As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Deeply Meaningful

First, I want to thank Linda for her kind comment on "Straight No Chaser". Your comments got me to thinking about Christmas, what it is, and what makes it meaningful.

This Christmas has been so wholly odd. Robert and I got sick the week after Thanksgiving with a respiratory virus and only started sleeping through the night again a few days before Christmas. Because of the sickness, there were a lot of things not done. I still haven't written our yearly letter that we send out instead of Christmas cards. Some of my best friends received no gifts at all, but they gave wonderful gifts to us anyway. I haven't had the energy or clarity of mind to blog, although I enjoy it. Certain parts of school have had to go by the way side.

It really hasn't been what I try to do, but it was so much more than I had hoped it would be.

As I went into the Christmas season, I prayed a lot. I didn't have much energy to do much more. As I asked how the Lord wanted us to celebrate His birth and life, I found one thing kept coming to mind: invest in people. Invest extravagantly and see the rewards. So I tried to do that.

When I was able to breathe, I took my children shopping individually. We went to breakfast, talked, laughed, and shopped. I didn't give them a spending limit as I often do, but I didn't have to. Each of them had taken time to talk and listen and get Christmas ideas. Each knew what the other's "favorite things" were, and when the credit card was put away and all the receipts signed, they had spent barely over the typical spending limit, and they had equal number of gifts for each other. How is that for a God-thing?

I also took them shopping for their dad, and I watched a 10- and 7-year old walk themselves into exhaustion looking for what they knew was the perfect gift for their dad. We hit multiple stores and walked far more than I ever thought their legs would endure all because they wanted to value their dad and get him exactly what they knew he would like, and he loved his gifts.

I also did something totally out of the ordinary for me. My husband had a list of books he wanted. They were all business books that would be useful for his software company. I told him to just buy them, but he said he was hoping to get them as gifts. Normally, I wouldn't buy things like that as gifts, but I laid it before the Lord, and He said the most wonderful thing. He said to buy all the books because it is a celebration and affirmation of Rob's gifts. "Gifts" being both spiritual and Christmas. By making those books his gifts, I was affirming and investing in Rob's gifts. I didn't realize how much that meant until I saw him just staring at his pile with a look of "oh, wow" when he was done opening them.

Then there was Christmas Eve. Normally, Christmas Eve is a day for cleaning and getting the house right before the family comes in. Not this year. This Christmas Eve the Lord reiterated, "Invest extravagantly in people, and you'll reap wondrous rewards." So we invested.

--First thing in the morning, we made sugar cookie dough and put it in the fridge.
After we cleaned up from that, I pulled out the paints, brushes, and water cups, and we painted ornaments.
--While they dried, Anna made fudge.
--Then Rob ran off to the story for last minute things and a friend came by with her two children for a gift swap. When she called and asked to come by, I thought, "I have so much to do," but the Lord reminded me that His admonishments to the Pharisees and Sadducees had nothing to do with their floors but rather their lack of commitment to people. So I told her to come on over. Let's play. She did, and our talk was wonderful, and I loved it.
--After our friends left, Anna and I made a pumpkin cake and baked it.
--While it was cooling, we rolled out the sugar cookie dough and cut out cookies. Rob guarded the oven to make sure none burned while the children and I rolled and cut and shrugged when things didn't work quite right.
--When the cookies were done, I cleaned the kitchen...again. Anna made frosting for the pumpkin cake, and frosted it.
--We had dinner.
--I pulled out a bag of powdered sugar, milk, sprinkles of every sort, paint brushes (saved only for baking), every container of food coloring I owned, and at least a dozen small bowls. The children and I made all colors of "paint" imaginable, and the family sat down to decorate cookies. By the time we were done, we had some wonderful works of art.
--We set up a plate for sometimes-we-believe-in-him-and-sometimes-not Santa.
--We had our family altar time, prayed, and sent the children off to bed.

--As Rob and I watched It's a Wonderful Life and waited for enough quiet to wrap the children's presents without intrusion, the phone rang. It was friends. Could they come carol us? The kids were in bed...it would wind them up again...I wanted to get to sleep at a descent time..."Of course you can. We'd love it." Ten minutes later, we were sitting on our porch wrapped in blankets listening to some of the most divine Christmas music I've ever heard.
--When our friends left, the children were excited all over again. My husband was shaking his head smiling, and I was convinced it just doesn't get any better than this.

After the children had wound down again, we pulled out the wrapping paper and the gifts, watched George Bailey stare at the parade of people who loved him as he realized simply being part of folks' lives and investing in them is powerful, and cried (I cried. Rob did not cry, but he held the Kleenex box for me).

We did all the Santa-that-the-children-aren't-ready-to-give-up things and placed the gifts under the tree. We were ready for Christmas.

Then I looked around the house. There was so much not done. The floors had not been swept or vacuumed. Nothing was dusted. I didn't know if I had scrubbed the toilet. And the Lord spoke quietly, "You can give them a clean house, or you can give them you." I went to bed.

Christmas Day, my folks and my brother came down. We had lunch, opened gifts, and played games. My mom helped my son build things with his wood (very cool gift from Uncle Raymond), and three generations played dominoes together at the table. No one noticed the entryway had not been swept or the carpets not vacuumed. No one even commented that they could sign their name in the dust on my mantel. Instead, as they left late that afternoon, they all said it was a wonderful day and they loved it. "We need to do this again soon." Yes, we do.

And what deep meaningful things did I learn?
--A 7-year old hammering with his grandma makes a great picture.
--Memories of painting and decorating cookies lasts long after the cookies are gone. I shouldn't be skimpy on making either.
--Love is what causes someone to give gifts to people who don't have the ability to give in return. It was that way with the first Christmas, and it remains so today.
--Gifts are treasures of wonder when we have the sense to accept them as expressions of love instead of worrying about whether they are what we wanted or hoped for.
--If I stay focused on the joy a person brings, I will find the same joy in whatever they give me in a box, and I will remember that joy every time I look at that gift.
--It is better to gather dust on the mantel than dust on relationships.

So, yes, for me, Christmas was tremedously meaningful. I was shown in so many ways that the best gift we can give anyone is showing them they are valuable. We talk about the first Christmas being all about a Gift. We miss it. Simply giving gifts is about performance, but when you start giving value, then it becomes about people, and that means everything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What About You?

I've been catching up on some blog reading this afternoon, and I read a few comments that included "me, too" in them. It turned on the wheels, and I began to wonder what life experiences I've had that others might have had, whether they be weird, sad, fun, exciting, or whatever. So I thought I would ask. If you want to play, consider yourself tagged and jump in. I'd love to know about you, and you never know what parts of your life are parts of other people's lives, too.

Below are some of the things I've done or experienced in my life. What about you?

1. I have petted a shark. It was little, but it was cool.
2. I've known the heart ache of loosing a parent.
3. I've known the joy of having a friend who sees into and through me and still loves me.
4. I played high school sports: basketball, volleyball, track.
5. I have an older brother.
6. I love my step-dad. He rocks.
7. I was told I would never be able to have children. (Then I had two.)
8. I've lost friends to senseless accidents and people acting irresponsibly, such as driving while drunk.
9. I love Christmas shopping.
10. I love to dance to country and western music.
11. I'm barefoot right now.
12. I think my husband is incredible.
13. I love walking in the rain.
14. To me one of the greatest gifts in the world is time with folks I love.
15. I like dogs.

What about you?

Monday, December 10, 2007

the Keeper of my Soul Continues to Keep My Mind on Him

Seven7 left a comment on The Keeper of My Soul from June 2006, and it was perfect timing. The Lord has been discussing this with me, and He so graciously reminded me of lessons learned through Seven7's reminding me of that post. Here is her comment and my response. Again, I share it because I think some folks will be blessed by God's faithfulness.


Seven7 said...
This was truly inspiring! Sometimes we have to be reminded who is in control of our lives and because Jesus is in control we have peace in knowing that we are well kept! God Bless, Seven7

Jerri Phillips said...
Seven7,

It is so true, and I find that the more I think I really understand that, the more He shows me a new place to apply it.

Candidly, there are some tense family relations the Lord is leading me through, and my first instinct is to run and hide. I don't know what to say or do so I try to avoid the situation, and I get horribly stressed. Last week as I lay this before Him, He responded with such assurance, "I prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies, and when someone confronts you, I give you words to answer. You are worried about failing and not looking like me. Quit looking at you so much and see who I say I am. Then I will be present in the situation, not you."

I'm not relishing the next meeting, but I have peace, and I know when the meeting comes, it is for my good and His glory rather than because the enemy slipped through the Heavenly lines to torture me.

Bless you!!!

Comments

I am finally feeling well enough to respond to comments without wandering down an emotional or mental rabbit trail that leaves folks hanging and wondering just what kind of medication I am on. If you have left me a comment in the last few weeks, please visit the post where you left it as I have replied there.

