Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Snow Boots and A Mother’s Love

My Mom told me the rules.

She warned me.

She told me the consequences.

She tried to train me to remember.

And yet, when I was 8-years-old, I still forgot my snow boots at school on the last day before Christmas break.

The consequence?  Without the boots, I wasn’t going to be allowed to play in the snow for the whole duration of the school break.

God does that with us too.  He tells us the rules, then gives a warning complete with consequences in an effort to train us.

It started as early as the Garden of Eden with the forbidden fruit and continues today.  The standards and discipline come from a place of complete and total love. Those rules and consequences are spelled out in His Holy Word, the Bible.

Like our loving Father’s action to assist in the teaching of His children, my Mom used the forgotten snow boots as a lesson.

She could have made me endure two weeks of snow-related exile.  Instead, as the sky darkened and snow continued to fall, she walked back to the elementary school with me.  As we walked, she explained that there was a strong likelihood that the school would be dark and locked up.  She told me that rules were in place to help me grow into a responsible adult.  She didn’t yell or scold, rather she explained and rationalized.  It seemed like the longest walk ever.

There was one bank of lights on in the elementary school.  After pounding on the door repeatedly, a janitor came and let us in so that I could retrieve my boots.  I don’t remember a single snowman, snow angel or snowball fight from that Christmas vacation.  But I remember my mom’s lesson to keep track of your things.

I love my mom dearly.  And I love the lessons she taught me as a young child and even now as an adult.  As we get closer to Mother’s Day 2019, come to the porch and tell us your favorite life lesson from a maternal figure in your life.

~Emily

“The whole training and education of children.” ~ Ephesians 6:4 (KJV)

Snow Boots

Seasons of Life

I saw a meme several times this week that expressed dislike for calling attention to a “season of being single.” Essentially, the meme is highlighting the unnecessary hurt caused by labeling singleness as a season.

It got me thinking about the different phases I’ve had in my life.  There was a season of being a new believer.  The phase of being a newlywed.  The time of being deliberately disobedient to God.  The time of military service. The part about of infertility disappointments.  The transition to retirement.

I thought about my own season of singleness in my mid-30s, which admittedly was really awesome at times and really sucked at others.  I’ve concluded that every single phase of life each of us faces has highlights and lowlights.  Parts of each season are incredible, which counters the parts that are cloudy darkness.

In the days leading up to Easter celebrations this last week, this meme against “single seasons” also got me wondering about the seasons that Jesus’ mother, Mary, faced in her life.

Her season of being an unwed teen pregnancy statistic. Her season of being a newlywed with an infant.  Her season of her son “running away” to the temple. Her season of learning more from her child than He learned from her.  Her season of watching His trial…of watching Him die.

How incredibly heart wrenching each of Mary’s phases must have been.  On the counter, how incredibly enriching each phase would have been.

In Luke 2:39-53, we read about how Joseph and Mary would travel to Jerusalem annually for the Feast of Passover.  Imagine how she felt when at age 12, Jesus disappeared from her sight and they don’t even notice until they are already on their way home to Galilee.  Everyone is searching frantically for him, issuing the equivalent of an “Amber Alert” 2000 years ago.  Three days later they find him in the temple sitting among the teachers.

This would have been Mary’s season of panic. Panic over a lost child.  Panic over realizing He was more knowledgeable then they could even imagine.  Panic over the thoughts of a future, which would include the child learner becoming the grown-man teacher.

This time of panic would have been laced with joy. There could have been joy and pride at seeing the child learning so intently.  Pride to hear the teachers of the temple praising Jesus’ attentiveness. A maternal love when sensing that the child was about to embark on His destiny.

In Luke 2:51, after rebuking Jesus for worrying His parents, we read “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary had to make sense of what she was seeing in her child.  She knew of Gabriel’s announcement, of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s prophecies, and of course, she had experienced her own divine appointment with the Lord through the immaculate conception.  Imagine this question facing Mary:  How do you raise a child you believe is the Messiah?

When one looks at seasons of their own life, there is a give and take between the good and the bad of those phases.  Mary saw that first hand through the seasons of motherhood.

If Mary’s transitions offer us a glimpse into seeing both sides of a scenario, shouldn’t we be able to apply that to our own walk with Christ?   I believe that if we look at our own seasons we can discern positive qualities as well as negative qualities in each.  As in Mary’s time, this look at our “seasons of life” allows us a moment of reflection on what God is trying to teach us.

No matter the phase we are in, we are still learning.   Imagine we’re sitting in the temple at the foot of the great teacher.

I encourage you this week to reflect on your current season.  What are the negative and positive attributes of this time?

