My Reflection

The other day, I was on the phone with Andros, my 5-year-old grandson.  I may sound biased, but the sweet boy is so smart.  He knows the most unusual facts and uses words that usually come from adults.  As we FaceTimed, I told him, “You know, Andros.  You’re so handsome!”  And he replied, “I know.”  I giggled and retorted, “How do you know that, buddy?!”  Without skipping a beat he said, “Because I look at my reflection!”  Well alright then!  Not only is he witty but he’s coming at me with the big words!

The truth is, he IS handsome!  And how does he know that?  Because his mom and dad tell him.  Because his Mimi and Grandpa tell him.  His Gigi and Pop Pop tell him.  He recognizes that the people who love him most would never steer him wrong.  What they tell him about himself is truthful.

Why do we have such a hard time recognizing that what God tells us about ourselves is true?!  He is our Heavenly Father, the Creator of us all.  He says so many wonderful things about us.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)

“Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” –Psalm 100:3 (emphasis mine)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” –1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis mine)

These are just a few examples in the Bible that say we are special to Him.  Yet, we often look down at ourselves.  We struggle with feelings of not being enough, not being a good mother, wife, friend, co-worker. We recognize all the flaws and forget about the facts.

We are chosen.  We are redeemed.  We are loved.  We are set apart.  No matter how we may feel about ourselves, we need to recognize that our Father tells us TRUTH and that truth is that we are His.

I pray that we stop listening to the lies of the devil that tell us we aren’t worthy and lean into God-breathed scripture that tells us our identity is in Christ!

~Erin

Photo Cred: Amanda Jones Photography

Naughty Words & a Kindergarten Class

When my son was 5-years old, a classmate convinced him to say a bad word while in class.  Then the other child tattled to the teacher that Kambell had used a swear word.  

It’s been quite a while since I thought about that incident, but during a speech this last week I used it as an example of learning the leadership principles of trustworthiness, conviction, and discernment.

In the bad word example, Kambell trusted the other child.  He learned about trustworthiness from the perspective of “not” trusting the child that is coercing you into saying naughty words.    He learned that trust is earned over a long time, but is broken in seconds.  

From scripture we learn that trust is mutual and when trust is violated it can cause disappointment.  For instance, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake and pray with Him while He went alone to pray to God.  When He returned, they had fallen asleep.  He expressed disappointment in their sleeping in Matthew 26:40 (NASB), “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” 

My sweet little kindergarten student also learned a leadership lesson about conviction.  Conviction is something inside of us that allows us to know what is right and wrong.  In the swear word instant, Kambell knew it was wrong to say the bad word; yet he did it anyways.  Immediately after saying the swear word, he felt awful.  That is also part of conviction.  As a leader, we want to tune into ourselves when we feel conviction.  It allows us to be better at leadership.  

Within scripture we see conviction working through the Holy Spirit.  This is the guidance that also allows us to know right from wrong…but just as importantly it’s the correction in our hearts when we are doing something inappropriately.  It’s the rudder that steers us away from sinful behavior.  It’s also the gauge by which we will be judged by God for our sinful and righteous behavior.  In John 16:8 (NASB) scripture tells us, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgement. 

Finally, Kambell learned about discernment.  Not his; nor the other child’s discernment.  Rather he learned about discernment through the teacher’s interactions.  From a leadership perspective, discernment is the ability to look at a scenario and react to the situation.  In the naughty word scenario, the teacher had to discern who said what and why.  

From a Christian perspective, discernment is one of the spiritual gifts.  Like conviction, it allows us to know right from wrong.  More than that, it also allows us to ‘know’ and ‘feel’ things that may be hard to explain. It’s almost as though you get a glimpse into truth without being able to fully understand it. Within our society it’s important to exercise discernment in regards to false teaching, twisted scriptures, and inaccurate theology.   Titus 1:9 (NASB) states, “holding firmly the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it.” 

