Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

It’s Okay Not to be Okay ~ Really? October 19, 2018

Sheila nailed it right there in black ink on white pages. In her new book, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, she gets it. She gets me—this crazy-perfectionist me; this not-quite-good-enough me; this grappling-with-anxiety me; and this wondering-if-God-is-Okay-with-me—ME!

I recently participated on the launch team for Sheila Walsh’s latest book, It’s Okay Not to be Okay. I had preordered her book just like I have her other books. Within a few days I received an email that included a place to apply to be on the launch team. I did, and now I was all set for this new experience.

I received a copy of the book within a few days—several weeks before its release date of October 2. The team was to start reading it, make comments, post pictures on social media, and when finished with it, write a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever we preordered. And when the book I preordered arrives after the release date, I get to give it away to a friend!

I have done all of those things, even the selfie with a picture of the book, which is totally out of my comfort zone. Did I mention that I hate selfies of me?

As I read, I also underline, bracket, star, write notes in the margin, and circle page numbers—depending on how much the sentence or paragraph speaks to me—because I want to be able to find those special places again. The profound statements tucked within the pages of this amazing book are numerous and yes, quite profound! Honestly, there are now full pages that are underlined in my book, and many, many brackets, stars, and notes on almost every page. I can so easily say that I highly recommend this book to my friends and blog followers!

I have loved every book I have ever read by Sheila Walsh, but this book blew me away. I even asked myself: Why does this book so clearly speak to Janie Kellogg? Beside the fact that it is well-written, insightful, and gut-level honest, this book speaks to me somewhere down-deep inside—you know, those places that we all keep hidden. Of course, being a blogger I strive to be transparent and share my discoveries, victories, and failures with you my readers, yet still there is that part of me that no one sees (well, except Jesus).

And just to make my point about profound statements reaching down-deep inside me, I’ll give you a few of my favorite quotes from her book:

“He (Jesus) knows all our little quirks and personality traits, but the glorious truth of the gospel is that Jesus is in love with us right now, even though we are a crazy, mixed-up bunch. He sees us as beautiful.”

“The breathtaking truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are not judged on our failures but on the finished work of Christ….That is the heart and passion of this book.”

“It’s okay not to be okay, because Jesus has made us right with God. If we could begin to grasp that, it would radically revolutionize our lives.”

“But if anyone ever tells you that you’re not saved unless you follow their rules, run as fast as you can, because that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (May God bless Sheila abundantly for her courage on this one!)

“We’ll never have enough to fulfill all the demands made on us, but that’s okay. We’re not supposed to have enough.” (This is really great news right here!)

“If Christ had chosen to live eternally with His scars, why would I be ashamed to show mine?”

“Scars are proof that God heals.”

“You are not what happened to you. You are a child of God.”

There you go—now you know—this book will speak to a down-deep part of you too. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to read it again!

I am so grateful to writers who are courageous enough to let their hair down, open their hearts and show us their wounds. Without fail, it gives the rest of us the courage to do the same. My hat’s off to Sheila Walsh for writing this one—just for me! ~Janie Kellogg

 

All quotes: Walsh, Sheila, It’s Okay Not to be Okay, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2018, Pages 57, 61, 61-62, 68, 119, 140, 157, 166.

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Now He Is Near September 13, 2018

On Sunday the Pastor used two really big words: transcendent and immanent. I thought I knew their meanings, but then decided a little research might help me better understand these terms as attributes of God. Transcendent describes God as being divine, heavenly, supernatural and otherworldly, while immanent defines Him as existing in and extending into all parts of the created universe—inherent within something. Still confused? I am.

 

Here is an illustration might help us get it. I remember watching a Sesame Street program years ago that attempted to teach my young grandson the difference between the words far and near. I expect that many of you can picture it as well: one shaggy character moves several feet away from another shaggy character, and in a deep, gruff voice pronounces the word “far.” Next, he comes right up close to his friend and pronounces the word “near.” He repeats this amusing activity over and over: “Far—near; far—near,” until he is out of breath.

