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.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Made for Another World

by Danetta Kellar

“Mommy, I think lately God has been trying to tell me something.”

Her big blue eyes stared deeply into mine. The air in the room, so still and quiet a moment before, quivered like a pool disturbed by a noiseless earth tremor. 

“He is telling me that He is coming soon. Jesus is coming with lots of people to take us all up to heaven with him,” she continued, her face filled with glowing certainty.

“And I just can’t wait to go. It will make me so happy.”

I continued listening, my heart caught in my throat. 

“I had a dream about it, you know. Jesus came and Grandaddy was with him. And there were so many other people with him I thought they were clouds in the sky but they were people. My great-great grandma was there too, the one who loved you. But she wasn’t old. You know, no one is old when they come with Jesus.”

“I was crying at first because I was scared of the big noise. But then Grandaddy held me and took me to Jesus so Jesus could carry me. Jesus whispered in my ear and I felt safe then.”

We were made for another world.

Even the longings that do get fulfilled in this world seem like a not-quite-filled-to-the-top cup of creamy hot cocoa. Not quite filled. Not quite complete. Not quite enough. Where does this angst, this lack, come from?

There is another world where our deepest desires will be satisfied. Completely. 

The limitations of this world will no longer hold us. We will not be bound by time, sickness, death, or by senseless evil. The fight against injustice will cease. The oppressed, rejected, abandoned, scared, will be held. Safe.

My daughter has accepted painful loss in recent months. It has created in her a longing for the next world, because she has no doubt it is real. No doubt that we were made for it. Heaven is comforting her here on earth, and this morning it comforted me.

I don’t know when Jesus is coming. But I do know that He said unless we come with the faith of a child, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. My daughter’s faith has stopped me today in the muddy tracks I am making on this earth. This place where I shall not stay for long.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Didn't Realize He Loved Me

by Danetta Kellar

This past weekend I attended a silent retreat at an old Abbey of the Order of St. Benedict. Tucked away in the wilds of Florida, the monastery stands beckoning gently to the reflective life, a life devoted to quieting one’s soul before God. I drove many hours to experience that solitude, to escape the noise of my life and listen for God. This is my meager attempt to describe the indescribable. God was waiting for me, and I am changed.

I sat on a grassy hillside, the wind whipping through my hair and making the trees clap. They must have been applauding the drama unfolding before them, a girl with all straight lines and tidy corners being completely undone, made into a beautiful mess. The undoing of perfectionism and performance has a rare beauty of its own. We received a standing ovation as creation witnessed my Lord’s disassembling of me.

Alone with the wind, the trees, and my Bible, I looked straight into the eyes of Love Himself and found that I never knew He loved me before that moment.

I thought I knew He did. The Bible tells me it is so. I have sung about it, studied it, taught it, even gotten a seminary degree in it. All the while, as the knowledge piled up, my self-worth grew bereft and bankrupt. Something was not connecting. It haunted me in the dark and quiet moments alone with my thoughts, my truth. Cognitive assent could not produce soul-living reality. 

As I learned more about His love, I grew more desolate inside. Why didn’t I feel loved? Why did I still hear the voices of Rejection and Abandonment, declaring my identity as one unlovable, resonating throughout the empty halls of my soul? 

How cruel is it that the voice of abuse and trauma can drown out the voice of Love most days, at least in the hearts of the broken and discarded? Why were those lying voices so much easier to feel and believe?

In desperation, I fled. I fled from the noise, the press of so many needful things. I ran to the hillside, hundreds of miles from home, to face God.

When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus. John 21:4

In the dim light of my transformation from night to day, I did not recognize Him at first. My eyes were accustomed to darkness. I was distracted, laboring over the nets of my own making and mending, looking to my own efforts to sustain my life. If I am good enough, I will be lovable. If I perform well enough, I will be loved. With intense concentration, I worked, and worked, and worked.

Then I felt it. A tidal wave of Love so fierce it threw me on my back. I stared unblinking at the endless blue sky. His love was a power so furious that it reached me before I could see Him. I was immobilized. 

As I cried out garbled praise to the one who held such glory, He took my hand like a lover. The intimate conversation that followed in hushed and quiet tones restored my soul. He showed me everything in his fierce and fiery gaze of Love. I was consumed.

Before, I thought this journey in life was about my love for Him

I have taken great pains to love Him well. But my failures and unfaithfulness have laid me so low that my good intentions have born only the fruit of self-focus and narcissism, wrapped up nicely in a disguise of spirituality and godliness. My attempts to be good have only created distance between me and the liberating love my soul craves.

I know now that this journey is actually and truly about His love for me. All else is engulfed in that one startling Truth.

Get alone with God. Run to the mountains, flee! Go away to the hills and find solitude and silence. Disentangle yourself from the cluttering, clinging cares that make Love a concept and not a reality for you. Take time to listen to the Beloved. He has something very personal to say to you. Don’t miss it in the noise.

He loves you, and nothing else matters.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

100 Days of Truth

by Danetta Kellar

Lent has begun, and many, be they of a liturgical bent or not, have decided to embrace this ancient church tradition and give something up.

I have decided, in my typical non-conformist fashion, to actually embrace something instead. Upon closer examination, I guess in taking up something I am actually also releasing something that once took its place. 

Each day for the next 100 days, I am going to intentionally choose a Biblical truth on which to set my mind and heart. Embrace a truth; release whatever was in its place. 

(I know, 100 is more than Lent's 40 days... I'm an overachiever and need more time to form a new habit...)

Today I am embracing hope. 

I cannot seem to escape from God's proclamations of hope all around me as spring bursts forth early this year. In my recent pessimism, I had the audacity to even be grumpy and complain when spring began to courageously poke its head out of the brown deadness of winter. It's too early, I complained. Everything is going to get zapped by a cold snap. But apparently, no one told the flowers to be afraid to bloom. Their optimism has won me over to a plan much better than my own. 

If the spring flowers could sing, they would make Handel's Messiah seem small and elementary. 

With colors no man created, intricate details drawn in the mind of God, perfume imagined first in heaven, they shout hallelujah and declare to all who will notice that nothing dead is really dead. Life cannot be stopped. 

Hope cannot be quelled, stayed, defeated, or demolished.

Let go of depression and dance the jubilee of hope today. Nothing. Is beyond. The life-giving power of our God.

Please join me in 100 days of truth. 

Choose your own truth from the Bible each day. Post it and claim it, embrace it and release whatever was in its place. 

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see my daily truths and let's parade through the next 100 days with #100daysoftruth. 

I don't claim to have originated this hashtag, but let's make it our own and flood our networks with Truth that Remains.


Launch Lent with #100daysoftruth. (Click to Tweet)

Choose one scripture each day as your focus. #100daysoftruth (Click to Tweet)