Thinking Out Loud

May 26, 2016

Straight From a Faithful Heart

Lisa ElliottA guest post by Lisa Elliott

In August, 2009 Lisa and her husband David lost their oldest son Benjamin after a heroic battle with cancer at age 19. This loss greatly impacted many others, including ourselves, and I wrote about it at that time. Shortly after, she wrote her story in The Ben Ripple which we reviewed here. We also featured Lisa’s writing in a Facebook excerpt from those days. Recently I stumbled across a more recent article and knew that I needed to help her share it with a larger audience. As I wrestled with whether it was a better fit with Christianity 201 or Thinking Out Loud, I realized I wanted to share it with both sets of readers.

I’ve made it a habit over the past number of years to visit a graveyard every Sunday before church. My purpose, you ask? To metaphorically, but in a very tangible way, and strategically before engaging in a worship service, put to death anything in my life that is dead or dying and especially those things preventing new life from taking root and producing fruit in my life in accordance with John 15. You see, I’ve experienced firsthand that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

You can be sure that the Enemy of our souls wants us to do anything but produce lasting fruit or enable us to live an abundant life—least of all, in our relationship with the Lord; the Lover of our souls, the One who died to give us life and who, in fact, is our life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

I hope you would agree that God has called us to so much more, even in this life, than what we’re often willing to settle for! He’s called us to not merely survive, but rather to thrive; whether it is in our relationships, in our investments, in our ministry, in our vocations, in our churches, or in life as a whole! Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many don’t! Rather, they forfeit the abundant life that He offers for a mediocre, lukewarm survival.

So what does it mean to thrive vs. survive? Here are some principles I have learned to thrive on:

  • Life is too short to pretend; to simply fake it until we make it. God calls us to be real, authentic, and transparent, especially in our relationship with Him (A good example is David in the Psalms).
  • Life is too short to waste our time, energies, and resources on people who suck the life out of us rather than on those whom we can mutually invest in life-giving ways (Proverbs 13:20).
  • Life is too short to use our time on activities that only serve the purpose of wasting our time. Time is precious to the Lord and we need to use it wisely (Ephesians 5:16).
  • Life is too short to exist merely for the sake of a paycheck or a pension (Luke 18:18-23; Mark 8:36).
  • Life is too short to let the fear of failure, the fear of man, or the fear of the future control us and deprive us of all that God has for us (Psalm 20:7; Matthew 6:25-34).
  • Life is too short to indulge in shallow, idol, and meaningless conversation and miss out on meaningful conversation about life and death issues (2 Timothy 2:16).
  • Life is too short to hold grudges against people who will hold us captive as long as we allow them to (Colossians 3:13).
  • Life is too short to obsess over keeping physically healthy when we should be investing in our spiritual well-being (1Timothy 4:7-9).
  • Life is too short to put off investing in and enjoying a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord until “there and then” when we could be investing and enjoying it in the “here and now”(James 4:13-15).
  • Life is too short to tolerate gossip and slander when instead we should be encouraging one another, and all the more as the day of Christ draws near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Life is too short to wait for life to happen when we can choose to make life happen (Proverbs 4:6-10)!
  • Life is too short to allow the boulders in our life to be obstacles rather than opportunities to climb to higher heights (Galatians 6:10).
  • Life is too short to waste our time longing for the life that was seemingly so much better in Egypt instead of remembering the God who saved you from slavery and brought you through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8).
  • Life is too short to wander in the wilderness when God calls us to a land promised to us that is full of life and growth and fruit in abundance (Deuteronomy 8)!
  • Life is too short to hold onto the past so dearly that you don’t have the capacity to grasp and embrace all that God is extending to us through the outstretched arms of Jesus (John 3:16).

The bottom line is that life is too short to settle for anything less than what God wants for His children. The question is what are you going to settle for?

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21).