 

In very real terms, it is a picture of what God has done for us. Once He was far away from us; in fact, the Bible tells us that we were alienated from Him. But then things changed! This magnificent, divine, all-powerful God did the unthinkable—He came into our world as one of us! In other words, He came close to where we are and is no longer other-worldly. Through His Son, Jesus, He has come very near—even so close as to live within our hearts.

 

 

Although He was far away at one time—now He is near.

 

It’s still an amazing thing to me that God, the Creator of the Universe, would love me that much—to send His only Son into this sin-infested world to find me! I think that I may never get over such an unimaginable fact, and I hope I don’t. I pray this mind-boggling truth never become commonplace—for it took me a long time to believe that God did it for me.

 

After years of searching for the transcendent God, my tiny mustard seed of faith began to grow and I called out to Him to come near. And Jesus did that very thing—He came to me. I was 23 years old at the time, and more than once I had walked church isles, prayed with preachers and counselors, cried at altars, and been water baptized. But it wasn’t until the day I asked Him to come and at the same time believed in my heart He would, that I experienced the immanent Christ move into my life. The Apostle Paul described that transition like this:

 

Don’t forget that you Gentiles (that’s you and me) used to be outsiders….In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:11-13 (NLT)

 

Transcendent—immanent.

 

Far—near.

 

Have you ever had this amazing life-altering experience that moves us from being far away from God to being very near to Him? If not, invite Him right now to come near to you. He is longing…looking…and waiting…for you to ask.

 

Without fail, it will be the best decision of your life. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Living the Life I Intend September 5, 2018

The words of Charles Krauthammer—the popular journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner—grabbed me and won’t let go. I hope they grab you too.

 

A few weeks before his death, he wrote a letter to Fox News stating that he would not be returning to the Special Report program because of his failing health. He ended with these words:

 

“I leave this life with no regrets….I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.” ~ Charles Krauthammer

 

Am I living the life I intend? Are you?

 

A few mornings ago I walked outside with my husband as he was leaving. He pointed out something in my flowerbed that I had not seen—a miniature rose bush with one tiny rose in full bloom. How had I missed seeing it before? Or better yet, how had I not trampled it down while watering the shrubs nearby?

 

I was actually surprised to see it growing there, since I had pulled up a rose bush from that very spot last fall. The full-grown bush had outgrown the space, and the pesky twig girdlers had all but stripped it of any branches. I decided it had to go, and there would be no more rose bushes in this bed.

 

Yet, there it was—this perfect sampling of a rose bush that had overcome the odds—including a gardener who wanted it gone, a fresh layer of pine bark piled high, and zero protection from big rubber boots. It certainly had received no special care or prime growing conditions. Actually, it wasn’t wanted at all. Except, that is, by its Creator.

 

The Creator creates rose bushes to grow, reach upward toward Him, and produce blooms that turn into beautiful roses. In fact, if this tiny specimen of a rose bush never amounts to anything else, today it is living the life that it was intended to live—and bringing a smile to the face of its Creator. And that’s all that is required of it.

 

 

Oh dear readers, can we grasp that the life God intends for us to live is really all that matters?

 

Our broken world has a warped definition for greatness. It tells us we have to strive for big dreams and lucrative careers. Perhaps that’s why we struggle to find our place—for the one we’re in now just doesn’t seem great enough. We are often insecure about our not-so-great gifts, talents, callings, and we’re left to think that surely we were meant to be more, do more, and excel more.

 

Yet, our Creator God doesn’t ask us to be great in the world’s eyesbut in His eyes—doing what He created us to do.

 

Our Heavenly Father simply asks us to be what He created us to be. Then He offers to guide our desires and talent toward the place where He needs us to go, and asks only that we trust Him to guide us correctly. When we do find our place, we can put down roots, begin to grow, reach upward toward Him, and bloom—right there.

 

Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.”

 

As a child of God, my intentions must be aligned with what God wants from me—a life that brings a smile to His face. That could mean I need to turn loose of some dreams of my own making; or some goals that are unrealistic; or perhaps some visions of grandeur that others have had for me.

