Monthly Archives: February 2012

In the Olive Press with Jesus {part four: Healing in the Desert}

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” –Luke 4:1-2
The Lenten journey begins in the desert. It is the undiscovered country that invites us to participate in the desert experience of our Lord. A desert and a wilderness, we are told. That doesn’t carry much hope. Its very mention conjures up images of aloneness and aloofness—with austerity, abstinence, and self affliction. Why would one want to visit that place or take that journey?

Well, let me suggest a reason why we’d better take the trip! Gifts are waiting there that will not come easily; but those who are interested in the ‘healing gifts of the desert’ will discover that the desert is rich and verdant in its promise of healing and transformation.

Healing and transformation in Lent? Aren’t those spiritual realities more appropriate to the Easter Season, when all the world is turning to Spring…when alleluias are sounding from everyone’s lips and a crucified Jewish carpenter comes leaping and dancing from his tomb? Certainly Easter is the season of new life as epitomized in the resurrection. But this new life begins long before the Paschal celebrations. It begins back in the wilderness desert of Lent where it is known by another name—conversion.

Could it be that we frequently fail to appropriate and appreciate the healing gifts of Lent because we are so blissfully unaware that we need them? Lent is about giving up of something, yes—giving up our false gods, our false selves, and our false notion that we can make it on our own. And the ‘desert’ is just the place for that to happen.

Change me in this desert, Lord. Let this be a journey of personal decrease and spiritual increase. May the healing work of your cross be the healing, transformational work of my heart as we travel this road together. Amen.


Join me each week on Wednesdays throughout the Lenten season to hear a few thoughts from my dad, Dr. Charles Killian (a.k.a. “Chuck”).

In the Olive Press with Jesus {part three: An Edited Life}

“In my Father’s house… ” –John 14:2


In my father’s house. A good place to edit a life.

I went home to my father’s (and my mother’s) house this past week to do just that … some editing work. Their lives are less crowded than mine, less noisy and not constrained by an overly pressing agenda. Their house helps me to breathe, and every now and again I need to take a breath. A long, deep, in-and-out, out-and-in, soul-filled pause.

So, I packed my bags, my manuscript and my heart, and made the seventy mile trek northward to land safely at their front door. Once inside, I got down to the business of breathing. On the agenda? Nothing, just everything I needed it to be. And in between a stop at the jewelry store, dinner around a table, and a morning coffee at their favorite gathering place, I had some time to sit beneath a chandelier that’s illuminated their kitchen table in four different houses. My parents carry it with them every time they move; it keeps them connected to their history. It keeps me connected as well. With the light comes a family’s history—a long record of growing up around a kitchen table in my father’s house. Oh the memories it has accumulated over the years! Stories filled with laughter, tears, earnest discussions, and prayers.

That light serves as a witness to my history. I cannot sit beneath it without feeling a sense of obligation to it. There’s an honesty required of me, an authenticity expected of me if I’m going to use it as an avenue to do some editing work. I cannot not be me in my father’s house and beneath my father’s light. It’s just the place where I do some of my best work.

As it is with my father’s house, so it is with my Father’s house. A good place to edit a life.

God’s house, God’s heart is not crowded with an agenda. His home is a place where I can breathe. The Light is good there, so brilliant and so discerning that I cannot hide my true self from him. The Light moves with God wherever he goes. It keeps him connected to his history; keeps me connected as well. The memories he has collected over the years—the laughter, tears, earnest discussions, and prayers? Well, heaven holds the witness of them all. One day soon, I’ll see them in living color, but until then, I’ll keep to the business of personal editing—body, heart, and soul edits. The kind of authentic critiquing and tweaking of a life that writes a better story.

Life edits are difficult. Sometimes the revisions are brutal, sometimes less obtrusive. The Light that hangs over our editing tables cannot tell a lie. The Light reveals the raw truth about the work that’s been done so far and where some changes need to be made. The Light isn’t here to frighten us, shame us, or kill us; the Light is here to enliven us and to remind us that fear, shame, and death have already been conquered by the cross. The Light is here to fit us for heaven—to prepare us for the place that is being prepared for us by our Father.

I want an edited life, friends. A Light-shaped and critiqued life that writes a good story and that leaves a good witness. I won’t get that on my own; neither will you. Edited lives belong to those who are willing to make the pilgrimage to the Father’s house, sit beneath a Father’s light, and expose the manuscript to the Father’s pen. How grateful I am for the table of grace, the chair of intention, and the Light of inspection that allow me the great privilege of soul edits! Long, deep, in-and-out, out-and-in, breaths with Jesus that fill my lungs with the eternal witness of heaven.

