Poop Talk Transparency

In a world full of COVID precautions, it’s been months since I have been in routine scenarios with lots of people around me. Over the weekend I went to a farmer’s market to look at the fresh produce. While strolling by the tomatoes and cheese, I overheard the most endearing conversation between two middle-aged women who were clearly friends enjoying a kids-free outing to pinch peaches and sniff homemade soaps.

The first woman turned to the other and said, “I’m about ready to talk about where we should go eat lunch.”

Her companion laughed and said, “It’s only 9 am Mary!!! Let’s go to the bookstore next, then talk about lunch.  Plus, I have to poop and I know the bookstore has a decent bathroom.”

I HAVE TO POOP!!!  She said, “I have to poop” like it was a normal conversation topic to discuss with a close friend in a public farmer’s market!

I want that poop talk transparency in my life and I want these women as my friends.  Now, don’t get it twisted…I don’t need the bathroom habits of my friends in order to have transparency, but what I do need is women in my life that are willing to say what they mean and mean what they say!

You think the pants make my butt look big…tell me! You don’t think I should date that dude…tell me!  You wish I had a different outlook on a particular topic…tell me!  I want my friends to have the ability to be transparent about their own lives and to help me be transparent in mine!

When I reflect on that type of transparency between friends, it makes me also think about if others see transparency in my life as a Christ-follower.  It makes me think to myself, “Do strangers interact with me and leave knowing I have Jesus in my heart?”

In 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

There is a nuance in this scripture that lets us know that transparency in a Christian walk includes presenting ourselves in a Godly manner, in an unashamed manner, and that we handle the Word of God with the truth.  The transparency of our walk with Jesus should be prevalent and it should be readily seen by others.

I’m not advocating for telling strangers or your best friends about your pooping needs….but I am praying for each of us to be just a little more transparent this week with sharing the love of God through our own actions and words.

~Emily

In 2 Timothy 2_15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”-2 copy

Humble Honey

As I was bragging about never messing up in the kitchen, I dropped a one-pound glass jar of honey, which promptly exploded and then oozed on the counter and floor.  An “eat your words” type of moment and a ginormous mess, to say the least.  It was a humbling moment considering I had just been boastful about not dropping items.

According to dictonary.com, humbling is a verb which means “to bring down the pride of another or to reduce her to a state of abasement: to humble an arrogant enemy.”  While I don’t classify myself as an arrogant enemy, I certainly had my pride reduced in that moment of oozing honey and glass shards.

For the rest of the day, I was humming a childhood song based on James 4:10. “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) And He shall lift you up. Higher and higher and He. Shall lift you up.”

The song, on constant repeat throughout the day, drove the question; “Why should we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

First and foremost, we should humble ourselves before God because we are instructed to imitate Christ, who was in fact, humble.  As seen in Philippians 2:5, we see that Christ did not state equality with God was an attainable goal, but rather Christ humbled himself to become human for our benefit.

Perhaps another reason why we should humble ourselves is found in James 4:10 and in the song itself.  As we humble ourselves, God promises to exalt us.  When we are humble in the sight of God, we receive His blessings and grace in a unique manner.  He will lift us up.

 The song, still on repeat, drove the next question; “How do we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

Speak well of others…on purpose (Ephesians 4:31-32).  When we speak negatively about others, we are putting them down and often making ourselves out to be better.  When we speak positively about others, we build them up and edify them.  Throughout my life, I have caught myself being less than humble in this regard.

Always Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  When we pray, we are acting in a manner of dependence and humility. Prayer becomes a declaration of weakness.  In the moment of prayer, we admit to God that we can’t make it without Him and that we need Him in requests and in praise.  There are plenty of times that prayer is an afterthought in my life when in reality it should be my 1st thought.

Confess your areas of sin to God (Luke 18:9-14).  All of us are sinful, but few of us routinely and honestly tell God about that sinful nature. Every day, it’s easy to ask God to “forgive my sins” as a blanketed statement.  For me, it’s much harder to specifically assess areas of my life that are steeped in sin and then admit them to God.