 

Jesus said, “For I always do those things that please Him.” And that should be enough for us, too. It might even relieve some stress from our lives.

 

Now that I think about it, that is the life I intend to live. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Can Broken Things Survive? August 7, 2018

A few weeks ago when I was having one of my anxious days, my son sent me a picture of a broken-down tree. The caption on it was “keep fighting.” This picture speaks volumes to my heart.

 

 

Since trees can neither think nor make decisions, let’s just pretend for the moment that they do.

 

This broken-down tree could certainly have taken the victim approach to life. After all, something catastrophic happened that altered its future—forever. As a victim, it could bemoan its circumstances, since trees are supposed to stand up—not lie down. It could compare itself to all the normal trees standing tall and straight, and determined that it will never be a beautiful tree. It could consider itself too far gone—fallen too low to fulfill its purpose on the earth. And what about its environment—trees rarely survive in the middle of a body of water. Its chances are not only slim, but near impossible.

 

Choosing to be a victim of one’s circumstances is a hard life. Victims look for someone to blame, and then much of their time and energy is spent lamenting what has been dealt to them. How many have said: I’ll never make it in this set of circumstances? If only things could be different. If only this had not happened. If only things could go back to being the way they were…before. If only….if only….if only….

 

Yet, here it is—a broken-down tree that is a shining testimony of what a tree is created to be—branched out in beautiful foliage, producing oxygen, shade and a resting place for those sparrows God watches over so carefully. And all of that—in spite of its circumstances.

 

Is it not a tree that chose to “keep fighting” and make the most of its brokenness? Is it not living proof that broken things can indeed survive?

 

A few months ago the popular syndicated columnist, political commentator and Pulitzer Prize winner, Charles Krauthammer, passed from this life. In a documentary on Charles’ life, Fox News commentator Bret Baier made a profound statement about him that I won’t soon forget. Now it only becomes profound when you know that Charles suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a diving accident when he was in college. As a result, he spent the remainder of his life in a wheel chair with only limited use of his arms and hands. Yet, Charles finished college and medical school on time, graduating with his class. He changed careers somewhere in midstream and spent many years in Washington DC as a political journalist. He had a wife, one son, and is a best-selling author of “Things That Matters.” He is highly esteemed in the media and political circles around the world.

 

Here is the statement Baier made about him: “Charles Krauthammer lived life as if the accident never happened.” Seriously, I think I gulp every time I read that statement.

 

How did Charles do it? How did he not succumb to being a victim of his circumstances? He kept fighting…against the odds. He was somewhat of a creative genius and he used the resources given him—his intelligence, his wit, and his charm to build a life that mattered.

 

And our thinking tree—what did it do? It kept fighting too…against the odds. It used the circumstances dealt to it and the resources given to also build a life that mattered.

 

I hate the anxiety that I now live with, and I really wish it wasn’t here. I hate it most when it catches me off-guard and causes me to think I’m less than I used to be, that I am a victim of some sort, or that I’ll never be normal again.

 

But like a broken-down tree or a broken-down life, I have a choice. And so do you. Here is the question for us today: Can we live life as if the thing never happened? I’m pretty sure I just gulped again.

 

I’m still not over that picture—that broken-down tree surviving…against the odds. I printed it and keep it where I can see it every day. And I have decided what I’m going to do—I’m gonna keep fighting! I hope you do too. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

 

Broken Things ~ August 1, 2018

In her new book “The Way of Abundance,” Ann Voskamp looks at a chip in her tea cup and then writes about brokenness. With her amazing writing style she touches my heart deeply. I know that broken is what I was before Christ rescued me at age twenty-three—but then it could be what I am today because we live in a really broken world. After all, cups—and lives—are fragile.

 

I grabbed my pen as I thought about my own chipped-cup life. I believe that most of us have been chipped in one way or another, and most likely, more than once. Chips lead to ugly cracks, and ugly cracks eventually give way to a full-blown break. It’s true of me. But thanks to God’s grace-glue my chipped-cup life has been put back together several times.

