Ric Olsen, Lead Equipper/Pastor
cell: 714-356-2093
work: 714-633-3351
Email: ric@theBeacon.church
Skype: ricolsen
Facebook: ricolsen
Twitter: @ricolsen
Blog: http://ricandcarolynolsen.blogspot.com/
Instagram: ricolsenca
 
 
(note: Ric's role in the column is now only once every couple weeks.  To read past articles, Google pastor "Ric Olsen")
 
Thoughts of suicide, a devastating self-image, and social isolation characterized my teen life.  The fact that I was a  late bloomer,  and that my family defined dysfunctional, and were divorced, hippies only compounded my inner turmoil.  They were busy solving their own problems and could offer me no answers, and no models for my own.
 
My parents were married because they got pregnant during my Mom's junior year in high school.  In 1966, finding a doctor to do an abortion was not an easy task.  After three days of family searching, and no success, they decided to get married.  When I was born, my head was abnormally large which lent to a nickname that family friends used well into my teens.  "Ugly" was not an adjective about me, but was actually the name I was commonly called.  The arguing in the family, and hatred between the families, and being told I was  an accident  all compounded in a developing self-image problem.
 
From the time I was five years old, I remember thinking that I was living inside a bubble.  The morality of my culture was different than my own.  I was a stranger.  By the time I was five, my parents were divorced and we began what would become a decade of wandering from city to city, state to state.  The hippy lifestyle didn't bother whichever parent I happened to be living with, but for a kid with a bad self image, constantly needing to fit into a new place only enforced my reclusion.  Sometimes we lived in tents, or vans, other times we lived with other families.  I was always an outsider-I was a blond  "howlie" who represented the colonialist oppressors to the locals in Hawaii.  I was the country bumpkin in the slums of San Francisco suddenly surrounded by people who used pocket knives for something different than carving wood toys.  In all of this, I felt like I didn't belong.  Like I was an observant caught in a bad story.   I began to look for some spiritual solution.  I turned to the beliefs of my parents, reincarnation, self empowerment, etc.  It was empty, but it was the only resource I had.
 
In September of my senior year in high school (1983), the mother of a friend invited me to attend their church.  I was confronted with the truths of Ephesians 2:8-9.  God did not want my good intentions.  He wanted me and He provided salvation for me by faith alone.  The deal was closed, though, when I read verse 10: "We are His workmanship ("poema" or "poem") created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."   Though from birth I was told that I was an accident, God said that I was not.  God planned my whole life (including my birth, looks, and skills) before I was born.  He even had a plan for my struggles.  The greatest impact came in that He called me His "poem."  As a private poet, that struck a chord with me.  God began to change my life.  Within a year, my naive faith led me to believe that God had a particular plan for my life.  He had called me to professional ministry.  The pieces of my life finally began to make sense.
 
Years later, while studying at The Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, it had become my habit to pray on the beach near Lake Michigan.  Turning toward Chicago's skyscrapers, I began to pray for the people in them and in the cars passing by.  What happened next changed my preaching at the way I viewed people and the Gospel.  It was as if the sides of every building and car became invisible.  I could see everyone!  I could feel their pain, hear their arguments.  Most of all, I experienced the great love that God feels for them.  I fell on my knees wailing. Finally, I had to ask God to close the doors to stop!  It was too intense for me.  I no longer thought of salvation in terms of wrath and repentance, but in terms of a love relationship with a living loving God.  A new urgency and commitment congealed in me to proclaim that love.  I understood what the 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody meant when he said after a similar experience "I feel as if I am in love with all creation," echoing Paul's comment that the love of Christ compelled him to preach by (2 Cor. 5:14).  The end of that passage (2 Cor. 5:18-20) has since become my life passage.
This great love lead me to a pastoral position in Romania later that year.  I don't know if you can truly plan to have a  "wilderness experience." God just sovereignly appoints it.  Romania became my wilderness experience for two years.  The Lord put me in a situation where I was isolated from people and research materials to depend on. He challenged every area of my life.  My views on life, death, marriage, sexuality and grace were questioned.  My only resources were God's Word, a few books, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Leaving Romania, I had a vastly deeper understanding of these issues and appreciation for our awesome God.  Working without peers was not my intention, but God had other plans.  The isolation made me ever dependent on Him.  Christ became my only counselor, confidant, and support.  I could not have survived without Him.  My experience has never been religious, but totally relational.
 
This love-relationship and its urgency are foundational to my world-view.  I preach this love, every time I am in the pulpit.  It is my goal that every facet of my life be in the process of being focused on His goals.  It is a great struggle.  A struggle that Christ has validated, as J.I. Packer says, by becoming one of us and conquering the struggle, even death itself.  So that  when Christ, who is (my) life, is revealed, then (I) will also be revealed with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4).
 
The Gospel is about empowerment.  Empowering bankrupt souls, vanquished emotions, and impoverished hands with love, hope, vision and purpose.  My love is to empower people to take the next step in their spiritual journey whether that step is through evangelism (introducing them to the hope), discipleship (mentored shaping into the image of Christ), preaching or teaching (making God's Word applicable).  I am committed to finding new and effective ways of doing so.  
 
Over the past 20 years of my Christian life, the Lord has opened many doors for me.  I could never have planned the experiences that He has given me.  The common thread that binds them all together, whether setting the spiritual tone for 7,000 young Europeans to hear God's call on their hearts, guiding high school students through the maze of career and college options, or telling an orphan that her heavenly Father loves her and waits for her, is that I LOVE to empower people to take the next crucial step in their lives.  More than just loving doing it, I am called to do it!

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