Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told December 24, 2019

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 11:17 am
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It’s been an eventful year for us, some good events and others not-so-good. We lost Owen’s youngest brother, Rodney, along with 22 other friends and relatives from our lives. Loss is certainly a part of life. For me, the year was filled with stories, and again, some good and others not-so-good. I spent 2019 writing my family’s story, doing ancestry research, and gathering personal stories of grandparents who were gone before I was born. Who doesn’t want to hear a grandparent story! And who doesn’t want to tell a grandparent story! I hope you cherish your own family stories, as they are indeed priceless. They are a part of who we are today. Now don’t get me wrong—our stories didn’t all have Hallmark endings; but through it all I did learn that “With God, in the end we win!”

 

It has also been an eventful year of news stories that you may have read or heard in the media. Some were amazing—others not so much—depending on what turns you on. For instance, this year was the 75th Anniversary of D-Day; it was 50 years after the Woodstock Music Festival; and the 50th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The 116th Congress had a record number of women at 125; Black Friday digital sales topped out at $7.4 billion dollars, and the stock market hit several new record highs.

 

On a much better note, Mister Rogers showed up again on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Tom Hanks did a marvelous job in this story of forgiveness that will melt any embittered heart. It’s well worth your time to see. Yet, still better than all of that, our choir is rehearsing a Christmas song written by Gloria Gaither titled It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told. Her incredible imagery tells us everything we need to know about Christmas:

 

A woman and an angel, a promise and a song,

A word too grand for any mind to hold.

A tax law and a journey, a stable and some straw

These tell the greatest story ever told.

A hillside and some shepherds, a blaze of blinding light,

Angels singing carols in the cold.

Eternal revelation to men as dull as stone

The glorious, greatest story ever told.

Oh sing glory in the highest, He has come, our great Messiah.

Come bow before this awesome mystery.

Mighty God and fragile Baby here a lowly manger holds.

And it’s still the greatest story ever told.

 

My Christmas Wish for all of us is that we will recognize the miracle that happened one starry night in Bethlehem when God Himself entered our world. May we be as joyous as the birth parents, as awe-struck as the shepherds, and as full of praise as the angels. May any dull and stony hearts among us be melted by the warmth of God’s love as we marvel once again at the Christchild in the manger. It truly is, and always will be, the glorious, greatest story ever told!

Merry Christmas to all, Janie

 

 

 

We Need a Little Love December 20, 2018

Filed under: Holidays,Uncategorized — Janie Kellogg @ 10:19 am
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Our annual Christmas Cantata includes the song We Need A Little Love. It challenges me. My first reaction is “Yes, we do need a little love”—but then something inside me screams: “Don’t we need a lot of love?” It seems there’s never been a time when there has been such a shortage of love. We see it in the lives of displaced refugees around the world; on the faces of starving children waiting in line for a cup of soup; and the homeless souls hiding in the shadows of our own cities. The need for love comes in all colors, sizes, and shapes—the shape of a broken heart, an empty heart, and even those we think are heartless. Yet every heart needs love. The question is whether or not their need for love can be filled by someone this Christmas.

 

For me, let’s just say I prefer a Hallmark Christmas, and I bet you do too. After all, isn’t Christmas made of gingerbread cookies, dazzling lights, and storybook endings? I wish. But I’m afraid that is not the norm even though it may seem that all Christmases end well. I remember years ago when I was a young wife and mother, how I tried to make each Christmas the best Christmas ever—only to find myself with an empty heart and wallet when it was all over. You might remember that feeling as well. The let-down occurs when the holiday comes to a close, the hype is gone, and there’s only a mess to clean up.

 

I’m not sure if I just grew up somewhere along the way or if I’ve learned by experience that the real joy of Christmas comes with simpler things—like having those we love nearby, sharing our blessings with the less fortunate, and taking time to worship the Christ of Christmas. Nothing else is lasting. The chorus of the song says this:

We need a little love to light the world from up above

Spreading good tidings to men, peace once again

That’s what my heart’s dreaming of, we need a little love.

 

Instead of thinking about how much love we need, perhaps we should focus on how much love we can give away. If we have even a small amount of God’s love, we can light up our world—this space around us that we call ours. We certainly have good tidings to share with others that Baby Jesus is the Savior of the whole world. And if we will let Him come into our broken and empty hearts, He will fill each one with His eternal peace. Who knows, maybe even the heartless will find some heart and turn to the Lover of their souls. Actually, I think that’s exactly what my heart is dreaming of.

 

These simple gifts of Christmas—love, light, good tidings, and peace—are ours to receive and ours to give away. What more could we need? So the songwriters were right all along—we really do need only a little of God’s love! My Christmas prayer is that you and I will join with thousands of Christians around the world this year in giving the most lasting gift of all—a little love.

