Category Archives: death

A Hurting Heart…

A Hurting Heart…

I suppose I owe you post. It’s been a few days; still and yet, I’m struggling for my words. My heart isn’t here.

My heart is there, underneath a blue tent that shelters the freshly dug grave of my friend, Beth.

My heart is in a hospital room, where Beth’s daughter has just, this morning, given birth to a little girl who will only know her grandmother through the memories given to her by others.

My heart is in a home where a husband walks in isolation from his bride of twenty-five years, bumping into remembrances at every turn.

My heart is with two parents who valiantly and gracefully walked hand in hand to bury their daughter; a walk no parent should have to make.

My heart is with extended family, brothers, in-laws, aunt and uncles and cousins enough to fill a sanctuary—all of whom are trying to make sense out of a “life gone too soon.”

My heart is there, everywhere but here. Still and yet, I come and offer it to you for you are my friends, also. I imagine that there are many of you who are walking your own road of grief this day. Life is dishing you out a heavy portion of pain, and you are unsure about what to do with it; how to manage it; where to stuff it, and how to move on from it.

You walk in good company. You are not alone in your weariness of heart of soul. Like you … like so many others … I am walking with my pain. And while it pales in comparison to the grief of a family who knew Beth longer and loved her deeper, it still hurts and leaves me with a few lingering questions.

I won’t tackle these questions today; at least not publicly. Some conversations are best reserved for the private intimacy between Father and child. My faith isn’t based on my questions. My faith supersedes my questions. The questions are simply the road map God uses to draw my heart closer to his.

Graciously, he allows them. Humbly I ask them. Patiently, I wait for the answers. I believe they will come; if not fully, then with at least enough understanding to carry me through to the other side, when “partial” will give way to “complete.”

I can live with that, friends, because I firmly believe that when it’s time for me to “know,” I’ll know. Until then, God’s peace is my guiding comfort. He’s ready and available to me for the asking.

Thus, I ask for peace to cover my questions, my hurts and the hurts of Beth’s loved ones. I don’t ask for “down the road,” I ask for now … for this moment. God is faithful to supply his touch one moment at a time until they collect and gather and become an hour lived in peace. An entire day walked in peace. A week, a month, a year, a lifetime that punctuates with the truth that God’s peace is possible, is real and is active in the hearts of those who bow low enough and long enough to drink from its well.

I’m bowing today. There is peace to be tasted from God’s cup. May you know his ample portion as well. As always,

Peace for the Journey,



A Sacred Replacement

A Sacred Replacement

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

What do you do with evil?

What do you do with a story that breathes so heinous that it rocks you to core and forces you to utter words of vengeful wrath and retribution?

What do you do with a God who allows a thirteen year-old boy to die at the hands of his parents because they deemed him punishable—worthy of being tied to a tree for nearly two days in sweltering temperatures until he breathed his last? Until his wounds could no longer bleed. Until his cries for help could no longer be voiced. Until his weary soul finally succumbed to a death that, more than likely, was a welcome relief for this one who had suffered so long at the hands of those who were supposed to cradle and shape him for adulthood.

What do you do with this kind of evil?

I tell you what I did. I cried my soul dry. I got right down on my bedroom floor and pounded my fists, all the while asking my God some hard questions. I asked him why. I asked him about the possible good in the matter. I asked him for vengeance—for a tree tying to be the consequence for two adults who should have loved better. For retribution to be swift and to be hard. For a full measure of remorseful realization to become their portion. For their sleepless nights and for their tortured remembrances.

I am mad, and I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I am frustrated by them because there is little I can do to change the situation. No amount of my wishing and imagining can paint the scene as pretty. This simply is the ugly side of living, and it seems huge and uncontrollable and too big for my management. I have come to my brick wall in the matter, when turning to the right or the left yields a similar outcome—overwhelming sadness.