Confess your areas of sin to other Christians (James 3:2). A test of true humility is when we are willing to confess our sins to others, just as we would confess it to God.  Obviously, discretion is needed about who you confess sin to, but the act of telling someone about our sin allows us space to be completely honest with ourselves and ultimately with God.  I struggle with this one because I don’t want others to know where I am weak or where I am failing.  Thus, pride interfering with humility in my life.

As I hummed the song “Humble thyself in the Sight of the Lord,” I was reminded of why I should want to be humble and how I can practice being humble at the feet of God.

A broken honey jar is just one tangible reminder of how much work I have to do in this area…

To those on the Iron Porch this week, I pray you seek humility in your daily interactions this week!

~Emily

honey

 

 

When You Know, You Know

Have you ever felt like something was wrong, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that might be wrong?

Call it a gut feeling, women’s intuition, or a sixth sense. You know something isn’t right.

You could call it discernment.  The small voice of the Holy Spirit letting you know there’s an issue needing your attention.  The spiritual gift of discernment is mentioned multiple times in scripture.

Over the last year, my husband and I felt like something was wrong at our church. I couldn’t put a name to what was wrong, but I felt unsettled.  It felt like there was discord amongst the members, a lack of communication, straying from the Word of God, and yet, there wasn’t anything specific to point out to support any of those claims.  It was “just” a feeling I had.

I considered resigning as the women’s ministry leader.  My husband did not want to attend services anymore.  I started researching other churches in our local area.  I engaged my prayer partners to start praying over the situation.

I felt like a fraud that I was continuing to serve in a ministry leadership role and praying about leaving the church.  While I was concerned about the situation, through prayer I had zero peace about resigning or leaving the church.  I did not hear God telling me that we were supposed to leave.

During our first week of the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order in March, our Pastor resigned.  The story of why he resigned is one for him or his family to share.  However, the few details I received began to make sense as to why there was a feeling of unsettlement at our church.

By no means am I saying that the Pastor’s reasons for resigning were the reason for my dissatisfaction at the church.  What I am saying, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for months and let me know that “something” was not right.  It also made sense why I hadn’t gotten a clear message that the feeling of unsettlement was worthy of leaving the church.

Essentially, I was being prepared for there to be some turmoil and chaos at our church.  The Holy Spirit was talking in my ear allowing me to discern that something was amiss, while also not allowing me release to leave the situation.

John 16:13 (ESV) states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Call it your gut, your female intuition, or your 6th sense.  I’m going to call it discernment.

And to me, the gift of discernment is the gift of truth.

I pray you have a truth-filled week of discernment.

~Emily

John 16-13

Passion For Us

Over the Easter weekend, my family watched the movie “The Passion of The Christ,” directed by Mel Gibson. It’s an incredible account that puts vision to what Christ did for us as we celebrate Easter under quarantine.

Right before it started, my child asked me if I remembered the 1st time I saw the movie.  I told him I saw it in the theater when it first was released.  I remember everyone around me crying.  In fact, I distinctly remember hearing sobbing.  There was soberness in the audience that is rarely if ever, felt in an American movie theater.

I wasn’t one of the masses who were crying.

Why?

At the time of the movie’s release in 2004, I was fully immersed in a pagan lifestyle by participating in Wicca as a High Priestess.  I was being stoic and detached from the visions of the movie.  More than that, I was being stoic and detached from the knowledge that spoke to my heart through the movie.

The kicker about why I wasn’t crying?  I was in shock. I was in shock that God would love me so much that He sent His Son to be tortured and killed for me.  And what was I doing with that gift?

I was throwing it back in His face by practicing false religion.

The passion God has for us is amazing.  It is always enough for each of us.  While we acknowledge that God’s gift is enough, we also need to be aware that the enemy is constantly trying to divert us from our walk with the Father.  In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.”

