Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Re-centering After COVID-19 May 8, 2020

Several years ago, while visiting my hometown in Texas, my husband and I decided to visit Magnolia’s Market in Waco. This must stop-and-shop location was well worth the effort; however, it caused us to return home a different route through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex than the one we knew. Having a GPS in the car, I plugged in a destination and off we went. Everything worked just fine…that is, until we hit some construction work and found ourselves moving at a snail’s pace.

My husband decided to re-route us by way of a no-name road. The GPS struggled with that abrupt change in plans. It continued to flash and speak the word “Re-centering” as if we were about to drop off the earth. When my husband got us back on the right path, I turned off the GPS; but the word “re-centering” stuck with me.

Actually, that seems to fit where we are right now—in the midst of a pandemic where all of our plans have changed. Let’s face it, it is just plain hard to stop in mid-stream, mid-dream, mid-plan, or mid-year, and not be able to do what we intended. It feels wrong somehow, but sadly none of us can do anything about it.

Or can we? Could we perhaps “re-center” our plans and our lives? Maybe. None of us like hard times, but we can be thankful for the results that follow.  In 2005, Casting Crowns released a song called “I Will Praise You in the Storm.” It reminds us that we can praise God in the storm because of the serene, breath-taking quiet that surrounds us and tells us we are safe after the storm.

So here we are, COVID-19 dwellers in the midst of the perhaps the worst storm we have ever faced. Still, we can anticipate a calm after this storm passes. Standing on the other side of the pandemic, we will most likely be able to see the hand of God in it all—the pain, the heartache, the fear, the losses, and the gains.

Our prayer should be to ask God to show us what we need to see from that after-the-storm perspective. What did we learn? What was the take-away? What do we now know that we didn’t know before? How was my life enriched? How is my course changed? How will eternity be impacted? Will I be a different person than I was before the storm? The possibilities are enormous!

I’ve heard it said, “No one wants to go back to the way things were.” It’s true, most people don’t want to go back to work as normal, life as normal, or even church as normal. I pray the heart-cry of every child of God is that we no longer want a mundane state of living. Many of us were driven by our schedules that allowed little or no time for God or family. That busy, relentless treadmill-life demanded we answer its every beck and call to bow before the things of the world. We were too rushed, even in our church services, to wait upon God for barely a moment of silence.

It could be that God Himself jerked us to reality. You see, to fill our lives with the things of the world is a lower state of living than God desires for us. Yet, we did it year after year, month after month, week after week, and day after day.

In Luke 15:11-32, we find a wonderful story about a prodigal son—the one who wanted his inheritance early—his cut of the family farm. He got it and then squandered it, spending his life on wild living.

A good question may be to ask ourselves: Before the pandemic, how was my life being spent? I think some feel that we have spent ourselves, and now we’re tired, we’re worn, we’re out of luck, out of ideas, and perhaps out of hope.

When the wayward son got to that place, he took a job he never thought he’d have—working in a pig pen. All the props had been removed from his life. Props are things that hold us up, help us look normal, tell others that we’re doing great—while we are dying on the inside. There’s nothing left to hide behind, no mask to cover the reality of where we are—busted, broken, and needy!

Yet, the best part of the prodigal son story is that smack-dab in the middle of the pig pen, he came to himselfhe remembered who he was. He was indeed the son of a loving father. Oh, dear ones, so are we sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who is waiting for us to come to ourselves and remember who we are.

In this powerful story, once the young man woke up to his current surroundings, he had to do something about it—he had to arise and go to his father. And so must we go to our Father, fall at His feet, and tell Him we have sinned.

Every person’s pig pen will be different. Yours will be made of the things you chose to dwell in—and mine will be made of the things I chose. We will each have eaten our fill with the choices we made, the lusts we sought after, and the things of the world that allured us there.

The good news is that what awaits each of us is all the same! We will be met with the loving arms of our Father, who has been heart-sick since the day we left home; we’ll be clothed in a fine robe and shoes for our feet; and lastly, our Father will put a ring on our finger signifying our birthright status!

