Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Name for a New Year

by Danetta Kellar

In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. Hosea 1:10 (The Message)

I once knew a girl who was ashamed of her name. 

It was an unusual name, an uncommon name, a name which caused others to ask its origin. When the unavoidable question came, the girl would avert her eyes and mumble a soft explanation that left the questioner confused but with the distinctly uncomfortable impression that this topic was complicated.

Her name had been given in haste, created by two people who found themselves in more trouble than they anticipated with a baby they had not planned. In the middle of a dark and chilly night, they escaped together to another place where no one knew them, and there she was born in relative anonymity. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Place of No Reputation: The Humility of Christmas

by Danetta Kellar

In the quiet night sounds of the little town of Bethlehem, among softly rustling sheep and the gentle munching of hay, the God of all Creation laid aside His reputation. 

In the prickly straw of a manger, He lay down His praise. 

Within rough-hewn homespun strips of cloth He wrapped his glory. 

In the arms of a young, obedient girl and a brave and gentle man He yielded his power and was held.

Such humility is unknown to us in common life.

But in the midst of ordinary life is exactly where this humility broke into our mundane routines and showed us true Greatness comes when we lay aside our reputations to become like the King of Christmas.

One’s reputation is perhaps the hardest thing to lay upon the altar. When falsely accused, misunderstood, misrepresented, we strive to defend ourselves, to be understood, to justify our own righteousness. We angrily tout our good deeds, our good standing, the many reasons we should be admired and respected.

Our rights are our rights and how dare anyone challenge them. This is the world we live in today.

However, as I quietly meditate on the Savior this Christmas, I am struck by how willingly, how utterly, how completely, he laid aside His reputation, that ours might be made clean and upright. He deferred His rights that we might be rescued. 

Have you ever remained silent, deferring your rights for the benefit of another? It is extremely difficult. Something in us rises up and demands justice. We are smitten with righteous indignation and self-preservation in such moments. It is rare for a man to lay aside what is rightfully due him that another may be rescued, protected, or praised. 

Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” 

Is it possible to be completely humble? Jesus was. And if He says to be completely humble, it must be possible. Jesus is calling us to follow Him to the Place of No Reputation. The place where we are not driven by what others think of us or where we stand socially. The place where we are completely fixed upon His will for our lives, His reputation in us, His righteousness in place of ours. This is a place of obedience, and this is a liberating place to dwell.

Jesus showed us the way to complete humility on Christmas in that splintery, coarse manger.

Before you lay the baby Jesus in his manger in your nativity this Christmas, pause a moment and hold it in your hands. Take time to reflect on the very reputation of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords laid aside in mere hay. Precious, eternal, lasting treasure held by rubbish. 

Let us all say a quiet prayer that we may follow His example and lay aside our reputations this Christmas to follow the humble Christ. We are moving ever swiftly into an era where we need to be courageous to follow Christ, no matter what our reputations might suffer in the eyes of others. 

Merry Christmas to you, dear readers!

TWEETABLES





Thursday, December 17, 2015

O Come, All you Naughty, Grumpy and Self-Centered

by Danetta Kellar

Tears streamed down her face as she tried to explain to me what was causing her so much woe. 

I could not understand her jumbled words between the sobs.

“jusdhat siadillf mmmeisgah wumph!”

I do not speak Sobbing Hiccup very fluently, and I truly had no idea what was making my child so upset. One minute we were driving happily down the road on a sunny afternoon, talking about Christmas. The next thing I knew she was unintelligible and crying her eyes out.

Turning my rearview mirror so I could look directly at her splotchy sweet face, I implored, “Calm down, and tell me what is wrong.” I don’t know about you, but drama seems to thrive when we are all in the car together. Something about the close quarters, I suppose.

“I-I-I-I’m a bad girl. I know I am on the naughty list! And now I won’t get any presents on Christmas morrrrrrnnnnning,” she wailed.

