Monthly Archives: December 2008

Kingdom Carriers

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is within you.’” (Luke 17:20-21).

Kingdom carriers. I don’t always appreciate the calling. Like yesterday, for instance.

I didn’t want to go to church. I did … want to go. But then I didn’t. Want to. But then I actually did…go…because, well, church is what I do, despite my fleshly wants.

My “want to” for doing church noticed a shift once I realized that yet another “thing” would be required of me upon entering its doors. In the fray and busy of a Christmas week, I forgot about my scheduled turn to teach during the children’s church portion of the service—a portion that coincides with the morning message.

The thought of missing out on the nourishment and rest that accompanies my spirit with the hearing of God’s Word sent my mood into a sudden and downward spiral. I didn’t want the responsibility of feeding God’s children. I wanted to be fed. I didn’t want to share my faith with anyone. Rather, I wanted to sit with it in isolation … in quiet communion. Just me and God and the words of Preacher Billy admonishing me with the truth of scripture.

It was a quick descent into the pit of “poor me.” But just as quickly as I arrived, another thought arrived, crowding its way onto the stage of my pity. Something about the little children and the kingdom of heaven belonging to such as these (Matthew 19:14). I briefly fought to “stuff it” … to bury it beneath my annoyance, but kingdom reminders aren’t the burying kind. They are meant to surface … especially when they’ve been freshly tilled within the soil of a heart.

My heart.

I spent a portion of my Saturday evening in preparation for our upcoming Spring Bible study, Beth Moore’s Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman. Per usual, Beth challenges the heart with some hard-hitting questions. My homework centered on an application exercise involving several “kingdom” related scriptures. Beth asks the reader to peruse said scriptures and then to determine whether or not the verses are to be applied “figuratively, spiritually, literally, or not at all” as they pertain to the life of a believer.

I eagerly took to the diversion. After all, I’m a kingdom talker. If you’ve been a reader of my words for any length of time, you know that I frequently and liberally implore the use of “kingdom language” in my writings. There’s something regal and royal and divinely “other” that paints with its use. But for all of the ways I can nobly script God’s kingdom, for all of the twists and turns of my poetic vernacular, none speaks more majestically then when my kingdom talking turns into kingdom walking.

Luke’s Gospel confirms such truth.

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is within you.’” (Luke 17:20-21).

Am I walking God’s kingdom, or am I simply trying to impress others with its language? Do I believe God’s kingdom to be a literal housing within my flesh or simply a figurative and spiritually-speaking “dainty” attached to my feeble frame in hopes of prettying up my perimeter? Are the noble bloodlines of a King running within and throughout my veins, or does my blood bleed a temporal illegitimacy awaiting adoption?

Have I come to a place of deeper understanding … of fully receiving the truth of what I’ve been given as a believer in Jesus Christ? Have you?—come to some conclusions in the matter of God’s kingdom and his bestowing of it upon you?

Our walk embodies our answer. Thus, the question.

Are we merely kingdom talkers, or are we walking it out? Are our lives figuratively filled with kingdom language, or are our lives literally filled with the living, breathing sovereignty of a King and a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28)? Are we approaching life with the perspective that our everyday occurrences with everyday people are better served by their coming into contact with the kingdom of God living within us?

If our answer is yes, if in fact we believe that we are the keepers of God’s Light and the tenders of his sacred wick (see Bethlehem’s Light), then our lives should walk more reverent … more intentional, and more aware of the sacred responsibility that we’ve been allowed.

We are kingdom carriers—those entrusted with the keys accordingly (Matthew 16:19). Wherever we walk, we carry the unshakeable, trustworthy, regal and royal throne of our God with us. We bring God’s kingdom to the world via our flesh (2 Corinthians 6:16). And once we come to his conclusion on the matter of our noble conferment, our flesh becomes all the more eager to concede its will to the kingdom cause.


To the little children and to the many others who so desperately need the intersection of God’s throne with their fragile becoming.

We bring that intersection, friends. It is our privilege to do so. God has entrusted us with the responsibility. Accordingly, our “wants” take a back seat to his. At least they should. Flesh and faith will always make for an odd mix; still and yet, they are the divine coupling that so often yields eternal results.

