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.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Spills Out

by Danetta Kellar

Ravi Zacharias, in his very personal podcast Jesus Among Other Gods, (to listen, click here) shares an Indian proverb. “Whatever you are overflowing with will spill out when you are bumped.” 

He uses this proverb to illustrate his mother's strength of character on a very difficult night during his childhood. 

As I listened to his words in the car one dark night, my soul was gripped with conviction. 

Like a parade of shame, images of my own reactions when “bumped” flashed through my memory. Anger, selfishness, and pride all rose like specters in my mind, and I knew I was not like his mother. Not one bit.

Then came shame, always quick to cover our guilt so we focus only on ourselves. Behind shame comes the Party in a Box, labeled in garish letters, “PITY PARTY”. 

My real guilt was hidden now by shame and self-pity. I could get no real soul-work done in that state.

The next morning as I reflected on it again, with the fresh perspective of the morning’s new mercies, my soul condition was clearer to me. 

It is simple. Out of my heart, my mouth speaks, my body acts, my mind thinks. 

As always, life is a matter of the condition of my heart.

And thanks be to God, I can bring my heart to Him every day to be renewed.

There is hope, even for those who, when bumped, spew out all manner of foul things.

Living the Christian life is hard for some of us. Loving others, putting them first, making time for all the needs we see around us takes the kind of selflessness few of us have naturally. I often joke that my husband and mother-in-love have that gift naturally, but I have to study it, pray for it, work hard for it. It is not natural to me.

But the bottom line is this: God is what we are not. He has the power. The patience. The wisdom. The love. He offers us all that is necessary to love and serve the broken world we live in. It is not conditional upon our own hearts, it is conditional upon our willingness to come to him for filling. 

As we bring our hearts in all their lack to him, he fills them with what we can only manufacture in limited quantities. 

And for that, I will always return to him, again, and again, and again.

There may be no greater testament to me about His existence than when I see him fill my lack and make me more than I can be on my own. When I see myself bumped, and love and mercy come out, I know there is a God. For I know what is in me.

This is the power of our all-sufficient God.

Won’t you share a time when He filled you beyond your own limits and love spilled out instead?


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hezekiah’s Prayer For Families

by Danetta Kellar

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Isaiah 37:14

Hezekiah received a letter from the most powerful king of his time, the king of Assyria. The Assyrians had left a path of destroyed people and stripped lands wherever they went. Now they were coming for Israel. They knew that dependence upon God was the source of the Israelite’s strength, and that is precisely where they attacked.

God’s enemy has sent a letter to Christian families today, warning, Do not let the God you depend on deceive you… you will be destroyed. He will not save you (37:10). 

The enemy breathes his lies in the media, in schools, even in our youth groups and churches. His victims sit as though hypnotized, listening to his threats while desperately hoping that God will, indeed, save them.

It would seem that the battle to live lives of love and honor is futile some days. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Rear Guard

by Danetta Kellar

the Lord will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Isaiah 52:12b, NASB 

I was determined to run the race. 

It was the third annual trail run, and I had run it the previous two years. This time I had just returned to running after recovering from a broken foot, and now my hip was injured to boot. I was in the poorest condition ever for the intense three-mile run up a mountain at an elevation of nearly 2000 feet above sea level. 

This race was important to me. It symbolized a mountain in my personal life that I had to prove to myself I could climb, no matter my limitations.
There are some hard things in life that we would be justified, even applauded, to abandon. They cause us pain and strain and stretch us thin and transparent, allowing others to see the ugly inside. We’d be better off if we just quit and walked away. That’s what others say, anyhow.

There is indeed a time to walk away. But there is also a time to stay. A time to hold on against the howling wind, leaning into the strain, hanging on with all we have and crying out to God for help to endure. 

There are races in life only we can run and finish lines we must cross ourselves.

For me, physically running is a spiritual, emotional, and mental exercise. I usually fix my mind on a specific Scripture passage or a pre-planned prayer focus as I raced. This time, however, I had waited and waited for the Lord to show me this race’s focus, but nothing came. Heaven seemed silent. 

That morning as I approached the starting line, I had simply prayed, Lord, I am listening. Speak to me today as I run. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hope for Grieving Parents and Children: KinderMourn

by Danetta Kellar

My daughter chattered happily as we walked through dappled sunlight that danced along the brick walkway. 

