Thursday, December 14, 2017

How to Help the Grieving When You Don't Know What to Say (The Christmas Names of Jesus: Prince of Peace)

by Danetta Kellar
@Danetta Kellar

I had intended this week to write about the Christmas name of Jesus: The Prince of Peace. Then tragedy struck in our church family, and hearts were thrown into agony, searching for the Prince of Peace in the midst of senseless loss. 

Here is my small offering, the words I have, to somehow comfort the hearts broken this holiday. May the Lord use you and me to bring the Prince of Peace to the hurting when they are too weak to grasp his hand. 


There it grew, defiant and ignorant of death. Living and green, vibrant. Pressing its tendrils up through the concrete, winding its way around the iron grating, clinging tenaciously to the wall. I hated it and resented its life. Death had robbed me of my joy, and I was devastated. Even the ivy made me angry. How dare it live? 

Kate came with her teenage daughter and quietly did what needed done. Mountains of abandoned laundry became neatly folded piles of order. I watched from my bed as her daughter organized my sock drawer. Warm food carefully arranged was delivered on a tray to my hiding place. Deep inside me, through the fog, I was grateful.

A letter arrived almost immediately from a quiet friend who had also known such grief at one time in her life. Its words spilled forth understanding, recognition, validation. I could hold that letter in my hands and respond silently even though my eyes could not hold another’s gaze and my mouth had stopped responding verbally to anyone.

There is an art, an exquisite discretion, to standing alongside those who are hurting. 

We may not always understand the pain they suffer. In fact, some events are so tragic, so unexpected, that we stand gaping in shock, unable to fathom what they must be going through. But we must not withdraw, we must not isolate them. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Christmas Names of Jesus: Emmanuel

by Danetta Kellar

It was December 24, and the haunting tune of O Come, O Come Emmanuel filled my car as I drove through the arched, crumbling gate into the walled city. 

Women in hijab, only their eyes peeking out, tugged their children along cobbled streets as donkeys carried loads of fruits and vegetables on sagging backs. Weary men sat in shaded doorways drinking sweet coffee, watching the passersby. The centuries-old walls of the medieval city sat golden in the evening sunlight as they had for generations.

No sparkling lights wrapped the shabby trees lining the streets, no stars hung high on the lampposts. The shop windows flickered not with Christmas lights, but with the reflection of colored glass lanterns and gold crafted hands of Fatima, turning in the breeze like applause. 

There was no sign of Emmanuel’s coming in this place, at least not to the naked eye. 

I continued to drive on, taking in the scene around me as I listened to the words of my favorite Christmas song. Had these people no idea? Had no one yet told them God came near at Christmastime? They continued as if it was a normal day without Him.

The lostness of the crowds caused a sob to catch in my throat as I tried to process the contrast between what I was seeing outside my car window and the promise words I was hearing. 

Emmanuel. God with us. 

Right here, beside us, with us, alongside us, in our midst. Promised. Expectation and longing rose up in my soul to see Him in this place, to worship Him here. 

I wonder if that is how old Simeon felt walking among the throngs in the temple, a longing for the Messiah rising up in his being like a song only he could hear. Watching the crowds mull around like it was an average day. A baby came into the barrenness and filled it with promise and hope, and Simeon held Emmanuel in his arms and worshipped. For the promise came in flesh and blood.

“Now, Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to leave [this world] in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your Salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light for revelation to the Gentiles [to disclose what was previously unknown], and [to bring] the praise and honor and glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32, AMP (The words of Simeon in the temple as he held baby Jesus in his arms.)

The presence of Jesus in our lives was so sweet, so tangible in those North African Christmases, where no manmade lights radiated to celebrate His coming. 

I think it was because He was all we had. In the absence of the cultural traditions, the decorations, the Pandora Holiday playlist, the stores bedecked with shiny bows luring in frenzied shoppers, He shone. We lifted him high and invited our friends and neighbors to come and see Emmanuel, God with us. And over the years, His light spread beyond our own humble home.

