Walk As If

“If” is one of the biggest little words in our language, isn’t it? If I have enough money, I’ll buy this. If things work out the way I want, then I’ll be happy. If I get time, I’ll do the things on the list. If…

It is the hook on which hangs the thing you want, but you just can’t reach it.

It’s a big word unless you put it in its place.

Faith is what puts “if” in perspective. Faith calls those things that are not as though they are. Faith sees the invisible, not the visible. Anybody can acknowledge the visible. Faith is the infrared glasses that let you see what you couldn’t see before.

The truth is that we’ve been given everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. The Amplified Bible Classic puts it like this:

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). (2 Peter 1:3, AMPC)

He has bestowed, has given. Past tense. These things have been given to us.

Whether we feel or see these things or not is irrelevant. We have them in Christ Jesus. This is where we walk “as if.” This is where “if” really belongs.

Walk as if you already have what you need because you do have it. Walk as if you are able to do (already) the good things you want to do, and have the good things you need because you already have what you need. Walk as if…

Six years ago today my daughter died. Today looks like a terrible reminder of the loss of my firstborn child whose life was cut off in her prime at 28. It looks bad. If she had not died…

But today (like yesterday and every other day) I will walk as if. I will walk as if she is whole and alive and breathtakingly beautiful. Why? Because she is.

She lives. She just doesn’t live here anymore. She lives somewhere else, and in that place she will never suffer again. She is full of joy and peace and real life.

The eyes of faith don’t deny the difficulty. They just look up and see beyond the difficulty to where reality is clear. They look through the window knowing that there is more out there than can be seen through that little window.

Walk as if you are loved – because you are. Walk as if you have strength – because you do. Walk as if wonderful things pave your way – because they do.

Walk as if the Good Shepherd Jesus holds you hand – because He does dear friend. He does.

Phyllis Keels

What Waits on the Other Side

 

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

Everyone has suffered a loss (or some losses) in his lifetime. Even if you haven’t had a family member die, I’ll bet you’ve had some kind of disappointment – marriage troubles, children troubles, work troubles. Death isn’t the only reason for grieving.

Grief changes everything, doesn’t it? I used to think (before I had ever walked through the valley of the shadow of death) that once on the other side, you would get back to the way you used to be; that you would be okay again. Now I know better.

You never go back. You just become different. It’s not all a bad thing though. You certainly appreciate people more than you used to. You know better what really matters and what is just fluff. But you never go back.

So, I’m not sure why we try to go back. Look what is on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death. Something I hadn’t noticed before:

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

You anoint my head with oil

My cup overflows

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:5-6)

There is a special meaning to each one of these things. Preparing a table for you in the presence of your enemies literally means that you are being honored while those who persecuted you are forced to watch you being honored.

Anointing oil was used for healing and for setting someone apart for a special purpose. It meant being chosen (in a good way).

My cup overflows is pretty self-explanatory. We have more than enough good things, and those good things and mercy (grace) will pursue us for the rest of our lives.

Dwelling in the house of the Lord is like being brought to live with the King who loves you. You will never have to be an orphan or unwanted.

If you’ve been through the valley of the shadow of death like I have, then please be comforted and have great joy. You are special. You are chosen. You are greatly loved.

This Friday will be the fifth anniversary of my daughter Julie’s car accident. Tuesday the 22nd will be the fifth anniversary of her death. I am not looking forward to going through that valley again and feeling the pain of an open wound yet again.

But I know what waits for me on the other side. And more importantly, I know who walks with me through that valley every single time I go through it. Take it from someone who knows that her Good Shepherd loves her and will never leave her alone.

Take it from someone who knows that this same Jesus loves you too my friend.

Phyllis Keels

Something Wonderful While We Wait

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

I heard about a wonderful thing we could do when we’re not yet seeing the fulfillment of a promise from the Lord. You know what I mean?

This is for when you know that the Lord has something for you. He has shown you that it will come, but you wait and wait, and you don’t seem to see it come to pass.

