Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trust and Its Rewards

My friend Debra posted this on her blog. I thought it was profoundly simple and powerfully true.

Those who are readiest to trust God
without other evidence than His Word
always receive the greatest number
of visible evidences of His love.
~ Charles C. G. Trumbull
Monday, January 26, 2009

Truth and Spirit

I visted Ann over at A Holy Experience today, and as usual, the Lord used what she wrote to emphasis what He has been speaking to me. I commented on her post, and I decided to share it here as well.

This morning the Lord gave me an odd phrase--"the Absurdity of Spirituality". It seemed a bit paradoxical coming from One we are called to worship in spirit and truth, and, yet, in it is truth.

I was raised in a home where anything that was not practical or overtly spiritual was condemned. To do something for sheer enjoyment was fleshly and sinful. If it served no obvious purpose, it obviously served no purpose.

How much truth do I miss in my quest to be oh, so spiritual? I don't have to open a coffee shop for folks to congregate when I can simply hand them a cup of coffee in my kitchen and congregate with them. I forget the simple things--bread, water, acceptance, a room, a hug. Yes, Jesus fed thousands at a time, but the changed lives we read about happened one at a time. One woman at a well. One man in a cemetary. One desperate mom begging for her daughter's healing. One dad with one son who needed deliverance. One woman who had one thought: If I can touch the hem of His garment.

If I touch one person each day, in a year, that will be 365 times Jesus touches someone through me...just being me, doing what I do. And that is the truth.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Am I Here?

I present this question, not as one of the great existential, philosophical, mental torments of all time, but as a Christian who believes church should be an integral part of any believer's life.

Have you ever sat in a chair or on a pew in a church, listening to a pastor drone on about something that you won't even remember after the football game that afternoon, and wondered why you even bothered? I have. Sometimes I even take the question to the core: what part of this reaches deep enough within me that it really makes any difference or affects me at all? To many weeks of that question, or too many weeks of an unsatisfactory answer, and I am ready to leave that church.

Why?

Because I'm not there to nod and tell uninterested people I'm fine. I'm there to be found. I'm there to have a head on collision with God Almighty in all its glory, ugliness, pain, and exaltation. And if I can't walk into God's house--you know, the One who loves me enough to crucify His Son--and be real, then where can I be?

This week Pastor Pete Wilson took a huge risk and got real about one of his personal struggles, and in response, he received an email that said in essence church is the place to escape the world, not confront it or confront sin.

Really?

Isaiah 61 says:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

Let's see. Jesus dealt with sickness, blindness, prisons (spiritual including sins like lust, pornography, divination, lying, addictions, etc...), captivity, wounds, broken hearts, and grief. I think I missed the part where He said, "And I will make sure no one else has to see me deal with the real stuff." On the contrary, Jesus dealt with all of that right out in the open.

Why? Why drag all that messy stuff out into the middle of public? Isn't there a back alley office where such uncomfortable topics can be addressed?

Probably, but Jesus was never good at back alley anything. Goodness gracious the man covorted with whores and partiers right out where the religious leaders could see Him.

So why? Why bring all this mess right out into the open?

Because there isn't just one person dealing with addiction. There isn't just one person whose marriage is in trouble. There isn't just one person needing healing from MS. There isn't just one person who needs to be healed from the effects of rape. There isn't just one person struggling with pornography. There isn't just one person who is bouncing from bed to bed hoping to find some sense of value.

There is a whole world out there that is brokenhearted, wounded, in prison, blind, captive, and grieving. If they can't go to church and be real, how will they ever get healed, and how will they ever have the courage to be real if no one goes before them? As Pastor Pete says, someone has to be first. Someone has to have the courage to risk worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

I don't know why you go to church. Personally, I go because I need a Jesus who is willing to let me be real with my hurts and my struggles. I need a Jesus that allows me to come empty, desperate, and on my knees. I need a Jesus who doesn't try to escape the world but addresses the impact of the world on me and offers me the peace, healing, and strength to overcome that world.

Yeah, my truth can get pretty, stinking ugly, but He knows all that, and that is why He came. If truth, even when it is ugly truth, isn't welcome in the house of God, seems to me God isn't really welcome either. In that case, maybe I'm not the only one of the two of us that asks, "Why am I here?"
Monday, January 19, 2009

Gratitude 13--Cracked Pots and Not So Purple Toes

I am so incredibly blessed. Not only did I get some nice comments on the post about "Cracked Pots", but I received some nice emails. And obviously, I got a lot of prayer offered up on my behalf.

When our neighbor, the nurse, was here yesterday, she pretty much confirmed what I thought. There was a lot of damage done. She figured it would be three or four days before I could walk, and it would be next week before a shoe was an option. All of us were concerned about how I would sleep last night. In fact, there was the pondering of a trip to the ER just for the good painkillers. It was...concerning.

