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, January 31, 2017

Living Decisively

Last I left you, I was hanging with The Pit. I still am. In fact, she is sitting beside me on the loveseat on the deck as we enjoy the last hour of warm sunlight today. From where we are sitting, I can look out over most of the acre of land that came with the house, and I am pondering.

My life is sliding toward the middle of a major transition. WonderGirl is a sophomore in college, and WonderBoy is now a freshman in college, and you may be wondering how you missed that. Don't worry. In Texas, dual credit is a great option for high school kids. Although he is still a high school junior, he will finish the rest of his school taking college classes. So, they are flourishing and exploding with all things wonderful. They both have their driver's license now, and in the next month or two, I will buy a car for WonderBoy and me to share. Although right now, he rides with WonderGirl, that could change this summer, so I want us to both be ready. With all the awesome stuff they are doing, they are needing my intense timing less, which frees me up to do other things, and that is what I am pondering.

I have always wanted to be a vegetable gardener. I have great memories of my grandmother and me working in the garden, picking the vegetables, and canning lots jars for the winter. Part of me wants to be more like her, I think. She loved gardening. She relaxed in it. I know part of the gardening thing is nostalgia, but part of it is that I love fresh food straight from the garden. It has flavor that you can't buy in a store, or even at a farmer's market. So I was talking to my cousin about it over the weekend. She is a good gardener. She cans her food. You would have thought she grew up on the farm instead of me. She told me about keyhole gardening, so I researched, and it does sound wonderful, but I have to be honest. I don't know where I would get a dumpster full of cardboard, the (not so much grass) green stuff, or the ongoing food to feed through the compost chute. Plus, there is the time factor, and that has me stumped more than anything.

For the first time in my 48 years of life, I am an adult with no one who needs me all the time. I'm not trying to work out life around a husband or focusing on what is best for the kids. Granted, the kids play a huge role in my life still, but it is strange to not need to be needed all the time. Understand, "strange" is not bad. On the contrary, it is beautiful. I love having adult kids. I love watching them working their flight plans out so they can leave the nest. They are amazing people, and it is fun watching them becoming even more solid in who they are.

So I am wondering what to do with this freedom.

I have had the privilege of being home with the kids their whole lives, and I wouldn't trade that for anything, but it is nearing time for me to contribute to the world in other ways. So I am thinking job. I am wondering about classes. I am trying to order my days so I get work done on the house, get housework done, spend some time writing, keeping people as a priority, and volunteering more.

In all honesty, I am in the best place I have ever been in my life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and physically, I'm working on it. Lost some significant weight, dealing with a plateau, but really liking the way my body is changing as I keep pushing myself with weights and construction projects.

In fact, I have considered volunteering with Habitat again. I really enjoy construction, and I know my way around a drill and hammer.

There really are a lot of possibilities, and it is easy to follow every whim that comes along. But right now, I have a dog I am committed to training sitting beside me, and she is not a small time investment. I am waiting to see how things shake out with some suggested programs at the sheriff's office, and I want to write seriously again. Plus, changing lifestyles is no small thing...or small time expenditure. Add the coffees and lunches and relationships, and I am wondering if a keyhole garden is a good thing, or a God thing. I've been caught in the trap of good v. God before, and I like to think I am not as easily fooled this time, but I didn't think I was being fooled before either. So, as the sun slips behind the fence, I am going to bid you good evening and go for a walk, listen to the quiet, and let the path come before me.

I pray you have a glorious evening.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Everything Else is Burned Away...I AM

You ever put your life on the altar and let God get rid of everything that isn't of Him? Most folks would never do that. They would never choose that kind of risk. They would never give up their control in order to give Him ultimate control. They would never choose something so scary. In fact, most folks don't, and frankly, that is why most folks are still living the same lives they have been living for the last decade (or several decades) wondering why nothing changes.

They sit in the same place every week for church, talk to the same folks they always do, quote the same scriptures, claim the same promises, and see the same results...and wonder why.

Let me answer that question:

Because if you want a different view, you have to take a different road.

Or as a coach I knew when I was teaching in public school said:

If you aren't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

You know what it takes to become the lead dog?

It takes being willing to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
It takes thinking differently.
It takes conviction that you have a road God wants you to go down that someone else may not choose or understand.
It takes a willingness to hurt.
It takes prioritizing. 
It requires being broken down and built back up.
It takes leaving old mindsets behind...and sometimes the people who cannot think beyond them.
It takes a willingness to endure criticism...especially from people whose opinions can bless you...or hurt you...the most.
It takes crawling on the altar of the Whom you worship and letting Him burn away everything that isn't of Him...and praying for Him to hold you there when everything in you and your flesh screams for the easier road.

