ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Things are not always what they seem

Things are not always what they seem. . .
One of the important things that God is teaching me is not to jump to conclusions. You’d think at my age I would have learned this already. Alas! I have not. Specifically, some of the things that anger me are not what I presume they are. Imagine that!

Take for instance this morning. I’m driving to work on a snowy morning. I head uphill the last half block to work when suddenly a car backs out into the road in front of me. Now, I have time to stop. But I am partially up a fairly steep snow covered hill. I’m muttering to myself about ignorant people who don’t think about weather conditions before pulling out….. yada, yada, yada.

I did get traction again, fortunately, and follow the new Chrysler up the hill. To my surprise, he turns left into the school parking lot. I’m thinking, “Is one of our teachers really stupid enough to do that? Which of my friends doesn’t have sense enough to deserve to be behind the wheel?”

So as I park my car I keep an eye on this miscreant who doesn’t park, but makes a U-turn in the lot and just sits there. Then I spot a tall teenaged boy coming down the stairs from the subsidized housing next door with a young teenage girl on his back – piggyback style. I’m interested.

The boy walks over to the car and very gently sets the girl down. She is favoring one foot and holding her hand to her stomach as though she is either sick or injured. And I have an aha moment.

The driver of the car is either a friend or a relative of the kids and has answered a call for help to take the girl to the doctor/hospital. And I have a sudden change of attitude. Nice person, to come out at 7:30 a.m. on a snowy morning to give someone a ride for medical treatment.

And I start to wonder. What would it be like to have to call for help for your injured/ill sister. (I’m presuming here – but reasonably probable stuff). To have to depend on a friend/relative for transportation. Where’s the parent of the teenagers? Why isn’t the girl accompanied by someone from her own home? What would it be like to call a friend or relative hoping they’d take you to the hospital?

Yep. My attitude changed. I realized that the car that cut in front of me had passed by the entrance to the parking lot and was turning around to go back when he stopped me dead in my tracks. But he was on an errand of mercy. Early morning, snowy and cold. He had the heart to come help a friend even if he didn’t have the good sense to drive appropriately in the snow. Maybe I had the good sense, but he had the heart.

Turn off the anger. Turn on the compassion! Things are not always what they seem.

Pastor Phylis

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cleaning out my email, I found this. And it spoke to me today. Hope it speaks to you, too! (Author, unknown)

Best Prayer I Have Heard In A Long Time... Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children. Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester. Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares. Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that -- based on the biopsy report she got back last week -- this will be the last year that they go shopping together. Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those that are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.
Pastor Phylis

Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Excerpt that moved me to tears
(and I'm re-publishing it because I was just reminded of Mary's pain and the reward)
" The young woman felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She gazed into the piercing eyes of the aged holy man, but she really didn’t want to hear his haunting warning about her Son and their future:
This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many…, a figure misunderstood and contradicted—the pain of a sword-thrust through you—but the rejection will force honesty, as God reveals who they really are. (Luke 2:34-35 Message,)
Everything was fine until the unexpected teen pregnancy. Her fiancĂ© wasn’t the father of the child, but he still agreed to marry her in an awkward an earlier-than-planned marriage ceremony.
Her abrupt disappearance to spend several months with an older relative some distance away launched a storm of speculation back home. The tongue-wagging among the hometown busybodies only increased when she returned with obvious changes in her physical appearance that could only mean a baby was coming.
(The favorite phrase traded across tables, shared at the village market, and whispered from ear to ear at public events was “hurry-up wedding.”)
Then came the emergency do-it-yourself baby delivery in a small country town far from home and separated from the rest of her family and friends.
These were the circumstance neighbors speculated on and were more than happy to repeat.
Years later, she would read a handwritten letter from someone who was her Son’s closest associate in His final years on earth. It began, “To the elect lady…´(2John 1:1, emphasis added). Although the letter did not bear her name, she knew John had addressed it to her.
Mary was “elected” or chosen for her unique task and mission in the same manner that you were chosen by God for a unique role of your own that only you can fulfill.
She was not merely appointed to an “office”; she was chosen for a mission, designated for a function, reserved for a destiny.
Her obedience, along with the lifelong obedience unto death of her Son, Jesus, would affect billions of lives and countless generations. How many will be affected by your obedience or disobedience to the Master’s election?"
And here I have to stop and go contemplate what I’ve read…my husband has already spotted where we can buy the entire book..he has now left the house to go buy it!! I really want to read this book by Eddie Long, The Elect Lady.
(Click the book for a hot link to Bishop Long's website. It sends you to Amazon to purchase. If you're like me and can't wait...Barnes and Noble carries it also!!
I receive no reward for this endorsement other than the good feeling I get when I share a valued resource with friends!

