Monthly Archives: July 2010


I asked him to repeat his name to me, not because I didn’t hear him but, rather, because I didn’t think I heard him correctly.

Doris. Or Dorrace.

That’s what he said. I “googled” it upon returning home; apparently Doris was a popular name for boys in the 1930’s. Seems in keeping with the age I determined him to be in our moments of exchange. He was hunkered down over his cart while pushing it through the paint aisle at Lowes when he stopped just short of me.

“Ma’am, can I ask you a question?… What color would you paint a bathroom?”

I knew there was more to his question than just paint, but it served as our starting point. Every good conversation starts somewhere (usually with a question), and ours started with paint. He showed me his card of samples; I showed him mine. His included shades of brown. Mine included shades of green. We covered the generic questions in keeping with paint conversation, and then the dialogue moved to a deeper level.

“Haven’t painted the house in years, but I’ve been taking on more projects these days. It’s just me now, so it doesn’t much matter the color I choose. But she’s still with me, you know. I don’t think she’d mind all the changes. I talk to her about it every day.”

“Your wife?”

“Yep. Almost sixty years of living together. She died a year ago, but she’s still with me. She’s on the mantle in the den.”

Another starting point for a more pointed conversation… one that lasted a good thirty minutes. We covered a lot of ground in that time. Mostly I just listened to his lonely heart. Words about extended family members who’d been here for a recent visit. A collection of Hummels his wife had collected over the years. Life in Fayetteville, the traffic, and then a final probing question from my heart to his.

“What about friends, Doris? You’ve lived here so long; you must have some good friends to spend your days with.”

“Oh, I don’t have many friends. I live a pretty lonely life, but I’ve got her with me everyday. Whenever I feel alone, I just talk to her.”

And my heart broke into a thousand pieces as I listened. I reached into my purse, grabbed a piece of paper and wrote my name, along with my husband’s name and phone number, onto it and handed it to Doris.

“You’ve got two friends now, Doris, and when you get that bathroom painted, we’d really love to stop by for a visit and take a look. Everyone needs a few good friends, and I’d like to be yours.”

He said that he’d call; I hope that he does, but I don’t imagine he will. Something tells me he’s not quite ready to let a stranger through the front door. That’s OK with me; I much prefer the access of a back door friend. Back door friends talk about everything… soul things, whether over a cup of coffee at Starbucks or in the paint aisle at Lowes. Perhaps thirty minutes was all that was meant for our paths… his crossing mine and mine crossing his.

Sacred intersections… that’s what I call them. Two roads that collide to further God’s kingdom work. A moment that stands at a crossroads where two hearts connect intentionally, purposefully, non-coincidentally, perfectly timed and orchestrated by God and feeling as natural as the air we breathe. I’ve had a few of them in recent days. Not as many as I would like, but just enough to remind me of what I’m supposed to be doing with my days…


In others.

Not just in things, or endeavors, or plans, or goals, but more importantly, investing my time and energies into people. I cannot always pick when that happens, don’t always have the luxury of planning my sacred intersections. I much prefer it that way. Plans can sometimes be full of pretense and projected outcomes. I’d rather let the intersections arrive as they will and along the way. God knows when they’re coming; he sees them from afar and is more than capable of making sure that my heart is prepared for their arrival.

So tonight I think about Doris. I think about the joy I would have missed if his cart had not connected with mine. I think about my big God who sat back and watched the exchange… entered into the exchange, even though his voice deferred to mine in that moment. And I am thankful for the privilege of being his conduit of kingdom dispensation.

He’s trusted me with so much… the mystery and the secrets of the kingdom. He has committed to me the ministry of reconciliation… of being his mouthpiece as though he were making his appeal through me (2 Cor. 5:18-20). I cannot conceive of his choice, his trust and his willingness to allow me any measure of influence upon this earth. Instead, I can only receive it as yet another grace from his heart.

I don’t always get it right, friends, don’t always speak God’s witness as I should. Sometimes I keep my silence; sometimes I say too much, but every now again, a Doris-moment comes along, and I know that it was pretty close to perfect.

His path crossing mine; mine crossing his.

An investment of the richest kind.

I may never stand before a crowd of thousands or see my name in lights on this side of eternity, but you can be certain I’ll wake up every day to have that kind of sacred intersection. Some days it’s all I can do, all that I have to give, all that keeps me going when little else in my life is making sense, and trust me when I tell you that life doesn’t “feel” sensible right now. Even so, I pray the Lord to keep me to all that I can do and all that I have to give and to let my tomorrow be filled with more intersections and investments of the kingdom kind.

