Category Archives: Raising Faith

Living Deuteronomy 4:9

My heart and my pen landed on this verse this morning, while scribing the words of Deuteronomy into my Journible:

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” –Deuteronomy 4:9

And I thought about my dad and our time of circled prayer in my garage last Saturday morning which included my mom, my husband, and my two younger children. I am my father’s child and these are his grandchildren; he continues to make faith deposits into all of us.

A word here. A prayer there. A genuine love wrapped up in arms and with enough hearty laughter to crack even the driest of souls wide open to receive God’s showers of grace.

My daddy has not forgotten the things his eyes have seen, nor has he let them slip from his heart. Instead, he remembers the faithfulness of his Father and lives it forward. What he has sown into me, what he has sown into my children, cannot be measured on this side of eternity. His scattering of kingdom seed roots deeply in our hearts – a generational dispensation of faith. Who we are, in part, is directly linked to who he is.

I am grateful for all the ways I see my father’s faith at work in my life and in the lives of my children. I am grateful for all the ways I’ve yet to see my father’s witness walk on eternally. He has been careful and intentional with his legacy of faith. I am challenged to live accordingly … to remember the things my eyes have seen and to not let them slip from my heart as long as I live.

What about you? How goes it with your remembering, your slipping? Your generational dispensation of faith? When was the last time you circled your family members for prayer or spoke bold truth into their hearts?

This is not the time to shrink back in your faith, friends. To assume that no one is listening or no longer needs the witness of your history with Jesus. There’s too much in that place (your history with Jesus) not to speak it forward. What God has done for you—in you and with you—is a mighty work of grace. He means for it to walk on eternally in the hearts, minds, and souls of those who sit beneath your influence.

This is how we get home safely to Jesus—the thread that tethers us back to our beginnings when Father God hovered over the dark and deep and determined that we would be part of the goodness that flows out of him. Adam and Eve, all the way down the family tree until you and me. Generation after generation of obedient and willing saints who chose not to forget the things their eyes saw or let them slip from their hearts for as long as they lived.

That’s a lot of circled prayer time, a lot of faith lived forward. It reaches down through history, through the words of Deuteronomy, in all of God’s Word, and, most importantly, in the words of my daddy whose extraordinary faith has warmed the hearts of all who’ve drawn close to its flame.

What I have seen I will remember. I will not let it slip from my heart for as long as I live. I promise.

I love you, daddy.

Raising Faith (part twelve): Embracing Your Rest

Raising Faith (part twelve): Embracing Your Rest

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on him, for God is our refuge. Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” (Psalm 62:5-9).


“Momma, I’m glad we’re going home.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I need to stop the fun for awhile because I am so tired.”

“I understand, honey; mommy’s tired too.”

Those were her words today while driving home from grandma and grandpa’s. Two days of non-stop entertainment with the full attention of grandparents has a way of wearing out the most willing of participants. Like us, I am sure they are resting well tonight, in the comfort of quiet and with their routine returning to usual. My daughter and son love visits with their grandparents. Why?

Because of the attention. Because of the intentional effort put into their visits. Because sometimes, grandmas and grandpas better understand the value of time and the giving of it therein.


They’re not too busy, too bothered, or too bogged down with the world’s agenda so as to neglect their gift of influence upon another generation. They are on the backside of some valuable lessons that have taught them to appreciate the simple joy of investing in our Father’s most precious commodity—human life.

But investing, both in the lives of children and in adults, comes with a price tag. It often invests tired and weary and with the aches and pains of knees that prefer the couch rather than the floor or the baseball field in the backyard. It requires that the will supersedes the flesh, especially when the flesh is crying out for some quiet amidst the invasion of words that so adequately flow from an endless supply of questions and needs that refuse their silence. It requires an open mind and welcoming arms, even when ideas don’t match and visions don’t level the same.

Investing in people is hard work. But it is God’s work for each one of us. Our holy requirement as participants in the Great Commission … as priests in the household of believers. He means for it to cost us something. Not because he relishes our slavery to the task, but rather because he delights in the lives of his creation and in giving each one of us the privilege of savoring accordingly. Simply put,

We don’t have to invest in people. We are given the delightful freedom to do so.

