Expect Good Things

May this revised, previously posted entry bless you, dear friend.

Sunrise

I saw a video clip that had me laughing until tears poured from my eyes. It was of some tiny bunny rabbits, each trying to sleep in a separate drinking glass.

One bunny never moved; he was sound asleep. Another used his two front teeth as leverage on the rim to keep from slipping down into the glass. One kept touching his nose to the two rabbits near him, and then trying to get comfortable. Those bunnies were the cutest things!

I can’t help it. I love animals so much – especially the cute furry ones. Just thinking of them makes me smile. If I had my way, I would be surrounded by them all the time.

We all know how different we are. God created each of us to be different, but it’s deeper than that. The things we are attracted to, the things that delight us, are special gifts from our Heavenly Father to show His lovely nature.

We bring Him joy, just by being who we are. The Lord is delighted with us in the same way we are delighted in our own children. We appreciate how even twins have different personalities.

You may not feel unique. You may not feel like there is anything about you that delights anyone. My friend, please understand that there will never be another you. Ever. There are qualities in you that bear the fingerprints of God.

Our dear brother Paul said that we are God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10, from the Greek poiēma meaning a product, a fabric, a workmanship). In other words, we are something made by the Master Craftsman.

You have been woven together in such a way that you are truly priceless – above price, irreplaceable.

And my friend, He loves you! Your Heavenly Father has good for you. He wants good for you. He will do good for and to you. How do I know this? Because that is what He has done for me, and because I know Him.

As precious John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) said, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5 NKJV)

Do you know what that means to me? It means I can expect only light and goodness from my Heavenly Father in Christ Jesus. That is what it means.

And that is what it can mean to you too, dearly beloved of our Heavenly Father.

Phyllis Keels

Brighten the Corner

dancing-flower

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

The first time I heard the chorus of the old hymn titled “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” I thought the line was, “Right In the Corner Where You Are.”

I was just a kid, and I remember thinking, what? Right in the corner where you are, what? What happens?

That stuck with me over the years and I still think of it when something reminds me of that song.

The photo above reminded me of the song. The little flower, with its “arms” held wide is brightening the corner where it is. It looks like it is dancing in the sunshine. It made me smile and the day I saw it I really needed a smile.

Shortly before seeing this photo, I heard about a young person who was in an accident over the weekend. As I prayed for the family, imaging what they were going through, suddenly my mind was back in ICU watching my 28-year-old daughter take her last breath.

When tragedy strikes someone we know, we try not to make it about us. We try to be there for others, to pray, to comfort, to minister. Even so, we can’t help but feel what we felt when we went through the valley of the shadow of death.

Memories of that valley will sneak up on you. I was in a grocery store recently and saw a mother fussing at her teenage daughter. The mom was frustrated and said some hurtful things. I could see the daughter’s soul shrivel up. It broke my heart.

I wanted to tell the mom, “Please don’t – just enjoy every moment you have with her.” But I didn’t. Instead I prayed that the Lord would give them both what they needed in order to love one another.

If I’ve learned anything from the shattering pain that still pierces my heart each day it’s this: use everything in you to do good. Use your gifts, talents, weakness, strength, faith, and even your grief.

Take your stand and plant your feet, let your roots of faith grow a little deeper as you tell the Lord you need Him today. Trust His kind heart and know that all the riches in glory in Christ Jesus are at your disposal because of what Jesus has done for us.

Your corner may be dark today. It may be devastating to look at, but spread your arms and welcome the sunshine of your Heavenly Father’s love. There will be someone who sees and they will say that you’ve brightened the corner for them, dear friend.

Phyllis Keels

Taking the Long Way

This is a previously posted entry that I needed to read again. I pray it blesses you today.

 

The long way is the best way. That has been the theme running through my head the last few weeks. Take the long way – don’t rush through – don’t settle for quick and easy. Go for the genuine path – the one that requires you to show endurance and patience.

