Thursday, February 23, 2017

When You Need to Escape the Pressures of Life

by Danetta Kellar

I once lived in an ancient walled city. Within its ramparts, life continued much as it had in medieval times. Donkeys and people crowded the cobbled streets, the smell of local bakeries wafted through the air, meat and vegetable sellers shouted out their bargains for the day. 

Deep in the heart of the city, one could easily get lost. Massive, crooked walls towered over tiny streets, blocking the sunlight. One could go from a business district to a quiet neighborhood with a single wrong turn. There were times I felt cloistered, smothered, panic threatening to choke me, as I looked around for anything familiar that might help me find my way out of the maze and back home.

Occasionally on an early Saturday morning, I would escape the stifling press of life in the old city. On a mountainside overlooking the vast expanse of commotion and bustle below stood a golden fortress, its towers the only remaining relics of the ancient days when watchmen never slept, keeping the city under their protective gaze. I could feel its strength as I climbed the ramparts and found a vantage point where I could sit and meditate on the pressures of life down in the labyrinth.

In those sacred times alone with God in that spacious place, I would gain perspective that was impossible to see in the blinding crush of daily life down below. 

Some call this taking the “30,000-foot view”. I call it the “view from the rock.” There are times God lifts us up and set us securely upon a rock, making our wobbly way firm again.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-3

Sometimes the crush and noise of living make us lose our way, panic rising as we frantically look around trying to find a familiar signpost. 

The understanding and clarity needed to rightly assess our circumstances, our relationships, our purpose, evade us. Like one lost in a medieval maze, we cannot find our bearings. Others tell us who we are and what we should do, and we watch their mouths move like in a dream, wondering to ourselves if they really even know us at all.

We must cry out to the Lord at such times. He knows a place far above the labyrinth of our worries and confusion. 

God brings us up higher, to the highest place, where we can look down at our lives from the outside, with Wisdom Himself alongside as our mountain guide, helping us gain real understanding.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

The Proverbs remind us repeatedly that God gives understanding. Wisdom guards us like the watchmen in the towers, looking over the bustle of our lives and alerting us to approaching danger. We find wisdom and understanding when we withdraw with God to a higher place.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle, I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

The pressures of living, armed like enemies, seek to cut us down and stop our work. They can grow so fierce they damage our relationships with the ones we love. It is from the vantage point of the High Place on the Rock that our heads are lifted high above our enemies and we can finally see how to love well.

From high upon the rock we catch sight of how small our life really is. We realize its place alongside so many other lives. We gain a vision of how much more there is to see beyond the walls we erect to protect and contain our goals and dreams. 

In the High Place on the Rock, we gain a vision for the spacious place God wants us to dwell. We take a deep breath and breathe in peace again.

Do you need to climb the ramparts today, get away from the labyrinth of life? Cry to the Lord, and hold tight as He sets you firmly upon a rock and gives you a higher view of the challenges you face.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Day Technology Took Over Our Lives

By Danetta Kellar

Oh, the joys of having everything at our fingertips, in one place. 

I found myself driving down the road recently, not feeling well, wondering if my phone could take my temperature. 

I love the convenience of technology. But I am not sure the cost of convenience is worth it.

One day not so long ago I got a new phone, and consequently, we did a switch among us so everyone got an upgrade. Having carefully backed everything up to clouds and hardware the night before, we left the phone store confident.

Five hours later, we were not so jovial. What began with one glitch led to another, and another, and another. By dinnertime I had two children making dinner so I could stay on the line with the tech. I called my husband and told him to hurry up and come home from work; we needed all hands on the techy deck.

Somewhere in the midst of the panic, the thought came to me that loss of data might just be a relief. A new beginning. The ultimate one-fail-swoop clean up. Pressure off.

In the fog of all of this, my daughter came home from school. She floated in and out of the room, bringing me paper hearts she had carefully cut out for me, spreading them across my computer keyboard. She placed a toy menu on my desk and asked if she could “please take my order”. She brought me an entire muffin tin full of colorful plastic cupcakes, made just for me. 

