Tax Day: What Do You Owe Uncle Sam vs. What Do You Owe God?

Throughout the decades, April 15th has been one of the more dreaded days for Americans.  It’s tax day.  The day we owe the government our income tax forms and possibly money.  

In today’s society, there seems to be a less frantic filing frenzy due to the internet.  In the past, those who waited until the last minute would count on the post office staying open until midnight, just to ensure that the filing was postmarked by twelve o’clock.  

Seems pretty straightforward: We owe the Government our Tax Forms by April 15th.  Sometimes they owe us a refund…sometimes we owe even more money.  

Jesus told us “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

The question then becomes, what do we owe God?  

The easy answer is that we owe Him everything.  We have literally been purchased at the terrible price of Jesus’ torture and execution on the cross.  As a result of that very high payment, you would think we would have a laundry list of what we’d like to “owe” God.  

Because we belong to God, if we have accepted Christ as our Savior, God has a right to expect that we will render certain things unto Him.  Similarly, if we are citizens of the United States, the government has the right to expect we will pay income taxes. 

But the eternal impact of our salvation is a much greater rendering than simply paying taxes.  We have an obligation to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice, made holy and acceptable to God.”  We are commanded to present God with our tithes and offerings (this includes the offering of our time and talents through service to others).  God desires relationships with us and fellowship that is meaningful.  There is an expectation that we will speak to Him through prayer and that we will study His Word.  It is expected that we will share the Gospel, guide others to the gift of salvation, and continue to mentor others as we mature in our own walk.

– Present myself to God as holy and acceptable.

– Tithes and offerings.

– Relationship with God.

– Prayer and Study of the Bible.

– Share the Gospel.

– Make Disciples.


Sounds pretty reasonable, considering the price that was paid for my salvation.  

At a time when we are preoccupied with what we owe the American government, we would be better served to consider what we owe God…on tax day…and every day…and especially when Tax Day and Good Friday coincide.  

~Emily

Spiritual Attacks

If you are a believer, you won’t go long without encountering spiritual warfare.  The enemy would love nothing more than for us to forget that there is constantly a spiritual battle going on amongst us.  We may not always see it and we may tend to forget that it’s going on, but it continuously brings chaos, turmoil, discouragement, fear, stress, and even defeat. 

The Bible reminds us that we should stay aware of Satan’s schemes, while staying close to the Lord. We’ve been armed for battle through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), and also with the entire Word of God.  When we are able to pray God’s Words back to Him, we are utilizing a powerful weapon against Satan, as it’s the Truth being spoken out loud. 

Here are scriptures to read, pray, and memorize in regards to Spiritual Warfare:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. ~Luke 10:19 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10 

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  ~1 Peter 5:8-9

Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  ~James 4:7

For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.  ~Psalm 18:39

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:3-5

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:17

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~Ephesians 6:11-17

Remember sweet readers, when we belong to Christ, Satan never has the final word over our lives. We are fully in God’s hands.  Our responsibility in spiritual warfare includes being ready to pray, meditate, and speak the Word of God.  This battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory…so fear not.

~Emily

The Business of Dying is Hard Work

Last month my mom said, “This business of dying is harder work than being born.”

She’s right.  It’s hard work for the one who is dying, but it’s especially hard work for the friends and family left after the death.  

In the last year, I’ve had friends mourn family members who died from COVID.  I’ve watched my Mom make the hard decisions about hospice for my Dad, just months after he was diagnosed with cancer.  I’ve watched my husband’s family mourn the death of their matriarch, Deea.  I’ve had High School classmates die from suicide and cancer.  

The business of dying is hard work.

So is the business of living.

In each scenario where someone has died, there are families and friends doing the hard work of continuing to live…paying bills, going to school or work, loving children, putting on a smile…all while grappling with the very real stages of grieving.  In the scenario where a spouse becomes a caretaker, it’s hard work to keep living…to juggle the knowledge that you aren’t a medically trained professional, but you are expected to advocate for your loved one.   In the instances where we just want to give up, it’s hard work to keep trucking along…to keep putting one foot in front of the other while wanting to scream profanities into your pillow.   

