A Well-Marked Path

Emily can attest to the fact that I’m not a hiker.  Let’s be honest…anything that’s related to being healthy, working out, enjoying oodles of outdoor time…not a fan.  I’m content to sit in my living room for the entire weekend secretly eating cake.  It’s just who I am.

On the RARE occasion, I decide to frolic along behind Emily in the woods, I like to know where I’m going, what the path will be like, and how high the elevation is.  If I have to exert myself, it’s likely to make me grumpy.  And if I’m getting hit by sticks in the face, tripping over roots and rocks, or guessing whether we go left or right, the Ranger Service is about to be called.

This makes me think about my faith journey.  Really, it makes me think about everyone’s faith journey.  When we accept Christ as our Savior and make the choice to live for Him, we do that by faith.  The biblical definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  We believe God is real.  We trust that He created us.  We know that He sent His Son to die for our sins and raise from the grave.  We accept His gift of salvation.  We are confident that we will live one day with Him in heaven.  While we don’t see Him, our faith dictates that He is the one true living God. 

Sometimes, I hear people talking about their faith in God in a way that makes my heart hurt.  I’ve heard statements about being lost in not knowing where God is taking them.  There are discussions about not really knowing what God has had for their lives or where He intends to take them.  But I have to encourage you, my friends, that our faith is not about aimless wandering, hoping that God will reveal His will.

Our Pastor Trey said something a few weeks ago that really stuck with me. “Faith is not about bumbling around.  It’s a well-marked path.”  It doesn’t have to be wandering, trying this path or that route to see what ‘sticks.’ We don’t need to trip over our own plans or our sins to take a guess at the direction God wants us to go!  When we choose faith, we choose to go down the marked path.  That path is marked ‘Obedience.’  It’s marked, ‘Trust.’  It’s marked, ‘His will.’  Because when we follow God and His ways, the path should and will go in the proper direction it’s supposed to go!  To Him!

When we stop wandering around trying to have faith in what we THINK is His will, we move onto the marked and worn path that has only one objective–to follow our faith and God no matter where it leads us.

I pray, Iron Porch, that we lean into the that well-marked path of faith and trust in a Savior who is ours.

~Erin

The Broken Shells

As Chris and I walked along the beach, we jut could not believe the amount of broken shells we saw lying around.  Thousands of pieces, shards of clams and oysters, conch and olive shells rolling up and down the shoreline were a sight to see.  I told Chris that I couldn’t remember the beaches in California having this many shells and he agreed.  As we walked down to the edge of a waterway, the entire bottom of the bed looked like a mass of jumbled gravel…it was more shells!

We spent close to an hour every day that we were there walking around and picking up the shells to take home for display.  As each of us selected one, we exclaimed to the other about what we’d found and would decide if we wanted to add it to our collection.  However, as we chose, I told Chris how sad it seemed to see so many little pieces of shells scattered about.  So many of them were broken into tiny pieces—pieces that no one wanted to pick up.

Sometimes, I feel that way about circumstances in my life.  With sadness and pain comes the pieces of my heart feeling as if it’s broken into hundred of shards.  They’re pieces so small that I’m sure they will never be put back together.   It’s the brokenness from a damaged relationship.  It’s the brokenness from a death.  It’s the brokenness from a sin that I so willingly committed.  Those pieces can never be brought back together to make me whole again.  But is that really true?

Those broken pieces can be loved and healed by God.  The bible tells us in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.”  Those pieces that are broken due to sin…when we come to Our Father with the fragments and a repentant heart, He can restore that beauty.

When we come to him with the shards of pain from a hurt or a devastation, He molds them in His hands to heal them.

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.” –Isaiah 64:8

Thank you, Jehovah Rapha, for healing those broken pieces and putting us back together.  Without your loving touch, we cannot know what wholeness truly means.

I encourage you, dear friends, to lean into God and allow Him to take what’s broken and trust that He will make it whole.

~Erin

Brush Your Hair

(*I have been given permission to share this personal story in the hope that others might let go of the stigma behind mental health issues.)

