For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Perfect Christmas

My favorite two teenagers are playing Pandemic, the game their Uncle Raymond gave us for Christmas. The detailed Megablocks pirate ship is sitting safely on a shelf, and music from The Hobbit is filling the house.

Dirty dishes litter every counter and fill the sink. One of my favorite blankets lies one on end of the couch where I took a nap while watching Muppets Christmas Carol. And there is enough food in the fridge to last through the weekend.

Precious people have sent texts and made time to call.

Laughter has been loud and abundant.

Unfortunately, disease wiped out the planet's population twice, but the prime rib was perfect, so we are calling it a draw.

Last night friends came over to exchange gifts. Their presence was priceless.

I sit here now on my bed with the heater blanket keeping my chilled toes warm, and I will tell you what I've been beautifully conscious of every second of the last few days: It is the perfect Christmas.

Even sitting on the patio wrapped in a wool blanket with my coffee turning cold and the sky turning colors, I knew it, and the wonder of it all filled me so full that when the sun finally peeked over the horizon, my excitement spilled out, and I clapped and cheered.

I thought of the verse from John1:5, "And the Light has come into the world, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Indeed it has not, and where are the angels when you want to shout-sing the Hallelujahs because it is the perfect morning to shout-sing at the top of my lungs?

Every treasure I desire has filled this Christmas. Beautiful people. Laughter. Delicious food, which is a big deal because I made something special for my brother and was a bit nervous. Lovely music. Oh, and there are these wonderful, beautiful people. Did I mention them? :-)

And I just keep thinking, "This is the perfect Christmas. This is the Christmas I have longed for. This is the perfect Christmas."

My heart is full, and the smile has not left my face. My whole soul is at peace and settled in joy.

Yeah. It's the perfect Christmas.


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hard Thing is Remembering How Easy You've Got It

Lots going on here at the Phillips Casa today.

Yesterday I put my husband on a plane and sent him to Virginia. This morning I received the call that he had arrived safely and the internment had already been held. My mind still thinks I'm too young to have a husband interred somewhere.

My dog is dying. After five days of Fred refusing to the eat the food that is good for his liver, even the vet said to get him to eat just anything, but it really doesn't matter since he no longer keeps his meds down.

My children's insurance is being cancelled.

I have to decide whether to fix the present heating system in my house or spend a few extra thousand and cut my bill by nearly half.

The 401k I inherited needs to be addressed concerning the investments for next year.

My youngest is sick with some head cold/sinus thing, so I didn't sleep because of his coughing and snorting.

Today WonderGirl and I had to decorate the cake for the baby shower he was going to do but couldn't because someone with a fever doesn't need to be decorating cakes.

So we did the baby shower cake and the devilled eggs and the pies and the rum cake and the dressing and...

And the dressing for church is ready too.

That's today's list.

Now, before you get all dressed up for a pity party, don't. I don't want to hear, "I'm sorry you have to deal with that." Everyone deals with this. This is just life. The challenge...the fatiguing dealing with it by myself.

It's easy when you are married to become complacent in your gratitude. It's easy to become condescending in your arrogance. It is easy to take things for granted. In fact, it's easy to become flat out blind to the ways the other person makes your life better.

It is easy to focus on all the ways a person offends. It is easy to see the whiskers in the sink or the same meal every Friday night. It's easy to get tired of his watching football or get tired of hearing her talk about stuff that isn't really important to you. It's easy to build walls with our list of ways our spouses aren't perfect or don't meet every single need. It's easy to wallpaper our psyches with the ways we feel hurt, offended, or disinterested. It's easy to let our gripes build siege works against our marriages, and when we do, spouses become the enemy, and our family becomes the casualties.

It takes effort to be thankful. It takes effort to remember that husband who can't pick up his underwear out of the bathroom mows the yard and keeps it looking nice. It takes effort to remember that woman who has babbled on for an hour about her friends' latest drama is also the one who did the laundry so you have clothes for work. It is a choice to be thankful for the man who put gas in your car, picked up milk on the way home, fed the kids hotdogs and chips and camped with a movie so you could go out with friends. Is it the ideal quality time? Maybe not what I would want him to do every night, but just this one time, can you look at the man who is trying, the man with one kid in his lap and the other by his side under his arm, the man who doesn't know how to be the "perfect" husband but is glad you are his wife and be thankful he killed the spider and paid the bills and dealt with the plumber?

It is a choice to be thankful for the woman who sweeps and mops, buys the groceries, and makes dinner. Are hamburgers tiring every Friday night? I'd probably want something different, but today, can you  see the woman who deals with the school issues, the woman trying to balance disciplining the kids and encouraging the kids while sometimes not even liking them, the woman worried that she isn't as pretty or thin or whatever as she used to be...and maybe not as attractive to you as she used to be, the woman makes sure you have razors and toilet paper and soap in the shower and be thankful for her?

I don't know what "little things" your spouse does that makes the difference in your home, but I know it's easy to take it for granted. It's easy to stop seeing the blessing and instead see the bother. It can be a lot easier to gripe than to be grateful.

I'm not going to tell you that in light of this week being Thanksgiving you should thank God for this person who does these things that make life easier and sweeter. I'm going to tell you it's right now, and you should thank God for the person who does these things that make life easier and sweeter. I'm telling you tomorrow when your spouse is the human that makes you roll your eyes or close your ears or wish he/she were different, don't. Just don't. Don't roll the eyes. Don't close your ears. Don't wish he/she were different. Those are the stones that build hard hearts. I'm not saying don't address conflict. Address conflict, but do it with a heart of gratitude for this person. Do it with the goal to appreciate this person, not win against them. Your spouse is not the enemy. Forgetting the value of each other is.

Your spouse does not make your life hard. Your forgetting your spouse is a gift makes your heart hard.

The anecdote is gratitude...not for the big stuff, but for the everyday stuff because that is where life is lived. That is where life is made. You want to make your life with your spouse wonderful? Be hugely grateful for the little things.

May God open your eyes to see the greatness of the gift and may you extend the gift of great gratitude.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Peace of Mercy

I pulled out of my driveway at 7:15 this morning to make the nearly two hour drive to my vet's clinic. My dog spent a second night there last night. SuperWonderFred is sick, sick enough to die.

My Favorite Big Dog is having liver problems, and he's too sick for a biopsy which would give a more definitive diagnosis, so Dr. Margaret is trying to get the symptoms under control so she can get to the problem. The ultimate problem is not matter what she does, he may die.