That being said, Jesus understands our weary. He spent his earthly pilgrimage investing in the lives of people. On many occasions, his need for solace would require his absence from people. He wasn’t afraid to tend to this need. Many places in Scripture record him pulling away from the crowds to find his soul’s peace with his Father in private (Matthew 14:13; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:31-32; Luke 4:42; Luke 5:15-16).

Just like my daughter’s need to rest from the joy of relational output, Jesus, too, needed his rest from the crowds. Time with his Father in quiet solitude was like going home for Jesus. Why?

Because of the attention his Father gave him. Because of the intentional efforts of renewal afforded him in the pause. Because God better understands the kingdom value of what time with him will seed:

Rest.
Renewal.
Rebirth.
Refocus
.

Further investment in the stuff that really matters.

I understand my daughter’s need for the journey home. The excitement that surrounded her departure from our routine and our very scheduled life was matched by her enthusiasm to return to the same. She loves coming home to rest, and so do I. We are a people who need our Father’s rest. But in between the going and the coming?

Lots of fun. Relationships that count. Love that grows and hearts that better understand how kingdom investing really breathes.

I don’t know how this strikes you today. We all, every last one of us, are heading home. This life is but a breath, whether we are “highborn” or of lowly estate. The clock is ticking and our weary will soon be laid to rest at the gates of heaven. What we do here matters for all of eternity. The privilege of sacred investment is a gift to us from our Father. What we choose to do with such influence is left to our discretion. He will never force us to seed his grace and love into the lives of others.

But he wants us to. Not because our crowns will boast heavier and more bedazzled with the jewels of his favor, but rather because he has seeded his grace and love into our hearts through the unimaginable gift of Calvary’s cross. And that kind of investment, my friends, should shake our complacency and force our knees to the floor in gratitude and toward the intentional sowing of Godly influence into the hearts of others, especially our children.

Perhaps, like my daughter, you are in need of some rest this day. You’ve played hard and loved real. You’re routine has been blessed with the interruption of relationship, and you are weary from the doing. Your Father is calling you home for some solace and some attention. He understands your requirement, and he is ready to touch your tired with the sacred salve of his perfect intention. Come home to Jesus, and find your soul’s peace. He is waiting to invest his love into you. Thus, I pray…

Give us the wisdom, Father, to know when we are in need of your rest. You, alone, are our rock and our fortress and the seeding of our strengthened hope. Forgive me when I fail to come and when I falter in loving others because I have neglected my time with you. My life is but a breath, but for as long as I am breathing its measure, I want to spend it wisely and with your perfect intention guiding my steps and blessing my obedience. Thank you for the privilege of investing your love into the lives of others and for the privilege of sitting at your feet to receive the same. May Sabbath rest be my portion this day. Amen.

Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Raising Faith (part eleven): Embracing Your Nakedness

Raising Faith (part eleven): Embracing Your Nakedness

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:24).

November 2001

He didn’t deserve my stern rebuke. He deserved something, but not the severity of my harsh response. What I should have offered him was some grace amidst a teachable moment. What he received, instead, was a portion of judgment leveled at a heart too tender for the verdict … too innocent for the label.

Why?

Because my nakedness refused God’s dressing. Because my flesh is still so very much in tact.

I don’t recall the specifics of that occasion. I only remember a few words that quickly seared their way into my heart and forced me to my knees in humble apology. It is a message I carry with me, even some three years down the road. Not because I delight in the boast of my sin but rather because I want the lesson from it for always. A lesson intended for my growth; not only as a parent, but as a keeper of God’s truth.

Jadon, young in years and full with a “me first” mentality, was wearing on my already thinned nerves. Me, older in years and still so often filled with a “me first” mentality, responded to his continual fussing by sending him to his room. It must have been a hard send because his response to me was a soft and sorrowful obedience.

With tears rolling down his cheeks as he surrendered to the upstairs climb, he simply turned around for a final glance and spoke these precious words of conviction over my soul:

“Mommy, God sent you here to be our lover.”

I don’t know if it was the tears or his gentle way of his administering God’s truth to me, but regardless of the emotional mixing, his words cut deep and immediately shrouded my heart in heavy conviction.

Guilty as charged, son. Naked and exposed, yet again.

I’ve never forgotten that moment. I think my Father would have it remain firmly entrenched in memory. He used my sin and my son’s broken spirit to teach me a valuable and consecrated lesson about human life and about the responsibility that I bear in loving each one toward his kingdom end. An end that is best served…

through love rather than shame.
through grace rather than judgment.
through mercy rather than punishment.
through selfless rather than selfish.