It's brutal.

And worth it.

Why am I telling you this? Because the craziest thing is that all that dying is really finding out what it means to live.  I always thought the point of being on the altar is to find myself. I thought when everything else was burned away I would find the core of me, the authentic part of me, the me I was created to be.

But you know what I found out is left when all the traditions, false identities, lies of others, fear, escapisms, safe roads, and protective garbage is burned to nothing?


And in Him is the only place I was ever meant to be in the first place.

(excerpt from Warrior Undaunted, manuscript in process, copyright 2017 Jerri L. Kelley)

The Pit

Not the best pet day. I'll write more about the details later, but right now I am looking at Semper lying by me on the bed, and I am trying to get my bearings. She met Dr. Sterle, our vet, today, and as it turns out, Semper isn't really as much Lab as she is mix, and the "mix" is Pitbull, which is fine for some folks, but I specifically didn't want a Pit-anything.

I specifically looked for a dog that I could use as a therapy dog, that I could take to hospitals, funeral homes, eventually my office when I am on staff as a pastor. The foster mom has an amazing Lab/Pit mix (like, amazing and so gentle), but when she takes Zoe down the street, kids ask to pet her and the parents won't let them because they are afraid of her.

I understand.

I'm afraid of Pits, too.

And Zoe looks like a bear...but she is a bear I wanted to hug when she sat in front of me and just looked at me calmly and let me pet her...except I was also afraid she would bite me because...well, she is a Pit, and we all know what Pits are like, right? I mean, they are fierce and mean and...

I have one of the sweetest dogs ever lying beside me right now snoring a cute puppy snore.

And I am wondering if I missed God on this or if He is taking me down a path I had no plan to take.

So, I am going to pray.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thank You for Being Part of My Child's "Village"

Dear Mr. Police Officer,

This morning you stopped my daughter in the early morning hours on her way to do volunteer work at church. She said she was driving along, looked down, realized she was doing 75 in a 60, touched the brakes to slow down, and saw lights in her rearview mirror. I want you to know I believe her.

I also want you to know...

I really appreciate you.

I appreciate your stopping her when she was driving irresponsibly.
I appreciate your talking to her about the weather conditions, her speed, and safety.
I appreciate your being courteous, kind, and respectful.
I appreciate your telling her to have a good day.

When that young lady you stopped was born 19 years ago, there was a saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." That stuck in my head. Thank you for stepping in today and being part of that village. Thank you for taking care of the most precious thing I have on this earth. I know you were just doing your job, enforcing laws, but that law you enforced keeps my family safe, and in weather like we had today, she shouldn't have been going the speed limit, little less going OVER the speed limit, so thank you for stepping in when she wasn't making a wise choice. And, yes, I do believe her speeding was an accident, but it was a dangerous accident, and perhaps because of you, it will be an accident that doesn't happen again. I appreciate that.

Mr. Police Officer, thank you for doing your job. Thank you for doing it very well today. My daughter is home safe and sound. I appreciate that you were part of making sure she was.

God's blessings to you, sir.

With sincerest appreciation,
Jerri Kelley

Friday, January 13, 2017

Semper Fidelis' FB Page...Prayerfully, A Light in the Dark

As I explained in my previous post, I have spent a lot of time praying about my "special" thing or "gift" when it comes to ministry. Some folks are great with kids. Some are great in the area of marriage. What about me? While I can talk about kids (I have two amazing ones) and relationships, the thing that really moves my heart are the people who are battling trauma, grieve, loss, and darkness. If I could do anything in the world, I would give people hope. I would reach into their dark places, their scary places, their hurting places, and give them peace and hope. I have been praying a lot about how to minister to people who are hurting, and the Lord kept nudging me with the idea of a therapy dog. In my closed-minded stubbornness, I dismissed that voice until I found myself texting Morgan about a therapy dog. I have also spent years praying about my "voice" as a writer. Today, I think I realized it, at least part of it, and it sounds like a puppy...that is really cute...that can talk about hard topics without being judgmental or threatening or scary, and if i can use that puppy's "voice" to help people find their way through to the other side of the dark places, then I am going to, so, along with Semper Tails blog, Semper Fidelis also has her own Facebook page. Please feel free to share it with anyone who might be blessed by it. Not only will Semper be writing about her tales, she'll also share important phone numbers for hotlines, ways to take care of oneself, and so on. And if you think about it, pray for us. This is quite the adventure we have chosen to walk. It is exciting, but there is also housebreaking to be done...and I am looking for one of my shoes. Blessings and puppy love, Jerri and Semper Fidelis

