The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

The Outsider copy

Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

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Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth

The Last Time

What would you do differently if you knew it was the last time?

The last time your little one hugged you in public…

The last time you would kiss your spouse goodnight…

The last time you went to a movie theater/roller skating rink/bowling alley…

The last time you would spend Christmas with your parents…

The last time you would fall asleep peacefully…

The last time you saw a particular friend…

The last time you watched the sunset…

 

What would you do differently?

Would you pause at that moment and breathe in the sweetness of that “last” experience…?

Would you be sad or would you be happy…?

Would you take a mental photograph…?

Would you say one last “I love you” …?

While the question “what would you do differently” is applicable to death or dying, reflect on your last times because of anything that isn’t death related.  The last times could be because of a divorce, an ill-timed comment, a sickness/disease, the passage of time/growing up, a move, a promotion, finances, etc., etc.

The last times are only last times, once we recognize they were the last time.  In most instances, we don’t know that it’s the last time we’re experiencing a particular event.  It won’t be until much later that you think back “when was the last time that xyz happened?”

There’s one “last time” that we know will happen, even when we don’t know the exact timing–the last days and the last times people will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel in order to make decisions about their own salvation.

We see the phrase “end times” and “last hour” in several scriptures, such as 1 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:20, or 1 John 2:18.  In fact in 1 John, “the last hour” is the closest adherence to Greek.  The concept of the last hour or last day is a foreshadowing that Christ will come to Earth once more to gather all the believers to heaven.

While scripture is not clear about the exact timing of Christ’s second coming, the prophecy of what is to come is very clear.  Christ is coming. Believers go home to Heaven. Non-believers stay on earth and they will endure unimaginable horrors.  This means we, as Christians, are tasked with fully understanding that more “last times” are coming.  Some would argue they are coming soon.

The most important thing you can do in your lifetime is to share the Gospel. With an impending end times prophecy, sharing the Gospel becomes even more important.

Don’t let the last time create a scenario where the question “what would you do differently?” includes your regret about not having shared the precious gift of God.

~Emily

The Last Time

Strappy Sandals

Since becoming a civilian, I’ve fallen in love with wearing strappy sandals and heels.  It’s a glorious feeling after 25 years of combat boots to wear cute girlie shoes.  Except that I feel so plump and inflexible, that I can’t really latch the straps very easily.  I struggle to lean over to the buckle, only to discover I latched onto a hole that is too loose or too tight.

I keep on trying because those shoes are so cute! I feel like the reward is worth the sweaty wrestling match with my tummy rolls to latch the straps.

There are times I feel the same way about my walk with the Lord.  I’m struggling to get the “strap” to fit just right.  I become really involved with my prayer life, only to draw back and not pray. I become really involved with a Bible Study, only to withdraw to mindless tv shows.  I volunteer for service projects, only to determine I want to be at home.

Like the cute strappy sandals, I keep struggling with my faith to make it fight just right, but often it’s too tight or too loose. That does not mean I’m struggling with my faith, but rather I’m struggling to make God my first priority. And that I’m struggling to make God a priority voluntarily, not out of a sense of obligation.

The Bible is very clear that God wants to be the first and only priority.  This is evident in Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV), “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

I want God to be the priority in my life, but how do we demonstrate that we truly love God and want His teaching placed first in our lives?

In 1 John 5:3, the apostle John offers this answer, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”  We illustrate loving God when we strive to keep His commandments.

John offers further encouragement in 1 John 2:4-5 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.”

Therefore, we keep trying to hold true to God’s commandments. We keep trying to show His love for others through our own obedience.  We keep trying to make our walk with the Lord a good fit, rather than too loose or too tight.

What isn’t fitting just right in your life?  How can you adjust to make God more of a priority?

~Emily

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Kid Questions

“Do you have cancer?”

This was the question I heard a 5-year-old boy ask a balding gentleman, as I went into the aftercare building to pick up my son.

The adult responded with a chuckle and said, “No, I’ve just lost all my hair.”

My initial internal response was “what has this child seen or heard to make them instantly think bald equals cancer?”

My next response was “Thank you, Jesus, for the innocent questions of our little ones.”

Children have very few inhibitions when it comes to questioning the world around them.  They ask simply because they need understanding. They aren’t intimidated by politically correct wording or the emotions that questions may bring up.

Jesus asked a lot of questions too.  His weren’t always simple or designed for His own understanding. Most of His questions were crafted to get His followers thinking about God’s promises, about salvation, and about deliverance.  One of my favorite questions Jesus asked the disciples is “Who do you say I am?”

In several books of the Gospel, we read that Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus could have easily said, “I am the Christ.”  Instead, He challenged the disciples to answer the questions of their own heart.

Jesus taught using a questioning method of presentation. It creates a learning atmosphere where the disciples (and subsequently us) are able to interpret and deliver our own answers to questions.  This often lends itself to a longer retention of information…and a stronger belief in the answers that we declare ourselves.

Like small children asking strangers about lost hair and cancer treatments, we as Christians must ask about and interpret the world around us.  Lucky for us, if we’re in the Word, we’ll find answers!

What questions are on your mind this week?  Come to the Porch and share!

~Emily

Kid Questions

 

Coffee Shop Bold

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

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

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

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

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

I remained.

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

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

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

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

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

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

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

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold