Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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Combating Anxiety and Depression ~ Where to Start June 1, 2018

Filed under: Anxiety & Depression,Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 2:29 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There has to be a starting place—even when the mountain I am trying to move isn’t very big. But the mountains of anxiety and depression are huge, and one thing is clear—if I don’t start somewhere, I’ll get nowhere.

 

I begged the Lord to help me battle these two monsters in my life, and trusted that He would. Problem is, while I preferred to have the faith to remove those mountains completely, His response to me was: “Fix what you can.” I was pretty sure those words meant that mental and physical exertion would be required, along with a good-sized helping of self-discipline.

 

As I picked up the shovel handed to me, the Lord faithfully guided me to a variety of information sources—my doctors, personal testimonies, books, and others found on the Internet, free to anyone who is willing to search for it. Please keep in mind that I am no expert—I am a learner. The purpose of this post is simply to discuss the possibilities I have found.

 

One thing I did early on was to google anxiety and depression, and located more information than I could ever hope to digest. After reading from several websites, I chose Everyday Health, and subscribed to their daily email newsletter under “Mental Health and Mood Disorders.” This allows me to have smaller chunks of information to process.

 

Like all health issues, there are numerous ways to manage them. For anxiety and depression, prescription medications are at the top of the list. These medicines are often necessary and should not be overlooked. Yet, for those of us with milder forms who desire to manage our emotional health by natural means, there are a variety of things that are believed to offer some relief. But beware: this is where the mental effort, physical effort, and self-discipline will need to kick in. In short, the shovel is in our hands! If you are not usually successful at self-help programs, this may not be the best option for you.

 

I have listed below the most common natural ways to combat anxiety and depression that I discovered in my research. I have tried some with good success, and will discuss those in future blog posts. The others I will leave with you to do your own research.

 

The items are not listed in any particular order, such as the most effective to the least effective. Neither is this list considered to be all-inclusive; these are simply the ones I came across most often. Also, the specifics for each item listed is something you will need to research and/or ask a professional about, as they will likely be different for each of us.

 

Exercise ~ A little or a lot, according to what you can physically do. Use common sense. Several sources have listed this as the most beneficial.

Proper Diet ~ Learn which foods help and hinder anxiety/depression. Avoid unhealthy foods.

Adequate Sleep ~ Learn good sleep habits and protect your sleep time. All sleep is not equal!

Vitamins and Supplements ~ These are available, but they require research and/or professional advice.

Laughter ~ Learn to relax and have fun—like scheduling carefree activities.

Meditation and Music ~ Both are therapeutic—give yourself a break and your brain a rest.

Sunshine ~ More Vitamin D is sometimes beneficial. Research various ways to get it.

Stress-Management ~ Learn to avoid situations, places or people that cause stress. Limit social media, disturbing entertainment, and ongoing news programs. Get professional help if needed.

Prayer ~ No one has control over everything in his/her life, but prayer can connect us to the One who does. Exercising our faith in God gives us a sense of peace and stability.

 

I have had some good results at managing both my anxiety and depression, yet I am keenly aware that they can sneak up on me at any moment. I am also adjusting to the idea that I may be facing a lifetime battle of keeping them at bay.

 

Whatever you do, don’t go it alone—talk to someone. I recommend that you start with your doctor and let him/her know what is going on with you. Remember that we serve a powerful God who loves us and will guide us to the best solution for our specific need. And if He hands you a shovel, don’t be surprised—pick it up and get started. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Anxiety and Depression ~ What Can I Do About It? May 17, 2018

After anxiety and depression moved into my life following a recent surgery, I was alarmed and disappointed. Within days of noticing my disagreeableness and unpredictable tears, I explained to my husband what I thought was going on.

 

“This isn’t me. I don’t like how I feel, what I think, and what I say. I expect it is some form of depression.” I told him, hoping to ease the guilt for my less-than-normal behavior.

 

A trip to my doctor confirmed my fears. I had thought it was caused by a hormone imbalance, but the doctor said no. It was a normal occurrence that happens as we grow older and our brains produce less serotonin than our bodies need. I didn’t do anything to cause the irritableness—it was just naturally happening to me.

 

Some days I was depressed and cried all day. I would take a comment out of context and then brood for hours over things I imagined were true. A television commercial about depression suddenly rang true to me: for a depressed personeverything hurts. I was hurt by those around me, and in turn, I was hurting those around me.

 

On other days I was downright disagreeable—about everything. Nothing suited me. Nothing made me happy to be where I was at the moment. I was certain that if things were just done differently, I would be content. Not so. I grew increasingly discontent with each passing day.

 

I became so unhappy with these strange feelings and emotions that I began to cry out to God for help—to lead me, guide me, and walk beside me.1 I knew that within me I didn’t have the strength to combat these monsters. I didn’t like myself, and I had become a person I didn’t want to be.

As God began to answer my prayer, He led me to passages of scripture I had memorized years before. Those scriptures, from the Book of Psalm2, became my mainstay. I printed them on sheets of paper so they’d be close at hand until I could quote them easily. Soon they were a balm to my restless soul.

 

When I laid my head down at night, I quoted scriptures. When I woke up in the morning, I quoted scriptures. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach each morning made me dread the day ahead. One morning when the anxiety was painfully present, I again begged the Lord for help. His gentle words guided my heart toward hope that I could do something about it.

 

“Do what you can. You can fight back—with the armor I’ve given you and by depending deeply on Me. Fix what you can fix.”

 

Another woman did that—what she could. Mary poured her precious oil on Jesus’ head.3 When greedy men protested her carelessly act of love, Jesus defended her: “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.” Mary couldn’t keep Jesus from suffering at the hands of evil men. She couldn’t keep Him from being crucified for the sins of many. She couldn’t change one thing about the Father’s will for her Savior. But she could do one thing—what she could. Was it important that she do what she could? The sweet fragrance of her ointment would be with Jesus in the dreadful hours on that cross, and would remind Him of those He was dying for—those He came to rescue. It was indeed important.

 

Do what you can. I’d heard it before and knew what it meant. After losing a husband to cancer fifteen years ago, I had battled similar monsters—aloneness, abandonment, anger (and that’s just the ones that start with the letter “A”). The only way I had survived the months following his death was to fight back with the armor of God4 and to depend deeply on Him.

 

What I was facing today was simply another battle in the same war.

 

It was time for me to take action and fight back. When the enemy of my soul filled my mind with thoughts that were not true—what I now know were lies, lies, and more lies—I quoted scriptures that I knew were true. When I became discontent with the way my husband drove the car or cooked our food, I carefully guarded my mouth. I thought if Plan A doesn’t work, I’ll move to Plan B and duck-tape my mouth shut. Praise and worship became a part of my daily routine.

 

Over the next days and weeks the Lord walked beside me, taking me to numerous scriptures, thoughts, ideas, helps and quotes that combat anxiety and depression. These things are certainly not intended to replace prescribed medications for serious and chronic mental health problems, nor are they a cure-all for the many issues of our complicated lives.

 

As in Mary’s case, none of them may change anything about the bigger picture. But they are positive things we can do to remedy some of what troubles us—to help us do what we canI look forward to sharing them with you in the coming weeks. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

Hillsong, The Potter’s Hand Lyrics

Chapters: Psalm 1; Psalm 15; Psalm 23

3 Mark 14:8

Ephesians 6:10-18

 

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

 

What Revival Looks Like ~ May 4, 2018

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 3:10 pm
Tags: , ,

The man of God plows deep this week. Things buried beneath the surface far too long are turned upward, exposing them to the Light of the World. The Sun of Righteousness has work to do in His field.

There is a stirring—a breaking up of what is not in clear sight. Yielding to the sharpened plow, hidden things are disturbed and dislodged from their dark, comfortable places. With each subsequent pass the heart-soil is tilled over and over—pulverized until useful once more—and made ready for good seeds to sprout, grow up, and produce a harvest.

Somewhere in the process an exchange is made: uprooted feelings, grudges, mindsets, opinions, and prejudices are replaced with repentance, compassion, mercy, love for more than one’s own, and a gut-level desire to serve rather than to be served.

Seeds of hope are planted within that freshly cultivated ground—hope of being alive again and fit for the Master’s use.

Thank God for plowing His field. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

 

When There Are No Words April 12, 2018

[Dedicated to Drew Wright, a true soldier of the cross, who in his darkest moments and deepest sorrow gave glory to God.]

 

The saying “There are no words” grips my heart. I don’t use it lightly. To me it is an expression of deeper pain than the little inconveniences of life can bring. I did use it recently though, in the days following Christmas Day 2017. An event occurred that brought such deep wounding to my soul that there was nothing else to say.

 

By all accounts it seemed to be a normal Christmas for Susan and Bill Wright, friends of my family for over 30 years. Since they were expecting their first grandchild, it was sure to be a memorable one as well. What could be more joyous in this joy-filled time of the year than the anticipation of a new baby? Friends rejoiced with them as they waited and celebrated life at every stage.

 

Their son, Drew, and his beautiful wife, Shannon, were 32 weeks pregnant with Baby Asa James. He was already held tightly in their hearts, but it would be a little longer before they could hold him in their arms. Shannon’s parents had moved from another state to live closer to their first grandchild as well. The entire family was entirely prepared to welcome this special little guy into their lives.

 

Yet, three days after Christmas something went terribly wrong. There had been no way to prepare for the events that would unfold over the next five days. Drew’s first message on Facebook on December 29th stunned readers:

 

“Yesterday morning was the hardest day of my life. My best friend and bride, Shannon, passed from this life and entered heaven. We don’t know all the details, but Shannon became unresponsive and was transferred by ambulance to the hospital. She never regained consciousness, but gave birth by C-Section to Asa James Wright.”

