Redeeming Awe-ctober

For about two decades now, I have not enjoyed October. Emotionally and mentally I have found it to be melancholy at best and clearly depressing more often than not. This is not an emotional response or descriptive given with undue thought. On the contrary, it wasn’t until I reviewed years of journals that an undeniable pattern emerged. October for me, and for several others I know, is not a good month.

I have grown to dread October. I am sure much of what I and my friends experience is related to the freedom of demonic activity related to Halloween. It is a demonic celebration, and frankly, I don’t see how anyone can make a demonic holiday Christian. We don’t suggest we can make a religious porn flick, but we try to take a demonic holiday and make it fun and Christianize it. Granted, we do use movies (not porn, but the same form of media) to reach the lost, and I can see the link of fall festivals and evangelism. However, when Christians put spiders, witches, ghosts, and all form of witchcraft in and outside their homes because “it’s fun”, we are simply saying, “Yes, Satan, this is a form in which we are willing to let you run wild.” And he does.

As a result, there is an unleashing in the spiritual and a demonic freedom in the spiritual during this time of year that effects many of us, and I hate it.

This year, however, has been different. This year my children went on the offensive.

I was doing dishes when two sets of small feet walked into the kitchen and stood behind me. “Mom, can God redeem anything?” my children asked in unison.

“Yes,” I said without hesitation.

“Even October?” they asked.

I froze. Even October? My head reeled. Well, God can redeem anything, but October is so steeped in demonic stuff…Then the Lord spoke to my heart, “Can I redeem anything or not? Am I bigger than all the demons in hell…or not?”

“Yes, God can redeem October,” I replied. How much I believed it, I don’t know. I’m just being honest. How would God redeem October? What would that look like? My children were already there.

“Mom, how can we redeem October?” they continued.

I turned from my sink full of dishes to face my children whose hearts where on a wavelength I was just catching. I had no answer. I only had questions. “What do you think?”

They didn’t have answers, but they had insight. Halloween is about death, fear, and darkness. The opposite would be life, hope, and light. How could we give those things, and to whom would we give them?

At first, it was a little bumpy, but suddenly, their hearts melded with the Father’s and ideas poured forth. In the end, there was one summary: “We can love people however God says, whenever God says. We can help people have a better day. We can be light in the darkness.” Their mission was set, and they have been faithful to the mission of redemption.

Amazing the power of choosing to be instruments of redemption. Amazing how that opens the door for God to be redemptive.

In September, I suffered headaches that were debilitating. Examinations showed extremely strained eye muscles that had to be rested. After two weeks of rest and new glasses, the headaches continued. Then Rob and the children were hit with the respiratory virus going around that lasted a full 7 days with high fever and sleepless nights. During that time, my mom was diagnosed as having a mini-stroke. We had our heater checked and found out the heating element wasn't working. A $123 part. The day my mom went in for extensive tests, I spent the morning transporting my son from doctor to various tests to determine the source of his chest pains. On the way to the hospital, my van stalled 4 times for no apparent reason. As we were leaving the hospital, the handle on the outside of the back door broke, and when I pulled onto a busy road, the door flew open.

As I lay on my bed that afternoon waiting for the doctor to call with EKG results or my mom to call with any results, I murmured, “I hate October.”

The Lord replied, “I am redeeming October.” Again, I wondered, How?

Last week—two weeks after the EKG—we finally got the results. All tests are clear. It seems that my son was just sore from the coughing and sneezing. All indications are that the blood clot behind Mom’s eye has dissolved and is no longer a concern. Our heater is working. The piece was replaced the day our temperatures dropped from mid- to high- 80s during the day and 60s at night to 60s for highs and low-40s or even high-30s at night. The personal side of that story is that I am notorious for remembering to have our heater checked about December, weeks or even a few months after we start using it. Usually, our maintenance company calls me. This year I was compelled to call while it was still warm. Had we tried to use the heater with a broken heating element, I wouldn’t have known about the problem until we either smelled the gas because it filled up the house or because the hot water heater ignited the gas and it exploded. While the van door handle isn’t fixed, the latch does. The door stays closed. No source for the stalling was ever determined so there were no other expenses, and there has been no further problems.