Oh, the groanings of my flesh! I am naked in my want for the righteous clothing of my God. He’s been dressing me for over forty years now, and still there are moments of raw and real exposure that are mirrored in my body. I am housed within a tent that isn’t well pegged to the ground and that blows wide and open at the whim of a temporal wind.

My life of faith is a literal peep show for the world to observe, and quite honestly, I’m not sure if anyone is coming back for a second look. I’m not sure I want them too. When I can’t love with grace and mercy and selfless intent, I can’t expect a good review. From the world. From my own family. And most importantly, from the perfect Lover of my soul—the God who created my frame with an eternal cloaking in mind.

A dressing that does not include my fleshy imperfections, but rather a perfection that will swallow up the old with the life-giving breath of heaven’s new. Until then, I groan all the more because I know that what awaits me on the other side of this pilgrimage unto death, is a life fully clothed with the righteousness of my salvation.

Flesh living is painful living. There are no short cuts to perfection. God uses the lives of other pilgrims toward that end. The groans of our sacred shaping may come to us through a stranger, a friend, a co-worker, a parent, a spouse, and some days…through the tears and honest words of a child.

God did indeed put me on this earth to be a lover of my children. Period. No matter their wrongs. No matter their mess. No matter their pursuits toward self-interest. I am the one who has been given the sacred privilege of loving them to adulthood. I don’t always do it right, but I always do it real. As it comes, even when God turns the table and allows my young son the sacred privilege of loving me into my adulthood.

If faith is to be raised in this generation, then our nakedness must be embraced—even when it’s humbling and especially when it exposes the truth of a neglected imperfection.

Perhaps this day, you know the groanings of a “yet to be finished” cloaking. I understand, for I am woman who shares your exposure. All of us, every last one of us, are as naked before God and before one another. We might mask it well in the temporary, but as you and I stand before our Father, there is nothing hidden from his view. No portion of our flesh that he cannot see. This truth, alone, is worthy of a few painful utterings.

The greater truth? God sent his Son to be the Lover of our souls. And with Jesus, there is always grace. There is always mercy. And there is always a love rooted in the selfless sacrifice of Calvary’s cross. It is more than enough to lead us all home to our heavenly dwelling where the mortal will, once and for all, be swallowed up by the eternal life that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thus I pray,

Thank you for loving us perfectly, Father. For sending your Son to his own cloaking of flesh that has enabled us to one day drop this tent in trade for another—an eternal dressing worthy of the streets of gold. Thank you, also, for the sacred shaping that comes to us through our exposure. Give us the grace and the wisdom to receive our teaching, even when it comes to us through a child and forces us to our knees in humble confession. Today, we groan in holy expectation for what is promised to us in our tomorrow. Come quickly, Lord. Even so come. Amen.

Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Raising Faith (part ten): Embracing Your Intercession

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

What do the department store Target, handcuffs, two sobbing women (one old, one young), and a “no shirt wearin’, boxer brief showin’” teenager have in common? Absolutely nothing, unless your name is Elaine and you happened to be cruising the Target parking lot around 5:00 PM this evening.

No. We weren’t robbed. We were simply witness to the arrest of a young man who had apparently done something worthy of handcuffs—a rubber-necking moment if there ever was one! Police cars and flashing lights were enough to garner our immediate attention. But as soon as we had passed the scene of the crime, my curious attention suddenly turned to tears. Lots of them. Before long, I had my daughter crying and my son and husband wondering as to the reason behind my emotional outburst. I can sum it up in one word.

Compassion.

When I saw that young man standing beside the patrol car, half-dressed and with a look of warranted fear in his eyes, my heart beat with the love of a mother. Through choking sobs, I spoke the penchant of my heart’s pause to the carload of dazed companions. Words like…

*That is somebody’s child.
*This boy didn’t start out this way.
*He was made for more than handcuffs and crime.
*Somebody’s getting a phone call tonight that they don’t want to get, and it is likely to bring heartache.
*Who is going to tell him that life doesn’t have to be this way—that there is a Jesus who loves him and died for him so that he might truly live?
*How will he ever know the hope of heaven?
*Who is going to stand beside him when he comes before the judge?

