Lean in While You Wait

This is one that I needed to read again. I pray it is a blessing to you too.

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

A couple of years ago I discovered something interesting while waiting and waiting for the figs on my tree to ripen. I checked every day and saw only hard, green, unripe figs or figs that needed another day or two before being picked.

One day in mid-summer, I looked out the window and saw a squirrel sitting on the rail of my deck, right in front of the fig tree. He was eating a fig. From my tree. On my deck…

I had to laugh. At least the mystery was solved. The squirrels were getting to them right before I did.

That memory helped me today because it seems in our spiritual lives we wait and wait for “fruit” – for results, for growth, movement, relief, don’t we? I know I do, and when I don’t see any, I get discouraged.

Most of the fruit I’m looking for is for someone else’s benefit – my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ, friends, co-workers. I want more than anything else for them to be happy in the Lord. I want them to be blessed and have great joy and peace.

It’s hard to see people you love struggle and be in pain. But that just makes me pray for them even more. It makes me lean into my Good Shepherd for His strength, His comfort, His wisdom. And that’s not a bad place to be at all.

In fact, it’s the best place, because it’s a place of rest.

When we’re waiting for something, anything, time seems to drag and drag, doesn’t it? Well, I’m going to use that time to enjoy being in the arms of my Jesus. He is so kind to me!

I’ll use it knowing that His timing is perfect, and while it doesn’t seem like anything is happening on our side, it is. More than we know. The most important things in life are unseen, and the evidence of them may appear years later. By then, we’ve usually forgotten what we were looking for.

But we can trust the Lord’s heart of love, and His beautiful plan for us and our loved ones. He never gets tired of working on our behalf. Never. Just lean into His love while you wait on His timing, my friend.

In addition, just like the “missing” figs, somebody’s being fed, even if I don’t see it. And that gives me a whole lot of peace.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

(Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

Phyllis Keels

Doing What You Love

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So… A dear friend said to me recently, “I don’t like the books I’m reading, Phyllis. They’re not like your books (the Daldriada series). I need you to write another one!”

I think that’s one of the most wonderful things an author can hear! It made me happy and sad at the same time.

I miss writing, and I miss my Daldriada characters so much. But you know how life is – work, family, obligations… None of those things are bad things. It’s just that I still can’t seem to carve out time to write since I came back to work fulltime.

I have about three story ideas swimming around in my head. They surface every now and then. When they do, I push them back down because they surface in the middle of a meeting, or when I finally get to sit down in the evening and not have to think.

Poor stories! They are just trying to come into being. I need to let them.

I have one more devotion book to put out (very soon) and then my focus will be on the next fiction book. The Lord will help me choose a time to write. He always does.

I say all this to encourage you (and myself) that it is okay to devote time to the things we are gifted in. Being gifted is no credit to us. It is praise for the Giver – our Heavenly Father. All good and perfect gifts come from Him.

Do what you are gifted in – it is usually what you love doing. Do you sing, play or write music, excel in a sport? Are you artistic, an encourager, a loving parent or grandparent? Do you cook such wonderful things that people’s eyes roll back in their heads when the eat your food?

Then you are gifted.

I’ve had people comment to me that they don’t think they are gifted in anything. To that, I say hogwash. The Lord is no respecter of persons. He loves every one of us. And He has given you something unique. All you need to do is ask Him what it is.

Until then, my friend, I’m going to get busy doing what I love. Oh! The very thought of seeing a story come to life in my head and then writing it down! It makes me feel like a child again – playing outside, singing songs, and making up beautiful stories of heroism and true love!

I hope you have as much fun doing what you love as I do! Just remember: the Lord loves for His dear children to be happy using the beautiful gifts He has given us!

Phyllis Keels

Rescued

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Recently I was watching a PBS special about the wild side of our pets. It was so interesting. One section showed thermal imaging of a mother cat with her many nursing kittens.

The narrator said that when the kittens are very young, they can’t generate enough body heat to survive, so the mother keeps them close to her.

One kitten wandered off around a corner. Even within a few minutes, the kitten’s temperature started dropping. Finally, the kitten cried out.

The mother’s head came up, her ears perked. She stood up and went toward the lost baby’s cry. When she saw the kitten, she meowed so it would know she was near. The kitten was rescued by its good mother.

