Thursday, January 26, 2012

Convincing Me!

This week I’ve enjoyed the Florida Gulf coast, in a different way than Santorum, Gingrich and Romney! I’m not working any crowds, doing any convincing, like they are these days. Instead I’m BEING CONVINCED. And politics has nothing to do with it!

On our morning beach walks we marvel at red, white and black mangrove trees. These guardians of the shore grow in estuaries where freshwater from the land mixes with saltwater from the ocean, creating brackish water. On a guided nature hike we learned that black mangrove trees exude the salt through their leaves and their trunks, literally sweating it out to maintain the right balance to thrive. These fascinating trees not only protect the shores from storms, they also cradle the nursery of the seas. The brackish water in which the mangrove trees grow, gives fish and shellfish strong starts in a protective ecosystem.

We saw a Gopher Tortoise, a land turtle protected from extinction by the State of FL for what he does. This guy digs down 6’, then makes a tunnel 30’ long and then the neighbors move in… numbering more than 350 other species! Talk about, "There goes the neighborhood!" We walked under The Great Blue Heron and Egrets flying overhead and the Black Skimmer scooping up fish as it skimmed the top of the water. We stood within 20 feet of dozens of huge Pelicans diving straight into the Gulf and popping up with a mouthful every time. All of this captivating, even breathtaking. I think of God’s particular concern for creation when I stand in the midst of it like this. In Matthew 10:29-31 we read, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Just as I was oohing and aahing, our conservancy guide pointed out beautiful orbweaver spiders creating massive silk webs. I wondered out loud, “Why in the world would God invest so much of Himself in things that few notice or appreciate?” I’d walked that same area earlier in the week and hadn’t picked up on the detail. I’ve thought about it a lot since. All of the creatures and pieces of creation we encountered on our walks is staying with me, even though I’m back home in my daily routines which do not include what I’ve just described. I have a renewed sense of how God is wooing us.

I’m being convinced this week through His provision and protection for lesser creatures that makes me trust His complete and total provision for me in what Christ accomplished on the Cross and then rising from the dead! My holiday at the shore has washed away some of life’s fears and replaced them with faith. And it only took a few spiders, a relic turtle and some dashing birds of the air to do it! What will it take for you to be further convinced that you can trust the Lord Who counts the hairs on your head and the sparrows that fall from the sky? Unlike the way political candidates try to convince us, God wants to convince us without forcing the issue. He reveals His glory in the everyday ways He comes to us. He doesn’t say, “Take it or leave it.” It’s not, “Believe it or not,” like with the candidates. It’s more taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy being convinced!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Trust God in the Details

Last week my husband and I were excited because our son, Brooks, was flying in from across the world where he lives. We email, text and Skype … but there’s nothing like person to person! Especially with our kids. Lots of us have this challenge. Our kids go with the job opportunity that often takes them far away. To have Brooks home for three whole days would be heavenly for us and give him time for the jetlag rebound! I worried about his layover at O’Hare, which in my experience is prone to closing over things, like rain, wind, snow, ice and lake effect - anything. I steeled myself against COUNTing on his arrival and checked about 7 times a day! I think moms have a God-given right to hover like that!

We had a plan. Friday airport pick up by our St. Louis son-in-law and Friday dinner in our Illinois home for all of us until Brooks “crashed” in our earlier time zone!

As winter weather advisories loomed, I prayed “expecting,” as they say. Expecting a strong “maybe.” To be honest, I knew this little side trip could be cancelled by weather and Brooks would have to stay in Chicago, which was his meeting destination in the first place. The only thing I knew for sure… he would if he could.

With the FRIDAY dinner deadline in mind, I was slightly distracted by our first significant snow of the year on Thursday. With 2-3” here in St. Louis and a predicted 7-10” in Chicago, my anxiety meter went up. Maybe by Friday O’Hare would be shoveled out and Brooks’ flight would land. I must have had pretty balanced brain chemistry that Thursday, because when our daughter, Hannah, called and asked if she and the kids could come over to sled and stay for dinner, I said “YES!” Normally I’d be flying through the house with last minute prep. But the house was ready, so we sledded instead. My body was sledding, but my head was fussing over Brooks getting here the next day. We ended up eating dinner out. After all, I had my sites set on a big dinner the NEXT night when Brooks arrived.

Hannah’s husband was running late, so we ordered for her kids. Meanwhile, I’m planning how much baking I can still get done before I go to bed when these nice people go home! That’s when the kids at the dinner table looked straight past me and called out, “Brooksie!” There he was. A day early and that’s why their daddy was late! The airport run!

