Category Archives: joy

Spring Fever

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” -John 12:6

Spring fever has hit these parts. I don’t know about where you live, but for those of us living in eastern NC, spring arrived early, somewhere along January. Warm weather has been our companion throughout the winter, and it’s been a seasonal nightmare for the wildlife as well as the flora. The Canada geese arrived early (although I’m not sure they ever really left) and the finches, bluebirds, cardinals, and robins have been dining dutifully and daily at my bird-feeder. The poor azalea bushes bloomed a few weeks ago, only to be prematurely side-swiped by a drop in temperature, leaving them limp and colorless (as if they needed any less time to be lovely). The dogwoods are blooming, the pollen is thick, and the playgrounds are filled with students who’ve been celebrating the arrival of spring … well, since January.

It’s been a long, not-so-much winter around here. Which brings me (albeit slowly) to a spring scene, a spring thought I’d like to share with you. It’s been gnawing on my brain and in my heart since I witnessed it a few days ago while out on my afternoon walk. As afternoon walks go, mine are fairly routine. The 1.5 mile loop around my neighborhood is filled with established yards, driveways and basketball hoops, mailboxes, pine trees, and a few ponds tucked in and around for aesthetic purposes. And where there are ponds, folks, there are fishermen, all of them currently eager to see the catch that has emerged after our long, not-so-much winter.

One of them parked his car precariously close to the water this past week. I didn’t recognize it, nor did I recognize him. He was in his early twenties, and his uniform indicated his vocation as a Pepsi employee. Instead of holding a fishing pole in his hand and patiently waiting for a bite, he was scanning the pond, running back and forth along the water’s edge in sporadic, frantic fashion. Realizing that spring fever can do strange things to a person (remember, I am a fourth grade teacher), I gave him a wide berth before initiating a conversation.

“Did you lose something, Sir? Is something wrong?”

“Oh, no Ma’am. I just like to come out here after work and watch the fish swimming. There sure are some big ones in here this spring … bass. Have you seen ‘em? Seeing ‘em just makes me so happy.”

“Well, I sure hope you catch some today. Enjoy.”

“Oh, I’m not catching today. I’m just taking a look.”

True to his word, within moments he got in his car and left … a happy man. It didn’t seem to matter to him that his catch would be delayed. Instead, just seeing the fish, just knowing the fish were there, was enough to fuel his passion for a catch yet-to-be.

Spring fever indeed, and I am both thunderstruck and elated by his pure and unadulterated joy.

When was the last time you saw a fisherman running up and down the riverbank getting excited about the potential catch of fish rather than the actual catching therein, about sensing the possibility before it actually happens? It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of joy about a catch yet-to-be. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve scanned the riverbank for any signs of fish.

Spring may have come early to eastern NC, but spring has yet to arrive in my heart. Instead, I’ve been stuck in my long, not-so-much winter. Rather than looking for fish … anticipating fish … I’ve been content to look elsewhere, to keep a downward gaze instead of casting my eyes forward to the horizon of possibility. In doing so, I’ve missed out on something significant. I’ve missed the joy that comes from running alongside the Fisherman and seeing what he sees—a school of prospects swimming close to the riverbank and hovering even closer to the surface.

I’ve missed the opportunity to do a little early, spring fishing with the Master Fisherman.

And that, friends, has been gnawing terribly on my heart and in my spirit. It’s left a hole of sorts, a spring-shaped one that can only be filled with the letting go of winter. So, instead of lingering in what might have been, I’m going to do a little scouting with Jesus this week, take some time to walk the riverbank with him and to see, instead, what’s yet-to-be. Unlike the Pepsi man, I’ll bring my reel and rod. If the fish are biting, I don’t want to wait another moment to snatch them up and bring them home.

There’s a holy catch readying itself to be caught, maybe even a big bass. Keep your nets in hand, friends. Keep fishing next to Jesus. I’ll meet you at the pond. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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Everything Moments

These are days of plenty. This is a season of more-than-enough. This is holy generosity dispensed to me by the King.

