Monthly Archives: September 2009

a gracious grace revisited…

a gracious grace revisited…

I want to tell you how I feel tonight.
That being said, feelings are sometimes a dangerous soil from which to write. Seeds planted there spring forth from the rawest point of the human condition, and I have not always found this to be the most profitable way to manage my emotions. I long to put parameters around my weekend, to somehow be able to express to you all that’s going on inside of me, but in doing so, I’m afraid my words will fail … won’t adequately capture the depth of what I’ve tasted.

I’m not sure I need to. Some moments are better left to the sacred sanctuary of our silence. But throughout the past forty-eight hours, and in the midst of my desire to bookmark this chapter in my life titled Little River UMC, I’ve come to a simple, yet grand conclusion about the weekend. A few words I’d like to serve as my “stone of remembrance” regarding the grace of God and just how far he has traveled on my behalf to bestow on me the gift of sacred participation in his kingdom work.

I love God and his Word more today than I did yesterday. I want to jump into the pages of Scripture and be part of the story. I want to bury my head in the midst of God’s truth until it spews out of my mouth and ears and hands and feet. I want to scour every inch of every word that’s been written in the Word until it becomes the final word behind my many words.

Why the passion? Why the urgency? Why the need?

Because yesterday God proved himself faithful … again. Yesterday, I stood as a living witness to the power and transformation of God’s Spirit existing within me. To be used by God and to know that this usefulness is happening as it happens is the greatest joy and confirmation I have ever known. It wasn’t the expressions on the faces of those who gathered that signaled to me my effectiveness; it was the impression I felt deep within my soul.

Yesterday, I made a heartfelt offering to God. In my time of preparation leading up to the event, I promised to give him my best—to be a student of his Word and then to take my “learning” and to share it liberally with his children. Tonight, my heart longs to watch the seeds of that sharing blossom into something more … perhaps some of the reason behind my stirring emotions this evening. But yesterday’s sowing belongs to another … to hands that are better able to grow all things in accordance with a master plan that exceeds my efforts at cultivation.

Father God knows best the next steps in the journey … both theirs and mine. I must trust him with the “finishing” work. In the meantime, he tells me that we’ve got some finishing to do on my end. That I should fix my eyes on the road ahead, cast a glance in a forward direction, and continue my tutelage under his capable leadership.

I want to be prepared for more moments of having my heart stirred by holy impression. Whether they come to me through a group setting, a one-on-one encounter at the local grocery store, in my home or around the table with friends, wherever and whenever kingdom seed is called for, I want my pockets full for the sowing.

I don’t want to have to do research when the world comes knocking. I want to live the research that has come to me through intentional study and preparation. I want to prepared, in season and out to give a reason for the hope that I carry within my heart.

Thus, I get back to the Word this week. I keep learning, keep listening, keep bending to the leading of my Father’s initiative. He has something more for me, and I plan on jumping into the pages of holy writ in order to find it.

Would you join me in the search? Pull up your chair alongside of me in God’s classroom to see what he might want to teach you? Would you open up the good book to a good story and take your place as an active participant in the scene? All of God’s Word stands ready for our willing participation. None of it is null and void of purpose. It’s still breathing with authenticity, with life, and with the power to change hearts, move mountains, and bring us to our knees in absolute wonder regarding its worth.

I want God’s wonder this week; I want the same for you. All of us, every last one of us, are given a measure of influence upon this earth. Let’s invest our portion toward kingdom end, and let’s do so in remembrance and thankfulness for the grace we’ve tasted. As always…

peace for the journey,

PS: You might remember me writing about Mr. Calvin and the strong impression he had on me when I visited Little River last year (click here to read). That’s him in the picture above. He found me during a session break, and when I invited him to sit in on the last session with the ladies, he went home, put on a suit and returned. Truly, he is one of God’s most precious saints. I’ll see you again, Calvin.


the preceding effects of Presence

for the one whose pain caught my attention…

I recently received an e-mail from a stranger. She needed a safe place for her thoughts; I was privileged to receive them. If ever anyone needed a “passing by” from the Lord, it was her. I imagine it still is her, for there are no easy answers to the heartfelt pleas… just a lot of pain and partial peace wrapped up together in a life that belongs to her.

