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, September 26, 2009

When

Do you ever go to a family reunion or a potluck, and there is so much good stuff that you pick up a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Don't forget the mashed potatoes Aunt Betsy made that you have to eat so you don't offend her. Oh! There are those barbecue ribs Uncle Ralph says are the best ever. Have to have some of that. Then there is that chocolate pudding mousse thing that Sheryl only makes on special occasions. Can't pass that up. Who knows when you'll get a chance at that again?

By the time you finish adding all you want, all others say you should get, and all you get so no one is offended, your plate is overflowing, and the excitement you felt with your first glance has turned into a sense of dread as you look forward to the bloated stomach, tight belt, and indigestion later?

Crazy, isn't it?

The craziest part is the gratitude at the beginning of the meal has now because complaint. The food God gave to bless us is now seen as a curse. Why? Because we didn't know when to say when.

Today, my plate is full of blessings, but I feel the pull of temptation to load up a bit more. If I scoot this over and move this around, I can find room. It's all good. And, after all, what can a little bit more hurt, right?

Let's look at that "little bit more" that causes my head to turn and see what it can hurt.

My "little bit more" looks like a fiction book that I've had rolling around in my head for nearly two years. I worked on it a lot in 2008, but in 2009, it has gone by the way side. The fact is I haven't missed it much. I think of it periodically, but mostly, I'm busy with other things that I enjoy. In fact, I am completely happy without it until I see it on someone else's plate.

My friend Lisa Buffaloe shared the exciting news that her fiction book is headed to the publisher. I am truly thrilled. This is a book from God, and it is going to bless so many. My friend Amelia is moving forward with her book, and she has some interested eyes ogling it as well. I just finished reading Ruby's Slippers by Leanna Ellis, another friend. Understand. This is not about jealousy. These women are so gifted, and I rejoice that the Lord is blessing them and increasing them. It's just...I really like writing fiction, too.

Surely I could find time to work on a fiction book. Surely it couldn't be that hard to find the time, right?

Let's see. If I give up my Wednesday night fellowship time, that would buy me a few hours. If I gave up reading time with the children, I could get another 20-30 minutes a day. If I got up earlier, I could move my quiet time back. Probably won't remember it, but at least I'm doing it which means something will "stick in my spirit", so that's alright. Maybe instead of spending an hour and a half with my husband in the evenings I could only spend an hour. Wonder if I can figure out a way to spend less time on the co-op classes I teach, or maybe I could have the children do more workbook school and few projects and discussions for home school? Or, I could just give up cooking which would mean I didn't have to waste time doing dishes or going grocery shopping, and if I wear the same clothes three days in a row, that would cut down on the laundry, and if I...

...just lose my mind and don't care if I drive my family insane while cutting all my life lines to my support group...

It sounds absurd when I write it out, and most of us probably laughed at the craziness of it. However, every woman I know has had moments when she was tempted to add one more thing to an already full plate, and there is always the whisper, "What can it hurt?"

In Proverbs 31, we are told the woman of immeasurable value "considers a [new] field before she buys or accepts it [expanding prudently and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming other duties]; with her savings [of time and strength] she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard (v 16, AMP)."

I love this. This woman of immeasurable considers the opportunity laid before her. Notice what she considers. She considers her present responsibilities. She thinks about what God expects of her in the season and place she is in. She does not think about whether someone will be mad or offended if she does not embrace this opportunity. She does not think about whether someone else thinks it is good or not. She does not fear that this may be her only chance at this field. Instead, she knows the Lord gives her what she needs in every season, including fields to tend for the purpose of yielding glorious fruit for Him and because of Him.

Because she doesn't embrace anything that isn't hers, she has time and energy to plant fruitful vines. These are not vines that will wither or languish because this valuable woman is spread too thin to tend them the way they need. No. This valuable woman knows her time and investments are valuable, so she only accepts what she knows she can tend well. Her vineyard will not be a straggly one, but one where the plants flourish, the fruit is evident, and the keeper is content. She will be known as one who is blessed.

Why?

