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

Doing What You Love

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So… A dear friend said to me recently, “I don’t like the books I’m reading, Phyllis. They’re not like your books (the Daldriada series). I need you to write another one!”

I think that’s one of the most wonderful things an author can hear! It made me happy and sad at the same time.

I miss writing, and I miss my Daldriada characters so much. But you know how life is – work, family, obligations… None of those things are bad things. It’s just that I still can’t seem to carve out time to write since I came back to work fulltime.

I have about three story ideas swimming around in my head. They surface every now and then. When they do, I push them back down because they surface in the middle of a meeting, or when I finally get to sit down in the evening and not have to think.

Poor stories! They are just trying to come into being. I need to let them.

I have one more devotion book to put out (very soon) and then my focus will be on the next fiction book. The Lord will help me choose a time to write. He always does.

I say all this to encourage you (and myself) that it is okay to devote time to the things we are gifted in. Being gifted is no credit to us. It is praise for the Giver – our Heavenly Father. All good and perfect gifts come from Him.

Do what you are gifted in – it is usually what you love doing. Do you sing, play or write music, excel in a sport? Are you artistic, an encourager, a loving parent or grandparent? Do you cook such wonderful things that people’s eyes roll back in their heads when the eat your food?

Then you are gifted.

I’ve had people comment to me that they don’t think they are gifted in anything. To that, I say hogwash. The Lord is no respecter of persons. He loves every one of us. And He has given you something unique. All you need to do is ask Him what it is.

Until then, my friend, I’m going to get busy doing what I love. Oh! The very thought of seeing a story come to life in my head and then writing it down! It makes me feel like a child again – playing outside, singing songs, and making up beautiful stories of heroism and true love!

I hope you have as much fun doing what you love as I do! Just remember: the Lord loves for His dear children to be happy using the beautiful gifts He has given us!

Phyllis Keels

Invisible Beside the Beauty

This is a revised, previously posted entry that I hope blesses you today, dear reader.

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

My sister, my best friend, and I used to joke that if we went anywhere with my daughter Julie, we three would be invisible next to her. It was true. Julie was so beautiful that when people saw her they didn’t even know we were there.

That was a little depressing the first time I realized it, but after a while it was funny. Actually, the funny thing was that Julie never thought she looked good enough. Good enough for what, I don’t know.

I always thought she was completely lovely. She was a rare beauty. But before she went anywhere, she would change clothes many times in order to feel all right about the way she looked.

There was nothing wrong with how she looked in any outfit that she chose. I know her anxiety was from the turmoil on the inside. I know this because she didn’t fret about it after the Lord healed her anger and gave her peace.

I was thinking that it was kind of nice to be invisible beside Julie’s beauty. It reminded me of the freedom of standing in the presence of the beauty of Jesus, the holy Lamb of God.

He is more beautiful than anything we have seen on this earth. One day we will kneel before that beauty and be able to praise Him face to face. But in the meantime I see glimpses of His lovely face each day as He walks me through this life since Julie went to be with Him.

He keeps showing me that He is actively working for my good every day. He never stops laying the stones of the path for me to walk. I never have to worry that He has wandered from me. He is always right here with me.

Being invisible beside Him is a joy. The more I’m with Him the more I want to look at Him; the more I want to stay as close to His beauty as I can get.

Besides, He is the One doing the work. He is the One I want people to see. Yes, He is beautiful One, and I am grateful to be in His presence. And like King David, I say,

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, KJV)

Phyllis Keels

Then Wait a Moment

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

I like being at the beginning of a new year. Feels good. Having a fresh start and all that. I think I’d like it better if it started in the spring though. It’s kind of hard to get excited when everything is bleak and dreary and gray, you know?

Springtime is when everything really is new. Color comes out of hibernation and washes the earth with beauty. Yep. I think we should move the start of the year to the first day of spring.

I go through this every year because I hate winter. After the holidays I’m ready for spring. This stretch between Christmas and April is brutal. It’s cold, and everything looks like death. Gray sky. Gray grass. Gray trees.

Maybe that’s why I hate it – because it is like death. And I really hate death. It has robbed me of loved ones, even loved pets.

But you know what? Even in the dead of winter there is something new, and it might not be what you think. The Lord’s compassions are new every morning. Look:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

(Lamentations 3:19-25, NIV)

My friend, if you’re in a place where the New Year doesn’t feel new…

If you’re thinking that the bitter gall of your life will never turn sweet…

If you are without hope…

Just remember that Jesus suffered the bitter gall so that you can have the Lord’s mercy and compassion and comfort.

Then wait just a moment for the Lord’s compassion on you. He longs to shower you with the warmth of His love. He waits only for your permission to let Him love you.

Tell your Heavenly Father what you need and wait just a moment. Every single morning remind yourself that His compassion on you is new and fresh and exactly what you need for that day. And tomorrow? It will be brand new again.

Why? Because the One who loves you is faithful.

Phyllis Keels

The Eye of the Storm

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

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in the place where this photo was taken? I would just sit and look at the trees and the hills and the grass. Oh, to be where there is no phone, no computer, no TV in every single building we enter from a medical clinic to a restaurant. No people, no planes flying overhead, no cars driving by. No noise.

Just the sound of the wind in the trees.

