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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


I am in Texas.

In fact, I am in the DFW area. Not something I typically post for personal reasons, but today, where I live is pertinent because less than an hour south of me people are getting good looks at the damage and loss wrought by last night's tornadoes. Responders have been out all night in cold rain while the temperatures dropped lower than we've seen in a few weeks and will drop down into freezing with chance of snow and ice tonight.

In West Texas a blizzard is barreling in with drifts expected to be 5-10ft and all kinds of ugly.

East Texas is now dealing with tornadoes.

Central North Texas is dealing with flood conditions and post tornado shock and clean up. At least 11 are dead, and I think more are missing.

Texas is being hit pretty hard right now. This is not a sob story. It's a fact.

Would you please take time over the next week or so to mention the folks here who have lost loved ones and homes as well as the responders who are going to need to heal physically, emotionally, and mentally?

Thank you.

God's blessings to you.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

When the Day After is a Day Right in the Middle Of Christ-mass

Okay, so it is the day after Christmas.
The fridge is packed with leftovers.
The wrapping paper is tossed in the trash.
The kids may or may not already be tired of their toys.
The house may or may not have been mostly reclaimed from the mayhem yesterday.
And all those twinkle lights that lit your heart now look like a big blaring entry on your post Christmas to-do list.
Doesn't quite look like it did yesterday morning, does it?

Except...real Christ-mass does...because the real mass of Christ is not a season, it's life we live and how we live it.

The real celebration isn't a's Christ in us...showing how a dark tree of death is the place where light slammed into the world leaving forever different...offering that difference on a personal level.

May the Christ-mass be more than a day you celebrate...may it be a salvation you live.

God's blessings!
Jerri Kelley

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On Christmas

As I write this, I am cozied up on my couch under a favorite blanket watching MASH Christmas episodes because when Charles' candy for the orphans ends up on the black market, I get teary-eyed, and when they sing Dona Nobis Pacem, I sing, too, in my choked up sort of way.

Tomorrow my brother and my new fur-niece will be here for lunch, and we'll open gifts and play board games and laugh...and it'll be my favorite Christmas ever.

For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, this Christmas feels whole. I feel whole. When I look around the table, I see the amazing people who are here, not the ones who aren't, and my table...and heart...are full.

However, I know many of you are not having your favorite Christmas ever. In fact, some of you are having the Christmas from hell. Instead of a whole Christmas, there is a big gaping hole, maybe a few gaping holes. And while I am awake writing this, you are simply awake.

I want you to know I'm sorry. I'm sorry about the holes, and I'm sorry about the empty chairs, and I'm sorry about the traditions that aren't the same because life isn't the same. I'm sorry you are having to fight through feeling like hell to celebrate the Prince of Heaven, and I'm even sorrier if you aren't fighting at all but just trying to survive any way possible. I understand. And if all you  can do is survive, then survive. Just get through the days.

I also want you to know since the week before Thanksgiving I've been praying for you because I know that an empty chair is an ocean of grief, and I know the comfort of tradition can cut like a knife. And...God in heaven...I know.

So I'm praying for you.

I'm praying for your comfort and for your peace. I'm praying for your healing. And I'm praying you have the courage to get through. I'm praying for your strength. I'm praying...that one day your Christmas won't be like this one.

Until then, I'm praying....

So Why Do We Not Tell the Truth?

My Dear J,

You ask a very good question: why are we afraid to be honest about what is going on in our hearts?

I think there are a few answers.

First, there is the fallen state of humanity. We fear rejection, that people won't understand, and gossips. We fear looking weak and like failures. Pride is an ugly silencer and a silent prison that most people don't realize they live in.

Second, I think it is devalued in the church because of a theology of false holiness. We are part of a culture that focuses on how things look and not on how things really are. As God told Samuel in the Old Testament, "Man looks at the appearance, but God looks at the heart."

We have a church atmosphere that thinks there is some kind of holiness in denial, so they hold up posters of verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and tell us that God has great plans for us but then totally ignores the hard road we must walk to reach those promises, or they toss out Hebrews 11:1 about faith being certain of what we do not see, but then dismiss the pain of the circumstances, broken relationships, and nightmares that we do see.

I have walked both roads: the one that verbally denies the hard so I can look like a woman of faith and the one that spends time daily on my knees before God confessing my struggles in the waiting for the good and the promised, and I am telling you, God is not afraid of honest hearts.

I agree with what Fr. James said in our conversation, and I wish I could remember his exact words because he said it so beautifully. People seem to have this idea that God find humanity repulsive, but in truth, He values it and finds joy in it. After all, He created us in His own image and He did take human form to redeem us. He isn't ashamed of our frailties. Instead, somehow this perfect God finds those frailties beautiful and endearing.

In believing that God finds us repulsive, we have construed that to mean he finds our emotions repulsive, too, and that isn't true. He did not put anything repulsive into us. A perfect God cannot place repulsive elements into His creation. When sin entered the world, emotions became warped as our sense of identity and value was warped, but our perfect God made our emotions to be perfect roads to Him. Hosea tells us He draws us forth with cords of human kindness. That is an emotional response. We are told in Psalm that what a man wants is unfailing love. That is emotion. It is an emotion that led Father God to put Christ on the cross in the first place. Surely it was not a logical choice. Logically speaking, why would anyone die for an enemy that might still hate him anyway? He wouldn't, but a God of great compassion and love would.

God does not fear our emotions because He knows what they really do.

They reveal our need for Him.

When my heart was broken from loss, the Lord did not see a woman void of faith. He saw a daughter in need of comfort and peace that only He could give. My pain was a place for Him to reveal so many facets of His love. I have said it before, and I will say it again: All the horrible pain I endured allowed me to see God in ways I could have never seen Him otherwise, and in Him, I see beauty I had never imagined.

I wonder sometimes if the lack of adoration for the Lord in the church culture is a result of our own rejection of ourselves, our humanity, and our emotions.

If we refuse the truth of our emotions, we refuse to see his love in response to them.

When we refuse to let Him see our deepest heart, how can find see how totally relevant He is to our every need?

I believe it is our effort to show Him how good we are that keeps us from seeing how utterly amazing He is.

When we choose to believe that a better external world will fix our internal reality, we choose to make him irrelevant. His goal was never to fix the world. It was always to reach our hearts, and until we honestly lay our hearts before Him, we will never know how honestly relevant He is.

You asked me, dear friend, how we can be saturated with churches and be so void of God. I think it is a false theology of holiness that tells us to fake it until we make it, except that we are told either we really don't have to make it because God loves us right where we are or we can't be honest about where we are without risk of God not loving us. Really, aren't they saying the same thing? A God who desires holiness has to love you without question because if He chooses to see anything unholy in you He can't possibly love you. Both are a lie.

A holy God can and does love despite our unholy ways, but He loves us enough to lead us to the way of holiness.

Unfortunately, when we refuse to honestly see and embrace who we are, we make it impossible to honestly see and embrace who He is.

In our culture we are taught to be really courageous, but, my friend, if you want to find the real God, I would tell you to be courageously real. He isn't afraid of your honest mess, and you don't need to be afraid of letting Him into your mess.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How Are You?

My Dear J,

I have been thinking about our conversation concerning responses to the question, "How are you?" I could theorize on the theological conditions which lead to the pat Christian-ized answers--I am referring to people replying that they are "blessed", "glorious", "highly favored", and so on. In simple response to your question, though, as to the why people give those answers, I think there is a misunderstanding in the wholeness of people.

The truth is when people say they are blessed, I can only think that is the most inane, obvious answer there is. Of course we are blessed. We are still breathing on planet earth, and no matter what is happening, in God's mercy, He is still blessing a person to create an atmosphere where the person recognizes His hand in his or her life and grows in relationship with Him. To say, "I'm blessed," really speaks more to God's faithful character than our personal condition.

The same is truly for when someone says, "I'm highly favored."

Great. I'm glad you recognize that.

To say, "I'm fantastic," is really nothing more than the declaration of being on an emotional high of some kind.

But when I ask how you are, I am asking about the condition of your heart as it walks through the circumstances of  this world.

One can be blessed and have a crushed heart. One can be highly favored and still battle demons of the past. One can be a on an emotional high and still be spiritually bankrupt.

