Hearing the Music

BookCoverPreview

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.

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

dancing-flower

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

A Beloved Herd

Lipizzaner

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

That pretty much limits my options.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this is so that we will know Him.

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

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

Phyllis Keels

Looking for Peace

island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phyllis Keels

You’re Not Alone

Heron

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one? The only one who is lonely, sad, grieved, betrayed, etc.? Like no one even understands or much less cares about what you’re going through?

You know that’s a big fat lie from the devil, right? It’s a cruel tactic to get you isolated where he can torment you. Don’t fall for it.

I’ve been tempted by that lie for years. I used to withdraw from everyone, hide and wait until the feeling passed. Except it wouldn’t pass. The more I withdrew, the worse I felt.

One day someone asked me a question that revealed the enemy’s purpose in getting us isolated. The question was, “In the wild, which animal does a lion go after?” The answer is: the one who has separated itself from the herd. That animal is easy prey for the lion.

The Bible tells us that the devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) But notice it says AS a roaring lion. Not that he is a roaring lion.

The devil is a liar, and a murderer. Jesus said this in John 8:44. The devil wants you to think that he is a lion but he’s not.

There is only one Lion: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah. And my friend, He is also the Good Shepherd.

Jesus came to lay down His life for His sheep, and He certainly has done it. Now He longs to have all of His sheep together in one fold so we can receive His love, and so we will not fear a defeated enemy.

Don’t listen to the false roar of lies from your enemy. Listen instead to the gentle call of the Good Shepherd. If you’re feeling alone, tell someone about it. Let your friends and family help you and show you kindness. There are people who long to comfort you and minister to you.

And most of all, tell the Lord how you feel. He wants you to come to Him so He can heal the wound in your heart. He knows how you feel, my friend, and He loves you more than His own life.

Place yourself in the strong embrace of the Lord Jesus who will never, ever leave you or forsake you.

See You Again

Sunset Light

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

In the family of God, we use the terms “brother in Christ” and “sister in Christ” a lot to describe fellow believers. Sometimes we say this without thinking. Other times, we know exactly what that means.

Often there are “brothers and sisters in Christ” who truly live that role.

Like a physical family, we may not always agree with each other. We may even butt heads at times, and we may not see each other every day. But when we need Godly counsel and insight (wisdom from the Lord), these people are often the first we go to for help.

When we ask them to pray for us, they stop right there and pray with us. When we need guidance, they patiently listen while we “vent” our frustration or anger. When we need to cry, they hand us the ever-present box of tissues on their desk for just such an occasion.

These brothers and sisters are more than just people who believe like we do. They are kindred spirits, they are under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, and they take care of their “family.”

Last week I said goodbye to a true brother in Christ. Two days ago, he went home to be with the Lord.

For fifteen years he listened while I “vented.” He laughed with me, prayed with me, and shared the storehouse of wisdom the Lord had given him.

He taught me what it means to be a caring leader and a servant of Jesus. He did this by his actions and his behavior, and by his unwavering faith each day.

While I know that my brother in Christ is now with the Lord, and is whole, fully alive, and leaping in joy – I will miss him so much.

I will miss his ready laugh, his minute attention to order and neatness, his wise counsel and his caring heart.

Most of all, I will miss his friendship. But I rejoice that he is free, he is complete, and he is basking in the shining love on the face of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And I rejoice in my last words to him, which are the truth that comforts my sad heart: I will see you again, my brother. I will see you again.

Phyllis Keels

More Treasure

Biking

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

Want some treasure? Your Heavenly Father is sending you some today.

No, really. And it is better than gold.

Psalm 23 is one of those passages we’ve read and heard for years, but when I looked up all the words in the concordance, I was blown away by what David had written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Click the image below to enlarge and read it)

This, all of this, is for you today, my friend. Today, tomorrow, and every day of your life. You are loved, you are protected, you are provided for, and you are blessed. That’s the truth. Simply walk ahead in it. Pretty soon, you will see the evidence of that truth.

I am convinced that this is what Jesus was referring to when He said that He is the Good Shepherd.

With much love in Christ Jesus,

Phyllis Keels

Psalm 23 Expounded.jpg

Come

Several years ago, I looked up every word of Matthew 11:28-30 in Strong’s Concordance. I followed each word back to its root and wrote down the meanings of each word. I have all of it in a journal – pages and pages of definition.

It took a lot of time, but to me it went by in a flash. I love digging into the original meanings of words, especially the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament.

After I had everything written out, I read through it and was amazed at what Jesus had really said in the “Take my yoke” passage.

Then I wrote it out as if He were speaking to me. The images below are of what came out, taking into account the complete meanings of the words and even the verb tenses.

My friend, if you are carrying a burden, please let it slip from your hands as you read what Jesus is saying to you right now.

Phyllis Keels

Take My Yoke Page 1

Take My Yoke Page 2