In my Father’s house. Indeed, a good and gracious place to edit a life. He is where you’ll find me this week. As always…

Peace for the journey,
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PS: There are many great avenues for drawing closer to Jesus in this Lenten season. I’d like to highlight Nancy Douglas’s study “Draw Me Near”, now available with podcasts at her blog. Check it out! You won’t be disappointed. She’s an awesome Bible teacher and friend for the journey.

In the Olive Press with Jesus {part two: Lent is a Four-Letter Word}

My father tells me that his earliest days of preaching were spent out in a cow pasture, admonishing the uncooperative beasts to produce more milk or else face the threat of eternal punishment. His technique was a bit rough around the edges, his message all the more, but it was his beginning. A cow pasture is a good place to start with Jesus and the Word—the preaching of it, even more so the understanding of it. Sometimes faith is best worked out in the pasture—those wide-open spaces in our lives that allow for roaming, grazing, and thinking. Sometimes, we need that space in our lives to work it out. To walk and eat and ponder with God.

My father has taken that time with God, seven decades’ worth of heart investments. The pulpit in the cow pasture moved forward to include numerous pulpits over the years. Some conventional; some off the beaten path. Regardless of the venue, my daddy has always been a preacher, always been willing to tell the Story, to live the grace, and to serve as an extension of God’s love in this world.

I’d listen to him anywhere—a church, a classroom, in the car, at the dinner table, or even in a cow pasture. He’s just that authentic and wonderful and “holy” connected to the deep things of God. Graciously, he’s agreed to share some of his Lenten ponderings with us. He’ll be here each Wednesday, perhaps even more. He can be trusted with the truth. Children who work out God’s message in the cow pasture are those who have something to say. I trust my daddy’s heart, because my daddy has never backed away from doing the hard work of faith. So, let’s go with God as we travel with Chuck to the Easter cross over these next six weeks.

Loneliness is a Four-Letter Word 

The pivotal story for Lent is the one at the beginning: the story of Jesus’ forty day loneliness. It is the season of vacancy and vacuum, privacy and pause; of solitude and great subtraction. The Tempter tried to fill the loneliness with bread, with power, and with glory—all good things. The temptation is always to fill, to furnish, to fertilize the emptiness of the forty days.

We, all of us, are drawn to six weeks where we try to be profoundly religious. We will attend worship, participate in adult education, consider mission activities and mission giving, engage in renewed spiritual disciplines that range from some sort of fasting practice, to prayer, to meditation, journaling. We are hungry, longing, and hopeful.

We preachers come along and are tempted to fill that hunger, that longing, that hope. In one community Lent means a revival…another, a labyrinth workshop. One preaches repentance and another goes to a retreat; still others work in a shelter for the homeless or in a letter-writing campaign for social justice. All are good; all are valuable; but when we are waiting to discover the gift in the loneliness, all are distracting.

How about this bizarre thought: a four-letter word, Lent, is a time for preachers to let people alone. If we all make our way to the desert, the place of our loneliness, we will discover in the uncharted part of Lent, the best part of all is receiving gifts—knowing who we are and that we are not alone. Blessed be God who every year gives us forty days to rediscover these healing and transforming gifts for ourselves and one another!

I guess you could say this is my introduction to the desert journey I’m taking as Lent begins: to be more open to silence and listening; to be more intentional in taking better care of my soul and my body; to envision more fully who God wants me to be; and to discern with clarity the difference between what is ‘central’ and what is peripheral.

Lent is a trip I must take for myself. It is a journey into the parched desert of my soul, languishing for water. No one can do that for me. It will be lonely. Yes, loneliness is a four-letter word—LENT! It should never fit too easily into the natural rhythms of our lives.

Prayer: Lord, free me from the distractions that keep me comfortably anesthetized. Amen.

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In the Olive Press with Jesus {part one}

My heart is greatly troubled, stirred up and unsettled. Only God can untangle this one. Only God can bring order to confusion. Only God can make sense out of chaos. Only God can take what man has meant for evil and make it count for his eternal good.

Only God.

How well I remember a season ago when a good friend wrote these comforting, yet challenging words to me: “Elaine, there are some places where only you and God can go to together.” As much as I dreaded her forecast of seeming isolation, I knew that she was right. There simply are some places, some times, some pilgrimages in my life that belong to just God and me. Times when I must set aside what others think in order to take hold of what God thinks.

This is one of those times. Fitting that it should coincide with my Easter walk. As the season of Lent enters in, so does my need to make pilgrimage with Jesus to a garden and to a wrestling that I am certain will culminate with nothing else but a clear and strong understanding of how this cross must be carried.

Lent. My season of personal subtraction.

Lent. God’s season of eternal multiplication.

Lent. The path that leads me forward in search of a fresh revelation of the risen Lord.

Lent. The path that leads God downward in search of a child willing to receive the truth.