I've cried a lot over that dog the last two days. I toss and turn at night because he's not lying on the floor beside my bed, his snoring soothing me to sleep. I walk in the door, and he's not there to meet me with a tail wag and a shove of his muzzle into my hand. His deep throaty bark doesn't fill the backyard. It's different, and it's not a good different. It's a hard different, and yet, it's a peaceful different.

 I've spent a lot of time praying over Fred, not just in the last few days but over the last few years. Fred has hip problems. He has had them since he was a year old. Some days it is hard for my big dog to pull himself up off the floor, and there are days when it is impossible for him to get on the large ottoman that gives his stiff joints a reprieve from the cold cement floor. Several months ago, Dr. Larry tried some meds to help with the pain. Thankfully, I didn't get the prescription refilled yet because, you guessed it, those meds are hard on the liver. Even before that, I worried, though, what happened when the meds didn't really help anymore or the joints just got too stiff? How would I know when the pain of being Fred was too great, and how would I know exactly what to do? How would I know the merciful thing?

In the last four years I've learned a lot about mercy. I've learned mercy does not give us what we deserve. I've also learned mercy delivers us from how bad it could be. Mercy isn't always the answer we want, but it is always the answer we need.

Mercy knows what is coming and delivers a person--or a Fred--before the worst hits. Mercy is big picture kindness.

On the way to the clinic this morning, I expected the phone to ring and Dr. Margaret to be on the other line to break the news that Fred had died in the night. He really was that sick yesterday. Even if the phone call didn't come, I knew today could be a day of hard decisions that really weren't decisions at all  but acknowledgment of the undeniable. I took the blanket Fred and I lie on when his joints hurt too much to move much, and I tried to prepare myself to lie down with my Big Dog one more time and simply let him go to sleep. This morning wasn't that morning, but we are far from being out of the woods, and eventually that time will come. Without an act of God, liver disease will kill My Favorite Big Dog.

So I pray for an act of God. The act of mercy.

I ask for God to do what is best because there are no good solutions, not any any of us want anyway. We want the pain free, fear free, death free, and there is no such thing on this earth, and we hate the truth, but the truth is this: there is always a best solution. We don't have to like it. Sometimes it rips our hearts out, but it is still the best solution.

The only solution that can make anything any better is love poured out in mercy.

So I pray for mercy knowing it may mean I will never hear SuperWonderFred snore by my bed, I may never walk into my house and feel his muzzle in my hand, his throaty bark may never fill my backyard again. I pray for mercy knowing this morning was good, and tomorrow I may get a call he's gone.

As I write that my eyes burn with tears, and my chest tightens because this is the companion who has let tears fall on his fur, laid with his head in my lap while I mindlessly rubbed my hand down his side and stared blankly into the world of can't-believe-how-much-has-gone-wrong, and moved from room to room just to be near me. He is love in a furry package with big brown eyes and a tail that can clear a coffee table in one motion. He's my Fred, and I can't imagine the silence of his not being here.

And even as the tears fall, the peace holds.

The peace that the Almighty God who gave me the gift of Fred knows how to give the gift of mercy to Fred.

I don't know what that mercy looks like. All I know is I've seen enough of God's mercy to know it may not be the answer I like, but it is the answer that is good. And in that goodness, my heart finds peace.

Friday, October 10, 2014

So you know....It's October...In a Good Way

Here in Texas, we generally have three seasons: Summer Hot, Summer Cooler, and Cold Windy. Summer Hot and Cold Windy are not the easiest times to work outside. Summer Hot runs the risk of heat stroke. Cold Windy is just miserable. So, if you want to get work done outside, Summer Cooler, like right now when it is only in the mid-80s, is the time to do it or wait until Summer Cooler around March and April when it could also be monsoon season with tornadic interruptions .

I'm going to try to take advantage of Summer Cooler in October and as far into November as possible, so my posting may be erratic. I'll still try to post at least once, hopefully 2 or 3 times, a week, but just in case I don't, I want you to know that, yes, I'm not posting because it is October, but in a good way.

If you don't want to check back daily, you can subscribe by email to get posts directly to your box or like my Facebook page to see posts there.

Y'all be blessed, and I'll see you next week!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When It's October

The temperatures dip lower, but the trees haven't caught the drift yet. Leaves still cling green, and grass still requires my mower's attention. It's a beautiful time of year in Texas.

It's also the hardest time of year, and I think this just hard.

Last week Mom had been gone four years. Not something I dwell on. Not something I mention to anyone. The tombs is not where I dwell, but last week I had a stomach virus and really wanted comfort foods that might stay down. I was craving chicken and dumplings, so I reached for the phone to call Mom and get the recipe. It got worse because then I remembered she had given the recipe to Rob one time when I had the flu so I needed to call him...but neither had written it down. How do you let people die without getting your favorite recipes from them?

Over the weekend I was walking in a clothing store when I saw the perfect, non-Virginia Tech shirt for Rob. Right style. Right fabric. Right color. He had one in every color he could find. I have often regretted giving those away with the rest of his clothes, but probably just as well because I would probably wear one, and really, how lame is it to wear the shirt that smells like the husband who didn't want to be married to you anymore?

As I was saying, I was walking down the aisle of this clothing store and saw the shirt, so I stopped my shopping cart, picked up the sleeve, and stopped just before I put it to my nose and breathed deep. Needless to say I felt stupid expecting it to smell like him.

Now it is football season, and I miss hearing his yells of ecstasy and agony as he watched Virgnia Tech football, and I miss his laugh.

Isn't it weird how I don't miss being married to him, but I miss familiar pieces of him?

Tonight I stood at the sink and washed dishes, and big tears fell.

For whatever reason, the thought, "Thanksgiving is next month," came through, and I just put the dishes down and let the tears fall hard into the sink of sudsy water. I don't like Thanksgiving. I don't like Christmas, and I would pay someone to stay at my house and pet sit so I could be anywhere but here.

I breathed deep and kept washing. Like walking away from a sink full of dishes could make it better anyway.

Three movies come out this month that I want to see, and I can go see them by myself. I've done it before. It's just, for some reason going to a movie alone screams lonely to me. Movies should be enjoyed with someone, but then, I think most of life is meant to be enjoyed with someone.

Yesterday was my youngest brother-in-law's birthday. He hasn't spoken to me since the funeral. I don't have his phone or address or email and wouldn't know what to say even if I did.

And last week I wrote Rob's dad and told him we wouldn't be making the trip to see them. In all honesty, I am sorry. I have great compassion for his dad. When his dad and I talk, I always end the call with, "I love you," and I do. But some who are involved in the family fallout still struggle with trust or have simply seen too much to want to make the effort. I'm not judging, and I won't say they are wrong. I'm just infinitely tired of living in the aftermath of someone else' bad life choices. If anyone needs proof lies will blow a family to pieces, the damaged relationships Rob left in his wake say it all.

