Coffee Shop Bold

I ordered a coffee and then had confusion cloud my brain as I began to doubt if I’d called the cashier by Ma’am or Sir. I called them something but then questioned if it was the correct gender reference.  The confusion was not because I’m middle-aged, rather because the cashier was exhibiting traits that appeared to be male and female.  I wanted desperately to ask them, out of sincere concern but didn’t want to risk being offensive with my questions.

I received my coffee and went to a table to begin working on bible study homework.

The ladies at the table next to me were having a very lengthy conversation about a nightly escapade with a guy they knew. It was loud. It was lewd.  The more I tried to ignore them, the louder they got.  I desperately wanted to ask them if they knew they were sharing intimate details in a public setting, but I didn’t want to risk being told off or cursed out.

I closed my study material.  I sat back.  I prayed silently.

The cashier’s shift was over and they left. The ladies with the wild night antics were done sharing and they left.

I remained.

I asked myself and God why I was so afraid to engage with these two scenarios.  Why was I reluctant to have a conversation with individuals?  What reservations overrode the need to be bold? What if I had been bold and had used the opportunity to share Christ’s love simply through my words?  What if this was the only time those three individuals encountered someone who could share the gospel through action, rather than by being timid or worse browbeating?

I immediately thought of the verse in 2 Corinthians where it states that because we have hope (in Christ), we are bold.  I couldn’t remember the context or even the exact verse, so I had to open the Bible and dig in.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold!

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

 I want to be bolder in my action.  I want to stand firmly for Christ.  I pray I’m bold as a lion!  Even if it’s simply engaging in a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop.

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold

 

 

Mental Health: When You Need More Than Prayers

I have been in a crazy-spiral for the last two weeks. I’ve been feeling anxious, depressed, and disengaged.  I want to sleep or eat all the time.  I don’t want to converse with people.  Or the opposite…I want to fight & argue with people (**insert public apology to my husband and son).

In a casual conversation I was having with someone last week (**please, refer to the last paragraph where I admitted I didn’t want to talk to people), she told me that my “funk” just needed to be turned over to God. I needed to pray about it, give it to God, and move on with life knowing that He would take care of all those worries.

Ummmm, hello ‘Linda,’ I know that.  (**for the record, her name isn’t Linda, but I often use that name as a substitute when trying to protect the innocent).

I know I should pray about it and turn it over to God.  The truth of the matter is that there are other things that I need to do for my mental health too.  I need to take long deep breaths. I need to exercise and eat right. I need a long bubble bath.  I need to journal.  I need to speak to a therapist or counselor. I need a little white pill. All of that, in addition to praying and taking it to our Father.

This woman was trying to be helpful.  She was trying to remind me to take the issues to God. The reality is that this woman’s words were hurtful. She made me feel like I hadn’t already discussed this with God…and if I had, then I wasn’t doing it right if it wasn’t resolved.

Within Christian circles, there is often a stigma associated with mental health assistance. I needed help these last two weeks. Yet, some Christians around me were thinking that I just need to pray.  I did pray.  But for these last two weeks that wasn’t enough.

I believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer for healing and changing lives.  I also believe in seeking help holistically or through modern medicine. I think there is value in combining these approaches and I think that each person will find what combo works best for them.

If someone breaks their leg, we pray for their healing.  However, we’d be appalled if we heard that they were at their home setting the break themselves with just an herbal tea for pain management.  We have an expectation that for physical health, we’d combine prayer, modern medicine, and potentially holistic medicine.

Why don’t we extend that grace to mental health, as well?

As Christians, we are doing a disservice to those with mental health illness when we have a judgmental attitude or if we are superficially saying that prayer alone will fix these issues.  Prayer alone may work for someone.  However, if they need more tangible help of medication or therapy sessions, then we should support and encourage those steps too.

I promise it’s okay to do the combo.   I also promise you aren’t alone.  There are plenty of us rocking on the porch trying to figure out our combinations.

~Emily

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Let's fight the Darkness together copy

Cruise Ship Chapels

Erin and I just took our 1st cruise together and it was AMAZING!  Five days of nothing to do but relax without many expectations of either of us.  We have joked that all we did was eat and sleep. In full disclosure, we did a fair amount of both.

We also explored the entire ship.  We went to all the eating establishments and passed by every beverage station (both the coffee and alcoholic versions).  We attended the art auction.  We spent a very long-time watching people attempt to surf at the “Flow Rider,” as well as curvy slides and rock climbing.  We stepped into a silent disco (which was a surprisingly great time!), as well as entertaining the idea of watching a comedian, an ice-skating show and even a juggler.  We even watched a game of Bingo from the sidelines that brought many hoping they would win their next cruise.

We strolled through the casino but spent zero time there.  We went to the library and had a wonderful conversation with a college student leaving to join the Air National Guard soon.  We stumbled on the most delightful game of Lip-Syncing on the promenade.  We watched the ship leave port from the best Titanic location and we “supervised” the Captain from the behind the bridge on a viewing deck.

