Thanks Giving

How do two weeks go by without my writing?!

This week was Thanksgiving in America. We had a lovely day with my mom, stepdad, and brother. We ate, played games, talked, and laughed. Truly, it was something for which to be thankful.

The Bible gives a simple directive: give thanks in all things. Now, I believe if God says we should do that, then it is truly possible to do that, and indeed, we should do that. However, I think we have a hard time with that directive because of a warped idea of God's character. Often I have heard people give indication that they believe the sentence says, "Give thanks FOR all things," and that is not what we are being asked to do. Why the extreme difference in meaning? As I said, I believe it has to do with God's character and the misinformation we believe because we simply do not know Him as we should.

For instance, Jesus was known for giving thanks. He thanked the Father for bread, for the believers, for the believers to come, for the Father's protection over them, for the Father's gifts of good things to Him and others. He thanked the Father for His goodness and provision. He recognized the Father's character as being that of a loving, kind, and generous Father. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus said:

Our Father who art in Heaven, holy be your name.
Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,
For yours is the power and the glory and the honor forever. Amen.

Look at what Jesus tells us about the Father's character.
1. The Father is holy.
2. The kingdom of God is accessible, and the Father wants us to access Him. He wants to be active on earth just as He is in Heaven.
3. He provides our daily bread.
4. He forgives us and expects us to share the bounty.
5. He delivers us from evil rather than making it so we sin and fall.
6. He is powerful, and His power makes all of the good things in our lives possible.
7. All glory belongs to the Father.
8. He is to be honored.

This is what Jesus says about the Father. Jesus says something two other things about the Father at different places. Jesus says He can only do what He sees the Father do, and He can only say what He hears the Father say. Do you get that? Jesus' purpose on this earth is to emulate the Father, to represent Him perfectly, so we can assume that Jesus' character will be an exact replica of the Father's character. And everyone I know will profess that Jesus is good. He did good things. He helped people. He fed people. He loved people. He was kind. He was generous. He made time for people. He had close friends that He took into His confidence. He treated women with kindness, respect, and value. He met people's needs. Yes, I am aware that I am stating what appears to be the obvious, but if it is so obvious then why do we miss it when it comes to the Father? How, if Jesus is the replica of the Father on earth, can we call Jesus good and yet accuse the Father of questionable character, which leads us to believe we should be thankful for all things?

A concrete example: I knew a lady who loved God deeply. Truly, her heart was devoted to Him. One night a horrible thing happened, and she was raped. As we talked, she told me that she did not feel it appropriate to file charges against the man who raped her, although she knew him. She felt it was wrong to put someone in prison for doing God's will. Obviously God had determined that she needed to be raped in order to humble her for her pride in the fact that she had been a virgin when she was married and her husband was the only man she had known sexually.

I did not know whether to cry, faint, or vomit. My heart was crushed for this poor woman who believed that her Father, a Father who gave His Son for her, would decide she needed to be the victim of a violent crime for any reason. I can only imagine how much it hurt the Father to know that any of His children remotely imagined He could do anything so vindictive and cruel to them.

Yes, Jesus corrected people. Yes, He drove peopel from the Temple because they were making a farce of the Father's holy place. But when was Jesus cruel? When did Jesus torment people in order to reach their hearts? When did Jesus do harm as an act of love? If Jesus is the perfect example of the Father, why would we believe the Father was capable of such acts when we would never expect such thoughts to even enter Jesus' mind? How can someone suggest that the Father is pro-rape when Jesus honored the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears?

The Bible tells us the enemy goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is the father of lies. In contrast, we are told the Father so loved the world that He gave His only Son so whoever believes in Him would not die but have everlasting life. The enemy takes, destroys, and rejects. The Father loves, gives, and accepts. The distinction is clear, and yet, we get them confused. How can such obvious opposites be confusing?

I think it is so unfathomable that the Father could love us to greatly when we are so undeserving that it is easier for our minds to believe the enemy's lies about our being unforgivable and God being unforgiving. You know that is what defines unforgivable, right? A person is only unforgivable when someone else determines to be unforgiving. The Father's love and forgiveness defies our logic. It is unbelievable. In fact, for God to determine to love and forgive us no matter what might be the most miraculous act He has ever performed, and sometimes, it is hard to believe in miracles, especially when you know you don't deserve them.