God has chosen to allow his kingdom to live its pulse within and throughout our feeble and our fragile. A kingdom not of the burying kind, but rather one made for the blossoms and inheritance that comes with walking our sacred bloodlines. Whether we walk with a ready heart or with a reluctant obedience, the kingdom of God was given to be given.

Carry him well, this week. Carry him willingly into the New Year. Carry him knowing that the kingdom he has seeded in you is one of everlasting worth and in need of your liberality in this coming season of influence. Thus, I pray…

Keep me from my isolation, God, from my thinking that your kingdom exists for me alone. Forgive me when I am selfish of its bestowing upon another, especially your children. Grow in me my understanding of what it means to be your kingdom carrier. Humbly, I surrender my flesh for the cause. Replace my little with your much, and seed my heart with a willingness to intersect humanity the royal and regal of your welcoming grace. I feel so unfit to house your kingdom. Thank you for the cross that continues to call me worthy of such an honor. Amen.

Copyright © December 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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A Christmas PS…

There’s a new toy in town…

the Flip Ultra. Check it out. I’ve longed for a way to communicate with you face to face. Well, at least screen to screen. This is the most affordable solution along those lines. My husband did a ton a research into this purchase, and I was thrilled with my surprise yesterday morning. It’s the easiest recording device out there and just may revolutionize our journey in blog land!

Christmas 2008 has come and gone; still and yet, our hearts remain. And wherever there is a pulse, there is the truth of eternity. Carry it well, friends. Get to it. Keep to it. To Jesus and to all things eternal.

May the peaceful rest of Bethlehem’s pause be your portion as you go. As always,

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Bethlehem’s Light

Bethlehem’s Light

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3).

We’re here. We’ve arrived. At Bethlehem, and if you’re reading this, you’ve arrived intact and, undoubtedly, with some relief.

Me too.

And of all the greetings I could send your way in the earliest hours of this occasioned day … of all the clever and enchanting ways I could paint this moment with my words, none would suffice to adequately capture the truth of what this pilgrimage has meant and continues to mean to me.

None, except, perhaps this picture.

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. I say this one is worthy of a few more. Not because of its superior quality. It comes close to failure in that department. But rather because of the eternal truth it scripts.

Our Light has come … has entered into our darkness. Not to shatter us into a pile of irretrievable pieces, but to illuminate us with the single truth…

of Bethlehem’s pause.
of creation’s purpose.
of our reason for being given this season of influence in our lives.

Never will our God shine brighter, loom larger, or beam bigger then when he is given the permission to illuminate his heart and love through the likes of you and me. At least not on this side of eternity.

There is coming a day when our faith will be made sight, and our fleshly attempts at being his light will fall prey and bow down to the weight of his inapproachable light. But until then, we are given the inconceivable privilege of housing his grace and his eternal flicker of hope.

We are the keepers of God’s Light. The tenders of a sacred wick that is meant to flame with the heat of a Father’s holy passion. Our failure to understand the depth of such a holy privilege not only leaves us as we are, but also succeeds in leaving others as they are.

In the dark and without hope. Confused and groping for the way home.

When we fail to reason God’s unreasonable as our assigned portion and to allow his living pulse to become our living breath, we live less. We walk smaller and not as God intended. He intends for us to live within and beneath the shadow of his accompanying presence each day and in full and unsuspecting ways. He means for others to see him through us. Thus, our membership in his household called faith and in his kingdom called Christendom.

We live selfish when we shine God’s Light in isolation. We mock Bethlehem and its mangered pause when we neglect to walk the fulfillment of its illumination … when we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the Matthew 5:14’s and 26:18’s of God’s Holy writ.

Nations have been assigned to God’s Light via our vessels. There are those who will walk home to Jesus because our candles have been the faithful radiance to shine the way. When we bow in holy submission to such Light, we pay high and holy honor to our created purpose. When we walk proud and with little regard to such privilege, we damper God’s illumination.

Does he really need us in order to shine big?

Not really, but his grace allows us the consecrated participation. And when it happens, when our exposure allows Christ his, we experience a fullness that exceeds the solitary whispers of a single flame. We land our lives squarely in the middle of a roaring, Holy Spirit, Jesus-breathing, burning bush kind of revelation. Not the kind that burns to ashes, but rather the type that burns to pure.

