Category Archives: provision

Saving Grace

This has been my saving grace in this season. Mind you, not the grace that saves me from my sin but, rather, the grace that keeps my sanity intact. Whenever the stressors in my life seem too big and my capacity for handling them feels too small, I strap on my tennis shoes and hit the streets for a long walk in God’s wild kingdom. I’m literally steps away from beholding a blue heron take flight, hearing a pileated woodpecker drilling for food, or chronicling the life cycle of a family of geese as they nest, grow, and explore their surroundings.

I explore alongside all of them – taking snapshots of their activity and taking note of the grace-work going on in my heart. In seeing them live out their days, I’m better able to live out mine. I don’t know when I started making it so hard, this living out my days, but hard it is. I see the changes in myself, and I struggle with this ache.

But God’s creatures help me in my deliberations. They break down the stress for me and allow me a moment’s peace – a break in the day to soak in simplicity and to find the smile that too often remains hidden behind my sadness.

I am grateful for herons and woodpeckers and geese. For life that returns to the neighborhood after a long winter’s nap. For the swift take-off of the blue one, the noisy rattle of the red one, and the feathering nesting of the grey ones.

Flying. Feeding. Feathering.

Perhaps this is why I’m enjoying my time with them this year. In them, I see something of the someone I want to be. A woman who . . .

Flies.
Feeds.
Feathers.

As God has so carefully crafted his creatures, so too he has crafted me. May God help me to live as my feathered friends so courageously live – free from the worries of the world and firm in their trust of their Father.

So make me like them if you will, Lord,
The blue, the red, the grey;
Grant me faith to trust you fully,
With the advent of each day.

Let me soar on heights of glory,
Let me feed from heaven’s hand;
Let me lace my nest with feathers,
From the grace that fills your land.

When the work feels far too tedious,
And the stress too much I’ll break,
Rest me there beside cool waters,
In the shade of mercy’s lake.

Strengthen feet for forward movement,
Strengthen wings for upward flight;
Strengthen beaks for inward searching,
Strengthen hearts for faith’s good fight.

Keep me tethered to this earthen sod,
While there’s work enough to do.
Keep me tethered to forever,
Take me there when I am through.

Yes, make me like them if you will, Lord,
The blue, the red, the grey;
They are yours from start to finish,
I am yours . . . this I pray.
(F. Elaine Olsen ©2014)

Kept in peace,

on living the right question …

When I get to the end of all of this, when I reach the other side of the struggle that’s been weighing so heavily upon me, what do I want to see happen?

This is the question I keep asking myself. It’s the question that keeps me awake at night and barely functioning during the daytime. I scramble for answers, trying to manipulate the outcome, trying to fix a problem that is bigger than me. And I realize something in these early morning hours, really have some clarity about one important thing:

I’m not asking the right question.

“What do I want to see happen?” doesn’t get the job done. Instead, “What does God want to see happen?” seems the right fit for such a time as this.

I’ve been reading Dr. Tangumonkem’s words—a journey of simple yet profound faith. He’s my new friend, a beautiful grace from God in the midst of this ever changing saga known as my publishing debacle. We’ve done a book exchange of sorts as a way of encouraging each other in this time. From his pen he writes these words:

“The next time an opportunity presents itself before you and is more than your wildest imagination, do not get frozen in your tracks. Your boat is being rocked to loosen if from the shore so that you can move into deeper waters. Fear, worry, and anxiety are expected reactions, but do not allow them to prevent you from launching into the deep.” (from Coming to America, 2013, pg. 35)

He can write these words, because he knows them to be true. He has lived these words, one faithful step at a time. This is a man with a God-given dream, a God-given life. A man from Cameroon who never allows himself to live in the impossibilities of what God has called him to do but, instead, relies on the promises of God to make it happen. I marvel at his determined faith, and I am stretched to live accordingly.

I smile at his fortitude. Consider this man who, after being led by the Spirit of God about coming to America to further his education, saved his spare coins for an entire year so that he could pay the fee to take the GRE, thereby meeting one of the many requirements of God’s forward moving plan for his life. A year, people! Are you hearing me? A year’s worth of intentional saving so that he could take … wait for it … a test.

How different would our blessed United States of America be if we all had a similar passion and respect for furthering our education? We’ll drop a few hundred dollars on a new gadget without a second thought. Dr. Tangumonkem didn’t have that luxury and, instead, made this collection of coins his first thought, his second thought, his third, fourth, and fifth thought, one thought at a time until enough money had been saved so he could take a test. So that he could check that one requisite off of a very long list of requirements before seeing God’s dream come to pass. Again from his pen:

“Many dreams have died at inception because we focus on the lack of resources and the obstacles that oppose our onward match [sic] to fulfilling our dreams. This should not be the case, for if God is the initiator of the dream He will also make the dreams come true. … All you are required to do is believe and trust Him to lead you one step at a time. This is the one tried and true antidote that will put fear and unbelief out of business.” (from Coming to America, 2013, pg. 46).

