Thursday, April 27, 2017

Letting Go of What Won’t Grow

by Danetta Kellar

It seems cruel to me to toss aside any little flower, any leaf, any growing thing unless it is truly withered and dead. As a result, my garden is a friend to weeds. 

It is also a place where shrubs grow stunted with strange leaf diseases that have slowed their growth. Alongside the voluptuous and fragrant peonies grow the never-blooming lilacs, slumped in the hard clay, refusing to display. I keep hoping they will one day decide to defy the challenges of their environment, their diseases, and explode in color and life.

But I don’t have time these days to make them flourish. No time to amend the soil, apply the special nutrients that might strengthen them against fungus. On their own they remain, struggling to grow. They are limited, and I am too. And so we are at a stand-off.

I finally gave up last week and pulled up the Indian Hawthorne, putting it out of its misery. In its place, we planted healthy azaleas who love the partial shade. They are happy there and shout in the sunbeams, “What took you so long?”.

As I survey my garden, assessing what is truly thriving and what is not, I can clearly see another landscape, the garden of my life. 

In that garden too there are weeds and well-intended plantings, things which bow low with neglect. I realize it is time to uproot those things which have ceased to thrive. The season is here to make room for new dreams and endeavors. 

It is not cruel to remove that which drains life of its energy and potential. Such a task is wise and leads to joy.

I am doing spring gardening both in my own garden and in my heart. The old is going, and the new is coming. You can do it too, and here is how.

Step back and take a good look.


Take some intentional time apart from the hustle and bustle and carefully survey all that takes your time, energy, and resources. Make a list. Be creative. I use colored pencils and make a visual of all I am carrying, doing, being. 

There are those things that anchor your life like a tree anchors soil; primary relationships, work, rest. They are essential. But then there are those other things. At one time in my life, I had an abundance of time commitments that were like pretty potted flowers that catch the eye and lead to impulse buying. Like those impulse flowers that ended up frying in the sun, my over-commitments withered in the heat of my burn-out.  

Take time to evaluate the big picture from a healthy distance.

Bring it all before God.


Now talk to God about all you identified. Every part, even the little things that nag. Bring it all before Him, and ask the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide your thoughts and counsel you about what to keep and what to eliminate. Ask Him to help you put what’s left in order according to priority and purpose. Make a plan in this space alone with God for what changes need to be made. 

I find that when I do this, there are many things that simply need to be mentally and emotionally released to God. After I yield them to Him, they suddenly shrink in size and urgency. Some disappear altogether.

Bring everything before God and make a plan with Him.

Uproot.


Eliminate all that is unnecessary. Be relentless and creative. Are you in a busy season? Is it really necessary to spend three hours each week grocery shopping? Use a free grocery pick-up service without guilt. If it’s available and frees your time up to be with loved ones, rejoice and do it. 

At one busy season living in Africa in my early parenting years, I hired a young man to deliver my vegetables every day. The trek by foot across town every three days for fresh food defeated me and I needed help. As a result, we made new friends with his family and this bone-tired mom received much-needed assistance.

Somehow, women, in particular, have believed the lie that getting help or seeking shortcuts is not spiritual, or strong, or whatever. Let go of that attitude. Look around you at the season you are in. We know you are Wonderwoman. But even she needs to balance her conquests and rest occasionally.

What about relationships? Are you so busy mentoring and helping others that your well has run dry? Be honest about your need for rest and recharging with those who count on you. Then take care of yourself and do what’s necessary to give again when you are stronger.

Eliminate what you can, even if it is just for a while.

Wait. 


Don’t replant right away. Wait and watch what God will do in the space you have opened up in your life. He is the planter and the grower of good things in our lives. If there is something new that can fill that space, it will be clear and not stressful. It will be accompanied by a sense of relief, not strain. This is peace.

Wait patiently on the Lord and let Him fill your new spaces with what is needed.


There are times when my life stretches at the seams like an old black suitcase I once dragged around to the other side of the world. Full of treasures and necessities, it was about to bust wide open. I couldn’t do without a single one of those special things and kept finding more to stuff in. I didn’t mind dragging it so much because everything it contained was so important, and the trip had a foreseeable end. 

But most times, I find life is better when I travel light. My journey through the seasons is much easier when my bag is small and efficient. I get less achy and tired that way, and moreover, I can happily help others with their baggage when mine is not so heavy. 

Take some time out with me this week and let go. Then share your story with me!

TWEETABLES



Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Your Child is Ready to Leave

by Danetta Kellar

Kids leaving home is the topic of discussion at the coffee shop this afternoon. 

A group of friends is settled comfortably into leather couches, chattering about the zeal with which their college students do laundry as soon as they arrive home on the weekend. 

“I don’t even have to touch the laundry! They don’t say hello when they arrive- their laundry is sorted into piles of darks and lights on their beds and they are tackling the job first thing!”

“I taught mine well. They learned to do their laundry while they were still at home. I prepared them to leave! No way did they want to mix colors in the wash and have pink underwear at college!” another chimes in.

