Category Archives: silence

the unspoken blessing

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today …” –Hebrews 3:13

I saw it in their eyes last evening … a familiar pain. It’s one I’ve felt before. It always touches a nerve whenever I speak on it, especially those nerves deeply embedded in the heart and firmly rooted in remembrance. In sharing a bit of my own story, I quickly discerned that my strong emotion stirred up emotion in the ladies who’d gathered for our weekly Bible study. And instead of studying the Bible, we studied the God of Bible who comes alongside us in our woundedness, who dries our tears, and who speaks words of healing into those places where words have often gone undeclared.

Oh the ache of the unspoken blessing! Who of us hasn’t longed for a few words of eternal encouragement from an uncooperative candidate? It seems it would be easy to impart words of strength to those we love. Why then, do we so often keep them to ourselves? I think this is one of the resulting side-effects of never having received the blessings due us. The words we long to receive can often be the very words we refuse to give.

What tragedy … to forsake the blessing of others because we feel under-blessed. We are not under-blessed. We are the children of God, the over-blessed, the lavishly loved, and the richly endowed kids of the kingdom. When we live there, in God’s house of affirmation, the overflow of his love to us more easily overflows through us. Blessing others becomes our default rather than our reluctance.

Not so long ago, I wrote a few words about our words of blessing. Maybe you’ve read them; maybe you’re reading them for the first time. They seem an apt fit with today’s rumination, and so I release them to you again for your consideration:

“Our words mean a great deal to others and to us as well. Words released as flowers are words that carry us through our seasons of deepest darkness. They brighten our spirits. They lighten our loads. They keep us from lesser feelings—lesser attitudes—that, if not guarded, could quickly morph into lesser behaviors. Anger, bitterness, selfishness, waywardness, faithlessness, fear, pity, envy, and blame, are all possible, lesser products of the heart when words of kindness and encouragement aren’t extended as healing replacements.

Rarely is our neglect intentional; mostly we don’t think about our words as being an investment into the heart of another. But sometimes we forsake the “giving of flowers,” keeping our words to ourselves because it’s hard to speak them. The emotional toll that honest words require can be exhausting, raw, and exposing, thus the reason so many important conversations never take place between two hearts. Instead, we sometimes choose our silence because the contrast is too much of an honest look into our flawed and fragile hearts. Self-preservation over personal revelation becomes the order of the day. When that happens, hearts remain as they were—unchanged, unmoved, and uncolored by the witness of a flower or two given in the name of love.

Whatever our reasons for keeping our silence, we must understand that some lives will come to an earthly close without the blessed benedictions due them. Words of blessing are reserved for a funeral, when in reality, so many of them should have been spoken in advance. Words spoken at a funeral, flowers given then? Well, they’re likely to be forgotten, to decay over time, buried alongside the casket. But words of encouragement spoken into a heart before a heart moves home to heaven? Those are eternal words that never die. They blossom as a witness to generous grace and serve as a lasting memorial to the human spirit and to the God who puts eternity into the hearts of all humankind.”    (F. Elaine Olsen, on “Sending Flowers to the Living” from Beyond Cancer’s Scars , p. 124-125).

Maybe today you feel the ache of an unspoken blessing in your heart. Maybe today, you’re refusing someone else the privilege of hearing the words due them. Wherever you are in this story, my prayer is that you will allow the Father to move in to that place of woundedness and to restore to you what is rightfully yours. You are the apple of your Father’s eyes, and his love for you is without reserve or condition.

Live in his encouragement today and then, out of that overflow, live to encourage someone else. As always …

Peace for the journey,

If you’d like to secure a copy of Beyond The Scars or Peace for the Journey, click here to learn more. I greatly appreciate your support as I walk through this transition in my writing ministry.

December 26th

I’ve been waiting for this day for several weeks now.

December 26th – the day after Christmas.

No wrapping. No baking. No one needing me quite so much. More peace. More quiet. More time to take a walk beneath the beauty of a setting sun. This is where I found the Christ-child; this is where we talked it over, just God and me. Thoughts and words and prayers regarding the doings and outcomes of my yesterday.

We had much to discuss.

It was good to get away with Him—to take a walk around the lake and give some attention to my soul. I am grateful for the respite, for this December 26th. It’s been a day of recovery for me, of welcoming the new while cataloging the old.

Oh, I wish I could manage my December 25ths a bit better so that I didn’t need my 26ths so very much, but I’m fairly certain that a 25th of such magnitude cannot self-sustain. A 26th is the necessary requirement of a 25th—a grace of godly proportion that allows a soul to dance in close proximity to the manger without the distraction and/or judgment of a larger audience.