My daughter, Peyton, texted me the other day begging to come home.  She didn’t want to be at school and felt overwhelmed.  Her depression was hitting a low and she was really struggling.  To make matters worse, she had been confiding in a friend about the struggle on the bus when another girl, overhearing, leaned over and made a comment that she’d noticed something was wrong because it looked like she hadn’t brushed her hair in a few days.  It felt like a gut punch.

I encouraged her to tough it out at least until lunch and if she was still struggling she could give me a call.  The call came as soon as lunch began.  She drove herself home and walked into my office.  I asked her if she was ok, and she broke down in tears, “I’m so tired of feeling like this, mom.  I just want to feel better.”  As I hugged her, I told her over and over again that she would get through this.  We would walk with her in this and that it was ok to feel like this right now.

The diagnosis doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I was diagnosed with depression in my 20’s and have worked through the same kinds of feelings for 20+ years.  I’ve learned that with medication and appropriate techniques, I can manage the symptoms and work through the ups and downs.  I’m not ashamed of it.  It’s just part of who I am.  But over the years, I’ve had to learn to figure out how to take those lows and channel them into leaning into my Creator.

More often than not, when I’m in the mire of an episode I’m not thinking, “Take this to God.”  I’m thinking how horrible this feeling is, how overwhelmed I am, how can I make this feeling go away.  I want to hole myself up in a dark room under the covers.  Sleep the day away.  

But none of those solutions are really solutions at all.  One of the first things I should be doing is calling out to my Protector and asking Him to cover me.  It’s something I’ve had to train myself to do.  It absolutely does NOT come naturally.  But when I purposely call attention to God, I allow myself permission to stop trying to control what I can’t control and give it to Him to take on.  Here are a few verses that help me when this happens.

“Answer me quickly, Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will be the same as those who go down in the pit.  Let me hear Your faithfulness in the morning, for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul.  Save me, Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.” –Psalm 143:7-9

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

“He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.” –Psalm 91:4

When I pray on these verses and ask God to help me through the depression or anxiety, it allows me to recognize that my hope is in God, that He knows exactly what’s happening, and that He’s walking with me through it.  It doesn’t change the fact that I’m in the middle of a depression cycle.  But it changes who I rely on in that cycle—HIM!

I encourage you, dear friends, if you struggle with depression or anxiety to know and understand that you are not alone.  God is there beside you, fighting the fight.  And you have friends here at the Iron Porch who support you, too!

~Erin

A Praise Report

One of the things we do every week at Table 8 Bible study is spend some time discussing prayer requests.  It’s wonderful to be able to share concerns with our sisters in Christ.  However, as we began a study on prayer, I realized we weren’t looking at the praises that we were blessed with! 

It’s easy to see the struggles in our lives and what we need to pray for.  We see our friends or family hurting, a neighbor that’s sick, a test that our children are about take, maybe someone we know isn’t saved.  We seek out prayer for those things.  And we’re not wrong to do that at all!

But there is also value in seeing the ways our Father blesses our lives. It’s encouraging to hear praise reports of that neighbor on the mend, that child who got a 92%, or the peace that the Holy Spirit gave you about a decision you needed to make.  The people that have been praying get an opportunity to see God at work.  And you get a moment to acknowledge the grace of God! 

We are encouraged many times in the Bible to give Him thanks for what He has done.  It should be part of our worship to Him.

Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. –Isaiah 24:1 (NASB)

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. –Psalm 9:1 (ESV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Sometimes, it’s not so easy to recognize the praises in our lives.  Victories may seem small or insignificant.  Perhaps we even don’t think about how God answered a prayer or a need that we had in our life because we weren’t looking for it. 

I’ve made it a challenge to myself to really look for how God has answered prayer in my days and weeks.  Now, rather than starting off my prayer with a request to Him, I get excited to start by thanking Him for what He’s done and how He’s provided. 

This month, God answered a prayer that I’ve been praying about faithfully for 5 years!  I want to shout from the rooftops how amazing God is! 

How about you, dear friends!?  Share with your friends at the Iron Porch a praise report and let’s be encouraged at God’s faithfulness.

~Erin

Have We Studied?

This week, a famous pastor posted about a quote about God that could not stand biblically.  Not even a little bit.  If you had inferred what you thought he meant, you might have been able to twist it into truth.  But as a post on a social media site, there isn’t a lot of room for inferences, especially when it comes to the Bible.

