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Jeff Olson

Jeff Olson

eff is a licensed professional counselor in the State of Michigan and has worked for Our Daily Bread Ministries as a counselor and a writer since 1992. He has authored a number of Discovery Series booklets (www.discoveryseries.org) on such topics as addictions, grief, depression and marital abuse. He also maintains a part-time private counseling practice in the West Michigan area. Jeff and his wife, Diane, have been married since 1986 and have raised two lovely daughters. He is an avid outdoors man who also enjoys sports, music, boardgames, books, and movies.

Articles by Jeff Olson

Foretastes of the Kingdom

When I was 10 years old, Baskin-Robbins opened a new ice cream store in my neighborhood. It didn’t serve the icy, generic brand of sweet treats that my mom occasionally bought at the grocery store. This was good ice cream—thick and creamy!

One More Year

Happy New Year! Today marks the day that planet Earth has once again completed its annual orbit around the sun. Just how many times the earth has made its journey is anyone’s guess. But we do know the voyage is a long one—584 million miles, to be exact.

No Ordinary Family Tree

A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”

Give Freely

In my corner of the world, one of the most popular Christmas practices is to decorate one’s home inside and outside. Many put up real or artificial pine trees, adorn them with all sorts of colorful ornaments, and top them off with an angel or star. Some string up enough lights on the outside of their houses to illuminate a small city. Others simply hang evergreen boughs over their windows and doors.

getting “nautical”

It was early spring and the ice on Lake Michigan had thawed. After a long, cold winter, a few of us hardy anglers were eager to fish again. As we hit the water, the skies were sunny and the massive lake was calm. Conditions were ideal, but not for long. Shortly after setting our lines, the wind kicked up. It didn’t take long for it to start getting uncomfortably “nautical.” Before the waves could build to dangerous heights, we reluctantly pulled in our lines, fired up the boat engine, and motored back toward the quiet harbor waters.

Are We Looking?

The movie Unbroken is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, World War II prisoner of war, and devout Christian. As the last scene of the movie was being filmed, a storm threatened to block the sunlight needed to shoot it. Director Angelina Jolie, impacted by Louis’ faith, did something she had never done before. In front of the whole film crew, the self-proclaimed agnostic dropped to her knees and prayed out loud for a miracle.

Eager To Listen

A young boy and his stepdad had trouble connecting with each other due to the fact that they were complete opposites. The man was outgoing; the boy was reserved. The man loved to get up early to fish; the youngster loved to sleep in and play video games all day.

The Father’s Love

Wanda was a 20-year-old who was living at home but had no real responsibilities. She had a job with a decent income and spent her free time hanging out with friends. All of that collapsed when she became pregnant.

Shine like Stars

I’m not exactly what you would call a stargazer, but I’ve spent my fair share of clear nights gazing up into the heavens. I’ve learned enough about the star field to point out constellations such as the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt or Aquarius. And I’ll never forget the time that locating the North Star was the only thing that saved me from spending the night lost in a cold, wet swamp. I used it to find my way out of the inky darkness.

No Worries

How often do you find yourself worrying about something? We worry about tomorrow, the economy, our jobs, and friendships. We worry about our kids, our parents, and our health.

no ordinary struggle

Near the conclusion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, Frodo is on the verge of completing his mission to destroy the Ring of Power. With the fate of Middle Earth hanging in the balance, all that’s left is to cast the ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

works of art

Carrie Stuart Parks is a talented writer and an award-winning artist. But you may want to think twice before signing up to become her next work of art. Parks is an FBI-trained forensic artist. Most of her “artwork” is comprised of the drawings she has made of criminals through eyewitness accounts and the human faces she has rendered after viewing the remains of unidentified victims.

God’s Front Porch

NASA astronaut Gene Cernan is known as the last man to walk on the moon. In 1972 he was the commander of Apollo 17. He and his crew voyaged to the moon and spent 22 hours exploring the lunar surface. When asked what it’s like to stand on the moon, Cernan responded, “Looking back to see the earth in all of its fullness and beauty was like looking out from God’s front porch.”

The Danger of Complacency

Complacency is one of the biggest dangers for people with severe allergies. I’m a prime example. It had been 10 long years since a severe latex allergy had seriously threatened to end my life. Believe me, it’s terrifying when you suddenly swell up like a balloon and can’t breathe. But then years rolled by and I forgot just how serious an allergic reaction can be.

Untouchable

Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases in Jesus’ day. It sentenced a person who was afflicted with it to an isolated and lonely existence. Jewish ceremonial laws forbid people from having physical contact with lepers. It required those with the disease to live “outside the camp,” isolated from their family and neighbors (Leviticus 14:2-3). If lepers were to venture out into the general public, they were to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that people would know to keep their distance (Leviticus 13:45-46).

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Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

> daily devotional

An Angry Prayer

The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.

Feeling Compassion

Stephen Crane’s story “The Open Boat” tells the tale of four men attempting to survive in a lifeboat at sea. One of the men ironically reflected on a poem he had read as a schoolboy about a soldier fighting in Algiers. The man realized that “he had never considered it his affair that a soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers, nor had it appeared to him as a matter for sorrow. It was less to him than breaking of a pencil’s point.” He hadn’t felt compassion for the soldier—until now.

Peace to You

Recently as I sat in a circle of leaders from our church, a woman asked a simple question, provoking rich discussion. “What are your hopes for our church?” There were several responses, for our little community has many hopes. But on that night this spilled out of me: “I hope we become more and more the kind of people who learn to resist the anxieties of this world because we believe Jesus is with us and that Jesus is doing something with us.”

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Lottie’s Legacy

The legacy of Lottie Moon lives on more than a hundred years after her death. Originally from the US, she traveled to China as a missionary and later established the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has raised more than $1.5 billion (US) for missions since 1888. Many received salvation in Jesus during her years of ministry, but she endured difficult circumstances in the process. She suffered discrimination as a single woman and also faced illness, famine, and war. Lottie remained resolute, however, as she continued to share the good news and urged others to do the same.

Tested and Trustworthy

Recently, while I shopped for an appliance, a store salesman showed me two models. The less expensive one was a knockoff—a cheap imitation. The other had a sticker affixed attesting to its value and quality. Because it had been vigorously tested to stringent industry standards, I was assured of its safety and reliability.

Fires and Faith

If I’m hiking and camping out for several days, campfires are vital. And the most important thing I carry with me as I begin each day is a handful of charred sticks from the previous night’s fire. They’re the very best fire starters—no need to find tinder or other sticks. I just spark the charred ends, blow on them, and pile on a few fresh logs.

> health

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

who sinned?

God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”

> relationships

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

Discerning Truth

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

What’s Your Fragrance?

A colleague approached me in front of some coworkers and asked, “So what’s your attitude, as a Christian, to euthanasia?” Everyone stopped their conversation and all eyes were on me. I spent 20 minutes not in debate, but trying to share the aroma of Christ with those who didn’t know Him: His love, compassion, unchanging character, and absolute righteousness. As I shared about Jesus and His love, I prayed that my coworkers would get a whiff of the character of God—not the erudite arguments of a theologian.

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