The Doris kind.

I pray the same for all of you this week. As always…

Peace for the journey,


PS: Thank you for all of the kind comments on “the Goody Bag” and for visiting Judith’s new blog. I made sure to include your name in the drawing, whether you posted a comment here and/or there. Miss Amelia just drew the winner prior to going to bed. Jennifer @ The Spirit of Truth is the winner. Send me your address, Jennifer, via e-mail, and I’ll have your book to you this week. Shalom.

The Goody Bag

Today it is my privilege to introduce you to one of my dearest blogging friends, Judith. I met Judith early into my blogging foray, and over the past two plus years, we’ve become kindred friends. Although we’ve never met face-to-face, our hearts are connected via the tender love we share for our Lord and for the deeper work of the cross that is constantly presenting itself upon the soil of our souls. We’ve shared many a good conversations over the phone and some heart-felt e-mails in this season of our lives. More than being a kind and generous acquaintance, Judith has become and continues to be a mentor for me. Despite her illness, Judith remains one of the strongest witnesses of faith I’ve ever encountered. I want you to encounter her as well. Thus, her gracious willingness to serve as a guest-writer at my blog this week. After a long season of rest in regards to her writing, Judith is, once again, putting her heart on paper to serve as an encouragement for all travelers on the road toward home. Today, she reflects on one of the writings included in my new book. I pray it blesses you, even as it has richly blessed me. So without further prompt… meet Judith (and when you’re done here, please visit her newly designed blog and follow her along in the journey of faith).



The Goody Bag by Judith Guerino


My favorite Elaine vignette from her new book, Peace for the Journey, is often the one I have just read. But there are those special ones that either have taught me something new or, because of her unique way with words, have worked for me like a kind of brain Velcro: they stick. Consider her thoughts beginning on Page 10 about the woman in Luke 8:42-46 who suffered twelve years from a discharge or issue of blood. Elaine writes:

“She had and ‘issue.’ I have mine. You have yours. Hers was blood. Ours are other things—blacks and blues and hues of all manner of issues. Regardless of their color, they still bleed red. And if not tended to by the Healer, they will continue their hemorrhage toward eventual destruction.”

Issues. Elaine is so right. They can bleed us dead. And where I think I have become strong, an issue can fly in just under the radar to do damage.

Eight years ago, I received an unexpected diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer before I even knew that there had been a Stage 1. While it felt like living in Belize and suddenly moving to the Badlands, I didn’t waste energy with the “Why me, God?” question. I have known too many wonderful people who have suffered with this frightening disease to think that there was something so special about my sorry parts that I should be spared. My journey through cancer, fraught with discomfort, confusion and grieving, has helped me cling to and love Christ more. It has strengthened my character and enlarged my understanding of the living and loving and wanting to serve. More than cancer of the body, I have feared cancer of the soul.

Yet it’s a messy thing, this business called living or surviving. We don’t do it in a tidy fashion. There are highs so spectacular that we can be stunned to silence at God’s goodness and grace. But there are those other times when the best we can do is survive the day. Days of rejoicing from good news can become stained by bad. We don’t always see a blessing when we are standing in the middle of it. We misstep. We despair when the answer, the gift, the hope is just around the corner. That’s where I was when I opened to Page 10 of Elaine’s book.

I had been told at the beginning of my journey through Cancerland that there is no cure when it behaves the way mine did but “not to worry,” my kind and cheerful Oncologist said. “I have lots of goodies in my goody bag that we can use to manage it.”

Goodies in a goody bag… doctor speak for chemotherapy. I smile now at the good man’s attempt to help me keep perspective, but “goodies” and “chemotherapy” just don’t belong in the same sentence – ever.

Good Dr. Doom (my favorite never-to-his-face name for him) retired about six years ago. Mentioning his ol’ goody bag to my recent Oncologist, I asked if, after all these years, we weren’t finally running out of the contents. I could tell she had been thinking about it too while flipping through the pages of my file at my last visit.

“There’s still one left we haven’t tried.”

“Just one?” I asked hoping she meant ten.

“Yes, just one…,” her voice trailing off. I thought I could tell what she probably would never say without a direct question: this one is last because it’s least likely to help. Surely that was a moth that I saw fly out of Doc Doom’s bag.

