Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where I'm Reading This Week

Here are a few wonderful places I've visited this week. I hope they bless you as well.

Seeing is Believing or Why Time Mapping is Painful--This is a challenging article on being a good steward of our God-given time.

Chilled--Honest look at how the loss of simple luxuries can make one think of those with no luxuries at all.

Fear Imps--Fear is the lie that says God can't or won't, but the Word says He can and will. Wonderful post of encouragement and faith.

How A Lent That Fails Actually Succeeds--Humbling, powerful...grace.

Silence--Even when there are no answers, there is God.
Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Wonder of A Small Thing

They seem like a small thing, these children books that we keep on a toddler-high shelf. Worn covers, crumpled pages, pencil marks. How many times have they survived when other books were sacrificed in the name of space. Some things, though, are not to be sacrificed.



"Mom, can I read in the Big Bed? It's the best place in the house for reading." Favorite Boy gazes at me, hands filled with books.

Nearly a decade of books read in the Big Bed. Cold afternoons spent under warm blankets with a cozy story. A rough day smoothed with some snuggling and a book or two or ten. Upset tummies and stuffy heads made better with a favorite story read...just one more time.

There is no better place in the house to curl up with a book.

He disappears, and I put away another dish.

"Honey, I'm going to the bedroom to read." The larger version of Wonder Boy with thick book in hand, a classic we picked up over the weekend. He is plodding through.

I smile and nod. He disappears to the best place in the house to read.

When the dishes are done, I follow.

From the bedroom, floats familiar words in the voice of a boy. I peek around through the door to see a Daddy listening intently, his eyes and face reacting appropriately, encouraging the boy to read more.



"Can I come in?" A Wonder Girl whispers from beside me.

I nod and watch the girl becoming woman crawl to the head of the bed now become the end.

Favorite Boy reads the last page and lays the book aside. It is Daddy's turn to read.



"Daddy, read this one." Favorite Boy excitedly shoves a book at him.


Daddy looks and laughs. "Are you sure you want this one again?"

Children's heads nod.

Oh, yes, again...while there is still time...It is slipping by faster than I want to know.

He begins to read, and the family snuggles up close.




When he is done, Favorite Boy holds a book to me.

"I like how you read this one."

It is then that I realize Favorite Boy did not come to the Big Bed because it is most comfortable for his body but because it is most comfortable for his heart.

I look at the book and laugh. There is a reason the cover is worn, and it will be worn more tomorrow because tonight, I read it...again, adding personal comments. The family laughs.

My heart memorizes the sound.

When I am done, Wonder Girl chooses not to read but instead hands Daddy a book about heroes. "Read to us about them."

And the hero of our home reads...just a little more.




We listen, our bodies resting, our minds slowing, His hands knitting our hearts together.

The Big Bed is turned topsy turvy, heads where feet belonged and feet anywhere they'll fit.



The world is just right, though, and the family is right where it needs to be...in the most comfortable place for reading there is...together.
Sunday, February 21, 2010

Able to Fly

Like everyone else I know right now, I am caught up in the Olympics. This week I watched men fly, and it made me want to fly, too.

I am always amazed to see men scooch out on to a bar where they sit calmly as they contemplate the plunge they are about to take. With seemingly no fear, they slip from their perch and race down an insanely steep slope toward an abrupt end of the track. However, instead of falling off the edge and plummeting downward where injury or death awaits, they launch themselves into the air and fly.

When I was little, I watched the men fly then, too. However, they looked different. They would line up straight as possible to reduce friction that would reduce their forward momentum. Now, they fly with arms spread and skis in a wide-V. One of the jumpers explained that they've learned the more air they could keep in contact with, the more it helped hold them fly.

I fully understand.

It is easy to think avoiding all the negative things will make me a better Christian. However, I have found if I truly want to fly, it's not what I avoid but what I choose to stay in contact with that keeps me going.

There are a variety of ways to stay in contact with God. Going to church to worship and learn from the pastor is a great beginning. Being part of a strong group of believers who encourage and challenge really stimulates growth. Periodic retreats or conferences can also feed one's soul, but there are so many more ways to have contact--personal contact--with the Lord every day.

A few of my "constant contact" things include:

Morning quiet time. I get up, and instead of booting up my computer, I open up my Bible. Sometimes I pray, "Lord, lead me where you want me to go and reveal what you want to impart," and I open the Bible and start reading. Other times I research a specific topic. Right now, I am reading through the Bible again. When I struggle with focusing, I ask the Lord for help and keep plowing through.