Quick and easy only gets you somewhere sooner. It doesn’t usually strengthen your faith or grow you character or bring you wisdom. It has only one benefit – it’s fast.

The long way gives you a lot of stuff you might not see right away. It gives you treasure you might not recognize now. It gives you strength you might not feel until you really need it to kick in. It gives you wisdom that increases exponentially with each new piece that is given to you.

I’m all about the real, the genuine, the original, and the pure (the undiluted). In other words, the best. And if the best takes longer, is more difficult, and is more uncomfortable, well, I have to be okay with that.

That is because the real is worth a great price. It is worth striving for. It’s worth straining to get to. It’s worth waiting for.

The Lord’s ways are usually the long way, and I think He does that because it’s the right way to do it. Think about it. If we rush through a class in school and just memorize the material so we can get a good grade, we don’t usually retain that material. That quick and easy way didn’t really do us any good.

I’m saying all this because sometimes the long way makes us tired. Sometimes it gets us discouraged. Sometimes, we feel like stopping and not getting back up for a long time, don’t we?

That’s when we need someone to come alongside us and lift us up. We need someone to encourage us, someone to make the long way a little easier.

The Lord often sends me help like this (so often, that I have lost count) and even if the help comes in another person, there is always a third person there to lift us both – the Holy Spirit.

Do you know that this is a huge part of His job? One of the words Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is parakletos, and it means “one who comes alongside; called to one’s aid.”

Yes, the long way might be more difficult, it might be slow, it might be tiring, but it will not be lonely. I can assure you of that.

Just remember: He is always there, whether you feel His presence or not. All you need to do is ask Him to help you up. That’s it. Just ask.

This simple truth brings tears to my eyes, because the Lord makes things so easy for us. All we have to do is ask and allow Him to help us up. Simply give our consent to be helped.

Each time I do this, I find that I’m not plodding along anymore. I’m flying up high on the very breath of God. And somehow, from up here, the way doesn’t look so long after all.

Phyllis Keels

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31, NKJV

It Starts By Knowing

 

Some weeks I sit down to write a post for this blog and I’ve got nothin’. Today is one of those days.

So, I’ll just take this time to tell you that I care about you, dear reader. I may not know who you are, but your Heavenly Father does. And you are not reading this by accident or coincidence. You are here because the Holy Spirit drew you here.

You are here so the Lord can speak to your heart. He wants you to know how much He loves you. Yes, you. Right where you are.

You may be thinking, “But you don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know what I am. If you knew, you wouldn’t say that God loves me right where I am.”

Precious child of God, I do not need to know what you’ve done, because you don’t have to be good for God to love you. If that were true, He wouldn’t be able to love any of us. We’ve all been bad in our lives.

It’s not about us. It is about Him and His lovely Son Jesus.

You see if we could earn God’s love or His favor or His presence in our lives why did Jesus have to die in our place? Think about that for a while.

No, my friend. God loved you enough to let His Son take your place, and mine. He loved us enough to let His Son obey His commands on our behalf, and then die for sin that He never committed. All for us.

So what do we do with that information? Simple: be grateful. Yes. Be grateful and live freely in the sunshine of His love for you. Once you are there, He will explain everything else to you in His perfect timing.

But it starts with knowing you are loved. When you know how much you are loved, you respond out of love. That is the heart of God right there: to give to you His love. It is the heart of The Father for His beloved children.

Just rest in that thought today, dear reader. You are loved. You are so greatly loved!

Phyllis Keels

You’re Not Alone

Heron

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one? The only one who is lonely, sad, grieved, betrayed, etc.? Like no one even understands or much less cares about what you’re going through?

You know that’s a big fat lie from the devil, right? It’s a cruel tactic to get you isolated where he can torment you. Don’t fall for it.

I’ve been tempted by that lie for years. I used to withdraw from everyone, hide and wait until the feeling passed. Except it wouldn’t pass. The more I withdrew, the worse I felt.

