Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Noble

As I laid the day's plans before the Lord and spoke to Him about plans for visions He's given me, I asked Him for wisdom and balance. "Balance" is a word often used but not truly understood by most of us, so I wanted to find out His idea of balance. Once again, He took me to Proverbs 31.

This morning I am camping out on the first part of that section. It says:

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.


I am completely unsure of what "noble character" actually means, so I went to the Webster's 1828 Dictionary. According to it "noble" means:

  • 1. Great; elevated; dignified; being above every thing that can dishonor reputation; as a nobel mind; a noble courage; noble deeds of valor.
    2. Exalted; elevated; sublime.
    5. Distinguished from commoners by rank and title; as a noble personage.
    6. Free; generous; liberal; as a noble heart.
    8. Ingenuous; candid; of an excellent disposition; ready to receive truth. Acts 17.
    9. Of the best kind; choice; excellent; as a noble vine. Jeremiah 2.
    NO'BLE, n.
    1. A person of rank above a commoner; a nobleman; a peer; as a duke, marquis, earl, viscount or baron.
    2. In Scripture, a person of honorable family or distinguished by station. Exodus 24. Nehemiah 6.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    nobleness
    NO'BLENESS, n.
    1. Greatness; dignity; ingenuousness; magnanimity; elevation of mind or of condition, particularly of the mind.
    2. Distinction by birth; honor derived from a noble ancestry."



So, a woman...
...who realizes she is not common but rather believes in her identity as being excellent and extraordinary,
...who is free from living down to expectations or the norm,
...who holds herself as dignified,
...who knows her honored place in the King's family...

A woman who embraces these truths about herself,
who is unafraid to proclaim these truths about herself,
unafraid to LIVE these truths,
unafraid to be set apart,
unafraid to be distingushed for her exellence,
unafraid to refuse to allow less of and for herself...

Who wouldn't want to be a woman like that?

LORD, open my eyes to see that such a woman already lives in me. I simply need to let her be seen for all she is according to your workmanship, perfect, and purposeful.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009

Gratitude 23--The First Day of School

Today is our first offical day of school. While some folks dread school, we love it. Homeschooling is such a huge privilege, and we are so thankful.

1. The coming together place, a table large enough for the four of us...and others who come join us as well.



2. Enough food...not just to keep us from starving but to let us prosper
3. Oatmeal for when little boy's teeth fall out and leave gums too tender for Cheerios.
4. To do lists, so nothing gets forgotten.
5. Food for body and soul.
6. Vision for the school year
7. Promises that are always yes and amen
8. Hope
9. The voice of the Lord speaking through pages of the Word

10. Eternal truth...for then...now...and tomorrow11. Treasures tucked away in Bible pages found again bringing smiles and joy all over again.
12. Children learning to store eternal treasure in their heart through memory filled with verses and hearts filled with thanksgiving
13. Treasure chests in the form of journals
14. Books filled with enticing knowledge calling us into new adventures and deeper understanding
15. Bounty in a basket ready to let minds release into reality what are only neuro-sparks at the moment

16. Family together
17. Hard math becoming easier
18. Gliding rockers
19. Perfectly timed breaks
20. The words of release--"We're done."
21. Children's voices tripping over each other as they excitedly tell Daddy what they did and learned
22. The anticipation of tomorrow

Learning the Greatest Adventure

A season of learning begins. New books. New packages of empty paper filled with possibility.

I find a quiet place and seek wisdom, guidance, a word for the year, something beyond my wisdom or my finite thoughts of importance. I seek His heart because He knows what lies ahead and what understanding, knowlegde, and soul tools we'll need for the trip. He takes my heart and leads me to Psalm 25, a Psalm of hope. Verses 14 and 15 magnify in my spirit.

14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.

15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.


I take the soul food to our morning gathering. The breakfast table is ready for feeding, bodies and souls.

Cereal feeds the body. Conversation feeds the bonds of family. Plans for the day. Changes in educational method according to changes in age and ability. A new year holding new things, but some things do not change.

The beginning is always with Him.

Cereal bowls are pushed aside, and the Bible is laid open.

I read the whole chapter of hope and then speak again the verses magnified in my heart. "These are the promises of the Lord for our year. The confiding our His heart, the revelation of His covenant, the revealing of Himself as we look to Him, and freedom from snares. This is what the Lord desires to do in us this year."

Children's hearts do not comprehend the extravagance of such a gift. I do...and I pray to comprehend more, to reach beyond my finite knowledge to the infinite grace that desires to reveal itself. Beyond my wildest dreams and greatest imagination...

The adventure of eternity...

I begin to ask questions, offer possibilities, dream for myself...for the children before me...for the descendants to come...

What greater thing is there to know than the heart of God? What greater freedom can be found than that of His covenant? Freedom to be oneself in His authentic plan. Freedom to fly like eagles. Freedom to rejoice in all He is and all we are in Him.