Well, we had a horrendous jolt yesterday when we found out the son of friends had been in a wreck and was in serious condition. Last night I sat up, prayed, and waited for an update. At midnight, the phone call came saying Tyler is stable (still in desperate need of prayer, though), and I fell asleep thanking the Lord for His mercy.

At 2:30 this morning, the dogs needed outside. I let them out, let them in, and went right back to sleep.

At 4:30 A.M. I bumped my toe on the couch. A bit painful. It occurred to me then that despite the severity of the injury, I had not needed painkillers at all. I took some ibuprofen and slept till 8:30 when the phone rang and woke me up. It was a dear friend who was calling to check on me since she was sure I had slept little. She was going to be the reinforcements, which I didn't need.

I showered, wrapped my toe in gauze, put on a sock, and could even put on a shoe. Walking was not an option, so I ditched the shoe, did a few loads of laundry, drove to meet friends for breakfast (propped my foot up on a chair while we ate and visited), drove home, taught school, and did a few other chores.

There have been a few moments of discomfort, but for the most part, it has been an easy day.

Right now, my foot is propped up because it is sore, but the color is amazingly normal. If I walk slowly, I can walk without a limp.

Thank you all for your prayers. The Lord has heard and responded.

God has been very, very gracious.

And for all the different ways He has shown that in the last 36 hours--both to us and to friends who love--I am deeply grateful.
Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gratitude 12--Cracked Pots

This morning I stayed home to sleep while my family went to church because I spent the night battling this respiratory virus. I turned on the coffee and figured I would move two terracotta pots of Aspargus Ferns so they could get more light before the coffee was finished. I was wrong.

I picked up the first pot in the absolute perfect way that caused a crack to break free and a fourth of the pot to lose its grip. The weight of the pot pulled it from the fingers of the other hand. A fraction of a second later, the bottom edge of the pot landed on my big toe.

Seconds later excruciating pain left me nauseated and light headed.

My toe turned colors, and actions had to be taken to relieve the pressure under my toenail.

Even now, ten hours later, I cannot put a Band Aid on it but have to keep it loosely wrapped in gauze. If I walk to the kitchen, I feel queasy by the time I'm back on the couch. I was supposed to take the children to meet friends for lunch tomorrow, but I don't see me driving anywhere. Getting in a position to sleep is challenge enough.

No. Not what I would declare as my ideal day, and yet...

God is faithful, and because of that, I can be thankful for Cracked Pots. I'm thankful:

1. for the presence of mind to pick up a phone on the way to the couch to elevate my foot.
2. for cell phones so I could call Rob to come home.
3. that Rob had not dropped off the children to their classes at church but could immediately turn around instead of spending time waiting in line to get the children from their classes
4. for Brian picking up the phone although it was early and they went to church last night and could sleep in if he ignored the ringing.
5. for Debra who talked on the phone with me and helped me form a plan for relieving the pressure under my toenail untill Rob got home.
6. for Chris who returns phone calls
7. for small drill bits that easily make painless holes .
8. for having the sense NOT to put the bit in the drill to make the hole.
9. for alcohol to soak the drill bit.
10. for Janet who is a nurse with a heart of gold.
11. for two hours of conversation with a sweet friend while my toe bled, soaked, and healed.
12. for children who laid hands on me and prayed.
13. for a husband who hates the sight of blood but emptied bowl after bowl of bloody water and replaced it with hot water so my foot could soak.
14. for hot water from a tap that doesn't have to be heated over a fire.
15. for Epsom Salt.
16. for gauze.
17. for all the physical education teachers who drilled ICE into my head: Ice. Compress. Elevate.
18. for fluffy pillows for propping my foot up.
19. for a precious son who reads sweet books to me while I stare in awe at the glorious masterpiece God has set before my eyes.
20. for a husband who can cook.
21. for a family who can clean up after themselves.
22. for the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom so I can put my foot up tomorrow if I need to do so.
23. that God can take a cracked pot and make it a blessing.
24. that even in the purple of a smashed toe the Lord allows me to see the love of the King for His children.
Friday, January 16, 2009

I've been tagged in that weird and quirky sort of way

My friend, Debra, over at The Morel Family tagged me for a blogger game today. The rules for this game of tag are as follows: list six random or weird facts about yourself, and then tag six others.

The truth is I've told so many weird things about myself that I don't know if there is anything else to tell. Here it goes though...

1. I hate the feeling of paper. When paper grocery bags went out and plastic came in, I sang the Hallelujah Chorus at full volume. Now I use fabric bags so I don't have to touch paper, and I'm not assaulting the environment.

2. I have churned butter with a stick plunger in one of those ceramic butter churns, scrubbed clothes on a scrub board, rinsed them through a ringer, and hung them on a clothes line because that is how life at my grandma's worked when I was little.

