Categories
Introductions

Helpful Little Hack of the Hour: Introduction and Intent

My precious friends, gather in close for a second. How are you? No really… how are you?

We read each other’s blogs and we interact in the comments. We are able to make incredibly meaningful connections despite our distance and differences of all kinds. And yet I still wonder… is there a way I can be more helpful to you?

Introduction and Intent

I began this blog as a mom whose kids were becoming adults. Not just my own five children, but also the dozens, with no biological relation, who called me “Mama Lava”.

My original tagline was “A Dose of Maternal Love”. I intended to create a “comfy spot”, which I likened to hanging out on my Back Porch. I planned to share recipes and tips, and to encourage the next generation toward Godly living and maturity.

Somewhere along the way, as God knew from the beginning would be the case, my audience expanded. I think the median age of my audience is now closer to mine than my kids. I tried to adapt my approach to align with what God was doing.

I updated my tagline to read “A Place for Rest and Encouragement”. My “Back Porch” became a place of greater reflection. My focus has been to share the joy of the Lord and remind you, my friends, that even in these crazy times, God is always good.

I am so thankful to have this little platform from which I get to bless others with my words. And yet, it is not lost on me that words are just words. I wish there was more I could do.

I’ve been mulling this over for a whole year. I know because I wrote Words or Actions? 3 Reasons Why “Well Done” is Better Than “Well Said” last August. The question I’m wrestling with now is, “What can be done over a blog?”.

I wish I could help you with your chores. It would be fun to cook for you sometimes. I would love to show you some tricks I’ve learned that have made my life easier, and watch you demonstrate yours.

Sun rays bursting upwards and downwards from behind the clouds
The simplest prompt can lead to great inspiration!

Helpful Little Hack of the Hour

Today I had a sort of “ah-ha” moment, courtesy of Jillian Michaels and her fitness app. I logged on to fetch my workout and saw her “tip of the day”. I always like those. They are poignant and practical. Some of them I already know, some I disagree with, some amuse me, and others I find completely life changing.

I’ve decided to start something similar. It won’t be the same as being physically alongside you. But I hope it will be a way for me to pop in and share something I find valuable. Just a helpful little hack of the hour.

Don’t worry, I won’t actually send them every hour. But I do hope to send several in the remaining days of August.

I sincerely believe Jesus is the single, most valuable thing I can share with you. Any time I can testify of His goodness and love I want to do it. If I can encourage you toward Him in any way, that is my greatest intent.

In addition, I’d like to make daily living in this world, easier for you wherever I can. Helpful little hacks are a way to do just that… I hope!

It’s hard to know if an idea is a good one until you’ve tried it. Will you indulge me in this experiment? I’d love to hear your initial thoughts.

Do you like the idea of frequent, shorter posts, each containing a helpful little hack of the hour? Are there certain facets of life for which you could use a few helpful hints and tricks? How can I be more beneficial to you?

Thank you, my precious Back Porch friends. I hope I can add to you even a fraction of the value you bring to my life. You all are – you each are – a tremendous blessing to me!

Categories
Devotions

Celebrate Full Forgiveness, Rich Reconciliation, and Lessons for Life

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with the keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

Death in His Grave – Song by John Mark McMillan

Hello, my precious friends! I’m here to testify to God’s grace. I blew it and let my mouth get ahead of me. Again. But while God let me feel the painful pinch of my mistake, He also encouraged me through His Word with a timely, seasonal lesson.

Celebrate full forgiveness, rich reconciliation, and lessons for life

Are you familiar with Simon Peter? He was a disciple, who had left everything behind to follow and learn from Jesus. And he was impulsive – known for letting his mouth and muscle run ahead of his mind.

I found myself identifying with Peter because  I also lost control of my tongue. I shared details in a conversation which should have been left unsaid. I felt so convicted!

I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned all night, just wanting morning to come so I could ask forgiveness from the friend to whom I had misspoken.  While I lay awake, I felt for Simon Peter.    

At dawn, on the morning the world would forever celebrate as the first Easter, Peter was in a bad space, physically and emotionally.  He was with the other disciples of Jesus in self-quarantine, something we all know a little bit about these days.  They were sequestered because of fear and grief. 

They had seen their Lord arrested, beaten beyond recognition, and crucified with a taunting sign over his head that read “King of the Jews”.  Peter and the others had upheld that title and helped to propagate it.  Would the soldiers come for them next? 

It was even worse for Peter because, not only was he sad and afraid, but he was also ashamed.  He had disowned his Savior! Jesus had tried to warn him that he’d fail this way. But Peter had indignantly rejected the possibility. Instead, he raised the stakes and promised to die with Jesus if it came to that.

But it happened. Peter’s tongue leapt before his thoughts and he denied he was a friend of Jesus; not once, not twice, but three times!  Jesus heard the whole thing and had looked him straight in the eyes while the awful words still rung in the air. And then Jesus was led away to his death.

