Tornadoes of Life

From my sliding glass door, I once watched a tornado form and touch down.  That was in Cheyenne, WY.  It wasn’t until I bought a house with my husband in Alabama that I was actually within a polygon for a tornado watch or warning.  And now…I’ve been in more than I can count.  It wasn’t until we settled into retirement in central Alabama that we found out this area is called “Dixie Alley,” as a parallel to “Tornado Alley” in the mid-west. 

In the last week, countless communities and lives have been impacted by a string of tornadoes that powered through Alabama.  The day of the storms was a tidal wave of emotions.  At first, very little concern over the weather.  Then I rush home to pick up outdoor furniture before deciding to go check my son out of school early.  While waiting in a mile-long line of parents picking up their own children early, we learned that a huge tornado had already touched down in Selma.  And we learned that the same supercell was heading toward the communities around us. 

It was a rare moment where I spontaneously began praying out loud while in line (although it was under my breath and not very “out loud”).  I prayed for protection over our small town that has already endured so many tragedies over the last year, but specifically, I was praying for the communities that had already been hit.  I had full confidence that the Lord heard these prayers.  Why?  Because in John 14:13-14 (ESV) we read, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Do you want to know what was more touching than my simple prayers in line?  The response to those who were in need.  Within hours, massive clothing and food drives were organized. Teams of chainsaw-welding men patrolled neighborhoods.  Linemen from in and out of state restored power to all the homes of Alabama.  Social media sprung to life trying to connect photographs tossed miles from home to families. 

Why was there such an intense outpouring of love and response in the moments after these tornadoes touched down?  In some cases, it may be out of kindness or because you would hope that someone would do the same for you. 

For the Christian, it may be because Jesus told us to.  In John 15:12-13 (ESV) Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   Jesus demonstrated an extravagant love for people.  While we can’t literally lay down our lives for others in daily life, we can choose to love extravagantly in smaller ways.  For instance, we can donate to those who need tangible items after losing everything in a natural disaster. 

God told us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  This means that we do not have to do life alone and that we should be trying to assist one another in burdens and tragedies.  When we see others struggling, we can choose to help with our support, our love, our finances, and any other resources that we may have.  This is a physical outpouring of the love Christ shows us and we in turn can show others.

In the midst of a natural disaster that doesn’t directly impact your home, it’s easy to praise God for sparing you and yours.  However, Hebrews 13:16 reminds us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  This is a practical reminder to continuously look for ways to impact others with blessings.

The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week were devastating.  Yet, it’s been refreshing to watch how much love and care is being shown to the families who lost loved ones and those who are having to rebuild their homes and businesses.  The reality is this: we should react this way during a disaster.  But we should also react this way daily…even when it isn’t tragedy. 

I truly pray that we can act this way towards one another during a crisis and during the calm. 

~Emily

Post-Halloween Lack of Awareness: Spiritual Warfare

Once upon a time, I was a practicing Wiccan.  I acted like a rebellious teenager and turned my back on God.  I participated in pagan religious activities for seven years.  There was a time that I was in Wiccan leadership positions, I was an advocate for military chaplains, and I was even involved in Congressional Legislation regarding Wicca being acknowledged as a religion. 

After leaving Wicca and re-aligning myself with a Christian walk, I have been very deliberate about pagan influences in my life.  I’ve stopped associating with those who were in my life during my pagan days.  I am careful about what my family is exposed to.  I avoid sections of bookstores.  I try not to notice full moons or solstices.  I don’t want to slip back into a pagan walk, so I guard myself very carefully in this regard. 

Each year, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, I pray extra hard and pay closer attention to the occult/pagan/satanic/societal influences that are happening around me.  Over the last few years, I’ve noticed apologetic Christians shining light more on the testimonies of former witches and Satan worshippers.  The time of year lends itself to others…and me being more aware. 

But in the weeks after Halloween, I often found myself letting my guard down.  It’s as though I’m relieved to be passed Halloween and able to focus on the coming celebration of Jesus’ birth. 

So here I am. A week after Halloween. Relieved.  Guard down.  Then I was confronted with a scenario where my pagan past was thrown in my face while I was at work.  Something I influenced while practicing Wicca, coming back to a military item that is being considered for display in the museum where I am employed. 

I was relieved and yet, I should not have let my guard down.  We, as Christians, absolutely must be constantly aware of the spiritual warfare that is always going on around us.  Scripture tells us that the enemy is on the prowl….he is always looking to create chaos and destruction in our lives.   1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”    

In regard to spiritual warfare, is your guard up for you and your family?

Or are you like me and it’s up sometimes, but also falls down occasionally?

In the coming days, I will be concentrating on specifically praying about our post-Halloween awareness of pagan practices in America.  Will you join me?

~Emily

False Modesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

Childhood Nostalgia

Recently, my Mom and I were reminiscing about the chaos and joy surrounding the arrival of the Sunday Paper in our living room when I was younger.  Everyone pulled their favorite section and as a family, we poured over the paper for a couple hours. Before he could read, I remember reading the comics to my brother and later we would fight over who got them first.