3. I have peformed/ministered on stage in Times Square (corner of Broadway and 44th) twice as part of Project Dance.

4. I had a pet raccoon for many years.

5. I met my husband while I was on a date with a friend of his.

6. I save turtles. If I see a turtle on the road, I will turn around to go back and get it safely off the road.

Who do I tag? Hmm....

I tag
Jan
Linda
Tonya
Natalie
Amelia
And who else? Whoever wants to play!!!! Just let us know you are in!!

Major Lessons from the Minor Prophets--Obadiah

The Lord has begun this calendar year by taking me into a section of the Bible referred to as "The Minor Prophets". This generally includes the books of Daniel to the end of the New Testament in the Protestant version of the Bible. This is not an area most Christians venture into on a regular basis. We tend to stick to the Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament. However, there is a wealth of knowledge in this short little books.

I thought I would take some time and share some of the nuggets I've been gleaning. This is not a theological or heavy academic survey, just a bit of general information and some personal thoughts.

Today I start with Obadiah.

Obadiah
General info: 1 chapter
Overview: Esau is in serious trouble, and God has said He is going to bring on some serious punishment.
Personal thoughts: This is not the first or only place God has let His anger be known. This is not the only time He has threatened to unleash His anger. That wasn't what stuck in my thoughts. What stuck in my thoughts was verse 11.

"On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them."

I don't know all the historical details here, but I know Esau, or the nation thereof, stood by and did nothing. And it wasn't like they couldn't do anything. The Lord used the word "aloof". Aloof means having not interest, not caring. They didn't even care that other people of the Lord were being ransacked and destroyed.

As I read that, I asked the Lord, "Is there a point where I am or have been aloof?" I like to think there isn't, but in reality, it is easy to be deceived in this area because to care means to be invested, and sometimes that requires sacrifice, and sacrifice isn't comfortable. Is there a place where I am so comfortable or complacent that I am aloof? If so, I need to know. I want to know.

Could Esau have stopped what happened? I don't know. I don't think that is the point. I think the point is they didn't care enough to try.

Have you ever noticed Jesus was accused of hanging out with whores, getting drunk with partiers, eating with tax collectors and other lawless people, and healing at godless times, but never once did anyone accuse Him of being aloof. Aren't you glad? I am.
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gratitude 11--Miracle on the Hudson

Today an airliner crashed into Hudson Bay. The plane miraculously landed intact and sat emmersed to the windows until all the people were removed safely. It seems obvious to the me and those in my household that such an act could only be done by God. Yes, the pilot obviously executed the proper actions with great wisdom, but only the hand of God could sit it so carefully and hold it there until the passengers and crew were safe.

Thus, 155 reasons to be thankful. All 155 people on board are safe and sound tonight. Praise be the name of the Lord Most High!
Friday, January 9, 2009

Warfare--Sword of the Spirit, memorization

One of the things the Lord has really impressed on me for this year is the importance of memorizing scripture. I have heard many excuses for avoiding this Christian discipline. However, the reality is excuses are just that--excuses. They are a justification for our not wanting to take responsibility for doing the right thing--the thing that feeds our soul, attacks a situation, brings down mountains, and breaks forth life. The Word says the Sword of Spirit is the Word of God. Why do we make excuses for refusing to pick up a weapon so powerful that it brought for the universe in six days?

If you have chosen to pick up your sword, one way you learn to wield is by memorizing scripture. I want to share a few methods for memorizing scripture.

1. Repeating aloud. Simply read the verse aloud repeated. For people who learn by hearing, this is great.

2. Technology aided. You can record it on an iPod or MP3 player and let it play back to you. Say it as it plays. This is great if you use your iPod for exercise or copy it to a CD to play in your car on the way to work or run errands. Hit the repeat button and let it go. Listen to it and repeat aloud. After awhile, you should be able to turn off the voice or CD and simply say it alone. Again, this is great for those who learn by hearing.

3. Write it down...over and over and over. I use this method because I remember what I see or read. One of the blessings of a photographic memory. There are 3 tactics for this. I use different ones at different time.
a. Break the verse or passage up into pieces, such as sentences or phrases.
Example: My children learned this in one day.
I command you to brave and courageous.
Do not be terrified.
Do not lose hope.
I am the Lord your God.
I will be with you
in everything you do. (Joshua 1:9 NIrV)

I wrote it on the white board that way. We read it several times. Then I started erasing words.
I command you to be brave and
Do not be
Do not
I am the Lord your God.
I will be with you
in everything you do.

More words were erased.
I command you to be
Do not
Do not
I am
I will

At that point, they had it memorized. Then we simply went through it a few times each day.

