The Cranberry Jelly Can

My granny was a jellied-cranberry-sauce-out-of-the-can kind of lady.  Every Thanksgiving as we purchased our stock for the big dinner, she always reminded us to get her can.  She was the only one that ate it, and we always teased her for eating it.  It just seemed weird to me.  The jelly vacuum-packed into a can that took the shape of a can when it came out was just…weird!

In 2014, I forgot to pull out the beloved can of gelatinous goo for her!  I hadn’t forgotten to purchase it.  But I left it in the cupboard and we only remembered after we were done eating.  Granny teased me about forgetting her favorite dish.  Not to worry, I told her.  We’ll pull it out next Thanksgiving!  But it never happened.  That was the last Thanksgiving we spent with her before she went to heaven. 

The following November, we pulled out that can of cranberry jelly and it sat, unopened, on the table.  We laughed and shared memories of her.  It was beautiful.  And through two moves and five years later, I still can’t get rid of the can.  It’s been on our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter tables every year.  Every time I think about throwing it out, the contents long since expired, I just can’t let myself put it in the trashcan.  It’s belongs to one of the fondest memories I have of her.

I was unpacking here in Eclectic in September when the can came out of the moving box.  I showed Emily, and she took the can from me.  I thought she was going to throw it out and I panicked.  She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.  “No!” she said.  “Something this special needs to be displayed, not hidden in the pantry.”  It now sits in my cupboard with glass doors, a prize to look at every time I wander into the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that a simple, dented, and dirty can brings me such joy.  It reminds me of the strong Christian grandmother who helped raise me and the faithfulness to God she displayed.  She loved the Lord and gave thanks for the family that she adored. 

This Thanksgiving, I have no doubt that the feast at the table in heaven holds a shiny new can just for her.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with jubilation; Come before Him with rejoicing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courtyards with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His faithfulness is to all generations. –Psalm 100:1-5

~Erin

Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

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Dinosaurs & Dragons

The COVID-19 precaution that has caused school work to shift to home has increased the number of questions from a third grader that this mama needs help with.  I’ve had to do research on polygons versus quadrilaterals, as well as the differences between handwriting practice and daily writing prompts. Questions have included astrology, science, animal behavior, and computer technology.

This week’s questions:

If archeologists can find dinosaur bones to put on display in museums, then where are the dinosaurs and dragons in the Bible?  Were dinosaurs real?  Were dragons?

After a silent prayer that included a plea for guidance, I told my son we would do some research on that topic.  Guess what? There’s a ton of information regarding the thought process behind dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible.

Most Christians acknowledge that there were dinosaurs at some point in the world, as a result of those archeological digs that produce museum displays.  However, most fall into two schools of thought regarding the timing of dinosaurs.  Young Earth Creationists believe that the world was created by God, as illustrated in Genesis, approximately 6,000-10,000 years ago.  This they believe that dinosaurs likely co-existed with humans and may have even been included on Noah’s Ark. The other group, Old Earth Creationists, believes many theories, but most acknowledge that earth’s creation is much older.  They tend to believe that dinosaurs were extinct well before the creation of humans.

But back to the 3rd grader question…where are they in the Bible?

Nowhere does it say “dinosaur,” “T-rex,” or “brontosaurs” in the Bible.  However, there are 28 times in the Old Testament that the Hebrew word tanniyn is used to describe an unknown animal creature that is close to a reptile.  English translations of tanniyn use the word dragon, sea-creature/sea-monster, or whale, as the term is used for water and land monsters.  Some would argue that the dragons, leviathans, behemoths, and birds with four legs are all “honorable mentions” of dinosaurs in the Bible.

Dragons:

In Ezekiel 29:3 (ESV), we see scripture specifically refer to dragons.

“…speak and say, Thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.”

In Job 41:1-34, we see scripture describe a serpent-like fire breathing creature, like a dragon.

“His sneezing flash forth light…out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke…His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.”

In Job 7:12 (NLT), we see scripture refer to a dragon or monster of the sea.

“Am I a sea monster or dragon that you must place me under guard?”

Leviathans:

In Psalm 74:13-14 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to the leviathan, which is typically understood to be a water monster similar to a dragon.

“You divided the sea by your might: you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan: you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.”

In Psalm 104:26 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to leviathans.

“There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.”

Leviathans & Dragons:

In Isaiah 27:1 (ESV), we see scripture refer to a leviathan, as a ginormous sea dragon.

“In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Behemoths:

In the book of Job, we also see scripture refer to a mighty beast as a Behemoth, which some argue was a vegetarian eating giant creature, such as stegosaurus.

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.

“He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants, he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?” Job 40:15–24 (ESV).

Birds with Four Legs:

In Leviticus 11:20-21 (KJV), we see scripture describe a bird with four legs, which some have argued could be flying reptiles, such as pterosaurs.

“All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.”

If a 9-year-old is asking about the dinosaurs and dragons of the Bible, why haven’t I ever thought to look at it?  After this week of digging into the verses, I recognize that many of the scriptures identify creatures that aren’t familiar to us in today’s age.  I also acknowledge that there are Biblical scholars who have differing points of view on this subject.

