Monthly Archives: January 2010

one so blessed…

She is precious beyond words and a pure delight to my heart. Her name is Joanne, serving up her cup of blogging flavor over at One So Blessed. Beginning Monday, February 1st, Joanne will be hosting a month’s worth of guest interviews. You can read about some of them here.

I first “sort of” encountered Joanne back at She Speaks in 2008. We both attended a class on “how to plan a powerful, effective 15-minute publisher meeting.” The speaker offered many helpful tips, especially for those of us who had never been in a 15-minute publisher meeting… effective or otherwise! I left the class feeling flustered, thankful for the information, but worried about my assimilating the material into my first effective, 15-minute publisher meeting which loomed on the very near horizon. While sitting on the couch outside the classroom, I perused my notes and noticed a tearful gal on a couch within close proximity. She seemed as perplexed as me about the entire process; I wish I could have given her some of my energy at that time, but you know…

my first effective 15-minute publisher meeting!

There wasn’t time to offer her a Kleenex and some of my Harry and David’s chocolate I’d brought with me (Joy ate most of them anyway). I left her with her tears as I scurried off to my effective 15-minute publisher meeting, and while I would see her occasionally throughout the weekend, we never had the occasion to sit and talk.

A great regret on my part.

Since that time, we’ve talked frequently. Apparently, neither of us had an incredibly effective 15-minute publisher meeting, but we learned a lot that weekend.

About dreams.

About writing.

About how our dreams are weaved intricately into our writing.

About some of the hard knocks of the publishing industry.

About friendships that survive those hard knocks.

About phones that diminish the distance between hearts.

About laughter that strips away barriers connecting an East Coast gal with a West Coast one.

About the tie that binds our hearts in love.

About Jesus who keeps us, loves us and cares for us, even when the “future” isn’t painting a clear picture… especially in regards to our writing.

About the worthiness of sacred investment–of making a kingdom deposit into someone’s life, even when that deposit is something as small as a comment or a prayer.

Stuff like that.

And that kind of learning, friends, can’t be learned in a pre-conference seminar. That kind of learning exceeds a ten-step plan for success and simply relies on the human need for companionship as its teacher.

People are a fascinating business. We’ve all got a story to tell, and no one is more qualified to write that story than the one to whom it belongs. For nearly two years, I’ve been “reading” Joanne’s story, and she’s been “reading” mine. I am the better for having her in my life; I hope she could say the same about me. The greatest investment we will ever make into God’s kingdom agenda can never be quantified or measured by the outcome of an effective 15-minute publisher meeting. Kingdom investing happens when we take the time to personally invest our time and energies into the lives of the King’s created.

Joanne qualifies. So do the twenty-eight guests she will be highlighting at her blog in the month of February. So do you. So let’s get busy getting to know one another better; let’s stop the rushing with our blog hopping and take time to sit at the table with one another, enjoying a cup of flavor served up as only you, the writer, are qualified to serve it.

You fill my life with variety, and you enlarge my heart for Jesus. Blogging isn’t a game for me, friends. This is big part of my using the gift that God has given me to give back to him in some measure the “hugeness” that he’s so lavishly bestowed upon me. I count it a privilege to come alongside of you in small and big ways as the Lord allows. Would you join me this February at Joanne’s place? Her table has been set with enough seating for us all. As always…

peace for the journey,

PS: I’m closing comments on this post so that you can head directly over to Joanne’s and leave one there; plus, there’s a give-away–real coffee… the good kind! Shalom.

moving past my "average"…

moving past my "average"…

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Her words spoke the penchant of her heart…

“Mommy, I want to be just like you.”

“No you don’t baby, you want to be better. You want you to live better. I’m just average.”

“Yes, I do mommy. I want to grow up to be just like you. What’s average?”


And I am undone with the conversation.

Average. A word I occasionally use to jokingly refer to my raw capabilities as a human being. It usually lands me a chuckle, but last night it landed me a question.

“What’s average?”

According to, average is “a single value that summarizes or represents the general significance of a set of unequal values.”

I don’t know what bugs me the most about this definition… the “single value that summarizes” part or the “general significance of a set of unequal values” part. Single value and general significance aren’t phrases in keeping with human value. The term “average” is best assigned to mathematical calculations, not people. Still and yet, it is a word all too common in our vernacular when describing the human condition, the human performance, the human beings created with an eternal pulse and an eternal end in mind.

