Monthly Archives: October 2008

A Final Look at Anonymous

A Final Look at Anonymous

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Four and a half years worth of Bible study makes for some memories. Memories that include a whole lot of…

Tuesday nights.

Most importantly, memories that seed with a whole lot a Jesus. He, alone, is the one reason that keeps most of us coming back for more, study after study, year after year.

We’ve completed eleven different studies since my family’s arrival here almost five years ago. I knew before I arrived that God had clearly called me to facilitate the process. A couple of years prior, I had a head on collision with the power and transforming work of God’s Word. He profoundly interrupted my life with the truth of Scripture, and my hunger was palpable.

When I learned that we would be making another pastoral move, my heart welled with anticipation for the possibility of bringing God’s truth to others in a more tangible way. My zeal was well matched by a group of women who were hungry for the same. Together, we have laughed and cried and prayed our way through some difficult seasons. We’ve come to know and love Beth Moore, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jennifer Rothschild, and most recently, our precious Alicia Britt Chole.

I introduced Alicia to our group several weeks ago via her book Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours. To say this study has been transformational in our lives, both corporately and individually, is to say too little, yet somehow tonight I struggle to find the right words. Alicia has given us the permission to celebrate our hidden years … to respect them, to embrace them, and to understand their sacred worth as it pertains to our intimacy with Jesus Christ.

I am forever marked by the truth of her study and by the time that I spent walking it with over fifty women. Jesus has been the overriding focus of our hearts these past seven weeks, and I finish this time with a rich fullness and deep thankfulness for all of my God-ordained seasons. Whether in the bloom of Spring, the heat of Summer, the stripping of Fall, or the barren of Winter, all seasons with the Father are served as the main course and are to be partaken of accordingly.

We have partaken, and our season of study has come to a close. Tuesday nights are free and clear for the fellowship hall of Pine Forest UMC … at least for a couple of months. We’ll be back. Friends and Jesus have a way of creating a hunger for more of the same. I, for one, can’t wait to reconvene with my sisters in January.

I love these women. As a pastor’s wife, it can sometimes be difficult to find your “home” in a place you never even imagined your feet would pause. These women have made it their mission to invite me into theirs. They are home for me, and even though we’ve closed shop temporarily, when January rolls around and the scent of Tuesday nights once again fills the air, I’ll be ready to break some holy bread around the table with my family. I won’t worry about them being available. They will be.

For they have learned, even as I have learned, that God is simply and profoundly…

too good to be neglected. He is worth our time and our best efforts at attending to the process of our sacred becoming.

So Tuesday night gals, I want you to know that I love you and that I would have missed a great deal had the Bishop not decided to send Preacher Billy and his family to you! You have shown me a side of heaven that is rarely glimpsed on this side of eternity. I carry you all in my heart, even as I know that you hold me close in yours. Doing life with Jesus alongside the likes of you has been one of the richest blessings my life has known.

Let us keep on doing it, and all the more, for as long as we pilgrim this road together. Until we meet again, whether here or there…


Now, bloggie friends, I want to share a pitifully captured video from a portion of our final study with you. This visual is not great (we are still living in the age of a non-digital camcorder…my wish lish for Christmas has just increased) but I wanted you to at least hear my voice–no mocking of the southern accent please. Not because I have anything overly profound to say, but simply because it gives you a more complete picture of the writer of this blog. Please disregard my husband’s attempts at “fading” in and out, and pay close attention to my friend, Michelle, who is a professional interpreter for the deaf. At the end of her song, it fades, but then returns for a brief final look of my incredible Tuesday night gals. We made the tape for Alicia and is much better quality when viewing it as a DVD. Anyway, enough apologies. Enjoy the song.

The Forest for the Trees…

The Forest for the Trees…

I dedicate this piece to my friend, Melinda at “Traveling the Road Home”, who graciously afforded me the use of this picture from one of her recent trips. It grabbed me the moment I saw it on her blog, and it has taken me a few days to put some words around it. I pray they speak its witness accordingly. Thanks, friend.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2).

What do you see when you look at this picture?

I see beauty. I see between. I see beyond.

My eyes refuse the focus of the cluttered clustering trees and instead focus on the entirety of the painted landscape. Rather than get bogged down in the details, I breathe in the witness of a well-planned masterpiece …

the forest instead of the trees.