More than that, I love that my son and I were able to dig into the Bible and come up with answers to his questions about dinosaurs and dragons.

~Emily

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Dear Diary

Day 4:  This could be interesting!  It’s an opportunity to really bond with my child and spend that time under one roof.  I’ll learn so much about her.

Day 20:  This is interesting.  It takes 12 steps to walk from my couch to the refrigerator and it’s the exact same amount of steps from my office to the refrigerator.

Day 32:  Interesting.  My daughter can say “yes, mother” in a way that evokes slight fear that I should sleep with one eye open.

Day 48:  I wonder what would happen if I took a four-hour shower.  Do you think they’d leave me alone?

Day 127:  Can I social distance from myself?

And so goes the days of shelter-in-place orders here in California.  I’ve officially been sheltered in place for four weeks….28 days of little interaction with the “outside.”  And, like Emily wrote last week, this is really starting to suck.

All of these great intentions that I’ve had for all this extra time have flown out the window, and I’d give anything to order at an actual restaurant and sit in an actual booth and hold an actual menu and laugh with an actual server.  But that’s just not how it is anymore.  And the reality is that it’s not going to be that way for a while.  And some days, it’s a little harder to deal with than others.

I find myself going from high to low to high again depending on how “claustrophobic” I feel in the house.  I wonder if that’s what David felt when he battled his own feelings of depression and despair.  One moment, he’s favored and then next, he’s despised.  While my circumstances might not be the same, my feelings of despair and loneliness mimic his own.

As I wade through what feels like Day 164, I hold to Psalm 18:19.

He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

A broad place…Matthew Henry’s Commentary read like this, “He brought me forth also out of my straits into a large place, where I had room, not only to turn, but to thrive in.”  I don’t have to feel that claustrophobia that depression brings during a season like this.  He’s given me room to breathe and trust Him.  Thank you, God, for a broad place that gives you ample room to help me with my struggles.

~Erin

The options are endless.

When You’re Known

During the two years that I was stationed at the Pentagon, I visited the same coffee stand every morning.  I always ordered a large hot coffee with cinnamon.  Unless it was Christmas time, which was when I switched from cinnamon to peppermint.

On one fall morning, I ordered my typical cinnamon coffee.  After the first sip, I was pleasantly surprised to taste peppermint, rather than cinnamon.  The peppermint syrup had come in a few weeks early and the barista knew that I swapped over to the alternate flavor for a season.  He knew my daily order well.  But he also knew my annual coffee habit.

I still reflect back on that time and marvel at the moment of feeling like I was known.  It reminds me of the psalm, written by King David, about how wonderful it is to be known by God, the Father of us all and Creator of the Earth.  David wrote, “Lord, you have searched me and known me.” ~Psalm 139:1 (CSB).  The phrase to be known signifies how those closest to us would know us personally.

That is an amazing thought.  God knows us more personally and intimately than those closest to us here on Earth.  He knows us because He is pleased with what He created.

What a marvelous gift it is to be known by God and that we can claim friendship with the Lord. It is because of that intimate knowledge, we can trust Him with all aspects of our lives.  He knows what’s best for us.  Occasionally, that knowledge surprises us with something unexpected but in our best interest.

Much like a surprise sip of peppermint coffee…

~Emily

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The Thermostat Needs a Reset

My stinking thermostat is a jerk.  I mean it…I’m pretty sure it’s secretly got some kind of brain that knows how cold I get and devises a plan to freeze me out of the house.  It doesn’t help that I’ve officially turned into a “Californian” when it comes to the weather.  When I lived in Cheyenne, I could run out to get into my car for work with a comfy sweater rather than a coat in the frigid snowy temperatures.  Nowadays, the number “50” sparks fear of frostbite to my tender toes.

Lately, it’s decided to work only when it wishes to.  I’ll set the temperature to 70.  (Don’t make fun….I don’t like being cold!) I’ll realize an hour later that my nose is like a miniature iceberg on my face, go to check the temperature, and it’s reading 67.  I told you….total Californian.  When it’s not working, we reset it.  We turn it off and give it a rest for about five minutes.  When the waiting period is over, we start it back up again and it works like a charm.

Sometimes, our own minds need a reset.  We’re on the go all the time.  Work is long.  Our kids have this program or that homework.  We need to meet our friends for Friday night trivia.  Bible study on Monday.  Volunteering at the Safehouse on Thursday.  And don’t get me started on the amount of TV and social media we consume!  Trying to train your brain to not need to check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram every four minutes conjures up its own set of problems.

During all of this craziness we call life, it’s usually our focus on God that is first to go.  I’m guilty of it myself.  I love Him and know He’s there, and because I’m confident in this, I lose sight of Him being my recharging station.  The bible tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” –Psalm 46:10

Commands like this are all throughout the bible, and that’s on purpose.  We are to know Him and know His greatness.  He commands us to slow down, to take time, to be still and be in His presence.  My challenge to all of us this month is to push away the chaos that prevents us from being still in His presence.  Rather, let’s take the time to lean into the stillness and feel who He is and what He’s done for us.