I am going to mention one reply to Linda's comment here because I think it is something a lot of people I know need to hear.

Linda said...
Jerri, your heart is so sensitive to the things of Lord and in pleasing him. More of us should have that desire to be a little more introspective and analytical about the states of our hearts. I just want to reaffirm what you already know; it's not in the doing or not doing that we are defined or valued (even mental obedience vs. outward)--In him we live and move and have our being. As you work through all of your struggles, I'm praying that the joy of the Lord will be your strength and that he will fill you with that inexplicable joy today. Be encouraged, dear friend.

Jerri Phillips said...
Linda,Thank you so much. I appreciate the prayer for joy. Joy has not been a defining element in my life, but I believe the Lord is changing that. In fact, I've been studying joy, and the fact is, joy comes from the Father's presence, from being immersed in Truth. If we are living the Truth He speaks over us, not only should we find joy in ourselves but He does as well. Isn't that exciting?
Thank you for the encouragement, dear friend. You are such a blessing.

May each of you reading this be the receivers of God's inexplicable joy for who you Truly are, and may it strengthen your resolve not to let the enemy steal that Truth from you.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Just What I Expected

Folks who know me for very long hear me talk about my children, and inevitably, I will say, “I have the most wonderful children in the world.” If you are a parent, you have the right to disagree, but I’m telling you: my children are amazing. We’ve pretty much come to expect them to be, and they don’t let us down.

Take yesterday for instance.

My seven-year old and I have been battling a respiratory virus for over a week now. Yesterday he felt well enough to make a trip to the store to do some shopping for his big sister. He had two things on his “Must Have for Anna” list. One was easy to find. The other…not so much.

Our mission was to find a specific Littlest Pet Shop bunny with a Chinese hat. We had seen several the week prior, but now they were all gone.

After hitting a few stores, Robert was waning. We had one more place to try. After that, I was pulling the plug. When we drove into the parking lot, Santa greeted us. He was waving broadly, and his, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” rang across the parking lot.

When we stopped, Robert got out of the van and stared Santa’s direction. I looked at my son. “Want to go talk to him?” Robert nodded. Off we went, watching for cars, holding hands, partners in a quest.

When Robert reached Santa, Santa was joyful and attentive. He asked what Robert wanted. I knew exactly what Robert would ask for. “Well,” he started, “I want a Littlest Pet Shop. I want a bunny.” He promptly described the bunny exactly. “It wears a hat. The hat is a Chinese hat.” He then described the hat exactly, too. Santa listened with rapt attention.

When Robert was done describing this toy in great detail, Santa asked, “Do you want anything else?”

Robert broke his eye contact with Santa and shrugged. “I don’t know. That is really all I can think of right now.” Santa suggested Robert drop him a letter. Robert nodded and said he would try to do that later that day. Santa shook his hand, and Robert thanked Santa.

I took Robert’s hand, and we headed toward the store. I had Robert’s wish list in my purse. He could have mentioned any of the things on it, but I knew none of them would come up. I knew Robert would tell Santa about one rabbit with a Chinese hat. He did exactly what I expected our wonderful son to do, and as usual, he was amazing.

copyright Jerri Phillips 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

And, yes, I know...

I did not pick five people. Actually, I didn't finish the entry. However, I am rather sick and have been for a few days. My energy and mental clarity sort of comes and goes. Presently, it is 2:42 am, and I am awake again because I ache horribly and am still working on getting my coughing under control.

The rest of the post will be worked in as my health allows and improves.

And thank you in advance for your prayers because I know some of you wonderful folks will be praying for me. You always do, and I so much appreciate it. :-)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Discipline--An Award and a Reward


A few weeks ago I received an award from Jan. The award is the Mathetes Award. I had no knowledge of background for this, so I looked it up. It is neat to read about, and I suggest you visit the site. In summary:

"Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) it to make more disciples. I'd like to take the opportunity to award five other bloggers with this award and badge for acting in the role of a disciple of Christ. These five all share the message in their own creative ways, and I admire them all for what they do. "

This is what Jan said about me: "Jerri – You are bold and free, willing for God to use you in any way he sees fit – whether it’s rescuing animals or writing about deeper issues. "

In the last month, I have struggled with the implication of this blessing even before I knew she had written these words. Despite the struggle, I do receive her words as a blessing. What greater blessing can we have than to be willing to be used by God in any way He sees fit? And at the same time, what greater struggle is there than to give up self and crucify it on a our cross daily?

And yet, I have even begun to question the struggle. I do not believe my struggle is in knowing or believing in God's worthiness to be served unconditionally. Although sometimes, we have words about the His timing and what I perceive is silence on His part. My greatest struggle is not in knowing and believing in His identity. It is in knowing and believing in mine.

It is easy to get caught up in the lie that we are not whatever we should be, and therefore, we are not what God declares we are. The problem is we--I see myself in a mirror of that shows flesh, and the enemy of my soul is all too willing to magnify the flaws therein. However, my God sees me in likeness of His Son whose blood covers all that stuff the enemy wants to blow up to be everything. In the likeness of Jesus and through faith in Him, all that "everything" becomes nothing. When I am nothing, He can show all He is.

Isn't God's logic amazingly weird?

So the last month has found me struggling in my identity as disciple, not just in the ways I let traffic get to me or the not so loving thoughts I have toward my husband at times. My struggle has been to see myself as God sees me so that I can be all He has called me to be. He has called me to be a godly wife and a godly mother. He has called me to impact my world through love first and words when my first calling has been done first. My first calling in my home has not been what I dreamed it would be, and finally, the Lord got me to acknowledge it was my fault. Jesus kept His priorities, and mine had been confused. I have spent the last month sorting through priorities, repenting for what I've done wrong (lots of repenting), and accepting that the God who gave me this job will give me the ability to do this job. I am without excuse. If my realms of authority are out of order, it's because I'm out of order. God is not a God of disorder but of peace. If there isn't peace, then God isn't getting to be in charge.

For the last month I've been learning to be a disciple in a different way. Not by performing well or fulfilling roles but through relationship. It seems like a simple truth and yet, how deeply ingrained is the idea that I must perform and fulfill a role and be a specific "thing" to different people.

I plan to write more about this and share what I've been learning and learn daily. Right now though, I shall leave you with one simple thought: To be a disciple is not to memorize rules. To be a disciple is to cultivate a relationship. Being a disciple does not happen by accident. It is a choice. It is who we choose to be. It is the person we are when we quit listening to the enemy tell us all the things we are not. It is not who we will become. It is who we are. It is our choosing to believe that that frees us to the joy of being a disciple.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Honored

Today, I received a wonderful honor. Linda gave me an award for Blogger Integrity. You can find out more about this award from Mama Pajama. (BTW, I love that someone took the initiative to create this award for folks that blessed her/him. How much could we add to the world if we all did somethign so simple? Hear that? The brain wheels are beginning to turn...)

Once again, I digress.

When I read Linda's post, she commented that she did not feel deserving. (She got it for creativity. I understand why.) I'm not sure I feel deserving either. Actually, I know I don't, and I'm honestly humbled that saving a cat got me an award (and nomination for sainthood--or at least a suggested could-be-saint blessing). It has made me think.

I like to think anyone would have tried to save that cat...and caterpillar...and dog, and honestly, I think most people would have. However, in a society where our newspapers blurt out the horrific stories, where most homepages start with the nightmarish occurrances of the world, and the news use happy stories to take up unused seconds while filling our brain with heart-wrenching and fear-invoking images and stories, someone who does something kind or even right is the anomally.

Too often we immerse ourselves-or are immersed by the sheer reality of our life and times-that we find ourselves struggling with persisting clouds of gloom and doom. Our spirits shrivel and our hearts ache. We are created in the image of a good God who is defined as "love" and gives life. If we hope to have life and goodness in our lives, we must find Him in the midst of the death and gloom that surrounds us. I think that is what this award is about. At least it is to me.

This award focuses on the following:
-Creativity
-Spirit of Giving
-For Keeping It Real
-For Social Conscience
-For Staying True to Their Beliefs

  • In the beginning God created...
  • For God so loved the world that He gave...
  • I am the Way, the Truth (as real as it gets), and the Life...
  • By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
  • They overcame him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

We use human words, but this award simply breaks down individual actions or mindsets that allow us to see a person and say, "I see Jesus in you." Is there anything greater a person can say to us as Believers? Yes, I am honored to receive this award, and I joyfully bestow it on others.

Creativity--Tonya is amazing. That translates into her photography. She sees things through eyes that are not "typical". Many would say her vision is divinely given. I would agree.

Spirits of Giving--Jan inspires me. She gives away books. She gives away scarves. She gives away blankets. She gives away encouragement.

For Keeping It Real--Jennifer is as real as it gets, and I am honored to be her friend.