In my life, it wasn’t enough that I was raised in a family knowing God. It wasn’t enough that I gave my life to Christ as a teenager.  It wasn’t enough that I knew scripture. I was still deceived and turned my back on God.

The good news is that our Father is a forgiving one.  A year after watching “The Passion of The Christ” in the theater, I denounced that false religion and returned to my walk with Christ.

Each time I’ve watched that movie since I’ve joined the masses who were crying.  I’ve cried for the utter destruction of a man who willingly died for me. I’ve cried for my own sins against God.  I’ve cried for those under the bondage of false religions. And I’ve cried for those who don’t know Christ as their personal savior.

On this Monday after Easter, this is my prayer:

Father God,

We are so thankful for your passion for each of us and that you were willing to provide the ultimate sacrifice of your Son on our behalf. I pray that those who have hardened hearts toward you will find their hearts softened.  That those with scales on their ears will be able to hear the truth of the Gospel.  That those who are worshiping idols and false gods will discover You, as the truth.  That those who are vulnerable will be barred from falling prey to deception. If someone doesn’t know You, please put someone in their path that will speak truth into their life. Father, I pray a hedge of protection over any and all who are drawing away from you…let them see your love in a way that is fresh and new.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sweet sisters of the Iron Porch, remember that the Father has a passion for you.

~Emily

1 Peter 5;8

 

 

 

This Sucks

I had this upbeat and optimistic blog written.  But then I remembered that the Iron Porch is a place for real conversations and truth. A place of transparency.

The truth is that I’m not really upbeat and optimistic this week.  I’m overwhelmed and discouraged about being at home trying to beat technology to telework while figuring out this quasi-homeschooling thing and dealing with an 8-week-old puppy that acts like a drunk toddler.

The truth about COVID-19 shelter in place/quarantine/social distancing…the truth is that this sucks.

It sucks.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m not stuck at home, I’m safe at home.”  While I believe that statement, I’m struggling to embrace it.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m enjoying some much-needed family time.”  While I believe that statement, the constant family time is starting to create impatient moments of longing for some alone time.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I know that God has a plan and will see us through this.”  While I believe that, I’m having to constantly remind myself that God does have a plan.  This is not something that’s been easy for me to embrace.

In the midst of this sucky week, I’ve been praying a lot.  And holding onto the verse Isaiah 26:20, “Go into your houses, my people, and shut the door behind you. Hide yourselves for a little while until God’s anger is over.”

Come to the porch and let us know how you’re doing with all the COVID-19 changes.

~Emily

Isaiah 26-20

 

 

 

 

Wedding Anniversaries

Last week my parents celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.  I joke a lot about if they have been married 50 years yet, to which my mom always responds “you’re lucky we got married at all.”  To most, that would sound like a more modern establishment of co-habituating rather than committing to marriage.  In reality, my parents are a product of the 60s and were more likely to reject the entire institution of marriage.

In Genesis 2:22-24, we see that God created woman from man and intended them to be united together forever once committed to marriage.  There was a specific intent from God about how our marital relationship should be constructed.   In today’s society, it more difficult to find God’s intent on display in American marriages.

I believe that we need guidance strictly from the Word of God on how marriage should be.  However, I also believe Godly counsel from others is often needed.  In relation to marriage, it’s helpful to find Christians who have long-standing marriages in order to see and hear what has worked for them. It’s helpful to be reassured in good times and assisted in turmoil.  Those Christian examples, with a healthy prayer life and studying God’s word, help us figure out how God wants us to behave within our own marriages.

I’m a lucky girl that I was able to see that modeled behavior first hand in my parent’s marriage.  They were kind to one another.  They always supported each other’s endeavors.  They dreamed together.  They stood united against any force. When things were bad, they worked through it together.  When things were good, they rejoiced together.

Despite them having been a part of the hippie generation that typically rejected the institution of marriage, they are still so in love.  So much so, that they have a tree in their backyard that has their initials carved inside a heart.