Because she knew when to say when.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yep, That's Me

Ever have one of those days when you are the exact person you want to be?

Today is that day. Today, I am that me.

Today I am:
--a wife of a man I love and who loves me
--a woman who enjoys those looks of "Wow, I can't believe she's mine. She is amazing," that I see in my husband's eyes.
--a mom who is blessed with two children who have beautiful hearts, sound bodies, and arms that love to hug.
--a sister with wonderful brothers, spiritual and biological
--a loved daughter
--a friend who is sought out and valued
--appreciated
--joyful
--a guest speaker
--a writer
--a photographer
--excited
--expectant
--hopeful (there have been dark parts of my life when hope was not to be found. NEVER underestimate the power of being hopeful.)
--forgiven
--soaking in Grace
--warm
--comfortable
--peaceful
--useful (NEVER underestimate the power of feeling useful)
--calm
--amazed by the wisdom I hear come out of my mouth (ONLY God could do that, and it's such a delight to be the vessel He chooses)
--chosen
--in couraged
--encouraging
--thankful
--loved (deeply, faithfully, unquestionably)
--in need and sure the Lord will meet those needs
--imperfect, and okay with that
--comfortable in my own skin
--smiling
--ready to face the day

Monday, September 21, 2009

Souper Stuff

When the weather starts getting cooler (in the 70s here in Texas), my mind turns to colder days to come, sniffly noses (ours and others'), and warm foods. It is during this time of anticipation that my thoughts turn to soup.

For several years now it has been my habit to take a day and make multiple kinds of soups, pour them into bowls, label them nicely, and tuck them into our freezer. Today is that day.


The soups I make aren't fancy or hard. If they were hard, I wouldn't waste my time. Instead, I stick with a two or three favorite recipes. Today's soups are Tomato Basil Soup (I still speak blessings over my friend Christine Petri for sharing this recipe with me) and My Mom's Vegetable Soup.

I love these soups for several reasons.
  • They are easy on a sore throat.
  • They freeze well and defrost easily, too.
  • Left-overs are better than the first bowl.
  • It's easy to double or triple them.
  • They are inexpensive.
  • They are easy to stick in a bowl and take to others who need some body and/or soul food.
  • Did I mention they are incredibly easy?
How easy? Let me tell you.


My Mom's Vegetable Soup
Underneath all that delicious broth are simple ingredients.
Burger meat of whatever quality
Onion (I usually white or yellow)
Water
Corn
Diced Tomato
(General Ratio: 1 pound burger, 1 can corn, 1 can diced tomato, 1/4 onion)
1. Break up the burger meat and put it in a large soup bowl. I try to start with the meat in balls. It is a mental thing for me, but usually it cooks apart.
2. Cut the onion into half rings and drop them in. If you liked them chopped, do that. You really can't get this wrong.
3. Add enough water to cover the beef and onions with a cup or so extra.
4. Salt and pepper to taste.
5. Boil the meat and onion until the meat is cooked.
6. Drain the tomatoes and corn and add them.
7. Cover it up and let all the flavors get to know each other awhile.
I make a huge batch of this, but we also have freezer space for it. If you don't, no problem. Cut the ratio back to what fits in your pan and your fridge. Just use the ratio above. If you want something heartier, add what you like. Green beans, carrots, and celery make for great additions, too.
Tomato Basil Soup
4 cups (8 to 10) tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped or 4 cups canned whole tomatoes crushed
4 cups tomato juice or part tomato joice and part vegetable or chicken broth
12 to 14 washed fresh basil leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 sweet unsalted butter
salt to taste
1/4 t cracked black pepper
Combine tomatoes, juice, and/or stock in a saucepan (pot). Simmer 30 minutes, puree along with basil leaves in small batches in blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and add cream and butter while stirring over low heat. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with your favorite bread.
Personal notes:
I use a big can of tomato juice and a two big cans of crushed tomatoes because it is convenient. Then I double the amount of basil, cream, and butter.
I also puree the juice and tomatoes first BEFORE they get really hot. Once I wasn't careful and added to much hot mix to the blender, and the top blew off. It might have been funny if it hadn't been blistering hot. Now, I just puree it right up front. I would think you could add pureed tomatoes and skip that extra step all together, but I can't promise.
When I serve this, we always add cheese and chunks of bread. If you have bread that is a bit old (but not fuzzy yet), cube it and toss it in. We also make grilled cheese sandwiches to eat with it. I cut mine into squares and lay the squares on top of the soup, and then I dip the others and let them soak up the soup. YUM!


