likely have a paper pulled out.  Not only do I follow the recipe, I will read and re-read the recipe multiple times to ensure I make it right.    

I do the same thing with directions.  I’ll see on GPS that it says turn right in two miles only to find myself rechecking it again a half-mile later, then a mile after that!  I’m always worried about missing something or skipping a step that will make my dish turn out awful or find myself two hours from planned destination.

Sometimes, I’m a mess!

As I was cooking dinner tonight, I thought about this desire to make sure I’m getting it right.  Do I have the same thought when it comes to following the commands of God?  Do I meditate and focus on what God says in the Bible to allow me to stay on the right path, or do I get tripped up because I “think I’ve got it” and ignore the instinct to verify what the Bible says?

I used to rely a lot on my memory of what I’d learned growing up in church.  However, as I got older and really start deep-diving into His Word, I recognized that things that I learned years ago had a child-like spin on them.  As I matured in Christ, I recognized that I had to look at context and application.  I needed to look at all of it and not just bits and pieces. 

“All have sinned” didn’t just mean lying to my parents.  It was also lust in my heart for looking at someone inappropriately.  Watching your speech didn’t just mean not saying shut-up or not being kind.  It was recognizing that everything that comes out of my mouth needs to be edifying to the Lord and foul language isn’t included in that edification.  Binding it to your hand and forehead, writing it on the doorpost….it isn’t just about knowing. It’s about purposeful knowledge and studying of what our Heavenly Father tells us because He KNOWS what’s best for us.

When we only look at pieces of scripture or the ‘highlights’ we miss out what the full journey can bring with Christ.  I encourage you, friends, lets stop looking at just the bits and pieces.  Let’s read verse, chapter, book, and Bible to make sure we’re following the beautiful path God has laid out for us.

~Erin

The Stages Of Cancer

While some physicians still use stages and grading in cancer explanations, did you know that the medical profession is moving away from letting you know what “stage” of cancer you or your loved one may have?

Why?  Mostly because cancer, while not entirely curable, is treatable.  Even the most horrible of diagnoses usually have some type of treatment plan.  

According to WebMD, there are still distinct stages, regardless of if your doctor tells you a stage.

Stage 0 means there’s no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer. 

– Stage I means the cancer is small and only in one area. This is also called early-stage cancer.

Stage II and III mean the cancer is larger and has grown into nearby tissues or lymph nodes (Stage III also can indicate that the cancer has crossed a diagonal sphere in the body…for instance left breast and right kidney). 

Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. It’s also called advanced or metastatic cancer.

How do I know all this?  Most of this knowledge is from 2013, when my younger brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma.  A deadly diagnosis that had me praying like I’d never prayed before.  

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)

Eight years later, my brother is thriving.

Eight years later, our family is facing a slightly different scenario with just as scary diagnosis for my Dad.  The dreaded words cancer…with a physician who doesn’t use staging or grades.

But our family has been through this before, so we know the lingo and understand all the scans.  We know…even if they aren’t saying it…that this is Stage 4.

And so we start praying against cancer again…without ceasing. You see, our family has seen the Stage 4 cancer miracle before, so we know that our mighty and all-powerful God can deliver again.  

No matter what the outcome, my Dad will be healed.  On Earth or in Heaven…there will be healing.  

If you have room on your plate of prayer requests, can you please add comfort and painlessness for my Dad (Steve) and calm nerves with a full night of sleep for my mom (Wendy).  All prayers are appreciated!  

~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

The Trolls of Life

According to internet slang, a social media troll is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit (although it can be any site) by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking a typically negative emotional response from other users.

We’ve all seen them in action. 

On the Iron Porch, we’ve been blessed to have had minimal interactions with social media trolls.  However, the social media accounts that I am an admin for at work…those have plenty of social media trolls.  People who love to create conflict and drama. At work, we’ve found they use their real names, but they occasionally use fake accounts in an attempt to hide their cyberbullying.    

Some ways to spot a social media troll is that they occasionally use derogatory language, have an inability to listen to reason, and their internet fights seem to indicate lots of free time to start arguments.  They are soooooo persistent.  

Do you have the aggravating and provocative trolls in your personal life?  The people who create chaos and thrive in drama?  

In the world of social media trolls, the advice includes not taking it personally and not engaging with the troll.  

That’s hard to do with real-life people.  

As Christians, we’re often reminded to turn the other cheek, but that’s just as difficult in some scenarios. We’re are also reminded that our tongue becomes a weapon, so not speaking back to a troll is also a hard part of Christian living.  Of course, it’s also hard to not take it personally when we’re attacked in degrading ways.  