Yes, friends, I’m asking the wrong question. Not “What do I want to see happen?” but rather “What does God want to see happen?”. This is yet to be determined. It is a matter far too big for me to get my mind around these days, my pocketbook as well. Re-publishing my manuscripts will be an expensive endeavor and one that I had not planned on. I think that God intends for me to take a page out of my new friend’s history.

I’ll trust God with the dream, and then I’ll save my spare change – even if it takes a year or two or whatever amount of time God determines to bring his conclusion to fruition. In the end, I just want to pass the test—this test of faith so that I might shine forth as gold, even as Dr. Tangumonkem shines forth as a beacon of hope for all of us in this time of sifting.

“But he knows the way that I take;

when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

My feet have closely followed his steps;

I have kept to his way without turning aside.

I have not departed from the commands of his lips;

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”

–Job 23:10-12

 

Kept in peace,

PS: If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Tangumonkem’s Coming to America and how you might secure a copy, please click on the link above or contact him through his email – tangumonkem@yahoo.com. I’m not sure how many copies he has left; there are nearly 2000 authors in a state of flux right now regarding our published work, but I’ll be happy to put you in touch with him.

The winner of Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God is Sharon. Please be in touch with a mailing address, friend.

distracted …

Distracted.

I am. I have been for the past couple of weeks, and now I’m physically sick. What has been brewing in my mind and circling over my emotions has taken root in my flesh, and I have taken to my bed. Oh, perhaps there’s a floating bug in the air that took advantage of my compromised immune system; ‘tis the season to catch unwanted viruses. But I’m thinking the two are connected.

Whenever a virus lies in wait, whether of the physical variety or of the assault-your-heart-and-mind variety, some breakage is inevitable. When both are present at the same time, there’s bound to be a collision that forces the issue of healing.

I hear the Father’s question spoken to my heart today, even as I read it in antiquity from John’s Gospel (5:6) …

Do you want to get well … Elaine?

The answer seems obvious. However, that which is obvious is not always that which is chosen. Follow-thru is paramount regarding a choice for health. If I want to get well, I’d better start acting toward that end. What does this look like for me?

Two things: a choice to medicate and a choice to meditate. To fuel my body with the proper regimen of proven remedies and to fuel my mind with the same. And so, as I reach over to my nightstand for another Vitamin C tablet to bolster my flesh, I also reach for the Book that’s been remedying my soul-maladies for nearly half a century. Together, they are prescriptive, a best course of treatment for attacking the viruses within and bringing about my healing in due time.

When I am distracted by God’s Word, I am less distracted by the many cares of this world. Not that I live apart from the world; the world is ever-present around me and requires my participation. But in the midst of that requirement, there are ways to temper such burden. A good dose of vitamins and a good dive into scripture is a good beginning.

Maybe today a virus is eating away at your good health. You’re worn down from the chase, running in circles and slamming into walls that won’t move. Try as you may, you can no longer deny the impending collision. Where your preference plays a role is in answering the same question that was offered by Jesus to the one infirmed at the pool of Bethesda some 2000 years ago:

Do you want to get well?

I know I do. My prayer is that you will as well. Whatever sickbed you’re lying on today, the prescription for healing is within reach.

Medicate and meditate. Meditate and medicate. Back and forth – forth and back until the worldly disruption in your flesh and in your mind fades to black and the eternal distraction of Jesus comes into clear focus. In him and with him, all things are made well.

Peace for the journey,

what is?

A few words latch tightly onto my spirit this morning.

Not “what if”, Elaine, but rather “what is”.

What is. What if I could just live there instead of living in the interminable list of maybes? I’m going to try. With God’s help I’m going to endeavor to live in the reality of today and not take on the unseen possibilities of tomorrow.

What is?

Family relocation in less than a month. Four of us heading south. Two of us heading north.

What is?

Exhaustion. I must take time to rest my body, mind, soul, and spirit, even in the midst of chaos.

What is?

Fear of the unknown. Today, I give it over to God and allow the Faith that has carried my Elaine in these last forty-seven years to be enough to see me through till nightfall.

What is?

Food in my cupboards and a little money in my pocket. Daily manna for daily needs.

What is?

No startling news on the health front. Thanking God for still waters.

What is?

A family’s love. I am accepted and celebrated for who I am.