This small conversation with my Mom had me recalling other aspects of my childhood that I remember fondly.  For instance, if the summer temperature in Oregon went over 100, we had ice cream and fruit for dinner.  I remember walking to the comic book store with my Brother so he could spend his allowance…and on the way, there was one particular ‘barkless’ dog that we would play with through the fence.  I remember going crawdad hunting with chunks of hot dogs tied to a string.  I also remember my parents dancing in the kitchen.

These are each endearing memories of my childhood.  Each remind me of how family can be structured in moments of happiness.  

I recognize that not everyone had such pleasant childhood memories or parents who were so involved in the children’s lives.  I also recognize that I’m remembering great memories and often gloss over the not so amazing memories.  It was not all sunshine and butterflies for me.  And I know it wasn’t for others either.  

However, the not so nice memories are cloaked in the comfort of scripture.  

A scripture that I often lean on when thinking about family is from Ephesians 3:15 (NASB), which reads “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

When reading this verse, it’s important to know that the word ‘family’ is closely transplanted in the original language as ‘father.’ In both the Old Testament tradition, as well as our current society, it’s easy to think this verse is referencing families taking the name of the Patriarch’s family.  This is still seen now, as brides take their husband’s last name.  

In reality, the verse is much deeper.  It refers to ‘every family,’ as in ‘all believers’ in Christ.  All of us…as one big family.  Furthermore, we all derive our names from that belonging to Jesus when we adopt the name ‘Christian,’ as derived from the name ‘Christ.’ 

This is a family of hope and love. Can you imagine how that family will interact?  How much greater Heaven will be than pursuing the comics out of the Sunday paper?!?!? There’s no need for nostalgia with a future like that!

No matter what our childhood’s looked like, our future is one of hope through Christ. 

~Emily

“Vacation” on the Appalachian Trail

Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it. 

At times it was hard.  The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes. 

At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits.  It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets.  But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail. 

At times it was scary.  We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake.  There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights.  There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God.  Each day included a conversation with God.  Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord.  Every single hard step included a plea for help.  The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.

And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture.  I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it.  So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12

He went off to the mountains to pray.  Jesus went to the mountain to pray.  And then He spent all night in prayer.  Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night?  We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death.  We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will.  But did that take all night?  

Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God?  Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God.  No answers yet, but just talking to God.  

That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.  

What a beautiful example of how we should pray.  In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest.  Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God.  If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.  

Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while.  In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God.  And it was a remarkable time.

I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God.  Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.

It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”

~Emily

Honey Extraction

In the spring, I got my first bee hives.  I’ve used the time learning about and caring for our bees over the last several months to pray for specific people and situations, as well as reviewing scripture. Because the extra time with God and the bees has been such a blessing to me personally, I made a vow to ‘gift’ the entire first batch of honey to family and friends…many of whom had been the focus of my prayers. 

I spun my first frames last week and harvested the first honey.  It was nerve-wracking.  It was exciting.  And it was time consuming.   

From the moment I opened the hives and started making decisions about which frames to harvest to the moment I tightened the last lid on a jar, I discovered that I had to dedicate a substantial amount of time for the entire process.  

The same deliberate dedication to time well spent also applies to the relationships in our lives.  Whether it’s repairing, maintaining, or cultivating relationships within our families, church or school it takes time and deliberate actions to make those relationships impactful.  

One of the most time-consuming relationships is the one where we are forging friendships or acquaintances with non-believers.  These types of interactions are important because we literally pouring into people who may make decisions to follow Jesus based on their experiences with us.  By no means am I saying that more time equals greater chances of them becoming a Christian.  Instead what I’m saying is that the more deliberate the time we invest, the greater the chances are of them seeing Christ’s love through us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB) stated, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.”

Deliberate investment of time…to encourage one another and build each other up.

Seems easy enough if we’re willing to make the time to do the investing.

The harvesting of honey seems easy enough too…if I’m willing to take the time to care for the bees and go through the process of extracting the honey.

In this case, I was also able to deliberately speak to all the honey recipients about how the first batch was all gifts. It offered a chance to tell people that the bees were a quiet time with God opportunity…and it’s lead to more than one conversation about how to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

I want to encourage you this week to find someone in your life that you want to make some deliberate time for…and then invest. 

~Emily

Hitting the Wall

This last week I had several moments of anxiety and I’ve felt so overwhelmed.  I have been super weepy and easily irritated.  I told my mom that I felt like I’ve hit a wall.  

According to internet idiom sites, “hitting a wall” is to become completely exhausted, fatigued, or worn out. By that definition, I truly have hit a wall this week…at work, in finding a church, with my knee diagnosis, with family dynamics, and with coordinating schedules. 

I’m anxious.  I know I’m not alone.  Anxiety is an issue for several people, but I’m seeing more and more people talking about their mental health issues.  It’s important for us to recognize that God has always been concerned about every aspect of our lives, which includes our mental health.  