A verse that has been helping me keep the social media trolls at bay is Proverbs 20:3. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor” (NASB).  I particularly like the New International Version of the same verse that states, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” 

I keep the verse written out in the folder that holds all my documents concerning my work-related social media accounts.  It helps remind me that I don’t have to engage with the trolls, nor do I have to take it personally. 

I know it’s not easy to have a troll in your life…in person or on social media.  I’d love to hear what scriptures you have been using for yourself while dealing with the trolls of life.

~Emily

Focus, Squirrel…Focus!

During the creative process of writing academically, fiction, or the blog, I often find myself following a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with my original intent in writing.  I start researching or reading tangents (likely the reason I know so many bits of useless information).  I become engrossed in the television if it’s on.  I start singing to music even if it’s background noise.  

I am notorious for distracting myself.  Squirrel.  

The point is that I often have to tell myself, “Focus, Emily, Focus.”

I need that phrase for my life’s walk with Jesus too.  Focus, Emily, Focus.  

Paul does a fantastic job of teaching us the need for focusing in Philippians.  

“Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on fi I may also have hold of that for which I as even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.  I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

This text reminds us that in order to grow in our faith with Jesus, we have to remain focused.  We must reach forward.   We must press on towards the goal.   No rabbit hole research projects allowed. No distracting media platforms.  No squirrels.

Our salvation is clearly outlined in the Bible as grace alone through faith….but the growth in our relationship with God requires work to remain focused.  

A few verses before, Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 (NASB), “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  In this verse, we can glean a few goals that Paul had for remaining focused on the Lord, and they are goals that I want for my own focus.  

He wanted to know Jesus in a more personal way, as do I. 

He wanted to really know the power of Christ’s resurrection, as do I.

He wanted a similar attitude to Jesus in the face of suffering, as do I. 

He wanted connection to Jesus through His death, as do I. 

Like any other goals in our lives, we can’t be successful at accomplishing the goals without being specific with the goal writing.  In the military (and in other leadership courses), I was taught the SMART method in regards to goal writing:  

– Specific (details of the goals)

– Measurable (how do I know if I’m accomplishing the goal)

– Achievable (can I actually accomplish what I’m setting out to do)

– Realistic (is it within reach and relevant to my life)

– Time-framed (is there an end/stopping point to determine goal accomplishment)

If my generalized goal is to remain focused on the Lord so that I can build a closer relationship with him, then I know I should use the SMART method to refine that goal.  Otherwise I risk not fulfilling my goal.  When going through a goal setting process, I often find that I begin to set “mini-goals” in order to accomplish the larger task.  

For instance, my larger goal is that I want to have a stronger relationship with God.

My mini goals, that will assist with attaining the larger goal, could include:

– Specific Bible reading plans

– Planning prayer times

– Making corporate worship a priority

– Stretching myself in personal study of the Bible

Each of those mini-goals can be tracked with the SMART method and lend themselves to the larger goal.  Utilizing goal setting, specifically a method that showcases growth, allows for me to stay focused.  No distractions…just focus.  

I’m sure I’ll have to keep saying, “Focus, Emily, Focus,” but I’m happy to know I can redirect that focus back to something very specific.  

Will you join me in “focusing” this week?

~Emily

Restoration 49: A Coffee Shop Story

One town over from where I live, there is an adorable coffee shop, with the most amazing coffee that I’ve had in the South (and that is high praise from the girl who grew up in the Pacific NW).   Bonus points because they make their syrups in-house!  I go there often, for hours at a time, to study and work.  Most frequently, I complete Bible Study preparations for the Tuesday night class I facilitate or work on blogs for Iron Porch. Check them out on their Restoration 49 Facebook Page!

The coffee is fantastic, the Wi-Fi password is sweet and memorable, the décor is fascinating, and the people are lovely.  It’s truly a bunch of lovely baristas, who serve customers with a smile and a parting “have a blessed day!”

I have never had an in-depth conversation with any of them about religion or faith.  But if I had to guess, I’d say that most of them, if not all, have Christ in their lives.  Why would I guess that?  

I can’t guess that from their confession of faith.

I just admitted I’d never spoken with them about their faith.  Clearly, I’ve not asked and they’ve not volunteered that information.  

Maybe I could guess from subtle clues.  

Often contemporary Christian music is softly playing overhead.  There are old Church pews that separate the sitting area from the restrooms.  Based on my experiences and observations from their social media it seems like Bible Study groups meet frequently in the establishment…and so do Daddy-Daughter dances.    