So when I ask you how you are, I am not asking for the pretty answer. I'm asking for the honest one. I don't expect you to tell me all the sordid details, but if your heart is broken, I want you to know I care about your broken heart.

If your mind is filled with thoughts of your prodigal, you may still be blessed and highly favored, but prodigals sure weigh heavy in a heart.

If you are trying to give up those cigarettes, you can be blessed and highly favored...and agitated and struggling and wondering where your strength is going to come from and...

And you know, being blessed and favored doesn't help much when you are walking in the condemnation of feeling like an idiot for that sexual romp Friday night.

And I don't care how brave your face is when you tell me you are trusting God, if your eyes are bloodshot from crying all night because your marriage is going to hell in a hand basket and you don't know how you are going to handle it.

And honestly, God is not impressed by brave faces, but He will move heaven and earth...or leave heaven for respond to the honest needs of an honest heart.

That is how He is.

How are you?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sometimes When God is Silent He is Speaking Loud and Clear

It's been nearly five years since the full-blown rebuilding started. As I told my friend John during Thanksgiving, this is the first holiday season I have not felt like part of me was missing. For the first time since it all started, I feel whole.

And the rebuilding has shifted.

I didn't realize that for the first few years, really up until just the last few months, "rebuilding" was simply get out of the rubble and finding a way to breathe that wasn't still inhaling the dust of decaying skeletons or the debris of shattered dreams. I didn't realize the significant difference between rebuilding myself and rebuilding my life. I naively thought they were the same thing.

They aren't.

Many people rebuild lives. They move to new places, get new jobs, even find new relationships. That is not the same as rebuilding oneself. Rebuilding oneself is hard work that requires a total restoration of soul, not just a change of circumstance.

I thought I was doing both, and to some extent, I think I was. I was at least gathering pieces, but lately, I have found myself pushing more and more for rebuilding life. Doing that, I've been sorting through the pieces, figuring out what stays and what was a good lifeboat at a time, and seeing how it could all fit together.

As some of you know, I have had the privilege of working with men and women who have suffered various forms of PTSD, trauma, and loss. Unlike the VA or most of the population it seems, I do not believe the answer is medication for the rest of a person's life. I do not agree that "successful treatment" means a person has not killed him-/herself or someone else that day. I have read the Bible. I have read the Jesus came so people can have abundant life, and 10-15 prescriptions taken at varying times each day is not abundant life. I believe God has the power and intention to heal minds and souls, except psychology only deals with the minds. They aren't finding solutions because they aren't addressing the souls.

I want to address the souls.

I want to see these men and women restored to the people God created them to be, and I know they can be. I have been, and I do not believe what God gave me is just for "special people". I believe He is willing to give it to anyone who is willing to seek Him.

There is a problem. I am not a combat vet, so reasonably, soldiers and marines aren't going to feel I will understand.  I get that. I get that in their minds, I don't have the credentials to be useful. I thought the Lord had provided a partner to work with, but that is up in the air. In the meantime, I've been praying about master's programs where I could combine psychology with seminary. I have checked into a variety of programs, and each one was a brick wall. Finally, I stopped and was simply silent. Sometimes God speaks pretty loud in the silence.

When my thoughts had grown quiet, I began to think a simple thing: "The silence is an answer. I'm not directing you to a program because a program isn't where I want you. Your gift is not psychology. You don't understand people because of a degree in psychology. You understand them because My Spirit tells you about them. Your gift is your ability to hear Me. Your gift is hearing Me and being the place where I can speak to others. I will be your credentials. I will be everything."

Of course, that could be arrogance. I've known people who think like that, and it isn't pretty. I really don't want to be one of them, so I prayed for the Lord to speak clearly in some oddball way that can't be missed. In fact, I prayed this all the way to mass and while I prepared my heart for worship last night.

Our scriptures were from Zephaniah and Matthew. Both talked about the rebellion of Israel and their inability or unwillingness to obey God. Pretty straightforward stuff. Except, Fr. James pulled the two together in a fascinating way. He didn't talk about rebellion or disobedience. Instead, he talked about hearing God, and in his list of ways we need to hear God, he said:
"We need to learn to hear God, even in the silence." 

And in that statement, the silence spoke volumes.

In His silence, God was not ignoring me, deeming my prayers unimportant, or refusing an answer. His answer was loud and clear. "You are asking for a program of study. There isn't one. I have nothing to say on the matter."

And when God has nothing to say on the matter, there is silence.

Often we take the silence as the lack of an answer, but in truth, the silence is the answer.

We pray for God to give us direction to another job, one that is not so hard, and we get silence. We think He is ignoring us. In truth, He is telling us we are where we need to be. Perhaps instead of praying for Him to bless our comfort, we should ask how He wants to build our character.

We pray for direction out of the desert, and our prayers spread across the sand. We think God is being distant but perhaps He really wants us undistracted so we can learn His presence.

The silence isn't His refusal to speak but rather His loud and clear invitation to still ourselves in Him and recline against His breast and learn His heartbeat.

And when we get still enough and quiet enough to hear His heartbeat, we find the silence is filled with the sound of Him.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas is about THE Gift, Not Their Gifts

Christmas is slipping in, and the frenzy is picking up pace. Kids are getting excited about gifts, and adults are trying to keep up the time demands of extra activities and wondering how to manage it all...or at least how to keep it all from totally managing them.

Can I make a suggestion?

Stop. Just stop.

Take a breath. Pick an afternoon and evening and whatever is on there (except church) erase it. Make an excuse. Don't show. Stay home with the people who matter.

You know, Christmas is supposed to be about a baby in a manger. The big deal in the story isn't the magi bearing gifts, but the Gift building relationships. We talk about keeping Christ in Christmas, but I don't think most people even know what that means. It's more than lighting an Advent candle or reading a Bible story or attending a church service Christmas Eve. It's more than giving toys or food to others in need, although that is a great gift to give. Christ is about relationship. It's about a God who knew the only way to get people connected with Him was to go right into where they were.

Keeping Christ in Christmas means we work on relationships, too, maybe even some that are really hard.

Maybe instead of doing what we've always done, we do what someone else needs us to do.
Maybe instead of making excuses, we make a phone call.

 Instead of giving a wrapped up box, we give ourselves.
You know, like Christ did.

May you realize the gift some people really want and need is you, and may you have the courage to be the gift.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

God Help Us

This morning some folks are saying the hard part of the week is finished, and for some it is, but for some the hard part still waits after Friday when the busy stops and the house is quiet and the silence screams loud and drowning, and the dread of meals alone and football alone and the big gaping hole from what life used to be...what it used to be filled with is heavy. I know it's a nightmare, and you're wondering how you are going to get through...and maybe if you really want to get through...and really, if we are just being God-honest here, you really don't want to get through.

I know hell is not a place reserved for eternity. Hell is a place that sits down at the kitchen table where love used to sit, and it crawls in bed with you at night when you slide your toe over and there is no one to touch, and sometimes the death of a marriage is as killing as the death of a spouse...and  the death of a child...God help us....

And that is what I'm praying as the Spirit leads me to sit with you on this Thursday with the weekend coming...with another evening coming...God help us.

God help us find you in the dark.
Help us find each other and be the hands that hold on.
Help us see that this is not a destination but a horrible place of passing through.
Help us trust you to hold on to us when we are so weary, so pain-riddled, so hopeless that we can't hold on.
Help us to believe there is life after this loss.
Help us to see the life that is still in you.
Help us to receive the love from others and to reach out and blatantly, courageously grab someone else' hand and hold on for dear life, not because we are failing but because we recognize we are fragile.
Help us not to deny our need but to let you show us your way of meeting that need. God help us.
In this dark place, help us. When we know nothing else to pray because the loss an the pain have sucked out all the words...God help us.

Praying for you. Praying for you to have strength to hold on today, and if you can't hold for the whole day, for you to have the strength to hold on for just five more minutes from where you are.

God's heart and my prayers are with you.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Because Days "Until" Sometimes Trumps "Days Down"

So, it's Wednesday. Two days down this week, but some of you aren't thinking about that. Some of you are thinking about what is coming 14, 15, maybe 16 days from now, and you are wondering how you are going to face the what waiting for you there. Instead of being hit by a train, it may feel like your whole train has gone right off the track into a giant chasm. Really, if you feel that way, it's okay. Sometimes it really does feel that way. And I am already there, praying you through it, and the Lord is already there waiting to catch you. You aren't in this alone. The Lord and I are with you every day now until beyond then because Christmas isn't just a day. It's a season, and sometimes, it is a hard one.