For Staying True to Her Beliefs--Once Jenny knows that she knows, she is rock solid. She researches, seeks wisdom, prays, and digs until she hits the bottom of the Truth. Once there, she doesn't move.

For Social Consciousness--I imagine the founder of this award was thinking someone who sees social ills and inequalities and works to correct them. However, I think sometimes things are up for interpretation, and since the heart of the award is to give it to someone who impacts me in a certain way, I choose Bob Smiley for this one. Bob is a Christian comedien that has a heart for young people. How does that make him socially conscious? He is conscious of the social pressures facing young people, and he is doing everything in his power to reach these kids with the message of Christ, not just as Savior but as Lord. The only thing that will set folks free the social pressures of life, it is the Word of God, and Bob shares it boldly.

To check out the blogs (without links) listed above, you can check my links out to the right. I see Jesus in each and every one of them, and I think you will, too.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

BUT, My Children Think I Am a Hero

I have spent a great deal of the week dealing with people issues. The women’s group I have been facilitating has disbanded, and while I know in my heart, it was the right thing, it hurts. There have been some misunderstandings with some other folk, and while all but one are resolved, the interim work of sorting through and finding unity is stressful.

The one unresolved issue is my fault. My willful actions caused it. I admit it, and while the circumstances are stressful, and I don’t know what the final outcome will be, I would do the very same thing again. Sometimes in life you just have to choose who to disappoint and make angry, and I stand by my decision.

Let me explain a bit about my odd week, and perhaps it’ll make more sense. Yesterday the children and I were headed to the library when my son found a caterpillar clinging to the window for dear life. We save caterpillars. Okay, we do not try to act in ways we know are harmful to caterpillars. Being on the outside of a window on a van moving 60 mph is harmful for most caterpillars, so we stopped on the side of the road, and I took the caterpillar off the window and sat it on the green grass of someone’s yard. I then got back in the van and was ready to leave when my daughter yelled, “MOMMY!!! THERE’S A PUPPY!!!” There was traffic coming from both directions. A puppy was not going to last on the road, so I asked where the puppy was and opened my door hoping to get the puppy before traffic did. Before I could exit the van, the “puppy”, which was a full-grown Jack Russell Terrier, jumped into my lap. Thankfully, he was a lovable JR, and he had a tag. Not a problem. We simply return him to his home, and all is fine in the world again.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Because it wasn’t an identification tag, there was no address information. Undaunted, we called animal control to have them run the number on the tag, so we could return the very friendly dog to its home. That is when I realized it was a rabies tag. Not a problem. The officer at animal control called the veterinarian’s office to obtain the address and call me back. We sat where we were and waited for the return call. The phone rang. Good news. The veterinarian had the information. Bad news. It was out of date. The officer and I ran through options. Ultimately, there was only one reasonable option—we needed to take the dog to animal control and let them run names through city address and phone books to hopefully find his home. Thankful to have kept the dog from being hit by a car and yet sad to let him go, we left our new-found friend kissing the officer at animals control.

We had done our good deed, and we felt good about it.

More than that, my children were really excited to have a mom that was willing to make the extra effort for some furry friends. And that wasn’t anything compared to today.

My son asked if we could work on his spelling outside since the weather is beautiful and he focuses better swinging on the swing. I picked up his book and headed out behind him. However, we ran into a problem. Our neighbor’s dogs were barking so incessantly and loudly that we could not focus.

Upon investigation, we found the source of the barking was a cat in a tree in the back of their yard. Upon closer investigation, we found the cat was really barely more than a kitten and had no way to escape the dogs. The dogs were jumping up toward the cat trying to grab it, and the cat was not holding on well. It was a matter of time before the dogs reached the cat, and the Husky-Shepherd mix, Boxer, and other large dog didn’t want to be friends. Without intervention, the cat was not going to survive.

I tried to call the dogs to me in an effort to give the cat time to escape. That didn’t work. I emailed our neighbor to ask how I could get the dogs’ attention and waited by yelling for the dogs and continuing to try to divert their attention. I leaned over the chain-link fence and put out food. Again, no interest. I then tried to bribe them with treats. They already had a treat in mind.

Thirty minutes had passed. The cat was further down the tree, barely above “lunge range”, and there was still no email. I tried calling our neighbor’s cell phone. No answer. In a desperate act, I called animal control and explained the situation. The officer told me they could not enter a private residence. I told him I wasn’t asking for the dogs to be removed. I just needed help getting the cat out of the tree and putting it where it was safe. Could he possibly help me with that? An officer was dispatched, but it would “take some time”. Fine.

I knew all I needed to do was get the dogs in the garage and close the door, but how could I do that? Suddenly, I knew. I went to the front of my neighbor’s house and banged on the garage door. Two of the dogs ran inside. The Husky-Shepherd stayed at the tree. I then went to the wooden gate to the backyard and pounded on it while calling all the dogs’ names. Two came to me immediately. When the Husky-Shepherd saw me petting the other two dogs through a missing picket, she came, too. While I pet the dogs and talked to them, my children kept vigil on the cat.

Then I heard what I had been waiting for—praying for. “Mom!! Mom, I have the cat!! The cat is in our yard, and I have it!!”

I patted the dogs and told them they were good dogs. Then I went back to our backyard and tried to call animal control. I had no need for them now. The cat was safe.

While waiting on hold with animal control, I again emailed our neighbor, who had not responded in the past forty-five minutes or so, to say we had the cat, and I was trying to cancel my call to animal control.

Unfortunately, the officer arrived before I was able to get through and cancel the call, and when he left, there were several slips of colored paper on my neighbor’s door. None of them directly related to my call, mind you. However, there are licensing laws and other regulations, and the City doesn’t like being ignored in those areas.

Although the officer offered to take the cat, which had no tag at all, with him, I told him we would handle it. Our concern was not that it was in the yard. Our concern was that we didn’t want it killed by the dogs. After the officer left, the children and I took the cat around the block to try to find its home, and we did so successfully.

When I returned home, I had an email waiting for me. Our neighbor is furious. The details are irrelevant. The summary is the relationship with our neighbor took a serious blow, and I don’t know how willing she is to allow it to be repaired. We will talk tomorrow and see. Normally, we would have dealt with it today, but they are having a family celebration, and we aren’t going to interrupt that.

I’ll be honest. I don’t want my neighbor mad. I like her. I like her family, and I even like her dogs. She thinks I overreacted. She thinks it is about her dogs barking. She thinks the cat was trespassing and whatever happens to the cat happens. I see where one could argue that it was her private property and her private business. I could argue that the dogs barked for over and hour and a half virtually non-stop making it impossible to enjoy my backyard. It’s more than that, though.

For me, it was less about the animals involved and far more about my children. All I kept thinking was, “I will not let those dogs kill that cat in front of my children, and I will not make my children go in the house and try to explain to them why I am ignoring a situation in which an animal is killed because of my inaction, especially when all we have to do is distract the dogs for five minutes so the cat can leave.”

It took less than five minutes. It took less than three minutes for the cat to leave once it had an open road. My children rejoiced and shouted for joy longer than that.

After we were home and beginning to be still, I processed the seething email I had received. As I considered the consequences of what I had done, my daughter came up to me and hugged me. “Thanks, Mom,” she said blissfully. Surprised, I asked for what. She looked at me with twinkling eyes and said, “For being the kind of mom who is willing to stop by the road to save a caterpillar and for being the kind of mom who tries so hard to make sure a stray dog is safe and for being the kind of mom who does whatever she has to so a cat isn’t killed just because dogs won’t come when their names are called. You are magnificent.”

My son walked in about that time, and he joined in the accolades, “Yeah, Mom, you are the ultimate animal rescue hero.”

My daughter nodded. “Yeah, that is what you are—a hero.”

Yes, my neighbor is mad. You might even agree with her. That’s okay. I won’t try to convince you otherwise. We could argue it both ways. There is one thing that cannot be argued, though. When my children see their friends next, they’ll brag on their mom, the Animal Rescue Hero.

Sometimes life requires choosing who to impress and who to offend. Today, I think I chose well. Granted, I upset some folks, BUT, my children think I am a hero.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Redeeming Awe-ctober

For about two decades now, I have not enjoyed October. Emotionally and mentally I have found it to be melancholy at best and clearly depressing more often than not. This is not an emotional response or descriptive given with undue thought. On the contrary, it wasn’t until I reviewed years of journals that an undeniable pattern emerged. October for me, and for several others I know, is not a good month.

I have grown to dread October. I am sure much of what I and my friends experience is related to the freedom of demonic activity related to Halloween. It is a demonic celebration, and frankly, I don’t see how anyone can make a demonic holiday Christian. We don’t suggest we can make a religious porn flick, but we try to take a demonic holiday and make it fun and Christianize it. Granted, we do use movies (not porn, but the same form of media) to reach the lost, and I can see the link of fall festivals and evangelism. However, when Christians put spiders, witches, ghosts, and all form of witchcraft in and outside their homes because “it’s fun”, we are simply saying, “Yes, Satan, this is a form in which we are willing to let you run wild.” And he does.