She didn’t mention the inscriptions today, but I still noticed them. I always do. My Cuddly Buddy. In Loving Memory. Will Forever Flutter in Our Hearts. World Trade Center, 9/11/01. Hope. Each brick marked a painful step someone had taken through the gates of grief, to the door of the house we now approached, a safe place of refuge to mourn and heal called KinderMourn.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

When You Need to Change Your Mind

by Danetta Kellar

I went to bed with Condemnation and woke up with it the next morning

It had started in the place of self-scrutiny, with the instruments we all like to use to measure ourselves. Beauty, Success, Energy, Health, Finance, fill in your own tool. I had measured and weighed my Self and did not like what I saw. 

By the time I fell into bed I was exhausted and weighed down like an anchor chained to a shipwreck. Condemnation slipped its scaly arms around me and began to tighten its grip. By morning it had grown in strength and staked its claim on yet another day. 

My perceived failures stood around my bed taunting me, daring me to face the day with anything but discouragement. 

As I brushed my teeth, I carefully studied an imaginary list of my infractions and imperfections on the mirror in front of me. Fear stood over my shoulder, reminding me of all I had to lose if I did not measure up. 

This day was not starting with hope. It would seem there was no hope for me.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What I Really Look Like

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24, NIV

by Danetta Kellar

I was eleven years old the day I realized what I really looked like. 

I stood in front of the cheap mirror, staring at my reflection, far too close for vanity. In my hand I held up a black and white photo, preserved crisp and pristine over the years. The young man in the photograph reminded me of James Dean. He wore a slim-fitting button-down shirt with a tie snug at his neck. It was clear he had battled his curls, taming them, sweeping them back into a dignified wave. He was utterly handsome and my heart was mesmerized.

He was my father, whom I had never met.

I had always wondered what he looked like. I was used to looking different from my ginger-haired, fair-skinned mother and sister. People commented on it often. 

I found the photograph in a yellow-paged scrapbook in the attic, tucked away from sight. 

I had been sent upstairs on an errand for my mother when I came upon the treasure. The secret to what I looked like. I look just like him, I whispered to my image as I slowly traced my nose. That darn nose. The nose that always got in the way in pictures. That big, beautiful nose of mine. And his.

And the curls. The unruly, crazy curls that made me cry when I tried to run a brush through them. His hair was curly too, and the same dark color.

I felt relieved that day, as if a long-hidden secret had been revealed, and with it, an explanation of who I was.

His absence in my life left me on a path of near destruction. But that path led me to find my greater Father, and in the Bible, I began to see who I was meant to be, regardless of my earthly parentage. Word upon word, promise upon promise, truth upon truth, my heavenly Father began constructing for me an image of my own soul, my most core identity. As I obeyed His Word and not only obeyed, but believed it despite my traumatic childhood, I began to see what I looked like. 

There is a photograph, preserved through the ages, which holds the secret to your image and mine. Upon careful study, it will reveal who we look like. 

It is the Word of God, our true mirror, the certain measure, of our souls. As I study myself in its reflection, may I see my Father. For I am his own daughter.

Lord, help me be a doer of the word, not just a hearer. Build your image in me as I believe that the truest things about me are what You say about me. Amen.

As we carefully study the Bible, we will learn our true #identity. (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

You Never Know What Someone Else is Going Through

by Danetta Kellar

I have changed the names of the dear ones in this post to protect their privacy. 

We had been in the ancient, spacious house for months. It had once sheltered three families, and now our small one took up only one wing. The old walls were constantly crumbling, and with only half a roof over the central courtyard, the birds and other less desirable animals came and went freely, leaving their own little dirty deposits. 

Fighting the constant Sahara dust was a losing battle, and even if I threw water on the tile floors and squeegeed it down the drain, a fine layer of golden powder covered every surface again by afternoon. 

One morning, my friend Hope came to visit. Morning visits were rare, so I knew this must mean business.

Our husbands were close friends. We had shared many meals together in one another’s homes. Hope was familiar with my housecleaning habits, and my funny American ways of dealing with clutter that differed so much from her own. She teased me for hanging my pictures in the middle of a big wall, instead of clustering all of them together along the very top.

Today Hope offered me a proposition. Obviously, to her at least, I needed help in my housekeeping battle. To prove it, she slid my sofa away from the wall and lectured me on the piles of dirt that hovered in the corners like guilt. 

Hope had a sister, and this sister needed work. She could clean my house for me and I could pay her. A beautiful arrangement, after I swallowed my born-in-the-South-to-an-obsessively-clean-mother Pride.

I had no idea that day how much my life was about to change, that I was about to receive a friend I would treasure for years to come. I couldn’t have imagined the lessons I was about to learn.