With all my prayers for your comfort and peace...

Monday, December 7, 2015

In Case Monday has You Wondering

So, it's Monday, and you may be wondering why you are here and why you bother. Well, you are here because you are an answer to someone's prayer. It may feel like you aren't, but you are. As for why you should keep trying, God simply isn't finished with you yet. He still has a purpose for you, and that purpose means making a difference IN you and making a difference WITH you. I'm praying for your courage and hope to be uplifted today. I'm asking for Him to speak specifically in words YOU understand--whether that be a book, a verse, music, a gift (like seeing something out of the ordinary that mans something special to you)--to show you He is with you and to help you find the path you need to walk to be all you are created to be.

God be with you and may your walk with Him grow stronger and clearer.

And, hey, thank you for being here. Really.

Jerri Kelley

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What I Feel I Need to Share Today

This morning as I sat here staring at my screen praying and asking if there is anything I could say that might may the remotest difference, I saw someone sitting in church needing to be found. I saw someone sitting on the back row with tears sliding down her cheeks. I saw a man sitting stoically with the weight of the world crushing him, wondering if God cared or if he was in this alone like he thought he was...but hoped he wasn't. I saw someone sitting in her car trying to find the courage to believe that "maybe this time" just one more time. And all of those people left wondering why they bothered.

I asked Him to show me His heart, so I could share it, and this is what He gave me.

If you are one of those people, I want you to know God sees your broken heart. He knows the weight you are carrying. He knows you are trying to be brave...either in the staying...or the leaving. You are not forgotten. You are not in this alone. The answers may not be instantaneous, but they are in Him. He loves you. Your prayers are not falling on deaf ears. He hears you, and He is working on your behalf.

For some of you, you need to ask how you are part of the problem so you can repent and quit.

But for some of you with the crushed heart who never expected to be "here", He knows. He grieves with you, and, yes, the road to healing is hard, but if you keep giving Him your weakness, He'll keep giving you His strength. Trust Him to heal you, even if it takes time.

I also feel there is someone praying for a prodigal and you are wondering a lot of things. You wonder if all you've taught them has fallen to nothing. Not all prodigals come home and you wonder if yours is one that is too far. You wonder if you had done things differently if things would be different. Put down the guilt, real or indulged emotion. Confess it and move on. I feel like the Lord is saying to keep praying and have joy knowing in His time, He will have the prodigal's heart. But quit nagging. That doesn't help. Your prayers will open the door for the Spirit to invade the prodigal's world.
May the Lord our God be with you today to meet every need, to lead you in the way of righteousness, and to give you strength to live holy and pure lives.

--Jerri Kelley--

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sopapilla Cheesecake

Nope. No joke here. This is one of my favorite desserts, and so easy to make. Our friends The Jordans invited us over for lunch one day and shared this wondrous piece of sugar decadence. We've loved it since.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 (8 oz) packages sour cream
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 (8oz) cans of refrigerated crescent rolls
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350.
Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray

Beat the cream cheese with the 1 cup sugar and vanilla until smooth

Unroll the crescent rolls and use a rolling pin to shape it into a 9x13 rectangle (sometimes I just my fingers to flatten it and move it around).
Press one piece into the bottom of the pan.
Evenly spread the sugar and cream cheese mixture over that.
Cover it with the second piece of crescent dough.
Mix together your 3/4 c sugar, cinnamon, and butter (for those who don't know, if you cut the butter into small pieces, it mixes easier).
Drop the new mixture by dotted spoonful onto the top layer of crescent rolls. (It really smoozes all over the place by itself).

Bake in the over until the dough has puffed and turned golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Take it out of the over and drizzle it with your honey. Let it cool completely, otherwise it smoozes all over the place. I confess, though. Ours never "cool completely" because it is SO GOOD when it is warm, but I do let it cool so it is solid and stable.

The recipe says you can cut it into 12 inch squares. Do what works for you, but know, this is serious sugar, so you might to start small and work yourself into a sugar sickness. Just a thought.

Hope you enjoy!

Dancing The Rumb-Ball

Okay, so the pun is bad, but the rum balls are good.

Rum Ball
2 pounds of powdered sugar
1 stick of butter
8 T rum (or to taste)
Nuts (optional)
chocolate chips or chocolate squares

Put everything into a bowl and mix it up.
When you finger test the mix and it is as rummy as you like, put it in the fridge to let it chill.
Once it is chilled, make it into 1 inch balls. (chill them again because the butter gets them soft again)
While they are chilling the second time, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.
Put wax paper down on a cookie sheet or on the counter. I tend to put them on a cookie sheet so I can put them back in the fridge and cool them faster.
Once the chocolate is melted, quickly dip the balls into the chocolate, take them out, and sit them on the wax paper where they cool.
Like I said, I pop mine back in the fridge for a bit because the butter can go soft at room temp, especially with the warmth from the chocolate. Once it is cooled, they stabilize well.

Hope you enjoy!

Having a Sausage Ball!

I love  the holidays for the simple reason I love to bake and cook certain foods. Today I am doing a bit of cooking for our volunteer fire department. Nothing fancy, but I thought I'd share some recipes in case anyone wants some ideas.

Sausage Balls
 5 lbs sausage
3 c Bisquick
4 c Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 325.

Use parchment paper to cover baking sheets.
Dump everything into a bowl and squish it with your hands until it is all a squishing mush.
Make 1-1 1/2 in balls and place them 2 or so inches apart on the prepared sheet.
Bake 18 minutes.

Mine come out with a crunchy outside. If you want a softer outside, dropped the temp a bit and cook a bit longer.

Makes about 5 dozen, depending on the size of the ball.


Monday, November 16, 2015

I'll Pray for You When Life is Hard, But You Need to Know...

I need you to know something.

When my kids were little, their dad and I bought them the toys for older kids. We read them the books that were "above their age level". We always gave them room to do more than they could. Sometimes that was hard. For them and us. Sometimes they screamed and cried with frustration. Sometimes I did. At least until they got it. We weren't cruel. We were parents who expected our kids to grow, develop, and mature. We expected them to eventually get it, whatever it was. We didn't take things away because they were hard. We waited because we knew our kids would rise to the challenge. They always did.

People contact me often to ask me to pray for God to remove the latest challenge dumped into their lap. Usually, that is something at work. Sometimes it is a relationship they cannot escape. A lot of time it is a life event that is just hard. I need you to know. YOU need to know. If you contact me and ask me to pray you out of those things, I won't.
I will pray for you to mature.
I will pray for you to grow in strength, character, and faith.
I will pray for you to have the mind of Christ to see it how you need to see it and to see your self as you need to see yourself.
I will pray for God to show you how you are the problem. I will pray for you to change so that you can overcome whatever it is.
I will pray for you to become more like Christ, but I will not enable you to stay stunted in your Christian walk by praying away your chance to grow. As a pastor, as a friend, as a sister in Christ, I cannot in good conscience do that. BUT, while you are growing, I'm with you. My heart and prayers are constantly for you.

I realize a lot of you will never want me to pray for you again. I understand. I've been there, but if you do, I'm here.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's Not Really About Sex...But It Is

In July 2014, I received the call no woman wants to receive. “We need to see you back in two days so we can get a better idea of what this is.”

When I got off the phone, I did some drill sergeant self-talk via texting a friend of mine. As soon as he was off work, he called. “So what happened? You’re obviously not okay.”

“They found two spots on my mammogram.” Saying the words nearly knocked me to my knees.

He didn’t miss a beat. “So are they in one boob? One in each boob? Just how many boobs are involved here, Jerri?”

I burst out laughing. “Just one.”

“Okay, so you get a boob job done on the other one, and you’ll have the same size boobs. Of course, then men will know they are fake because no woman naturally has the same size boobs.”

I had to laugh again. “Really? You’re already thinking the worst?”

“Same size boobs? I mean, if the worst thing that happens is you get the same size boobs, is that so bad?”

I laughed again, and then silence settled between us, and he became very serious. “Jerri, my point is it’s a boob. It isn’t the core of who you are.”

He was right, and I was (and still am) infinitely thankful for the way he handled it, the things he said, and the things he didn’t have to say.