When I look into the eyes of my young daughter, I see nothing “average.” No single value that summarizes her or classifies her as generally significant. She far exceeds any mathematical label or quantifying therein.

I am not always so kind with myself.

When I look into the eyes staring back at me in the mirror, I am sometimes tempted to use that word. Average seems a good median to balance out the times when I’ve gotten it very right and the occasions when I’ve lived it very wrong. And while I’m not content to allow my daughter this kind of labeling, all too often I am content to wear it as my name tag. It may not stick on me in the “visible” for others to see, but when given room and stage enough to shout its witness within the interior of my soul, my “average” moves outward.

“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

My mouth spoke it last night. Casually at first; more painfully as the night wore on. I am not past the moment, friends. I’ve wrestled with it all night and into these morning hours. The sun has given its exclamation to a new day, and the Son has given his exclamation to a new and living way. A way that walks in truth and that leaves no room for talk of “general significance” or one “single value that summarizes.”

There’s nothing general about God and his love for his created people, no one single sin that summarizes the whole. When we lower the standard on ourselves, when “average” becomes the label rather than the righteousness that belongs to us as children of the Most High God, then we demean the grace of the cross. Christ’s blood bled far too costly and too red to allow us a meager labeling of ourselves. What he did there canceled out human averaging. What he did there exponentially exceeded the worst of human sin, thus allowing every believing heart a labeling beyond the “average.”

Redeemed. Forgiven. Beloved. Accepted. Treasured. Righteous. Sought After. Living Temple. Heir. Friend. Light. Overcomer. Mighty Warrior. Holy. Consecrated. Treasure-Keeper. Truth-Teller. Grace-Dispenser.

Indeed, there is nothing “average” about the labels that Christ intends for us to wear. On our own and left to personal averaging along these lines, we’ll never do enough good to cancel out our bad so as to move us from our mediocrity. But when Jesus and his atoning sacrifice are added to the paltry lot we bring to the table, then our “general significance” takes a bow to our eternal significance. With salvation we put to death the former self in order to walk with God’s new labels, none of which root in “average”; all of which root in the Divine.

And so, today I wrestle with my labels. I think back on the previous night’s conversation, and I am touched by a daughter who sees something in me that I rarely see in myself. She sees someone she wants to be; she doesn’t remember all the times I’ve gotten it wrong. She simply and lovingly remembers all the times I’ve lived it right. She sees beyond my “average,” and I am thankful today for the reminder of heaven’s grace that has come to me through her adoration. May it come to you as well.

Don’t let a single value—a single sin or past regret—summarize your steps this day. You are not generally significant to our God. You are extraordinarily contemplated, crafted and designed to hold the life-giving pulse of God’s Spirit within your feeble flesh. And that, fellow pilgrims, bumps you up from your average status into excellence.

Excellent. Wear God’s label well; live it all the more. By his strength, I will live the same. As always…

peace for the journey,

PS: I won’t be around here for a few days; I’ll want to be here, but I have a great many preparations to make for our upcoming Bible study, a retreat to attend, and some writing to do in my current WIP. I’ll be back next week with more of our “breakfast on the beach with Jesus.” Until then, may God’s love for you and joy over you move you past your “average” into his “excellence.” Shalom.

Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus (part two): answering what we’re asked

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large amount of fish.” (John 21:4-6).

“Elaine, haven’t you any fish?”

“No, Lord, and to be honest with you, I don’t much feel like fishing today.”

“Well, you’re already in the boat; why not throw your net on the right side and see what’s stirring beneath those seemingly empty waters.”

“I’m tired; I’ve been at this for a long time. I can’t believe there’s anything to gain by my fishing, but because you say so, I will cast my net in your direction.”


And so I do, and here I am… casting my net this morning upon the waters of my “usual.” I may not be in a boat on the Galilean waters, but, like the disciples, I’m doing today what I normally do most days… living the life I usually live, while holding the resurrecting truth of Jesus within my heart and wondering where he’d have me “cast” it this day.