One day someone asked me a question that revealed the enemy’s purpose in getting us isolated. The question was, “In the wild, which animal does a lion go after?” The answer is: the one who has separated itself from the herd. That animal is easy prey for the lion.

The Bible tells us that the devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) But notice it says AS a roaring lion. Not that he is a roaring lion.

The devil is a liar, and a murderer. Jesus said this in John 8:44. The devil wants you to think that he is a lion but he’s not.

There is only one Lion: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah. And my friend, He is also the Good Shepherd.

Jesus came to lay down His life for His sheep, and He certainly has done it. Now He longs to have all of His sheep together in one fold so we can receive His love, and so we will not fear a defeated enemy.

Don’t listen to the false roar of lies from your enemy. Listen instead to the gentle call of the Good Shepherd. If you’re feeling alone, tell someone about it. Let your friends and family help you and show you kindness. There are people who long to comfort you and minister to you.

And most of all, tell the Lord how you feel. He wants you to come to Him so He can heal the wound in your heart. He knows how you feel, my friend, and He loves you more than His own life.

Place yourself in the strong embrace of the Lord Jesus who will never, ever leave you or forsake you.

Give Your Way Out

Sunflower

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

The reason that spiritual things don’t seem to make sense to us is that they are backward from the natural/physical things we can see.

Think about it: we believe something is real when we can see it, yet Jesus said to Martha at the tomb of her brother Lazarus (after he had been dead four days), “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NKJV) He said, “believe” and then “see.”

And indeed she did see! Her brother walked out of that tomb fully alive and well.

Another thing we do is to give whatever we get. When people are unkind to us, we are unkind back to them. When money is withheld from us, we tend to hold onto every cent we have left and withhold money from others.

My friend, the Lord’s ways are of grace, of giving, of loving. He allows us to love our way out of unkindness, to forgive our way out of hurt, and to give our way out of lack.

If you want to be loved, then love others. If you want to be free from financial lack, then give. If you want to be free from bitterness and anger, then forgive. Give your way out.

How do we do this? Realize that you are already deeply loved, completely forgiven, and abundantly, and richly blessed. Believe it, then you will see it – just like Martha saw Lazarus walk out of that tomb alive and restored.

Don’t look at what the natural/physical tells you. Simply agree that the Lord HAS already blessed you and provided everything you need. When? When Jesus hung on the cross in our place, suffered the punishment for sin, and paid for our glorious inheritance as children of our Heavenly Father!

When you know you are loved, when you know you have been forgiven, when you know you are rich then you freely love, forgive, and give to others.

Be free, dear friend. Just be free and give your way out of whatever is holding you back today.

Phyllis Keels

In Times Like These

This is a previously posted entry that I needed to read again. I pray it blesses you today.

Pier

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like the world has gotten to be a scary place lately. It has probably always been that way off an on over the centuries. Our parents and grandparents dealt with a lot of in-your-face-evil.

Lately though, I find myself staring at the news (which I don’t like to watch anyway), wondering how can we fight or even escape such scary stuff? In addition, all of this pressure comes on top of what we deal with daily – grief, loneliness, stress, work, family and financial issues…

How can we even survive, much less be more than conquerors, overcomers, and victorious against something that seems so powerful and malicious as what we see happening in the world?

The answer can be found in one verse of Scripture and it’s probably not what you think.

The LORD [Yahweh] said to my Lord [Adonai], “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, NKJV)

God the Father [Yahweh] said these words to His Son Jesus [Adonai]. Jesus is now seated at the right hand (the hand of power and authority) of the Father, while the Father puts all enemies under Jesus’ feet.

In a good novel with a clear hero and villain, do you know what happens when the villain realizes his time is short, and that the hero has the ability to defeat him at any time? The villain becomes more aggressive and inflicts as much pain as he can in the short time he has left.

