Monthly Archives: May 2009

On Empty…

I see Christ’s face before me tonight. There is a deep need in me to do so. My world is spinning fast, and my commitments are firm in their insistence. I haven’t slept well for days, and my nerves harbor on the edge of collapse.

I am tired, friends. The kind of tired that searches for answers but can never seem to take hold of the right one. I imagine you understand. Who of us hasn’t lived through a tired season or two in recent days?

Still and yet, there is no retirement for me as a mother, a wife, a friend, a follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t get to quit because my feelings tell me to do so. I get the privilege of “walking it through.” Yes, privilege. To see my life’s work as otherwise—to value it less than what God intends—is to till the seeds of discontent. And when tilling those seeds becomes more important than accepting my privileged participation as a member of the human race, then sure disaster lies on the horizon.

Thus, the rub. How do I balance exhaustion and privilege? Where is the dividing line between what I am called to do and what I feel that I can no longer do? When does taking care of my need become more important than taking care of the needs of others?

This is the current struggle of my heart. I could keep it to myself … bury it in hopes of being able to ride this wave a bit longer, but what does it profit me to stuff my angst? I’ve never been able to reason that as helpful. Rather, I believe that confession is very good for the soul. In choosing to do so, I believe that there is someone else … perhaps even you … who needs the witness of my admission.

My weakness to strengthen you. Yours to strengthen me. This doesn’t make for an easy understanding; it simply and profoundly “is” what the body of Christ does.

We depend.
We befriend.
We bend.
We lend.
We tend.
We mend.
We comprehend…

so that in the end, the body grows stronger. Walks better. Shines brighter and lives purer.

For all of the struggle that feeds my flesh this night, I willingly embrace the high and holy privilege of being yoked alongside of you. I’m part of something bigger than what exists inside of me. My life is not lived in isolation, even when I reason solitude to be the better option.

Sometimes, it is the better option. Sometimes not. Wisdom comes from knowing the difference between the two. Tonight, wisdom tells me that my exhaustion mandates a much needed pause—at least until I get a good night’s sleep and a heavy dose of doing “little to nothing” for a few days.

Come Monday, summer kicks into full swing over here. I haven’t yet decided how I feel about all of that (although I have an inclination or two). I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks for your understanding. I covet your prayers and need your friendship now more than ever before.

You are some of best parts of my day. God did me an incredible favor when he decided to intersect my life with yours. Words fail to adequately express my deep love and fondest affection for all of you who make my walk a richer pilgrimage. Keep to the road friends. Keep to Jesus, and I’ll see you on the other side of some rest. As always,

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Ruby Tuesdays: a Mighty Woman (part eight)

“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31:16).

To be honest with you (and what profit would there be to be otherwise?), I don’t think I have it in me tonight to write much of anything, especially worthy words pertaining to the P31 woman. Today has not been filled with many self-titled shining moments. Today has been a “get through” kind of day. You know the type … when just “getting through” feels like a huge accomplishment all on its own.

I’m almost there … almost through and ready to put the punctuation on this day of frolicking chaos. But before saying goodnight, I wanted to take a moment and give our “mighty woman” a final look to see if she might have anything to say to me before sleep has her say over me. And without warning, wouldn’t you know it … she does—have something to say.

Thus, taking her cue, I’m going to follow in her footsteps and try to implement one of her defining characteristics. I’m going to consider this field. I’m going to take possession of it, and out of the overflow of my heart, I’m going to plant a vineyard. Hold on; I think the planting (via a word study) to be worthy of the fruit in the end.