In John 10:10 (NASB) scripture tells us “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

In this verse, Jesus promises that He’s come so that we’ll have life to the fullest.  We’re warned against an enemy whose primary mission is to steal our joy and taint our memories through destruction.  How can we have that promise of a full life?  

When we choose to intentionally make God the foundation of our lives, we receive clarity about the hard work of living.  As we walk through creating focus on Jesus, we are able to see ourselves making it through the “narrow gate” that is discussed in Matthew 7.  Through that scripture we are able to see a few foundational principles.  1. The rightful place of God is on the throne of our lives. 2. Jesus Christ and our faith in Him is the requirement for entry into heaven.  3. As Lord of our lives, Jesus allows us to focus on Him, which then allows all other priorities to become easier to walk through.  

This doesn’t mean we won’t have strife and trials.  It does not mean that we won’t grieve the deaths of those around us.  It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t be anguished and full of questions when struggling with all the issues around dying.  

It does mean that we can have comfort, peace, love, and even joy in the midst of those horrible moments…if only we allow Jesus to help us with these difficulties.  


You see, both dying and living are hard work.  

But both can be made slightly easier with our reliance on Christ. 

I’m praying this week for each of us who are facing or have faced death recently.  Specifically, I’m praying that we each find comfort in knowing God is walking right beside us in these trials. 

~Emily

Insignificant Me

Last Wednesday, I felt insignificant.  Cue the “oh whoa is me” Eeyore type of background music.  

There’s been countless times in my life when I’ve felt so insignificant.  Sometimes it’s been in relationship to nature. For instance, I’ve felt particularly insignificant standing in front of Niagara Falls, staring up the trunk of the Redwoods, or at the edge of the Grand Canyon. There are other times it’s been in relationship to others.  For instance, I distinctly remember being overlooked for selection on a team in 7th grade gym class or the feeling of insignificance while working at Labor & Delivery while struggling with my own infertility journey.  

Part of my reaction in feeling insignificant comes from not being grounded in the truth of just how significant I am to our God.  Our loving Father did not create us to have a feeling of insignificance when standing near His creation.  Nor did he intend for us to have negative feelings about ourselves through comparing ourselves to others.  

As I contemplated insignificance this week, I read Chapter 40 of the book of Job.  Interestingly enough, I’m really struggling with reading Job for my one-year Bible reading plan because it seems so “Debbie-Downer” in its wording.  

However, the Job reading today caught my attention pretty quickly. Job actually tells God exactly what I was feeling on Wednesday!

“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I say in response to You? I put my hand on my mouth.” ~Job 40:4 (NASB)

God’s response made me giggle, especially because I was reading a Christian Standard Bible at the time. “Get ready to answer me like a man; When I question you, you will inform me.” Job 40:7 (CSB)  For comparison, here is the NASB version of the same verse.   “Now tighten the belt on your waist like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me.” Job 40:7 (NASB)

Answer me like a man?  Tighten your belt like a man?  That’s God’s response to saying “I feel insignificant”?!?!?!  This simple phrase, which did make me laugh, is a strong reminder that expressing to God my feeling of insignificant could be seen as a child-like response.  He wants us to be mature in our relationship to Him and with that maturity comes acknowledgment and embracing the significance He has on His children.

Further down in verses 10-12, we see God go one step further in instructing us about that significance.  “Adorn yourself with pride and dignity, and clothe yourself with honor and majesty.  Let out your outbursts of anger, and look at everyone who is arrogant, and humble him. Look at everyone who is arrogant and humble him, and trample down the wicked where they stand.”  Job 40:10-12 (NASB)

Ladies, let’s take off the cloak of insignificance this week and remember that God has such plans for our lives.  He’s told us to adorn ourselves as significant with pride, dignity, honor, and majesty.  Now we just have to do it…

I’m praying for a week of significance for each of us!

