Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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I Need More Sunshine ~ So They Say May 8, 2018

After a recent surgery, I was caught off guard by the aftermath that followed—mood swings, disagreeableness, and depression. Even I didn’t like me. I told my doctor in hopes that he would increase my hormone replacement medication. After all, they say that after a hysterectomy every woman deals with these same issues. Why had I thought I was exempt?

 

I was also caught off guard by my doctor’s response: “Not a hormone problem. You’re already taking twice the amount needed for a woman your age. Actually, you are experiencing anxiety. As you grow older, your brain doesn’t produce as much serotonin as you need, which results in anxiety and depression. The good news is that there are a lot of great medications out there to help with this condition.”

 

Grrrrrr….too many words woven in that I didn’t want to hear: A woman your age… growing older…body not working…medications…this condition. Just the thought of it is depressing.

 

As is my habit, I usually take a look at any natural means to treat whatever ails me. I know it will take some time to research, ask questions, and then decide if any of it might be a solution for me. Natural remedies work that way—they take time.

 

I found several good resources and was surprised to learn that some mild forms of anxiety can be relieved with diet, exercise, and sunshine! That’s right—good ole Vitamin D. Could it be that stepping outside and soaking up some of God’s natural light might help my personal anxiety issues? Might be worth a try!

 

As I think of the increasingly toxic culture we live in—cell phones glued to our ears, non-stop social media, 24-hour news, high-stress jobs, beat-the-band-activities, and the fast food syndrome—we are probably all in a heap of trouble. There’s little time or place for sunshine. Is it any wonder that research indicates anxiety is on the rise with 40 million Americans over the age of 18 affected by it?

 

And thanks to all the amazing new technology and media craze, we are now divided into many people groups. We’re afraid to comment about anything for fear someone close to us will be on the other side. We participate in the “Us and Them” mentality—on one issue we may be with the “Us’s” only to find ourselves with the “Them’s” on the next one. God help us!

 

Jesus said that He was the Light of the World, and oh how our world could use more Sonshine right now. If anyone can shed light into our dark places, surely it is Jesus. Could it be that stepping outside of our crazy-busy routines and soaking in the Savior’s presence might help our shared anxiety issues? This too might be worth a try.

 

Since they say I need more sunshine, I’m going to do my best to get it. Simple enough, don’t you think? It’s free for the taking, and God says I can have all I’m willing to absorb. Come to think of it—I think I’ll switch off the TV, disconnect from Facebook, silence the cell phone, grab an apple, and go for a walk. Just maybe I’ll manage to take in some sunshine and some Sonshine. This is definitely worth a try!

 

Hope you’ll make the time to do the same. Blessings to all ~ Janie Kellogg

 

An Uncommon Easter March 30, 2018

The choir would be gathering later that evening to put the final touches on our Easter Cantata. I sought for some words of inspiration to share with them since technical issues had robbed our last practice of any spiritual connection whatsoever. We had worked hard for weeks and now Easter Sunday is only days away. How might we tap into the true message of Easter, rather than focusing on the mere performance that lies ahead of us?

 

During my morning quiet time, I read several devotionals that focused on Passion Week. Quite unexpectedly, the Holy Spirit dropped the word “uncommon” into my heart. I was reminded that us humans often become so familiar with people, things, and concepts that they lose their uniqueness—their wonder—and thus, their impact on us. I questioned if that is what we have perhaps done with the Easter story.

 

Has the story of Christ’s suffering become common place? Are we calloused to the brutal beating of our Savior’s back, or is it simply too gruesome for us to consider? Is that thorny crown just a part of the imagery, yet we miss the stinging pain inflicted by each single thorn pressed into His brow? And what about the mocking and ridicule He endured—are we oblivious to the agony of cutting words upon the heart? He bore that heavy cross with a weakened body, only to reach the most dreaded place of all—the hill on which He would shed every drop of His royal blood for the ungrateful lot of humankind. And in the worst of the worst moments—when even His Father couldn’t bear to look upon Him—He asked that they would be forgiven because they did not know what they were doing.