I’m there. I feel like I’ve been there for a long, long time. I know the Lord is faithful and He will do what He promises. I know it. I just get discouraged sometimes when I’m waiting. I’m guessing you do too.

The wonderful thing we can do while we wait is found in Genesis 20. It is the account of when Abraham and Sarah journeyed to a foreign land. You can read all about it by clicking here.

The summary is that Abraham was afraid that the king of the land would kill him and take his wife Sarah because she was so beautiful. He told Sarah to say she was his sister and not his wife.

The king took Sarah for his harem, but the Lord kept him from touching her, and then came to the king in a dream. God told him to restore Abraham’s wife to him and that Abraham would pray for the king and his household, because God had caused those in the king’s household to stop bearing children during that time.

Here’s the wonderful thing: during all of this, Abraham and Sarah were still waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a child to them. They had been waiting for about 24 years…

Abraham prayed for the foreign king’s household to have children, when Abraham was still waiting for his own child to come.

All of this touched my heart because, as a writer, I am still waiting on my books to sell. I’ve been writing for many years, I have many books, and I sell only a few handfuls each year.

The Lord called me to write. I know this. He speaks through the words I write. I know this too. He has good for me in using the gifts He gave me. I know this as well.

So, where is the fulfillment? Why the delay? I don’t know, but I am certain that while I wait, I am to do this: I am to pray for other writers who are in the same position.

And I know three right off hand: Sandra Ardoin, Susan Jane King, and Kimberly Rae.

I love all of these women dearly. They are lovely sisters in Christ who have been waiting for their books to reach more and more people.

Today I begin deliberate prayer for all of them. I am asking the Lord on their behalf to remove all the obstacles that prevent their books from selling out everywhere.

I am thanking the Lord for the beautiful way these godly women tell others about the love of Jesus and the freedom we have because of His finished work, and about the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father.

Today, I say, “Father, bless them with all the blessings of Abraham! Make their way prosperous like you did for Joshua and Caleb! Open the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing that there is not room enough to receive it! Load their boats with fishes so that they have to call for help to pull in the nets!”

Today, I thank the Living God for these women, and the wonderful things that He is doing through, to, in, and for them!

This day, I say, “Thank you, Father, for bringing about the fulfillment of your promises to all these women! Thank you! In the name of the Lord Jesus, thank you!”

Phyllis Keels

The Turning Point

This is a previously posted entry formerly titled “Pushing Through.” I am using this today for someone who needs to hear that the victory has already been won!

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Photo by Kim Lance (used by permission)

Have you every noticed in the fight scene of a book or movie when:

    • The hero has been wounded
    • The villain knows just where the wound is (usually because he’s the one who gave it to the hero)
    • The villain hits, squeezes, stabs or otherwise inflicts severe pain in the hero’s wound

I’ve seen it many times. I think it shows a great spiritual truth.

Most of us are walking around wounded. Our wounds just don’t show. When we stand up for what’s right, when we remain faithful to our Lord Jesus, when we love others without expecting to be loved in return, often we get wounded.

Our enemy, the devil, knows exactly where our wounds are. And he knows just where to squeeze, hit, stab, and kick us to cause the maximum amount of pain, doesn’t he?

I am certain he does this to steal our peace, our rest, and our faith in God. He does it for distraction so we we will focus on how awful things are.

But he doesn’t stop there. Notice what He does next. He’ll throw in the “verbal” taunt meant to completely demoralize and weaken the hero into giving up. You’ve heard them:

“You’re all alone. No one cares what you’re going through.”
God doesn’t care about you. You’re so awful, how could he?”
“You’re trapped. There is no way out of this mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Liar! He is such a liar!

Jesus said that the devil is a liar and the father of lies; that when he speaks a lie, he speaks his own language.

Do not listen to the liar. Listen instead to the Author of Truth, Jesus Christ!

You are not alone. Your Heavenly Father – the Most High – has said He will never leave you nor forsake you. Just because you can’t feel Him near does not mean He isn’t near. He knows what you’re going through and will carry you through it. Cry out to Him for help.