To perfection and to a knowing that rests easy with the flaming wick and that concedes the heart to the tending therein.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be the luminary that shines forth our Father’s light. I want to be pure, and I want the joy of seeing others see him because of my privileged participation in the matter. The one God who shines brighter, looms larger, and beams bigger because I’ve allowed him a home in my heart.

Today I will watch young and old come to the manger to receive the gift of Christmas. Together, we will unwrap another year’s worth of spending and doing in short order. But when evening comes, when the bows and paper and plates have been cleared away and my head finds its rest, I pray that my loved ones will have unwrapped more than my meager attempts at love. I pray that they will have seen God in our midst, casting his high and holy shadow through the single flame of my willing heart.

If I can show them Jesus this Christmas, then holy intention has walked its course, and my life has served good purpose.

I pray the same for you, my friends. Holy intention and good purpose lived through you with every package opened, with every smile given, with every difficult relative loved, and with every kindness offered. May God’s Light within you be the flame that lights up your home this Christmas with the warmth and the truth of Bethlehem’s sacred pause.

Arise and shine, for your Light has come.

Merry Christmas, precious friends. From my home to yours. It is my joy and privilege to break bread with you in this season of my life.

As always,

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Rags to Riches…

Rags to Riches…

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:8-11).

(My saint Nick, from shepherd to king; 1992 and 2008)

From sheep tending to gift bearing.

From the least of these to the highly favored.

From shepherd to king.

A life’s journey, filled with all manner of detours along the way. We don’t come into our kingdom inheritance by accident. We don’t just “happen” upon our crowns. Rather, they are bestowed upon us, as a result of our faith—of our living witness to the fact that God’s kingdom come is working itself out in the likes of you and me.

When Jesus willingly sacrificed his life for the kingdom cause, he did so knowing that the momentary surrender of his crown would pave the way for our eternal coronation. He laid his down, so that we could pick ours up. So that we could share in an inheritance that, not only allows us the royal mantle, but that also cloaks us with the unimaginable and longed for penchant of every king’s heart.

An everlasting kingdom. A reign without end. A day in and a season out when the scepter no longer passes but, instead, remains.

But until then, until we reach the final Word on our final reward, we are given the sacred trust of tending to this side of God’s kingdom with a shepherd’s heart. With a rod and a staff that aren’t afraid to poke and to prod as necessary because a shepherd understands the worthy weight of his/her assignment.

The safety of the sheep.

Perhaps that is why Jesus began his life amongst the shepherds. Why he nestled his first night within their hills and interrupted their night’s watch with the cries of his feeble flesh. If anyone could have understood the weight of Christ’s kingdom assignment, they could … at least in part; for like them, he came to earth with a solitary purpose in mind.

The safety of his sheep.

With a rod and a staff that weren’t afraid to poke and to prod because he fully understood the ramifications of his willingness to do so.

An everlasting kingdom. His. Yours and mine, if we allow him his heart in the matter. And his heart always beats in our favor and on our behalf.

The summation of Bethlehem’s announcement, Calvary’s necessary, and Easter’s proclamation. As simple as it gets, yet far more profound than our understanding often allows.

You and I have been entrusted with this profundity. With the shepherding of a story that exceeds reason, but that breathes with the truest Truth of the incomprehensible. We may not always speak it with eloquence or with the wisdom of the sages, but when we allow God’s story our voice, we blanket our flesh with the mantle of our Father’s kingdom come. We’ll never look more like royalty then at that moment.

We’re coming into our inheritance, friends. There is a happily ever after for those of us who’ve cast our hearts with King. You may not see it now, but if you’ve been listening to his story over the past few weeks, I bet you’ve felt it. One tiny heartbeat after another, pressed in and multiplied until your eyes have found their wet and your voice has found its expression.

If you haven’t, if this Christmas season has been your bane more than your blessing causing your eyes their dry and your voice its silence, then I pray for you the pause of a night sky. A night’s watch in Bethlehem, where the lowly of the fields gather together with the threshold of heaven’s illumination to receive the summation of our Father’s love.

“‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’

And with that proclamation, there comes of mantle of incomprehensible wealth that clothes each one of us with an everlasting inheritance … that will walk us safely home to our Father’s care, where crowns and kingdoms are common fare and the continual feast of all of God’s children.

