An Accidental Treasure

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-14).




My heart is filled with many stories tonight…things I want to tell someone. Anyone. You.

That’s the writer in me. Words find me. Fill me to overflow until I can no longer keep them penned up within. Instead, they call for the obedience and the outflow of my pen. Whether you find them worthy or not, well, that’s your call. On this side of a blank page, I cannot imagine their impact. I can only feel their weight. Unloading them becomes my necessary.

Thus, a Friday night tied to requirement. An evening that begins with a last evening—a Thursday night tied to a New Year’s Day.

With the younger kids safely tucked in bed and for want of anything else pressing in on our time, my husband and I left the “youngers” in the care of the “olders” and ventured to Wal-Mart in search of a movie and some snacks. Rather than driving ten miles to our local Blockbuster, we opted for the five dollar bargain bin just a mile down the road. We walked away with two movies, The Manchurian Candidate and a DVD combo that included two of our favorite movies, Glory and The Patriot. Or so we thought.

After donning our pj’s and firing up the candles for S’mores (apparently Wal-Mart also shelves the ingredients for said snacks…), my husband began to unwrap our selected movie for the night.

“This looks interesting, Elaine. What’s “Nightjohn” about?”

Nightjohn? What? Where’s Denzel in all of his Glory?

Apparently, Denzel was still sitting back in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. My harried perusal of back and forth landed me with a copy of an unidentified movie. Nightjohn. A story set in the deep South about two slaves—a young girl named Sarny and a middle-aged man named John.

Rather than making the trip back to Wal-Mart, we settled on our accidental purchase, and for the better part of two hours, immersed our hearts and emotions into a story that breathed the witness of an eternal truth.

The power of the word.

Nightjohn can read, an offense often punishable by death for a slave. John enters into young Sarny’s world as a recent acquisition of her owner. When he asks her for a plug of tobacco, she insists upon a trade. He insists that he can give her something in return that man can never take away from her.


Sarny is captured by the promise of such a holding and begins to earnestly acquire her new found wealth. One letter at a time. Collected and treasured and pondered with a depth rarely exhibited in any classroom across America. Her learning is sporadic, a slow prod toward having her letters make sense. Sarny’s frustration for the finished product—for being able to read—culminates with a question to Nightjohn:

“How do you know if you be reading?”

John reassures Sarny that the day is soon to come.

That day comes for Sarny as she accompanies her owner’s family to church one Sunday. The pastor instructs the congregants to sing #152, a melodious rendition of the 23rd Psalm. As they sing, Sarny adds her own voice to the mix. The tears begin to flow as she realizes the profundity of the moment—that she, in fact, “be reading.” Nightjohn watches her awakening from the balcony above with his own mix of tears. An observant pastor also takes notice.

He leaves the pulpit, approaches Sarny, and with tenderness in his voice asks her a life-changing question:

“Child, are you saved?”

Without hesitation, she replies:

“Yes, I am. I am saved.”

And I am undone with the moment. It approached my soul with the magnitude of the kingdom—God’s kingdom. Indeed, Sarny was saved. In more ways than one. The reading of man’s words led Sarney to God’s Word and to her salvation accordingly.

The power of the Word…both in print and in the flesh, came to life and to a living heart who was hungry for the find. And while Sarny’s physical chains still bound her in the flesh, her spiritual chains had been broken, and she took to her baptism with the truth of God’s Word searing within her soul.

Indeed, something that man could never take away from her. Something that can never be taken away from you and from me if we’ve known the power of such a moment. And so I ask you tonight, with a tender urgency in my heart…

Child, are you saved?

Do you remember the day when God’s Word became real to you? When all of his kingdom letters collided with your flesh and you knew, for a fact, that you be reading the Word? Did it make you cry then? Does it still…make you cry? Not because you’re sad, but rather because the magnitude of such truth overwhelms your soul to point of release?

For all of the ways I could turn this, take this and make it into something else, nothing of greater consequence exists. Your salvation is everything. Having God’s word…his Word…collide with your chains is the stuff of everlasting significance. He shatters our shackles and deems us free. He leaves us, not as slaves, but as kings and queens of a royal throne established on our behalf because his Word has the final say in the matter.

I know that most of you reading this have experienced the power of such an awakening. Thank God tonight for your salvation. But there are others—strangers and friends, those you love and those you don’t—who need the magnitude of such a moment. Perhaps, like Nightjohn, God has allowed you a measure of influence in their lives.

Would you, on the front side and at the beginning of a New Year, be willing to bring them the brilliance and illumination of God’s living Word … one letter at a time until their collected abundance yields the eternal wealth of a Psalm 23 kind of moment? So that they, too, can be reading what you’re reading?

It is a worthy story. One of the many that fills my heart tonight. Apparently, the one that God deemed most appropriate for the pen. I’m always amazed at the finished canvas. Not because it exceeds the beauty of another’s words, but simply and profoundly because God has allowed me the privilege of its painting.

