Monthly Archives: June 2012

a DON’T to DO…

“I’m writing on the 5 D’s to workout motivation. Can you guess one of the “D” words?” So asked Melanie Dorsey on her facebook wall yesterday afternoon. My response to her was immediate . . .


DON’T eat a piece of the chocolate cake I just posted a picture of on my wall . . . I mean really, just the word ‘Don’t’ speaks a message all its own. Just don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Apply it whenever necessary.”


Of course, I was making an attempt at humor, but as I stepped back from my statement, my “don’t” took root; so did my ruminations.


Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. What if we could really do our don’ts—move past our declarations and start walking our determinations? This is what happens when we bravely and willingly do our don’ts. We move forward. We get unstuck.


The Bible is replete with “don’ts.” I spent two hours last evening combing through Biblegateway’s online concordance, taking note of each “do not” listed there. There are thousands of them; I scribbled down four pages’ worth. All of them, when applied to a heart, are motivators for getting a stuck faith moving again. Don’ts like . . .


Don’t worry;

Don’t be afraid;

Don’t lose heart;

Don’t doubt;

Don’t do what they do;

Don’t have in mind the things of men;

Don’t be alarmed;

Don’t put God to the test;

Don’t belong to the world;

Don’t be silent;

Don’t let sin reign;

Don’t give up;

Don’t give the devil a foothold;

Don’t handle, touch, or taste;

Don’t be carried away;

Don’t harden your hearts;

Don’t forget to do good;

Don’t merely listen to the Word, do it.

Don’t ________________.


You get the picture, and this is just a mere scratch at the surface of what seems to be the great many regulatory “don’ts” of Scripture. Now, before you shut down . . . before you see these as obligation rather than as a road map toward freedom, allow me to share with you the one “don’t” that struck me through to my soul’s marrow. The one “don’t” that I’m going to do this weekend.


Would you be willing to do that? Just work on one? Just do one don’t that most significantly strikes a chord with your faith? I’m convinced that just doing one of God’s don’ts is enough to propel our faith forward, even just a little bit.


Here’s is the one don’t I plan on doing:


Don’t throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (Hebrews 10:35).


This “confidence” in the Greek context means “boldness, assurance, freedom in speaking, without concealment.” Boldness in speech, being sure of my words, freely speaking without a hidden agenda? Well, for this to happen and to happen rightly, my confidence must be rooted in truth—yet, another confidence.


“Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared (Proverbs 3:25).


God as my confidence. Contextually speaking, God as my “flank.”


So what does this mean for me going forward—as I do my “don’t”?


Don’t throw away your confidence, Elaine, because your Confidence has you covered. Don’t throw away your boldness, your freedom in putting forth the truth plainly, because God is your flank. God has situated himself around the most vulnerable, tender part of your faith, and he will not let you be destroyed. He has you covered from all angles. It’s safe to move forward, speak forward, live forward, because God’s got you covered every step of the way.


Don’t throw away your confidence. Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Apply it whenever necessary. Just do this one don’t and see if God is not faithful to apply his movement, his strength, and his limitless confidence to your faith.


What if I could really live this one? What if I could really do God’s don’t? When a faith moves in that direction—when a heart really takes hold of that kind of understanding—the possibilities are endless. For what it’s worth, I’m going to give it a try.


What are you going to try? What’s the “don’t” that God is calling you to do? The one deliberate “do not” that you can apply to your heart that will get your faith unstuck and moving forward in a good direction?


Do your don’t, and then don’t be surprised by what God will do. Don’t and do’s. Do’s and don’ts. Sometimes it’s just as simple as it seems.


Now, get busy. And when you have a moment, check out Melanie’s 5 D’s to Workout Motivation. I’m sure her list has less to do with “don’ts” and much more to do with do’s. I’ll see you on the other side of Sunday. As always . . .


Peace for the journey,

on quitting writing…

I quit writing yesterday. Quit. Put down the pen and said, “No more.”


Today, I’ve extended that deadline a bit. Why? Well, partly because of something I read last night and mostly because of something my daddy has told me time and again throughout the course of his preaching life.


“Elaine, I want to leave the ministry on Saturday nights before I preach. I re-enter the ministry every Sunday at noon.”


I get what my daddy’s saying. I feel the tension in my own life every time I’m asked to speak at an event and even, sometimes, when I’m writing a post. There’s something about the “front side” of creativity that stretches the soul, usually for the good, but sometimes so far stretched to not only “let out” the good, but also to “let in” the bad. The corrosive stuff that says, “Who are you kidding? You’re less than what you think you are. In the midst of the millions of words that will be written today . . . spoken today, yours won’t matter.”