I pondered her situation throughout the night hours and awoke the next morning to a familiar Scripture text found in 1 Kings 19. A long ago story about a man who deeply desired a “passing by” from his God. His “weary and well-worn” led him to the comfort of a mountain cave—a place known for its proximity to the presence of God.

“Then the LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

God would not disappoint Elijah. Instead, God would come to him in full measure… in a way that is often missed by most of us. Whenever we read this story, we tend to focus on the whisper of God—the gentle, tender voice of comfort that is most needed in times of great despair. But in doing so, in relegating God’s whisper above the preceding manifestations of his presence, I think we miss a valuable teaching about the existence of Almighty God.

God’s living presence radiates from the core of his being, mirroring (in much smaller measure) the ripple effects we witness after a pebble is thrown into water. Where God is, isn’t defined by his frame. I have no idea what God looks like, but in my wildest imaginings, I’m tempted to give him a body—a contained perimeter in keeping with something that makes sense to me. But God is bigger than my imagination and far surpasses any box I am content to wrap around him. When God walks, the ripples of that walking extend far and wide announcing (well in advance) his arrival to the world.

And here’s what I think.

Could it be that the winds and earthquakes and fires that precede his arrival are just God’s way of letting us know he’s coming? That he is, in fact, on his way to us? That the wind cannot help but sway with the reality that his feet are on the move? That the rocks cannot help but split and crack because they better feel the weight of his gravitational pull? That fires cannot help but fan into flames because of the intensity fueling his intention? Why are we surprised when we experience the wind, the movement of the earth beneath our feet, and the heat of a fire around our souls prior to his arrival?

Earth, better than humanity, recognizes the approach of its King.

“Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.” (Psalm 97:2-5).

God’s presence extends beyond his whispers. We do not often see him in these preceding moments of our sometimes excruciating circumstances. Many of you, this day, are in the midst of some earth-shattering situations. Pain and conflict are your portion, and you are tempted to keep your eyes fixed in the present rather than looking beyond to the Presence whose comforting whispers are soon to follow.

If we could get that, if somehow we could begin to see the wind, the earthquake, and the fires of our today as the beginning manifestations of God’s rippling presence, then, perhaps, we’d anchor ourselves tighter to the truth of a soon and coming sacred whisper. Our faith would grow with the expectation that what is currently seen and felt will soon be tempered and relieved by the unseen breath of God speaking his comfort into our chaos.

God is on the move, friends. He is in the business of “passing by” your way. He comes with intention and purpose and with the rippling effects that have always preceded his arrival. This doesn’t mean his coming has caused your earthquake, it simply and profoundly means that his presence cannot be separated from the world’s notice.

And the last time I checked, the prince of this world (the one whose sole intent for our lives is to steal, to kill, and to destroy) was very disturbed by the coming of the King. When God moves, so does he. Satan is the author of chaos and confusion, and he will go to great lengths to make sure you miss the arrival of your Father.

I do not fully understand the condition of human suffering, what’s allowed us by God and what we miss because of his grace. I don’t know the length of the leash that’s been extended to the enemy. It’s a hard wrestling for me, and at the end of the day, I concede those answers to my King. But just this night as I think about my new friend and her pain and the pain of so many who are desperately running to God’s mountain in hopes of receiving God’s whispers, I cannot help but imagine the rippling effect of God’s presence.

The winds … the earthquakes … the fires that precede his whispers. And somehow I am comforted, and all seems reasonable and acceptable to me.

Hang on for God’s whispers, friends. They are coming, just beyond these rippling effects of God’s approaching steps. The earth better understands the arrival of its King. It cannot help but be shattered by the thought and, therefore, bow in surrender to his steps. Neither can I.

