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.

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--