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

Casting Crowns has a song that fits so well into what I’m trying to say. You might want to have a listen:

Lisa Elliott is an award-winning author of The Ben Ripple; Choosing to Live through Loss with Purpose and Dancing in the Rain; One Family’s Journey through Grief and Loss. She is a dynamic inspirational speaker; often described as “refreshingly real” as she passionately shares the life-changing truths and principles of God’s Word in her ministry, Straight from the Heart. Additionally, she has appeared on Christian television and radio and is a regular contributor to Just Between Us Magazine. Lisa is also a pastor’s wife, mother of four (3 on earth, 1 in heaven), and is thrilled to have recently joined the grandmother club. She and her husband, David presently live and serve the Lord together in London, Ontario.

Visit her website — there are more articles in the “Straight from a … Heart” series — at

Like her on Facebook at Lisa Elliott – Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author

Lisa’s books can be purchased directly from her,, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, and Christian bookstores across Canada and throughout the U.S. via Anchor Distributors.

February 1, 2013

Getting the Most out of The Christian Blogosphere

Two weeks ago I ran an experiment at Christianity 201 that I hope will be a prototype for similar articles there in the future. The idea was to use the Christian Blogosphere as a commentary resource for particular scripture passages.

Now remember, anybody can have a blog. Just because it’s on your screen doesn’t mean it’s correct, or authentic, or that the person writing has any particular expertise or authority. (The first one below however is a highly respected author.)  But it does offer you insights into what other people just like you extrapolate from the text in question, many of whom did consult a commentary or at least the notes in their study Bible before they sat down to write.

So here is how that first one looked, and I’m always looking for suggestions for other passages that would work at C201.


Today we begin an occasional feature where we will take a particular scripture verse and see how different pastors, authors and bloggers reflected on it. If you have a verse you would like us to consider, let us know.

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Pastor Greg Laurie writes:

When Esther won a beauty contest and ascended the throne in ancient Persia, she was a Jew. But she kept that information quiet. And one day, because of the wicked efforts on the part of a man named Haman, there was a plot conceived to have all of the Jews in the empire destroyed.But Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, came to her and essentially said, “You are there in the palace. You are in a place of influence. You can go to the king and speak on behalf of your people.” But then he added this telling statement: “If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

The idea behind Mordecai’s statement was this: “God put you where you are for a reason. Now, are you going to leverage that opportunity for God’s kingdom, or are you going to keep it all to yourself? Guess what? If you don’t do it, the Lord will find someone else.”

God has put you where you are today. You have a sphere of influence. You have a circle of friends. You have neighbors around you. You have coworkers and others with whom you come in contact on a regular basis. Will you go to them? Or will you run from them?

You might ask, “Well, if I don’t go, will the job still get done?”

As a matter of fact, it will get done. The reality is that God doesn’t need you. Certainly God doesn’t need me. But God does want us to participate in the process.

When God says go, what will you say?

Blogger Shanda Hasse adds:

This is SO powerful because I have known that I have a calling from God to reach out to this dark world for His glorious Kingdom, as we all do, and I have really been praying into exactly what he wants from me, as his faithful servant. I definitely know that direction, but it isn’t fully clear yet as to when and how to take action. Money is a large portion of the wait, but I know God will provide me in His timing with all of the resources I need to take flight with this calling.I just love the articulation, “you were made queen for just such a time as this” — we are called as followers of Christ to reach out in His name and not stay silent. This is such a relevant command, especially in the wake of the disaster our world is facing through these perilous times. We are to be queens & kings for Christ now more than ever . . . by that I mean LEADERS. We are to lead people to Christ and the abounding, endless love and hope that he has for all those called according to His purpose — that CAN be everyone if they choose!!

SO, get out there in this mess, don’t try to hide or segregate yourselves and your family from what is going on now with the economy, government and society. We must dive in and radiate Christ’s light and help those in panic and need. The jobless, homeless, seniors who have lost all of their retirement money and many others come to mind. Seek these people out, and help them in Jesus’ name. Pay for their dinner, help them look for a job, point them to the limitless resources of our merciful God. We are being called to serve a powerful purpose in such a time as this, so let’s get out and show the weak, lonely, desperate, lost and so on, the love of our AWESOME God. You go, you Kings & Queens of Christ.