May God’s good comfort and abiding presence be with you all this day as you seek him on his mountain. You are my friends, and you fuel my passion for knowing our Father at the deepest level. Thank you for sharing the road with me. As always…

peace for the journey,


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Please remember that “Peace for the Journey”- © Copyright protected 2008 – 2009. All rights reserved and used only by the permission of the author, F. Elaine Olsen. Thanks!

a worthy entrance

“Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” (Mark 11:2-3).

It occurs to me this night that as we stand on the edge of a new week with Jesus, we do so with the same words of instruction spoken over us that were spoken over the disciples nearly 2000 years ago.

To go ahead into the village and to find a colt for Jesus. Not for his possession, but rather for his procession. For his entrance into a world that needs to know its Savior cometh. That the long ago and faraway mention of a Palm Sunday parade is just as real and vital today as it was back then. Jesus is still in the habit of mingling with his children. The stage may have changed, but the stakes haven’t.

Eternity still hangs in the balance. There is yet a need for his exposure, for his truth to make entrance in the hearts of a generation whose hearts are hungering for the redemption of a cross and the resurrection from a tomb. Palms and waving branches are not meant for the isolation of a calendared Easter. They are the worthy proclamation of our faith. We may not carry them in the streets of Jerusalem, but we are called to carry them into the streets of our tomorrows.

Our workplaces;
Our homes;
Our schools;
Our hospitals;
Our meals;
Our phone calls;
Our e-mails;
Our churches;
Our meetings;
Our interactions;
Our interruptions.

Wherever our feet land becomes the worthy soil of our long-standing tradition. An ancient understanding that supersedes pageantry to become the stage where the King makes his entrance and where his disciples stand aside to allow him his moment in the light.

Go, my friends, make the necessary preparations in your heart to present our Lord and Savior to the world this day. We are the living conduits of his grace and mercy—the vessels he uses to make his entrance into the hearts and lives of those who fill our daily routine. It doesn’t make good sense to choose us, for I imagine that most of us have failed along these lines throughout our journey with Jesus.

But the gift of a new day is knowing that we’ve been given a few more moments to live our faith better, to wave our palms higher, and to present Christ bigger. When the world asks us (for there are almost always a few questions surrounding an unexpected parade) why we are doing this, may the answer of our hearts, speak the courage of our belief…

The Lord needs it, and we need to do it for him.

For him.

Let the branches of our celebration wave in honor of our King. Carry him well, share him liberally, and celebrate the entrance of his love into your life with all the fullness your heart can hold. May the hosanna of your witness and the hosanna of mine blend in chorus to be the sweet music of heaven announcing Christ’s arrival to his created people. I’ll meet you on the streets of Jerusalem this week. As always…

peace for the journey,

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come and worship…

come and worship…

Do you know why I love running so much?

Not because of the cardiovascular benefits.
Not because of the endorphin release.
Not because it feeds a twenty plus year obsession.
Not because I hold any illusions of ever being a size 8 or even a size 10 again.
Not because it’s an escape from my children.
Not because it puffs me up.
Not because of the great outdoors.

Not because of any of these reasons.

I like running for many of them, but the reason I love running is that when I am running, I experience a closeness with Jesus that I don’t experience at any other times during my week. When I run, my heart feels most ready and most willing to meet him. Most amenable to the idea of the sky splitting wide open and of my running home to be with him forever.

Perhaps you’ve known this feeling. I imagine it comes to each one of us in different ways via different venues … at least I hope it does. When God meets us in an intimate forum, on familiar ground and with consistent measure, we cannot help but want more of him and, therefore, move our hearts toward him.

Whatever gets you to the feet of Jesus this weekend, do it. Meet him where you’ve met him before, and should the sky split open and your faith catch a glimpse of your glorious forever, cradle that moment in your heart as a sacred gift from a gracious God who loves you.

Who came for you. Who waits for you. Who longs for you… just you. Come and worship your King this day.

