I Remember…

On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment.  I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted.  It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured. 

We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted.  Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured.  Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives.  For forever. 

Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units.  It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.  

The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning.  Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones.  In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.  

It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss.  In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad.  But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him.  The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.  

The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him.  It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness.  The road to rejoicing is often through mourning.  When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.  

Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors.  As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I remember them…and pray they have comfort.

~Emily

Musings on Memorial Day

It seems that every year around this time, there are a number of posts explaining the differences between Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day.  I’ve posted something similar on my own social media platforms.  As a retired military member, it seems like a teachable moment that civilians would see the differences between the three military recognition days.  It seems to offend some people when others don’t know the differences.  

Memorial Day is one to remember those who have fallen.  When fellow citizens wish a “Happy Memorial Day,” it can get some upset.  There’s nothing happy about having lost our comrades in arms.  Nothing happy about remembering and reflecting on those who died as a result of their serve to our Nation.  

I heard a different perspective this last week.  One where the military member said, “Rather than be offended, I’d offer that we should appreciate the spirit in which they offer that.  It comes from a good place, with good intent, from people in our society who don’t understand us but are thankful for what we do.” 

This sentiment is so kind-hearted and simplistic.  Even now while writing about it, I feel chastised for previously thinking I needed to “educate” others on the differences of these dates. Perhaps I need to appreciate the spirit that they offer the comment in.

I’d like to carry that sentiment over to Christian beliefs.  While there are very important central beliefs to Christianity, such as Christ died for each of our sins and we individually have to claim that gift in order to spend eternity in heaven, not every single interaction with others has to be a teachable moment.  I need to repeat that for my own benefit.  Not every interaction has to be an overt teachable moment.  Sometimes the old adage of “actions speak louder than words” is true.  

Like with the non-military member wishing a Happy ‘whatever’ Day and being accepted where they are, the non-Christian’s interactions with Christians could be as simple as observing love and kindness in action.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t always be a Sunday School lesson or Gospel tract presentation.  The helping hand, the monetary donation, the passing smile…each of those things show others the love of Christ; even when we aren’t actively sharing the Gospel.  

As we reflect on this Memorial Day about the sacrifices of military members through the decades, I’m going to also reflect on how I can better serve our Lord by loving others through my own actions.  

~Emily

“All that you do must be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB)

The Monday After Easter

When I was a child, the Monday after Easter always included potato salad in order to use up some of the dyed hard-boiled eggs that had been hidden the morning before.  Watching my son, the Monday after Easter includes smuggling candy to school and breaking in new shoes that were in his baskets.  As a child the Monday after Easter did not include much reflection on the significance of the “day after” the resurrection.  

On this Monday after Easter, I wonder what you are doing and thinking?  Was Sunday a day of family gatherings, a day of matching clothes, of delicious food, of family photos, or even one of wonderful worship at a church you only attend a few times a year? Are you reflecting on family fights, messy kitchens, or money spent on Easter baskets and clothes?  

Are you thinking of Jesus and his sacrifice?  Are you wondering about the glory of this miracle of saving Grace?  Does this Monday mean the start of real Christian living and serving?  

Or is the Monday after Easter a letdown for you?  Another start to the work week, complete with baseball games and ACAP testing for the kiddos, and laundry or grocery shopping to be done?  

Both Luke and Matthew record doubt and bewilderment on Resurrection Sunday; what we now know as Easter.  After reading the Gospels, I wonder what the Monday after Easter was like for the disciples, the women at the tomb, Jesus’ mother, and the followers of Christ.  They were likely still filled with wonder and excitement over all of the events the day before.  Word was still spreading and it would have been filled with anticipation and rejoicing (and probably some skepticism which led them to be labeled as delusional).  At that point, the resurrection of Christ was so new and in some cases so terrifying, that many may have been filled with fear and trembling rather than pure excitement about the implications of Christ’s resurrection.

The Monday after Easter for them would have been one of wonder…but also one of dismay and uncertainty.  The Monday after Easter would have been when the work of spreading the word began in earnest.  

In 2022, we have a different perspective on the events of Jesus’ life; specifically, Easter.  We celebrate this as a major Christian holy day.  We rejoice in our relationship with the Savior.  We worship diligently and find our place in pews with other believers.

But most likely our Monday after Easter is just another Monday.  Or is it?  Could we capture the wonder and excitement of the past?  Can we be just as diligent in sharing the Good News?  Can we hold on to the knowledge we hold tight to our heart on Easter morning?  

Whether you are a child smuggling candy to school, a New Testament disciple being labeled delusional, or a current day Christian working to emulate the life of Christ, please know that the Monday after Easter is the day we have a chance to show the world the Grace of God.   We have great opportunity on the Monday after Easter to initiate the Great Commission. 