We’ve all been charged with the fishing, friends—with the casting of Christ’s net in a right and good direction. Everyone who harbors the truth of Jesus within and is anchored to God’s grace is assigned with the task of liberally dispensing that truth and grace to others so that they might hold truth as their own. Our fishing reels and rods are uniquely designed with our giftings in mind. Not everyone will cast their nets from a boat; some will cast them from a pulpit, from a classroom, from a hospital, from an office. Some from music, from acting, from persuasive speech, from words. Some from a soup kitchen, a barber shop, a check-out line, a prison cell. Some from a kitchen, a garden, a sewing room, a mailroom.

It matters not the venue we’ve been given. What matters is engaging with God’s question when it is given.

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

It was a fair question for Jesus to ask his disciples from the beach that morning. After all, they’d heard it before… in those beginning days when Christ first challenged them to no longer catch fish, but to catch men. They responded to his call by throwing their nets at his command and, eventually, throwing down their nets to follow after the sound of his voice and the heart of his eternal matters. In doing so, their hearts were intricately woven to his and were willing to move forward with his “next” for their lives. But as so often is the case with Christ’s calling upon lives—theirs and ours—the “next” sometimes seems vague, veiled and not yet perfectly clear to the believing heart.

Like Peter, John, and the rest of the fishing crew, we default to fishing in familiar waters without the parallel direction from our Father. Those waters may be well-intentioned ones, well-deserving of some time and attention. But if not directed to fish there, if instead we choose to cast our nets there without God’s corresponding “thumbs up,” then like our brothers of yesterday, we often walk away from those expeditions with empty nets and the subsequent “drain” that comes from casting those nets on the wrong waters.

Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to stop fishing and to immediately come to shore. No, what he told them was to cast their nets on the right side of the boat… the better side of the boat where, apparently, there were 153 eager fish awaiting a net’s retrieval. It was then that the disciples’ eyes were opened to the revelation of who awaited them on the shore.

When they fished in the “right” direction, God increased their return by 153 percent. Sit with that concept for a moment and with God’s initial question, and allow them to speak a fresh word into your soul this morning.

“Haven’t you any fish?”

When God asks a question of his children in Scripture, he’s asking it of us as well. His questions are his invitations to us to join him sacred conversation. He means for them to jump off the pages of our Bibles to become a “now” word for us as we go about our ordinary lives with an extraordinary Friend. Questions are God’s way of casting his reel and rod into the depths of our hearts and minds so that we might further probe them for an honest answer.

If I look around me this morning, I see little evidence of a net’s catch. I see dust accumulating on wooden furniture, a basket of clothes needing washed, remnants of last night’s popcorn fest on my living room carpet, and a dining room table filled with miscellaneous “stuff” that needs my eventual attention. Good waters to tend to, but not waters that will yield the kind of catch that God’s after this day. I could have given in to their immediate insistence—could have walked away from Christ’s question in order to accomplish my ever-growing “to do” list, but in doing so, I would have missed an opportunity to cast my net in a good and right direction—one in keeping with God’s kingdom agenda.

The net has been thrown, friends; the words have been written. I believe that you reside somewhere on the “right” side of my morning expedition. May God reside there as well, tending to your heart and in your answering of his question as only he can.

“Haven’t you any fish?”

Throw your nets on the right side of the boat today, and see if our Father’s faithfulness isn’t waiting there to fill them.

Fish well this week. Fish for the kingdom. I’ll see you on the shore where we will share in the bounty of a good and right obedience. As always…

peace for the journey,


PS: Where is God telling you to cast your net this day? What right and good direction has God allowed you kingdom influence in this season of living? When has the “catch” he’s given you exceeded your expectation? I’d love to hear a witness along these lines


{for Summer… who made it home to Canaan today}

It occurs to me this evening that earthquakes come in all shapes and sizes. And while the world’s eyes have been focused on Haiti’s earthquake over the past week, my eyes have been fixed on the one occurring beneath the surface of my own little piece of ground… the place I call home… the woman I call friend.

The ground beneath her has been shaking for the past four months, but her faith? Well, not easily shaken. And while leukemia has not been kind to her, her Father’s strength has been exceedingly kind. She has weathered her quake with all the dignity and grace of heaven. Some would say the cancer got the best of her, but I would say differently. Today, cancer had no say in the matter, because today the quake beneath her feet ceased in its shaking as she made her grand entrance to the throne of her Savior’s feet where she will worship him forever.