Blogger Suzanne Benner writes:

This is a great verse. Esther was afraid to approach the king and ask him to save her people because approaching him without being asked was risking her life. When Mordecai answers her, it shows a lot of faith. He’s basically saying… if you don’t do it, God will still save our people, but you and I will die. And maybe this is the reason that God has put you here. As it turned out, it was. … I think that is a good thing to ponder as we approach all of our problems. Yes, it is very true that God will accomplish his purposes on this earth without us, if need be. But being where we are, and who we are, we all have unique opportunities to participate in his work. And perhaps we are exactly where we are for such a time as this. Today, wherever we are, and whatever position we are in, let’s overcome our fears, and stand up for God and his work.

Blogger B. Kessler (whose blog’s name is taken from this verse) writes:

…Esther did end up going to the king and because of that the Jews were saved. I am not the kind of heroine Esther was. In fact, I would describe myself as pretty average. But I do realize that by Ethiopian standards I live in a palace. I have luxuries I take for granted. In fact, compared to most of the world I live like a queen. It leaves me to wonder why I have so much when others have so little. Do I deserve more? Well, you may not know me but let me assure you the answer to that is no. I can’t give a good reason for why I was born in the U.S. and not some remote village in Africa or some country where the people are so oppressed they can’t even worship God without fear of being beaten or even killed. I have been thinking lately, as we pursue the adoption of an orphan whose name I don’t know and whose face I have never seen, maybe God has placed me here in these circumstances for “such a time as this”.

Finally, from Truth and Freedom Ministries:

There are those in the Bible that were right on time, others went ahead of God’s appointed timing, and then there was One, born in the fullness of time

…Esther’s words – “…if I perish, I perish.” gives me assurance that she believed this was God’s timing for her to act. In her words you don’t see an assurance that everything will work out in her favor, but you do see the character that it takes to step out in God’s timing and leave the results to Him.

November 24, 2012

Discoveries of the Week

Filed under: books, links, music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

People to keep your eye on; these are discoveries for your week, I already knew they were there.

Writing: Tyler Blanski

An advance copy of When Donkeys Talk arrived in the mail last month from Zondervan unsolicited. I was familiar with Tyler Blanski, and you’ll find his blog is linked in the sidebar of this one; but I set the book aside until this week. It doesn’t release until 60 days from now, so a full review would be a bit premature, but suffice it to say I’m impressed.

When Donkeys Talk contains everything but the kitchen sink; and there are a couple of cooking scenes, so maybe I can’t say that. Blanski may describe himself as a humble house painter, but there’s a lot going on in this guy’s head, much of it overlaid with his background in medieval studies.  Oh wait, I’m doing the review now…

Let’s just say that Tyler Blanski is the new Donald Miller; although phrases like that I’m sure leave people wondering what happened to the old Donald Miller. But you get the idea, right?

Oh, and with a number of references to Christmas, I’m at a loss to understand why this is releasing after Dec 25th, but it’s scheduled for the third week in January.

Music: All Sons and Daughters

Trying to describe this group wouldn’t be fair. Lots of great vocal harmonies combine with lyrics of exhortation and occasional hymn covers.  Wikipedia:

All Sons & Daughters is an American Christian Worship-Acoustic-Folk duo originating from Franklin, Tennessee.They have released one studio album, so far, under the label Integrity Music, which their debut album is called Season One. The duo of Leslie Anne Jordan on vocals and guitar and David Alan Leonard on vocals and piano are the worship leaders at Journey Church in Franklin, which is a non-denominational church…They released three EP’s, which were Brokenness Aside: EP No. 1, Prone To Wander: A Collection of Hymns EP and Reason To Sing: EP…

Although they have many videos on YouTube, the ones that impressed me the most were recorded for Relevant Magazine, such as this version of Wake Up.

