Monthly Archives: April 2010

Who’s in charge… Who knows best

Who’s in charge… Who knows best

Tonight I have a clearer picture of importunate persuasion. The artist behind the portrait painted in my honor today?

My nine-year-old son.

He’s worn me down with his relentless persistence—a troublesomely, urgent determination that has brought me to my breaking point, to my tears and my surrender. This is not unfamiliar ground between us. Jadon is a single-minded boy who holds onto a thought until said thought is hammered duly into the consciousness of those within earshot. His ADHD diagnosis is partly to blame. Him being nine also shares some responsibility. And the rest of it?

Well, he’s human and being human carries with it a bent toward carnality. Each one of us is born with that tendency. Regardless of a doctor’s diagnosis or a hormonal stage of growth, when we cut through the peripheral rest of it, what we’re left with is our humanity. And sometimes, humanity is a tough pill to swallow, especially if you’re on the receiving end of its poke and prod.

Today, I’ve been poked, prodded, and needled by my child. And while we’ve ended on the upswing (bedside prayers do wonders for a troubled spirit), my heart’s desire is that we could live this day over and do it better. There were things about it that weren’t in keeping with my pursuit of personal holiness. I don’t much linger in those regrets, but I do allow myself a good pondering along those lines. And as I flesh out my contemplation this night before God, I am reminded that for the many ways that my child has “gotten under my skin” today, there is grace enough to cover it all. For you see…

There have been times in my life when I’ve “gotten under the skin” of my Father. Deeply under. So much so that my relentless persistence of my humanity brought him to his breaking point—a moment of tears and blood and the surrender of his will upon a tree.

Love led him there. Love kept him there. Love still speaks from there. He speaks to me tonight, reminding me that the parent/child relationship will always be filled with moments of tension… moments of figuring out who’s in charge and who knows best. Moments when boundaries are pushed, questions are asked, and wills are forged. Without the strain, further maturity is at risk. In testing the waters, children hope to find the security of a parent’s answer. Kids need to understand that some borders are certain, are fixed and unwavering… not to punish them, but rather to protect them.

My son has pushed for those borders today; in turn, I’ve given them to him. Getting there wasn’t “picture perfect” but resting within their certainty tonight is a comfortable closing for two weary soldiers who’ve fought determinedly for the high ground.

Importunate persuasion. Keeping at something until something is gained. And while my son didn’t recevie the “gain” that he was initially after, his relentless persistence has earned him something far greater.

Understanding about who’s in charge and who knows best. Something tells me this will serve him better in the long run. Something tells me this will serve me better as well—remembering Who’s in charge and Who knows best. Even so, keep me to understanding this night, precious Lord. As always…

peace for the journey,

PS: On a lighter note, Jadon doesn’t fall too far from the family tree. His eldest brother sent me to my knees and my tears time and again in his younger years. I called him today (he’s now a junior in college), just to remind myself that strong-willed children can and do, in fact, grow up to be productive members of society. Thanks, Nick, for making my heart smile.

importunate persuasion

importunate persuasion

Jesus replied, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.… Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:16-18, 23-24).

On the heels of my previous post, many caring friends have asked me regarding “how things went” this past Wednesday evening. For the record, “things” went fine … better than I had anticipated. The new clergy family will be a lovely addition to this church. Long before my family ever set foot in this community, God considered the length of our tenure here and planned accordingly. He’s got it covered and will continue in his faithfulness to minister to the needs, dreams, and desires of this congregation… of this, I am certain. But this post really isn’t about “how things went” Wednesday evening. Rather, it is about “how things went” in the moments prior to Wednesday evening.

Before we get there, let me set the stage by relaying to you a conversation I had with my daughter a few weeks ago. It went something like this…

“Mommy, when you last saw Gayle, did you tell her about Jesus?”

“Yes, honey, I told her.”

“Did she understand? Does she know Jesus?”

“To the best of her ability, I think that she does, Amelia.”

“Then, mommy, you have a crown in heaven.”

