Wednesday, April 30, 2014


"What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." Ps. 56:3

For three months, my husband Richard and I have been living on pins and needles, awaiting the results of medical tests he has gone through. Today is the day we are to receive the results of those tests.
Last evening, I went for a solitary walk along a path near our house, which leads to the shores of beautiful Flathead Lake in Western Montana. My dog, Foster, and I were treated to the soft smells and soothing touch of the crisp Spring air. Trees hugged our path as we crept through outstretched branches and beneath overhanging bows. A pair of elegant whitetails bounded through the brush, stopping long enough to check us out. I whistled at them and Foster tugged at his leash with a soft "woof," standing on his hind legs and stretching to his full height of over five feet, as he observed them.
Except for the sadness which had bound up my heart for weeks, this was a perfect moment.
A phrase from the Psalms nudged at my heart: "What time I am afraid...what time I am afraid..."
Yes, Lord...what is the rest of it? Of course I knew. "I will trust in thee."
A couple of nights before I had been unable to stop tears and throaty sobs that wracked me in the privacy of my loft. I had crept out of the bedroom I share with my husband and had stolen to the place that had been a refuge many times over the years...the place where I had sensed God's leading in the writing of so many books...the place where God had spoken directly to me many times.
Would he speak to me again?
Tears did not subside until the same phrase came to me. "What time I am afraid..." Even then, however, I was still desperate.
"Lord, I know I am supposed to trust in you," I cried, "but right now I can't!"
Something in that admission brought a measure of relief to my spirit. I felt the warm smile of my Great Companion when I made my confession. He wanted me to know that I did not have TO DO anything...that trust is the antithesis of work. In fact, the work of trust is to give up, to NOT TRY, but to LET.
The walk through the woods was a continuation of the lesson. The presence of Jesus in the realm of his creation was a balm to my troubled heart. "Walk this way," I sensed him saying. "Trust in me. This is my world, and you are my child. Breathe deeply, hear the silence, bask in my love."
The stolen moment did not take all the pain away. But it held out hope. Jesus would provide a well marked path for me, through green bows and perfect light.

"What time I am afraid..." I am trusting in thee!

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour .... take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one. (I Peter 5:8b; Ephesians 6:16)

I like cats, warm cuddly domestic pets with their winsome ways. But, having owned a few (or being owned by them), I am under no illusions as to their basic nature. No matter how charming they may be, they bear within their little bodies the hearts of lions. 

Cats are voracious hunters. They are wired for the hunt, and not necessarily because they are hungry. They can take their fill of kibbles and milk from the bowls their human caretakers provide for them, and yet go right outside and scout the neighborhood for living morsels - mice, birds, insects. 

They will spend hours a day lying in wait in tall grass, their pointed ears attuned to the least scurrying sound, their keen eyes trained on the slightest movement. Or they will hunch down behind a bush near a bird feeder, patient, unyielding, ready to pounce.

And once one of these natural hunters captures a helpless victim, another part of its nature reveals itself. This sweet, endearing creature is downright cruel. He toys with his prey, batting it back and forth, snagging it with wicked claws, then pretending to let it go, giving an illusion of freedom, only to retrieve it and play again. Female cats even teach their kittens this horrendous behavior, modeling the cruelty for succeeding generations.

It was for good reason that Peter chose the lion as exemplary of Satan. Our enemy, or "adversary," is likened to a great cat, prowling the neighborhood, seeking a victim. In the oldest book in the Bible, Job, when Satan comes before the throne of God and is asked where he has been, he tells the Deity that he has been "going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it." He was not getting exercise; he was a predator in quest of his next prey.

Do you ever feel like you are a victim of such a predator? Do you ever feel like you are being mercilessly toyed with, that escape sometimes seems possible, but hope is then cut off? If Scripture is to be believed, we are all potential prey to the wiles of a great hunter, our Old Adversary, the Devil.

And his devices are many. They are called "fiery darts," and are similar to the clawing nails of a cat. They take many forms: fear, guilt, hopelessness, poverty, addiction, prevailing sin, worry, doubt, illness. Satan is called the "accuser of the brethren," and one of his fieriest darts is that of guilt and self-doubt.

This is not a comfortable topic to deal with. It is not a happy subject. But we are warned of his devices repeatedly in the Bible. We are not necessarily imagining it when we feel we are at the mercies of a cruel tormentor.

But this story does have a happy ending. In fact, the Bible tells us about our adversary in order to give us our battle plan. Amazingly, that plan is contrary to our natural instincts. Like little mice or trapped birds, our instinct is to flee, to beat ourselves into a frenzy of attempted escape. But that is not the solution, according to Scripture.

We are told, instead, to FACE THE LION! Instead of high tailing it, we are told to "resist" or "stand up against" the Devil, and he will flee from us! (James 4:7). We are told to take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish his fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16), all the clawing schemes he uses to destroy us.

