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

 

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

 

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

 

Erica the Beloved May 15, 2017

[I have created a new category on my blog called “Amazing People” for stories of those special individuals who have touched or influenced my life as well as the lives of countless others. Erica Rutherford was such a person. I know you will enjoy her touching story, and in the end you will understand why I call her—Erica the Beloved.]

 

I will never forget the first time I saw Erica. It was January 6, 2003, and my husband and I had just arrived at the Oasis of Hope Cancer Treatment Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico. We came here as a last resort since all conventional efforts to treat my husband’s fast-growing prostate cancer had failed. Isn’t that what you do—one last ditch effort to halt the inevitable?

 

It felt strange being in another country, although the atmosphere at this facility and the warmth of the staff were comforting. I had done my research and believed this place to be what its name suggested: an oasis of hope for those who had none.

 

Knowing no one, we made our way to the dining hall for the evening meal. There she was—Erica. The fact that there was not a single hair on her bald head was totally overshadowed by her award-winning smile. Her soft hazel-green eyes sparkled with hope. With her pretty head tilted to one side and in a slightly slurred voice, Erica introduced herself as “Erica the Wonderful.” Within seconds, I knew that she was indeed wonderful, just as she had claimed. My heart struggled to accept that this wonderful young woman was in a battle for her life. Although cancer had invaded her twenty-seven year old body, she vibrated with life as she spoke of future plans.

 

Within a few days Erica and her mom, Carol, seemed like family to me. Each morning, the resident missionary held a Bible study and prayer time for family members and any patients who could make their way to the third floor. Our hearts fused together as similar stories were shared about the war in which we were all engaged—beating cancer. It didn’t matter what kind of cancer we were fighting—it was clearly the same enemy that had attacked our lives. If we had nothing else in common—we had a genuine hatred for the “C” word.

 

Erica had tongue cancer. Her doctors had misdiagnosed her illness over and over, wasting valuable time while giving the edge to the disease. It started as a small sore on her tongue, but like most mouth sores, it didn’t go away in a few days. The doctors tried to tell her that she had herpes or that it was from the Pavlova virus. There was just one problem—Erica was still a virgin who had never even kissed a boy in her life. She had not done drugs nor taken a drink of an alcoholic beverage. There was simply no explanation. Carol described her daughter like this: “I don’t even know where this child came from—she was so special.”

 

After watching Erica around the hospital for a few days, I took the liberty of renaming her “Erica the Beautiful.” Since she was both wonderful and beautiful, I had only added another dimension in describing the angelic creation of God that she was. Yet, as I now contemplate this one called Erica, not only was she “Erica the Wonderful” and “Erica the Beautiful,” she was much more. Those who saw her carrying her IV stand up the stairs instead of waiting for an elevator might call her “Erica the Incredible.” Those who heard her stories of numerous surgeries and countless Chemotherapy and radiation treatments might think of her as “Erica the Courageous.” For the fortunate souls who heard her testimony of God’s saving grace, she was “Erica the Faithful.” To all who had the opportunity to simply be in her presence, she was “Erica the Charming.” To her loving mom and family members, she was “Erica the Adorable.” And to all of us whether family, friends, or only a brief acquaintance, she was “Erica the Unforgettable.”

 

I have often marveled at the confidence of the Apostle John. John did not refer to himself as “John the faithful disciple,” or “John the eloquent writer,” or even “John the close friend;” but rather, “John the one whom Jesus loved.” What confidence! What an amazing relationship with the Savior! I believe that is the same relationship Erica had with the Lord Jesus. She was the one whom Jesus loved. Yes, even greatly loved. And while we knew Erica as wonderfully beautiful, incredibly courageous, faithfully charming, and adorably unforgettable, yet the One who created her knows her best as “Erica the Beloved.”

 

Our stay in Tijuana lasted only three weeks, but my relationship with those I met there continues on today. In time, we all had to say good-bye to the special person in our lives that had brought us to the Oasis of Hope Hospital. Yet, we stayed connected through phone calls and emails for our hearts had been linked for eternity. Within two months of arriving back at home, on March 31, 2003, God’s holy angels came and carried our angel, “Erica the Beloved,” to be in the presence of the One who loves her most. She was and is His Beloved. ~ 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