I took a moment to think, and pray, and breathe instead of react. Traditional Christmas lore was stepping on my toes and infringing on my family peace. I was feeling more than a little resentful of the old naughty/nice fable as I looked into the sincerely anxious eyes of my dear, made-in-God’s-image, growing-in-grace, learning-to-forgive-her-brothers, encouraging, beautiful, seven-year-old.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Stinky Stables: Lessons Learned From the Real Mary

By Danetta Kellar

I journaled the words below several years ago at Christmastime when we lived in a country far away. I was expecting our third child, and my sense of smell was working overtime. I was nauseated and homesick, and my attitude was anything but joyful. I was pretty sure I was inadequate for the tasks in front of me at that time in my life, and a sick pregnancy was not helping me feel courageous or motivated. A walk by a dirty, smelly stable one afternoon opened my eyes to a side of Christmas I had never before encountered, changing my perspective.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Looking for Jesus at Christmastime


Christmas was nowhere to be seen.
by Danetta Kellar


I needed sweet potatoes for a special Christmas recipe that I wanted to make for my family. It was Christmas Eve and we were very far from home. I made my way out of the ancient, walled part of the city where we lived and wound up the narrow, curving road which clung precariously to the towering hill. My small car joined a throng of little taxis, dusty vans, donkeys, and people on foot. The sounds of one of my favorite Christmas carols rose in my ears as I turned up the volume on my CD player. 

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

The Jewish quarter rose to my right, its shops spilling forth spices, furniture, linens, and colorful shoes onto the busy streets. Built beside the King’s palace, this old section of town had been a safe refuge for the many Jews running for their lives in centuries past. Jews and Muslims, living side by side in peace. 

The new city came into sight ahead, with its modern buildings a stark contrast to the ancient stone arches and massive gates of the old one just moments behind me.

Men, women, and children mulled about on the streets, oblivious to the season so dear to me and my family. 

Women with veiled faces shushed unruly children while robed men stood in clusters discussing important matters with serious faces and bent heads. Young boys rushed past with handmade baskets perched atop their heads, filled with noisy, flapping chickens.  The poor with withered hands and feet sat by the road begging for alms. Old women crept along the paved sidewalks with stooped shoulders, bearing heavy burdens. 

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer, our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. And death’s dark shadows put to flight…

My spirit soared with the music as my heart crushed under the weight of the loss I was observing through my car windows. Just outside. A mere touch away. Passing my line of vision like a surreal movie clip, people walked unknowing, unaware, utterly, completely, lost. Oblivious to the coming of a Savior. 

Christmas was nowhere to be seen. 

No lights hung on these streets. No trees in the store windows hailing the season. No gifts wrapped in bright shiny paper. Nothing but life moving onward, marching incessantly toward the insignificant, the mundane, the dullness of life with no rescue in sight.

O come, Thou key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery…

I wanted to stand on the roof of my car in the midst of the throngs and shout, “He has come! Your Hope, your Rescuer, the One who bears your burdens! He has come! Let us celebrate!” 

Many have asked us if living in a land where Christmas is so absent made our celebration very difficult. The truth is, with all the wrappings stripped away, Christ rose shining and glorious to the epicenter of our Christmases in that land. With nothing else competing for our energy, our time, our focus, He became the simple, magnificent Center. We could see Him clearly there, against a backdrop of such absence.

Years have passed since that drive through the city of no Christmas. 

We live near our loved ones now, snugly tucked into the suburbia of America. This year, the local holiday lights went up the week before Thanksgiving. I never forget to be thankful for them. They always bring me delight. 

The Christmas songs have begun on the radio, in the stores. Even in the car lots. I love to sing along with every one, and I do not get tired of them even after a month.

People are busy planning and shopping, celebrating, and gathering. Christmas is indeed present among us, this first week of December.

I am still looking for Jesus in the melee. 

I am casting about, searching for that bright, clear face of Hope and Rescue I saw so starkly against the backdrop of the lost, to the words of O Come, O Come Emmanuel years ago. I feel a bit anxious, worried, as if I have lost something and cannot quite find it.

