Branches From the Tree

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Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission)

This year was the 25th anniversary of our church’s Living Christmas Tree. I have been blessed to be able to write the narration for it since 2012. The narration happens in between the beautiful songs and is meant to help weave everything together into a clear picture of our Savior Jesus Christ.

So many words from the Lord come out in the entire narration each year, that it has to be edited because of time in the service. So here is the full version from this year. I know it is long but maybe each section could be a brief devotion for you until we meet again next week.

These are just a few branches from the Tree – the Tree of Life who is our Lord Jesus.

May you be greatly blessed and feel completely loved by our Heavenly Father as you read His words to you, dear friend.

Opening Narration 1

The Lord is come! The Lord is come…

Joy to the whole world! The Lord sent His Son to bring joy to every person in the world. Joy that is lasting. Joy that shines in every part of our being. Joy that settles in our hearts and never leaves us.

I think it’s safe to say that joy is something we all want, right? We want to have joy in life.

Maybe there has been a time when you longed for joy only to have it slip away. Maybe you had a taste of it but couldn’t hold onto it. Maybe you’ve been thinking that joy stands for “just over yonder.”

Something you want that is just out of reach can be disheartening. The Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. But we have good news for you tonight. The Bible also says, “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

So how do you find and hold onto what you’ve been longing for?

Friend, maybe we’ve been thinking about joy all wrong. Joy is not a thing – something we can grasp. Joy is a person. A person who loves you. Joy is our Savior Jesus Christ.

And when you see Him, really see Him, then you will arise and shine, for you will know that your light has come. You will know that the glory of the Lord rises upon you, even though darkness covers the earth and deep darkness is over the people. (Isaiah 60:1, 2, NKJV)

You don’t have to wait any longer. Now is the time of God’s favor. Today is the day of grace, and your Joy is here.

When you see Him, your face will become radiant and your heart will swell with joy. (Isaiah 60:5, NKJV)

Why? Because He has already come to give you His joy. Yes, Emmanuel – God with us – has come!

Narration 2

When Jesus started His earthly ministry, He read these words from the Isaiah the prophet:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

   because the Lord has anointed me

   to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

   to proclaim freedom for the captives

   and release from darkness for the prisoners,

   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV)

Jesus came to free us from being impoverished, brokenhearted, prisoners in darkness. And even though we sometimes don’t feel free, the things that enslaved us have been defeated.

In this knowledge, this truth, we can have great joy. Why? Because when Jesus came, He came:

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

the oil of joy instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 60:2b-3, NIV)

Friend, you will not stay in that prison of darkness. Not when the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

No,

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace;

The mountains and the hills

Shall break forth into singing before you,

And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12, NKJV)

Narration 3

God’s desire is for everyone to have joy – young, old, and in between. He wants you, His dear child, to experience joy in life. He wants you free from all those things Jesus died to free us from.

Our Heavenly Father told the prophet Jeremiah: “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13, NKJV)

How is this possible? Because God is faithful.

…let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;

Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;

Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. (Psalm 5:11, NKJV)

Narration 4

You might be thinking, “All this talk about joy is fine, but I don’t feel it.” You might be thinking, “I’ve been waiting for joy a long time. When is it going to happen for me?”

Maybe you are grieving because of a loss. Maybe you are struggling because of a disappointment. Maybe you are just tired of trying and have given up on ever feeling joy again.

You might also be thinking, “I’m not really listening because I’m too busy looking at the commotion behind you, David.”

I understand. Life is busy. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the truth of the beauty of God’s love for us.

Friend, Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That means abundant peace, abundant comfort, and abundant joy.

The Bible tells us that Jesus, for the joy set before Him endured the cross. Imagine! It was the joy on the other side of the cross that helped Him endure the pain on the cross – the cross that He hung on to pay for my sin and yours.

The King of all Kings laid down His life in joy, looking forward to our salvation (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV) – the salvation that He purchased by His death because of His great love for us.

So,

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

My soul shall be joyful in my God;

For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,

And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10, NKJV)

The King has come to give us a life full of love and joy. It all begins with our receiving what He longs to give us. Reach out your hand and accept the gift from the King who loves you.

Narration 5

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her she would be the mother of the Savior of the world, she was a young maiden at the time.

