The Good Long Way

Today I was thinking about how often we get tempted to take the easy way out. It happens all day long. Cut this corner, skip that duty, do what I want instead of helping someone else who needs something…

I usually don’t take the easy way out anymore. I used to when I was younger, but my dad was the king of the good, long way. After watching him persevere for years and put our needs above even his own comfort, I knew he was a treasure and a living example of the Lord Jesus to us.

My dad’s life is a kindness from the Lord. Through many ways, the Lord guided his feet into the way of peace; the long way that builds strength and brings great joy.

Now it’s my turn. It’s my turn to give and bless, and I can tell you that it makes me so happy to be a blessing to anyone who will receive it.

It’s hard though. Sometimes it’s really, really hard because you love your loved ones so much and it’s terrible to see them suffer. Yet you keep going.

Then you get tired and discouraged. It all starts to seem like a dark valley that has no end.

Over the years, the Lord has shown me that this feeling of being alone in a dark valley is really just an illusion. It’s a trick of the enemy. Don’t ever fall for that trick.

Especially when you feel the discouragement, because just when you think you can’t stand the pain anymore, when you can’t take one more step, the sunlight streams in and warms your face.

Then you see the truth: the valley may be long, but it is not dark. It is green and lush and filled with living water. It is a place of growth and of resting in the strength of the Good Shepherd who walks with you through the whole thing.

You know, I have never regretted putting aside my own desires in order to bless someone else. I’ve never regretted spending time I didn’t think I had to minister to someone else. I’ve only regretted not doing those things.

Jesus walked and walked all over Israel for over three years and hardly ever had a minute to Himself. He preached, taught, and healed all who came to Him. He was thronged by crowds, had no place to lay His head, and had to get up in the middle of the night to have time to talk with His Heavenly Father. And yet, He did all this with great calm and perfect joy because He came to deliver all who were oppressed of the devil.

Blessing others is not about giving up things we want. It’s about getting to travel a higher way – the long, good way that is the way of peace. Traveling in the way of great joy of watching Jesus minister to those we love, and seeing them blossom in the unwavering love of God.

…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38, NKJV)

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

Give Your Way Out

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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

The Family He Loves

Sunrise

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

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready for a season of smooth sailing. Too much tragedy, too much adversity, too much hardship, too much suffering. Too much…

And my life is easy! Compared to what many people deal with, I know my life is easy, pleasant, and good. So why does life feel so hard sometimes, even if many other people’s lives are harder?

Some things are relative. Some are not. Some things depend on perspective. Some do not.

What I mean is: truth is not relative. There are not truths. That would negate the nature of truth. Truth is true because it’s the truth. Not because we think it’s the truth.

Suffering, however, is relative. What hurts you hurts. It doesn’t matter that there is suffering out there worse than what you’re feeling. It hurts.

My theory about why sometimes life feels harder than others is because the adversity, the hardship that comes aggravates a painful spot in our heart. It irritates the grief we already feel. At least it’s that way with me.

A broken down car just reminds me that I’m single. I’m responsible to take care of everything in my life – house, job, family, car, bills, etc. Most days that’s exhausting.

Seeing a loved one suffer just reminds me that I’ve lost loved ones due to illness and injury. It reminds me of death.

Just about any hardship reminds me of a weakness, a fear, or a lack.

But you know what? Life, real life, is not about what we see – the hardship, the lack, the fear. It’s about what we don’t see – the Hand of the One who has already taken care of all these things.

We don’t deny that there are hardships. We simply acknowledge that those things are no match for our loving Heavenly Father. I promise you that this one thought always melts my fear, sends strength coursing through my veins, and reminds me that the truth is: I have no lack. I have an inheritance richer than my wildest dreams.

No matter what we face, we must face it rooted in the truth: we are not alone, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, and we are greatly, greatly blessed.

If you agree that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, then my friend, you are a beloved member of the family of the King of Kings.

And take my word for it if you will: God always, always takes tender care of the family He loves.

Phyllis Keels

Trust His Heart

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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

The First Fruits of Time

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Photo by Kim Lance (used by permission; click image for more of Kim’s work)

Is time speeding up? It feels like the days, the weeks, the seasons are flying by. Some would say that’s what it feels like to reach a certain age and being going down hill. Things speed up when you go down hill!