~Emily

 

 

 

When God Calls Your Name Twice

All children fear the dreaded call of both the first and middle names.  I still think I’m in peril of getting a swatting if I hear “Emily Elizabeth!”

I knew I was in serious trouble if Mama yelled both names.  God help me, if it was my Dad yelling both.

That role switches slightly when you become a parent. The constant “Mom-Mom,” “Mama-Mama,” “Mommy-Mommy” is a double name call that takes on a whole new meaning. You become skilled at interpreting if the double name call is an emergency, boredom, or revelation.

God calls our names twice too. When he calls our name twice, there is typically a reason.  Perhaps it’s a test and trial of faith.  Sometimes it’s to grab our attention.  Sometimes it’s an emergency.  On multiple occasions throughout the Bible, God calls someone’s name twice. In each instance, a significant teaching ensues.

In Genesis 22: 11-13, we see God call “Abraham! Abraham!” as Abraham is ready to obey God in sacrificing his child, Isaac.  In this scenario, Abraham is faithful and has passed a trial of faith. God is calling his name twice to stop Abraham’s actions before he actually sacrifices his son.

When Jacob finds out that his son Joseph hasn’t died, but rather he’s in Egypt, Jacob has a vision.  In Genesis 46:1-4, the vision includes God calling, “Jacob! Jacob!” when he tells him not to be afraid.

In Luke 10:41, we read “Martha! Martha!” In Exodus 3:1-10, we see “Moses! Moses!” Within the text of 1 Samuel 3:1-10, we read of God saying “Samuel! Samuel!” Jesus calls Simon Peter “Simon, Simon” in Luke 22:31-32.  “Saul, Saul” is called when Paul is blinded by the vision of a risen Jesus in Acts 9. Even Jesus calls on the Lord from the cross, “My God! My God!”

No matter who is being called twice, it gets our attention.  Something significant is occurring if a name is called twice.  Immediately, the occasion is elevated when names are called twice.  The double call requires that we understand the significance and respond.

Consider this:

  1. Has God called your name twice? When? And for what reason?
  2. Are you paying attention to when God calls your name twice?
  3. Have you heard God call someone else’s name twice?

Much like being a young child with your first and middle name called by a parent, the calling of your name by God should get your attention…for any reason.  As a sibling, I would also pay attention if I heard both my brother’s names called.  Perhaps we should also be paying attention to when God calls twice to those around us.

~Emily

When God Calls Your Name Twice copy

Drugs, Mental Health & Self-Worth

I can’t even imagine some of the battles that women face daily.

I can’t imagine being in an abusive relationship.  I can’t imagine being homeless.  I can’t imagine being an unwed mother.  I can’t imagine another broken heart.

And yet, I can relate.

I can’t imagine being a drug addict. I can’t imagine contemplating suicide.  I can’t imagine choosing which bills to cover.  I can’t imagine constant depression.

And yet, I can relate.

I can relate because I’ve seen other women battle those demons.  Often the battles that one woman faces, impacts the battles of another woman.

There is a young lady that I love very much. She struggles with drugs, with mental health, and with self-worth.  She’s so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see that because of the demons that she battles.

Her mama worries about her constantly. She’s had to bail her out of jail. She’s had to draw hard lines between support and not becoming co-dependent.  This mama is so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see it because of the demons she battles.

This girl could be anyone’s daughter.  This mama could be anyone’s friend.

These two women aren’t just anyone’s daughter or friend.  She’s is my step-daughter from a previous marriage and I consider her mom a friend.

I worry about them both.  When I don’t hear from my step-daughter for weeks, I message her mom.  And then I hold my breath, praying that the answer is not “jail, hospital, or morgue.”

Here are three women – a gal in her twenties, and her mom and step-mom.  All meshed together by the strings of our heart, all facing battles that are interwoven.  Battles that are faced alone and together.  Battles laced with worry.

Jesus told us in Luke 12:25 (NIV), “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I hear you Jesus.  I should stop worrying.  And yet the human condition often prevails…and we worry, we doubt, we seek other refuge, we become anxious, and often we forget that Jesus can handle all of the battles.

When I find myself worrying about these two women, I simply pray. Usually, I have distinct prayers of request for their particular situations. Sometimes, I tell God that I don’t know the scenarios, but I need Him to intervene on their behalf. Occasionally, I simply request for Him to take away my own anxiety and worry over them.

When you have battles to fight; pray.  When you notice other women fighting battles; pray. When your battles overlap with others; pray.  We aren’t going to add any time to our lives, but we certainly can turn over the anxiety and worry to the Lord.