Consider. The Hebrew word zamam meaning “… to consider, to purpose, to devise. This verb derives its meaning from the idea of talking to oneself in a low voice, as if arriving at some conclusion. It denotes the action of fixing thought on an object so as to acquire it.”[i]

Field. The Hebrew word saday meaning “ … a field, oftentimes defined more descriptively as an open field. The noun is used to describe pastureland in which flocks of sheep were fed. The word is also used to describe a field or a plot of land that was normally unfrequented and in which one could meditate without being disturbed.”[ii]

Earnings. The Hebrew word periy meaning “fruit, produce.”[iii]

Buys. The Hebrew word laqach meaning “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring.”[iv]

Plants. The Hebrew word nata meaning “to plant, fasten, fix, to establish.”[v]

Vineyard. The Hebrew word kerem meaning “…a vineyard, an area where grapevines and their fruits are grown and cultivated intensely.”[vi]

A mighty woman, a woman worthy of a ruby’s bestowing, is a woman who houses an unseen hope and a “yet to be realized” possibility in her heart. She doesn’t just let an open field pass her by. Instead, she considers it. Talks to herself about it; fixes her thoughts on it, until she can almost taste the fruit of its vines as it passes from her lips into her soul, filling her needful longing.

Out of the overflow of that longing, she moves heaven and earth to lay hold of it and to subsequently fasten her dreams within its soil in order to cultivate its promise with all the intensity and expectancy of a pregnant woman waiting for the fruition of a nine-month laboring.

A mighty woman sees the end, even before its beginning. She cannot accurately determine the unseen bounty of the harvest, but she senses that it’s going to be good. That it’s going to be more than it was at the outset, and, most importantly, that it was hers to seed and to grow regardless of the yield.

Each and every day, friends, God presents us with an array of open fields. Untouched and undisturbed pastureland is waiting to be tilled by the possibilities and visions that we hold dear within our hearts. Your field may present itself differently than mine. God tailor paints a blank canvas according to individual preferences, needs, and giftedness. The field which you consider purposeful and ripe for the planting is meant to stir your obedience toward the relentless pursuit of purchasing, planting, and cultivating it through deliberate intention.

We cannot all harvest the same pastureland. What benefit is there in following behind and stepping over one another’s work when there is still so much open ground available for the taking? Today, perhaps even in this moment, God is presenting your heart with an unfrequented parcel of land in need of your attention. The desire to fasten yourself to its cultivating pulses within your veins until you can almost taste the fruit of your hard laboring.

What are you waiting for? What keeps you from taking that ground and walking its breadth and tilling its soil and cultivating its growth? Are you scared? Are you tired? Are you complacent? Are you lazy? Are you afraid that when you arrive on the other side of harvest time it won’t look like much … won’t harvest as amply as you intended on the front side of a dream?

I suppose you could choose to do nothing–to keep your earnings to yourself and to hold out for a time that seems to house more promise as to the outcome. But whoever sows sparingly, reaps the same (2 Corinthian 9:6), and sameness is not what God is after in the life of his children. He created us for his kingdom and for the pilgrimage of a great and consecrated commission that leads others to walk the same.

Thus, consider the field before you this day. For me, it’s been this empty computer screen, awaiting my words and hoping for an end product that yields something more than what it was at the beginning—a blank page. What it was an hour ago, was less than what it is now. What it’s worth? Well, I don’t hold that determination. God does, and in some smaller measure, you do as well.

This is my heart’s offering to you. I considered its availability. Out of the overflow of my heart, I took hold of it, fastened my intention toward its cultivation, and now I leave it in your lap for your contemplation. I pray it fruitful toward God’s higher purposes, including the purpose that he intends for you to walk this week. Thus, I pray…

Thank you, Father, for a night’s prodding that leads me to consider your timeless teachings and effectual words. Your Word is true and is everything that I need to live a godly and consecrated life. Give me the willing heart to receive your invitation to open fields this week. Give me discernment to know which ones you intend for my hands and which ones are better left to someone else’s. Sustain my heart for the harvest, even when the outcome seems unlikely and “less” than what I envisioned. Keep me faithful to the cultivation Lord; keep me faithful through to the end. Let the sowing of your grace within my heart be the storehouse from which I sow my offering for your kingdom come. Amen.

[i] Baker & Carpenter, entry for “zaman,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary OT (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 294.
[ii] Baker & Carpenter, entry for “saday,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary OT (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 1104-1105.
[vi] Baker & Carpenter, entry for “kerem,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary OT (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 3754-3755.

Copyright © May 2009 – Elaine Olsen

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Please join us over at Refreshmoments for more Ruby Tuesdays’ posts. Also, if you would like to read my previous Ruby Tuesdays’ post, you can do so by clicking HERE. Shalom.


