Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

It’s Okay Not to be Okay ~ Really? October 19, 2018

Sheila nailed it right there in black ink on white pages. In her new book, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, she gets it. She gets me—this crazy-perfectionist me; this not-quite-good-enough me; this grappling-with-anxiety me; and this wondering-if-God-is-Okay-with-me—ME!

I recently participated on the launch team for Sheila Walsh’s latest book, It’s Okay Not to be Okay. I had preordered her book just like I have her other books. Within a few days I received an email that included a place to apply to be on the launch team. I did, and now I was all set for this new experience.

I received a copy of the book within a few days—several weeks before its release date of October 2. The team was to start reading it, make comments, post pictures on social media, and when finished with it, write a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever we preordered. And when the book I preordered arrives after the release date, I get to give it away to a friend!

I have done all of those things, even the selfie with a picture of the book, which is totally out of my comfort zone. Did I mention that I hate selfies of me?

As I read, I also underline, bracket, star, write notes in the margin, and circle page numbers—depending on how much the sentence or paragraph speaks to me—because I want to be able to find those special places again. The profound statements tucked within the pages of this amazing book are numerous and yes, quite profound! Honestly, there are now full pages that are underlined in my book, and many, many brackets, stars, and notes on almost every page. I can so easily say that I highly recommend this book to my friends and blog followers!

I have loved every book I have ever read by Sheila Walsh, but this book blew me away. I even asked myself: Why does this book so clearly speak to Janie Kellogg? Beside the fact that it is well-written, insightful, and gut-level honest, this book speaks to me somewhere down-deep inside—you know, those places that we all keep hidden. Of course, being a blogger I strive to be transparent and share my discoveries, victories, and failures with you my readers, yet still there is that part of me that no one sees (well, except Jesus).

And just to make my point about profound statements reaching down-deep inside me, I’ll give you a few of my favorite quotes from her book:

“He (Jesus) knows all our little quirks and personality traits, but the glorious truth of the gospel is that Jesus is in love with us right now, even though we are a crazy, mixed-up bunch. He sees us as beautiful.”

“The breathtaking truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are not judged on our failures but on the finished work of Christ….That is the heart and passion of this book.”

“It’s okay not to be okay, because Jesus has made us right with God. If we could begin to grasp that, it would radically revolutionize our lives.”

“But if anyone ever tells you that you’re not saved unless you follow their rules, run as fast as you can, because that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (May God bless Sheila abundantly for her courage on this one!)

“We’ll never have enough to fulfill all the demands made on us, but that’s okay. We’re not supposed to have enough.” (This is really great news right here!)

“If Christ had chosen to live eternally with His scars, why would I be ashamed to show mine?”

“Scars are proof that God heals.”

“You are not what happened to you. You are a child of God.”

There you go—now you know—this book will speak to a down-deep part of you too. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to read it again!

I am so grateful to writers who are courageous enough to let their hair down, open their hearts and show us their wounds. Without fail, it gives the rest of us the courage to do the same. My hat’s off to Sheila Walsh for writing this one—just for me! ~Janie Kellogg

 

All quotes: Walsh, Sheila, It’s Okay Not to be Okay, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2018, Pages 57, 61, 61-62, 68, 119, 140, 157, 166.

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Now He Is Near September 13, 2018

On Sunday the Pastor used two really big words: transcendent and immanent. I thought I knew their meanings, but then decided a little research might help me better understand these terms as attributes of God. Transcendent describes God as being divine, heavenly, supernatural and otherworldly, while immanent defines Him as existing in and extending into all parts of the created universe—inherent within something. Still confused? I am.

 

Here is an illustration might help us get it. I remember watching a Sesame Street program years ago that attempted to teach my young grandson the difference between the words far and near. I expect that many of you can picture it as well: one shaggy character moves several feet away from another shaggy character, and in a deep, gruff voice pronounces the word “far.” Next, he comes right up close to his friend and pronounces the word “near.” He repeats this amusing activity over and over: “Far—near; far—near,” until he is out of breath.

 

In very real terms, it is a picture of what God has done for us. Once He was far away from us; in fact, the Bible tells us that we were alienated from Him. But then things changed! This magnificent, divine, all-powerful God did the unthinkable—He came into our world as one of us! In other words, He came close to where we are and is no longer other-worldly. Through His Son, Jesus, He has come very near—even so close as to live within our hearts.

 

 

Although He was far away at one time—now He is near.

 

It’s still an amazing thing to me that God, the Creator of the Universe, would love me that much—to send His only Son into this sin-infested world to find me! I think that I may never get over such an unimaginable fact, and I hope I don’t. I pray this mind-boggling truth never become commonplace—for it took me a long time to believe that God did it for me.

 

After years of searching for the transcendent God, my tiny mustard seed of faith began to grow and I called out to Him to come near. And Jesus did that very thing—He came to me. I was 23 years old at the time, and more than once I had walked church isles, prayed with preachers and counselors, cried at altars, and been water baptized. But it wasn’t until the day I asked Him to come and at the same time believed in my heart He would, that I experienced the immanent Christ move into my life. The Apostle Paul described that transition like this:

 

Don’t forget that you Gentiles (that’s you and me) used to be outsiders….In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:11-13 (NLT)

 

Transcendent—immanent.

 

Far—near.

 

Have you ever had this amazing life-altering experience that moves us from being far away from God to being very near to Him? If not, invite Him right now to come near to you. He is longing…looking…and waiting…for you to ask.

 

Without fail, it will be the best decision of your life. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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