Monthly Archives: August 2010




God is huge… really huge; so huge that it would be impossible for me to shrink him down and cram him into my pint-sized capacity for understanding. Still and yet, there are days when he breaks himself down for me so that my “pint-sized brain” can experience a measure of what it is to know him more fully, more intimately. These past few days have been some of those days for me.

God has tenderly knelt beside me, met me eye-level, and cradled me close to his beating heart. There has been more laughter than tears, more joy than sadness, more hope than despair, more faith than unbelief. I am grateful for my “more” that has anchored in sacred soil rather than in the tainted, diminished earthen sod that cradles my temporal steps. I’ve also been surprised by it… been overwhelmed by the gracious, sustaining hand of my Father who has not only made this cancer diagnosis bearable for me, but even more so, understandable.

I cannot explain the rational, reasonable response of my heart; whereas even a month ago I would have told you that I couldn’t possibly “do cancer,” I’m doing it today. I’m living with my diagnosis, with the stresses and strains of having to make some difficult decisions because of that diagnosis, and with the reality that I’m still a mom and wife with laundry to fold, bills to pay, and homework to be managed. That kind of “living with” can only be filtered through the lens of peace.

God’s peace—Jesus Christ. Not as the world gives (thank you God), but as he so determines. The world’s offering of peace is limited, is budgeted according to fleshly understanding and carnal appetites. God’s peace, however, is limitless and is budgeted according to kingdom standards and based on holier appetites—soul cravings that issue forth from a deep hunger to get more of our huge God crammed into our pint-sized understanding.

I’ve been living in kingdom peace these past weeks, and the cravings of my soul have been amply fed by the hand of the King who bends low to listen to the heart cries of his children… who stoops low to “raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ash heap” (Ps. 113:6-7). I am exceedingly grateful for the gift of his sustaining presence and his willingness to be heavily invested in the story of my cancer.

God is so very willing to be part of all of our stories, friends. All he is waiting on is our invitation to him to start writing his memoir through us. You may not think your life particularly fantastic or worthy of print, but when you hand our Father the pen, he scripts authenticity into your story—every chapter, every line, every word, every letter. Every year, every month, every day, every hour. When God is given the publishing rights to our manuscripts, he promises to make everything count—the good, the bad, and all the mess that resides in between these extremes.

I’m taking him at his word; I’m believing him to make my cancer count—not for my sake, but for his. To get to the end of it all, regardless of where that “end” resides, and to have lived it selfishly and without regard to God’s greater understanding is to waste this precious time. I choose not to “live” there. I choose to live better. By doing so, I pray I learn more about my Father… about an intimacy, perhaps, that might have never been shared between us had I not been allowed this road.

I don’t want to waste my cancer. I want to embrace it, and in doing so, become more of the woman that God desires for me to be. If that can be said of me down the road—that in fact I’m further along in my faith journey because of my cancer—then it will have been worth it. If not—if I become a lesser woman of faith because of my cancer—then it will have been wasted.

Pray it’s not wasted. Pray, instead, that it will be my continuing perfection. I love you all and will be thinking of you in this next week as I will be off-line in order to take the next step in this journey.

After consulting with my oncologist yesterday regarding my MRI, we’ve decided to proceed with a mastectomy of both breasts. The surgery will be tomorrow at 1:00 PM. After a time of healing, a chemo/radiation plan will be put into place. Thankfully, those treatments will happen very close to home. I will have an overnight stay at the Surgery Center (can you believe that a mastectomy is considered out-patient surgery… I’m not kidding?!) before coming home. This was an unexpected “gift” to me and has gone a long way to relieve my initial concerns about learning how to care for myself before going home. Post-surgery, I am limited in the use of my arms, and my husband has vowed to make sure that I comply. Accordingly, I won’t be posting, but I’ll make sure that my husband updates you regarding my progress.

Through it all, I am humbled by the overwhelming support you’ve given to all of us, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ve not been granted some extra favor from God because of your prayers. I don’t think God and his angels have ever heard my name more clearly than in the past week. I like to think of your prayers simmering there before God’s throne. You, good friends, make me want to be a better intercessor for others. You’re living a good faith on my behalf, and I am blessed by your generosity.