“Oh precious one, there’s nothing I’d like more than to cast that crown at the feet of Jesus one day.”

“Mommy, promise me that the next time you see Gayle, if I’m with you, promise me you’ll stop so that I can meet her.”

“I promise. I think she’d like to meet you.”


I had the opportunity to make good on that promise this past Wednesday evening. We were traveling home from a quick dinner out when, from the corner of my eye, I spied her familiar “gait.” She was headed into the tobacco store; we were headed in the opposite direction. I whispered to my husband regarding her presence and then asked him to turn the van around. Truth be known, we didn’t have much time. Perhaps I would see Gayle on another day when the schedule wasn’t so pressing and when I wouldn’t be so stressed regarding the “big event” of my evening. Truth be known, God didn’t much care for my excuses. A parsonage “showing” isn’t necessarily in keeping with kingdom living. Thus, we stopped in front of the store and waited for Gayle to emerge.

When she did, she immediately recognized me. We hugged, and I introduced her to my family. She was quick to show us the contents of her plastic bag—her blue, Gideon bible. She’s been carrying that one around since the first time I met her on a bench last summer. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Gayle asked us for a ride. My husband nodded his approval, and together, the five of us made our way to a “questionable” section of town. Wary of our surroundings, I prayed a silent prayer for the security of my family. Gayle directed us to a low-income duplex. My impulse was to get her out of the car as quickly as possible and to move on. Instead, I pulled the van over and asked Gayle if we could pray for her. She willingly surrendered the moment to my request, and the four of us laid our hands on Gayle, thanked the Lord for her presence in this world, and petitioned him for his watchful care over her in the days to come.

Gayle told us good-bye and made mention of the next time we would meet… that perhaps we might consider coming to be the new pastors at her church.

The car was silent for much of the drive home. There was something prophetic about the words she spoke—words so closely tied to the truth of what we’re currently living that I was rendered nearly breathless, certainly speechless. And then, as if on cue, God broke through that silence with a gentle rain that began to fall upon our windows. It was the kind of rain that is sometimes accompanied by sunshine—the kind of coupling that normally produces a rainbow. I asked the kids to be looking for it… that this was just the kind of moment when we could expect its reminder. Almost immediately, Jadon cried out, “There is it, mom. In the rear window. God’s rainbow.” Again, we pulled the van over so I could get a better look. Rainbows are fleeting. Better to take them in as they take the stage.

Tears pooled in my eyes, and my husband took my hand. No words were spoken between us, only knowing glances of the truth that was being revealed in our spirits—

We were not forgotten. Gayle was not forgotten. The “big event” of my day—the parsonage “showing”? Well, temporarily forgotten—less important as it pertained to the living out of the kingdom on the pavement of everyday, real life. The kingdom never lives more effectively and profoundly than when it walks the streets with the King in mind, with his invitation to the banquet in hand, and with our “making them come in so that his house will be full.”

Making. A word in the Greek language that means “importunate persuasion”—a troublesomely urgent persuasion that is persistent in its request (Zodhiates, “The Complete Word Study Dictionary NT,” AMG Pub., 1992, 145). Why persistent? Why urgent? Why the need to compel the invited to RSVP? Because the kingdom of God is near, closer now than it has ever been, and the Master isn’t selective regarding his guest list. The way that we flesh out our kingdom callings sometimes indicates that we think that God is selective and conditional regarding his eternal invitation. But God doesn’t put conditions on who does or doesn’t receive an invitation. He’s interested in a full table, a full house, a full forever. What he’s not interested in is our excuses regarding our refusal.