Every concern we have faced this month has been met by God’s provision. And there is more.

A friendship that was nearly broken two years ago has been restored. We have a friend who was diagnosed with a mass in her kidney and underwent surgery. The family was told the mass was almost guaranteed to be cancerous. The x-rays clearly show a mass, but after prayer, the surgeon found nothing. Further x-rays and tests confirm there is no longer anything there. Our friend who has been standing in faith for her marriage to be restored called this week to tell us her husband had broken ties with his girlfriend, moved out of her home, and has taken steps toward restoration of their marriage. And there are day to day reminders of God’s blessings in forms of emails, cards from friends, and chances to minister and receive ministry.

Friday I was talking to a friend of mine, and I said, “You know, I went into this month dreading October. I have spent this month watching God overcome every obstacle that has been thrown at my family and big ones thrown at our friends, and I just keep thinking of how blessed we all are.”

It leaves me in awe.

In the past month, I have not posted much. I’ve received several emails asking where I am and how I am. I didn’t know what to say then, but now I do.

I have been on my face. I have been dancing wildly.
I have been overwhelmed. I have been on top of the world.
I have been in pain. I have been in ecstasy.
I have been in tears of brokenness and joy.
I have watched the enemy attack. I have watched the Lord overcome.
I have been desperate. I have watched the Lord respond.

I have been in Awe-ctober, and because of God’s redeeming power, it has truly been Awe-some.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2007


Finally Time to Dance: A Novel

Finally Time to Dance: A Novel
By Mamie Thompson

Mamie Thompson is my friend. I know her as many things. I know her as a devoted wife, a wonderful mother, and a gifted speaker and writer. I also know her as a woman of deep faith who has walked on water while the storm raged around her. I know her as a woman of God who has faced heartbreaking life changes and has overcome them. I also know her as an anointed voice of healing for those who have lost people they love and are courageously moving forward to receive the joy and blessings the Lord is still holding out to them.

In 2001 Mamie lost her beloved husband and best friend to brain cancer. As friends, we watched the Lord carry her and their five beautiful children into a new season of life. We watched their family be blessed and continue to live boldly, and then we rejoiced when the Lord blessed Mamie with love again. When Mamie and Richard married in 2004, friends and family gathered and celebrated. It was obvious this union was of the Lord.

Sometimes, though, even things of the Lord are not easy to receive. Sometimes questions set in. Sometimes peace has to be made with what is behind before we can move forward.

In her debut fiction book Finally Time to Dance, Mamie courageously delves into the blessings and trials of love after death. It is a portrait of fear, healing, and restoration in an honest expression of the heart’s struggle to receive great things after deep loss.

While Finally Time to Dance is a fictional expression of Mamie’s journey, it is more than a cathartic novel written by a woman facing her own trials. There is an anointing of freedom and healing that allows readers who are themselves widows or widowers to be found in all the honesty of their emotions, dreams, and fears. It validates the struggle within while encouraging the reader to trust that indeed the Lord has a plan to give hope and a future, one filled with good things and blessings.

For friends and family of those who have faced death and are learning to love again, it is a view into the heart and mind that people who have never experienced such loss cannot know. It is heart wrenching and enlightening all at the same time. The honesty it offers also bridges gaps in understanding and opens doors that give freedom and safety for honest conversation.

One thing you won’t find in Finally Time to Dance is an ending all tied up in a pretty bow. Instead, you find the characters willing to step into the possibility of the future God is offering them. The ending may seem abrupt, leaving the reader feeling as though the ground has been jerked out from under them, wondering what is next. Is that not a good description of those who have lost their spouse and are still seeking to live? While it may feel awkward, it is the appropriate ending. Mamie wisely rests the responsibility for the ending upon the reader, which is where it truly lies. As one anointed to show the power of God to heal and restore, Mamie does not leave readers with a tidy little package that holds all the answers. Instead, she leaves them with something greater--the hope that it is truly Finally Time to Dance.