So, as Elaine effectively wrote, I had an issue with those goodies, that bag full of chemotherapy treats that I despised: What will happen when the last one is gone? What will happen to me, when Oncology finally has nothing else to offer? While my question was honest, it was one I thought I had settled long ago. But my radar missed the peril. The plane snuck in just underneath it, and… bombs away! Fear found Terror and together they blew up Hope. Despair won a victory, and I began to panic and fidget.

In his honest and uplifting testimony, written before he died from colon cancer, Tony Snow observed “The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.”

Elaine writes that as the woman with an issue felt compelled to touch Jesus someway, we, too, “must be willing to reach in order to receive. We must move beyond our tight-fisted clenching…”

Tight-fisted clenching. Elaine’s words, empowered by the Spirit of God, were held up before me like a mirror. For days I had been holding on to something that I had always known could never make a promise of life to me; guarantees are never issued with chemotherapy. I had been through this panic before and knew better. But focusing on hopelessness, I clean forgot the blessing of eight years of survival and began to “think of nothingness and swoon.”

Reading the story in Luke again, I saw a difference in how that desperate woman and I were reaching. Elaine’s insightful and tender applications made me weep and they made me yearn. I had forgotten that I had to look more critically at not only what I was reaching for but also whose hem in the crowd I was trying to find. I thought about tight-fisted clenching and how that woman’s hand had to be open and empty in order to grab Jesus’ hem. I was beginning to hang on so tightly to this one last “hope” that my hand had become closed, filled with nothing.

I put Elaine’s book down for a moment remembering an old Johnny Cash song I knew from decades earlier. It was a story about a guy without a job and down on his luck, and all that remained between him and “pauper’s hill” was one “wrinkled, crinkled, wadded dollar bill.” With this one wadded bill he could buy an inadequate jacket at the surplus store or day-old cakes at the bakery but not both. His victory came with the understanding that in his fear of losing it, he had become a slave to something that really couldn’t help him. Determined to not be bound to that one wrinkled, crinkled, wadded dollar bill, he threw it into Lake Michigan.

Having shared some of these thoughts recently with a group of women who also have Stage 4 cancer, one began to weep saying “It never occurred to me that there wouldn’t always be something else they could give me.” Her tears and words expressed a frightful and difficult truth for every one of us in that room. But eventually we all must come to that place. One day each of us, cancer or not, will open a goody bag and watch moths fly out. Whose hem we have been reaching for is critical.

So today, I am comforted by renewal. Tony Snow’s “dizzy, unfocused panic” that had seized me is gone as I remember, once again, to hold on to the sufficiency of Christ and not to what I fear. Those few bombed out buildings of my heart that suffered a sneak attack from our enemy are rebuilt quickly as I focus again on God’s Word and his character. God knows what he’s about regarding my life. He doesn’t need chemotherapy to heal or extend one’s living. He may use it, but he requires nothing except my confidence in him and his ability to do what is right for me and my family, whatever that may be.

So you might say I’m not bound and, in my sane moment, never will be to some wrinkled, crinkled, dusty old goody bag. There is more to affliction than being healed of it.


PS: Leave a comment today to enter for a chance to win a copy of my book; leave another one at Judith’s place (make sure and let me know here) and receive another entry. Shalom.


the fire in my bones…

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9).

I wish you could see me this morning… all fussed up in the middle of my bed with grandma’s quilt as my covering and with my “parchments and scrolls” littered about—written words about the Word messing with my heart and mind. Some familiar works; some lesser known, but all of them with one thing in common—

Jesus Christ.

He has that effect on people, you know… starts messing with a heart and then doesn’t leave it alone until it is undone before him requiring a response therein. He’s been messing with me for a long season, and after four months of a grueling faith workout, I’m finally finding some rest. I don’t imagine it will be permanent. Every now and again, faith’s progression requires some strengthening, thus the need for a month or two or four of a strenuous heart-stretching in order to reach the next, higher plateau. I think I’ve reached it… at least for now, and with the accomplishment comes a day or two or four of some sweet steps with the Father where his mentoring is tender and his Word serves as the gentle salve to soothe my aching bones.

We’re in this together, God and me. He keeps reminding me of this… keeps returning to the pavement of my real life with his kindness and goodness—a grace that supersedes any menial expectations I might lay at his feet regarding his participation. God makes it his habit to exceed my limited understanding where his character and his Kingship are concerned. Rarely do I get it right, but always is he faithful with his correction. He can’t help himself. He simply and profoundly wants to be known by his children. God longs to reveal his fullness to his people; all too often, though, we’re unprepared and unwilling for his weighty disclosure. Why?

