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

Leadership Lessons: Moving Up The Banquet Table

Have you ever wondered how some people are given a promotion over others?  Was it because of their merit? Their work ethic? Their personality? Or was it at the expense of others? Was it because their own ambitions drove them to promotion regardless of those around them? 

In the military environment (I’m confident that this is likely true in any corporate environment), I’ve witnessed this set of questions in regards to leadership.  Specifically, when someone is given increased responsibility and/or rank, those around the leader will often remark that they are either well-deserving of the promotion, or they will comment that they were moved ahead as a result of stepping on others to get there (this self-promotion can be overt or subtle, but it eventually shows itself for self-promotion, given enough time).  It does not appear that there is an in-between, but rather only the two extremes.  One leaves the followers happy, the other leaves them scratching their heads.  

How does one end up in the category of leading the happy followers?  How do you end up being promoted based on merit, rather than circumstances that are at the expense of others?  

In Luke 14:8-10, we see the example of waiting for an invitation to move to a place of honor.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.  But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

In this parable, Jesus noticed how guests have ranked themselves at a wedding banquet.  Through this example, He is teaching the concept of humility vs pride.  In human nature it is easy to place oneself higher than others may see you in status or positional power.  Jesus is teaching us specifically to allow for the host to choose where we sit at the table, lest we embarrass ourselves (and those around us) with our own false sense of importance.  

Proverbs 25:6-7 (NASB) cross-references this concept.  

“Do not boast in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the same place as great people: For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.” 

These scriptures remind me of a time when I attended a family wedding.  The ushers seated me in the 2nd row of the groom side, as part of the family.  I noticed many rows behind me Uncle Kevin and Aunt Barbara, who by rights of being in the groom’s family, should be in the same row with me.  I waved to them and invited them to come sit with me.  As they moved to join me, I distinctly remember Aunt Barbara saying that it was better for them to have sat at the back and waited for the invitation to sit in the family row.  

In a seemingly innocent conversation, two people illustrated a real-life example of living out the parables that Jesus taught us about humility and waiting for the invitation.  Clearly it was an impactful showcase of this lesson, if years later I can still distinctly recall the scenario.  

Something as simple as waiting for an invitation to be moved to a position of honor, translates to humility.  It would serve us well to remember this in our daily lives, in the military promotions, in corporate American, or our political parties.  

Our promotions to the head of the banquet table should be at the host’s discretion…not because of our own self-promotion.

~Emily

Holiday Poverty

As we gear up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we will begin to see more and more solicitations for donations to families that are in need.  This is the time of year that thrives on canned food admissions to events, toy drives, and angel tree gifts.  Like a majority of the Iron Porch readers, I support these efforts to gather food, clothes, and items for children. 

Yet I’ve always wondered why we push so hard during the holidays for donations, but not the rest of the year.   As someone who grew up in a family that needed occasional assistance, I can attest to the fact that my parents needed food and clothing help throughout the year…not just at Christmas.  

The need for sustainable items is an example of poverty, but it’s not the one Jesus references when he speaks of the first beatitude being poor in spirit.  Initially, when we are poor in spirit we recognize that we are apart from God and that we crave the gift of salvation provided by Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for our sins.  The recognition of being separated from God, by sin, is a profound portion of being poor in the spirit.  

Being poor in the spirit doesn’t stop once we become a Christian.  Once we accept the Savior, we don’t necessarily lose the brokenness that we had when we first approached the cross.  In fact, that brokenness can drive our Christian path.  It’s fair to state that until we get to heaven, we will be in a constant state of spiritual poverty.  At this point Christians have two choices: 1. we continue to stay poor in the spirit, as we grow closer to Christ and develop ourselves as disciples or 2. we continue to stay poor in the spirit because we give into the brokenness and don’t develop as disciples.  

Personally, I’d rather identify as poor in the spirit while continuously growing.  

Except that I know it’s easy to slide into the “not developing” category.  Life takes over, we become lazy, other items take priority…but we stay in an “undeveloped” status.  Because it’s easy to slide, we can’t just push ourselves in spiritual poverty during one season, rather we need to continuously push ourselves spiritually year-round.  

As an unbeliever, we need Christ immediately, just as a family at the holidays may need immediate assistance from a canned food drive. 

Once a believer, we need to continue to develop that relationship with Christ, just as the needy family may need assistance throughout the year.  

I’m praying for those who are poor in the spirit this season (and yes, that means everyone—both believers and non-believers).  

~Emily

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:3

Pre-Holiday Breakdown

It’s mid-November.  A week before we travel to family in another state for Thanksgiving. Two weeks before my Father-in-law comes to stay with us for several weeks.  Three to four weeks before a middle school band concert, cookie exchange, Matthew West Christmas concert, mammogram, Christmas cards in the mail, packages wrapped…and the list goes on and on.