Rags to riches. All in a single pause, when King Jesus momentarily surrendered his crown so that we could receive ours. What wondrous love is this? Thus I pray,

Bring us to Bethlehem, Father, for a night’s illumination and your song’s witness. Forgive us for thinking that we can decorate you into our Christmas. You, alone, are more than enough to fill our hearts with the treasure of your kingdom. Decorate us with you. With your love and grace. With your staff and rod. With your story and the telling therein. There is nothing more sacred than a heart filled with the Truth of your Word. Penetrate our lowly with your highly favored, and move our spirits into a place of sacred worship this Christmas. May the Peace of your kingdom come be the Peace that rules our hearts until then. Amen.

Copyright © December 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. …” (Isaiah 40:28a).

Do you hear what I hear?

I wish you could have.

Heard what I heard.

Last night at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Piano man extraordinaire, Jim Brickman, and his ensemble cast including…

*the earthy and gutsy voice of Anne Cochran.
*the pure and tranquil voice of Canadian sensation Mark Masri.
*the raw, unedited, yet perfectly tuned six-string electric violin belonging to Tracy Silverman.
*the rich and full orchestration of the accompanying North Carolina Symphony Orchestra.

To give words to such an event risks lessening the experience, but I thought I should try … at least in part.

Last evening’s “night on the town” was a gift to me. One I had been planning for months. I am a Jim Brickman fan. His music takes me places. His artistry is a rare gift. A mix of God-given talent coupled with a willingness to tend to that gift. And when the two merge as one, when the divine enabling mixes with the fleshly obedience, the result is breathtaking. Life changing. The stuff of kingdom living as it was meant to breathe and to walk on this side of eternity.

Thus, when I heard that Jim would be performing nearby, I purchased four tickets. Two for Billy and me. Two for my parents. A surprise for the people who know me best and who, perhaps, love me the most. Some pauses are worth the pocketbook, friends. Last night was one of them.

From the first note on the keyboard, to the final bow of our host, I sat spellbound. Perched on the edge of my expectation, I could have lingered for hours. The Christmas carols were in full bloom, along with some of Mr. Brickman’s most endearing melodies. Two hours and a few tissues later, it was over.

Still and yet, the music and the memory lingers.

The totality of participating in something far grander than my limited attempts at living accordingly is worth the pennies that I pinched to take me there. To see and to hear the fullness of artistry in motion and in living color is a rare and precious privilege for this home-spun girl clothed with a heart full of dreams and a past full of heartaches.

Last night was about believing. About recapturing the hope that scripts my heart with the truth that my life was meant to sing its worth, even as it has for my new musical friends. And while I don’t know where they are in their faith journeys … if they even understand from where their giftedness roots … I believe they have some inclination.

Who can sing the witness of the Savior’s birth while harboring the totality of darkness within? At least they were willing to allow their gifts–their voices and their instruments–to be the stage for the Song of the season.

The Christ Child. The Joy to the world. The Hark behind the angels voices. The Babe of the silent night. The most important Gift under our trees and upon his own this Christmas season.

As Christians, we all house the immortal, invisible, highest ranking and soul-changing Spirit of this living Gift. He makes his humble home within our feeble flesh. It doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t seem right; still and yet, he has allowed his musical score its voice via ours.

Through our songs. Our words. Our pens. Our work. Our homes. Our churches. Our kindnesses. Our love.

Regardless of your capacity to carry a tune or to play an instrument, your Father has endowed you with a gifting all your own. Yours doesn’t necessarily look like mine, and mine? Well it’s taken me the better part of forty-two years to be settled on the fact that mine doesn’t have to voice like yours.

As children, created in the image of the Most High God, we house the seeds of eternity within (Ecc. 3:11). And when those seeds are coupled with our willingness to tend to this unmerited yet freely given divine favor, the results are breathtaking. Life changing. The stuff of kingdom living as it was meant to breathe and to walk on this side of eternity.

Do you hear what I hear? Greater still, are you walking the truth of that hearing? I wish that you would. It is your privilege to do so. It is mine, also. Thus, may we all endeavor to walk the obedience of such a sacred listening.

God continues to write his musical score through the likes of you and me. And that, my friends, is the best Gift of Christmas we will unwrap in this and in every season of our lives. As always,

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PS: Congratulations to Cheryl B. for winning an autographed copy of Jim’s “Homecoming” Christmas CD (my personal favorite). Please snail mail me your email Cheryl.

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