 

I don’t know about you, but to me that has all the markings of “uncommonness.” When reviled, Jesus reviled not again. When charged with claiming to be a King—which He was—He said, “As you say.”  Even his closest friends watched from a distance as He died alone. He himself admitted that He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him, yet He didn’t, for that would have thwarted the plan of God. This gruesome death was His purpose and He would see it through to the very end—not part way. No, He wouldn’t pronounce His assignment too difficult to complete, nor waver in His belief that this was God’s plan. He would not question who He was or what He came to do. Rather, He endured the cross and pushed through until He could declare before heaven and earth that “It is finished.”

 

Uncommon to mankind? I should say so. Uncommon to you and me? Certainly. There is no commonness of man to be found anywhere in His story, yet we are much like the disciples that fled in the garden. We are capable of standing with Peter and deny that we know Him. At times, we too question His claim to be King. It’s even possible that we would join the ranks of those who jeered and cried out “Crucify him!” Most assuredly, we identify with the lot of followers who looked on from a distance. And the ones who were clueless about what they were doing—they could actually be our next of kin.

 

So how might the word uncommon inspire us? My prayer for myself is that I will never again think of the cross as common. May I never forget the expensive price tag attached to my soul, or take for granted the love of Christ that caused Him to take my place. God forbid that I should ever think that forgiveness is simply Christian jargon, as if God were handing out free raffle tickets for a big prize. I pray that I never underestimate the pain He endured to make me His child, and that I never forget His kindness extended to me is the greatest gift I will ever receive. And lastly, I pray the word “common” never enters my thought process again as I reflect on that incredibly awesome resurrection morning when Christ broke through all the barriers and cinched my own resurrection from death, hell and the grave. Oh, it truly is an uncommon story.

 

As the choir mounted the stage and took their seats for our final practice, I challenged us all to consider what a privilege is ours to present this uncommon story of an uncommon Savior, His uncommon sacrifice, and His uncommon resurrection to many Easter Sunday visitors who perhaps still see Jesus as merely a common man.

 

With a renewed energy and an abundance of adoration and praise filling our hearts, we pulled off a pristine rehearsal. Wishing all of you a very Happy and Uncommon Easter. ~ Janie Kellogg

Photograph by Mark Rouk, Oologah, Oklahoma

 

 

 

How Can Such a Small Bump in the Road Stir Up Such a Big Stink? March 30, 2015

While driving home from church last night I hit a bump in the road. I felt only a small thump, but it wasn’t long before I knew I had stirred up a big stink. You guessed it—I hit a skunk. It seemed as if I didn’t have a choice since it darted right out in front of me. Regardless, I quickly chose what I thought to be the best direction to go in order to miss it. I chose wrong.

I couldn’t help but blame myself. Was I pre-occupied with a problem I had just learned about? Was I not focusing on where I was going? Did I react in haste; in error? Perhaps if I had done any of these things differently, one of God’s little creatures would still be alive, and my car, well, let’s just say it would be giving off a more pleasant aroma!

OK, maybe I’m over-analyzing, but maybe not. After all, I expect that I’ll be reminded of it for quite some time. So, what might the Holy Spirit have for me in this unfortunate incident?

Perhaps 2 Corinthians 2:14 has a word for us: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

This verse tells us that God does two things: 1) He always leads us to triumph in Christ; and 2) He uses my life to distribute a fragrance of Himself everywhere I go.

The fact is….we all have bumps in the road—little bumps, medium-sized bumps, and big bumps. They happen to everyone. The issue is not how to have a life without bumps, but how to handle them when they pop up right in our face.

It is in the bumps of life that God desires to lead us to triumph. That’s right—a bump in the road is actually an opportunity for the Christ in us to show the world who He is, how He thinks, and how He behaves. What we call an unfortunate bump in the road is also our opportunity to be used of God to spread the sweet fragrance of Christ-like-ness to those who come in contact with us.

Anytime we encounter a bump in the road that jolts our lives, our emotions, or our self-esteem, we (and others) are left with the aroma of our reaction. Since that aroma will be around for quite a while, it’s important what we dispense—a sweet-smelling fragrance or an aroma that people will shy away from?

Even a small amount of rudeness, selfish demands, or an unleashed temper can stir up a stink we may later regret. Damage done in a split-second of careless reaction may cost us more than we ever imagined—an irreparable friendship, alienated family member, or a wounded spouse.

Some good advice might be to keep our minds on the Lord instead of our problems; remember to stay focused on where we are going and our goal to take others with us; not to react in haste, but to think things through; and to understand there is a cost if we make an error in the direction we choose. And if we choose our reactions and words carefully, we might even save the life of one of God’s creations—a human one.

