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4 posts from June 2008

June 24, 2008

Transformation...



Greetings, Dear Friends!Monarch

And to those visiting, I say welcome! 


I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way. I also like to give away fun treats so if you post on my blog, you may win a $10.00 gift card from Caribou. Next week I'll award the winner for June.

And be sure to visit during the month of August because I have something GREAT to give away. More info to come.

And now on to my topic...

Over the past year, some of my closest friends have heard me make this statement time and time again, "I am in a unique place right now. On one hand, my ministry is taking off, on the other hand, I feel like I've hit the ceiling with the gifts and abilities God has given me. I'm not unorganized; I'm moderately organized, but only moderately so. I'm very disciplined, but it seems that in order to keep up with the demands on my time, I need a new way to function. I have a basic level of intellect, but it seems I need far more education than what I now possess. In every way, I feel like I'm on the edge of the land and facing the Red Sea. And yet, in no uncertain terms, I sense that God is telling me to wait on and rest in Him." 

Ever feel this way? It's not the most comfortable place to rest, is it?

I have rested here, and I've wrestled here. I've found peace and faith in this place and I've felt great fear and self awareness here.

This weekend on the way home from church I was praying and asking God, "Help me to be faithful in this place." Because, you see, one the outside, I am busy as ever, I'm working hard, and great things are happening in my ministry. But on the inside, I'm trying to rest while constantly pondering, "things are moving fast; will I be able to keep up?" "and " how will I get there?" and "I'm not qualified for any of this!"

Deep in my heart I know that God uses us not because we're qualified but because He's called us. He chooses the foolish to shame the wise. We humans have a strong tendency to trust in ourselves, to take the credit, and to rely on our own strength. We rely on our own strength that is, until it fails us, and then with arms flailing, we run back to our Refuge because He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

On the way home from church I prayed and I watched the trees whip by in a blur. Suddenly that still small voice whispered across my heart, "I've heard your prayers for a fresh touch from Me. You're in a cocoon right now. Soon you'll break through to a new place and I'll give you wings to help you get where I am taking you."

I can't tell you what that little piece of wisdom did for me!

It made perfect sense.

I was 'hitting the ceiling' because, in a new way, I had come to the end of myself and realized, on a deeper level, my need for more of God in me. I also need to sharpen my skills and hone my craft. I've got a lot of growing to do.

When God has you in a waiting place, or a cramped circumstance, it's easy to forget the promise on the other side of this season. The temptation during such a time is to focus inward. 

Before God spoke those precious words to me, I felt surrounded and cocooned by my own smallness and limited ability. I felt frustrated by my own weakness and the many ways in which I was lacking certain gifts. 

God uses nature to teach us many things, and this lesson to me, is divine. About 24 hours before the chrysalis (the cocooned monarch) breaks free, the cocoon becomes transparent from the outside. On the inside, I'm sure the Monarch is thinking, "Get me outta here; I'd rather be crawling than stuck in this cramped place!" but on the outside, others see the promise before it comes to pass. Through the transparent film, one can see the beautiful wings, and a butterfly that was once a land-loving caterpillar.  

Though I've been feeling cramped by my own humanity, my closest friends have seen the butterfly in me. They are quick to tell me what they see and this encourages me greatly.

So when thoughts of inadequacy come my way, I will push back and declare that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!

And when you feel cramped by the smallness of your life, declare that God WILL bring you out to a spacious place and He will put a new song in your heart!

If you're feeling pressed in on all sides, be encouraged. God knows your name and He knows where you live. Don't focus inward, focus on Him. And with all of your heart, soul, and strength, sing this song:

Soon I will fly.
Soon I will do the things God has destined for me.
Right now I declare my worth!
I am alive in Christ!
Though I'm not much from the world's view,
I am everything to Him
And I am made for great things.

I'm not who I was
I'm not what I do
I'm someone He enjoys

I'm not who I will be
I'm not what I should be
But I'm everything to Him

He sees who I am
He sees who I can be
He holds me close to His heart

And soon I will fly...

"...We also, should walk in the newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

Until next week~




June 18, 2008

The Valley of Decision...

Crossinthewoods Greetings, Dear Friends!



And to those visiting, I say welcome! I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way.

Drop me a note and post your thoughts. At the end of this month, one of you will win a $10.00 gift card to Caribou.

And now on to my topic...