“Jerri, you are not your body or a piece of your body, and whatever happens, you are still fine.”

Except, it didn’t feel fine.

At first, I was just pissed. We had gone through so much, and I finally felt like we might be coming out the other side of the devastation. Surely God would not throw cancer in the mix. Except He might. And hadn’t we endured enough? But then, there are people who endure far worse and far more. Frankly, I think cancer is more than anyone should endure, but I don’t know why some people get such heavy loads and some folks don’t and…oh, holy God…

Then I wondered how the kids and I would handle things if I had cancer. How would we handle the treatments, doctors, and everything else?

And what if all the worst things happened and I died? My kids would be orphans. Could I at least fight through a year until my daughter turned 18 and could take guardianship of my son? Would I have to figure out guardianship?

That night I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my post-babies, middle age body with its stretch marks and all the insecurities I already had as a single woman wondering if any man would ever find me attractive again, and what happened if I had to have a breast removed? Would a man want me then? Shallow? Maybe, but it’s honest. I wondered how it would affect my sex life…or if I’d even have another one. I wondered how it would affect my enjoyment of sex and if I could ever really be comfortable naked in front of a man again. I wondered what a lot of people wonder that no one ever talks about.

My friend was right. It is just a boob. Except, it’s not. No, the core of me wouldn’t change, but the effect…it would hit every part of me, and I wondered how my life would change—my family life, my social life, my personal life…the way I saw myself, the way others saw me. And I wondered if it everything would change beyond my ability to be okay again.

I don’t know.

As it turned out, the 3D mammogram showed nothing to worry about, and life went on as usual.

So, why am I telling you this? Because even though there was no cancer, it changed some things for me. It changed the way I see getting tested. I understand why women avoid their mammograms, and I don’t think it is so much because of the 50-second super snug boob hug. I think it is the same reason men avoid getting tested for things like testicular cancer.

Because while it is just a boob or just a "ball", it isn’t. Our sexuality is involved, and that is part of our core, and honestly, the idea of losing that is scary as hell. Some folks may think that is shallow, but it’s human.

So what great words of comfort do I have? It’s life. Do what you need to do. Get the test done.

Yes, it’s awkward. No one likes it, but really, it only takes seconds. You’ll spend more time dreading it than actually having the test. In fact, you’ll spend more time on paperwork than getting the test.

I could throw out a slew of statistics to you, but if you are me, those things make you hide in a shell. So, let’s be realistic. A test may find something. If it does, you have to deal with it, but the earlier you start dealing with it, the better your chance of survival, and testicular cancer has a great long term survival rate. But let’s get to the real issue. Sex.

Understandably, men are afraid if they lose one or both testicles, they will be unable to have sex. Good news. That is not true. I’ve done a lot of reading on this for you (because really, who just random reads about these things until we have to?), and if only one testicle is removed, sex should go on as usual. If both are removed, there will be need for hormone replacement therapy, and since there will be no sperm, infertility is an issue, but, you can always save some in a sperm bank. I know. That sounds "weird", but honestly, what an awesome option! And, yeah, I know, there's the deposit thing, but if you get created, that can be a fun adventure, too. Before anyone hyperventilates with the thought of any of the above, let's get back to the real point.
You can still be awesome in bed even if you have to deal with testicular cancer!
Now you may wonder what a woman will think if in the course of playing around, she notices things are a bit different there. I’ll tell you the truth. I’ve never been a woman on that side of things, but, gentlemen, I like to think if I had lost my breast, the man who loves me wouldn’t see a missing breast, but the woman he loves. I would hope he would see me, and I would hope he would be patient as I learned how to see me again, too. I think a woman who loves you is going to see you, and whatever feelings or fears you have, she’ll understand and work through them with you because she will realize you lost a testicle but she didn’t lose you, and that is what matters. Really. That is what honestly matters. YOU are what honestly matters.

To get educated, visit

Now, you may be wondering what led to this post and these thoughts. Well, honestly, an out of the blue email from a man's underwear company asking me if I had considered writing about testicular cancer (and, no, he didn't think I am a man because of my name). Tommy John emailed and asked if I would consider spreading the word about testicular cancer, testing, treatment, and the plan to live a long life. He also said, “I’ll even throw in a deal.”
How is Tommy John helping?
  • We are giving 5% of all sales coming from our limited edition “Mustache and Ball” collection
  • We are contributing $10 for each purchase made by new customers who were referred by someone else
  • We are donating $1 for each entry in our Instagram contest up to $1,000 (more on that below)

What’s in it for your readers?

“Share a pair win a pair” Instagram contest.
To enter, take a picture of any pair of round objects, and tag them on instagram #SupportYourBalls, and follow @TommyJohnWear and @TesticularCancerFoundation for a chance to win a pair of men’s underwear from Tommy John.

I thought he had a good idea.

So, men, get checked. Is it a bit scary? Yeah, but man up and get your pair checked and keep them safe.


Monday, November 2, 2015

When You Can't Do Another Sunday

"I hate Sundays. I can't do another one. I don't know what you can do about it, but really, God, I cannot do another Sunday."

I sobbed out the words as I lay across my bed.

For the previous two months I had been attending mass in hopes of finding some solace and some recognition of holy. I never expected to become Catholic. I didn't expect to convert anyone from Catholicism. I was simply tired of the loud music and the entertainment mindset that seemed to run the churches we had attended the last five years. They were so busy trying to be relevant to the culture that they had become irreverent in their idea of righteousness, so for two months I attended mass where the quiet was solace and the reverence made sense. Then someone referred to me as an outsider, and maybe he meant it as a joke, but he was right. I was an outsider, and I was done.

I wasn't looking for the perfect sermon or the perfect theology or the perfect church. I am not naïve enough to believe such things exist. I was looking for a home, for a place where we could do life with folks, a place where we love the people there and they love us back, a place where we really belong. And I was done looking.

The truth is Sundays have been hard since my husband left and my mom died. I was raised that Sundays are about family, and when I was little, we always went to my grandparents' after church for a big meal. When I got married, my husband and I would go to church and come home, eat pizza or burgers, watch sports, take a nap, go to small group if it was that night, and end the day watching a movie together. When the kids came along, we modified, but Sundays were always about our family and the people we knew at church who joined us for lunch or dinner or attended the small group we were in. Sundays were a type of anchor, a place to belong. No matter what happened during the weekend, Sunday was coming, and you were always safe and always wanted there.

That was long gone.

My parents have both passed on. My marriage ended, and despite trying, the kids and I have not found a church where we feel like family. I've yet to find a small group for singles (and I just cannot do a women's group that focuses on being a better wife or better mother of small kids or a couple's group that focuses on marriage). The kids didn't make friends in the youth. We tried. Invited folks over, offered to host a bonfire and cookout, opened our doors to adult or youth Bible studies but were always told no, and...after five years I finally quit trying, stared into the early morning darkness, and told God I was done. I was done believing in the fairy tale that people with no place to belong could find one if they really tried. I was done believing that I could rebuild the life I really wanted, which included a family beyond the kids and me, even if it wasn't a biological one. I was done. And I was done with Sunday.

And I prayed the craziest prayer. I told the Lord I didn't expect Him to send the cavalry or for anyone to show up at my door. I didn't really expect anything, but my heart was crushed, and He was the only one I knew to really tell, and honestly, I needed Him to do something about Sundays.

The funny thing about God is I pray crazy prayers and He sends crazy answers.

That night my friend Parker called, and I ended up crying into the phone and telling her about Sundays and how hard they are and how I miss my parents, especially my mom, right now, and she said the absolute stupidest thing. She said, "Jerri, you know the weird thing about journeys? They lead you to the most unexpected places."

I was silent because I had no clue what that had to do with anything until she said, "Like my journey. I thought my journey was just to go home, but no. Instead, it has lead me right to the door of this lady's house in the middle of nowhere. Well, not really 'nowhere' but way out of my way."

Then it hit me, "Parker, are you at my door?"

She started to laugh and said, "Yeah, so get off the phone and let me in."

We stood in the doorway while we hugged and I cried. Sometimes God really does send someone right to your door. Sometimes He sends someone who lives two hours away to drive an extra two hours out of the way from her road trip because you need the cavalry.

