Category Archives: ministry life

when harvest comes …

Rough edges. I have some. They were readily exposed for me to clearly see this past year. The catalyst for that exposure?

Fifteen students hand-picked by God to move me on toward my perfection!

For the past several years, I’ve been incubated from such exposure; life and its many detours have allowed me some shade and protection along these lines. Certainly, there have been occasions when I’ve felt the soul-shaped sanding from others but not as intensely as I have experienced it in these past ten months.

Most days, I wanted to run away and hide, crawl back into the shell I had so carefully crafted for myself during my earlier season of isolation. Exposure was painful and bloody, with precious few moments of joy to temper the ache. But I hung in with Jesus … every single day. I called upon the name of the Lord more times than can be counted. Together, he and I walked the school year through, and as we rounded the corner toward the finish line, I was finally able to see the amazing work of grace.

Growth.

I grew. They grew. And as we spoke our final good-byes, I held a little fruit in my hands – the same hands that (to date) had only held seeds, only sown seeds in hopes of one day having them grow into something more substantial.

This has been a fruit-bearing year for me. I couldn’t see the fruit in the beginning, and I certainly couldn’t feel it along the way and as we went. But I always believed in it, always trusted God for the greater work of grace that surfaces as a direct result of willing obedience to the call of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we choose the mission field, friends; sometimes it chooses us. Either way, the responsibility is the same – to sow extravagantly the seeds of our faith. To break up the unplowed ground beneath our feet with the spade of God’s Word. To water it with the sweat of our brow and the tears of our surrender. To nurture the seed and soil with fervent prayers and gentle hands. To trust in the unseen work of the soil and to believe that every hour of intentional investment will yield a harvest of eternal proportion.

Sometimes we have the privilege of holding that resulting fruit; sometimes we can only believe in it. Either way, our responsibility remains.

Keep sowing God’s seed in this season of your life. Whether uncomfortably exposed or intentionally hidden, you have a choice to make regarding the faith seeds that are stored in your heart. In releasing them for the greater work of the kingdom, you are making a choice for growth – for yourself and for others. Don’t be surprised when the spade digs deeply and (sometimes) harshly. Expect it, believing all the while in the unseen work of the soil and in the eventual harvest to come.

What cannot be seen or held is seen and held by God. He is superintending the process, and the outcome is not in question. But don’t take my word on it, take his …

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. … You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” –John 15:8,16

In season and out, sow generously and sow believing that He who began a good work in you is faithful to see it through to completion. As always …

Peace for the journey,

an unexpected walk to Emmaus

She asked if we could take an extra lap around the ball field at recess. I didn’t mind. Some conversations require an extra lap … or two.

Her heart is so tender, so easily touched by these morning, God-conversations we’ve been having for the past 148 school days. Today was no different. During our Bible story time, I’d planned on covering the Walk to Emmaus, but we never made it there. Instead, we got stuck right in the middle of Mary Magdalene’s arrival at the empty tomb (John 20), the two angels book-ending the place where Jesus’ body used to be, and (at the urging of my students) a detour to the book of Exodus 25 to look at a possible connection between the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant and the seated angels in Christ’s tomb. I watched their eyes engage with the correlation. My baker’s dozen pondered the possibilities and accepted the mystery and beauty of God’s Word. They (perhaps better than most adults) are still warm to the things of God and more easily moved into a posture of acceptance.

“It’s flawless, boys and girls. From beginning to end, Old Testament to New, God’s Word is flawless. This is your history – your past, your present, your future. This is your story, and these are your people. Learn it well. Live it forward. This has become your trust to keep and to tell. Who will tell the next generation coming up behind you if not you?”

I’m not certain they all received my admonishment in its fullness, but I do know that a few of them did. Only God can take these planted seeds and grow them for his kingdom. I may not be around to watch them blossom, but I am at peace with and fully trust in the planting that’s being done.

And so, she and I took an extra lap together at recess to discuss the things of God – our own Emmaus walk of sorts. Two hearts burning as we talked about Jesus and her desire to know him more. Further still, her deep, soul-aching desire for her family to know him more. She carries a burden for them, for kindness and love and reconciliation to rule the day.

“If they could just love Him like I love Him, Mrs. Olsen, things would be different. I pray and nothing changes. I thought God would answer, but it doesn’t seem like he’s listening. Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?”

And therein began my reassurances to her of God’s listening ear and man’s wandering heart – the free will built into all of us – the gift of individual choice and God’s great hope to be chosen. That she cannot choose for her family but that she can choose for herself …

To love God. Know God. And then out of that knowing, lead others to know the same.