I turned and my eyes saw him, the beautiful sight of my son, but I couldn’t take it in. In fact, I couldn’t process his actually being there until later that evening. What IS that? It’s like a trick. When I pray for something and it’s answered, why don’t I “get it” right away? Why does it take so long for it to sink in?

In a way this reminds me of Acts 12 when King Herod was on a rampage against Christians and beheaded James, the brother of John? He put his next victim, the Apostle Peter, in prison under military guard until after Passover when he would be killed. The church prayed fervently to God for Peter’s release. The very night before Herod planned to execute him, Peter was asleep between two soldiers, secured by chains, with sentries guarding the doors. You can read how an angel tapped Peter on the shoulder to wake up, walked him out of the prison and down the street. Peter thought it was a vision. But realizing that he’d been rescued, he went to the house where they were praying for him. Rhoda, the maid, answers the door, recognizes his voice, doesn’t open the door, but in her excitement runs back to tell the others who tell her she’s crazy! Rhoda believes and the others, including the apostles, don’t! I can identify after seeing, but not seeing, Brooks a day early from across the world!

The take-away from all of this: We can get so antsy over the answer, we can’t recognize it when it arrives.

It’s Leap year… so let’s leap into 2012 expecting answers. Like Isaiah tells us, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor His ear too dull to hear.” He’s the “more than” God..more than you would think or ask. As it turned out, Brooks caught an earlier flight due to a cancelled meeting. He decided to surprise us. By coming in a day early, although his international flight was an hour and a half late into O’Hare, he caught a flight to St. Louis with 10 minutes to spare. It was the last flight out of O’Hare because of the weather! No-one knows the behind the scenes story most of the time. Even more reason to trust God in the details of our lives.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Call for Help You Can Count On!

JANUARY 13, 2012 Call For Help You Can Count On!

On this “Friday with Phyllis,” I’d like to tell you about my friend Lisa, who’s also my egg lady! Whenever I stop for eggs my world gets bigger by learning how to hold carrots for the horse or how to pick up the rabbits, but last week was singular! Lisa has two gorgeous Partridge Cochin roosters who strut their stuff with lots of fluff, but it was a little rough for one last September. Lisa’s husband was out of town and in the middle of the night, over the air conditioning, she somehow heard a ruckus out in the chicken shed. She grabbed a flashlight and went to find a raccoon lurking in the hen house. He’d dug his way under the door and scrambled out the way he’d come in as soon as Lisa put him in the spotlight! Her light also revealed a badly mangled rooster cowering in the corner, reeling from his predator’s attack. His head was a mess because the raccoon had him by the head. “He was almost gonna be dinner,” she told me.

Now I’m hearing this story last week, four months later, while the roosters are strutting toward me from across the yard, as happy as you please. Even with Buster, the Corgi, barking to ward them off, they kept coming! It turns out they recognized Lisa standing next to me and figured she’d go get some corn. Which she did. Buster was ushered into the house, BTW, so I could get the REST of the story right next to these beautiful multicolored, large, fluffy feathered birds with fully feathered legs and feet. I had noticed one was a bit leaner than the other, but otherwise they were identical. So now I knew what had happened!

Talk about a close call. Lisa isn’t sure how she heard the squawking over the noise of the air conditioner, with the windows closed, but she and the rooster are glad she did. She saved his life. In fact, when I told Lisa I was using this story today, she said she’d tell the “boys,” the rooster brothers…so they’d have something to crow about!

When trouble digs its way into your life in a moment of physical, spiritual, emotional darkness, do you squawk like the roosters did? I hope so, maybe not that loudly, but in some appropriate way because it’s good to let it be known you need help. It can be any threat to body, soul or mind that alerts us to danger. The question is….. who hears our cries for help and shines a light into our situation? [The raccoon heard the rooster’s cry…no help there.] We want the one with the best light, don’t we, to expose what’s going on and rescue us? And WHAT if we don’t see it coming and there’s no time to squawk?

In either case, the Bible speaks to that. Hebrews 13: 5,6 "God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” The rooster was helpless. He couldn’t run for help, couldn’t save himself. Lisa had to intervene, stop the attack and get the rooster to safety. It took months for the rooster to heal and it took this incident for Lisa to secure the area under the door of the chicken house.

In 2 Cor the Apostle Paul refers to God as “The God of all comfort…Who comforts us in all our troubles.” There’s no limit to what or how God will intervene in our close calls, the attacks against us. When He shines His Light..the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, into your life, through prayer or Bible study for example, it sends away dark thoughts and circumstances. Like the rooster, we need outside intervention. We can’t save ourselves from attacks. So call on God, in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ…Expect Him…and trust His timing and mercies in your behalf.