Journal. Journaling isn't about my religious discipline. I don't journal everyday. I don't journal because someone told me to do it. I journal so I don't forget. I write down prayers, heartaches, gratitude, answers to prayer, scriptures that really speak to me, things people say that feed my spirit. The whole purpose is to remember what the Lord says, apply to my life, and build my faith because of His faithfulness.

Constant prayer. I am a homeschooling mother of two. I don't have time to kneel by my bed for hours. However, I talk to the Lord all day long. We talk about breakfast, the order of the day, how to explain algebra, how to respond calmly when I am frustrated because I don't understand how hard it is to remember 7x8 is 56, how I can bless my husband when he comes home, what to write about in my blog, what to teach at our co-op, and so on. We talk about EVERYTHING. I heard for a long time that nothing is too big for God. What really changed my prayer life was when I realized nothing was too small for Him either. He loves to be right in the middle of everything. He's my best friend, and we talk constantly.

Hearing God. I get asked about this a lot. I think there are two keys to hearing God. 1. Believing He talks. 2. Recognizing His voice. I believe God loves to talk about life in general. I am His presence here. Paul calls it being an ambassador. I am not the Holy Spirit, but I am the representative. The Lord loves sharing how to bless His children, bring His heart into a situation, and impact His world. He loves telling me what I need to eat so His temple is well cared for. He loves being involved.

The most common question is how He sounds. For me, it is usually a lot like a thought that could easily be mine, except it usually requires action on my part that I would probably like to ignore. :-) For instance, one day the children were exploding with behavioral issues. Instead of reacting in anger, I took time to pray for wisdom. I needed to deal with the source of the problem, not simply react. The very clear thought came to my mind, "Take them to the zoo." I promise you that was not me. I was not going to reward these out of control children with the zoo. That was crazy. I prayed again. "Take them to the zoo." Fine. I'll take them to the zoo. I'll add my wild animals with their wild animals, and we'll see just how well that goes. We had been at the zoo less than ten minutes when these rebelling, obnoxious children put their arms around me and said, "Mom, we are sorry for the way we acted. We love you. Thank you for taking us to the zoo even though we were bad." I would have NEVER taken them to the zoo, but God knew what they needed. Odd answers that go against the comfort of my flesh? Probably God.

Being overwhelmed by Him. I make it a practice to be amazed by Him. I choose to make note of good things He does, blessings He gives, and prayers He gives. I take time to consider His love and be amazed by grace. If anything makes me fly, it's the overwhelming reality of a love that uses grace to reach beyond my imperfections to show mercy and connect our hearts.

Saying goodnight. When I lie in bed and am in the process of falling asleep, I talk with the Lord about the day, various things on my mind, ways He overwhelms me. I pray for people who are on my heart, and I thank Him for the multiple of blessings He has poured out on me, those I love, and my country. I think about the scriptures of the morning and the words of the day, and I ask Him for wisdom. Again, we just talk. I listen as He shares ways I could have responded better or been more forward acting. We share hearts, and when I slip into sleep, our hearts are one.

As a Christian, I still fall down. It is part of being human and living in a fallen world. However, I have found I don't have to be imprisoned by my own imperfections. Instead, I scooch onto a promise of His faithfulness, slip from my comfort zone into the wild adventure of His vision, and when I reach the end of my own ability, I leap into His presence and His promises. He is there to lift me above what the human mind believes is possible...

And I fly.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Choice

My feet are tired, and my body is ready to be stilled, to stretch out. It has been a good day, but a long day. We are tired. Beside me, the Man of my Dreams dozes off into a much needed rest. Down the hall, I hear the voices of the children as they wind down from their still burning excitement. I recline here staring into the glow of my computer screen, so tired, not ready to sleep.

Sometimes my heart's incredible need to know and be known is more enticing than my body's need for rest, and in this quiet, I listen for a whisper, for His whisper.

When the house is buzzing and activity whirls around, I can sit and read my Bible, maybe journal, slip in a prayer, but it is now, when the distractions are silenced and my heart is still that I hear the best. It is when I determine to create an intimate rendezvous instead of hoping bumping into Him throughout the day will somehow allow me to see enough of Him to know Him, to learn His character, to witness His whole heart. It is more than a need for Him to do something. It is my need to be something. To be His. To be consumed by Him.

