My Spicy Eyes!

This week, my daughter called me with an urgent request.  “Take a look at this photo.  What are your thoughts?” The left eye of my grandson, Andros, had turned sharply and suddenly veered inward, it was wobbling, and he was seeing double.  She made an appointment to see the eye doctor and as he sat in front of the provider that same afternoon, he was told that he would need some eyedrops.  The optometrist explained that just like when you get something spicy on your tongue, his eye would feel that way for just a minute but it would be ok.  Now, Andros does NOT like spicy food.  If it has a drop of pepper on it, he can taste it.  And as the gentleman placed the drops into his tightly squeezed, terrified,  waiting eyes, that sweet boy started crying and yelling, “MY SPICY EYES!  MY SPICY EYES!”  It’s a story we’re laughing about now days later.

I began to think of Saul as he lost his sight on the road to Damascus and reached for his story in my bible.  He was a man who took great pleasure in persecuting Christians.  He didn’t do it because he was a sociopath.  He did it because he was a Jewish scholar who genuinely believed that what the Christians were saying was blasphemy to God.  He felt he was expelling a problem.  He was even present at the first martyr, Stephen’s, death.  Then we see in Acts 9 him on the road to Damascus because he had found out about people there who were teaching about Jesus as the Son of God.

“Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.”  The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” –Acts 9:3-9

He was literally blinded by the light of Jesus!  What a way to get his attention, right?!  I wonder what he must have been feeling. There is nothing mentioned in the verses following about anyone witnessing to him.  I’m not sure if there was.  My personal belief is that he sat in his own darkness and fasted, recognizing the weight of what had just happened. 

An encounter with Jesus is nothing small.  Here was a man who felt confident his persecution of the Christians was acceptable.  And in one brief moment, everything he believed was turned on its head as Jesus revealed EXACTLY who he was. 

And lest we think that’s the only ‘WOW’ moment in that interaction, how about what Jesus told him to do!  He told him to go to the city and it would be told to him what to do.  Jesus didn’t give him the 3-year plan.  He didn’t tell him he was going to become one of the greatest missionaries of all time.  He wasn’t privy to knowledge that He would eventually be given direct revelation by God!  He was told to go and he would be told to what to do.

How many of us are willing to just take that first directive and then sit and wait?  I’m afraid disobedience would kick in for me.  I’d be calling my friends, asking my mom to come to me.  I’d be asking Emily to do some research.  I’d be thinking of every scenario of what “will be told to do” implies.  That, friends, is where we trip ourselves up. 

Sometimes, the wait is part of the answer.  There are times where God wants us to have a period of waiting until He’s ready to give us the next step in our walk, and we screw it up by thinking we know the next step.  How easy it seems to just sit and wait for God, and how hard we make it by trying to navigate it ourselves.

The rest of the story for Paul is beautiful.  He waits.  God sends Ananias to him and tells him what to do.  And literal scales fall from his eyes.  Paul not only regains his earthly sight, but he’s given his spiritual sight!  He goes on to lead thousands to the Lord and dare I say millions with how his words h shown people even today how to fully surrender to our Savior.

Iron Porch, I pray that as we encounter Jesus through Bible study, reading the scripture, and learning of God’s love, that each encounter is one that shows us who He is.  I also pray that we learn to wait on the Lord, that we be patient in the space between, and that we trust God to fill in the blank. 

~Erin

False Modesty

Have you ever given a compliment and heard a “who me?” with a hand on the chest type of response?  (for instance: What a beautiful dress.  What, this old thing?).

When I think about it, I see it as a strange response and one that I know I’ve been guilty of giving.  In these instances, the receiver of the compliment is normally appreciative of the accolade but is resting on the desire to appear modest.  Often it comes across as fake. 

False modesty is a difficult sin for us to identify in ourselves because it can be cloaked in what we convince ourselves to be true. It works its way into our prayers, our culture, and our everyday lives. 

The bottom line is that false modesty is a sin that is deceitful.  It’s filled with a lie we tell ourselves, as well as others. It requires that we mask our true emotions, as well as potentially re-writing truth in our own minds.  The one who falls prey to false modesty could pretend to appear poorer, sadder, or more sacrificial than the next person.  While these could seem to be great Christian attributes, it is really a giving into human indulgences (Colossians 2:23).

This is also a sin that is filled with pride.  In Colossians 2:18, Paul cautions against those who have false humility as being “puffed up without reason.” (*sidebar* when would it be with reason to be puffed up?). When we are puffed up with big heads, we are self-focused, rather than God-focused.  This isn’t an overt sin that others may see in us but make no mistake…our all-knowing and loving Father sees this exactly for what it is.  Lies wrapped in pride = sin.

