Category Archives: eternity

lift them up

“ … lift them up.”

Chambers’ words have shadowed my heart today. They’ve stepped all around and into my thoughts, throwing down the gauntlet for obedience. I warm to them, slowly melt into them knowing that they are the remedy for this stretched-out submission to this certain calling. I need to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. Simply and, yet, profoundly to …

lift them up.

Where?

To a higher place, a kingdom that includes them. A kingdom that some of them have yet to see, but a kingdom that I know, from time to time, shakes the soil of their souls and softens their heart-ground to receive the Father’s heart-seeds.

There are days when I forget to lift. Some days, there is less lifting and more maintaining … less holding up and more holding on for dear life. Some days, I think I’ll crumble beneath the weight of this load. These are heavy souls, freight far too weighty for my weakened resolve. Still and yet, I choose to try because there is a lot to lose by not doing so—another year of lateral living, seeing only at eye level instead of seeing from a higher perspective.

I will not cripple the view from the top. Instead, I will do my best to take them there – to give them that better vantage point. One by one, heart to heart, hand in hand, and crawling on all fours if need be. I will carry them forward and upward. Jesus Christ has done the same for me. Should I do any less?

I don’t often think of myself as a saint. I’m just doing my part on this little parcel of ground, this tiny speck of earth that lies beneath my feet and within reach of my heart. Are you doing the same? Doing your part in your little corner of the world? Are you …

lifting them up?

Lift them up, friends. Show them life from up above. Extend your heart and extend your reach so that others might be elevated into the kingdom sphere and might begin to experience a little bit of heaven on earth. There is no greater joy than participating in the King’s work. This is the highest privilege of a saint, the gift of sacred participation – when you and I link arms with the Father to lift the veil, revealing eternity.

Warm words, indeed. May they melt into your heart and surround your witness with the strength of our King. Lift often. Lift willingly. Lift always in the mighty name of Jesus. Somebody needs to see the kingdom today. As always …

Peace for the journey,

Do you or someone you know need a lift today? I’m giving away two copies of Peace for the Journey. I pray it will be an encouragement to weary souls. Leave a comment today indicating your interest. Share about the give-away on your social media sites, and you’ll receive an additional entry for this give-away (indicate your participation in the comment section below).

Lasting Fruit

I told them to keep working . . . that I needed to take some pictures and not to pay any attention to me. After eight days of getting to know their new teacher, they are beginning to understand that I am a woman who lives for the moments.

Too many of these moments are slipping by without much fanfare – like the “on the fly” relay race I put together for our recess time yesterday. If only I’d had my camera then; if only I could have bottled the laughter readily present in that moment. I’m sure it would have been enough to at least (temporarily) put a smile on the ache of the world.

With each tick of the clock, I’m keenly aware that I will only have this baker’s dozen in my charge and keep for a short season. Eight days down; one hundred and seventy-two remaining. There is so much I want to tell them . . . give them. In most of our moments together, I feel wholly inadequate with the telling and the giving. In most of those moments, I want to sit down and cry because of the overwhelming responsibility that’s now filling up my thoughts day and night and every moment in between.

I am so very past tired. My body aches from head to toe. I crawl into bed each night with tears in my eyes because of the physical pain that is riddling my joints. But there is liquid joy in the pain, because I know that I have done something sacred with my day. I have planted good seed into God’s very good soil. Time will bear out the results. I may or may not be privy to them, but I can and am relinquishing the outcome to God.

The seeds are in my hands and issue forth from my heart. The fruit, however, belongs to God’s hands and his heart. His Spirit will break up the fallow ground beneath our feet and will superintend the harvest with holy watchfulness. God will grow what I cannot.

My job?

Releasing the seed . . . one lesson plan at a time. One conversation at a time. One correction at a time. One getting down on the floor to help a student find his/her homework at a time. One reminder to put a name on a paper at a time. One extra look up on the computer to find out more information about Leif Ericson at a time. One more phone call to a parent at a time. One more inch of me invested into this assignment from God until it is finished.

One more one more, because it’s been that clear to me from the beginning that this isn’t my doing but, rather, it is God’s:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” –John 15:16

Lasting fruit.

That has a holy ring to it, and one day I will know the fullness of what is being planted in these days. Until then, I’ll keep walking the fields with Jesus and watering his garden with these tears of obedience.

‘Tis a very sweet, sweet fellowship and privilege to journey alongside the King and to sow kingdom seed as we go and along the way. So . . .

Leave me, Lord Jesus, for as long as you will;
In this place of great trust – keep me quiet and still.
To wait for your timing, your words and your heart;
To give to your children the wealth that will start …

New beginnings in them that will push them along,
Forward in your kingdom – make them brave, make them strong.
Keep them safe, keep them tender, keep them willing to learn;
Keep me always at the ready, help my heart to discern.

What is best, what is right;
What is noble and true.
What is good, what is worthy;
What is holy from You.

Plant your rows, sow your seed;
Use my hands, take the lead.
One step at a time, one prayer from the heart;
This is grace, this is fruit,
This is faith, set apart.

Amen. (F. Elaine Olsen, 8-30-14. All rights reserved.)