The Scriptures tell us that this in itself was a sign from the Lord: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NASB) 

Gabriel also said that Mary’s baby would be named Jesus, meaning “the Lord is Salvation*”, because He would save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, NKJV)

And do you know what Mary’s response was to this unexpected news? You guessed it. Joy.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. (Luke 2:46-49, NIV)

*Strong’s Concordance G2424 and H3091

Narration 6

The word “joy” appears over 150 times in the Bible. “Rejoice” appears over 180 times. Together that is nearly once for each day of the year.

Someone shared with me that while reading through all those joy verses, they were overwhelmed with what the Lord had done, and how much He wants us to rejoice in His love for us.

If God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life – then we must conclude that the joy of salvation is for the whole world.

King David wrote: “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation.” (Psalm 35:9, NKJV)

Be joyful and rejoice – in His salvation. Remember what Jesus’ name means? The Lord is Salvation.

The name of Jesus tells us exactly what is in the heart of God – saving those He loves. And He loves you, my friend. He loves you very much.

Narration 7

Hope: that confident expectation of good, that confident expectation of real joy – hope. It comes alive in our hearts when we know who is with us. When we know Emmanuel – God with us.

That is part of why Jesus IS Emmanuel – God with us. To bring us hope, joy, and a life filled with love.

Once, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming near, he said “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29, NASB)

Jesus, the Lamb of God laid down His life to give us the abundant life He promised us. He saved us.

Remember the beginning of His ministry when He said He came to free us from darkness, prison, and being brokenhearted?

He has done it!

Sing, O heavens!

Be joyful, O earth!

And break out in singing, O mountains!

For the Lord has comforted His people,

And will have mercy on His afflicted. (Isaiah 49:1,3, NKJV)

He did all this on the cross. He conquered the powers of darkness and won the victory over our sin, freeing us. He took our sin so that we could have great joy in His salvation!

Narration 8

At the name of Jesus… Jesus…

Jesus has been given a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father! (Phil 2:9-11)

Jesus is Christ, Messiah – the Anointed One

He is the Prince of Peace

The Good Shepherd

The Lamb of God

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End

He is the Author and Finisher of Faith

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

He is the Light of the World

Jesus, Yeshua is the Son of God and Son of Man!

He is the Bread of Life and the True Vine!

And He is the Resurrection and the Life!

Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of all Lords is come!

Narration 9

Christ has come! And when He came, the angels who appeared to the shepherds said,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

And that’s you, by the way – those on whom His favor rests. That’s you. Peace, favor, hope, and joy to you.

And even though there is darkness in the world, even though we might not always feel that these wonderful things (like joy) are ours, simply remember this:

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 3:21-25, NIV)

Because once you seek Him, instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion you will rejoice in your portion. Therefore in your land you shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be yours. (Isaiah 61:7, NKJV)

Having everlasting joy is as simple as this: believe. Jesus came to bring forgiveness of sins. As it is written: “All the prophets testify about Jesus that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43, NIV)

Believe, receive, and take hold of the joy that is yours in the Savior who loves you.

Narration 10

The apostle Paul wrote that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold! All things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)

If that is you, and your hope is now in the Lord, my friend your strength will be renewed. You will soar on wings like eagles; you will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit! (Romans 15:13, NASB)

Phyllis Keels

The Smell of Rain

Many years ago, we were under a drought that lasted all summer and into autumn. Not one drop of rain. It made for great weather – nice and dry, but even some of our trees died because the drought was so severe.

One afternoon that autumn I was at home and heard a noise outside. I walked out and realized that the sound I had heard was rain. Then, when the smell of it hit me, I almost started crying. The smell of rain…

I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I had missed the smell of rain. It refreshed my soul and reminded me of happy childhood memories of playing in puddles after a rain shower. Just then a big bolt of lightning flashed, the thunder cracked, and I ran back into the house.

Even so, with the thunder and lightning, I was still rejoicing because of the rain. The drought was over.

I’ve been through many droughts in my life – loneliness, seasons of fear and doubt, my way being lost, divorce, death of loved ones… You may have suffered these things too, perhaps worse.

These droughts are not something we would choose to go through, but we are called to be patient in through them.

I don’t think I have been very patient in any time like that. I wasn’t grateful for the hardship at the time, but after coming through it, I can appreciate it for what it taught me.

Plants develop deep, strong roots in a dry weather. They have to in order to survive. The have to find the spring of underground water that does not dry up in a drought. And if they go deep enough, they will find it.

Once that happens, the plant is unaffected by the weather. It is constantly supplied with what it needs. It grows and flourishes and produces fruit, but it has to be patient until the rains come.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. (James 5:7, NKJV)

Dear friend, rain is on the way. If you are in between the early and latter rains, you may be in a drought, but this means that rain is on the way.