Neat and tidy living. That is what I’m after. Peace and love and joy and promise. A people created in God’s image through whom God’s image is easily detected. A people who get it right and who walk in the light and truth of Jesus Christ. Not a people who are hard to love and who are seemingly devoid of anything sacred.

When evil roams and rears its ugly swath of color, my dissonance finds its voice. I don’t like these challenges to my faith…to the truth that embodies a good God, despite the evil that persists. Still and yet, evil does persist, and I am forced to grapple with its insistence. God is OK with my questions and my frustrations, but if I am to grow in my perfection toward him, then I must come to some conclusions in the matter. I must move closer in my understanding of how to deal with evil’s prevalent presence.

And just last night, after my pounding and weeping and anger found their rest, I opened up God’s Word to the bookmarked section that would serve as my daily reading. Romans, chapter twelve.

God’s Word is an accomplishing Word. I choose to live the truth of Isaiah 55:10-11. No matter my frame of mind…no matter the circumstances that surround my current, I have learned to go to Scripture in my everyday. I may not always understand what I read or how it applies to my life, but I believe in the power of its effectual work. Last night stood as a relevant witness to this truth, especially as it pertained to my anger and to this world’s proclivity toward evil. In particular, the last verse of Romans 12.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

What am I to do with evil?

I am to overcome it with its contrast—with God’s good.

This is what my Father is calling me to do with the anger that persists in my heart and with the evil that insists its voice within this world.

To overcome evil’s ill effects…to conquer and to carry off the victory in behalf of my King…I must sow goodness into the soil that boasts my current. Period. That’s it. This is what I can do to soothe the ache of the story that has rocked me to the core. And while I wasn’t able to untie the hands of an innocent child prior to his death, I can, in part, untie the hands of evil by putting my hands to the task of planting God’s good seed while I am yet alive.

Of doing some good things today and tomorrow that will supplant the enemy’s intention for evil with God’s truthful intention for all things good.

Thus, I planted a little good this day.

I prayed some prayers on behalf of innocent children everywhere and asked God for his timely return to earth so that others would be spared the anguish of a tree-tying.

I baked some brownies for a summer feeding program that our church sponsors on Wednesday evenings.

I wrote some notes of thanks that needed writing.

I bought a book that needed sending.

I played a game that needed playing.

And in the midst of all my sowing, a friend came by to tender a little goodness in my direction.

Thanks, Beverly, for a Farmer’s Market treasure!!!

Yes, I think that God is onto something, for my day is coming to an end and somewhere within the course of my planting, my anger has subsided and the enemy’s got a portion of his due. Do my simple acts of goodness replace the heinous sins committed against the innocent? Absolutely not. But they do soothe the ache of my soul and lead me closer to a grasping of a sincere and sacred love for humanity.

I hate evil. Therefore, I will cling to God’s good. And for some reason that I cannot begin to understand, my Father allows me the privilege of diffusing evil’s grip through the sowing of his sacred seed via this flesh. I want to do my part, and so I pray…

Use my heart and my hands to plant your good, Father. Make me mindful of all the ways to sow accordingly. Let me not grow weary in the doing, for in time, you’ve promised a harvest of untold measure. Protect us from evil, Lord. Protect the innocent from the schemes of the enemy. And when the hurt grows too painful to bear, remind me that evil is not my end. You are my end, Father, and you hold the final word in the matter. And thus, my hearts says, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and speak you final peace. Amen.

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

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In regards to buying that book that needed sending, I decided to sow some good on your behalf. I numbered the comments from my “Raising Faith” six-part series, and drew a number out. #49 is the winner of my newest read, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Connie over at Littlerad is #49. Congratulations Connie! I can’t tell you how much I cherish this man’s poetic embrace of his terminal illness. Please send me your snail mail via my e-mail on the side bar, and I’ll get you your book ASAP!

Also, I am headed to She Speaks/She Writes this weekend in Charlotte, so I will be absent for a few days. My family is on vacation next week, and I will try and post from the road. Be blessed in all your doings this weekend. Sow some goodness for God’s sake and for evil’s defeat. Shalom!