Each one of us is smart, beautiful, and so loved.  Let’s see those attributes past the battles.

~Emily

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” ~Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

kiyana

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Battles

Last Friday, I made good on a ridiculous commitment I made while my husband and I were dating.  I had casually and thoughtlessly agreed that sometime in the future I would attend a heavy metal concert.  I dodged that bullet for years.  But Friday, I finally went to my first and last head-banging-metal concert.  I am free of that commitment from this point forward.

I may be free of the commitment to go, but I’m not free of the overwhelming pain my heart felt leading up to the event, while being at that concert, and in the days afterward.

True confession #1:  I hate…seriously hate…heavy metal music.  It’s so freaking loud.  And repetitive…every song sounds like exactly the same yelling.  I don’t understand 80% of the lyrics and the few phrases I can discern I don’t believe are in concert with my Christian faith.  I despise that many of the bands in this musical genre utilize symbolology that I deliberately avoid, as a result of my own pagan past.  In truth, in the weeks leading up to this concert I was praying that something would happen that would prevent our attendance.

As it became apparent that I was going to have to actually attend, I engaged my prayer warriors to form a hedge of protection around my family while we attended the concert. I was fervently praying for God to close our ears to the enemy, to open the hearts to the non-believers, and to assist with protecting us as we entered a spiritual warfare battlefield.

I prayed as we drove to the venue. I prayed in the parking lot. I prayed in the concession line. I prayed in our seats.  I prayed for God to be with us and that Satan would get behind us. I prayed for complete and total intercession.  I prayed specifically for my family, but then I prayed for those in my row, in our section, and in the entire audience. I even prayed for all of the band members.  I prayed that everyone present would know God…would know His love…would profess Christ as their Savior.

I was praying super big prayers.

True confession #2: I was surprised at how pleasant everyone was around us.  Between sets, folks were chatting with us and offering ear plugs (little did they know I had packed several sets of plugs in my purse!).  No one was cursing. No one was fall-on-their-face drunk.  No one was spouting off about Devil worship.

Everyone was nice.  No one was directly threatening towards me or my family.  I felt God’s arms around us.

And that’s when I let my guard down.  I had prayed through most of the afternoon into the evening, but by dusk I had relaxed a little.

The sun went down.  The drunks became rowdy.  The smell of weed was prevalent.  All around us, people were super excited to hear the first beats of the drum from the headlining band.  I stood up to see the stage and when the curtain fell I was in absolute shock.  There were images that were blatantly disrespectful of Christ.  There were huge areas of literal fire balls.  When pentagrams began bouncing all over the screen, I literally burst into tears and fell back into my seat.  I know I was the only person in that arena sitting down, but I may have been the only one that was crying and praying out loud to the one true God.

Satan made his presence known.

True confession #3: Spiritual Warfare in America is real and I am fearful that many Christians are turning a blind eye to this fact.  I know it’s real because it’s a slippery slope I’ve tumbled down.  I know it’s real because I see it in daily aspects of our society.  I know it’s real because I just pitched a book about it.

It scares me to death to see how spiritual battles have influenced American society.   And yet, I took my family on a trek to see the battle field in action.   You read that correctly… “my family.”

True confession #4:  My 7-year-old son was with us.  He was one of a dozen kids that I saw in attendance.

After that confession, you would be partly justified in asking about my parenting skills.  If spiritual warfare scares me so much and if I was so concerned that I dispatched my prayer warriors, why on God’s green earth would I introduce my son to such a scene?

Why?  Because I’m raising a prayer warrior.  I’m raising a child to someday become a head of household.  I’m raising a young man who is in love with the Lord.  I can’t shield him completely from the world.  But I can teach him how to hold onto his faith, his beliefs, and his focus on God.

Do you know who was praying with me in the weeks up to the concert?  My son.

Do you know who prayed in the car that God would protect us?  My son.

Do you know who was praying that just one person would come to know the Lord that night? My son.

Do you know who shielded his eyes from the fire on stage and also prayed out loud? My son.

Spiritual warfare is alive and well in our country.  Christians are doing a disservice to the next generation if we aren’t allowing them to become equipped to fight a battle that they may not understand.  Shoot, that many of us don’t understand!

Some will say that a heavy metal concert wasn’t the place for a child.  I agree.  It wasn’t an ideal situation.  But because it was one that occurred, I used it as a teaching tool for my child to understand that God listens.  He will defend us.  He will equip us.  He will protect us.

I’m free of the commitment to ever attend another one of these concerts…but I will continue to be vigilant to the spiritual battlefield all around us.

~Emily

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ~1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

1 Peter 5-8

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily