Monthly Archives: January 2009

Why I Loved My Day…

“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3).

It’s nearly a new day.


Before I say good-bye to January 30, 2009, I wanted you know that I loved it … this day given to me simply because God’s grace allowed it.

By his breath, he has sustained me and measured my steps accordingly. Not because he had to, but rather because he delights in giving good gifts to his children. And while every day should be chronicled with my glad tidings and thankful cheer, most of them slip by without notice and without applause.

I should do better with my gratitude. Not because I have to, but rather because it is my privilege to do so. Thus, allow me a moment to tell you what I loved most about this day.

    • It wasn’t the trip to Raleigh to pick up the “Esther” books at the Lifeway store or the new Meredith Andrews CD that I managed to sneak into the pile at the check-out counter.
    • It wasn’t the extra visit to Kohl’s where I was able to pick up a good bargain on a black jacket.


    • It wasn’t the stop at Andy’s on the way back into town for the $4.99 cheeseburger special, complete with crispy fries and a diet coke.
    • It wasn’t the trip to Wilson to watch my senior son play basketball, although he did make my heart skip a beat or two.


    • It wasn’t the Parker’s barbeque or the accompanying hush puppies while on my way to Wilson.


  • It wasn’t even the return of my college-age son who’s been MIA for three weeks now, although he’s always a good punctuation to a weary week.

No, the best part of my day wasn’t measured by the doing and partaking of all these things. Indeed, they were good, and I loved them each one. But what made them even better, what made them cause me to sit back and find a moment or two or even ten of thankful pause, was the fact that I shared them all with the man I call husband. The man who took my hand a season back, along with the hands of my two young sons, and promised to take care of us all of the days of his life and ours.

It’s not our anniversary. Today is not a day of any calendared significance in the lives of Billy and Elaine. It was simply a day that we shared with one another, rather than living our separate identities as is so often the case.

We laughed together. We walked together. We ate together. We worshipped God together with our new CD’s. We cheered together. We even yelled at the game officials together. We rode home together. We close this day together.

Together is a good way to spend a day. It’s a good way to love a day. It’s not always been the way I walk my days, but today? Well, today I did better at loving and at being in love. Today I stepped in rhythm with the man who’s been keeping pace with me for nearly twelve years now.

Not because he has to, but rather because he delights in being God’s good and gracious gift to me.

I didn’t deserve his love. There are times when I’m most confident that he doesn’t deserve mine. Still and yet, we choose to do love … to live love … to fight for our love because we love the life that God has given us together.

Indeed, I am a blessed woman who loved her day. I hope you loved yours. If not, there’s still time. Another day rests within your reach. Find someone you love and do some doing together. Let not today slip by without your notice or without the applause of your gratitude. This is the day that our God has made for you. He’s entrusted you with its unfolding.

Live it well. Love it better. And do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is your sacred privilege to do so.

As always,





“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

The call came in just a few minutes ago. 7:48 AM, per usual. Normally, I catch the call, but the phone was hiding elsewhere. There was nothing new about his message. Just his voice reminding me that he had safely made it to his destination.

“Hey, momma. I’m here at school. Have a good day. Love you. Bye.”

His words interrupted my train of thought—a train hunkered down and in the middle of 2nd Timothy and the apostle Paul’s chains. I looked up for a moment and tearfully echoed my response back to my son with an outstretched hand extended in the direction of the answering machine.

“Love you too, baby. Go with God today. Be with God. Let him be your light.”

He couldn’t hear me. But God could, and between the two of us—me and God—a message of peaceful intention was instantly carried from this mother’s heart to the heart of her child, despite the ten mile chasm between us.

With those few words of exchange, albeit spoken into the air and without the benefit of a face to face communication, my thoughts have shifted from Paul’s chains toward the pondering of something else.

Paul’s benedictions.

From Romans to Hebrews, and every book in between, Paul concludes his teaching letters with a benediction—words of blessing and final encouragement. Words like…

“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:25-27).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Corinthians 16:23-24).

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Words like that. And even though the recipients of said words, both then and now, didn’t hear them as I imagine Paul voicing them while he wrote, God did. God does. And between the two of them—Paul and the Holy Spirit of God—a message of peaceful intention has been carried from one saint’s heart to another, despite the 2000 year chasm between us.

Paul understood the power of a blessed benediction. He punctuated his “hard” teachings with words like grace and peace and love. And while we may not fully understand the depth of all that Paul was trying to say within his letters, it is easy for us to receive and to get our hearts around his endings.

As it was with Paul’s “sincerely’s” and “postscripts,” so it is with ours. Thus, a question or two.