False modesty when found out by others impacts our own reputations.  Subsequently, it impacts how others are willing to interact with us.  If we don’t have true humility our co-workers could see us as a show-off, our families could see us as know-it-alls…and worst non-believers could make decisions about their own salvation based on their interactions with our falsely modest selves.  

If you are seeing this as a sin in your own life, I pray that you can confess that to the Lord and work at repenting.  The last thing we want to do is impact someone’s decision about where they will spend eternity based on a dumb comment (what, this old thing?!?!) in order to simply dismiss a compliment. 

~Emily

What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

Discovery: Nazirite Vow

I must have been under a rock during the day I was taught about the Nazirite vow in Sunday school.  Maybe I was day dreaming; maybe I was absent that day; maybe it wasn’t even a subject taught at my church.  A devotion I read several weeks ago mentioned the Nazirite vow and I’ve had to really dig in so that I could understand this concept.

Numbers 6:1-8 describes the vow as a way to make a special Covent with the Lord.   It was a strictly voluntary, special in its intent, and indicates a separation from a temptation.  It seems that the vow was used most frequently during a time of difficulty or extremely hard trials and temptation…at that time, the person could take this vow as a way to grow closer to the Lord. 

Interestingly enough, Numbers 6:3 commands that anyone taking the Nazirite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol.  More specifically, it called for an abstinent from wine and all products made from the grape plant. This would have included grape seed oil or cream of tartar.  

Another aspect of the vow included continually growing one’s hair.  If one temporarily forgot the vow, a simple look in the mirror would remind them.  It became not only a reminder of the vow, but a testimony opportunity when asked why they were growing out their hair.  

This led me to another question…are there any examples in the New Testament that speak to the Nazirite vow?  Guess what? Of course, there is! 

In Acts 18:18 (NASB), Luke wrote “Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow.” 

Why was Paul exhibiting behavior associated with Nazirite vow?  He was traveling from Corinth towards Syria when he cut his hair.  His recent experiences in Corinth and in Athens, where he had apathetic encounters with non-believers, very few conversions to Christianity, a lack of new church establishment, and cult-like behaviors of worshiping Aphrodite.  His decision to take a special vow with an outward showing of cutting his hair was a way to mark the growth of his hair from the moment of the vow, as well as a means to protect himself and draw closer to the Lord during his trials.  

Most Americans would be able to tell you about the unique attributes of the wedding vows.  Heck, most would even acknowledge it’s a convent with/before God.  All would recognize that the wedding ring is the outward sign of the wedding vow having been taken.  We know about the wedding vows because we’ve attended ceremonies, watched them on tv, or even taken part in our own commitment with this vow.  We are comfortable with the concept of the wedding vow.

Why am I not as comfortable with this vow mentioned in Numbers and Acts?  How did I know about this very personal “Nazirite vow?”  In a moment of self-doubt, I felt like a horrible Christian that wasn’t studying her Bible enough.  And in the next instance, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I just need to keep studying…keep digging…keep praying.

What Biblical revelations have you had this week? Come to the porch and share!!

~Emily

Numbers 6:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.’”

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

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

 

 

 

Describe Yourself- Two Words

Describe yourself.

Wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, traveler, student, gardener, volunteer, Chief Master Sergeant, scrapbooker, author, blogger, retiree…the list goes on and on.

When someone asks me this question, I have a difficult time determining what information is being solicited.  Mainly because there are plenty of titles that I can proudly use to describe myself.

But what if I could only choose two words?

Christian & Veteran.

The two titles that I am most proud of and the two titles that best define me. Probably the two titles that I have been most faithful to throughout my adult life.

On this last Veteran’s Day as an Active Duty member and during the last 25 years as a military member, I have had to lean on one particular verse that I found to be applicable to both of these titles.

 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV)

It’s important to note that Paul was not advocating violence as a good soldier of Jesus, but rather he was advocating the merits of possessing the characteristics of a military member with well-defined bearing and discipline.  The military member focuses on the orders of those above them, as well as the mission…rather than the details of distractions.  Paul is encouraging the Christian to maintain a similar bearing, keeping in mind that the details of life will be cared for by our Father in Heaven, rather than becoming distracted from our mission to contribute to the Kingdom.

In my own life, it’s a beautiful reminder from God, through Paul, that I can be both a Christian and a Veteran.  The training I received as a military member should assist me with translating focus and bearing into my walk with Christ. It’s a beautiful reminder that God’s titles for my life are ones He chose for me.

If I asked you to describe yourself with two titles…what two would you choose?  How would they relate to God’s plan for you?

~Emily

Sweet land of liberty