Others care about you too. Others are praying for you whether you know it or not. I pray daily for groups of people the Lord brings to mind (the troubled, the addicts, the ones snared by adultery, the lonely, the ones in prison, the lost…). You are being prayed for, friend.

God does care about you and His caring is not affected by any awful thing you might have done. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses all sin – ALL sin! That includes yours and mine. If it did not, then Jesus died for nothing, and He did not die for nothing. He died to save every person who ever lived or will live.

You are not trapped with no way out, friend. Jesus said he came to set the captives free. He, in fact, led captivity itself captive. He has conquered death and hell and the grave. The enemy has already been defeated!

Jesus ame to give you, not just life, but abundant life! All you need to do is stand on the truth of that. Stand on the very Rock of Truth and do not move from it no matter what.

We must be like the hero in the book or movie who, at the enemy’s taunt, rouses all his anger. You’ve seen the turning point clearly in the face of the hero. Ironically, it’s the taunt that makes the hero push through his pain and slay the enemy where he stands.

Do not give up and do not give in! Do not believe lies about your Heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting, all consuming love!

He is worth standing firm for. He is worth pushing through the pain. He is worth loving because He is the Mighty God who loved us even before we knew Him!

Phyllis Keels

The Shoulder

Winter's Tears

“Winter’s Tears” (photo by Kim Lance, used by permission)

I can remember only a handful of Christmases when I had purchased everything well in advance of Christmas. Usually they were like this year has turned out – lots of last minute shopping…

It appears that I don’t like to shop. Well, that’s true, especially from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve when the stores are always packed with people.

It appears that I am a procrastinator. Well, that’s true too, at least in some areas of life.

But the real reason is that when you have a lifetime of Christmas memories tied to loved ones who are no longer living, you tend to put off anything that reminds you of what you’ve lost. No matter how many blessings you have, you still miss the ones who have gone on before you.

Every song, every toy, every food, every decoration, every movie, every “everything” that you enjoyed with your loved one is now a thing to dread. They all make you feel like someone is tearing your wound open again.

I know so many people who are carrying grief – so many people whose loved ones passed away during or around holidays. So many people pretending that everything is okay for the sake of the family they still have with them.

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for your loss. You need to hear that. And you need to hear that it is okay to be sad.

I’ve written before that I shove away the tears that well up in me most days. Take it from someone who knows. Just go ahead and cry. If you don’t, your tears will sneak up on you when you don’t expect it.

That happened to me last week. In a crowded room where lovely Christmas music was playing, I became overwhelmed with memories of my daughter.

Her face was so clear at that moment – the color of her eyes – the sound of her voice – her smile – her scent…

I tried to push through it and subdue the grief but I couldn’t. I had to go find a quiet place and break down.

I’m glad that part is over for a while. I will cry again. And again. I will probably still try to fight it off. You see, even though it always makes me feel better to cry, I hate to cry, because it’s like living the nightmare of their death all over again, isn’t it?

But I am convinced that the Lord put something in our tears that helps us – both physically and emotionally. Tears neutralize anger and they wash away what causes us to become hard and bitter. If we don’t cry, we are only hurting ourselves.

I’ve also learned that it is best to cry on the shoulder of someone who loves you. I’ve benefitted from the shoulders of family and friends many times, and I’ve returned the favor to others. It’s a privilege and an honor to be that shoulder for someone who is hurting.

And I think you know whose shoulder I cry on the most. Yes, my Good Shepherd Jesus. I wish there were words to describe how comforted I feel, how loved I am, and how clearly I know that He understands my pain.

But there aren’t. There are no words to describe the breadth, the depth, the width and the height of Jesus’ love for me.

So, please take it from one who knows the strength, the surety, the safety of that shoulder. It’s one you can use anytime you need, because it is big enough and strong enough for all of us at the same time.

After all, He has carried many a wounded lamb on that shoulder. But more importantly, He carried a cross on it – a cross that was meant for us. And His shoulder will never let you down, my friend. Never.