The story is in Luke 22:54-62. I imagine Peter lay awake those next few nights, wishing he could find forgiveness.  But how could he?

Lessons for Life

Have you ever done something awful that you never intended to do, or not done something that you really should have? Maybe you betrayed a close confidence or didn’t stand by someone when they needed you most?

If so, you know that a heavy heart is a burdensome thing. As I wrestled with mine, I felt for Peter. I was anxiously awaiting dawn so I could make things right.

Peter must have felt hopeless in his shame. Jesus was gone. He couldn’t have expected dawn to hold any hope of reconciliation for him.

A rowboat in the water near the shore. Celebrate!
Photo by TheOther Kev on Pexels.com

Oh but it did! Dawn brought news of the Resurrection! And that changed everything!

On that glorious Sunday when Jesus arose, there was so much for Peter to celebrate. His Lord was alive! And so were his chances for restoration.

When Peter’s opportunity came, he was in a boat offshore. He saw the Lord on the beach and jumped into the water. He couldn’t get to Jesus fast enough. He really needed to make things right.

What a succinct lesson for life! Jesus is alive! And so is our opportunity to receive forgiveness and reconciliation.

Rich Reconciliation

Jesus had no words of accusation. He simply asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter said he did. Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs”. Then He asked him again, and a third time. In each instance, Peter responded the same and Jesus repeated His command.

How precious is that turn of events? What a rich reconciliation! Jesus allowed Peter to settle his own heart with a reiteration of love, and a promise to serve, for each of the three times he had failed. You can read the account in John 21:7-17.

Full Forgiveness

Jesus not only granted Peter full forgiveness and took away his devastating remorse, but He also reinstated his purpose. It was Peter who founded the church. His forgiveness was so full, so complete, it was as if nothing had ever come between them.

Now, as we celebrate the miraculous implications of the Resurrection, I wonder if there are possibilities of restoration in your life? Are you needing forgiveness? Have you been carrying a heavy load of regret or shame?

Do you crave another chance to fulfill your purpose? Well, my dear friend, launch yourself out of that boat you’re in and hasten toward Jesus. He knows what’s in your heart and He is eager to unburden you.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

What better day than Easter to come to the Risen Lord, confess your sins, and reconcile with Him? Will you take the opportunity to profess your devotion, and allow Him to set you free toward your renewed purpose? The victory of Easter means new life and new beginnings! I’d love to celebrate yours with you today!

God of salvation,
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride.
On a hill You created,
The light of the world,
Abandoned in darkness to die.
And as You speak,
A hundred billion failures disappear;
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here.
If You left the grave behind You so will I.

So Will I (100 Billion X) – Song by Hillsong Worship

If you would like more information on what it means to reconcile with Jesus, please reach out to me in the Comments or via the Contact link at the top of the page. You can also read The Gospel in a Nutshell.

The word gospel means good news. We all need more of that. And oh, this Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the BEST NEWS!

And in case you’re wondering, I reached out to the person whose confidence I’d broken as early as was reasonable to do so. I repented and my burden was relieved by mercy and grace. My friend was a beautiful example of Jesus to me.

I learned a life lesson about second chances and our resurrected Savior. We find nothing less than full forgiveness and rich reconciliation when we ask it of Him. We have the opportunity because He arose. What a reason to celebrate!

Related Post: Might Have Missed the Miracle

Categories
Reflections

Introducing The God Who Positions His Devoted People – Part 1

Imagine yourself downtown after sunset. You stayed longer than anticipated. You never meant to be there alone after dark. You wish you weren’t.

You turn down an alley through which you’d passed earlier. It sure looks and feels different at night! You quicken your pace.

Through the shadows comes a hooded figure clutching something long and thin. Is it a weapon? You notice your heart pounding.

You contemplate turning around but realize the quickest way to put distance between the two of you is to cross paths and continue in opposite directions. You set your shoulders and posture forward.

The approaching figure momentarily passes through hazy remnants of a distant light. You get a quick glimpse of the weapon… It’s a Bible. How do you feel?

Introducing ‘the God who positions’ His devoted people

When it happened to me, I felt relieved. But more than that. I regarded the once fearsome stranger as a comforting gift.

The alley actually felt safer than when I thought I was alone. I had an ally there. Another Christian in the shadows meant a multiplication of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Any other spirits lurking around were out of luck.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

Because of the Spirit of Jesus inside me, I can hold my God-given position.

If it had just been me and the Holy Spirit within me in that alley, would He have been any less able to hold back evil? Of course not. As the adage goes, you + Jesus = majority, every time.

Nobody overpowers Jesus without His permission. And He gave His Spirit to me. He dwells inside me.

Thank you, Jesus, that I’m sealed and protected in You.