Peace for the journey,

Easter tears . . .

 

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of the God’s coming to you.’” –Luke 19:41-44

 

 

Easter tears. I cried a few yesterday, somewhat like the ones Jesus must have cried over his people on his approach to Jerusalem.

There are still so many who’ve yet to recognize the time of God’s coming to them. It seems to me that the time is now. There’s no time like the present time to take hold of truth and the Truth-Giver. Or so it seems.

Maybe it’s my heart that is clouded by too much expectation—my great desire for friends, family members, and strangers alike to finally wake up to the realities of Jesus and to get down to the business of their salvation. What could be keeping them from making this life-altering decision? What possible rationalization could be offered that would make their delay a reasonable choice?

I don’t see it. I don’t get it. Apparently they don’t as well.

A frustrating wait. A grief painfully carried. Thus, my Easter tears.

If only they knew what would bring them peace.

They may not know, not yet. But I know. The answer to my Easter tears is my Easter Jesus. He is the Peace-Bringer – the Sword who slices through joint and marrow and pierces the soul with undeniable strength and clarified precision. Only Jesus is able to cut through the veil that shrouds the ignorant heart, exposing rotten flesh and offering his fresh grace in exchange.

Only Jesus. He is what they (the lost) need to know.

What about me? What about you? What do we need to know moving forward? What will bring us peace while we linger with our Easter tears?

Only Jesus. He, too, is what we need to know. Every day. Intentional investments in the curriculum named Jesus. Allowing the Teacher to pour into our souls so that we might, in turn, pour out to others.

To walk where he walks. To weep as he weeps. To pray as he prays. To speak as he speaks.

Only Jesus. This is our responsibility. It doesn’t get more responsible than this, friends. When we take on the mantle of Christianity—when we dare to call ourselves by Christ’s name—then we become responsible for something far greater than ourselves. We become care-takers of the kingdom, extraordinary shareholders of a lavish grace. A people who willingly release Easter tears for those who’ve yet to realize what would bring them peace.

When we no longer weep for the lost, then perhaps our souls need a divine sword-piercing as well. It’s not about us, Christians. We know the way home. It’s about them—those who wander aimlessly without a divine compass and who foolishly reason their navigational skills as adequate.

If only they knew what would bring them peace.

If only.

May God quicken our hearts with a response and moisten our eyes with heaven’s fuel to get the job done.

Peace for the journey,

library of faith…

Some days we just need a word from God.

 

Huh? OK, so let me define that a bit. For those of you who don’t speak “Christianese”—a word from God simply means (for me) a heavenly nudge. A heartfelt thought or two from the Father that falls over me like fresh water after I’ve spent a long day in the desert’s heat.

 

Yesterday was one of those days for me. As many of you know, I’ve been diligently working to put the finishing touches on my book, Beyond Cancer’s Scars. One of my goals for the book is that it will serve as a resource for small groups who desire to work through it collectively rather than just individually. Along these lines, I’ve written a facilitator’s guide to accompany the book. There are nine group sessions, and each session has a Scripture focus.

 

Yesterday, I had eight of those Scriptures selected. I needed one more; accordingly I prayed, thought, asked some of you to pray, and then I took a walk. And the deeper I got into it with Jesus, the more permanent his nudge to my spirit.

 

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” –John 21:25

 

There it was … my ninth Scripture focus, a word aptly spoken at just the right time and a good fit for Session Six. I also happen to think it’s a good fit for this session, this day.

 

Jesus did accomplish many things while he was on this earth. Jesus is still accomplishing many things on this earth. He’s doing it through you and me. We are his agents in this temporal arena. We are the “books” being written, the “word” from the Word to the world. We are the chronicles of Christ, the shelved faithfulness of a kingdom that will not end. What’s being written into our stories, even today, is the stuff of eternity. Line by line; page by page; chapter by chapter … without end. Our stories are eternal. They’ll live on long after we’ve been memorialized at the graveside.

 

No, this world may not have room enough to shelve all the many books and miraculous works of grace that Jesus Christ is writing into us and through us, but there is a library in heaven waiting to hold the living witnesses of our faith. Heaven’s library has room for our books. It’s just waiting on a few finishing touches to our stories, a few finishing lines and chapters, penned and punctuated by the Creator of our souls.

 

Even today, you’re in the middle of one of those chapters. I don’t know how it’s reading to you and to those around you. I pray it’s filled with faith, truth, hope, love, and tremendous joy. However, I’ve lived long enough to know that it also might be filled with some suffering, heartache, confusion, and chaos … perhaps one of the worst chapters of your story. Whatever your chapter, whatever lines are being written into it this day, know this:  this is not your last chapter. It’s simply one of them. There are more to come. With Jesus Christ, there is always more to come.

 

Perhaps, then, we can better understand the Apostle John’s witness. There isn’t enough room here to tell God’s story. It’s too big, too grand, too eternal to contain it. We’ll have to wait until heaven to read it all, where days are endless, the lights stay on, and the library never closes.