Take good care of your heart in this season. Tend to it; till it, and plant some good seed. The harvest will be good—God’s kind of good—and we will all share in the feasting together! As always…

Peace for the journey,

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Caravan of love…

Caravan of love…

A caravan of love showed up for morning worship today… twenty-three of some of the most faithful saints of Pine Forest UMC.
Not all of them are pictured here, but most of the Tuesday “ancients” arrived just on time with lots of hugs and love to go around. There were even a few non-“ancients”.
Together, we rocked the lunch room at Sammio’s and many of them returned to the parsonage for a quick tour. It’s been a long time since I celebrated the Sabbath in such lavish measure. God is present in the hearts of these good friends, and they aren’t a bit shy about sharing his love with us. Truly, there are few words to adequately express my gratitude for the generosity they’ve given to me today. Thank you sweet Jesus for the comfort of your “church.” And thank you, friends, for coming.
In closing, I want to share with you my children’s “moment” from this morning. It’s time to get Jesus “out of the box” and hang him on the wall of your heart for all the world to see.
Peace for the journey,

Running my Peace…

Running my Peace…

“… You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19b-20)

I just got in from my run. It felt good… almost sacred. The time is fast coming when I’ll have to put running away for a short season. I can’t imagine myself running then… after surgery. So I don’t… imagine. Instead, I run in my today, because today is all I have been given and because running is a discipline that has been part of my life for twenty-five years.

I’m a runner. Not a fast one, but what I lack in speed I make up for in obedience. I’m a deliberate runner. A runner who chooses to lace up her shoes even when her heart lags behind. Why? Because running is good for my body. In doing so, it also serves the well-being of my mind, heart, and soul. It’s a way of honoring this temporal flesh that, for reasons beyond my understanding, God has chosen to make for his dwelling.

My flesh doesn’t belong to me. Neither does yours. We think that it does; spend a great deal of time and money pretending that it does, but the truth is…God paid a high price for our flesh—the flesh of his One and only Son. Accordingly, it belongs to him… all of it. No body part is exempt. I understand this more fully now; I thought I had a pretty good understanding prior to my diagnosis, but now the focus has become clearer.

In my quiet time yesterday morning, I handed over my flesh to him again. Over the course of my forty-four years, I’ve come to the altar in the matter of my flesh on many occasions. Time and again, God has been faithful to gather up my remnants and cradle them as his own. Today he cradles them again; today he cradles more of me—my all. What remains of my flesh is all that I have left to offer him. Long ago, I settled the matter regarding my heart. It’s been God’s for as long as I can remember, but I imagine my flesh has been lagging behind.

No longer, my friends. No longer. And here’s what I’m thinking about tonight…

God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. It’s an enduring kingdom. It’s going to go forward regardless of my fleshly surrender. Therefore, I have two choices standing before me in this season:

To be a participant in God’s kingdom or to remain as an outsider.

I’m in… all in with God and his kingdom plan. In this time of change for me and my family, I pray you won’t find me on the sidelines of faith; I pray that, instead, you will find me leading the charge… staying the course and shouting the victory every step of the way. I want to keep running, friends, especially on those days when my flesh cries out for complacency. I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember.

I want to keep living Jesus, out loud and on purpose. It’s all I know to do.

I want to close this post with some thoughts from one of my favorite authors, Alicia Chole. In her book Anonymous she shares an important, life-changing truth that embedded its witness into my heart upon my first reading it a few years ago. Almost immediately upon receiving my cancer diagnosis I thought upon it. It’s been my shadow over these last few days. With Alicia’s permission, I share it with you tonight:

Marie was a very private person, but when she opened up the door to her personal life you needed to take notes. I always called her with a journal open and a pen poised. This woman was profound. And like most truly profound people, she was intimately familiar with pain. One day, Marie told me about a friend who visited her in the hospital after her third miscarriage. Trying to console her, the well-meaning friend had said, “You know, Marie, God is going to make you even stronger through this.”