To my wonderment, He seems to need the same. To be mine. To be consumed by me.

How does one meet such a Lover? How do affairs with passion this deep begin? How do they continue?

All great love affairs happen the same way.

By choice.

I choose to turn off the TV and the computer.
I choose to value Him more than a chat group or any of the writers of the blogs I enjoy.
I choose to stay up a little later or get up a bit earlier to listen to His heart and to share mine.
I choose to notice the innumerable ways He says He loves me daily.
I choose to believe He acts determinedly, not by coincidence.
I choose to believe Him when He says He'd rather die than live without me.
I choose to avoid things that would hurt Him or draw my heart from Him.
I choose to read His love letter and believe He means every word.

A great love affair is not something that happens by coincidence. It will never be convenient, and life will do everything to steal it. A truly wondrous love affair is created through actions and choices. It is a determined goal that is reached a hundred different ways each day. It is a consuming thought process that asks how to speak value to the Lover.

It is a choice.

A choice He made first...a choice that gives me every reason to choose Him.
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Effortless

When it's done right, it looks effortless.


Quite possibly my favorite part of the Olympics, couples figure skating is a picture of beauty. As the couples dance together on the ice in perfectly unity, it is easy to watch them and be enamoured by their perfection. To me, it is nothing less than breathtaking.


I camp out on my couch, turn down the lights, and get lost in the perfection of two people who move together as one, whose perfection is in their partnership. I am enthralled by their excellence. The precision amazes me.


And they make it look so easy. It is as though they have always been so amazing, as though they entered this world with skates on their feet and flawless lines programmed into their limbs. In fact, these examples of grace learned to walk by falling down and getting back up. The elegant lines were proceeded by ugly bruises and hot tears. Those heart-stopping lifts were cultivated through the furnace of falling and getting back up...one more time. Their unity is the result of hours of practicing oneness, moving together, working out the bumps and awkwardness, learning trust, learning to move as one.


There are times I look at Christians I know, spiritual peers whom I admire, and I am caught up in their seemingly flawless Christian walk. I watch their spiritual dance of unity with God, and I become enthralled by the perfection of their relationship. It looks as though they never make a mistake, which is pretty discouraging on its own, but they make it look like they've always had the closeness I see now, and that can be really discouraging.


The truth is, though, I only see them a fraction of the time. I don't see them in their quiet time, on their face, tears dripping from their chins as they seek strength to endure the fire that surrounds them. I don't know their repentance of yesterday's sins. I don't see their hearts or the wounds from the latest assault that may have even come in the form of friendly fire.


I see the matured selves, the ones that have grown from the struggle of learning to tune their ears to the Father's voice, repeatedly putting themselves on the altar, and painfully killing flesh until Jesus shows more than they do. I see the walk that has come from stumbling in faith, falling, repenting, and receiving grace. A walk that has grown steadier by finding mercy and being forgiven. A walk that is not perfect but a heart that is perfectly set on God's faithfulness.


These are not perfect people doing a perfect dance. They are real people, who take real falls, who feel real pain. They are people who do train for excellence and do the best they can, who can get it beautifully right or painfully wrong on any given day. They are people who do not put faith in their performance but in God's grace.


Ultimately, though, it is not the precision of the performance that fascinates me. It is knowing the imperfections the couples...and the Christians...have faced and overcome that keeps my attention. It is their courage to work through the fatigue, endure the pain, ignore the voices of failure, and learn from past falls that inspires me. I cannot help but be encouraged when I see these people of excellence doing the best they can and trust that no matter what the outcome, they will have done enough. It isn't their perfection that I admire.


No, I watch them because I want to learn their ability to walk in unity...


...and it look so effortless.
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Encamped About by His Presence

Precious Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience posted "How the Work You Do Today Can Last Forever" today. It reminded me of a very scary night that reminded me how deeply loved we are and how the Lord encamps around us. I hope it helps you see Jesus more clearly in your life, too.

Encamped About by His Presence

His face went numb, standing in front of me. I saw the fear flash in his eyes as feeling seeped from his arm as well.

I stared sure what I was seeing was not really happening, but the dead silence spoke too loudly for me to believe it a dream.

I knew these symptoms. Loved members of my family had gone numb.