~Emily

Complaints via a Packers Fan

I’m a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan.  This last weekend’s loss in the NFL playoffs left several fans in a state of despair and complaint.  On social media, blogs, ESPN commentaries, and over the water cooler everyone had an opinion on the game and most had a complaint.  Interestingly enough, the Green Bay Packers are the only “publicly owned” team in the NFL, with fans being the stockholders.  When one purchases stock in the Green Bay Packers, they agree to not complain publicly about the team players/leadership/facilities, etc.  Apparently that did not dissuade hundreds from voicing complaints about the loss on Saturday night.  

Isn’t this true of any sports entertainment?  If your team loses, you complain about something regarding the game.  The referee made a bad call, the coach should be fired, the QB was lousy, politics have too much influence over the games, the baseball was greased up, the fans were obnoxious…or the special teams lost the game for the entire team.  The complaints are countless in the face of not winning.

Like when the Packers lose, I’m often tempted to complain to God about supposed loss in my life.  I’ve complained to God about military moves, finances, infertility, ex-relationships/ex-friendships, my weight, even my injured knee.  I’ve complained to God.  But I’ve also complained to others about all of those things.  More times than I’d like to admit, I probably even complained about God in relationship to those topics.  

I’m sure there are others that can relate to this train of thought. It’s easy to complain about not getting the promotion you prayed for.  It seems justified to complain about not receiving the child you’ve desperately wanted for years.  Perhaps the death of a friend or family member seems like a good time to let God know exactly what you think of His timing.  

Yet complaining is contrary to the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, as it flies in the face of joy, peace, and patience.  In fact, complaining about what God has or has not done in your life actually makes witnessing to the world much harder.  If we aren’t naturally drawn towards those who complain, what makes us think that we can present the Gospel while complaining and capture the attention of the unbeliever?  

There’s a distinction that is important to make…it’s not wrong to complain to God, but it is wrong to complain aboutGod.  He’s given us permission to grumble with Him; in fact, He’s asked us repeatedly to bring all of our troubles, cares, praises, and requests to Him through prayer.  We must be careful to not cross the line of bringing grievances to God and making God one of our grievances.  Scripture is full of examples, such as Moses’ sister Miriam, who complained about God and subsequently about the anger of God that they met as a result.  

Despite that distinction, it’s also important to strive towards not complaining and grumbling with God or amongst ourselves.  When we are grouchy in complaining, it is likely from a worldly perspective, such as unfulfilled desires which can lead to jealousy or coveting.  While it might be hard to always have a joyful heart, it certainly puts us in a better place to love others like Christ loved.

As with our favorite sports teams’ losses, it doesn’t help to complain regarding God.  If our team isn’t great, we’ll still support them if we are true fans.  If it feels as though God is or isn’t doing something for you, it’s important to stay true to your Christian path.  

This week’s challenge: Don’t be a fair-weather fan. And don’t be a lukewarm Christ-follower.

~Emily

P.S. Go Pack Go!

Bookworm Beliefs

True confession: I’m a self-proclaimed-avid-borderline-obsessed reader….a bookwork, if you will.  

What does this bookworm believe?

1. there are always more books to read

2. you can never have too many books waiting to be read

3. all children should be granted access to books

4. reading is my 1st choice for learning & recreation

I probably have more books in my house waiting to be read, than dollars in the bank account (now, that may be a tad bit of an exaggeration).   I always have a book in close proximity to me.  I have to check the copyright date of books prior to reading them.  I keep lists of books I have read, want to read, and want to read again.  I follow authors rather than celebrities on social media.  

My obsession with books is 2nd only to my obsession to Chapstick.  

One of my 2022 goals was to read the entire Bible.  So, when the Pastor of my church recently challenged the entire congregation to read the entire Bible together in 2022, it aligned perfectly with my own goal and with my fixation on reading.

During that challenge the Pastor also mentioned that our personal choices of how we spend our time often trumps our choices of how we spend time with the Lord.  He gave the example of how we may say we don’t have enough time to pray or read our Bible during our busy week, but we manage to make time to watch several football games.  The point?  What is more important…the football game or your relationship with God? 

