Category Archives: holiness

Shopping for Seed

Words.

Spoken. Written. Thought.

Some beautiful. Some bitter. And others, somewhere in between. All words?

Powerful. Why?

Because they are attached to the heart.

“ … For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks.” –Luke 6:45

The words that grow in our hearts, sooner or later, flow out of our mouths. Along those lines, it might be wise, then, to be more intentional (and more choosy) about the seeds we’re sowing into the sacred soil of our souls.  

So, ask yourself a question, even as I am asking the same of myself in this season:

From what feed store have you recently made a purchase of word-seed?

Some of my favorite filling stations as of late include: social media, must-see television series, breaking news reports, pages of the latest, Christian-how-to-do-life-with-Jesus books, work-related projects and curriculum, church activity, conversations with family and friends, interactions with students, parents, and staff, and God’s Word.

What are your favorites?

In measured proportion, all of these popular haunts have the potential to yield a harvest of good, gracious, and God-honoring words that can yield a kingdom harvest in due season. But when the scales get off balance because the seeds are no longer weighed for effectiveness and, instead, we fill up on what’s popular rather than on what’s productive, the overflow of our hearts becomes as sludge – a thick, muddy mess of careless words that dirties the landscape of our souls and stymies the ripening of God’s fruit. Those words not only muddy-up our hearts, but often they spill over to muddy-up the hearts of others.

Whatever seeds are growing on the inside of us will eventually move outside to mess with us. For good or for ill, the word-seeds that we are allowing into the garden of our hearts will yield a powerful crop of words to be absorbed by those around us. Shouldn’t we, then, be more vigilant? Shouldn’t we more carefully measure out these word-seeds before we purchase them … embed them? Before we take another dive into the pool of words available to us, could we push the pause button for a moment or two or ten to consider the fruit of our previous purchases?

What seeds have yielded fruitfulness? What seeds have reaped destruction?

Words are, indeed, powerful. They come to us freely from all directions at any given moment in our days. Wise are those who choose to carefully and prayerfully steward those moments alongside the great heart of God. When that happens, all hell does break loose, because we have thwarted the enemy’s plan for the destruction of our kingdom effectiveness by growing, in its place, a garden of beautiful words that yields eternal results.

That’s where I want to live, friends, alongside the great heart of God and his garden of good words.

Choose carefully the seeds that you will sow into the soil of your hearts this year. Along the way and as you plant, live safely, live confidently, and live expectantly next to the heart of Jesus. He will shepherd your steps and he will superintend your garden. I look forward to your many words and to gleaning from your harvest. As always …

Peace for the journey,  

a teacher’s apology and thanks …

I’ve been thinking about them some … my last-yearers. It’s been odd seeing them so close-by yet realizing that they’re “hands off” – not mine, not this year. I’ve kept my professional distance, and they’ve kept theirs. A few of them have made their way to my door, even stepping into the classroom a time or two, surveying the surroundings to see what’s familiar and what’s different. They’ve been quick to notice the changes:

“We didn’t have that last year, Mrs. Olsen. That’s not fair.”

And my laughter regarding their assessment is quietly accompanied by the truth of their judgment. In the secret recesses of my heart and soul, I know that they are right. What my students had last year isn’t and won’t be what my students have this year, at least to a certain degree. The curriculum remains the same, but the teacher? Well, she’s changed a bit. I still answer to Mrs. Olsen, but I am a wiser version therein, seasoned and shaped by my previous year’s, hard obedience.

When asked six months ago about my returning to the classroom this year, I didn’t have a solid answer. The stress attached to returning to teaching (after a long hiatus) had taken its toll on me. I was overwhelmed by the many responsibilities, and I was unconvinced that another year of more-of-the-same would be good for my health and for my family. Still and yet, I had a feeling (really more of a willing response) that I owed it to myself and to the countless hours already invested into the teaching process to see if a second year might be kinder to me … an easier fit.

Eight days in, and I have my answer. This will be a better year for me and for my students, not because the crop of children is any “better” this year than it was last year, but rather because I am better. The difficult “yeses” of my last year – all those times when I yielded my hands, my heart, and my flesh to the sharp edge of the Farmer’s spade despite my gut reaction to flee – have cultivated for me and in me a seasoned understanding of what it means to be a teacher and what it is to be God’s servant therein. That’s a win for everyone concerned, and that’s the reason I can heartily agree with my former students’ assessment of the classroom.