One lady, who has been quieter than the others, softly says, “I have to drive four hours to have dinner with him.”

Another pipes up, “Well at least it’s not Connecticut.”

The Quiet One curls her hands around her mug of steaming latte and intensely studies the rip in her jeans.

I am sitting apart, not one of this group. I am a stranger, but their conversation is striking me in a tender and highly personal place today. 

I will be one of them in just a few months. Will he remember how to do his laundry properly, separating the darks and lights like I taught him? Will he want to come home on free weekends, or will he choose to be with friends instead?

Oh no! Time is almost out! HAVE I TAUGHT HIM ENOUGH? DID I COVER EVERYTHING? WILL HE BE OKAY?

…will I be okay?

Images of his tiny toes kicking in the air as I changed his diaper parade across my memory. His squeals of delight as he discovered his first crested chameleon in North Africa peal through my mind. 

I see my wild man racing madly around the courtyard on roller blades while we cheer. I watch my big boy running with all his might down the cobblestoned hill of the old city as I pray silently that when he falls, he will not land head first. 

I feel the mix of annoyance and pride as I discover that frustrating, amazing inventor who turned my dining room table into an engineer’s shop, scattered with bits of wire, tools, super glue, tape, and wood. The boy who decided to trim his bushy eyebrows only to need to steal my eyebrow liner to draw them back in.

That boy.

That young man.

He is ready to leave, but I am not ready to let him go. 

Mothers must suffer this quiet, screaming pain as their goals are realized; the ones they nurtured grow up. All my other feats seem so small next to that exquisite responsibility of raising a boy to become a man, tenderly holding on and knowing when to bravely let go.

He is ready to fly. I will not stand landlocked, holding his wings down. I will open my palm, and I will cheer him on. 

Fly! Fly, my wonderful, amazing Gift-Boy! I will be here when you come home.

Lord, please do not let me stand in the way of this great work you are doing in my child. I see it and I see You in it. But hold the broken pieces of my heart as I watch him go. Amen.


How have you managed to let go, dear reader?

TWEETABLES


Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Synergy of Joy and Sorrow

by Danetta Kellar

I am filled with encouragement; I am overflowing with joy in the midst of all our suffering. 2 Corinthians 7:4

synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When I left him two days before, he was sitting in his leather recliner, giving careful instructions about exactly how he would like his turkey sandwich. Now I found him lying weakly on his back in bed, barely able to gather enough air in his lungs to speak to me. His decline was startling. 

He gallantly whispered, “I’m still fighting.”

I looked into his blue eyes and tried to think of what to say to encourage him. I had just returned from leading a women’s conference in a beautiful mountain inn. He had been so proud of me, so encouraging of my writing and teaching. I decided to do the only thing I could in that moment and began to declare to him the praises of all God had done over the weekend in our hearts. 

As I shared, his struggle to breathe grew noticeably more difficult, his face reddening. With alarm, I exclaimed, “I am so sorry! Am I upsetting you?”

Tears flowed from his eyes as he fought to form the words, “No, I’m not upset. I am rejoicing!” 

I stood there unable to speak for a long time, my young hand holding his old one, our tear soaked faces beaming with joy while our hearts disintegrated with grief.

It is a terrible mystery how we can feel both shattering pain and overflowing joy at the same time. Sorrow alone can drain all life from us, all hope. Joy alone can make us idealists, aloof to the pain of others. But together, sorrow and joy create something more. Something beyond. Something different than they ever can independently be. 

Together, joy and sorrow create a synergy, a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. 

I experienced it poignantly that day standing by the bedside of my father who was transitioning from this world to heaven. His body remained, but his heart and mind were set on the Country to which he would soon go. 

That in-between place, the spiritual terminal where we travel from one dwelling place to another, is a fitting illustration of the synergy of joy and sorrow. When joy and sorrow mingle, we find ourselves in-between. When the two combine, we glimpse both worlds; the one we will all eventually leave behind, and the one to which we may one day go. 

Knowing Christ is the only path to that Greater Country.

Jesus understood the powerful synergy of joy and sorrow the day He took our shame, sin, and fear upon Himself and died in our place on the cross. 

I am certain he hung between this country and the one to come on that volatile day. As He stretched His hands across those wooden beams, Jesus conjoined joy and sorrow once and for all. With His last breath, He declared, It is finished. Jesus finished the joy-sorrow task of bringing all of us Home. 

We see only in part this Resurrection Day. Our suffering, our joy, they are all but glimpses beyond the cross to the place where one day all will be complete and clear.

In the meantime, we are caressed by the mysterious hands of sorrow and joy as they intermingle in our lives. They are ministers of encouragement, cheering us on to Hope, bidding us look upward to that other Country where we will know joy in its fullness one day.

TWEETABLES





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Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Loveliest of All

by Danetta Kellar

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15

We returned from our honeymoon to the little four-room apartment as the sun began to set, casting its warm light over the cracked vinyl couch, green shag carpet, and homemade curtains. It was the loveliest sight I had ever seen. It was our first home together.

