Category Archives: A Zoo’s Pondering

A Zoo’s Pondering (part five): Made for Him

A Zoo’s Pondering (part five): Made for Him

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100).

My heart is tender tonight—ready and waiting to receive the embrace of two fine men. They’ve crossed the Equator and back again and are approximately three hours away from the punctuation of a journey that began eleven days ago. My emotions have walked the extremes. But mostly, what I feel right now is love.

Not a love for things or stuff or trinkets that can be quantified, but rather a love for people whose measured worth is unquantifiable.

People. The sixth day wonder of God’s creative genius. The final brushstroke of God’s divine masterpiece. He saved the best for last.

We are that last. We are the exclamation point on a creation story that some have deemed implausible. Not possible. A stretch that requires more ignorance than sense. To some, we are nothing more than the evolution of this.

But I don’t see it. Instead I see this.

Apparently the furry guy didn’t get the memo and stayed as he is.

That, my friends, is a stretch that requires more ignorance than sense, for we are the implemented plan of the Divine. His name is God, and we were created in his image for his glory and renown alone (Jeremiah 13:11). We are the favor of our Father’s eyes, and he rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

His weaving of us in our mother’s womb leaves little room for debate. Fearfully and wonderfully, he took the task of our becoming (Psalm 139). And from the very beginning, he fashioned us with the mark of eternity (Ecc. 3:11).

This is what sets us apart from every other created being. We bare the marks of forever. There’s something about us that looks like him, and through the power of the Cross, we participate in the divine nature that allows us to embody his Spirit within (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Gorillas and monkeys and chimpanzees are, quite frankly, adorable. I love to ponder them and their ways. But for all of their uniqueness, I can’t hold them. Can’t talk to them. Can’t share matters of the heart with them. Not really. I could try, but a one sided communication fall shorts of true, lasting connections. And I am after connection. One on one. Heart to heart.

So is our God. He created us with the connection in mind. And for the time span that has existed from Eden until now, he has been in hot pursuit of our noticing him. Of recognizing that we are not a separate entity, void of Eden’s pulse but, rather, that we are uniquely tied to the pulse of our Father.

We were made by Him. We were made for Him. And I, for one, cannot think of a better way to close our zoo ponderings than to simply take a few minutes to ponder Him.

There’s a wonderful video clip by Louie Giglio that sheds some light into this truth. Honestly, I’ve only now thought about it as I’ve been writing. Many of you have seen it before, but I think it worthy of our second glance. And for those of you who’ve yet to watch it?

Well…it is eight minutes of your day wisely spent. Do yourself a high and holy favor by taking the time to watch this through to the end. Indeed, God created you with his image in mind.

Thank you, each one, for spending a week at the zoo with me. I have loved walking these steps of creation’s glory through a different set of lenses. My prayer is that you, too, have been able to witness the truth of Jesus Christ through these modern day parables. They have the capacity to speak a word to the human condition if we only allow ourselves the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the mind to conceive the sacred possibilities within.

It’s all around, friends. God’s truth in our present. As you enter into your Sabbath day of rest, may you be ever more aware of the Father’s whispers and of the Spirit’s wind as he blows through your frame with the sure glory of your everlasting. I love you each one. You have been life to me in these past eleven days.

As always,



A Zoo’s Pondering (part four): Made for the New

A Zoo’s Pondering (part four): Made for the New

Updated bonus to this post…

When I began blogging several months back, I wanted a header photo that included a dirt road/desert with a “journeying” type of theme. I came across the photo above and knew it was the one! Last night, while perusing photos on istock of Bolivia, guess what picture popped up? Exactly. Apparently this was shot in the Uyuni desert in Bolivia. I didn’t realize it then, but God did. How cool is our Master Weaver?!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

God knows how to send a message, even when we least expect it.

