Recipe Follower

I have this thing about following a recipe.  While I sometimes try to go off-the-cuff with food, I more than likely have a paper pulled out.  Not only do I follow the recipe, I will read and re-read the recipe multiple times to ensure I make it right.    

I do the same thing with directions.  I’ll see on GPS that it says turn right in two miles only to find myself rechecking it again a half-mile later, then a mile after that!  I’m always worried about missing something or skipping a step that will make my dish turn out awful or find myself two hours from planned destination.

Sometimes, I’m a mess!

As I was cooking dinner tonight, I thought about this desire to make sure I’m getting it right.  Do I have the same thought when it comes to following the commands of God?  Do I meditate and focus on what God says in the Bible to allow me to stay on the right path, or do I get tripped up because I “think I’ve got it” and ignore the instinct to verify what the Bible says?

I used to rely a lot on my memory of what I’d learned growing up in church.  However, as I got older and really start deep-diving into His Word, I recognized that things that I learned years ago had a child-like spin on them.  As I matured in Christ, I recognized that I had to look at context and application.  I needed to look at all of it and not just bits and pieces. 

“All have sinned” didn’t just mean lying to my parents.  It was also lust in my heart for looking at someone inappropriately.  Watching your speech didn’t just mean not saying shut-up or not being kind.  It was recognizing that everything that comes out of my mouth needs to be edifying to the Lord and foul language isn’t included in that edification.  Binding it to your hand and forehead, writing it on the doorpost….it isn’t just about knowing. It’s about purposeful knowledge and studying of what our Heavenly Father tells us because He KNOWS what’s best for us.

When we only look at pieces of scripture or the ‘highlights’ we miss out what the full journey can bring with Christ.  I encourage you, friends, lets stop looking at just the bits and pieces.  Let’s read verse, chapter, book, and Bible to make sure we’re following the beautiful path God has laid out for us.

~Erin

What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

The Trolls of Life

According to internet slang, a social media troll is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit (although it can be any site) by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking a typically negative emotional response from other users.

We’ve all seen them in action. 

On the Iron Porch, we’ve been blessed to have had minimal interactions with social media trolls.  However, the social media accounts that I am an admin for at work…those have plenty of social media trolls.  People who love to create conflict and drama. At work, we’ve found they use their real names, but they occasionally use fake accounts in an attempt to hide their cyberbullying.    

Some ways to spot a social media troll is that they occasionally use derogatory language, have an inability to listen to reason, and their internet fights seem to indicate lots of free time to start arguments.  They are soooooo persistent.  

Do you have the aggravating and provocative trolls in your personal life?  The people who create chaos and thrive in drama?  

In the world of social media trolls, the advice includes not taking it personally and not engaging with the troll.  

That’s hard to do with real-life people.  

As Christians, we’re often reminded to turn the other cheek, but that’s just as difficult in some scenarios. We’re are also reminded that our tongue becomes a weapon, so not speaking back to a troll is also a hard part of Christian living.  Of course, it’s also hard to not take it personally when we’re attacked in degrading ways.  

A verse that has been helping me keep the social media trolls at bay is Proverbs 20:3. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor” (NASB).  I particularly like the New International Version of the same verse that states, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” 

I keep the verse written out in the folder that holds all my documents concerning my work-related social media accounts.  It helps remind me that I don’t have to engage with the trolls, nor do I have to take it personally. 

I know it’s not easy to have a troll in your life…in person or on social media.  I’d love to hear what scriptures you have been using for yourself while dealing with the trolls of life.

~Emily

Focus, Squirrel…Focus!

During the creative process of writing academically, fiction, or the blog, I often find myself following a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with my original intent in writing.  I start researching or reading tangents (likely the reason I know so many bits of useless information).  I become engrossed in the television if it’s on.  I start singing to music even if it’s background noise.  

I am notorious for distracting myself.  Squirrel.  

The point is that I often have to tell myself, “Focus, Emily, Focus.”