Emmanuel, God with us. Like our Christmases in North Africa, the presence of Jesus can be felt most strongly in the desert places of our lives, the places where we may feel furthest away from him. He comes like new life at our midnight, and changes our history. May He come to you in your barren places this Chrismastime.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Christmas Names of Jesus: Wonderful Counselor

by Danetta Kellar

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32, HCSB

There’s nothing like the truth to make me mad. 

Throughout my life, God has sent many truth-speakers to me. They have come in various forms, some like sugar cubes, some like hammers. Some have been strangers and others have been true friends. A few have even been enemies.

And almost every time the truth was offered up to me, no matter its manner, I tried to smile on the outside while brimming over with frustration and resistance on the inside. The truth challenges my comfort. It pushes on walls I have built, and threatens to change the landscape of my heart and life. 

Truth demands I see people. 

Truth makes me evaluate my smug opinions and think harder, differently, from angles I have not previously considered. Truth is, after all, a stone that makes men stumble and a rock that makes men fall, a double-edged sword so sharp that it can divide bone from marrow. (See Romans 9:33 and Hebrews 4:12)

But despite my inner resistance to truth, I hunger for it like a starving child. 

And it has grown me into the person I am today, and will continue to grow me until I stand face to face with Truth Himself one day in heaven.

Truth is the heart of wise counsel, and truth sets captives free to move beyond trauma, abuse, abandonment, and loss.

One of my favorite Christmas names of Jesus is Wonderful Counselor.  

As a follower of the Messiah, I have a counselor at the ready every moment. He walks with me, talks with me, and tells me things about myself I cannot see on my own. He knows who I was destined to be, for He created me. He calls me up higher and higher toward the purpose for which I was made. The love of the Wonderful Counselor leads me toward the best me I can be.

This Christmas, think on the counsel you allow into your life. 

Is it founded in the wisdom and counsel of the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ? Eliminate any counsel that is not, for that counsel does not know you, did not make you, does not see your future. But Jesus does. And he will always, for the rest of your life, lead you toward the truth that sets men and women free.

Dear Wonderful Counselor, lead me in truth this Christmas season and shape me into who I am destined to be. Amen.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mambui's Teacup

by Danetta Kellar

The pattern was Old Country Roses by Royal Albert. 

My delicate, fine bone china teacup and saucer were the most lovely items I possessed in the little mud house. We had left our finery behind a year before to move to the remote bush of East Africa to work with the Aduruma tribe.

A friend had brought the teacup and saucer back to me from a trip home to England, and I treasured it. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brian's Gift

For Brian and all who loved him.

by Danetta Kellar

His favorite Christmas song was The Little Drummer Boy

And like the little drummer in the song, Brian Elbertson brought his gift to the King, and made Him smile.

This is the story of a gift of unexpected gratitude, given long before its recipients ever became aware. This is an incredible tale of how grace begins to grow before we even know it, and one day shocks us with its beauty.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Extraordinary Miracles

This month I am featuring stories where gratitude has come from unexpected places. Today's story has grown my faith as I have watched it unfold, and I know it will yours, too. #unexpectedgratitudestories

Guest post by Libby McCraw

When I married 26 years ago, I assumed that our married life would follow an ordinary path:  marriage, babies and “happy ever after.”  

I had not considered the fact that God may have an extraordinary path planned for me.  I had not considered that our “happy ever after” may include some dark times that would require me to trust in Him to get me through.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Pearl

God has promised us riches out of darkness, treasures out of secret places. It is this unexpected gratitude in life’s difficult passages that reveals our Lord most clearly. He is the One who calls you and I by name, the One who knows us. Join me this month as I share true stories of gratitude found in unexpected places.

by Danetta Kellar

Deep in the dark ocean, inside the silence of a mollusk shell, an accident occurs. 

A minuscule intruder makes its way into the unsuspecting host, creating an irritation that leads to the formation of a protective sac, called the pearl sac. For protection from the violating bacteria, the mollusk repeatedly pumps the sac with pure calcium carbonate and conchiolin. This reaction to pain creates one of nature’s most exquisite and sought-after gems, the pearl.

Suffering and sorrow can bury the human soul deeper than the darkness of any ocean floor. 

The loss of a child can drown one in such deep pain that no light can be seen. At least for a time.