And I think this October is harder because this is not where I expected to be "four years later". Mentally and emotionally I think I "reached the other side" awhile back, but this is not the lifescape I had envisioned.

Sunday on the way home from church, we discussed God's faithfulness, and in course of conversation, it became obvious I'm not the only one struggling with feeling disillusioned, trying to trust God but wondering what in the world He is doing. As my son said, "Mom, hearing people say God is faithful is like the parent who says they'll get you a toy but not today, so when you mention it next week, there's another reason why it isn't that week. Three months later, there is a reason why it isn't then, and eventually, they say they'll get that toy for you so long that it is no longer even relevant." I understand the feeling.

Then I think of Abraham and wonder if he had an October. Maybe his or Sarai's birthday when the age went up and still no baby. I wonder about Joseph. How many Octobers did he think of his dreams and his brothers while he sat in a country not his own without a family of his own?

I don't know. The Bible doesn't tell us a lot, except for one moment with Abraham. God visits Abraham and tells him He is going to pour out blessings so big Abraham can't imagine, and Abraham, this man we know as righteous because he believed God, answered, "What's the point? What does it matter? Who cares if you give me the world if I don't have an heir?"

I love this. Oh. My. Lands. I love this.

"Yeah, um, that's great, and I appreciate the thought, but, God, here's my heart."

Then there is the moment when Abraham's honesty could have slipped past the line and God could have gone fire and brimstone on this ungrateful piece of mud called human.

But He doesn't.

Instead, He speaks right to Abraham's heart. "I know. I promise. I've got this. I've got you. I've got your heart."

Isn't that beautiful gone stark raving mad?

Instead of seeing a man dissing the promises, God saw a man sitting right in the middle of October.

And this is what I have to believe.

I have to believe God sees me right in the middle of my October, and He sees my dreading Thanksgiving and Christmas. He sees me swallow hard when I see a VT shirt because He knows the laughter I'm talking about. He knows I miss Mom's perfume. He knows very well I'm not the only person who doesn't dig "alone." He knows. He sees me. He's right in the middle of it with me.

I don't have the promises Abraham had or the dreams Joseph had. What I do have is a God right in the middle of October with me, and since I am trying so hard to be brave and healed and all things faithful and faith-full when I'm honestly sad and kind of confused but really, what do I say about the fact it is four years later and something in me finally realized my mom is gone and who could can remotely grasp anything to do with...Rob? And right now when I feel like no one could possibly understand any of it, the fact He understands it all gives me a place to breathe. It gives me a place to talk, to process, to navigate October.

The peace isn't in knowing all the promises that will come someday. The peace is knowing He sees me now. He knows me now. He has me now....especially when it is October.

2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Love When Truth Just isn't Enough

She is utterly indignant that someone could ever question the similarity between Christianity and Buddhism. How could anyone put the two in the same sentence little less suggest they are truly similar?

So I ask, "How are they different?"

She looks at me and says in a hard, pointed tone, "Christianity is the truth, and everything else is a lie."

I wait a moment and then ask, "And that is supposed to be enough for me to embrace the Cross, fall on my knees, confess my sins, and find salvation?"

Her breathing goes shallow, and her eyes look at me as though she can't believe I have the audacity to take up oxygen. "It's the truth."

"And that is it? That's the best you've got? Because if I am anything other than a Christian, that means nothing to me. If I am anything other than a Christian, I think I know the truth, and that whole God killing people because He's having a tantrum thing is not going to cut it for me."

She leans forward. "Just because they refuse the truth doesn't make it untrue."

"They aren't refusing the truth. You simply aren't telling them the truth."

She is disgusted with me and my abandonment of God's truth as the absolute truth. I'm not very impressed by her either, but, I've been her, and there is hope for us both.

Honestly, I haven't abandoned God's truth as absolute. If anything, I am more convinced of it than ever, not because someone told me it was truth and said not to question it but because I went rogue and questioned everything.

I started singing my own wild version of Berean Rhapsody and came out the other side with an understanding of Christ and His heart. I gave up the law that had been drilled into my head and embraced the love that was trying to change my heart. I studied topics such as baptism, hell, sin, salvation, the Holy Spirit and how it functions, along with gifts and fruits and holiness. Now when people want to have a conversation about Christ and the Bible, I can speak to their questions, not just regurgitate rote "truth".

 I also read about other religions so I could have respectful conversations with those believers. Love is respectful, right? Love values the other person, right? I'm not saying I have to value the theology, but I need to value the road that person took to reach that destination. Only in understanding their road can I understand and speak to the ways Christianity is different and how it would have handled something differently.

I looked at my friend and stared at the arrogance she robed herself in, an arrogance I was all too familiar with because after all, I had it right, and those heathens were...heathens. In that second, I could have been the arrogant one because I know the truth about the differences. I know Christ, not just Christianity. I could have rolled my eyes, let her be disgusted, and rationalized my silence. Instead...

I said,
"There are two major differences between Christianity and any other belief system.  
One, every other belief system is built around the idea that a person can earn a better afterlife through self-perfection. All the work is on that person to get better, do better. They are a save yourself system. Christianity is the acceptance that we can't save ourselves, that we can only be saved through Christ. Everything we really need has to be done for us because we are helpless to do it ourselves.  
Two, in the other religions, you may get 'enlightenment' from some source, but you are on your own to make it happen, to make your life happen, to be the person you want to be. In Christ, you are never on your own. God is always reaching. We just have to realize how desperately we need to be found."

 The difference between that Buddhist and me? I saw the hand reaching for me and took it. They either haven't seen it or haven't taken it, but God is still reaching. Who knows but that I am the one He is reaching with. I'll never reach them, though, if all I have to offer is a swap from one law to another. If I want to reach them, I need more than a law. I need love. And that is the absolute truth.

2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

God's Sense of Humor

Some folks are unaware that God has an interesting sense of humor. Remind me to tell you about "Joshua, Remember Jericho, and Thick walls," sometime. But today, I'll stick to God's sense of humor this morning at church....during worship...

Believe me, I tried to find some kind of play on words for that because...well, you'll see.

Last week and yesterday, I wrote about worship. I was honest about my struggles with worship at the church we've been attending the last few months. As I said, love the people. Pastors are solid. I'm just struggling with worship.

I rarely know the songs. I can't follow the words on the screen very well because I don't know the tunes. It's just...been a challenge.

But, I don't want to be like I used to be and make it a big ridiculous deal because that is just immature, petty crap. The songs are good. People are worshipping. It's just me, BUT, God is so faithful to use trials to build character and mature us, and for me, not being able to participate well in worship is a trial.