The leadership lessons of trustworthiness, conviction, and discernment are also applicable to our Christian walks.  I hope this week’s memory lane with a naughty words and a kindergarten class help remind you of the importance of each of these leadership principles.

~Emily

Financial Management Lessons

There’s an elderly couple who each have new vehicles plus new recreational vehicles.  Awesome for them.  I hope I’m financially savvy enough & hip-to-the-jive in my 70s or 80s to want a new car.  

The problem is that they are financing all of the items.  After monthly minimums are paid, they have very little left over and often can’t pay to heat or cool the house.  Sometimes is challenging to even purchase food to fill their bellies.   The local church and neighbors help extensively with small chores and tasks, as well as filling gas tanks and getting groceries.  

This is a beautiful example of generosity and of the kindness of others to care for this elderly couple.  It’s “do unto others…” and “love your neighbor…” in practice.  

There is also a reminder in this scenario about financial management. Jesus spoke frequently about how we should manage our money.  Who knew that the New Testament is filled with financial management lessons!?!?!?!?

1. Finances Are a Test of Our Trustworthiness

Most of us hate the idea that we’re being tested daily based on our thoughts, words, and actions.  But our finances can be boiled down to yet another test.  In Luke 16:11, we see that if we can’t be trusted with our worldly wealth, then it’s difficult to believe we can be trusted with Christ’s true riches.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? ~Luke 16:11 (NIV)

In visiting scripture concerning the Parable of the Talents, we are able to see the test of finances, as Jesus described them.  The parable tells of a supervisor who trusts finances with three different employees…essentially to see how they will react to the management of money.  Each employee was given a different amount of money: five talents, three talents, one talent.  The man with the most success ended up doubling his money, while the man with the least, buried his thinking saving was good enough.  The manager took the one talent back and gave it to the man who was able to make money with wise investments.  

The test was to see how they managed the money.  God will also test us in order to gauge what else we can be trusted with; perhaps once tested we’ll be trusted with ministry positions, adoptions, Gospel sharing or countless other things.

2. Financial Management Must Include Making a Budget

It may come a surprise that Jesus gave us instructions about creating a budget…and staying with it.  In Luke chapter 14, we see the example of budgeting with estimates of final costs when investing in a new building.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ~Luke 14:28-30 (NIV).

God does not want his children to be in a scenario where we can’t finish what we’ve started due to poor planning.  We must be financially responsible to plan our purchases, our investments, and our long-term projects.  

You could argue that the design and execution of a budget is an extension of the test regarding our finances.  If we are able to budget, as well as manage money, we should be trustworthy enough to manage God’s true wealth.

You can purchase new vehicles, go on fabulous vacations, purchase wonderful gifts, and have nice items in your life.  However, those items need to be within your individual budget and managed appropriately.  

~Emily

A Well-Marked Path

Emily can attest to the fact that I’m not a hiker.  Let’s be honest…anything that’s related to being healthy, working out, enjoying oodles of outdoor time…not a fan.  I’m content to sit in my living room for the entire weekend secretly eating cake.  It’s just who I am.

On the RARE occasion, I decide to frolic along behind Emily in the woods, I like to know where I’m going, what the path will be like, and how high the elevation is.  If I have to exert myself, it’s likely to make me grumpy.  And if I’m getting hit by sticks in the face, tripping over roots and rocks, or guessing whether we go left or right, the Ranger Service is about to be called.

This makes me think about my faith journey.  Really, it makes me think about everyone’s faith journey.  When we accept Christ as our Savior and make the choice to live for Him, we do that by faith.  The biblical definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  We believe God is real.  We trust that He created us.  We know that He sent His Son to die for our sins and raise from the grave.  We accept His gift of salvation.  We are confident that we will live one day with Him in heaven.  While we don’t see Him, our faith dictates that He is the one true living God. 

