Category Archives: eternity

Beginning Days… {the ocean is still free}

Beginning Days… {the ocean is still free}

 

The ocean is still free. So I said to myself this past weekend while spending a few days on the shores of the Atlantic.

The ocean is still free. Free to roam. Free to breathe. Free to birth. Free to be.

Mankind has tried to control it, has sloppily put its fingerprints into it, but mankind has been unable to stop it. Freely the tide rolls in; freely it retracts. The ocean keeps a pace all its own, unwilling to cede ownership to anyone but its Creator. The ocean knows to Whom it belongs. The ocean remembers its beginning.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” –Genesis 1:1-2

Beginning days. God, darkness, and deep waters. Indeed, the ocean remembers its beginning. Do you remember yours?

” —the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. … But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” –Genesis 2:7, 20-25

Beginning days. God, dust, breath, man.

Beginning days. God, man, rib, woman.

Beginning days. God, man, woman, one flesh.

a beautiful momen to watch taking place… just God, the preacher, man, woman, and a couple of curious on-lookers

 

Life was simpler back then, in those beginning days. Life was perfect. Life was, as God meant for it to be.

But then, life changed. Less perfect. Less edenic. Confused and greatly burdened by sin’s curse. Somewhere between those beginning days and these days… our days, life got very messy and our remembrances of Eden mostly forgotten. And when Eden is forgotten—when beginning understanding and truth are traded in for modern day theory—then our nakedness no longer matters. We no longer notice it; instead, we’re hell-bent on exposing it… all in the name of personal freedom.

But this isn’t freedom, friends. This is bondage. This is being chained to our flesh, and this is when we find ourselves in grave danger of missing the great point of our lives—to surrender our flesh over to faith and back into the hands of the One who created it… in the beginning. To not allow our flesh to master us but, instead, to master our flesh through the blood-stained covering of Christ’s cross and through the transformational work of the Holy Spirit’s willing presence and power in our lives. This is freedom… God’s way. This is why the ocean is still free. The ocean is still willing to let God be in control.

The ocean is still free because the ocean has not forgotten its beginning. We would do well not to forget ours.

Peace for the journey,
post signature

when a friend crosses to Canaan ahead of you…

Judith made it home to Jesus on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve been living with her absence since then. Four days is hardly enough time to displace my grief. I don’t have a place to put my grief, not really. I can’t send a casserole to the West Coast… can’t stop by the family living room to offer my condolences. I wouldn’t even recognize her family members if I saw one of them on the street. I’ve never met any of them face-to-face. Not even her—my Judith friend. Our lives didn’t connect the regular way. Our lives connected here … in this place, this space that I have reserved for the public sharing of thoughts. A domain named “Peace for the Journey.” A home for my words and the birthplace of some rich, kindred friendships.

Judith was one of the first of you, extending our relationship beyond customary comments to include nearly four years’ worth of phone conversations, e-mails, snail mails, all kinds of communication that move a friendship past common courtesy. In doing so, I’ve experienced one of the truest, most honest and encouraging relationships of my lifetime. Judith has been my mentor, my cancer sister, my sounding board, my “middle-of-the-night” friend who listened to me and understood me when others couldn’t. She was the second person I called after receiving my diagnosis and almost always the first person I called when I was hunkered down in the middle of my pain. These last years with Judith have strengthened my heart and my faith in a way that furthers the cause of Jesus Christ.

Judith sometimes worried about her doing enough for the kingdom. She wanted to be used by God but often didn’t recognize the weightiness of her witness to others. Who I am today, in part, is a direct reflection of the time that Judith Guerino invested in me. She was never too busy, too sick, too tired, or too perfect to take me on. She was just willing, and that willingness, friends, is an extraordinary gift to receive. I recognized its worthiness early on in our friendship, and I cherished each moment that I was able to share with my beloved friend. One of those moments came six weeks prior to Thanksgiving.