That has marinated with me for several weeks.  Every single time I’ve picked up a book to read for recreation, I’ve questioned if I had finished my Bible reading plan for the day.  More often than I would have predicted, I had neglected the Bible for another book.  With some reflection of that revelation, I realized that the Holy Spirit was nudging me closer and closer towards focusing on Biblical reading before pleasure reading.  

In John 16:5 and in verse 16, Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that he was leaving them.  He was preparing them for a time that they would not be able to physically see Him anymore.  However, in between those two verses is an interesting statement about the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I tell you the truth; It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ~John 16:7 (NIV)

It’s easy as a Christian to think that being with Jesus forever would be the best thing for us.  Yet, in John 16:7, we hear Jesus tell us that it’s better for us to not be with him and that if he didn’t leave, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Essentially Jesus was saying that it’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit. With that assertion, comes the knowledge that having the Holy Spirit in our lives means that we will be open to feeling convictions about our behaviors.   

We’re a mere three weeks into the New Year and already I’m finding myself convicted by the Holy Spirit regarding my reading behavior and my goal to read through the Bible this year. 

It’s time for this bookworm to adjust my beliefs…I need to focus on my Bible goals. 

Are you open to those nudges from the Holy Spirit?  

~Emily

New Year: New Goals

I can’t remember any time that I’ve created a New Year’s Resolution.  I’ve never seen value in financial or weight loss promises on January 1st…I know myself well enough that a resolution would not work well for me.  However, I’ve always set new goals for the beginning of each year.  When I was child, the goals were more simplistic, such as not being mean to my brother or being more helpful to my parents.  Those weren’t tangible or measurable goals, so it would have been nearly impossible to determine if they were attained.  As I got older, making the soccer team or getting particular grades became more measurable goals.

In adulthood, my goals have been fanciful.  For instance, one year I made it a goal to say “bless you” to anyone who I heard sneeze…even if they weren’t close enough to hear me.  Another year I had the goal to buy myself fresh flowers weekly, while years before that I went on a “no spending full price on clothes” for a full year.  There was even one year that I made the goal to travel to a new location every month (that was a tad easier because I was already stationed in Europe). 

The secret to effective goal setting is to make mini-goals, also known as objectives.  It gives you milestones to check and re-evaluate how close you are to attaining the goals you have set.  

Scripture is clear that goal-setting is not only desirable, but that God encourages us to practice growing through goal setting.  Proverbs 21:5 (ESV) states, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Hence, a Biblical example of us needing to create plans to lead to better things.  It’s important to remember that we have to put in some hard work to attain these goals. God’s will allows us to attain or fail to attain goals, but nothing happens at all if we don’t strive towards the objective.  

It’s equally important to remember that our best planning is not a guarantee that we will achieve those goals.  In James 4:13-15, James reminds us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring and that we should continue to lean into the Lord’s will for our lives.  

We must set the goals.  We must work hard towards the goals.  We must recognize that God’s possible change of our plans are because His thoughts for our lives are so much bigger (and better) than our own…see Matthew 6:33-34.  

Ultimately, God’s purpose for each of us will prevail.  In Proverbs 19:21, we are reminded that “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord will stand.”  

So what the heck is the bottom line for our lives in 2022?  Set the goals, make them attainable and measurable, and then submit those goals to God for His blessing and intervention on the purpose He has for your life.  Be intentional, but also know you have to be flexible to the changes God has in store.

It’s a new year…time to set some new goals.  

~Emily

P.S. I have two goals for 2022: 

1. Read the entire Bible (I’m using a one-year reading plan that has me reading four chapters a day between the Old Testament and New Testament with a one day break each month).

2. Complete a 52-hike challenge throughout the year (the hikes can be back-to-back or once a week, at least two miles-but no upper limit to length, not on asphalt/gravel, can repeat trails, any friend/hiking partner/group can join me on any given trail, and the hikes can be anywhere in the world).  

