Thursday, March 23, 2017

When God is Not With Us

by Danetta Kellar

So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country. But the Lord said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.’” -Deuteronomy 1:42 

The Israelites were a skeptical people, even with their God. 

His commands were often illogical to them and fraught with danger. Instead of taking possession of the land of the Amorites in Deuteronomy 1 as God had commanded, the cautious Israelites sent scouts to check things out first. The reports were daunting. Giant men, tall walls, large cities. They assessed their circumstances through the eyes of logic and refused to go, grumbling and groaning, refusing to trust that if God had said he would give them the land, then He would.

As all stubborn and rebellious people eventually do, they suffered the consequences. And then they finally came to their senses, declaring that they would now obey, even if it was quite a delayed obedience.

Throwing on their weapons, they ran recklessly toward the hills.

It was in this rush to make things right and take the land in their own strength that God stopped them short with chilling words.

Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.

Wait. God would not be with us? What?

What on earth was the difference between when God told them to possess the land and when they finally decided to do it?

Possession through Promise

In Deuteronomy 1:20-21, Moses declared that the Lord was giving them the land. Go, take possession of it. But they refused.

The first time around, possession was an act of obedience in response to a promise. The Israelites chose not to obey, not to trust the promise of God.

Possession through Presence

The Lord said, “Go up and take possession of the land.” The time was the present, and the presence of God would lead them. “The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt…” (1:30).

Throughout their wilderness sojourn, the Israelites were being trained in a key principle of guidance: follow the presence of the Lord. When He goes forth, you go forth. When He stays put, you stay put.

They chose to stay put this time, even as He commanded them to go.

Possession through Power

The Lord said He would fight for them. There is no mention of them fighting. God had promised them the land, and through His power He would accomplish His promise.

Now, after refusing to trust God’s promise, follow God’s presence, or rely upon God’s power, the Israelites rambunctiously take up their own weapons to seize the land. 

So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country.

Thinking it easy in their own power and strength, they assumed they could achieve the same goal as God. 

It is natural from our vantage point thousands of years later to judge God's people as simple-minded and faithless, foolhardy and hard-headed.

But I see me in this passage. Do you see you?

How often I throw on my weapons, more willing to recklessly fight for my rights than to take the illogical, powerful, faith-reliant path of following my God as he leads me to what he has promised?

How often do I fight fights that He does not choose for me? And how often, oh how often, those fights result in my defeat.

I want to be a listener. A truster. A follower of the presence of God. One dependent on His power. Do you?

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 21b

“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.” Deuteronomy 1:29

His voice still speaks today. You can do it. Trust Me. Do not be afraid. 

Thank you, stubborn Israelites, for teaching me today. I empathize with you. But I am choosing to lay aside my weapons and strong will and wait for the presence of God to lead me up from here. I do not want to go anywhere without Him.

Lord, teach us to trust your promises, follow your leading, and rely upon your power. Keep us from fighting battles without you. Amen.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Made for Another World

by Danetta Kellar

“Mommy, I think lately God has been trying to tell me something.”

Her big blue eyes stared deeply into mine. The air in the room, so still and quiet a moment before, quivered like a pool disturbed by a noiseless earth tremor. 

“He is telling me that He is coming soon. Jesus is coming with lots of people to take us all up to heaven with him,” she continued, her face filled with glowing certainty.

“And I just can’t wait to go. It will make me so happy.”

I continued listening, my heart caught in my throat. 

“I had a dream about it, you know. Jesus came and Grandaddy was with him. And there were so many other people with him I thought they were clouds in the sky but they were people. My great-great grandma was there too, the one who loved you. But she wasn’t old. You know, no one is old when they come with Jesus.”

“I was crying at first because I was scared of the big noise. But then Grandaddy held me and took me to Jesus so Jesus could carry me. Jesus whispered in my ear and I felt safe then.”

We were made for another world.

Even the longings that do get fulfilled in this world seem like a not-quite-filled-to-the-top cup of creamy hot cocoa. Not quite filled. Not quite complete. Not quite enough. Where does this angst, this lack, come from?

There is another world where our deepest desires will be satisfied. Completely. 

The limitations of this world will no longer hold us. We will not be bound by time, sickness, death, or by senseless evil. The fight against injustice will cease. The oppressed, rejected, abandoned, scared, will be held. Safe.

My daughter has accepted painful loss in recent months. It has created in her a longing for the next world, because she has no doubt it is real. No doubt that we were made for it. Heaven is comforting her here on earth, and this morning it comforted me.

I don’t know when Jesus is coming. But I do know that He said unless we come with the faith of a child, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. My daughter’s faith has stopped me today in the muddy tracks I am making on this earth. This place where I shall not stay for long.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Didn't Realize He Loved Me

by Danetta Kellar

This past weekend I attended a silent retreat at an old Abbey of the Order of St. Benedict. Tucked away in the wilds of Florida, the monastery stands beckoning gently to the reflective life, a life devoted to quieting one’s soul before God. I drove many hours to experience that solitude, to escape the noise of my life and listen for God. This is my meager attempt to describe the indescribable. God was waiting for me, and I am changed.