 

I also believe that God doesn’t waste anything—including chips in His cups. Because we are all made for His divine purpose, those chips and the brokenness that follows are used by our Creator to shape us to be like Jesus and prepare us for eternity.

 

Ann Voskamp writes: “Never be afraid of being a broken thing.”1

 

Seriously? Aren’t we all afraid of brokenness? But she’s right—we should not be afraid—because it is our life’s story. We may not know how that ugly chip happened, who or what caused it, or when the crack began to show up. It could be as vivid in our minds as if it happened yesterday, or we may not remember at all when the actual breaking apart took place. It matters not—just that it did.

 

Many of us have difficulty believing that brokenness can be a good thing, since we are bombarded with beautiful things streaming non-stop into our lives—perfect bodies, gorgeous hair, ultimate success—as Hollywood portrays it. I personally believe it’s all a scam by the enemy of our souls to make us think less of ourselves and more of our brokenness.

 

Yet, we should not be afraid of being broken because Jesus was broken too…for us. God bruised Him and crushed Him for a divine purpose,2 and His brokenness became our solution! And now this Divine Healer is the Restorer of all broken things.

 

Actually, our brokenness works for our good, if we will take a closer look at it:

 

~When we are broken, we can see our need for Jesus—the only One who can make us whole.

~When we feel useless, God can reveal His divine purpose for our lives.

~When we admit that we are weak, God will be strong in us.

~When our lives are messed up, God takes what Satan intended for bad and uses it for good.

 

Even something as delicate as a broken heart can be healed by the healing-Savior. Jesus said, “He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.”3   Get this: God planned a way to mend us before our breaking ever happened.

 

There is not one broken thing beyond His reach. There is not one broken person He cannot mend and put back together. There is no brokenness that Jesus did not die for.

 

I think I get it now: “Never be afraid of being a broken thing” because that very brokenness may be what brings you to a place of wholeness, a new beginning, and the start of the life that God intends for you to live.

 

I wonder how many of you feel that your life is chipped, cracked, or perhaps broken beyond repair. If you are one of those, His healing awaits you. Jesus welcomes you to come to Him and let Him heal your life—past, present and future. Don’t continue living life broken.

 

Instead of bemoaning our brokenness, let’s embrace it. And if we could learn to thank Him for every chip and break we’ve ever had, we might be able see them for what they truly are—a testimony to others of God’s healing power.

 

Every healed life is a beautiful thing! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1 Ann Voskamp, The Way of Abundance, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2018, Page 188

2 Isaiah 53:4-5

3 Luke 4:18

 

Somewhere Around Half-Past Midnight ~ July 18, 2018

I’m not sure of the exact time, but somewhere around half-past midnight the Lord spoke to me. He entered my swirling, crowded mind and said words I longed to hear. So many other nights I had struggled with the same dilemma, but this night was different.

 

Isn’t God always waiting to enter our world, yet it can only happen when we allow Him to. When He comes to us, He will always in all ways bring newness.

Newness is challenging to most of us. Actually, we prefer to hang on to what we think we know—the way we’ve always thought and always done. The mindset that we can’t change anything holds us captive and inaccessible to that newness the Holy One longs to bring to us. The very newness we need is indeed being held back by the oldness. Why is it that we love the old so much?

~the old comfortable way

~the old easier way

~the old acceptable way

~the old habitual way

~the old normal way

~the old approval of others way

~the old—the old—the old.

 

Clearly the old keeps us from the new. It presses hard against our minds in order to push out new ideas, fresh thoughts, or different patterns so that WE WILL STAY WHERE WE ARE.

 

Yet, God’s Word speaks loud to this issue in Isaiah 43:18-19, “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

My heart cries, “O God, I want to see it, but I fear I’ll never get there!”

I seriously wonder how I will ever be able to see it with looking so much at what is here standing in my way. Can’t there be a compromise? Surely there can be part old and part new.

 

How can I move into that which is new for me unless I keep some small hold on what is—well, more comfortable? Can’t I take baby-steps while still grasping my steady past?

