Get on the Train…or Get Out of the Way

Last week I had a dream where a lady from my previous church was with her husband at a table across from mine at a charity luncheon.  In front of several people she leaned over and told me that she was sick and tired of reading my blogs on Iron Porch and that I should figure out what to do with my life.  In the dream I was shocked, as I imagine I would be in real life. I calmly told her she could easily unfollow the blog.  In my dream, I then said, “or you could write a guest blog about why you are so tired of reading other people’s blogs.”

I gave her two choices: stop reading the blog or help contribute to it.  

This was a leadership lesson that I learned early in my military career.  Get on the train (and help) or get out of the way (and stop complaining). 

In the Bible we see countless examples of complaining and grumbling.  Martha complains to Jesus about Mary.  In the Old Testament there’s complaining to Moses and Aaron.  The Disciples complain about all the riff-raff waiting for a millisecond to chat with Jesus (that was a total “Emily” paraphrase!). Even the Psalmist in Psalm 55:17 (NASB) stated, “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and moan, and He will hear my voice.” 

All these complainers need to consider getting out of the way of the train.

Instead, what would happen if they got on the train? If they helped those in need? If they started expressing gratitude for God’s blessings in their lives? If they started sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Think about the impact they could have on the kingdom!!!

We have guidance to help us pray for one another and become hospitable to each other, which is us choosing to “get on the train.” 

What if we followed Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  And what if we were able to “contribute to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” as seen in Romans 12:13 (NASB).  Would we be better equipped to pray for others? Would we know their needs before they had to ask for help?

Perhaps if we choose to get on the train, we’d be able to live out 1 Peter 4:9…while choosing to not get out of the way with our complains.   “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” ~1 Peter 4:9 (NASB)

Each day we get these choices. You can “stop doing” or you can “help contribute.”   Regardless of the circumstances of your choices to “get on the train or get out of the way,” they are yours to make.  I’ll be praying this week that you have peace with your choice.

~Emily

Spiritual Attacks

If you are a believer, you won’t go long without encountering spiritual warfare.  The enemy would love nothing more than for us to forget that there is constantly a spiritual battle going on amongst us.  We may not always see it and we may tend to forget that it’s going on, but it continuously brings chaos, turmoil, discouragement, fear, stress, and even defeat. 

The Bible reminds us that we should stay aware of Satan’s schemes, while staying close to the Lord. We’ve been armed for battle through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), and also with the entire Word of God.  When we are able to pray God’s Words back to Him, we are utilizing a powerful weapon against Satan, as it’s the Truth being spoken out loud. 

Here are scriptures to read, pray, and memorize in regards to Spiritual Warfare:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. ~Luke 10:19 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10 

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  ~1 Peter 5:8-9

Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  ~James 4:7

For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.  ~Psalm 18:39

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:3-5

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:17

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~Ephesians 6:11-17

Remember sweet readers, when we belong to Christ, Satan never has the final word over our lives. We are fully in God’s hands.  Our responsibility in spiritual warfare includes being ready to pray, meditate, and speak the Word of God.  This battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory…so fear not.

~Emily

Cancer: Three Intertwined Stories of Faith

After this last week, I really feel like I want to align and certainly say a phrase, even with the bad word (the really, really, really bad word, according to my 5th grade son).  I’m sure you’ve seen the slogan on a shirt or bumper “F*!# Cancer.”  I’ll refrain from actually saying it, but it does resonate.

For about a year, my Dad has been battling liver cancer that has spread to a several locations.  My Mom has been the sole caretaker and it’s wearing her out.  Last week she called to tell me that my Dad hasn’t been eating well and she said “Cancer won’t kill him, starvation will.” 

Mid-week my husband, who hasn’t been to the doctor since 1987 asked me how to make a doctor’s appointment.  He found a good-sized spot growing on his cheek underneath his wooly beard.  Alarm bells were going off that there’s actually something going on that could make my husband want to schedule a physical.