I need that phrase for my life’s walk with Jesus too.  Focus, Emily, Focus.  

Paul does a fantastic job of teaching us the need for focusing in Philippians.  

“Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on fi I may also have hold of that for which I as even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.  I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

This text reminds us that in order to grow in our faith with Jesus, we have to remain focused.  We must reach forward.   We must press on towards the goal.   No rabbit hole research projects allowed. No distracting media platforms.  No squirrels.

Our salvation is clearly outlined in the Bible as grace alone through faith….but the growth in our relationship with God requires work to remain focused.  

A few verses before, Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 (NASB), “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  In this verse, we can glean a few goals that Paul had for remaining focused on the Lord, and they are goals that I want for my own focus.  

He wanted to know Jesus in a more personal way, as do I. 

He wanted to really know the power of Christ’s resurrection, as do I.

He wanted a similar attitude to Jesus in the face of suffering, as do I. 

He wanted connection to Jesus through His death, as do I. 

Like any other goals in our lives, we can’t be successful at accomplishing the goals without being specific with the goal writing.  In the military (and in other leadership courses), I was taught the SMART method in regards to goal writing:  

– Specific (details of the goals)

– Measurable (how do I know if I’m accomplishing the goal)

– Achievable (can I actually accomplish what I’m setting out to do)

– Realistic (is it within reach and relevant to my life)

– Time-framed (is there an end/stopping point to determine goal accomplishment)

If my generalized goal is to remain focused on the Lord so that I can build a closer relationship with him, then I know I should use the SMART method to refine that goal.  Otherwise I risk not fulfilling my goal.  When going through a goal setting process, I often find that I begin to set “mini-goals” in order to accomplish the larger task.  

For instance, my larger goal is that I want to have a stronger relationship with God.

My mini goals, that will assist with attaining the larger goal, could include:

– Specific Bible reading plans

– Planning prayer times

– Making corporate worship a priority

– Stretching myself in personal study of the Bible

Each of those mini-goals can be tracked with the SMART method and lend themselves to the larger goal.  Utilizing goal setting, specifically a method that showcases growth, allows for me to stay focused.  No distractions…just focus.  

I’m sure I’ll have to keep saying, “Focus, Emily, Focus,” but I’m happy to know I can redirect that focus back to something very specific.  

Will you join me in “focusing” this week?

~Emily

Restoration 49: A Coffee Shop Story

One town over from where I live, there is an adorable coffee shop, with the most amazing coffee that I’ve had in the South (and that is high praise from the girl who grew up in the Pacific NW).   Bonus points because they make their syrups in-house!  I go there often, for hours at a time, to study and work.  Most frequently, I complete Bible Study preparations for the Tuesday night class I facilitate or work on blogs for Iron Porch. Check them out on their Restoration 49 Facebook Page!

The coffee is fantastic, the Wi-Fi password is sweet and memorable, the décor is fascinating, and the people are lovely.  It’s truly a bunch of lovely baristas, who serve customers with a smile and a parting “have a blessed day!”

I have never had an in-depth conversation with any of them about religion or faith.  But if I had to guess, I’d say that most of them, if not all, have Christ in their lives.  Why would I guess that?  

I can’t guess that from their confession of faith.

I just admitted I’d never spoken with them about their faith.  Clearly, I’ve not asked and they’ve not volunteered that information.  

Maybe I could guess from subtle clues.  

Often contemporary Christian music is softly playing overhead.  There are old Church pews that separate the sitting area from the restrooms.  Based on my experiences and observations from their social media it seems like Bible Study groups meet frequently in the establishment…and so do Daddy-Daughter dances.    

I would guess that, based upon their behaviors. 

In the hours that I’ve spent working on my laptop with a notebook and Bible open at a lone table tucked in the corner, I’ve also been privileged to watch their interactions with others. 

Their behaviors:

I’ve seen them assist someone in a wheelchair with getting drinks to the table.  