A Good Day

A Good Day

Good days.

I don’t know if we get a quota on them—like one good day a week … a month … a year … until we reach the max, and then we’re done. I know that there have been seasons in my life that seemed to portion out like that. Times when no matter how I turned things, wished for things, and even prayed for things, good remained hidden.

But not today. Today was a good day any way you turned it. In fact, this week has spent in good measure. Full and rich and close to perfect. Yes, there have been moments of chaos and times when my mind wandered beyond the boundaries of certainties. Tears have found their home upon my cheeks, and a pain or two has whispered its insistence into my heart.

But as I stand this night on the threshold of a seventh-day pause, I do so with a backward glance that yields a satisfactory nod to a week well-lived and to a God who isn’t capable of authoring otherwise. We sometimes think that he does … author otherwise. When pain, hardship, heartache and questions are our requirement, it’s difficult to reason the good of God.

I understand. Life has afforded me a few occasions for arriving at that conclusion. But life and the pursuit of all things sacred have also afforded me something else.

A growing understanding and knowledge of God.

For every comprehension that eludes me, for every question that surfaces in my heart to challenge the integrity and goodness of the God whom I call Father, there is an overriding and overwhelming anchor that pushes my thoughts through to the other side of my confusion.

Faith and the certainty of all things therein.

That is where my conclusion lies. In the unseen and unimaginable wealth of a God who is willing to sustain my breath a day longer in hopes that I will arrive at a declaration concerning his incomparable goodness. Regardless of the mitigating factors that collect and gather to beg my thoughts in another direction, God is after my acknowledging him for his goodness.

Some days, like today, it’s an easy reach … an easy write … an easy prayer of thanks. Some days, not so much. Perhaps for many of you, there’s been nothing easy about this day. I’ve heard from a few of you. I want you to know that I walk with you. I covenant with you in prayer for some easy and some identifiable good to work its way onto the scene of your life. But just because we don’t always see God’s good doesn’t mean that it has been diminished because of our difficult.

This faulty theology cannot stand up to the truth of who our Father IS. We can spend a lifetime blaming him, labeling him, squeezing him into a box that “fits” our need to have everything make sense, but at the end of the day … at the end of this life … no seemingly justifiable scrutiny on our part will keep God from being good. He simply and profoundly cannot help himself.

Good is what God IS. Good is what God does. God’s good is what woke you up this morning. God’s good is what will safely see you through another night’s rest. God’s good cannot be fully explained nor can it be completely measured. Still and yet, we get the privilege of trying. And for me, today, it was an easy find.

Today was about as good as I imagine an earthly good to be. Tomorrow holds a good all its own. When I get there, I pray for the willing eyes to vision its unfolding and the expectant heart to receive it all the more. I earnestly and sincerely desire the same for you. Would that we all could get to the end our week with the overriding and truthful conclusion that our God is good and worthy of all our praise.

Sing him well in your Sabbath tomorrow. From my pew, I’ll be listening for your voice alongside mine.

So shall he. So shall he.

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On Graduation…

I’ve heard it said before that “this life is but a dress rehearsal for the next.” If that’s true (and I happen to think there to be some merit in this understanding), then we are best served by paying closer attention to the scene changes in our lives … to the crescendoing moments that warrant an audience’s notice and applause therein.

When the shifting of a season takes center stage, God offers our hearts an invitation for reflection. We can either refuse its pause, or we can bow our souls to the moment to consider its worth as it pertains to the grander epic being played out in creation. If our “now” resembles in part our “next,” then there is value in the momentary pauses that fill our lives. Through them we hear the eternal whispers and glimpse the grander glories that await us on the other side of a long and, sometimes, fragmented obedience.

Center stage moments are God’s gift to us. I’ve authored a few of my own in the course of my forty-three years on this earth. More than these, I’ve sat ringside to the moments of those whom I love the most. This weekend holds one of those pauses for me. My son will graduate from high school.