I started crying. The whole time I was watching this scene, I was thinking two things: first that nothing bad had better happen to that kitten or I would never watch PBS again.

Second: that what I had just seen reminded me of Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep. …Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Even in the animals, God has put beautiful reminders of His loving nature. He has put pictures of His Word.

I know that this parable (found in Matthew 18 and Luke 15) is used to talk about salvation in Jesus, but I think it has an additional level we often miss.

How often have you felt all alone, forgotten by God, crying out to be restored, rescued, and brought back into the warmth of the fold? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt like that.

My friend, the truth is that Jesus always knows where you are, and He is always close. We may feel like we’ve wandered off, but one cry to the Good Shepherd is all He needs to scoop you up, put you on His strong shoulders, and rejoice carrying you back to the warmth of His other sheep who care about you too. Simply allow Him to carry you.

I know what it’s like when your grief is so horrible you can hardly breathe. I know what it’s like when you wonder how you’ll make it through the next hour. And I know what it’s like to look at a black storm of swirling hopelessness around you.

Yes, that’s what it feels like, but the truth is you are loved beyond all knowledge. You are treasured beyond all treasure, and you are protected by the fierce devotion of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who laid down His life for you.

Just let Him love you, friend. Let His perfect love rescue you.

Phyllis Keels

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30 Days of Hope devotions by Phyllis Keels

Invisible Beside the Beauty

This is a revised, previously posted entry that I hope blesses you today, dear reader.

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

My sister, my best friend, and I used to joke that if we went anywhere with my daughter Julie, we three would be invisible next to her. It was true. Julie was so beautiful that when people saw her they didn’t even know we were there.

That was a little depressing the first time I realized it, but after a while it was funny. Actually, the funny thing was that Julie never thought she looked good enough. Good enough for what, I don’t know.

I always thought she was completely lovely. She was a rare beauty. But before she went anywhere, she would change clothes many times in order to feel all right about the way she looked.

There was nothing wrong with how she looked in any outfit that she chose. I know her anxiety was from the turmoil on the inside. I know this because she didn’t fret about it after the Lord healed her anger and gave her peace.

I was thinking that it was kind of nice to be invisible beside Julie’s beauty. It reminded me of the freedom of standing in the presence of the beauty of Jesus, the holy Lamb of God.

He is more beautiful than anything we have seen on this earth. One day we will kneel before that beauty and be able to praise Him face to face. But in the meantime I see glimpses of His lovely face each day as He walks me through this life since Julie went to be with Him.

He keeps showing me that He is actively working for my good every day. He never stops laying the stones of the path for me to walk. I never have to worry that He has wandered from me. He is always right here with me.

Being invisible beside Him is a joy. The more I’m with Him the more I want to look at Him; the more I want to stay as close to His beauty as I can get.

Besides, He is the One doing the work. He is the One I want people to see. Yes, He is beautiful One, and I am grateful to be in His presence. And like King David, I say,

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, KJV)

Phyllis Keels

The Sweet Waters

 

I had an insight into myself recently. I always thought I was a pretty positive person – you know? That good, uplifting things are coming out of my mouth? Well…

It happened when I overheard the interaction of a group of people. One person in the group kept saying things like, “No, I hate that. I can’t stand it when that happens. Oh, that kind of thing is just stupid,” and on and on.

It was like looking in a mirror. I realized that I say stuff like that a lot. When I heard how I have sounded, I was ashamed of myself.

Up until that point, I had thought I was simply sharing preferences about general things. I hadn’t mean to sound negative or to be negative, but I had been very negative.

As I sat there, a little in shock and a lot in humiliation, another feeling crept in. Gratitude. I was (and still am) so grateful to the lovely Holy Spirit for showing me that there is a way for sweet water to flow out of my mouth.

He reminded me that when I’m sharing with someone how kind the Lord has been to me, about the wonderful things He reveals to me about Jesus, the words that come forth are sweet and full of hope, life, and peace.

When I’m talking about myself, the waters are often bitter. That tells me that I still have a lot of grief in my heart. I knew that, of course, but I wasn’t aware it could be seen and heard.

The only way to make bitter waters sweet is to put the “tree” in. Just like when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and they came to Marah (Exodus 15). They could not drink the water there because it was bitter.