Our freezer stocked and ready for the cooler temperatures.
Hope you have a souper day, too!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unquestionable Truth

This morning I cut up potatoes to go into a soup I was making. When I reached into the drawer, I chose a knife I knew was sharp and capable of cutting well. I do not keep dull knives because they are useless for their designed purpose and can be dangerous when forced to do a job they simply cannot do. Have you ever tried to force a dull knife to cut anyway? The extreme and often oddly directed force can result in the knife slipping, cutting the user, or even stabbing wildly.

If a dull knife is so useless, how much more sword?

No sane warrior would walk into battle with a dull sword. Neither would a king arm his troops with a blade unfit for battle.

The Bible says the Word of God is a sword (Ephesians 6:17). It is specifically listed as a piece of our armor. In fact, it is the only offensive weapon offered Christians. We are not completely dressed without it. So why, if the King demands we wear it, do we presume He would send us into battle with a faulty...dull...weapon of questionable use?

The Truth is, He wouldn't. He can't. It isn't His nature. And, yet, we walk in to church week after week with a Bible in our hand, and day after day, we walk into a spiritual battle with our hands hanging limp, getting the stuffing beat out of us, watching marriages fall apart, losing loved ones to all kinds of evil schemes, wondering why God isn't doing anything to help us. And God is wondering why we don't pick up our swords and stand our ground.

The sad fact is we don't understand our swords. We do not understand that the Sword we are given is sharper than we can fathom and has victory stamped on the blade. We do not understand our Sword is dripping with the blood of Jesus and power that no one can defeat. We don't understand that our Sword not only kills the enemy's efforts in our lives but has the power to raise up the dead--dead dreams, dead relationships, dead marriages, dead hopes, dead identity.

So why, if we have such a powerful instrument in our hands, are so many of us walking in hopeless defeat, simply trying to survive and endure on this side of the pearly gates? Could it be that we have not settled the primary issue of Truth?

Truth, by definition, is the fact of the state of things. There is only One with the power to define the fact of the state of things, and He cannot lie. "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"--Numbers 23:19.

Notice, Truth has nothing to do with circumstance, emotion, or human thought. Truth is the fact of the matter. The Word of God is the fact of the state of things. If He says He will deliver you, He will. If He says, the blood of Jesus is enough to cover all your sins, it is. If He says, He can restore and redeem anything, He can. There are no exclusions in established Truth.

Warriors, in our hands we hold mighty weapons given to us by the All Powerful King. Our Sword is not dull or incapable of fulfilling its purpose. On the contrary, it has the power of the blood of Jesus dripping from it, running through it, and calling forth from it. It can tear down strongholds, call forth heart desires, and raise the dead. It is more than a novel concept or something to carry to church on Sunday. It is a weapon of immeasurable power that can bring a universe into being.

And it can change your life if you believe.

That is the Truth.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Urgent Call to Intercessory Prayer for America

Lou Engle:
"Urgent Call to Prayer:
Signs of the Times"


Convergence
It is critical that the Church in America understands the times and what needs to be done now. The natural things speak of the invisible. Natural happenings on the earth are revealing something that is going on in the spiritual realm. There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Islamic boldness being manifested. Several happenings are converging this week.

First of all, our President has recently proclaimed, honored, encouraged the Muslim holy days of prayer and fasting called Ramadan. He was very silent on the National Day of Prayer, but very vocal on the support of Ramadan. Interestingly, at the same time, a major Christian leader of the Emergent Church called for forty days of fasting and prayer in the same Ramadan period with the goal that the Church will better understand our Muslim friends. We are all for understanding, but we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.