She ended up staying late, and she told me about her church where she had moved in August. The one that gave her the refrigerator, that offered to help her move, that offered furniture when she was ready, that had adopted her and taken her in as family. I wasn't jealous. I am truly happy for her, but I told the Lord honestly, I would love to experience a church like that. But it is two hours away, and I felt awkward about just showing up, but if Parker ever invited me, I was going to make the drive.

When Parker left last Sunday, the core issue wasn't better, but it really did feel wondrous to know God cared so much that He sent someone on a major detour to plop them at my front door.

This week I prayed about a church, and the kids and I decided to visit one in the area. There were two that caught my eye, both of which had active youth and young adults, and while their women's groups are all about marriage, mothering, and Beth Moore, I was willing to give them a chance.

Then the annoying trick or treat-er came by.

Our porch light was off, a sign we didn't have candy, but they rang the doorbell anyway. We ignored. They rang it again. We ignored. Then they started knocking. Then they started playing with the door handle. That is when I marched to the door, demanded to know who it was, and looked out the peephole. There stood Parker, not in Halloween attire, just standing there on my front porch smiling big.

When I opened the door and asked why she was there, she said, "Because I'm supposed to invite you to church tomorrow."

Yes. She had again driven a few hours to show up at my door. And she was inviting the kids and me to church.

How does one say no to that?

So this morning as the sky started to light up, we piled into the truck and headed to church...two hours away.

We arrived in time for Sunday School, and the lesson was week two of the series, "What It Means to Be a Christian". Last week was on repentance, real repentance, not just showing up at church or saying we are sorry because we are afraid we won't get what we want if we don't, but honest to goodness, realize you are wrong and start following Jesus repentance. This week was about good works because if someone repents, they act like it.

Then there was a time of fellowship with coffee and yummies and a whole lot of talking and hugs and sit and get to know you. My daughter said she couldn't remember the last time she felt so wholly welcome at a church. Me either.

When that was finished, we moved to the sanctuary where we took a seat and were handed a bulletin, and I froze. The verse the Lord has been putting in front of me repeatedly this week graced the front of the bulletin.
I had asked the Lord what delighting in Him looks like. What does really enjoying Him mean?

Then at one point during the week I realized the greatest desire of my heart was simply to delight Him. I know it sounds so Christian-ese, and I can't say that is always my greatest desire, but this week it has been, and I wondered, "In what do you take delight?" I studied different things this week, and I had a better idea of what the verse meant. When He placed the verse in front of me again, I had to smile.

The service as nearly two hours long. Yes. Nearly two hours, and it was a wonderful two hours. We sang beautiful songs of worship. We prayed. We read the Word as a congregation. We worshipped--really worshipped, not just sang and clapped our hands or jumped up and down and waved our arms to really loud music from a band--and prayed some more. The sermon was about cheap seats and the cost of Christ.

The entire experience was beautiful and worshipful, and it felt holy. If you've ever felt holy, you know what I mean. If you haven't, I would have had you there today.

My favorite part, though, was communion. The pastor said, "It's the Lord's table, not a Methodist table, but before we share in the sacrament, we are going to take a moment because you don't want to take this if you aren't worthy and therefore bring judgment on yourself, so seek the Holy Spirit and ask Him if you are worthy. If you aren't, pray and get things right."

How many pastors actually talk about righteousness as a way of living and worthiness to partake of Christ?

Then when we were served the sacrament, we were given the bread and the wine and offered time at the altar to pray before we ate and drank. I had to wait because the altar was filled with people praying with bread and wine in hand.

The most overwhelming part to me, though, was the richness of God's pleasure and enjoyment that I felt. I could feel Him enjoying the service, enjoying these people.  I could feel His delight that filled the worship, not just the emotional music time but worship in the form of reverence and holiness of the whole service. I just sat and took it in--took HIM in.

After the service, I went to the pastor to tell him how much I had enjoyed today, which I couldn't really do because I really had no words, and he hugged me and said to come back any time. We started to turn our different ways when he turned around, touched my arm, and looked at me with sparkling eyes. "Love you."

And I knew. It wasn't the pastor speaking those words. It was the Lord speaking those words. His love dripped heavy in the gift of that church to me and my family.

After church, we headed over to Parker's where we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken on a picnic blanket on the floor because she still doesn't have her furniture moved and drank sweet tea out of crystal glasses. Then the kids went upstairs to play while Parker and I lay on the floor and talked about all kinds of things the Lord was doing and revealing to us, and we worshipped right there on the tile, and it was good worship.

Then, the kids and I drove the two hours home and talked about the perfect Sunday, the wonder of being welcome, the conviction of righteousness, and the beauty of it all. Even my teenage daughter said, "Mom, it was worth the way early wakeup for this."

Yes. Yes, it was, and while it is too far away to be our church home, it gave hope to my heart, a heart that wasn't just done with Sunday. It was done with hoping. It was done with believing the fairy tale. It was simply done.

But God...God is crazy in the ways He lets you know He's not done, and He wraps up these incredible gifts in packages that look like a Methodist church two hours away with invitations that look like an unexpected guest at the front door of your house, and He puts right in front of you the very thing you think doesn't even exist so you again believe He can do the crazy and all things are possible and in all of it, the most amazing part of it, is when He stops, looks you right in the eyes, and says,
"Love you."

And, today I feel so wildly loved.

Today is an amazing Sunday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Believing in Jesus versus Being Born Again

"Have you been born again?"

The woman sitting across from me looks confused.

"I just told you I am a believer."

"Satan is a believer, but he's not going to heaven. If you want to get to heaven, you have to be born again."

She stares at me as though I have three heads.

"What do you mean by 'born again'? I've never even heard that."

I take a deep breath. This is a woman who has been in church for years. She attends faithfully. She tithes. She volunteers. She is a good church going believer. And she has no clue what being "born again" means.

Sadly, I find this very typical among "believers". Like this woman, they believe in God. They believe in Jesus. They believe He came and He loves them and everything was taken care of at the cross.

But that is not being born again.

In John 3, Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being born again, and Nicodemus doesn't get it. He can't figure out how to crawl back into his mother's body. Jesus shakes His head.

He tells Nicodemus what is born of flesh acts like the flesh, but what is born in the spirit acts accordingly. In simple words, if something is born as a bird, it should act like a bird. If it is born a turtle, it should act like a turtle. A giraffe should act like a giraffe. You get the point.

Jesus is saying, "Unless you are born again--unless you die to the sinful life you've been living and live according to the Truth of the Spirit--you will not enter into heaven."

I hear some of you protesting, "But, Jerri, I believe."

James tells us the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19), but I can give you my word there will not be one demon in heaven.
The demons know Christ is the Son of God.
They know He was born to Mary.
They know He lived the perfect life.
They know He died on the cross for the sacrifice of sins.
They know He rose again defeating death.
They know all of those things, and yet, they are still going to hell.


Because they chose their way and not God's way.

There were kicked out of heaven because they didn't want to worship God. They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and He let them. Because of their choice, they will spend eternity in hell.

If He is willing to kick heavenly beings out of heaven, do you think He won't keep mud-made humans who choose their way over worshipping and serving Him out of heaven even if they "believe"?

Hitler believed in Jesus.
Pontius Pilate believed in Jesus.
The Roman soldiers believed in Jesus.
Judas Iscariot not only believed in Jesus but knew who He was, and yet, because he chose to do things his way instead of submitting to the lordship of Christ, he was bound for destruction.

So if belief isn't enough for salvation, what is?

Jesus came to save us from our sins. If He is going to save you from your sins, do you really think He is okay with your continuing to live in them?

This whole idea that Jesus came to save us for eternity has become so skewed. Yes, He did come to save us for eternity, but eternity does not start when you die. Eternity started with Him before this earth was ever created. Eternity is here and now, and Jesus wants to save you from your sins here and now.

Repeatedly He told people, "Go and sin no more."

I know. Pastors like to talk about grace and how God loves you even if you sin and He knows you won't be perfect. But JESUS--you know, the one sent to die for you in the first place--says, "Go and sin no more." Obviously, He thinks a sinless life is attainable, or at least something we should desire to live.

Again, I hear protests, "Jerri, I'm not perfect. Are you perfect?"

Nope. I'm not. I'm not a perfect friend either, but I want to be. I'm not a perfect mom, but I pray and seek to be. When the Lord allows me to marry again, I won't be a perfect wife, but I want to be.

