Category Archives: faith

by Faith

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Last Friday, September 21st, our son found his words again. It all started with sign that read, “Say hi.”

He did … said “Hi.”

We were overjoyed to hear his voice, albeit groggy and weak. He read the sign; he followed the prompt. Jadon is coming back to us, piece by piece.

Not long after his initial proclamation, he made others. Simple things—his name, year, birth date. And then he made an unexpected proclamation, one I’ve never heard him say before. When the therapist asked him what my name was, what we expected to hear was “Mom” or “Elaine”. What he said, instead, was …

“Faith.”

In the nearly eighteen years of his earthly tenure, I’ve never heard my son refer to me as Faith. It is, indeed, my first name, but I’ve always been called by my middle name, Elaine. And therein lies the rub. I’ve written about it before … the struggle between my Faith and my Elaine. You can read about it here.

As life goes, the struggle continues.

Will it be life lived according to my Faith or according to my Elaine?

Time will write the witness. For now, the balancing act continues.

And even though my son may not have intentionally called me by my first name just over a week ago (for the record, he’s not called me that since), God seems to be using Jadon to remind me of something I often forget:

A certain faith is often forged in uncertain times.

We are there, friends, in an uncertain season … again. Eight years ago, we were battling through the uncertainty of my cancer diagnosis. Naively, I think we all assumed that this would be our family’s primary “suffering issue.” Every family gets one, right? – maybe two or three or ten. And while my cancer journey was, indeed, a sorrowful season for all of us, it now seems like a small thing compared to this very big thing.

Jadon’s gift bag from the Ronald McDonald house…

We know it. Jadon knows it. Apparently, you know it as well because we’re hearing from you. Yes, it seems as if all of us are #joiningjadonsfight for a whole lot of reasons via a myriad of routes therein. My faith, your faith, our faith is being hammered out and shaped in ways we never imagined prior to Jadon’s “bending low to lift up.”

And in this moment, I am bending low beneath the weight of this limb to pick up my Faith before I pick up my Elaine. It’s heavy. It’s messy. It’s raw. It’s clumsy. It’s graceless. It’s grace-filled. It’s less textbook and more “on the job” training. Honestly, it’s probably the most unsophisticated Faith on this planet.

But it is mine, and it is growing.

So thank you, Jadon, for calling me out by a name for which I am lesser known. Perhaps in those quiet days before you found your words, God was giving you some of his.

By Faith I am listening. By Faith I’ll walk this road with you. Along the way and as we go, may God grant us his strength, his wisdom, his joy, his love, and (as always) his …

Peace for the journey,

September 27, 2018 (the night before Jadon’s 2nd surgery)

Follow Jadon’s Fight on my facebook page. In addition, Scotland Christian Academy (Jadon’s school) are selling #joinjadonsfight t-shirts. If you’d like one, follow this link. Lastly, we are blessed by the continuing financial support we’re receiving. If you’re so inclined, you can follow this link to do so. 

Jadon’s Fight

“Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.”  -1 Timothy 6:11

He lies here, stretched out and so very vulnerable, like when he arrived in this world. His chest is broad, his head is shaved, and in true Jadon fashion, his legs are crossed in just the way he likes to sleep.

Gladiator. That’s what comes to mind.

He is beautiful. He’s my boy, #3 falling in behind his two older brothers and just ahead of his sister.

I can’t believe we are here. My unbelief is trumped by the reality—the gravity of this moment.

We are here, six days out from the most horrific day of my life. I don’t like revisiting that moment. There will be time for that in coming days. For now, I want to focus on this one moment, the one reality that struck me profoundly at 2:00 AM this morning and has stayed with me ever since.

Jadon’s fight is so much bigger than a hashtag or a Go Fund Me account.

Jadon’s fight isn’t just about him, although he has every right to call it all his own.

Jadon’s fight isn’t just so his parents or his brothers or his sisters are able to watch him play ball, graduate, go to college, marry, and have children.

Jadon’s fight is grander than all these parameters.

Jadon’s fight is eternal.

Jadon’s fight is for you, everyone of you reading this now. Everyone who has checked in, prayed, given, loved from afar, loved up close. Stranger, friend, family, and even, perhaps, foe. Jadon’s fight doesn’t discriminate.

You see, if you know Jadon personally, you get this. He loves life. He loves people. He’s never met a stranger. He steps up to the plate when called upon. Of his own accord, he mentors young boys. He carries groceries to cars on food bank days. He ushers at church. He volunteers (he would joke “voluntold”) with Special Olympics, VBSes, and the Appalachian Service Project. He buys veterans meals when they come into Zaxby’s and is ready with a quarter when you need an extra sauce and don’t have any change. He has a verse ready when your spirit is downcast and a smile when yours is upside down. He’ll give you a ride; he’ll give you his shirt. He’ll find a way to work around a problem by creating a new solution (Have you seen his hillbilly bench press?). He helps his mom and never complains. Never.

He has a servant’s heart because he serves the Father’s heart.

And serving, friends, is what landed him smack dab in the middle of this very blessed mess.

Upon Jadon’s insistence, he and his father left the safety of his car to remove a tree branch that had fallen across the road so that others could safely, more easily move down a neighborhood street. And just like that, in a moment of serving—of bending low to lift up—Jadon was struck by a bigger tree branch that put him on his face. It has put us all on our faces, the very place where Jadon would want us to be …

Talking to God.

Thus far, it appears to me, mission accomplished. Thousands of us have joined in holy dialogue with the Almighty, all on behalf of Jadon. History is writing the story, and because my son’s words are currently buried somewhere deep within his gladiator soul, God has called me to serve as Jadon’s mouthpiece.

Since his birth, Jadon has been declaring his faith so very well before many witnesses. You are sharing your Jadon stories with us, and I am not surprised by any of them. I just rarely hear of them. Jadon’s humility often keeps me from knowing just how widely and deeply he’s sown God’s love into the soil of humanity. The harvest is coming to pass, friends, and the fruit we’re taking hold of (the witness of a young man whose name means “God has heard”) is ripening before our very eyes.

What a sight to behold! A good fruit in a good fight.

“Good?” you might ask. Yes. Good. Why? Because Jadon’s fight is not just a fight to live again personally. Instead, Jadon’s fight is an invitation for you and me to join him on the front lines of faith and to live eternally.

And that, friends, is exactly what makes all of this good.

So, if you’re inclined, would you join us on the battlefield? Would you be willing to step up and step into the glorious harvest of faith that awaits you? Jadon would want you there, alongside him, contending for the “bigger” that is beyond what we can currently see. Jadon wants you with him now. Jadon wants you with him next. Jadon wants you with him forever.

Jadon wants you with God.

I do too. So consider this your invitation to join us on this sacred road of suffering. Grab our hands, grab a tissue, grab a moment, and grab whatever fragments of faith you have. Let’s take hold of the eternal life to which we’ve been called. Together, with Jadon leading the charge, we can sow and grow an abundant harvest that will last forever! As always and forever…

Peace for the journey,

If you’d like to follow Jadon’s progress please visit my fb page. All posts pertaining to Jadon will be made public. If you’d like to read a nice article about Jadon’s story published by the Laurinburg Exchange, click here. In addition, Jadon’s has been featured on the local Charlotte NBC station. You can view it by clicking here. Along the way and as we go, there will be many ways you can help us. We’re not shy about asking. We need help at so many levels. If you would like to join Jadon’s fight in a financial way, please click here. Every dollar raised will go specifically toward paying for the financial cost of getting our boy well. We are eternally grateful! Please feel free to share the link to this post but keep in mind that all rights are reserved by me. If you’d like to use a quote, please seek my permission first. Thank you!

©F.ElaineOlsen. All rights reserved.

The Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery, May 2017

“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Those are the words chiseled into the marble sarcophagus that holds the body of an unidentified military veteran from WWI. In addition, two other unidentified soldiers from WWII and the Korean War are memorialized at the same site in separate crypts. A fourth, previously unknown soldier from the Vietnam War (later identified through DNA testing at Michael Blassie) rested there until 1998 when his remains were moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Since 1937, the Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded 24/7-365 by a select group of soldiers known as Tomb Guard sentinels, an elite group of soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard.” The soldiers rotate throughout the day, ceremoniously and meticulously marking their steps, following a prescribed protocol of duty. It’s fascinating, sobering and sacred, to sit as a ringside witness to such tribute and honor. For these soldiers, their service isn’t played out on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq.  Instead they surrender their duty, give their time and their best, on the battlefield known as Arlington National Cemetery, all for one sacred, privileged purpose.

To guard and protect the unknown – an American soldier known but to God.

And tonight, in the quieting moments after a week that has forced my faith to new heights and my knees to deeper prayer, I am thinking about those unknown soldiers, their stories and the secrets they keep encased within those crypts. Most tenderly, I’m thinking about the soldiers who, for the past eighty years, have given up their days and their nights for the sole purpose of guarding and protecting this mystery.

Sometime in the distant past, on a landscape not my own, three soldiers died on different battlefields while defending the rights of liberty. And while their identities currently remain a mystery, their earthly remains are heavily defended by The Old Guard.

As it is with the Tomb of the Unknowns, so it is with my life. So it is with yours.

a sentinel from The Old Guard – Arlington National Cemetery, April 2017

There are many mysteries, countless unknowns attached to our stories. The previously written chapters of our lives are safely scripted and bound within the annals that bear our names. But there are other pages, other secrets, chapters to come, and chapters writing themselves in this very moment, that are unidentified to us. And this can be scary at times because we have very little control over the unknowns; instead, we can only bear witness to them as they arrive and pray for God’s grace to hold them as our own. And when we’re shaken by newly discovered realities – when the unknown is finally identified and brings us fear rather than peace – as Christians, we have a deeper reality that we can cling to, a known truth that will cover our hearts and our minds like a warm blanket on a bitter winter’s night…

The Old Guard is standing near.

Marking his paces. Guarding his own. Rain or shine. 24/7-365. Back and forth before the crypts that carry the fullness of our lives – the mysteries, things known to us, and things known but to him. For this Soldier, his service is no longer played out on the battlefield known as Calvary; instead, he surrenders his duty, his time and his best, on the battlefield known as our lives, all for one sacred, privileged purpose.

To guard and protect the unknown – a soldier’s story, our stories, known but to Him.

See him there, friends. Oh how carefully Jesus Christ is guarding your tomb. Your surrender is precious to him, and in his great love for you, he has promised you his protection. What you cannot see, what you cannot know, is already seen and known to him. Your unfolding mysteries are not a mystery to him. He knows your story. He knows what’s at stake. He’s laid down his life for yours, and you can be sure that he’s not going to let the enemy rob your surrender of one single glory.

The gates of hell may rattle and shake its cage against you today, threatening your capture. But take heart. The Old Guard is standing near, and the gates of hell are no match for the protective, loving reach of this Sentinel. He has given his life and his pledge to bring you safely home. He will keep his word. It is his highest honor to do so 

So rest in honored glory today, Christian soldier. You and your unknowns are known to God. He can be trusted with the rest of your story. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: Psalm 91 has been a balm to my soul in this season. You may read it by clicking here.

an obedience to sow…

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has designed to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. … For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”    

-1 Corinthians 3:5 – 7, 9.

She surprised me today during snack time. As I was leaving the cafeteria with my new crew of 4th graders, she was entering it as a two-week-in, sixth grader. She hurriedly made her way toward me, gave me a hug, and simply said, “Thank you, Mrs. Olsen … for planting a seed in my heart.” Her carefully chosen words paused my spirit and brought a silent tear to my eye as I patted her cheek and responded: “You’re one of the best of them, dear; one of the best.”

Seeds sown … this was her reason behind her gratitude; accordingly, it has become the reason behind my gratitude this afternoon. I’ve been waiting for her to “show up” for over a year now. When she walked out of my classroom in June 2015, I thought we’d pick up the relationship where we’d left it come fall. That was not to be, and it broke my heart. She, along with many of the other students in that class, distanced themselves from me. And while that is the natural way of letting go and moving on, it tore me up inside. I had loved them deeply, had given them the best of me for an entire year. To date, that season was one of the hardest walks of daily surrender I’ve ever had to make. So when it was over, and when an entire year passed amongst us with barely a nod from any of those students in my direction, well, I began to think that all of those seeds I had intentionally sown had fallen on fallow soil.

Apparently not.

Apparently some took root.

Apparently some are still growing, thanks be to God.

You see, it really is all God’s doing. Certainly, my obedience plays an important role in the growth process, but in the end, it’s God who superintends the heart’s development. I am nothing more than a fellow worker, a field laborer who releases the good seed of God’s love into the soil of human hearts. Every now and again, I get to hold the watering can. Occasionally, I have the privilege of seeing blooms come to harvest. But most days, I’m simply a sower, not a grower.

It’s been a tough lesson to learn.

In all of life, not just in the classroom, God intends for you and I to understand and to accept this sacred principle of kingdom sowing. We are the privileged farmers, and God alone is the King. We farm his land, and the work we do is for the betterment of his kingdom, not ours. It’s a weighty thing to try and take on God’s roll.

Who of us can grow a kingdom heart into God’s likeness? Who of us can shape a heart and make it holy? Who of us can raise a harvest that anchors deeply, grows uprightly, and points directly to the Son?

Oh, my friends, it is a dangerous thing to assume such noble responsibility. We are not fit for the task. Instead, we are fit for the plow, for some boots and for an apron full of seed. It is enough to stand there in that place of service. It is enough to walk the length and breadth of the land, broadcasting the good seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon the soil of men’s hearts. It is enough to just get to the end of the long day and to clean our mud-caked boots … our weathered hands and hearts from another day’s hard laboring. It is enough to live there in the shadows of not knowing whether or not the seed grabbed the earth and burrowed deeply within.

It is simply enough for us to be faithful with the sowing.

We don’t have to see the end. We only need to believe that the kingdom work we’re doing today is a step forward toward that end. In the end, we will see the fullness of the Father’s harvest, and we will understand that seeds sown in faithfulness never fall onto fallow soil. Instead, they fall forward toward fruitfulness. It is our holy privilege to stand there … in that place of release.

To understand this principle of sowing on the front side (and backside) of the planting is a good gift. But to see it firsthand … to taste the fruit of the harvest? Well, that’s one of the best gifts a heart could receive on this side of the veil. I pray that you, like me, may occasionally see and taste some of the fruit of God’s harvest through you in coming days. But if the fields seem barren and no visible fruit is seen, don’t lose your focus. Sow onward and let God do what God does best.

He gardens; he makes things grow. Of this I am certain.

Keep sowing, keep trusting, and keep knowing that He who began a good work in you and through you, is faithful to see it through to completion. As always…

Peace for the journey,

through the glass dimly …

It’s been a tough ten days for United Methodists across the globe. What … you haven’t heard? You mean you haven’t been glued to the live-streaming drama taking place out in Portland, Oregon, known as General Conference? Who needs Jerry Springer when you can watch a bunch of Methodists vocally duking it out over the issue of human sexuality … again.

In case you’re not familiar with Methodism and its way of governing our global church body, here’s the short version:  Every four years representatives gather to hash out perspectives and proposals pertaining to our Book of Discipline (aka “rules” for living/doing life as a Methodist). There is merit to the gathering, if for nothing more than to communally gather as one to worship God, the ultimate tie that binds us.

But we are not “one” as Methodists. We are split, especially on the issue of human sexuality. Current language in the Discipline states, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (You can read the full statement here).

And while many other issues are dealt with at the General Conference level, it is this one issue that takes center stage every time (at least during my lifetime). So here we are, a church divided on the issue; there are passionate, well-spoken and well-meaning folks on both sides of this debate. Many of them I call my friends. But this issue is dividing us as a church, not uniting us. And as it stands now, my heart tells me a split of some sort is on the horizon. All proposals/discussions on this particular issue were tabled this go around. The 864 delegates who arrived in Portland from around the globe to have passionate discourse on this important issue weren’t allowed much of a forum in which to do so. Instead (through a series of very convoluted events that I can’t wrap my head around), the delegates voted to allow the bishops to form a committee to do further research on how this might all look for us going forward. It was a narrow victory – 23 votes.

Who wins? Hard to say. All I can say is that I feel terribly sad and defeated today. I thought this would be the year (and the time) when Methodists would finally have some closure on this issue, one way or the other. At least then, I could more easily make my decision about whether or not I wanted to remain denominationally connected to the United Methodist Church. I have a lot of skin-in-the-game. It’s not easy for me to walk away. I’ve been a Methodist all of my life; my husband is a Methodist pastor, my daddy as well. I grew up running the hallways of Asbury Theological Seminary, soul-shaped by the sacred echoes of John Wesley and Francis Asbury. My theological roots are tightly tethered therein.

So today I’m wondering how we got to where we are and, really, how much longer I can hold on. I’m tired of the fighting and the harsh words between the two camps. Even more so, I’m tired of the feelings I’m feeling – the anger, the disappointment, the trying-to-make-sense-of-it-all. My attempts at loving my brothers and sisters on the other side of the fence often fail and that, alone, feels terrible. I want to love well. I want to honor God with all my heart, soul, and might, but I’m not sure I know how to do that in the Methodist church anymore.

I stand in agreement with the current language in our Discipline, and I am disliked because of it … by those in the world and even, by some who call themselves my brothers and sisters in Christ. But hatred and harsh words aren’t enough to make me jump the fence to the other side for the sake of peace; instead, it leads me toward isolation – to the safety net of home where I am loved and where nobody is pressuring me to re-think and re-shape my convictions.

But I will not retreat to silence, because that’s not what God is after in me. He has called me to be a living witness to the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I am not the woman I used to be; God’s love and his holy correction have changed me. I’ve been born again, not in the flesh but, higher still, in the Spirit. He has given me a sound mind, a loving heart, and every now and again, a little strength to get some kingdom work accomplished. Whether I will continue to do so as a Methodist remains unseen. I am tethered, only, temporarily to my denomination. Thanks be to God, however, I am tethered, always, eternally to him.

He is where I will run. He is where I will stay. Thanks be to God, He is where I will end. In the meantime, (and in the words of John Wesley)

“Lord, let me not live to be useless.”

Even so, loosen me from my Methodism, Lord, to use me for your kingdom. Amen. So be it.

Peace for the journey,

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