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."
—Louisa May Alcott

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Joel 2:25
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.

Grief is such an interesting process. It really isn't an emotion, but a spectrum of emotions and sensations. I've always been really good at ignoring things that I don't want to penetrate my consciousness. But grief pokes it's head through the defending wall and strikes at my heart when I least expect it.

This time those moments of unspeakable sadness, of awareness of my own mortality, and knowledge that we are held together body, soul, and spirit by only a fragile invisible bond are less intense than when Victor died, but intense enough to interrupt the flow of my daily routine.

I knew that my grieving for Jeannie was compounded by the remnants of grief over Victor's death. Sunday night I slept fitfully. My nightmares were of being young and in prison. I painted the prison walls bright yellow, but still I couldn't get free. In the next dream, I was old and homeless, searching among the garbage behind restaurants for dinner. There was no logical explanation for this sudden episode of depression. On Monday morning, I dragged myself to school by sheer will power. Once there, however, I did fine. I was able to be effective with kids, even managed to get some things filed.

I had no explanation why Sunday evening was so difficult until tonight's reflection when I made the connection with Victor's death. Following the thought that Jeannie's death affected me so profoundly because I still hadn't recovered from Victor's death in February, 2006, I checked the calendar. Sunday was Feb 22, the third anniversary of Victor's death.

Recognizing the problem is half the solution. So now that I know I've been caught in the web of grief upon grief, I can deal with it.

Grief triggered by an anniversary is fairly common, even when it's not recognized. Seasons of life evoke reaction, albeit involuntary. So I shall have to set aside a few days in February each year to celebrate the life of two dear friends, one of whom died with my liver. Jeannie's death has reminded me that I have goals yet to be met. Things to do.

Pastor Phylis

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On the death of a friend

Funerals are a time for reflection, a time for evaluation. Since Jeannie and I are similar in so many ways, her death has sent me into a reflective spiral. Kind of like an internal tornado. I find myself alternately frozen and unable to do a thing, and motivated to get my life in order. I really have to get a book published, or at least written and ready for publication. I have several photo albums to finish. I have decisions to make, projects begun and half finished. And, above all, I have closets to clean.

Since I've returned from Colorado, these lyrics are speaking to me. I wanted to share them with you, as well as Brooke Fraser's lovely voice.


Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet

toward home, a land that I've never seen

I am changing, less and less asleep

made of different stuff than when I began

and I have sensed it all along

fast approaching is the day

when the world has fallen out from under me

I'll be found in you, still standing

when the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees

when time and space are through

I'll be found in you

There's distraction buzzing in my head

saying in the shadows it's easier to stay

but I've heard rumours of true reality

whispers of a well-lit way


You make all things new

You make all things new

You make all things new

You make all things

You make all things


When the world has fallen out from under me

I'll be found in you, still standing

Every fear and accusation under my feet

when time and space are through

I'll be found in you

when time and space are through

I'll be found in you

when time and space are through

I'll be found in you

Pastor Phylis

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
When time and space are through
I'll be found in you
"When the world has fallen out from under me I'll be found in You, still standing. When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees, when time and space are through I'll be found in You." ~"Shadowfeet" by Brooke Fraser.

Pastor Phylis

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jeanne Ann Buckli Harmon - "I was blind but now I see."

Jeannie left this life and entered a new one Thursday evening, February 12, 2009. In so many ways, I'm happy for her. She will have a new body, a pain-free one, a fully functioning one, but how we will miss her.

Jeannie always met life head-on. Her life was never easy, but she never just accepted what life dished out to her. She fought a brave battle. She was diagnosed early on with type 1 diabetes, and the complications of that disease plagued her throughout her life.