Merry Christmas to you, from one grateful lamb to another.

Phyllis Keels

When He Brings the One

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Photo by Kim Lance, used by permission

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.

This Saturday 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

Oakdale

Battle Horse of Faith

(This is a previously posted entry titled “Battle Horse”)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I’ve loved horses my entire life. Since I first saw them and knew what they were, I’ve had a special admiration and deep love for them. We have a connection, horses and I.

I can’t explain it. I can’t help it. It’s just part of who I am. The very sight of them thrills my soul, and delights me to the point of becoming a little child jumping up and down in overflowing joy.

In almost every book I’ve written, there is at least one magnificent horse. He’s usually the stallion of the hero, and has a personality that makes him a wonderful supporting character. In The Daldriada series, he is Rigel, a great, black, heavy Friesian-type.

I know he’s all in my mind, but that horse is the most wonderful horse ever. He is completely devoted to Fyrddin, the hero. He is intelligent and gentle, always obedient to Fyrddin. When he is in battle, he is the fiercest fighter there is.

Nostrils flaring red, massive hooves slashing through the air, long mane flying as he gallops – he presents a fearsome sight to the enemies of the hero.

He charges straight into the fray, never shrinking back from the swords and spears. No one comes near him without being demolished when he is in battle.

Yes, horses and I have a connection. I love them so. I just never knew why until recently.

I found the answer in listening to a teaching on Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs, depending on the Bible version you use). The king in these verses is speaking to his bride – a picture of Christ and the church – because the Lord loves us personally, this is also a picture of Jesus speaking to you and to me individually.

“To me, my darling, you are like
 My mare among the chariots of Pharaoh.” Song of Solomon 1:9 NASB

The Lord showed the connection to me this way: the “me” in the above verse is Jesus. The “darling” is us. This is Jesus talking to us individually, not just corporately as a body – the church. When you belong to Him, you are His darling.

Pharaoh’s horses at that time were the most beautiful, prized, cherished battle horses in the world. To be compared to one of these horses was a great compliment.

They are also a representation of strength. While you may not feel like a fierce, loyal battle horse, the truth is this is how Jesus sees you on the inside. Believe it!

When the Lord showed me this beautiful truth, it all made sense. The way I’ve always loved horses, and cherished them as something magnificent in God’s creation, is a picture of how the Lord loves me – and you!

Oh, but there’s more! It’s not enough to understand that this is how God sees us. We must also see ourselves that way. Think about it. If the Lord of all creation sees us as strong, beautiful, lovely creatures, then who are we to walk in anything other than that reality?

Next time you are afraid, remember how the Lord God Almighty sees you, darling. Remember who you are on the inside. Remember that before you can see a spiritual truth, you have to believe it.

Believe, and then see. Know it, and then walk in it – you, cherished and beloved darling of the King!

Phyllis Keels

What Makes a Hero?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In literature, do you know why one character becomes the hero, and why another becomes the villain? They both had bad things happen to them. They both suffered.

On the surface, they seem very much alike. They both care about something. Often they are both leaders who face opposition and must fight battles. Many times, they are even friends.

So, what is it that makes one person step up, and another step away? The short answer is in the moment of choice.

In every great story there is a terrible dark moment when all seems lost. It’s the moment of choice. Every character must choose how he or she will handle the awful thing that has happened.

Will she let it destroy her? Will he blame someone else and become bitter? Or…

Will he choose to take a stand and consider a purpose greater than himself? That moment, right there, is what creates a hero.

A hero chooses the greater good, the big picture, and he lets go of himself. A villain chooses only himself and his pain. He swims in it, obsesses over it, and causes harm to others in order to soothe it.

The trap the villain falls into is in thinking that revenge and causing harm will make his pain go away. No amount of causing hurt will ever right a wrong, ease pain, or heal a wound. No amount. Ever.

There is only one thing that heals a hurt: love. And not just any love, but the love of God. Specifically, the love of God found in the gift of Jesus, because in that gift is both forgiveness and justice. God has forgiven us because Jesus has taken the punishment, and all hurts will be made right in God’s time.