I’ve walked this road before, thus granting me the benefit of hindsight. This one doesn’t sting as profoundly as the first one did. Not because this one is less important, less special, or any less embraced, but rather because familiarity removes some of the mystery of it all. I can better enjoy this milestone because the pain behind the first one wounded me deep enough to teach me … to shape and to modify my heart’s approach to the process.

There is worth in this moment. There was worth back then. But back then, I couldn’t see it. All I could do was muster enough strength to get through it. This weekend, I will have the privilege of soaking things in rather than soaking up my tears. Thus, I choose the pondering of a high school graduation and its merit as it pertains to the bigger picture. What is it about “turning the tassel” that speaks of a heavenly tomorrow?

Here’s what I think…

Graduations are launch pads. Behind them? Lots of time logged into the classroom of programmed learning. Ahead them? Lots of time logged into the classroom of experiential learning. One is the necessary predecessor of the other if the “other” is to walk easier—more truthful and more peaceful. Without the benefit of a preceding knowledge, our launching resembles a premature push from the nest that often ends with an unnecessary wounding. Sometimes the wounding is fatal, but more often than not, it leaves us with a limp that slows the process of our becoming.

There is a time to every season in our lives. This is my son’s graduating season. He stands on the launch pad of an incredible “next.” He’s ready to fly, and I’m ready to push, knowing that his wings have been fortified with eighteen years worth of feeding that have prepared him for the highs and the lows of the winds that are certain to follow.

He harbors just enough courage to take this step; I harbor just enough grace to let him do so. And between the two of us and our “just enough’s”, God is faithful to come alongside and offer his portion of “more than enough” to see us through this moment and to move us further into the promises of a better tomorrow.

There is coming a moment for each one of us … a graduation of sorts … that will launch us from the safety of our nests into the mystery of winged flight. The time we’ve logged into our earthly classrooms, coupled with the learning therein, will be the lynchpin to secure our safe passage. Some will launch prematurely, unable and ill-prepared to face the frontier of God’s forever. Some will launch at just the right time, with just enough courage and more than enough grace to land them safely into the arms of a waiting Father.

Either way, all will be required to make that step; thus, what you’re doing right now holds value for what you’ll be doing in God’s next. You may not think that this day’s unfolding matters for much of anything. You may think it matters little. But I think it all matters to God. Every scene of our lives—every mile we walk, every test we take, every prerequisite laid out for us in the curriculum of a heart’s shaping—is significant and necessary as it pertains to the turning of a final tassel when we stand before our Creator.

In that moment, God won’t be looking at the long list of credits that we drag behind us. Degrees and promotions and the applause of man aren’t enough to launch us toward eternal flight. No, what our God will be looking at is the heart that supersedes our fleshly gains. Did it beat for him? Did it walk for him? Did it love for him? Did it die for him? Does it, in any way, look like him?

That is the criteria for our graduation, friends. If we pass that test, then the tassel will turn, the diploma will be given, and the sacred commendation of our Savior will speak a final blessing of truth over our life’s journey…

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25:21).

If “this life is but a dress rehearsal for our next,” then there is much to be learned via a high school graduation. I will be paying attention to the details this weekend. God is ever speaking. How I pray for a heart to be ever learning. Thus, I pray…

Keep me as a student in your classroom, Father, all the days of my life. Keep my heart in a posture that is willing to receive your instructions as vital and necessary for the road ahead. Forgive me for thinking that I “know it all”; forgive when I make excuses for “knowing too little.” Teach me just exactly what I need to know, and then fully grant me the courage and grace to walk in that knowing until I get home to you and receive my final graduation. Amen.

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Noticing Love

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that is was Jesus.” (John 21:4).

He saw her across the dimly lit restaurant. He hadn’t seen her in over a year. Last year, they shared a first grade classroom. Today, they shared only vague remembrances of one another. He’s stayed put. She’s moved on to another school.

After brief words of conversation with her family, we made our way back to the table. My eight year old son gave his best efforts at coloring the sombrero on his children’s menu and then hand delivered his gift to his friend. Moments later, she responded by doing the same. Back and forth, waves and glances, until the hour was complete, and we said our good-byes.

On the way out to our car, my son shared his thoughts with me.

“Mom, you know I kind of like that girl.”