I would guess that, based upon their behaviors. 

In the hours that I’ve spent working on my laptop with a notebook and Bible open at a lone table tucked in the corner, I’ve also been privileged to watch their interactions with others. 

Their behaviors:

I’ve seen them assist someone in a wheelchair with getting drinks to the table.  

I’ve seen them cleaning with a distraught mother, whose toddler went nuclear in mess-making.

I’ve seen them greet customers like old friends.

I’ve seen (and heard) them humming/singing along with the Christian music.

I’ve seen them stop and pray out loud with patrons.

This adorable coffee shop is more than just fantastic coffee.  It’s a showcase in humanity and caring for others.  

In Matthew 7:20-21 (NASB) Jesus said, “So you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

We will know them by their fruits.  

Scripture is clear that our actions will tell others about Jesus.  If a person does not show any fruit—for example, visible evidence that a change has taken place in their heart since receiving Jesus as their Savior—then perhaps they aren’t truly living a Christian lifestyle. 

Evidence of kindness, of Godliness, of humility…those are possible indications of fruit.  All of those are characteristics that I have seen while studying and sipping coffee at Restoration 49.  

Someday, I may ask. Someday, I may initiate a conversation.  But for now, I love watching them interact with their patrons in a loving manner.  

It’s soul-soothing to watch their behavior.  Plus, they have amazing coffee!

~Emily

P.S. Do you have any examples of witnessing fruitful behavior in others this week?  Feel free to come share with us!

Right Where You’re Supposed To Be

If you are engaged or just out of a toxic relationship, you are right where you are supposed to be.

If you are a thin build, an athletic build, a cushy build, or like me a “pre-menopausal” build, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you have a positive pregnancy test…or a negative one, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

If you are exhausted working long hours to establish a career or exhausted as a stay-at-home mom, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you want to be adventurous or cautious, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

Can we just pause for a moment and thank God that we are right where we’re supposed to be?  That He created us each differently, yet in His image, so that we can each fulfill a purpose for His kingdom?  What an incredible blessing that each of us is right where we’re supposed to be.  

In the reflection of how great it is to be where God wants us, I’m reminded of how both Mary and Martha were right where they were supposed to be.  One in the kitchen, frantically trying to entertain and make things amazing for her guests, and one sitting at the feet of the Jesus.  

Imagine being the sisters to Lazarus, the man Jesus rose from the dead.  Now imagine getting to host Jesus for a meal.  I would likely be like Martha, scurrying around trying to make everything delicious, clean, and perfect.  I would very much like to be like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet learning directly from Him while being present in the moment.

In Luke 10:38-42 (NASB), we see the women in very different roles; each learning different lessons.  Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary: for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.””

Just like Martha, I often learning my biggest lessons after complaining about some minor infraction.  Often the Lord uses these types of scenarios to turn the mirror onto myself.  I have learned to institute some self-reflection prior to complaining…but I’ve also learned that I’m usually in a scenario right where I was supposed to be.  

Regardless of their roles, both Mary and Martha were exactly where they were supposed to be in that moment.  Dare I say, where they needed to be in that moment.

And just like every other scenario we “modern” women find ourselves in, we are right where we are supposed to be.

Come to the porch this week and tell us your stories!

~Emily

Saving Freedom & The Statue of Liberty

As an elementary school student, I remember collecting pennies to donate towards the restoration of the Statue of Liberty crown.  Can you imagine the coordination it took for millions of small children to collect pennies towards a National Treasure?  This amazingly oversized statue is not only special to the immigrants that passed by her in the 1800s and early 1900s, but is an iconic symbol of America.    

It has become a symbol of leaving everything behind, risking everything for a new life, and creating new life with freedom.  

This is the same picture of what must happen when we come to know Jesus Christ as our Savior.  We leave behind worldly items and behaviors, risking much for a new life in Him.  Jesus becomes the way to freedom…not just a resolute statue in symbolism, but rather real freedom.  

In John 8:12 (NASB), Jesus said “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Simply stated, Jesus as a lamplight towards freedom surpasses any amount of political, economic, or social persecution that could occur on earth.  That type of freedom is all encompassing.  Passing the Statue of Liberty as a new arrival must have been an awe-inspiring experience and sense of freedom, but knowing you are heaven bound is an even greater feeling.  

The freedom offered by the Father, through His Son, is the ultimate freedom.  As we celebrate the freedoms of America on certain days, such as the 4th of July, let us not forget that Christ’s freedom should be celebrated daily.  

Happy day after the 4th of July!

