Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

 

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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

 

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

 

 

 

He Came For Us December 18, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:10 pm
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I sometimes think we look at Christmas through rose-colored lenses of our own choosing: God sent His sweet Son to earth by way of a warm cozy manger, dazzled lowly shepherds with an angelic host, and led kings to bring gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s a beautiful story that stirs our hearts each year and leads us to give gifts, too. And we love it.

 

But like most everything in life, the deeper meaning of what happens isn’t always in plain sight. In reality, there is a much nobler greatness behind the magical scenes of Christmas that involves our destiny. You see—you and I were born into a world-gone-wrong.

 

God had created a world He called “good,” that is until evil entered the picture and ruined everything. Then darkness reigned. God’s world would eventually destroy itself because evil left unchallenged would lead to death for everything, including us. It was no less than a tragedy in which you and I were left without hope. Here’s why.

 

History had opened with Adam and Eve falling for the guise of knowledge. It was a costly fall for them, and us. Wrong won. In time, man grew so evil that God regretted that He had made us at all, and He destroyed the world with water. Wrong won again. Throughout the centuries man became so wicked that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Yet, what they declared to be right turned out to be all wrong. Then along came the Pharisees, making a mockery of the Holy Law and changing what was good into what was prideful and self-seeking. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Man couldn’t get it right—only wrong—hopelessly wrong.

 

What might a look at the Christmas story through nobler lenses reveal?

 

Mankind was locked in hopelessness—stuck on wrong.

Someone had to right the wrong.

Someone had to challenge evil.

Someone had to bring hope.

Someone had to come.

And He did!

 

That glorious night we celebrate as Christmas is about many things—but none more necessary for us than a Babe lying in a manger bringing hope to a world-gone-wrong.

 

He came for us! But don’t miss the deeper meaning behind this statement. Claim it for yourself. Make it personal—declare it out loud: I was without hope in a world-gone-wrong, and He came for me.

 

 

he-came-for-me

 

 

Dear Lord Jesus, as we look at the manger scene this Christmas, help us to see the deeper meaning of why you came to earth—you came for each of us. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

I’ve lost the faith, but not all October 29, 2016

2016 has been a hard year for those of us who try to live by our faith. While I can honestly say that my faith in God—the faith that matters most—has not failed one iota, my faith in many other things has. Here’s why.

Never in my lifetime have I seen Americans marching and shouting to kill the police men and women who are willing to die to protect them. Never in my lifetime have I seen people indifferent to such atrocities as shown in the Planned Parenthood videos of the murder of innocent babies. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed tolerance of blatant corruption in high places, at all levels of government and on both sides of the aisle. Today, I have lost faith in people and in government.

Furthermore, I have been a proud Republican all of my life—that is, except for a few months when someone convinced me it would be better if I changed parties so that I could make a difference at the local level. Later, I decided I didn’t care because I was a true conservative at heart, and I changed my registration back. My Dad was the 8th person to register as a Republican in the county where I grew up, so you can see I didn’t exactly grow up in “red” country. I have always believed the best of the Grand Ole Party and had faith that it represented my values. But come January, I will register as an Independent. Today, I have lost faith in my political party.

I have also watched “political correctness” re-shape the American church. We Christians have been shamed for clinging to our guns and Bibles, and we accepted the shame without resistance. In our churches, we have been suppressed to withhold the truth of God’s Word if it might in any way, shape or form offend anyone for doing anything, including sin. We have watered down the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has given us so great a salvation until the next generation can hardly recognize it, much less experience it. Our culture has influenced the church much more than the church has influenced our culture. Today, I have lost faith in the organized church.

Yet, all is not lost. There are some things in which my faith still stands tall and strong. First, my faith in God has not faltered, and I pray it never does. He has always been faithful to His Word, His Name, His people, and His promises. You and I can bet the farm and everything else on God’s faithfulness!

I have not lost faith in the Constitution of the United States, and I hope I never do. Our forefathers did an incredible job of framing it 240 years ago, and while some have tried to interpret it to suit their fancy, it still stands tall on the world stage as the model and envy of every modern civilization. I have not lost faith in its ability to ensure the freedom and justice for all that’s embedded within its structure.

And lastly, I have not lost faith in love. God is love and He created mankind—out of love. He has a plan and purpose for every life—out of love. He sent His Son to die a sacrificial death in order to save us from eternal damnation—out of love. He is in control of this world, as well as the rise and fall of every leader and every nation—out of love. He has a group of born-again, blood-washed, Spirit-filled believers who will be witnesses of His redeeming grace as long as the earth remains—out of love. And when He says enough is enough, He will take His own out of this sin-sick world to spend eternity with Him—out of love!

Make sure you know where you stand. And if your faith feels that it is failing in some areas like mine does—whatever you do, don’t let your faith in God fail! Faith in God is all that will matter in the end—and it’s nearly the end. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Have You Decided Yet Which Side You Are On? March 19, 2016

If you think the chaos surrounding the 2016 Presidential election is unprecedented, you are not alone. We find ourselves grappling with the questions: Who do we believe? Who do we trust? Which candidate has the right answers? If it were not so incredibly serious, it would be laughable. I have been interested in politics all of my life, and almost tried out for the debate team as a senior in high school. You’ll notice I said almost. Today, I struggle to even watch what is happening.