Make a difference in someone’s life this Monday after Easter.

~Emily

“When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.  And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ‘Get up, and do not be afraid.’ And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.” ~Matthew 17:6-8 (NASB)

Childlike Grief

Death’s impact on our lives is so weird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

A December Spelling Bee: “Jesus, J-E-S-U-S, Jesus”

My fourth grader made it into the finals at his elementary school spelling bee, which meant we were studying a lengthy list of spelling words for the first few weeks of December.  Words were given at random times, such as waiting in check-out lines, while driving to the dentist, and through the phone.  Erin was also recruited to help testing spelling words.

I’ll be honest, the words started blurring together over the days of helping prepare for the spelling competition.  We started getting creative and silly with the process.  If Kambell said he was hungry, I’d start to give him food related words that weren’t even on the list.  If I started a to-do list, he would start spelling items that needed to be on the list.  We spelled animals, neighbor names, places we’d like to travel…anything was fair game for spelling.

And then one morning my son suggested we spell Christmas words.  I started by giving him the word “Present” followed by the word “Candy-cane.”  He said the word, spelled the word, then repeated the word in both instances.  As I was thinking about the next word he looked at me and said, “I was thinking more of Christmas words like Jesus, Manger or Bethlehem.” 

It’s at this point that the judgey-side-eyes should be headed my way.  

In the midst of strange COVID related 2020 shenanigans, I was not focused on the truest meaning of Christmas.  It took a 9-year-old to remind me.  For real, y’all! My son straight schooled me on which words should be the true Christmas words!!!

It took that conversation to re-focus me on the intent of this season.  The remembrance of the birth of our Savior. The truest and most precious gift ever given to any of us by our Lord.  Give yourself the gift of remembering why we celebrate Christmas and share that gift with those around you who may not know Christ. 

I pray that in the next couple days leading to Christmas 2020, you are able to have time to reflect on that gift and what it means in your life. I’m praying we see a mighty movement of new believers as a result of the sharing of the Gospel.  And I’m praying health and wellness for all of the Iron Porch family.

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Expiration Dates

There I was standing in the shower with lathered suds sliding down my arm when I noticed my shampoo bottle from a different angle.  It was as though I was seeing the bottle for the first time in my life.  I noticed a detail that had escaped my observation for all of my life.

Did you know that shampoo has an expiration date?  Seriously, there’s an expiration date on my bottle of shampoo!

That got me thinking what else could be expiring? I know milk and eggs can expire but does toothpaste? Oh, my goodness, does chocolate?!?!?!

What doesn’t expire? Well, when properly stored, there seems to be a few items that will theoretically last forever. Honey. Salt. Sugar. Rice. Pure Maple Syrup. Dried Beans.

You know what else doesn’t have an expiration date?  God’s love.

Before, now, and always…God has loved each and every one of us.  He truly loves us and wants each one of us in heaven with Him.  The only caveat is that we have to accept His gift.

It’s crazy to think about how God loves us so completely that He not only sent his Son to show us how to love and live, but that He also allowed that Son to be used as a sacrifice to cover our sins.  Most of us learned John 3:16 as one of our first memorization verses.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16 (NASB)

Unlike my shampoo, God has offered a gift of eternal salvation that only expires when you don’t accept the gift.  God literally allowed His Son to be our ticket to eternity…all without an expiration date!

If you haven’t already accepted the gift of salvation, consider today as the day you change your life and put your life in Jesus Christ as your personal savior!  Contact the Iron Porch if you have questions about how to commit your life to Christ!

~Emily

Shampoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Sowing

Every spring, my family plants a garden.  Some years it’s been a couple tomato plants, while other years it’s been much more extensive.  Some plants are starters from a garden shop, while others are grown from seedlings.  Each year there’s great hope that there will be enough harvest to augment our family meals.

In the weeks preparing for our garden, there is inevitably disagreements about how much we should plant and which variations of vegetable we should grow.  My husband is what I call an “over-planter.” He puts multiple seeds into one pocket of soil or multiple plants in close proximity.  On the other hand, I’m an “under-planter.”  I will place one or two seeds in a soil pocket or I’ll allow plenty of space between plants so there’s lots of space for growth.

According to scripture, I’m likely the one in the wrong, as I should be sowing generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV) states, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’”

While it seems chaotic in the world in the midst of a pandemic, there have been extraordinary acts of kindness reported on the news and in social media.  The neighbors who mow the lawns they don’t own.  People who escort the elderly veteran in the grocery store.  The medical professionals who are coming out of retirement to help assist.  These are the people who are cheerful givers.  God has blessed them abundantly so that in ALL times, they are able to abound in every good work.

According to the Bible, I should be sowing generously in both my heart of giving and in my garden.  Despite being confined to the house through social distancing, I’m going to use this season to practice sowing into those around me.