How goes it with the blessed ending of our words? The crescendo of our communications? The climax of our conclusions? The closing of our conversations?

How do we punctuate our exchanges with humanity? When others walk away from our wordy embraces, do they walk away with grace and peace and love? Or do they walk away with something to the contrary? With … confusion … sorrow … bitterness … nothingness?

When we close our letters, when we finish our phone calls, after we spell check our emails and polish our correspondence into ship-shape, when we conclude our meetings (whether in the boardroom or around the kitchen table), when we finally reach the end of all that we’re trying to say…

how will we say it? Furthermore, will we say it, or will we leave our words dangling in mid-air, hoping for their soft landing and subsequent understanding but not giving much thought to their conclusion?

Benedictions. They are ours to give, ours to write and ours to speak. When we refuse them their voice, we’ve spoken less even though God intends for us to speak more. His more—his words when we’ve finally come to the end of ours.

It’s not all about the preacher’s moment. We think it is. After all, benediction is a bulletin word—a “holy” kind of word that follows the sermon. But you and I, we are a holy kind of people bringing God’s truth to this world. Our lives are intended to read as a sermon. And when we get to the end of it, a little grace and peace and love is the perfect punctuation to a well-spoken … a well-lived … life.

I don’t want my words or my life to conclude with confusion and nothingness. I want my benedictions to read everlasting and on purpose so that years from now, they will serve as a lasting memorial from my heart to the generation of hearts who are coming up behind me. They may not hear my words now, even as I voice them while I type, but between the two of us—me and my extraordinary God—I believe in their preservation.

May they always be found worthy of such sacred perpetuation. Thus, I pray…

Benedict my life with your sacred punctuation, Father. With your words of grace and peace and love. May the utterings of this mouth and the overflow of this heart be used to point others to the cross. Never let my busy forsake the blessing of others. Instead, remind me to finish well—my conversations and my life. Let the conclusion of my words be filled with the conclusion of your truth, and let your truth be the grand conclusion of the conversation that I now carry in my heart. Amen and amen.

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PS: My benediction to you this day via the words of the Apostle Paul as found in Hebrews 13:20-21.

A Spring’s Visit to a Winter’s Prison

“Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free. But he did not know that the LORD had left him. Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” (Judges 16:20-22).

There is…

no prison so dank,
no shackle so confining,
no disobedience so egregious,
no blindness so dark,
no winter so long,

so as to keep Spring from making its arrival. None. Its buds and blossoms come regardless of the bleak season preceding its entrance.

Resurrection is the hallowed crescendo after the harrowing silence of a winter’s death—a season’s stripping that reduces branches to the bare and wide-opened embrace of colder winds.

It’s hard to think Spring when Winter continues its insistent knock. It’s hard to think grace when the consequences of sin leave a soul chained and blinded with remembrance.

Samson knew something of winter’s bite.

His life began well. He ended on the upswing, but the living in between reads more like a tragedy rather than the famed position given him in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” (chapter 11).

God wanted more for him. His parents planned for more. But for “more” to be his portion, Samson would have to walk the plans of his God, and subsequently, of his parents’. And for all of the ways that he might have been faithful to those plans and to his covenantal vow as a Nazarite, we are privy to a majority of his “less” than moments. Moments that included:

    • Chasing after all manner of foreign women.


    • Gleaning honey from the carcass of a dead lion and feeding it to his parents.


    • Exacting revenge via foxtails and torches, the jawbone of a donkey, and the sword of his own hands.


  • Playing games with God’s truth rather than honoring God’s truth with sacred and in reverent fear.

Indeed, some would argue that Samson had earned his chains, his blindness, and his mockery by men. Open rebellion to God’s ways always yields a well-deserved humbling at some point. I know. I’ve hosted my fair share of showcase moments along the way.

But to remain stuck in our chains … to assign ourselves a place of permanent shame and penance within the cold and barren of Winter … is to delay or to altogether miss the promise of Spring.

And to miss the grace of Spring is to miss everything.

Samson’s Spring came near his end. If you are one prone to spectacular endings—to the grandeur and polish of an epic finish—you’ll miss it. Samson’s resurrection didn’t begin between two pillars (Judges 16:29); it began in the dark and in the depths of a lonely prison cell.

“Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” (Judges 16:22).

Just in case you missed it, let me type it again.

The hair on his head began to grow again.

Grow. The verb tsamach in the Hebrew language meaning, “to grow, to spring forth, to sprout.”[i]

No matter Samson’s sin and no matter his rebellion, God’s promise of Spring came to him in his darkest night, the seeds of which would grow and would ultimately result in his finest hour. God visited the cell of a sinner and planted his grace accordingly and in a very literal way.