My mentor smiled, thanked her friend, and thought about her words for several days. Relaying the hospital conversation to me, Marie explained that though she appreciated her friend’s intention, she questioned her friend’s conclusion about the purpose of pain. Marie ended our time together that day with the thought: “I feel that trials do not prepare us for what’s to come as much as they reveal what we’ve done with our lives up to this point.”

As Marie considered the pain of her third miscarriage, she realized that her response to this trial was less of a window into her future than it was a window into her past. Her current choices reflected and revealed her past choices. How had she responded previously when her dearest dreams perished in her womb? Did she withdraw from God in bitterness or come near to him with her unanswered questions? Had she tried to outrun the pain, or had she given herself permission to grieve and let the tears wash her wounds? The choices of her yesterdays were revealed through the window of her responses to her current trial.

In other words, trials tell us less about our future than they do about our past. Why? Because the decisions we make in difficult places today are greatly the product of decisions we made in the unseen places of our yesterdays. (Alicia Chole, Anonymous, Integrity Publishers, 2006, pg. 14-15).

What decisions are you making in your today that will better prepare you for your tomorrow? Are you currently complacent regarding your faith? Are you tending to your soul? Are you taking time to study God’s Word and to be in fellowship with other Christian believers who are building your faith rather than tearing at your resolve? Are you working in your churches? Are you praying every day? Are you listening to the promptings of God’s Spirit within? Are you participating in God’s kingdom cause? Are you speaking your faith? Are you loving God, knowing God, celebrating God, believing God?

If you are, then you can be certain that when tough times role your way, you will be well-equipped to handle the struggle. If you’re not, then it is time to start making some better choices today. Time to start deliberately living your faith, friends. Time to step it up and keep pace with the King. It’s what I plan to do in my “next.”

Cancer may be my “next,” but so is Jesus. I’ll be doing them both—cancer and Jesus together. I’ll be living them both with a kingdom view in mind. I pray your willingness to join me on the road. As always…

Peace for the journey,


PS: I cannot begin to express to you my heartfelt thanks for all the many kindnesses you’ve extended to me in the past few days. There simply isn’t any way to make it around to all of your blogs and weigh in with my paltry “two-cents” right now, but as I can, I will visit you, because I dearly love you each one. Every now and again, I’ll give you a health update. Here’s the short version for tonight:

I had an MRI this morning in Greenville. After much thought and prayer, we’ve made the decision to stick with the breast oncologist there. He’s incredibly kind, and the man knows breasts! He’s also a man with a plan who is ready to move on with surgery, etc. We’ll be traveling back there on Monday to discuss the results of the MRI and how we will proceed. I imagine that things will move quickly. I want to take a moment to thank Rev. Homer Morris of Jarvis Memorial UMC for graciously gifting us with a motel room in Greenville last evening so that we wouldn’t have to endure a lengthy travel time this morning prior to my 7:00 AM appointment. I also want to thank my good friend, Judith, for receiving my many cancer related questions like “What is an MRI?” and “What should I wear?” (The bedpants and warm socks were a life-saver friend!). And of course, I want to give a special shout-out to my parents and Billy’s parents for being willing to make the trip to help us with childcare. Truly, you know what it means to “circle the wagons,” and we are so blessed to have you with us to love us as only a momma and daddy can do.