That’s the stuff that stretches my soul and that threatens the livelihood of all “creatives” who risk sharing their work with others. Sometimes what we create—the songs we sing, the pictures we take, the words we write, the sermons we preach—is lost on our audiences. They don’t get it, and when they don’t get it (or at least when we think that they don’t get it), we struggle for understanding as well. And sometimes, that struggle is enough to make us want to quit. The anguish of our Saturday evenings (the night before we “launch”) stretches our faith and challenges our fortitude.


The front side of creative release is always the hardest side for me—doing the work, grinding it out, being disciplined enough and brave enough to put some words on paper and to do so against the backdrop of my faith. The backside of my creativity? The Sunday at noon? Well, more often than not, that’s the time when I willingly re-enter the ministry—when I draw the pen from my pocket, click it to “go,” and say to myself, “That wasn’t so bad. Let’s do it again. There just might be something to all of this.”


I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’re living in the stress of your Saturday night—a time of preparation and feeling the strain of your creative pulse. You’re ready to launch, but your nerves and fear are getting the best of you.


Maybe you’ve arrived at your Sunday noon. You’ve delivered the goods and now you’re breathing in the beauty of the release. What you set your mind and heart to do has been done, and it’s been done well.


Maybe . . . you’re somewhere in between, maybe living your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday—the days when nothing seems to be happening. Your creative life feels dull, desperate, and dead. Saturday and Sunday aren’t even on your radar because you’ve decided that Saturday’s angst and Sunday’s release are no longer worth the effort. All has not gone according to your plans, so why bother making any further ones?


I understand. All of it. Every single creative and non-creative day of the week. I’ve lived them all; celebrated most of them, cursed a few of them, and still carry a heavy question in my heart about how I’m going to walk through my remaining ones. I don’t know where my writing will take me in the days ahead. There have been some huge disappointments I’ve experienced along the way. I imagine you could say the same about your creativity. Still and yet, I know this as a certainty:


God has planted his creative pulse inside each one of us. You are not the one person who’s been denied this sacred endowment. Your creativity, my creativity, is a gift that should be invested into the soul of humanity—not wasted, not hoarded, not buried. It’s how we help to make this world complete, how we put God’s finishing touches on what he began in Eden. When we pick up the pen, the paintbrush, the guitar, the camera . . . whatever our creative edges . . . when we tend to them and give them room enough to grow and breathe, we grow and breathe as well. We become willing participants in our Mondays thru Saturdays, because we know that Sunday noon is not far in coming.


I want my Sunday noon. I want you to have yours as well, for all of us to get to the other side of the birthing process—to labor hard and to willingly carry the burden of our creativity through to the finish—so that we might see and feel the beauty of a new work. A new grace. A new creation to flourish inside an older one. A new day, a “Sunday,” to rest and to believe, again, in the goodness and rightness of such moments.


Yes, I quit writing yesterday. Today, I picked up the pen once more, and even though my calendar says “Wednesday,” it feels a whole lot more like Sunday noon to me. As always…


Peace for the journey,

Monday – Friday deliberations? Saturday angst? Sunday noon? Where is your creative pulse resting today? How are you feeling about your creativity?

Do you want to get well?

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” –John 5:6

Do you want to get well, Elaine? So whispered the Holy Spirit to my heart this past week.

Of course, Lord, I want to be well. I am well . . . right? Even before I uttered my response, I knew the answer. Otherwise God wouldn’t have asked the question. God doesn’t waste words with his children. God speaks them as they are needed.

Being “well.” What does that look like for you? Feel like? Live like? The culture we live in dictates a wide variety of responses to this question. Soundness of mind, financial security, health of body, a stable family, and a charitable life, are just a few of the barometers used by society to measure personal wellness. But what do you use? How do you know if you are well?

I’m asking myself the same question, and I’m doing so in the context of Christ’s sacred conversation with the invalid at the pool of Bethesda some 2000 years ago (see John 5:1-15). I’m backing into story and into an understanding of wellness by examining its contrast—what wellness isn’t.

Wellness isn’t:

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

Yes, you read that correctly; three times over. I tried to come up with more bullet points to further define the contrast. Given more time and more deliberation, I’m sure I could come up with a fuller definition, at least as it pertains to understanding what wellness is not. But I have an inclination that there is one or two or ten of you out there, like me, that could hear these words and have them be enough to shake you up, wake you up, and grow you up. There is nothing about lying on a mat for thirty-eight years that is going to bring you and me any closer to gaining the healing we long for, the restoration and wholeness our Father longs to bring to us.

What loves us closer to wellness is our willingness to stop making excuses and to start walking with Jesus. Just start walking with Jesus. Healing and wholeness take time. I am not devaluing or disrespecting the timetable attached to the process of getting well. I’m forty-six, and I still have work to do. But unlike the invalid of Jesus’ day, I know who Jesus is, what Jesus can do, and how I can be well. I don’t have the benefit of ignorance to coddle my excuses. I have truth on my side—an entire Bible’s worth of hope at my fingertips, holy words from the holy God that can be wholly trusted with the wellness road.

