Selfish Ambitions

I recently was given an opportunity to attend six college classes related to my museum-related career.  This opportunity includes not only attending the courses but a portion of the coursework would be financed.  It would only cost my family about 50% of the original price.  The coursework would culminate with a Master of Art in Museum Administration degree.  I’d love to do it!

The catch?  I have to apply within the next two weeks, as courses start at the beginning of March. That’s okay…I’d love to do it!

As a lifelong learner, this is right up my alley. I love school and learning.  As a historian, this thrills me to learn more about how to showcase history.  And a discount?  That is the icing on the cake.  For sure…I’d love to do it!

But do I need the extra degree? Should I take the discounted classes, when someone else could possibly utilize the scholarship?  I already have a terminal degree. I’m already employed in museum work.  This degree won’t help me get promoted.  And frankly, without the discount had I even been considering another degree?   Yes, but…I’d love to do it!

More than the career implications, I want to consider what God has to say about ambition.  Was I being selfish in considering my application? 

James 3:14-18 (NIV) states, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.   But the wisdom that comes from heaven is, first of all, pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The two-week deadline is what I initially struggled with.  I wanted time to pray about it and fully analyze the financial and time commitment that it meant for my family.  There’s nothing about selfish ambition that I want to be a part of.  It sounds horrible.  Even in my career, I want my ambitions to be God driven…God approved. 

Rather than jump the gun in selfish ambition, I’ve decided to wait. I’m changing that heartfelt desire to do this coursework to I’d love to do it…when it’s God’s timing for my career and my family’s schedule!

I pray that the Lord unveils any selfish ambitions in your own life!

~Emily

Tornadoes of Life

From my sliding glass door, I once watched a tornado form and touch down.  That was in Cheyenne, WY.  It wasn’t until I bought a house with my husband in Alabama that I was actually within a polygon for a tornado watch or warning.  And now…I’ve been in more than I can count.  It wasn’t until we settled into retirement in central Alabama that we found out this area is called “Dixie Alley,” as a parallel to “Tornado Alley” in the mid-west. 

In the last week, countless communities and lives have been impacted by a string of tornadoes that powered through Alabama.  The day of the storms was a tidal wave of emotions.  At first, very little concern over the weather.  Then I rush home to pick up outdoor furniture before deciding to go check my son out of school early.  While waiting in a mile-long line of parents picking up their own children early, we learned that a huge tornado had already touched down in Selma.  And we learned that the same supercell was heading toward the communities around us. 

It was a rare moment where I spontaneously began praying out loud while in line (although it was under my breath and not very “out loud”).  I prayed for protection over our small town that has already endured so many tragedies over the last year, but specifically, I was praying for the communities that had already been hit.  I had full confidence that the Lord heard these prayers.  Why?  Because in John 14:13-14 (ESV) we read, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Do you want to know what was more touching than my simple prayers in line?  The response to those who were in need.  Within hours, massive clothing and food drives were organized. Teams of chainsaw-welding men patrolled neighborhoods.  Linemen from in and out of state restored power to all the homes of Alabama.  Social media sprung to life trying to connect photographs tossed miles from home to families. 

Why was there such an intense outpouring of love and response in the moments after these tornadoes touched down?  In some cases, it may be out of kindness or because you would hope that someone would do the same for you. 

For the Christian, it may be because Jesus told us to.  In John 15:12-13 (ESV) Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   Jesus demonstrated an extravagant love for people.  While we can’t literally lay down our lives for others in daily life, we can choose to love extravagantly in smaller ways.  For instance, we can donate to those who need tangible items after losing everything in a natural disaster. 

God told us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  This means that we do not have to do life alone and that we should be trying to assist one another in burdens and tragedies.  When we see others struggling, we can choose to help with our support, our love, our finances, and any other resources that we may have.  This is a physical outpouring of the love Christ shows us and we in turn can show others.

In the midst of a natural disaster that doesn’t directly impact your home, it’s easy to praise God for sparing you and yours.  However, Hebrews 13:16 reminds us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  This is a practical reminder to continuously look for ways to impact others with blessings.