I see Christmas. It is everywhere around me already this year. 

But where is Emmanuel, God with us?

Is He in the face of the homeless man I shared hot chocolate with last week outside the train station?

Is He just over the shoulder of the Muslim woman I met in Ikea recently as she curiously examined a box of Christmas ornaments?

Is Christ in my home, in the midst of the comings and goings of busy children, friends, and family, gathered around good food and laughter?

Most of all, can Christ be seen in me this Christmas? Can others find Him in me? Or do they see only the shuffle and noise I make as I rush around distracted and busy, worry-planning our holiday season?

I hope you will join me this Advent as I search carefully and intentionally for Him. Share with me how you have found Him in the midst of the joyful noise of Christmastime.

TWEETABLES




Thursday, November 26, 2015

My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe: How to Turn Anxiety into Peace

by Danetta Kellar

My husband is a mathematician, and he loves formulas. This became apparent early in our marriage, when my need to verbally process met his need to fix. I would pour out my anxiety to him (translation: please just listen and let me vent, then I will be fine and move on), and he would freeze up and begin to give me quick, formulaic solutions to my problem (translation: she is upset, I want to help; let me fix it in the most sensible and efficient form possible). The result was not exactly peace and love. I did not want to be fixed. And he wanted an easy formula.

Over time we learned much more about each other’s personalities and needs, and we came to understand one another better. He understands now that when I need to vent, I do not need a formula or a fix. There are times that I do want him to fix it and he has actually refused (very healthy in a marriage to protect against co-dependency, by the way), which has forced me to take care of my own solutions and grow more responsible for my self-care.

However, there are times in our lives when we really do wish for an easy recipe to make our anxiety go away. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When Your Enemy is Too Strong For You: The Senselessness of Thanksgiving

by Danetta Kellar

He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. 

They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. -Psalm 18:16-19. A thanksgiving psalm of David after God delivered him from all his enemies. 

I once watched someone drowning. I was a little girl, standing on the lake shore. A woman paddled out to the deep and began to bob up and down. I did not understand at first that she was sinking, until she began to cry out. As a man rushed past me into the water, I stared while her head disappeared beneath the dark green lake. I was frozen in terror and helplessness, for I had not yet learned to swim in deep water. I knew I could not save her. Her rescuer reached her in time to save her life. He brought her back to the safety of the shore, of oxygen, of life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hug Me Longer: The Interruption of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving interrupts our busyness for something better.
by Danetta Kellar

I woke up an hour before the rest of the family to a house so inky dark I could not see my hand in front of my face. My husband mumbled from the cozy mountain of warm blankets, “What are you doing up so early?”

“I have a lot to do today,” I replied.

I had gone to sleep the night before mentally running down my list of things I had to accomplish the next day, dreamed about doing them all night long, and jumped out of bed at the first alarm so I could get a head start. An hour and a half later, I was well on my way at the speed of Wonder Woman on her way to save New York City.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Look Up and Pour Out: The Beginning of Thanksgiving

by Danetta Kellar @DanettaKellar

We establish who we are based upon so many things. Who our parents were, where we grew up, what job we have, what relationships we have. 

Thanksgiving, or lack of, often flows directly out of these foundational aspects of our identity. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Part Two: Caring for Your Loved One Through the Darkness of PTSD

by Danetta Kellar @DanettaKellar

Click here if you missed last week’s article: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Part One: Caring for Yourself Through the Darkness of PTSD





You came to me with shame in your eyes, and I wanted to hide. Don’t let my shame cause him shame too, I cried out silently. “I’m sorry for hurting you,” you said, your eyes flashing with confusion and courage.  I searched for words to explain. “You did not hurt me. You just reminded me that someone else did.”

It may take many years for the one with PTSD to find such words to explain to a loving caregiver why he or she withdraws unexpectedly or lashes out in anger and fear. In the meantime relationships can strain to the breaking point, causing confusion, misunderstanding, and more pain. 