Unseen Glances

Unseen Glances

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).


She captures my thoughts today. My Amelia Jane.

I probably don’t have to tell you why. A tragic ending to a fragile young life has made the national headlines, stunning the Christian community and forcing a family to deal with the unexpected and unwelcomed intruder named death.

Maria Sue Chapman, five-year-old daughter of singer/songwriter Steven and Mary Beth Chapman, has left the arms of her earthly parents to make her entrance into the arms of her heavenly Father. A life gone too soon. Five years of loving a child is simply not enough. It is a grief that struggles to reconcile fact with faith. A hard reckoning in my opinion, but one that becomes necessary for all who walk its candid and cold embrace.

My mind and my heart cannot frame it. It strikes a chord within me, as it has with so many of you. Death does that. It strikes. It resounds. It penetrates the silence with the deafening chorus of a truth better left unsung, or so we think. It is a truth that follows our entrance into this world. A truth that will mark our exit from it. A truth that simply and poetically scripts …

We were born to die.

From the moment we first breathed the air of our temporal, we began our journey home to our eternal. It is the way of things. Always has been. We shouldn’t be surprised by death’s arrival; still and yet, it almost always strikes an unexpected chord with a precision that leaves us to grapple with its certainty.

And unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, death will be our required portion.

The Apostle Paul asks us to keep our focus in times of trouble. To understand that our temporary afflictions are achieving, accomplishing, and producing an eternal glory that far exceeds are pain. To perceive the unseen and to believe that the unseen surpasses our current fracture. To keep heart, even though our hearts shatter and scatter with the winds of adversity that howl loudly and break hard.

Good truth.

A difficult striving.

For in our flesh, death always limits perspective. Our flesh cries out for the temporary…for the immediate…for the right now. A tomorrow’s work will have to wait because today’s tears are all that can be absorbed.

How can anyone begin to walk in an understanding that limits the “current” to seemingly nothing more than a monument to learning…to becoming…to moving on to a yet to be grasped perfection? How can death be parametered into a pill that swallows smoothly? What do we do with a grief whose bite seems lethal and whose gnaw continually chews? How do we fix our eyes on anything but the casket that currently cradles our sorrow?

How indeed?

Paul doesn’t ask us to turn away from a casket’s gaze. He doesn’t ask us to quickly get over our grief and move beyond. Instead, he simply and poetically asks us to gaze deeper into death’s frame. His thoughts are not callous or removed…a script meant for a stage some 2000 years ago. No, Paul’s words are exactly the words of comfort we need in times of sorrow because a human life is more than flesh and blood. Our fragile frames embody both the seen and the unseen…the temporal and the eternal.

God has created us in his image (Genesis 1:26-27) and set eternity into the hearts of all people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This sets us apart from all of his other created works. So when Paul asks us to fix our eyes on the unseen and the eternal in times of momentary affliction, he gives us permission to mourn our loss. So does our Creator, for with our tears we acknowledge a human life for what it is.

A created flesh covering an eternal pulse. The seen cloaking the unseen. The momentary shrouding the never-ending.

This is why our grief is real.

This is why we can say good-bye to “things” with little fret, but when it comes to people, our fret is palpable and deep.

This is why we can find hope, even in the midst of a tremendous grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

For when death visits a life, perfection finds its home. The unseen begins when the seen embraces its end. The eternal breathes its fullest when the momentary breathes its last. The glory finds its brilliance when the temporary finds its dull. The heavens chorus its applause when the earth silences its song.

And while it’s true…we were born to die…the greater and final truth is this.

We die so that we can fully live.

Eternally. Without restraints. Without affliction. Without sorrow. Without endings. Without good-byes.

This is the perspective I need today as I live and breathe the truth of a family’s grief. Maria Sue has found her life, even as her fragile frame has found its death. It is the same for each one of us as we draw ever nearer to tasting a similar portion.