The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week were devastating.  Yet, it’s been refreshing to watch how much love and care is being shown to the families who lost loved ones and those who are having to rebuild their homes and businesses.  The reality is this: we should react this way during a disaster.  But we should also react this way daily…even when it isn’t tragedy. 

I truly pray that we can act this way towards one another during a crisis and during the calm. 

~Emily

Destroying the Busy-Body

“Busy-Body” is a phrase with a negative connotation that describes someone who is nosy, meddling, and very interested in what other people are involved with.  Often these are the folks who have many tasks on the “to-do” list, they offer unsolicited advice and are known for trying to help in scenarios whether they are welcomed or not. 

This time of year seems to bring out more of these to-do list types of nosy people.  The Christmas Busy-Body.  People who want to counsel on grief during the holidays, or offer financial inputs on how much you may be spending on gifts…or worse, someone who just wants to know your business for no apparent reason.    

Think of the busiest of all the busy “busy-bodies” in your circle.  It could be someone in your family, someone at work, or even someone with whom you volunteer at church.  Maybe you are so lucky, you’ve only run into a busybody in a novel or on tv.  Consider just how much work that person does, how crazy full their calendar is, or just how much they strive to accomplish. 

It’s exhausting to think of just how busy these people are.

And yet, Satan is even busier.  He’s a true busybody.

He’s so quick to whisper lies in our ears.  He’s crafty at preventing people from seeking the Truth of Christ’s gift of salvation.  He gets people to subscribe to our progressive and permissive culture…both in and out of the church.  John 8:4 reminds us that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies.”

As believers, we know with our hearts that this particular busybody doesn’t get to win. Jesus came to destroy him while providing us a hope that can only come through knowing Christ.  1 John 3:8 states, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Once we become believers, Satan does not have a claim over us…unless we become willing to listen to the lies, he tells us.  Thus, the work of the devil becomes null and void with the victory of Christ’s crucifixion. 

There is even more hope in knowing there will be the ultimate victory for Jesus’ followers.  Romans 16:20 promises us that victory.  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet.”

In the next week, I’d like to encourage you to pray about where Satan’s lies have come into your life.  Know that Jesus has disarmed the devil.  Believe that Jesus’ victory destroys the devil’s work in fear, lust, pride, hatred…and any other negative work he dapples with. 

We don’t need to have any more thoughts spent on the “captain of the busy-body club.”

~Emily

Hot Flashes & Other Middle-Age Suckiness

I hate being hot.  Hate it.  Over the last weekend, Erin and I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast that had the heat on…I insisted on opening the bedroom windows because I was so hot. 

And I am so over these power surges that are also known as hot flashes. I’m over being hungry all the time but having to muzzle the urge to plow through a gallon of ice cream.  And I’m over this brain fog that my physician assures me will go away…when the hot flashes do.

Ugh.  I’m chatting causally about menopause.  Middle Age.  Transition. 

There are lists of all the symptoms, but not every woman experiences them all.  Nor is there a timeline for them, but it is a rite of passage for women experiencing this stage in their lives. 

Typically, the menopause process takes years to complete, but post-menopausal women say that they either feel stronger and content…or they feel old with less standing in society since they are past childbearing years.  Regardless of how they feel post-change, they went through the challenge of change.

And this challenge is not for the weak.

However, the Christian woman can take comfort in turning to God during middle-age transitions.  Hebrews 13:5 reassures us that God will not leave us, despite the aging process making us feel less than we were in our youth.  We have assurance from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness. 

The reality is that a post-menopausal Christian woman should feel strong and content.  We’ve reached the stage where we can share our experiences and mentor others.  Those experiences may have included allowing the Lord to see those middle-aged anxieties and fears.  1 Peter 5:7 says, “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  At no time in our lives do we have to feel alone in our struggles…and this is true also of pre-during-or-post menopause. 

Challenges are always hard. When we have others around us encouraging and leading us through, it makes it easier to navigate. The ultimate gift is knowing that this is also part of God’s plan.

I’m over the hot flashes and the brain fog…but I’m taking comfort in God’s provision.  This too shall pass. 

~Emily

The Perfect Last Word

How often have you been in a scenario where you thought of the perfect come-back or retort…after the conversation was done?