And there is the real issue. I'm not a perfect Christian, but I want to be. I want to love like Jesus, and when I don't, I repent--acknowledge that He is right and I'm wrong--and ask Him to help me change. When I don't serve well, I repent and ask Him to help me be more like Him. When I get angry without cause, I ask Him to forgive me, ask Him to help me humble myself and set things right with that person, and pray to see with His eyes.

Being someone's friend doesn't give me the right to act any way I want toward that person.
Being a mom doesn't give me the right to treat my kids anyway that fits my mood.
Being a wife doesn't allow me to have multiple lovers because my husband said he wouldn't leave.

Being those things is saying, "I know this relationship has responsibility, and I'm willing to take that responsibility, live accordingly, and value deeply."

I don't become those things for what I get out of them. I become those things because I want to be part of them.

I don't become a Christian because of what I get out of it. I become a Christian because I want to become part of Christ, and I want Him to become part of me.

I know people who believe in friendship but are lousy friends. Everyone I know believes folks come from a momma and a daddy, but that doesn't mean they are willing to be parents. I know people who believe in an idea...but they don't want the responsibility of it.

People seem to think they can believe in Christ, like the idea of eternity, and go to heaven without ever taken any responsibility for the relationship. That simply isn't true.

Birds, turtles, and giraffes are just what they are. They don't have a choice, but being born again, is a choice.

Being born again isn't a packaged prayer you pray.
Being born again means... know Jesus came, died, and served as the sacrifice for your sins. know you are a sinner and need to be saved (amazing how this part gets left out so often)
...the only way to heaven is putting your faith in Christ as Savior and placing Him in charge of your life as Lord.

Pastors use phrases like "He paid for your sin." Yeah. He bought you. Satan had every right to you because you were sinful, but when Jesus paid with His blood, He offered you the invitation to let Him pay your debt so you could be free. The thing is, you aren't just emancipated so you can go right on living like you were without consequence. You've been bought. You belong to Jesus, and believe it or not, He expects you to act like it. He saved you, and that gives Him the right to be Lord. You don't get one without the other.

For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
--Ephesians 5:8
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 
--1 Peter 1

Do you believe in Christ? So do the demons.
But they are going to hell because they neither receive Him as Savior or worship Him as Lord.
Do you?

Living the CHRIST-ian Life

Christ was not Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Methodist, Charismatic, Non-denominational, inter-denominational, LDS, or even Jewish according to the leaders at that time.
He was God in the body of a person.
He was Christ.
If we really want to live a CHRISTian life, we have to live like HIM, not a doctrine.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Expectations of a Monday

This morning I was watching the sunrise from my patio, like I do a LOT, and as I huddled in my blanket and stared at the horizon, the oddest question came to mind in a "voice" I have come to know as the Lord's. "Why do you do this?"

"Because the sun is going to come up over in that area (I pointed), and I want to see it."

"So you expect the sun to come up?"

"I know the sun will come up." (unless there is some major end of world thing)

"Do you pray to me with the same expectation of answers
that you have about the sun coming up?"

It's going to be a fascinating week.

Happy Monday, y'all. I hope you expect it to be amazing because an amazing God is right in the middle of it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Of God and Mosquitoes

As I sit here tonight, my black washcloth sits within reach of my hand. I don't even have to move my arm, just turn my wrist, and grab it. It's my weapon of choice.

About two weeks ago, war was declared on our home. From who knows where, an army of mosquitoes filled our house. They kids' bathroom was swarmed. The kitchen became a place to feast...only not for us but ON us. In the living room, turn on the fan, they said. It'll make them go away, they said. They lied. I have no clue how many nights in a row I woke up with bites on my hands, arms, shoulders, and face. If skin was left uncovered, it was considered a buffet.

Night after night, I prayed for God to make the mosquitoes go away. I even reminded Him of HIS Word because Psalm 91 says no plague will come near those who love Him. And, yet, we were plagued.

Two nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night scratching sores into my skin from the myriad of bites, and I lost it.

Really? You can open a sea for people to walk across on dry land. Surely you can handle some mosquitoes! This isn't Corrie Tin Boom needing the soldiers to stay out of their building so you send fleas. No one is here but us. No one is coming here but us. These mosquitoes serve NO PURPOSE! Can you PLEA-EA-EASE do SOMETHING-ING?!

Okay, so between you and me, that last question came out as a grating whine. Really pathetic, actually.

BUT, He answered.

"Why don't you do something about the mosquitoes?"

Uh...He lost me.

"Like what?" I mean, like I'm not God. But, Moses did some cool things with a staff. He made water from a rock, overloaded the land with frogs and then got rid of them, brought on the gnats and sent them away. Gnats. Mosquitoes. You never see them together. So how does one do a miracle on the scale of plague anyway?

"Like kill them." Seriously. There was that droll annoyed tone in His voice.

"Like kill-"

"Yes, like kill them. Like make some effort, and kill them."

I just shut up at that point. I mean, what do you say to that?

When I stood in my bathroom smashing mosquitoes against the mirror and turning my sink into cemeteries for bloodsuckers, I knew exactly what to say. My hand dropped to my side, washcloth with it, and I looked at the floor. I closed my eyes in humble revelation and asked,

"God, what else in my life have I gotten mad at you for not fixing when all I had to do was kill the mosquito?"

It's easy to see the big mosquitoes, like lung cancer in a person who smokes. It's harder to see the mosquitoes that suck the life out of everyday. For instance, it is hard to see TV, computer, and texting as the mosquitoes sucking life out of our relationships. It is hard to see our attitudes as the mosquitos causing problems at work. It is hard to see our lack of prayer as the mosquito that drains our spiritual power.

Recently, my family experienced some serious issues that caused some individual pain and group division in our relationships. Grief, adolescence, and transition are not pretty tossed in an emotional salad. My child was struggling huge. The Lord blessed us with a great counselor, and good progress is being made. A few weeks ago, I called and said I needed to come in and talk, too. She understood. I don't know if she expected what I said.

I walked into her office, plopped down on the couch, and said, "We need to discuss how I've been part of the creation of the problem, how I'm feeding the problem, and how I need to be part of the answer."

For nearly an hour and a half, I sat in her office, and we killed mosquitoes.

Now, understand, I pray everyday about this situation, and I do see where God is working and healing things. I totally believe in praying for healing, but I also believe it is stupid to ask God to cure a headache caused by my beating my head with a baseball bat. At some point, I have to put down the bat.

At some point, I have to take responsibility for killing the mosquitoes.

Yesterday, I honestly killed a few dozen mosquitoes. I have no clue how many the three of us have killed all toll. Several times throughout the day, I'd walk into a bathroom or bedroom and wait. When a mosquito would buzz its wings, I'd smash it with my washcloth whip. Honestly, it seemed weird to walk into the bathroom with a washcloth for the sole purpose of smashing mosquitoes, but I did it. Repeatedly.

Last night I slept all night like a rock. This morning I awoke without a single bug bite.

Praying my ears are open to hear Him tell me what mosquitoes in my life I need to kill...
Praying for the persevering diligence to kill them all...

Monday, October 12, 2015

When You Really Don't Belong, You Really Do

It's been one of those weeks when everything I'm not has decided to have a convention in my world, mostly in my head. And isn't that the worst? When everything you aren't decides to who up at once and have this mental convention and all the voices just end up being a resounding chant of "You Really Don't Belong ANYWHERE"?

So I looked around me, and honestly, I have to agree.

I don't have a group I hang out with. I don't have my writing act together because sometimes I really don't know what to say, and I refuse to be one of those people who say something just so I'm a presence. Trust me. My presence is useless without His presence. Besides, at the ACFW conference a few weeks ago, there was a lot of talk about my "voice" and my "niche", and sometimes I don't feel like I have a voice, and I really don't feel like I have a niche. Plus, I'm a licensed pastor that doesn't really have a church home. I have a church I attend, but if I don't attend, no one will notice. That isn't their fault. It's just that my whole role there is to show up, sit on a pew, follow the order of service, and go home. It's really pretty much like every other church I've attended for the last five years. BUT, I like the fact that unlike the other churches I've attended, I don't have to work myself into some emotional state and find a way to be "blessed", "fine", or "great". A few weeks ago I cried through the whole service, and no one said a word to me. Oddly, I found that peaceful. Actually, it is quite exhausting to have to feel better so I can prove I hear God and feel God or let some church leader feel they have accomplished their job. So there is a strange peace in attending this church. But belonging really isn't so much about what I get out of it. The truth is there really isn't anything about me that they would find useful. That is what I mean by if I don't attend no one will notice. That is why I don't write unless I think it is something God wants someone else to hear.

