Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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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

 

Do dat stuff! Do dat stuff! June 22, 2013

The words to a newly learned Kid’s Camp song are stuck in my brain: “We do dat stuff, do dat stuff!” The song “P-A-R-T-Y” by Jeff Slaughter of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing was a big hit this year. Thank you, Jeff, for amazing and spirited music to turn our kids on to worshipping the Lord Most High!

While “do dat stuff” speaks of things kids do to praise the Lord, I must reflect for a few minutes on what “do dat stuff” means to me. Last Monday afternoon, we loaded up the kids in the church van and drove to the youth camp facility we have attended for many years. We piled on suitcases, bedrolls, sound equipment, boxes and ice chests of food, and 28 happy—ecstatic, energetic, and ready-to-go—kids!

But I have to admit that my level of excitement was not the same as that of the kids. Having spent the prior week shopping for and replacing my living room furniture, my back was already screaming at me. My bottles of Advil and Aleve were my closest companions. I had not considered that I’d be standing on a concrete floor for seventeen-hour days for the next week. Oh, and those mattresses at church camps are to die for. Or maybe it’s more of a feeling that you are going to die before you get back to your own bed.

The agenda for camp kitchen workers is simple: food, food, and more food. Busy, active kids are down-right hungry, so we feed them, and feed them, and feed them. Spaghetti, hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, chicken strips, cake, ice cream, watermelon, cookies—non-stop it seems. Cook and clean, and then repeat the process multiple times over.

Yet, one just never really knows the far-reaching extent of serving in a camp kitchen. Some may see it as mundane, boring, or plain ole hard work. But for those who take a closer look, they might see a deeper meaning behind all the sweat and the achy feet. It can be a totally different picture if, in fact, one can see into the spirit world that:

• when you spread butter—you are spreading smiles on little faces

• when you give a slice of bacon—you are giving a slice of hope

• when you turn the pancakes—you are turning lives around

• when you hand out chicken nuggets—you are handing out nuggets of encouragement

• when you serve a heap of mashed potatoes—you are serving a heap of kindness

• when you stir a pot of gravy—you are stirring up God-given gifts

• when you peel carrots—you are peeling away fear and distrust

• when you warm the dinner rolls—you are warming hearts

• when you pour a cup of Kool-Aid—you are pouring a cup of grace

• when you mix up the cake batter—you are mixing in the love of God

• when you shape cookies—you are shaping little lives.

Between meals the kitchen staff brainstorms on how to do things differently next year. Questions flow—ideas follow. What might be a better meal? How can resources be used more efficiently? When and how to utilize left-overs?

On the last day of camp we pack up what is left (hopefully very little), clean the kitchen, scrub the bathrooms, and mop ourselves out the door. The children voice their sadness that the week is over, while the adults silently give thanks for the same.

Even though the church coffers might be less full, we are full of confidence that it was money well spent. There is simply no way to calculate the price of a soul or what’s it worth to change the life of a child. You just know that you gave because you have been given; you serve because you have been served; and you love because you have been loved.

We head for home as blessed and enriched individuals—young and old alike. And whether we have enjoyed it or barely endured, laughed at each other or at ourselves, improved our techniques or simply worn out our bodies, one thing is certain to happen this same time next year—we will “do dat stuff” again! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Storms, storms, storms and youth camp June 1, 2013

They just keep coming—storms, storms, and more storms! Another deadly outbreak of tornados, twenty-four to be exact, ripped across Oklahoma last night leaving heaps of devastation behind. Damage tolls mount. So does the death toll. Disbelief tops our list of emotions.

What do we do when storms rage? Obviously, we cannot stop Mother Nature. We cannot change what the clouds and wind and rain drop on us. Storms are storms—they do their thing—and we simply must find a way to survive them.

It is the same with the storms of life. We cannot change the fact that they come to all of us. People change, relationships change, jobs go away, economies fluctuate, and new administrations take over; thus our circumstances change. We will all eventually be affected by the death of a loved one. Our lives sway back and forth from the powerful effects of such storms.