~Emily 

Prayer Prompts

A few weeks ago, I participated in a “No Amen Challenge,” which has gotten me pondering on what specifically triggers me to start praying.  I began looking around for my personal prayer prompts.  

When I see starving children on television, a car crash during my commute, or difficult conversations occurring at a business, I am fleetingly triggered to begin praying.  Frankly, as quickly as I pray for these items, I likely have forgotten the prayer prompt.  I’ve moved onto the next occurrence of my day.  If I’m reviewing prayer requests from my small group, friends, or family members, I have been guilty of pushing through the prayers without pausing to reflect on the requests and results. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

This verse caused me to start thinking that the ceaseless prayer, coupled with the “No Amen Challenge,” added to prayer prompts, would likely result in more deliberate…and remembered prayer time.  

The prayer prompts are a physical item that is attached to remembering a) to pray and b) what I prayed about.  It becomes a mental association between prayer and an object.  

For instance, I have a prayer board in my bathroom that has scraps of paper all over it with prayer requests from various people in my life.  As a brush my teeth or curl my hair, I have time to review my daily requests.  Initially, this began as a mechanism to “go through” the prayer request list.  Now, I can visualize where the prayer request scrap of paper is on the board and pray individually for each throughout the day.

Another example that I recently watched Erin use was setting an alarm on her phone.  Each time she heard the alarm, she was triggered to pray for a specific situation.   

At home, I wanted to be more deliberate about praising God.  As I watered the garden, I used the time to thank God for the availability of water.  As I collected eggs from the chickens, I praised Him for providing food.  As I drove down the driveway, I exalted the Lord for my employment that contributed to the purchase of our house.  

I also wanted to find a method to pray more frequently over my family.  In order to accomplish that, I took the mundane chore of laundry and began praying over the owner of each piece of clothing, as I folded.  

In my office, I have a ring of multiple verses on index cards that I switch out every week.  Each time that I read the verse of the week, I choose to pray the verse over a person or scenario associated with my workplace.  As I pass the US flag display first thing in the morning, I specifically pray over our country and our elected leaders.  

Each person’s prayer prompts will look different.  Just in the last few weeks, some that I’ve noted included prayer boards, phone alarms, gardening, driving, laundry, index cards or US flags.  It doesn’t matter what the prayer prompt looks like, rather what does matter is that it triggers the moment of prayer.  This in turn, becomes prayer without ceasing in the “no amen challenge” and subsequently are prayers that are remembered.  

I’ve even got a prayer prompt for Iron Porch…the blog, the dreams, the contributors and the readers.  I’ll use it, as I pray that the visitors of the Iron Porch will have their own prayer lives strengthened through the use of prayer prompts.

~Emily

Observations: Poop vs. Sin

“Have you ever noticed that everyone else’s poop smells way worse than your own?”

This was literally the first thing my 4th grade son told me, as he got into my car last week after school.  

Let me start by admitting that poop seems to be a pseudo-normal conversation in our house…he is a boy and for some reason the “y” chromosomes of my house are obsessed with poop and farts.   But I will admit that his observation about everyone else’s poop smells had me giggling (and wondering what happened at school for him to make this observation!!!!).  

Later when reflecting on his comment, I got to thinking that often I think of sin the same way my son was thinking about poop.

Everyone else’s sin is way worse than my own.

The much beloved Reverend Billy Graham wrote, “From a human standpoint some sins are certainly worse than others; sins like murder, assault, or stealing. These things deeply hurt others. But the Bible doesn’t tell us which sin is worst in God’s eyes, and the reason is because God hates all sin. God is absolutely pure and holy; even the smallest sin is evil in His sight.”

If both the Bible and Billy Graham agree that sins are not “ranked” and one is not worse than another, when did I start thinking someone else’s sin was more egregious than my own?

I believe that the enemy has a method of whispering in my ear.  In my humanness, I listen.  Satan convinces me that the differences between right or wrong aren’t as defined as the Bible tells us.  It’s his classic move.  He started using it in the Garden of Eden with Eve.  So of course, he’s using the same tactics on me.  

I have to acknowledge that my sin is my sin. No matter how big or small it may be (or how I may perceive it), ANY sin in my life breaks God’s heart.  Romans 3:12 (NASB) reminds us that there is not one of us who will get through this life without committing sin; “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, There is not even one.”

His judgements stand firm.  We must repent, turn from our sin, ask for forgiveness and move forward.  We (I’m specifically talking to myself here) need to fully understand that not one single sin is greater or lesser than another.  They are all an affront to God.

While someone else’s poop may smell worse than yours, their sin is not worse than yours.

~Emily