Category Archives: movies

An Accidental Treasure

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-14).




My heart is filled with many stories tonight…things I want to tell someone. Anyone. You.

That’s the writer in me. Words find me. Fill me to overflow until I can no longer keep them penned up within. Instead, they call for the obedience and the outflow of my pen. Whether you find them worthy or not, well, that’s your call. On this side of a blank page, I cannot imagine their impact. I can only feel their weight. Unloading them becomes my necessary.

Thus, a Friday night tied to requirement. An evening that begins with a last evening—a Thursday night tied to a New Year’s Day.

With the younger kids safely tucked in bed and for want of anything else pressing in on our time, my husband and I left the “youngers” in the care of the “olders” and ventured to Wal-Mart in search of a movie and some snacks. Rather than driving ten miles to our local Blockbuster, we opted for the five dollar bargain bin just a mile down the road. We walked away with two movies, The Manchurian Candidate and a DVD combo that included two of our favorite movies, Glory and The Patriot. Or so we thought.

After donning our pj’s and firing up the candles for S’mores (apparently Wal-Mart also shelves the ingredients for said snacks…), my husband began to unwrap our selected movie for the night.

“This looks interesting, Elaine. What’s “Nightjohn” about?”

Nightjohn? What? Where’s Denzel in all of his Glory?

Apparently, Denzel was still sitting back in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. My harried perusal of back and forth landed me with a copy of an unidentified movie. Nightjohn. A story set in the deep South about two slaves—a young girl named Sarny and a middle-aged man named John.

Rather than making the trip back to Wal-Mart, we settled on our accidental purchase, and for the better part of two hours, immersed our hearts and emotions into a story that breathed the witness of an eternal truth.

The power of the word.

Nightjohn can read, an offense often punishable by death for a slave. John enters into young Sarny’s world as a recent acquisition of her owner. When he asks her for a plug of tobacco, she insists upon a trade. He insists that he can give her something in return that man can never take away from her.


Sarny is captured by the promise of such a holding and begins to earnestly acquire her new found wealth. One letter at a time. Collected and treasured and pondered with a depth rarely exhibited in any classroom across America. Her learning is sporadic, a slow prod toward having her letters make sense. Sarny’s frustration for the finished product—for being able to read—culminates with a question to Nightjohn:

“How do you know if you be reading?”

John reassures Sarny that the day is soon to come.

That day comes for Sarny as she accompanies her owner’s family to church one Sunday. The pastor instructs the congregants to sing #152, a melodious rendition of the 23rd Psalm. As they sing, Sarny adds her own voice to the mix. The tears begin to flow as she realizes the profundity of the moment—that she, in fact, “be reading.” Nightjohn watches her awakening from the balcony above with his own mix of tears. An observant pastor also takes notice.

He leaves the pulpit, approaches Sarny, and with tenderness in his voice asks her a life-changing question:

“Child, are you saved?”

Without hesitation, she replies:

“Yes, I am. I am saved.”

And I am undone with the moment. It approached my soul with the magnitude of the kingdom—God’s kingdom. Indeed, Sarny was saved. In more ways than one. The reading of man’s words led Sarney to God’s Word and to her salvation accordingly.

The power of the Word…both in print and in the flesh, came to life and to a living heart who was hungry for the find. And while Sarny’s physical chains still bound her in the flesh, her spiritual chains had been broken, and she took to her baptism with the truth of God’s Word searing within her soul.

Indeed, something that man could never take away from her. Something that can never be taken away from you and from me if we’ve known the power of such a moment. And so I ask you tonight, with a tender urgency in my heart…

Child, are you saved?

Do you remember the day when God’s Word became real to you? When all of his kingdom letters collided with your flesh and you knew, for a fact, that you be reading the Word? Did it make you cry then? Does it still…make you cry? Not because you’re sad, but rather because the magnitude of such truth overwhelms your soul to point of release?

For all of the ways I could turn this, take this and make it into something else, nothing of greater consequence exists. Your salvation is everything. Having God’s word…his Word…collide with your chains is the stuff of everlasting significance. He shatters our shackles and deems us free. He leaves us, not as slaves, but as kings and queens of a royal throne established on our behalf because his Word has the final say in the matter.

I know that most of you reading this have experienced the power of such an awakening. Thank God tonight for your salvation. But there are others—strangers and friends, those you love and those you don’t—who need the magnitude of such a moment. Perhaps, like Nightjohn, God has allowed you a measure of influence in their lives.

Would you, on the front side and at the beginning of a New Year, be willing to bring them the brilliance and illumination of God’s living Word … one letter at a time until their collected abundance yields the eternal wealth of a Psalm 23 kind of moment? So that they, too, can be reading what you’re reading?

It is a worthy story. One of the many that fills my heart tonight. Apparently, the one that God deemed most appropriate for the pen. I’m always amazed at the finished canvas. Not because it exceeds the beauty of another’s words, but simply and profoundly because God has allowed me the privilege of its painting.