One brushstroke at a time. One letter after another, until words fill the page, and I am reminded through my tears of my own soul’s awakening. The moment that rushed upon me with the magnitude and force of God’s kingdom grace and with the brilliant illumination of his lavish and unmerited love. The moment when I knew for a fact, that I be reading the Truth.

May such remembrance find its way into your heart this day until you “know that you know” and until that knowing becomes the deepest and most cherished treasure of your heart.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of his living, eternal witness—the Holy Spirit—I shout my gratitude and sound my salvation. I am saved. I am free. Ain’t nothing that man can do to take that away from me. Amen.


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Copyright © January 2009 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

PS: Heading back to Wal-Mart tomorrow. If I can find another copy, I’ll get one for a give away. Here’s hoping for another accidental treasure. Shalom!

37 Responses to An Accidental Treasure

  1. This is absolutely awesome. Thank you for your fresh insight into ancient words (and an old $5 film)!

  2. Awesome!

    You know, I remember sitting in the cafeteria of my high school, a couple of yrs ago, I guess it is now, doing the Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place study. That’s when one of those collisions that you describe took place. I will never forget Beth teach out of John 15 and hearing her say “It is to your Father’s glory…that your life bear much fruit.”

    It still has the same effect on me now as it did then. 🙂

  3. It was in a pew on Palm Sunday, 1973, where the Word culminated in my young mind and heart. What a precious revisiting this night; oh, the saving grace of the Word made flesh! A treasure indeed.

    Love to you this night,

  4. Accidental treasures are so often the best! I remember the movie “Night John”; it’s been years since I saw it, but it made an impact – I recognized it right away in your post. That’s the beauty of a well crafted message; you never know when it will turn up many, many miles down the road. Thanks for sharing this, Elaine!

  5. Yes, yes, I am saved. Praise His Holy Name!!

    God has taken your post and the one I just posted (6:40am) and woven them together so beautifully. The story of Nightjohn and Sarny fit beautifully with the story I just posted of Telemachus.

    A true God thang!!


  6. Among your best! Powerful and poignant, the stuff that summons tears.

    Yes … I remember that moment so vividly. I, too, was a slave until that day, some 38 years ago. In one incredible nano second I went from a beast of burden to one unburdened. The rest is history, and not without setback, but I could weep anew just reflecting on it.

    I will get this movie!


  7. Ah, Elaine, what a glorious “accident” that NIGHTJOHN ended up in your cart, in your home, and in your writing.

    I have not heard of that movie but look forward to rifling through the bargain bin at our Wal Mart in the hope of finding it.

    “O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant … You have freed me from my chains.” (Psalm 116:16)

  8. Hey, how come I didn’t see you at Walmart? We were there too, LOL.

    I just finished writing a devotional about reading God’s Word!

    I still remember the day I surrendered my life to Christ, when I spoke words of ‘if You can do a better job than me, that this life is Your’s. I’ve tried everything and I still can’t get it right’. (what a prideful daugther I was, and what an AMAZING ,forgiving Father we have). The VERY next day I woke up and I HUNGERED to read my Bible…and haven’t stopped!!

  9. I guarantee that accidental purchase was no accident. Wowzer, He filled up your blank blog page with His anointed words. I am moved this morning, ready to face the day ahead (which by the way is filled with entertaining those that don’t know Him but desperately need Him). May His salvation overflow from me the same way He did on this page!

  10. No accident my friend.

    The vast difference between a collection of letters on a page and understanding. A Spirits awakening. Yes, Elaine, with tears in my own eyes, I am willing…”willing to bring them the brilliance and illumination of God’s living Word … one letter at a time until their collected abundance yields the eternal wealth of a Psalm 23 kind of moment”.

    Just last evening I sent a few e-mails to friends sharing some highlights of 2008 and I wrote, “I trusted God like I never had before and now I know that I know that I KNOW…”

    Knowing increases longing. Longing to know The Word more and longing to share The Word. Your knowing is expressed in your hearts urgency to impart to others. Today, for me, this has been the writing that has touched deeper and not just called for, but necessitated a response. Thanks for calling me to a deeper fellowship, a closer following and a faithful telling.

    Rejoicing that words are mine, but even greater that The Word is mine,

  11. Elaine, I was saved when I was 7 years old and have had the great blessing of knowing the Lord for almost my entire life. Thank you, Lord!

  12. I do not believe in accidents. One thing I learned in 2008 is that there is no plan B. It is all PLAN A.

  13. No accident that you returned home with that particular movie. Yes, it was Glory! But a different kind of Glory!

    Yes sister… I am saved – Hallelujah! Today I pray for those who do not know the saving love and grace of our Lord and Savior. Many of them are members of my own family.