The full and lush of a long ago planting, seeded by the hands of nature and through the intent of a loving God who visions at a higher level than me. Who paints with a perfected end in mind rather than settling for a partial finish. Who gives careful attention to the details so that the finished product breathes with the life and vitality of exacting and necessary brushstrokes. Who gives us his creation to teach us something about eternal visioning and forever focus.


Lived and walked in the details, all the way through to the end—to the other side of the forest where clutter gives way to spacious living. Where shadowed existences give way to God’s lighted embrace, and where the backward glance at the trees left behind fills in the gaps about seasons previously misunderstood.

The ancients of Hebrews 11 understood about faith and the potential cluttering therein. They were commended for their focus … for seeing the forest as their bridge to home rather than as an obstacle to prevent their arrival. Refusing to be overwhelmed by the maze of tangled brambles and knotted roots along the way, they set their eyes on the faint glimmers of a finish that sparkled its radiance light through the dim masking of branches and foliage.

Their vision leveled toward completion.

“All of these people were living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

A city … just beyond the trees. A better country that houses the perfected end of the process that we now walk. A permanent dwelling where the din and lies of the forest are replaced with the splendor of God’s eternal peace and truthful witness.

Friends, if ever we needed the witness of eternity’s truth, it is now. We are walking through a tree-laden season of volatile living. The chaos and clutter of an electoral process is leaving most of us confused and pointedly focused on the trees that obstacle rather than on the forest that divinely shapes. Our minds landscape with the ugly and contrary nature of a temporary foliage that refuses to budge and that so easily trips.

We fight understanding as we soldier on. We refuse to bend and to bow to the trees’ cloistering for fear that in doing so, we will never make it beyond their branchy embrace. Rather than concede to the process of our perfection via difficult trees, we slash at their bark with our words, with our hateful intent, and with our neglect to love.

We fear the outcome, even though the outcome was never ours to fear. What happens in our country over the next few weeks does matter. It is important. But our perfected end, and God’s sovereignty in the matter, isn’t so fragile that it cannot abide an Obama or a McCain presidency.

God has never intended for our focus to stop mid-forest. To freeze frame on a single tree or on a single event in history that was only ever intended to be one miniscule part of the whole. The enemy would like nothing better than to stop us in our tracks and to have us think that the next president will be our savior. The truth is…

No man or woman will ever or could ever hold that title.

There is only One who is worthy of such an honor. His pilgrimage through the forest would require that his Father journey deep into its dark in order to cut the one tree that would house and hold his surrender. He did, so that our requirement would be less. So that we could walk it through to the other side with temporal wounds that bleed less and never lasting. Christ didn’t journey without forethought. He walked with one purpose in mind.

The forest for the trees.

The beauty, between, and beyond of a portrait that was painted long before he allowed us any voice or any vote in the matter.

Is God concerned about our now? Perhaps, but only as it pertains to his completed masterpiece. Is God involved in our now? Absolutely, because what he has in mind is a canvas that is brushstroked with the truth of his ample sacrifice—an end that is painted with the blood of Calvary’s grace. And that, precious readers, will always warrant his attention and his brush.

We are almost home, nearly finished and nearly perfect. God is after our beauty, both individually and collectively as a people. No thing or no one person will thwart his kingdom agenda. No matter the trappings and confinement of a few temporary trees … no matter the outcome of a presidential election … God’s light is still shining through the branches of our dim and our confusion. He is calling us through to the other side, and one day soon, our backward glance will afford us a beautiful understanding for the cluttered shaping that we now walk.

Fear not, our Father has allowed us our trees so that his forest will boast the punctuated splendor of a few faithful hearts—hearts that are trusting and fully content to leave the painting up to him. Thus I pray,

When I am fearful, Lord, with the confusion from the trees that surround my life, remind me of the forest that houses the completeness of your plan. Illuminate each step with the light of your forward focus that will keep me moving in the right direction and in the full assurance of what awaits me on the other side. This season is my season—one that you have ordained for my steps and for the steps of the country that I call home. Keep us, Father, in perfect rhythm with your will. And when I am tempted to consign such understanding to the fragile minds of men, forgive me for assigning them with too much. You, alone, are the King of my heart and my life. Only you can carry me on to my perfection and to your intended end. Humbly, I bow to the beauty of your trees this night. Amen.

Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved

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Guarding the Sacred

Guarding the Sacred

My son was watching for his morning ride to school. I was waiting for my rest. The latter wouldn’t come until the former had walked its course. It did, and after hugs and kisses good-bye, I made my way to the bedroom and opened up the Word of God.