One brushstroke at a time. One letter after another, until words fill the page, and I am reminded through my tears of my own soul’s awakening. The moment that rushed upon me with the magnitude and force of God’s kingdom grace and with the brilliant illumination of his lavish and unmerited love. The moment when I knew for a fact, that I be reading the Truth.

May such remembrance find its way into your heart this day until you “know that you know” and until that knowing becomes the deepest and most cherished treasure of your heart.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of his living, eternal witness—the Holy Spirit—I shout my gratitude and sound my salvation. I am saved. I am free. Ain’t nothing that man can do to take that away from me. Amen.


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Copyright © January 2009 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

PS: Heading back to Wal-Mart tomorrow. If I can find another copy, I’ll get one for a give away. Here’s hoping for another accidental treasure. Shalom!

The New World

The New World

“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Not long ago, I sat down to watch Elizabeth: The Golden Age. The story is well-known to many but fairly new to me. I’m not a history enthusiast, although I am drawn to its memoirs via the silver screen. There’s something majestic and grand about visiting another era. When crafted well, “period pieces” etch their eccentricity into my soul, leaving me breathless for more.

The intrigues of yesterday’s “long-ago and far-away” are a worthy pause. They reveal truth by framing the past within the present. They trace our ancestral beginnings to our now, weaving a path of incomprehensible moments that lead us to this one moment in time. A day called today, when every yesterday bears the worthy trust of a purpose and a plan.

We couldn’t see it then because we didn’t live it then. Our lives were meant for this generation, but we are the witnesses to what remains—those blossomed remnants from a long-ago seeding that have fed our imaginations and scripted their influence into our current. Whether it be 500 years ago or five days ago, the past hosts the stage for the right now … for the future.

In one particular moving scene from Elizabeth, the Queen is listening to the wild rantings of explorer extraordinaire, Sir Walter Raleigh. He is describing the depth of what it was like for him to discover the new world. The tempestuous seas. The brittle cold. The weary nights and days and days and nights of water upon water with no land in sight. His is a compelling story, crescendoing with every detail until he unveils the moment of his discovery—the virgin vision of land in sight.

It is an edenic moment, one that scripts with the lush and green and wild of a fresh unearthing.

Elizabeth is undone with the telling, imagining the far-away and what it must be like to live within the edges of such adventure. With tears brimming from emotion, she voices the penchant of her heart…

“Do we discover the new world, Mr. Raleigh, or does the new world discover us?”

And with that question, I am undone. It’s a worthy wondering, for before me … before each one of us … is a brave, new and unseen world offering up its invitation to come. To set our sails in a new direction that is fraught with the unknown and the unimaginable.

Who can really plan for a sea’s crossing in advance? Who can measure the depth of the dark and the waves and the ill-effects of climate shift prior to departure? Who can reason the sun’s heat and thirst of a long journey? Who can forecast the wide open skies of a sea’s starry night or the brushstrokes of a horizon’s morning? Who can fathom the ups and the downs and the side to sides of a watery perimeter? Who can fully comprehend the completed journey even before it begins? Who can see the new world prior to leaving the old?

Who indeed?

God can. He did, and he continues to do so. On our behalf and on behalf of those who’ve come before and those who are soon to follow. He sees it all, from beginning to end—the new world. It commenced on the shores of his sacred understanding; it will finish accordingly. But sandwiched in between those eternal bookends?

A sea’s crossing. A journey’s now. From coast to coast, where faith becomes the wind that sails us home into safe harbor.

Do we discover the new world, or does the new world discover us?

Yes and yes.

It’s not that it hasn’t been there all along. Its shores have always sung. Its land has always known the generous breathing of a big and mighty God. Its width and length and heighth and depth have been measured and established by the wisdom of its Creator and sustained accordingly. The inconceivable has been conceived by the only mind capable of holding such vision.

And if we, by the grace of God, have set our sights on Jesus, then with every passing day, in unsuspecting and unimaginable ways, we catch glimpses of the harbor that stands on the horizon. A reachable Eden that scripts with the lush and green and wild of a fresh unearthing.

The new world and us. An unlikely coupling. A joint discovery on both counts. Together, a profound weaving that breathes and brims with unending possibility and with the breathless yearning for more.

More adventure.
More edges.
More moments.
More risks.
More faith.
More discovery.

More nights of stars and days of horizons, piece by piece until we arrive on the shores of the new world, and we trade in our weary remnants for the full dressing of our forever.

