Category Archives: alicia chole

it might be hope

I made a telling discovery this morning during my morning devotional time – a few thoughts I’m lingering on and in as I begin this grace-day with Jesus. It’s about my standing “near the cross” and the posture of my heart therein. Let me explain.

Three years ago, I led a group of women through Alicia Chole’s study, Choices: to be or not to be … a woman of God. In this current season, I have the privilege of doing the same with another group of women at our new church. One of the questions that Alicia repeatedly asks of us in our times together is, “How is your garden growing?” (alicia chole, choices: to be or not to be a woman of God, 2003, p.4)

What I like most about this question is that it roots in intentionality—something along the lines of: This is the garden of your soul, Elaine; what’s being planted in that place? What is growing there? And therein, I cannot sit back and simply lead. Instead, I must sit alongside my sisters as a participant. Just because I’ve done the study before, doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some fresh digging, fresh seed planted in the soil of my own heart. If I can’t give God access to the spade and shovel to work within the confines of my soul, I certainly shouldn’t waste the time of the members of my group in shepherding them toward the same.

And so, I give the trowel over to Jesus and ask him to break up the soil of my unplowed ground, to see, once again, what is growing within me nearly three years after this familiar blade first broke the soil regarding the choices I make … to be or not to be a woman of God.

Week Three, Day One (ibid, p. 29). Alicia guides me to consider that familiar scene at the cross, where Jesus’ mother, close friends, and followers were “standing by” as eyewitnesses to his suffering (see John 19:25). I journal my thoughts regarding the many, strong emotions that must have been present that day. I do so without looking back at the responses I wrote to this same question three years earlier. In keeping my responses fresh, I’m able to (at the conclusion of the activity) look back to those earlier responses and compare them with my current ones. It’s a rich exercise in evaluation.

Easily, I find the similarities. Feelings that include: confusion, emptiness, sorrow, loneliness, fear, gut-wrenching pain. I imagine many of you might reach these same conclusions regarding the emotions surrounding that day at Calvary. What surprised me the most in the comparing of my two lists was the inclusion of a couple of emotions this time around that were glaringly absent from my list three years ago. Those emotions? Relief and hope. Relief that Christ’s anguish had come to an end—a finishing point to an event that had, undoubtedly, been building up in their minds for a long season. And feelings of hope based on the reality of the finishing work of the cross—something along the lines of: Now that we’ve come to this moment in his story, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.

And therein is my discovery, my lingering. Why the emotions of relief and hope this time around and not three years ago? Well, that’s another story for another day. But when I look back to where I was three years ago (a season of deep suffering and wounding) and to where I am today, the discrepancy is more clearly understood. Suffering sometimes clouds the truth, and the truth is … suffering does a finishing work in all of us. When we arrive at suffering’s end, hope often turns up in our hearts to surprise us and to invite us forward into holy expectation for the words yet to be written onto the pages of our lives.

This is the garden of your soul, Elaine; what’s being planted in that place? What is growing there?

Well, it feels like relief; it feels like it might be hope. What about you, friends? What is growing in the soil of your heart? Won’t you take some time today to consider the question with Jesus? It’s a fine deliberation and one that has the potential to yield abundant fruit for your soul. As always …

Peace for the journey,

the rest of God …

“Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life.”

This is the golden rule of Sabbath according to Mark Buchanan, author of The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Have you read these words, this extraordinary book that feels less like obligation and more like privilege, like a daily walk in the garden with Jesus?

It arrived on my doorstep as required reading because of my participation in Alicia Chole’s 7th Year, mentoring encounter in 2013. I see the wisdom in Alicia’s choice to include it on our selected reading list. It should be required reading. It is pure, liquid grace—life-giving and life-extending with every chapter absorbed. I run the risk of feeling somewhat covetous of Mark’s pen if it weren’t for the absolute gratitude I feel in my heart for the gift of his words. There are very few books that I’ll read a second, even third time, very few books that I keep on the bookshelf long-term. This will be one of them. Why?

Because The Rest of God grants me understanding and permission to rest with God so that I might more fully understand the rest of God—that which remains hidden to me. His vastness. His closeness. His willingness to be known. His willingness to fill me with eternity to the uttermost. Rest to restore the body and rest to restore the soul. This is sacred treasure.

And so as it pertains to Mark’s golden rule for Sabbath rest (ceasing from what is necessary and embracing that which gives life) this is what gives life to me today:

  •  The Sunday school hour with James 1:19-27 on the table, saints gathered around for discussion.
  •  The Communion hour with bread and wine on the table, saints kneeling down for prayer.
  •  The lunch hour with fish and chicken, saints sitting down for sustenance.
  •  The afternoon hours with bed and blankets, saints lying down for sleep.
  •  The evening hours, two saints holding hands for love.

This is Sabbath rest for me. Nothing necessary. No “have tos” in the mix. Only “get tos”. I get to keep Sabbath with the saints on Sundays. Some folks may tag it as obligation; I name it as privilege – the life-giving, life-extending rest of God.

I pray you’ve known a similar portion. If not, then these next moments can belong to just you and Jesus. As long as today is still called today, there is time to take a walk with God in his garden, to know him more fully, and to rest most assuredly in his love.

Keep Sabbath, friends. It is God’s gift to you. As always …

Peace for the journey,

PS: If you think The Rest of God might be a good fit with your heart, please leave a comment below, and I will select one winner to receive a copy of Mark’s book. 

Also, I’m having a final sale on my books, Peace for the Journey and Beyond Cancer’s Scars. Click here to learn more. I greatly appreciate your support as I walk through this transition in my writing ministry.

