Celebrating Halloween as a Christian

Now that we are safely past Halloween 2018, I have a true confession.

I struggled this year with what it means to celebrate Halloween as a Christian.

This is in part because of my own history with having celebrated Halloween as a Wiccan sabbath.  It’s also in part to articles, such as the one written by a former Satan worshipper, who contends that Christians should consider the spiritual implications of what Halloween represents.  I acknowledge this is a holiday that is celebrated by non-Christians as a holy day. Specifically, Satanists and Pagans, such as Wiccans, Druids, or Voodoo practitioners all believe that Halloween is a day where the veil is thinnest between the living and the dead. They believe it’s an opportunity to communicate with the dead, as well as become more in tune with nature and energy.

For the Christian, that is dangerous territory.  It is counter to how the Bible instructs us to live as followers of Christ.  Halloween provides the enemy an opportunity to tempt the Christian into thoughts and deeds that are not congruent with a Christian walk.

On the other hand, I recognize that the harvest festivals sponsored by churches and the trunk or treat events sponsored by small towns are an effort to keep kids safe and make this an enjoyable fun time for families.   I recognize that we could be celebrating the arrival of autumn and that our children don’t have to dress up as scary characters.  I recognize that one’s belief in the event is partially what drives the motives and intent behind the event.

However, I also take it very seriously that there is an expectation that the followers of Christ will give glory to the true living God.  Our words and deeds reflect that we are representing Jesus to the world.  We must be careful to not give any satisfaction to the devil.  And please believe, the devil is garnering satisfaction when the children of God are disobedient or tempted into sinful behavior.

All that to say, I struggled this year with what it means to be a Christian celebrating Halloween. I didn’t come up with any answers. I bought candy, I dressed up, and I took my child to Halloween and Harvest Festival events.

But I’m still thinking about it…and I’m still praying about it…and I’m still talking to God about it.  I’m grateful I have a relationship with God where I can question these types of scenarios and know that He is listening.

What thoughts do you have on Halloween as a Christian?

~Emily

Top 3 Things to Do When Liars Become a Distraction

The enemy engages with us when we are least expecting it.  Often the enemy uses those around us to “get into” our head.  Occasionally, the circumstances seem genuine. Sometimes red flags are raised.  That’s how spiritual warfare works…sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

Last week I had a “friend,” who I hadn’t heard from in years, contact me via social media. This is a woman who I have had a challenging past with.  It’s also someone who thinks she has a vested interest in knowing about my life. Furthermore, it’s a gal who is very much into pagan paths of spiritualism.

Despite that past and her religious thinking, I wanted to believe the best of her intentions.   I chatted via emails over the course of a couple days.  Then she wrote something about one of her recent accomplishments, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked several questions, to which she had some interesting answers that also didn’t sound right.

God bless my Spidey-senses…the gift of discernment. God bless the google-machine.  God bless a best friend who listened to my thoughts, helped investigate, and agreed with my assessment.  I reached a conclusion that her story was false. It was a farce. An untruth.

This seems like a fairly small and possibly benign daily encounter.  Except it interrupted my day. It took up space in my mind.  It made me question her motives.  And it frankly took time away from my family and my own endeavors.

Satan wants our minds to be cluttered with nonsense so that we lose focus on what is most important to us. I could have been reading with my son, exercising, cooking, or studying.  Instead, I was surfing the internet to investigate this woman’s claims.

A subtle form of spiritual warfare.

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”

What can you do if there is a liar in your midst that is causing a distraction?

  1. Pray. There’s nothing better than prayer to calm a troubled heart or mind. Bring the situation to the Lord and allow Him to work on your behalf.  When we bring our angst to the Lord, He opens our eyes and our ears to truth.
  2. Create Distance. This may require a few days away from the individual. It may require a social media break. It may require a compete severing of the relationship. Distance allows us to evaluate a situation and it allows us time to spend with the Lord.
  3. Evaluate Yourself. Ensure that you reflect on your role in the situation or scenario. Have you encouraged or discouraged behavior?  Perhaps there is nothing you have done…perhaps there was.  God will help you with that self-reflection and the conclusions you come to.

I don’t need a false friend, nor do I want to condone untruths.  Yet, I didn’t want to assist the negativity by confronting her or escalating the situation.  I didn’t want to become a malicious witness.  I simply deleted the conversation.  I blocked the individual on social media.

This scenario is one small example of how we can discern if the interaction is glorifying to God.  Or if it’s one that the enemy is using to distract us.  I choose to be focused and undistracted.

I pray that God continues to allow the gift of discernment to work in my life. I pray it works in your life as well.

~Emily

Shhhhh

Rough Patch

There was evil in the air last Saturday.

A horrific tragedy unfolded in my community when a husband decided to kill his wife and children, before lighting their home on fire and subsequently committing suicide.  On the same day, a friend had her basement renters also commit suicide.  On the same day, an Airman I mentor lost his brother in a terrible car accident.