I’ve seen them cleaning with a distraught mother, whose toddler went nuclear in mess-making.

I’ve seen them greet customers like old friends.

I’ve seen (and heard) them humming/singing along with the Christian music.

I’ve seen them stop and pray out loud with patrons.

This adorable coffee shop is more than just fantastic coffee.  It’s a showcase in humanity and caring for others.  

In Matthew 7:20-21 (NASB) Jesus said, “So you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

We will know them by their fruits.  

Scripture is clear that our actions will tell others about Jesus.  If a person does not show any fruit—for example, visible evidence that a change has taken place in their heart since receiving Jesus as their Savior—then perhaps they aren’t truly living a Christian lifestyle. 

Evidence of kindness, of Godliness, of humility…those are possible indications of fruit.  All of those are characteristics that I have seen while studying and sipping coffee at Restoration 49.  

Someday, I may ask. Someday, I may initiate a conversation.  But for now, I love watching them interact with their patrons in a loving manner.  

It’s soul-soothing to watch their behavior.  Plus, they have amazing coffee!

~Emily

P.S. Do you have any examples of witnessing fruitful behavior in others this week?  Feel free to come share with us!

Back-to-School & Temple Taxation

Every year on the 1st day of school, we take a photo of my son in a shirt that says “Class of 2029.”  Starting in kindergarten, it was clearly waaaaay too big.  While it’s still large this year, I realize it will start to fit better in the next couple years.  For us, it’s an annual tradition marking the 1st day of school.

In the Bible we know that there were several annual traditions, but one that strikes me most is the collecting of yearly taxes.  Jewish males, over 20 years of age, from across the lands would pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pay their temple taxes.  

While it was an important annual event to pay for the temple upkeep, I imagine it was also a great time of fellowship too. The women, if traveling with their men, likely looked forward to the trip so that they could converse with others, as well as trade goods.  The men would likely have looked forward to catching up on news from around the region.  

The Bible gives us clear examples of how this annual responsibility was utilized for many different reasons.  In Exodus 30, we see the example of God telling Moses it was time to collect the taxes at the time of the census.  In this example, we see a clear message of Moses following God’s directions.  

In Matthew 17:24-27, we read of Peter being confronted by the religious leaders about if Jesus was going to pay the taxes.  Jesus claimed that they were exempt, but that they would pay the tax in order to not offend the Jewish religious leaders.   This shows us a lesson in humility and following the laws of man, as long as they don’t violate God’s law.  

When we think of our own annual traditions, whether they are related to birthdays, evening meals, Christmas, or back-to-school, we should recognize the uniqueness of each of those traditions.  Furthermore, we should pause to reflect about what lessons can be gleaned from those annual traditions.

While the annual 1st day of school photo may not be steeped in following God’s voice, humility or following man’s laws, it does allow this Mama a moment each year to see just how much her little guy is growing up.

~Emily

Right Where You’re Supposed To Be

If you are engaged or just out of a toxic relationship, you are right where you are supposed to be.

If you are a thin build, an athletic build, a cushy build, or like me a “pre-menopausal” build, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you have a positive pregnancy test…or a negative one, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

If you are exhausted working long hours to establish a career or exhausted as a stay-at-home mom, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you want to be adventurous or cautious, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

Can we just pause for a moment and thank God that we are right where we’re supposed to be?  That He created us each differently, yet in His image, so that we can each fulfill a purpose for His kingdom?  What an incredible blessing that each of us is right where we’re supposed to be.  

In the reflection of how great it is to be where God wants us, I’m reminded of how both Mary and Martha were right where they were supposed to be.  One in the kitchen, frantically trying to entertain and make things amazing for her guests, and one sitting at the feet of the Jesus.  

Imagine being the sisters to Lazarus, the man Jesus rose from the dead.  Now imagine getting to host Jesus for a meal.  I would likely be like Martha, scurrying around trying to make everything delicious, clean, and perfect.  I would very much like to be like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet learning directly from Him while being present in the moment.