I've also shared what I've learned from this trial. I've learned worship isn't about what I sing or how I sing it but the One I choose to sing for and to.

Worship is a response to God reaching out to me.

Even music I "don't get" can get me to God if I have the right heart to find His hand in it.

I told you about the two boys on the front row who took pleasure in their worship and how I could feel God's pleasure in them. That is beautiful worship. Seriously. It does not get better than that.

Today I went to church, and before I ever reached the sanctuary, I saw the worship leader. I like him. He's a good worship leader. As we chatted, he mentioned that he read Friday's post on worship. He was very complimentary and asked if he could post some of it to the worship blog for the church.

Are you laughing? At least chuckling? It gets better.

First, I have to say that the order of the service was rearranged to the "traditional" order of service, which totally threw me. While I have no reason to think my blog had anything to do with that, I did mention that last week in one of my posts. If you will recall, I said we do worship after the sermon. It was different, but we left church singing, which I like.

That's at least worth a smirk, but the really belly laugh...

I knew all but one song we sang this morning. ALL BUT ONE SONG.

In fact, I knew them so well, I could sign most of the words.

Even better?

One of the songs we sang is EXACTLY what God has been saying to me all week long.
If I am with you, nothing can stop you.
What do you think could ever come against you that could nullify my promises?
Nothing can stop my Word.

Maybe you've heard the song before. Maybe you need to hear the words right now.
We sang it this way:
If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, what can stand against?

And you'll have to wait until later to hear about the whole sermon thing, but for now....

I'm shaking my head. I hope you are laughing. Isn't that just so God?

And, yes, I do believe God was laughing through the whole thing, nudging whoever was close, saying, "She is going to laugh so hard!"

And I did...and am.

There are so many things about God that leave me in silent awe. He is just so beautiful, so wondrously, can't take Him all in, beautiful, and one of my very favorite aspects of Him is His sense of humor. I love that enjoys having fun and just enjoying mine and His relationship--us. I love that He has given me His sense of humor. Some say it is vicious, in a maybe not-so-good way. I think it is God-size fabulous. It's just so very Him.

Last week, I didn't mention laughter as a means of worship. It never even crossed my mind, but funny enough, today, it's my absolute favorite kind of worship.


2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved

Monday, October 6, 2014

When Worship Gets Personal

I really like our church. The people who attend are beautiful, and I really enjoy them. The heart of the church is great. In fact, for the church's birthday, we are splitting up and doing community projects as a way to celebrate. Actually, this church is the most community involved church I've possibly ever attended. Seriously. This is a wonderful church.


Worship drives me a bit nuts.

I rarely know the songs, and they are a bit more...not Casting Crowns...than I'm used to. Really, it's just not my style, and I have a hard time getting into it.

In the past, this would have been a big deal for me. Like BIG deal, but I am infinitely sick and tired of listening to people whine and grip about the parts of church that offend personal opinion but are not life altering issues. I sat in a church planning meeting once and saw the leaders of the church go into banshee tantrums over whether the church needed a middle aisle or not. I've listened to too many friends who are pastors who are exhausted, not from the needs of people, but the pettiness of people who are so focused on the order of service or the number of songs or how communion should be served. I don't want to be the problem. I've been the problem, and I don't want to be anymore. But I can be. I have my preferences. I have my comfort zones. I like comfort!

And doggone it. I like worship that allows me to participate!

One morning we were in the midst of worship, and I was feeling musically lost, and I prayed simply, "God, I need you to help me with this."

Two things happened.

First, a simple thought: This is worship music. It was written for the purpose of praising God. It sets an atmosphere for connecting with Him. If you aren't connecting, it's your fault. Not the music's.

Instead of being annoyed that I didn't know the words, I just stood and read the words. They were words of praise declaring God's faithfulness, His goodness, His mercy. I still couldn't sing the words because I couldn't figure out the tune, but I could sing the my own personally way. I stood where I was and quietly began to praise God for how faithful He had been to me that week. I recalled His goodness and His mercy. I recounted them quietly, but aloud, to Him and gave thanks for the detailed way He loves my family and me. My heart was in tune, even though I didn't know the tune.

I worshipped with the music I didn't know by letting it remind me of what I do know.

I know God is good. I know I need Him desperately. I know He is generous and blesses me wildly. Sometimes I need to be reminded, and a song I didn't know did that for me.

Would a song I knew by heart that I could sing without giving it a thought do that for me? It can, but a song I had to think about made me think about the One I am singing to. That is what worship songs should do.

Second, when I stopped singing, I could hear them. The two little boys on the front row. Hands clapping. Feet moving. Pouring out pleasure...not just praise, but they worshipped their Lord. I sat diagonal from them in the back row, and above everyone in between us, I heard them, and their voices were so beautiful. That has got to be the sound of heaven. These two precious boys pouring all they are into the praise of the King. Seriously. The sound was so beautiful. I just closed my eyes and listened. I could only imagine God the Father breathing in the worship from His babies. What amazing joy He must have felt. What deep pleasure He must take in them. The Bible talks about "a pleasing aroma unto the Lord." These boys' worship has to be it.

As I watched, I realized this music that just didn't do it for me did wonders for them. This was their worship, their connecting. This was their Daddy saying, "Boys, I adore you. Come spend some time with me so we can enjoy each other." And they did. Oh my goodness. They did.

I don't remember singing anything else that day. I simply remember thanking God for how He loves each of us and makes roads into each of our lives and finds ways to meet us according to how He made us.

Raise a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. -- Proverbs 22:6

God's version: Reach a child according to the way you made them, and when they are older, they will still be reaching out for You.

I watched God reach that day.

And those boys reached right back.

Personally, I think that is as beautiful s worship gets.

2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Picture Perfect Worship

I've spent this week talking about worship, but one of my issues with the church is we give a lot of intangible answers for what something is not, and I wonder if I have done any better. I honestly don't know.

To worship something means to declare it is worth your attention, time, and energy.

What is worship? Responding to God.

It seems so simple, and yet, it feels so complicated, especially when we try to dig it out from under religious tradition, which a lot of us are having to do.

So what is worship? Really? I don't know if I can really tell you, so let me show you.

Now, I know, it is our tendency to skim what we already know, but I would ask you not to skim because if we are having to really look at worship, we really don't know it. So let's learn from some folks who do.

2 Chronicles 5

Then Solomon summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. And all the Israelites came together to the king at the time of the festival in the seventh month.
When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the Levites took up the ark, and they brought up the ark and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The Levitical priests carried them up; and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.
The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and covered the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends, extending from the ark, could be seen from in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.
11 The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. 12 All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:
“He is good;
    his love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.
Luke 17
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Matthew 8
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."