 

The tragic news shocked family, friends, and members of the church where Drew serves as Student Pastor. As the story spread on social media, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Christians began to pray for the family and especially Baby Asa, as his tiny body clung to life. The next Facebook report was a request from Drew:

 

“Asa is the most beautiful thing and looks just like his momma. Asa is in critical condition and is being treated by doctors for his best chance at survival. I humbly but boldly ask that you would pray. Pray for Claudia and Todd as they lost their daughter, pray for Clayton and Lindsey as they lost their sibling. Pray for my family as Shannon was the daughter and sister they’ve always wanted. Pray for me. I am hurting and broken, but I know God is good. Lastly, pray for a miracle for Baby Asa. He needs our Big God to show up in a big way.”

 

During the next few days, friends and family surrounded Drew and his infant son with support, comfort and prayers. Because of the Internet, I was aware of what was happening to my friends. A picture of Baby Asa’s tiny body connected to high-tech medical devices with tubes and tape was difficult to take in; yet many prayer partners helped bear the burden of brokenness and grief.

 

More questions than answers filled our hearts as we continued to call upon God for a miracle. How could this be happening? How will this young man survive such sorrow? How can he declare that God is good in the midst of sheer heartbreak? Is there any purpose anywhere in this tragedy?

 

On December 31st, Drew’s closest friend and co-worker, Cody Brumley, spoke for many hurting souls:

 

“In the mighty wake of hurt, we do not seek God’s deliverance from it…we seek God’s presence in it. We run to God bleeding, broken, confused, in disbelief…because nowhere else can we be comforted, answered, loved, and pieced together.”

 

With each report the heart-wrenching pain grew worse. Another picture showed Drew’s youth group praying and calling out to God in behalf of their leader. A part of me wanted to pull away and know less about this tragedy, yet my efforts to protect myself were futile. We are a body—the body of Christ—and when a part of us hurts, the whole body hurts.

 

Later that same day, the family was told that the doctors had done all they could for Baby Asa and that they would begin to focus on an end-of-life plan. Once again, Drew informed his prayer partners:

 

“We still hope for a miracle, but are coming to grips that this may be God’s outcome. Specifically pray that Asa’s short life will have an ongoing ripple effect for the sake of the gospel and God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.”

 

A picture surfaced on January 2nd that caused me to finally utter the phrase: There are no words. Drew held Asa close to his heart while others encircled him, laying their hands on his shoulders as he prayed and dedicated his baby son to God. He described those moments like this:

 

“Today we got to be together to celebrate and dedicate Asa James to the Lord and his story to the glory of God. Sometime in the near future he will most likely breathe his last breath, but in the midst of hurt and pain and questions and fear, I am filled with joy—joy unspeakable that has no words, but just is living in me. God, only you know the impact this young man’s story will have and we trust you with that. God, I trust in you through all of this. I know that Shannon is getting to be what she was designed and destined to be—to be a mom. And today I am thankful for that. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and continued prayers for me, my family, and this community. Pray that God will use this as only He can….”

 

Drew’s prayer reminds me of a prayer by another young man, who facing something so painful and indescribable, prayed “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done.” Just like his Savior, Drew yielded to the Father’s greater plan. For it is there in the place of surrender, that true joy—the joy he spoke of—can be found.

 

The following day, January 3, 2018, Asa James Wright slipped away from us and entered heaven where he is held safe in the arms of Jesus and his adoring mom.

 

When the family announced that a memorial service for Shannon and Asa was to be held the following Saturday, my heart pondered how they would prepare for such an event. The sorrow seemed too deep—the wounds too raw. The faith of many, including my own, had been tested. Would the faith of many stand and not fail?

 

As I prayed for my friends about what the next few days held for them, the Holy Spirit took me on a journey down memory’s lane. You see, there had been a time in my own life when tragedy had robbed me and my family of a loved one. We too had felt the pain, the emptiness, and the confusion that comes when a loved one is snatched away too soon. In that moment I heard His gentle whisper:

 

“It was in those dark days when it felt like you were living in a dream and not knowing where you were or how you’d get through the next day or the next hour, when you needed a strength much greater than you own, that something supernatural showed up and carried you.”

 

Oh, how well I remember what my sweet Jesus had done for me in those dark days. For when there are no words, there is grace.

 

His grace had held me up. His grace had strengthened me. His grace had gotten me through that dark valley and carried me safely to the other side. I instantly knew that He would do it for my friends as well. And He’s likely done for you, too.

 

Jesus promises to comfort us in our sorrows, to heal our broken hearts, and to give us peace that passes understanding, if we will trust Him. His Word has never failed His followers and it never will. And so we trust. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just to take Him at His Word.

Just to know that He has promised,

Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;

Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus,

Oh, for grace to trust Him more! ~ Louisa R. M. Stead

 

 

 

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