Category Archives: rest

The Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery, May 2017

“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Those are the words chiseled into the marble sarcophagus that holds the body of an unidentified military veteran from WWI. In addition, two other unidentified soldiers from WWII and the Korean War are memorialized at the same site in separate crypts. A fourth, previously unknown soldier from the Vietnam War (later identified through DNA testing at Michael Blassie) rested there until 1998 when his remains were moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Since 1937, the Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded 24/7-365 by a select group of soldiers known as Tomb Guard sentinels, an elite group of soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard.” The soldiers rotate throughout the day, ceremoniously and meticulously marking their steps, following a prescribed protocol of duty. It’s fascinating, sobering and sacred, to sit as a ringside witness to such tribute and honor. For these soldiers, their service isn’t played out on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq.  Instead they surrender their duty, give their time and their best, on the battlefield known as Arlington National Cemetery, all for one sacred, privileged purpose.

To guard and protect the unknown – an American soldier known but to God.

And tonight, in the quieting moments after a week that has forced my faith to new heights and my knees to deeper prayer, I am thinking about those unknown soldiers, their stories and the secrets they keep encased within those crypts. Most tenderly, I’m thinking about the soldiers who, for the past eighty years, have given up their days and their nights for the sole purpose of guarding and protecting this mystery.

Sometime in the distant past, on a landscape not my own, three soldiers died on different battlefields while defending the rights of liberty. And while their identities currently remain a mystery, their earthly remains are heavily defended by The Old Guard.

As it is with the Tomb of the Unknowns, so it is with my life. So it is with yours.

a sentinel from The Old Guard – Arlington National Cemetery, April 2017

There are many mysteries, countless unknowns attached to our stories. The previously written chapters of our lives are safely scripted and bound within the annals that bear our names. But there are other pages, other secrets, chapters to come, and chapters writing themselves in this very moment, that are unidentified to us. And this can be scary at times because we have very little control over the unknowns; instead, we can only bear witness to them as they arrive and pray for God’s grace to hold them as our own. And when we’re shaken by newly discovered realities – when the unknown is finally identified and brings us fear rather than peace – as Christians, we have a deeper reality that we can cling to, a known truth that will cover our hearts and our minds like a warm blanket on a bitter winter’s night…

The Old Guard is standing near.

Marking his paces. Guarding his own. Rain or shine. 24/7-365. Back and forth before the crypts that carry the fullness of our lives – the mysteries, things known to us, and things known but to him. For this Soldier, his service is no longer played out on the battlefield known as Calvary; instead, he surrenders his duty, his time and his best, on the battlefield known as our lives, all for one sacred, privileged purpose.

To guard and protect the unknown – a soldier’s story, our stories, known but to Him.

See him there, friends. Oh how carefully Jesus Christ is guarding your tomb. Your surrender is precious to him, and in his great love for you, he has promised you his protection. What you cannot see, what you cannot know, is already seen and known to him. Your unfolding mysteries are not a mystery to him. He knows your story. He knows what’s at stake. He’s laid down his life for yours, and you can be sure that he’s not going to let the enemy rob your surrender of one single glory.

The gates of hell may rattle and shake its cage against you today, threatening your capture. But take heart. The Old Guard is standing near, and the gates of hell are no match for the protective, loving reach of this Sentinel. He has given his life and his pledge to bring you safely home. He will keep his word. It is his highest honor to do so 

So rest in honored glory today, Christian soldier. You and your unknowns are known to God. He can be trusted with the rest of your story. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: Psalm 91 has been a balm to my soul in this season. You may read it by clicking here.

Feeding Time

“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.” –John 6:10

Plenty of grass.

Of all the many facets that make up the miracle known as the “Feeding of the 5000” – this mention of grass is the one upon which my heart lingers. In days past, I’ve spent most of my time focusing on the other (some would say more important) components of the story—the boy and his surrender of loaves and fishes, the size of the crowd, the multiplication of sustenance, the distribution therein, and the collection of leftovers. Each one of them is a miracle framed within the bigger picture. I suppose there were other miracles that day … 5000+ homes represented, lives changed, stories rewritten … how could there not be?

Wherever Jesus walks, whomever Jesus touches, this is the stuff of miracles.

But for me, today, it’s the green grass and the abundance therein that captures my attention (I’m thankful for Mark’s Gospel which includes the detail of greenness.). Like the 5000 of so long ago, I, too, follow Jesus to the hillside—a remote region outside the buzz of the city—in hopes of a miracle for myself. Not a big one as miracles go. Nothing front page worthy. Just a little green grass that belongs to me and a little time with Jesus. To hear his voice and to be fed by his hand, well, this is the miracle that I’m interested in.

In a life that is often too busy, too distracted, too worn out from worry, and too willing to sit down in pastures less green and more polluted, it is difficult to follow the Shepherd’s lead to the other side of the lake, much less make the climb to greener pastures. Following after Jesus requires deep devotion—a strong resolve to be where he is and an even stronger follow-through to get there … to stay there until the soul’s hunger is satisfied in his meadows of lush abundance.

Oh the meadow, rich and green,
It waits for me beyond this scene,
That blocks my view and crowds my heart,
That stifles me from taking part …

In grace abundant from Your hand,
Loaves and fishes at Your command;
Given freely in this place,
This patch of green, this gift of space.

To call my own, my time with Thee,
A sacred spot reserved for me;
To stretch my limbs, to rest my soul,
To find the peace that makes me whole.