Sometimes, I hear people talking about their faith in God in a way that makes my heart hurt.  I’ve heard statements about being lost in not knowing where God is taking them.  There are discussions about not really knowing what God has had for their lives or where He intends to take them.  But I have to encourage you, my friends, that our faith is not about aimless wandering, hoping that God will reveal His will.

Our Pastor Trey said something a few weeks ago that really stuck with me. “Faith is not about bumbling around.  It’s a well-marked path.”  It doesn’t have to be wandering, trying this path or that route to see what ‘sticks.’ We don’t need to trip over our own plans or our sins to take a guess at the direction God wants us to go!  When we choose faith, we choose to go down the marked path.  That path is marked ‘Obedience.’  It’s marked, ‘Trust.’  It’s marked, ‘His will.’  Because when we follow God and His ways, the path should and will go in the proper direction it’s supposed to go!  To Him!

When we stop wandering around trying to have faith in what we THINK is His will, we move onto the marked and worn path that has only one objective–to follow our faith and God no matter where it leads us.

I pray, Iron Porch, that we lean into the that well-marked path of faith and trust in a Savior who is ours.

~Erin

Fear Factor

This last Sunday at church, our pastor said something that has really stuck with me throughout the week.  He said, “The problem with fear is not that it exists.  It’s that we allow it to grip us and prevent us from doing what God has created us to do.”

I’m sure we’ve been at a point in our lives when we’re faced with a decision.  Perhaps we feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to step out in faith and start a ministry or lead a group.  It could be the decision to donate time and energy to a homeless shelter or make food for shut-ins.  Do our neighbors know the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Should I join the church?  In any of those circumstances, we should be seeking God and looking to Him for guidance.

Yet often, we try to figure out what our next move is on our own.  We make a list of pros and cons.  We ask friends and family members.  We run to the internet for advice.  We’re afraid of making the wrong choice so we become paralyzed and then make no decision.  I’m guilty of this myself.  I’m great at making a to-do list for the Holy Spirit so He knows how it needs to end up.  Then I promptly ignore my own list that was useless anyway!

When the pastor made that comment this weekend, it made me wonder how often I do this very thing.  Fear is not bad.  But when I allow it to hinder me from living out God’s will for my life, it’s a sin. 

We’re told in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Am I saying that we shouldn’t be seeking counsel about big decisions?  Absolutely not.  But our first move shouldn’t be to the people or things around us.  It should be to our Heavenly Father who wants the best for us.  We should seek God who directs our path for what we should do.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us live this life.

And how do we hear the Holy Spirit?  I’m so glad you asked!  We need to be in our bibles!  We need to be praying!  We need to be studying His word and seeking Godly counsel.  All those things allow us a richer and closer connection to God.  That, in turn, allows us to be more attune to the calling of our Creator!

I pray as we continue through the year that we lay down the fear that prevents us from doing what He has created us to do.  Instead, let’s live out our calling with our eyes focused solely on God and trust His perfect direction!

~Erin

Are They Trustworthy?

Trust is such a simple yet complex feeling.  We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  We believe that we can have confidence in the words that they say.  However, sometimes in our lives, we can be left burned and hurt.

I would love to believe that people are not untrustworthy on purpose.  I don’t think anyone likes to intentionally break that bond.  Most often, I see it when there is fear of being hurt themselves or perhaps even fear of being found out.  Sometimes, it’s just genuine misunderstanding of the circumstance that leaves a feeling of nagging doubt at the person’s words.

Recently, I had to deal with this issue of trust.  The words appeared calculated and dishonest.  The first thought that came to my mind is something my mom used to say to me when I lied as a child, “Do I have ‘stupid’ tattooed on my forehead!”  The visceral reaction was to be angry.  I felt injured by the words.  I can’t even be 100% sure that what was being said was a lie, but every bone in my body went into full can-I-trust-this-answer mode.

Despite there being people in our lives that can break that trust bond, there’s someone who will never break that bond. That’s our Heavenly Father.

