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

The Kitty Kam…not a Nanny Cam

The new security cameras took longer than we thought to hook up.  As a result, one stayed on the dining room table facing the kitchen for several hours.  At one point, I heard the “ding” notification on my phone that motion had been detected in the kitchen.  When I looked at the video feed I saw that my black tuxedo kitty, Gatsby, had jumped on the table.  An absolute no-no in our house.

I pressed “speak” on my phone and in a deepened voice I sternly said, “Gatsby! Get off the table!”

For a millisecond, it seemed as though he levitated before he bolted off the table and into the other room.  In reality, he was startled by a voice from thin air, which had caught him in the middle of doing something wrong. 

Don’t you wish that a big loud voice would alert you to your own misbehavior?  I know I wish there was a voice that startled me into doing the right thing.  Maybe it would yell my name as I start think sinfully…or maybe it would just clear its throat when I start to stray off a righteous path.  

Oh wait.  *Palm to forehead moment.*  There is a voice that corrects me…I just have to tune in and actually listen.  If I truly listen to the Lord, I hear Him tell me when He’s pleased and when He’s displeased.  He becomes my big booming voice to correct my behavior. 

How do we implement listening to God into our daily lives?

1. Prayer life. Most certainly this seems easier said than done.  It takes discipline and time, but we are assured that when we pray God hears us.  Likewise, when we pray coupled with listening, we benefit.  “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:15 (NASB)

2. Studying the Bible.  There is a distinct difference between reading your Bible and studying your Bible.  Study means greater understanding through digging deeper into verses.  2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB) states “All scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

3. Meditate on Scripture.  Simply stated, we need to pair our prayer life with studying the Bible so that we have an opportunity to actually meditate on the Word.  Joshua 1:8 (NASB) directs us in this manner. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written…”

Through prayer, studying my Bible and meditating on the Word, I draw closer to the Lord.  And when I draw closer, I am able to hear His voice.  Scripture tells us in John 10:27 (NASB), “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  

The reality is that I already have the voice that desires my success and is willing to correct my behavior.  I don’t need a kitty cam to scare Gatsby off the kitchen table…I have a mighty God.

I pray you make time this week to pray, study and meditate…all in an effort to hear God’s voice.

~Emily

Wasp Stingers & Convictions of the Holy Spirit

On Friday, just as I was getting ready to leave work, I felt a pin-prick stab in my stomach followed by an intense burning sensation.  I moaned ‘nooooooo’ in despair, as I watched a wasp fly away from my mid-section.  The last time I was stung by a wasp it took over a year before it stopped flaring up bright red and alternating between burning and itching. 

Earlier in the week at Bible Study, the teacher gave us a scripture with a nugget of truth that left me feeling the sting and burn of conviction. In that moment, I knew I wasn’t being prayerful, respectful, or loving in one area of my life.  Like the wasp sting, it hasn’t gone away after several days.  

The Bible is very clear that the feeling of conviction is from the Holy Spirit; the third part of the trinity. In my experience, these nudges from the Holy Spirit are in areas that the Lord finds displeasing.  Normally, they are behaviors that are sinful, that need repentance, and that are forgiven if we truly change our direction.  

John 16:8 (NASB) says, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness and judgement.” 

You see, the key to conviction is that there will be judgement associated with it.  Therefore, we can’t ignore it…we have to actually do something to change the behavior.  If we fail to change behavior as a result of conviction, or we ignore that pinprick on our conscious, then we stay in a sinful spiral.  And no good comes from that. 

Josh McDowell wrote, “Having convictions can be defined as being so thoroughly convinced that Christ and His Word are both objectively true and relationally meaningful that you act on your beliefs regardless of the consequences.”

Just like the wasp sting, with its immediate pinch and days of itchy burning, the moments during and after a conviction spurred by the Holy Spirit, should also invoke feelings of a sting and continuous burn…until the behavior has been repented and changed.  

This week I’m praying that the ladies of the porch will listen to the Holy Spirit when you feel that moment of conviction…and that the wasps stay away from you!

~Emily

Search and Rescue

I work in a military museum so “search and rescue” is not entirely a foreign concept to me.  We have an exhibit called “Star Catchers,” which showcases Airmen who were responsible for capturing satellites falling to earth.  A search and rescue of capsules containing cameras and film…and a race against time and sinking, as the capsule hit the massive ocean.  