Yesterday, I returned from a week at youth church camp. There were forty young people in our cabin coming from all backgrounds, different social classes, and various home situations; yet they all came expecting to find something—God. And they did. It was an amazing experience as we watched the Holy Spirit move in the hearts of many precious young people.

Throughout the week, we heard their stories, saw their tears, and winced at their brokenness. I fear our “modern-day-permissive-everything-goes” culture has taken its toll on the next generation. Their needs are huge. Storms have ravaged their young lives, and they struggle to contend with the damage left behind. They grapple to survive in their complex world.

As they sought for wholeness, there was one word repeated over and over from their lips—forgiveness. “I need to forgive my mom; my dad; my friends; myself; God; those who bullied me; those who hurt me; those who left me out; or those who don’t care about me.” Even if they didn’t say it, their faces and their behaviors reflect heaps of hurt and rejection.

Storms—they are a fact of life. I have them. You have them. Young people have them. If we can’t prevent them, then what must we do to survive them?

In the natural realm, we must know how to read the weather signs, listen to the trained weather professionals, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven safety precautions. It is a known fact that lives can be spared if we do these things.

It is the same in the spiritual realm. We must know how to read the signs, listen to trained spiritual leaders, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven spiritual precautions. Likewise, lives can be spared if we do these things.

Don’t miss the emphasized “if.” The key to survival is preparedness. If we are prepared, we will survive when we find ourselves in the path of natural tornados and in the path of destructive life activities.

What are we doing today to prepare for the storms of life that will inevitably come? Will we be prepared as the next storm gathers overhead? Once the darkness is upon us, the wind whipping about us, and rain pounding against our lives, it is too late to prepare. Preparedness is what we must do now.

Jesus, the Master of the winds and the waves, is our refuge and shelter in the storms of life (Luke 8:25). His Word can guide us to safety both in this world and the next one. He has promised that we will safely reach our eternal home, if we follow His instructions. In John 10:28, Jesus says to each of us: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

The question is: Are we listening and are we heeding the words of the Master? If we are going to survive the storms, we must. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Who’s the Boss? March 6, 2013

Filed under: Christian Living — Janie Kellogg @ 9:04 pm
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“What does the word lord mean?” my pastor asked from the pulpit on Sunday morning. “It means boss,” came his simple answer.

 

Interchangeable terms: lord means bossboss means lord.

 

I suppose someone is the boss of everything. We all like to think we are the boss of something—our own lives, at least. Even the youngest among us, attempting to declare independence from their parents, sometimes say: “You’re not the boss of me!”

 

Many Christians openly say that “Jesus is Lord.” We use the term loosely. By that, do we mean Jesus is the boss of our lives? If we call Him Lord, then indeed, that is what we mean.

 

I’ve always considered myself a good employee, but sometimes I wonder how I measure up to what the Boss tells me to do? Certainly, I do not want to hear these words, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?”1 Ever wonder who Jesus might be talking to here.

 

A poem written more than ten years ago, titled “Since Self is on the Throne,”2 speaks to that very issue. It also speaks to the inevitable fact that dying-to-self is a lifetime struggle for most of us. Sprinkled with a hint of humor, a touch of satire, the poem exposes the crux of our modern-day, rights-oriented culture.

 

Is it possible a poem could help us see ourselves more clearly—reveal the very things that keep us from experiencing the victorious and powerful Christ-like, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life that Jesus promised to us?

 

Might we even laugh at ourselves—if in fact we see similarities within our own character? Those things Jesus could easily discern in all men. The Bible says that Jesus didn’t trust men because, “He knew what was in man.”3 He knows our hearts, our motives, and certainly, who is in our throne room. He knows, regardless of what we say loosely.

 

Perhaps, God will speak through a poem to help us identify who the Boss is in our house (our bodily temple). We might uncover the answer to the obvious:  Is Jesus actually on the throne of our lives where He rightfully belongs—that is, if we openly call Him Lord?

 

The poem is posted separately under the title “Since Self is on the Throne.”1 We just never know what God might use to unearth the treasures that await all who seek. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Luke 6:46

2Treasure in Earthen Vessels, “Since Self is on the Throne,” a poem, March 6, 2013

3John 2:24-25