I have good news, though. Jesus never asked anyone to give Him their credentials to prove they deserved anything. He simply said, "Come unto me all you weak and heavy laiden, and I will give." The requirements to receive are so simple:
1. Come
2. Be in need
3. Receive

If those are all the requirements Jesus set forth, those are all the Father sets forth as well. If you are in need, come, and the Father will love, give, and accept. And when you feel like you don't deserve it, you're right, but this isn't about what you deserve. It's about God's character, and despite what your humanity or the enemy tells you, God's heart is to give love and forgiveness always. It's just the kind of character He is.

When we accept that and embrace it as truth regardless of circumstance, we can give thanks in all things, and we also realize we don't have to give thanks FOR all things. When Jesus in the garden, we do not find Him praying, "Father, thank you for using me to save this world. Thank you for the suffering I am about to endure. Thank you for finding me mature enough to handle it. Thank you for entrusting such a burden to me because it is an honor, and I know it." Jesus never said any such thing. Jesus said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but if it isn't possible, I will still fulfill my purpose." Jesus wasn't thanking the Father for the rough stuff. The Father didn't put Jesus on the cross to build character or because Jesus had thought too highly of Himself. The Father put Jesus on the cross because sin was in the world and it had to be defeated. The Father used the nature of the enemy, which is to kill, to defeat the enemy through the death of Jesus. The Father used the enemy's nature to kill in order to bring life to mankind. The nature of the Father is to redeem, to use a situation for the purpose of giving life instead of death. The Father never purposed for my friend to be raped, but He can use the enemy's purpose to destroy to heal others who need hope that they can be restored.

We have friends who lost a baby only a few days after he was born. The enemy killed that baby, not the Father. However, the Father has used the murderous nature of the enemy to offer hope to other grieving parents when our friends tell them how the Lord has brought life back after such a tragic loss.

The reality is sin is in the world. The enemy's nature can be seen all around us. Unfortunately, it can be seen in us. That is not the will of the Father, and we are never told to thank the Father FOR the actions of the enemy. We are told to thank the Father even when the nature of the enemy is revealed and manifested. We thank the Father for HIS character. We thank Him for ways HIS character is manifested.

And when is that? When He prompts someone to send us a note telling us they are thinking about us. When He moves us to go to the store that has groceries on sale when money is short. When life hurts but we are able to find hope in the truth that He heals. When we are in need-emotional, spiritual, physical, or financial-and He provides the answer or even a reprieve.

The Bible tells us that all good things come from the Father. Sometimes He sends them through others. Sometimes He just drops them on us Himself. For all those things, we should be thankful.

We live in a world where the enemy of our soul wants to destroy us, and we can see the manifestation of his character all around. We are not to embrace it or be grateful for the actions it causes, but rather, we are called to wage war against it according to Ephesians 5. As we watch the war rage around us, it is imperative to thanks for the character of a King who empowers us with hope so that we can withstand all things as they may be.

May we always refuse the lies of the enemy by remembering the undeniable character of the Father, and in so doing, may we boldly give thanks in all things.

Copyright Jerri Phillips @ 2006


Nuggets Along the Path

Periodically, I wander back through previous posts to see what was on my mind on a given day. Okay, that is only a partial truth. I do read through previous posts, but usually it is because I recall the Holy Spirit dispensing a nugget-or boulder-of wisdom, and I want to go back and check it. Sometimes I read my blog entries again to see what nuggets of wisdom I have forgotten and need to receive again. I do the same thing with my journal.

While I am rather hit-and-miss with my blog, although I desire to be consistent, my journal covers almost everything important in my life, even some things that seem rather frivolous, but one never knows where the nuggets lie. The Bible says that the Lord works ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose. ALL includes the "frivolous" parts of life, too, so we can assume there are nuggets to be found in those weird and unusual events and circumstances. Since I am not one who can afford to miss nuggets in any form, I write down even the weird and unusual, and you might be amazed what I find there. (You can find some of it at www.jerrismunchies.com)

You might be wondering how much I actually write down. Well, I don't waste time buying small journals because during "intense" times, I can honestly fill them up in a week. I bought one 100-page journal that only made it through 10 days, and the 10th day was continued to another journal. I can write. Ask people who get "real" emails from me.