By the way, they each have their own journals, and they write down the verses they memorize and the date. We are building a foundation for them, and these are part of the bricks we use.

b. I write the scripture over and over. Each time I try to write more without having to look at the text. Usually, I have to write it four or five times to make it stick, and I try to keep my focus text under five written lines. If I am doing a long passage, I do it in sections. Today I worked on James 1:2-4. I worked on verses 2 and 3 by themselves.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Then I worked on verse 4.
Perserverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Then I put the whole section together and wrote it several times. I use a simple spiral to write these in.

c. The last method incorporate color coding. An example is:
This is what I am commanding you to do.
Be strong and brave.
Do not be terrified.
Do not lose hope.
I am the Lord your God.
I will be with you
everywhere you go.

I use this with the children a lot. I make multiple copies on the computer and put them around the house. I put one in the bathroom, by their beds, on the wall so everyone can see it from the kitchen table. You get the idea.

Our goal is one sentence at a time. Breaking them up in colors makes the bites edible and not overwhelming.

Don't forget!!!
And that brings us to my final suggestion, put it everywhere so you can review it.

My friend Debra has verses on the wall in front of her toilet.
She has them on the cabinets in her kitchen.
She puts them like posters and post cards all around her bedroom.
If you walk in the door and turn to the side, there are verses.
You cannot walk into her house or move from room to room without seeing the verses.
She also has a packet in her purse at all times.
She takes them out and read them when she is waiting for her children.
She hands them to her girls to read while they are in the car driving from place to place.

Standing Together
Find an accountability partner or two. Tell them what you are memorizing and give them (or every other day) updates. Memorization really is a daily exercise. It takes about 27 days for something to become a habit, so try to make a goal of reviewing a verse everyday for a month. You can work on multiple verses at once. Write them all down in an email to your Accountability Warrior every day. If you are doing a whole section, and it takes two weeks to memorize, then write the whole thing you have memorized each day from the time you start that passage until a month after the last part is memorized. Does that makes sense?

After a month, the passage should be concreted in your brain.

So tell me, what scripture are you memorizing? Why? What is the Lord speaking to you through the verse(s)? You can email me through my profile if you want it private or share on the comments. Make it as long as you like. You never how much a fellow warrior may need what the Father is speaking into you, so share.

Blessings, Warriors and Warriors-in-the-Making!

Remember:
This is what I command.
Be strong and brave.
Do not be terrified.
Do not lose hope.
I will be with you
everywhere you go.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Prayer for our Soldiers

Two years ago our family started supporting soldiers through Any Soldier, a soldier support organization. That year we were blessed to support some very fine soldiers, and we have been honored to keep contact with some of them. One such soldier is SGT Kevin Zuniga.

SGT Zuniga returned to Iraq in December, and we have again committed to supporting him. The requests of him and his squad are simple: letters, cookies, but most of all, prayer.

Prayer comforts their hearts, protects their bodies, and refreshes their spirits. They cannot do their job and return to "normal" life without the power of God to help them.

You do not have to visit Any Soldier or find a specific soldier who needs prayer. They all do. Please remember them in your quiet time, family prayers, and corporate prayer. And please don't forget their families as well.

Thank you.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Minutes

Every minute counts.

Minutes make up hours.
Hours make up days.
Days make up weeks.
Weeks make up months.
Months make up years.
Yearts make up a lifetime.

And every lifetime counts.

YOUR lifetime counts.
Sunday, January 4, 2009

Still Understanding

At the end of each year, I ask the Lord for a "word for the next year". What does He have to say that I can be in agreement with in mind, body, and spirit? Sort of an overriding direction, if you will. This year's word was so simple it has been a bit hard to wrap my mind around.

He said simply, "Be still and know that I am God."

This is a foreign concept to me.

I grew up on a farm. I was an athlete. I am a mother of two, homeschooler, church volunteer, "Type A", has to be doing something with my hands while I watch TV kind of person. Be still? Frankly, I didn't even have a working knowledge of what that means. So, I do what I always do. I looked it up.

My Hebrew Keyword Bible didn't help much. It simply said "still". Huh.

So I pulled out my dictionary. "Still" has a number of meanings, but simply put it means without motion, noise, or distraction. In other words:


"Quit focusing on what you can or can't do or what is happening around you. Understand I AM God, and it is all about what I can and will do."


I don't know about your year, what kind of year your coming out of or the things you face right now. I don't know the mental, emotional, or spiritual details. I do know most everyone I know, including myself, has something they would like to see changed, something that hurts them, overwhelms them--things much bigger than they are. And we've all done all we know to do to change things, to fix things. And what do you do when nothing you do makes a difference? Be still. After all He's God.

Understand?

Relevant

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Quotables

"It's not the wind in our hair that makes us free. It's the movement of the Spirit, the growth of our invisible side." --Amber Haines

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My simple life plan: To live the kind of life that when asked, "If you could be anybody, who would you be?", I'd choose me.

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