To find out more about this excellent book, get a free preview, or order your own copy, please visit Finally Time to Dance at AuthorHouse.com.

You can find out more about Mamie and contact her via her website.

About the book:

Alone with her best friend for the last time, Megan walked slowly to his side. She breathed deeply and tried to stop the tears as she looked down at the crayon drawings and wadded tissues that his children had laid on their father’s chest.

“Catch you on the flip side, Bud.”

Megan Hardin walked out of the church that day knowing God was holding her hand. What she didn’t expect was for Him to give it in marriage.

When Ron Wellbourne befriends Megan and finds his way back to God, he falls in love with the lovely young widow and sets out, successfully, to make her family his own. Megan stands amazed at God’s grace, thankful He’s led her to love again.

After only a few weeks of marriage, however, Megan begins to question God’s direction. Did she misunderstand? Should she have risked loving, and possibly losing, again?

When their new life begins to unravel, Ron and Megan wonder if they will ever see the day when it’s Finally Time to Dance.


The Reality of War

Lately I’ve been hearing comments that have been bothering me. They aren’t new. The philosophy and theology behind them aren’t new, but my reaction to them is. Instead of having sympathy or commiserating, I’m getting annoyed. Actually, I think I'm beyond annoyed because I realize the mindset behind the statement gives too much power where it doesn't belong. It creates weakness where strength should abound. I see the lie that is just enough Truth to keep people from being free, and it is time for the sword to cut loose the shackles.

What is this statement, you wonder? It’s a statement so innocuous that it has become cliché and evokes no response of action but rather feeds the victim mentality that allows us to live impotent lives because we are at the mercy of the powers that be, and sadly, we put more faith in the power that be against us than that which is for us. And before you misinterpret, my annoyance isn’t aimed toward an individual speaker. My annoyance is toward the generalized ignorance of the church as a whole that perpetuates the thinking that keeps us from preparing appropriately for the inevitable and thus enabling us to continue to give excuse for not living at higher levels of spiritual power and maturity.

The statement has different versions , but it all comes down to one simple statement: The enemy is attacking me in some way, and it’s making things hard.

And people seem somehow surprised or like they are the only ones or that they should in some way be exempt. I’m not sure what their thoughts are exactly. I only know the results. And understand, I’m not judging. I have no room to judge. I’ve said the same things, felt the same way. “Poor me, I’m being attacked. Feel sorry for me. I’m being attacked. I’m so godly or doing so much for the Kingdom the enemy sees me as a threat, and I’m being attacked. I’m making progress, and the enemy is attacking me.” I’m telling you. I’ve been there.

We wear the scars of the onslaught like a badge. We use it to get sympathy or esteem or both. It’s a reason for special treatment one way or the other. It’s an explanation for why we act the way we do. You know what it really is? It’s an excuse not to live above where we are.

Now, I’m not saying we are never attacked, and I’m certainly not suggesting we live in denial. In fact, I’m saying we need to do just the opposite. We need to acknowledge that we are in a war. These are not potshots that the enemy is taking to ruin our day. These are bombs he has devised to destroy our lives. We are either stupid or ignorant if we think otherwise.

Jesus told us about the enemy of our soul who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Peter said the enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul said “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

Why are we surprised when the enemy attacks us? We shouldn’t be.

Last week I was talking to someone, and she mentioned how “the enemy attacked you yesterday because of the women’s group you are leading.” I looked at her and said simply, “Honey, I’m a Christian. The enemy is going to attack me whether I’m leading a women’s group or not, and to believe otherwise is beyond naïve. It is a setup for a downfall.”

Last night I received an email from someone that said, “Pray for us. We are in a battle up here.”

My first thought was, “Duh. We’re in one here, too. Welcome to being a Christian.”

And you know what? It’s not like being a Christian is going to stop the enemy from attacking. His being, his essence, is that of destruction.