Luke 18
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 7
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them...
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

In each story, worship is the personal response to the way God responded to each person. Even in 2 Chronicles, the Temple was for everyone, but the promise of God was personal.

The centurion's faith that Jesus was a man of authority in a kingdom he only saw through shadows was personal.

The pleas for forgiveness from a man whose desire was to faithfully serve a God he continued to fail was personal.

The faith of a woman who had no words but only tears, who couldn't look at His face so she washed His feet, was personal.

Worship is personal.

It is a personal faith response to a God who responds personally to each person, who they are, where they are, and what they need. It is an acknowledgement of His ability and willingness to be exactly what I need because I realize what I always Him.

THAT is worship.

And it isn't because the music is right, not because my mood is right, not because everything went well this week. It's for one reason and one reason alone.

Because He's worth it.

2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved


Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Fix Bad Worship

People complain about the music in church with the excuse it somehow prevents them from worshipping. It isn't comfortable for them, and it messes with their rhythm, and don't change the words or inflection because it makes it hard to follow and they can't sing it mindlessly like usual, and plus, they sound dumb when they get the notes wrong, and how one worship when they are afraid of getting it wrong?
Okay. Okay, so it's not just the generic "people". *I* have been known to complain about all of the above. It completely ruined my worship experience. Except worship isn't an experience. It's an expression.
It isn't something that happens to us. It's something that comes from within us.
And some of the worst worship experiences have shown me it isn't about having the right music. It's about having the right heart.
First of all, "The music just isn't right for me to be able to worship." Unless the music is so loud it is actually painful, this is bogus, but it does say something about our mindsets concerning worship. It says we have the attitude things need to be just so-so for us to worship. What we really mean is things have to be so-so for us to feel a certain way. We want an emotion, a warm fuzzy. We want to leave feeling better than when we arrived, but that is just an emotion. The point of worship is not to conjure emotion; it is to express our recognition of God's worth. It isn't to get a warm-fuzzy, it is to give glory to the only One who is worthy to receive our praise. Emotions are fleeting and easily altered. We don't need an emotion. We need a heart that is steadfast
If I have to have music a certain way to tell God He is amazing, then you know what? I probably need the rest of my life to be going a certain way to think He is awesome, too, and that is a selfish, not spiritual, way to live.
Something else I've learned. Worship isn't about being comfortable. It's about being Christ-like. Christ didn't focus on Himself. He focused on others' needs. Christ got out of the religious comfort zone of the day so others could find the Father. Maybe those teenagers I wrote about two days ago need more connection today than I need Kari Jobe. Oh, I know. I could dig in my heels and say they could adjust and meet God where I am, but maybe the Christ-like thing is to meet them at their well instead of waiting for them to come to my Temple. Worship isn't about my being comfortable. It's about people connecting with Christ.

And by the way, we all know songs are supposed to be sung a certain way, and people shouldn't go changing words or rhythms or inflections. How in the world am I supposed to sing when it's always changing? Plus, do you know how stupid I sound when I get the notes wrong? Honestly. We know worship is really about getting it all right!


Is that what worship really is?

About doing things a certain way?
About being intolerant of others?
About getting it "right"?

Here is the question the Spirit asked me, "Whose way of worshipping me is right?" My son shows his love by drawing me a picture. My daughter shows hers by writing lyrics to a song. Whose love is right? Could it be if both have the right love, then the way each expresses that love is also right?

A friend of mine likes spicy foods. REALLY spicy foods, but when we go eat at her house, she tones it down for us. It's still food, just with a different flavor. Could it be that worship with a rock beat is simply love expressed with a different flavor than love expressed in a slow 3/4 time?

If worship is responding to the love of God, isn't the only "right" response love? If I try to make others fit into my worship music box and dance according to the tune I determine is acceptable, is that loving them like God loves me? If I pray for God to meet me as I am where I am, isn't the right thing to let Him reach others as they are where they are? Who am I to find God in a gentle cello but tell others they can't find Him in a bass guitar or slamming drum? And let's be honest. If we make this a right and wrong issue, we have to entertain the idea we could be wrong. If we make this a winner take all situation, are we willing to lose everything? We could. Oh, I know. We aren't wrong, so it doesn't matter...except it does matter...because any time I tell someone they have to find God the same way I do in the same things I do, I am wrong, and I don't care what musical genre you paint it into, it'll never be right.

You know what the real issue is, though? When we worship, we don't want to have to think about it. We want it to be effortless, and we don't like boat rockers who change that.

Any time worship starts becoming a thoughtless action, we are no longer giving thought to God.

Worship cannot be effortless unless we make no effort to notice the greatness of His love, the magnitude of His generosity, the immensity of His kindness, the freedom of His forgiveness...and our absolute lack of deserving all of the above.

When we reach a point when we are just saying words, we are no longer hearing what the Word has to say.

The only way for worship to become mindless if for us not to mind if our God has no worth.

Worship isn't a musical process we get right. Worship is getting our hearts right so we can respond to Him.

Worship isn't about creating an emotion or cautiously not rocking the boat. Worship is a conscious choice to respond to a God we know is good even when the boat is rocking.

If the songs or the service order or the number of times a chorus is repeated makes it absolutely impossible for us to worship, something is definitely wrong, but it isn't the music. And no one else can fix it, but me.

2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Worship May Not Be What You Think

Our worship at my church messes with my head. I told you a little bit about it yesterday. I don't know the words. The genre isn't my style, and who puts worship after the sermon?

I'm not the only one with worship issues. Lots of people have them.

People complain about the music in church declaring how it makes it impossible for them to worship. It isn't comfortable for them. It messes with their rhythm. And do NOT change the words or inflection because it makes it hard to follow and they can't sing it mindlessly like usual, and plus, they sound dumb when they get the notes wrong, and how one worship when they are afraid of getting it wrong?

I'm not exaggerating when I say at some point every statement in that paragraph has come out of my mouth, and the saddest part is I thought I was right in being indignant about such things because worship is important after all, and I need to worship. Worship is where I connect with God. It's the soul-melding of the spiritual life.

And it really has nothing to do with music.

Let me explain. I love music. I love to sing. I love the whole expressive experience of music, but it isn't worship.

Worship is declaring the worth of something.

When I worship God, I'm responding to Him and the goodness He has poured out on me.