These three separate events, in three separate cities, have impacted my life this week.  Not because I knew the key players, but because it has impacted people I care about. It has impacted my church’s youth group. It has impacted my military community. It has impacted the elementary school.

When I found out about my Airmen’s brother’s death, I told him that I was available if he needed to chat. He’s Muslim.  I’m Christian.  I wanted to offer prayers, but was unsure how to say that without offending him or his family.  I was treading softly, as we are both Active Duty.  He told me, “Chief, I’m going through a rough patch.”  And my immediate response was this:  “It’s okay to be going through a rough patch. It’s not okay to stay there for a long time.”

No one enjoys hard times….the rough patches.  And yet, we’ve all had a rough patch.  The rough patches could be unemployment, divorce, infertility or the rough patch could be health related.  The rough patch could be gossip, slander, low self-esteem or loneliness.  The rough patch could be death:  a family member, a murder, or a suicide.  There are thousands of reasons for the rough patches. Rough Patches are really hard when you feel as though you have done everything correctly, but you still have to suffer through the rough patch.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”        1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

 In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we read that there will be suffering for the Christian.  We will see and experience the rough patches. Essentially, we should expect some amount of trial and tribulation, and yet we should also continue to press forward looking towards God for help and comfort.

The rough patch offers us time to examine ourselves while in the trial and allows us to entrust ourselves to God within the trial.

Peter warns us in verse 12 that the trials are expected. Yet, we are often surprised by the intensity of the trials.  Peter refers to the trials as a “Fiery Ordeal.” I don’t know about you, but the adjective “fiery” makes me feel like this is a super big deal!  Fiery is intense.

More than the intensity, I think I’m often surprised by the purpose of the rough patch. On a brain level, I understand that God is allowing us time to draw closer to Him.  On a heart level, I want so desperately to have everyone healthy and happy around me!  I understand the trial’s ultimate purpose, but like most of us, I would rather not fulfill the purpose through a rough patch.

When there is evil in the air…when we are facing hard times…when we are going through a rough patch, it’s so much easier to bear the burden in remembering that our God is for us. He is with us. He is allowing us to stretch and grow through trials in order to be closer to Him.

The rough patches suck.  They’re horrible.  But it’s okay to be in the rough patch.  They have purpose. They let us grow.

Just don’t stay there for too long.

~Emily

P.S. If you are contemplating staying in the rough patch too long, I am praying that you seek Godly council.Find a strong Christian woman to pray with, talk to your Pastor, call a suicide hotline…please, please, please get help.

The rough patch is meant to grow you…not break you.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.                                    ~Isaiah 41:10

This is my “go to” verse. It’s the first verse my grandmother helped me memorize as a small child.  It brings me comfort.  It’s one I use routinely in prayer.  I recently got this verse on a keychain, in a covenant of prayer, along with two special girls from my husband’s family.

I’ve heavily relied on this verse the last few months. I’ve been struggling.  And those closest to me have been having a rough time too.   I have immediate and extended family, as well as very close friends battling cancer.  I’m anxious about the transition between military and civilian life.  My stepdaughter is excelling in a rehab program, but recently betrayed by her best friend.  I’ve been stricken with doubts about finishing my degree.  The suicide of a celebrity chef had me reeling for days.  It’s just been a Debbie-Downer type of season in my life.

In light of feeling “out of sorts,” I’ve taken the last few days to contemplate the words of this passage. Essentially I’ve been deciphering why it feels so special to me.

So Do Not Fear:  This gives me the security that God has chosen me. He will provide.  He has told me not to be fearful of what is next.  His plan will prevail.

For I Am With You: This is the promise of God, which is the reason we should not fear.  God is with us. He literally is telling us that He is with us.  He’s standing next to us…holding our hands…helping us lift our head in times of shame or sorrow…catching our tears…cheering for us.  If He’s with us, what do we have to fear?

Do Not Be Dismayed: When one is dismayed, they are typically looking around themselves in a state of alarm or danger.  I think about an active shooter scenario…would I spring into action or stand there dumbfounded?  This statement from our God tells us that we can be calm and can shed any apprehension that we may harbor. We don’t have to look around in a state of alarm.

For I Am Your God: The Great I AM.  Asserting His place in our lives.  He is our God, the God of Heaven and Earth, He is God of all power and protection.  In this portion of the verse, He states His dominance of our life. I love that He isn’t just reminding us of His position, but rather He is also telling the world that He is our God.

I Will Strengthen You:  This verb “will strengthen” provides us with the emotion of attaching to someone else.  As in Isaiah 44:14, we become chosen.  We are made stronger as a result of our relationship with God. Again, we see the promise from a God that He will see us through the turmoil.