I don’t know if Samson thought a lot about his hair in those days, but I imagine that he did. When a soul is stripped, both in the spiritual and in the physical, one cannot help but look for any sign of covering … of hope and rebirth … of new growth and of springing forth. With every passing day and with every difficult grinding, whenever Samson ran his fingers through the sparse seedlings of a new and growing strength, he was reminded of just how far he had fallen and of the grace afforded him for its gradual return.

It did return, at least in part. That’s the way of God’s grace. Despite our willful choices and hardened rebellion to God’s plan for our lives, his mercy is ready and available for its return. He planned for grace’s arrival, long before our sin mandated its need.

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD Our Righteousness.”’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16).

Just in case you missed it, let me type it again.

In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line.

Sprout. The verb tsamach in the Hebrew language meaning, “to grow, to spring forth, to sprout.”[ii]

God’s grace. Shooting forth and bursting onto the scenes of our lives. Sometimes through the simple of a hair’s sprouting. All the time through the profound of a Son’s coming. A Son’s dying. A Son’s springing forth on a Spring morning, announcing once and for all that resurrection is here to stay.

That resurrection is the gift of Spring; it follows the stripping and cold of a Winter season. A season when remembering God’s promises is critical to survival. There is…

no prison so dank,
no shackle so confining,
no disobedience so egregious,
no blindness so dark,
no winter so long,

so as to keep Spring from making its arrival. None. And that, my friends, gets a hallelujah from my spirit and a prayer of thanks from my knees as they hit the bedroom floor, once again, in absolute wonder and awe of the gracious grace that has been seeded on my behalf and that is growing in strength with every passing day and with every intentional glimpse I make into the treasures of God’s Word. He is the worthy pause of my heart this week. Yours too, thus, I pray…

Grow us, Father, into a deeper understanding of all things eternal. Let us not settle for our prisons; instead, renew our hearts toward a healthier life—one that is free of the chains and of the condemnation that seeks to keep us captive in sin’s remembrance. Spring us forth from our cells and grow us in the light and truth of Spring’s renewal—the resurrected life of Easter’s Gift. In the name of the Father who knows us, and the Son who loves us, and the Holy Spirit who so willing tends to us, Amen and Amen.

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Copyright © January 2009 – Elaine Olsen
[i] Baker & Carpenter, entry for “samah,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 956.
[ii] Ibid.

Snow Days, Hot Chocolate, and a Sacred Trust

Snow Days, Hot Chocolate, and a Sacred Trust

For Nick … you were the missing piece of our snow day. We love you!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Either we trust God or we don’t.

Today I’m stuck. Somewhere between my trust and my don’t. And since there is no middle ground, I suppose, that I don’t …

trust Him. At least not enough.

On a day intended for snow angels and hot chocolate and lots of lazy—a day designed for the simplicity of childhood understandings—I’m bogged down in the complexities of what I thought was a well-matured faith—a faith content and at peace with the unanswerables.

Instead, where peace usually reigns, there is a wrestling. Where contentedness usually flourishes, there is a mixture of emotions that scream their resistance. Where a well-matured faith usually roots, there seems but a few seedlings fighting for their anchor to the soil.

When my kids woke up this morning, they woke up to a snow day—a day off from school and from their usual routine of mandated learning. When I woke up this morning, I woke up to a day that requires my attendance in God’s classroom, where a mandated learning becomes my necessary if I want to bring health to this body and nourishment to this soul.

If my faith is to grow in its understanding of all things sacred—an understanding that issues from the wisdom and plans of Almighty God rather than my fragile attempts at the same—then I must be willing to lean into a deeper posture of trust.

What does that look like? Better still, how do I … how do we … get there?

King Solomon, rich in wisdom and with the pen to scribe accordingly, offers his voice in the matter.

“Acknowledge him.”

Acknowledge. The Hebrew verb Yada meaning “to know, to learn, to perceive, to discern, to experience, to confess, to consider, to know people relationally, to know how, to be skillful, to be made known, to make oneself known, to make to know.”[i]

To acknowledge the Lord is to simply and to profoundly know him. We lean into a better understanding and trust whenever we take the time to learn of our God, to consider his ways, and to discern his heart and mind in the many matters that fill ours with certain doubt and wavering belief.

To get there … to come to a knowing of our God … we must trust in the one resource that he has so amply provided for us. I’m currently looking at eight of them. Some opened up upon my bed; some waiting on the bookshelf for their turn.

Our Bibles—the living, breathing, and active Holy Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

It matters not to Him what translation we read. We all host our own preferences. What matters to God is that we, in fact, read them. Ponder them. Find ourselves somewhere within the story which, in turn, always finds us in close proximity to the heart and mind of Father God.