Well, that may be true, but I refuse to receive that!

Maybe time is flying because my days are filled with a lot of activity. I remember years long ago when I hid from everyone and everything because I was emotionally wounded and didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t interact a lot during those years and the days were long. They were also very lonely.

Not anymore. Now I have very little time for myself, but you know what? It’s okay. When we give up anything for the good of someone else, we will be blessed. When we invest our time in others – especially in our family – everyone benefits. Who else could be as important as our own loved ones?

It’s all in how we spend our time. Just like with money, we also have to be smart about our time.

All this reminds me of what Jesus dealt with during His ministry. He spent almost all of His time preaching, teaching, and healing everyone who came to Him.

He hardly had time to eat, and the only time He could be by Himself to pray was in the middle of the night. Once, when He and His disciples crossed the lake of Galilee in a small boat, He fell asleep and slept through a storm.

When we think about it, we have a lot more free time, and space than Jesus did. I’m pretty sure that I have plenty of time to spend on those around me, with the Lord, and with myself, and still have time left over.

I heard about a man to whom the Lord has given great visions and dreams. The Lord has shown this man beautiful things. This man said he spends two and a half hours a day with God. When I heard that, I thought, well no wonder he gets to see dreams and visions! That is amazing!

Then it hit me. 2.5 hours a day is a little over 10% of a day. This man gives the Lord a tithe of his time. What a wonderful thing! The tithe draws from the law of first fruits in the Old Testament, and it was so that the Lord could bless the whole. When the Israelites gave Him 10% of their wealth, He blessed the rest of it and made them prosper.

It’s the same way with our time. If we give the Lord His tithe of our time, then He will bless all of our time.

Then something else hit me. I drive an hour and fifteen minutes to and from work every day. During that time, I listen to the Word of God the whole time. That is 2.5 hours!

It made me so happy and I am so grateful that I can do it. Maybe you don’t think you have that kind of time to devote to spending with the Lord, but you never know. 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there…

Just start with something and work your way up. I promise you’ll be blessed. Well, no, the Lord promises you’ll be blessed, because He is the One who will bless you, my friend! Just let Him bless you. It is what He longs to do.

Phyllis Keels

A Great Year

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Photo by Kim Lance (used by permission)

Where did this year go? It’s almost over. Seems like if I had blinked I would have missed it.

Time picks up speed when we reach a certain age, doesn’t it? Well, that’s okay. I always enjoyed riding downhill rather than climbing up!

It has been a very good year. A good year indeed.

Somewhere around February I found out I was going to be a grandmother. Then later in the year I got to be with my grandson when he came into the world! A lot of changes overall, and a lot more people I can be a blessing to.

There are so many things I’m grateful for and I won’t list them here. I just want to tell you how grateful I am for you, dear reader.

All the “shares” and comments of encouragement, all the news of how the Lord blesses you and others through what He gives me to write…

Thank you. Thank you from the overflow of love in my heart for you!

Please know that you didn’t hear about, stumble upon, or seek out this blog by accident. You were drawn to the loving call of the Holy Spirit.

You see, I can write words all day long, but only He can give real comfort. Only He can show authentic love, and only He can bring true healing to hearts that have been broken by grief.

So as this year ends and another brand new one begins, may the Lord bless you richly with all the beauty He has to give us in His Son Jesus! Because that is His desire for you, my friend – to know you are loved!

The Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you;

The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you;

The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (tranquility of heart and life continually).

Numbers 6:24-26 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

Phyllis Keels

The Song of the Stream

"If it weren't for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song." ~ Carl Perkins (Photo by Kim Lance, used by permission)

“If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song.” ~ Carl Perkins (Photo by Kim Lance, used by permission)

I grew up playing in places like this. Both my mom and dad were raised in the mountains of North Carolina and we visited there a lot. I was raised in the Piedmont. Throughout my childhood, rocky streams were plentiful.

Even now, when I look at a photo like this, tears come to my eyes because my memories of these streams are so sweet. Solitude, the sounds of the water, the birds, the wind in the trees… Oh, what lovely times of daydreaming!

When I had a friend with me, we practiced our “catch and release” program for crawdads. Yep, crawdads. We’d never heard of crayfish!

We trekked across giant fallen logs over the stream – the stream that transformed into a cavernous ravine as we tried not to fall off.