Reporting: Todd Rhoades

One of my oft-repeated lines is that it’s a far better thing to make the news than to be content with simply writing the news. While this blog delves into current events and breaking news occasionally, I believe that if you’re going to deal with current issues, you’d better do it well and Todd Rhoades does.

Of Todd Rhoades’ blog — once known as Monday Morning Insight, but now publishing more frequently — all I can say is that if you like the type of things we cover at Thinking Out Loud, you’ll love  Someday I’m going to run a Wednesday Link List that’s just his links, just to see if anyone notices.

This little publishing history kinda sums him up; I’d encourage pastors and church leaders especially to bookmark the blog.

Devotionals: High Calling Reflections

Knowing the dedication needed to produce daily devotional content as intimately as I do from writing C201, I have a great deal of admiration for the team at The High Calling Blog: Reflections.

I like that the material goes beyond the superficial; there are also prayers and challenging questions. Another one to bookmark.



January 1, 2011

A New Kind of Devotional Resource

Sales of devotional books — what some in mainline Protestant churches refer to as meditation books — tend to spike with the coming of a new year.   This fall, Zondervan released a resource authored by Shane Claiborne with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (author of God’s Economy), Enuma Okoro (The Reluctant Pilgrim), and a large supporting cast (including more substantial borrowings from Phyllis Tickle and Andy Raine) that introduces liturgical prayer to a largely Evangelical audience unfamiliar with prayer books or liturgy itself.   Believing this book to have been somewhat lost in the shuffle of fall book releases, I am taking the time to highlight it as we begin 2011.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals has the look and feel of a hymnbook.  (Outside the U.S., a paperback edition is also available.)   The authors’ intention is that it be used as a ‘common’ resource, i.e. in a group setting.   So the readings — not unlike the responsive readings in the back of hymnbooks, if you remember hymnbooks — have a designation for the leader to speak certain lines and the rest of the assembly to respond with other lines.

In point of fact, I think that the majority of copies sold will end up being used devotionally, hence the setup I used to introduce the book.  However, my initial premise — people beginning new spiritual disciplines in January — doesn’t fully apply here, as the book’s daily morning readings begin with December and cycle through to the end November.   A seven-day cycle of evening readings is also included.

It isn’t possible to fully review a devotional book without personally engaging it, and it is equally difficult to try to review a prayer book or hymn book.   Of the book’s 590 pages, I mostly immersed myself in the dozen or so pages that make up the introduction, probably the most contemporary primer on classical liturgy available to the next generation.   It briefly explains the origins of liturgies in monastic life, and introduces the idea of the church calendar; with an emphasis on how these routines and dates stand in contrast to the emphases of contemporary society.

The book’s intended audience is not limited to those for whom Common Prayer would represent a first-time purchase of such a resource.  “We wanted it to work for folks who have never seen a circus and those who have seen hundreds of them.”

For today, January 1st, the reading begins with a brief paragraph about the role of the Quakers during the U.S. slave trade;  some invocational lines; a suggested song, “This Little Light of Mine;” six verses from Psalm 7, taken from the Book of Common Prayer (as are all the Psalm readings); eight verses each from Genesis 12 and John 16, taken from the TNIV (as are all other readings); a quotation from one of the Quaker founders; a place to pray for others and repeat The Lord’s Prayer; a personal prayer for help in answering God’s call on our life; and a collective sentence of benediction.

Though not fully written out, you can also read today’s outline at

In addition to the basic 366 readings, there are also some extra ones for Holy Week.   There is also a selection of songs and special prayers at the end of the book.  Although there wasn’t one for the start of a new year, I felt this one, for “major life transition” was appropriate in anticipation of the changes the new year can bring:

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.   Lord teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change instead of fearing it.   Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me.  I give you my discontent.  I give you my restlessness.   I give you my doubt.   I give you my despair.   I give you all the longs I hold inside.  Help me to listen to those signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

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