Disdain for Christmas Music

One of the women in the Bible Study I facilitate recently dropped a bomb on me.  With a slight shrug of one shoulder she said, “I hate Christmas music.” Then like a psycho, she just sat there waiting for me to respond.

I’d like to say I was kind and understanding with a grace-filled response.  Instead.  Instead, I’m sure I was slack-jawed and bug-eyed when I nearly screeched, “Are you kidding me right now?!?!?!”  I knew that there were non-Christmas-music-listening people; however, I did not know they existed within my circle of friends!  

Maybe I’m the psycho one, but I have no problem listening to Christmas music year-round. In fact, I have a “go-to” Christmas station pre-programed on Pandora. 

For me, there is something soul-stirring about Christmas music.  Not gimmicky-secular Christmas music (although there is a place for that on my play-list too).  I’m talking about the soul-stirring Christmas music that reminds of Christ’s birth, of angels singing, of wise men traveling, of God’s purpose in sending his Son, and of the ultimate gift we are given by our Heavenly Father.  Those types of Christmas songs truly speak to my heart. 

And I sing them anytime that the mood strikes me…even if it’s nowhere near December.  

In addition to studying the Word and having a healthy prayer life, I would contend that worship of God through music is one of the most effective means to build our personal relationships with Christ.  It’s an act of obedience and one that we will continue once we’re in heaven (for just one Biblical example, see Revelation Chapters 4 & 5 to see how we’ll be worshiping there).

In regards to Christmas music, it helps me remember who I am exalting and the reasons for wanting to participate in the act of worship.  For me, it’s especially impactful at Christmas so that I stay centered on my Christian walk, when society could easily distract me towards the non-essential trappings of the holiday season.  

That may not be true for everyone.  Maybe the Contemporary Christian Music does it, or Grandma’s favorite hymn, or maybe just reading Psalms with classical music in the background is what helps you focus.  

The amazing thing about soul-stirring music that exalts Jesus, is that it doesn’t have to be Christmas music.  Therefore, my sweet friend who despises Christmas music can worship just as effectively with other songs and hymns.  

We can both show excitement for singing at Christmas…without either of us being psycho! 

~Emily

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving. Sing praises to our God on the lyre.” Psalm 147:7 (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

The Moody Pre-Teen

I felt like I was mentally prepared for having a moody teenager in the house…in a couple years.

God help me; the mood swings of puberty have descended on my 10-year-old.  

Let’s be completely transparent.  I was not ready.  Not even a little bit.  It’s like a slow death of a 1000 paper cuts, while tip-toeing on egg shells in an attempt to not wake up (or anger) a mullet wielding dragon.  

One moment he’s my sweet, snuggly little man; the next moment pouting, angry, crying, eyerolling, muttering-under-his-breath, stomping-into-another-room, man-child. Without warning, he’s back to the little sweetheart. 

No matter what he’s still mine, but I don’t enjoy the crazy part of this pre-pubescent kid.

I’m sure God is looking at me right now thinking something similar.  I’m a cranky, huffy, temper-tantrum-throwing, moody woman who loves Jesus.  I act like a teenager in many situation (at least in my head I act that way).  

And yet…I’m still all His.  

No matter how crazy I may act; no matter how poorly I think; no matter how badly I react; I am still His Child.   How completely incredible is it that our God is 100% on our side, no matter how far we slide away or towards Him? 

It’s important to note that no matter how bad you feel like you’ve been, no matter how deep your sins, no matter what is in your past…our Father sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and provide a path to heaven through acceptance of Jesus as your Savoir.  

Figuratively, you can have been a bratty pre-teen and still seek forgiveness of a loving Father. 

If you don’t know Christ as your Savior or if you have turned away from Christ, Erin and I would love to chat with you about where you are in life and how you can accept this gift from God.  Leave us a message if you are interested in knowing more about salvation.

I’m praying this week for all of us during times of our “moody pre-teen” behaviors and thoughts. 

~Emily

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. ~Acts 4:12 (NIV)