Merry Christmas to all ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Memorial Day Hope ~ How to Refocus Our Focus May 26, 2018

Filed under: Encouragement,Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 3:53 pm
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Memorial Day weekend is here and many are thankful just to get a break from work, regardless of the occasion. But for others, Memorial Day is a somber time to decorate gravesites and reflect on our losses. And for those with fresh losses, it can be a very painful time.

 

As I was thinking about how to minimize the pain of loss, it came to me that instead of focusing on our losses—maybe we could refocus our focus.

 

Raw reality is that death hurts.

There is no easy way through the death of loved ones.

These is no joy or happiness to be found anywhere in any of it.

There is no comfort found in well-meaning clichés, like “time heals everything.”

There are no silver-linings in any clouds that hang over our hearts; no positive messages to be embraced; no lingering by the graveside that will bring back what’s been lost.

Death is dreadful. Period.

 

But according to God’s words to us, there is one thing we can do about all the negatives: We can H-O-P-E! God clearly gives us hope that what’s lost will be found; hope that we will see again what’s gone from us now; and hope that these painful memories will fade and reality will live again in our hearts.

 

So, how might we go about refocusing our focus on H-O-P-E? Here are a few ideas:

 

We can focus on how God has planted hope in our hearts. It had to come from somewhere!

We can focus on hope that “the then” will get us through “the now.”

We can recall those difficult days following our loss when God Himself walked with us, placed His everlasting arms beneath us, and held our breaking hearts close to His.

We can focus on our survival, perfectly laced with the Father’s comfort and tender mercies.

We can imagine a day brighter than our brightest day on earth, and know that God will keep His Word—those powerful words that have given us the hope of eternal life.

We can focus on His faithfulness and the reality that He has never failed us yet.

 

I think we can do that—refocus our focus on hope—if we set our hearts to it. After all, we serve the God of Hope. No other religion in the whole wide world has what we have—a magnificent God of Hope!

 

As you take time over the next few days to reflect on the joys and sorrows of life, my prayer is that the God of Hope will give you His peace and comfort, and especially, a double portion of H-O-P-E! Blessings to all ~ Janie Kellogg

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow [bubbling over, AMP] with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

 

 

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

 

 

 

Have You Seen the Star? December 20, 2017

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 12:45 pm
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I never know how or when the inspiration will come for my annual Christmas post—I just know it will. This year, it happened the day after Thanksgiving, when we took my stepson, Wade, to a movie. The choice was simple—animated, not too long, and a positive message. The newly-released Christmas movie Star was sure to fill the bill.

 

Entertaining, delightful, and yes, inspiring! As we got back into the car, we had many takeaways to share with one another. First, we loved the genuinely stubborn donkey named Bo. After chasing his own dreams, Bo decided to turn around and go back to help Mary, the one who had shown him kindness. In the end, by following God’s plan instead of his own, Bo found the desire of his heart—to carry a King on his back.

 

Second, there were those really-bad dogs that pursued Mary relentlessly because their wicked master wanted to kill her. Yet, when Bo bravely intervened and had them headed toward their death, he chose to show mercy instead. In reality, the really-bad dogs were themselves prisoners of the wicked one. Perhaps they were worth giving another chance. After receiving compassion from Bo, they too came and worshipped the Baby King.

 

Lastly, there was Mary’s faith—it never wavered as she remained oblivious to the threats that swarmed around her. Because Mary knew God had given her this assignment, she was confident that nothing could keep her baby boy from being born. She trusted the God who had decreed it so, His choices for Jesus’ make-shift nursery, and the weird menagerie that became the welcoming party.

 

So is Star simply a cute movie, or is there a message for us? I believe the later. Like Bo, we stubbornly chase our own dreams. But somewhere along the way, God’s kindness catches up with us and we make a turn around. It’s then that we realize following God’s plan is the only way to have the desire of our hearts. And aren’t we reminded by those really-bad dogs that our world is full of really-bad characters who are also being directed by the evil one? Is it possible that they can’t see how they are being used by the great enemy of all mankind? Perhaps, some mercy and compassion from us might turn them around. After all, haven’t we been given a second chance? And then there is Mary’s faith—oh how I need it, how we need it! In a world full of darkness, disorder, and danger, could we learn to be oblivious to the threats? Could we see our God-given assignment and then trust the One who has decreed it so, His choices for our lives, and even the weird people He places along our way? Perhaps we could, that is, if our faith wasn’t so small.

 

As Christmas approaches, I must ask, “Have you seen the Star yet?” Have you caught a glimpse of the deeper meaning behind that familiar story of Jesus’ birth and how it applies in the here and now? My prayer for all of us is that we will begin today to follow God’s plan, to show mercy and compassion as we go, and that our faith in God will grow BIG as we embrace the New Year.

 

Christmas blessings to all ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Oh How He Loves February 14, 2017

Today is a day to celebrate L-O-V-E. We can have a lot of loves in our lives, but if we don’t know the Lover of our souls, we haven’t yet known what it is to be truly loved! There is nothing that can compare to the L-O-V-E that Jesus has for us. Take some time today to whisper “I love you” to the Lover of your soul. He is waiting to hear your voice, and even more so, He is waiting to hear your heart.

