Category Archives: finding an unseen God

Paying Attention

“While he [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17:4-6).

I didn’t want to go to sleep last night.

Not because I was scared of the dark but because in doing so … in succumbing to a night’s slumber … I was concerned about missing something. A Jesus kind of something. A something that sometimes comes to us in the deep of night when the rest of the world has kindly found its quiet so that we can find our God.

Last night I tossed and I turned and I thought about God. He was there, ever present before me and stirring my imagination in incomparable measure. I couldn’t shut him down. I didn’t want to, so I fought it. Vigorously. Painfully and willfully, until I could no longer force my flesh to the contrary.

My sleep was fitful; I had the “groggies” and the dark circles to prove it this morning as I rolled out of bed to prepare my heart for worship. But it was worth it. Who needs sleep when Jesus is on the brain? Who indeed?!

I’m not sure how I arrived at my late night wrestling, but I have a clue. Prior to going to bed, I spent some time perusing some of my favorite blogs. I came across this one. Its author always makes me pause. She’s eloquent in her delivery of her heart and never ceases to stop me in my tracks and make me think. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I laugh, but most of the time, I simply read and absorb and speak my whispered “yes” to her pen and to my God.

It’s not that her life is overly fantastic. Like most of us, she’s a “day in, day out” kind of person. Her life doesn’t live on the stage nor does she wear a title of fame and fortune. She simply walks her days and writes her thoughts and allows her readers to join her on the road. Even though we’ve never met, I feel the tug of the thread that ties our hearts together despite the miles and choices that separate our journeys.

I thought a long time about my friend last night … about the connection that we share and why her words strike a chord within me. And in the midst of my pondering, just as clearly as I’ve ever sensed the voice of God speaking to me in my spirit, I heard him saying this…

Laura pays attention to life.

“What? Could you say that again, Father? I’m not sure I heard you correctly.”

Laura pays attention to life.

“What does that look like, Father?”

Like details. Like pausing long enough to consider the noises around her. Like being willing to bend to those noises and to pay homage to the moment. Like wrapping up all the truth of a single encounter and writing its worth with all the tenderness a heart can hold. Like finding me in the details. Like…

paying attention to life.

“Well then, Father, teach me to pay attention. Teach me what it means to bow to the moment and to live my life with a richer understanding that you can be found in each one of them.”

And with that, friends, my night’s contemplation began. A conversation with God. A face to face encounter with the only God who can be known and who longs for us to feel the rhythm of his heartbeat as we go and while on the road.

Paying attention to life. It starts for us even as it started for the Apostle Peter.

“Listen to him.”

When we do …

when we stop our mouths from running and our selfishness from needing,
when we refuse our agendas their consumption and our preferences their pleasure,
when we silence our minds from chaos and our determination from willful control,

then we, like the privileged three, will look up and see our exceptional and only Jesus in all of his glory, knowing that we have stood in the presence of sacred moment.

Paying attention to life. Stopping long enough to pay homage to a single moment. That is when we will see our Jesus unfolding his extraordinary kingdom into our ordinary everyday. And to hold that? To walk the soil of that kind of sacred sowing?

Well, for that, my fellow pilgrims, I will labor to fight sleep. I will entreat a night’s wrestling in hopes of receiving a Father’s beholding. I will toss and turn and struggle to override my flesh so that I can take hold of the face of God and carry his glory with me down the mountain into the valley below.

Oh, that we would fix our gaze in intentional pause before our God this day. How he longs to show himself faithful to each one of us when we do. Thus, I pray…

Father, help me to pay attention to life; stop me, pause me, push me and prod me to my knees and to my silence until I can no longer see me but only you in your extravagant splendor and holiness. Embed your glory within my frame. Splash the truth of your living witness all over me until I’m dripping wet with you, Jesus. Forgive me for thinking that my words, my agenda and my needs, are more important than your presence. Break through the clouds this day for my friends, and show them your glory. Penetrate the enemy’s schemes to steal, kill, and destroy, with the awe-inspiring and conquering witness of who you are. Surround our lives with your presence, and then move us forward in obedience to share your truth with a world that needs to stop talking and to start paying attention. You, alone, are worthy of our heart’s pause. Humbly, I concede mine to your revelation this day. Amen.

Copyright © May 2009 – Elaine Olsen

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PS: In honor of my friend, Laura, I would like to honor her with one of the give-away books, “Finding an Unseen God” by Alicia Chole. The other two winners (randomly drawn by my youngins’) are Joanne at Blessed and Sharon at Sit With Me Awhile. Congratulations ladies. Please send me your snail mail via my email, and as soon as I receive the books from Alicia, I will send them to you.

"Finding an Unseen God" by Alicia Chole (a book review)

In January 2008, I had a problem. Not a big one, mind you, but one large enough to force a fix-it. The problem? Not being able to leave a comment on Alicia Chole’s blog regarding her incredible book “anonymous: Jesus’ hidden years and yours” (you can read about “anonymous” by clicking here). At that time, her blog didn’t allow for “anonymous” comments. The solution? Create a blogger account so that I could leave a comment.