Do you want to get well? Have your “thirty-eight years” been too many years? Today is the right day to begin your healing walk with Jesus. Roll up your excuses, pick up your mat, and pick up the Word.

The waters have been stirred. There is no time to waste. Movement wins. With Jesus, movement always wins.

Peace for the journey,

Do you want to be well? What is one tangible way you can move forward with your wellness today?

five steps to harvesting a good theology…

It’s been one of those mornings in Bible study—a time of reflection that promotes more questions than answers. A day when I (again) wrote these words in the margin of my current Bible study guide, “Do I really believe this?” Whenever this happens, my contemplation takes a turn, sometimes toward clarity, sometimes toward confusion. On this particular morning, there’s confusion—a long wrestling of thought, Word, and practical living that doesn’t compute fully with the author’s considerations. Accordingly, I won’t “go there,” at least not with you, friends. Instead, I’ll take my questions to God and continue to flesh out my beliefs with him, with his Word, and with an open heart. Sometimes it’s just better to let our questions simmer before him rather than fanning them into flame before mankind. Why?

Well, sometimes we’re not as forgiving as God is. In fact, never are we as forgiving as God is. He’s more open-minded with our earnest probing and deliberate searches for answers. We, on the other hand, are more comfortable with ours judgments, making assumptions, drawing conclusions, and rendering a verdict when someone bravely risks doing the heart work attached to his/her faith and doing so out loud. And so today, I tuck away my questions, and I focus on a scripture that has surfaced for me from this same study and from God’s Word that doesn’t warrant my question mark but only my highlighter and my “Amen.” Hear now from God’s Word:

“So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough” (Ruth 2:17-18).

So what in the wide world of faith and function do these verses have in common with the questions stirring in my spirit this morning?

Everything, because in these two verses, God gives me . . . gives you a “how-to” for dealing with the hard wrestlings that sometime surface for us as we move forward in our faith and understanding. Ruth . . .

  • gleaned the harvest;
  • threshed the harvest;
  • carried the harvest;
  • ate the harvest;
  • shared the harvest

Good theology, good understanding begins in the wheat fields, where bread has already been planted by the Sower, watered by the Sower, and grown by the Sower. Truth cannot be created. Truth already is; accordingly, our souls’ understanding cannot, should not be built from scratch. We must start with good seed planted in rich soil—a harvest ready for gleaning. Good understanding begins with God and his Word. Get there first, and you’re in a good place of education and eternal growth. Glean truth from what’s already been grown; you won’t come up empty-handed. God’s already handed you his abundance.

Secondly, good understanding grows during the threshing process—a time when the wheat is spread out so that the edible grain can be loosened from the inedible chaff. A time of cutting through the chaff to get to the palatable. “Without the grain’s release from its hardened casing, the ripened seeds are reduced in their usefulness” (Peace for the Journey, 2010, pg. 113). Good understanding doesn’t come home to roost in our hearts unless there’s been a hearty threshing applied along the way. It’s not always easy to relinquish the harvest to the pounding; rarely is it comfortable, but if we’re after God’s truth—if we really want to know that we know that we know deep down in the marrow of our souls—then we must surrender our questions and our confusion to the winnowing process.

Notice Ruth’s next obedience. She carried the harvest back to town. When questions surface in our hearts regarding our faith and our theology, not only must we glean and thresh the harvest, but also we must carry the harvest with us . . . for a season. Let the work that’s being done in you, linger with you for awhile. Don’t short step this process or make false assumptions about your knowledge. Good understanding must be mulled over, contemplated, and developed over time. The saints of old spent a lifetime cultivating godly understanding. They didn’t have all the answers on the front side of their faith; the answers arrived for them along the way and as they went, one step at a time. You don’t have all the answers regarding God and his Word. Thinking that you do is a good indicator that there’s more work to be done.

Next, Ruth ate the harvest. After gleaning it, threshing it, and carrying it, the harvest was finally ready for consumption. I don’t know much about the digestion process, but I do know that once something goes in my mouth, it goes down . . . deep down and becomes (in essence) part of my inward being. Are you hearing what I’m saying (rather what I’m typing—rather quickly and furiously I might add, not furiously bad, but furiously good)? Before anything, any truth, any knowledge becomes part of our inward beings, let’s be sure we give it thorough consideration before we consume it. To blindly eat the harvest in front of us is to open up our souls to disaster, to waste, to fraudulent food that does more harm than good.