The Work of Our Hands

Today I have the privilege of creating words with my Creator over at The 7th Year blog. A few weeks ago, my mentor and friend, Alicia Chole, asked me a question. In The Work of Our Hands, I respond.

Both Alicia and I invite you to the table of grace today to add your voice to the conversation. While you’re there, you might take the time to explore The 7th Year, a 52-week, spiritual formation journey written by Alicia. Fuller still, “The 7th Year is a movement of souls who—weary of a spiritual diet of event-to-event experiences—are devoting a year of their lives to the intentional cultivation of life-long sustainable nearness with God.” (Alicia Chole, The 7th Year)

Click here to read more.

Peace for the journey,

the amazing grace of God’s people

“It’s the people . . . all about the people for me. They are where I find God.”

So I told my new friend from the 7th year, both of us participants in Alicia Chole’s Leadership Investment Intensive. Half-way between her house and mine rests Bellamy Manor and Gardens – a home with a 140 year history, beautifully restored and generously shared with patrons desiring a peaceful getaway. We were two of them, my friend and me. I can’t take credit for the idea; I can only take credit for taking her up on the idea. I’m so glad I did. In doing so, I didn’t just find another friend, I found Jesus . . . in her. A little peace for my journey.

Funny thing, this amazing grace. It stretches some 2000 years down through the landscape of history to unite the lives of those whose hearts are set on holy pilgrimage. My friend and I were strangers to one another prior to 2013, living differently and apart; yet because of that one single moment on a hillside named Calvary, we now live similarly and together, united under the single banner of grace. It doesn’t get more amazing than this.

Certainly, some people find God in the world around them. In a garden or on a seashore. In the mountains and in spring bloom. In the bumping of clouds up above and in the shafts of sunlight that intermittently break through. At a riverbank. In a field of red poppies. A soaring eagle overhead. A fragile chrysalis delicately dangling on tree limb.

A crackling fire.

An afternoon tea.

A room with a view.

All of these, noteworthy nods from God. But for me, these are not where I find him most available, most readily seen. For me, God is found in his people—the walking, living, breathing door-keepers of the kingdom. Those who make gracious entryways for others to step over the threshold from flesh to faith, from mystery to revelation. Those torchbearers who hold God’s light in their eyes and who cast the long shadow of grace onto all who risk standing in mercy’s pathway. They are the eternal pulse of Father God, and in their presence I am reminded that I am not alone. That I am not forgotten. That I am but one amidst a great cloud of witnesses whose knees bow only to the King and whose eyes are fixed on the unseen, counted, and generously collected treasures of the kingdom.

Sister pilgrims. Easter pilgrims. This is what we are. This is who we must be. This is how we should live. In doing so, the collective grace of Calvary continues to stretch outward and carries on the amazing work of the cross.

I’m so honored to have stood in my new friend’s shadow in recent days. She’s a beautiful release of God’s love in this world. I’m so honored to stand in yours as well, friends. You cast the long shadow of grace over my heart; you are where I find God.

Blessed walk to the cross and beyond this week. I’ll meet you on the road, just clear of the tomb. We are not a people without hope. Let us march on accordingly. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,


Main . . .

I gently reached down and touched her chapped hands. Tenderly they rested on the pew in front of us as we chorused our way through five verses of “We Three Kings.” Her hands have grown over the years, no longer balled into tiny fists; no longer reaching outward to explore a rattler or a peg board. Time has shaped her hands in accordance with the calendar, but I will always recognize them. No matter the weathering that life may bring to them, my daughter’s hands are forever burned into memory. As I stood alongside my Amelia and bravely sang the stanzas, I pondered this heart truth from my friend, Alicia:

This is“main” (Anonymous, pp. 18 – 21). “Main is not behind us. Nor is main way out ahead of us.” (Anonymous, p. 21) Yes! This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Not tomorrow’s soon-to-be; not yesterday’s once-was. No, those moments aren’t here for me to hold. This one is. This is main. And this is enough.

I spent a lot of my earlier years striving for the main of my tomorrows. It would be easy for me to conclude (in these my latter years) that main has already been . . . that at forty-six, I’ve had my main moments. The rest of them, what’s left? Perhaps the crumbs or the last scrape of batter from the cake bowl. That’s what the world would have me to believe, the enemy as well. But God’s belief system takes a grand departure from the ordinary. God has something more to say about my main.

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)

Now. Not yesterday; not tomorrow. Now salvation. Now deliverance. Now preservation. Now safety.

Now . . . Jesus.

There’s no greater main than Jesus. Hold him—touch his weathered hands while chorusing his weathered journey—and all moments become sacredly main.

Less looking back at a past hard to remember. Less staring into a future not easily predicted. Instead, more . . .  beautifully more, gazing into the moment right in front of me. In a pew; at the kitchen sink; sitting in traffic; under the covers; while conversing with a good book, a good friend, even with a blank computer screen. Wherever I am and whatever my hands find to do, these are all main because God is there with me. To delight in him and with him, even in the seemingly mundane, makes all of life a grand and glorious celebration. I’m not there yet, but I’m not far from taking hold of it.

“Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and Sacrifice;

Alleluia, Alleluia!

Earth to heaven replies.

O star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright;

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.”

His star still leads me, and the earthly in me still cries out to the heavenly in him . . .

“Guide me, precious Jesus, to your perfect light.”

Today is main, no matter the moments in front of us, friends. Receive them sacredly, grasp them tenderly, and protect them fiercely. God’s light shines in them all. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS: Today I have the privilege of making available to one of you, the audio version of Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours by Alicia Chole. Leave a comment today, sharing with me about living your main in the mundane. Where have you found Jesus today? I’ll draw a winner with my next post. Shalom.

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