Somewhere in her 20's she had retinal neuropathy and lost sight in both eyes. For about two years, she was blind. She learned to function as a blind adult, living independently. Then she tried a new experimental procedure, laser surgery and voila, she regained her sight. She called it her miracle. And it was. She avoided night driving and bright lights, but otherwise saw sufficiently to read, write, use a computer and whatever other function she needed.

She didn't allow her disease to define her. Jeannie was her own woman. She wanted children, desperately, and was delighted when she was able to adopt Amy Renee. I'll always see Amy as a tiny infant with a bow scotchtaped to the blonde fuzz that grew from her head. Like a little duck with fuzzy down and a red bow. Later, she and Pat adopted a second child, a little boy, Michael. Jeannie believed her family was finally complete.

Somewhere in her thirties, Jeannie's kidneys failed. She had a kidney transplant, one donated by her sister, Barbie. We worried about her then, but she pulled through, as did the generous, loving sister. And she continued writing and editing, mothering and being a wife.

In her forties, her feet and legs began to bother her. There were sores that wouldn't heal. There was talk of amputation. Jeannie resisted mightily! She did not want to be confined to a wheelchair. There were some surgical procedures, but she kept her feet, and she kept going.

More recently in her fifties, her heart began to weaken. Her physical, organic heart, not her metaphorical spiritual heart! By now she's been living in Colorado for several years and I'm not certain about the details, but the strength and function of her heart was of concern. Jeannie kept going. She did partially retire, but kept busy at home as an editorial consultant and writer.

The last memories I have of Jeannie was a visit when I was undergoing chemotherapy. We went wig shopping! I tried on the most ridiculous wigs -- blond spikes, red curls, long straight locks -- while Jeannie laughed and gave them a thumbs down. She tried some too. The ravages of diabetes and medicines had left her hair thin, so she preferred a wig. But she wanted a more sedate one, a more conservative look. Neither of us decided on a wig that day, but we had fun laughing and posing. Two middle-aged women both engaged in a fight for life, but determined to enjoy every moment that life would give.

Jeannie's last moments were as she wanted. There was little drama, she was surrounded by her family, her granddaughters. She gave them their Valentine's Day presents and simply leaned back and closed her eyes. She died as she lived, quietly, with dignity and fully functional until the end.

Jeannie, we will miss you. However, I'm happy that vision and mobility are no longer a struggle. The battle is over and you've won the victory. You were blind, but now, you have 20/20 vision!

Monday, January 26, 2009

To Nathaniel Norris

To Nathaniel Norris

Nathaniel had Cri Du Chat Syndrome which caused him severe developmental delays and mental retardation. Nathaniel has passed to a better place, and his parents are writing a book about their experiences with a special needs child. They asked for a comment (me??? Just one comment???) for the book. I thought I'd post it.

"Meeting Nathaniel was a life-changing experience for me. It gave me reason to examine my previous ideas of families with special needs children. This change in me wasn't just because Nathaniel was a happy, fun-loving little boy. It wasn't just that his sweet smile melted my heart. It wasn't even his response to me and others that made me realize how special he was. No, you, Nancy and David, and your attitude toward Nathaniel was what really impressed me.

Your love for Nathaniel was obvious in your care of him, demonstrated not just by his cleanliness and the cute clothes he wore, but by the gentleness in your manner to him, the obvious joy with which you greeted his smile, his movement, his attempts to reach out. Granted, there was profound sadness contemplating the things that he would never be able to do. In spite of that genuine cause for grief, you were joyful in celebrating his humanity, the milestones he reached. The absence of disappointment spoke to me. Your disappointment was reserved for people who did not acknowledge his humanity, could not celebrate his personhood.

I was moved deeply. Later when everyone was purchasing gifts for the children at home, I felt compelled to buy that huge Panda for Nathaniel. I could envision his wide-mouthed grin, hoping he would like the softness of its touch. But mostly, I wanted to treat him special because you did, because he was not, nor ever would be an invisible child. No, Nathaniel was someone special. Your love for him gave him that gift. And I've never forgotten the lesson."

Pastor Phylis