Charles Spurgeon writes (in reference to Jesus Christ),

“He knew by His omniscience what was the most instructive way of teaching, and by turning at once to Moses and the prophets, He showed us that the surest road to wisdom isn’t speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but meditation upon the Word of God. The quickest way to be spiritually rich in heavenly knowledge is to dig this mine of diamonds, to gather pearls from this heavenly sea. When Jesus Himself sought to enrich others, He worked in the quarry of Holy Scripture.”[ii]

Knowing God will never happen through accidental measure. Rather, it comes with the purposeful pursuit and with the intentional posture that is willing to enter into God’s classroom, where the only required textbook is the one that was written from his heart via the pen of man’s deliberate obedience.

If our paths are to be straight, if our trust is to be certain, if our bodies are to know the health and the nourishment of solid footing and sound theology, then we must be willing to walk contrary to our human nature. We must set aside our momentary need for instant understanding and, instead, rest upon the truth of God’s understanding.

Our wisdom will never exceed his. Our wisdom should be based on his, but even when wisdom seems a far reach—when answers remain at a distance and our doubts arise as to their certain arrival—we can know that our Father thinks with a greater understanding. An eternal knowledge that is timeless and void of the parameters that we so often seek.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to limit God’s work in my life. I don’t want the doubt that I currently hold in my hand to be the final word in the matter. I don’t want the answers just for the sake of having answers. Rather, I want to trust him for more. I want to know him more and to believe that with the knowing will come a wisdom that exceeds my current and very temporal way of looking at things.

An understanding that can, every once in a while, take a day off to enjoy the simple faith of child who isn’t worried about tomorrow, but instead, is frolicking in the embrace of winter’s gift. In the trust and belief, that snow angels and hot chocolate are the order of the day and that everything else will takes care of itself, in God’s time and in God’s way. Thus, I pray…

Give me the trust of a snow day, Father, when I can rest and enjoy the moment rather than worrying about the moments to come. Thank you for the gift of your Word that allows me to know you, thus finding my peace for the journey. I freely admit that I cannot understand the road ahead. I am frustrated by the unanswerables that have found their way into my hands. Give me the courage to place them into yours. Teach me the trust and certainty of a sacred leaning, and keep me at your feet until I pass the exam. May the treasures of your Holy Word be the rocks that build my solid and sure foundation for the season to come. Amen.

[i] Baker and Carpenter, entry for “Yada,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 3038.
[ii] Charles Spurgeon, entry for “January 18,” Morning and Evening (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1995), 37.

Copyright © January 2009 – Elaine Olsen

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A Morning’s Brew…

There’s nothing like a good dose of confession served up with a warm cup of coffee to start a Monday morning. Thus, here’s mine (minus the coffee…you’ll have to pour that one on your own).

A few days ago, I wrote a post entitled “Let the Words of our Mouths.” A powerful piece, written from a deep well of conviction that awakened me in the early morning hours and called for my obedience. At the time, I thought little about the connection between the content of the piece and the corresponding pictures that I used to punctuate my point.

It wasn’t a good match, nor did I have my facts straight when I referred to the tree-trimming incident at our church and the discussion that was leveled concerning its future.

I may not have wounded others with my mouth, but I wounded with my pen. It was never my intention; nonetheless, it happened, and I am truly sorry for my failure to accurately communicate the stirring of my heart. Consequently, the piece has been edited to reflect my true intentions.

Do I still believe that the church at large (yours and mine combined) could use a heavy dose of agapao, 1 Corinthians 13, kind of love approach to how we do life together? You bet. We can always do it better—with more love, more Jesus, more of what matters to him and less of what matters to us.

And what matters to Him is authentic living for his kingdom’s sake. A portion of truth that visited me not long ago while washing my face. Perhaps you remember…

If you write conviction, Elaine, you’d better live conviction, or else be prepared for conviction to find its way to your table.

Conviction did … find its way to my table. And now we’re done. The coffee’s growing cold, and it’s time to push away from the table with the freedom and grace that is mine through the cross of Jesus Christ.

I want to be a servant in blogland. My pen belongs to God. Occasionally, there arises a tension between the two—my pen and God’s belonging. This has been one such occasion. I imagine that there will be more.

Thus, may God’s love and grace be my covering all the days of my life, and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart always be found acceptable in his sight. That is the prayer of my heart this day. As always,

post signaturePS: Comments are closed on this post. I would, however, invite you to read yesterday’s penning if you haven’t already. I welcome your thoughts there. Shalom.


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