I won’t lie to you friends. It has been a long nine days since my husband and son left for Bolivia. There have been moments of self-sacrifice that have seemed too much for me. Moments when I have been tempted to grow some seeds of resentment for being left behind. I knew it would be tough. Not just because of the 24/7 that would be required of me for the family who remained, but also because of the experiences I would never be able to live with my husband and son as they poured out their lives for the cause of Christ.

They were called to the much, while I am struggling to exist within my seemingly little. The ordinary never lives as vivid as the extraordinary, and for a few days now, I’ve been nursing a severe case of the mundane.

Rather than facing another night of kitchen duty, I packed the three “left behinds” into the van and headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant. The name of the local eatery? None other than LaPaz. Mid-way through our salsa and chips and quesadillas, my son’s cell phone rang. On the other end?

His brother calling from LaPaz, Bolivia. We haven’t heard from the team in eight days. They’ve been in the mountains of that country doing missional work at an orphanage. Communication has been non-existent. But now on the tail end of the trip, they are back in the city and were able to call from a pay phone. When the phone finally made its way to my ears, I heard my husband crying. He is eager to come home and to tell me of his journey.

Our conversation was brief, but he relayed a message to me that is worthy of my pen this night. As only God could orchestrate, it fits perfectly with my ponderings from the zoo.

It’s a story that breathes the witness of a butterfly.

Of moving from this…

to this…

Last night, my husband was asked to speak to the orphaned children in a service of closing benediction. He told them about Jesus and the cross and the Father who longs to call them as his own. At the end of his message, he gave an altar call of sorts. This was unfamiliar territory for these children. They were unsure as how to respond. The translator talked them through it, and once they realized what was being offered, several came forward to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Billy told me it was an Acts-Pentecost kind of moment. A people moving from a place of human abandonment to a permanent place of sacred adoption. Kingdom work found its way onto the soil of a Bolivian mountainside this week, and all heaven rejoices over the salvation of many young souls.

As I walked through the zoo with my children, pondering the animals and their confinement, I witnessed the beauty of this one creature who no longer knows the confinement of his metamorphosis. The butterfly flies free. He flies beautiful. He flies changed and unencumbered by the darkness of his becoming. His life will be short, but he will live it in the release and the lovely of God’s grand design for his life.

His old is gone. His new has come, and all because of a Father who understands that a tomb is required for the new to birth.

The story of the butterfly.

It belongs to us, for we are that butterfly, and we have been given the commission to bring God’s lovely to the captives who have yet to fly their sacred release.

They are all around us. We don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to find them. We only have to look to our neighbor. Our co-worker. Our fellow church-goer. Our family. Our friends. Our strangers and our enemies. Christ is making his appeal through us. That is a high and holy calling, no matter our seemingly little or extravagant ordinary. Whether we stay or we go, we live the righteousness of Jesus for all the world to see.

We are the closing benediction of a Calvary grace that painted love’s redeeming work on a Judean hillside not so long ago. This is the power of the Gospel. It transcends time and space to breathe current and real to those with hearts to hear.

And even though Bolivia currently boasts the snow and cold of winter, there are some butterflies who soar this night, begging the budding of Spring. Easter has come to an orphaned people who desperately needed to know that there is a Father who loves them, and for that, my friends…

I will gladly suffer my ordinary. In some small way, perhaps, I have served my portion in God’s agenda for something far greater than my little. And thus I pray,

Forgive me, Father, for thinking that my ordinary was not enough. It was my allotted and necessary portion this week so that your work could be accomplished in extraordinary measure. Thank you that I will one day meet these children. If not here, then there. Before your throne as one people in one voice shouting the blessed benediction of our forever. Holy, holy, holy are you Lord. Worthy of glory and honor and our praise forever. Surround your new butterflies with the tenderest of care, and let your beauty fly unencumbered through them. Amen.

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

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A Zoo’s Pondering (part three): Made for the Boast

A Zoo’s Pondering (part three): Made for the Boast

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he knows and understands me, … .’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24a).

I am reminded again this day that my words, both written and spoken, are of little consequence to the world, but hold sacred relevance to God. What God deems worthy is not often received as such in the eyes of man.