By the end of the week I found out that my younger brother, who beat Stage 4 lymphoma in 2013, is back in monthly treatments.

My Dad, my husband, my brother…the three earthly men who have influenced my life the most…all facing differing stages of a cancer walk.  

It’s enough to make a girl say a bad word about cancer.  

And yet, I find myself repeatedly turning to God in prayer about each of the situations.  I remember that in 2013, I felt like I prayed more fervently and faithfully about my brother’s cancer than I had ever prayed about anything.  I find myself back in that space of constant prayer over cancer. 

How can I be so confident in prayer?  I have faith in God.  But it’s more than that….it’s all about God’s faithfulness to His promises that we should hold onto.  We see this in Abraham, in his aging years through a couple of verses in Romans.  

In Romans 4:19-22 (NASB) “Without becoming weak in faith, he contemplated his own body, not as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore, it was also credited to him as righteousness.” 

When we break that down, it’s much easier to consider God’s faithfulness in our circumstances.

Verse 19: We don’t need to consider and/or dwell on our own circumstances.  That takes our mind off of Jesus when we become burdened with constant worry over our situation.  

Verse 20: We shouldn’t waver in knowing that God’s promises will be delivered. The wavering is actually illustrating unbelief, which negates the knowledge that promises will be fulfilled.  In this verse we see that Abraham grows stronger.  He’s strength becomes more robust by each passing moment, as will ours when we pray and trust.  

Verse 21: This verse speaks to the fact that God is able.  Not just willing…able.  When we shift focus to God’s ability, we won’t become discouraged by our own inability. 

Verse 22: For Abraham, he is right before God because of his trust in God’s ability.  It’s the act of faith that makes Abraham righteous. 

Whether you are facing the trifecta of cancer, or any other number of trials, know that we are strong in faith when we trust God.  Trust that God has the ability to fulfill the promises He has made.  

And keep praying…

~Emily

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (…or two hearing aids)

Hearing aids are such curious items.  Think about how advanced the electronics are, how tiny they can be, and how they emit just the right frequencies to assist with specified hearing deficits.  

For the last two weeks my Father-in-Law had been visiting us from Pennsylvania.  He wears fancy hearing aids that have their own charging case and boast a clear wire that sticks up behind the ear.  In short, they resemble small bugs with an elongated neck…or a squirrely solo leg.  

Four days into his visit, our cats decided that they were small bugs to be played with.  They managed to get ahold of both of his hearing aids; one had teeth marks and a broken case, while the other had been placed poetically in the toilet.

My heart sunk. Because my early years in the Air Force were as an Ear, Nose, & Throat Technician, I know just how expensive hearing aids are.  To make this right, our family was going to have to come out of pocket quite a bit of money…at Christmas time with our son’s birthday days away.  And yet, this was a moment where our son was watching how we were going to react to our cats “eating” several thousand dollars in a game of high-stakes “cat & mouse.”

Galatians 6:9 (NASB) states, “Let us not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” 

Doing the right thing, also known as integrity, is something we must make conscious decisions to pursue.  It becomes a constant process to continuously make good decisions, as well as behaving in a righteous way.  It’s a simplistic way that we get to imitate Christ’s behavior when He walked the earth as flesh and blood. The verse further encourages us that we can’t become weary while making these conscious decisions. Both parts are hard to do…the reacting appropriately and to do it with a joyful attitude is difficult. It takes practice.

In the nano-second that I heard our cats had destroyed an expensive set of hearing aids, I immediately said, “we’ll pay for the replacements…what do we have to do to make this right?”  It wasn’t until later that I started to panic about cost and the impact on Christmas or Birthday celebrations.  That didn’t change the ultimate thought…we still needed to make it right by paying for new aids.  The difference is the acknowledgment of the statement ‘what is right is right….no matter the impact.’ 

Pappy gets new hearing aids and his grandson has an example, albeit an expensive one, of how to treat people and how we should own our roles and responsibilities. Our son gets a Galatians 6:9 example in real life.  