Lord, as your ambassadors to a lost world, help us react to the bumps in our road like Jesus would react. We understand that if we don’t, we might be left with a big stink to live with. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” ~ Amy Carmichael

 

You Do Know It Is Tax Season? February 10, 2015

I recently spent a few days with the son and his family. Being the accountant for my son’s two businesses, we all know that January through April is grueling for me. The deadlines during this time of year are constant, and missing one can be painful and costly.

Each year during tax season, my state of well-being is jeopardized due to the stress. I tell my family that I have a legitimate excuse for over-eating, not exercising, being impatient, critical and cranky. Jokingly, I began to use my one-size-fits-all excuse for everything.

My twelve-year-old granddaughter found it to be amusing. When her mother asked her to set the table for dinner, we were both surprised to hear her say, “Well, I can’t right now. You do know it is tax season?” We all had a good laugh, yet I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I make similar silly excuses for not obeying my Heavenly Father.

He tells us to “love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind,”1 and I have to question if I even know what that means. Then He adds, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”2 Oops! I wonder if my one-size-fits-all excuse holds water with God. Will it help me here? And even if it does, what about when April 15th has come and gone?

I don’t think excuses work with God, nor do I think He is amused by any of it. You see, He has bigger plans for me (and you). Getting me through a finite season of anything on earth is not His objective. He desires that I learn to come to Him and allow Him to help me manage my stress.

My big brother, Jesus, who faced the ultimate stress while on earth, is totally aware of my stress-full circumstances. And because He is, He gives me an invitation: “Come to Me, all (that includes me and you) who labor and are heavy-laden (that’s overworked), and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”3

Did I hear the word R-E-S-T! That’s exactly what I need. It fits my bill perfectly. I’ll take it! Sign me up—and make that a double portion! Oh, but wait; there is one condition—I must come to Him. But who has time for that? You do know it is tax season, right?

Yet, at His invitation, I think I’ll press the pause button on those deadlines; turn off the depressing news about the next heinous act of terrorism; and Facebook, it matters not if I miss some trivial tidbit there. I’ll even silence this cell phone for a spell, and sit here at my Savior’s feet. Who knows, I might learn something.

Don’t let Jesus’ learn slip by. He meant it. It’s a powerful word with hidden truths imbedded in those five little characters. Perhaps for starters, we can learn what Jesus means by “His yoke.” It must be a good thing since Jesus doesn’t offer us junk.

A yoke means we bow our heads low and allow Him to put His Lordship—His control—His purpose and plan—over our lives. Then, all yoked up with Jesus, we trust Him to turn us onto the correct path; steer us in the right direction; make the best decisions for us—and we simply follow Him. You see, a yoke won’t let us go in any other direction. And that, my friend, Jesus called easy!4

Oh Jesus, please help me learn to do that! As I sit here in silence, I hear You say, “I will teach you all you need to know; but I cannot—unless you come to Me.”

So what are you and I going to do with His generous invitation today? We can start by turning down the noise in our lives and listening for His “Come.” And yes, let’s do it, even if it is tax season. ~ Janie Kellogg

 Small footprintKey Scripture: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

1Luke 10:27; 2John 14:15; 3Matthew 11:28-29; 4Matthew 11:30

 

Made For More September 26, 2013

I am a busy woman! So are many of you. I have a job, I direct a Worship Choir, I sing special music, I speak at Ladies Retreats and Seminars, I write, I keep house, I cook, and I attempt to be engaged in the lives of my children and grandchildren. Oh, and I have a husband.

 

Sometimes I wish for more hours in the day, but then my over-the-hill body may not be able to hold up to it if there were.

 

I am a self-driven person. You know the type—a perfectionist. The bedspread has to hang down exactly equal on both sides of the bed. The pillows on the sofas must be in exactly the right position. The exact lamps must be turned on throughout the house at any given time of the day or night. Did anyone notice that I used the word “exact?” OK, you other perfectionists out there can stop laughing now.

 

It takes more energy to be a perfectionist—I’m sure of it. Oft times I have to go back and do things twice or three times just to reach a state of perfection that I can live with. What’s ironic here is that I’ve heard there are people in this world who are more of a perfectionist than me. Imagine that! I can’t figure out when or if they ever get any sleep.