“We didn’t have that last year, Mrs. Olsen. That’s not fair.”

And for that, I offer them an apology. I also offer them a word of thanks. Shaping seasons – those that change us for God’s better – require fallow soil and a willingness to receive the blade of the farmer’s plow. What grows there, in that difficult soil of obedience, is often the sweet harvest of holiness. It may not seem fair at the time, but in the end, it’s always better.

I’m better, and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of my last-yearers are better too. To God be all the glory, great things he has done. Great things he will continue to do. As always …

Peace for the journey,

stretched, wrecked, and waiting …

 

It’s the heart stuff that concerns me most … both theirs and mine.

Growing pains.

A soul stretch.

A sacred wrecking … reckoning.

We’re in this together, and (at this point in the journey) we’re standing at a crossroads. Either we’re going deeper into this holy cleansing or we’re going to settle for a duct tape finish—a patching and pasting to hold us together for a good enough ending that will send us on our separate ways at the end of May … unaffected and unchanged … hearts hardened by the process instead of hearts beautifully shaped because of it.

I know what I want, but I cannot make that choice for them. They will have to decide if our temporary union is worth it … worth the pain, the stretching, the wrecking, and the reckoning.

And there’s the rub.

Nine weeks in, and we’re standing at a crossroads. I can feel it in my spirit, and I suppose that’s why I’ve spent the last hour gathering my tears into my lap. I think a couple of my students have already made up their minds about “us” – choosing less instead of best.

So I beat my heart up a little tonight, wondering how I can change their minds … how I can persuade them to stay with me on the path a while longer until the stretching and the wrecking reckons into beauty—a touchable, tangible splendor that affirms and validates the hard work of relationship.

Isn’t that what we all need? Want? Affirmation that our hearts are growing rather than shrinking? Don’t we want to get past duct tape and good enough so that we might take hold of healing and holiness?

To be fair, when I was their age, I didn’t know I wanted to be holy. I suppose I spent the first three decades of my life settling for duct tape finishes. But then God offered me something better, something lasting—a relationship that went beyond holding me together to a relationship that grew me up on the inside … that made me a better me … that changed my way of thinking and my way of doing. And this was and is the beautiful splendor that speaks strength to my soul each day. It keeps me coming to the table of grace and offering my fifteen students a choice for a similar portion.

If only they could understand what’s at stake—what’s to be loss and all that’s to be gained from their being genuinely loved by this grace-veteran who boasts enough battle scars to give me some street-cred. If only they would take my word on it … that we’re worth it and that, by the end of May, we’re going to be better versions of ourselves because of the time we’ve given to one another.

But they might not see things my way. They may choose a lesser path.

And so, on this night when I have more questions than answers, less control rather than more, I will allow my tears to soften the hardness that’s creeping in to my heart, and I will pray for my fifteen and their deliberations as they stand with me at this crossroads. Come tomorrow morning, I’ll lean in a little closer to the wrecking that’s taking place near our hearts, and I’ll offer them the choice to join me on the holiness road.

God will be with us, and he will be faithful to complete in us that which we cannot yet see in us.

A glorious reckoning. A splendor of his making.

This I believe in.

This I will fight for.

All the way through ‘til May.

PS: Sarah is the winner of Laura’s book, Playdates with God. Congrats! It will be coming to you via Amazon.

living in Mayberry

We took our kids to Mayberry last week. Actually, we spent a day in Mt. Airy, NC, Andy Griffith’s hometown. The town has capitalized on his fame and the show’s popularity, modeling shops and eateries in the tradition of Mayberry. Floyd’s Barbershop still offers haircuts, and pork chop sandwiches are available at Snappy’s Lunch. We had a great time, stepping back in time and imagining what life must have been like in Mayberry—a simpler time.

Or so it seems.

A simpler time. A sweeter place. A lesson. A laugh. A father and a son.

Could it be? Is there a Mayberry calling our names, wooing our spirits to its borders with promises of a simpler, sweeter life? A life filled with lessons, laughter, and sacred fellowship between a father and a son?