When I was just a little girl, my dad would say that if Americans don’t wake up soon, the time will come when the electorate will be deceived, their freedoms taken away, and civilization reduced to two groups—the elite and all the rest of us. He fully believed this would lead to a future one-world government. The only possible way God-fearing, freedom-loving people would fall for such a scheme would be to promise them a better life, give them something for nothing, and convince them that others are responsible for their unhappiness.

I believe that time is here. The continual shift away from our Judeo-Christian values and the decline of moral fiber in our society signal a change we may not have intended. While Americans currently seem to be at a pivotal point, they are perhaps waking up too late. The sleeping giant may well find that “the land of the free and the home of the brave” has unsuspectingly slipped away from us.

While politics are an important part of our American culture, they are not the supreme power nor do they have the final say in our destiny. God does. He always has. While discussing the dismal condition of our nation with family members, I simply said: “I think it’s time to figure out what kingdom you belong to and set your hopes on it.” Everyone agreed. I know which kingdom I belong to and it is not of this world. In fact, I am a stranger and a pilgrim here.1 I belong to the Kingdom of God where He reigns supreme; and my greatest hope lies in praying that His kingdom will come and reign on earth, just like it does in heaven.2

If you are banking your hopes on this world, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. This war that is brewing on earth isn’t going away and it isn’t going to end well. In fact, it will become too horrible for God to keep His chosen ones here,3 and He will come to snatch us out of it.4 All hell is going to break loose because God said that He will shake everything that can be shaken.5 The lies of Satan, that great deceiver, will be exposed, and those who have followed him will see the error of their way.6 Unfortunately, at that point it will be too late for those who have ignored God.

I know that political party roots grow deep, just as mine do, but I would challenge us all to take a much broader look at what is currently happening. As the battle lines are being drawn, do not mistake this for the usual rise and fall of the most popular political party of the day. Party affiliation has nothing to do with it. What you and I are witnessing on our television screens is the war between good and evil, between the spiritual powers in the heavenlies, between God and Satan. This is a great battle for the souls of men—and that could mean yours, if you have not yet decided which side you are on.

Personally, I fear that our streets could soon erupt into lawlessness, our cities explode with rioting, and our government could fall before our very eyes. We are at a crucial point in history as the stage has been strategically set for our nation to implode from within. A house divided against itself cannot stand.8 I hope and pray none of this happens; but just in case my fears are justified, now is the time to decide which kingdom you belong to—God’s kingdom or Satan’s kingdom. The final decision is upon us. ~ Janie Kellogg

Theoden: I will not risk open war.

Aragorn: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Key Scripture: For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2

1Hebrews 11:13; 2Luke 11:2; 3Matthew 24:21-22; 41Thessalionans 4:16-17; 5Hebrews 12:25-27; 62 Thessalonians 2:8-12; 7Revelation 12:12; 8Mark 3:25

 

This Must Be the Place Believers Come December 22, 2015

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:10 pm
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Sometime during this Christmas season, I recommend that we make a visit to the manger scene in Bethlehem. Of course, we will have to visit it in our hearts and in our minds. The song says, “This must be the place believers come.”1 I’m a believer, so yes, it is fitting and proper that I should come—and you, too. Perhaps we each have a list of the things we are looking for this Christmas. We’re not sure just where to find them, or if they can be found at all. So with my list in hand, I come to the manger.

First, I find realness—the age-old story is no myth—it is real! The Baby Jesus was a real human being. He felt the trauma of the birth canal and the drafty night air so unlike the womb. He heard the strange sounds of barnyard animals. We can relate to this Baby for He is one of us. In a world crying for realness, this must be the place believers come.

Next, I find humility—the Creator had to stoop low in order to come down to our world as a helpless baby. I fear we are missing this all-important ingredient that lays at the very foundation of the manger: A humble God loved us enough to be born in a cattle stall. Aren’t we are tired of the hype, the fanfare, and the emptiness felt from having more and enjoying it less? I know I am. I want to come down too, so this must be the place believers come.

Then I find a promise kept—God promised to send a Savior into the world to rescue lost mankind—and He did. Promises kept are a rarity these days. We no longer expect our leaders and politicians to even pretend that they keep them, because they don’t. But in that obscure manger scene we find the fulfilment of God’s promise to us. Oh, for certain, this must be the place believers come for a promise kept.

What I find next is a miracle—The Son of God being born as Mary’s baby boy was nothing short of a divine miracle. Yet, many don’t believe in miracles any more. Its old fashioned, they say; mere fantasy. But at that meager birthplace we find God Himself in that manger! How did that happen? Oh, this must surely be the place believers come for miracles.

The next item on my list is hope. Our present world is so desperate for hope, but then it always has been. You see, the Bible tells us that we were without hope in the world. We were destined to spend eternity in a dark place, away from God. But when that miracle Baby drew His first breath—Hope was born! Yes, Bethlehem is the place believers come for hope.

Lastly, I find joy in Bethlehem!  Heaven’s Joy was poured out on us that night as the long-awaited Savior entered our world. God decreed it; the angels sang it; and Mary and Joseph held it in their arms. Joy! Pure Joy! For unto us a Child is born—unto us a Son is given. O come, let us adore Him right here at the manger—the place believers come for joy.

When you finish lingering there, and if you can pull yourself away, I hope you will tell someone else what you found. Merry Christmas to all ~ Janie Kellogg

1 This Must Be the Place, Sue C. Smith and David Moffitt, New Spring Publishing, Brentwood-Benson Music Publications, Brentwood, TN, 2001