Introducing...Semper Tails

 Some of you may remember, my favorite dog Fred. We called him our Lab-experiment. He was a rescue dog that was supposed to be a 20-pound beagle mix that became an 85-pound embodiment of love with 4 paws. We lost Fred to liver disease in December 2014. I pretty much decided we would never get another dog. I couldn't imagine loving another dog like I loved Fred. I certainly couldn't imagine bonding with another dog like I bonded with Fred.

Fred was more than a dog. He was a quiet consoling presence. He could read emotions like no one's business, and when I was at my end, he knew how to handle it, usually by slipping his hand into my hand.

When Fred was a year old or so, I started researching therapy dogs. Even then, I thought he would make a great one, but he had to big issues:
1. He loved jumping up on people.
2. He hated elevators

So Fred didn't become a therapy dog for anyone outside our home, but inside our home, he was amazing, especially when things changed so drastically in 2010 and 2011. I would sit on the couch just trying to breathe some days, and he would lie beside me, his head on my leg, breathing for us both. When I lay on my floor and cried, he sat outside my door and waited. I often thought everyone should have a Fred. The world would be a better place if everyone had someone like that. Someone who simply loved, who didn't care if you yelled, who wasn't afraid of tears, who walked into the hard to find you.

Periodically, I have considered Fred, therapy dogs, and the power of love with four paws, but I was not going to do that again. Until two weeks ago. When I finally listened closely and realized those thoughts were not my thoughts but God's voice.

I had been praying again for direction on "specializing" my ministry. "Pastor" can be so many things, and I was thinking about going back to school, possibly getting a second degree or maybe even a master's. Except, I kept finding myself perusing puppy pictures, and one day when I was kneeling at my altar, taking communion, I asked for a clear vision of what God wanted to do, and I saw myself with a dog beside me, and we walked into a hospital with injured soldiers and walked out and into a hospital with children, and we walked from that room into a room at the library where children were reading and from there into a funeral home where someone was grieving. Then we walked into someone's home where this dog lay on the couch and let the person pet it while the person talked about hard things, and I dismissed it all because I was not going to get another dog.

But then, I was sitting at the house I have been renovating to rent, and I texted my friend Morgan, who is a 3rd year veterinary student. I tossed her the idea of a therapy dog that I could take to different places, that could work with soldiers and marines, people grieving loss, folks trying to find courage to face hard things, people dealing with anxiety and panic issues...folks who have suffered trauma and need a safe place to heal. She asked if I wanted help finding a dog.

Within minutes, she was checking shelters near me, and we were comparing notes. About two weeks later, this happened.

Semper Fidelis.

Not because of the marines (although y'all know I love them), but because

Dios semper fidelis.

God is always faithful.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded. Sometimes we need the calm presence that reminds us of His peace and His presence. Sometimes Love shows up with four paws and reminds us of  the Love that shows up in the darkest places.

Because a good dog can do more for some folks than all the pills in all the pharmacies in all the world. Because sometimes the best way to get a handle of life is to feel the body of a gentle dog touch your hand.

So, this is Semper Fidelis, and we have just started our adventure together, and you can read more about our adventure at Semper Tails. It is more than just the daily adventure. It will include information about trauma, loss, grief, PTS (previously known as PTSD), healing, important contact information, and so on. As she says on her page, she is "therapy puppy growing into the great bigness off my heart and all the goodness packed inside me." The page will grow with her.

I hope you will join us...or even more, point someone toward Semper's page who needs someone like her because, as she says, maybe in her tales, that someone can find themselves.

Shalom and Puppy Love,
Jerri and Semper Fidelis

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Who Started It

For a few years now, I have been reading the Bible, researching, and seeking "authentic" church. Contrary to what people have suggested, it isn't that I don't want to submit to an organized authority. It because I want to be as close to God's original plan of worship and relationship as possible because I want to be as close to HIM as possible. I don't care about being a good denominational member. I want to be a good worshiper of God.

A few things have really caused me to ask what authentic "church" is.