Below are the lyrics to the song “Oh How He Loves.” It is a beautiful love story between God and His children. Read it slowly. Take time to feel the emotion in the words. Grasp their meaning. Are you a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy? Do you realize how beautiful He is? Are you drawn by the grace in His eyes? If you have time, pull up a YouTube version and listen to the David Crowder Band sing it.

Oh How He Loves

He is jealous for me.
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And, oh, how He loves us, oh.
Oh, how He loves us.
How He loves us all.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

That He loves us.
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves. ~ David Crowder Band

oh-how-he-loves-us

Wishing all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day! I trust that you will live loved today, because you are loved with an everlasting love. Oh, how He loves you! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Asking for Overs ~ New Year’s Day 2017 January 1, 2017

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 4:55 pm
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“Oh, how I wish I could write like her,” I whispered to the Lord as I turned out the light. “My journals are full of the same stuff. Why can’t I write so people will read it?”

 

I had just read a few choice lines from Ann VosKamp’s new book The Broken Way to my husband, explaining that every sentence is so insightful I must stop and process it before I can move on. He had agreed.

 

As I settled down under the bedcovers, the Holy Spirit spoke one of those profound things to my heart:

 

“Not many people read books, but everyone reads lives. It’s not that I need more people writing the message—I need more people living the message.”

 

Ouch! My toes felt the divine crush.

 

I awoke early the next morning, and the dialog with the Holy continued.

 

“This is what many of My children do with the gifts I give to them—be it writing, singing, teaching, preaching, serving—you name it. They focus on the gift rather than the Giver.”

 

Ouch! Again.

 

Guilty as charged. It was true. I had made the gift (or talent) God had given me about me. I had attempted to enhance my gift, develop it, grow it, market it, and if the opportunity had arisen, I’m sure I would have sold it. The Giver pushed aside to make room for the gift.

 

He directed me to the Mount of Transfiguration story.1 There it was in plain sight how Peter immediately switched to the “it’s about me mode.” Jesus had been transformed right before his eyes, and Moses and Elijah showed up to boot—a marvelous display of God’s power and glory. Yet, the event soon became about Peter—where he was, how he felt, and what he could do to make this moment better.

 

Here is Matthew’s telling of what happened: “Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus: Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if you approve, I will put up three booths, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

 

How do you improve on that display of majestic mystery? That brush with the Eternal?

 

God gives gifts to His children for the purpose of drawing us closer to Himself, just as He did Peter. He wants us to see His magnificent glory and power so we can tell others about Him. He desires an intimate relationship with us, where we continually communion with Him, depending on Him to enable and anoint our gift for His purpose—reaching the world with His message.

 

Yet, like Peter, we soon make it about us. Our excitement takes over and ideas flood our mind about how we can make it g-r-e-a-t! Forget waiting on the Holy Spirit to direct our gift toward God’s purpose. The way we see it: God gave it, but we can take it from here.

 

How often do we offend the Holy Spirit by adding our humanness to a divine gift? Jesus said: “…the Son can do nothing by himself.”2 So how is it we think we can?

 

Making the gift our focus interferes with our intimacy with the Giver. Rather than seeing His glory, His power, His offer to operate through us, we envision all we can do for God with this gift. Instead of drawing us closer to Him, it pulls us away from Him. Our time and energy goes toward working the gift. Even prayer time centers on planning for the use of our gift. Intimacy is out the window; so is faith and trust.

 

I wonder if God ever wishes He hadn’t given us that gift in the first place.

 

Have you been thinking lately that your gift isn’t working like it used to? Are the results not what you’d hoped for? Has the freshness and anointing slipped away? Is it more a job than a joy? Perhaps you have even begun to doubt your gift?

 

Maybe we should ask ourselves this question: “How’s my intimacy with God?” If the answer is cold, lacking, or non-existent, then we shouldn’t expect our gift to work either.

 

So what can we do? Can we have overs? Perhaps.

 

Can we make our gift about the Giver and not about us? Maybe.

 

Can we allow it to draw us closer to Him rather than draw us away from Him? Not sure.

 

Can we let our intimacy with Him override our desire to do our own thing? I don’t know.

 

Is God a giver of second changes—and third—and fourth—and fifth? Definitely!

 

I don’t know about you, but I am asking for overs. As this New Year floods in, I see a fresh opportunity to handle my God-given gift differently.

 

Let’s brace ourselves, breath in some grace, and begin again. Isn’t that what a New Year is all about? Like the beginning of a new day!

a-new-beginning-2017

Dear Jesus, I bring this gift back to you. Please forgive me for what I’ve made it. Sanctify it anew, burn out the dross, remove the humanness I’ve added, and purity it for your purpose. May it be used for your glory in 2017, not mine.  ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Matthew 17:1-8 (AMP) 2John 10:19 (NIV)