~Emily

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man.  And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.  Therefore, shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.      ~Genesis 2: 22-24

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_ea5c

 

 

 

 

Suicidal Dream

Recently, my 9-year-old son came to my bedside in the middle of the night asking to lay down with me.  He said he’d had a bad dream and wanted to snuggle. I asked him about the dream and he shared that it included a pretty explicit description of me committing suicide in front of him.

Through the years, I’ve comforted him several times after a bad dream, but nothing had prepared me for him dreaming that I’d shot myself in front of him.  I held him tight and prayed with him to have a calm spirit so that he could fall back to sleep.  He recalled a scripture from Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord, your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I felt his heart rate slow down and his breathing level out as he fell asleep.

I, however, was wide awake and troubled by his dream.  Why on earth would his little mind have created a scenario where I would abandon him in such a manner? Are these residual ideas from his birth mom and the adoption process?  For that matter, how did he even know something so horrific could happen to a mom or a child?

I untangled myself from the blankets and the kiddo so I could get on my knees and place this burden at the feet of our Lord.  While I don’t understand the dream or why my child had it, I do know that I felt relief in sharing my concerns with God.

In the days after that situation, other verses of comfort came to both me and my son.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4

For the Lord says…do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine. ~Isaiah 43:1

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” ~Isaiah 35:4

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Iron Porch is a place to be transparent about real-life events.  With that in mind, I’ve got to admit my son’s dream has shaken me up for a few days.  The one thing that has kept me calm is scripture and prayer.  The constant provision of God’s word has encouraged me and reminded us that he does not want us to fear anything.

~Emily

Deuteronomy

 

The Santa Dilemma

I never believed in Santa as a real person.  From the time I was little, my parents taught me Santa was make-believe and a fun game that everyone played around Christmas.  Their explanation was that they wanted me to believe in Jesus, who was intangible and unseen with human eyes.  If I later found out Santa wasn’t real after believing he was, would I also question the existence of Jesus?

It worked for our family and was my game plan for when I had my own children.

Until I was introduced to an adorable 2-year-old who I would later adopt.  The issue?  He already had been told that Santa was real.  He was “all-in” on the fantasy.  He still is as a 3rd grader.  How was I going to strip him of that belief when he’d already had so much turmoil and loss in his short life?

This is probably his last year believing in Santa as a real person. He has started to ask questions about the practicality of delivering gifts around the world. He’s letting us know there are some kids in his class that don’t believe in Santa. He’s paying attention to movies more and is questioning how Buddy the Elf fixes the sleigh or Tim Allen becomes Santa after falling off the roof.

He’s asking about if I believe in Santa.

I’m verbally bobbing and weaving; not lying, but definitely not telling him the truth.  I’m in a grey area that has me super worried about how he’ll take the news that Santa isn’t real.  Will he resent us for letting him believe? Will he accept that it’s a “game” everyone plays?

But most important to me, how will he maintain his belief in Jesus when Santa is no longer a real dude?  I keep coming back to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV).  As a Christian parent, I’m doing my very best to raise him up in the way he should go, but frankly, the Santa dilemma has me concerned.

“Belief”

This is the newest word that is front and center on my prayer board.  It’s on the cover of my prayer journal. It’s a post-it on my dashboard.

It has become my single word prayer over the last week.  I’m praying with all my might that this little guy will have true and wholehearted belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior.  That the news of Santa will not de-rail that child-like faith he possesses.  I pray that he holds fast to his belief.

If you have time this week, please join me on the porch praying for all the littles of the world to know Jesus…to have belief in Christ…to balance faith with earthly knowledge.

~Emily

Father God, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son as our Savior.  Please let the children of the world have an opportunity to accept this gift and to know your love.  Let their belief in you be bigger and bolder than the beliefs in worldly concepts, like Santa.  We pray these things in your holy name. Amen.

Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Outsider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or…

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

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

The Outsider copy

Roots of Bitterness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

Roots of Bitterness copy