As a result, there is an unleashing in the spiritual and a demonic freedom in the spiritual during this time of year that effects many of us, and I hate it.

This year, however, has been different. This year my children went on the offensive.

I was doing dishes when two sets of small feet walked into the kitchen and stood behind me. “Mom, can God redeem anything?” my children asked in unison.

“Yes,” I said without hesitation.

“Even October?” they asked.

I froze. Even October? My head reeled. Well, God can redeem anything, but October is so steeped in demonic stuff…Then the Lord spoke to my heart, “Can I redeem anything or not? Am I bigger than all the demons in hell…or not?”

“Yes, God can redeem October,” I replied. How much I believed it, I don’t know. I’m just being honest. How would God redeem October? What would that look like? My children were already there.

“Mom, how can we redeem October?” they continued.

I turned from my sink full of dishes to face my children whose hearts where on a wavelength I was just catching. I had no answer. I only had questions. “What do you think?”

They didn’t have answers, but they had insight. Halloween is about death, fear, and darkness. The opposite would be life, hope, and light. How could we give those things, and to whom would we give them?

At first, it was a little bumpy, but suddenly, their hearts melded with the Father’s and ideas poured forth. In the end, there was one summary: “We can love people however God says, whenever God says. We can help people have a better day. We can be light in the darkness.” Their mission was set, and they have been faithful to the mission of redemption.

Amazing the power of choosing to be instruments of redemption. Amazing how that opens the door for God to be redemptive.

In September, I suffered headaches that were debilitating. Examinations showed extremely strained eye muscles that had to be rested. After two weeks of rest and new glasses, the headaches continued. Then Rob and the children were hit with the respiratory virus going around that lasted a full 7 days with high fever and sleepless nights. During that time, my mom was diagnosed as having a mini-stroke. We had our heater checked and found out the heating element wasn't working. A $123 part. The day my mom went in for extensive tests, I spent the morning transporting my son from doctor to various tests to determine the source of his chest pains. On the way to the hospital, my van stalled 4 times for no apparent reason. As we were leaving the hospital, the handle on the outside of the back door broke, and when I pulled onto a busy road, the door flew open.

As I lay on my bed that afternoon waiting for the doctor to call with EKG results or my mom to call with any results, I murmured, “I hate October.”

The Lord replied, “I am redeeming October.” Again, I wondered, How?

Last week—two weeks after the EKG—we finally got the results. All tests are clear. It seems that my son was just sore from the coughing and sneezing. All indications are that the blood clot behind Mom’s eye has dissolved and is no longer a concern. Our heater is working. The piece was replaced the day our temperatures dropped from mid- to high- 80s during the day and 60s at night to 60s for highs and low-40s or even high-30s at night. The personal side of that story is that I am notorious for remembering to have our heater checked about December, weeks or even a few months after we start using it. Usually, our maintenance company calls me. This year I was compelled to call while it was still warm. Had we tried to use the heater with a broken heating element, I wouldn’t have known about the problem until we either smelled the gas because it filled up the house or because the hot water heater ignited the gas and it exploded. While the van door handle isn’t fixed, the latch does. The door stays closed. No source for the stalling was ever determined so there were no other expenses, and there has been no further problems.

Every concern we have faced this month has been met by God’s provision. And there is more.

A friendship that was nearly broken two years ago has been restored. We have a friend who was diagnosed with a mass in her kidney and underwent surgery. The family was told the mass was almost guaranteed to be cancerous. The x-rays clearly show a mass, but after prayer, the surgeon found nothing. Further x-rays and tests confirm there is no longer anything there. Our friend who has been standing in faith for her marriage to be restored called this week to tell us her husband had broken ties with his girlfriend, moved out of her home, and has taken steps toward restoration of their marriage. And there are day to day reminders of God’s blessings in forms of emails, cards from friends, and chances to minister and receive ministry.

Friday I was talking to a friend of mine, and I said, “You know, I went into this month dreading October. I have spent this month watching God overcome every obstacle that has been thrown at my family and big ones thrown at our friends, and I just keep thinking of how blessed we all are.”

It leaves me in awe.

In the past month, I have not posted much. I’ve received several emails asking where I am and how I am. I didn’t know what to say then, but now I do.

I have been on my face. I have been dancing wildly.
I have been overwhelmed. I have been on top of the world.
I have been in pain. I have been in ecstasy.
I have been in tears of brokenness and joy.
I have watched the enemy attack. I have watched the Lord overcome.
I have been desperate. I have watched the Lord respond.

I have been in Awe-ctober, and because of God’s redeeming power, it has truly been Awe-some.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finally Time to Dance: A Novel

Finally Time to Dance: A Novel
By Mamie Thompson

Mamie Thompson is my friend. I know her as many things. I know her as a devoted wife, a wonderful mother, and a gifted speaker and writer. I also know her as a woman of deep faith who has walked on water while the storm raged around her. I know her as a woman of God who has faced heartbreaking life changes and has overcome them. I also know her as an anointed voice of healing for those who have lost people they love and are courageously moving forward to receive the joy and blessings the Lord is still holding out to them.

In 2001 Mamie lost her beloved husband and best friend to brain cancer. As friends, we watched the Lord carry her and their five beautiful children into a new season of life. We watched their family be blessed and continue to live boldly, and then we rejoiced when the Lord blessed Mamie with love again. When Mamie and Richard married in 2004, friends and family gathered and celebrated. It was obvious this union was of the Lord.

Sometimes, though, even things of the Lord are not easy to receive. Sometimes questions set in. Sometimes peace has to be made with what is behind before we can move forward.

In her debut fiction book Finally Time to Dance, Mamie courageously delves into the blessings and trials of love after death. It is a portrait of fear, healing, and restoration in an honest expression of the heart’s struggle to receive great things after deep loss.

While Finally Time to Dance is a fictional expression of Mamie’s journey, it is more than a cathartic novel written by a woman facing her own trials. There is an anointing of freedom and healing that allows readers who are themselves widows or widowers to be found in all the honesty of their emotions, dreams, and fears. It validates the struggle within while encouraging the reader to trust that indeed the Lord has a plan to give hope and a future, one filled with good things and blessings.

For friends and family of those who have faced death and are learning to love again, it is a view into the heart and mind that people who have never experienced such loss cannot know. It is heart wrenching and enlightening all at the same time. The honesty it offers also bridges gaps in understanding and opens doors that give freedom and safety for honest conversation.

One thing you won’t find in Finally Time to Dance is an ending all tied up in a pretty bow. Instead, you find the characters willing to step into the possibility of the future God is offering them. The ending may seem abrupt, leaving the reader feeling as though the ground has been jerked out from under them, wondering what is next. Is that not a good description of those who have lost their spouse and are still seeking to live? While it may feel awkward, it is the appropriate ending. Mamie wisely rests the responsibility for the ending upon the reader, which is where it truly lies. As one anointed to show the power of God to heal and restore, Mamie does not leave readers with a tidy little package that holds all the answers. Instead, she leaves them with something greater--the hope that it is truly Finally Time to Dance.

To find out more about this excellent book, get a free preview, or order your own copy, please visit Finally Time to Dance at AuthorHouse.com.


You can find out more about Mamie and contact her via her website.




About the book:

Alone with her best friend for the last time, Megan walked slowly to his side. She breathed deeply and tried to stop the tears as she looked down at the crayon drawings and wadded tissues that his children had laid on their father’s chest.

“Catch you on the flip side, Bud.”

Megan Hardin walked out of the church that day knowing God was holding her hand. What she didn’t expect was for Him to give it in marriage.

When Ron Wellbourne befriends Megan and finds his way back to God, he falls in love with the lovely young widow and sets out, successfully, to make her family his own. Megan stands amazed at God’s grace, thankful He’s led her to love again.

After only a few weeks of marriage, however, Megan begins to question God’s direction. Did she misunderstand? Should she have risked loving, and possibly losing, again?

When their new life begins to unravel, Ron and Megan wonder if they will ever see the day when it’s Finally Time to Dance.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Reality of War

Lately I’ve been hearing comments that have been bothering me. They aren’t new. The philosophy and theology behind them aren’t new, but my reaction to them is. Instead of having sympathy or commiserating, I’m getting annoyed. Actually, I think I'm beyond annoyed because I realize the mindset behind the statement gives too much power where it doesn't belong. It creates weakness where strength should abound. I see the lie that is just enough Truth to keep people from being free, and it is time for the sword to cut loose the shackles.

What is this statement, you wonder? It’s a statement so innocuous that it has become cliché and evokes no response of action but rather feeds the victim mentality that allows us to live impotent lives because we are at the mercy of the powers that be, and sadly, we put more faith in the power that be against us than that which is for us. And before you misinterpret, my annoyance isn’t aimed toward an individual speaker. My annoyance is toward the generalized ignorance of the church as a whole that perpetuates the thinking that keeps us from preparing appropriately for the inevitable and thus enabling us to continue to give excuse for not living at higher levels of spiritual power and maturity.