Of course, there are also countless stories of Airmen searching for and rescuing other military members…in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the deserts of the Middle East.  Stories of POWs, downed aircraft, and special operations…all centered around the concept of search and rescue. 

There are plenty of times that I wonder if God feels like He’s continuously on a “search and rescue” mission.  He literally searches the Earth for His children who don’t know the Savior as their lifeline.  He searches and then offers them the rope for rescue.  He offers the solution to perilous situations.  He offers the ultimate rescue.  

Many accept God’s gift of His Son for our sins as their personal rescue.  Yet there are others who refuse that gift. 

Can you imagine the downed pilot who tells the rescue team, “No, no, I don’t need your assistance; I’ve got this under control”?

Can you envision the National Security impacts of a capsule with film sinking to the bottom of the ocean?

Can you even fathom the victim of the road side bomb refusing assistance from the first responders?

As sinful humans, our souls send out a distress signal that can only be answered by God.  When presented the Gospel, are we grasping the life-line?  Or are we refusing?  God leaves the choice up to each one of us.  Accept or reject God by accepting or rejecting the gift of salvation.  There are eternal consequences for either choice.  

Those who need rescue in an emergency situation do not refuse assistance. This next week, ask yourself if you’ve accepted the rescue of God.  I encourage you to take time in the next couple of days to pray for those who may be struggling with this decision…do they want to accept or reject their personal “Search and Rescue”?

~Emily

“To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” ~Acts 26:18

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

Pride, Love & A Christian Walk

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

For nearly a year, I’ve been researching and preparing to conduct a presentation, during Pride Month 2021, on the history of LGBTQ+ Airmen in the United States Air Force.  Last week I gave this presentation, which was filled with history, policy changes, and individual stories of Airmen who have served in the military from the 1940s through today.  As a note of consideration to the reader, I’m a historian who works as a curator of an Air Force Historic Research Institute and museum.  My job is to tell the story of Airmen and research the history of the Air Force.  

In the days leading up to the presentation, I started getting nervous.  It was an honor to be asked to speak and public speaking seems to be a universal “get nervous” activity.  Likewise, I wanted to present accurate information and not go on the record with any incorrect policies or historic examples. 

So, I asked a several people for prayers in that last week of practicing and refining slides.

I was shocked at the responses to these prayer requests.  While there were some positive and encouraging Christians in my corner, the overwhelming response was skepticism, questioning, and even one that expressed outrage.  How can I call myself a Christian and endorse LGBTQ+ people?!?!?!?

Let me say this part again…it’s my job to tell Airman Stories.  All Airman stories.  

But I need to further expand on the rationale behind this presentation so let me also declare this:

It’s my job…my responsibility…my task, as a Christian, to LOVE humans. 

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV) states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

In this passage, John is specifically addressing loving other believers with the love of God. While that seems easy to say, the reality is that the believer is just as unlovable as the non-believer. The believer and non-bleiever are both sinful. Therefore, as a believer, I hold fast to the thought that Christ has an expectation that I will love other believers…regardless of it I agree or disagree with them…regardless of if I like their personality or not…regardless of it I sin like them or not.

The non-believer deserves love and respect, as well. How do Christians expect to present the Gospel without being kind and respectful towards others? How do we show Christ’s love for all, when we aren’t being loving ourselves? 

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) states, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I may not love the sinful choices or behaviors of someone.  I don’t like that my friend stole a pen from the bank, or that my child told a lie, or that I said a swear word.  According to scripture, it is absolutely appropriate to dislike sinful thoughts, deeds, and words.  But scripture is also VERY clear that we are to love our brothers and sisters, as Christ loved the church.  

I acknowledge that there are Christians who absolutely believe that the LGBTQ+ community is wrong in their sinful lifestyles.  Hence the reason so many felt they could speak negatively about my prayer request in regards to the presentation.

I also acknowledge that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  

All of us.  All of us.  ALL OF US.  For those in the back, ALL of us have sinned…so why are we judging someone else with such absolutes and harshness?  

Perhaps it’s time to stop judging one another based on our sins and start really loving one another past those sins, just as Christ loved us. 