While out for an afternoon walk, I felt strongly that I should try and call Judith. She’d been in and out of the hospital, not able to take calls most days, so I was uncertain about her availability to speak with me. One of our great concerns for each other (especially during our sick days) was not to wear one another out with conversation. We made a deal. If we couldn’t talk (for whatever reason), we wouldn’t answer the phone, and we wouldn’t be mad about it … we’d just understand.

Six weeks ago was not one of those moments. Instead, six weeks ago hosted a God-ordained moment for both of us.

“Judith, if this needs to be our good-bye, then let’s do it right. Let’s say everything we need to say, and let’s do so with great clarity. This could be our hand-holding, bedside release.”

And so it was. Our final conversation. We talked for over an hour … laughed, cried, prayed, and tenderly released one another to the roads in front of us. We knew where hers was heading, and while it seemed that my road was taking a detour or two that would eventually catch up with hers, I couldn’t escape the fact that no matter the path in front of both of us, we would stay connected because of our kinship in Jesus Christ.

“Wherever I go, Judith, from this point forward, you’ll be with me. I’ll keep your story as a part of my own. I’ll wear this mantle you have given me and place it on the shoulders of other cancer patients who need the love and encouragement of a friend like you. I will do so in honor of you. I’ll carry it for both of us.”

It’s not easy to speak words like these … not easy to articulate the inevitabilities of our up-and-coming departures, but when it happens, it’s a sacred gift to those who are standing at the portal of heaven and to those who are left behind to wonder, to imagine, to believe and to grieve. Judith may have crossed the Jordan River into Canaan ahead of me, but she didn’t do so without me. She carried my story with her and, in return, she left her story with me. This is the unity we share as believers in Jesus Christ—the eternal thread that links us together and that pulls our heartstrings forward in faith.

We don’t enter into the presence of Jesus Christ without the present witness of others. Those we love and those who have loved us, well, I believe they’re part of the cargo that we’ll carry with us into our forevers. When our crossing-over day comes and we arrive on the shores of Canaan, not only will we step forward into the arms of our Father, but also the testimony of a great many heart-investors will step with us. It’s just how it works, friends, this investing of love. Eternal love rooted in Christ’s love plants seeds, and all eternal seeds harvest hugely for the kingdom.

It matters what we do here, how we love here. How we give and share God here. And while we aren’t privy to the arrival of others when they finally meet our Father face-to-face, wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that a part of us arrives there with them as a lasting witness to our willingness to love on the front side of heaven?

Yes, Judith went home to Jesus on Thanksgiving Day. Part of me did as well, friends, and I cannot tell you the joy this brings to my sadness—knowing that as she steps in glory, so do I. A little bit of my faith, a little bit of my heart is already dancing in heaven, alongside my kindred friend. Oh that I… that we would take each step, live each day, love this way with eternity in mind!

Our stories belong to one another, and I can’t think of a finer group of people I’d rather carry with me into Canaan when my crossing-over day arrives. Until then, let’s keep planting God’s eternal seed into the hearts of those we love, and let us celebrate the thread that binds us all together as one–Jesus Christ.

Let’s do it right … say everything we need to say and do so with God’s great clarity while today is still today. It’s the best we can do. I love you each one.

Peace for the journey,

~elaine
PS: To read the guest post that Judith wrote for me last summer, click on this link.

a place of peace…

“LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6).

A good boundary line; a pleasant place. Surely, I could live there. Surely I do… at least once or twice a week when I allow my heart to wander her landscape.

To walk her breadth. To sit on her front porch and hear the creakiness of her timber beneath my frame. To open her windows at night and feel the gentle breath of the mountain air caressing my skin. To watch her foliage slip in and out of seasons. To awaken with her mornings; to rest with her as she closes each day down.

Indeed, I could live there. At least I think I could. I realize she’s no longer a working farm, but it is fun to imagine my life beyond my current borders. To “see” peacefulness and then to envision me there, living out my days and nights and nights and days with her earth beneath my feet. I don’t imagine it would take long for my illusion to find interruption. No electricity and indoor plumbing would quickly engage my resistance. Mountain winters and mountain bears would be a difficult reckoning for me. Isolation? Well, it lives pretty isolated when left alone and never engaged.

And she’s got me thinking this morning. Thinking about those things that are initially pleasing to the eye that, when contemplated further, aren’t always as delightful as they seem to be. That drawbacks sometime shadow our dreaming. That with everything we imagine that might bring us peace on earth, there comes a reality alongside that everything to remind us that an earthly utopia doesn’t exist. That there is no ideal or perfect puzzle fit with the pieces of our lives because God doesn’t intend for us to remain fixed on the conditional nature of planet earth. God intends for us to remain fixed on the unseen boundary lines of his eternal forever.

Peacefulness never walks far from its contrast—chaos. Where there is one, there has always been the other. They may live in isolation from one another—separate farms with distinctive boundary lines—but peace and chaos are neighbors. One step in an alternate direction lands you on your neighbor’s property. You may not be intentional about the steps that take you there, but once you arrive within the borders of an unfamiliar land, you cannot help but notice the contrast. Peace doesn’t live like chaos, and chaos doesn’t live like peace. They may live next door to one another, but the way in which they operate their farms shares little resemblance.

Peace lives internally. Chaos lives externally.

Peace operates from anchored understanding. Chaos operates without anchors, tossed about and driven along by the wind in search of safe harbor.

Peace says “it is well with my soul.” Chaos says “it will never be well… with my soul or otherwise.”

Peace calms the spirit. Chaos clutters it.

Peace rests with the unanswerable. Chaos keeps asking the questions.

Peace settles the soul. Chaos continually disrupts it.

Peace concedes “the way, the truth, and the life” to Jesus Christ. Chaos concedes “the way, the truth, and the life” to humanity—to manmade solutions and selfish ambition.

Peace authors with God. Chaos authors with the enemy.

Peace lives eternally. Chaos dies a painful death.

I want to live in peace, within her borders and with her Maker. Peace doesn’t live any more peacefully in the mountains just because it is the mountains. Peace lives peacefully because God is there. Wherever he superintends the soil is where peace will be found. He cares for my North Carolina backdrop even as he cares for the mountainous, Tennessee landscape. I don’t have to travel there to find peace; I simply have to travel within—to pause and ponder the inescapable truth that anchors my soul to sacred understanding.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places because the presence of the Living God lives within my borders. He dwells within me through the power of his Holy Spirit. He’s laid claim to my soul and planted peace within my soil. From time to time I venture beyond my borders—spend a night or two at a neighboring farm named “chaos”—but the seeded peace of Jesus always brings me back home. Back to the place where I have ample time to rock on peace’s front porch, time to listen to peace’s refrain, time to roam within peace’s borders, time to rest beneath peace’s sheltering watch.

Peace.

Jesus Christ.

A good boundary line; a pleasant place.

Surely, I could live there. Surely I do.

The door is always open, friends. Come and walk your Peace this weekend. As always…

peace for the journey,

post signature

a mother’s grip … a Father’s shadow

a mother’s grip … a Father’s shadow

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2).

I noticed it today while perusing my family Easter photos.

My grip on my son’s arm. Fingers that were content to grab rather than to gently frame. It is a telling photo, friends. One that speaks a witness as to the current condition of my heart. Mine is a heart gripped by the fragments of a broken trust. A heart that is afraid to believe that all is, indeed, well with my soul and that all will continue to live well in the days to come.

God is my shelter, my rest, my refuge and my fortress. In Him, alone, I need to put my trust. I don’t always do it, but I need to; thus, I will speak it, even if I don’t always fully feel it. Why?

Because it is the truth. God’s truth. And His truth is based on fact, not on emotions. If emotions were the rule of the day—the foundation behind our reasoning—our building of anything is as naught and crumbles to a quick death and dust accordingly. That is why truth exists apart from feeling. Feelings often come as a rich flavoring to truth but cannot be relied upon to paint a whole and accurate picture.