At one point my sweet girl climbed over the three cords attached to phones and laptops, past the phone glued to my ear, and into my lap. “I just want to spend time with you, Mommy. I haven't seen you all day.” 

The children not only cooked dinner, but they ate it. Alone. I never saw their Sloppy Joe creation.

My husband arrived home like a fireman responding to a three alarm fire, and began the work of putting the blazes out. He entered the family office to find us in high crisis mode. We all looked like Churchill’s men in the bunker, strategizing against Enemy Number One.

He was still solving the problem when I gave up at almost midnight and went to get ready for bed.

I whispered an exhausted prayer and fell to sleep.

Just as I dozed off, my phone tweeted. I had forgotten to set the new one to “Do Not Disturb”.

Heart pounding and body worn out, I lay there awake trying to go back to sleep. 

Technology had stolen my entire day.

How do you handle the beloved thief we call technology? I bet I’m not the only one who welcomes your advice today.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Watching Over Me

by Danetta Kellar

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8

I was watching him carefully from my place on the treadmill across the gym. 

Slowly he circled the weights, occasionally glancing over at the young guys with big biceps and strong backs lifting barbells. He ran his hand along the weight rack, wishful. 

At one point he looked up at me and saw me watching him. 

“What’s the matter?” he silently mouthed with a look of annoyance. I smiled in return and touched my heart.

Eventually, with a sigh, he grabbed a mat and began furiously doing crunches on the floor.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Irritants and Troublers

by Danetta Kellar

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, then those whom you allow to remain will be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your side, and will cause you trouble in the land where you will be living.” Numbers 33:55

Foot-weary and bone-tired, the bedraggled band of former slaves could see the Promised Land before them. All that separated them now were the rushing waters of the Jordan, sparkling in the morning sun like laughter and joy. Finally.

God had told them to take possession of the land and settle in it. But there was more. Before God’s people took up residence, there were others there who needed to leave. Not only leave, but be driven out. If they were allowed to remain, God warned that they would become irritants and troublers to the Israelites.

Sounds like work. Not what the worn-out Israelites had in mind.

There are some inhabitants of our hearts we do not want to confront. 

We do not want to send them away, banish them. It takes work to face the ugly about ourselves and rout it out. Besides, we might need it in a moment of weakness to comfort us. Idols appeal to us that way. It is easier to just let them stay put, dusty in the shadowy back corners of our souls. No harm, no foul.

I have had a little shelf of idols like that hidden away. Idols named Performance, Perfection, Control. They seemed so innocuous, so minor. Besides, they actually helped me out sometimes, made me feel better about myself. People even chuckled at the way they shaped my quirky personality. They were kinda like friends.

But over the years as I have tried to settle into God’s plans for my life, I have had this constant irritation. This cycle of victory and defeat. 

A nagging little pattern of overcame-that-oops-here-it-is-again. 

You probably know what I am talking about in your own Promised Land. 

The sin that keeps coming back, even after you thought you had beat it.

The habit that robs you of rest and happiness, even after you resolve over and over to get help and get over it.

The unforgiveness that you thought time would cover and forget, but it comes up at the most inconvenient times, consuming your thoughts and emotions.

When we do not drive out these nasty little inhabitants of our hearts, they grow bigger and bigger. 

Eventually, they make their presence known and wreak havoc on our peace of mind, our relationships, and our lives in the land God has given us.

Are you at the beginning of your journey with God, standing as it were on the banks of the Jordan, looking out over the Promised Land? Or are you already settled, roots deep in the land, only hiding a little secret shelf of idols you never had the courage or energy to confront?

How you live out God’s purpose for you will be affected by those things you refuse to drive from your heart. Take it from me, they will be irritants and thorns in your side, and they will bring trouble to your life.

Take time to do your soul work, to forgive and let go of the things which may one day shackle your feet. Identify the lies that drive you, and replace them with the Truth of God’s Word. Refuse to give glory to anything but Christ. Live free.

In His great mercy and grace, God helps us no matter where we are on our journey to the Promised Land. May He help you exactly where you are today.