Jesus said that if anyone is thirsty, he or she could come to Him and drink. Then, as the Scripture has said: out of your belly, your inner being will flow rivers of living water.

Loss can make us introspective – we begin focusing only on our own pain. Don’t fall for that trap.

I’m not telling you to ignore your pain, but to quench it. When we are thirsty, we don’t walk around talking about how thirsty we are. We don’t sit around and mourn about how thirsty we are. We go get a big, cold glass of clear water and we drink it until we are no longer thirsty.

In your drought, go to the Fountain of Living Waters and drink. I can tell you from experience and from the witness of the sweet Holy Spirit that Jesus is the only thing that can quench your thirst. He is the only One who can give you the relief you long for in your drought.

Jesus is the early and the latter rain, and even when it is not raining, you can dig deep into the Word of God and quench your thirst from the never-ending river that flows there.

Why? Because He loves you so much.

Listen! Can you hear it? Can you hear the sound of rain and smell the sweetness that will refresh your soul? Drink, my friend. Just drink. And then drink some more!

Phyllis Keels

In My Father’s Lap

 

For the last week or so, I’ve been wavering between how much I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and how much I really don’t like the holidays anymore.

I love the family traditions and the joy of the season, but ironically that’s the same reason I dread their coming.

Holidays are wonderful only if no one in your family has died, and if you’re surrounded by family or friends, and you actually like your family and friends. Otherwise…

I do like my family and friends very much. They’re not the problem. It’s the other part. It’s having every holiday memory with your loved ones who died rise up and break your heart all over again. That’s the part I don’t look forward to.

Why is it so hard to focus on what we have and not what we don’t have anymore? Why can’t we just enjoy now instead of hurting over what happened in the past and hurting over the future we feel we’ve lost with our loved ones?

That’s usually where I go – the lost future: I’ll never get to see my daughter get married; I’ll never get to ask my Dad to teach me something new; I’ll never get to spend another Thanksgiving with them, etc.

I really think all that stuff is a huge trap to rob us from having joy in life. We can’t change what has happened, but we can change how we focus our thoughts and actions now.

Most of my family members are still here. In addition, since my Dad and daughter have gone on to heaven ahead of us, we’ve even had a couple of new members come in.

I have so much to be thankful for. And I am very, very thankful. The struggle comes between missing the loved ones who have gone, and appreciating the “different now” that you never planned for.

Right there is the hard place. You have to grieve without causing pain to anyone else or missing a blessing that is in the now. My friend, I live there most days. You probably do too.

The only way I know how to do it is to crawl into the lap of my Heavenly Father and tell Him how hard it is to live with the pain. When I do, He holds me and tells me that He understands, and that He loves me forever. He tells me that He will help me, and that He will never leave me alone.

He tells me that my Dad and my daughter are happy and well – better than they could ever be on the earth. He tells me that He is blessing them with love so wonderful that you have to be in heaven to bear it. It’s too beautiful and full of light.

He reminds me that this grief is temporary and that one day, I will see them again, and we will never be parted for all eternity. He reminds me that He had to watch His Son die and that He has also had to suffer grief. So He and I have a special kinship.

And more than that. I remember that He had to punish His lovely Son for all my sin so that I could be forgiven. How do you even come close to thanking Him for that?

My Lord Jesus is the One who made it possible for my pain to become indescribable joy, and for my loss to become a bright hope of a real future – a future that He has prepared for those who receive the gift of His sacrifice.

In that light, I can now look forward to a season of celebration with my family and friends. I can remember that my Dad and my daughter are celebrating too (far better than we will).

And I can have joy over the “different now” in which I’ve spent time with my loving Heavenly Father. A “now” where I am still glowing from my time of being held in His lap.

Phyllis Keels

Another Chance to Meet the One

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Whenever I have a book table at a craft fair (almost always it’s with my friend and fellow author Sandra Ardoin), I’m on the lookout for “the one” the Lord brings near me.

“The one” is always that person the Lord wants to bless, encourage, or comfort through me. It really has nothing to do with me. I’m just a pipe and I am very grateful for that. What He does for the loved one He sends to me is absolutely beautiful to watch.

A couple of weekends ago, I was at the First Baptist Church Holiday Faire with Sandra and I never did see the one. I kept looking, kept expecting, but never did see who it was.