~Emily

The ‘No Amen’ Challenge

Years ago, when Skype became popular, I was living in Germany.  There were plenty of occasions that, with the time difference, I would fall asleep while Skyping someone in America.  I’d wake up and see my mom making dinner with Skype still going, or my friend also napping, or my brother reading.  

I love remembering that they didn’t disconnect the Skype call while I slept, but rather they went about their normal activities.  They didn’t say goodbye to me while I was sleeping, but waited until I woke up from my snooze.  

They left the video call open…

What would happen if we left our prayer life open?  

As we read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB), “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” consider what would occur if we actually didn’t cease incremental talking with God. 

I vowed to become more cognisant of my prayers ceasing, so I made up some rules to challenge myself.  Then I recruited others to try the challenge with me. 

Recently, I challenged the women of a Bible Study group that I facilitate to try my newly made up “No Amen Challenge.”  The premise is that you begin praying to God in the morning, but refrain from saying “amen.”  Instead, you start the norms of your day, and continuously talk to God throughout those tasks…again without ever ending these conversations with “amen” until you are ready to fall asleep.   

When I started deliberately leaving my prayer life “open” without the closing salutation, I found myself talking to God a lot more frequently throughout the day.  God wants us to have a more intimate relationship with Him through our prayer life.  It’s easy to bring concerns and requests to Him…it’s an entirely different thing to bring exhalations and thanksgiving.  It’s even more unique to chat about random thoughts, motivations, observations, or even things you find humours or concerning.  

In the moments of talking to God, as though He was a friend sitting next to me throughout the day, I found that I was much more aware of His continuous presence.  I was also much more aware of my own reactions to situations when I had an open line of communication going with God.  

For me, the “no amen challenge” became similar to the open Skype call that is on-going while one party is snoozing (**mark my words, I’m not saying that God snoozes on a Skype call while we wash the dishes).  Without the “amen,” I didn’t say “goodbye” nor did I hang up with God.  Instead, I knew He was still on the line as I started daily tasks.

How often are you praying without ceasing?  Do you want to talk more often with God?  Are you ready to try the “no amen challenge?”

Share your thoughts on praying without ceasing!

~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)

“God Knew” By Guest Bloggers: Jessie Lynn® and Kelsey Stahler

“God knew our mothers couldn’t handle us as sisters so he made us best friends instead…”

That’s Kelsey’s favorite quote to use when it comes to describing our friendship and how close we truly are! When I say close, I mean we are almost identical when it comes to beliefs, work ethic, goals, dreams, and visions for what we see in our future. We both carry the same love and passion for horses, barrel racing, rodeoing, traveling, and love a good productive day for either one of our businesses! Basically, we are sisters…not by blood but by choice!

Where did it all start? Originally the friendship started out as a coach-to-client relationship when Kelsey contacted me about barrel racing lessons and shared her dreams of making it to the NFR. At first, I was a little hesitant and explained to her that if we started lessons, especially with that type of goal, it was going to be for the long haul! Needless to say, that didn’t faze her. The most interesting thing about that moment in time is that we met at probably one of the most difficult times in both of our lives. God knew…

I often think back on that moment in time and how God most certainly knew that our paths had to cross in order for us to grow and challenge one another in a way that we both would appreciate and understand. Kelsey and I both agree that we challenge one another in the most positive and in some cases, most aggressive ways that pushes us past our comfort zones. Ironically, that’s what we both needed. It’s quite amazing to think that was only three short years ago…Kelsey and I have grown so much since then, not only in our friendship, but as individuals as well!

Kelsey is now the proud owner of a small western boutique in downtown Prattville, Alabama called “Wandering Coyote Company,” and has achieved great success on the road traveling to various equine and cattleman’s events across the Southeast. On occasion, we travel together when my singing career coincides with an event and we just decide to make a girl’s trip out of it! It’s work for sure, but we’re able to help one another and ensure that we each have what we need to be successful!

I happily spend majority of my time on the road touring with my country music career, but still find time to enjoy a barrel race or two on the weekends and an occasional vacation trip when Kelsey and I can find time! The best part about our friendship is that we don’t have to be together to be close and we both know we are just one phone call or text away if one of us needs something or just need a girl talk moment. Believe me, there are plenty of those!