Praying my Peace…

Praying my Peace…

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
Before I write my heart to you this morning, I need you to know this one thing up front:
I’m writing from a place of prayerfulness and peacefulness in the Lord… emphasis on the “fullness.” With prayer comes peace. It’s God’s promise to us as his children. Several years ago, I memorized this portion of Scripture because it was a promise I could hang my heart on—a truth that has proven truthful to me time and again as I have been faithful to meet the requirement therein…
To pray about everything.
Prayer is directly connected to the thoughts of our hearts and minds. Keeping connected to the King in prayer is a fail-safe way of taking all thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ. When we’re talking to him, listening to him, sharing life with him in the most personal of ways, we experience one of the purest, most holy avenues of worship we’ll ever know on this side of eternity. When we pray, we acknowledge our humanness and our righteousness all in the same breath. Prayer is the link between our flesh and our faith, between our hearts and God’s.
Prayer is a gift and a privilege and the one reason I am able to type this next sentence with a strong measure peace in my heart.
My good and kind friends, I have breast cancer.
Yesterday marked the beginning of my official diagnosis. Today marks the beginning of my living within the reality of what all of that means. I imagine it’s been with me while—the cancer—hiding quietly in the lower quadrant of my right breast. Three weeks ago a mammogram detected a discrepancy which led to further tests which led to a biopsy which led to yesterday’s labeling. And while it has come as a shock to my family (and rightly so) there is a deep sense of understanding and “settling” within my spirit. I can only attribute that kind of personal peace to the prayers and the faith that have been lived out prior to this moment in time.
God has well-prepared me for the road ahead, friends. I haven’t a clue as to the particulars, and I’m certain that there will be times of confusion, pain, questions, and tears. But I’m also certain that there will be times of clarity, answers, joys, and victories. This morning, I’m reminded of something that God scripted onto my heart a season back when a similar “threat” loomed on my horizon (first written in this post). He has embedded it into my thoughts over time; it will serve as an anchor for me in the days to come.
“It doesn’t matter how long God chooses to preserve my earthly life. What matters is how I choose to preserve him in the earthly life I’ve been given.”
Pray that I preserve him well each step of the way. And if you would, please pray for my family—that God would give them, each one, a similar measure of peace and strength for the journey ahead. We walk it together, you and me and them. It’s what Christians do best—corporately loving and living out our kingdom conferment. You bless me with the gift of your friendship—your sacred participation in my life; I need it now more than ever. As always…
Peace for the journey,


sacred remembrance…

“Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles and the judgments he pronounced.” (Psalm 105:1-5)

I haven’t told you this story before.

Tonight seems a good fit for the telling. Why? Because tonight I need to remember. Remembering is one of the major mandates that God laid at the feet of his people throughout Scripture, thus becoming a lasting mandate for us as well.

To remember. To recall where we’ve been… where we’ve come from and the faithfulness of God therein. Remembrance is particularly helpful in a season where chaos abounds and our faith proffers more like a molecule rather than a mustard seed. As we become intentional with our remembrance—especially as it pertains to God’s everlasting faithfulness in seasons past when troubles assailed us and we couldn’t determine the workings of his hand only to be surprised in the end by a miraculous return to peace—when we recall those moments of grace and deliverance, then we’re better able to take hold of the doubts that overwhelm us in our current seasons of travail.

God knew back then, even as he knows now, the power that comes with our sacred remembering. Thus, tonight I remember… a day in recent history. A day dated April 14, 2010. But before we get there, let me set the stage.

In early February of this year, my husband received a call from our District Superintendent informing us that we were on the “move list.” No other details were offered, only that we were to begin making preparations for a move, both emotionally and physically. Over the next couple of months we did just that… not only preparing our hearts for a move, but also preparing the hearts of the congregation we’d served for six years. It was a difficult preparation from many different angles. That being said, we’re accustomed to moving. We’re a Methodist clergy family, wholly… holy committed to the itinerant lifestyle.

Fast forward to April 12, 2010. We received a call from our DS informing us of where our next pastorate would be. On paper, all made good sense. Great location; big enough parsonage; thriving congregation; a salary in keeping with expectation. We spent the day contemplating our “next,” but as the day wore on, so did our concerns. Before nightfall, we were a complete mess. We couldn’t put our finger on the pulse behind our concerns, but we knew something was amiss. The next morning, we received an answer.

A phone call arrived informing my husband of a situation surrounding our new appointment. In good conscience and after heavy deliberation with me and with God in prayer, my husband respectfully requested he be re-assigned to a new church. There’s always a risk that comes with making such a request of the Bishop, especially at the eleventh hour when appointments were being set in stone. To say that we were crushed in spirit with the recent revelation is to say too little. We had long felt this would be our moving year. Even prior to us knowing about our moving status, God had prompted our hearts along those lines. We were, however, content to let the process run its course, believing that God would move the hearts of the Bishop and his cabinet if he so desired to move us to a new place of ministry.