I know my heart cries out for it. Not just in the sweet by-and-by when I make it home to heaven, but now. I want a simpler life on this side of eternity. One that includes casual strolls down Main Street, leisurely lunches with favorite friends, and an unhurried pace so that I might learn a lesson or two from my Father along the way.

I’m off to a good start. There’s a spirit of Mayberry in this place I now call home. Really, it has little to do with my new address. Yes, the town’s population numbers less than my previous location. There are fewer stoplights and less traffic. Fewer stores and less bargains. Quieter living and less accumulation. Certainly, these “lessers” add to the calm in my spirit. But I don’t think the spirit of Mayberry is fully contingent on these lessers. Perhaps living in Mayberry has less to do with the location of our bodies and more to do with the location of our souls.

Mayberry lives next to Jesus. Find him, and you’ll find a simpler, sweeter place. A lesson or two for your soul. Some laughter and a Father who calls you son. Daughter. Child. Beloved.

This is good news for all of us, whether you’re currently living at a slower pace in a small town or running in the fast lane of a fast life in a fast city. Regardless of your physical address, I imagine there are times when your spirit, like mine, cries out for Mayberry.

Might I offer you a few tips for the journey?

Find your map. My hunch is that it is probably sitting next to your bed or housed on a shelf close by. If you want to live in Mayberry, the shortest route between where you are today and where you want to be is through the Word of God. Find this map, and you’ve found your starting point.

Read your map. Don’t just hold it in your hands; don’t just carry it with you to work or church to pretty up your exterior. Owning the map to Mayberry won’t land you safely home. You must be willing to study it, plot your course, choosing your route and your exits with holy consideration.

Take the map with you as you take your trip. On your way to Mayberry, you will (more than likely) weed out and leave behind the non-essentials. In fact, I encourage you to do so. There comes a time when we should travel lighter, ridding our lives of the clutter and chaos that weigh us down and stymie our forward progression. But along the way and as we go, keep hold of your map. Refer to it on a regular basis, less you take that wayward, wandering road in the wrong direction. Getting home to Mayberry is far easier with map in hand.

Commit to the map. Believe in it, and by God’s empowering spirit and grace, walk it. Through valleys, over mountains, along the highways, by the streams, and in the desert. The map isn’t flawed and will never lead you to a place where the Father hasn’t first placed his foot. Commit to the map, and you’ll find Mayberry. You’ll put down roots and call it home.

A simpler time. A sweeter place. A lesson. A laugh. A father and a son.

Mayberry lives next to Jesus. He is where you’ll find me today, and I’ve put in an order for two pork chop sandwiches. Won’t you join me at the table? I’d love some company. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

messy and mad . . .

 

Messy and mad.

Life is. I am.

Messy life. Mad me. There’s no prettying up this one, not enough shine and polish to make it less obvious to others. Anyway, what’s the point of a cover-up other than to possibly fool someone into thinking I have it altogether?

I don’t. On my best days, I’m always one step away from behaving badly. My flesh doesn’t consistently keep pace with my faith. Today has been one of those days for me.

The messiness that surrounds me creates a terrible ache inside of me for calmer days, although at the moment I’m having a difficult time remembering what they look like, feel like . . . live like. Accordingly, a less than gracious display of emotion bursting forth onto the pavement in front of me and into the lives of those who sit most closely to my influence.

My influence. I type those two words with a penitent heart and with a few questions to the Father about why he has allowed me so much of it, especially on days of amplified tension. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Or so I think. But my supposition doesn’t change the facts.

Life is hard, messy too. And every now and then, living within these constraints gets the best of me. Perhaps you understand. Perhaps you know something about the “hard and messy” of life.

We don’t get too far in our walks of faith and not experience the push for transformation. God will bring our “hard and messy” to the surface so that we might accurately assess the condition of our hearts. His assessment is always clear; we, however, are sometimes a bit slower in recognizing the inward ticking of a sometimes veiled reality. And while I’m not a fan of painful disclosure, I am a fan of fleshing out the hidden contents of my heart in the safe and loving presence of Father God.

Honestly, I just wish we’d already taken care of this years ago.

Messy and mad.

Life is. I am.

Gracious and loving.

God is. God does.

And therein I find my compass.

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