The Lord told Moses to throw in a certain tree. When he did, the waters became sweet.

My friend, I understand the pain we try to hide (sometimes with good motives because we don’t want to hurt others). I understand the sorrow we wish would go away. As hard as we try to help ourselves feel better, or to do good instead of harm, we often fail because the pain is too great.

We end up focusing on how much we hurt, and what comes out of our mouths can be negative and hurtful.

Beloved of the Lord, Jesus is the answer. Ask Him to intervene in your situation. Give Him your mouth, and believe that He has suffered all your grief on the cross so that you can be free and fully comforted.

Once you throw the “tree” into your situation, into your heart, the waters will become sweet, and you will drink to your heart’s content all the love, joy, peace, and wholeness you long for.

Phyllis Keels

What I Really Want

 

What do you want? Really want…

I usually know what I want. It’s almost always the same thing: to be surrounded by beauty (like the photo above), for the people I love to be well and full of joy, for everyone to be kind to each other, and for all of us to have no strife… to have peace…

Do you know that when I think about how much Jesus loves me, I feel all those things? Not because they are actually happening, but because He also desires those things for us. When I think about Him, I can hear His heart’s desire. I can see what He wants too.

There’s a verse in the Old Testament that makes me cry every time I read it – because I want what it says so much.

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25, NKJV)

Safe, secure in your own home with your own fruit around you. The Lord did that for them through Solomon. Solomon’s name comes from shalom (peace).

God gave peace to the people through peace…

Can you see that the Lord is all about peace? Not just the Greek word eirene that we think of – meaning the absence of war, harmony, tranquility. But the Hebrew word shalom – meaning whole, sound, healthy, well-being, peace.

There is a reason that Jesus is called The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

There is a reason that Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27, NASB)

There is a reason it is said of Jesus, “Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79, NASB)

Because of Jesus, peace is on the inside. Peace is your foundation. It doesn’t mean that things won’t happen to and around us. It means that the well-built house will still be standing after the storm. The tree with the deep, deep roots will still be standing after the hurricane.

So, how do you get this peace? Know that it is already yours. Just like money in the bank (even though you can’t see it or touch it, it is there to use). Know that it was paid for by the wounds of Jesus:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.” (Isaiah 53:5, AMPC)

He did it so we could have it. That’s the truth.

So, what do you want? Really want…

If you’re like me, we already have the thing that we really want, because of Jesus. Just ask Him to let you hear His heart’s desire for you. Ask Him to let you see the peace He bought for you.

Phyllis Keels

The Most Favorite

This is a previously posted entry that I pray blesses you, dear reader.

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Image by Phyllis Keels, copyright 2013, from “When I’m With Jesus” written by Kimberly Rae

I have a dear friend who sometimes has four big dogs at her house at once. Two dogs live there, and two often come for “doggie daycare.” When I visit my friend, I love it if the dogs are in the yard when I drive up.

They crowd next to the door and all want to get to me. It is several moments before I am able to get out of the car, but I don’t mind at all. In fact, I love it!

Nothing makes you feel loved like the nose-wrinkling smile of one, the full body wag of the second, the tongue hanging out of the third, and the “I can’t get close enough to you” of the fourth.

Each time they greet me, I can almost hear their thoughts. “You’re here! You’re here!” I imagine them saying.

I wouldn’t care if they were all covered in mud. I wouldn’t care if there were twice as many of them. What they display is unbridled joy. And it’s all for me.

Sure, I know they greet everyone like that, but when they are greeting me, I feel like their favorite person in the world. They are a beautiful extension of my friend and her family and the warm welcome I always receive whenever I visit.

I can’t help but think that when the host of heaven welcomes someone who has died, the joy must be like that. “You’re here! You’re here!” they will shout.

Surely they surround the loved one we are grieving for, and give him or her the warmest welcome, making them feel like the most favorite person in the world.

Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven over 1 sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance. I imagine this is due to one thing: the sinner acknowledges his need for a Savior. The “righteous person” does not.

The truth is that we all need a Savior. Receiving Him is simply a matter of acknowledging that need. When we think we are good, or not as bad as other people, we fall into the ranks of the 99.

My friend, there are no “righteous people.” I am convinced that Jesus spoke of those who think they are righteous.