As always…

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"see to it"…

“Tell Archippus, ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.’” (Colossians 4:17).

Last evening, I rushed home from our Bible study launch of Priscilla Shirer’s “one in a million” to participate in an on-line conference hosted by A Women Inspired. I missed most of the first session, but was excited to learn that my girl, Kristen from Exemplify, was hosting the second session. Like most of us in blogland, Kristen and I have yet to make a face-to-face connection. Thus, I was all the more eager to at least “hear” her voice; it didn’t matter much to me what she would be talking about. She could have talked fashion for all I cared; I would have listened (despite my careless attitude along those lines). It wasn’t the content I was after. It was the relationship. But my sister had a word to further validate the person she is … the person I’ve grown to love and admire throughout my time in the blogging world.

A simple, tender admonition to “see to it”. See to the work you have received in the Lord. She repeated the phrase throughout her presentation, and at one point, inserted my name into the mix (she knew I was there because participants are on-line “chatting” while the presenter is speaking).

“See to it, Elaine, see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

I’ve thought a lot about that “charge” in the past fourteen hours, and I’ve asked the Lord a few questions along these lines. What is the work I have received from you Lord? What are you calling me to complete? What are the unfinished “chapters” that need words and punctuation and thematic flow? What is the work that is mine to conclude, and what is the work better left to someone else’s conclusion? Show me, Father, my place in your kingdom plan.

I went to sleep pondering my thoughts; I awoke with the same and then “happened” upon Mark 8:22-25 in my time of morning devotion.

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’ Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”

Today, like the blind man, I linger on the outskirts of Bethsaida with my questions regarding my “see to it”. My eyes vision partial; my heart all the more. Where I desire clarity, there are trees walking around. I am not alone in my contemplations; my Savior is here with me. In fact, he led me here by his hand and is administering his own form of clarity in the matter. He reminds me that clear vision takes faith, takes trust, and takes the necessary steps toward having trees turn into people. Dreams turn into realities. Hopes turn into the “surety and certainty” that roots me back to the Author and Perfecter of all “see to it’s”.

Seeing clearly begins with a willingness to walk with the Father to the outskirts of the village where we normally reside. Normal, usual, and daily routine don’t typically birth clarity regarding our “see to it’s”. Taking time to be Jesus in quiet isolation, away from life’s distractions, brings perspective. It is in those moments when we best pay attention to the hands of Christ’s administration over our needs. His “see to it’s” for each one of us are best seen when we can clearly hear the whisper of our names on his lips, offering us his tender admonition:

Elaine, do you see anything? What is coming into focus for you? See to it, child, see to the work you have received in my name.

How about you, friend?

____(your name)___, do you see anything? What is coming into focus for you? See to it, child, see to the work you have received in my name.

Today I have ample time for the contemplation because I am well aware of the human condition—the limits our bodies allow us to travel before putting a “halt” to our intentions, our lists, our “seeing to it’s”. It’s been looming for a few days now (read my last post). I’m fighting its arrival with plenty of prayer and over-the-counter wisdom, but even then, a “halt” has become my necessity.

Rather than seeing this day as a day lost regarding my many “lists”, I’m investing this time with my Father on the outskirts of my normal and asking him for his hands to sharpen my vision along the lines of my “see to it’s”. I believe him for as much, and I am exceedingly grateful for these moments I’ve been given to step aside with him in isolation.

I pray the same for you in the days to come. God has given each one of us some “see to it’s”. There are seasons when it’s hard to clearly determine his intentions along these lines, but as we take time to be alone with Jesus, he takes the time and is more than willing to sharpen our focus and to strengthen our steps for the duration and completion of the ordained works he has placed in our hands.

So in the words of the Apostle Paul, and in the words of my good friend Kristen, see to it today. See to Jesus. Be with Jesus. Walking trees are just the beginning of a sharper beholding. As you are faithful to hang on for more, God is faithful to reveal to you his more. As always,

peace for the journey,

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