Excuses serve as the foundation for our being excused by the Master from the heavenly banqueting table. Excuses wear thin when eternity hangs in the balance. And in case you’ve grown complacent regarding eternity, both as it pertains to where you’ll be spending it and where your neighbors will be spending it, it’s time to wake up. Time to take a look inward and to realize that Jesus Christ paid a high price for your chair at the table. We don’t get to choose who sits beside us, friends. We do, however, get to choose what we will do with the invitation that God has placed into our hearts and hands and has asked us, through importunate persuasion, to deliver to others. Thus, I ask you today, even as I asked Gayle this past week, even as I have asked you countless times before in this place that you’ve come to know as my cyber address,

Do you know that you know that you know my God and his truth? Have you surrendered your heart to his, and have you accepted his calling upon your life to go and to make disciples of all his people? Is grace your portion? If so, is grace your offering to others? When did you last hand out an invitation to the banqueting table? When did you last use sacred, importunate persuasion on behalf of the kingdom?

There are some occasions that will come to us this week that will matter for all of eternity—moments that teeter on the edge between heaven and hell where you and I will be given the opportunity to push “things” forward in favor of God’s forever. Some of us will make excuses; a rare few of us will live it out as God intends for us to live it out. When those moments come, I pray for the eyes to see, the mind to conceive, and the heart to be amongst the latter group.

No excuses. Just more of Jesus for me and for the Gayles of the world who’ve yet to realize that a chair has been set in their honor at the King’s banqueting table. It’s a good day to live with the King. It’s a good life to be trusted with such a gracious grace. May you know the richness of God’s bounty this week, and may you have courage and faith enough to dispense it liberally to every single soul who crosses your path therein. As always…

peace for the journey,

PS: To read more about my journey with Gayle click on the links within the post or here:
Post One: A Worthy Pause… God’s Worthy Cause

Post Two: A Tender Ache

Copyright © April 2010 – Elaine Olsen
a view from my window…

a view from my window…

I’m sitting in a place this morning where I’ve sat many times before over the past six years. I’m perched at my dining room table, looking out at the highway that runs in front of our home. The azalea bushes across the street greet me with their rich dressing of whites and pinks and corals—colors that will quickly fade in coming days. The rain is falling as cars are carrying their occupants to the busyness of a new day… this day… April 21, 2010. None of us—those who are on the road and those at home—can accurately forecast how this day is going to live itself out on the pages of history, but all of us have some expectations along those lines.

Mine are wrapped around the “big event” of the day. It may not seem like “big” to other people, but to me, it’s about as large as I want to live today. Tonight, I’ll be showing off the parsonage to the new clergy couple who will take up occupancy within these four walls come June. There’s not much “showing off” to do. The house is old, the rooms are small. To those accustomed to high class, this house wouldn’t make the cut. Still and yet, it has a beauty all its own… not because of its outward attractiveness but rather because of its inward pulse.

You see, my family has crammed a lot of living into these four walls over the past six years. To date, our time here has been the longest tenure of our ministerial lives. All four of our children consider this “home” and rightly so. Many personal milestones have been achieved while living here, too many to chronicle in this moment, too many emotions for me to personally deal with and still be able to finish this post in tact. Safe to say, the best part of this house hasn’t been its amenities; the selling point of this house has been the history that’s been written by its occupants over the past seventy-two months.

Family is what gives a house its character… its worthiness and its value. Could this one use some cosmetic work on the exterior? You bet, but you’d have a hard time improving on its interior. And that’s what I will tell the new clergy family tonight when they come to imagine their lives living here within these four walls… not to major on the “externals” but to realize that for every way it might fall short in their expectations, God has expected bigger. That he can take the simplest of dwellings and make it into something extraordinary. That being a “home” has less to do with the four walls that encase it and more to do with the inward pulse that exists within it. That this place has been a good place to grow a family and to mark the passage of time with “stone upon stone” of God’s faithfulness.

Like the Israelites who were crossing the Jordan River in order to possess the promise of Canaan, we’ve collected and gathered a gracious plenty of stones from the riverbed along the way so that in days to come, when our children and our grandchildren ask us regarding the story behind those stones, we can sacredly and reverently say,

We have crossed the Jordan on dry ground. For the Lord our God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God (paraphrase of Joshua 4:21-24).