 

I’m sure that I make life hard on others, especially those closest to me. Mediocrity at anything just doesn’t cut it. The truth is we perfectionists do make life harder for others—not just because we expect more of ourselves, but more of them too.

 

So if God created me, then surely He is responsible for the way I am, isn’t He? Actually, Jesus addressed this issue in Luke 10:41-42. That’s right. Go check it out for yourself. I’m sure you’ll recognize right away who He is talking to here. He called me “Martha,” which in itself hurts. He knows I prefer to be called “Mary.”

 

Jesus said to me, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

 

Ugh! Jesus didn’t say what I am doing is wrong—tending to things, making sure my family’s needs are met, and fulfilling my commitments and responsibilities in life. But He did say that there is a better choice. That better choice is spending time with Him. You see, spending time with my Lord and Savior, my BFF, helps me to keep all things in proper perspective.

 

Even if I do all things great, or one might say “perfect,” and miss being transformed into the likeness of my Lord, I will have missed the mark. Not a good thing for a perfectionist!

 

The dishes can wait. The floor will be fine until later. The laundry won’t disappear. Even business matters can be put on hold. The demands on me must take a back seat for a while as I drop everything, silence the cell phone, and sit down at the Savior’s feet and learn of Him. After all, I was made for more. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

BFF ~ Best Friend Forever

 

 

An Invitation from my Big Brother July 17, 2013

Sometimes I feel that people, even Christians, view God as demanding, controlling, and a hard-taskmaster. Do you ever feel that way? Perhaps we have all at one time or another thought His commands are difficult, if not impossible, to keep. But how freeing to the soul who finally figures out that His commandments are indeed impossible to keep—in and of ourselves.

 

Yet, God in His great love for mankind made a way to satisfy His requirement for righteousness—He sent His Son to earth to keep those commandments for us.  And Jesus did just that—perfectly, completely, and fully!

 

When we accept Christ’s substitutionary punishment for ourselves (for not keeping the commandments), we enter into a new relationship with God. We become His children. It is then that Jesus, our Big Brother, invites us to live in fellowship with Him and our Heavenly Father; and just as the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus when He walked on earth, He also enables us.1

 

With that in mind, try seeing God’s commands through these lenses:

 

As God’s child, I am invited to abide in Jesus, not demanded.

As God’s child, I am enabled to keep His commandments, not required.

As God’s child, I have a choice to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, not a mandate.

 

In His invitation to “follow me,” Jesus encourages us to walk like Him, talk like Him, think like Him, have faith like Him, and please the Father like Him. In other words, we have a choice to be like Jesus or to be like the world.

 

Have you made your choice?  Are you living your choice? These are two very different questions. Many Christians believe they have made their choice, but are still not living their choice.

 

God created man with a “free-will” to love Him or not to love Him. God did not want to have relationships with robots, and we need only to look at human relationships to understand why. What we want is a mutual relationship with people who want a relationship with us. Anything less is undesirable.

 

What an amazing place to be—in mutual and desired relationship with God Almighty!

 

How do we treat that amazing relationship? Is it mostly a one-way street: we ask and God gives? Again, we can look at human relationships to see a clearer picture. Do parents want children who become ungrateful demanders of things, but don’t spend time with them? Not!

 

God has much to give us that we both need and want—love, peace, and protection, to name a few. Sounds much like the things children need and want from their parents. Yet parents also have needs and wants from their children—love, respect, and appreciation. This kind of two-way relationship is what we all desire, and it is the same with God.

 

Consider this: We are invited to be the children of God—children who receive from their Heavenly Father and children who give back to their Heavenly Father. When we see it in this light, there is no place for words like demanding, controlling, or hard-taskmaster. They simply do not fit.

 

What happy children we can be! That is, once we understand and experience what Jesus made possible for us: the power to become the sons and daughters of God,2 joint-heirs with Jesus,3 and members of the household of God.4

 

Come to think of it, I am a happy member of the great household of God with an amazing Big Brother who modeled perfect sonship for me. It is my privilege and birthright to follow in His footsteps. How about you—are you a happy child of God? You can be. ~Janie Kellogg

 

1John 14:16-21; 2John 1:12; 3Romans 8:17; 4Ephesians 2:19