This isn’t a season of less-than, although as of late I have been tempted to argue otherwise:

• Aging parents and accumulating needs making their withdrawals from the ledger.
• Financial interruptions that dip into the “summer fun” account.
• A lingering infection that coughs abruptly, heats up sporadically, and labors diligently to take hold of instead of break free from the flesh.
• Fractured conversations with the children I bore … the children I adore.
• Marital miscommunications that unearth seemingly forgotten pain and an oft-spoken question … (Again, Lord?)
• A sadness that sometimes sneaks quietly into my spirit, taking a long summer nap in the shade of my heart.
• High cholesterol, creaking knees, hot flashes, and a body that has failed me.

Cumulatively collected, it seems as if a detour around the poke-and-prod of summer is in order. Cumulatively and currently lived, however, I think I’ll stay right where I am. Why?

Because today, knee-deep in the might-be misery of my summer, I shared a bag of McDonald’s fries with my daughter, and I thought to myself …

This is good. This is grace. This is generosity. This is pure, untainted joy – an everything moment often uncalculated during a tabulated struggle. My life is filled to over-flow with everything moments. God has not short-changed me on anything. Instead, he’s lavished me with his holy everythings:

• Conversations and time spent with parents that cannot be replicated.
• Financial blessings that leave some wiggle room for summer fun.
• Prayers and medication that release me from my flesh, not keep me bonded to it.
• Enough love to mend fractures.
• Enough love to salve old aches and old conversations with a fresh helping of God’s mercy.
• Enough peace to awaken sadness.
• Enough laughter and humility to forgive the aging process.

God’s holy everythings are everywhere. It takes a holy heart to seek them out and then to hold them up to the light despite the shadows of a dimly-lit life. In doing so, in giving these everything moments a place of illumination while suffering through the pokes-and-prods of summer, we keep the life-ledger balanced.

Does a new pair of eyeglasses cost more than a bag of McDonald’s fries? No doubt, and it is one of the reasons behind my nagging worries this afternoon.

But to hold the attention (and the heart) of the one whose eyes rest behind those eyeglasses for a few moments? Well, folks, the ledger is more than balanced. The ledger is dripping with eternal abundance.

The Father who made us, knows us. He understands our summers … all of our seasons. He knows what will bring us peace, even as he knows about the turmoil that leads us toward unrest. Accordingly, along the way and as we go, he’s planted everything we need in order for our minds and hearts to push beyond the mayhem in our lives. He’s sown a garden of everything moments, so that we might be able to step outside of the temporal and to see his eternal. When life is measured through that set of lenses, life is duly celebrated.

So today, I raise a toast to my everything moments. To yours as well. Further still, I pray for eyes wide-enough to see them as they arrive, for wisdom enough to lift them up as illumination, and for a thankful heart to God for being so very generous with me. Would you join me in celebrating our everything moments today? I’d love to hear about some of yours in the comments below. Shalom. Be well.

Everything Moments (© F. Elaine Olsen, 6-28-2016, allrightsreserved.)

A spontaneous hug, a lingering kiss,
A ride through the park, a sunset unmissed.
A morning unhurried,wrapped safely in sheets;
An afternoon rain, an evening walk through the streets.
A tub full of bubbles, a gerbera in bloom,
A bird sweetly singing, a new bride and her groom.
A dip in the pool or a dip of ice-cream,
A nap in the shade, colored by the wildest of dream.
A smile round the table, for there’s corn to be shared;
Warm bread and soft butter, enough room to be spared…

For more love, more grace, more moments face-to-face.
More comfort, more strength, more confessions at-length.
Less guilt, less blame, more skin in the game.
Less hiding, less fear, more room for a tear…

Gently released, gently received,
Gently embraced, gently grieved.
Gentle hands, gentle souls,
Gently walking, fewer holes…
Left wide-open, left unguarded,
Consequently, less bombarded…

By nothing-moments that shouldn’t count,
By worldly standards that rate discount.
By devil’s schemes that work their ill,
By temporal needs that rarely fill.

Instead, by everything-moments that fruitfully amount,
By godly standards that take into account…
A Father’s love that heals all ill,
Eternal grace that lavishly overfills…

Everything.
with his moments.

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Good to Me

21556439_s“Mom, I need to tell you something about that song. It just touches my heart.”

Her assessment was correct as evidenced by her hand over her heart, tears rolling gently down her cheeks.