“Son, you haven’t seen that girl in over a year, and you didn’t even remember her name. I think you’re confused.”

“No, mom, I really do like that girl.”

“How can that be, son? You’ve never even talked about her before.”

“Mom, I know when I like somebody. I’ve had love before.”

“Really? When?”

“In K4.”

And with that proclamation, the conversation ended and the contemplation began.

I’ve had love before … in K4.

What my son was saying was that this “inkling” that he felt … this notion of emotion … wasn’t the usual everyday kind of love that he carried for his friends. This was a different kind of love. A love that tugs deeper, breathes bolder, and speaks its insistence over top of the others. An unfolding type of love that, when “presented” to a heart, calls for its notice.

Jadon noticed, and tonight he has me wondering if I do the same—

Notice love when love comes knocking.

The disciples didn’t notice Love’s knocking … not at first. The confusion resulting from competing stories about his death and their hopes deferred in keeping with that death, kept their hearts at a distance; the sea was deep enough to hold their uncertainty and wide enough to harbor Love’s recognition at bay.

But then Love called, offering an invitation of familiarity—a common conversation that collided with past remembrances. Something about catching fish and casting nets and the “right” side of a boat. And with that summons and subsequent obedience, Love struck a chord deep within their hearts, calling forth a recognizable “inkling” that beckoned them shoreward to share in a meal and to bask in a few moments of tender reunion.

The gathering would be brief, but it would be more than enough time to amply seed them with the truth of Love’s embrace—a three-fold asking, a three-fold response, and a three-fold commissioning to go and to feed the Father’ sheep out of the overflow of Love’s consumption. That was the heart of the matter on a day set aside for God’s presenting Love.

When the disciples walked away from the shore’s table, they knew they had tasted Love. Why? Because like my son, they’d known Love before. They shared a classroom with him in an earlier season. He had been their teacher; they had been his willing pupils, and in the end, the kingdom of God was best served by the sacred collision of their hearts with his.

Thus, a question a two for your heart this night.

Do you notice Love when Love comes knocking? When was the last time that Love stopped your heart in its tracks and forced your perception? If Love were sitting across from you in a dimly lit restaurant, would you feel his pull and look up from your table to search out Love’s glance? Would you color Love a picture? Would you then deliver it in hopes of receiving Love back?

Or has your love for Love grown cold, distant and harboring within the waters of an uncertain tomorrow? Have you given up on Love’s embrace? Have you forgotten the sound of Love’s beckoning call? Has life hammered its cruelty so loudly that you are deafened and blinded by the truth of Love’s approach?

It’s easy to miss Love, especially when our hearts are prone to a constant wandering. If we choose the world’s classroom over God’s classroom, then we choose our handicap. Love is always presenting himself … always passing our way … always sending his notes of affection to our tables. But if we haven’t logged in some hours under his tutelage, rarely will he garner our notice. Instead, we offer him our neglect, leaving the table with but a whisper of a vague recognition that was always meant to last longer.

We could leave better, friends. God intends for us to leave with a heart full of Love’s recollection. With a pulse that shouts,

“I’ve been with Love today because I’ve known Love before.”

That is the heart of the matter for our everyday … noticing Love when Love comes knocking because Love has been our companion all along.

My prayer for your life and mine is for a blatant and sacred intersection between Love’s heart and ours. I pray for eyes to see him when he walks in a room. I pray for hearts to receive him when he knocks at the door. I pray for ears to hear him when he calls from the shore. And I pray for the “yes” to answer him when he asks for our more.

May the holy and gracious presenting Love of a Father’s heart be your portion as you walk this week. It is his joy to give you the abiding truth and fellowship of heaven’s native Son. As always,

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Copyright © May 2009 – Elaine Olsen

PS: If you want to spend some more time in God’s classroom via a long ago breakfast on the shores of Galilee, then hop over to John 21 and let the truth of that moment be the truth of your moment with Jesus today. The winner of Kennisha Hill’s “Simply Wisdom” is Joye at The Joyeful Journey. Congrats, Joye. Please send me your snail mail via my email, and I will send you Kennisha’s book. Shalom.

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