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

Always Today

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

Today… Did you know it is always today? Yesterday was today. When tomorrow gets here it will be today. Today is all we have.

Really, we only have right now. This moment. When the next moment gets here it is this moment. See what I mean?

I used to live in yesterday and tomorrow. I was either regretting what I had done in the past, trying to figure out how not to do it again, worrying about tomorrow, or dreaming about a wonderful future I never thought I could have.

No more. Over the years, the Lord has gently taught me that right now is where I can be happy. Right now is where I can live. Right now is where I can feel His sweet presence.

I remember the day that He showed me how vital it is to enjoy now. Not as in living for the moment, do whatever you want kind of enjoy. But being aware in each moment.

If I am doing something I don’t really enjoy, He reminds me that He is with me in it and that I can talk with Him about anything I want. If I am doing something I enjoy, then He usually reminds me of the same thing – He’s with me in it and enjoying it with me.

I can’t describe to you how that simple truth took so much pressure off of me. Gone was the worry about tomorrow and the regret about yesterday. Now, right now, I can breathe freely and relax in how much my Heavenly Father loves me and loves to spend now with me. He is the God of right now.

I used to long for a time when everything worked out the way I thought it should, when everyone I love was well and happy, when I had time to relax… Yep, that didn’t happen often. Even when it did, something interrupted it.

The Lord always has a better way – a way that cannot be derailed or interrupted. He surrounds us with His mighty protection and whispers His gentle peace through us. No matter what things look like on the outside, nothing can disturb the unshakable peace He gives us in the now.

The only thing I can equate it to is being in a noisy room full of people. You don’t want to be there. All you want is a little peace and quiet. You start to feel the noise close in on you like a trash compactor.

Then, you look up and find someone you love more than anyone in the world looking at you with such radiance, such tenderness, such devotion. He is unmoved by everything else in the room. He sees only you and He loves you.

He is looking at you – Jesus, who loves you more than I have the ability to describe. Right there in His gaze is where now is. Right there is where we can live. Right there we hear nothing but the unspoken “I love you” and feel the magnitude of what that means in our heart.

Live in His peace. Live in His love. Live in His now, my friend. And you’ll never miss another happy moment or another happy today.

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

Finding Your Strength

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This is a week when I needed to hear this message again. I pray it ministers to you too, dear reader.

***

There is a white squirrel that lives near me. Sometimes he comes out of the woods and gathers acorns in my yard. The other day, he came up on my deck to get a drink of water from the dish I leave out for the birds.

He’s so pretty. He’s not an albino, but a white squirrel. I call him Gabriel because a friend of mine said he was the angel squirrel.

Of course, when he came up on the deck the other day, my dog almost lost her mind. You know how the squirrel taunt of, “You can’t catch me! You can’t touch me!” drives dogs crazy enough to claw their way through a solid oak door.

I love being surrounded by trees and animals. It feels like this is the way life is supposed to be. At least for me. I guess that’s the way the Lord made me: listening for the wind in the trees, watching for the animals, looking for the sunshine.

Life’s not always that way, though. We all go through things that feel like the gray, barren landscape of winter; the bone-chilling and biting north wind, the long overcast days when it seems the sun will never shine again.

I’ve noticed something about this point in life where we’re just about to quit the race and just coast the rest of the way. It’s the point where things get so difficult that we start to lose hope that life will ever turn out the way we want.

It’s the moment when the hero has been beaten to a pulp by the villain, and he is just about to give up. Then something happens. The villain taunts him one more time.

The taunt is always the worst one, isn’t it? “Your mama is a donkey.” Or “Your daddy was a coward.”

What I always wonder is, why does the hero wait until that point to find his super-human strength? Why not go into the fight knowing your enemy is going to fight dirty and just knock him out with the first punch?

My friend, take a lesson from my dog. No matter how many times a squirrel comes on the deck, my dog launches off the sofa and gives the same booming series of endless barks as she did the last forty times that happened.

My dog is prepared to finish the fight as soon as it starts. Not once have I ever seen her give a half-hearted bark or give up. If I ever opened the door, she would chase that squirrel until she lost sight of him.

Sure, we all know that a yellow Lab is not fast enough to catch a squirrel, but my dog doesn’t know that. I don’t think it would change her determination even if she did know it.

My point is this: the last leg of a race is where many people give up, and we run many races throughout our lives. Push through the last part and you will find your strength. That’s because your strength really comes from another source, when you let Him give it.

Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” All things! Paul knew it was Jesus’ strength that carried him through and that it wasn’t his own.