But, you must choose it. You must choose Him. In the dark moment of suffering, in the place of choice, make up your mind to stand and to hold onto the greater good – the good that Jesus died to give you.

The Apostle John wrote an elegantly pure definition of love. He said, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NIV)

Love creates a hero. The rejection of this love will create the opposite. A hero is focused on someone or something other than himself. The villain is focused only on himself.

Solomon said (twice), “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25)

A hero always chooses the way of life, because he chooses The Way, The Truth, and The Life – Jesus, the greatest hero of them all.

Phyllis Keels

A Daily Dose of Hope

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

Hope is essential to our survival. Just like air. Just like water. We can’t live very long without it.

Hope kept Joseph going while he was a slave in Egypt all those years. It kept David alive and writing Psalms while he lived in the desert so he could escape from Saul. Most of all, I’m certain it was part of helped the Lord Jesus to endure the cross.

It’s what keeps a bride faithful to her bridegroom. It’s what helps a parent through the heartbreaking times when a child rebels. And it’s what heals a terribly shattered grieving heart after an unthinkable loss.

Hope. You can’t see it, but you can definitely feel it. It’s like a bright light inside your soul. It banishes the darkness and chases all the fears away. It is an encourager, a strengthener, a protector, and a foundation.

That’s because hope has another name. It’s Jesus. You see there would be no hope without Him. There would be no joy, no peace, no security. He is the God of hope, because He is hope itself.

If He were dead, where would our hope be? There would be none because hope is tied to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If He were not alive, we would have no joy, no peace, no security because He would not be here to give those things.

But praise God! Jesus is alive, my friend! And He wants so much for you to know real hope – the confident expectation of the good He has for you today and every day.

That is why I wrote this little book, From Hope, With Love. Something short to read each day for a month, just enough to give you a dose of confidence in who your Hope is, how fiercely He fights for you, and how tenderly He loves you.

Let Him fill you with His hope – the sure knowledge that Jesus is intimately aware of everything you are going through, and that He has good for you in those things. Once you trust Him, you will see how these good things far outweigh any suffering we will ever have, because that is when you’ll be looking at Him.

God bless you, my friend, now and forever more!

Phyllis Keels

Walking on Sunshine

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The first time anyone suggested to me that I should be a full-time writer, make a living off my writing, and be in business for myself – do you know what I said? “Are you out of your mind? I can’t do that! That’s just crazy!”

Even though the one making the suggestion to me was a very Godly woman who is endowed with heaps and loads of Godly wisdom and insight, I absolutely refused to even consider that she might be telling me something from the Lord. What she said scared me to death.

However, sometimes we need that first shock of a new direction. Well, a direction that is new to us. The Lord already knew. He was simply letting me have a glimpse of the wonderful things He had already planned for me.

And how did I react? Like most of us do. Immediate fear at change. We’d rather hold onto something terrible just because it is familiar than to step out into the unknown.

Not long ago I had an opportunity to talk with this dear friend again. We laughed about that first time she made the suggestion to me. I quickly apologized (again) for having blown up at her.

She was right. She was also delivering a message that I was supposed to hear and act on. It’s just that it took me years to fully let go of all my security blankets and to depend on the Lord’s provision and leading.

Now that I’m into it, I can’t express the freedom I feel. I am making virtually no money right now and am using the reserves I’ve saved up, but, you know what? I’m not afraid. I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV)

You see, there is no safer place than right, smack in the middle of God’s will for your life. When we do what we were made to do, when we step out knowing that the Lord has already laid out the stones in our path, then we are walking on sunshine.

When we say to the Lord Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord. Not because of what you will do for me, but because I simply want to be with you,” He takes that love and devotion and turns it around on us. Then we see the magnitude of His love for us, His commitment to us, and His rock solid faithfulness to us.

That is all because when we really love Him, He lets us see Him. Seeing the Lord Jesus is the most beautiful thing there is in life. And it is more than enough reason to follow Him anywhere.

Phyllis Keels