 

His gentle voice assures me that I can do this thing—this newness—if I will take His hand and let Him lead me to higher ground, a broader place. “It may not be familiar now, but it will be later,” I hear the still small voice speak.

 

Hebrews 11:8 tells of another saint who faced newness. “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”

 

Abraham went without knowing where he was going! Really? That shoe could fit here—the not knowing part. God knows I have such a need to know. And what if this new place feels shaky, like Jello under my feet; or life-threatening like the waves that overcame Peter; or painful like the risky road of the Apostle Paul?

 

He assures me that my faith can pass this test if I will keep my eyes glued to the One holding my hand. That I can launch out into these unchartered waters of newness if I trust the One who bids me “come,” yet at the same time turn loose of the old that bids me “stay.”

 

Just as sure as the sun rose over the Kiamichi Mountains east of my house come morning, somewhere around half-past midnight I surrendered: “Yes, Lord, I will follow you into this newness.”

 

There’s just nothing in the world that compares to laying my head down on my pillow, falling fast asleep with heavenly peace encircling my heart, and waking in the morning to the newness of God fully alive in me.

 

How about you? Is God bidding you to walk into some newness that you have been resisting? ~ Janie Kellogg

 

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. Matthew 14:23 NLT

 

One Cure for Anxiety: Debug Your Life June 9, 2018

I know you’ve been there—that place where you think you have a handle on the thing that bugs you—and then you lose it! That’s me this week. Still, I’ve thought for days that I needed to get on with my next “anxiety” blog writing, but honestly, there’s been too much anxiety for that.

 

It all started with setting up an appointment for my favorite “bug people” to come and debug my house for another year. They are my heroes—mostly because I detest bugs, especially the scorpions that inhabit the rocky soil where I live—but also because this husband and wife team lifts my spirit while they are here. I had three days to prepare for them…cleaning baseboards, emptying closets, tackling the garage, and preparing the flower beds outside. One would think a King was coming.

 

Instead, it was two of His kids who do Kingdom work while they make a living. Our kindred spirits soaked up the fellowship with one another, and in one short hour-and-a-half we shared a year’s worth of God’s faithfulness. We ended by holding hands in a circle as I prayed for their business, their ministry and especially their lights to keep shining for Jesus. They have what the world needs—the Light of the World shining through them.

 

With tear-streaked cheeks, we hugged and said good-bye. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? All sweaty and sticky, but it didn’t matter because spirits matter more than bugs. Since they left my house, I’ve been thinking: “I wish I could debug my life.” If only there were an antidote for the bugs the enemy drops into my ear. You know—those non-stop accusations that say “you’re not what you ought to be,” or “what makes you think God cares about someone like you?”

 

 

I knew right away what the antidote was. It’s just what it has always been: the promises of God. Right there in His written Word we hear Him tell us that we are made right with God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ1 and therefore, we are now His beloved sons and daughters2.

 

The truth is we don’t have to believe or even listen to the enemy’s lies, and we should never doubt where they come from. While they are intended to annoy, sting, and leave us in pain, according to God’s Word, they have no power to harm us. They may tell us we’re not the beloved, but if we listen carefully we can hear God’s whisper drowning them out. In her new book, The Way of Abundance, Ann VosKamp says it so well:

 

“Because this is always true: all my brokenness is a whisper that I don’t belong, and every time I don’t feel like I belong, the Scarred and Rejected God whispers, ‘Come here, My beloved.’”3

 

Anxiety feeds on the lies of the enemy: “the Russians are coming;” “the world is going to hell in a hand basket;” and “God has given up on the whole lot of us.” More personally, they say we are inadequate, worthless, and not enough. But God’s Word tells us otherwise, so who are we going to believe: God or bugs?

 

Maybe it is time to debug your life. If that’s the case, find a powerful promise of God, claim it for your own, and send those pesky bugs scampering for their lives. I just did! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Romans 3:21-22 ~ But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

2 1 John 3:2 ~ Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

3Ann VosKamp, The Way of Abundance, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2018, pg. 141