Look at all the children who are set upon by the enemy. Look at the drug addicts who don’t even know who Jesus is. Look at the prostitutes who have never been told about God. You cannot describe the assault on their lives as anything less than demonic, and it wasn’t because they were busy building the Kingdom. The enemy’s attacks are not in relation to one’s spiritual status. The enemy is who he is, and he is a hate-driven destroyer whose plan today is to do whatever he can to steal, kill, and destroy any life he can.

I’m not sure why the church seems so nonchalant with the idea that we are at war. The whole topic is treated as one we should skirt around or bow beneath in fear. It’s like taxes. It’s part of life, so you just learn to live with it and cope with the oppression.

Where exactly is that in scripture? I haven’t found it. Jesus dealt with the same attacks we do. People didn’t believe in Him. Religious people thought He was crazy. His “group” was full of folks who might get it right or not on any given day. When He needed them most, they went to sleep on Him. His family thought He was crazy. He was an illegitimate child raised in a society where folks could die for that sort of thing.

Where did Jesus ever use the attacks of the enemy or circumstances of life as an excuse for having a bad day, for not living up to potential, or for hiding from His calling? I’ve yet to find a place where He did. You know why? Because He knew three very important things:

1) He knew who He was.
2) He knew who His Father was.
3) And He knew who the enemy was.

Jesus knew the enemy’s character is destruction. He also knew His Father was bigger. He knew His plan was bigger, and He knew on any given day the enemy would be who he is but that did not preclude Jesus being who He is. Jesus expected Satan to act like Satan, but He also expected His Father to act like God Almighty, too. The latter is what empowered Jesus to be who He is. Therein is the key.

If we believe we are going to have a day when Satan does not attack us, we have believed a delusional lie that is setting us up for a fall. Satan can’t not attack us. It’s against his nature. He will attack us. That is not the question. The question is how we will respond.

The joy of our day and the power we walk in cannot be dependent on not being attacked by the enemy. Our joy and our power is dependent on one thing only: our identity in Christ.

When Jesus was attacked by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus didn’t falter because He knew the Truth. When He was heckled for saying the little girl was only sleeping, He didn’t waiver because He knew He was the Healer. When His family doubted, He didn’t because He knew His Father. When the storm rocked the boat, He slept because He knew His purpose wasn’t done and He knew the One who controlled the waves. Over and over the enemy threw sources of discouragement, rejection, and doubt at Jesus, and Jesus never faltered because He knew who He was.

We talk about the armor of God. It’s a nice phrase, but do we understand it? Have we dug in and learned the Truth so we can buckle on the belt? Do we understand that salvation is more than a “someday in Heaven” thing so we can wear the helmet without it falling in front of our eyes keeping us from seeing and being ready to attack what is in front of us? Do we walk in peace, or are we tripping over the enemy’s false definition of it? Do we know the basis of our righteousness and what it affords us so we can protect our hearts, or are we still trying to earn it and having hearts diseased with guilt and condemnation? Do we know the Word so we can use our swords? Do we have faith to pick up the shield little less use it?

Folks, we are at war. There is an enemy with a relentless desire to steal or destroy everything he can. To think we can escape or avoid him is sheer ignorance. To think we can ignore him and hopefully come out intact is apathetic. To let him go unchecked is irresponsible.

Jesus never baited the enemy, and I’m not suggesting we do. However, Jesus never ran from the enemy, and He never circumvented His call in an effort to avoid the enemy either. If we are going to be the light this world needs and be the agents that the Lord can use in order to allow His Kingdom to invade this world, we can no longer be surprised by the enemy’s character or be victim to fear of his attacks. Jesus faced the same attacks daily that we do, and yet, He walked victoriously. Jesus said it simply, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

It is time for the army of God to stand up, take responsibility for being warriors, and walk in the victory of Christ. We have a world take. We have marriages to defend and families to protect.

Victory will not be determined by your not feeling the enemy’s attack today. It’ll be determined by how you respond. Are you prepared to be victorious?

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2007