Quite frankly, I believe if you had asked either one of us “did we expect this friendship to turn out the way it has,” I think we both would have said no. Funny thing is, when God is in control of the company you keep and the people you have to surround yourself with in order to make it, He sends the right person at the right time! There’re no questions, no doubts, and everything works out as it should!

Yes, we’ve only been best friends for three years now, but believe me when I say, it’s a friendship that has been built off of the Lord’s word, strength, direction, and most importantly His love for both of us! Kelsey and I often discuss our dreams and quite frequently reassess our goals and plans for the time at hand, and to see what the Lord has placed in both of us to help one another is indescribable! Both of us reach for the star that just so happens to be out of reach, but when one of us does, it encourages the other to boost them up and to keep working towards their goal and dream. To give you one word to describe it: Balance!

Kelsey and I hope that this story encourages you and your best friend to place the Lord first in all that you do and completely trust Him with every aspect of your life! You do that, and He will bless you richly for it! 

-Written by Jessie Lynn® with contributions by Kelsey Stahler

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Funeral for a Church

As a military member, leaving a church has been a small part of my reality of orders and transition to a new location.  I never had to make the decision to leave a church without the military being the reason for moving on.  When having to make that decision on my own, I’ll be the first to admit that it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.  I prayed over the situation for nearly two years before I felt God releasing me to move to another location.

During that two years, I continued to serve and tithe.  I continued to join small groups and lead women’s ministry.  I also educated myself about differences in doctrine, about healthy churches, about how to leave in a graceful manner. I asked questions of my church leadership and I felt comfortable in presenting any of my concerns.  I created an excel spreadsheet phase of pros and cons of nearby churches.  Ultimately, I listened to the Lord…stayed when He told me to stay…moved on when He told me to move on.  

Emotionally, the decision felt like a horrible breakup; like a divorce of the worst kind. It felt like the death of a loved one; like I was planning a funeral.  

Let me be very clear–I’m not saying the church I left was bad.  It was very right for the people who remained.  What I am saying is this; God has released me from serving at that particular church.  My focus shifted to finding another church.  However, finding a new church home has been a challenge that I wasn’t anticipating during this stage of my life.  

There are many things to consider when looking at a church.  Is the leadership teaching from the Bible? Is there sound doctrine? What are the children and youth programs teaching?  What are the affiliations?  How is the leadership structure?  Are the finances available and transparent? 

Is it a healthy church?

According to Thom Rainer in “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” there are several ways to recognize if a church is not going to survive a season of illness and to recognize if they are unhealthy.  In other words, I’ve been able to use this as a gauge to check the health of churches that we’ve been visiting.  Usually it’s a slow erosion, which highlights that there is focus inwards on the church rather than the community, as well as a distinct focus on the past (and how the “good ole’ days” used to be).  When the church doesn’t have a clear purpose, becomes obsessed over the facility or individual preferences, or worse…when the budget moves away from ministry and is primarily focused on staff or facility, then there is a disconnect in what is occurring within the church walls.  As a new visitor, it’s nearly impossible to see if these things are occurring within a church without deliberately asking questions.

Rainer contends that only 10% of churches are truly healthy, while 40% are showing some symptoms of sickness, another 40% are very sick, and the last 10% are in the final process of dying.  I know that every church has some semblance of issues.  I recognize that churches are not perfect.  However, as a result of Rainer’s analysis, I’ve been praying for my family to find a church in the healthy 10%.  I’ve also been focusing on praying for the churches in the other 90% to have open eyes and ears to become the healthy 10%.  

Through the process of finding a new church, I realized that I’m not the first one to face the challenge of church transitions.  In the past, I searched for churches based on the style of praise music, the pastor’s speaking ability, or the programs available.  Those things were important to me at the time, but now I’ve got a different set of items I’m looking for.  Specifically, I am now analyzing churches for the breadth of teaching scripture, speech on Word and truth, the management of the budget, as well as the health of leadership of the church.  

Ephesians 4:11-16 has given me direction and hope that my family will find fellowship in a new healthy church!

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

I acknowledge that leaving a church should be a hard decision. It truly was. In so many ways, this season of transition has allowed me to rely more fully on prayer and direction from God.  I know that the building up of the body of Christ will allow our family to grow roots in a new and healthy church.

~Emily

RAINER, T., 2017. AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH. [Place of publication not identified]: LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCE.