Category Archives: authenticity

the woman I no longer need to be . . .

Siix years ago in my dreaming, I didn’t plan on my current reality. The life I’m living today wasn’t the life I was dreaming about in my yesterday. Six years ago . . .

  • I had just written my first book / Bible study about the prophet Nehemiah and was sure it would be an instant best-seller (it’s currently collecting dust on a shelf alongside two other unpublished works);
  • I was knee-deep into Beth Moore Bible studies, both as learner and facilitator;
  • I was enjoying the idea of free time, “me time” (child #4 had entered the world of Kindergarten);
  • I began a speaking ministry beyond the boundaries of my local church;
  • I was strong (physically, mentally, and spiritually);
  • I was deeply and “holy” motivated for the future.

Six years later, here I am . . . less of all of these.

  • Less writing;
  • Less Bible studying, both as learner and facilitator;
  • Less free time, “me time”;
  • Less speaking;
  • Less strong;
  • Less motivated.

And mostly, I’m undisturbed by the transformation of my dreaming. Why? Because I no longer need to be the woman I once dreamed about being. Instead, I’m making peace with the woman I am . . . right now, today, no strings attached to an agenda that stretches me beyond reasonable, God-ordained limits. No lofty expectations that push me much further ahead than these next twenty-four hours.

Six years ago, maybe even six months ago, I was caught up in an uncontrollable current of need—needing to matter; needing to be needed. Today, it seems as if I need my “need” to a lesser degree. I just want to live in and with the truth that all I have ever needed is the “all” that I currently hold in my heart.

Today (not six years ago), I’m living my dream in proportion to my need, and it is enough. At forty-six years old, my need is being tempered by truth, and the truth is: less is more in the economy of God. Less is freedom. Less is faith.

Oh for the wisdom and strength of God to finally be able to release the need that cripples us and keeps us from knowing peace . . . from living free!

Are you there, friend? Are you caught up in a long-standing dream that makes less sense to you today than it did six years ago? Are you fighting the current of your need—needing to matter, needing to be needed? How long have you walked around and within the parameters of your plans, refusing to consider God’s plan for your right now? Has tomorrow’s focus become too broad, too cumbersome, and too consuming so as to overshadow today’s sunshine? What dreams are preventing you from fully and completely living the life in front of you?

Are you willing to let go of what’s in your hands in order to take hold of what’s in God’s?

I’ve spent a lot of years holding on to dreams that have yet to breathe, a lot of time striving to be more—to be that woman who lands a spot on the stage, in the magazines, in the headlines, on the best-sellers’ list. She seems just out of reach for me . . . that woman. Accordingly, I’ve made a decision. I no longer need to be her. Today, I’m letting her go. Today, instead, I’m opening up my hands to the Father and allowing him to fill them with the glorious witness of this moment . . . a moment of less that feels a great deal like more.

Go live your life, friends. Right now. Don’t waste another minute. I’m not asking you to throw away your dreams; I’m simply challenging you to live the dream that is currently on deck. It’s called today, and it won’t last forever. Let it be enough, and let the truth of who you are be enough.

You are God’s. Be at peace.

authenticity . . .

Authenticity. Being authentic. Not fake. Genuine. Real. Threadbare and exposed.

Are you authentic? If you answered “yes” then allow me a further probe. Who decides what’s authentic? How do you determine the boundaries for the definition, or does the definition (in and of itself) require that no boundaries be put around it? Does being authentic mean you just throw your “all” out there and hope for the best—take me or leave me, this is who I am?

It’s getting a lot of buzz these days . . . authenticity, especially in our “Christianese”—the vernacular of us religious folk. There’s something to be said for our exposure before one another; truth-telling can be a crucible for holiness. We can’t move forward in our faith by faking it. But I’m wondering, if, perhaps, our version of authenticity stops short of being a productive, spiritual discipline.

What’s the point of keeping it real, if keeping it real becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieving an end—holiness?

Case in point. I’m about to expose myself. Hold on. You might not be ready for this one.

Yesterday, I canceled my appointment with my general practioner . . . for the 2nd time. It was scheduled for 3:45 PM. I called (actually I had my husband call) and cancel around 2:00 PM. Why?

  • I didn’t want to weigh in.
  • I didn’t want a repeat lecture about my cholesterol being too high.
  • I didn’t want to weigh in.

My decision was based on an earlier encounter with the bathroom scale—my husband and my twenty-three-year-old son’s throw-down, weigh in. They bantered back and forth about who weighed less, who ate more, and who would be thinner the next time around. When I heard their numbers, I was crushed and loudly pronounced my angst.

“I’m the heaviest person in this family. I weigh more than the rest of you. Call the doctor, Billy, and reschedule. I’m not going in today.”