Last week I had an encounter with a guy who was hogging up a spot at a gas pump while eating a burger.  He had me blocked in and there were two other cars behind me waiting for their turn at the pump.  When I tapped my horn to get him to scoot out of the way, he shook his head at me…and then he flipped me off.

I was shocked. And in disbelief, I managed to get around him and leave the gas station.  

Over the next few hours, I revisited the interaction often.  I wish I had gotten out of my car to chat with the man. 

I know, I know.  That’s not necessarily safe in our society. But I do wish I had gotten more involved.  Why?  Because of some contextual clues.  He had out-of-State plates, a military haircut, and an Air Force sticker on his bumper.  As a retired military member, I wish I had engaged to let him know that his behavior was reflecting on the entire military service.  

I wanted to have the last word. 

In John 19:13, Christ said, “It is finished.”  

He had the last word.  

In this instance the Greek translation is that of an accounting term and means that it’s been paid in full.  


What is paid in full?  

Our debt due to our own sins, which trace all the way back to Adam and Eve’s original sins in the Garden of Eden is what was paid in full.  Jesus was saying that “it is finished” in regards to removing the consequences of our sin nature.  

Earlier in the book of John, we see Jesus praying to the Father prior to his arrest by the Romans.  In John 17:4 He prayed to ‘finish the work you have given me to do.”  

Not only did Jesus state “it is finished” in regards to covering our sins with his blood, but also that His work on Earth was finished.  While they seem to be the same implication, there is a slight difference in knowing that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy.  As part God and part man, He was able to fulfill that prophecy despite His own human experiences.  “It is finished” is the completion of the Old Testament prophecies.  

The will of God…The faithful service of Christ….The option for forgiveness of our sins…All of these are covered under the simple statement of “it is finished.”

Those famous last words of Christ, which are so much more profound than any last words we may have in an argument or altercation.  

In the next week, I pray your last words are ones of grace and love…and not just because you wanted to have the last word.

~Emily

Childhood Nostalgia

Recently, my Mom and I were reminiscing about the chaos and joy surrounding the arrival of the Sunday Paper in our living room when I was younger.  Everyone pulled their favorite section and as a family, we poured over the paper for a couple hours. Before he could read, I remember reading the comics to my brother and later we would fight over who got them first.

This small conversation with my Mom had me recalling other aspects of my childhood that I remember fondly.  For instance, if the summer temperature in Oregon went over 100, we had ice cream and fruit for dinner.  I remember walking to the comic book store with my Brother so he could spend his allowance…and on the way, there was one particular ‘barkless’ dog that we would play with through the fence.  I remember going crawdad hunting with chunks of hot dogs tied to a string.  I also remember my parents dancing in the kitchen.

These are each endearing memories of my childhood.  Each remind me of how family can be structured in moments of happiness.  

I recognize that not everyone had such pleasant childhood memories or parents who were so involved in the children’s lives.  I also recognize that I’m remembering great memories and often gloss over the not so amazing memories.  It was not all sunshine and butterflies for me.  And I know it wasn’t for others either.  

However, the not so nice memories are cloaked in the comfort of scripture.  

A scripture that I often lean on when thinking about family is from Ephesians 3:15 (NASB), which reads “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

When reading this verse, it’s important to know that the word ‘family’ is closely transplanted in the original language as ‘father.’ In both the Old Testament tradition, as well as our current society, it’s easy to think this verse is referencing families taking the name of the Patriarch’s family.  This is still seen now, as brides take their husband’s last name.  

In reality, the verse is much deeper.  It refers to ‘every family,’ as in ‘all believers’ in Christ.  All of us…as one big family.  Furthermore, we all derive our names from that belonging to Jesus when we adopt the name ‘Christian,’ as derived from the name ‘Christ.’ 

This is a family of hope and love. Can you imagine how that family will interact?  How much greater Heaven will be than pursuing the comics out of the Sunday paper?!?!? There’s no need for nostalgia with a future like that!

No matter what our childhood’s looked like, our future is one of hope through Christ. 

~Emily

“Vacation” on the Appalachian Trail

Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it. 

At times it was hard.  The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes. 

At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits.  It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets.  But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail. 

At times it was scary.  We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake.  There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights.  There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God.  Each day included a conversation with God.  Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord.  Every single hard step included a plea for help.  The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.