The memories we’ve made in this place will serve as our stones of remembrance for years to come. None of the six of us can accurately forecast the eventual depth and witness of those stones, but we can all be sure that they matter. That the collective life we’ve lived here beneath this roof has shaped us, strengthened us, matured us, and furthered us along in the pilgrimage of faith. What’s been lived here writes as history for tomorrow, and that fact alone, my friends, should make the living of our todays (wherever that might be for you) a worthy investment of our hearts.

Home truly is where the heart lives, and mine has lived here for six years. My family and I are better for having pitched our tent upon this soil and for allowing it to penetrate its worthiness into our history. It’s a good perspective to hold as I move throughout my day and begin the imaginations of my heart regarding my next home. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can feel its worthiness sight-unseen. Why? Because I’m bringing my home with me as I go. I’m bringing my family, and they are enough to warrant a substantial increase in property value wherever they reside.

Would you pray for me that I will be able to do this thing? To relinquish my hold on this temporary dwelling into the hands of another? I want to do it graciously, humbly, and considerately. God has been very good to me; I want to release that blessing and goodness to this new family with no strings attached. I want to leave a piece of my heart here so that in days to come, perhaps in a season when they’ve got a few questions regarding the worthiness of their ministry time here, the inward pulse of my family’s witness will reverberate within these walls reminding them of just how good a life can live upon this soil.

Thanks, friends, for taking this journey with me. For being willing to entreat these soul-stirrings of mine and for allowing me to flesh out my “faith” while still living with my “elaine.” All of “this” would be so much harder if I didn’t have you to come alongside me and lend me your strength for the road ahead. May the presence of our Father and the “endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures” (Romans 15:4) be the anchors that bring your heart hope this day. As always…

peace for the journey,

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Copyright © April 2010 – Elaine Olsen

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a view from the Jordan…

“… ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before….’” (Joshua 3:3-4)

Never having “been this way before,” at least not exactly, it occurs to me this morning that I just might be standing in the middle of the Jordan River… awaiting the promise of Canaan, yet so completely overwhelmed and awestruck by the demonstration of God’s power in the moment that the view from the “middle” writes as promise just as much as the view from the other side does. The view from where I’m standing this morning feels right and good and in keeping with God’s plan for my life—our lives. You see, a walk to Canaan is never isolated from the presence of others. There will always be those who go ahead of us in order to point us in the right direction, those who look for our leading from behind, and those who take our hands mid-stream feeling every inch of understanding as we go and along the way.

Promise-land living is corporate living, where all pilgrims willingly take ownership of the responsibility of the priesthood—to carry the presence of the living Lord along for the journey and to interject his witness via the feet of faith. Faith feet aren’t afraid of getting wet and are strengthened in their resolve to stand firm so that others might walk through on dry ground. In many ways, those feet belong to me. In other ways, those feet belong to my husband. Together, we’ve made some deliberate choices in recent days to take those first steps of faith into the Jordan. But long before we ever imagined this “route” to Canaan, there were and still are a few people whose feet walked this route first. They have gone ahead of us and have been waiting for us to follow their lead and to join them on the march to Promise.

My dear blog readers, hear me and hear me well. As people of faith, each of us is currently standing in one of three places on the road to Promise:

  • Viewing Canaan from the opposite side of the Jordan;
  • Viewing Canaan while standing in the Jordan; or,
  • Viewing Canaan beneath our feet.

Not one of these vantage points holds precedence over the others. None. All are worthy points along the way in our faith journeys because all of them have Canaan within sight. Our walkabouts in faith are cyclical trails of trust. No one currently living in the flesh holds the treasure of his/her eternal Canaan in its fullness right now. That crossing over occurs when the last vestiges of the flesh surrender their pulse to the grave. Therefore, while moving toward God’s kingdom to come, there is room enough for us to move within-and-around this process of faith’s progression. In the past week, I’ve seen Canaan from all vantage points, and my faith isn’t “less” because of it. My faith is stronger because of it.