My response may be joyful excitement because He has heard my prayer, and I may express that with boisterous clapping or dancing.
My heart may be broken, and I may feel crushed, but I know He is till good, so I respond to that with my presence, even though I have no words.
I may respond in awe at how amazing He is. I may respond with humility because He is so good and I deserve nothing from His hand.
Maybe I am simply overwhelmed by the bigness and wonder of Him, so I raise my hands to acknowledge that He alone is worthy of my praise.

That is worship.

Music offers an avenue for expressing those responses, but it isn't worship. If I stand in a church service and find fault that the worship doesn't cater to me, that's says a lot more about my heart than the music.

And instead of making demands for how the music needs to be done right, it's a good time to stop and ask God how to get my heart right.

Drop by tomorrow, and I'll tell you How to Fix Bad Worship.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And the Greatest of These is...Perfect Worship

I don't really know the songs, and we don't sing the same song very often, so I'm not really learning them, which is tedious, but at another church, we had an eleven song play list, so we sang the same songs almost every week, and that was boring.

I'm not into rock music, and some of what we sing is rock-ish. Not my style. Hard to get into...for me. But the younger folk are all over it. Hands up. Eyes closed. You can look on their faces and see they have this...and more importantly, He has them.

At this church, we do worship after the sermon, not before. I've never been at a church that does that. It's weird. I'm used to a prayer, some music, maybe a shake hands with the neighbor behind you, and then the sermon. This prayer, song, sermon, worship thing sort of messes with my mind, but I really loved going to the store after church Sunday and the kids and I singing while we shopped because the music was still rolling in us...the worship coming out of us.

And what is with the worship team anyway? Sometimes we have a full crew with drums, keyboard, guitar, and multiple singers, and then there was Sunday when we had two on stage. Shouldn't it be consistent? I mean. How am I supposed to know what to expect if it is always changing? Except Sunday was meditative worship. The harmony was good, and the gentleness of the acoustic guitar and the voices allowed resting and soaking deep, and those rock-ish songs with their drums work for the kids. And I must confess. I like stopping and watching these young people pouring out their hearts, receiving His heart poured out. It's beautiful. It fills me with joy and hope, but even if it didn't, even if I got nothing out of it, I get something out of it. It is an absolute impossibility for God to invade the world through His children and my world not be affected and made better. Any time heaven comes to earth, I get something out of it.

Last week I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is having "worship issues" at his church, and I listened to him tell how this person had this problem and that person had that other problem, and really, they all had the same problem. The problem is they don't understand what worship is.

Worship isn't what we sing or whether we know the words. It isn't an order of service or style of music. Worship isn't whether you can raise your hands or jump up and down...or stand their with your hands in your pockets in silence.

Worship is acknowledging God as God.

Worship is realizing it isn't all about me and loving those kids enough to see God's heart is for reaching them.

Worship isn't conjuring an emotional response to get people hyped up for a sermon and shout, "Amen!" in regular intervals or on the appropriate downbeat. Worship is knowing the greatest thing anyone has to offer is an experience with God.

Worship isn't the first, second, and last verse, or knowing the songs so well you don't need the words. Worship is the heart without words that needs to hear God speak.

Worship is giving your all to God. Sometimes your all is simply walking into a church and saying, "I'm giving you the chance to find me because I can't find you in this hard place, but I'm not willing to walk away, so this is me walking to you." Sometimes your all is letting the tears fall while you whisper, "You are still good," even when it hurts oh, so very bad.

Worship is giving up my right to be important so God is important, so His plan is important, so others are important.

Music is an expression of worship, but worship is a response to God and our expression of our hearts toward Him and His goodness toward us.

I told my friend that our music isn't exactly my cup of tea either. He sort of groan-sighed. I said, "I'm stepping past the music because if my focus is on the music, I've just made it into a concert. It's not a concert. It's worship, and if I can't worship with music that glorifies God and praises Him, it's my problem, not the music's."

He sighed...more like a long-overdue exhale. He said it did his heart good to hear me say that. Funny, it does my heart good to live that.

2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Treasure Days--The Filling

Today is Treasure Day at our house. It's the day we consciously choose to fill our time with family, laughter, love, and making memories that we treasure for the rest of our lives.

Now will every memory be treasured? Since we won't mentally videotape the day, no. BUT, part of the treasure is learning to treasure people in your life enough to make them priority, so in a way, yes, it is.

The History of Treasure Day

A lot of things all hit at once. The calendar was running amuck. It hit me that WonderGirl is a senior, and WonderBoy is a freshman, and time as a family together is limited. And running amuck is not how I want to spend the last year of both my Peeps at home, so I sat down with my Heavenly Hubby and asked how to make the time left solid. Then I started cancelling things and emptying entire weekends on the calendar. The only plan was church. Then I blocked those weekends in bright colored pen and declared them untouchable and non-negotiable.

And the Point Being?

For me, this is part of shepherding my family. A shepherd knows the flock, and the flock knows the shepherd's voice. The only way to do that is spending time together. So Treasure Days and Family Weekends are times when I choose to hear my Peeps and learn them, and the crazy wild thing is when they learn I really love them, they listen to my voice. Imagine, the teaching of Jesus actually working. Insanity, I tell you.

And, this is stewarding my time. "Steward" means to keep watch over and guard. If I steward my time, I choose to watch over how it is spent. Instead of just getting through the day, I think,
"If this were my last day, how would I want it to be remembered by those left behind me tomorrow?"
Living like that will radically change your life.

You know the saying, "Don't count the days. Make the days count"? Family Weekend and Treasure Days is that being applied to the people who should mean the most to mean. It is living intentionally and choosing activities that lead to a specific outcome.

The Specific Outcome

Specifically, I want my kids to know they are valuable.
I want to build relationship.
I want them to have great memories of our family.
I want them to learn precepts or tools for building their family or even their friendships.
I want them to learn to value others.
I want to be an example of love.

So Just How Hard is This?

The hardest part is deciding to do it. Seriously.
The honest to goodness two hardest things involved are
1. getting up off the butt and getting out of the rut and doing it,
2. saying no to other people and other options.

How Do You Do This?
I know my kids and what they like  to do, so I look for opportunities to do those things. Sometimes we do what I like. That is part of being a family. I try to incorporate something for everyone throughout the weekend.