Because to receive God in all of his glory… to know him as he longs to be known, well with that kind of revelation, we make ourselves vulnerable to full, personal disclosure and for most of us, that isn’t a comfortable fit. The closer we draw to the purifying flames of Christ’s candle, the clearer we see our own deficiencies. God’s fire rids the flesh of everything temporal and replaces it with everything holy—a consecrated word or two or four about the Word that, eventually and in God’s timing, must be spoken aloud so as to avoid personal, internal combustion.

When God embeds his branding upon a heart—when God burns his mark upon a soul—one cannot help but show the world. If you’ve no compulsion along these lines… no need to rip wide-open your heart in order to reveal the sacred imprint that God has left behind in the wake of his purifying flames, then may I be so bold as to suggest that you’ve yet to fully come to the furnace in the matter of your sanctification? If there is no burning desire in you to tell others about Jesus and the saving work of the cross, then what’s the point of your salvation… my salvation? Just to make it home to him in isolation? Just to narrowly escape the flames of hell while our brothers and sister, neighbors and strangers are strangled and confined with their eternal punishment all because we’ve put our personal safety above corporate well-being?

I know it’s a heavy word and, perhaps, not in keeping with the message you might imagine arriving from a day or two or four of sweet steps with my Father. But you’d be wrong, friends, because a message like this is sacred sweetness to my soul. The weightiness of my Father’s presence in my life is the kindest, most generous work of grace I have ever known. Accordingly, with God’s fullness, comes God’s mandate—his words about the Word and about the need to rip wide-open my heart so that those around me might be able to see and to smell the scorch of heaven’s branding.

Jesus Christ is like a fire shut up in my bones. Like the prophet Jeremiah, I am weary of holding him in for these past few months; indeed I cannot. Christ’s love compels me to release him… to unleash the hot and fiery passion of the cross so that all who are caught in its wake might be consumed by its truth. I don’t know where this passion will take me in the days to come. My world lives pretty small right now, but even small presents an occasion for the dispensation of God’s flame every now and again.

A trip to Wal-Mart.
A phone conversation.
An e-mail.
A blog post.
A jog around the neighborhood.
A gathering of the saints at Christ UMC.

Indeed, a small extension in this big arena known as our world, but the last time I checked, roaring fires didn’t start out with a roar. Rather, they began with a single flame lit in honor of a single King for the single purpose of igniting a single heart until one by one, singleness morphs into corporate witness.

A roaring fire, flaming with the truth of heaven… shaking the very foundations of hell.

Indeed, I wish you could see me this morning… all fussed up and messed up with the truth of Jesus while sitting on my bed. I cannot think of a better consumption for my soul in the next day or two or four of my life. Thus, I pray…

Come and be my consumption, Lord Jesus. Fuss me up and mess me up with the truth of your weighty presence. Brand me with the cross and burn me brightly on the hill of your choosing so that others might come to know a day or two or four of sweetness in your presence. I put no conditions on my burning fire, Lord. I only ask for your faithfulness to fill me with your kindling and then to light me with the flame of your abiding Holy Spirit. We’re in this together; apart from you, I burn to ashes. With you, I burn for all eternity. Even so, come and set my heart ablaze for the kingdom. Amen.

Peace for the journey,

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Copyright © July 2010 – Elaine Olsen

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the broken road of faith…

Photo courtesy of Susan Hood

“Faith moves forward… faith anchors itself in the unseen. Faith doesn’t base its hope in emotion but in the truth.”

That was my answer this morning to the question that was raised in Sunday school regarding the definition of faith. I spoke it rather mechanically, almost as if rehearsed over and over again prior to its departure from my lips. I suppose I’ve been practicing it for a while now, not just with words, but in my spirit as well.

It’s a good thing… this rehearsing of faith in an earlier, seemingly unchallenged season. Why? Because when uncertainties arise to challenge that faith, we need the advantage of a previously rehearsed faith. We need the anchor of truthful words when feelings pull us in the opposite direction.

I’ve been challenged lately… been hoping for some tangible validation to my deeply-held spiritual convictions. It’s not that God’s been unwilling to validate my inward pulse; no, instead, it’s been a great deal about my unwillingness to take the time to listen to his. Life and busyness and stress have shouted their insistence, almost to the point of sweeping me under the rug of doubt. I’ve caved many times, succumbed to my tears and frustration and feelings of numbness.