And I’m going to support my husband’s over-planting…

~Emily

Garden

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams So Big: 2020

A new year brings new resolutions, new promises, and occasionally new dreams.

When I was a small child, I dreamt of being an FBI agent.  My current role as a curator at a military museum could not be further from that childhood dream.  Clearly, not a dream come true.

My husband has always dreamt of being a fishing guide and/or having a fly shop where he could pass along his love of being an angler.  With the addition of a new boat in 2019, he’s begun the work of establishing a business including fish guiding and teaching classes on fishing.  Dreams are beginning to come true.

There is a sense of bittersweetness when you look at dreams that have or have not come true. You can see where God’s plans were better than your own.  And you begin to see how God’s timing is better than your own.

Are your dreams as big as God?  What do you want for your life that you think is too outrageous?!?!?  Because guess what? Nothing is too outrageous for God…He’s plans are already in the works for a dream bigger than you already dream.

Do you want to adopt a child? Start a ministry? Finish a degree? Run a marathon? (I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure I understand why anyone “wants” to run)

It’s easy to say that you believe God is big enough to fulfill your dreams…it’s harder to actually believe that.

How can you tell if your dreams match God’s desires for you?  How do you know you are dreaming “big enough”?

Christ’s Great Commission charges us with an incredible purpose: “Make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Beyond any of our wildest dreams, we are given a purpose to make disciples…in our homes, in our churches, and in our world.

In whatever manner you seek opportunities to disciple others, the Great Commission should partner with your big dreams. This is God’s desire for your life.  Filter all you do through the Great Commission.

  • You dream of adopting a child? Find a Christian agency and become involved with how discipleship occurs internationally.
  • You want to start a ministry? Start researching, start investing, start studying…and watch how God will give you opportunities to execute the Great Commission.
  • You’re dreaming of finish a degree? Stop making excuses! Register for the classes, do the hard work of balancing life and school. Graduate.  And then watch God open doors with that degree in a manner you never imagined!
  • You desire to run a marathon? Train, practice, run…and sign up for a marathon.  Then watch as God presents opportunities to speak about Him to others who also “want” to run.

Your dreams “so big” when matched with God’s purpose for your life, will be fulfilled.  Typically, you’ll see those dreams come to fruition in a manner way larger than you ever imagined.

Here’s to 2020…where we need to dream big and watch God work!!!

Happy New Year from the Iron Porch!
~Emily

Dreams So Big_ 2020 copy

Eclectic Christmas

EclecticChristmas1280x720B

The small Alabama town my family calls home hovers around a population of 1000.  Each year this town hosts a walk-through Nativity scene with the assistance of dozens of churches.  This production is hosted on private property with amateur actors, real animals, campfires, and amazing singing angels.

Acting, donating, or visiting, our family has participated in some capacity for the last four years. Each year, the details of the production blow me away.

The visitor starts with a guide from one of the 12 tribes of Israel and is provided a gold coin for bribing Roman soldiers who barrage the group on horseback several times throughout the stroll.   As the group walks around a very large pond, visitors stop at stations to hear the Nativity Story.  One of the highlights is visiting the village, where fresh bread and fruits are offered, businesses are selling wares, priests are speaking…and an innkeeper is proclaiming no more room for the travelers.  Towards the end of the walk, there is an amazing stable scene with a real-life Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus amongst the sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Let me tell you why this is such an amazing community ministry. https://www.aneclecticministry.org

First; it started as a smaller church’s vision to reach the community, but has now grown to dozens of churches assisting.  There is no politics or denomination talk, but rather a presentation of the Nativity story as read in the Bible.

Second; it runs for a week each December and has been running consecutively since 2013. It has a longer past, but the formalization at its current location allows the community for miles around to have access to parking and the walk-through venue.

Third; it’s run entirely by volunteers. The clean-up crews, the marketing through the year, the costume design, the parking crew…even the sound, which we can hear through the woods over a mile away at our house (what a blessing to hear the music in our yard for a week solid every 20-30 minutes from 6-9pm!)

Fourth; the tour ends in a large white circus tent with the hosting church of the evening presenting the Gospel.  People who have church homes, meet new people. People without church homes are introduced to all of the churches participating over the week.  Unchurched folks hear the Gospel.  Folks are accepting Christ at this event.  There are souls being saved, y’all!!!

Souls being saved.  All because someone thought there should be a walking, live-action, Nativity Scene for the community.  Years later, dozens of churches later, hundreds of visitors later…and souls are still being saved!

What could happen in your community if you dreamed big dreams and let God work through your hands?  What could happen this Christmas if you listened to the nudge of the Holy Spirit?  Would souls be saved?

~Emily

townsoldiersEclectic Christmas

 

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