Just Thinking…and Doing — Oh, Glory!

Oh my! You haven’t heard from me since the end of May! I did not get lost, but I did get overwhelmed. Not surprising. These are overwhelming times. You’ve probably been too busy to even notice my absence. I was expecting to write two posts during this interval.

If you look back at the last post, it presented a few thoughts about Ravi Zacharias who died on May 19.  You know, he was known for his thinking and for provoking others to think. He motivated others to act upon good, sound, biblical reasoning. Note the names of a number of his RZIM programs:

Just Thinking (a 15 minute program), Let My People Think (a 30 minute program), and Just a Thought (a one minute program). You’ll find a the link to these at the end of this post. *1

In times like these — this season of pandemic, this era of social, racial turmoil, this unanchoring epoch of cultural upheaval — I wonder what you’re thinking. I wonder how you’re processing.

I’ve been whirling around in my own world which whirls within this globe which whirls within the universe — all whirling within the Hand of God. II Corinthians 5:7 provides secure mooring for us within the whirling:  “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Reasoned faith not manipulated sight, I trust and pray, is informing me. So, I have located a few faith-informed thoughts, quite precious to me, to pass on to you. Just thinking….

First, here’s a personal update. While the pandemic was rolling on, I was pounding out the rest of the chapters of my Bible study book, A Traveler’s Guide through Suffering and Joy. Obviously, this is a timely study. Trying to complete all twelve chapters (the best draft versions I could mold for now), I began chapter 12 and worked through several versions but was not satisfied, so I set it aside on June 30 to pick up later in July, so that I could simmer, simmer, simmer on my closure. That is where I am presently. I’d appreciate your prayers regarding this project.

Then the racial, social themes gnawing within our midst, blasted like a volcanic eruption all around us. So much to think about here. So much to mourn. So much to consider. I cannot write about it now, because it needs appropriate space, and I don’t have that here at this time. The focus of this blog is living the Christ-life, not politics and not directly culture, yet we know that such issues intersect with the “pedestrian theology” and the “walking with Christ” themes that we explore here. So, I’m praying about what I should write and when….

In my little world, here in the Midwest, Paul and I have had opportunities this past month to spend time with my 89 year old aunt, Aunt Mary, shower her with attention, and serve her in various ways. What fun to watch her smile, laugh, and enjoy the attention.

Aunt Mary is opening her birthday gifts.

If you’ve read my posts for a number of years, you will remember “the Findlay family farm” that I’ve written about. Aunt Mary is the family matriarch on my mother’s side who owns and manages this farm. I would love to tell you more family stories, but not now.

In my little world, this past month, we’ve also had a partial week in which our two grandsons, ages 8 and 11, stayed and played with us here in Fort Wayne, Indiana! What an exhausting treat! (Their parents were grateful for the break; we get to have the boys again for a week in August.) Lots of stories I could tell!

In my littlest of little worlds, I live within the “tent” of my own body, as we each do. No one else is in there with me, but the Lord. This tent, my body, has been getting noisier (more rebellious) and more weary these last few months. Noisy nerve endings. Muscles that feel like they’re crushing my bones. Throbbing head and body at times until I’m nauseous. Excuse me. Yes, I’m one of those old people. One old saying is that “growing old is not for sissies,” and for those of us who are always old, just always growing older, courage is needed on a moment by moment basis. Being alive takes so much patience.

Some Faith-Informed Thoughts in Text and Song

Yes, life — personal, national, and global — has been whirling and whirling and whirling. Makes me dizzy. Thus, thoughtful words anchored in God’s Word ground me. They stop the outer motion and my eyes look up. “Lo, I am with you always,” Jesus is still saying to me and to us (Matt. 28:20). “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though outwardly (physically) we are wasting away, yet inwardly (soul-spirit) we are being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). Thinking on such passages soothes my soul. These truths combined with the joy of viewing God’s nature around me, as I often reference in my writing, comfort and delight my inner being.

One of the most cleaver realities of the Christian life is  living in two worlds at once. We are citizens of this country for our earthly duration while simultaneously citizens of another, living in both (Philippians 3:20-21; Eph. 2:18-19; I Cor. 15: 44-58; explore these passages). Think on that!

Add to this some precious spiritual songs to nourish our weary souls. I wanted to share the following two hymns with you, thinking to include the lyrics only, but then I found these vocal presentations on YouTube to pass along to you.

“In Christ there is No East or West” was written by John Oxenham (pseudenym for William Arthur Dunkerly), a British journalist, novelist, and poet (1852-1941). These hymn lyrics were published in 1908 but speak to us today, here in America or wherever we are.