For those of us left behind, especially for her precious sons and adoring husband, the ground still shakes. The collective grief of our small community is palpable and strong. We’ve made this walk before. I’ve made this walk before—three times in the last two years. Cancer and its havoc is an all too familiar struggling in our neck of the world. For whatever reason, and God only knows (believe me when I tell you that I’ve asked him), our county claims some of the highest cancer statistics for our state. Everyone in our community has been touched by the disease at some point along the way.

Still and yet, familiarity doesn’t make the journey any easier. Each situation exceeds statistical data. Each road of suffering is unique and personally labeled with a name, a family, a life lived, a grief felt. There’s nothing neat and tidy about cancer. Nothing we can quickly and perfectly pack away even as we lower another casket into the ground.

Death and its corresponding mystery shake the earth beneath our feet. It reminds us all (whether we’re willing to own it or not) about the temporal nature of our flesh. About the eternal nature of our spirits. And that kind of reminder, friends, is sometimes a hard reckoning with which to engage. Why? Because of the searing pain that interjects its witness into the mix. Because of the questions that coincide with the grief. Because of the empty chair at the dinner table reserved for the one who has preceded us in death. And when all of that (the reckoning, the pain, the questions, the grief, and the empty chair) collide, the earth beneath our feet moves in witness to the internal wrestling of our souls. I don’t imagine there’s a Richter scale big enough to gauge that kind of rumbling.

As it should be. The burying of a loved one cannot be quantified and measured by human standards, only painfully felt at the deepest, rawest level of the human condition. We’ll try to quantify it; try to put some manageable parameters around it so as to better control the pain. Perhaps, this is needful… a necessary component to the grief process that enables us a measure of comfort during these days of unedited grief. My own heart stands as a witness to that this night.

Writing my heart helps me. Words enable me to put parameters around my feelings. To reign in my thoughts and the emotions which are spinning at full speed. Words, and all the pondering that goes into penning them, help me to re-focus my heart around the one truth that exceeds the pain of the moment. And that truth, friends, doesn’t in any way resemble a grave. That truth is a King and a kingdom and a beautiful, entirely whole, thirty-nine-year-old woman running through heaven’s meadows, partaking in the rightful promise that belongs to her as an heir of the Most High God.

Cancer did not get the final word. God did, and all of hell shuddered at the sound of his voice.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

May the God of all comfort, the God of everlasting peace, the God who collects our tears in a bottle and holds them close to his heart, the God who promises life beyond the casket, the God who numbered our days long before one of them came into being, the God who is well-familiar with all of our griefs and sufferings, the God who conquered death and the grave…

be the God who peels back the layers of heaven tonight to give us a glimpse of forever and to remind us, each one, that this is not our home.

He is.

And he is coming soon.

And his is a kingdom not easily shaken.

I love you “T” family. And I love the woman you so willing and graciously shared with this world. Her witness lives on in you. Winter’s bite will soon be over. Summer is just around the bend.

peace for the journey,

post signature

Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus (part one): doing what we do

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ (John 21:1-3).

I’ve been pondering this passage for a long season. It grips me in so many ways from so many different angles. John 21 is chock full of meaty information, rich fodder for pulpits willing to preach it and bookstores willing to stock it. I imagine you have been privy to as much as I have along these lines. Collectively, we’ve probably “heard” it all over the years. Hearing has never been our problem. Our problem is absorption, a problem James clearly identifies as a “looking at our faces in the mirror, then quickly forgetting what we look like” kind of problem (James 1:23-25).

We hear the Word, but do we do the Word? Do we allow it absorption into our hearts so that our nourishment therein exacts a result in the process?

Guilty as charged; thus, my wanting to do the Word better… to live it better. Not for “doing’s” sake, but rather for kingdom’s sake—for moving onward and upward toward holiness and my perfection. Along those lines, I’m going to be fleshing out some thoughtful considerations via my pen. Writing those considerations often solidifies them in my heart. To ponder without putting any action behind that pondering is a waste of time for me, for I am woefully prone to my forgetting. But to frame that pondering with some words… well, chances are I’ll remember it, at least have it at my fingertips for recall down the road.