I believe that our enemy, the Lord’s enemy, the devil is accelerating his activity because he knows his time is short.

You don’t have to take my word for it. I’m nobody, but I’m a nobody who knows that Jesus loves her. When you know the Lord loves you, you can receive the truth of His Word.

My friend, during this time things will likely get worse, but remember that all things work together for good, to those who love God are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

If you’re still afraid (like we all are at times), please cling to that verse, and this one:

[The Lord said] When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2, NKJV)

If that doesn’t give you peace, read Psalm 91 every day until you know it to be true.

The bottom line is this: if you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you are – right now – in the Father’s Hand. You are – right now – in the secret place of the Most High and under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)

Do not fear. Have courage. Your Redeemer lives and He will never, ever leave you. Jesus is more real than anything your physical eyes can see, and He is faithful.

Don’t try to see it. Believe it, and then you will see it. Believe it not because of what I say, but because your Heavenly Father does not lie. He is faithful, and He will accomplish His Word in you and for you, beloved.

Phyllis Keels

See You Again

Sunset Light

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

In the family of God, we use the terms “brother in Christ” and “sister in Christ” a lot to describe fellow believers. Sometimes we say this without thinking. Other times, we know exactly what that means.

Often there are “brothers and sisters in Christ” who truly live that role.

Like a physical family, we may not always agree with each other. We may even butt heads at times, and we may not see each other every day. But when we need Godly counsel and insight (wisdom from the Lord), these people are often the first we go to for help.

When we ask them to pray for us, they stop right there and pray with us. When we need guidance, they patiently listen while we “vent” our frustration or anger. When we need to cry, they hand us the ever-present box of tissues on their desk for just such an occasion.

These brothers and sisters are more than just people who believe like we do. They are kindred spirits, they are under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, and they take care of their “family.”

Last week I said goodbye to a true brother in Christ. Two days ago, he went home to be with the Lord.

For fifteen years he listened while I “vented.” He laughed with me, prayed with me, and shared the storehouse of wisdom the Lord had given him.

He taught me what it means to be a caring leader and a servant of Jesus. He did this by his actions and his behavior, and by his unwavering faith each day.

While I know that my brother in Christ is now with the Lord, and is whole, fully alive, and leaping in joy – I will miss him so much.

I will miss his ready laugh, his minute attention to order and neatness, his wise counsel and his caring heart.

Most of all, I will miss his friendship. But I rejoice that he is free, he is complete, and he is basking in the shining love on the face of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And I rejoice in my last words to him, which are the truth that comforts my sad heart: I will see you again, my brother. I will see you again.

Phyllis Keels

The Hope of Home

I know a dear family going through something terrible right now. As I asked the Lord what to write about this week, He brought this past post to mind. I know why.

My friend, the only reason it was possible for me to see what I saw that night in March of 2011 was because my daughter had already received the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

So when I tell you that Jesus is real, that He really loves you, and that He died for you, you can believe it.

I am re-posting this so that you too will have hope. Your loved ones are not gone. They are home.

Julie hoodie2.png

Julie Keels (1982-2011)

[Written 4/14/11] Once I got home from the hospital the night Julie died, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I was back in ICU watching her die. I still couldn’t believe it was real. How could she be gone? What was I going to do now?

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, I drifted off out of exhaustion (or more likely, God’s mercy on me) and I had a dream.

This makes the sixth dream from God in my life. I know they’re from Him because they are, well, spiritual. They are so different from other dreams that there’s no doubt they are from Him. I can still feel what I felt when I dreamed each one. I can still tell you every detail of those dreams – those night visions.

That night, I dreamed that Julie came back. She was standing right in front of me and she was more beautiful than can be described. My baby was alive! But not just alive – she was radiant!

Her face shone with a warm light, and her eyes were even more vividly blue than I’ve ever seen them. Here eyes were a blue that doesn’t exist on this earth. Her hair was shining and auburn, like the color she was born with.