First, I see nothing in the Bible that resembles any denomination that exists at this point (although, I think where we attend now is pretty close). I don't see see the prayer, announcements, songs, and sermon methodology explained at all in the Bible, and I certainly don't see bigger and better buildings being the goal of any of the disciples or apostles. The New Testament "church" gathered in houses. They ate together. Did life together. They developed relationships. Granted, as we see in 1 Corinthians 14 and other places, those relationships weren't perfect, but they were not as disconnected as church tends to be today where we show up, sing some, listen to someone talk, and get home in time for a football game or Sunday nap. So, what did they originally look like?

I've talked about this before, and I have asked what it means when we are told not to stop meeting together as some are in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10;25). King James says not to forsake assembling together. The organized church says this means we should not stop attending organized church meetings. However, the word "church" never actually appears in the Bible. The word for "church" in the Bible is the word that simply means "assembling". It means to gather. There is nothing about the word that says the gathering has to be in a building with a preacher following a denominational methodology. And interestingly enough, the same word (which I can't get to work in this format) is one used in the Old Testament that talks about Israel, not a new church.

If you just look at the New Testament, there is nothing that suggests a form of worship like we have now existed then or was created then. That brings me to the next point.

Some people say  the "church" was created at Pentecost, but that isn't true either.

The disciples, who transitioned into apostles, continued meeting just like they had with Jesus. They "assembled", ate together, encouraged each other, held each other accountable. Even with the Council in Jerusalem that decided how to handle the influx of Gentiles, they had not created a new church or new format of worship. They were still using the same form of gathering.

Plus, according to Isaiah 42:9, which says, "See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you," God prophecies new things before they take place. No where in the Bible is there a prophetic word about a new "church". The prophecies in the Bible deal with the restoration of Israel, not the creation of a religious replacement for Israel until Israel gets its act together. If there was going to be a whole new religious order, surely God would mention that. I mean, it is a really big deal, especially when the Old Testament prophets speak repeatedly about the restoration of Israel, not to in restoring them as the chosen people of God because they have always been the chosen people, but to a personal relationship with God.

Also, Pentecost isn't something new. It is a Jewish feast, Shavout. It is falls 50 days after Passover and is known as a harvest festival. It is the time when the law was given. In Jeremiah, the Lord says He will make a new covenant with Israel, and at that time, the law will be written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10). How will that happen? According to Joel 2:28, He will pour His Spirit on men, women, young, and old. This isn't a new group of charismatics. This is Israel. Pentecost did not establish a new "church". It fulfilled prophecies to Israel.

"But I thought Israel blew it, so God created the church to do what Israel failed to do."

In Isaiah 42:1-9, it is prophesied that a servant will come and be the Messiah. Clearly that is Christ, but then the Lord starts to use the pronoun "you." Understand, He has been talking to Israel, so it only makes sense that He is still talking to Israel when He says,
"“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles

to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."

But the Jews rejected Christ, right? They are the ones who are wandering lost, right?

No. This prophecy was actually fulfilled. The disciples were Jews. Paul was a Jew. The writers of the New Testament were Jews. In fact, WE are the Gentiles grafted in as Paul says (Romans 11:17-24). How did we get grafted in? Because God restored Israel. 

The word "restored" means to return to the point of deviation. In other words, God's plan was to take Israel back to the original plan, which was relationship with Him, which was accomplished in Christ. The Jews were restored when they put their faith in Him. Do they all believe in Him? No, but that does not dismiss the ones who did. It is through those Jews, through the Israelites who were restored through faith in Christ and thus salvation through His sacrifice that we received the Light. The "church" didn't replace them. On the contrary, the Gentiles assembled with them. They became one with the Jewish believers. 

The "church" wasn't created at Pentecost. Pentecost is when the prophecy to Israel was fulfilled, and the Jewish believers stepped forward to be the light to the Gentiles. 

The "church" was not created by God because Israel failed. On the contrary, we are grafted into Israel because God's prophecies were fulfilled and didn't fail. And the idea that "the church" is bringing Israel to Christ is bogus. They brought Christ to us.

What does all that mean in practical terms? I don't know yet, but I plan to keep asking questions and find out.