I Will Uphold You: He will enable us to bear any and all of our trials. He will stand us upright.  I have this vision of something happening that is so horrible, I want to faint away with fear or saddness…but God is standing right behind me, with His hands under my arms…”propping” me up to face the world.

With My Righteous Right Hand:  God’s hand is faithful.  It is one to rely on.  It’s on that hand that He will secure us.

When broken down, this verse provides so much insight into the heart of our God.  And it is so refreshing and reassuring that I do not have to worry about anything, as long as I believe God’s word.

Ladies, I encourage you to lean in this week and really digest a verse…any verse.  Figure out how it plays out in your life.  I’m praying we all have a week remembering that God will strengthen each of us.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

The Empty Seat

If your child didn’t get off the bus, would you worry where they were?  If you went to the hospital to visit your loved one and they weren’t in their assigned room, would you worry where they were?  If you had a business presentation and your partner was running late, would you worry where they were?

Of course you would! The woman inside of each of us would worry about where those individuals were and why they weren’t where we were expecting them to be.

Let me ask you a harder question.  Do you worry about the empty seat next to you at church?

I’m not asking about the seat that is empty due to sickness, injury, or planned vacation. I’m asking about the seat that is empty due to spiritual sickness, lukewarm responses to the Gospel, or flat out thinking there’s something more important to do than sit in the House of the Lord.  We are not speaking of the empty seat due to plans that backfired…we are talking about the empty seat due to someone not even planning to sit there in the first place!

This empty seat is unable to sing glory to God.  The empty seat is unable to testify to answered prayers.  The empty seat is unable to witness to the newcomer.  The empty seat is unable to serve. The empty seat is unable to teach.

But the empty seat is not silent.  No. It’s not silent.  It tells a story of apathy.  It tells a story of an Easter-Christmas Christian.  It tells a story of lukewarm faith.  This is a tragedy for the walk of the lukewarm Christian’s life.

Understand this…God does not want a lukewarm reception, nor does he want a lukewarm follower.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ~Revelation 3: 15-16 (ESV)

Both Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 & 24 state that the church is the body of Christ, over which Jesus is the head.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you know you should be attending church. This is where you connect with God, where you worship God, where you focus your prayers, and where you fellowship with other Christians.  In short, it’s where you are an active part of the body.

As I write this, I want to be clear that I acknowledge that I am often the empty seat.  It’s all too easy to sleep in on the only day of the week that is alarm clock free.  It’s easy to let errands and chores take precedent. It’s easy to make excuses that I don’t want to sit by myself when my husband is out of town or working.  It becomes a slippery slope of not going. One Sunday becomes two; two becomes three; three becomes a full month, and so on. Suddenly, it’s been months or years that the seat has been empty.

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” ~Hebrews 2:1

I know I should be in church. I know that the Bible states church must be a priority in my scheduling. To not go is tragedy.  It’s a tragedy that causes our Lord sorrow.

 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~James 4:17

The empty seat represents a lack of spiritual preparedness.  It represents a willingness to allow the world to be more important that the Lord.

If women worry about an empty seat on a school bus, in a hospital room, or the boardroom, then we should certainly be concerned with the empty seat in church!

Ladies, this is our chance to exalt the Lord, to learn, to encourage one another…and frankly, these are the front row seats to Heaven that we are discussing!  We are talking about seats for our children, our neighbors, our friends, our families…and we are absolutely failing them if we are not filling the seats of our churches!

Let’s start with assessing ourselves to ensure we aren’t the empty seat.  Then let’s start to look at the empty seats around us to see if there are members we should encourage to come back to church so they can fill their seat.  Finally, we need to seek the unbelievers, so that they can fill empty seats reserved for them.

Churches should be busting at the seams.  There should be a distinct need for additional service times.  It should be standing room only.  There shouldn’t be even one empty seat…

~Emily

 

A Sports Mom & Grace

I have a love-hate relationship with baseball season.

I’m not talking about Major League Baseball—not the Yankees and the Red Sox.  I’m talking about 7-8 coach pitch baseball.  Coaches pitching to 7 and 8 year old boys.  This was my son’s 2ndyear playing ball and his 1styear as catcher. The regular season ended last week and has provided an opportunity for me to reflect on this love-hate relationship.

I love how happy my son is being on a team, while exercising, and learning a sport. I love watching his eyes dance when he catches the ball or hits a run.  I’m content being behind the camera catching the intense moments of concentration.  I adore that the coaches pray with the boys before practices and games.  I’m grateful that he hasn’t been on a team that chose white uniform.

Despite the “love” part of being a baseball-mom, I have some issues with baseball season.  I hate 7 pm games, which means I’m in a dinner dilemma…to feed before or to feed after???  I hate that late weekday games equals cranky mornings…for the kiddo and for me.