No matter. Sandra and I will be at another craft fair this Saturday. I’m praying “the one” will be there.

That interaction blesses me more than you can imagine. It’s the place where my dearest Lord Jesus fulfills this for me:

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

The oil of joy instead of mourning,

And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

When He pours out His Spirit through me and gives hope to one of His loved ones who is hurting, it feels like life itself is flowing and shining all around us. It is beyond description.

My friend, if you are hurting today, if you’ve suffered loss or disappointment, or you are just tired from the stress of life, do this one thing: ask the Lord to bring you someone else who is in pain. Tell that person about how beautiful Jesus is, and what He has done for us.

Then let me know how the Lord blessed you when He poured out His Spirit through you.

And if you are “the one” I am going to meet this Saturday, I pray that you are already feeling your Heavenly Father wrap you in that warm garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.

Much love to you – the love of Jesus, the perfect love that casts out all fear.

Phyllis Keels

The Eye of the Storm

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

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in the place where this photo was taken? I would just sit and look at the trees and the hills and the grass. Oh, to be where there is no phone, no computer, no TV in every single building we enter from a medical clinic to a restaurant. No people, no planes flying overhead, no cars driving by. No noise.

Just the sound of the wind in the trees.

I guess I’d have to travel back in time a few hundred years to get that kind of quiet. Yep. I’ll get right on that.

Believe me, if I could have done it, by now I would have done it. Maybe that’s why I like to write stories set in past times. In my imagination, there is the quiet that I long for.

Sure I use technology and man-made contraptions. That doesn’t mean I like them. They make so much noise.

Maybe noise is so repulsive to me because it tends to distract from what is real. It keeps us from hearing the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. It drowns out the whisper of wind and the stream. It seems to be a bully that forces its will over the sweet sounds of God’s creation. It tramples on our minds when we try to think about the Lord.

If you’re not quite sure how I feel…

The worst of it is this: we grow so accustomed to noise that we don’t even think about it anymore. Sometimes we’re even frightened when we do have a few moments of quiet. We think something is wrong. We’re left alone with our thoughts!

I’m not condemning anyone who doesn’t like quiet. We are who we are and we like what we like. I just wish there were a quiet place to be found nowadays. Even if we turn off every device we own, there is still plenty of noise around us.

So maybe the answer is in the eye of the storm. The world will be noisy until Jesus physically returns. Until then, I can rest in the quietness of His presence within me. Maybe the problem is that I’ve been looking for external quiet when I could be enjoying the unshakeable internal peace of being the Bride of Christ the King.

Jesus loves me. He always loves me. His strong, comforting presence is always with me no matter how much noise is going on outside. What place could be more beautiful than that?

Here in the eye of the storm is the real place where I can hear the wind in the trees and the song of the stream. Here in His arms, where I can hear His whispers of kindness; where I can rest my head on his chest, and thank Him for loving me so much.

Phyllis Keels

From Alpacas to Crafts

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I spent a couple of days in the mountains this past weekend with a dear friend and we visited an Alpaca farm. Oh, they’re so cute! They’re like adult sized stuffed animals and they make the funniest noise when they eat.

It’s sort of a cross between, “Huh?” “Eh?” and “Hm.” I laughed so hard just watching and listening to them.

The farm we visited has a shop where they sell the sweaters, scarves, socks, blankets and things they make from the Alpaca fiber. It is so soft and warm.

All of this reminded me how much I love crafty stuff. Just looking at all the garments made me want to buy a loom and learn how to weave. It made me want to make candles and soap, or dried flower arrangements.

I told myself just to wait because this weekend at First Baptist Church in Salisbury, there will be a huge Holiday Faire (with 85 vendors) and I can look and dream and buy to my heart’s content. The hard part is that I will be one of the vendors!

Sandra Ardoin and I will have a book table where you can look at and purchase all of our books. If you are going to be there, please stop by. We would love to see you.

Then you can make your way around to the other 84 vendors and shop to your heart’s content. This year, all of the proceeds from the Holiday Faire will go to help the hurricane Matthew flood victims in eastern North Carolina.

We look forward to seeing you there this Saturday November 5th from 9:00am-3:00pm at the First Ministry Center of First Baptist Church of Salisbury, 220 N. Fulton St.

They’re sure to have everything from – well, I can’t promise you Alpacas, but there should be lots and lots of wonderful things.