Finally, Ruth shared the harvest. After she had eaten her fill, she generously shared the harvest with Naomi. Initially, we might think Ruth would have first given the harvest to her mother-in-law; after all, Ruth’s generosity is clearly on display at every turn. But I want to lead you along for a moment with a thought that just occurred to me. Just as the ancient custom of the king’s cupbearer tasting the wine before passing it on to his master, could it be the same principle at work here—Ruth eating her fill, making sure it was good for consumption before passing it along to Naomi? Could it be the same for us in regards to spiritual understanding? That after we’ve gleaned, threshed, carried, and eaten the harvest, we might finally come to some realizations about God’s truth in regards to our wrestlings and questions? In other words, if it goes down smoothly for us, if the harvest is good for us, then, perhaps it might be good for others, might be ready for the sharing? Sometimes, eating the harvest is the only way to know if it’s safe for public consumption. Better to pass truth along after it’s been tested.

And so today, on a day when I wrestle through some questions, I’ll do so with Ruth’s example in mind. I’ll glean from God’s fields, thresh the wheat, carry the edible around with me for awhile, eat it while monitoring my digestion, and then, maybe I’ll share it with you. Maybe I won’t. It’s too early to tell.

Oh that we all might take Ruth’s lead and step back from the mirror long enough to submit our thoughts, questions, and theology to the harvesting process so that we might arrive at the place of fully believing in the faith that we are so willing to boldly profess!

For what it’s worth, it’s what I’m thinking about today. What are you thinking about? As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

when Genesis falls to the floor…

Genesis went flying to the floor . . . literally. It came unglued, unhinged from its binding and cascaded to the ground a few weeks ago while I was walking down the hallway. I knew it was loose, knew it wouldn’t be long before I would have to give attention to its permanency. The cover holding it all together—the entirety of God’s Word—had long since lost its luster. My Bible desperately needed a make-over, but I kept hoping for “later” rather than “sooner.” It kept telling me “sooner” rather than “later,” and when Genesis fell to the floor, I made the decision to fix the problem.


After all, what good is the story—my story—when the beginning is omitted? When Genesis goes missing, so goes understanding. Life, faith, and truth must be worked out within the framework of Genesis—our beginning days when the Word hovered over the dark and the deep and spoke words of gracious and good creation. We need the witness of our beginning. No life story is complete without it. With this in mind, I carefully packed my “Genesis,” along with the remaining balance of Scripture, and sent my beloved Bible to Burrows, IN. Apparently, the Word is alive and active in Burrows, and there are some wonderful folks at Leonard’s Books more than willing to make sure that my beginning stays intact.


I am grateful for their handiwork. Yes, I could have purchased another Bible, perhaps a couple for the price that I paid to have it restored, but they wouldn’t be able to replace this one. Why? Because it is this Bible, the one I purchased eight years ago, that has literally transformed my heart. This Bible and I have some longevity with one another; I plan on it walking with me the rest of the journey home. Having my beginning in hand makes my ending that much sweeter.


So, a question or two. What do you do when your beginning—your “Genesis”—falls to the ground, separates itself from the rest of the pages of your story? Do you leave it there unattended? Do you tuck it away in a drawer with good intentions to graft it back in at a later date? Do you cast it aside, deem it unnecessary and discard it along with yesterday’s trash? Do you stuff it back inside the covers of your story with hopes that it will stay . . . all on its own, without glue, without hinge?


Sometimes, our stories take a hit or two. Sometimes our “Genesis” falls to the ground. We lose our compass and stray far from God’s intended path. We foolishly make assumptions regarding the “fix” thereby postponing understanding. We patch, paste, and carelessly cram God’s Word together, hoping it will be enough to carry us through to the finish. But patching, pasting, and cramming leave the door open for neglect—for misplaced pages, fallen chapters, and lost beginnings. When we forsake the entirety of God’s Word, when we pick and choose what stays and what gets left behind, we’ve lost some of our story. And to lose our story, friends, is to lose the purpose of our lives.


How much better would it be if we carefully and willingly picked up the missing pages of our stories and sent them to God for the rebinding? He is the glue who holds our pages together, who scripts our lives from beginning to end, and who promises to make them all count . . . every last word of this great adventure called life.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-2).


He is with us still—our “sooner” rather than “later.” I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use some soul-rebinding right now . . . there’s something missing in my life, a few pages that have been lost along the way. Even as I am willing to send off my Bible for repair, I pray for a heart that is willing to do the same. Maybe you understand; maybe this post is for you.


May the tender, gracious hands of the Father rest upon you and lovingly rebind your story to his this day. May the truth that you hold in your heart be the same truth that he holds in his, and may his covering be the strength that binds all the pages of your story together and that carries you safely home to heaven. As always . . .


Peace for the journey,

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