I know. I spent most of my forty-three years painting an inadequate faith. Over the past few weeks I’ve been faithful to add a few more brushstrokes to the mediocrity. It doesn’t paint extraordinary, friends. Instead, it paints usual, average, customary and just plain ordinary. Perhaps even less.

There are reasons behind my less. There always are. We don’t live less faith because we suddenly decide that “less” is a better swallow than “more”; there is always a driving force behind our less, and for me, that force has been rooted in a deliberate and difficult inward pause to examine the passage of time.

How quickly it comes; how easily it goes, and how fleeting is its remembrance once it has passed.

I notice it more profoundly these days. Age does that. Having a son turn twenty does that. Having a second child graduate from high school does that. Having conversations with aging parents does that. Having a daughter who has finally become too heavy to carry does that. Having a reflection that wrinkles and a frame that wearies does that. On and on I could chronicle the ways in which I’ve noticed the uncompromising and severity of a clock’s ticking.

And while I’ve long wished for the passage of time in younger seasons, this is the season when keeping it contained seems more urgent, more pressing and increasingly, more necessary. This is the time when the hugs squeeze tighter, the grip holds firmer, and when the words “I love you” speak clearer. Forty-three years of passing the time have given me a gift of sorts.

The gift of understanding … of realizing just how profound each moment should live. Consequently, when it’s not living … when moments collect and accumulate and are lived like moments to burn … well, I struggle. It seems they should, each one, live better—breathe with meaning and walk on purpose.

Good in theory; more difficult in the carry through. Why?

Because we somehow have fooled ourselves into thinking that time is ours to control. That another day is ours to live. That what was left undone in our today can be taken care of in our tomorrow. That moments can be replicated, redone and replenished because forty-three years have afforded us the witness of their abundance. That tomorrow … that next week and next year … well, there will be more.

That’s the difficult tug of my heart, friends. The struggle of my trust in this season of living. I want more moments that matter. I want to be a conscientious time-spender. I want to capture time, not squander it. I want to profoundly seed my light and influence into the lives of those around me, and then I want to watch them grow and multiply and burgeon beyond my initial investment.

What I want is time. What I’ve been given?

This moment in time. Right now. My isolated heart beat. My breath that goes in and out of me like a vapor. That’s it.

There are likely to be a few more beyond this one, but who am I to say? Who are you to make me that promise? God holds our bookends, friends. Our beginnings and our ends. In between, we are given but a few moments of influence on this earthen sod. They are passing in swift order and will soon be the history of another generation to remember.

And while it shouldn’t make me sad, while God doesn’t intend for me to stay mired in my emotions regarding time, He’s allowed me a moment in this season of living to pause before its authority over my life and over the lives of those I hold dearest.

It is a worthy pause, and as I continue to mine its worth, I do so seeing another picture emerge from an Easter family photograph. Zooming out from my initial grip on my son’s arm, I see something else. I see a shadow. A father’s arm … a husband’s arm that frames both my son and me into the bigger picture. It is a telling photo that speaks a witness as to the current and always condition of my Father’s heart.

A sheltering love; a shadowing rest. A refuge and a fortress Who holds time as a friend, and Who holds me within its grip for good reason and for extraordinary purpose. This is a picture I can trust. This is a faith I can believe. This is the sheltering that I need, thus I pray…

Keep me there, Father, nestled within your shadow and content to abide close near your heart. Frame my life within the timing of your will. You’ve given me my beginning; continue to shelter me as I journey toward my end. You are that end, God. May the moments that I walk forward from this one be filled with the shadowing truth that all moments walked with you, walk living and on purpose. Thank you for a Love that will not let me go. Amen.

Copyright © April 2009 – Elaine Olsen

post signature

Where I Used to Live

Where I Used to Live

“The LORD said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’” (Genesis 12:1).