Come by and say, “Huh? Eh? Hm.” We’ll know what you mean.

holiday-faire

Phyllis Keels

A Gift of Hope

Julie's Cross2

Recently while on my way to work, I noticed a new memorial cross on the side of the road. It was where someone’s loved one had died from a car accident. I remember the aftermath of that one. I remember most of them.

I notice them because almost every day for the last five and a half years, I’ve driven by the place where my daughter Julie wrecked. Not by choice, but because it’s not far from my house and to get anywhere, I have to go that way.

Not long after Julie’s death, my son built a beautiful wooden cross and placed it where his sister wrecked. It stayed there for a long while. It was a precious gift of love in her memory.

So when I passed by that new memorial crosses I mentioned earlier, I had a thought. Whenever I come upon one of those memorials, what if I leave one of my devotion books for the family of the loved ones? I have plenty of books. I could leave one as a gift. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.

I think I’ll put a stash of them in my car, along with some zip top plastic bags so the books don’t get wet in the rain. Maybe the gesture will give the family another memory to hold onto when they pass by the place where their loved one died.

Maybe instead of the claws of grief, they will feel the warm rays of hope.

Maybe the book will remind them that their Heavenly Father knows how much they are hurting, and that He wants to comfort them. Maybe it will help them heal, knowing they are not alone. Maybe, they will receive the love the Lord Jesus wants to give them.

Maybe they will feel the Lord’s strong arms upholding them like He has done for me all these years. Maybe, just maybe, they will get to see a glimpse of how beautiful their loved one is now, in the presence of the King of Kings. And maybe that will turn their mourning into joy.

I hope so. I most definitely hope so.

Phyllis Keels

A Beloved Herd

Lipizzaner

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I will get to see some horses this weekend! (A belated birthday present from my dear best friend)

I’m so excited! Thinking about horses reminded me of this post about the beautiful Lipizzaner horses – the Legendary White Stallions.

They really are magnificent, and a beautiful picture of how our relationship with the Good Shepherd can be. I hope this blesses you, dear reader.

***

I don’t often watch documentaries about animals. If you know me, you might be thinking, “Why not? She loves animals!”

Yes, I do. Very much. But, I can’t bring myself to watch anything where they get eaten by a predator, or they are being hunted, or they go through hardship.

Even if nothing bad happens to them, I’ll find that the show is about how tenderly a mother cares for her baby or something sweet like that, and I’ll end up crying my eyes out.

That pretty much limits my options.

Still, when the PBS special called “Legendary White Stallions” came on, I couldn’t resist. It was about the world famous Lipizzaner horses, after all.

Despite weeping through almost the whole show, I stuck it out. Most of the draw for me was just seeing those breathtakingly beautiful stallions, but part of it was something else.

I had forgotten how much like horses we are. The longer the show went on, the more I realized how important it is to know the Master.

Lipizzaner are raised to do what they do. Throughout their lives, they never know a time when they are not being cared for, tended to, and loved by their masters. Because of this, they are never afraid of what their masters ask them to do.

Because they have been under the loving, consistent hand of the trainers, these beautiful horses will do maneuvers that most horses would never attempt to do. All because these horses trust their masters.

Why? Because they know they are loved. It’s as simple as that.

You think animals don’t know when they are loved? Oh, they know. And they know when they are not loved.

My dog trusts me because she knows me. She knows that I would never intentionally harm her. She knows that she is loved – greatly loved. Because she knows, she does what I ask, even when she doesn’t understand why I’m asking.

When I thought of how these magnificent horses (and my dog) relax in the love they are given, I could see so clearly how happy they are. This is such a lovely picture of allowing the Lord Jesus to “handle” us.

Whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, we were made by the Master. My friend, I can tell you from a lifetime of being “handled” by the Lord that we understand only a fraction of that love. His love for us is beyond comprehension.

While He may ask us to go through things we don’t understand, things that are uncomfortable, or even painful, they are for good. Not so that He can put on a show, like with the Lipizzaner, but so that we will know how greatly we are loved.

All of this is so that we will know Him.

If you haven’t felt like you’ve been in the beloved herd all your life, do not fear. Whether you’ve been aware of it or not, you have been cared for, cherished, and valued all your life – by the Master who gave His life for you, because He loves you.

Yes, you. Jesus really does love you, friend. Let Him be the Master, and then relax under His loving hand.

Phyllis Keels

Another Holiday Faire

I’m sure there is no shortage of fun stuff to do this fall, but I have to tell you about a really great thing. This November 5th, First Baptist Church of Salisbury will have their annual Holiday Faire. I hope you will come by and visit the table where Sandra Ardoin and I will have all of our books for sale.