Piled high in the living room were wedding gifts, waiting for us and welcoming us like happy hosts. As a new bride, I was dazzled with the generosity of friends and family, overwhelmed by how much they had given to help us start our new life together. The boxes beckoned to us and we couldn’t wait to open them. On our scuffed second-hand table, someone had carefully arranged a display of our wedding china, crystal, and silver. We were surrounded by good things.

Three years later, I would carefully sift through all those shining gifts again, this time packing them away in boxes marked “fragile,” wondering if I would ever see them again. We could not take them to Africa. 

I love beautiful things. I believe they are given that we might serve others. I find great satisfaction in using them to make others feel welcome and loved. I was facing a great personal challenge. Could I lay aside my lovely things and find that beauty in Christ alone? Could I offer Him up like a comforting cup of tea in a fine bone china tea cup? Could I see the beauty of Christ against a backdrop of mud, exhausting equatorial heat, and the spiritual stubbornness of folk Islam? I was not sure. But I was determined to try.

I made peace with God about my pretty things as I tucked them away. I imagined myself a wee little gray-haired lady one day returning and unwrapping them to use in my retirement days, telling stories of God’s exploits to young people gathered around my glittering table. 

As I gingerly packed my crystal glasses in tissue paper and laid them in a cardboard box, I unpacked my heart and made more room for Christ.

As I handed my car keys to a single mother who needed a dependable way to transport her four children, I felt Christ’s hand reassuring me that I could depend on Him.

As we closed the door to our apartment one last time, a newer, bigger space for Christ was opened in me.

In the drab, brown-baked backdrop of our African village, I dreamed of my beautiful wedding gifts, hidden in boxes in a family member’s attic. But then Fatuma came to visit, and as we drank hot chai in big plastic mugs the light of Jesus in her eyes sparkled brighter than any silver. As throngs of children gathered near to sing Bible verses to the beat of my giant drum, their voices rang brighter than the purest crystal. I was again surrounded by good things, and Jesus was the Lord of them all.

Jesus is truly the Lord of all good things.

I don’t live in Africa anymore. I came back to my pretty things sooner than I expected. But something had happened to my heart while I was away. I had fallen in love with Jesus, and everything seemed dim in the light of His lordship.

Jesus is the loveliest of all.


Lord, of all the lovely things, may you be the loveliest to me. I set you aside today and every day as Lord of my heart. Amen.

TWEETABLES


Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Lover and Me

by Danetta Kellar

I never really felt comfortable with all the romantic, lovey-sounding language about Jesus that became so popular in worship music in the early 2000’s. 

The thought of Jesus as a lover seemed distorted, perverted, just wrong. Something inside me flinched.

Lovers had hurt me, abused me, discarded me. To think of Jesus that way was frightening.

The idea of Jesus as a friend, a brother, especially a big brother who favors His little sister and would do anything for her, was much more palatable to me.

It reminds me much of my college days, surrounded by godly guys who loved Jesus and loved me like a sister. They looked out for me and encouraged me. We had great times together. God used them to heal my broken image of men.

That was a safe time. No risk required. No intimacy.

Along came my future husband when I was a graduate student. With him came a whole new experience of friendship with a man. That friendship led to love and marriage. Intimacy of the deepest kind. What we were meant for, us humans, created man and woman, in God’s image.

For the first time in my life there was a man who loved me deeply, who was safe, whose passion and zeal was spent for me.

A lifetime of adventures around the world, three children, and much happiness later, I am so glad that relationship grew from brotherhood, to friendship, to intimate love.

I wonder, does Jesus want that kind of intimacy with me? 

Is He tired of being the big brother who hugs me from the side and brings me flowers I dismiss as just so nice? Is He waiting for me to notice His burning love for me?

Does my Savior want all of me? I think He does. 

As I read His words in the letter Jesus has written me, I blush.

My beloved is mine, and I am his. Song of Solomon 2:16 

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the days she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’. Hosea 2:14-15

Words like beloved, desire, allure, tenderly, husband.

Those don’t sound like brother words.

How is it that this love has been under my nose all this time and I thought we were just friends?

The tender hearted mystic Brennan Manning was once challenged during a thirty-day silent retreat to pray the following passage daily:

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. (Song of Solomon 7:10 NASB)

The result was a revelation of what Manning calls the furious longing of God for you and me. The longing of a lover, zealous for His beloved. One who harnesses His great power and strength to tenderly, sweetly, pursue you and me. 

My relationship with Jesus is changing. Like a love-sick girl running to meet her Beloved in secret, I rise early and run into His arms. I sit quietly and listen for His whispers. I live the day on the words He speaks in private to me in the early hours of the dawn. I dream about when I can meet with Him again.

I am no longer merely a friend of Christ. I am His own beloved.

And so are you.

Lord, I want to believe I am your beloved, but it is hard. Heal my heart where it has been broken by other lovers. I am drawn ever nearer to your consuming love and I want every single bit of it You have for me. Amen.



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.

TWEETABLES