Song of the Stream Book Launch

 

BookCoverPreview1

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

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

Rescued

Sheep

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

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

Taking the Long Way

This is a previously posted entry that I needed to read again. I pray it blesses you today.

 

The long way is the best way. That has been the theme running through my head the last few weeks. Take the long way – don’t rush through – don’t settle for quick and easy. Go for the genuine path – the one that requires you to show endurance and patience.

Quick and easy only gets you somewhere sooner. It doesn’t usually strengthen your faith or grow you character or bring you wisdom. It has only one benefit – it’s fast.

The long way gives you a lot of stuff you might not see right away. It gives you treasure you might not recognize now. It gives you strength you might not feel until you really need it to kick in. It gives you wisdom that increases exponentially with each new piece that is given to you.

I’m all about the real, the genuine, the original, and the pure (the undiluted). In other words, the best. And if the best takes longer, is more difficult, and is more uncomfortable, well, I have to be okay with that.

That is because the real is worth a great price. It is worth striving for. It’s worth straining to get to. It’s worth waiting for.

The Lord’s ways are usually the long way, and I think He does that because it’s the right way to do it. Think about it. If we rush through a class in school and just memorize the material so we can get a good grade, we don’t usually retain that material. That quick and easy way didn’t really do us any good.

I’m saying all this because sometimes the long way makes us tired. Sometimes it gets us discouraged. Sometimes, we feel like stopping and not getting back up for a long time, don’t we?

That’s when we need someone to come alongside us and lift us up. We need someone to encourage us, someone to make the long way a little easier.

The Lord often sends me help like this (so often, that I have lost count) and even if the help comes in another person, there is always a third person there to lift us both – the Holy Spirit.

Do you know that this is a huge part of His job? One of the words Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is parakletos, and it means “one who comes alongside; called to one’s aid.”

Yes, the long way might be more difficult, it might be slow, it might be tiring, but it will not be lonely. I can assure you of that.

Just remember: He is always there, whether you feel His presence or not. All you need to do is ask Him to help you up. That’s it. Just ask.

This simple truth brings tears to my eyes, because the Lord makes things so easy for us. All we have to do is ask and allow Him to help us up. Simply give our consent to be helped.

Each time I do this, I find that I’m not plodding along anymore. I’m flying up high on the very breath of God. And somehow, from up here, the way doesn’t look so long after all.

Phyllis Keels

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31, NKJV

In Times Like These

This is a previously posted entry that I needed to read again. I pray it blesses you today.

Pier

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

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like the world has gotten to be a scary place lately. It has probably always been that way off an on over the centuries. Our parents and grandparents dealt with a lot of in-your-face-evil.

Lately though, I find myself staring at the news (which I don’t like to watch anyway), wondering how can we fight or even escape such scary stuff? In addition, all of this pressure comes on top of what we deal with daily – grief, loneliness, stress, work, family and financial issues…

How can we even survive, much less be more than conquerors, overcomers, and victorious against something that seems so powerful and malicious as what we see happening in the world?

The answer can be found in one verse of Scripture and it’s probably not what you think.

The LORD [Yahweh] said to my Lord [Adonai], “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, NKJV)

God the Father [Yahweh] said these words to His Son Jesus [Adonai]. Jesus is now seated at the right hand (the hand of power and authority) of the Father, while the Father puts all enemies under Jesus’ feet.

In a good novel with a clear hero and villain, do you know what happens when the villain realizes his time is short, and that the hero has the ability to defeat him at any time? The villain becomes more aggressive and inflicts as much pain as he can in the short time he has left.

I believe that our enemy, the Lord’s enemy, the devil is accelerating his activity because he knows his time is short.

You don’t have to take my word for it. I’m nobody, but I’m a nobody who knows that Jesus loves her. When you know the Lord loves you, you can receive the truth of His Word.

My friend, during this time things will likely get worse, but remember that all things work together for good, to those who love God are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

If you’re still afraid (like we all are at times), please cling to that verse, and this one:

[The Lord said] When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2, NKJV)

If that doesn’t give you peace, read Psalm 91 every day until you know it to be true.

The bottom line is this: if you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you are – right now – in the Father’s Hand. You are – right now – in the secret place of the Most High and under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)

Do not fear. Have courage. Your Redeemer lives and He will never, ever leave you. Jesus is more real than anything your physical eyes can see, and He is faithful.

Don’t try to see it. Believe it, and then you will see it. Believe it not because of what I say, but because your Heavenly Father does not lie. He is faithful, and He will accomplish His Word in you and for you, beloved.

Phyllis Keels

The Hope of Home

I know a dear family going through something terrible right now. As I asked the Lord what to write about this week, He brought this past post to mind. I know why.

My friend, the only reason it was possible for me to see what I saw that night in March of 2011 was because my daughter had already received the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

So when I tell you that Jesus is real, that He really loves you, and that He died for you, you can believe it.

I am re-posting this so that you too will have hope. Your loved ones are not gone. They are home.