Words like that, and before we’d left the parking lot, everyone else was caught up in the drama of my tearful wondering. We took a few moments to pray, asking God to shatter the darkness of this young man’s heart with the truth of Jesus Christ. To bring a person of influence alongside him who will lead him to the foot of the cross.

It may not sound like much. I suppose in the grand scheme of issues that now await this boy, it offers little in the way of an immediate salve. But it’s all I have to give him. And prayers, when offered on behalf of others, are sometimes the difference between heaven and hell. Between life and death. Between handcuffs and freedom.

I will probably never know the outcome of tonight’s prayers. At least not now. But I do know that my Father heard me and that he is faithful to act on behalf of all of his children, especially those so prone to their shackles and their cells. What happened tonight in my van wasn’t contrived or superficial or #10 on the list of “30 Full Proof Methods for Raising Godly Children.” No, what happened tonight was solely rooted in the witness of God’s Spirit living within, provoking me to compassion and moving me to action.

That action was prayer. It doesn’t always breathe this way. Sometimes, more is required. Sometimes, I am the one charged with the responsibility of coming alongside. But tonight, my requirement was different. It was about lifting the life of a young man before the throne of heaven in love and asking the Father to move in his favor. It was also about the drawing of young hearts and minds to do the same.

Sacred seeding on both counts. One seed for another mother’s child. Two seeds for my own. All seeds acknowledged before God because God is in the holy habit of receiving our prayers.

Intercession is a privilege and is the sacred ladling from our heart’s well. Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of time and energy underestimating its power. When prayers go seemingly unanswered, we are prone to keeping our silence. We closely guard our words for fear of having our faith challenged when God doesn’t breathe in compliance with our requests. Thus, we level the assumption that prayers matter little when all along, the very opposite is true.

Prayers matter much because prayers voice the witness of our relationship with the living, breathing Creator of the entire universe. Our words mean something to him. And when our words breathe on behalf of his children, he is tendered by our outward focus. We may not know them by name, but he does, and he is well-pleased when we take the time to acknowledge the value of a single human life.

I want my kids to grow in their understanding of prayer. I don’t want their lives to be so cloistered within the walls of a church that they forget the reason and purpose behind the church.

To go. To preach. To baptize and to make disciples of all people. To cry on behalf of a lost soul and then to petition the heart of the Almighty because they understand that heaven and hell hangs in the balance. That kingdom work can be accomplished through the pure intention of their young hearts. That sacred shaping doesn’t just happen on Sundays, but on every day. At every occasion, even when that occasion includes the Target parking lot.

If faith is to be raised in this generation, then prayer must find its witness through our voices. Yours and mine. We are who they are watching.

And tonight, while my daughter may not have fully grasped the weight of my tears or hers, she nevertheless gave way to something deep within. She gave way to her gut, and her gut told her that something of kingdom value was going on, and she wanted to feel it…just like her momma.

Oh for the heart of a child, so easily taught and so easily moved to her own well-intentioned prayers. May it be so for each one of us this day, and so I pray…

Move us quicker to our prayers, Father. Swifter to our knees in times of trouble, and truer in our petitions on behalf of your creation. Forgive us when our focus remains secluded toward self. Foster your outward focus within us as we live and move and have our being in you. Let our casual prayers be less and our intentional prayers find room to breathe in their absence. Thank you for always listening, and by the power of your Spirit and through the saving work of your Son, Jesus Christ, I ask for grace to come to a jail cell tonight for a young man who needs to know that a King and a kingdom await his arrival. Seed his heart for your forever. Amen.

Copyright © August 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Raising Faith (part nine): Embracing Your Release

Raising Faith (part nine): Embracing Your Release

It’s been a year now since we moved our son into his second floor dorm room at Campbell University. Even tonight, those memories come to me with clarity as if lived only moments ago.

Everyone told me it would get better—this pain that kicked me in the gut with the force and fury of a winded hurricane. I didn’t believe them then, but time has walked its cadence. And now a year down the road, my wounds of separation have healed, as God has tenderly walked me through this mothering milestone with the prayed for measure of grace that speaks the witness of a Father’s faithfulness.

Tonight we stand at the edge of another letting go. We are preparing to send him back. I won’t be making the trip this time. There is less need now, but there was a deep need back then. Then was painful. Now is joyful. Not because I am glad to see him go, but simply because I am free to let him do so. Free to let him become and to grow into the man who God has called him to be.