What is?

The truth of God and his Word tightly tethered to my heart. Oh the sweet, inescapable grace of the Creator! Wherever I am, God IS as well.

What is?

Friendship. Kinship. The fellowship of the beloved. The family of God is long and wide and high and deep. I am not alone on this pilgrim road.

What is?

Good books. Good authors. Words that sustain me, challenge me, and lead me toward truth.

What is?

A day filled with sunshine. A good day for a walk in God’s garden. Eden doesn’t seem so far out of reach.

What is?

Motherhood. They are mine for a season. Today I’ll give them my time, my patience, my love, and my faith. It’s the best I can do.

What is?

Kingdom influence. An undeserved grace. A weighty privilege. A sacred participation with the Almighty. It might sneak quietly into my day, but I pray for eyes to see, a heart to believe, and hands wide-open to receive it as it arrives.

What is?

Right now. This moment.

What is?

Jesus Christ near me, with me, in me.

What is?

Enough peace for the journey I’m traveling.

How about you? What is? I’m praying that God will keep us focused here, on the “is” that really is and not on the “what ifs” that crowd our agenda. In keeping it this small, in breaking down the grand chaos into bite-sized, reality chunks, I think we’re better able to live our moments as they arrive. Not that we deny the truth of “what is”; the starkness of the life in front of us can be a challenge. But even when our “what is” is difficult, as a people of faith we can be certain that God’s “what is” is coupled alongside us as we progressively step through the struggle.

Would you be willing to think it through today – all the way through? Write down your “what is” and receive it as truth? “What ifs” are time wasters; I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough on my agenda without squandering a single speck of emotional and mental energy on living a scenario that has yet to breathe.

What is? Well, I better get busy with it – two kids running down the hallway and asking the lunch lady regarding today’s menu. I’ll see you on the other side of my Monday, friends. Keep me posted on what your “what is”. I am praying for you.

the boy I want to be . . .

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ . . . Peter’s brother spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish . . . .’” –John 6:5,8-9

Here is a boy with loaves and fishes. I want to be that boy. A boy prepared to feed his hunger. A boy who doesn’t come empty-handed to a day’s worth of doing.

Here is the Jesus with bread of his own. I want to know this Jesus. The Jesus prepared to feed my hunger. The Jesus who never comes empty-handed to a day’s worth of doing.

Here is a boy with a better agenda, not a fixed one. One not chosen for him, but one he chose for himself. I want to be that boy. A boy not conditioned by the daily norm. A boy who sets aside busyness so that he might busy himself with the business of Jesus.

Here is the Jesus whose only agenda is us. I want to know this Jesus. The Jesus who set aside heaven so that his might busy himself with and immerse himself into our mess.

Here is a boy with expectation. I want to be that boy. A boy who anticipates the outcome on the front side of its unfolding. A boy who understands that the best show in town is passing through and that, should he miss it, he won’t have any stories to tell his friends, his family, the generations to come.

Here is the Jesus who exceeds expectations. I want to know this Jesus. The Jesus who’s seen it all—from the front side of all’s unfolding until the final curtain drops. The Jesus who is the one show in town that still has folks talking some 2000 years later.

Here is a boy with open hands. I want to be that boy. A boy willing to release his provisions into the hands of Jesus so that they might abate and satisfy the hunger of others.

Here is the Jesus with open hands. I want to know this Jesus. The Jesus who willingly released his provision—all that he had—to a cross so that he might abate and satisfy the soul-hunger of everyone.

Here is a boy with a witness. I want to be that boy. A boy who knows first-hand the mighty works of God. A boy who’s been given the divine rights and benefits of sonship and who has the awesome privilege of joining his Father in kingdom ministry.

Here is the Jesus who can make it happen. The Son who knows first-hand the mighty works of his Father and who willingly grants us the gift of sacred participation along the kingdom road.

Here is a boy . . . with loaves and fishes; with a better agenda; with expectation; with open hands; with a witness.

Here is the Jesus with all of the same.

When the two collide—the boy in me and the Jesus from God—a crowd gets fed, a story gets written, and the Gospel moves forward.

Here is a boy . . . here is a girl who is ready to take on that role. How about you? Are you ready to be that boy, that girl whom God grants the privilege of sacred participation? The child who willingly releases what you have into the capable hands of Jesus so that he might bless it, break it, and feed it to the hungry?

If you’re ready, then come to the mountain this day. Christ has pitched his tent near yours. The show has already begun, and the crowd is beginning to notice its hunger. You are the one Christ has chosen to fill their need. What privilege it is to be called the sons and daughters of God! This is who we are. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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