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.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Healthy, Happy People Set Boundaries

by Danetta Kellar

“Please confirm that you no longer wish to receive valuable, money-saving coupons and time-saving promotions from our sponsor…”

This was the message I received one day as I sought to unsubscribe to a retailer which had been sending inordinate amounts of email advertisements to my inbox every day. At the end of the school year, I had over 3,000 messages piled up from all sorts of good, but unnecessary, places. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Lamplight of Decision

by Danetta Kellar

Psalm 119:105  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

When darkness fell our first night in the remote bush country of Kenya, I was prepared. 

The lanterns were full of kerosene, flashlights of various sizes were fresh with new American batteries, and candles lay all in a row on the table, beside them a box of matches sealed nice and dry in a tightly closed jar. I was ready for the inky blackness.

Snug in our little mud house, we felt safe from the darkness as long as there was a source of light. 

That is, unless we had to venture outside for any reason. With the descending dusk also fell a helpless feeling of entrapment. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Lesson of the Creek

by Danetta Kellar

I never tire of sitting by the roaring waters of the creek that winds around two sides of our family cabin. 

Built by my uncle when I was a small child, the refuge represents years of family gatherings. Folks have come and gone over the decades, but the flowing of the creek has never ceased.

In all my years of watching its waters, I have never seen them flow uphill. 

Down, down, down they go, singing all the way. Mossy boulders lie strewn about as if a giant was interrupted in a game of marbles and left them scattered. But the water finds its way around them, even changing the surface of the rocks, smoothing their rough sharp edges. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Christian or Follower of Jesus?

by Danetta Kellar

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

I once lived in a culture where the word Christian was politically charged and grossly misunderstood

The imported soap operas rife with adultery and betrayal came from Christian countries. The news of shooters entering high schools and gunning down innocent teachers and students were Christians. The cities most famous for drugs and gangs were in Christian nations. 

One of the first questions we were asked when meeting someone for the first time was, “Are you a Christian?”

We would answer, “We are followers of Jesus the Messiah.”

A simple distinction from the normal label opened the door for meaningful conversation and dispelling of misconceptions about our beliefs. 

Now I live in the United States, and the word Christian is politically charged and grossly misunderstood. I never expected that to happen.

I am finding that semantics matter as much here as they did when I was an outsider in a foreign land, misunderstood and maligned.

As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility for the way we communicate and represent our faith. We are ambassadors, representing Christ to those around us. Daily, diplomatic ambassadors around the world labor to accurately represent their nations to foreign cultures and governments. As ambassadors of Christ, we must seek to do the same. 

A follower of Jesus follows him. Daily. 

A follower of Jesus studies his teachings and seeks to emulate them. A follower of Jesus is not ashamed of the gospel.

The world is hungering for authenticity. For truth. Transparency. 

Your life is a window into what it means to be a Christian and the way you talk about it can make all the difference.

Think about it.

What words do you think have become misunderstood and misused in today’s faith conversation? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

All About a Cup: A Tale of Coveting

by Danetta Kellar

I used to think that coveting was a condition of material wealth. 

After all, in a society where most anything one could want is available at most any time, the choices are endless. And with social media and photo enhancing, everyone’s life looks enviable. If we see it and we want it, we don’t have to wait long to have it, if we must. 

My misconception changed when I moved deep into the bush of East Africa to live among a tribe whose material possessions consisted of only the most basic, utilitarian items. 

One day after a hot and dusty afternoon of hand-digging the cornfields for planting, the village wives gathered under the spreading acacia tree for chai. Squatting on their lean, sinewy haunches, colorful cloth wraps hiked up above their calves, the women stirred the pot and chatted. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hope for Single Mothers

by Danetta Kellar

For my dear single co-laborers in motherhood. You know who you are.

Being a single mom is hard work. 

Motherhood does not often take a vacation, get a sick day, win the lottery. Like a lioness, the single mom scours the landscape to provide for her children. She is a defender, a provider, a protector. 

She is also exhausted.

Single mothers do not have time to curl up in a ball in the corner and cry tears of self-pity. 

They are too busy caring for their children. Working. Sitting up late after the kids are sleeping, poring over bills, splicing and dicing the budget to squeeze out another dollar for necessities.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Promise in the Rain

by Danetta Kellar

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” -Isaiah 55:9-11

Deep in the ancient city of North Africa, behind tall walls and heavy wooden doors, our home nestled at the end of a quiet street. Its massive courtyard was surrounded by long salons, their tiled mosaic walls lined with colorful couches and piles of plush pillows. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

An Ever-Present Help in the Storm

by Danetta Kellar

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3, NIV 

Tucked deep in the woods along the bend of a creek, I sat in the cozy cabin kitchen sipping my coffee. 

Pulling a fleece blanket snugly around my shoulders, I leaned back and savored a rare feeling of deep rest.

The plaintive cry of an animal outside broke the morning stillness. Assuming it was a bird, I took another bite of my toast and enjoyed the background noise of nature.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Involuntary Worship

by Danetta Kellar

The human body has both a voluntary and an involuntary nervous system. 

Because of the involuntary nervous system, we do not have to will our hearts to beat, remember to pump our lungs for breath, or set a reminder on repeat to make sure blood flows through our veins. All of these magnificent functions and more happen deep in the silence of our miraculous body, automatically.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Leaving Space for Unplanned Grace

by Danetta Kellar

A green sock with neon pink polka dots landed on my windshield. 

Next, a breezy sundress flew past the passenger window. Like a sudden blizzard, clothes were falling from the sky.

Slowing the car down, I turned on my wipers.

I drew back just in time to see a suitcase come toppling off a green van a few hundred yards in front of me, landing with a crash in the median. 

A black, pointy, patent-leather shoe stuck up from the tangled pile like it was trying to thumb a ride.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Letting Go of our Children

by Danetta Kellar

Leaving a legacy begins when we let go of our children. 

The words pierced my heart and left it to bleed. The string lights twinkled like stars above us, winking their assent to the truth spoken.

It was just me sitting alone in that immense warehouse-turned-cathedral while God’s spokesman, standing on the platform in shadow, aimed his word-arrows at my mother heart.

At least that is how it felt. Like I was the only one in the room with those sharp, true words.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I Want to Be a Mary Mother but My Name is Martha

by Danetta Kellar

I saw the sticky notes while she was still sleeping in a soft pile of pink ruffled pillows. 

Finish my Lego set today. Play the piano for Daddy. Make a school room for my doll. Color a picture for Mommy. The white notes were plastered across her bookcase like little snowflakes stuck on a windowpane. Just by her head, so she would see them first thing in the morning.

My little planner is very busy. She loves to build things, gather people together, and write books. She talks about Laura and Mary like they are her sisters and wonders aloud what it would look like if her room were a loft in a Little House on the Prairie.

She is watching me, and listening. 

I can hear myself in her, see myself in her, and watch myself in her. If I am not careful, if I do not slow down soon, she will have learned very well from me how to go and go and go, to do and do and do, making list after list after list, faster and faster, until she is all grown up and I am left wishing I had shown her how to slow down and sit awhile.