To say the least, being “in Christ” is not a physical location but a oneness of belonging. As A.W. Tozer explains,  “So when we sing, ‘Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,’ we are not thinking of the nearness of place, but of the nearness of relationship.” *2

This principle of nearness in relationship applies to our relationship with God and to our relationships with others. In Christ there is no east, west, north, or south, but nearness in our identity in Him. The hymn below may have layers of meaning. The author’s background, to the degree I’ve explored, does not bring much context to his lyrics. We bring the lyrics of the song (and any song) first to the Word for clarity and when needed, correction or modification, so that we can see what help and encouragement we can gain in our contexts.*3   Just thinking…always thinking…always praying.



1. In Christ there is no east or west,
In him no south or north,
But one great fam’ly bound by love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

2. In him shall true hearts ev’rywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord
Close binding humankind.

3. Join hands, disciples in the faith,
Whate’er your race may be!
Who serve each other in Christ’s love
Are surely kin to me.

4. In Christ now meet both east and west,
In him meet south and north,
All Christly souls are one in him
Throughout the whole wide earth.


“In The Cross of Christ I Glory” was written by Sir John Bowring (1792-1874), a British author and statesman who saw much of the world. These words were published in 1825. The first verse is arrestingly, universally true. Think on these words.

1 In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

2 When the woes of life o’ertake me,
hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
never shall the cross forsake me.
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

3 When the sun of bliss is beaming
light and love upon my way,
from the cross the radiance streaming
adds more luster to the day.

4 Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
by the cross are sanctified;
peace is there that knows no measure,
joys that through all time abide.

5 In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

Just thinking. You know, there is no “just” about real thinking. You know that the Greek word cluster, glory/glorify finds its roots in the concept of thinking and thought. We cannot know glory without knowing, which requires thinking. We cannot give glory (praise, honor, and worship) without real thought. Jesus said that “they that worship Him” must “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This requires thought — loving God first with our minds.

We glorify God by knowing God as He has communicated Himself to be, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To think of God well and rightly and follow after Christ closely leads us to glorify Him. This is a “think and do” lifestyle. Maybe we complicate “glorifying God.”

Even in our times,

“Towering over the wrecks of time” is the cross, “in which I glory.”

“Just” thinking….


*1. Here is a link to Ravi Zacharias’ three programs, “Just Thinking,” “Let My People Think,” and “Just a Thought.”    https://www.rzim.org/listen

*2. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God ( Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread Publishers, 1993), 62.

*3.  I follow a different principle for interpreting hymns (that are not a part of the Scriptures such as the Psalms) than the principles I follow for interpreting the Bible, which also differs from what I follow for interpreting other literature. I should write about interpreting texts. Here’s the bottom line: 1) Reading the text of Scripture, we seek to exegete it, which is to extract from it what is in there, seeking the “original intent” of God’s Word, acquiescing to its ultimate authority; 2) Reading literature of any genre, I seek to exegete the intent of the author and evaluate it by the light of my biblical worldview and my personal experience, and then judge it: evaluate, appreciate, admire, question, disagree, correct, reject, or some mix thereof; 3) Reading spiritual songs and Christian lyrics, (especially for devotional use or congregational singing), I practice both exegesis (seeking to take out of the text the author’s meaning and original intent) and eisegesis, reading into the text the biblical content that I think should be there when it is lacking, unclear, or misleading. As with other literature, I practice a spirit of evaluation before appreciation. When I sing hymns, I seek to interpret the hymns/songs as biblically as I can. When singing, I don’t worry about being true to the lyricist, but true to God’s Word, hoping that actually both can happen. (When quoting an author or lyricist, we should always quote accurately.) Well there’s more food for thought.



Categories: Christian Reader, Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth, The Thinking | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Just Thinking…and Doing — Oh, Glory!

  1. Karen,

    Well written, well expressed, thoughtful blog. Thinking takes time and sadly I find that our culture today takes little time to think, to muse, to meditate upon what is written or spoken or put into lyrics for songs. I too fall into the trap of the Tyranny of the Urgent. In his book, so titled, Charles Hummel stated that “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” Thinking is important and so is intentionally setting aside the time to do so.

    You posted so may thoughts that it will take some time to contemplate the various directions that your musings could take me. In spite of the related issues of the culture and the pandemic, I’m so glad that we can contemplate the greatness, the righteousness, and the perfect plan of God for our lives and rejoice (especially through ‘thoughtful” singing) that This World Is Not My Home. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)



    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Thank you, Louis, for such a substantial response! I am blessed by it! And God’s blessings to you and Ruth Ann!!

  2. Martin Zuidervaart

    What a beautiful potpourri of thoughts, Karen! The two hymns are new for me–robust theology that gave a clear”view of god’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual service.” (Romans 12:1) I also benefited from your concise explanatory comments about interpreting what you read and hear from Scripture, other literature, and songs. I will pray with you as you trust the Spirit to finalize chapter 12. Marty

    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Thank you. I am so grateful. It is the middle of the night now, but I can’t sleep. It is good to know that you are benefited by this potpourri of God’s Word, spiritual songs, and notes of explanation. Thank you so much for your prayers!

  3. A wise principal for interpreting hymns and songs that you shared.

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