My calling. Her calling. The singular calling for all of us as disciples of Jesus Christ.

She can be a light, pointing in the right and very good direction. I tell her it will make a difference in the end, and she’s willing to believe me because I am her teacher and I have earned her trust over these past 148 school days.

These aren’t merely words to calm an anxious spirit. These are words to live by. Why? Because God has proved them over and over again to me. I’ve seen them at work in the lives of countless others, and I’ve watched them come to fruition in my own journey of grace.

A single flame can spark a fire. A lighted candle can lead a heart safely home. And an extra lap around a ball field can ignite a soul with enough hope to fuel godly desire for a season longer.

This was our Emmaus Road – hers and mine.

This is forever kingdom privilege.

And this, dear friends, is one of the more sacred punctuation marks added to 148 days of hard labor and obedience.

This is my story; these are my people. By God’s grace, I’m learning it well. I’m living it forward. This is my trust to keep and to tell. I will tell the next generation coming up behind me. I pray you’ll do the same. As always …

Peace for the journey,

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,

life beyond the 51/49 principle

The 51/49 principle. That’s what my daddy calls it – the not so scientific (much less highly spiritual) approach to making decisions.

Your gut leanings . . . 51% in one direction; 49% in the other. When in doubt, go with the 51%.

When making smaller decisions, the 51/49 principle seems to carry less weight. When making larger decisions (those choices involving critical, life paths)? Well, the 51/49 principle is a bit harder to digest. Personally, I prefer the 99/1 principle when choosing a critical, life path—a two-by-four to the head that clearly says, “This is the way; walk in it … ” (see Isaiah 30:21). Unfortunately, that kind of clarification has rarely been my privilege over the years. Instead, I’ve learned to trust my gut, even when it teeters within a few percentage points of taking the alternate (often times, less desirable) path.

Sometimes, 51% is all I get. But every now and again, a 99% shows up . . . maybe even 100%, and there is no need for agonizing deliberation. I am grateful for those occasions; I’ve learned to be obedient to them as well.

Like three weeks ago, when I walked through an open door that (trust me when I tell you) wasn’t even on my radar – not one little bit. Three weeks ago, I was heart-deep in wedding preparations—a season filled with enough emotional trauma to clutter and confuse reasonable thought processes. Choosing the color of my toe-nail polish was a struggle, much less choosing a life-path. Still and yet, a choice presented itself, one that would not only alter my life, but also the lives of my family. That decision?

After fifteen years of being a stay-at-home mom, I’ve decided to take a job outside the walls of my home. Instead of homeschooling my children, I’ll be teaching someone else’s children – fourth graders at a small Christian school just down the road. If this opportunity hadn’t come about in the way that it did, I wouldn’t have had the courage to walk through this door. Even a year ago, I wouldn’t have had the strength. A year ago I was busy giving away all of the contents of my teacher boxes in an effort to lighten our load prior to our move to this community. After hauling that mess around for years, I had no intentions of ever, practically using any of it again. I kept one banker’s box, the contents of which are less practical and mostly sentimental.

And so, I’m starting from scratch, walking down a road I never imagined I’d be walking down again, and I’m doing so with a 99/1%, two-by-four affirmation in my pocket that will, undoubtedly, buoy my “want to” as this season unfolds. It may not make a lick of sense to others, but it makes perfect sense to me. Accordingly, I offer no apologies or explanations to the naysayers; I simply walk through this open door in obedience, knowing that the favor of God and the shine of heaven rest upon me.

This is my next, and I’m ready to turn the page, ready to let go of any previous notions of what I thought I should be doing (those 51/49 wranglings of the heart) and ready to step into the 99% I know that I should be doing. It’s just that clear and, relatively, simple. How grateful I am for a reprieve from the constant, internal debate regarding my next!

I don’t know where you are today as it pertains to choosing a life-path. Maybe you are contentedly walking with a 99% affirmation in your heart; maybe less contentedly, hovering between your 51 and your 49. I understand them both. This is the life of the faith . . . walking forward with God and trusting that, even when it’s with a 51/49 affirmation, he will establish your steps as you go and strengthen your witness for his glory and his renown.

Step on, friends. Step forward. Step always with God. These next steps matter. You can make them confidently, knowing that, wherever the path leads, you’ll never walk alone. Not ever.

Rest in the company of our King today. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS – The winner of Leah’s study, HeBrews: a Better Blend, is Rebecca! Please be in touch with your mailing address, friend.

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