God’s people are a people of movement. From the very beginning of an Eden’s expulsion, we’ve been spreading our outward influence. One home at time. One town at a time. One state at a time, and for some of us, one country at a time.

My outward has included sixteen homes, eight towns, and five states. I’m confident there will be a few more “outwards”before God calls me home.

Home.

They say you can’t go there … ever really return to the place that you once called home and have it be the same, feel the same, carry the same weight in your heart that it once did.

Yesterday I tried. To return to the place…

where I used to live.

An unplanned doctor’s visit took me there. One hundred and fifty round trip miles out of my routine on a day when I needed the beauty of a routine’s homecoming. A day when kids donned their backpacks for the post-Christmas return to school and when the college eldest packed his car accordingly.

It would have been lovely to retreat. To stay in the warmth and cover of a Monday. But lovely isn’t always our luxury. Routine isn’t always our comfort. Sometimes we forego the usual for the sake of a greater purpose—a purpose that requires our return to the safety and harbor of a “used to” because our “used to” is sometimes best used in our now.

The understanding birthed in our long ago and far away can be the sure and vital anchor that serves us in our now.

For me, my “used to” was a long-standing relationship with a doctor in whom I place my highest confidence. And while I have many other reasons for returning to the community that I called home for four years, my visit yesterday was singular in purpose.

My health.

I can’t think of a better reason to return to my “used to.” Can you?

I’ve been back for funerals; for weddings; for baby showers and for all manner of impromptu gatherings with friends. We loved our lives on the Pamlico River. During our tenure there, we added two children to our family and watched as our older two sons grew from boys into young men. When we moved in 2004, our pockets were filled with enough stones of remembrances to commission a large and lasting memorial.

It would take us a long season to recover from the grief of our “letting go.” But we did, we have, and the place we “used to” call home has been replaced by the community that now houses our hearts.

I am thankful for the outward pulse that exists within me. And while I don’t always readily embrace its rhythm, I value the portrait that it paints. It is a picture that breathes with the truth and understanding of our Father’s intention for our lives.

God means for us to move beyond ourselves. For some of us, it’s a literal move. For others, it’s an inward resolve to become an outward person. Regardless of our physical locations, whether it is one or many throughout our lifetime, God has set his “go” into our spirits. Not because he’s trying to make our lives difficult, but rather because he’s allowing us to make his matter.

His life. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In us, through us, and beyond us as we walk our obedience and scatter his seed accordingly. We need not fear the corners that lie ahead. Instead, we can turn them with the confidence of all eternity. Why?


Because the understanding birthed in our long ago and far away can be the sure and vital anchor that serves us in our now.

Long ago and far away, God interrupted the place where you used to live with the truth of your forever—the place where you will always live.

At home with him. He is the only place where you can truly return, and have it be the same, feel the same, and carry the same weight in your heart that it always has. You carry that truth with you wherever you go.

Thus, no matter your station in life, no matter the twists and turns of your current “going,” God is your Confidence, and the long-standing relationship birthed with him on this side of eternity secures your heart’s health for the outward obedience required to get you there. To get me there.

To our final destination where feet no longer gather dust and where hearts no longer grieve the pain of our letting go’s. Until then, may the consecrated ache that precedes our arrival be the eternal fuel that keeps us moving, with an eternal “go” in our spirits and with God’s kingdom end in mind. Thus, I pray…

Bring us home, Father, to the place where you have always lived. Forgive me when my temporal dwelling becomes too important—when the aches and pains of my moving beyond myself exceed the portrait of my eternal journey. You have made my faith to be a moving faith…a progressive and outward influence that refuses the stagnancy of an inward focus. Keep me moving, Father. Whether in this current station of life or in another, never let me forget that my steps are forged with the truth and love of an unseen kingdom that is calling me onward and upward to receive my crown and your forever kingdom’s rest. Today, I concede my heart and will for the outward pulse of the journey. Amen.

error: Content is protected !!