Cause for Concern

At the same time, on the 25th of September, Muslims are calling for a Muslim Day of Prayer in Washington DC: (http://www.islamoncapitolhill.com/). They are calling for 50,000 Muslims to gather and pray on the DC Mall. This is the exact word of one of the Sheikhs who is leading this historic gathering: "Muslims should march on the White House. We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into a Muslim house." These are not empty words. They speak of a dark spiritual intent and a coming day of great trouble to America.

A Divine Moment

Now, one of these events is enough to awaken us to this significant throbbing moment, but when they all converge, it becomes a massive spiritual alarm that must be responded to by the praying Church. However, I believe in this moment of divine providence that God has raised up on the stage of history, a little "Esther" that if we pray and fast for her, she could be a major voice to expose the dark under-belly of Islam and radiate a bright hope for a day of salvation for Muslims in America.

On Monday, Rifqa Bary, a young 17-year-old woman, will be in the headlines of U.S. news. Four years ago, while living in a very devout and radical Muslim home, Rifqa met Jesus in a powerful way as her Savior. She hid her conversion, began praying secretly, and began hiding her Bible from her parents. Then, on Facebook, her love for Jesus was exposed to the radical Muslim community in Ohio.

Rifqa's father demanded that she renounce Jesus or he would kill her as is commanded by the Koran. As a radiant Believer in Jesus she refused to renounce her Lord and fled to Orlando, where she was taken in and cared for by a Christian Church and family. Now, the father is appealing to the courts to bring her back under his custody. Major television networks have already covered her story. How must the Church of America respond in this moment for our sister who is a part of the Body of Christ?

A Major Sign


This convergence, I believe, is urgently summoning us in the midst of the rising tide of Islamic influence in America to recognize that our God is above every god and that if we return to Him with all of our hearts and call upon Him with fasting and prayer, then God could use what the enemy meant for evil to bring about a great day of salvation for Muslims in America, of which Rifqa is but a major sign.

First of all, we cannot be passive as a Church to let these kinds of developments go on without being challenged in the spirit. Our fight is not against Muslims, it is against principalities, powers, and forces of darkness.

We are calling the Church of America at the end of Ramadan, from September 21st through 25th, to five days of concerted prayer. On Monday, we must pray that God would grant supernatural wisdom to the courts so that the testimony of Jesus would be proclaimed and that the best situation for Rifqa and her family would take place. We must pray for Rifqa to be bold in proclaiming Jesus that even thousands of Muslims would hear and be awakened to the love of Christ. She has already said that this is not about her, but about many Muslims coming to Jesus. We must pray for her lawyers who are being bullied, threatened, and challenged on every side.

On Friday, September 25th, the Muslim Day of Prayer, we are calling the Church of America to fast and pray that Muslims would be moved by the Holy Spirit, convicted by the testimony of Christ, and even be visited by Jesus in dreams. We must pray that God would restrain the spiritual powers behind Islam and grant us the great awakening that we desperately need for America.

Let us hear the call to prayer and not miss this moment.

Lou Engle
The Call
Email: response@thecall.com

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Found Here

Found Here

Is it selfish to hide out here...alone...hoping You will invade my space?

Is it wisdom that drives me from the cocaphony caused by too many days with too little of You to a large green chair, open window, and closed door?

If I open the window, will You open heaven and meet me somewhere in the middle, even if "middle" is two feet from here where my knees sit on carpet and my battered heart beats arrhythmically in my chest? Will You come so far to meet me? You, the One who went to a cross, will you come here?

If You would...

Will You find me beneath the to-do list that never gets all done and the sadness of what I think I would like to do but never find time for?

Would You breathe life into a body fatigued by a long day's work and a mind heavy with wondering if what I am doing is truly accomplishing the intangibles that are the most important?

Would You care if my tears of the day...of the week...of this season...stained Your perfect robe with my imperfections? The imperfect balance of time? Imperfect priorities that swing between Spirit and flesh? Imperfect attitudes that are so easy to see spill from the hearts before me and so easy to justify in mine?