We marveled at the tiny “handprints” in the mud – handprints we were convinced were made by the Little People (the Leprechauns, certainly not raccoons).

We dreamed up great adventures, true love, and the ability to fly like Peter Pan. Fairies and elves, unicorns and tree houses. You name it. We could imagine it.

Looking back, I can see where my love of writing began. It began with the song of the stream. Even today, the sound of that water flowing over the rocks calls to me.

And yes, the quote above is true: without the rocks the stream would have no song. Without the obstacles, our lives would have no depth, no beauty.

It is only through the broken heart that our gifts are made perfect. Paul said it best, I can have all these abilities, resources, talents, but if I do not have love, I am nothing.

Paul had learned that to allow the love of God to flow through you is the greatest gift you can have and give. And it’s done by allowing it to happen. It’s done by changing our focus from the hurt to the source of all love: our Heavenly Father.

If you’ve had a hard life, if you’ve had adversity, and heartbreak, then my friend you are most blessed. You are in a position to possess the most beautiful song. A song that will comfort someone else as you comfort your own heart.

Let your heart sing the song of the highly favored, and deeply loved: the brokenhearted. After all, we can sing because He is always near to the brokenhearted.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear (worship) the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:3, NIV)

The Fruit of Your Fruit

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His name is Ryan and he came into the world last week. He is no ordinary child. He is exceptional. He’s my grandson!

Sure, I know. Every grandparent says that, but isn’t that the heart of a grandparent?

I totally get it now. I’m in the gushing grandparent club. And I couldn’t be happier!

When I first held him, I tried and tried to get a good look at his face, but couldn’t because my eyes kept filling up with tears. I struggled with words to describe how wonderful it is to hold your child’s child. I pretty much gave up trying, because there aren’t any.

Later though, I did have a picture in my head of what grandchildren are like. They are the bloom on the plant that is your child. They are the fruit of your fruit.

You don’t love them more than your child; you love them along with your child. It’s that old concept of love never getting divided among those in your life, no matter how many people there are. Instead, the love gets multiplied.

For those who prayed for Ryan before he was born, and for his loving mom and dad, thank you. Thank you so much! For all the grandparents who have joyfully welcomed me into the club, thank you! It has been amazing to feel the immediate kinship we have with each other!

To say that this precious child is a gift from my Heavenly Father would be a gross understatement. He is a restoration, an abundant blessing, and a gracious pouring out of God’s love on our family.

This child falls in the category of: But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV)

What a loving Heavenly Father we have in Christ Jesus!

From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is His name. (Luke 1:48b-49, NIV)

Phyllis Keels

Having His Smile

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I went to this year’s SheSpeaks Conference in July. It’s a wonderful thing to go to if you are or want to be a Christian writer or speaker. More valuable resources and teaching than you can take in.

Before I went this time, I remembered what the Lord showed me last year: that I was there to serve, not to be served. My attitude was to notice the women the Lord put in my path and really see them, to encourage them, and help them however He asked me to.

This year, many dear women shared about their lives, what they’re struggling with, who they are. As we chatted, the Lord always gave me an encouraging thing to say to these precious daughters of His. I knew that He had prepared everything ahead of time so He could bless them that day.

But I think I was the most blessed though. I wish I could describe the thrill I have in the deepest part of my soul when I feel the Lord’s presence so close like that – when I get to see His hand move and watch Him bless someone else! How beautiful it is to see the effect of the delicate and intimate ways the Lord loves each one of us.

In our showing kindness to His people, He returns to us something like when one you love with all your heart smiles at you – really smiles. It’s like seeing that special I-love-you-so-much smile; the one that is meant only for you.

Imagine that, and then magnify it about a zillion times. That’s what I feel when I get to do what the Lord Jesus asks me to do with Him.

I can’t even dream of trading that beautiful smile for anything – not my time, my comfort, my desires, or even my needs. I’d rather give up anything I want in order to have His smile.

He is worth everything, my friend. Everything. And when you really know Him, you can see the working of His hand everywhere, and you will follow Him anywhere.

Ask Him. Jesus is faithful. He will honor your desire to know Him, even if you’re afraid of what it means.

Don’t look at the fear. Look at Him. He is already smiling at you.

Phyllis Keels