Who can fathom the worth of such a journey? I am compelled to try, for long ago and far away, in another era it seems, God’s love called out his invitation for me to come. A “period piece” from my history that etched its eccentricity into my soul. I’ve been sailing its waters ever since. It’s been a worthy row, friends, and one that is drawing me ever closer to my discovery of the new world. I bet you could voice the same. May God keep us, everyone, to the journey until we land in the seen reality of our unseen and wild imaginings. It won’t be long, thus I pray…

Bring us home, Father God, into safe harbor with you. Keep our eyes fixed on the horizon instead of the sea that seeks to drown our faith in the process. Thank you for the process of discovery and for the vision that you’ve seeded in our hearts for the inconceivable realities that you conceived on our behalf long ago. Your grace is the unimaginable gift that allows us participation in the new world. It leaves me breathless and with a heart of thanksgiving for the life I’ve been allowed. Keep me grateful. Keep me mindful. Keep me moving forward, straight into your arms. Amen.

Copyright © November 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I will be traveling this week and plan on stepping away from the computer for a few days. Enjoy some turkey and some fellowship with family and friends. I am thankful for you, my blogging companions, who have spent the better part of 9 months on the journey with me. What a joy to share this road with pilgrims like you! I mean that. Shalom.

The Glorious Wonderful of a Heart’s Break

“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:37-38).

“Mommy, that movie breaks my heart.”


“Because it was so wonderful.”

“Why was it so wonderful?”

“Because in the end, the king lets her make music.”

“Say that again, Amelia, so mommy can remember it for always.”

Because in the end, the king lets her make music.

This was the conversation I had with my daughter last night after she had finished watching The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning. I meant to watch it with her, but a lengthy phone conversation took me away from the moment. Several moments to be exact. When my daughter came to me with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, I was puzzled by her odd blend of emotions. But then I recognized her look. It is one I’ve worn over the years. Sadness and joy all mixed up within the welling of a wet that now poured down her cheeks.

Her emotions seem an odd coupling to those who have never known the glorious wonderful of a heart’s break. But I have tasted such a portion, for I have known a great loss only to be surprised in the end, by a great wonderful.

A great grace.

Atlantica, the magical waters of mermaids and talking sea creatures, had lost its capacity to sing. Not because it didn’t hold a melody within its waters, but rather because a tragic death had beat its drum upon her shores. Loudly and profoundly it marched, sending song’s breath to a watery grave buried deep within the unseen sands of an untouched grief.

Pain does that. It buries. It may burst forth in all manner of wild expressions at the time of sorrow, but it almost always finds a way to, at least temporarily, suspend the song. When death of any kind marches its cadence upon the soil of our souls, it buries. It digs deep and cries hard and grasps for fragments of control that don’t allow music its voice. At least not in the moment.

But here’s the truth of the eternal song. Once the music has made its way into a heart, no amount of casting aside and crying and denying its pulse can keep it buried forever. We can go to the grave refusing it a voice, but in the end, the music remains. It will find its chorus, even without our participation because the King’s music is meant to be sung.

Not long ago, there was a woman who longed to sing. Full of sin, yet full of a needful search, she took to the road to find her song. For a long season it had been submerged within her sands of an untouched grief. Almost forgotten. Almost buried beyond retrieval. Almost too hard and too painful of a reckoning. Almost.

But there was something about this Jesus that struck a chord deep within her. Remote and distant at first, but stirring nonetheless. A stirring worthy of an offering. A stirring worthy of her heart’s break. A stirring worthy of her tear-stained kisses and her hair’s gentle caress. A stirring worthy of her walk of shame before men and, at last, before her Savior.

A stirring worthy of the search because in the end, the King allowed her the glorious wonderful of a heart’s break.

He gave her his music.

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” (Luke 8:48-50).

I know the woman. I’ve seen her before. Not just on the pages of scripture, but written upon the pages of my own heart.

God has allowed me the glorious wonderful of a heart’s break. The surrender was painful, and indeed, my heart was shattered in a thousand pieces and scattered throughout the sands of a sinful disobedience. The brokenness seemed irretrievable, most certainly too deep and too hidden for discovery. And when God’s music had all but diminished to a faint whisper within me, I almost gave way to despair—to neglecting the single chord that held as my anchor despite my disregard for his presence.

But then I heard that Jesus was in town, and the chord within chorused its precision amidst my chaos. I was compelled to get to his feet. The closer I moved toward him, the louder the melody within. And once I saw him, the chasm that existed between my great need and his great wonderful was palpable and strong, truthful and tender. I knelt in tearful surrender and was surprised by the gracious and great grace from the King who has been letting me make his music ever since.

A sinner. Her King. A surrender. His music.

The glorious wonderful of a heart’s break.

May it be so for each one of us this day, and so I pray…

Make your music, Father, sing through me. Those notes that you seeded in my heart so long ago, play them as you will and weave them into your eternal chorus with a blending that breathes sweet in the ear and with a grace the harbors gently within the soul. Thank you for the gift a difficult journey and for the season that turned me inside out, allowing me a hard reckoning with the truth of Calvary’s gift. You have turned, for me, my mourning into dancing, and for the rest of my earthly days, I commit my voice to the song of your renown. Amen.

Copyright © August 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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