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Julie Keels (1982-2011)

[Written 4/14/11] Once I got home from the hospital the night Julie died, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I was back in ICU watching her die. I still couldn’t believe it was real. How could she be gone? What was I going to do now?

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, I drifted off out of exhaustion (or more likely, God’s mercy on me) and I had a dream.

This makes the sixth dream from God in my life. I know they’re from Him because they are, well, spiritual. They are so different from other dreams that there’s no doubt they are from Him. I can still feel what I felt when I dreamed each one. I can still tell you every detail of those dreams – those night visions.

That night, I dreamed that Julie came back. She was standing right in front of me and she was more beautiful than can be described. My baby was alive! But not just alive – she was radiant!

Her face shone with a warm light, and her eyes were even more vividly blue than I’ve ever seen them. Here eyes were a blue that doesn’t exist on this earth. Her hair was shining and auburn, like the color she was born with.

And she smiled at me!

Her smile was completely joyful. I’ve never seen a smile like that before or since. There was no trace of pain or sadness – past or present. Nothing but pure, undiluted joy was in her.

I can’t even find the words to tell you how happy I was at that moment. I can still feel it. My baby was alive! In my dream, I shouted, “Look what God did! Look at the miracle God did!”

But when I tried to show Julie to anyone, she was gone. They could not see her. So I searched for her, and found her again. Three times I tried to get others to see her, but each time she was gone.

When I woke up, I still had that same wonderful joy and relief I’d had in my dream. I realized very quickly that God had given me a precious gift. I’ll never be able to thank Him enough for that sweet image of Julie, for His loving kindness, and for His mercy on me.

I knew that what He had shown me is how Julie is right now. In that brief moment, I saw completeness in Julie. She was finished, like a breathtaking masterpiece that needs no other stroke of the brush. She was fully radiant, completely at peace and filled with great joy. My baby is home.

Sometime later I realized something. Many times in the Bible, people who were visited by angels tried to worship them. The Comforter showed me why. Not that I wanted to worship Julie in my dream, but I know now why people tried to worship angels.

Julie’s face radiated because she had been in the presence of the Living God. She glowed with the light that comes from His holiness and glory. My daughter is standing before the Lord of Hosts and the Lamb of God!

It reminded me of Moses’ face glowing when he came down from the mountain, because he had been in the presence of God.

When my heart is breaking (as it does daily) and I feel the terrifying thought that I won’t ever hear my daughter’s footsteps in the house, the gentle Comforter brings my dream before my eyes.

Every time He shows me, I feel the same swell of joy in my soul. It is a soothing ointment and a clean bandage to a terrible wound. And I know the dream will be there, no matter how long I need it.

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 Valley

This is a previously posted entry that is for the one going through a valley right now. May the Lord bless you and keep you through it. I know He will!

Valley

Photo by Kim Lance (used by permission)

What happens in the valley… No, not like Vegas – you know, what happens in the valley stays in the valley? More like, what really happens in the valley. I know what being in the valley feels like, and recently the Lord showed me something brand new about these places in our lives.

When I write fiction and describe a valley, it’s always a green, beautiful place. It usually has a stream running through it, and is somewhere that I’d love to stay.

In my emotional and spiritual life, valleys are very different. They are usually dark places of anguish, where I can’t feel the Lord’s presence, and I can’t hear His voice. They are not pleasant places.

Recently, after coming out of another valley, when I was talking about this with a godly friend I admire so much, she said, “Phyllis, you need to look at a valley as a place of growth.”

I knew she was right. I knew that valleys can be places of shelter and abundant growth if we let them be.

Whenever I do go through one, my first urge is to get out as quickly as I can. This doesn’t always happen and sometimes I am there a long time (or what feels like a long time). Only when I am coming out can I appreciate wisdom or advice from someone else. Only when it’s over, do I accept that the valley was useful and necessary – never while I’m in it.

As I pondered on all of this, I realized something else too. Battles are fought in valleys. David killed Goliath in the valley of Elah. Valleys are where things happen.

When we’re going through a low place, it seems like nothing is happening. It seems like we’re all alone and forgotten, that the Lord is far away, or doesn’t care.

My friend, don’t you fall for that lie. The Lord does not leave you, not even for one moment. Remember what King David said in Psalm 23? “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

The truth is that the Lord is fighting the battle. He is strengthening you. He is making things happen. All you need to do is to cling to Him and keep walking with Him.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t know why we have to go through valleys. They are painful places, and we may not understand the “why” until much later, if at all. However, understanding why is always secondary to remaining faithful in the valley.

My friend, if you are going through a low place, a lonely place, then hold on to this truth and read it later: your Heavenly Father loves you, is right there with you, and will never leave you. Never. He has lovely plans for you. He is producing fruit in you, and He cares about everything in your life.

Then when you come out, ask Him what you are to do with the growth that happened while you waited, while you walked with Him. Ask Him to show you something new and wonderful about Jesus and how He strengthened you.

He will show you, dear friend, because it is His faithfulness that brought you out and into the warm sunlight again.

Phyllis Keels