He would see how he felt in the morning he assured me as he tried to rub feeling back to his face.

I grabbed my laptop and typed madly. Symptoms…numb…right arm…

Article after article, pages blinding with the same answer…and one authoritative command. “Treating a stroke within the first hour can prevent damage…”

He picked up his coat and wallet. Do not wake the little ones sleeping soundly. He’d go by himself.

My heart walked out the door with him.

The sound of the car was still filling the house when I reached for the phone. No biological family near. Only adopted ones. Despite the late hour, he picked up. “What’s wrong?” People do not call to chat at that hour of the night.

I explain the symptoms. I explain the children sleeping. I explain he went alone. I do not have to ask. “Jerri, I’ll call you from the ER.”

An eternity rolls by in the next thirty minutes. I fill the time calling friends, asking for prayer. They pray. I feel it. I do not sleep, but I do not fear. I sit and thank the Lord for His presence in Spirit and in the bodies of those who love us.

A call comes. They are running tests. He is coherent. Feeling is returning.

A whispered thank you…to God for His presence…and to our friend for his.

The night grows long. In the early a.m. hours, the phone rings. Prayer warriors asking for updates. I share what I know. They will pray until the Lord lets them sleep. I promise a phone call when I know answers.

The sun is waking up when the final call comes. All is normal. We are coming home.

We.

The husband with returned feeling. The Provider of healing, comfort, and presence. The friend who shows us how Jesus looks in flesh.

And now we all rest.

The warriors rest from their prayers and slip into sleep with praise on their lips. The neighbor calls to work. Family emergency. Will be in late. He needs to rest. I spoon with the husband returned to me. My body slips toward sleep, and I rest…in the timeless love that embraces us…in the ever loving King who encamps so tightly around the lives He gives us…through the people who fill them.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Pity Party, and His Ponderous Purpose

I'm having a pity party. It's not a big party. There are no streamers or balloons or dirge music like I've been known to have in the past. This is a small, quiet, hidden in my recliner under my blanket because Rob and the children shared their virus pity party.


Tomorrow night I was going to host a ladies group. We were going to focus on the Lover's view of His Beloved. I was looking forward to time in the Lord's presence with some amazing women I know. And, yes, I do know I can have great time in His presence all by myself, but there is something wondrous about being part of corporate worship with women whose hearts are filled with adoration for the King. You know He can't resist that. He starts smelling the sweet aroma of praise, and He has to show up for the party.


Then He starts to whisper words of love and tenderness. He shares how much He adores His Beloved, and He speaks of plans and promises. It is as intoxicating as wine--the presence of the King.


Hearts are healed. Value is reestablished. Identities are restored. Lives move forth with plan and purpose.


More than that, though, love is poured out, and each one becomes a channel through which the Lord pours His divine love into a broken world, a world desperate for being valuable.


And the Presence...The intoxicating, overwhelming wonder of His Presence as He saturates everything...and the understanding of who we are and what we can do because we understand Him better...


It's not just a Bible study or a teaching. It's a rendezvous between the Lover and His Beloved.

I was so looking forward to it, but due to my health and the questionable weather, it's been cancelled, and I'm a bit whiny about it.

Oh, I know. It could be worse. Thankfully, I'm just tired and worn down, not flu-ish. It's not like we are expecting to be snowed in for a week, and the Lord does meet with me wherever I am, and He'll meet with the ladies who had planned on coming here. Still. This isn't the way I wanted it. I had a picture in mind of how it was supposed to be, and now it isn't.

You know what makes this even harder to swallow? Planning this evening was so far outside my comfort zone. I'm comfortable with worship. I'm comfortable with prayer. I'm comfortable with prophetic ministry. I enjoy women getting together and blessing each other. However, having women at my home where I have to make the coffee and create order that isn't really our daily life is hard. Planning snacks and music and details is so far outside my comfort zone, but I was willing to do it because I believed it was the Lord's will. I believed He wanted to love on these ladies and bless them and cuddle them.

It was a stretch, but I took the step of faith...and seemingly ran into a brick wall.

Somehow that seems wrong.

Despite my disappointment, though, I'm asking the Lord for His thoughts. I had prayed about this, and I was sure I had heard Him say this was His plan. Other, women were excited about being here, too. He even shared His heart to bless these women and show them how special they are. So why is it not working out?

Or is it?