He complied; I cried and continued to wrap myself up in the enemy’s shame regarding my appearance. Nothing’s fit right since cancer. Nothing looks right, either. It all feels wrong on me.

There, that wasn’t so hard. There’s some real and authentic truth for you. I’m not proud of it; I should have put “my big girl panties on a dealt with it.” Problem is, the big girl panties are too big, and I’m not keen on exposing them to others. Just keeping it real, friends. But here’s the problem: it’s not enough to tell you about it, throw it all out in front of the world while shouting, “Take me or leave me, this is who I am.”

This isn’t authenticity, not according to God; this isn’t transformation. This is defeat; this is refusing to do the hard work that follows personal disclosure. That hard work for me?

Well, it’s not just about my moving more and eating less. Greater still, it’s about exposing my pain before Jesus, about moving more into his Word, and about eating less of the enemy’s assessment regarding my body.

This is authenticity . . . not being afraid to fully disclose the pain and truth before the mirror of God’s Word and before God’s heart, knowing that with reflection will come greater understanding, greater strength, and greater exposure to the only truth that has the power to transform me rather than to judge me. If I’m willing to do this—to go all in with Jesus and with his assessment regarding my appearance—then I can boast about personal authenticity. Otherwise, I’m just living a lie, kidding myself and trying to kid the world into believing that my big girl panties and me are here to stay; take us or leave us, this is who we are.

Authenticity. It only comes to us as we are willing to come to the cross and expose our nakedness, our wounds, and our truth to the nakedness, wounds, and truth of Jesus Christ. He is the standard-bearer for authenticity; he defines it, refines it, and mines for it in each one of us. He is the means to our holiness. He is the end of it as well. When we go to him and pour out our reflection before him, he begins to pour out his reflection into us.

This is how we can make peace with our flesh and live in peace with God’s people. His truth over-powering and replacing the enemy’s lies. His estimation overtaking the mirror’s assessment and bringing forth new life from woundedness. More of Jesus reflecting authentically through less of us. Accordingly,

Take us, don’t leave us, Jesus, this is who we are, and this is why we so desperately need your hand of grace in our lives. Amen.

Sassy Granny has also written a post about authenticity. You can find it here.

When a Friend Walks Away . . .


There it is again . . . that trigger that sends my mind spiraling. Accordingly, here are my tears, falling into my water bucket. I no longer know the identity of the wetness that soaks my rag and buries the floor in mop water. I scrub and scrub, trying to wash away the mess that has accumulated on old tile. It doesn’t seem to matter; the shine’s not what it used to be. It stays buried beneath old woundings, refusing the work and will of the sponge attached to the effort.

When, God? When will this floor heal?

When, God? When will my heart heal?

I have a festering wound. It’s been with me for awhile, almost two years now. Most days I don’t notice it, but every now and again, the trigger flares up, and the hurt returns. I’m tired of carrying it. I’m tired of feeling it. I just want to let it go and move on. Perhaps there are some of you who feel the same way; you’ve been hurt, and the corresponding ache fills your heart every time you think upon it. You feel isolated from the world that was supposed to understand you and accept you, most days in spite of you. Instead of receiving you, the world has rejected you, or at least the two or three who purported friendship with you only later to deny your existence.

Almost as if you weren’t there.

My hurt has resulted from a post I wrote about a popular, Christian book after it made its debut. I thought my review was fair and gracious. Others thought otherwise. The review has since been removed from my blog, not because I don’t believe in the words I wrote back then but rather, because, I was wounded by the responses I received from others. My skin isn’t thick; my skin is tender, my heart even more so.

Almost immediately after writing that post, my readership declined; not casual readers or those who happened upon me via a Google search, but those I counted as friends. They just walked away with no explanation (one of the reasons behind my growing disdain for social media . . . it’s just too easy to walk away from one another). Oh, they never said this review was the reason for their departure. They didn’t have to. Sometimes a heart just knows; sometimes discernment is easy.

And so, I’ve carried this ache for a long time, and I can no longer pretend it doesn’t hurt. I see those friends out in the social media world when I take my daily stroll in cyberspace. I’ve kept tabs on them, hoping that something would change, that they’d move back into my world. But they haven’t, and it’s time for me to let go of what I thought was friendship and begin to release myself from this obligation to matter to them. They no longer wish to be here, and while this reality hurts me, I no longer wish to cater to this pain.

This isn’t a game to me, friends. What I do here matters to me. You matter to me. I’ve spent nearly five years building relationships with some of you, and I thank you for affording me God’s good grace, even when I’ve not always said what you wanted to hear. I don’t always get it right, but I’m always willing to try, always willing to be honest about my struggles, my failures, and my triumphs.

Shouldn’t we do better at loving one another? Shouldn’t we live grace rather than just talk about it? When we make an investment into the hearts of one another, shouldn’t we stick around for the outcome? Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t expect so much from my readership. Maybe then, it wouldn’t hurt so much when someone walks away. Maybe.