I didn’t know at the time that his watching and my waiting would eventually weave together as a sacred portrait of truth, but God knew. He began the portrait even before I began my daily reading. But as so often the case with a heart in a hurry for a quick fix of Jesus, the holy breath of a single moment is sometimes missed. Overlooked and pushed aside in favor of a seemingly more divine approach to doing life with Jesus.

I missed it this morning, temporarily. But God knew that I needed it. Thus, he tendered my heart with his Word, and opened up my eyes to receive a gift that might have, otherwise, gone unnoticed. It would punctuate on the other side of my reading from Proverbs 4:23-27.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:23-27).

Guarding the heart. What does that look like? It looks intense. From the Hebrew transliterated word natsar:

“To guard, watch, watch over, keep; to preserve, to guard from dangers; to be kept close, to be blockaded; watchman.”[i]

Further is carries the heaviness of the Hebrew transliterated word mishmar meaning “a place of confinement, prison, guard, jail, guardpost, watch, observant.”[ii]

Guarding the heart is serious business. Why? Because the heart houses the wellspring of true living.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14).

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. …” (John 7:37-39a).

Our hearts are worthy of watchful care. Not only do they rhythm with the pulse of our next breath, but greater still, they rhythm with the pulse of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. And that combination, friends, is a proverbial dam waiting to burst its wet onto the lives of those who walk within its reach. He is a worthy cause. His holy dwelling—our hearts—are a worthy upkeep.

Keeping purity at a premium requires more than a casual approach to heart tending. Keeping purity means keeping watch. It means a straight walk from today into tomorrow. A fixed gaze on the unseen, yet fully accessible God who seeds our lives with the truth of his identity everyday and in everyway. It means sticking to the beaten path even when the unmarked trails proffer their adventure and intrigue. It means putting one foot in front of the other, even though the dance on the peripheral voices a fanciful escape.

It means not worrying about the scenery on the right and in the left, but only on the scene that landscapes directly in front of us. The long awaited finished line that punctuates with an eternal glory that far outweighs the exploration of temporal paths. Guarding the good and sacred deposit given to each one of us as believers in Jesus Christ comes with a deliberate and focused watch over the heart … over what’s getting in and what’s flowing out.

We do it through spending time on our faces in prayer with that God. We do it by training our minds with the truth of God’s Word. We do it by refusing the world’s dressing and, instead, dressing ourselves in full battle gear that includes: a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, two shoes (not one) of peace’s gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the indwelling and uncompromising Spirit of the living God.

And if you’re a little child, one who houses a wild and tenacious imagination toward all things that go bump in the night or otherwise, you do it by keeping your rifle in hand, pulling up a chair, and fixing your watchful gaze on the world outside.

This is God’s portrait of truth, painted for me without my knowing. Saved for me and for a moment when I was unhurried and unconcerned about a quick fix of Jesus. The holy breath of heaven breathed its witness in my house this morning. He came in his Word and spoke a good teaching. He came through the witness of my son’s imagination and shouted his profound punctuation.

Doing life with Jesus has never tasted any sweeter. I’m guarding it more closely today. Thus I pray,

Thank you, Lord, for the eyes to see the tracing of your hand in my life—through your Word and through the simple posture of a child’s imagination. Never let my spiritual routine become my excuse for not living in the moment. For not pausing to contemplate the extraordinary wrappings of any extraordinary grace that comes in all types of packages, big and small. I thank you for my son’s watchful care of our home. May the watchful care of my heart speak with such similar and fervent intention. Amen.


Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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The Rhythm of Eternity

The Rhythm of Eternity

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

My college-age son is home for the weekend. He is my delight and joy and the welcome of my heart on every occasion. He is becoming the man I never imagined him to be because as a young mother at twenty-three, I wasn’t prone to my imagination. I was simply prone to survival. Both his and mine.

In many ways, those days seem long ago and packed away as a seasonal remembrance. I don’t recall them often. But every now and then, even though he is well on his path toward manhood, I am reminded about the springtime of his youthful beginnings. I catch a glimpse of a little blonde-headed boy who took to life with a passion for the process. It was a process seeded and watered and grown alongside his younger brother.

They are quite a pair. Best friends. Fierce warriors. Competitive in most things, yet quick to applaud one another’s accolades. I can’t imagine one without the other, but when Nick left home almost two years ago, I had to. Imagine. Them apart. The silence was palpable. The room above my bedroom no longer bore the strain of two sets of feet. The late night conversations between them no longer kept me awake or forced my intrusion in the matter.