Your next question might be why I spend the time and energy to keep a journal. This question came up when a friend of mine was in the midst of a very painful divorce. She was seeing a counselor, which I think can be very helpful, and I told her to journal. She asked why since she was seeing a counselor. I said, "Because it keeps things clear. It is a written history, and you need to write down the wisdom and insights you learn BECAUSE time makes our brains fuzzy, and emotions twist the facts. It shows you where you've come from, and sometimes that is what keeps you going. And, it records the steps you made in dealing with the mountain before you, and don't kid yourself. You'll see this mountain again. Next time around the healing will be deeper, the emotions will be just as raw, and the timing will catch you off guard. You may feel as overwhelmed then as you do now. Your journal will help you keep your bearings and your senses. Your journal is your map of what worked and what didn't. The Lord will further purify you of what didn't work, and He'll perfect what did, so the next time you see this mountain, and you will see it again and again, you will not waste your time figuring out how to get out of the valley. You'll immediately start thinking at higher levels, and your map will be there to move you faster and more smoothly. Your journal is a pioneers' map that reminds you of territorial hazards, means of sustenance, and places of rest. Trust me. Write a journal."

I know we all want to believe once we've climbed a mountain we are done, but the truth is, we are not dealing with a mountain standing in the midst of life all by itself. On the contrary, life is nothing less than a vast mountain range requiring skill and wisdom if we ever want to get out of the valley. Journals are the maps of where we've been that help us more easily get to where we are going. Sometimes they offer wisdom. Sometimes they offer warning. Sometimes they offer a good laugh when we desperately need one. They are the records of mountains climbed and mole hills tripped over. They are the directions for how to navigate what lies ahead by learning how we succeeded and floundered in the past.

Want to learn how to climb the next mountain easier and more gracefully? Journal about the one you are on right now. Write about the huge avalanches, the large boulders that offered a safe place to sit and rest, and the stones you stubbed your toe on. You never know where a good nugget of wisdom will show up, and a journal is a good place to keep them so you can find them again when you need them.


The PerLfect Day

Today was, in my opinion, a perfect day. Let me tell you about my day.

I woke up with my little boy snuggled up on his daddy's side of the bed because his daddy and sister had left at 3:30 (yes, 3:30) this morning to do a daddy/daughter thing. I lay there and watched him sleep a little while. Then I closed my eyes and slipped back to sleep for a bit myself.

When I woke up, I found an exciting email from a friend of mine telling me that she is one step further on the journey called "publishing a book". You will hear more about this later because you'll want a copy of her book when it is ready to for public consumption.

Not long after that, my cutey boy wandered into the study where I was and chatted with me some. I love those morning chats. They are precious time with both my children. This morning our chat centered around the plans for the day. Because of Rob taking Anna on their special event, I decided today would be Robert's special day to do as he wanted, and he wanted to do some fun things, starting with a trip to Starbuck's.

Starbuck's happens to be our favorite date. Rob and Anna don't care for coffee, but Robert and I are coffee fans, so every other weekend we head to Starbuck's on a mommy/son date while Rob and Anna do a daddy/daughter date at McDonald's. Again, precious time. It is one of my very favorite things in the world, and Robert's too, so today, that is where we went.

We each got our faovorite drinks and decided to try experiment with new patries for breakfast. As we chatted, we swapped pastry samples and agreed we had done well with our choices. So we talked and enjoyed each other, AND we even had the cushy chairs. I'm telling you. Dates don't get much better than that.

Once we were done with our food and all the whipped creme was gone from Robert's drink, we headed to the early voting place. I figured it would be a five minute jaunt since it was last time, but evidently several people thought it would be a five minute jaunt, which meant--it wasn't. We were there for over thirty minutes, and I chatted while Robert spun in circles, investigated palm trees, and just relaxed.

By the time we got home, Rob and Anna were there, too, and Rob was getting ready to head off to work. I honestly figured Anna would just go to sleep after being up so early, but no. Instead, she played with clay with us for over an hour, and when we were done with that, we painted. By the time craft time was done, it was well past 1:00, so I deemed it lunch time.

While I worked on lunch, my dear friend Iona called. We discussed paths the Lord has us on right now, what to do about Jerri's Munchies, and whether my "Munchies" would work as a book. It was a good chat. Talks with Iona always are. She is by far one of the most upbeat people I know, and she can take any conversation and make it about God and His goodness. She is absolutely in love with the Lord, and it shows, and listening to her talk about her Beloved always blesses my day.

