This Past Year

I’m a few days away from being 43.  That just sounds old.  I mean, I know it’s not.  But if I think back a looooong time ago to the sweet age of 10, I thought 43 was practically retirement-village,-using-a-walker,-putting-away-my-dentures-every-night-old. 

As I do every year, I like to think back over the previous 365 days and reflect on it.  What did I do that was exciting?  What is something I wish I had done?  Did I waste time on ‘stuff’?  Am I happy with the actions I took?  A lot of people might do this at the end of the year.  I find I love to do it at my birthday, because it makes me feel like I’m not trying to do some cheesy resolution and instead really contemplating what I’ve done.

This year, I feel like I spent much more time truly meditating on God’s Word.  I was thoughtful in my Bible reading, not just looking for verses that applied to me.  Rather, I was looking meaningfully at the passages for the context, how it applied, and where I saw God in each verse.  The more I dug in, the more I found my own ‘self’ was changing!  I realized that the things that never bothered me before are now striking a chord with me, and not one that plays a sweet note. 

TV and movies don’t have the same appeal when I see the worldly actions and images across the screen.  Secular (and even some contemporary Christian) music doesn’t ring true lately when it promotes unhealthy and inappropriate relationships or a diluted message of who God is and what He does.  Foul language is becoming more and more difficult to tolerate.

To the average person, they might see this as a legalistic point of view, these things that I’ve discovered about myself from this past year.  However, I believe that it’s less about being legalistic and more about recognizing that I want my relationship with God to be pure and untainted from the ways of the world.  I don’t want my walk to be conforming but rather transformative.  I want to be different because our Father commands us to be different and not of this world.

Here are just a few verses I’ve leaned on this year without even realizing that I was doing it!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Philippians 4:8

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:2

Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. –1 Peter 2:11

As I look back I realize that, while there may be things I wish I had done, I love that I have recognized the Holy Spirit prodding me to a life that’s more pleasing to God.  I’m not perfect at it.  I never will be.  But any small thing that pushes me to a closer relationship to my Heavenly Father, is a small thing I’ll do as often as I can!

Dear friends, join me in meditating on those verses this week.  Think about ways we can think on things that are honorable, true and right and remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are only visitors on this earth for a short time compared to eternity with Him!

~Erin

To Serve or to be Seen

As a person who’s grown up in church, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing people serve in some capacity.  You volunteer for the nursery.  You donate time as an usher.  Maybe you’re part of the prayer team or the clean-up crew.  There are so many ways to give time in service to your local church and community.  The opportunities are endless.

There are many verses in the bible that speak to serving.

“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.” –1 Peter 4:9-10

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters himself will be watered.” –Proverbs 19:17

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10

We are told to serve without complaint, to please God, and to bring Him glory.  My question to each of us serving is this:

Are we doing it to serve or to be seen?

Today’s society says ‘Look at me!  Look at what I’m doing to help!’ Everything that we see on social media screams out how good we are, how kind we are, how much help we gave when we service others.  But is that the kind of service God desires of us?

Please know that I’m not excluding myself from this question.  I find myself often having to stop and question my motives.  Am I doing this particular thing because God commands me to love, to help, and to assist, or am I doing it because it feels good to get the ‘attaboy and kudos for stepping up to the plate and serving someone or some way?

I also have to think about the way that I’m serving.  Am I skipping out on the potentially thankless job of janitorial work at the church or the tiring job of rocking a crying baby in the nursery, instead opting for the fun and noticed roles?  Am I choosing to snap an Instagram photo of me paying for a homeless man’s coffee instead of leaving an anonymous gift card for groceries for the family who’s mother just lost her job?

I’m not saying that those acts of service are not good.  Nor am I saying that they’re wrong.  What I’m asking us to examine is whether our motives are to really serve God or to be seen for our works.

I pray that my motives are never for the need to be seen.  God tells us in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I pray that as we serve, dear friends, it’s to serve God and not ourselves. 

~Erin

Humble Honey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

honey

 

 

Suicidal Dream

Recently, my 9-year-old son came to my bedside in the middle of the night asking to lay down with me.  He said he’d had a bad dream and wanted to snuggle. I asked him about the dream and he shared that it included a pretty explicit description of me committing suicide in front of him.

Through the years, I’ve comforted him several times after a bad dream, but nothing had prepared me for him dreaming that I’d shot myself in front of him.  I held him tight and prayed with him to have a calm spirit so that he could fall back to sleep.  He recalled a scripture from Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord, your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I felt his heart rate slow down and his breathing level out as he fell asleep.

I, however, was wide awake and troubled by his dream.  Why on earth would his little mind have created a scenario where I would abandon him in such a manner? Are these residual ideas from his birth mom and the adoption process?  For that matter, how did he even know something so horrific could happen to a mom or a child?

I untangled myself from the blankets and the kiddo so I could get on my knees and place this burden at the feet of our Lord.  While I don’t understand the dream or why my child had it, I do know that I felt relief in sharing my concerns with God.

In the days after that situation, other verses of comfort came to both me and my son.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4

For the Lord says…do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine. ~Isaiah 43:1

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” ~Isaiah 35:4

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Iron Porch is a place to be transparent about real-life events.  With that in mind, I’ve got to admit my son’s dream has shaken me up for a few days.  The one thing that has kept me calm is scripture and prayer.  The constant provision of God’s word has encouraged me and reminded us that he does not want us to fear anything.

~Emily

Deuteronomy

 

The Green Coffee Mug

Coffee

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

The best part of this scenario?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

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

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