What about the needs of that caregiver? How can he or she walk alongside a loved one who is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Part One: Caring for Yourself Through the Darkness of PTSD

by Danetta Kellar @DanettaKellar

The old green Scout was my rescue car that day, the only reliable source of transportation available to make the long trek from our African village across the rutted dirt road, through the river, and finally to the hospital two hours away. I was sick, and I needed to see a doctor. 

Our team leader came to our aid in his old truck, arriving outside our little house as my husband helped me gather my things and climb in the truck.

The smooth vinyl seats were cracked and worn, with two narrow stitches harboring a wide one, right down the middle of each. The smell of old dust and sweat assailed my senses and I began to panic. My breathing increased, my heart beat erratically and forcefully, and I began to look for a way of escape. 

Examining the door handle, I restrained myself from lunging over my husband’s lap and jerking the door open for a desperate leap to freedom. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Battle for the Heart of Your Teen

by Danetta Kellar @DanettaKellar

We had stepped around his dirty socks, wet towels, and discarded candy wrappers long enough. 

One day as I pulled out of the dirty laundry basket a stack of his clothing clean and still folded from the past week’s washing, I decided that the gentle, be-friends-with-my-teen approach was no longer effective. The whole family was increasingly bearing the responsibility that belonged to my teenage son, while his attitude toward us grew harder.

Around that time someone mentioned to me a woman who had trained her 8, 6, and 5 year-olds to do their own laundry. That’s harsh, I thought to myself. But on this day, suddenly, up to my elbows in clean clothes thrown carelessly in the dirty laundry bin for me to wash, that idea began to shine with sheer, brilliant wisdom.

Quietly and without lecturing I changed our system. I created a laundry bin for each child, labeled with his or her name. Knowing this was primarily for my teen, I also realized the pay-it-forward benefits this would have for my younger two children. I could imagine, as I daydreamed over the washing machine, the next two teenagers doing their own laundry without complaining, without mixing the darks and lights. A beautiful arrangement.

Morning one came and I gently explained to my teen his new chore. He glared at me as if I had ordered him to prison. Defiantly he refused to get up from his school work and pick up his dirty clothes which were strewn across three rooms of the house, announcing that he would do what he wanted to do. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reclaiming Your Life Through Eyes of Contentment


by Danetta Kellar

Clutter makes me stress out. If I open a cabinet and things fall out, it is time to simplify. If I cannot walk through the garage without tripping on someone’s shoes, maybe we have too many pairs. 

If I react defensively when someone asks sweetly to get together for coffee, maybe I need to get rid of something less necessary than friendship in my calendar. 

Too much, right now, don’t wait, just get a new one, get it done. These are all phrases that drive our culture and our lives to madness. And health problems. And hurting marriages. And cold friendships. And doors closed to hospitality instead of open wide with room for people. 

We are a cluttered society with more possessions, commitments, and obligations on our hands than we know how to manage.

There has got to be a way out of this.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Role Confusion: Who is the Rescuer, Me, or Christ?

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.
Psalm 49:7-8

It is not our job, Christians, to convert anyone. We are in fact not capable of doing so.

Think for a moment of the person you love and cherish most dearly in the world. That person, that one who you would die for, that one you sacrifice for. Do you have him or her clearly in your mind?

The worth of even that person, the one you know so well and love so deeply, is tremendously greater to God than even you can comprehend. His life, her life, is immeasurably precious to the Creator.

Think now of the person you are offended by today. The Troubler in your life. The one who angers you and hurts you. It is easy to devalue that one.

But that one also, the one bearing bad fruit, the one making you lose sleep, is equally precious to God. And his soul is equally costly, unable to be redeemed by you or by me.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

For All of You Who Need to #ShoutYourAbortion

This week has shaken the media with one of the most audacious and shocking expressions of free speech we have yet seen or heard. Two women started a hashtag movement claiming an attempt to remove the shame and stigma surrounding abortion and provide a forum in which women could share openly about their choice to abort.

Responses to #ShoutYourAbortion have ranged from horror, outrage, and anger, to support, defiance, and even praise of abortion. 

I am not writing today to re-examine the core issues of this controversy. 

Rather, I felt compelled to respond to this sudden movement by taking a closer look at what it might be saying about the human heart.

Despite the span of strong emotions this brings forth, at the heart of all I have read on the latest hashtag trend on Twitter is a deep need we all share, regardless of our stand on the issue. 

Our shared human need is the need to be heard. To be known. To come out of hiding. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Vanity Fair: The Desire to Be Admired

Maybe regular God selfies need to be a discipline in our lives.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

They stood at the scenic overlook with towering, breathtaking waterfalls cascading behind them in the distance. A group of beautiful young women gathered around a selfie stick, posing for a photo shoot before turning to descend the winding steps and behold the magnificence of this natural wonder.

After getting just the right shot, all of the women dispersed except one. She remained, posing and preening, experimenting with just the right position, angle, and perfect shot. I stood transfixed for a moment, along with about 25 other tourists passing by. 

It was as if we were not there at all, as if she stood alone, a model on a photo shoot, with no one but her admiring camera crew present with her. She was gorgeous by any magazine's standards, and for a split second I was mesmerized by her.

By outward appearance, she was perfectly beautiful.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Prayer with a Price



I remember the day years ago, sitting in the parking lot with my best friend from high school. We had been shopping, and more important than the shopping, pouring our hearts out to each other. Now, back in the car we took a moment to pray for each other. I closed my eyes and began by saying, "Dear Lord, please give my friend patience..." 

THWAAACCCKKK! 

A sharp pain shot up my shin and I grabbed it. My friend said with a hiss, "Don't pray that!" Some prayers come with a price, and she was not sure she wanted to pay it, at least that particular week.

Her kick to my shin still reminds me today that there are some prayers we pray with a price attached. Patience is certainly one of those prayers. Don't ask for it without considering the uncomfortable circumstances which may arise precisely for the purpose of answering your prayer.

Recently I have been studying the book of Ephesians, and I came across a small but weighty directive that just might also qualify for the title of Prayer with a Price. 

Be completely humble... Ephesians 4:2a

I was intrigued by this little powerhouse. Be completely humble? Is that really possible, Lord?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Single. Not Broken. Part Two

Last week I shared with you my most popular guest post ever, an honest exposition on singleness by my friend Anna. Anna gives a voice to the single friends who haven't had the words to tell you just how it feels to be single in a couple world. If you missed last week's first installment, click Single, Not Broken. Part One. 

guest blog by Anna

Please don't try to fix me. I'm not broken.
Remember I told you last week you have a role in my singleness? Well, you do.

Interestingly, my singleness is often really difficult for people to encounter. They don’t get it. And they desperately want to “fix it” by saying things like: “Aw, you’re so great! How are you not married!?” “You just haven’t met the right one yet.” “Have you tried online dating?” “As soon as you stop looking, you’ll find him.” and my personal favorite, “You should date So-and-So! He’s single!” as if that’s my only qualifier.
I am not single for lack of opportunity. I don’t want just some guy.
I want and need a man who is passionately pursuing the heart of God. Only a man who says, “Yes, Lord! Now what was it you wanted?” will do. Only a man who chooses obedience over security and wants Kingdom things more than earthly things can be my partner in life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Single. Not Broken. Part One

This post, originally shared in August, 2015, has been the most widely read guest post to ever appear on my blog. I thought it was worth sharing with a new round of readers now a year later. Thank you, dear Anna, for sharing! 
I was recently enjoying rich conversation and reunion with old friends around the dinner table at a wedding. That is, until some thoughtless person (me, blush) made a funny joke about marriage and singleness. Everyone laughed, and then the table got a bit silent. 
I realized with hot embarrassment that my joke could have hurt a single friend sitting with us, and I had not even considered her before opening my mouth. I knew I would not sleep that night until I had spoken to my friend and asked her forgiveness for my insensitivity. Her gracious response to me gave me pause to rethink her fragility and my own habits toward my single friends. Fragile, she is not. My habits, however, need to change.
It is a privilege to introduce her to you today as my first guest blogger. She bravely agreed to share with you what she has taught me. I think you may learn from her too, or if you are a single reader, she may just give voice to what you wish your married friends would understand. Thank you, Anna.


guest post by Anna


My name is Anna and I am single.

In whatever the Lord has for me, I will be content.
I didn’t expect to be 37 and unbetrothed. And yet, here I am, at the corner of Will-I-Be-Alone-Forever and Where-Are-All-The-Christian-Men.

Most of my adult life has been spent attending the weddings and baby showers of my dearest friends and family, rejoicing with them over the blessings they have found on this earth. I have spent countless hours counseling women about relationship issues and praying with them through some hard break-ups and exciting engagements.

Many days, I rest deeply in the contentment of believing that the Lord is in control and things are exactly as they should be. Then there are the other days. On those days, I ache with deep longing for a husband I have not yet found.

Having been a single adult for more than half of my life now, I want to offer some insight into how it feels and what your role is in my singleness. Did you know you have a role in it? Because you do and we’ll get to that next week.

But first, what does it feel like to be single at this stage?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Grownups Call Them Idols

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. I John 5:21

Tears rolled down her face like big glass marbles as she threw her head back and wailed. Posture bent with anxiety, my little girl was completely stressed out. 

The culprit causing her unhappiness was entirely unworthy of such a response. 

However, here we sat, and I could not reason with her. The source of her distress was a simple desire for something she could not have. At least not yet.

The desire had grown dearer, and bigger, and taller, until it loomed over her like a giant ready to stomp out her peace. 

I knew this was the heart of the matter, but addressing it in a way she could understand was a different challenge altogether. 

In her mind and the reality of her present moment, it was all about a toy.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Peace Pickle: A Tale of How My Parenting is Changing Along with my Teenager

The Shower Wars have begun. 
What happened to those calm, evening bubble baths with toys? My little boys have suddenly turned into little men, demanding I-must-have-a-shower-in-the-morning-so-my-hair-will-be-perfect. Forget the challenges of geometry class or research papers, the battle for who gets to shower first in the morning is concern number one this school year. 

I want to sit down and mourn the passing of the sweet childhood bath ritual, but I am too busy trying to find my bearings in this new business of raising teens.

Only God can truly see our hearts, but there are times in my mothering that I am almost sure I can actually see meanness enter into my child’s heart. It may be a moment like this morning, when one chose to defy another and jump in the shower ahead of him after being expressly told not to. For a tween, being locked out of the bathroom by your teenage brother and made to wait in humiliation, is torment. 

The result of this little moment of rebellion, of I-want-what-I-want, was War that reached into the rest of our day, seeping like poison into every attitude of every member of the family.
My compulsion was to restore order, to restore relationship, by force. He. will. say. sorry. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

When You Need Help Believing

Sometimes we need help believing.
Sometimes the Lord calls us to be, to do, something that we can’t quite believe we are able. We dream big, and we wish grand, but the reality of what we believe about ourselves is anything but grand. Perhaps our reality looks more like a small person trying to do what it takes to survive.

That was the case for Gideon. He was hiding out in a winepress threshing wheat. A sure sign of times gone awry, desperate circumstances. Resourcefulness born of desperation, of fear. A time when objects, places, lose their original purpose and serve the need of the moment. A winepress was not designed to thresh wheat. 

It was in this necessary state of survival that Gideon was called to believe beyond his circumstances, beyond the reality he felt sure was true. 