“Just imagine, mom, people hearing those words for the first time and asking ‘Who … who has been good to me?’ Just think of how many might come to know Jesus for the first time if they took the time to ask (and then answer) the question.”

And then I did … think about it, all night long in fitful sleep and now this morning.

What about that particular question (in identifying the Giver of all goodness) might lead a person to move within arm’s reach of God?

Audrey Assad’s song Good to Me is a new favorite in our home. My daughter is learning to play it on her guitar. Somewhere in the midst of the E chord, A and F# chord, correct fingering, and strum patterns, Amelia’s heart was moved beyond the mechanics of the song to wrestle more deeply with the meaning of its words:

“I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise

And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness

When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name

And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

You are good to me, good to me

You are

Good to me.

I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found

Your voice fills the night – raise my head up to hear the sound

Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God

And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me ….”

(Audrey Assad, from the album Fortunate Fall, 2013)

Steadying our hearts on the ground of God’s goodness, in sorrows, through fires, even when foxes lurk in the vineyards threatening to consume the fruit of our labors. Even in these, joy can exist. Why? Because God is good, and God gives good gifts to his children, even when they are unaware of his generous dispensation. How might they begin to figure it all out?

Well, maybe by asking this simple question:

Who … who has been good to me?

Go ahead, ask the question. Make a list of the many goodnesses in your life if you’d like. And, if you’re brave, ask the question:

Who … who has been good to me?

Trace it back as far as you’re able and, then, allow the Holy Spirit to finish the drawing. No doubt and with 100% accuracy, he’ll land you back at your roots, your firm foundation—the solid rock of God through the saving grace of his Son. God is where all goodness begins. He is where all goodness resides.

And therein is our salvation. Therein, lives our answer.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

Sing it like you mean it. Live it like you know it, and see if God doesn’t move your heart and the hearts of those who sit beneath your influence into closer proximity with his.

Just imagine … how many. I know my daughter is. I know the Father is as well.

Peace for the journey,

Image credit: zhudifeng / 123RF Stock Photo

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Joy Comes…

Joy Comes…

Joy comes.


It came for me tonight as I chased the sunset to its rest. This evening, my feet carried me far and fast with the gentle breeze of a better wind. Tonight I ran with the Spirit, and we were moving in praise to the God who authors each day and scripts it with his living witness at every turn (you wouldn’t have believed my pace, Runner Mom).

It came for me this morning in a Sunday’s worship service. Today, I chased the ice-cream truck (thanks, Laura, for your post); my son led me there. He gave us all a glimpse into his heart as he chronicled a few memories from the pulpit about his recent trip to Bolivia.

It came for me in the hugs from my church family, all of whom genuinely enjoy being together in worship on Sunday mornings. How many churches can say that? Today we needed to be there for so many reasons, not the least of which was to gather our hearts in tender pause as we try to gather our bearings after experiencing such a tremendous grief.

It came for me in you, dear friends. The collective mass of you who took the time to pray for us all and leave your comforting thoughts in the comment section. Your time before the throne has been profoundly felt by me and by Beth’s family. You didn’t have to, but you did; I’m continually amazed by the way God is using our cyber connections to bring praise to his Name. He, alone, is worthy of our pens.

We could write about many things, and, indeed, we should. Our lives are not immune from the “everydayness” that creeps in and takes over. But God is there in every one of our days. The key for us is to be more intentional about looking for him.

As my son put it so well this morning…

“We may not always see God coming, … but boy, once he crosses your path, he sure is a sight to behold.”

Joy comes.

On Sundays. On Mondays. In Bolivia. In church. In hugs. In a graveyard. In a run. In a sunset. In sleep. In the rising of the sun. In the resurrection of the Son!

Joy comes.

Look and see; behold and believe. There’s more to this moment than meets the eye.

As always,

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PS: I’m adding a video clip from this morning’s service. Unlike his mother, my son has a softer tone to his speech, so turn up the volume if you want a listen. I realize that most of you won’t have the time; that’s fine. I’ve put this here, as I put many things here on my blog, as a “touchstone” of remembrance. My “thus far, the Lord has helped us.” So I do this for our family (paps, are you watching?) and for you if you would like to listen to the witness of an amazing God who is ever in the process of shaping his children and bringing his joy. Shalom.

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