Tonight, I’m wondering about it all, and I’m asking God to heal my hurt and to show me how to make my heart a good fit with this forum. Tonight, I needed to say a few things and begin to flesh out how I’m going to move forward in this space. How am I supposed to write heart-words without risking heart-wounds? I don’t think it’s possible.

And so, I’ll scrub a little longer. Stay on my hands and knees and keep at my floor cleaning until something beyond old tile and accumulated mess begins to emerge . . . until I see the shine. God kneels with me. Even when the world walks away and distances itself from me, God sees me. He doesn’t play games with my affection, nor does he play by the rules when it comes to dispensing his love. Instead, he receives my affection and loves me beyond the rules, beyond the limits of what’s reasonable.

He is where the heart begins to heal. He is when the heart begins to heal.

Tonight. Right now. In this moment.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come and shine me up with the generous love and favor that belongs to me as your daughter. I want to keep loving, keep writing my heart, and keep showing up in this place. Heal my wounds and bring discernment to my spirit. Help me to forgive, and help me to move on. Remove the accumulated mess from my heart, and replace it with a fresh cleansing of grace. Thank you for always kneeling to my need and for never leaving my side. Amen. 

trash day…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Sometimes we don’t have to pray this searching prayer from the psalmist in order for us to know the offensive ways of our hearts. Sometimes we just know. Sometimes it’s just that obvious.

Let me explain.

Things are breaking around my house. The washing machine. The telephone. The remote control. The doorbell. My husband’s watch. My shoes. Unanticipated collapses in and around our home, small annoyances yet big enough to foster our frustration. Not big enough to move us past the point of reasonable responses but just enough to remind us that at any given point on any given day, breakage of temporal things can and does occur. Those breakages can be managed.

But what about the other ones? The breakages not related to temporal things but rather ones related to eternal hearts? Fractures that are not easily fixed, managed, or controlled? Breakages that occur because of the carnality that simmers just beneath the surface of our skin? What do we do with those collapses when they burst forth as “unreasonable and out-of-control”?

Last night I went to bed with some breakage. So did the other members of my household. Someone spoke breakage into someone else, which in turn began a chain of brokenness throughout our household. It doesn’t much matter how the chain began. What matters is the fact that breaking words have a strong tendency to spread like a virus. Before long, everyone is infected, and hearts begin to ache for the greater good they once felt—the greater good for which God created them.

We should know better. Live better. Speak better. A better way of doing life is what God desires for each one of us. When we don’t act on that better—when we deliberately choose to live as a people unchanged by the cross of Calvary—then we continue to live as a sin-sick people in desperate need of a heart’s examination.

To know that we need one … a heart’s examination? Well, I suppose that is a good starting point. So many Christians are walking around with blinders on, unaware of their simmering sin. Worst still are those who are aware of their sin yet are unwilling to do anything about it. Those who choose to linger with yesterday’s rotten, stinking garbage and who have somehow fooled themselves into thinking that stink doesn’t stink and that the flies gathering around are an indication of some remaining goodness.

Time to take out the garbage, friends. Time to pray the prayer, to acknowledge the sin, to put away childish things. Time to stop breaking one another with angry words, forced agendas, human manipulation. Time to work from the heart outward, rooting out those carnal tendencies that simmer just beneath the surface of the skin. Time to push them out completely so that our tomorrows aren’t filled with the stench of yesterday’s struggle.

This morning, I’ve taken time to collect the garbage of my heart and hauled it to the curb of Calvary. Laid it down before the Son of God and begged his pardon for my sin. It hasn’t been a difficult collection process for me. Some stink… some sin, is just that obvious, just that offensive.

Oh for a heart that is quick to notice the quickening truth of the Spirit of God within! Oh for a heart that is willing to listen to conviction, to act on that conviction, and to move forward with repentance and grace-filled renewal! What would it take to get us there, readers? What lingering sin is still simmering beneath the surface of your skin today? If you’re willing to open up your heart for examination, then I invite you to pray the prayer that the psalmist prayed so long ago, the prayer that I prayed just moments ago. It’s time to stop breaking ourselves and those that we love with the sins that so easily entangle us.

Search me, O God, and know my heart completely. Try me, test me, examine me under your microscope, and point out my insufficiencies. Make them obvious to me, Lord, and press my flesh to the point of releasing them once and for all to the cleansing work of the cross. This is the only prayer I know to pray today, the only prayer I want to pray today. You are my standard. You have called me to holiness. Only You can bring about a change in my heart. Humbly I submit it today for your sacred scrutiny. Lead me forward in the way everlasting—the path of eternal consequence. You are where I’m headed, Father. Save me from myself, and bring me safely home. Amen.


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
error: Content is protected !!