The shield is a frontal protection. The warrior bears the shield before himself, not upon his back. It is useless to him if he is running away from his attacker. We are told to flee situations where we might fall prey to Satan's wiles (2 Timothy 2:22) but we are never told to flee the Old Griffin himself. 

Nor are we to face the lion in our own strength. The shield we bear is that of faith, dependence on the One who has already won the battle for us. 

At this Resurrection season, we are reminded that Christ descended into Hades to "lead captivity captive." Not only did he bring the poor souls out of prison, but he devastated the stronghold (captivity) itself! From His perspective, the war is already over. We have only to claim that in faith, and rise out of our victimhood.

Whatever life has thrown your way, whatever challenge arises, do not back down from it. With the shield of faith before you, turn and face the lion. And celebrate when he flees from you!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Something Like Scales - Book Of Meditations

If you enjoy Ellen's blog, you will enjoy her book of meditations, Something Like Scales - Finding Light in a Dark World. Now available in paperback and on Kindle.

Port hole publication:


Sunday, April 13, 2014


"Study to be quiet, mind your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded... Godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Thessalonians 4:11; I Timothy 6:6)

Quietness and contentment are not topics that turn heads these days. In fact, when I decided to write this installment on those concepts, I wondered how many would read past these first lines.

But, for me (and this blog is about my own thoughts) these topics have become not only very intriguing, but great challenges. As I have become older, and as I look back from the second half of a life journey, I regret that I did not "study to be quiet" all along.

In our busy world of appointments, schedules, demands, both external and internal, the concepts of quietness and contentment are not often hailed as virtues. In western culture, we are encouraged to be involved, accomplished, movers and shakers. We are told that to be blessed, even of God, means that we are always "on the way up," "thrust to new levels," and graced with ever increasing responsibility and prominence.

I think this is especially true of the boomer generation. We were raised with the challenge of such leaders as John Kennedy ringing in our ears, told not to ask what could be done for us but what we could do for our country, to be the generation that would make a difference, correct the wrongs, achieve great things. We were told we were special, because we were born to the returning warriors, and that we were destined to carry the world beyond war and injustice. Great responsibility devolved upon us, by virtue of the timing of our advent. And, we were also very privileged, told to believe in ourselves as capable of most anything, and treated as if it were true.

While there may be nothing intrinsically wrong with such goals, I wonder how supported they are by Scripture.

For St. Paul, "great gain" consisted of just the opposite. It consisted of a quiet spirit, and a profound, unearthly contentment. And the condition of quietude was actually commanded! He did not consider it an exotic option, but an absolute spiritual essential.

These virtues were rarely ever taught to us, if at all. And most of us never learned that they needed to be "studied" as a discipline.

Quietness and contentment are hard to achieve. They require a form of work that is antithetical to the work of this world. They require surrender, self-control, humility...and practice!

Nor does Scripture promise that by keeping this commandment we will experience heights of glory in this world. Paul, who had learned "in whatsoever state" he was, "therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11) wrote this from prison, a captivity that would ultimately lead to his martyrdom. In worldly terms, he was no hero. He was a loser. Yet, how liberated he must have been!

One of the hallmarks of a quiet spirit, according to Paul, is the minding of one's own business. We certainly cannot be content or quiet when worrying over our own problems, and to launch into an interest in the affairs of others makes for a murky existence indeed. We are to keep quiet, do our own work and let others do theirs. We are not to keep track of their failures or successes, their shame or reward. The jealous, the judgmental, the busybodies and rumor mongers need not apply!

But, lest we think the quietness and contentment Paul spoke of denote lethargy and apathy, we should think again. Nobody changed the course of the world more than St. Paul. Paul the Contented, Paul the Quiet rocked the earth for Christ. Because when he did speak up, when he did challenge the rulers and powers of this world, it was Christ who spoke through him.

Righteous contentment and quietness do not stand idly by in the face of evil. Because the contented have done their spiritual practice, they are capable of great feats, and their faith moves mountains.

This is a paradox. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength," said Isaiah. When we study to be quiet, we are flexing our spiritual muscles. When we exercise our faith, we can do all things through Christ.
We can change the world through our quiet contentment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:4-8a - NIV)

Courses in Logic used to be required fare for high school students. The discipline of reasoning and making sense of things bit the dust along with requisite Latin, Greek and other classical studies, long before I walked the halls of South Eugene High School.

But, I do remember one logical formula that was drummed into us in our basic Algebra classes. 

I loved Algebra, at least the fundamental version which I took in junior high. I used to rush home from school eager to tear into my Algebra book before dinner. Now, don't get me wrong. I am no mathematics brain. In fact, later on, I barely passed college Algebra, even with the help of a hired tutor. But there must have been something in those beginning lessons that appealed to my right-brain strengths. Maybe the fact that letters were substituted for numbers made it easy for my literary mind to grasp.