Sometimes the manger gets pretty crowded on December 25th.

But the 26th?

Well, today there was more elbow room. Today, it was easier to catch a glimpse of the baby Jesus.

December 26th – the day after Christmas. This is where the star has led me. This is where the Savior will keep me. What tender, sanctified peace for my journey! I pray for you a similar portion, friends.

Merry Christmas and Christmas always, this December 26th and beyond. What Christ came to do for us and in us he is doing. Ours is a forward work of grace. Keep to the road of faith, and remember … our best days are ahead of us!


PS: How might I pray for you as we walk together this final week of 2013?

A Survivor Lives Here

Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.” (2 Kings 19:30-31)


I attached the purple ribbon to my mailbox as a reminder to myself:

A survivor lives here.

It feels slightly self-indulgent, putting the focus on me. A season ago, I displayed these ribbons in honor of loved ones who journeyed the cancer road, but this year I boldly make this declaration on my behalf because I’m taking my own advice … practicing what I so bravely proclaim.

Being a survivor isn’t about defeating the disease. Being a survivor is about defeating the silence that often attaches itself to the disease.

For me, this has become a rallying cry of sorts. I emphasized it again yesterday during the morning messages at Saint Luke’s annual Relay for Life service. It’s one of the main reasons I agreed to speak. You see, there’s a silence that has been settling in on my spirit for the past several months.

Sometimes, silence is a good thing, a golden kind of thing. I remember my 9th grade English teacher writing in my yearbook, “If silence is golden, Elaine, you can forget it!” I also remember my daddy telling me, “Elaine, not every thought you’re thinking needs to be verbalized.” I knew what they meant. In hindsight, I celebrate their words, because I fully understand the intent behind them. They represent life—a living, breathing witness of a young girl who wasn’t afraid to be heard and to err on the side of verbal expression. It’s been a delicate dance these past forty-seven years, learning when to speak and when to keep silent.

But what about those times when silence isn’t golden, when words should be spoken but, instead, remain buried, hidden beneath layers of self-doubt? Prolonged silence can become a breeding ground for destructive behaviors rather than a resting place for instructive growth. I recognize these dangers, and so I made a choice to use my words on Sunday morning and on this Monday morning. Not just any words, but words that have been bathed in grace and baptized in prayers for God to use them, once more, to move the kingdom forward. To move my heart forward.

Maybe today you’re stuck in your silence. A soul-eating something has taken its toll on your witness. Your voice no longer boasts the confidence of your sacred endowment. No purple bows tied to the mailbox. No holy proclamations tied to your lips. Instead, drop-dead silence. You’re at a loss for words, and your survivorship seems in question.

I hear you. Your silence couldn’t be clearer.

Today is the day to start talking again, start putting words to your struggle, thereby putting words to your faith. Pick up the phone, pick up the pen, pick up a friend, and pick up a bow. Tie it on the mailbox, tie it on your computer, tie it on your lips, or tie it on your heart. Let the whole world know that …

A survivor lives here.

A soul-survivor. A woman, a man living each day with the Soul-Creator, Soul-Stirrer, Soul-Lover, Soul-Keeper … Jesus Christ.

Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.”

Today might be the beginning of your once more. Break the silence within and watch your roots grow deeper into the soil of God’s kingdom garden. Our Father will not waste your witness. Our Father intends to cultivate it for his glory and his renown. Your survivorship is not in question. Your survivorship remains safe and is certain in his hands.

Keep to it, soul-survivors. Our best days are in front of us. As always …

Peace for the journey,

Lying Down . . .


I’m not a huge fan of the Academy Awards, not because I have anything against honoring quality art via the silver screen but mostly because of the seemingly endless parade of the self-impressed. Couple this with the fact that I haven’t seen ninety-nine percent of the movies up for awards, and well, let’s just say my interest peeks with the red carpet and its dazzling display of gowns.

I am, however, a fan of good words spoken at the right time. Certainly, movies are filled with many such moments, but when those moments happen off stage (when the actor removes the mask and throws the script to the sidelines in favor of real-life drama), I’m duly impressed by the dialogue. Such was the case with Daniel Day-Lewis following his 3rd Oscar win for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Backstage after his win, Daniel was asked regarding his plans for the future, about what character he might like to play next. His response immediately gripped my heart:

“I need to lie down for a couple of years. It’s really hard to imagine doing anything after this.” (see source)

He’s going to lie down. Take a lengthy sabbatical with his family on his fifty acre farm south of Dublin, Ireland. Work on other things, like perfecting his cobbling (shoe-making) abilities or learning the rural skill of stonemasonry. Just “happily working away at other things.” (see source) Daniel Day-Lewis is going to lie down for a season, away from the stage and the bright lights of the big city.