Instead of us trying to deny how much we need a Savior, why don’t we admit the truth – there is only One who is truly righteous, and that is Jesus. He lived the perfect life so that He could give us the gift of His righteousness.

For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Romans 5:17 (Amplified Bible)

Receiving it makes you the 1 who stirs up more joy in heaven than for the other 99. It makes you the most favorite person in the world. It makes you the most welcomed.

Phyllis Keels

Then Wait a Moment

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

I like being at the beginning of a new year. Feels good. Having a fresh start and all that. I think I’d like it better if it started in the spring though. It’s kind of hard to get excited when everything is bleak and dreary and gray, you know?

Springtime is when everything really is new. Color comes out of hibernation and washes the earth with beauty. Yep. I think we should move the start of the year to the first day of spring.

I go through this every year because I hate winter. After the holidays I’m ready for spring. This stretch between Christmas and April is brutal. It’s cold, and everything looks like death. Gray sky. Gray grass. Gray trees.

Maybe that’s why I hate it – because it is like death. And I really hate death. It has robbed me of loved ones, even loved pets.

But you know what? Even in the dead of winter there is something new, and it might not be what you think. The Lord’s compassions are new every morning. Look:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

(Lamentations 3:19-25, NIV)

My friend, if you’re in a place where the New Year doesn’t feel new…

If you’re thinking that the bitter gall of your life will never turn sweet…

If you are without hope…

Just remember that Jesus suffered the bitter gall so that you can have the Lord’s mercy and compassion and comfort.

Then wait just a moment for the Lord’s compassion on you. He longs to shower you with the warmth of His love. He waits only for your permission to let Him love you.

Tell your Heavenly Father what you need and wait just a moment. Every single morning remind yourself that His compassion on you is new and fresh and exactly what you need for that day. And tomorrow? It will be brand new again.

Why? Because the One who loves you is faithful.

Phyllis Keels

Through the Tree

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Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. (Acts 13:29, NKJV)

…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24a, NKJV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13, NASB)

His Name is Jesus.

Phyllis Keels

Christmas and the Cross

When I was in my twenties, I had a dream that even today I can still see every detail. I can still feel exactly what I felt in the dream. The dream was gray, hazy, like an old black and white movie. It’s the only dream I’ve ever had that was not in color.

I was standing in a thick crowd of people on large stone steps looking down at a narrow road. There were people everywhere on both sides of the road and on the road itself.

In the midst of the crowd moving along that narrow road was Jesus carrying His cross.

I couldn’t see His face, only the crown of thorns on His head and the cross that nearly crushed Him with its weight.

I wept like I had never wept before. It was almost like I could feel some of the pain He was suffering. It was horrible. And I couldn’t get to Him because of the crowd. I tried, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t help Him. I could do nothing.

When I woke from the dream, I was already crying. I cried all that day. For the first time in my life (even though I have been saved since I was 10 years old), I saw some of the horror of what Jesus went through for me.

And yet…

Jesus comforted me all that day. He had given me a great gift. He showed me that He did what He did for me. Not only for the whole world, but for me. That makes all the difference. That makes it personal.

Many years later a poem came out of my heart from that dream. As we go into Christmas, I share it with you, because without the cross (and I say this reverently) Christmas means nothing. These two events can never be separated.

Jesus came into the world to die. To die for us. His birth led to His death and resurrection. So, my friend, here it is: Jesus came into the world to die for you and He loves you so very much.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this Christmas and every day of your life.

Phyllis Keels

The Dream

By Phyllis Keels

 

I saw you in my dream, Lord

On your way to Calvary

Struggling beneath the weight

Of a cross meant for me

 

And I mourned my sin, Lord

Helplessly I cried,

“I’m so sorry dear Jesus

It was for me that you died”

 

I saw the crowd press around

Pushing you along the road

I could not get close to you

To help you share the load

 

And I mourned my sin, Lord

Helplessly I cried,

“I’m so sorry dear Jesus

It was for me that you died”

 

Yet I wake from this grey dream

To see your smiling face

How can I ever thank you

For your unending grace?

 

Thank you for the dream, my Lord

For I have seen you now

And when again I see you

I will before you bow

 

And I mourned my sin Lord

Joyfully I cried,

“I’m so thankful dear Jesus

It was for me that you died”