I sat on a grassy hillside, the wind whipping through my hair and making the trees clap. They must have been applauding the drama unfolding before them, a girl with all straight lines and tidy corners being completely undone, made into a beautiful mess. The undoing of perfectionism and performance has a rare beauty of its own. We received a standing ovation as creation witnessed my Lord’s disassembling of me.

Alone with the wind, the trees, and my Bible, I looked straight into the eyes of Love Himself and found that I never knew He loved me before that moment.

I thought I knew He did. The Bible tells me it is so. I have sung about it, studied it, taught it, even gotten a seminary degree in it. All the while, as the knowledge piled up, my self-worth grew bereft and bankrupt. Something was not connecting. It haunted me in the dark and quiet moments alone with my thoughts, my truth. Cognitive assent could not produce soul-living reality. 

As I learned more about His love, I grew more desolate inside. Why didn’t I feel loved? Why did I still hear the voices of Rejection and Abandonment, declaring my identity as one unlovable, resonating throughout the empty halls of my soul? 

How cruel is it that the voice of abuse and trauma can drown out the voice of Love most days, at least in the hearts of the broken and discarded? Why were those lying voices so much easier to feel and believe?

In desperation, I fled. I fled from the noise, the press of so many needful things. I ran to the hillside, hundreds of miles from home, to face God.

When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus. John 21:4

In the dim light of my transformation from night to day, I did not recognize Him at first. My eyes were accustomed to darkness. I was distracted, laboring over the nets of my own making and mending, looking to my own efforts to sustain my life. If I am good enough, I will be lovable. If I perform well enough, I will be loved. With intense concentration, I worked, and worked, and worked.

Then I felt it. A tidal wave of Love so fierce it threw me on my back. I stared unblinking at the endless blue sky. His love was a power so furious that it reached me before I could see Him. I was immobilized. 

As I cried out garbled praise to the one who held such glory, He took my hand like a lover. The intimate conversation that followed in hushed and quiet tones restored my soul. He showed me everything in his fierce and fiery gaze of Love. I was consumed.

Before, I thought this journey in life was about my love for Him

I have taken great pains to love Him well. But my failures and unfaithfulness have laid me so low that my good intentions have born only the fruit of self-focus and narcissism, wrapped up nicely in a disguise of spirituality and godliness. My attempts to be good have only created distance between me and the liberating love my soul craves.

I know now that this journey is actually and truly about His love for me. All else is engulfed in that one startling Truth.

Get alone with God. Run to the mountains, flee! Go away to the hills and find solitude and silence. Disentangle yourself from the cluttering, clinging cares that make Love a concept and not a reality for you. Take time to listen to the Beloved. He has something very personal to say to you. Don’t miss it in the noise.

He loves you, and nothing else matters.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

100 Days of Truth

by Danetta Kellar

Lent has begun, and many, be they of a liturgical bent or not, have decided to embrace this ancient church tradition and give something up.

I have decided, in my typical non-conformist fashion, to actually embrace something instead. Upon closer examination, I guess in taking up something I am actually also releasing something that once took its place. 

Each day for the next 100 days, I am going to intentionally choose a Biblical truth on which to set my mind and heart. Embrace a truth; release whatever was in its place. 

(I know, 100 is more than Lent's 40 days... I'm an overachiever and need more time to form a new habit...)

Today I am embracing hope. 

I cannot seem to escape from God's proclamations of hope all around me as spring bursts forth early this year. In my recent pessimism, I had the audacity to even be grumpy and complain when spring began to courageously poke its head out of the brown deadness of winter. It's too early, I complained. Everything is going to get zapped by a cold snap. But apparently, no one told the flowers to be afraid to bloom. Their optimism has won me over to a plan much better than my own. 

If the spring flowers could sing, they would make Handel's Messiah seem small and elementary. 

With colors no man created, intricate details drawn in the mind of God, perfume imagined first in heaven, they shout hallelujah and declare to all who will notice that nothing dead is really dead. Life cannot be stopped. 

Hope cannot be quelled, stayed, defeated, or demolished.

Let go of depression and dance the jubilee of hope today. Nothing. Is beyond. The life-giving power of our God.

Please join me in 100 days of truth. 

Choose your own truth from the Bible each day. Post it and claim it, embrace it and release whatever was in its place. 

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see my daily truths and let's parade through the next 100 days with #100daysoftruth. 

I don't claim to have originated this hashtag, but let's make it our own and flood our networks with Truth that Remains.


Launch Lent with #100daysoftruth. (Click to Tweet)

Choose one scripture each day as your focus. #100daysoftruth (Click to Tweet)


Thursday, February 23, 2017

When You Need to Escape the Pressures of Life

by Danetta Kellar

I once lived in an ancient walled city. Within its ramparts, life continued much as it had in medieval times. Donkeys and people crowded the cobbled streets, the smell of local bakeries wafted through the air, meat and vegetable sellers shouted out their bargains for the day. 