I could boast of my stripes.

I could boast of my strut.

I could boast of wisdom, strength, and riches, but at the end of the day, the only boast worthy of my lips is the boast that speaks and lives the name Jesus.


All other entitlements won’t linger once I’m in the grave. Oh, they may make their way onto a tombstone or into a scrapbook or maybe even documented within history books. But the only book that holds significance for me is the one that my Father holds.

When I stand before God, it matters not what men say. It matters what he will say, and the words I most long to hear are his words of sacred commendation about the life I lived while on this earth.

Well done, child. You lived it like you meant it. You listened and you learned. You gave and then you gave some more. You poured it out, even when the reserves ran low. You kept to the task at hand. You pressed on when the pressing was hard. You loved the most excellent way, and you led others to do the same. You put the spotlight where it was best served, while you were content to linger in the shadows. You did it, child. You lived life as I intended for you to walk it. With faith. With hope. With love and with trust. Come now and share in your Master’s happiness for always.

That’s it. That’s a lot. That’s everything to me.

Too often, however, my boast is leveled at self. God has trusted me with certain gifts. He’s done the same with you. Our temptation is to linger in the truth of that gift and to make more of it than we should. We package our boast with just the right polish and pride and take to the stage with a sanctified, yet sometimes reckless intent. He allows us our stage. In fact, he trusts us with it. But when the spotlight shifts from the Sacred to the self, the intent of our giftedness lays as waste before the threshold of heaven.

We forsake the purpose of heaven for the pursuit of worldly praise. We don’t mean to. Not really. But our best intentions are not enough to keep us from making the subtle shift from Thee to me. In our flesh we are prone to posing for the camera. To boasting about our stripes and our strut and our penchant for showing our backside when things don’t go our way.

Our flesh left “as is” will never suffice the framing of sacred intent. Flesh and blood and will and want must find its way to the fire of a holy purification if it is ever to breathe with kingdom focus and kingdom gain.

Riches and wisdom and strength may carry us through this lifetime. But it is Jesus Christ who will carry us into our next.

And at the end of the day…at the end of this life, my next is all that matters to me.

I am no longer content to do life as usual. Quite frankly, most days I grow weary with the usual. It’s hard to keep focus on the here and the now, when the ache in my heart cries out for my there and my then.

Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Rev. 21:1-4).

That, my friends is my then. And my then, is the only boast that is worthy of these lips. For as long as my words can voice and my pen can write, you will find me keeping to the task of God’s sacred intention. Should I stray toward an unordained spotlight that allows this heart any other boast, I pray for the mighty arm of my God to knock me to my knees and to send me to my humbling.

I speak that from the purest place of my heart this night. My tears drop as my witness.

This life is going fast. I don’t have to tell you that. You have your own ways of measuring such a truth. Let us not spend it on the little, my friends. Let us spend on the lot. His name is Jesus, and he can be known and understood and lived on purpose for a greater gain that exists beyond ourselves. No applause of man can exceed the applause of heaven.

And in case you haven’t heard, every last one of us was made for the ovation of a Savior who stood on our behalf over 2000 years ago on a stage where we gladly gave him the spotlight. His gift, alone, should be enough to sanctify our lives from this point forward. Wouldn’t you agree? It is time we get over ourselves—our strut, our stripes, and our boast—and get on with the business of boasting in Him. This is the prayer of my heart tonight, and so I pray…

Sanctify my life with the boast of heaven. Let not my words breathe as hollow, but let them breathe with the sacred intent of bringing others into the knowledge and truth of Jesus Christ. For whatever time I have left on this earth, let it spend for you, Lord. Not for the accolades of mankind. You are my King, and you have promised me a crown that far exceeds my temporal treasures. When I close my eyes on this earth, let them close in peace, knowing that I have walked your purpose for my life. Amen and Amen.

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

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A Zoo’s Pondering (part two): Made for the Stretch

“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. … We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 1:9-10, 12).