The day was fraught with anxiety. Hours went by before hearing anything. And then he called. Not God… the Bishop. He was sympathetic to our concerns and assured us that we could return to our previous appointment without any problem. And then, he offered a postscript.

“By the way, I have another appointment you might be interested in…”—something about a dying congregation, about our coming in as a first, test-case for a revitalization effort going on within the UM church and how our support would be generated in partnership between this new church and the conference. I wasn’t thrilled; I was confused.

Thus began an all night deliberation regarding a “move” not in keeping with our personal expectations. However, by morning, we’d decided to “go” with a few conditions attached to our “going.” Apparently, conditions don’t always mesh well with a Bishop’s offer, thereby creating another five tenuous hours of back and forth between my husband and the Bishop’s cabinet. Not handling the pressure very well, I did what all smart women do when confused.

I went shopping.

I told my husband that my phone would be on and that he should call me should something change. He did… a couple of times. His voice was tearful, his pain palpable. It didn’t look like a move was going to “press through” for us this year. During his final call to me, he said, “Elaine, the DS just called again and wanted to know if he should remove us from the ‘move’ list.” I hesitantly replied with my “yes.” We closed our conversation, and I headed to the dressing room.

And then it happened… a moment I couldn’t have planned… a moment I didn’t anticipate. As I live and breathe, I was standing before the mirror in the Belk’s dressing room, arms extended into the air in preparation for trying on a blouse. As the blouse enveloped my frame, so did a warmth I’ve never experienced before (even typing this now, I feel the witness of the Holy Spirit running throughout my body). From head to toe, I was wrapped and energized in the marvelous light and life of God’s Spirit within. I immediately retrieved my cell phone from my pant’s pocket and speed-dialed my husband.

“Honey, text message the cabinet and tell them we’ll come… no strings attached.”

He thanked me and immediately sent this message to the cabinet:

“We’ll go and we’ll go with God. No strings attached.”

We were later told that with the receiving of that text, the climate in the conference room immediately shifted and every one of our “attachments” were not only met, they were exceeded. Now here we are, almost eight weeks down the road, and I’m telling the story again. Not only for your sake, but mostly for mine. Why? Because I need to remember tonight; need to be reminded that for all the unknowns that currently torment me, there was a day in recent history when God firmly and beautifully gave me his “go” to be in this place.

I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t wondered a least a thousand times “why?” over the past eight weeks. It’s been a difficult “fit” with my heart. That being said, I’d also be lying if I tried to deny that dressing room moment. I can ask “why” all I want, but the truth is, I cannot deny the Spirit’s presence on April 14, 2010, in Belk’s. It’s almost as real to me this day as it was then, and friends…

Who of us doesn’t want some of that?

Remembrance is a good thing. It keeps us moving in a right and holy direction, even when we cannot see our next step. Remembering the presence and faithfulness of God in our past better enables us to move forward with our future. It’s one of the strongest tools we have in our spiritual arsenal to fight the enemy’s schemes for personal disaster. Tonight, I’m wielding that sword. Tonight, I’m writing my faith, out loud and on display for all the world to read. I don’t know if you needed it, but I certainly did, and I happen to believe that there might be a few of you who need to remember as well.

Remember God. Remember him well. Remember where you’ve come from, where you’ve been, and where you’re headed. Remember how he’s been there each and every time. He’s in it all—past, present, and future, and his faithfulness never ends.

Remember God and find your thanks, sing your praise, and tell of all his wonderful acts of kindness toward you. Your deliberate remembrance this day will be the spontaneous hallelujah of your tomorrow! As always…

Peace for the journey,


PS: Thanks to Sandi Patty’s wonderful marketing crew, I have three copies of her newest book to give-away. The winners are… Cheryl B., Teresa, and Joan. Send me your snail-mail girls, and I’ll get your book to you this week! Enjoy.

Copyright © August 2010 – Elaine Olsen

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