The statement has different versions , but it all comes down to one simple statement: The enemy is attacking me in some way, and it’s making things hard.

And people seem somehow surprised or like they are the only ones or that they should in some way be exempt. I’m not sure what their thoughts are exactly. I only know the results. And understand, I’m not judging. I have no room to judge. I’ve said the same things, felt the same way. “Poor me, I’m being attacked. Feel sorry for me. I’m being attacked. I’m so godly or doing so much for the Kingdom the enemy sees me as a threat, and I’m being attacked. I’m making progress, and the enemy is attacking me.” I’m telling you. I’ve been there.

We wear the scars of the onslaught like a badge. We use it to get sympathy or esteem or both. It’s a reason for special treatment one way or the other. It’s an explanation for why we act the way we do. You know what it really is? It’s an excuse not to live above where we are.

Now, I’m not saying we are never attacked, and I’m certainly not suggesting we live in denial. In fact, I’m saying we need to do just the opposite. We need to acknowledge that we are in a war. These are not potshots that the enemy is taking to ruin our day. These are bombs he has devised to destroy our lives. We are either stupid or ignorant if we think otherwise.

Jesus told us about the enemy of our soul who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Peter said the enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul said “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

Why are we surprised when the enemy attacks us? We shouldn’t be.

Last week I was talking to someone, and she mentioned how “the enemy attacked you yesterday because of the women’s group you are leading.” I looked at her and said simply, “Honey, I’m a Christian. The enemy is going to attack me whether I’m leading a women’s group or not, and to believe otherwise is beyond naïve. It is a setup for a downfall.”

Last night I received an email from someone that said, “Pray for us. We are in a battle up here.”

My first thought was, “Duh. We’re in one here, too. Welcome to being a Christian.”

And you know what? It’s not like being a Christian is going to stop the enemy from attacking. His being, his essence, is that of destruction.

Look at all the children who are set upon by the enemy. Look at the drug addicts who don’t even know who Jesus is. Look at the prostitutes who have never been told about God. You cannot describe the assault on their lives as anything less than demonic, and it wasn’t because they were busy building the Kingdom. The enemy’s attacks are not in relation to one’s spiritual status. The enemy is who he is, and he is a hate-driven destroyer whose plan today is to do whatever he can to steal, kill, and destroy any life he can.

I’m not sure why the church seems so nonchalant with the idea that we are at war. The whole topic is treated as one we should skirt around or bow beneath in fear. It’s like taxes. It’s part of life, so you just learn to live with it and cope with the oppression.

Where exactly is that in scripture? I haven’t found it. Jesus dealt with the same attacks we do. People didn’t believe in Him. Religious people thought He was crazy. His “group” was full of folks who might get it right or not on any given day. When He needed them most, they went to sleep on Him. His family thought He was crazy. He was an illegitimate child raised in a society where folks could die for that sort of thing.

Where did Jesus ever use the attacks of the enemy or circumstances of life as an excuse for having a bad day, for not living up to potential, or for hiding from His calling? I’ve yet to find a place where He did. You know why? Because He knew three very important things:

1) He knew who He was.
2) He knew who His Father was.
3) And He knew who the enemy was.

Jesus knew the enemy’s character is destruction. He also knew His Father was bigger. He knew His plan was bigger, and He knew on any given day the enemy would be who he is but that did not preclude Jesus being who He is. Jesus expected Satan to act like Satan, but He also expected His Father to act like God Almighty, too. The latter is what empowered Jesus to be who He is. Therein is the key.

If we believe we are going to have a day when Satan does not attack us, we have believed a delusional lie that is setting us up for a fall. Satan can’t not attack us. It’s against his nature. He will attack us. That is not the question. The question is how we will respond.

The joy of our day and the power we walk in cannot be dependent on not being attacked by the enemy. Our joy and our power is dependent on one thing only: our identity in Christ.

When Jesus was attacked by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus didn’t falter because He knew the Truth. When He was heckled for saying the little girl was only sleeping, He didn’t waiver because He knew He was the Healer. When His family doubted, He didn’t because He knew His Father. When the storm rocked the boat, He slept because He knew His purpose wasn’t done and He knew the One who controlled the waves. Over and over the enemy threw sources of discouragement, rejection, and doubt at Jesus, and Jesus never faltered because He knew who He was.

We talk about the armor of God. It’s a nice phrase, but do we understand it? Have we dug in and learned the Truth so we can buckle on the belt? Do we understand that salvation is more than a “someday in Heaven” thing so we can wear the helmet without it falling in front of our eyes keeping us from seeing and being ready to attack what is in front of us? Do we walk in peace, or are we tripping over the enemy’s false definition of it? Do we know the basis of our righteousness and what it affords us so we can protect our hearts, or are we still trying to earn it and having hearts diseased with guilt and condemnation? Do we know the Word so we can use our swords? Do we have faith to pick up the shield little less use it?

Folks, we are at war. There is an enemy with a relentless desire to steal or destroy everything he can. To think we can escape or avoid him is sheer ignorance. To think we can ignore him and hopefully come out intact is apathetic. To let him go unchecked is irresponsible.

Jesus never baited the enemy, and I’m not suggesting we do. However, Jesus never ran from the enemy, and He never circumvented His call in an effort to avoid the enemy either. If we are going to be the light this world needs and be the agents that the Lord can use in order to allow His Kingdom to invade this world, we can no longer be surprised by the enemy’s character or be victim to fear of his attacks. Jesus faced the same attacks daily that we do, and yet, He walked victoriously. Jesus said it simply, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

It is time for the army of God to stand up, take responsibility for being warriors, and walk in the victory of Christ. We have a world take. We have marriages to defend and families to protect.

Victory will not be determined by your not feeling the enemy’s attack today. It’ll be determined by how you respond. Are you prepared to be victorious?

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Blessing of Clouds




This morning the Lord woke me up early enough to see the sunrise. As the light began to creep into the sky, the shadow of clouds could be seen. Sometimes that does not bode well for a sunrise. However, today, as the sun hit the clouds, the light diffused, and the sky was covered with rich purples and pinks.

As I watched the magnificent display, I was reminded that white light that is invisible to us is made evident when the clouds diffuse the light into its elements. The clouds actually make it so we can see the light.

Often we use clouds as a metaphor to describe hard, sad, or troubled times. We consider them the things that hide the fun or joy of life. As Christians, we refer to them as the trials in life that “try to hide the sun (Son)”. If anything tries to distract us from Jesus or keep Him from being obvious as a huge mass of warm fuzzies, we declare that thing to be a cloud, and it is met with our contempt.

The clouds serve purposes, though. Clouds, for all the metaphorical misery, are blessings. Clouds have the ability to take invisible white light and show off its colors. In the same way, the trials and dark spots of life have the ability to show the various facets of God. In the hard places, the painful moments, and the crushing attacks, we find God to be a strong tower, loving Father, and mighty warrior. At various times circumstances accentuate His mercy, His love, His discipline, and His passion. Without them, He would become the sun in the desert--an aloof object so far away that it is primarily irrelevant and taken for granted, often times seen as cruel and overbearing in what it takes in relation to how little it appears to give. Isn’t that really what law without expression of love is? Overbearing? Cruel? Demanding? Destructive?

Presently, my backyard is starting to see the beginning rays of the day. The sun has risen above the clouds, and its rays are spilling into the neighborhood. The light is glorious. It always is. Sometimes the clouds remind me just how much.

All text and artwork Copyright © 2007 Jerri Phillips

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm Smiling

I have three sick folk in my house. The coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and motion of the lovely folks manifesting the presently mentioned symptoms keep me up at night. And there is other stuff, both physical demands, emotional letdowns, and mental battles. It has made for a tiring week. I didn't realize how much so until someone asked me to do something for her that "would only take a few hours and won't be hard" and I started to cry.

All of us have days like that. Some folks aren't cry-ers, but they have days like that.

Today, my friend Michael, the one who is happy with growing older, sent me some thoughts on friendship. Today, I needed a friend, and his thoughts were exactly what I needed. Maybe they are what you need to, so I share...

"TrueFriendship"

Are you tired of those sissy "friendship" poems? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see the stone cold truth of our friendship.

When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry son of a gun who made you that way.
When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
When you smile -- I will know you finally got what you needed.
When you are scared -- I will be in shock, because I have never seen you scared. But, I will be there anyway, and I will probably be terrified.
When you are worried -- I will tell you stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.
When you are confused -- I will use little words.
When you are sick -- Stay the heck away from me until you are well again. I don't want to catch whatever you have.
When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy behind. Then I will bend over and pick you up.