In an effort to get ahead of the holiday chaos and minimize my own stress, I wanted to get the Christmas decorations up this last weekend. See, I was thinking that I wouldn’t have to do that while we had company here and I could roll right into the festivities of December without a thought to decorating.  

Right after church, I started dragging tote after tote into the house to turn the casa into a winter wonderland.  I worked for hours while the boys washed the boat.  As the sun began to set, my attention had to turn to other chores…the chickens had to be put to bed, dinner had to be started, and clothes ironed for work on Monday.  I realized I wasn’t going to finish decorating in time.  

In a hurry I threw an empty bin into the garage, which bumped a fishing cart that promptly fell onto my foot.  I bent over in pain and screeched “poppycock!” (I’ve been making a concerted effort the last few weeks to use antiquated words—not sure I used it in the right context, but it was my 1940s word of the day).  

And then I started crying hysterically.  You know the cry.  The one where you can’t catch your breath, you turn red, your nose starts to run, and you sound like a skipping record when you try to talk.  That was me.  Hurt, but not “call 911” level hurt.  Seriously, no need for all the hysterics.  

My husband rushed over to check on me. He listened to me cry about my foot, about not finishing the decorations…and for good measure I threw in a bunch of other things like my Dad’s health, my Mom being overwhelmed, tasks to be done before we went on vacation…I even tossed in feeling sad about my pup going to the doggy day care for a week. 

He hugged me while I cried and then said, “You know, you don’t have to do the decorating or all the entertaining preparations.  You could wait.  Or not do it.  Or you could just be present with us.”

Did my husband just tell me that I’m acting like Martha, while I should be emulating Mary?!?!? 

In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we see Martha scrambling to make all the entertaining preparations, while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his teachings.  Martha becomes increasingly frustrated with her sister’s lack of assistance and complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping enough.  

In response to Martha’s complaint, scripture records Jesus’ response in Luke 10:41 (NASB).  “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.”  

If Jesus were right in front of me, where would my attention be?  On the decorations? On the meal preparations? On the cleaning?

Or would I be focused on Him? On His teachings? On His words?

I hope I would be focused on Him.  And through the gentle reminder from my husband and from the Gospel of Luke, I recognize I need to shift focus away from the pre-holiday meltdowns.  The preparations are nice and in some cases necessary…but they should not be overwhelming to the point of complaint or of shifted focus away from what is most important.  

As we all go into the next several weeks of preparing for the holidays, let us stay focused on what is important by remembering the examples of Martha and Mary.  It just might help us prevent a pre-holiday breakdown. 

~Emily

Best, Worst, & Weirdest

When my son was in pre-school, he struggled with telling us anything from his day when we asked him at the dinner table.  As a result, I started asking him what was his best, his worst, and his weirdest part of the day.  It started as an exercise to get him to pay attention and recall events throughout the hours he was at school.  To this day, I still ask him these three questions each afternoon when I pick him up at the Middle School.

Most days he has thoughtful insights, but other days he shrugs with an “I don’t have one.”  

One of his most memorable best days included winning the spelling bee in 4th grade.

One of his most memorable worst days included the PE teacher called him a liar in 3rd grade.

One of his most memorable weirdest days included the janitor turning out the lights while he was still using the restroom. 

A few weeks ago, he turned the questions towards me. I gave him answers applicable to my workday.  However, it got me thinking over the next couple of days about what my best, worst and weirdest memories are involving sharing the Gospel.

Hands down, the best memories are when those around me accept the gift of salvation and become my brother or sister in Christ.  My favorite of those memories is when my own child accepted Christ.

My worst memories involve when those around me have rejected the gift of salvation. Some have been subtle rejections, while others have been rude in their overt denial of Christ.  While it hurt my feelings, I can only imagine how it must have grieved the Holy Spirit.  

My strangest interactions have come from the pagan community, specifically those within wicca. After having come out of a wiccan circle, I struggled to counter the argument that some were calling themselves Christian witches.  I was ill-equipped to share the Gospel with those who had changed truth to fit their own lifestyle and that has made for some of the weirdest moments in sharing the Good News. 

Regardless of my experience with sharing the Gospel have been the best, the worst, or the weirdest…. they’ve all been done with a spirit of trying to share the gift of salvation.  Scripture tells us plainly that we are save through faith…and that we cannot do it ourselves. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

What part of your day…or what part of your sharing about Jesus Christ…has been your best, your worst, and your weirdest?

~Emily

AC-47 Testimonies

For those who don’t know, I work as a curator at a military museum.  While we have fantastic displays and precious artifacts on display, my favorite thing about working there is interacting with veterans and their families.  This last week we hosted a group of Vietnam Veterans who had each been involved with one particular aircraft; the AC-47, known as Spooky or Puff the Magic Dragon. 

During the ceremony, one of the pilots of this aircraft during the Vietnam conflict was the guest speaker.  His speech, titled “Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow” started with what it meant to be part of the “Spooky Brotherhood.”  