This had me up in arms with my Table 8 study group!  We laugh because they hear me say the same thing every single week at some point….you MUST be in the Word.  You must be reading and studying and seeking God.  You cannot guard yourself against wrong teaching, against incorrect theology, from false gospel if you don’t know what is in the Bible.

As well, how can we lead people to the Truth if we are not understanding of what’s in our Bible?!  Satan skulks around trying desperately to deceive us.  If he can distract us from the truth of the Holy Bible, he can prevent us from spreading the gospel.

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. –Hebrews 4:12

But his is delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. –Psalm 1:2

It is imperative as believers in the one and only Creator of this world that we know what He says in the pages of scripture.  I cannot stress this enough.  I encourage you, friends, be in the Bible.  Read His Word.  Start your day with His commands and precepts.  Revel in the words of love from our Father.

Let’s challenge ourselves to make it a habit to study the Bible so that when the deceiver tries to trip us up, we are prepared for battle!

~Erin

Are They Trustworthy?

Trust is such a simple yet complex feeling.  We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  We believe that we can have confidence in the words that they say.  However, sometimes in our lives, we can be left burned and hurt.

I would love to believe that people are not untrustworthy on purpose.  I don’t think anyone likes to intentionally break that bond.  Most often, I see it when there is fear of being hurt themselves or perhaps even fear of being found out.  Sometimes, it’s just genuine misunderstanding of the circumstance that leaves a feeling of nagging doubt at the person’s words.

Recently, I had to deal with this issue of trust.  The words appeared calculated and dishonest.  The first thought that came to my mind is something my mom used to say to me when I lied as a child, “Do I have ‘stupid’ tattooed on my forehead!”  The visceral reaction was to be angry.  I felt injured by the words.  I can’t even be 100% sure that what was being said was a lie, but every bone in my body went into full can-I-trust-this-answer mode.

Despite there being people in our lives that can break that trust bond, there’s someone who will never break that bond. That’s our Heavenly Father.

God is the ultimate trustworthy Creator.  We see it over and over in scripture.  He repeatedly saved the Israelites.  He sent judges to help them be victorious.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to walk the earth and take on our punishment of death.  He sent apostles to teach us about a relationship with Christ and salvation.  He’s, even now, preparing a place for us in heaven.  We can trust Him.

Psalm 9:10 says, “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”

No matter what happens with the humans surrounding us, trust of God need not ever waver.  He created us and He loves us.

Friends, are you dealing with issues of trust in your life this week?  Come to the porch and know you’re not alone.  Our Father is forever trustworthy!

~Erin

Disney Lines

Do you know how long a Disney World line is?  That’s right—too long.  Do you know what the best part of any of the rides in Disney World is?  You’re right again—the air conditioning you get to when you get closer to the front of the line.  Followed by a second best part of the fans that blow on you while you’re having the start of heatstroke in a line in Florida in July.  (Seriously, I can’t understand why the most popular time to go there is in the summer when your face melts off, but whatever.)

During a recent last minute trip to the happiest place on earth, we weathered several days at the Parks in the blistering sun.  While the lines weren’t as long as some might expect, it feels like it goes on forever when it’s hot and humid.

In the morning it wasn’t such a big deal.  But by midday, I just wanted the line to go fast so that we could strategically stop at a fan or, even better, hit the purchased icy air blowing from a vent.  There’s nothing like losing patience and being annoyed at Disney!

How patient are we with the direction God takes us?  Do we find ourselves like I was in that line, wondering how I could speed it up, wanting to get to the prize of the ride at the end?  Maybe we don’t like to wait and think of ways to make it easier to get to the front.  Perhaps we’re frustrated that the people further up are already at the destination and we’re upset it isn’t us!

We forget sometimes that the WHOLE journey is part of the journey.  It’s part of building your faith in Jesus.  It’s learning to trust only Him for the next step.  It’s understanding that things shouldn’t be expected to happen in our time but rather God’s time.  I found a verse in the bible that reminded me of that today.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” –Psalm 27:14

We’re told to wait for Him.  In our waiting, stronger faith is created and the end result is far sweeter.  Because the end result, when letting Him lead, brings glory to our heavenly Father.