This is my oath..... I pledge it to the end. "Why?" you may ask?, "Because you are my friend".

Friendship is like peeing your pants: everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth.

And remember....when life hands you lemons, get some tequila, beer, and salt and call me!
We all deserve a laugh with a friend!

Taking a Jaunt

All you moms have got to venture over to Jessica's site. She has a video up there that had me laughing so hard I had to listen to it more than once just to hear the whole thing. Then I had Rob listen to it, and he laughed, too. I think I've seen it before, but it is worth the 3 minutes to watch it again.

Monday, September 24, 2007

All About Me

My friend Jessica Dromgoole tagged me. The gig is to tell 8 things others don't know about you. I'm thinking if no one knows, there may be a reason...And I'm writer. I can't figure out what in the world there is to tell that hasn't been told, BUT I like these games, so I'm going to venture into the world of the unknown and see what I can rummage up that you might find interesting or at least oddly curious.

1. I like my name. I wasn't really named after my dad although he was Jerry first. My great aunt named me. Dad said, "She just had a knowing about her." I have since realized this "knowing" was a prophetic gift. When I was born, she asked if Dad had a name yet. He said no and asked if she did. She said my name is Jerri. Jerri means different things, but the one I found most often in my life is "mighty warrior". My middle name means "skilled archer". What cool names, huh?

2. When I was little, the way things worked fascinated me, so I would take things apart to figure out how they worked. If I couldn't get them to work after I put them back together, I buried them around the farm, mostly in an unvisited area of our 1+ acre yard. If anyone wandered around out there with a metal detector, my "efforts" would drive them crazy.

3. One of my favorite pets I ever had was a raccoon named Freddy. My dad found it, and there was no mom. We raised him on the bottle and had him for years. One night he got out and the wild instincts kicked back in. He attacked our chicken coop. Instead of killing him, my dad trapped him in a live trap, drove over two hours away and let him go in a wooded area.

4. I would rather walk in the rain without an umbrella than with one. Rob says that everyone knows that, but maybe he's wrong.

5. My mom and I made my wedding dress. I did all the beadwork by hand. my mom did the sewing. My wedding dress had 55 YARDS of ruffles on the skirt. My mom and I cut them with the satin laying from end to end in the altar area of our church, and she zigzagged heavy fishing wire into the bottom to make them wavey, and then sewed everyone one of those wonderful ruffles onto my skirt. Did I mention my mom rocks?

6. My favorite musical instrument is a cello.

7. Some things I want to do someday include Latin dance classes, coaching basketball, playing the cello, and acting on live stage.

8. I have performed twice in Times Square in New York with Project Dance. Each April they host a concert at the corner of 44th and Broadway, and from 9 am to 7 pm (with a break from 1-3 for the matinees in the area), they present the gospel of Christ through the performing arts. Last year it was a slew of magnificent dancers, a mime, and me. I interpret music using worship sign.

Now I get to tag...
Jan
Tonya
Jenny
Paula

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall Prosper

Do you know we are in a war? Seriously. I’m not asking if you know there is a good and evil. I’m not asking if you believe in Heaven and Hell. I’m asking if you know there is an enemy whose desire is nothing less than your destruction and eternal damnation.

The Bible says the enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. It also says his character, the very thing that drives him, is the desire to kill, steal, and destroy. I think most of us do not realize the ravenous appetite of destruction that drives the enemy. I think we underestimate his hatred. I think we underestimate his cunning. I think we underestimate his willingness to use anything as a weapon against us, including those we love and who love us most.

This is not the stuff of childhood nightmares. This is real, and you better believe you are a target for the enemy’s rage.

Now, let me ask you this: Do you know there is a God who has power over this enemy? Do you know that the greatest weapon the enemy has is death, and it was defeated 2000 years ago when a stone moved and Jesus walked out of a tomb after laying there dead three days? Do you know the same power that caused that heart to pump and that blood to flow after laying there cold and stiff for three days lives in you? Are you aware that the authority that allowed Christ to speak to the sick in body and mind and give healing has been given to you as His ambassador in this world? Do you know as a child of God reigning with Christ you have the same authorities over demons that Christ did? And do you know that the very God who released the power to raise Christ from the dead and was the Father Christ looked to as an example of everything He said and did has declared that no weapon formed against you shall prosper?

Do you understand that whatever the enemy throws at you God has already prepared victory for you? Let me put it this way:

NO WEAPON—NO PLAN OF THE ENEMY TO KILL, STEAL, OR DESTROY THE POWER OF LIFE THAT RESIDES WITHIN YOU AS A CHILD OF GOD—WILL PROSPER.

That is a promise from the book of Isaiah. If you believe Christ truly died to forgive your sins, you can have just as much faith that no weapon formed against you shall prosper.

Let me rephrase that. I, Jerri, know that my God sent His Son to die on a cross for me because He is the Giver of Life, and when I accepted Jesus into my heart, the Lord poured Life into it, and there is nothing the enemy can throw at me that will prosper or succeed against that Life. Jesus is my Way, my Truth, and my Life, and the enemy cannot destroy, steal, or kill that. My Jesus is rock solid, and Life reigns in me.

I bring this up because I’ve been seeing new weapons, and they caught me off guard. Praise the Lord for the Holy Spirit who leads me into all truth, reveals the plans of the enemy, and reminds me of my True identity. If it weren’t for Him, I’d be hiding in a hole right now, and I don’t know when I would come out. However, because God is faithful to reveal the Truth and set us free from any condemnation or shame that the enemy tries to heap on us, I can write you about the weapons used, why they can be effective, and why they won’t prosper.

The first new weapon hit me broadside yesterday morning. We had spent a few days at the beach and were enjoying our last morning in the sun when the enemy whispered, “You only make this trip once a year. You only have three to five more years when the children are going to want to do this. In fact, you probably have less because once they get close to their teens they won’t want to build castles, dig holes, and boogey board like they do now. All these sweet things you love to do will just be memories. Just think about it. Maybe a total of 24-30 more hours of this kind of joy with your children. That’s hardly more than a day. You have less than two days total of this kind of fun left before your children don’t care anymore, and it’s all in the past.”

Now, you are probably thinking, “Jer, that’s crazy. That is just gloom and doom and misery…Jer, it takes effort to be that dark.” If you are, YOU’RE RIGHT!!! It does, and that should be the first sign these are not my thoughts!

When those thoughts came to me, I was standing hip deep in some chilly water letting waves splash by me so my children could laugh and crash (if you have a boy, you know) on their boogey boards. I was laughing and loving the time with my family. My thoughts were, “Wow, God, you’ve done an incredible job of healing me so that I can stand out here and do nothing but watch them play while I fight shifting sand under my feet and absolutely love it. I love being with my children, and I love how much I enjoy them. You are amazing, and I thank you for giving my life to me. This is beyond anything I thought would ever happen.” I'm glorying in the healing and restoration of my heart and family when suddenly, it’s gloom, despair, and agony on me.

My thoughts were joy, gratitude, and life. Those thoughts that suddenly assailed me were death. Those were not my thoughts. Those thoughts were a weapon the enemy was using to destroy my joy and the life the Lord had given me in my spirit and heart.

At first, sadness washed over me. Then I thought, “I’ve wasted so much time. I’ve been so broken for so long, and I wasted so much time. I’ll never get it back, and now time is so short, and I don’t know if I can make a difference, and what if I have done so much damage I can’t fix it? What if the children really don’t want to be around me when they are older? I’ve squandered the time, and it’s gone.”

Again, those are NOT MY THOUGHTS. My thoughts were all about what God had done and is doing. My thoughts focused on God’s restoration and healing. My thoughts were focused on hope and a future. My thoughts were looking forward with excitement. How can thoughts change so quickly? BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT MINE!

Those thoughts were well targeted emotional missiles that were sent to bring me down mentally and spiritually. Those thoughts were sent to destroy my hope, steal my joy, and kill my faith. Those thoughts were death-based. Know how I know? Look at the focus. My past actions. My past brokenness. What was missing. My inability to fix things. Hopelessness. Damage and wounding in me and by me. Fear. Shame. Condemnation.

What might have looked like simple “negative thoughts” were actually weapons designed to exploit areas where the enemy had been successful at pulling me down in the past.

I admit when they first hit I was sent reeling for a moment. Then the Spirit said something simple, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” FREEDOM! I did not have to stay in that emotional mire any longer, and instead of expending a bunch of energy to “overcome”, I simply said, “Yeah, your right. The Lord already handled that.” When my emotions didn’t line up, I prayed, “Lord, the enemy threw death at me. I know it is a lie. I want to enjoy the Life you gave me. Please restore to me the joy I had before.” And He did.