Nick and I have done a lot of maturing over the past year. I’ve come to understand that my “release” is necessary if he is to fly. I know it sounds simple. In theory, it is. But doing it—embracing the letting go? Far from simple. For me, it’s been the most complex learning to date. Honestly, I’m glad to be on the other side of this one, but while my heart rests this night in peace for the process, I know that there are those of you who are profoundly feeling the effects of being on “this side” of the letting go.

I’m drawn to you. My tears have wept for you. I cannot keep from being filled to a heart’s brim with a deep measure of understanding love and compassion for the steps that you are making. What can one mother possibly render as useful in this time of painful transition? What could be said that hasn’t already been spoken over your bleeding wounds? Probably very little.

But this I will tell you, for I know it to be true. I’ve lived and breathed its witness in this past year and in the previous nineteen that lie behind.

Our God is faithful and good. We will never rightly “let go” of anyone without his knowing and without his holy nod of approval. What pains us, pains him. Those we hold as dear and precious in our hearts are held as more precious in his. He allowed them our homes and our influence for a season, and now he asks us to release them back into the hands that held them first. To the God who shaped them and formed them and adorned them with the lavish expression of heaven (Psalm 139).

He asks of us a hard thing. But hard is not always bad, and in this case, hard is very good and especially right and our necessary portion if our children are ever to find their firm rooting in Jesus.

I didn’t like it then, but it swallows easier tonight, for I have gained the wisdom of a year long learning. I have hindsight, and before long, you will have it too. It cannot be rushed through, even though your heart cries out for the finished process. It simply must walk. Step by step until you find yourself on the other side of “letting go.”

As a word of witness this night, I want to share with you my penned ache from a year ago. Perhaps it voices the tears of your eyes even now. (an email sent to friends on August 18, 2007…)

 
There are some things…some places in all of our lives that simply are too tender for words. Moments when we come to the utter edges of ourselves and wonder where we will find the strength for the next moment. Where we are caught in the fragment between breaths and find it difficult to breathe our next.

I had one of those moments today. To date, it is the most difficult pain I have ever known. For those of you who have been through it, you’re nodding your head just now. For those of you who await its arrival in the somewhere not so distant future, you’ll not fully appreciate it until it arrives.

I hugged him tightly, cried my eyes out, and groaned with utterings that words cannot express most of the hour ride home from Campbell University this afternoon. I listened, in turn, as the 16 year old in the back seat uttered his own share of groanings. Bless Billy…all he was allowed to do was to manage the van back to our driveway. And just when I thought I had conquered my angst, I arrived home to find a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the kitchen counter. It arrived somewhere around noon today, while my in-laws were watching the little ones.

Completely of his own accord, my college freshman son (who I’ve often thought not quite ready for the world…for you see he has so much more to learn…so many more ways to mature) did a very “adult” thing. A very lovely and gracious thing. He thought of his mom, and he told her that he loved her…that she was his heart.

All I could do was hug my flowers and have my husband take a picture of me pitifully cradling my gift. A memory for the years to come. To remind me that, perhaps, Nicholas is ready for the world, and that with God’s help, we will both manage the transition with a measure of grace and joy.
Thank you for the times when you’ve prayed for us. I felt every one of those petitions honored today. Tonight I will gaze upon my bouquet as I let their beauty and my tears lull me to sleep to awaken me to another day. A Sabbath day.

A day that will rise on all of us and beckon our participation. I pray that all of us will find rest with our great and awesome God as the dawn announces its arrival.

I love you all. Thank you for loving us.

Peace…sweet peace for the journey and for the next.

Sabbath did come, my friends, and I found my peace in this journey through God’s amazing love and tender care over my soul. It will come for you, too, for Sabbath rest is always our portion when we allow our Father the freedom to walk our hurt and to heal our hearts.

This won’t be my final chorus of surrender as it pertains to my children. It has been the first and because of it, I will have some courage and understanding for the next. Perhaps, you need a little courage and understanding tonight. Your heart and your pain are safe with me. Greater still…

Your heart is perfectly loved and safe with our Father. More than anyone, He understands the painful tug of “letting go.” He walked it with his Son so that we could walk to him with our surrenders and lay them safely in his hands.

May God grant you the grace, wisdom, and beauty of a sacred release tonight. And may He always…always…give you his,

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Copyright © August 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

PS: Nick’s just taken off…I am fine. There is, however, another young lady who isn’t faring so well.

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