In Luke 10:38-42 (NASB), we see the women in very different roles; each learning different lessons.  Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary: for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.””

Just like Martha, I often learning my biggest lessons after complaining about some minor infraction.  Often the Lord uses these types of scenarios to turn the mirror onto myself.  I have learned to institute some self-reflection prior to complaining…but I’ve also learned that I’m usually in a scenario right where I was supposed to be.  

Regardless of their roles, both Mary and Martha were exactly where they were supposed to be in that moment.  Dare I say, where they needed to be in that moment.

And just like every other scenario we “modern” women find ourselves in, we are right where we are supposed to be.

Come to the porch this week and tell us your stories!

~Emily

Airport COVID Masks

Two weeks ago, I made a quick trip via airplane.  And via a mask.

I made a few observations about masks while I was traveling between airports.

  • In the airport, everyone was wearing a mask without question. It made me wonder if you have money on the line (as in your purchased plane tickets), are you more compliant with mask wear?
  • Those who don’t want to wear the mask continuously drink and eat in public.  This made me wonder if we’ll survive COVID to find out that we are a more obese country as a result.
  • Masks seem to make it extremely hard to hear in the airplane.
  • The creativity of mask marketing is CRAZY!  I saw flags, businesses, NFL teams, BLM, Disney…you name it and there was a mask for it.
  • There is truth in the phrase that “you smile with your eyes”…and you can truly see that when a mask covers the actual smile.
  • Chewing peppermint gum with a mask causes minty breath to shoot straight up into one’s eyes…which in turn causes some eye-watering.

Despite my observations on mask-wear at the airport, I know that the topic of wearing a mask is contentious.  There are groups who are pro-mask wear and groups who are anti-mask wear.  There are various compelling arguments on both sides of this topic.

The division over masks got me thinking about if there were to be a Federal mandate for masks.  Would we still be so divided over it?  How would Christians react to a Federal law requiring masks in public?

Romans 13:1-2 (NASB) says, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation themselves.”

When looking at this verse, I know I should adhere to the law, whether I agree with the law or not, in a way that would please our Lord.  We are so incredibly blessed to live in a nation that allows us the freedom to disagree and discuss. It’s a blessing to know that if we disagree with a law we are able to exercise the power of the pen and the power of the vote.

We have the responsibility to follow the law.  In addition to responsibility, we also have the right to assist with changing laws to align more closely with our Christian beliefs.  Let’s each keep that in mind as we vote in the coming weeks…and as we decide about where we stand on our mask-wearing compliance.

~Emily

mask airport

 

 

 

 

Doritos Annoyed

My 9-year-old crunching Doritos, like I imagine a T-Rex would crunch through a bucket of KFC, is enough to drive me completely bonkers.

Loud, open-mouthed, chewing annoys me.

You know what annoys me even more than Dorito crunching?

Gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.

Christian women are usually fairly good at stopping themselves from outright and blatant gossip.  We understand that the Bible specifically calls gossip out as sinful.

However, some of us are guilty of gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.  We feel as though when sharing a prayer request, we are justified in sharing someone’s personal hurts or prayers.

As I have previously shared in the blog “The Sanctity of the Prayer Request” I take prayer requests very seriously and rarely will share them with someone else, as I want to make sure I have the original requester’s permission to share.

I recently heard an interesting thought about sharing prayer requests.  If the requester was standing right next to you, would you share their prayer request with a third party? If the answer is no, then you should not share.  Even if the answer is maybe, then you shouldn’t share the request.  This seems to be a fairly reasonable gauge to whether or not prayer requests are becoming gossip-centric.

Whether you get annoyed by chopping doritos or gossiping prayer requests, I’m praying that you are steadfast this week that your sharing does not become gossip!

~Emily

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” ~Proverbs 11:13

Dorito Annoyed

 

 

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