For instance:
  • WonderBoy likes LARPing, so we made a list of thrift stores and hit them all looking for clothes for him. He is also a foodie, so while we were out and about, we visited a restaurant we had been to before. WonderGirl likes steam punk, so we hit garage sales and thrift stores looking for gadgets for her.
  • We walk around a botanical garden.
  • We do arts and crafts. WonderGirl and I like to paint, so we either paint ceramics or canvass while WonderBoy sculpts.
  • Baking--I try to do this with WonderBoy at least once a week. We'd do it more except my jeans have their limits. WonderGirl is always in the kitchen with us. One of the best things I did was bring the kids into the kitchen with me from the time they were little. Love our family kitchen. We also have neighbors who generously take baked products off our hands, too. I love those people.
  • Building something--WonderBoy and I are still trying to figure out a fort with a climbing wall and zipline. I think we can do this.
  • Legos. I invested in a master builder set awhile back, and we take a few hours and build stuff. Sometimes we pull out the tubs of Legos and determine a theme and go with that and build until our fingers hurt.
  • Board Games
  • Kayaking--You can rent or invest in your own. We don't kayak a whole day as a rule, but we will paddle around, watch the sun set, and head home as it gets dark.
  • Archery
  • We like the little festivals. Perfect place for a foodie. Lots of places are doing Oktoberfest right now. Cheap out of the house.
I'm sure there are other things that just aren't coming to mind right now, but you get the idea. We invest our time in each other because we are worth the investment, as individuals and as a family.

What Treasure Day is Not

Treasure Day is not a spectator sport. It is not sitting in the stands or in the audience while your child does something. It is doing it together, talking, learning, and valuing each other.

It's not about perfection. Leave the OCD perfection thing in a shoe box under the bed. The point is perfection. The point is the people you are with, and people are messy. Enjoy the wonder of the mess.

Yeah, But....

By the way, I know what some of you parents are thinking. You think your child is only interested in video games (which we do sometimes, btw) or loud music. Let me take a moment to burst your excuse bubble. If that is really all in this amazing world we live in that your child finds interesting, they haven't been invested in enough, and their world hasn't been enlarged enough. Or maybe, they are just following the lead of those in charge who are only interested in going to work and coming home and escaping into TV or a sports game. If you want them to be interested in something else, give them ideas of something else to be interested in. And maybe try being interested in something else yourself.

We live in a great world. Lots of options for filling Treasure Days. I hope yours is overflowing.


2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved

Treasure Days

My "big" plans for the day...hanging with the Peeps.
Today is one of those rare days we have nothing that HAS to be done.
This is treasure day.
You know what I mean?
The ones God gives you empty so you fill it with treasures of laughter, love, and creating memories that you treasure the rest of your life?

Praying you get a treasure day!

Friday, September 26, 2014

When the World Tells You What You Can't Do and Who you Can't Be...Tell Them God Doesn't Care

That is exactly what the last two weeks have been here.

I've been told why I can't work with soldiers and marines overcoming PTSD.
I've been told why I can't minister to police departments, fire departments, and medical responders.
I've had issues with my book idea for presenting God's healing for PTSD in a fiction form .
I've been told my young adult book is too far outside acceptable realms. The Christian community won't buy into it.
I've been told why this desire of my heart won't work and why I can't be that desire of my heart.

The world and those who have bought into its limitations have done a good job of telling me why I can't do what God has put in my heart to do and why I can't be the person God has put in my heart to be.

Or, maybe they are just telling me what the world has to say about it all. In either case, there are some things I would like to say concerning "the world".

I did not ask the world's permission, and I do not need its invitation.
I do not play by its rules. It bows to the rule of my God.
He goes before me.
He is my rear guard.
His angels encamp around me, and not one weapon formed against me can prosper.
His angels have charge over me, and I will not dash my foot upon a stone.
Not one word of His will fail.
I am more than a conqueror.
I am the daughter of the Almighty King, and I will do what He has called me to do because I will live who He has created me to live.
I refuse to be anything else.

I know some of the rest of you are dealing with similar things. Lots of folks telling you why your grandiose plans won't work, why you can't do this or be that. Well, let me tell you why you can.


Let me remind you of others who were too old, too young, too much of something, and not enough of something else.

In case you have forgotten, Abraham and Sarah were too old to have a baby, but they had one.
David was too young to bring down a giant, but the giant fell at David's feet.
Joshua and Caleb were too optimistic and were going to get every one killed, but they were the only spies who walked into the Promised Land...and called it theirs.
Gideon was a nobody from a tiny tribe, but he brought down an army.

They didn't play by the rules because they knew when God speaks, the world's rules don't apply.

There are folks reading this, and they know the insane plans that have no possible way of working, and they are going to ask, "How?" I don't know. But I know Who.

I know when Joshua stood on that hill overlooking Jericho, he didn't know how either, but he was so sure of his Who that when he turned around and there was this Warrior standing there, Joshua didn't run or even take a step back. He simply asked, "Are you with us, or are you against us?" The answer didn't matter to Joshua because Joshua already knew the end. He just wondered if this was one more dead body he was going to step over on the way.

Sisters and brothers, the world is not going to move over and let us do what God called us to do just because God called us. In fact, we are told by Christ Himself that the powers of the world will stand against us. For some people, that is daunting. For some, it's an excuse not to show up for battle. For some, it's more than they can stand against. For warriors, it's just another body to step over because they know the Promised Land is theirs.

There is no reason to be afraid of dead bodies.

That giant standing in front of you telling you all your limitations is just a dead body that hasn't stopped breathing yet.

That circumstance telling you your dream is impossible is just a dead body whose nervous system hasn't caught up to the fact its dead yet.

That past that tells you how you forfeited your inheritance is just a dead body that is still haunting you.

Step over the dead bodies and move on. 

***Yes, this is the post that was up earlier. I deleted the previous post and edited one sentence. Otherwise, it is the same post.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

All rights reserved

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Sun is Giving Light, and I'm Giving Thanks

Thankful for
...the fabulous Texas weather...
...Scott at Cabela's with his bag of empty shell casings that "I don't know why I've kept all these months". I do. Because God knew WonderGirl would need specific cases for her mech suit, but more than that, she needed to see Him provide them.
...the nice lady at the Walmart I've never been to who directed to me the bread so I could finally find the last thing on my list and leave.
...the wonderful people who helped with math this week. One day I'll blog about it. For now, just...thank you... shoes that do wonders for allowing me to exercise and lose the weight hurting my back while not making my back hurt worse. If you have ever had back problems, you know what I mean.
...forbearance...the process...Holy are breathtaking...

What's on your thanksgiving list this morning?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When You are Fine Trusting Him

Dear Fallon,

Today I wrote a hard email. I wrote a friend concerning a book he suggested I read. It had been powerful to him, and he offered it to WonderGirl...and subsequently, to me. I finished it a few nights ago and was hoping for some profound spiritual...something, and instead, one sentence reverberates through my mind.

"...I'd end up disappointing people and they'd leave me."