And she smiled at me!

Her smile was completely joyful. I’ve never seen a smile like that before or since. There was no trace of pain or sadness – past or present. Nothing but pure, undiluted joy was in her.

I can’t even find the words to tell you how happy I was at that moment. I can still feel it. My baby was alive! In my dream, I shouted, “Look what God did! Look at the miracle God did!”

But when I tried to show Julie to anyone, she was gone. They could not see her. So I searched for her, and found her again. Three times I tried to get others to see her, but each time she was gone.

When I woke up, I still had that same wonderful joy and relief I’d had in my dream. I realized very quickly that God had given me a precious gift. I’ll never be able to thank Him enough for that sweet image of Julie, for His loving kindness, and for His mercy on me.

I knew that what He had shown me is how Julie is right now. In that brief moment, I saw completeness in Julie. She was finished, like a breathtaking masterpiece that needs no other stroke of the brush. She was fully radiant, completely at peace and filled with great joy. My baby is home.

Sometime later I realized something. Many times in the Bible, people who were visited by angels tried to worship them. The Comforter showed me why. Not that I wanted to worship Julie in my dream, but I know now why people tried to worship angels.

Julie’s face radiated because she had been in the presence of the Living God. She glowed with the light that comes from His holiness and glory. My daughter is standing before the Lord of Hosts and the Lamb of God!

It reminded me of Moses’ face glowing when he came down from the mountain, because he had been in the presence of God.

When my heart is breaking (as it does daily) and I feel the terrifying thought that I won’t ever hear my daughter’s footsteps in the house, the gentle Comforter brings my dream before my eyes.

Every time He shows me, I feel the same swell of joy in my soul. It is a soothing ointment and a clean bandage to a terrible wound. And I know the dream will be there, no matter how long I need it.

Phyllis Keels

Starting Eternity Now

Beach

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

Okay. Forget the, “It’s so hot outside you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.” The reality is, “It’s so hot outside you could fry an egg on top of my head.”

I’m so sorry for anyone who has to work outside right now. I can hardly stand to walk through the parking lot from my car to a building.

The way I’ve started dealing with the heat is to remind myself that in about six months I’ll be crying because it’s so cold outside. Seems there’s just no pleasing me!

The truth is, I love spring and fall. I suffer through winter and summer.

But you know what? I think heaven will have the best of all four seasons. It will have the new life of spring, the quiet of winter, the warmth and full light of summer, and the color of fall. It will be no less that perfect.

The thing is, sometimes we miss enjoying the now because we’re longing for the future or we’re trapped in the past. Jesus said that He came so we might have life, and have it more abundantly. That means life right now. I think He wants us to start enjoying eternity in the moment.

When we take time to appreciate the wonderful light of summer (even if it’s from an air conditioned house), when we can savor the soft quiet of winter (even if it’s while we’re sitting in front of a fireplace), then we begin living in eternity. We begin to live in the heavenly places.

All of that appreciation and gratitude points us to our loving Heavenly Father, who is the giver of all good things. And He wants to give us everything that Jesus’ sacrifice bought for us.

My friend, if you are struggling with something worse than the heat, like disappointment or loss, then please take it from someone who has seen a glimpse of heaven waiting for us and know this: your Heavenly Father loves you with an everlasting love. What waits for us is full of His abounding love for us.

I have seen the golden light of heaven. I’ve seen the vibrant color that doesn’t exist on this earth, and the new life shining in the faces of those who have gone before us. The beauty that awaits us is beyond my ability to describe.

No matter what you’re going through, your Heavenly Father cares. If you are sad, He cares and is waiting to help you. He is such a gentleman that He will not intrude. He waits for you to invite Him into your grief, loss, and disappointment.

Once you do, you’ll be living in the heavenly places, my friend. You’ll begin the abundant life, and you’ll feel greatly loved. You’ll be living in the heavenly places.

Phyllis Keels