There you have it. The sole and initial reason for my entering into this land we call blogosphere (I’m not kidding). It was a simple doing motivated by a simple desire—to be able to communicate with an incredible author whose words had literally changed my heart, almost overnight. There was no immediate desire within me to create my own blog; I just wanted to express my thanks to Alicia for writing her heart so profoundly. Who knew that in doing so, the beginnings of my own “writing of the heart” would surface in a very public way?

God knew. And now you know, and I suppose I have Alicia to thank for that. So thanks, Alicia. But that’s not the fullness of what I want to share with you today. It only scratches at the surface of a deeper sharing. A sharing that springs forth from the treasure of Alicia’s newest book, Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist.

I received an advance copy last Friday around noon. By 3:00 PM, I had finished my first consumption. I have since read it a second time so as to more fully absorb its truth and, therefore, be able to offer you a few reasons about why this book resonates with me. I’ve decided to take a “cue” from Alicia as to how I might most effectively put my thoughts into words.

Alicia concludes the book with the “five things in particular that this former Atheist really likes about God.”[i] I would like to share with you the “five things in particular” that this avid fan of Alicia’s writing really likes about Finding an Unseen God.

#1. The author.

Alicia is a woman on a mission to serve her God, her family, and her world through her many giftings and graces, in particular … her words. She doesn’t waste a one. She doesn’t write fluff; she simply writes the truth in a way that precisely cuts through the layers to root at the issue of understanding. As I’ve said before (at least a bagillion times), Alicia makes me want to be a better…

writer.
thinker.
mother.
seeker.

God hasn’t grown a more authentic and genuine story-teller than Alicia Britt Chole. She lives what she writes. She writes what she lives. That alone, is enough reason to read anything she’s authored.

#2. The subject.

Our reading choices are mostly mandated by personal preferences, many of them worthy for many different reasons. But as for me, I prefer the non-fiction truth of Jesus Christ over any other genre of literature. I’m not a big reader; for me to read an entire book in one sitting, the subject matter must be compelling. Finding an Unseen God is chock full of compelling and truth.

The “behind the scenes” coming about of Alicia’s faith speaks to the power and providence of a God who is ever-present and profoundly willing to weave the threads of a single life into a strong and powerful conclusion. Alicia’s life is a living-witness to that conclusion. For readers who are struggling with the “bigger picture”—with desperately wanting to trace God’s hands within a murky that currently clouds personal perspective—Finding an Unseen God sheds light and hope toward that end.

What God has done and is continuing to do for Alicia, God is doing for us … shaping perspective and hearts for his kingdom purposes.

#3. The needful knowing.

Many Christians balk at the word “atheism” and are tempted to run in the opposite direction when presented with its position. Why? Well, atheism is sometimes an “odd” fit with our religious speak. We are offended by it because it rubs against the grain of everything we hold sacred—our belief in Jesus Christ. Confronting the truth of Jesus Christ with the antithesis of that truth isn’t an easy swallow. Does that mean we should forego the discussion?

I don’t think so, nor do I think that our Father would have us avoid the confrontation. The Apostle Peter admonishes us toward that end…

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”. (1 Peter 3:15).

You and I are the keepers of an extraordinary kingdom. Accordingly, we are commissioned with its worth, with its telling, with its defense, and with its love. How can we properly dispense its grace without confronting its contrast? Finding an Unseen God beautifully explains that contrast without all the academic trappings that can sometimes confound the process of understanding.

#4. The permission to unpack

I really like this one. Finding an Unseen God gives us the permission to unpack our faith before our Father. It quietly encourages us to examine our own foundations of truth—how we arrived at the point of believing what we believe. By following Alicia’s spiritual sketching along these lines, we, too, are confronted with the underlying challenge to frame our spiritual history.

#5. The conclusion of truth.

Finding an Unseen God leads to a convincing conclusion:

That in fact, there is an unseen God intent on being found.

Alicia arrives at that conclusion after many years of struggling through the questions that voiced to the contrary. I’ve arrived at the same conclusion. And although our journeys have walked through different strides to get there, both of us have conceded our hearts and lives to the One and Only God whose truth sows certain. Whose love measures endless. And whose grace weaves the threads of the most “unlikely” of us into a masterpiece worthy of the throne room of heaven.

The author. The subject. The needful knowing. The permission to unpack. The conclusion of truth. Five things I like about Alicia’s Finding an Unseen God.

Alicia’s life started with questions that led her to faith. My life started with faith that led me to questions.

Both of us (at 43 years old if I’m correct) have landed here, at this moment in time, applauding and lauding the Lover of our Souls and desperately desiring for you to know the same. We’ve been fashioned for the find, friends. God has commissioned our interior with a “need to know.” And one of the things that both Alicia and I find most likeable about our Creator is that he is the only God who can be known. This sets him apart from every other “god” in the universe.

“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 understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Find your unseen God this day while he still may be found, and know him. He is the only worthy boast of our lives.

As always,

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[i] Alicia Chole, Finding an Unseen God (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009), 141.

PS: The winner of the bronze pearl earrings by Lisa Leonard is … Mary at Refreshmoments. Congrats Mary; please send me your snail mail via my email. But wait…

I have 3 autographed copies of Alicia’s book to give-away. Leave a comment, and I will announce the winners next week! Shalom.

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