We are doing a great disservice to a great many Christians when we try to put parameters around what “Canaan” should look like for other believers. I’m a firm advocate of abundant living, but I can never live abundantly until I have first known poverty of soul. One of the greatest tragedies of a walkabout in faith is for complacency to root in our hearts while living in Canaan. God doesn’t intend for us to set up our tents on the banks of the Jordan as a permanent place of residency. Certainly, he intends for us to rest there, gain perspective there, but eventually, he’ll require us to move deeper into the heart of the Promised Land. And for that to happen, friends, we must be wiling to keep the tent pegs pliable regardless of how firmly they’ve become tethered to the soil beneath our feet.

I don’t know where you and your faith are standing this week; it’s likely that, before it comes to conclusion, you’ll experience Canaan from all vantage points. Regardless of where your feet are planted this morning, let me be a voice of encouragement to you that as long as Canaan is your goal, then your faith is well-placed and will keep you moving despite your willingness to stay where you are. God will tend to the issue of your faith’s progression; he won’t make you move, but he’ll be certain to allow you the opportunity to keep in step with his best plan for your life.

How I pray for God’s strength, wisdom, and endurance to be your portion and mine as we continue to live out the calling of the priesthood that he’s placed on each one of us! We are the living witnesses of faith whose names are being written into a history that will, one day, read like the stories of our spiritual ancestors from long ago. They didn’t know then what the fullness of their faith would mean to us now, but they lived it anyway. Not for us, but for the promise of the One who authored their lives.

Always for the promise of the One. He is why I’m here this morning, taking time out of a very busy day to remind you of your kingdom conferment and of the joy that comes to God’s children as we are faithful to keep our focus forward and our feet all the more.

Love you each one. Go in the strength you’ve been given, and until next time…

peace for the journey,

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a quick word from the mountains…

a quick word from the mountains…

Hey blogging friends! Just a quick word for you this beautiful Friday afternoon.

Preacher Billy and I are currently en route to Mount Airy, North Carolina, to meet our dear friends, Bill and Beth. A blogging friendship that began over two years ago culminated into a meet and greet last November between Beth and me and our two Billy’s. Guess what, we’re doing it again and are thankful for the thread that binds our hearts as one—Jesus Christ. Even more so, we’re grateful that we happen to really like them and don’t get on each others’ nerves too badly!

God is good; his timing is perfect. He knew, long before we did, that we would need this weekend. To say that this has been an exceedingly difficult week for me and my man is to say too little (as evidenced in my last post). Thankfully, and only by God’s grace and mighty intervention on behalf of his children’s many prayers, we’re on the other side of our “difficult.” I imagine I’ll be sharing about all of this more fully in days to come, but for right now, I wanted to tell you, my faithful friends, how very much your prayers and support have meant to our family this week. You stormed the gates of heaven and stood in the gap for us, and God has moved.

Not in the way we expected. But, rather, in a way that he expected, anticipated, and planned for behind the scene that unraveled before us this week. It took many twists and turns to get us to the place that we’ve arrived at today, but faith has won out over fear, and come June, our family will take to the streets of Fayetteville, NC, to live out the calling of the New Testament Gospel. To break free from the “church” walls that will surround us to be the church that is within us and that compels us to sow kingdom seed.

And so, for those of you who might be visiting me today from Fayetteville, your new pastor and his wife are exceedingly grateful and overwhelmed with the privilege of being able to come to the fertile soil of God’s sacred ground in Fayetteville and to join hands with you and him to interject his light into that darkened place. You are not alone; you are not forgotten. We love you already, and we are praying for you this day.

You’ve brought a fresh wind of hope to our spirits, and we are rejoicing over a God who would so creatively craft this crazy, wild adventure we’re about to take together. Only he could think it up; only he can make it happen. Let’s lean into God’s strength and take hold of all of that for which he has taken hold of us. And just in case you don’t know what that “all” includes…

It includes everything. With God we get it all. How thankful I am to him for giving us you. Until we get there, and as always, my blogging friends…

peace for the journey,

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