I see it there, just up the hill,
A tiny dot of verdant thrill;
Some holy ground within heart’s reach,
It won’t be long now, I’m at the beach.

I’ll make the climb, I’ll do my part;
You’ll do the rest, it’s in your heart.
To give me best, to fill my ache,
My longed-for miracle beside the lake.

From long ago to moments now,
Your grass still sways in humble bow;
To receive those pilgrims weary-worn,
To nurture aches, to bind what’s torn.

Indeed the meadow, rich and green!
It waits for all beyond this scene.
So make the choice, do the climb;
Lift up your eyes, it’s feeding time.  {f. elaine olsen, 2-21-15, all rights reserved.}

It’s feeding time, friends. I’ll meet you on the hillside and, together, we’ll rest and we’ll dine in holy measure from the Father’s hand. As always …

Peace for the journey,

words rightly written . . .

My mind is full. Really full. The kind of full that’s difficult to sort out. The kind of full that just sits there, weighing down on a heart and refusing to budge. Accordingly, it’s been hard to move forward – even toward one little thing that needs doing. So instead of doing all the little things that need doing (which invariably includes a few big things that need doing), I’ve been doing some reading. Not for myself (not really) but, instead, for them—the 4th grade students that will soon sit beneath my tutelage.

It’s been a long time since I’ve orally disseminated the contents of a chapter book to a captive audience. To be certain, Frindle has made the cut, as well as Where the Red Fern Grows and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But I’ve felt the need for some fresh words to share; hence, my recent search-and-retrieval mission for some new titles (at least ones new to me). And today, I found a gem waiting for me at my front door when I returned home from a road trip to visit my folks.

Love, Ruby Lavender. A few chapters in and I knew it would make the “after-lunch-read-to-the-class” list. I like the main character, Ruby, as well as her grandmother, Eula (she reminds me so much of my Judith-friend). The story is funny, poignant, and right in the middle of a 4th grade life. Deborah Wiles’s debut novel from 2001 will strike a chord with my students. How do I know?

Well, sometimes a heart just knows about words rightly written . . . words rightly released in the right season. Sometimes words just show up, freeing a mind from unnecessary cluttering and helping a heart breathe a little easier . . . think a little clearer.

And so, what began as a way for me to move out from beneath a burgeoning load of little “need doings” has now become the venue God has used to lighten my load. Fitting that he would employ a few good words to move me to a place of rest.

I love a few good words, don’t you? Whether a nursery rhyme for toddlers, a novel written for ten-year-olds, or a history book for advanced readers, words have a way of transporting a soul to a more spacious place—an expanse that allows us to absorb and to breathe and to find perspective for the little doings that need doing. For whatever reason, I think I can better tackle them now.

How about you? What good words are you reading in this season of your life? I’d love to know what’s on your bookshelf. Keep lending your heart, mind, and soul to good words, friends. They’ll enable your moving forward by expanding the horizon in front of you. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS: The winner of a set of Melanie’s note cards is Tara Nelson. Tara, please be in touch with your choices of 5 cards and your mailing address via the contact page.

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 . . .


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,

the rest of God …

“Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life.”

This is the golden rule of Sabbath according to Mark Buchanan, author of The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Have you read these words, this extraordinary book that feels less like obligation and more like privilege, like a daily walk in the garden with Jesus?

It arrived on my doorstep as required reading because of my participation in Alicia Chole’s 7th Year, mentoring encounter in 2013. I see the wisdom in Alicia’s choice to include it on our selected reading list. It should be required reading. It is pure, liquid grace—life-giving and life-extending with every chapter absorbed. I run the risk of feeling somewhat covetous of Mark’s pen if it weren’t for the absolute gratitude I feel in my heart for the gift of his words. There are very few books that I’ll read a second, even third time, very few books that I keep on the bookshelf long-term. This will be one of them. Why?

Because The Rest of God grants me understanding and permission to rest with God so that I might more fully understand the rest of God—that which remains hidden to me. His vastness. His closeness. His willingness to be known. His willingness to fill me with eternity to the uttermost. Rest to restore the body and rest to restore the soul. This is sacred treasure.

And so as it pertains to Mark’s golden rule for Sabbath rest (ceasing from what is necessary and embracing that which gives life) this is what gives life to me today:

  •  The Sunday school hour with James 1:19-27 on the table, saints gathered around for discussion.
  •  The Communion hour with bread and wine on the table, saints kneeling down for prayer.
  •  The lunch hour with fish and chicken, saints sitting down for sustenance.
  •  The afternoon hours with bed and blankets, saints lying down for sleep.
  •  The evening hours, two saints holding hands for love.

This is Sabbath rest for me. Nothing necessary. No “have tos” in the mix. Only “get tos”. I get to keep Sabbath with the saints on Sundays. Some folks may tag it as obligation; I name it as privilege – the life-giving, life-extending rest of God.

I pray you’ve known a similar portion. If not, then these next moments can belong to just you and Jesus. As long as today is still called today, there is time to take a walk with God in his garden, to know him more fully, and to rest most assuredly in his love.

Keep Sabbath, friends. It is God’s gift to you. As always …

Peace for the journey,

PS: If you think The Rest of God might be a good fit with your heart, please leave a comment below, and I will select one winner to receive a copy of Mark’s book. 

Also, I’m having a final sale on my books, Peace for the Journey and Beyond Cancer’s Scars. Click here to learn more. I greatly appreciate your support as I walk through this transition in my writing ministry.

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