And I have come to hate the group texting with parents for snacks and practice times.  Each time my phone indicates a text message; I start dreading the massive text chain. Why?  Probably because I’m a very organized, type A personality, who has been in the military for over 20 years. I have a hard time with loose schedules and lack of pre-planning.  I want lists of snack responsibilities.  I want to know who has scoreboard or dug out duty for each game.  I want to know when the team party and photos are scheduled. Not knowing these things in advance makes me cringe.

Not knowing makes me less gracious.

Grace has been defined in several different ways.  Typically, we think of God’s grace in relationship to His providing a way to salvation through acceptance of His son.

“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.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Essentially grace is God providing for us even when we don’t deserve it.  Knowing about God’s grace is not enough. We have to accept God’s grace. Then the hard part…we have to demonstrate God’s grace by showing grace to one another.

Grace for others is demonstrated in our thoughts, words, and actions.

If we think dreadful thoughts, we aren’t illustrating grace.  When I have grouchy thoughts about a 7pm, mid-week game, I’m not demonstrating grace in thought.  We are given guidance on our thoughts in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If we speak negative words, we aren’t speaking grace.  When I complain to my husband about the lack of snack organization, I am not demonstrating grace in speech.  We are given guidance on our voice in Colossians 4:6 (NIV), “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If we roll our eyes or have huffy behavior, we aren’t acting in grace. When my Type A personality encourages me “take over” team mom responsibilities, I am not demonstrating grace in action.  We are given guidance on our actions in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

If we act in grace, then we honor the grace God has provided for us.   I need to work on turning my thoughts, words, and actions into grace-filled examples of God’s love for each of us.  I need to turn my love-hate relationships into love-love relationships. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

phdLadies,

I want to have grace flowing from my heart….not just behind the camera, but rather in all of my thoughts, words, & actions.

Do you?

~Emily

 

 

 

Are you there?

When my husband travels, my 7 year old often crawls into bed with me in the middle of the night.  I almost always hear him open the door as he shuffles to my side of the bed.  90% of the times his sweet voice says, “Mama, can I snuggle with you?” I always lift the covers and let him settle in next to me.  I love that he still holds my hand as he falls back to sleep.  I love listening to his breathing even out.  I love his little tufts of hair tickling my face. I love each of these things because I know that it could end at any minute.  At any minute he could grow up—just enough—to not need his Mom in the middle of the night.

While Jeromy was on a fly fishing trip recently, Kambell opened the door and crawled into bed on Daddy’s side of the bed.  I was silent, listening to him settle into the blankets.  He whispered, “Mama?”  I answered, “Humm?”  And he simply said, “I just wanted to make sure you were there” and then he fell asleep.

I lay there thinking about how innocently he asked if I was there.  And how quickly he was reassured.  I thought about another innocent question, which requires reassurance. “Abba, are you there?”

How often do we question if our Heavenly Father is there?   It’s a simple question requesting reassurance that He’s by our side. I can think of dozens of times in my life, mostly in times of turmoil, where I doubted if God was there. Have you done the same? Is it easier to figure out your own solution because it appears God isn’t answering a prayer?

For years, my prayer was to become pregnant.  After dozens of failed attempts at In Vetro (that was super affordable on a young Airman’s salary), miscarriages, and monthly tears, I gave up on having a biological child.  Multiple military moves negated my eligibility to become an adoptive parent…even in a high-risk adoption scenario.  When the toll of all that medical intervention created a scenario where a hysterectomy was necessary, I was devastated.  I questioned if God had heard my prayers.  Did He really hold each one of my tears in His hand?  Did He know that my heart was breaking every single month? That it broke at every single baby shower I attended? That simple television commercial featuring cooing babies would send me from the room in tears?

In Genesis 16:2, we see a story of similar heartache, in regards to babies and God’s presence. God had promised Abraham that he would have many descendants.  Ten years after the promise, Sarah had yet to bare a child.  As was the custom of the day, Sarah chose to send her servant, Hagar to her husband.  When Hagar became pregnant, Abraham’s fertility heartache was over.  But Sarah’s became compounded when daily she observed a child that was not of her womb.

While I don’t understanding sending another woman to my husband’s bed, I do understand the heartache of infertility that Sarah faced.  I understand the desperation that led her to decide God wasn’t with her….that His promise was taking too long.

And yet, God is with us. Always.  He’s there to reassure us.  He’s there with His promises.  He provides His Son Jesus as a way to ensure we each have a way to Him.  Matthew 1:23 (NIV) says, “Behold, the Virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel translates to “God with us.”

Amazing, Abba. Providing a promise through his child, Immanuel.  Always with us.  As I lay in the bed, listening to the slumbered breath of my child, I was reassured. My God made me a mother when I least expected it.

God is with us.  He hears those prayers.  He makes a way…even when it seems there is no way possible. Ladies—be assured with your innocent questions and know that God is there.

~Emily