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.