I keep a file folder on my desk that is filled with previous thoughts I’ve scribbled down on particular Biblical topics—skeletal thoughts that need some corresponding “flesh” at some point down the road. After perusing my folder’s contents yesterday, I came across three stapled sheets worth of thoughts that I had written back in the fall and now duly labeled with a sticky note that simply said “breakfast.”

And so I begin with that one word and what it means within the context of this passage and, correspondingly, what it means within the context of my soul. I do not live in isolation from this story. I wasn’t there as it occurred in living color; neither were you. But we live it today, even as the disciples lived it 2000 years ago. That’s the powerful witness of God’s sustaining Word. It never grows tired or empty or void of purpose. It is an accomplishing, active Word intended for our transformation in 2010.

And so I begin… with breakfast.

With breaking my “fast” from Jesus. Truly, if we only gleaned one “teaching” from John 21, this one is enough to bring hope to a heart that is longing for intimate fellowship with the Divine. John 21 has less to do with the route we take to “get to Jesus” and more to do with the route he takes to “get to us.” No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). We think differently most days… we think it’s all about us and the steps we take to get to Jesus, and, indeed, there is great wealth that comes to us because of our posturing our hearts toward that end. But all of our posturing and managing of our schedules to get to Jesus means very little if he isn’t already there as we arrive. Jesus understands, better than us, our need to break our fast from him. Accordingly and faithfully, he sets a table over some hot coals, preparing for our presence, even though our presence remains off shore and, most days, unaware of our great need for his sustenance.

“It happened this way…” (oh, I can barely get past those four words, for they speak a message all their own—something about the authenticity of God’s Word and his wanting us to know the exact details of how this moment in Scripture actually “went down”)…

Simon and a few others had gathered in their grief, in their moments beyond the witness of the empty grave, yet unable to move forward with much of anything simply because that “much” wasn’t as clearly defined as they needed it to be.

Ever been there? Ever stood on the other side of Christ’s resurrecting truth, yet felt completely overwhelmed by the revelation and your responsibility therein? In our need for quick understanding, we reason that Peter and the others should have known what to do with the resurrecting truth of their Lord… should have immediately taken its witness and began in the unpacking of its merits to those walking around with deficient understanding. But Christ’s work in them—his directional “next” for them—had yet to be clearly defined. Emotional chaos was their compass, and is so often the case when emotions chart our course, we default to doing the one thing we’re most comfortable doing.

For Peter it was fishing; for us, a great many other “doings.” It’s natural, even reasonable for us to land in a place of “comfortable” while sorting out our emotions and our determinations regarding what to do with the weighty revelation of Calvary. Christ understands our chaos, even as he understood the disciples’ chaos so long ago. He stands ringside and watches it unfold, even as he stokes the fires of a breakfast that will yield the answers… the peace… the directional good our hearts are hungering for.

Long before we ever hold those answers as our own, our Savior tenderly cradles them as his own. Thoughtfully, he places them over burning embers, tending to them and cooking them to completion, so that when our feet find their way to the beach, there is food enough to fill the gnawing ache that has consumed us in the night.

As we default to doing what we naturally do in times of confusion, Jesus Christ defaults to doing what he always does, despite our confusion. He prepares a table of rich intimacy for us that will not only feed us, but that will gradually transform us for his high and holy purposes.

God sees us in our “doing” this day, friends. We may not be aware of his watchful glances from the shore, but he finds us, no matter our doings, no matter the chaos going on around us. And for some incredible reason beyond my understanding, he loves me still, despite my lack of awareness regarding the breakfast that he’s cooking on my behalf and the table he’s preparing in anticipation of my arrival to shore.

Christ’s preparations for intimate fellowship and sacred discipleship exceed ours. In fact, his preparations precede ours. We may come to the table thinking that our obedience is what yields the filling of our stomachs; but the truth is, our Savior has been up all night preparing for the feast, waiting for the moment when we will break our fast and dine in his presence.

Today, as we go about “doing what we do” and Christ goes about “doing what he does”, let us be mindful of the sacred intersection between the two. If you haven’t stepped on shore today to break your fast from Jesus, know that his fire burns in eager anticipation for your arrival and with ample food to satisfy your hungering need.

I know. He’s fed me well this morning.

As always…

peace for the journey,

post signature

Copyright © January 2010 – Elaine Olsen

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
error: Content is protected !!