Kind of a disturbing thing to remember from a book on learning about St. Francis. Well, it isn't really about St. Francis. It's about this man's journey to Italy...well, really to God that happened to go through Italy and down the road of St. Francis.

And of all the things that have stuck in my head, "I'd end up disappointing people, and they'd leave me."

Of course, things only stick that way for two reasons: 1. It is so absolute opposite of who you are and what you think, or 2. It's right where you are and right in the middle of what you think.

Bet you sort of guessed it is #2.

Then I had this great idea to what the Netflix movie I got in the mail today. Not the one I had expected. "Somehow" my cue got mixed up, and I received "Mother's Night Out." GREAT! I need a good laugh.

I did laugh. Until the main character sat down by Bones at the police station and told how she felt like a failure, like she just couldn't get it right. Then I started to cry.

I totally understand.

There is so much I don't know. I don't know how to raise a young man to be a man. I don't know how to deal with the anger that seems to seep from them at times. I don't know how to do algebra mixture problems. I bought a weed eater I can't use because I can't figure out the oil and gas mixture for it. I don't know what kind of life I'm supposed to be "rebuilding". I thought I did, but all evidence seems to say I was hugely wrong. I don't know how to do...this.

And it's pointless to ask for help because I'm not "soft", so I can figure it out, and I'm not the typical female. I'm undaunted. And God knows there is no room to be weak in any way because if I am...I'll end up disappointing people, and they'll leave. They have left.

So I don't say anything. I don't talk about how hard it is to raise two teenagers on my own or the emotional ocean they live in. I don't talk about the doubts. I don't ever mention the struggles. When people ask, I always say I'm fine.

What if my being fine creates a prison, not just for me, but for the people who feel they have to be fine around me?

But, Fallon, what if I'm not fine? What if my heart aches because I'm trying to find joy in a life I didn't exactly choose? What if I'm confused and unsure about how to raise this man-in-the-becoming? What if I'm just tired of listening to two kids work through the grief...especially the anger? What if I absolute dread math each day? What if I feel like I'm a million miles from fine...but I'm okay with that...because it is part of the process? What if not being fine is part of the pilgrimage, and what if my saying, "I'm not fine," let's someone exhale and say, "Oh, thank God, I'm not fine either?

What if, instead of being disappointed, they were set free?
What if, instead of leaving, they found they aren't alone and they belong here...with the rest of the folks who aren't fine but are praying for a way through it? With the folks with the long list of all the things they don't know so they take it all to the One they do know because the one thing they know is God can handle all of it...all of us...all of me.

And somehow instead of being disgusted by the weakness, He is glorified in it.
And instead of being disappointed, He is undone with compassion.
And instead of leaving, He draws us closer.
And instead of silence, He whispers, "I love you. I've got you. We're going to get through this."

Maybe then, we'd find that we don't have to fear all of what we are not but instead be fine because of all He is?

Choosing to trust,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Finding Beautiful in The Hardest Peace

Dear Fallon,

That Kara Tippetts woman has left me undone. Again.

It's ridiculous really. My reading her blog. I cannot help but cry every single time.

But I keep reading it.

She's beautiful, you know. A deep and amazing beautiful. Her time here is coming to an end, and all she can talk about is how wildly blessed she is in the hardness of the leaving.

And I know I don't see her when she is raging or crumpled or scared. I only see the piece that is beautiful. Not because she hides the other or pretends it doesn't exist. She confesses it. Slaps it right up there on the screen for all to see. It's just...she always comes back to the beautiful.

She always come back to beautiful.


Need to find beautiful in the hard? You can get Kara's book, The Hardest Peace, at now, or it ships from Amazon October 1st.

Living Monday!

It's Monday.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the start of another week. That presumes we all will finish the week, and that  is not guaranteed.
It's Monday.
A day.
ONE day.
It's a day when I get to make a difference.
It's a day I get to choose to engage my world instead of be a victim of it.
It's a day I've been given to live in, not whine about.
I am going to use my Monday, as much of it as the Lord decides to give me, to live all the life out of it I possibly can and maybe in so doing, offer some hope and courage to those who are trying to figure out how to live it, too.

2014 Copyright Jerri Kelley Phillips
All rights reserved

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Death...and Life...on the Cross

Dear Fallon,

I've been thinking about the cross. It isn't what I was taught it was.

I was taught the cross is the burdens I carry in life. My cross is what I give up to be "good" or the hard parts of living a Christian life. It's the hard stuff of being me. It's sort of the Christian's pity party.

Except that's not true.

The cross wasn't Jesus burden. The cross is where Jesus died.

Jesus' burden was humanity and our sins. Those are things He died for, not on.

The cross is where Jesus took those burdens and in essence said, "As a human being, I can't fix this. I can carry this burden, but I can't fix it," and He allowed God Almighty to put Him on a cross where the flesh and all it couldn't do died, so that in the spiritual those things no longer had power, and what the flesh could not fix, the Spirit made perfect.

That is the cross.

The cross is where we take all the things we cannot possibly do in the flesh and die to our fantasy that these human bodies have any ability to make a difference. The cross is where our arrogance of ability is put to death, and we take up the reality that the only power is the one God Almighty wields. And it is there, waiting for us, on the cross, in the sacrifice of Christ.

All things that are humanly impossible are made possible in Him because He is the door--do we get it, Fallon?!--HE IS THE DOOR! He is the place where the limitations of the flesh die and the possibilities of all of heaven explode into this earth.

How can we ever live the crazy amazing life Christ did? Only on the cross.

Because the cross is where the logic and reason of the world has to die. There is nothing reasonable about the cross, but there is something miraculous. The cross is where this world has to bow to the rule of another kingdom.

When we are told to take up our cross daily and follow Christ, it doesn't mean lug around the burdens that we can't possibly fix. It means stand in the place where the world's logic dies and the limitations of this world cease and take up the reality that there is power to change everything, that we are the place where that power resides.

To take up my cross is to say, "I'm alive in Christ. I choose to live Him and be the place a radical God can invade this earth with heavenly power, and I refuse to make excuses and live in the reasonable limitations of my flesh."

To take up my cross means I lay down all the reasons why I can't do what I'm called to do or why that miraculous thing can't happen or why that person's heart will never change.

You know what sin is? Sin is choosing anything besides God. It means that I've believed there are better ways to live and meet my needs than God. It means I chose to live a lie.

The cross is where those sins were forgiven. The cross is where God says, "Let's try this again. You have the option of choosing me."

It takes crazy deep courage to choose a crazy wild God.

As Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we choose God."

Choosing to trust the crazy wild God...
Not even totally sure what that means or what that looks like, but He is what I choose
because I cannot imagine choosing anything else...