I guess I’d have to travel back in time a few hundred years to get that kind of quiet. Yep. I’ll get right on that.

Believe me, if I could have done it, by now I would have done it. Maybe that’s why I like to write stories set in past times. In my imagination, there is the quiet that I long for.

Sure I use technology and man-made contraptions. That doesn’t mean I like them. They make so much noise.

Maybe noise is so repulsive to me because it tends to distract from what is real. It keeps us from hearing the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. It drowns out the whisper of wind and the stream. It seems to be a bully that forces its will over the sweet sounds of God’s creation. It tramples on our minds when we try to think about the Lord.

If you’re not quite sure how I feel…

The worst of it is this: we grow so accustomed to noise that we don’t even think about it anymore. Sometimes we’re even frightened when we do have a few moments of quiet. We think something is wrong. We’re left alone with our thoughts!

I’m not condemning anyone who doesn’t like quiet. We are who we are and we like what we like. I just wish there were a quiet place to be found nowadays. Even if we turn off every device we own, there is still plenty of noise around us.

So maybe the answer is in the eye of the storm. The world will be noisy until Jesus physically returns. Until then, I can rest in the quietness of His presence within me. Maybe the problem is that I’ve been looking for external quiet when I could be enjoying the unshakeable internal peace of being the Bride of Christ the King.

Jesus loves me. He always loves me. His strong, comforting presence is always with me no matter how much noise is going on outside. What place could be more beautiful than that?

Here in the eye of the storm is the real place where I can hear the wind in the trees and the song of the stream. Here in His arms, where I can hear His whispers of kindness; where I can rest my head on his chest, and thank Him for loving me so much.

Phyllis Keels

A Gift of Hope

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Recently while on my way to work, I noticed a new memorial cross on the side of the road. It was where someone’s loved one had died from a car accident. I remember the aftermath of that one. I remember most of them.

I notice them because almost every day for the last five and a half years, I’ve driven by the place where my daughter Julie wrecked. Not by choice, but because it’s not far from my house and to get anywhere, I have to go that way.

Not long after Julie’s death, my son built a beautiful wooden cross and placed it where his sister wrecked. It stayed there for a long while. It was a precious gift of love in her memory.

So when I passed by that new memorial crosses I mentioned earlier, I had a thought. Whenever I come upon one of those memorials, what if I leave one of my devotion books for the family of the loved ones? I have plenty of books. I could leave one as a gift. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.

I think I’ll put a stash of them in my car, along with some zip top plastic bags so the books don’t get wet in the rain. Maybe the gesture will give the family another memory to hold onto when they pass by the place where their loved one died.

Maybe instead of the claws of grief, they will feel the warm rays of hope.

Maybe the book will remind them that their Heavenly Father knows how much they are hurting, and that He wants to comfort them. Maybe it will help them heal, knowing they are not alone. Maybe, they will receive the love the Lord Jesus wants to give them.

Maybe they will feel the Lord’s strong arms upholding them like He has done for me all these years. Maybe, just maybe, they will get to see a glimpse of how beautiful their loved one is now, in the presence of the King of Kings. And maybe that will turn their mourning into joy.

I hope so. I most definitely hope so.

Phyllis Keels

You’re Not Alone

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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.

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

Heaven’s Gold

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“Heaven’s Gold” photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

Sometimes when we look up into the sky, I think we can see a little glimpse of heaven. If we’re really looking, if we really want to see, I believe that we will.

Sometimes, I think what we see is the underside of the real thing. Sometimes I think what we see is the base of the streets of gold.

Maybe that’s what fish think when the look up at the surface of the water they are in, and see the sunlight. I guess they don’t know what the sun is, but they see it.

There have been so many times I’ve looked up at the magnificent sky and said, “How beautiful you are, Lord!” If the things He has made are breathtakingly beautiful, how much more lovely is He?

There are many things the Lord uses to call our attention to Him, to show us His kindness and His love. None are more profound to me than the beauty He has created on this earth and in the sky. I cannot look at them without being overwhelmed by His sweet presence and His love for me.

Have you ever walked through a museum and looked at painting after painting done by your favorite artist? After a while you can see the uniqueness of the brushstrokes and the way they painted the light.

After more time of looking at them you begin to want to meet the artist.

That’s the way the natural world has always been for me. The more I look, the more I want to know and be close to the Artist.

Perhaps you’ve had a different experience with God. I understand how it can be. Not everything in life is sweet and pleasant. I’ve been there too.

All I can tell you is that I know Him. I know Him better than I know myself, and He is love itself. He is compassion. He is mercy and kindness.

Whatever you’ve heard to the contrary is not true, my friend. And He longs for you to know Him more than you long for it.

Just look at he pictures He left for you to find. Look and take in the beauty. Look and receive the grace (the unearned favor) He has for you, His beloved child.

Then you will find that you’re looking at the streets of gold. Prepared for you to enjoy even from this side.

Phyllis Keels

(Remember, what we strive to attain here on earth is what the Lord uses to pave the streets with in heaven.)

The Ministry of the One

My mom has been in the hospital since last Friday and the Lord sweetly reminded me of this post written last November. I think because right now, my precious mom is the “one” I can minister to.

I pray this blesses you, dear friend.

(Written November 18, 2015)

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.

Soon 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