We even went to the fitness center.  Once. For a selfie.

Thank God we did not see the infirmary or the morgue, despite knowing they were both on the ship’s lower decks.

You know what we didn’t see? The Chapel.  We totally missed seeing the church area reserved on the ship.  It’s ironic that two Jesus loving girls who co-founded Iron Porch would miss that area, right?!?!?

Except that our ship didn’t have a chapel.  Many ships don’t have this area set aside for worship and/or prayer.  While some ships have chapels, but they are reserved for an exclusive wedding package.

I’ve been pondering on the lack of a chapel or religious services for a few days.  We were on a floating city for several days and had access to Wi-Fi, gambling, fitness center, spa and salon, entertainment, and impressive chef staff.  But we couldn’t go to a reserved spot to pray or read religious materials.

Interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

Does that mean the tourist and vacationing industry don’t see value in a religious space?  Is our spiritual walk not important on vacation? Does the average person take a “vacation” from their religion while they are on vacation?  In a politically correct world, are we so afraid of offending ship passengers that it was decided not to create religious space?

There are potentially bigger questions, as a result of the lack of vacation chapels.  When we aren’t on vacation, are we only seeking Jesus in a formal space, such as our churches or prayer closets?  Or are we seeking God in every and all situations, in any setting?

I’d venture to guess that many who make Jesus a priority in their lives will do it with or without a formal space, such as a chapel.  Erin and I found a way to stay close to God without a cruise ship chapel.  We prayed as we walked the outer deck and before meals. We had time to read devotions by the pool or on the balcony.

We made time to stay connected to the Lord on vacation.

I’m wondering if there were others like us who are deliberately making time.  Both on vacation and at home.  I’m wondering if the lack of formalized space, such as a chapel, leads to the temptation to step away from quality time with Jesus while on vacation…or in our everyday life.

Do you need the cruise ship chapel to be reminded to draw close to God?

~Emily

Cruise Ship Chapels

 

 

 

Praying for Kiddos

My little guy woke me up at 4 am to tell me that his head hurt.

“Mama, can I please have some Tylenol? My head hurts really bad.”

Some of you know the mommy-adrenaline that has you upright, out of bed, and functioning before you even truly process what is going on.

This was the beginning of my Mother’s Day weekend. A vigil over my 8-year-old who had horrible headaches, a raging fever, and a lethargic-achy body. He literally slept most of Saturday away.

But it wasn’t restful sleep. He mumbled in his sleep. He moaned.  He asked for more water. He furrowed his brow in pain as he turned over trying to get comfortable.

All this momma could do is sit near him and pray that the fever would break and the headaches would depart.  I specifically inserted my son’s name into a paraphrased prayer focused on Proverbs 3:5-6.

Heavenly Father–Please help me trust you with all my heart – not just part of it. I acknowledge that everything in the heavens and earth – everything that is precious to me including Kambell – belongs to you. Amen.

I spent a lot of time sitting over Kambell this weekend.  Wondering what he will be like as an adult.  Wondering what type of husband and father he will become. Wondering what type of prayer warrior, he will be.  It made me think about how often I pray with him.  How often I pray for him.

When we’re entrusted with little ones, we spend a ton of time helping with homework, carpooling to sports, kissing boo-boos, coloring in the lines, or tucking them in at night.

In the midst of these busy lives, are we praying enough over them?  I mean, are we really praying specific, promise-laced, prophetic, hope-filled prayers? Are we praying God’s promises through His Word over their little lives?

The enemy is alive and well. He would love nothing more than to destroy our children and our families.  He’s attacking when we’re not on guard and he’ll do anything to lure our children towards him.  The counter-attack, the defensive and offensive plays against this enemy is prayer.

On the Monday morning after a sick-kid vigil, I’d argue that we need to increase our prayers over the children of the world. It’s the essential ingredient over our kids and entire families. Prayer will help us stay alert, as well as hearing the whispers of the Holy Spirit against attacks of Satan.

Do not underestimate the importance of prayer over our children.

Whether they need spiritual covering, intercession with a math test, encouragement in a friendship, or because they have a fever…our prayers are necessary and the Lord is faithful to answer.

~Emily

Sick Kid

Going Solo to a Meeting with God

What is the craziest thing you’ve done by yourself?

This is often a scary thing to contemplate. Being alone.  Going to dinner alone…at a real sit-down restaurant. Going to a movie alone.  Going to a concert, play, or a museum alone.

I often do things alone, simply because I’ve refused to miss experiences when I can’t find someone to go with me. One of the craziest things I’ve done by myself was travel to Normandy, France over Memorial Day in 2012.  I couldn’t find anyone who could get the time off or wanted to see the beaches of Normandy. But I wanted to go…so I did.

This last weekend, I did something by myself that I hadn’t ever done before.  I went to a women’s Christian conference alone.  For complete transparency, I knew there were going to be a couple of women from my church attending, but I traveled, stayed in a hotel, and arrived at the conference solo.

Rather than my normally self-confident ways, I found myself floundering in the solo-ness of the experience.