Belonging means you fit. Who you are fits. You serve a purpose. You bring something to the situation.

And really, when I look around at the pieces of my life, I really don't belong.

Except I do.

And you do.

I know it is easy to look around and see all the ways you don't fit into something. It is easy to look at church, family, Bible groups, school, social groups, and so on and feel like you have nothing anyone wants. It is easy to see that no one would notice if you didn't show up. Except, someone would notice. You just don't realize it yet because you don't realize that your belonging isn't about a group, it's about your life.

You belong in your life.

You life matters.

Maybe you don't belong in a social group at work, but you belong in the world of the cashier at the grocery store who is always encouraged when she sees you in line because, thank God!, He sent a friendly face in the midst of her hard day.

And maybe you don't belong in your church, but you belong in the world of those homeless people who really like that hot cocoa you hand out on cold days.

Maybe it doesn't matter if you don't go to the family reunion, but it would matter to the bus driver if you didn't get on the bus everyday and ask how the family is.

I know it is hard when you don't belong. I have spent my entire life simply wanting to belong somewhere, and I never did. My mother wanted only boys. My dad didn't want kids at all. I married a man who liked the idea of marriage but hated the details of relationship and responsibility. I've tried to prove my worth through grades, titles, accomplishments, and so on. And I'm telling you, I have never felt like I belong.

I will also tell you I have felt very lonely, and I have felt very broken, and I have thought often if I could just be something else...

It has taken me a long time to realize that the real issue isn't belonging in all those places. The only place I need to belong is in my life. The way I live.

I belong in my life as an encourager.
I belong as someone who prays for anyone who asks...and some who don't.
I belong as someone who remembers what is bothering folks and asks them about it.
I belong as the person who has had intimate relations with grief and can tell someone, "You really are normal in the grief world. You're doing great."
I belong as the person who makes soup for friends who are sick.
I belong as the person who picks up the phone at all hours.
I belong as the person who loves deeply.
I belong as the family member who says, "I need a family gathering. Who's in?"
I belong as the person who knows the favorite cookies of the folks at our dentist's office.
I belong as the person whose couch is well used from folks needing a place to stay sleeping on it.

I belong here.

YOU belong here.

So your family doesn't get you, and there really isn't a place to plug in at church. Maybe the other people in your class don't really get you or invite you to stuff either. Maybe, like me, your Friday night excitement is lying on your couch under a blanket reading a book because there really isn't anyone to go out with. If any of that is true, you most likely hear a voice saying, "It doesn't matter if you are here."

It does matter.

YOU matter.

Your voice is a beautiful voice.
So you don't have a "niche". Great. That means folks like you and I can pick up the stragglers no one else can reach. We were made for this.
YOU were made for this.
You were made for your life.
There are things about the way you live that are breathtaking.
YOU are breathtaking.

You aren't breathtaking because of what you do.
You are breathtaking because of how you choose live,
and living a breathtaking life is right where you belong.

So next time that voice or those voices tell you all the ways you don't belong in their lives, tell them that is okay because you still belong in your own.

Praying you live with the fierce passion of being you because being you is exactly how you were made to live...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Prayer--Let Me Follow Well

"The Lord Himself goes before you
and will be with you;
He will never leave you
nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid.
Do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:6
Help me to keep a mental image of your going before me to move the weeds, limbs, and obstacles out of my way. Help me keep a mental image of being able to see your back in front of me as I walk behind you. I often say you will never leave me or forsake me, but I often let my mind go crazy like you actually would abandon me in some way. Sometimes I forget that in going before me, you leave obstacles that you know I can get over. You know it builds me up and strengthens me, and a good Father leaves enough for his child to be challenged so they mature. Help me to never be afraid of those obstacles that you leave because they are not a sign that you have abandoned me but a clear sign that you love me and are for me. Help me not to be discouraged when I can't get it right the first time. Help me to remember that you are patient and you didn't leave something so I would make a fool of myself and you could have something to berate me over. That isn't like you. You never set me up to fail. You set me up to grow, to see your faithfulness, to find strength in you. Lord, may I bring glory to you today as I follow the path I see you leading me on. May you find pleasure in me, and may my tenacity to seek you and follow you bring you joy.
I love you, Lord.

--Jerri Kelley Phillips--

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What Do Yoga, Mother Earth, and the Easter Bunny Have in Common?

This morning on Facebook I shared an article about yoga and how there is no "Christian yoga." Yoga is, in fact, a form of Hindu worship. In Hindu there are five paths to the universal deity. One of those is physical discipline, yoga. Each position in yoga represents a characteristic of a god or goddess. By disciplining the physical into these positions, it is believed the spirit is also aligned with that particular characteristic or trait of the god or goddess. The more yoga, the more one is fashioned into these characteristics, and the faster one becomes one with the universal deity.

You can't redeem that. That is like saying a black mass can be redeemed. The purpose is the worship of Satan. That can't be redeemed.

Several folks told me they had no idea, which is concerning. The Bible tells us to resist the devil, and he will flee from us, but people are not be educated and equipped concerning practical things that have infiltrated our culture and the culture of the church that we need to flee.

In response to the, "I had no idea," I wrote the following. I pray it is for the deliverance of captives from darkness and the equipping of the saints for holiness.


A few people have contacted me concerning the yoga post saying they had no idea. Here are some other things you may not know about:
mother earth
the universal mind
All of the above are based on the idea that there is some cosmic energy that has control of the universe and thus has control over lives. All of this is blatantly against the teachings of God and in fact, is godless and anti-God.

Fortune telling such as
palm reading
tea leaf reading
tarot cards
All demonic. How can you tell? None of them have anything to do with God. In contrast, go to the Bible and see the real prophets and how they gave all glory to God.

I know we don't like to stomp on tradition, but Easter is a festival for the goddess Eastre, which some believe is the actual origin for the idea of mother earth. You can read more here.

By the way, this whole aura crap and namaste is about the god that lives in you. It is not about God the Father. It is referring to the goodness of the person.

According to John 10:10, we have two forces at work in the world: Satan and Jesus. If you are involved in the godless practices above, you're worshiping Satan. There is no other way to see it. The right answer is to repent, turn from your wicked ways, and serve God, but if you choose not to do that, then whatever happens, you can't blame God because you know the Truth, and you chose the lie.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Christian Disciplines: Silent Retreats

I know you just got here, but take 30 seconds to stop reading this and listen.

Listen to the distracting noise around you.

Listen to the distracting noise IN you.

Ready. 30 seconds. Or a minute. Minute might be better. I'll be here when you get back. Alright. Go.

Right now in my world, my dishwasher is running but keeps banging on something, so I'm wondering if the dishes are really getting clean or not and what kind of damage that is doing and if I'll need to replace some part of the dishwasher soon because of it.

I'm thinking about my daughter's orthodontics appointment in two hours and wondering if I can get this done and get the website for my personal protection started with a possible post to the blog.

I'm wondering if the wind will be so high that kayaking is a bad idea because I'm feeling kind of overloaded and need a break and maybe kayaking would do that but if the wind is too high...and, yes, it comes at me in one very long, fast-paced sentence.

And I'm wondering if I should have gone to the gun range this morning or not, and how hard is it going to be to relearn shooting with my left hand, and are increasing inability to use my right eye muscles for long periods plus the optical migraines a mountain to overcome or God's way of saying to put the guns down, and if I put the guns down will the people who custom made my competition rifle understand that competing isn't even a possibility anymore?

Then there is the whole other....

There is a lot of noise in my brain, plus the phone that has beeped twice just in the short time I've been writing this and the email that has come through and the lure of's a lot of noise. It can get so loud that it is hard to hear God.

Even setting aside time each day for prayer and Bible reading or study, the noise can be hard to hear through.

One of the ways to handle it is a silent retreat.

Think of it as detox for the mind and spirit.

It's not complicated. It is merely taking a large chunk of time and turning off everything except God. Don't turn on the TV or the computer. Leave the phone alone. No radio. Not even worship music. Don't take an agenda. This is not intensive petition time where you pound heaven for what you want. This is when you get quiet and let God tell you what is on His mind.