What was God thinking?

I tell you what I think that he was thinking about when he made this magnificent creature.


Of all the created land animals God placed in the garden, none stands taller than the giraffe. They frame long and lean. They paint gold and brown. They pattern significant and intentional. They stand strong and proud. And they stretch deep and high with a neck designed…

for perception.
for seeing above and beyond the horizontal.
for reaching high to grasp the provision of One higher.

Of all the creatures I witnessed on my recent trip to the zoo, the giraffes were the ones that garnered my heartiest admiration. They are beautiful beyond description. Seeing them in picture books and movies falls short of the real thing. Pictures don’t breathe as three dimensional. They paint flat. But witnessing a giraffe first hand is like walking into the canvas of a painter’s work in progress. This kind of palette colors vivid and real and alive with a garden’s pulse.

There is something about a giraffe that speaks of Eden.

Giraffes embody man’s impossibility. No test tube or scientific mutation could birth such a divine oddity. Science is too exacting for such an extreme. But God? Well, impossible and extremes are in keeping with his divinity. Eden birthed the limitless possibility of perfection. Its soil grew with the lush and green and abundance of a Father’s creative genius. No creature was too great or too small to pasture its soil. They simply fit.

And woven into that fitting is the one creature that offers a dimensional perspective that completes the picture of sacred visioning.

Giraffes were created with the stretch in mind. Their chins lift higher. Their mouths taste higher. Their eyes see higher. Their thoughts conceive higher, for higher is their assigned portion. Bending to taste from a soil’s dirt is a difficult stretch for a giraffe. But stretching to taste from a tree’s first fruits is an easy and reasonable reach. Giraffes were designed for higher living.

So are we.

God designed us for the stretch. For a perspective that breeds hope and faith and the conceiving of the inconceivable. God intends for us to live tall with our chins toward heaven for the receiving. All too often, though, we are content to mire our thoughts at ground level and to grovel for our soul’s sustenance within the soil of a well-trodden path. Problem is…

Well worn paths have known a good picking and no longer soil the seed of perception.

Giraffes never have that problem. They find pasture with the untasted, less trampled fruits of a higher perspective. Their stretch allows them unlimited possibilities for the feeding. They walk above and beyond the horizontal in order to take hold an abundance that can only be found in high places.

I want to be like a giraffe. I want to find my stretch. I want to see with my eyes, and hear with my ears, and conceive with my mind the sure promise of high living. I think you want this too. But here’s the deal. For high living to happen, we have got to trade in our well-worn perspective for kingdom perspective.

We will never live our stretch until we get our noses out of the dirt and begin to feast on the fruit of an untasted abundance. God has filled our lives with an edenic portion of lush and green and fertile. It seeds in the pages of his Word and in the fellowship of his Holy Spirit.

We have been given everything we need to live at this higher level. We have been given the mind of Christ and the capacity to know the One and only living God. Through the power of his Holy Spirit we can more fully comprehend his thoughts and the spiritual truths that radiate from his core.

This, my friends, is three dimensional living on the canvas of a Painter’s work in progress. It breathes with the palette of Eden’s perfection. It paints with the vertical in mind and with a heart’s stretch that isn’t afraid…

to perceive higher.
to reach further.
to strain for the better.
to press on to take hold of a first fruits’ provision, seeded by the very hands of God.

Indeed, our God was thinking when he made this magnificent creature. Mr. Giraffe has certainly made an impression on me. Thus, I pray…

Thank you, Father, for dreaming the giraffe. I cannot imagine the full measure of your wisdom in the matter, but I am confident that he brings you much joy. He’s led me to my pondering this day and taught me something about living with perception. Forgive me, Lord, when I keep my chin down and refuse the provision of a higher sustenance. Remind me to look up. To live up, and to stretch up in order to take hold of your kingdom perspective. Thank you for perceiving my possibility even when my eyes refuse the vision. You are my mind and my heart’s desire this day. Give me the faith to conceive the inconceivable. Amen.