And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture.  I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it.  So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12

He went off to the mountains to pray.  Jesus went to the mountain to pray.  And then He spent all night in prayer.  Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night?  We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death.  We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will.  But did that take all night?  

Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God?  Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God.  No answers yet, but just talking to God.  

That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.  

What a beautiful example of how we should pray.  In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest.  Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God.  If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.  

Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while.  In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God.  And it was a remarkable time.

I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God.  Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.

It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”

~Emily

Honey Extraction

In the spring, I got my first bee hives.  I’ve used the time learning about and caring for our bees over the last several months to pray for specific people and situations, as well as reviewing scripture. Because the extra time with God and the bees has been such a blessing to me personally, I made a vow to ‘gift’ the entire first batch of honey to family and friends…many of whom had been the focus of my prayers. 

I spun my first frames last week and harvested the first honey.  It was nerve-wracking.  It was exciting.  And it was time consuming.   

From the moment I opened the hives and started making decisions about which frames to harvest to the moment I tightened the last lid on a jar, I discovered that I had to dedicate a substantial amount of time for the entire process.  

The same deliberate dedication to time well spent also applies to the relationships in our lives.  Whether it’s repairing, maintaining, or cultivating relationships within our families, church or school it takes time and deliberate actions to make those relationships impactful.  

One of the most time-consuming relationships is the one where we are forging friendships or acquaintances with non-believers.  These types of interactions are important because we literally pouring into people who may make decisions to follow Jesus based on their experiences with us.  By no means am I saying that more time equals greater chances of them becoming a Christian.  Instead what I’m saying is that the more deliberate the time we invest, the greater the chances are of them seeing Christ’s love through us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB) stated, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.”

Deliberate investment of time…to encourage one another and build each other up.

Seems easy enough if we’re willing to make the time to do the investing.

The harvesting of honey seems easy enough too…if I’m willing to take the time to care for the bees and go through the process of extracting the honey.

In this case, I was also able to deliberately speak to all the honey recipients about how the first batch was all gifts. It offered a chance to tell people that the bees were a quiet time with God opportunity…and it’s lead to more than one conversation about how to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

I want to encourage you this week to find someone in your life that you want to make some deliberate time for…and then invest. 

~Emily

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

Mowing Time

Recently our family added one of those manual push mowers that are reminiscent of the 1950s.  My husband wanted it to mow the steep bank near the road. I wanted it to mow without an engine near the beehives.  While I calmly pushed the mower back and forth in straight lines by the hives, I watched the bees flitter to and fro. 

While doing a seemingly menial task, I had several moments to mentally review a scripture that my small group has been memorizing as a group this last month. 

Philippians 2:14-15 (NASB) “Do all things without complaining or arguments; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generations, among who you appear as lights of the world.”

I recited it a couple times, but I kept getting distracted by the rolls of sweat that were coming off my face and straight into my eyes.  I blinked several times and then started reviewing the scripture again.  Only to have it happen several more times.  

Finally, I stopped mowing, took off the bee suit hat and face shield, removed my glasses and started wiping my face off.  Put my glasses back on and they instantly fogged up.  Put the bees hat/face shield back on.  Sweaty hair stuck to my forehead and glasses.  Take hood off, fix hair, glasses smudged…and then…sweat rolls into my eyes.  

Insert frustration, some real tears, and a few choice words.

And then a bubble of laughter came out of my mouth.  There I was half in a bee suit in 100-degree heat of Alabama, with a 1950s-ish mower, and sweat stinging my eyeballs, when the first part of my memory verse came to mind.  “Do all things without complaining or arguments…”  

While the verse is specifically addressing the previous admonitions that Paul had mentioned in the Philippians letter, it sure did feel like it applied directly to me in that moment.  All the murmurings…all the discontentment…all the complaining in that moment were not useful. They weren’t assisting me with completing the task, nor were they going to exemplify Christ in that moment.  

I’m so grateful for the corrections that God’s holy word provides us; the conviction from the Holy Spirit for us to change course.  

It got me to reassess my own attitude in the moment of “lawn mowing time” with some heat, humidity, sweat and tears all mixed together.  

For each of us, I pray this next week will be one without complaining or argument.

~Emily