And somewhere in the middle, we’ll meet. Me going to God. Him coming to me. A place on the map where only He and I can go to together. A time for seeing God in a way I’ve never seen him before.

Personal subtraction. Eternal multiplication. A certain formula for God turning things around.

Are you ready for Lent, friends? Better still, are you willing? God has something to show each one of us, something that can only be revealed in the hushed tones and isolated prayers of Gethsemane. I cannot forego my time with Jesus in the garden this year. I’ve so much to let go of; so much to take hold of. The Olive Press is where I need to be.

If you’d like to join me on this journey to the cross, then I invite you to stop by each Wednesday for a Lenten pause. We’ll be joined by my father, Chuck Killian, who’ll give us a word or two to chew on as we move forward to Calvary. A few thoughts from my father about the Father. I can’t think of a better guide to guide us to Jesus. Until then…

Peace for the journey,

burning the bridge to Egypt..

“The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.” –Deuteronomy 11:10-15
There is a thought I’ve been chewing on for a couple of weeks now… a truth from God that is beautifully emphasized by this photograph I found online (although I’m fairly certain the photographer had few intentions of it doing so). It is titled The Old Bridge Passing Through the Jordan River. Funny thing… I can’t even see the Jordan River. I can only see what man has built across it—an accessible passageway between two parcels of dry land.

No more struggling through flood-stage waters to get to the other side; only a casual walk-thru. What once would have required more strength, more intention, and more faith has now become less of a requirement. Man has found a way to manage the crossing of the River Jordan, thereby making the trip from Egypt to Canaan and back again an easier journey. Problem is, God doesn’t mean for us to return to our Egypts. He means for us to stay with him in Canaan.

For the Israelites, a trip back to Egypt was met by a formidable barrier—the Jordan River. For us, the barriers are lessened by the bridges we’ve built. We thought we were doing everyone a favor—giving easy access to Canaan so that others might quickly make entrance into the Promised Land. But something is lost when easy access is given to Canaan. Christ is lost in the process. Man-made bridges do little to keep souls connected to the kingdom of God. Man-made bridges allow for a return trip to bondage. Only in the bridge made by Christ and his cross are we able to make the pilgrimage into freedom and stay there.

And in the cross of Jesus Christ, there is always struggle. Always strain. Always choice. Always pain. This is the way of the crucified life. Faith is forged in the Jordan. Saints are birthed in the walk toward freedom.

For the children of God, there is a difference between Egypt and Canaan. At least there should be. A noticeable change between how life used to be and how life currently lives.

In Egypt, life is less. Less freedom; less abundance; less assurance; less hope. In Canaan, life is more. More freedom; more abundance; more assurance; more hope.

In Egypt, God is dismissed from the growing season. In Canaan, God is in charge of it.

In Egypt, self reigns. In Canaan, God rains.

In Egypt, the slave master keeps watch. In Canaan, God keeps vigilance.

In Egypt, obedience is mandated. In Canaan, obedience is chosen.

In Egypt, love for God is half-hearted, half-focused. In Canaan, love for God is whole-hearted, singularly focused.

In Egypt, there is stale bread and bitter wine. In Canaan, fresh bread and new wine.

In Egypt, the ground is hard, void of color and flavor. In Canaan, the grass is growing and green.

In Egypt, the view is horizontal. In Canaan, the view goes vertical.

In Egypt, the landscape is fixed. In Canaan, the landscape is limitless.

In Egypt, man possesses man. In Canaan, man possesses the kingdom of God.

Indeed, there is a difference between life in Egypt and life in Canaan. For the children of God, the contrast should be obvious, our choice of residency all the more. All too often, though, we’re tempted to access the bridges we’ve built between the two countries. A walk backward to Egypt (back to the captivity of our once bitter complaint) takes less energy these days, less intention than it did for our spiritual ancestors. It only takes a moment to return there. A single decision for less. None of us are exempt. Our flesh keeps us tethered to that one possibility. Until we drop this covering that holds our inward parts together, we’ll always have access to Egypt.

Time to burn some bridges, friends. Time to make it harder for our hearts to go backward. Time to, instead, live in the freedom that is ours as children of God. Time to saturate our lives with kingdom words, kingdom songs, kingdom walks, and kingdom company until the bridges back to our yesterdays fall prey to the waters of the Jordan and no longer serve as a convenient catalyst to captivity.

Where are you living today? In Canaan, in Egypt? On the bridge in between?

Do what you have to do to stay with God. God is in Canaan. Do what you have to do to get there. Do what you have to do to stay there, and make sure to burn any bridges that would allow you to leave there.

My match is lit. My heart resolved. My faith most certain. It is good to keep company with the King in Canaan. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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