  14. Thank you for this…both the movie recommendation and the call for self-examination. The Word truly is a different book for those whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit of God. May each of your readers who do not yet know Him, find Him today.

  15. Your writing is like looking at a beautiful painting! I’m glad I stopped by here as I get myself geared up for a new year:) I hope your holiday was filled with many blessings! See you this next week!

  16. peace for the journey is truly a gifting that God has given. I find Him totally in the midst of “peace for the journey”, as He showers us, His readers, with His eternal truths. Thank you my friend, for being the instrument behind the pen.

    My salvation came November 1999 when I totally hit bottom but He had been wooing me for at least 3 years and I was searching…but the sweet surrender, Nov 99.

    Lovingly reaching for Higher Grounds,

    (PS I had to delete my previous post, way to many errors!!!)

  17. P.S.

    Should anyone want to order Nightjohn online, (a subsidiary of Ebay) has brand new copies for $3 – $4, $2.99 shipping.

    Just bot mine!

  18. Elaine,

    What a blessed treasure! God is so good friend.

    And yes, I clearly remember when I had my ‘awakening’. I couldn’t stop calling friends and family with the only words that came to my mind, “I get it! I really get it! I know why Jesus died on the cross!”

    It was a HUGE moment in my life.

    Thank you for bringing it back for me with such clarity.

    Happy 2009 dear friend.

  19. Our former pastor’s wife says that there are no COincidences, only GODincidences. Sounds like you had a GODincidence, for sure!

    Father, refill me with that same passion, that same fire and excitement that I had on an Easter Sunday years ago, when I gave my heart to You at the age of seven.

    Elaine, your words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

    I’m gonna look for that movie. :o)

  20. September 10, 1977 in a little upper room in Anadarko Oklahoma. I was in the pit of my despair and in the midst of a third marriage that was falling apart. A mother of two little boys that had lost her way and had no idea of who she was.. Abused on a daily basis and really could see no need to live…… HE walked in…… HE was waiting….. HE touched my life, and said “follow me” I am……….

  21. Elaine,

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog and letting me know I am missed.

    I have been (and I still am) sick since 12/24. I have bronchitis in the worst way. I’m going to try to go to church in the morning.

    You were right. I did need that word from God (through you).

    Bless you my Siesta


  22. Yes, I too am saved. I have also expereinced His redemptive grace following my childhood salvation because of poor decisions as an adult. His reality became even more real to me then that day as child asking Him into my life. Now He is pulsating through hmy veins, nourishig me in His truth, sustaining me. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    I am inclined to get this movie!!


    In His Graces~Pamela

  23. Beautiful, Elaine, and a wonderful
    “God-incidence” that blessed each and every one of us. And yes, I remember when I was saved.In fact, I was sitting exactly where I am right now, almost exactly 10 years ago. What an amazing day.

  24. Elaine, I just love those God touches, don’t you? This is beautiful. I would take it as confirmation, friend!

  25. Sounds indeed like no accident to me! Thank you for sharing insights from such a beautiful story.

    I praise Him that I too can say I’m saved, since 1978 at the age of 13. I wish I could say all the years since that time were lived for him. After a detour in my young adult life for several years and the relentless pursuit of Christ, I renewed my commitment to Him in ’95. Joyfully, things have never been the same since. I praise Him for the gift of my salvation and continue to pray for those in my family and those friends who don’t yet know His freedom. I commit afresh to be a light before them in the year to come.

    Thank you for ever-challenging me…

  26. Loved this!
    Isn’t it amazing the ends to which He will go to make sweet contact with our hearts? I loved those unexpected unplanned times when He makes an appearance through “everyday” things.
    Our Sunday school teacher was just talking yesterday about loosing the joy of our salvation. And she reminded us that if there was no joy…there would be no drive to share it.
    Of course that got me to thinging about what is tucked safely away in my heart that is still hidden from others.
    This sounds like a great movie….those kinds of movies are few and far between. Loved the first choice….and glad the ops worked out for His glory. 🙂
    Praying girl!

  27. Wow…God you sure have gifted this daughter of yours with some amazing ability to speak Your words!

    Thank you Elaine!

  28. Thank you for sharing your heart in this. Praise the Lord that we are SAVED! I was deeply moved by this Elaine.

    I will have to obtain this movie.

    Also, please come on over to my Speak on it with LisaS to receive an AWARD that I’d like to present to you.

  29. Okay…never heard of it…and now want to see it! You bless me over and over—-countless ways.

    Love you much dear friend!

  30. Thanks for the recommendation! Glory is one of my favorites, too. We must have excellent taste, eh!

  31. Thank You for the presious words Elaine.
    I’ve never heard of that movie, but it sounds like it was well worth the money!

    I have been saved for many years now, but still love those AHA moments when his WORD seems brand new.

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