As I found a seat in the midst of over 6,000 women, I was feeling self-conscious.  Were other women looking at me and wondering why I was by myself?  Were the ladies from my church remembering that I was also attending…would they invite me to sit with them?  How was I going to get through the day without having someone to pray with, someone to nudge when there was an especially good nugget, someone to wait in the bathroom line with me?!?!?!

And then the featured speaker, Priscilla Shirer, said something that touched my heart.  The summary of what she said included, “I’m going to challenge you to pray by yourself right now…. whether you came with 100 ladies from your church, 10 of your closest friends, or by yourself…we are taking time right now for each of you to have a one-on-one conversation with the Father.  You are here to chat with an audience of One.”

It was through her that I felt the ping of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment.  That reassurance included knowing it was perfectly okay to be there by myself and that I only need to be concerned with my relationship with God.

It reminded me that Christ had to do the most difficult thing ever, go to the cross to die for all of our sins, all by Himself.  Or so it seemed…

You see, it also made me reflect that Christ was not truly ever by Himself.  The Father was right there with him throughout the trial, the torture, the long walk with a heavy cross, and even in His final moments as a human.

And the Father is with me always too. Through every single experience, both good and bad, the Father has been with me. In every event I’ve attended alone in flesh, the Father was with me.  Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God was sitting right next to me when I struggled with being solo at a women’s Christian conference.  He’ll be right next to you when you’re struggling too.

Come to the porch and tell us the scariest/craziest/most fun thing you’ve done by yourself.

~Emily

Joshua 1-9

Soda Doctrine

I haven’t had a dark colored soda since December 31, 2015.  No Cokes, no Root Beer, no Dr. Pepper.  I do love carbonated drinks though.  Flavored sparkly water, sprite and ginger ale are all on the menu.  My husband makes fun of my distinction between clear and dark soda…he claims that I can’t say I haven’t had soda in 3 years.  I contend there is a difference and that it’s a matter of semantics.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations about semantics in regards to Protestant denomination doctrine. One doctrine doesn’t allow musical instruments, another recognizes immersion baptism over sprinkling, and yet another believes in praying in tongues.  Each justifies their position with specified scriptures.  Each compels members to believe their individual doctrine while rejecting the thoughts of others.

Think for a moment on the many ways that someone describes their own salvation.  Some Christians have a “decision for Christ” while others refer to “being saved.” Still, others call it being “born again” or “giving their life to Christ.” Most of those phrases are specific to various denominations.  Don’t they all relate to the basic premise that one acknowledges their own sin, the death of Christ for their sins, and the acceptance of that gift as salvation?

Is doctrine a simple matter of semantics? This is a topic that is very much over my head in terms of my own education.  However, I know that the Bible is specific in telling us that there is one way to heaven and that is through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.

No matter the semantics differences in soda doctrine, carbonation is the foundation that justifies a beverage being called a soda.

No matter the semantics differences in church doctrines, belief in Christ is the foundation that justifies a person being called a Christian.

~Emily

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.             ~Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Raise Your Glasses! copy

Loneliness Blues

Have you ever experienced a moment of unexpected loneliness?  A moment that leaves you feeling all by yourself?  One that takes you by surprise?

Yesterday I took my husband and son to the airport so they could visit an ailing family member over spring break.  I wasn’t able to travel with them since I just started a new job three weeks ago.  If I’m being 100% honest, I had been looking forward to the week of quiet homework-free evenings with zero expectations of dinner preparations or housekeeping chores. I was dreaming about bubble baths, kitty snuggles with a good book, and early bedtimes for this tired mama.

When I arrived home from the airport, I wandered around the house.  I was aimless and restless. I had planned to clean the house and work in the garden so that I’d have the whole week of evenings free.  That didn’t happen. I couldn’t focus on the to-do list.  I wasn’t interested in the book I was reading. I couldn’t find anything interesting on tv.

I was lonely.  I was missing my boys, even though I had just seen them a few hours earlier.  Frankly, it took me by surprise because I had been looking forward to the alone time.

Rather than wallow in my loneliness blues, I decided to do something about it.  I got up and cleaned the bathrooms top to bottom.  I transplanted blueberry plants. I changed all the sheets.  A whole bunch of busy work which still left me unsatisfied and still feeling alone.

That’s when I changed my tactic. I opened my Bible.

While reading chapter 5 of 1 Peter, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief in reading verse 7.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

My loneliness blues were cast on Him at that moment.  I felt immediate relief. You see, the feeling of loneliness was one that I could have given to God at the very moment I identified my unrest.  But I didn’t.  Why? Because I am human…and I tried to fix it myself.  Me “fixing” things hasn’t worked for me in the past…why would I think it would this time?!?!??!

In all seriousness, I should have known.  I should have remembered. I should have trusted…that God would take the loneliness from me.  That He alone would settle my unrest.

How do you deal with your loneliness blues? Are there specific scriptures that bring you comfort?  Come to the Porch to share….

~Emily

cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5_7 copy