And now a little plug for the February 3 & 4th Women's Day of Renewal at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Collinsville, IL. ”Responding with Faith” is the theme. We’ll look at finding faith for our freakouts with the insights of Psychologist Dr. Melanie Wilson who teams up with me on the stage! All women are invited to this fabulous event, the 12th annual WDR at GSLC in C’vle. Expect God to shine His Light on your freakout so you can respond with Faith. His Holy Spirit gives you the faith…you have that", It’s a given," as they say. But you’re still scared, hiding in the corner of your nest, your hen house, behind your thoughts about what freaks you out. Your job, stepping out with confidence knowing your weakness, your scars may show. Like the rooster beaten up by the raccoon. But guess what…like Lisa’s flashlight shined into the rooster’s corner and scared away the raccoon..God’s Light, His Holy Spirit shines into your dark too. You have choices about how to respond to freakouts. Find out what they are at the Women's Day of Renewal. Contact:

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year Aspirations!

We have 6 days under our belt in 2012. How’s your new year’s resolution going? For some inspiration, here’s an idea. Look back over your shoulder at December 2011 when Time Magazine announced its “Person of the Year.” For 84 years the winners have included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, Bill & Melinda Gates and Bono who shared the 2005 honor for being shrewd about doing good, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow! Awesome. Young People were highlighted in 1966 for shaking up society and trusting no one over 30. I was young then. I remember. There have been U S Astronauts and Presidents, along with men and women from other countries who’d most impacted the news and our lives, for good or otherwise, to exemplify what was important about their year.

Would you have guessed the 2011 “Person of the Year?” Admittedly, there were strong finalists, like Admiral William McRaven and Congressman Paul Ryan. And the “PERSON of the Year” was THE PROTESTOR! Not as in “Thou doest protest too much!” Oh no…it was “more is better” and “too much is never enough.” Now Protest IS REALLY NOTHING new. It’s made news headlines before and even changed history, but it’s been rather subdued by the good times of the last decade. Before the “bubble” burst in the U.S. a few years ago. Many thought the good times would never end and became complacent in them.

If lethargy was rampant world-wide, then protest became kindling for the fire when in Tunisia in Dec of 2010, a hard working 26 yr old street vendor had been dehumanized by harsh and unfair treatment at the hands of his town authorities one too many times. He went to city officials to file a complaint. Getting no response, he poured paint thinner on himself and lit a match. “My son set himself on fire for dignity," his mother said. His sister added, “In Tunisia, dignity is more important than bread.” [mom = Mannoubia Bouazizi] This incident incited the huge protest in Tunisia that overturned the government there.

Protestors from all over the world are mentioned in Time magazine’s award. From the nameless masses who swarmed the streets with the Arab spring to the protestors in Greece and the Occupy Wall Street movement and on it goes…notice was taken and high marks given by Time magazine, 2011. Protestors were cited to share a desire to reform and improve their countries’ political and economic woes. Egyptian eruptions came out of fraudulent elections in 2010. In Russia it was the reality that another six (or 12) years of Vladimir Putin, the Time magazine 2007 “Person of the Year” incidentally, might NOT improve prosperity and daily life.

What does this have to do with my NY’s resolution and yours? The Bible teaches us about resolution in terms of who drives your bus and what motivates you to stand up and be counted. Who of us doesn’t protest something to one extent or another? But how & why we do it matter to God whose Son, Jesus Christ endured protest and protested Himself here on earth. If Jesus had demanded to be treated fairly with dignity, where would that have taken Him? How many times was He offended.. from “no room at the Inn” to false accusations and injustice on the cross?

He could have marched with signs and gotten air time and said “Forget This Stuff!” And then where would We be? Instead He said, “Forgive them and gave His life as a sacrifice to give US dignity…even, especially, when others don’t. Maybe this year we can protest with more of a Divine purpose.

The Bible says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psalm 37:23). Let’s check with Him first.

‘Know where you are headed and you will stay on solid ground’ (Proverbs 4:26). ‘Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’ (Proverbs 19:21).

Above all, let’s be sure to seek God’s will in whatever cause we promote. 1 Sam 2:10 warns that those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. That sounds like something to avoid! In the process, we stay humble, as He gives us the grace to encourage others and work for good change. That's why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." And when we get beaten down and discouraged by the opposition, we take heart from Heb 12:3 “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Of course, begin any protest with prayer!

Bottom line: in contrast to proTEST, let’s PROclaim..the Good News of JC. In contrast to OCCUPY, let’s BE OCCUPIED by the HS. That’s how God guides our protests to be most effective so what we occupy will count far beyond the here and now! Lord willing, That should make for a great 2012!

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