All you need is a Bible and journal, and sometimes I don't even take the Bible because if I get antsy because God is too quiet for too long, I'll start reading the Bible just to hear "something". Silence is hard. But it is worth it.

When Elijah ran from Jezebel, he hid in a cave. The Bible tells us there was a great fire, but God was not in the fire. There was a great earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then there was silence, and God was in the silence.

You may be wondering, as folks often do, how long do you go and where you are to go. I don't know. I try not to make hard and fast rules about these things, but when I first started, it would take me a day or two just to detox and be okay with the quiet. Now, I can spend a few hours on the water and have the same effect. On heavy ministry days, I'll take an hour and go to my room where all I hear is white noise (blocks out the voices of the teenagers in the house) and meditate on a scripture or just let myself breathe and wait for the Lord.

As for where, I've tried bed and breakfasts. I ended up becoming friends with the hosts. I've tried camping, and that was good. I like places where I can meditate or focus on natural sounds like water, birds, crickets. Not coyotes. Coyotes do not have a good effect on me. Fishing is good. It's repetitive. Mostly mindless. And that is what you want. Mindless so your mind is open to the Lord speaking. Oh, I turn my phone off. I always have backup folks for the kids, who are now teenagers, so there is no reason why anyone should call. Yes, there are emergencies that happen in life, but for the most part, those are rare, and believe it or not, in the days before leash phones, folks had quiet days, emergencies happened, and life went on. I'm willing to risk it. If I am at a B&B or hotel, I give the number of the establishment so folks can reach me there in case of an emergency. A few years ago when I went to Arkansas, I had set times, 2 times a day, when I would contact the kids. I was in a no cell service area, perfect for retreats, and had to go to the ranger office to get service, so I did that first thing in the morning and in the evening before they went to bed.

Also, I try not to eat out or be around people at all. I'll end up talking most of my time away, and I get little accomplished.

There are no absolutes with this. I don't know where your quiet place is. Some like the beach, just sitting on the sand listening to the water. Some like being on the water. Some like a hunting blind. I have a friend who is so self-disciplined she simply unplugs all the gunk in her house and hangs out in her own hammock. If you are single with no kids or the kids and spouse leave, great! Cheap. Food at the ready. Low planning. It's good. Plus, it's your own bed, and you may sleep better.

Some folks fast during their retreat. I have done that. I did not find that it helped me, but, I am also not sure that was what God wanted from me on that fast. I can honestly say I think I did it as a way to prove my seriousness and convince God to speak to me. He won't respond to that, thankfully. Even with fasting food, you need to have water. Don't give up water.

I am trying to explain how a retreat works so you don't think it is a matter of going, parking on a lawn chair, and expecting a booming voice from heaven. When I go on these retreats, it is about communing with God. I want to hear Him, but I also talk to Him. I tell Him how amazing the trees are or how wonderful the frog chorus is. I make the conscious effort to be in awe of Him.

I choose to acknowledge my need for Him.
I consciously think about love that wants time with the messiness of me.

I focus on Him, not on me, but on the wonder of Him, and when I focus on how wondrous He is, He often opts to be wonderful.

On one hand, I am tempted to be still and make conscious note of the quiet or silent time I have with the Lord. My real concern with doing that, though, is people take that as the only way to do it or they try to make it a road to a goal, and it is really about the journey with Him.

Really, that is what a silent retreat is--a journey with Him, to hear Him, and know Him.

The details are between you and Him because only the two of you know where you connect best.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What is the Point of Being a Christian

Last week I had a great conversation with a friend of mine about what it really means to be a Christian and to live the Christian life. We see things very much alike, but sometimes he says things far better than I do, so I’m going to use his words.

“Pastors ask the wrong question. They ask if a person wants to be saved. Duh. Of course they do. No one wants to go to hell. They ask if they want to be blessed by God. Who wouldn’t? What they need to ask is, ‘Are you willing to let Jesus be the Lord of your life and live only for Him? If you aren’t, then you don’t understand salvation.'”

He’s right.

If all you think “accepting Jesus” means is saying He exists and wanting Him to be good to you, you don’t understand what being a Christian really is.

Let me give you a vivid picture. Jesus died on a cross to save all who believe in Him and serve Him from their sins. Of the eleven disciples who stayed faithful to Him, ten were martyred, and they tried to martyr the other, but when they couldn’t, they exiled him. Of course, that is where he received what we call the book of Revelation. Not looking very "I know the good plans I have for you", is it?

What is my point? The point of Christianity is not to enjoy some R&R in the lap and luxury of Jeremiah 29:11. The point of Christianity is found in Ephesians 4.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

The purpose of Christianity is for us to become like Christ.

The point of attending  church on Sunday is so we learn about Christ and apply what we’ve learned so we serve him better, grow in faith, mature, and become like Him.

I have yet to find where the point of Christianity is to be blessed and have an easy life. In fact, I’ve read the Bible, and Jesus says if you love Him and really serve Him like we are called to do, it’ll be hard.

In the next several posts, I am going to share with you spiritual disciplines that will empower you to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord, grow in your faith, and understand the Bible more, and in doing so, you are more equipped to become what a Christian should Christ.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Great Thing about Being a Drunk

When I was in high school, I liked things that got rid of nightmares and made me numb, and that became a problem. Alcohol and prescription meds were a staple of my life for quite a while. I could tell you all the reasons this is bad, but let me tell you why it is good.

This morning on  the way home from church I saw a friend watering the trees in his front yard, so I stopped to see how he and his wife are. She has health issues, and I thought she might be sick. She’s fine. He’s fine.

“I’m not used to you being home on Sunday morning. You’re usually in church.”

“Yeah, I can’t go to church right now.”

I stared. “How long until you can go to church?”

“Depends. Three to five years, they figure.”

See, this friend spent some time in jail last year for sexual assault of a child. Now, he is restricted from being where he might victimize another child. I understand that. I want my children safe, too. But I have to say, I wonder about the logic of keeping someone from the very place where they can find the One who can heal them. And, yes, Jesus is everywhere. People find Jesus right where they are. I know in the Bible, Jesus found folks right where they were. In fact, if you read through the Gospels, you could argue that Jesus found more folks alone in their solitude than He did in the throngs at the Temple.

However, Jesus also promoted fellowship. There is not one person Jesus encountered that He said, “Now, go be by yourself and live a holy life on your own because you are strong enough to do that.”

No. Christianity is about community and being part of a group that holds you up, prays for you, encourages you, and holds you accountable.

The great part of being a drunk and pill addict? I could still be part of that. I could still go to church. Unlike the drunks that wreak of alcohol, the addict that smells like marijuana, the gay couple that comes in together, or the sex offender with a label, I was allowed in church. I was allowed to hear the Word, to sing songs that spoke to me, to be in the presence of God. Not everyone is allowed that because not everyone can pull themselves together enough to hide their sin and brokenness well enough to be acceptable in the house of the Savior who is trying to reach them.

Thank God I was just a drunk.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Telling Me What I Need to Hear

By the time I called her this morning, I already had the answer. At least for that. Still, she just gave me her opinion. And really, it didn't help much because everything she told me I already knew. I have another friend who does that, too. I pour my heart out to him because I need an answer, and he's a really smart man and can see things I miss. Then, he turns right around and tells me what I already know. And I wonder why I bother to tell them anything at all.

Except, the tell me things I don't know. They tell me things I need to hear. Things that have nothing to do with why I called.

I called her to tell her about this dream I had last night, and we ended up talking about my writing. I told him I am afraid to write what's on my mind because a lot of people will find it offensive.

She said a lot about my characters and books and niche. He said the same. They both said, "You're not everyone else. There is an audience waiting for you. Write for them."

Not the exact words, but a good summary.

I know. I really do know. When I'm not drowning in the idea that success is big numbers or the idea that the goal is a huge audience or suffocating under the idea that bigger is always better, I know.

But they tell me anyway. And I get frustrated because I'm confused and I want to know the road and what am I supposed to do about and....

Today, though, I listened, and I didn't just hear what they said, I saw what they see.

I saw them...see me.

They see my heart.
They see my passion.
They see my purpose.
They see God in me...and they see me in God.

And that is what I need to hear.

I need to hear if the two people who see me clearest see Him clearly in me.