The Lord found Gideon in the winepress, and called him by a name which seemed completely contrary to his situation. “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior,” (Judges 6:12).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Meeting With God Before We Meet With Others

We must meet with God alone before we meet with man.
(Genesis 32-33)

Jacob had stolen from Esau his very birthright. He had deceived their father Isaac and taken from Esau his inheritance and standing with his father and with the generations to come. Surely Esau had reason to hate Jacob for the rest of his life.

Jacob fled for his life and paid for his sin for two decades. During that long labor he learned the value of honesty, and began to long for relationship with his brother again. He had every reason to expect his brother to attack him, maybe even kill him. He sent word to Esau anyway, and waited. But before he faced his brother, Jacob spent the night wrestling with God.

Jacob understood something very important: we must face God before we face man.  In Jacob’s case, he wrestled with God. And that will be the case for some of our relationships as well. The relationships with the deepest grievances will require a wrestling and a patience as we struggle for peace. Jacob said to the Lord as he wrestled with Him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (32:26). This is the type of battling prayer that we must be willing to undergo to see blessing in the most hurting relationships. 

There is much concern and anxiety in our culture today about reconciliation between races, between churches, between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers. We will be equipped for this reconciliation when we first face God alone, before we face one another.

There was another important element to Jacob’s encounter with God before he encountered his brother.  As he struggled that night, he was forced to face who he really was. The Lord asked him his name (32:27), and Jacob gave the familiar name he had always been called, Jacob. The Lord answered him by giving him a new name, Israel, because he had overcome (32:28). As we face God, we lay aside our old labels. Failure. Betrayer. Liar. We become overcomers, and we are given a new name. Overcomer. Friend. Honest.

In seeking God first, our hearts are dealt with and we are enabled to face others with less bias, less obstacles blocking the path of peace.

The discipline of meeting with God before we meet with man is valuable on a daily basis. We do not know what each day will hold; but we do know that most days hold encounters with people. The very attitude of our minds, the openness of our hearts to others, can be determined by time spent with God before we face others each day. By meeting with Him first, we change the course of our day and our relationships.

Jacob met with God before he met with his brother. To Jacob’s surprise, Esau’s response to him was completely different from what Jacob expected and deserved. In the time that had lapsed, God had worked in Esau’s heart as well as Jacob’s. Esau embraced his brother and wept, rejoicing in their reunion. His forgiveness was evident, and their relationship was restored.

God’s plans for our relationships may surprise us. The outcome may be more than we could have hoped or imagined. 

Let us meet with God today before we meet with man, and listen for His direction. 

Has your life been impacted by the practice of facing God first? Share your story in the comments section below.

TWEETABLES

Meet with God before you meet with man.  (Click to Tweet)

For true reconciliation to happen, we must face God before we face man. (Click to Tweet)



Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Gift of Anger, Part Two: Responding Constructively

Long ago a wise person suggested to me that each day I read one chapter of Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs. That habit has helped center my days and my relationships, and it has much to offer us on the topic of responding constructively to anger. 

Simply speaking, the Psalms show us how to relate to God; the Proverbs show us how to relate to each other. Many Psalms illustrate the angry heart pouring itself out to God; while Proverbs instruct us how to understand the difference between godly anger and selfish anger, and how to manage it with wisdom.

Today I will offer you three simple suggestions I have gained straight from these two invaluable books for responding to anger in a way that is constructive, instead of destructive.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Gift of Anger, Part One

They say that you realize how much language you truly know when you get angry. At least that’s what the villagers said to me the day I really lost my temper.

I had gone to great lengths to find tomato seeds on our monthly trek into the city, two hours away from our home in the bush of Africa. Who ever knew I would miss tomatoes so much? But being a southern girl who grew up on farm tomatoes, I had a certain wistful image dancing in my head of beefsteak tomatoes, red and juicy, and I had to try. 

After finding the precious seeds, I carefully tended the soil and saved water from the roof to make sure they were well irrigated each day. The tomatoes grew, and grew. My neighbors were insanely curious, and gave me daily updates on their progress.

One especially sweltering day, a gaggle of children sat crowded under the small banana-leaf porch we had attached to the front of our house.