God is the ultimate trustworthy Creator.  We see it over and over in scripture.  He repeatedly saved the Israelites.  He sent judges to help them be victorious.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to walk the earth and take on our punishment of death.  He sent apostles to teach us about a relationship with Christ and salvation.  He’s, even now, preparing a place for us in heaven.  We can trust Him.

Psalm 9:10 says, “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”

No matter what happens with the humans surrounding us, trust of God need not ever waver.  He created us and He loves us.

Friends, are you dealing with issues of trust in your life this week?  Come to the porch and know you’re not alone.  Our Father is forever trustworthy!

~Erin

The Mustard Seed

The idea of faith has been on my mind a lot.  How much do I trust God?  How much faith does it actually take to move a mountain?  If God says that faith as little as a mustard seed can move mountains, then just how strong is my faith?  I have surrounded myself was some amazing and faithful people of God.  I see their faith poured out on everything they do.  Am I the same way?

These have been just a few of my thoughts as I’ve had my morning time with God.  I’ve been reading in the book of Joshua, bits at a time as to not miss anything.  I’ve heard the story of Jericho my whole life, so this passage of scripture is not new to me.  However, at 42 I see it differently than when I was eight.

Joshua told the army to march around the city of Jericho once a day for six days.  They didn’t say anything or attack the people.  They simply walked around the outer wall of the city.  However, on the seventh day, they walked around it seven times.  When the priests blew the trumpets after the seventh time, they gave a “great shout” and the walls came tumbling down!

This was all because of direction given to Joshua by God.  He told Joshua that He would give him the city.  I think about Joshua hearing that from God and maybe thinking, “Did I hear Him right?  We don’t say anything?  We don’t fight?”  I wonder about the men called to battle.  They were perhaps ready to go and defeat the city and then hear the directions and think to themselves, “Walk around the perimeter once a day?  Aren’t we just giving them open targets?  You want us to just shout at the end and that’s it??” 

Yet, they obeyed.  They had faith that what Joshua told them came from God.  They had faith that God would protect them and give them the victory.  They had faith that Jericho would be theirs.  Oh, to have that kind of faith!

I would like to think I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at God’s instruction, but I do it constantly.  My idea of faith is so worldly…I’m given a direction and I add my own 14 steps to the mix.  As a Christian, I have faith that the Bible is real, that God is real, and that Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be fully God and fully man to die on the cross for a sacrifice and raise from the dead.  But often, I second guess decisions and directions.  How silly of me when we have been given example after example of faithful men and women in the Bible who just had relentless faith that God would lead them. 

When we truly have faith, we don’t need to worry or pick our problems back up.  It doesn’t mean that things won’t be a struggle for us.  We’re fallen people in a fallen world.  However, when we have faith even as little as a mustard seed, we need not hold it the way we would without our Faithful Father. 

To have the faith as a mustard seed…this is my prayer.  Now to watch it flourish!

~Erin 

If My Life Was A Mess-Free Coloring Book…

We have the cutest coloring page on our refrigerator.  It’s one of those special pictures that only colors with the mess-free markers.  Those Crayola geniuses come up with some of the most amazing things!  It’s every parent’s dream invention that prevents those “innocent” little babies from markering up your entire dining room wall with Picasso scribbles only a toddler can make.

With Andros visiting, I wanted him to have something he could be creative with, and he just loves coloring the pictures and watching the ink appear on the page.  When he’s got the page on the table, I don’t have to worry about when he colors outside the lines or off the edge of the page.  It’s clean and neat!

Don’t we sometimes wish our lives were the same way?  If our life was the special paper and our choices and circumstances were the mess-free markers, would we stumble in what we do and how we act?  Would our reaction to trials be one of trusting God or trusting self? 

It would be great if everything stayed on the page.  When everything goes according to plan, exactly as it’s supposed to, we have no worries and no anxiety. It appears there’s no trouble.  But when our choices are not the mess-free choices that keep us within the bounds of our walk with God or hardships that we face are not within the lines of what we expect, it’s very easy to fall into despair.  How do we handle the trials that bleed off the edge of the page and throw us into frustration, fear, or confusion?    