Shalom, y'all.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thank You for...Just Thank You

Father God, thank you for this day. Thank you...just thank you.
I am sitting here listening to my kids breathing in their bedrooms, and I don't even know how to describe the joy and contentment that sound brings.
I am listening to the whishing of the dishwasher on the other end of the house, and I am thankful for the ease of life you have given me.
I hear the wind whistling outside with a windchill in the teens or lower, and I am sitting her in warm sweats and fuzzy slippers in a warm house, and I wonder sometimes why I have been given lavish gifts like this when there are poeple on the street who may not make it through the night. I don't deserve it more, but I am deeply grateful for your kindness, maybe because I realize I don't deserve it.
The fact is I don't deserve the life I have. I'm no better than anyone else, and yet, you are gravious and kind.
Beside me are shelves of books. Many of them I have read. More are on my agenda to read. The abilitiy to read is a blessing. It is a gift.
My life, not just my being alive, but the pieces that make up my life are a gift.
Clean water
My ability to walk
My ability to communicate
My friends
My ability to attend services that honor you
My ability to give the knowledge and wisdom you have given me to others
My hobbies
My strengths
My weaknesses
The cup of coffee I enjoy each morning
Lord, I could go on and on, but the truth is even if I listed every minute thing in my life that makes up my is the life it all makes that leaves me humbled and grateful before you this morning. My life--the whole of it--is a lavish gift, and I am so deeply grateful for it.
Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Another Year...But Not Just Any "Another Year"

Yesterday was my birthday. I have been part of this planet for 48 years, and no, I'm not embarrassed to tell you that. I think getting older is a privilege. I've known too many people who wanted another birthday, or another several decades, and didn't get that gift. So, a long time ago I determined not to lament the ticking of the clock and the changing of age.

I worked Saturday so I could have off yesterday to spend with the kids because...well, I like spending time with them. Plus, it is our tradition.

About 20 1/2 years ago, I sat in a doctor's office and heard the heartbreaking words that I could not have children. We had tried some infertility meds that showed no signs of working, and we had three options: 1. Choose not to have children, 2. Adopt, or 3. Go big time infertility. We said we had to pray about it. I left the office stunned and crushed. How could my woman's body not do what a woman's body is supposed to do? That was a horrible day. It was a horrible jar to my view of myself. A month later we knew we were not going to try big time infertility methods, but adopt or not? We were praying when I came down with a stomach virus...that turned out to be a miracle. Nine months later, our daughter was born. Every birthday her dad took off work, and we celebrated the miracle.

Nearly two years later, we had been trying to conceive for nearly a year, and once again I sat in the doctor's office as he told me my daughter was a fluke, that my body simply could not conceive a baby. Ten months later I gave birth to our son. Seems that God likes to do the impossible for us, and once again, a birthday became a celebration of a miracle.

Naturally, the kids wanted to celebrate mine and their dad's birthdays as "big days", too, and so the tradition was started. But the kids are older now, and college takes up birthdays, and I was honestly thinking that the "big day" birthday may have slipped into the past. So yesterday I sat on my deck, sipped coffee, and talked to God about His view of birthdays. After all, He is outside of time, and is it a big deal to Him?

And this is what came to me as I sat in the quiet with Him:

A birthday isn't a celebration that you were born.
It is a celebration that you are still alive.
A birthday says you have been given another year to be here.
You have been given another year to make a difference,
to be the gift.

To be the gift.

What a beautiful thing to celebrate.

What a beautiful way to live.

Being the gift.

May God grant me many more years to celebrate being a gift, and may I live worthy of each one.

Shalom and happy celebration of the miracle of you...may you live it well...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: A Sabbath Year

2017. The New Year. For many it is the year that will prayerfully be better than the last one, or ones. It is the year of maybe...hopefully...and it begins on a Sunday.

For many of us, Sunday is Sabbath, and even if it isn't your Sabbath, could I ask you to suspend a bit of time for a moment and allow yourself to consider the Sabbath, to consider how this could be a Sabbath year? How you can live the Sabbath all year long, not just once a week?

See, the Sabbath isn't a command.
It is an invitation.
It is an invitation to rest, to see God be faithful.
It is a day of putting everything on Him.
It isn't just a day of physical rest. It is a day of mental rest.
It is the day when we step out of the earthly and step into the Kingdom of God and let it soak into us.
It is when we step out of the chaos and intentionally step into His peace.
It is when we step out of the demands and step into the invitation to come all who are burdened and weary of those demands and find rest.
It is the day that puts everything back into perspective.
It is the day we detox and are enabled to handle the rest of the week from a Kingdom mindset and not an earthly one.
It is holy because it speaks the full provision of God.
It is the conscious choice of stepping into Him, the choice to let Him be everything.
This is the Sabbath.

This is the invitation for step out of this world and its chaos and consciously choose to step into the Kingdom.
It is the conscious choice to step into Him... abide in Him... Tabernacle with Him...

This is the Sabbath...this is the invitation for 2017.