Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

A word too grand for any mind to hold.

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

These tell the greatest story ever told.

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

Angels singing carols in the cold.

Eternal revelation to men as dull as stone

The glorious, greatest story ever told.

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

Come bow before this awesome mystery.

Mighty God and fragile Baby here a lowly manger holds.

And it’s still the greatest story ever told.

 

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

Merry Christmas to all, Janie

 

 

 

Living the Life I Intend September 5, 2018

The words of Charles Krauthammer—the popular journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner—grabbed me and won’t let go. I hope they grab you too.

 

A few weeks before his death, he wrote a letter to Fox News stating that he would not be returning to the Special Report program because of his failing health. He ended with these words:

 

“I leave this life with no regrets….I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.” ~ Charles Krauthammer

 

Am I living the life I intend? Are you?

 

A few mornings ago I walked outside with my husband as he was leaving. He pointed out something in my flowerbed that I had not seen—a miniature rose bush with one tiny rose in full bloom. How had I missed seeing it before? Or better yet, how had I not trampled it down while watering the shrubs nearby?

 

I was actually surprised to see it growing there, since I had pulled up a rose bush from that very spot last fall. The full-grown bush had outgrown the space, and the pesky twig girdlers had all but stripped it of any branches. I decided it had to go, and there would be no more rose bushes in this bed.

 

Yet, there it was—this perfect sampling of a rose bush that had overcome the odds—including a gardener who wanted it gone, a fresh layer of pine bark piled high, and zero protection from big rubber boots. It certainly had received no special care or prime growing conditions. Actually, it wasn’t wanted at all. Except, that is, by its Creator.

 

The Creator creates rose bushes to grow, reach upward toward Him, and produce blooms that turn into beautiful roses. In fact, if this tiny specimen of a rose bush never amounts to anything else, today it is living the life that it was intended to live—and bringing a smile to the face of its Creator. And that’s all that is required of it.

 

 

Oh dear readers, can we grasp that the life God intends for us to live is really all that matters?

 

Our broken world has a warped definition for greatness. It tells us we have to strive for big dreams and lucrative careers. Perhaps that’s why we struggle to find our place—for the one we’re in now just doesn’t seem great enough. We are often insecure about our not-so-great gifts, talents, callings, and we’re left to think that surely we were meant to be more, do more, and excel more.

 

Yet, our Creator God doesn’t ask us to be great in the world’s eyesbut in His eyes—doing what He created us to do.

 

Our Heavenly Father simply asks us to be what He created us to be. Then He offers to guide our desires and talent toward the place where He needs us to go, and asks only that we trust Him to guide us correctly. When we do find our place, we can put down roots, begin to grow, reach upward toward Him, and bloom—right there.

 

Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.”

 

As a child of God, my intentions must be aligned with what God wants from me—a life that brings a smile to His face. That could mean I need to turn loose of some dreams of my own making; or some goals that are unrealistic; or perhaps some visions of grandeur that others have had for me.

 

Jesus said, “For I always do those things that please Him.” And that should be enough for us, too. It might even relieve some stress from our lives.

 

Now that I think about it, that is the life I intend to live. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Do You Have a Blessed Hope? October 20, 2015

Sometimes it is helpful to talk to oneself, and I think this is one of those times. Simply ask yourself, “Do I have a blessed hope?” According to the Apostle Paul the blessed hope is that event we Christians expect to happen in the future. He wrote: “while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

As the world grows more complex and ungodly in what the Bible calls the last days, many Christians believe Jesus will come and rescue them from the destruction coming upon the earth. I personally have that hope, and I trust that you do too.

But this is not just any kind of hope—it is a blessed hope. The word blessed means sacred, sanctified, and holy—that which comes from and is associated with a holy God. Only those who walk closely with Him can have such a hope—because only those who are redeemed by His blood, forgiven of their sins, and regenerated by the washing of His Word can possess holy hope.  While some people may have hope in something or someone other than God, it would not be a holy or blessed hope.

For many years I was afraid of this upcoming event—mostly because I wasn’t certain that I had been born-again. Even after I became a Christian, it was still not my favorite subject as I wanted to watch my children grow up and just live life. Today, however, I can honestly say that I look forward to this event with all my being.

It appears to me that the time will come, and perhaps is not too far into the future, when our beloved America will not be the same. My grandchildren will not likely enjoy the land of the free and the home of the brave. The landscape of the American culture is quickly changing, and at this rate, I can only imagine what it will look like in another ten years.

I also question if the world itself can survive for another ten years. Our modern-day threats are a very real danger to civil society in all nations. Paul defined the last days well when he used the term “wax worse and worse.” (2 Timothy 3:13) That actually means to grow more evil. Is that not what we see on the horizon?

So what are we to do? Many folks do what I did for years— I buried my head in the sand because it was too uncomfortable to think about. Others listen to and believe all the doomsday rhetoric and then set out to build bunkers and store up supplies. Some believe it is a myth and nothing at all will happen.

I wonder how many of us actually believe the words of Jesus when He foretold the last days: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…..Now when you see these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:25, 28)

I personally know of no better way to deal with the days we are living in than to take the advice of Jesus. He said to read the signs (and they are clearly here) and then to look for our redemption.

So that dear friends, is my plan for the last days. You might call it an escape plan (check out the Key Scriptures below), but I call it an overflowing blessed hope! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprint Key Scripture: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Key Scripture: “Keep awake then and watch at all times; praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of man.” Luke 21:36