Let us not shrink back from dealing with our grief. Let us not hide from its bitter taste. Instead, let us bravely acknowledge the hope that pulses beyond every death. Let us fix our eyes on the Creator who created each person to breathe an earthly life’s span and then to breathe an eternal life forever.

He is where I’m headed, friends. And should we never meet face to face on this side of forever, I will meet you there where we will share in our Father’s happiness for always.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of his comforting and abiding Holy Spirit, I ask and pray and believe all these things in my heart. How I pray you believe them too.


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

A Sacred Passing

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:14).

Some moments are worthy of our words…worthy of our remembrance. This is one of them.

We buried her yesterday. Sixty-four years worth of flesh buried beneath our grief for a life gone too soon. A life named Maxine. A woman I called friend.

I haven’t known her long. When my family moved here four years ago, we became friends through Bible study. She was not a member of my church, but never let it be said that she did not belong in my church. Long before I called this community my home, she was here…living out the faith that claimed her heart from an early age.

It is a faith that sustained her through some of life’s darkest moments…moments that have known my participation. Cancer moments. Six years worth of disease. A disease that has infiltrated our little community with reckless abandon and with determined resolve. One month ago, I buried another Bible study friend for the same reason. And can I just say…I don’t like burying my friends. I like having them in my life.

People move me. They always have. I would trade many of life’s earthly pleasures to simply have a cup of mocha with a friend…to sit across the table from one of God’s children and to engage with them in sacred conversation. God designed us for relationship. It has always been his plan, and it is a plan that I consider to be one of the most precious privileges given to us as believers in Christ.

Maxine taught me a lot about relationship. She was a woman of extraordinary grace and beauty…thru and thru. From the inside to the out, her faith journey was poetry in motion. Every room that she graced and every word that she spoke was a moment worth remembering, for wherever she was, God was right beside. Being with Maxine was like being next to Jesus. She embraced those around her with the great big, all-surpassing, unconditional love of God. Whether in health or in affliction, Maxine was all about her Jesus, and I am a better person because of it.

On one of my last visits with Maxine in the hospital, she caressed my hands with her warm embrace, and through the effects of her morphine drip, she uttered to me the words…

“He’s still on the throne, Elaine. God is still on the throne.”

Indeed, poetry in motion. Grace-filled poetry from the lips of one of God’s saints.

I shall not soon recover from the impact of Maxine’s presence in my life. Two years ago, she bought me a bracelet inscribed with the words, “I count all things loss that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8). I wear it today as a reminder that despite life’s losses, Christ is the ultimate Gain. Maxine gained Christ long before she dropped her cloak of flesh. But in that moment on Thursday…in that one suspended pause of time from her “here” until her “next”…she gained him face to face. Father to daughter. Savior to sinner. Creator to his most prized creation. An embrace for all eternity.

I will miss Maxine in the days to come. I will want for her presence in my life. But none of my missing or my wanting, would keep her from knowing what she now knows. Her faith has been made sight, and she has received her “well done.” Today, I am all the more eager to receive mine.

Of all the “things” that Maxine could teach me…could give me in this life…a hunger for God’s presence is the best. We are all headed to God’s presence, my friends. One way or another, we will all make that pilgrimage to his feet. Some of us will go gracefully. Some of us will go cursing the inevitable. But make no mistake…all will go. And in a single pause, we will bow before our God and receive our “next.”

What an incredible beginning to an inescapable ending! Eternity with Jesus. Eternity with Maxine. Eternity with you. How I pray for your participation alongside me in the most sacred pilgrimage we will ever make. Who we stand to gain will be worth every loss we have known, and so I pray…

Take from me, Lord, that which will keep me from You. Nothing I have known in this life is worth losing eternity with You. You are the Gain that trumps all my losses. You are my “next.” My forever and always. And until my faith is made sight and I see you upon your throne, keep my feet to the path of grace. Give me a Maxine kind-of love for your world and a Maxine tongue to sing your praises. Amen.

peace for the journey~elaine

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