 

I can’t wait to read your story, friend. Don’t be afraid of these ending chapters. Instead, surrender the pen in faith to the One who is generous with his grace and love. He can be trusted with your finishing touches. As always…

 

Peace for the journey,

If you were to give a title to this current chapter of your story, what would it be?

 

Also, the winner of Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform, (thanks to Amelia for drawing names this time) is Joanne @ The Open Door. I’ll be contacting you for mailing information.

 

hell-bent…

 

Hell-bent. Are you? Am I?

 

I know. A heavy question, but since I used this phrase in my last post, I thought it deserved some further exploration. Merriam Webster defines hell-bent as “stubbornly and often recklessly determined.” The earliest mention of the phrase in our English vernacular dates back to a line in the poem The History of Colonel Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia by Benjamin Coleman (1673-1747):

 

“Ab-origines in Arms…did then resort,

In Haste to Susquehanna Fort,

Hell bent on Thoughts of Massacree.”

 

Apparently, there was a price on Colonel Bacon’s head, some “ab-origines” stubbornly determined in their pursuit of justice cloaked in massacre. I wonder if we’re prone to the same sort of behavior. A stubbornness, recklessness that resides within our hearts and that pushes us toward destruction—a massacre of the body, and ultimately the spirit, that lands us smack dab in the middle of hell.

 

Hell-bent. A phrase that, in my opinion, dates much further back than Coleman’s imagination. A truth that dates back to the beginning.

 

“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’… When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” –Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17, 3:6

 

Hell-bent. Determined sin, stubbornly and recklessly chosen from the very beginning. Adam and Eve, massacring their flesh, bending their will in the direction of hell.

 

We cannot escape our genetic and our spiritual DNA. Without the transformational, sacred work of the cross, we remain hell-bent. With the cross, we overcome our stooped stature to bend our knees in another direction. With Jesus, we bend toward heaven—heaven-bent. With Jesus, our knees fall to glory rather than destruction.

 

So what’s the gain of a life that is heaven-bent? Well, to understand this we must visit its contrast. It’s much easier to digest the wonder and witness of heaven, but to study the wilderness and witness of hell? Few will go there; it’s just too barren a place for those of us who are focused on the goodness of God. But that’s just it… therein lies the core definition of hell. To live in God’s goodness, is to live with the understanding of its contrast.

 

“He [God] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power….” –2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

 

Hell is the absence of God and his goodness… completely. Yes, we talk about “hell on earth”—seasons of life seemingly void of God’s presence and his goodness, but truthfully, “hell on earth” is nothing compared to hell for all eternity. Whether you’re a Christian or not, if you’re upright and moving today, then you’re experiencing the goodness of God. Life belongs to the Creator. The fact that you’re actively participating in this privilege is a testimony to God’s love for you.

 

Have you enjoyed a cup of coffee today? A walk? Creation—flowers, scents, and sunshine? Have you been blessed by the love of a friend, spouse, child? Been hugged lately? Had a good conversation? A good nap? A good thought? Are you educated? Employed? Free to choose your habits, consumptions, neglects? Have you known the warmth of a blanket, a bath, an intimacy with your husband, your wife? A good book? A good movie? A favorite television show? How about a delicious plate of food… even a stick of gum? Music, money, and merriment of a wide variety?

 

Anything good in your life today? Then thank God. Whether or not you’re willing to recognize him as the source of all goodness doesn’t mean that all goodness doesn’t begin and end with him. All goodness begins and ends with God… every blessed thing that we experience in our lives.

 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

 

To be hell-bent is to determine in our hearts that we are willing to live without it all in the end. Without God. Without goodness. Complete and utter emptiness except for the very deep realization of just how far that emptiness extends. A massacre of the soul that will not recover… ever.

 

I don’t tell you this to shame you; heaven knows there was a time in my life when I was hell-bent, bowing low and bowing often in the direction of sin and eternal destruction. I don’t tell you this to judge you; judgment belongs to the Father. No, I write you these words to warn you, just in case there are some of you who’ve never accepted the fact that there is a life beyond this one. Heaven is for real, but so is hell. There isn’t anything you’ve experienced on earth that comes close to matching the actuality of what awaits you if you continue to bend your heart in opposition to God’s truth.

 

I cannot imagine a life apart from God. I’m glad I don’t have to, but there are those who claim not to see him; not to feel him; not to know him. I would tell those people (maybe even you) to look at the multiple goodnesses in your life. In them, you will find God… a fleeting glance of what you risk losing should you continue in your hell-bent determination to do life your own way. You may think that you’re living apart from God, that there is no God, and that you are free to live without consequence. But you would be wrong.

 

No one lives apart from God; no one lives without consequence. This is our Father’s world, and God will have the final word on our eternal residency. He, alone, holds the key to forever.

 

Hell-bent; heaven-bent. In which direction are your knees bending this day? Choose wisely. Choose soberly. Choose today. An earthly tomorrow is not promised to us, but an eternal one is. As for me and my heart, I choose a forever with God and all of his goodness. I pray you choose the same. As always…

 

Peace for the journey,
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PS: For any of you who are struggling with your hell-bent tendencies and would like prayer or to discuss things further, please feel free to contact me by clicking on this link. Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

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