In this moment of quiet, in mid-pandemic state—with movie theaters closed, ball-fields unlit, concert halls dark, stadiums empty, and the church doors locked—can we wake up and recognize where we are? Can we see the tragedy of pig pen living and filling ourselves with the husks of the world? Can we leave that place and return to our Father?

Railroad with woman

Actually, it’s not all that far from where we got off track. It happened so slowly that we barely noticed it along the way. Can we admit where we mis-stepped and made bad choices and then turn towards home? Our Father is watching and waiting, with His gaze fixed upon the road that will take us there.

In 2020, every person on earth has received a wake-up call, along with an invitation to take a fresh look at their lives to see how it is being spent. We are offered a chance to respond to a Father who is awaiting with open arms to welcome us home.

What we do with our wake-up call is up to no one but us. I wonder, will we “re-center” our lives during this opportunity? Can’t we just leave the husks behind and go? You bet we can. Let’s do this! ~ Janie

 

Being Disciples on this Strange Good Friday April 10, 2020

 

God is the originator of all good things—so the Bible tells us in James 1:17 (NLT) ~ Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.”  In other words, everything in heaven and on earth that is good comes from the one true God. Even that dark Friday when His Son was tortured, beaten, slapped, cursed, insulted, jeered at, spit upon, and nailed to a wooden cross turned out for our good.

 

I’m sure that Friday didn’t feel good as Jesus’ mother, brothers, and beloved disciples looked at the cross in unbelief. I can imagine thoughts like this going through their heads: What just happened? How did we get here? This is not what we bargained for? This is not how following Jesus was supposed to turn out! Is God anywhere to be found?

 

We’re talking about real human beings here—His disciples. Oh, they were not highly-educated men of position and power, nor honored high priests in the Jewish synagogue. Truth is—each of those men was basically an unknown member of society and a nobody as far as the world was concerned.

 

And on that Good Friday when Jesus died, all their hopes and dreams for being a somebody died too. The hopes that they had found the promised Messiah just got deflated. All dreams of being in Jesus’ official cabinet when He set up His kingdom on earth vanished as well. They were actually in hiding for minutes, hours, and days not knowing where they were in the bigger scheme of things. No doubt they were bewildered. It surely must have felt as if hell had won.

 

Today, on this Good Friday in April of 2020, it somewhat feels the same way for us modern-day disciples. We are hold-up in our homes due to COVID-19 safer-at-home orders spending minutes, hours, and days not knowing where we are in the bigger scheme of things. There is hardly any normal life to be found. It has affected all of us—crossing all lines of division—wealth, race, education, religion—and marginalizing us into one big category—bewildered! And it surely feels as if hell has won.

 

Aren’t we asking those same questions: What just happened? How did we get here? This is not what we bargained for? This is not how following Jesus was supposed to turn out! Is God anywhere to be found?

 

But wait—the truth is that one dark afternoon at Calvary changed everything for Jesus’ disciples then and now. I guess we could say it was a game-changer deluxe! In that fateful moment when Jesus declared “It is finished,” the curse on mankind was broken and the redemptive plan of God was accomplished. In just a few days, that dark moment would yield to a glorious resurrection morning. Great joy would fill the hearts of the disciples when they realized that Jesus was alive forevermore!

 

You see, the time hidden here in this dark moment of a world pandemic is only for a few days. We too will have a glorious resurrection morning and Jesus will appear to us once again. Our hearts will be filled with joy when we understand that just as He had not abandoned His disciples then, He has not abandoned us now. And since we serve a game-changing God, who knows what good will come out of this dark time? Who knows what it could mean for us who believe that He always keeps His promises, and that everything He ever told us will be just as He said?

 

It is in our best interest as modern-day disciples of the Living Lord to trust our faithful Father and believe that this too is indeed a Good Friday! He has never failed us yet!

 

May we celebrate this strange Easter as disciples of great faith! Blessings to all ~ Janie

 

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