After lunch, we curled up in The Big Bed to read, and in the middle of the chapter, Rob came home due to being too sleep to work. While he and Anna napped, Robert and I curled up in front of the TV and watched some of Robert's favorite shows.

For supper, we had gumbo, and since it is a bit chilly here now, I thought it would be nice to enjoy the fire pit outside, so while the gumbo heated up, I made a fire, and we all enjoyed dinner hanging out by the fire. Then we made s'mores and munched them while the fire started to die down.

While I did some pick up, Rob and the kids played soccer in the dark. There is no way to describe the chaos of soccer in the dark, but let me suggest if you try it, have the players wear white shirts so you can at least see each other before the thudding body contact occurs.

After that, we all found our way in. I took a shower to get rid of the smokey smell. Anna curled up to watch a cooking show. Robert played Legos, and Rob rinsed dishes.

When I am done with this, we'll play a card game and then get the kids ready for bed, which means camping out in the living room floor tonight--them, not us.

As the day slows down and I look back, I see a whole pile of good stuff. I had great time with people I love. I could rejoice with dear friends over good things going on in their lives. I took responsibility for what influences my family and our lives (such as electing civic leaders). We had food we enjoy. We got to be silly with some games. We got to exercise our freedom to vote and be creative. We could enjoy the cool weather by the fire and then come in to a warm house. We got to cuddle in a snuggly, soft bed, and we could all read. I enjoyed my husband and children, and they enjoyed me. Oh, and the hot shower that got rid of the smokey smell was a delight.

Yep, when I can look back over a day and come up with an inventory like that, there is only one way to summarize it. It is a perfect day. Thankfully, God has given me the wisdom to realize it.

Hoping you are blessed with perfect days and the wisdom to know them when they come......


Ironing Out the Wrinkles Without Getting Steamed

I thought I would take a few minutes to post before I get to my ironing. I set the ironing board up in front of the television, and I get a big glass of ice tea to keep me cool while the steam pours from my iron. Then, I got to town, as we say in the South.

Personally, I like ironing. It has a spiritual aspect to it that makes me feel good about myself, or at least about the process of being myself.

The process of being myself has its wrinkles. Ask these wonderful folks who live in my house. They can confirm I have wrinkles, but they have wrinkles, too, and if you've ever had a wrinkle in your sock under your foot while you are wearing tennis shoes and having to walk a lot, you know how annoying wrinkles can be. You also know that while trying to get wrinkles out can be aggravating and hard, it is necessary for peace and comfort. You know what I mean? You try to just do a little adjustment, but if that doesn't work, you try something a bit more involved. Only in a final state of resolution do you actually take your shoe off and fix your sock. I guess some do that first thing, but most folks I know get by doing as little as they can to get enough comfort to keep going, and in truth, we ignore it as long as we can keep moving. If it doesn't impair us, we try to ignore it. It is only when we see taking the time to fix it as a greater good than ignoring it that we actually stop and address the problem.

What does a sock have to do with ironing? Well, wrinkles are wrinkles, and they have to be removed. With socks, there is the gratification of not walking on the uncomfortable wrinkle. With shirts or pants, the wrinkles are usually not uncomfortable, so sometimes the motivation to remove the wrinkles can be lacking. I motivate myself in other ways.

Ironing is my quiet time to catch a television show while the rest of the folks in our family do other chores. Typically, if I have a high laundry day, I finish watching a one-hour show just about the time I finish the ironing. The ironing doesn't seem so long or so boring that way.

How is that spiritual? We all have wrinkles whether they be within our character or our lives, and they must be worked through. Most of us would avoid working out the wrinkles if we could because it is hard work and sometimes flat out painful, and unfortunately, when they happen, they tend to become our focus. In fact, we become so absorbed by them that they can cause us to see nothing else, and when that happens, we start to lose hope and feel that that life has become nothing more than what we are working through. That is a dangerous place to be. Things and people we enjoy keep our minds from becoming overly engrossed by the problems or tasks of whatever size that beset us. Sometimes they can help us keep pace for when we will be past a circumstance such as an illness, a life change, or the final stretch to reach a goal.

The Bible says where there is no vision, the people perish. If I don't see an end to the pile of wrinkles, I can easily become so overwhelmed by them that I don't bother to address them at all. Television gives me a vision for being done with a necessary task that I really don't care to do. The wrinkles get addressed, and I don't get buried in them.

May you find a vision in the midst of ironing out your wrinkles......