And while I welcome the more quiet approach to nighttime routine, I miss their voices. I miss their laughter. I miss knowing that all of my children are safe and sound and tucked in for another night of rest under my roof. We don’t have many of those nights now, but when we do—when Nick comes home to rest in his old and with his familiar—the floors creak their resistance and the late night conversations return.

Last night was one of those nights. Rather than reaching for the broom that stands bedside as my implement for reminding the boys about my need for rest, I reached for the earplugs. And instead of hearing the sounds of my sons’ laughter and conversation, I heard the echoes of something far different. Remote at first. Louder and more persistent as time elapsed.

I heard the beat of my own heart.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Over and over again, until the sound took the stage of my imagination, and I began to ponder the magnitude of what I was hearing. Last night, over the din of an upstairs conversation and through the rhythmic lull of a heart’s beat, I heard the cadence of heaven’s pulse. I heard …


What does eternity sound like? How does it hear? Greater still, how does it breathe?

It sounds precise and continuous. It hears vivid and real. It breathes genuine and on purpose. One beat after another and with the focused intention of keeping me alive and keeping me as useful.

God knew what he was doing when he seeded eternity into the hearts of men and women. No other vessel in the human body could house such significance. No other organ could more appropriately dress the magnitude of such a gift. No other portion of this fleshly frame could support the creative genius of an eternal pulse. None. Why?

Because our hearts are the navigational force behind our steps.

Our feet won’t move forward without the beat of the heart.
Our minds won’t motion their purpose without the beat of the heart.
Our giftings won’t serve the world without the beat of the heart.
Our plans won’t come to fruition without the beat of the heart.
Our love won’t wrap its arms without the beat of the heart.
Our souls won’t find their rest without the beat of the heart.
Our sins won’t find their grace without the beat of the heart.
Our lives won’t live their sacred worth without the beat of the heart.

In every way and in every day, the heart completely and holy matters. The heart is the significant linchpin when it comes to living the gift of a single day. Without its pulse, we are dead. Done. Completely and fully out of options. When the heart stops servicing our frames, the eternal seeding therein moves elsewhere.

Either onto the full and promised perfection of heaven or into the full and promised ruination of hell. That, my friends, is what eternity sounds like. That is how it hears and, greater still, that is how it breathes.


Not just today or in the things that we can touch and feel and manage with our minds. But for always and especially in ways that are beyond our understanding and our reasoned grasp. There are untold mysteries encased within the parameters of a heart’s pulse. We cannot fully fathom nor plumb the depths of such treasures.

If we are Christians, then we can begin in our understanding of one of them. His name is Jesus, and he owns the pulse of our hearts. He lives within this sacred vessel and tends to our eternal seed with the loving grace that will carry us home to our forever.

But for those who are not Christians, for those who have yet to begin in their understanding of all things sacred, their eternal seed lies dormant. Tended to by the wisdom and careful watch of an enemy who shrouds the truth of God’s unseen eternal with the lies of a temporal “as good as it gets.” With the voice that breathes the deception of…

An absent everlasting seed.
A day that walks in isolation.
A life not worthy of further examination.

Regardless of the lie, eternity’s seed still exists. No amount of pretending that it doesn’t changes the truth that it does, in fact, exist. Every human being is created with a heart worthy of heaven. In this very moment, it beats with the witness of sacred possibility. For you. For me and for the sake and salvation of a created race who has never taken the time to listen. Can you hear it? Won’t you try?

Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump.
Thump … thump.
T h u m p.
T h h h—————————-u———————m——————————–p.

Where will your eternity land?

With holy fear and trembling, I pray that yours will be seeded and watered alongside mine … with Jesus in heaven. Thus I pray,

Thank you for seeding us all with the gift of eternity, Father, even when our soiled hearts refuse the planting. Prod us toward further understanding in the matter, and stir our need in restless confusion until we pause to clarify your truth. Thank you for choosing the likes of my heart as your dwelling. Make me ever mindful of your presence within and ever careful to acknowledge your living witness to others. You are the treasure of my flesh. Thank you for making me yours. Amen.

Have a blessed Sabbath rest, sweet ones. You have been so kind and gracious in your words and prayers for me this week. I love you dearly. Shalom!

Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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The Mirrored "Truth"

The Mirrored "Truth"

“When Sanballet heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?’” (Nehemiah 4:1-2).

I read her words this morning. They immediately paused my spirit and required my notice. I will be buying her book. I have no idea the format for the book, but I know a good writer when I read one. Words move me. Spin me. Challenge me and speak to the deepest need within me. And when a writer can do that with just a few sentences, it catches my breath and enlivens my spirit with a passion for the read.

This kind of pull creates an interesting mix of emotions for me. I celebrate her gift. I appreciate her gift. I have no doubts that I will enjoy her gift of words in the days to come. That being said, when I read the obvious giftings of another writer’s pen, I sometimes wonder why I bother with my own.

And while I am overjoyed with the thought of digging into another good read, I look in my own mirror this day with thoughts of confusion. Thoughts of pain. Thoughts that dig at the root of my own giftedness and the reality that there is still so much I want to say, while feeling so ill-qualified to do so.

When I look at my reflection, I don’t see possibility. Today, I see less. I see brokenness … rejection … failure. I see a 42 year old woman who allows herself the taunt of the enemy, even as it voiced over 2500 years ago to Nehemiah and God’s people.

What is your feeble flesh trying to do, Elaine?
Will you restore your wall?
Will you bring your limited giftings … your sacrifices … as an offering to God?
Will you finish in a day? After all, we’re at 42 years and still counting…
Can you bring your stones back to life … your heaps of rubble, burned as they are—fractured, splintered and unworthy of notice?

The moment paints grim. I know. I’m sorry if it bothers you, but I imagine that you have authored your own share of such moments.

It won’t last. God’s work and Word in my life are too powerful … too willing and too truthful to let the lies of the enemy own the stage. When God looks in my mirror, his perspective is different from mine. This is a very good thing, for I am prone to my confusion when it comes to reasoning the difference between God’s truth and the enemy’s version therein.

In my own strength, and in my own willful pursuits for healing, my feeble flesh will fail. My wall will never know restoration. My giftings will remain as they are—limited. I cannot finish in a day what has taken some four decades to build. And above all, I cannot breathe life into my stones of rubble that have known deep fracture and heated burn. I can try, but honestly, my efforts at restoration haven’t moved me beyond moments like today. I’m still looking in the mirror with regrets. I can do very little to change the condition of life.

But God can do it all. Everything. He is the one who holds the blueprints for my life. And for all of the times when I see the fracture and burn of a disobedient life, he visions better. He sees promise. Rather than casting my rubbled remnants aside, he lovingly picks them up, dusts them off, and breathes his healing into their broken. He uses the stones of my yesterday to rebuild the walls of my today.

I am a living stone being built into a spiritual household that will endure the test of time and survive the vicious taunts of the enemy.

Oh that my healing would walk its course in a day’s time. That would be lovely and seemingly picture perfect. But God never intended for my perfection to author in a day. Lasting beauty births with the brushstrokes of longevity. The colors in my Father’s palette paint living and vivid and real. He seeds my restoration according to his time table, not mine. I cannot understand his wisdom in the matter, but I humbly respect it and bow to accept it. Not out of resignation because I am unable to force his hand in the matter, but rather because his grace has been so willing to paint me into his eternal landscape.

I am the penchant of my Father’s heart. A true work in progress. Some would say, I’m not worthy of Louvre Museum. And I would say that I’m not after the Louvre.

I’m after Jesus.

And if my portrait never makes the front page here, it has already made the front page in heaven. In part, on the day when Calvary painted its cross on a hillside. In part, on the day I accepted the grace of that cross as my own. In full, on another day yet to come when God’s words, via his pen, will punctuate his well done on my behalf.

There is nothing else that matters, even though the world begs to differ. Even though I beg to differ in times like these, when I focus on my failing flesh rather than the masterpiece that God is after. I know the truth. I love God’s truth, but there are seasons in my journey when living truth’s depth and breadth is the hardest requirement of my feeble faith.
Such has been my week. Maybe yours too. Thus, I pray…

You alone, Father, make me worthy. You, living in me, allow my brokenness to know healing. My failures to find purpose. My sacrifices to breathe acceptable. My restoration to be complete. Forgive me when I can’t see your grace at work and enable me to receive it, even when the mirror breaks in temporal rebellion. You have died for my freedom, for my beauty and my renewal. Paint me complete, and grant me the patience for the process. Today, once again, I surrender the brush. Amen.

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Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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