I have a prayer that I say when I am in situations which feel threatening. I say “Thank you, Jesus, that I’m sealed and protected in you.” It reminds me that He decides my fate. Whatever does, or does not, happen to me is because He does, or does not, allow it.

Even if the worst happens, it results in glory. My eternal destination is decided – sealed and protected.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:21

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:13, 14

God positions devoted people around me for my benefit, theirs, and His.

The Bible also says there is strength in numbers.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12

I believe this is why God warns about being unequally yoked. Separate strands are fragile. United, they are greater than the sum of their parts. The same is true of God’s devoted people.

Who is God to you?

I read a terrific blog post by Lightbourne Creative, called “The Priviledged Life: Waiting for a Thaw”. I encourage you to read it. The author describes an experience she had by which she gained insight into an aspect of God which she found meaningful. She called Him “the God who thaws” and explained why.

It made me think about what God was doing in my life and what aspect of Himself He was revealing to me. I have seen Him physically locating and relocating many of His devoted people. My whole Amazing News series was about Him doing that very thing with me. I want to acknowledge Him as “the God who positions”.

What do I notice about “the God who positions”?

“The God who positions” brings like-minded people together. He multiplies the presence of His Holy Spirit in purposeful places. He strengthens His people with the support and encouragement of others.

Chess board mid-game
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com
God’s devoted people occupy positions at His direction.

We are to the world what chess pieces are to a chess board. “The God who positions” sees everything and strategically places His devoted people in both offensive and defensive posts. He moves us around, as needed, to protect, defend, and advance His kingdom.

I hope to expand on that some in my next post. But for now, what has God been revealing about Himself to you? If you were to fill in the blank, what would you call Him? The God who ____________ . How come?

In fact, if the prompt starts your fingers typing, like it did mine, when I read Lightbourne Creative‘s post, write away! And then tag me so I can read all about it. I can’t wait to hear about who God has been to you lately!

Categories
Reflections

Down, Devoted, and Delivered from Disillusion

Have you ever become disillusioned with someone? Or have you been rejected by a friend who discovered something about your personality they didn’t expect? I recently learned something incredible because of being down, devoted and delivered from disillusion. The story is raw and real, but if it encourages any of you, it is worth sharing.

Down from Disillusion

My friend was someone I admired from afar, even before we were aquatinted. She was thoughtful, fun, and full of laughter. She seemed to effortlessly display many characteristics to which I aspire.

We slowly got to know one another well. She had some real struggles and so did I. We shared them openly, and from where I stood, it seemed like a genuine friendship was forged. We laughed and cried together and encouraged each other through life over several years.

But one day, I got frustrated with her. It came out in one short sentence. It wasn’t the words I chose, so much as the tone of voice I used. As soon as the exasperation left my lips, I felt the consequences. I wished I could reel it back in and have a do over. But words don’t work that way.

A park bench at sunset: Down, Devoted, and Delivered from Disillusion
Photo by Robin McPherson on Pexels.com
Down from Disillusion

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

Ephesians 4:15

I spoke truth. I loved her. But I didn’t speak truth in love the way the Bible describes it. I spoke out of selfishness. I was wrong.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Philippians 2:3, 4

I apologized. She said she forgave me. But you know what? We are no longer friends. I’ve reached out. I’ve tried, no luck. She is disillusioned with me.

She saw something in me that she couldn’t abide. I know God is dealing with my temper as He sanctifies me. I was down and disappointed that a tense moment was a deal breaker in this friendship. It made me really sad.

Devoted from Disillusion

As emotional events tend to do, it got me thinking. I really appreciate the people who have seen my many downfalls and chosen to love me regardless. My gem of a husband has no illusions about me. He has seen me at my worst and leaned in. My experience with disillusion made me feel more devoted than ever to my faithful friends.

And God. There is no hiding any of my issues from God. He knows about even the mistakes I have yet to make. And He loves me.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

Delivered from Disillusion

Then I had a realization. God knows, better than anyone, exactly how I feel. This happens to Him all the time. And because of what He has endured, I can be delivered from disillusion.

People befriend God because of who they think He is. He is good. He’s a provider, a protector. He knows everything, holds everything, and promises to keep nothing we need from us. He loves unconditionally and sacrificially. It is easy to embrace someone like that.

But when we get to know Him, we find that He is also just. He does not tolerate sin. He disciplines us. We learn that He is not as interested in our happiness as our holiness. When we pursue earthly pleasures, He lets us suffer the consequences. Scripture says He gives people over to their evil desires. He allows them to choose Hell.

And often, when God turns out to be different than expected, we grow disillusioned with Him. We reject the parts of His character we don’t like.

If I am unwilling to accept God for Who He really is,
have I really accepted Him?
And if I refuse to conform to what He actually says,
do I actually follow Him?
Have I lined up under a pseudo god of my creation
or the genuine God of all Creation?