It’s hard to continue an old life in a new place. On the front side of my ellipsis nearly three weeks ago, I imagined this transition would be easier. I naively placed the enemy at bay, believing that my faith was unshakeable, unbendable, unwavering and steadfast. But naivety has little, if any, place in the life of a believer… especially one who is intent on the ongoing pilgrimage of faith’s perfection. Troubling times are sure to come, and while my “troubling” might categorize as insignificant to those who are troubled with a seemingly far worse scenario, it ranks pretty noteworthy for me.

“Whatever trips you up.”

This is what I’ve always told my Bible study gals (if you’re one of them, I miss you tremendously and am sending a heart full of love to you this night). We all have our triggers, and we can be sure that the enemy knows them full well and is ready to exploit them every chance he’s given. I suppose I’ve been more prone to opening up the door to his advances in recent days. Exhaustion has set in, and whenever we’re physically and emotionally tired—when the pavement beneath our feet feels more like rubble rather than smoothness—we’re prone for a misstep along these lines.

That being said, a “trip up” isn’t the end of a heart’s faith. A good faith acknowledges the imbalance early on. A good faith pauses to recognize the incongruencies between what is true and what is purported as truth. A good faith doesn’t linger too long in the rubble; instead a good faith picks itself up and moves forward, doing what it has always done.

Believing further. Looking higher. Walking onward.

Faith keeps going, and faith keeps speaking the truth, even when feelings lag behind.

That is what I did this morning. I spoke my faith despite my feelings, and as I did… something broke in me. Tears began to water my cheeks, and for the first time in a long while, God’s Spirit resonated tenderly with mine. I felt him nearby, and my heart was renewed for the journey ahead.

Sometimes, friends, we need to live our faith out loud and in living color, even when unfamiliar faces serve as our audience. I cannot pretend to be otherwise. Sometimes, my faith isn’t pretty or commendable. Sometimes it lags behind the expectations of others. But always, it lives out loud, and I just have to believe that somewhere in the living and telling of my story, someone else will benefit from the honesty.

There is no set of blueprints that perfectly defines how your faith and mine faith will cadence through until the end. We cannot predict on the front end (nor would we want to) of our ellipses all the “rough and tumble” of our tomorrows. But of this one thing we can be certain…

No matter the stones that present themselves on the path of faith, no matter the potholes and the gravel that serve as precursors to a personal fall, the One who stands at the end of the road is worth it. God is what keeps me going. I may be bloodied from the fall and the wounds may run deep, but you can be sure that I will rise again to a new day’s journey until my feet and my faith have landed me safely home. That is what I told my new friends this morning when the teacher (perhaps stunned and uncomfortable with my tears) thanked me for staying the course of faith.

“He is so worth it. God is the real deal; the only thing I’ve got going on.”

Perhaps this day some of you, like me, boast the bloody knees of a recent fall. Let not your hearts be completely troubled by the stumble; instead, believe further, look higher, walk onward. Remember the truth of your yesterday’s faith, and allow it to be the underpinning that moves you forward this week. Don’t linger too long in your guilt; let God’s forgiveness and love for you be the foundational truth from which you monitor your progress this week. You can never stumble so far as to miss the reach of God. You can never fall too far from his heart so as not to be pulled back into his loving embrace. The enemy would have you think otherwise, but the enemy is a liar. Tell him so, and then keep going. Keep speaking the truth out loud and on purpose, even when your feelings lag behind.

Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

Be careful to listen to his voice this week; be willing to speak it all the more. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: I heard God’s voice this past week through the 32 Killian family members that gathered on the shores of SC for a family reunion, but no time more profoundly then the final night when we gathered for a family sing. I pray it blesses your heart as it did mine. Be sure and hang on for the final song by our beloved, Joni… our own Sandi Patty! Shalom.

monday’s morning view…

monday’s morning view…

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” {Romans 1:20}

A view from my window this morning…

The Killian family reunion has convened on the beaches of Garden City, SC, where we’ll spend the week frolicking in the waves, fellowship over meals, and feeling the breadth and depth of what it means to live in close proximity to God’s waters.

Romans 1:20 was the scripture focus of my morning’s devotional from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. As I listened to the welcome from the morning waves, I couldn’t help but think about the excuses that we collect for not being in connection/relationship with God, and none of them were enough to contradict the ebb and flow of the ocean that beckoned my notice. No single excuse for “not” believing in God can stand up against his morning reminder of grace.

So I say to you, my good friends, let nothing come between you and your connection with God this week. Live without excuses, and take notice of all the ways that God has painted his fingerprints into your day. I’ll be sure and do the same. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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