Here’s To The Moments

Goodness, I love the beach! I saw this photo of Kim Lance’s and it took me right back to my childhood.

My family used to go to the beach once a year, and for me, it was almost better than Christmas. We had all these traditions that went along with our beach trip: same general area of the beach, same types of beach towels and sand buckets/shovels.

We took the same kind of food, and went to the same ice cream place. We had the same routine each day: up early, ate breakfast, played on the beach, ate lunch, took a nap, played on the beach, ate dinner, and collapsed. It was so great!

The best part of the whole thing was seeing my dad relax. When I was young, my dad was a high-powered, driven, chemical engineer. He worked a lot. He had to take several business trips over the years. But when he was at the beach, he was a different person.

Dad played with us. He didn’t work on anything. He laughed more, and it was wonderful to see him smile so much.

When I grew up, I often wondered why life couldn’t have been more like that all the time. Not that it was bad. It was just not that relaxed. Sometimes I long for those days. There have been many times when I’ve said, “I want to go to the beach, but I want to go when I was a kid.”

I know we usually remember the good when looking back, but honestly, it really was that good. Sure, I want to go to the beach when I was a kid because I didn’t have to pack anything, cook anything, or be responsible for anything! All I had to do was play.

But that’s not really why I would love to go back there. It was the joy of being all together with nothing pulling us away from each other. It was some concentrated, lovely family time.

Even now, the memory of my dad’s carefree laugh makes me cry grateful tears. To have heard it once would have been enough, and I heard it many times.

I know last week, I wrote about not living in the past or the future, but in the now. And here I am writing about the past. The past is not bad; it’s just not now and we can’t try to live in it. But the past does help make us who we are. And if we think about it, those memories can help turn “now” into a lovely moment.

I miss my dad, and I miss my daughter. But they will never be farther away than a moment when I remember them and the time we had together.

Here’s to the sweet moments of the past that give light and color to today and keep our hearts full of gratitude for every kindness from the Lord.

Phyllis Keels

Song of the Stream Book Launch

 

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We have a book launch! Well, almost.

I tried to get everything ready so the book would be up for sale on Amazon by today, but it may be another day or two before it appears there.

I’ll do a separate post when the book is available. Thank you for all the encouragement and kind words already. I pray that the book will be a blessing to you soon!

Phyllis Keels

Hearing the Music

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Well, I’m a little bit behind schedule on the new devotion book, but I’m close. Really close! The book will be up for sale on Amazon before the end of this month.

As I worked on formatting this book, I was able to experience it the way a reader would. I let the words and the beautiful photographs minister to me. The result was a sweet sense of peace and a fullness of the love of our Heavenly Father. It was wonderful and I really needed it.

This should tell you that the Holy Spirit is all in this little book. How could I write something that would comfort me? Only the Holy Spirit can breathe words that give life after you’ve seen death.

When you lose a loved one, everything changes. The way you thought life would be is no more. The music of the future you once anticipated is dead and suddenly it seems there is nothing left but black silence.

But if you listen you will hear it: the Song of the Stream; the river of Living Water flowing toward you; the sound of life itself bringing hope to your broken heart.

Let the Lord Jesus minister to you, friend. Let Him surround you with refreshing and hope. You probably think you’ll never be able to stop crying, much less smile again. I am here to tell you that you will smile, though your smile will be different. It will be real and it will shine compassion on someone else who is trying to hear the music.

Phyllis Keels

The Song of the Stream, written by Phyllis Keels, with photos by Kim Lance, will be available on Amazon soon.

A New Devotion Book

I’ve been working on a new devotion book called The Song of the Stream that will feature Kim Lance’s beautiful photography. I’ve finished the final draft and hope to have it available for sale on Amazon by the end of this month or the first of next month.

It’s a compilation of thirty of my blog posts over the last few years – the ones you shared the most, the ones you said encouraged you, comforted you, or gave you hope.

It is designed to help you hear that lovely song of the stream over your grief.

I’ll write a post when the book is available. Until then, here is an excerpt that I hope will bless you:

Brighten the Corner

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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 “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 chuckle when I think of it.

The photo here 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 that dark valley.

Memories of the tragedy 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 – be gentle and help her. 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.

The Word you can hold onto today:

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1, NKJV)

Phyllis Keels

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

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

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

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