Now, as you know, the enemy does not get rebuffed once and go home with his tail between his legs. He has to see if he can wear us down, and I had to declare several times that no weapon formed against me would prosper. I even said aloud, “I will not choose death. I choose Life, and I choose the joy the Lord has provided. I am bound to God and His heart for me, and I will walk in nothing less.” Sometimes I had to confess mentally wandering down the “someday” road, which is another weapon. God says to pray for today’s bread because anything beyond that is His domain, and we don’t need to be worrying about His domain. "Someday" only makes us anxious wondering if we are doing enough today. I had to confess entertaining the thoughts (i.e. playing with the enemy's missiles as though they were harmless toys) and ask forgiveness and get back in agreement with the Lord. He is faithful to forgive and restore, and we were back on track.

I have to confess that I was feeling pretty good about my victory when I went to bed last night. I had heard the Spirit. I had walked in the Spirit. I had taken thoughts captive. I had stood in my identity in the Lord. I won, and really, it wasn’t that hard, and I was sort of excited that the old weapons weren’t working so the enemy had to try something new. To me that meant I was growing, and that was exciting.

Then came this morning.

The enemy didn’t come with a weapon. He came with an entire platoon. I’ve been overcoming an impacted sinus infection for a week. The medicines I’m on are attacking the infection and allowing the gunk to drain but have the effects of legalized Speed. I have been sleeping 3-5 hours each night, and that has been in increments. Today the stuff in my head is really breaking up and draining, so my ears ache. My throat is sore. I am nauseated and dizzy, and the room spins a lot. Between the fatigue and the meds, to say my thinking is fuzzy would be an understatement. To say my temperament was lagging also would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, I thought too highly of my spiritual victories, and after overreacting to a few things, I decided the family was better off with my trying to get less done, so I tried to find a place where I was accessible but not obstructive.

At one point, I was just sitting trying to read and keep the information in my brain long enough to remember the last statement my eyes had followed when Anna asked, “So, Mom, how is your day going?”

“I’m having a great day.”

Anna sighed and said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I just had an ugly thought, and I’m sorry. I just thought, ‘Please don’t say you’re stressed like you always do.’”

This is what happened in the next few seconds:

I looked at my beautiful daughter who was clearly second guessing the wisdom in her confession.

The Holy Spirit said, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

The enemy said, “See, you are such a crappy mom. Your daughter is afraid for you to talk to her. She is afraid to even ask how your day is. Do you see what you’ve done? You’ve taught your children to dread asking how you are. Their hearts are hard against you, and you know all the ways they’ll try to find love and acceptance and someone who won’t be stressed. You’ve condemned them to a life of seeking what you failed to give them, and they’ll look in all the wrong places. They are wounded, and it’s all your fault. You are just like your dad, and they’ll be just like you.”

My spirit rose up and raised my sword and shield and looked the enemy in the eye and said, “I have a new name, and I won’t walk in your shame and condemnation any more. I will glory in the healing and deliverance of my God.”

I said calmly to Anna, “Anna, have I answered that way lately? Have I been stressed lately?” She shook her head. I continued, “Anna, I used to be that way, but just like God is doing a work in you, He is doing a work in me, too, and I am not the high strung person I used to be, and I’m not stressed. I need to go to bed and get well, but I’m not stressed. I’m blessed, and I am thankful to be your mom.”

Now, I could go on for a few pages and tell you the truths of my past. I was high strung. I was so busy trying to be the perfect mom and perfect wife and perfect person that I didn’t enjoy any of it, but the Lord has set me free from that. I enjoy being a mom. I enjoy being a wife. I’m excited about who I am and what my life has in it. I’m excited about where I am going. Yes, time passed while I was broken, but God holds time in His hand, and He can do what He needs to with it. The enemy tries to steal the Life the Lord has planned for us and placed in us, but no weapon—not past brokenness, not today’s illness—will prosper against the purposes of the Lord in my life or the lives of my children.

I love how the Amplified puts it:
17 But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord. – Isaiah 54

Every tongue that rises against me in judgment. The tongue of the Accuser. The tongues spewing half-truths or misinterpreted information. Any tongue that wants to steal, kill, or destroy the Truth about me or in me.

This peace, security, and triumph over opposition is my heritage because I responded to God’s love by acknowledging Christ as my Savior, and Christ is being replicated in me. Everything He had and was is being replicated in me.

And all of this is a gift from my Heavenly Father. It is His work and His impartation. He has declared it to be so, and therefore it is.

And so, I am going to bed having battled through the day, knowing the enemy will be ready to attack again tomorrow. The weapons will look different, and I might take some hits, but despite knowing that, I am so peaceful because I know my God. I know His character. I know His promises, and I know no weapon formed against me will prosper.

copyright Jerri Phillips @ 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Any Soldier

At Jan's suggestion, I am going to share with you about my family's choice to "adopt" and support a soldier and her unit in Iraq. I've hesitated to talk about this much because of several reasons, but Jan suggested that talking about it might demonstrate how truly easy and so greatly appreciated it is, so here is our story.

Last April, we adopted a unit of soldiers that are actively serving in Iraq. Let me explain what I mean by that. We made the choice to pick a unit that we committed to supporting for as long as they were deployed. I went on the Any Soldier site and looked through their huge database of soldiers to find one we felt we could support.

How I Picked
First, I prayed. I’m not trying to sound religious. I’m telling you the truth. I wanted a unit we could make a difference with, one that would be blessed by our family and would appreciate our style of support. I knew the children were going to draw pictures, and we would send souvenirs from trips, and I wanted the Lord to bless someone with those and not give them to someone who would think they were goofy.

Second, I knew I would be the primary contact on behalf of our family, so I decided to find a female soldier in a troop with other females. I thought I could figure out what they might like more than I might could a male. So I looked up troops based on number of females. Next, I narrowed my search by determining the size of troop we could support. We cannot support 50 or 100 people, but we could support 10-15.

The next round of requirements was quirky. “Lord, show me something that means something to me.” I found PFC Kathryn Muller. Kathryn means grace. It was going to be the name of our second daughter if we had one. Muller is the last name of a friend of mine from high school who was a highlight of the last years of my dad’s life. My friend had indeed graced us in his love for and friendship with my dad, and the name connected to me emotionally. As it turned out, her unit had 10 women and 10 men. I decided we could do that, and I requested her address.

Our Commitment
I had to consider what we were willing to commit to in this endeavor. I decided we would send a letter each week and a package once a month. The package would include something for all of them. Some weeks I write more, and some months we send more, but that was the minimum I wanted to do. Let me reiterate, this is our chosen level of commitment. If you choose to support a soldier, it can be a one time letter, card, or package. ALL support means so much to them. Don’t let what a person or group does determine what you do. You do what God leads you to do.

The Letters
As I said, I committed to writing weekly. I often get asked what I write about. Anything. Everything.

I’ve written about:
My dad
The children’s diving classes
My photos being published in Studio G
The zit under my nose that hurts every time I blow my nose (okay, I haven’t written about that, but I might if it isn’t gone before I write again)
The spider web at Lake Tawakoni
Fred
Playing in the sprinkler on the trampoline
The rain (that gave me LOTS to write about this year)
Mowing the yard
That I like to iron
School
The Water Gardens in Fort Worth
Ways God blesses me daily
A Day in the Life of a Domestic Diva (and, yes, I did mean me)—that was fun. I told them about scrubbing toilets, the fact that I prefer green cleaning things, the fact that my bathmat stuck to the floor and I had to hand scrub the tile to get the sticky off
Being up with Robert when he had respiratory problems
Pink Impact
Tadpoles
The peach tree collapse
Making peach preserves and the 3 hours it took to peel the peaches, and when we thought we were done, my mom and stepdad gave us more.

I’m not trying to be obnoxiously long here. I just want you to realize that my letters are as basic as our life is. I share the ups and downs. Things that seem horribly mundane to us are connections to home for them. To give you an idea of how much these simple letters mean, I got an email from PFC Muller, and she said:

“Jerri, we appreciate the packages, but it’s your letters. We love them. We put them on the board so people can read them when they come by and have time. It’s our connection to home, and I cannot tell you what they mean to us. Even the mundane to you is precious to us. Even if you can’t send packages, please keep sending the letters. And we love the papers the children send. Tell them to send all they want. You are our family, and we love you.”

Being the photographer that I am, I splatter the pages with pictures. Tonight I finished a 12 page letter (I’m like the marathon letter writer. 12 pages, and I haven’t even hit my 2nd wind. If you just drop a card in the mail that says, “I’m praying for you,” it’ll be just as good. The key is getting something in the mail). I put in a huge amount of pictures. The text was maybe half of the letter. The rest was the pictures that go with our stories. Pictures of home are precious to our soldiers. It keeps them in contact and grounded emotionally. That brings up another thought….