God tells us in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” 

How do we remain steadfast under trial? We do it by remaining steadfast in our Lord.  He is beside us all the time.  He has given us the Comforter to live inside of believers.  We trust that our Almighty God will do exactly as He promises in Scripture.  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).  He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He will strengthen us and will help us (Isaiah 41:10).

I challenge you, friends.  Trust that whatever life has thrown at you, you have a Father that will hold you through it.  It’s ok if the marker falls off the page.  We have a God who is right there with you when it does.

Do any of you have a verse that helps you remain strong in the Lord when you are going through trials?  Share in the comments!

~Erin

Artist: Andros Minjarez

The Amazon Notification

I got my first notification that my order of books from Amazon had been shipped just three days ago.  Yesterday morning, I got the notice that it was being delivered between 9:45-1145.  I then followed it as the driver was 8 stops, then 6, then I was the next house.  When I got the picture in my email of my delivered package on my front porch, I was elated!  How silly is that for me to track this package so meticulously.  It’ll get to my house one way or another, but I feel like it builds up the anticipation as it gets closer and closer.  Does it really take that long to drop off a single package?!  Get back in your truck already, Amazon Man!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all of our good moments delivered with notifications that it’s just around the corner?!  You’re having a bad day, but Jesus is opening the door for a raise so He notifies you, “Good news just around the corner, Erin!  Just hang in until tomorrow between 2-4pm!”  You’re struggling with depression, and ‘DING!’—“I know you’re having a tough time, but in the middle of the night tonight, I’m going to remind you of a verse, and it’ll give you some peace to help you sleep. So stop worrying.”

You know what I’ve found happens when I get those notifications from Amazon?  It’s not anticipation like I would think.  It’s impatience.  Why can’t it come faster!?  Why is it taking forever?  Prime said it would be yesterday.  WHERE IS IT?!  The notifications leave little room for surprise when I open the door to go outside and talk a walk and there is my package ready for me to open.

I don’t think I could bear the notifications of good moments.  There’s something special about trusting in God even on your worst days, believing that He will provide when the time is right at just the right moment.  We don’t need a heads up.  We just need to trust.

I’ve written a lot about trusting Him lately.  I think it’s because it’s one of the hardest things to do for me.   I want to trust Him desperately, but it would be nice if He did as I needed on my timeline and how I want.  Pretty selfish view, isn’t it?!

Friends, come to the Iron Porch and share what you need to trust Him with!  Let’s all repent together and lean into complete and total trust in Him!

~Erin

My Navigation System

I can’t live, it seems, without Google Maps!  Sacramento is a very large area compared to Cheyenne, Wyoming and I’m constantly losing direction with so many streets and highways to choose from.  Because I don’t have a navigation system in my car, my phone lives in the center console constantly giving me directions to my final destination.  If I didn’t listen carefully, I’d find myself easily lost in this big city.

My journey with God reminds me of this very system.  Many times, I my heavenly Father tell me it’s time to do something…something I see a finish to, and I’m all in!  I go for the gold, sprinting to the finish line at 100 mph to make it happen.  However, more often than not, He was only giving me the next step, not the entire route.

In order to trust Jesus with our walk, we need to follow the navigation one direction at a time.  If we skip to the fourth turn 26 miles up the road, we miss the blessing at the first left.  We bypass the trial that leads to God’s victory at mile marker 12.  And we lose sight of the missed opportunity three houses from our destination.

When we get ahead of what God has planned for us we can just as easily get lost, taking us off the path and leaving us to try and navigate a new route or attempt to reroute us to the original direction.  While we can grow in Him from those mistakes, imagine how much sweeter the journey when we follow the beautiful trip He laid out for us in the beginning.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not into thine own understanding.  In all thy ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.

 ~Erin

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not into thy own understanding. In all thy ways acknlowedge Him and He'll shall direct thy paths.