Until then, here is a post I wrote after last year’s event. I’m already praying that the Lord will bring another “one” we can minister to.

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(Written November 18, 2015)

On November 7th, I was at my church’s Holiday Faire. A dear friend (who is a fine author and has been a mentor to me for many years) and I rented a space together to sell our books.

During these types of events, I know by now that the Lord brings one person to me – the one I’m there to bless, encourage, comfort. Sometimes He brings many people, but there will always be “the one” who needs His touch more than all the others.

Please understand this is not about me. The Lord can minister to anyone without having to go through us. He graciously allows me to be present when He does this, and that is a great joy to me. It is like a sweet fragrance to my broken heart and I am always grateful for His kindness to me in this.

I kept looking for “the one” throughout that day. Then, just about the time I remembered that sometimes I don’t know who “the one” is, (but He knows) she showed up.

Ten minutes before closing that day, a young woman came our table. She picked up my children’s book “Emma and the Paper” and asked if it had anything about Jesus in it.

It was all I could do not to jump out of my chair. There she is, I thought. After I answered her question and told her about the book, she pointed to the children’s book Kimberly Rae wrote, the one I illustrated for her: “When I’m With Jesus,” written for children who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

That’s when this young mother shared with me that her 3-month-old son had died in a car accident earlier this year. That’s when the last shred of wondering whether she was “the one” disappeared like a mist in a summer breeze.

The brokenness was all over her. The terrible, consuming, terrifying grief… I wanted to wrap her in a warm blanket of God’s love and let her sleep peacefully until she can breathe again.

I shared with her that my daughter also died from her injuries in a car accident, so she would really understand that I cared about her grief. I was able to give her a devotion book for her, and the “When I’m With Jesus” book for her 3-year-old daughter who is still grieving for her little brother.

I gave her my contact information and told her I would pray for her, and that she could call me or email me anytime. She may never want to, but often just knowing that you can is enough.

I left the Holiday Faire that day thanking my Heavenly Father for bringing “the one” near me – the wounded lamb who just needed to know that the Good Shepherd has not moved from her side, even though she can’t see Him.

That lamb is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but she is no longer alone, nor will she ever be again.

Soon I will be with my dear friend, sharing a book table at another church’s craft fair. I’ll be watching for the next “one.” I may not know who you are, but the Lord knows.

So come, whoever you are. Jesus will walk with you though it, friend. He will walk with you through it, because He is all about “the one.”

Phyllis Keels

Looking for Peace

island

When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was to pretend. I could imagine being on a raft in the middle of the ocean, riding a horse over an open plain, being a beautiful movie star, or being on a secluded island.

The island thing was my favorite. Maybe it was the “Gilligan’s Island” influence. To this day the thought still sparks all kinds of happy childhood memories.

I’m not sure what the attraction was or still is. Maybe it’s the thought of being away from civilization and away from all the danger and turmoil in the world. Finding a place of peace. To the mind of a child, being surrounded by water where no evil could come sounded a lot like paradise.

Now I know that the peace I was looking for is not a physical place. It is a person. It is the Lord Jesus.

Think about it. He is the Prince of Peace. That means He is the ruler of the “place” called peace. And in the Hebrew, peace (shalom) means so much more than the absence of strife. According to Strong’s Bible Concordance, it means: whole, sound, tranquil, secure, safe, healthy.

Somehow the English word “peace” doesn’t do justice to the full meaning of shalom.

My friend, don’t let anything rob you of what Jesus wants you to have. Don’t settle for less than what He died to give you. Don’t fall for any counterfeit that will only be temporary.

Go after the eternal, original, perfect peace. The peace you long for is not found in a place. It’s not on an island, or in any human relationship you could ever have. It is not found in the abundance of money or things or the best career.

It is found in the intimate, loving relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

So how do you get it? You get it when you get Him. He is peace. Simply tell Him that you want Him. He will bring the shalom with Him. Jesus wants you to have His peace even more than you want to have it.

Once you have it, you won’t be afraid of what is going on in the world. Not that you won’t care – it will not disturb your peace.

I know that the New Testament was written in Greek, but Jesus would have spoken the following words in Hebrew or Aramaic. So let me show you what He said to His disciples, and is saying to you today:

Shalom (wholeness, soundness, tranquility, safety, health) I leave with you, My shalom I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27, NKJV)

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have shalom. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)

Phyllis Keels