Meanwhile, I’m humming “All I want for Christmas is…two new hearing aids!”

I’m praying for all the Iron Porch readers this week that we are encouraged rather than discouraged and that we continue to be joyful rather than weary!

~Emily

Childlike Grief

Death’s impact on our lives is so weird.

It’s been nine months since my mother-in-law passed away.  Sometimes it feels like years ago and other days it feels like moments.  Most days we remember her in joy, but there have been a few ‘sneak attack’ tearful days too.

As we planned our trip for Thanksgiving, our son asked if he could visit Gramma’s grave while we were in Pennsylvania. Specifically, he wanted to put a Christmas ornament at her grave.   I was slightly surprised to hear the request, as he seemed to be handling the death and memories fairly well.  

If I’m completely honest, I’m also a little surprised that I was surprised.  

Seriously, why was I surprised?  It seems natural he’d want to go see the gravesite.  He was very close to her, as she helped raise him in the single-Dad-toddler years and they spoke on the phone almost every day since.  Normally, I’m the sensitive one of the family that would have made the offer to take him to the cemetery.  And yet, the 10-year-old beat me to the request.

More often than not, I think we are surprised by the depth of knowledge that our children have regarding the Savior.  They may not have the depth of knowledge with theology or specific scripture, but their little hearts are perfectly attuned to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There is something so sweet and endearing about a small child praying out loud.  I remember the little boy prayers for nerf guns to work, for kitties to be found, or for Gramma to be healed.  

There is something equally sweet about children sharing the Gospel.  When Erin’s daughter, Peyton, was 6 or 7 years old, I often watched her talk to strangers about Jesus.  

Corrections and convictions are also sweet and endearing when they come from children.  I’ve had my own son tell me I’ve hurt God’s heart when I said a swear word.  

Lesson here?  Kids are unabashed about their prayer lives.  They are confident and bold in sharing Jesus.  And they have no qualms about corrective behavior.  

The book of Matthew has so many nuggets regarding children and their place in the kingdom.  In Matthew 18:1-5 (NASB) we read, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me.”

Jesus expressly told us that children would be great teachers.  There is something to learn from our kids. We can learn about prayer, evangelism, and correction.  And we can certainly learn lessons about dealing with grief.

~Emily

The Moody Pre-Teen

I felt like I was mentally prepared for having a moody teenager in the house…in a couple years.

God help me; the mood swings of puberty have descended on my 10-year-old.  

Let’s be completely transparent.  I was not ready.  Not even a little bit.  It’s like a slow death of a 1000 paper cuts, while tip-toeing on egg shells in an attempt to not wake up (or anger) a mullet wielding dragon.  

One moment he’s my sweet, snuggly little man; the next moment pouting, angry, crying, eyerolling, muttering-under-his-breath, stomping-into-another-room, man-child. Without warning, he’s back to the little sweetheart. 

No matter what he’s still mine, but I don’t enjoy the crazy part of this pre-pubescent kid.

I’m sure God is looking at me right now thinking something similar.  I’m a cranky, huffy, temper-tantrum-throwing, moody woman who loves Jesus.  I act like a teenager in many situation (at least in my head I act that way).  

And yet…I’m still all His.  

No matter how crazy I may act; no matter how poorly I think; no matter how badly I react; I am still His Child.   How completely incredible is it that our God is 100% on our side, no matter how far we slide away or towards Him? 

It’s important to note that no matter how bad you feel like you’ve been, no matter how deep your sins, no matter what is in your past…our Father sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and provide a path to heaven through acceptance of Jesus as your Savoir.  

Figuratively, you can have been a bratty pre-teen and still seek forgiveness of a loving Father. 

If you don’t know Christ as your Savior or if you have turned away from Christ, Erin and I would love to chat with you about where you are in life and how you can accept this gift from God.  Leave us a message if you are interested in knowing more about salvation.

I’m praying this week for all of us during times of our “moody pre-teen” behaviors and thoughts. 

~Emily

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. ~Acts 4:12 (NIV)

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