Deep in the heart of the city, one could easily get lost. Massive, crooked walls towered over tiny streets, blocking the sunlight. One could go from a business district to a quiet neighborhood with a single wrong turn. There were times I felt cloistered, smothered, panic threatening to choke me, as I looked around for anything familiar that might help me find my way out of the maze and back home.

Occasionally on an early Saturday morning, I would escape the stifling press of life in the old city. On a mountainside overlooking the vast expanse of commotion and bustle below stood a golden fortress, its towers the only remaining relics of the ancient days when watchmen never slept, keeping the city under their protective gaze. I could feel its strength as I climbed the ramparts and found a vantage point where I could sit and meditate on the pressures of life down in the labyrinth.

In those sacred times alone with God in that spacious place, I would gain perspective that was impossible to see in the blinding crush of daily life down below. 

Some call this taking the “30,000-foot view”. I call it the “view from the rock.” There are times God lifts us up and set us securely upon a rock, making our wobbly way firm again.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-3

Sometimes the crush and noise of living make us lose our way, panic rising as we frantically look around trying to find a familiar signpost. 

The understanding and clarity needed to rightly assess our circumstances, our relationships, our purpose, evade us. Like one lost in a medieval maze, we cannot find our bearings. Others tell us who we are and what we should do, and we watch their mouths move like in a dream, wondering to ourselves if they really even know us at all.

We must cry out to the Lord at such times. He knows a place far above the labyrinth of our worries and confusion. 

God brings us up higher, to the highest place, where we can look down at our lives from the outside, with Wisdom Himself alongside as our mountain guide, helping us gain real understanding.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

The Proverbs remind us repeatedly that God gives understanding. Wisdom guards us like the watchmen in the towers, looking over the bustle of our lives and alerting us to approaching danger. We find wisdom and understanding when we withdraw with God to a higher place.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle, I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

The pressures of living, armed like enemies, seek to cut us down and stop our work. They can grow so fierce they damage our relationships with the ones we love. It is from the vantage point of the High Place on the Rock that our heads are lifted high above our enemies and we can finally see how to love well.

From high upon the rock we catch sight of how small our life really is. We realize its place alongside so many other lives. We gain a vision of how much more there is to see beyond the walls we erect to protect and contain our goals and dreams. 

In the High Place on the Rock, we gain a vision for the spacious place God wants us to dwell. We take a deep breath and breathe in peace again.

Do you need to climb the ramparts today, get away from the labyrinth of life? Cry to the Lord, and hold tight as He sets you firmly upon a rock and gives you a higher view of the challenges you face.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Day Technology Took Over Our Lives

By Danetta Kellar

Oh, the joys of having everything at our fingertips, in one place. 

I found myself driving down the road recently, not feeling well, wondering if my phone could take my temperature. 

I love the convenience of technology. But I am not sure the cost of convenience is worth it.

One day not so long ago I got a new phone, and consequently, we did a switch among us so everyone got an upgrade. Having carefully backed everything up to clouds and hardware the night before, we left the phone store confident.

Five hours later, we were not so jovial. What began with one glitch led to another, and another, and another. By dinnertime I had two children making dinner so I could stay on the line with the tech. I called my husband and told him to hurry up and come home from work; we needed all hands on the techy deck.

Somewhere in the midst of the panic, the thought came to me that loss of data might just be a relief. A new beginning. The ultimate one-fail-swoop clean up. Pressure off.

In the fog of all of this, my daughter came home from school. She floated in and out of the room, bringing me paper hearts she had carefully cut out for me, spreading them across my computer keyboard. She placed a toy menu on my desk and asked if she could “please take my order”. She brought me an entire muffin tin full of colorful plastic cupcakes, made just for me. 

At one point my sweet girl climbed over the three cords attached to phones and laptops, past the phone glued to my ear, and into my lap. “I just want to spend time with you, Mommy. I haven't seen you all day.” 

The children not only cooked dinner, but they ate it. Alone. I never saw their Sloppy Joe creation.

My husband arrived home like a fireman responding to a three alarm fire, and began the work of putting the blazes out. He entered the family office to find us in high crisis mode. We all looked like Churchill’s men in the bunker, strategizing against Enemy Number One.

He was still solving the problem when I gave up at almost midnight and went to get ready for bed.

I whispered an exhausted prayer and fell to sleep.

Just as I dozed off, my phone tweeted. I had forgotten to set the new one to “Do Not Disturb”.

Heart pounding and body worn out, I lay there awake trying to go back to sleep. 

Technology had stolen my entire day.

How do you handle the beloved thief we call technology? I bet I’m not the only one who welcomes your advice today.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Watching Over Me

by Danetta Kellar

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8

I was watching him carefully from my place on the treadmill across the gym. 

Slowly he circled the weights, occasionally glancing over at the young guys with big biceps and strong backs lifting barbells. He ran his hand along the weight rack, wishful. 

At one point he looked up at me and saw me watching him. 

“What’s the matter?” he silently mouthed with a look of annoyance. I smiled in return and touched my heart.

Eventually, with a sigh, he grabbed a mat and began furiously doing crunches on the floor.