Even King David experienced anxiety.  In Psalm 94:19, he wrote, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”  David’s heart was overwhelmed, just as mine has been this week.  David expressed confidence in God and choose to find joy and peace.  

As I continue to walk through this week of ‘hitting the wall,’ I take comfort in knowing that there is noting that God doesn’t already know.   And there is comfort in knowing He is always available for me in times of need.  His Word provides the comfort when I can’t find comfort myself.  In John 16:33 God told us “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

This assurance helps me know that through His victory, we can claim victory over all anxiety.  

I may have hit the wall, but soon I’ll either go through it…or around it.  With God’s help.

~Emily

When the Bee Stings

I’ve officially been a beekeeper since March, but this last weekend was my first time being stung.  I immediately started humming the song ‘My Favorite Things’ where Julie Andrews starts singing about “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad.” 

That pretty little gal got me right at the end of my index finger.  And it was my own fault. Up to this point, my girls have been pretty docile and haven’t minded me going into their house.  I needed to add a small box to one of the hives because they’ve been so busy making honey.  I got bold and went into the hive without my bee suit or gloves because it was supposed to be a quick task.

She wasn’t having any parts of it, and she caught me unprepared.

Scripture tells us that there will come a time when many will be caught unprepared…and it won’t be over a simple bee sting.  

The return of Jesus Christ will be a surprise to those who believe in Him, but they will be prepared for this coming.  It will be a surprise to those who believe in Him, but may be unprepared for the second coming. And it will certainly be a surprise to those who don’t believe in Him, but thought they had had it figured out or that they had more time. 

Yet, each group should be prepared and should be on alert.  

In Matthew 24:42-44 (NASB), scriptures states “Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  For this reason, you must be ready as well; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” 

For the believer, preparedness means knowing the Word of God.  

-Memorize scripture

-Know it well enough to pray it back to God

-Study different versions of the Bible

-Understand apologetics and how to explain God’s Word to others.

Preparedness also means having an active relationship with God and others.

-Active & deliberate prayer life

-Daily study and reading

-Sharing the Gospel with others

-Fellowship in a church and small group

We have no idea when Jesus will return, just like I had no idea when I would first be stung by the bees I’m keeping.  As a beekeeper, I have suits, gloves, & smoke to help me be prepared.  Likewise, we have the Bible, prayer with God and fellowship with others to assist us with getting prepared.  


When the second coming occurs, don’t be unprepared; that would be way worse than getting stung on the tip of your finger by a honeybee.

~Emily

Surprise Attack Prayer Warrior

Last week I needed a bow for a graduation gift and stopped at the local dollar store.  As I stood in the checkout line, a woman approached me while giving me a compliment. I thanked her and she continue walking past me.  Suddenly, I felt hands grab my shoulders from behind and she began praying.  Loudly.  And long-ly (I made that word up, but it seems fitting…it was a VERY long prayer).  

It was so uncomfortable.  I didn’t know how to politely get out of the scenario.  I watched the cashier ring up my item and then shrug his shoulders at me while rolling his eyes about the praying woman.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see small children staring at the situation.  I saw others rushing past in an effort to escape, lest she turn her boisterous reverse-hug prayer litany on them.  She said “Amen,” turned around and headed to another unsuspecting woman in the make-up aisle (who, by the way, was not having it…she actually told the lady to leave her alone). 

I know she meant well and likely felt as though she was doing the right Biblical thing.  

However. 

However, I was so taken aback and so completely out of my comfort zone, that I was not able to listen to what she prayed. I couldn’t join her prayerfully, as Sisters in Christ, because I was too “in my own head” rather than in my heart for Jesus.

Interestingly enough, I had read an article just hours before about a woman who made her New Year’s Resolution to pray for a stranger every day. The article described her interactions with those she prayed with and those that she silently prayed for.  At the time of the article publication, she’d being praying for a stranger daily for two full years. 

Maybe the Dollar Store lady had a New Year’s Resolution to pray for strangers.  Maybe not.

I’m intrigued by this praying for strangers idea. Part of me feels compelled to tackle a similar resolution.  Praying for one another is good.  It’s certainly Biblical, as there are countless examples instructing us to pray for one another.

Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

1 Samuel 12:23 (NASB), “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.”

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB), “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Here’s the raw truth of this from Emily’s heart. I’m all for praying over strangers.  But I think I want rules to this endeavor.  After what I experienced at the dollar store, I don’t want to ambush any strangers with prayer.   

Here are my proposed self-imposed rules:

1. A conversation has to happen prior to starting to pray (i.e.: introductions, common ground established, niceties, etc…).

2. Ask if you can pray for them—or if they have specific prayer requests (and be gracious if they say “no”).

3. Be intentional about who to pray with or over (don’t just pick someone willy-nilly because you have a daily “quota” to fulfill). 

4. Continue to pray for that person even after the interaction is over.  

I’d be interested to hear what those on the Iron Porch think about the proposed rules.  And of course, I’d be really interested to hear how you would have handled the surprise-attack prayer warrior at the dollar store!

~Emily

Acts 5:42 (NASB), “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news Jesus as the Christ.” 

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