When I learn something about God that I don’t like, I might want to pull away. But He isn’t the problem. I am. Distancing myself from Him will not fix me. Drawing near to Him will. When I become uncomfortable in the presence of God, I need to pay attention.

God completely reveals Himself to me in the totality of Scripture. But there are parts that are hard to read. Some of it confronts and even offends me. Are those portions any less God’s Word? Can I disregard those passages because they don’t seem consistent with what I want to believe about God?

Have you had friendships fizzle just as they’ve gotten real? Has disillusion, opinion, or imperfection led to the termination of a relationship in your life? Human to human, haven’t we all been there?

Human to God is different. Even as we turn away, He draws us in. He deserves our deference and we do not give it. We do not deserve His unconditional love, and yet He offers it. He sees when disillusion has us down and gives us the opportunity to be devoted and delivered instead.

There is no better friend than God. He knows our flaws but does not recoil or retreat. He does not become disillusioned. Instead, He helps us grow and change. He transforms us into His glorious image and gives us His Spirit of freedom.

A bench by the trail at sunrise: Down, Devoted, and Delivered from Disillusion
Photo by Gagandeep on Pexels.com
Delivered from Disillusion

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:17, 18
Categories
Celebrations

Surprise! This is a Back Porch Happy Birthday Social!

You’re here! I’ve been waiting for you – Surprise! This is a Back Porch Happy Birthday Social and you’re a guest of honor!

This weekend, the Back Porch Blog turns 1! And because of you (yes, YOU!), my cherished reader and friend, this is something to celebrate.

Mama Lava’s Back Porch has become a special place. I always look forward to meeting with you on this site, enjoying social connection, and sharing both the heaviness and happiness of our lives. I pray you’ve been blessed here as much as I have!

I want to publicly thank
God for giving me the motivation to write,
You for spending your time reading and conversing with me,
and WordPress for providing the planks upon which the Porch is built.

Happy Birthday written on a chalk board
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
This celebration is because of YOU!

The other day, someone asked me to name the best thing that happened in my life last year. I had to give two. The first was my daughter’s wedding. The second was the birth and growth of the Back Porch.

Those were big things, but in all honesty, every day has contained happiness. Since the Back Porch was designed as a place to be encouraged, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate with 12 happy things, one for each month of the year.

And Surprise! This is a participatory party. I’m counting on you to help me emphasize the happy in this birthday. Here is a list of 11 things that make me happy. I want to hear yours for number 12. As you read, be thinking about what you would add. Don’t be nervous, there are no wrong answers!

My List of Happy Things
(in Alphabetical Order)

  1. Activity – dancing, sleeping, hiking, playing, the ability to both move and rest
  2. Fragrance – cookies baking, fresh laundry, country flowers, ocean air, newborn skin, the wafting aroma from a barbecue
  3. Humor – creative chuckles, finding the funny, belly laughs with tears of joy, the art of being silly
  4. Lights – sunlight, firelight, twinkly lights, city lights, the miraculous beauty of illumination
  5. Love – The unconditional love of God, romance, friendship, familial ties, the discovery of a kindred spirit
  6. Salvation – the free and unmerited gift from God. “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
  7. Scripture – encouragement, admonition, the instruction it contains. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
  8. Solutions – immediately given or finally found
  9. The Sky – the glow of dawn, the colorful burst of sunrises and sunsets, the moon, sun and stars, billowy, feathery, and fluffy clouds, birds, airplanes, the expanse of blue
  10. Unique Creation – the colors, sizes shapes, contrast, depth, and dimension of people, animals, plants, bugs, and topography
  11. Vibration and Sound – music, laughter, chirping birds, a heartbeat, pounding surf, dripping rain, the song of a cricket

Now it is your turn! What happiness would you add next? If you wholeheartedly agree (or disagree) with one or more of mine, let me know. With all of the negativity threatening to pull us down, it is good to remember all that we have to smile about.

Thank you so much for helping me put the happy in this surprise Back Porch Happy Birthday social, and for all you’ve done to make this first year so fun!

Colorful, helium filled balloons: Surprise Back Porch Happy Birthday Social
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash
“Together” is how we put the Happy in Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Back Porch… and here’s to many more!

Categories
Reflections

God is not Afraid to Leave His House

I’m in quarantine because of a close exposure to COVID-19. I couldn’t go to church last weekend. I won’t make it next week either.

But you know who isn’t in quarantine? God. He is always free to leave His house. And He comes to meet me right where I am.

My friend, are you housebound? Are you confined by illness or fear or something else? Don’t despair! You are not alone.

God is not afraid to leave His house. He sees you and knows your needs. He is ready to visit. Will you invite Him in?

God meets us where we are: God is not Afraid to Leave His House
God is not afraid to leave His house to meet us in our need.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Revelation 3:20