I have known for a long time that the Lord's desire for me is to speak value and love to His ladies. He passionately wants to restore them to their rightful places and true value. This year He has spoken to me profusely about this topic, and I've been praying for ideas and vision to accomplish this.

In the midst of emails and conversations concerning the women's night, hearts have been shared at new levels. I am learning of women's hearts with fresh eyes--with His eyes. Ideas for ministry I had never considered are being laid in my lap. I am listening, taking notes, planning.

Could it be what I saw as a night of ministry was simply a door to a life ministry? Could it be that my small-mind had to take a small step so He could show me the huge adventure of the big picture? And could it be that it took not getting what they had hoped for these precious ladies to share what their hearts need? Could it be that is what God had in mind all along?

If this is His way of revealing His plan to meet a need greater than I realized, that is pretty amazing.

And to think, I could have missed it by being so busy whining about what I wasn't getting that I didn't see what He was giving me. Now, that would have been pitiful.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010

Encouraging Challenge

Pray for the Lord to encouragement or love someone through you today.

Then go through your email list, find that person(s), ask the Lord for the right words, and courageously type them in. Send the email.

You never know who needs to hear from you today.

And if more than one person comes to mind, it is most likely because the Lord wants to speak to the others, too.

Be bold!
Be encouraging!
Be Jesus' light in the world's dark spots!!!

Exciting Day!!!

I am excited about today!

I am excited to see how God is going to use me to love folks and how He plans to invade this world with His love, presence, and wisdom through me!

I am excited to pour forth joy into others' lives because of the joy He has put in mine!

I am excited because as wonderful as yesterday or last week or last month was, today He has even better things planned!

I am excited to be vessel of blessing for Him!

I am excited to see what He wants to speak into others' lives and how He wants to bless them!!

It's an exciting day, and I'm excited that I get to be part of it!!!!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One Voice

Do you ever see swimmers or divers tip their heads to the side, give a shake, and rub their ear in a jerking motion? Maybe you've even done it yourself. It is the universal sign for, "Water is in my ear and needs to come out." Seems to work from what I can tell.

Wish it worked that way with voices.

See, I have this voice in my head. Okay, I have several voices in my head, but one in particular turns up the volume when I sit down to write a blog entry.

Before I ever begin to write a sentence, I hear her telling me how I need someone to teach me to write the all powerful beginning sentence. Now, she never told me exactly what was wrong with the ones I wrote or how I needed to correct them. However, with everything she read, her statements started about the first sentence and how I needed to use it to catch the audience.

Now, don't get me wrong. She has given me compliments, and I know she was sincere. However, her compliments were always followed by a correction, like when she said, "You're a wonderful writer. You just need someone to teach you to be good at it."

Unfortunately, like most folks, my brain latches onto the last thing it hears, and whatever that might be echoes on and on.

So, each time I sit down here to type, I hear her correcting me, telling me how I am not making a good use of my talent because I am not perfecting my work so I can publish it, trying to form me into her idea of a successful writer.

Often, I simply close the computer and walk away.

However, today, I choose not to walk away. Today, I choose to confront that voice...and a dozen or more others.

See, the truth is that voice isn't the only voice, and much of its power comes from all the other voices resounding in its words, words that tell me how I am failing, how I am not good enough, how I need to live up to someone else's idea of perfection or success. If I listen closely, I hear my father's voice in harmonious criticism as he tells me years after his death that I like to think I am good at something but in reality, I'm not. I hear teachers who didn't approve of my different way of seeing the world. Over twenty years later, I can still see my hands holding the SAT results paper that said clearly I wasn't as smart as I thought I was.

If I let them, the voice would drown me. I would erase my blog because even after I post these things I hear voices telling me that they are not as useful as I want them to be and if I wrote nothing, no one would notice. I would never teach another class because, according to the voices, I'm not really teaching anything and people know I'm only masquerading as someone with knowledge. All conferences would be cancelled because I have nothing of worth to say. In fact, no one can relate to me and at some point someone will realize I'm only a fraud, someone with a lot of answers but lives an annoyingly imperfect life.

Yes, I could drown in the voices.

But there is another Voice, and that Voice reminds me that He never had delusions of my perfection, and He never questions my purpose. My purpose isn't to make all those voices happy. My purpose isn't even to quiet them. My purpose is to live boldly for Him despite them.

And so today, I heed His voice...and write...

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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