What a wise choice.

I am challenged to follow his lead. Bright lights and big stages serve their purposes, but once the curtain goes down and the camera crew heads home, it’s time for a breather. Time to fuel up, rest up alongside the still waters where the only stage beneath my feet is carpeted with green pastures and the only light framing my steps radiates from the candle of the Shepherd.

My lengthy sabbatical with God to happily work away at other things.

Those things? Well, I don’t imagine it’s important to discuss them here. What is important is knowing that those things exist and that only by my lying down for a season will I be able to most happily, most agreeably engage with them. The good that grows in the pasture is not easily grown on the stage. Bright lights and big audiences—too much shine and too much recognition—dim the eyes and dull the senses, kind of like a blundering sheep in need of a wise Shepherd.

Life is changing for me . . . again. I must travel with the shifting wind, not against it. To fight my lying down is to relinquish the merry pleasures of rest. To linger on the stage after the curtain is drawn and the audience has departed is to stand alone and to feel lonely. But to leave with them? To trade in the stage for God’s greener pastures where dialogue is limited to just the Shepherd and me? Well I don’t suppose I’ve ever felt more enveloped in the fellowship of the Beloved.

I need to lie down for a while, friends. This doesn’t mean I won’t be here from time to time. Every sheep needs a flock, and you are mine. I simply need to give myself permission to happily work away at other things.

Soul things. Intimate things. God things.

Lying beside the still waters and on a blanket of green.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

a right word at the right time {part one}

“Therefore Jesus told them, ‘The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to the Feast, because for me to right time has not yet come.’ Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. –John 7:6-9


Sometimes we need to stay in Galilee a while longer. The Feast in Jerusalem will have to wait because those in attendance are not yet ready to hear the truth. Right words spoken at the wrong time do little to further the kingdom cause; instead, right words spoken at the wrong time often stir the pot of dissension, fueling the anger of the crowd and bringing untimely harm to the truth and the truth-giver.


Not that we shy away from speaking the truth for fear of personal harm, but rather we keep to the shadows until the threats no longer thwart the truth. Truth needs a readied stage, a readied audience. The beginning days of the Feast, when frolic and frenzy often reign over reason, rarely provide a readied audience. Sometimes, it’s best to wait for the frenzy to die down instead of prematurely jumping into the fray with right words that, more than likely, will be trampled upon by the wrong motives and wounded pride of those attending the Feast.


Jesus wasn’t afraid to die for speaking the truth, for being the Truth; it’s what he came to do . . . to free us from the lies of the enemy. But Jesus knew the right time to speak his right words. He wasn’t swayed by a human agenda that operated out of wrong motives. Instead, he waited . . . walked his Father’s agenda, and when the time was right, he emerged from the shadows and spoke his piece.


Eternity holds the witness of what Jesus’ waiting to go to the Feast accomplished for the kingdom. We cannot see the fullness of it just yet. This wasn’t the climax of Christ’s ministry, the biggest accomplishment of his earthly tenure, but it’s worth our time, our pausing a little bit with Jesus in the shadows in order that we might gain understanding regarding a right word spoken at the right time.


In this season, we’re being pushed from every angle to enter the fray and to engage in the frolic of a Feast that has little to do with truth and much more to do with pride. Right words have never been more important. But I’m wondering if just maybe we could learn something from Jesus about timing . . . about when to show up at the Feast and when is the right time to speak those right words.


We need to make the most of them . . . our right words. We need to make them count. Some would say there are no right words, only opinions. They would be wrong; there are right words, and when they are released in the light and moment of God’s timing, they grow his kingdom, not frustrate it.


Right words and the right time to speak those words.


I think I’ll pause with Jesus in Galilee today and travel in his shadow. Words not yet spoken that tarry beneath and within the shade of God’s holiness are words that will eventually carry the strength and witness of eternity. Those are the kinds of words worth waiting for, friends. They change the landscape of the world around us and bring the kingdom of God within reach.


Wait for them, right words and right timing. The world has never needed them more. As always . . .


Peace for the journey,

What is your tendency . . . to jump into the fray with right words too soon or to wait on right timing? What benefit might there be to waiting?

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