Do you have moments like me when you want to rush the race rather than run the race that’s set before us?  Share with us in the comments and know that you are not alone!

~Erin

Corporate Worship

There’s something about corporate worship that I just adore.  As a junior high school student, the first Christian concert I went to was DC Talk on their Jesus Freak tour!  I had never heard their music, but a youth group was going so I thought, “Why not?!”  I really didn’t even know at the time what contemporary Christian music was.  I grew up in a church with traditional hymns, a choir, piano, and organ.  I’d never really heard rock music for Jesus!  It was such a foreign concept. 

I don’t remember much of that concert.  I don’t remember the church I went with nor the people in my group.  What I do recall is thousands of people at the Denver Coliseum singing together the songs about God.  I’d never heard anything like it!

Many of you that know me, know that I love to sing and I adore music.  I’ve sung in church since I was a little girl, and it’s very important for me in worship.  So when I saw that so many could gather together and worship our Savior in one place, with one voice…I was awestruck!

Corporate worship at church is exactly the same feeling for me.  I love that people come together at service.  The choir stands to do their special.  The congregation stands to their feet and sings the hymns.  Some have their hands folded in front of them, praying silently.  Some look toward heaven.  A few have their hands raised to praise His holy name.  I see smiles on some and tears on another.  But they all have one goal, to talk with God through music.

We are told in the Bible to praise Him and to sing to the Lord!  I’m honored that we choose to do it corporately with other believers.  I’m grateful that churches have now opened back up so that we can, once again, worship together and praise His name!

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth.  Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” –Psalm 96:1-2

Friends, do you have a favorite hymn, song or artist with which you worship God?  Share in the comments and be encouraged by each other.

~Erin

Too Much To Bear

What do you do when it seems the weight of the worst in on your shoulders?  How do you handle the struggles of this life speeding straight at you?  Who are you leaning on when it feels like it’s just too much to bear?

We’ve all had these times in our lives.  The heaviness of a death, an illness, or an addiction has probably touched someone who’s reading this in such a difficult way.  And to the person in the thick of it, the man or woman dealing with it, it feels like it will never end.

I know that you may not think that God is really listening.  You feel alone and unheard.  And you don’t understand why this torture is happening to you.  Why can’t God just fix it?  Why can’t He turn back time and make it ok again?  It doesn’t seem fair that you must suffer when everyone else around you seems to go on with life.  When you’re left feeling like you’re picking up pieces all around you by yourself, it hurts the most. 

I know you might not want to hear it, but I know you need to hear it.  You need to know that there is One who hears you and sees you.  He feels your pain.  He weeps when you weep.  And when it feels like there is nothing left to hold onto, you can hold on to Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shake and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” –Psalm 46:1-3

To the person who struggling with exactly this in this moment, I’m praying for you.  I’m fervently asking that God make His presence known to you.  You are not alone, and God will see you through.  I promise.  And He will see you through to the other side.

~Erin

Do We Praise God?

Have you ever felt like you don’t praise God enough for who He is?  I know that probably seems like an odd question.  As I teach Bible study and encourage our group to memorize verses, I find that most verses and passages of scripture looked up and used are the passages of scripture about how God can help us when we’re in trouble; He’s the refuge in the storm.  And we pray these passages over our circumstances.  These are beautiful verses and are very important to remember as we go through trials that refine us.

But why am I not memorizing and praying the passages of scripture that talk about the glory of God?!  Why am I not praying passages of praise to my Father who made heaven and earth?  It seems like such an easy thing to do.  Yet, I find the beginnings of my prayers are “canned.”  I thank Him for the day or the weather or my family, but don’t really glorify Him for He is and what He has done!

There are so many passages in the Bible that speak to His majesty, and I believe we should be praising Him with those words along side the prayers for His intervention, peace, and help.  Praising Him aloud with passages of thanksgiving opens our heart to the joy that is given by God alone!  When we speak these words out loud, we publicly declare that He is good!  He takes great joy in hearing us praise His name.

I encourage you this month to find a passage in the Bible that praises the God in heaven who created and loves all things!  Here’s a Psalm below if you’d like to use it!

~Erin