Go into the fight knowing that the strength will be there. Trust in your Heavenly Father who is faithful. Know that He will do it, because He loves you, my friend. He loves you so very much.

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.

The Wind in the Trees

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It is March and it’s really windy lately. That’s normal. The last few days have reminded me how much I love hearing the wind in the trees. One day, that sound and sight sparked a memory. I’m never surprised at the kindness of the Lord. But I am always overwhelmed with gratitude by it. The following is a retelling of one of those days. I pray this blesses you.

~~~

I was looking out a window the other day and something about the shape of the trees, the green grass, the sound of the wind, and the blue sky reminded me of my childhood. The view pulled me into a memory that I couldn’t hold on to.

It was like trying to grab a mist or a puff of smoke. Before it surfaced in my mind, it was gone. But the feeling remained. It was a good memory, whatever it was.

Mingled in with it was the bliss of being a daydreaming child. Carefree, loved, taken care of.

I think that moment was a kindness from my Heavenly Father. I was so tired from many compounded adversities of life – worries over loved ones, busy schedule, the weight of sharing the gospel. (I say weight because I do not take it lightly. I love doing it and I respect the importance of it).

Even so, I was weary. More weary than I can describe. I felt battered and bruised in my soul. That’s when I glanced out the window and saw green trees and blue skies, and I felt the breath of the Holy Spirit as He whispered to me, “Remember…”

But I couldn’t remember. I didn’t know what the memory was. I only knew that I had seen something like that view before, and had felt a peace and excitement all mingled together – and I had been happy.

I know now that the memory was not the thing. What the Lord was showing me is that I am a beloved child of the Most High, and He still loves me. I am still a daydreaming child, carefree, loved, and taken care of. I am His child.

Even in the midst of the stuff we deal with in life, I can remember my Lord’s love for me. I can remember that I can always be at rest IN Him. I am IN Christ. Hidden in Christ where I am safe, loved, and at peace.

Our Heavenly Father speaks in soft, gentle ways, and each time we choose to dwell on Him, He opens up more understanding in us so we can receive love from Him. That is what replaces the cares and weariness with a light heart and a rested soul.

I’m so grateful that He cares for me!

Beloved friend, please believe me when I tell you that the Lord loves you the same way. He longs to show you how much. Let Him shower you with that beautiful love – the love that came in the person of Jesus and has already paid for your freedom.

Let Him show you that you too are IN Christ – greatly loved, and completely surrounded with His kindness.

Phyllis Keels

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

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

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

The Eldest

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I saw a picture on a social media site of three T-shirts, each with a different caption.

The first one had, “I’m the oldest. I make the rules.”

The second had, “I’m the middle. I’m the reason we have rules.”

The third had, “I’m the youngest. The rules don’t apply to me.”

I laughed so hard! It’s true, isn’t it? At least it was in my family.

I’m the oldest. No surprise there. I never thought that I made the rules. I just knew I had gotten in trouble for not following the rules, and wanted to help others learn from my mistakes.

I felt responsible for everyone and everything. I guess that comes with being the oldest.

Today, I realized that this feeling of responsibility is very, very, very deeply ingrained in me. While I was praying for my family (which I do a lot). First one person comes to mind, and then another, and then another.

Before long I’m overwhelmed by the needs of everyone in my life. So many people (more beautiful than the lovely daffodils above), so little time. I want to give them the loving care and attention they deserve. I want them all to be well, happy, and know the love of God every moment.

Then the Lord showed me something.

I’d been feeling like if I don’t stay focused on praying for my family, then the Lord won’t take care of them and their needs. Like my Heavenly Father doesn’t love my family even more than I do…

That, of course, is ridiculous.

I learned a great lesson today. While the Lord wants us to intercede for each other in prayer, the process, the outcome, and the responsibility are His. Otherwise, He would not put it on our hearts to pray.

I think sometimes the reason we don’t see results from our prayers is that even after we ask the Lord for help, we keep trying to fix things. We won’t let go of the responsibility.

I learned today that I really, really want to do things the Lord’s way. His way is perfect, and His love is true. He wants good for me and for my family, and I want what He wants.

The only way to peace and freedom from worry is to let my Heavenly Father bear the responsibility, because He is Lord. He is the eldest. And because He loves me!

In a nutshell, I am to pray, leave it, and follow His leading. He doesn’t need for me to do everything. He wants me to believe that He loves my loved ones infinitely more than I ever could.

Phyllis Keels