But today, I don't want to justify. I don't want to give excuse. I don't want anything this flesh can conjour up. I want freedom from the insane expectations, the insane overreactions, the insane weight of it all. My own insanity drives me to solitary places, dead places, tombs for dreams, relationships, identity. But You are not afraid of insanity, and the tomb must offer up its prize to Your hands.

Find me here...You alone are the Life I crave. You alone are the sanity of all this.

I am in desperate need...

...and You come...

Life to my weary soul.

I am not alone.

You smile, arms open to embrace me, and say, "Child, you never were."

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clothed in Christ

Her swimsuit lacked something to be desired, like...FABRIC!

Understand, I'm not against skimpy clothing. Women--and men--can wear as little as they want in their own backyards or in the bedrooms with their spouse, but at public pools, where young men's eyes and husband's interest are easily caught and kept, such attire--or lack thereof--no. Simply no.

Of course, if she knew Jesus, she know better. Obviously that woman needed prayer, so I prayed for her. "Lord, help her to see that she does not need to show off her body like that, that she is more valuable than that."

Then I scooched down on my recliner with my book and tried not to think about Miss Pagan Skimpy Dresser anymore. And, I did pretty well. I only shot a few disapproving looks her way, and my eyes didn't even pop out of my head when she took her lack-of-a-swimming suit up on the diving board and did a flip. Thankfully, all those strings stayed tied and came out of the pool with her.

When my children and I gathered to enjoy a snack and drink, on que Miss Pagan Skimpy Dresser walked right by...and sat right next to me! I averted my eyes and tried to ignore her. My daughter, who is so modest that she wears swim shorts and a tank top over her swimsuit, not one to stay silent.

"Ma'am?" My 12-year old's voice came clear and direct.

I prayed again, silently. "Oh please don't do anything or say anything to embarrass me. Please don't say any thing about her swimsuit."

The lady turned around and looked at Anna.

"Ma'am, can I ask you a question?"

Miss Skimpy smiled and said yes.

"Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" The question Anna asked everyone.

The woman's eyes lit up. Even in August heat in Texas, it was obvious. Her eyes lit up, and she beamed when she said, "Yes, I do. He saved me from my sins."

My daughter smiled, "I'm so glad to hear that."

"You know Jesus, too?"

"Yes, I do, and I'm glad to know you do as well."

The new-found sisters smiled at each other momentarily and went back to what they were doing. Both of them smiling a bit bigger.

I listened to the conversation and had a conversation of my own. "Lord, if she is saved, why does she dress like that? It is not becoming a woman of God to dress like...that."

A clear Voice answered, "You don't know her heart. You don't know who she is when she isn't here."

No, I don't know her heart, but I saw a glimpse. I saw eyes that lit up when she talked about her Lord and Savior. I heard a clear voice boldly proclaim that He saved her from her sins. I watched a daughter give glory to her Father. And, no, I don't know who she is when she isn't here. I don't know if she takes food to a hungry family or visits the elderly. I don't know if she works with young people who know Jesus because they know her.

All I saw was a swimming suit.

I looked at my daughter, who once again gave me a clear view of Jesus. Where I saw a skimpy swimsuit, she saw a soul. Where I saw someone to avoid, she saw someone to approach.

Then, I looked at me. Dressed in rags of self-righteous judgment. Filthy. My heart laid before me, and it didn't take a Bible scholar to figure out which of the three of us was disgusting to God.

The simple fact is the Lord will take a woman in a skimpy swimsuit with a good heart that loves Him over a modestly dressed, self-righteous, judge any time. His conern is not the size of the cloth on the body but rather that the heart be clothed in Christ.

And it was clear which one of us needed to change the way we dressed.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wonderful Mornings

It is nearly 6:30 a.m. I've been up since about 3:45. I've had a great time hanging with God, reading my Bible, journalling, and praying. He's speaking good stuff into my spirit and doing a really exciting work in my thinking and my heart. I'm getting sleepy again, but I have to say, I love these mornings with God, and I love that He loves them so much, He wakes me up so we can do this.