~Erin

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

The Car Saga Contiues

We’re into week 2 of my car saga, and I’m not sure I see an end in sight.  While it took a bit for the adjuster to go and see the vehicle, once there, a vast difference appeared between the two companies in the ideas of how to repair my sweet car along with the cost of said repairs.  Alas, still no car.

I was starting to feel a little frustrated.  While having a car is assuredly a first world problem, I’ve been irritated about being at home without a vehicle in the event I wanted something…like an ice cold fountain Coke (that I don’t really need).   This has felt slightly overwhelming at my lack of control or answers to the problem.

This entire process has flown right in the face of what I’m studying.  We’re clearly told in the bible to trust God for everything.  Why is it so hard to let go of that control and hear what He’s saying?  Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.

That verse doesn’t say He’ll give me a quick answer.  It doesn’t even say He’ll give the answer I want.  What it does tell me that no matter how out of control I feel and no matter how long this process will take, He won’t forsake me.  Forsake means to abandon, and that’s one thing God never does.  He doesn’t just leave me to handle it on my own.  When I seek Him and when I trust, He is right there with me walking with me every step of the way.

I have no idea when I’ll get my car back.  But no matter the length of time or how frustrating the outcome, I can be assured that my situation and I are not forsaken.  He is right there holding my hand as we navigate this water together.

Iron Porch, have any of you been in a situation where you had to remind yourself that God was standing with you and walking beside you during a tough spot?  Let us know in the comments below.

~Erin

Suicidal Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

Deuteronomy

 

One Bathroom

A house with only one bathroom is a recipe for disaster.  And I still have one teenager left living at home.  It’s practically unbearable!  It’s a juggling act, sometimes, to figure out who can get in for their shower and who gets to brush their teeth or wash their face first.  This week, was no exception.  Chris, Peyton’s dad, needed to go to work and I hadn’t thought to let Peyton know.  (I mean, he’s had the same Tuesday schedule for three years, so it didn’t even cross my mind.)

The idea that Peyton had to shorten her shower and get out was not a pleasant solution in her 15-year-old mind.  When she emerged she looked at me and said, “Why can’t he get up earlier to get ready?!”  To which I reminded her that he’s had the same schedule for years.  She retorted, “I’m irritated with you too, mom!  You should’ve told me he was going to work!”

Do we have that reaction when it comes to knowing what the bible says?  Someone else will give me the answer!  I expect that when I go to church my pastor as the leader should be telling me what the bible says.  When I attend a bible study the writer gives me direction in my homework.  When I’m speaking to my accountability partner or mentor I think they’ll give me the answers.

But as Christ-followers, we shouldn’t be waiting for the advice alone of our mentors and leaders.  2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the scripture is God-breathed.  The answers that we need are in the book that we should be studying!   We should be researching, reading, and seeking the answers for ourselves in the Bible.  We have a responsibility to do the work, as well.

I know I can be guilty of this.  Just like Peyton with the idea of ‘someone will let me know,’ I can very easily wait for a Sunday service, hoping the pastor will eventually touch on a topic that’s been on my mind.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You,” –Psalm 119:11

This verse reminds me that I should be in the Word, studying and growing in my walk.  I don’t need to wait for someone else to give me the answer.  God gave it to me in the form of a bible, and I’m going to make sure moving forward that I’m using it to mature my faith in Jesus.

~Erin

Find the Time

As a full time professional in the billing department of a hospital, I need to know what I’m talking about.  The majority of us know that medical insurance can be so frustrating and hard to understand.  My job requires me to have extensive knowledge of insurance billing for physicians, and on occasion I have to spend time explaining to patients what the charges/payments mean so that they can understand it in laymen’s terms.  It’s important for me to be doing continuous education on the insurance companies.

Do we treat our study of the bible the same way?

God wrote the most beautiful book for us.  It’s a history lesson of this earth prior to Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem.  It’s the true story of the greatest sacrifice for love, and it’s the written promise of what’s to come.   God’s love letter is available to all of us to learn from, to grow from, to mature ourselves in our faith.  And yet I let days go between opening it to really read what God has written to me.

The psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.  I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” –Psalm 119:15-16.  My prayer is that I take those words to heart.

I want to develop a strong understanding of who God is and what He’s done and one of the best ways I can do that is to spend time each day meditating on His written word.  I want my study to be meaningful and give me true opportunity to dig in.  My bible can’t remain closed until I “find the time.”  Believe me, I’ve been there, and it happens to me even now.  I let things, people, phone calls, or TV take precedence over a chance to allow a scripture meaning to be revealed to me.

The challenge to myself, and one that I’m extending to you, is to set aside at least 15 minutes each morning when you first wake up.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you in the passage or verse you’ve chosen to read, read it aloud, and then use the rest of the time to find out “What does this mean to me?”  Allow yourself time to meditate on His ways.  You won’t regret it.

Is there a verse or passage that you’ve read that might encourage someone to start this challenge?  Come to the porch and share in the comments below.

~Erin

I will meditate (used)