He discussed where they were yesterday and when each of their yesterday’s began.  

Then he recapped how they came to design monuments, selected where they were placed, and how they have reunions.  It was the today portion of his speech.

Finally, he spoke about their tomorrows.  At that pivotal point in his speech he told them he was concerned about their salvation and if he would see them as a brotherhood in their tomorrows.  He launched into sharing the Gospel and challenging them to get right with the Lord.  

I could not believe my ears!  You see, it’s rare at a military event for the Gospel to be presented in such an overt manner.  I was so proud of him for his boldness to speak truth in a military group.

He was truly living Romans 1:16 (NIV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

While I’m not ashamed of the gospel, there are plenty of situations I find myself in where I lose the opportunity to share. Maybe it’s the timing, or maybe it’s my own fear of rejection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere.  Regardless of why I don’t share, it’s a lost chance to win souls for heaven. 

I love that this Vietnam Vet took the step to care for the eternal souls of those in the audience.  He was not ashamed…not at all.

~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

 

 

 

 

First Day of School Jitters

As we walked out the door for my son’s first day of 4th grade, he begged me to let him stay and homeschool this year.  When I asked why he didn’t want to go to school, he started to tear up. He said, “What if kids are mean to me?  What if they call me fat?”

This was the first alarming statement from my 9-year-old that he was concerned about his weight. We agreed to discuss options that evening, to include school and how we could assist with his weight perspectives.  But before the morning drop-off line, we prayed together.  My son put these worries at the feet of Jesus and trusted that God would provide a path for nice children.

That evening he reported that it was the “best 1st day of school so far!”  Furthermore, he said no one was mean to him.  No one called him fat. He was worried for nothing.

Isn’t this a similar situation to how we converse with God?

“Please God, let me do x-y-z” which typically is a plea for something that I think will be better than a current situation.  Just like my son begging to homeschool.   I have concerns and worries.  Just like my son, thinking kids would be mean. I express myself to God but it’s as though He says, “let’s discuss it later tonight.”  Just like my son hearing we chat about options after school.

Our God is so good to each of us and He has our best interest at heart.  Countless times I’ve heard that He will provide above our wildest dreams…and He usually does. God creates space where we end up having the “best 1st day of school” despite our worrying and concerns.

When we ask for God’s provision, we see His work in our lives more clearly. In Luke 12:31 (NASB) it says, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

This verse offers guidance on seeking God and His Kingdom, so that blessings may be granted over your life.  When we pray to God in the midst of worry, “these things will be added to you.”

Kambell prayed for nice kids and a great school day.  He received the best 1st day of school.  His first day of school jitters turned into a praise report.

This week, I pray that those on the Iron Porch can turn their concerns into praise reports!  Let us know how we can help pray for you!

~Emily

1st day

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

All Alone In This World

Do you ever feel as though you are all alone in this world?

You’re surrounded by people every day at work, at home, at church…even at the grocery store or gas station.  You’re with your mom, your best friend, your boyfriend or husband.  And yet, you feel alone.

Throughout our lives, women tend to have similar moments where we have felt especially alone.

The few moments after your High School graduation, when you feel excited about the future, yet there’s a moment of knowing you’re leaving home to “go it alone” in the world.

Some moments at church leave us feeling solo when we see groups of other women gathered in chatty-hug-filled circles.

There are moments in a marriage where you feel so misunderstood or undervalued that you feel completely and utterly alone.

Those nights where you can’t figure out why the baby is still crying and you’re exhausted or the nights after your last child has turned 18 and moved out of the house…those are also moments where you may experience that sense of complete aloneness.

In my own life, I’ve felt alone during military deployments, in the failure of IVF, in the aftermath of divorce, when hearing of someone’s cancer diagnosis, or in the misstep of dieting.  Often when I’ve felt most alone, I’ve also felt hopeless.  And right there in that hopelessness is the lie that the enemy tells us…that we are the only ones who have ever felt that “alone” time.

In 1 Kings 19:1-18, we read that there was a time that Elijah felt utterly alone and hopeless.  At that moment, the Lord gives Elijah questions that will allow Elijah to understand that he isn’t alone.  Rather than concede that God is with him, Elijah repeats the lie two times that he is alone.

In the middle of the chaos and fierce winds, God whispers to Elijah, “You are not alone!

I think it is time that women remind each other of God’s constant whispering, “You are not alone!”  God is literally with us each step of our journey.  Yet it’s easy in the moments of despair, the moments by ourselves, or the moments steeped in sin, to forget that God has a plan for us.  And the plan was never for us to be alone.  Ever.

If you are feeling alone, remember the whisperings of God’s promise that you aren’t alone.  Remember that you are always welcome on the porch if you need to be reminded of that soft-spoken promise.

~Emily

all alone in this world