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

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A Zoo’s Pondering (part one): Made for the Roar

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27).

I’ve been to the zoo this week. No, not the one that currently shares my mailing address but, instead, the one that includes real animals. The Asheboro Zoo.

It has been eight years since my last visit. I imagine it will be at least another eight before I muster the “want to” to go again. On this occasion, my “want to” was largely based on my children’s desire. With dad out of the country, I thought it a good occasion to make our pilgrimage. It was. Sort of.

Good because…

*My parents made the trip with us.
*The crowds were way down.
*It was relatively cheap entertainment.
*It wore my kids out (not to mention their three chaperones).
*The animals provided enough fodder for a week’s worth of blogging.

Less good because…

*The temperatures soared to 90+ degrees.
*The real life habitats (while ideal for the animals) required a great deal of walking.
*The animals were apparently notified of the heat and the diminishing crowds and responded accordingly.
*Worn out kids make for ill-fitted companions.
*If you’re not into pondering the sacred possibilities of a zoo’s visit, I may lose you as a reader.

Zoos are not God’s design. They are man’s way of containing and controlling some species that were originally designed for life without boundaries. They’re not evil. They’re simply not perfect. In a perfect world, animals and man cohabitate as one. In a fallen world, they separate and live as individual.

I noticed this tension more profoundly with my visit. Perhaps it is my age. When younger, my fear of the unknown warranted and validated the separation. But as I have matured, so has my desire for some unity with God’s creatures. I want to touch and to talk with and to tend them with the familiarity that was first birthed in a garden. I want the bars of our separation to disappear and the freedom of Eden to breathe its return upon this soil.

But what I want awaits another season—a time when God finally clarifies the matter within beast and man alike. Thus, I’m left with cages and confinement and contemplation at a distance. And the contemplation that most deeply stirs my spirit this night is the realization that…

Cages breed lethargy. Confinement breeds less than.

What I wanted to see was a roaring lion.

What I saw instead was this.

The king of the created four-footers was hot and tired. He had no use for the onlookers and even less use for the roar bottled up within his seemingly gaunt frame. No amount of my cajoling could rouse him from his lethargy. He is simply living as he is parametered.

Less than.

This the way of man’s confinement. It always lives as captive and breeds a posture of defeat. An imperfect existence. A functional one, but never the perfection that God intended on the front end of things.

What God intends for his created is freedom. A posture of victory. An existence that exceeds function to breed and to breathe the truth of a lavish grace that brings all creatures to a completed and perfected end.

He means for us to roar and to take ownership of the liberty that is ours in Jesus Christ. Bars and cages and control have no place inside the kingdom that belongs to the King. For…

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).

A high price was paid for our emancipation. Walking the value of such a sacred exchange is left up to us. We can allow man his framing of our existence or we can stand firm in the freedom that comes to us through the framing of the cross. Christ willingly embraced man’s confinement via two wooden beams, but even then, nails and timber could not hold him…not forever. They simply held him long enough for love’s redeeming work to walk its course.

And when that course was finished, the Lion of the tribe of Judah had some roar still bottled up within. On the third day, he allowed it the voice that reverberates freedom’s battle cry two thousand years down the road. He broke the chains of confining sin and death so that we could chorus our roar in unison with his. Our choice in the matter remains exactly that. Ours.

We can choose our less than or we can throw our head back, open our mouths, and sound the victory that echoes loud and large and as an everlasting witness to the liberty found in Jesus Christ alone.

I don’t know about you, but that is some sacred possibility drawn from a visit to the zoo. It is something that’s got me thinking tonight and so I pray…

Thank you, Father, for the gift of perspective…for a lesson from a lion. You knew how it would speak even before it was voiced. Keep me from my lethargy and less than, and move me toward the freedom that is mine because of your confinement at Calvary. Thank you for your created creatures that breathe the witness of your magnificent plan. Brings us all to our everlasting that will walk without parameters and that will allow us to live as one. Amen.

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

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