What snares hold us captive? How does He wish to set us free? How do we walk in the freedom He gives? In what idols do we place our hope for freedom? Lord, show us. Deliver us...from the idols...from ourselves.

We ponder. Our heads dip with the weight of snares. Our eyes sparkle with the thought of freedom. Smiles grow as possibilities become hopes...

The adventure of this learning has begun...

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Remember to Pray...

...for our teachers, administrators, and students today.

A lot of schools begin their school year today. Our public and private educational system is in desperate need of God's influence, wisdom, and redemption. Please remember to pray for these folks.

And especially pray for all our young people, teachers, and admins who are trying to be a Christian influence in a godless area.
Thursday, August 20, 2009

Perfect Grace

My eyes pop open--wide open. Dark. I glance at the clock. 5:00. 5:00? I roll over and close my eyes. Sleep doesn't come. In fact the only thing that comes is a whisper in my mind, "I want to talk to you about grace."

Grace?

"Grace."

At 5:00 a.m.?

While I am sure this conversation can wait until the sun is up, obviously God feels differently, so I crawl out of bed and close my bedroom door behind me so my husband can continue his slumber. With coffee in hand, I sit in my recliner and prepare to hear about grace.

For a few weeks now, I have not enjoyed living with me, and I am quite sure no one else has either. I have been stressed to an extreme level trying to get things done. To be quite honest, the expectations I've put on myself and others are just unrealistic, and I know it. It's not just expecting "big" things to be done that aren't. It's the absurd overreaction to small things. Crumbs on the counter. Toys left on the floor. Bathrooms not picked up to my liking. Shoes left for me to trip over instead being put in the closet. Everyday things that don't make a difference after today that turn me into a tyrant that inflicts verbal wounds that can last a lifetime. Perfectionism run amuck.

Last night I went to bed in its strangle hold, hardly able to breath, knowing it is sucking the life out of me, my relationships, and my home. A simple prayer choked out from under the shame and discouragement: "God, find me. Help me. Deliver me. Deliver all of us."

And this morning, He wants to talk to me about grace...what it is not...what it is. I listen and breath in the life He offers, not through definitions or high theology, but in small words and simple terms, in emotions and life samples I can understand.

Grace is not perfectionism.
Grace is not unrealistic expectations.
Grace is not humility and shame when I do something wrong.
Grace is not being remembered for something stupid I did in high school or college or even yesterday.
Grace is not having to live up to my bad choices.
Grace is not being imprisoned by the mistakes I make.

Grace is God's knowing that I am going to make mistakes--some of them huge--and His providing ahead of time for me to live beyond the limitations of those mistakes. Grace allows me to be the person I want to be, not the person I've been. It allows me to look to the future with hope instead of at the past with shame.

Grace knows I'm going to step on some folks' toes, literally and figuratively, and it allows me to be brave when I am right and humble when I am wrong. Grace makes no pretention of perfection. In fact, grace is the Truth that says perfection is a myth and a mental and emotional prison to which the Lord never wanted me bound. It acknowledges imperfection is a way of life in this human condition but provision has been made that allows perfectly wonderful things to happen anyway.

Grace says the toothpaste tube can be squeezed from the end or the middle, that small forks and big forks dumped into the same divider is okay, curling up in blankets and reading to children is more important than a spotless floor, a grumpy cashier doesn't mean a ruined day, and plans gone awry may be God's plan to put a blessing in my path.

Grace gives freedom to me to do my best and know it'll be enough, not because of my perfection, but because His pefect grace is sufficient to carry me from there.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peace of Pizza

This morning I woke up with contentment that a vacation week brings. Vacation isn't a big chaotic event for us this year. Instead, it is an investing time, a connecting time--or in our case, a RE-connecting time. Busy bodies and chaotic minds have kept us apart, but not this week. This week we connect. We value each other. We declare, "You are important and worth the effort. Let me put everything aside but you."


My heart breaths deeply, and joy flows out as children's laughter bubbles forth, art projects look for places to show off, family is made into team to solve problems. Smiles of anticipation with the glances at the calendar's words of friends and fun.


Ah, yes, vacation...contentment...the wonder of being valued...


Then someone took an ugly marker and drowned my plans in graffitti saying, "We can't...something more important..."


More important...


But this is a week of being most important...


And now, where plans had brought joy to a child's heart, I had to give news that would break it.


This was the makeup party for his birthday that was hidden under blankets as he fought the flu. This is the person he considers "my only boy friend". Now, the celebration is heart ache as his "only friend" sits in a moving van headed away. He is brave, with only one question: "Can I still email him?" I smile. Of course. He is content.


I am not. I fight the mist that blurs this amazing boy in front of me, and my heart sobs with the unfairness...unfair to him...unfair to me... And I have a myriad of questions.