Pictures
The pictures I put in my letters vary as much as the content. I have put in pictures of:
Spiders
a snake
peaches
waterfalls
Robert’s feet splashing in a water puddle
Ducks
Caterpillars
Webs of webworms
The rain

Whatever was on my camera at the moment. I have even found pictures from last winter about the ice storm we had and told the story about it just because I know it is special to them. (Plus, when you are in 110-120 degree heat, pictures of snow and ice might be a mental boost.) During the spring the children and I walked around the neighborhood with all of our cameras snapping pictures of any kind of flower that had the boldness to show its petals, and we sent the pictures over so the unit could have Spring in Iraq.

Pictures are not required, but if you want to stick them in, they are really appreciated.

Care Packages
There are some legal rules on care packages, and some common sense ones, too, but mostly, if you want to send it, they would like to get it. Things we’ve sent:
Beach balls
Beef jerky
Flip flops (you can imagine what the cashier thought when we bought 12 pair of large women’s flips flops and 12 pair of large men’s flips flops, but it probably wasn’t nearly as interesting as those folks walking by us while we had them all laid out on the floor trying to make sure no two pair of flips flops were exactly alike)
Fingernail polish
Cliff Bars
Body washes
Loofa puffs
Baby powder (sweating can cause chaffing. Baby powder helps)
Odor absorbers (the men’s barracks evidently smells similar to a junior high boys’ locker room. Well, it did before the odor absorbers)
Soap ( scented for the ladies, plain for the gentlemen)
Body Wash
One soldier got water guns from someone, and he raved about them.
Another soldier told how he loved envelopes from one particular family because they always had packets of Kool Aid in them.

When we send something over, we always try to include hard candy and gum. Chocolate melts in the heat right now, but the sugar boost from hard candy and gum can be really good on hot missions.

We also send lots of magazines. One day I was at our dentist’s office, and I asked what they were going to do with their magazines. Toss them. I explained about our soldiers and asked if I could have the magazines to send to Iraq. The first month or two, we had 8-10 magazines. Now all the employees save their magazines, and we have two full boxes each month, so we send the candy and gum in another box.

Another big question is how do we send the packages. The post office has free “one rate” boxes. They are perfect. In one shipment of 3 boxes, we saved over $30 in shipping by using the one rate boxes. Plus, the sizes are perfect. You need to fill out a customs form, but that takes only a few minutes. It is suggested that you not send homemade food because the soldiers are told not to eat it because no one really knows who you are. That is a small limitation though.

We added a little humor to our boxes. We took 23 Texas postcards, and we put a different joke or riddle on each one. Each person got to pick a post card. That gave everyone 23 new jokes to tell and laugh about.

Jan sent a birthday card, and as it turned out, there were 4 people with a birthday, and they all shared the card.

And several of our ideas came from reading other soldiers’ posts and seeing what they needed, so if you want ideas, just peruse the postings.

What It Isn’t
This isn’t a penpal deal. I’ve written PFC Muller every week since April. Due to her unit’s geographic position, I only receive emails every 6-10 weeks, and they are only a paragraph long to let me know they are safe and comment on a few things from the letters. The reality is you may never have a response from the soldier you support, but you can either accept that and continue support OR choose a different soldier.

What It All Comes Down To
There are no “rules” for supporting a soldier through Any Soldier. Even if you don’t want to send letters or packages, reading the profiles give you an idea of how to pray, and you’ll see that many of them will tell you prayer is the greatest thing we can give them.

I will gladly answer any questions I can if you email me or leave a comment, but I have to go right now, though, because I finished a letter to PFC Muller before starting this. There were so many pictures that my computer and printer nearly wigged out while transferring the data. It’s done printing now, though, and I need to get it ready for the mail tomorrow.

The only other thing I can tell you is our family has been so blessed by the chance to support these people who are fighting this war. I thank God we have the chance to do that, and for whatever we give, we believe we've gotten it all back and then some.

Blessings...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Getting Older

This week I received an email from my very precious friend Michael, and while it was special to me because I know him, I believed the words he wrote were more than just nice thoughts to friends. I felt like they were words of freedom, self-acceptance, and revelation that people needed to hear, so I asked if I could post them here. He generously agreed. May the Lord speak what He will to your hearts through the words Michael penned.

Getting Older

When asked how I felt about being old, I was taken aback. I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, my student was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question. I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the places that sag. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my father!), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly plaster wolf that I didn't need, but looks so great on my sheep skin in the livingroom . I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60&70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will. I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect and better yet, being loved.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray and falling out. Even to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. Even shaving my head this summer was a surprise. I decided I like the look for now!

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong. And I realize that God forgives even the big mistakes, if you ask Him.

So, to answer my student's question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day if I choose, but I won't, really. I prefer cheese! ha ha

MAY OUR FRIENDSHIP NEVER COME APART, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT'S STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART! THANK YOU LORD FOR MY FAMILY AND MY FRIENDS WHO ARE AS CLOSE AS FAMILY! THEY ARE THE BIGGEST BLESSING IN MY LIFE. I FEEL LOVED BY EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. MAY YOU ALWAYS HAVE SMILES ON YOUR FACES AND IN YOUR HEARTS FOREVER AND EVER! THOSE SMILES THAT COME FROM COUNTING YOUR BLESSINGS!

FRIENDS FOREVER!
Michael


Getting Older copyright Michael Hodges @ 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

You Know You are a Bonafide Writer When...

I've been tagged by Jan, and I like these games so...

You know you are a bonafide writer when...

--You don't choose purses on how cute they are but on whether it is big enough to hold your journal.
--You often have to decipher writing done in your sleep because you were just awake enough to realize something was a good idea, but not awake enough to get up, turn the light on, and write it down in "awake English".
--You are in a conversation and finish a thought, but are distracted by trying to figure out how to finish that better in a book or article.
--Consider "roughing it" to mean you write by hand in a journal rather than on a computer.
--You know which pen you used when writing something down based on the characteristics of the ink.
--While others may believe a pen is just a pen, you know better.
--When you write in a journal, you leave the opposite page clear for future notes and thoughts because eventually they will come.
--Others escape from their computers, and you escape to yours.
--Your "desk" consists of a recliner and a table beside it for your coffee.
--When planning a trip to the beach, you wonder how you'll keep sand out of the keyboard.
--At then beach, you sit under the umbrella so you can still see the computer screen.
--You think proper work attire is pajamas.

And, yes, I'm a bonafide writer. Are you? Is so, tell us how you know.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Twice is Really Nice



I was picked a second time for the Nice Award. Granted, it was a week ago, but it was after Paula picked me, and I've been planning to post it, but life has intervened. Today, however, I am going to take out my award and put it where I can see it.

Today is a day when I need a nice award. It is the kind of day when I need to be reminded of who I truly am, not who this flesh acts like. And really, I am nice. In fact, let me tell you some other things I am.

  1. I am patient.
  2. I am loving.
  3. I am kind.
  4. I am gentle.
  5. I am self-controlled.
  6. I am joyful.
  7. I am good. Got that, self. I am good. Got that, Liar. I am good.
  8. I am faithful.
  9. I am peaceful.

Sometimes I don't act those things, but those are nasty flashbacks to before I died. You didn't know I died? Sometimes I don't act like I did, but I did. I chose to die in Christ. I have been buried with Him and raised to life. I am alive in the Spirit. Everything else is dead.

Today the Liar wanted to tell me I am inadequate, which is true. I am. But he tacked on "and hopeless". That is a lie. I am not hopeless. Psalm 25:3 says, "No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame."

Let's not forget Psalm 33 that says,

"18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you
."

Psalm 42 says, "5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. "

Somedays situations disturb me. Some days I disturb me because I'm far more dead and sticky than I am Jesus in real life. On days like that the enemy likes to come at me with the lie that I will always be this way. He likes to tell me that there is no change and never will be. He likes to remind me that some of these nasty behaviors or attitudes have been around for the last 30 years and wants to know what makes me think they'll change. Some of what he says is true, but when he starts asking why I think there could ever be change or why I think it'll get better, I get to the bottom of it. He isn't just accusing me. He's accusing my God. He's saying the One Who bought my life and gave me life can't do anything better with that life. He's saying I've been abandoned and left for dead.

Nothing could be farther from the truth or the Truth. And I like things that remind me of the Truth. The Truth is God is in me. The Jerri I was is dead, and the Jerri God created me to be is alive and well and learning to shine more each day. The Truth is I'm really everything I want to be. I just have to have the faith to act like it, and it's really nice to be reminded.

Those wonderful folks who remind me include....

Well, I'm sticking with Tonya, Jenny, Iona, and Jan (since she says tag-backs are okay).

I am also including Paula, who deserves it so much. I look forward to having coffee with you some day, too. Then you can give me my own autographed copy of your book. :-) And you can tell me the adventure you and God had while you wrote it. I would love to hear it.

One I did not remember before because I couldn't find her link is Claire Barton, who is an amazing prophetic artist. You just need to check out her work. She is also an amazing person, and I thank the Lord He brought her into my life as my friend.

You ladies remind me of who I am because you remind me of Who is in me, and, friends, there is nothing nicer.