Algebra was logical. And one of the first Algebraic properties I learned was that if A=B and B=C, then A=C. Likewise, if A=B and A=C, then B=C, and so on. This understanding is handy when working our way through life. I.e. If water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside, then the wet roads will probably be slick. (Bad example, but you get the point.)

I was recently thinking about how this principle might be applied in theology. In other words, are there some qualities (A and B) which are co-equal, that can lead us to an understanding of yet another equal, who just happens to be God (C)? Is there a back door, so to speak, to an understanding of the Divine, that is just as simple as a basic formula?

I believe there is.

I John 4:8, and 4:16a tell us unequivocally that God is Love.

So let's start with the C of the equation. God=Love.

Now, look at I Corinthians Ch. 13 (the Love Chapter), and we will find the A of the formula, Love. Likewise, we will find several Bs of the formula: patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, truth, protection, trust, hope, perseverance, steadfastness. 

Rushing home from school, we can open our Algebra book, the Bible, and dive into the most marvelous lesson in logic ever given. It can be written several ways, depending on the definition given to the letter B.

If Love (A) is patient (B), and God (C) is Love (A), then God (C) is patient (B). If Love is kind, God is kind; if Love is forgiving, God is forgiving. If Love is truthful, protective and steadfast, then so is God.

But what about those attributes which we don't usually associate with God, Himself: humility, trust, hope, perseverance? Aren't those qualities which are a bit beneath a Sovereign Master? Why would God ever be humble, why would He choose to trust in anything or anyone but Himself, why is such an open-ended trait as hopefulness associated with a God who knows all, sees all, and in fact made it all?

These are godly traits because God is Love, pure and simple. Believe it or not, He actually holds out hope for us, he trusts in us, believes in us, even though, as the Bible says, He knows that we are "made of dust." Perhaps these traits, more than the others, bespeak the essence of Divine Love. For, knowing how frail we are, He chooses to plant His image in us; and in loving us, He is in fact loving Himself, seeing the potential in us, and knowing what we can become if we become like Him.

Which is what the Love Chapter is all about. It is about becoming more like God. It is about allowing God's Love to infuse us, live out through us and exert itself through us.

So, as we analyze the God Formula, it might be wise to add another letter to the mix: the letter D, to represent ourselves. When we can see ourselves in the formula, then we will have come full circle. The more we become like God, the more we will exhibit all the qualities of Love: patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, truthfulness, protectiveness, trust, hope, perseverance, steadfastness. 

In fact, Jesus gave us a similar formula for this relationship, when he said, "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." (John 14:20 NIV). 


Now, there's a formula!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What My Son Said

The call came out of the blue, unexpected, unsought. This was not unusual. Most of my son Aaron's texts and calls are like that...unexpected...surprises. An extremely busy young man with a rapidly rising career and a lively family life, he just does not call very often. So when he does, it is always special.

"Mom," he said, "listen up!"
This call was unexpected, however, for more than that reason. It was unexpected because of the message he wanted to give me.

Now, when either of my sons calls me (Aaron or Nathan), I can usually tell from the first breath on the other end of the line just how life is going for the caller. A mother knows her child's tone, and can read volumes from one word. My heart soars or sinks with the first syllable...I know this is going to be a happy call or a sad one. After all, because the calls are not all that frequent, especially from my elder son, when they do come they usually bear some important message.

I am honored that both of my sons tend to let me know, at least second to their wives, what of good or ill has just transpired. We have always been close and that closeness still prompts the entrusting of critical life information to me.

When this particular call came in, the tone of the first syllable relayed a clear emotion. This time it was one of enthusiasm, or direct proclamation. "Mom!" he said out the gate.

"Hi, Aaron. What's happenin'?"

"Mom! You need to start a blog! You really need to do that!"

Wondering what had precipitated this, I was quizzical. "Really?" I said, bemused. "Why do you say that?"

"You have so much to offer!" he said. "You have a lot to tell people that they might not hear otherwise."

"Gee, Aaron," I said, "thanks for saying that. But, what got you thinking about this?"

"Mom, you have insights about things that others need to know. You have a handle on lots of things that you really need to share! And you have a following. Do it, Mom!"

How right or wrong he is, I guess we will be finding out. To this day, I still don't know what prompted his insistence that I do this. But, I have not been able to dismiss it since.

And, I respect his opinion. He is a groovy, in-the-know guy. So, if he says so...

Besides, how often does a grown child have the humility to endorse a parent in this way? For that, if for no other reason, I need to honor his wish and give it a go.

I hope you will all follow along as I take on this new venture. I will need your help...all of you! I will need your interaction, your unsullied straightforwardness, your unabashed contributions.

And, I want to hear from you, too, Aaron...Nathan! You know me better than anybody knows me. So, do me the honor of participating as often as you like.

I will try to post at least once a week. Sometimes more or less frequently, depending on how hot a topic is burning in my heart.

In fact, I am calling this blog Ellen Traylor's Thoughts from the Writer's Heart. And that is just where it will come from.

Welcome to my blog...welcome to my heart!