Why now? Why this boy? Why...? I stop. Do I dare ask these questions? Are they too real? Too raw? Do I have the courage? Sometimes the heart cares nothing for courage.


The questions tumble on their own.


Why have you not provided him with another friend? Why have you not answered my prayers? Why isn't this important to you? Do you not care?


Sometimes the heart cares nothing for courage. Sometimes it asks out of fear, and I am afraid this is far more important to a nine year old than an eternal God.


And my heart cries.


But I blink my misty eyes and ask if everyone is ready to go to pizza and game place we had on the calendar for today. A boisterous, "YES!" resounds through our home. And off we go.


Children with cups of tokens in hand wonder from game to game. For awhile I wander with them. Then I sit, watching the miracles entrusted to me, aching...wondering.


"Ma'am?"


My head and thoughts jerk to the man in the booth in front of me.


"Have you ordered your pizza yet?"


The tokens were a stash from last year. Pizza wasn't really in the budget, but fun is be free.


I shake my head in response.


"Uh, we aren't going to eat all of ours. Would you take what we have left?"


Suddenly, this man has my rapt attention. "I'm sorry?"


He repeats himself while holding out a pan with enough pizza on it for all of us. "We can't eat this, and there's no reason for it to go to waste. Would you take it? I know your children are going to get hungry. They can have this." I stare at the pizza. It is the exact pizza they like.


I think how very "uncouth" it is to take pizza from a stranger in a pizza play place. It is not the acceptable thing to do. People would think it odd, but then, some would think it odd that hear voices...like the one whispering, "If I care enough and have power enough to move the heart of a stranger to provide the perfect pizza for your children, don't you think I care enough and have the ability to provide the perfect friend?"

I blink back the mist and smile at the man holding the pizza. I reach for the pan of provision and promise and, "Thank you. We'd love a peace."

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Where to Start

Yesterday morning the Lord and I met in one of the most reviled and dreaded places in the Bible--Proverbs 31. Believe it or not, I am the one who suggested our rendezvous point. I know many women avoid Proverbs 31 like the plague. Maybe the plague is actually less scary. For me, though, it is a place of peace and calm.

Instead of finding this woman my enemy, I find her my goal. I do not fear her. Instead, I embrace her. I want to be like her. Who wouldn't?

Her family life is great. Her husband adores her. Her children appreciate her as a whole and respect her. She is thought of well by her peers. She is wise, doesn't overextend herself, knows when to help and when to say no. She dresses beautifully. She doesn't wear herself out trying to achieve some insane level of false success. She doesn't get flustered or impatient. She is happy and laughing. She is fulfilled in every area of her life.

Who would not want to be her?

The truth is, I think everyone wants to be her, but enmity toward this woman comes from the fear that we will never be her. And we won't be. Not in our own strength. Not in our finite humanness. Our only hope to be like her is to be in Him.

If we look at verse 15, we find the beginning of who she is: "She rises while it is yet night and gets [spiritual] food for her household...(Amplified)" The NIV breaks it up differently. "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family."

If those two thoughts are together, I really don't think they are talking about physical food. Either she is making an early breakfast, which makes no sense since she has servants to do that, or she is doing an early morning market run, and since they didn't have any twenty-four hour markets, that doesn't make sense either. That tends to make me think the Amplified has it right. She slipped out of bed early to slip into the presence of her God. Seems to me she even knew she could not be the person she was all by herself.

Notice she didn't wait until the house was quiet at the end of the day or when it became convenient. She was smart enough to know life in this world never allows for God to be convenient.

What I love most about this woman that Satan wants me to hate and to fear is her choice to engage life and not be a victim of it. She confronted life on her terms. She didn't wait for life to dump on her for her to run to her God and find out how to react or do damage control. Instead, she went to her God, got the strength and wisdom for life, and then faced life head on with confidance and joy. She didn't worry about the cold or the food or her family's rest because she had already been with the King, received His strategy, and implemented it. She understood the power of being a visionary, and she expected life to respond appropriately.

Or perhaps she never considered how life would respond at all. Perhaps she knew her God so intimately that she knew His plan and promises could not fail because He knew what life was going to do, and He already had a plan to overcome.

It is easy to look at the Proverbs 31 Woman and feel it is impossible to ever be like her--so good, so together, so...sigh... If you feel she is beyond who you could ever be...even beyond human, don't feel bad. You are in good company. She realized she couldn't be that person either. she knew only God could accomplish such things. That is why she started with Him before anything happened, not reverted to Him for damage control when everything fell apart.

As I said, I like this woman. I like how God looks in her. I want Him to look that way in me, too, and I know just where to start.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Courage

Whatever you do, you need courage.
Whatever course you decide upon,
there is always someone to tell you you are wrong.
There are always difficulties arising
which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.
To map out a course of action and follow it to the end,
requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs.
Peace has its victories,
but it takes brave men to win them.
-- Emerson --

Relevant

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"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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