The other day I was talking to my oldest son about marriage. He and I love to dialogue about all sorts of things. This particular time we were talking about the tough seasons in marriage. I said to him, "Jake, there comes a valley season in every marriage where the husband and wife don't 'feel' the love anymore; in fact they don't even like each other all that much. It's in that place where big decisions are made. In this place, the quesion becomes, 'Will I die to my flesh (my rights, my expectations, my demands) or will I set my jaw, clench my fists, demand my way, and let my marriage die instead?' Many marriages die in this valley. But those who, for the sake of their commitment before God and man, die to their flesh, will find on the other side of that valley season, life and marriage abundantly."

Now I don't want to get into a debate about circumstances that surround divorce. I know that some are abused and victims of great injustices within marriage. I'm referring to the majority of marriages that die simply because life within marriage stopped being fun or interesting or fulfilling.

What I've noticed about myself and the countless of other people I've spoken to on this topic, is that those who persevere through the valley, find on the other side, a promised land.

This got me thinking...I believe the same applies to other areas of life. God puts dreams in our hearts and writes a destiny over our lives. And if we trust Him enough to take Him at His word, we will find ourselves on a journey toward the fulfillment of that dream.

Unfortunately, the path that takes us to the promise is always wrought with thickets and thorns. Nothing worth having ever comes easy or without opposition. Storms will come, lions will roar, and our fears will be confronted. God allows the path to be difficult because He intends on refining us and preparing us for our place of promise. He is intent on extracting from us, that which our enemy would love to leverage against us.

God loves us too much to promote us before we are ready.

And so, as we follow His lead, we will at different times, find ourselves in a valley - a valley of decision. Marriages aren't the only thing that die there. Dreams die there too. The flesh dies hard and unfortunately for many, they've opted to let their dream die before they'd ever allow their flesh to be confronted.

We all have weak spots and areas of inconsistency in our character. Until we see Jesus face to face, we will need His guidance and correction. He wants to take us from strength to strength; from glory to glory.

Ephesians 3:20 tells us that He wants to do abundantly above and beyond ALL that we could ever ask or think, but there's a clincher in this verse...it's according to His work within us. To the extent that He's allowed to work in us, will be the extent that He does great things through us.

After my conversation with Jake, I pondered this idea a little more. I envisioned a valley of dry bones. Bones from marriages, relationships, and dreams abandoned because many people refused to die to themselves, to humble themselves, and to let God have His way in their lives.

Don't let your dream die in the valley!

If you're in a season of refining, lean in. Trust the loving hand of your precious Savior and know that He will lead you to the other side. Refuse a sense of entitlement and don't demand to be understood.

Instead, humble yourself and seek to understand what the Lord is doing around you.

He will faithfully lead you and you will be strengthened as you go. 

On the other side of this refining time is a fresh perspective and new mercies.

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God; in due time you will be lifted up and honored before a watching world.

Have a blessed week.


June 11, 2008

Receiving What We Ask For...

Vermilionfalls

Greetings, Dear Friends! Susie Larson here... And to those visiting, I say welcome! I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way. Drop me a note and post your thoughts. At the end of this month, one of you will win a $10.00 gift card to Caribou.

By the way, I'm still learning my way around the new changes to TypePad, and for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get rid of the picture boxes above without deleting my whole post. So let's just pretend they're not there. :) Now on to my topic... How are things going in your prayer life? Do you feel like you're talking at God more than talking to Him? And what is the outcome of your prayers? Do you come away more peaceful, more assured of God's presence in your life? Are you seeing answers? Well, believe it or not, receiving what we ask for in prayer is directly linked to whether or not we know how to rest in God's presence (see last week's post). Many of you know that I've recently finished up a very busy speaking season. Feeling tired and somewhat worn out, I looked around at all of the things that have been waiting for my attention: my always elusive pile of laundry; my paper work; my bursting-at-the seams email inbox; and my frustrating struggles with health issues. Sigh.

Without even realizing my error, I fell into a prayer mode of begging, pleading, wishing, and whining. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it because I know better, but I believe there's something here for some of you today.

One day amidst one of my not-so-effective prayer sessions, I suddenly saw a picture of myself in the middle of a lake, drowning. Someone was trying to help me but my arms were flailing every which way, and I was in such a panic that my rescuer was having a tough time getting to me.

I was instantly confronted.

My prayers weren't really prayers at all, they were a panic stream of words spewed out to whoever and whatever. There was no focus in what I was saying, no object of my trust, and no faith in my heart.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. And sometimes our prayers will be cries of desperation. It won't always be pretty. This is not about our "prayer form" but rather, where we're "praying from."

It bears noting that the "fruit" of my flailing and spewing and angst was anxiousness, frustration, and loss of perspective. Instead of feeling energized and grounded (like I usually do after concentrated times of prayer), I felt that opposite, which proved to me, that I wasn't really praying at all.

John 15: 7-8 says this, "If you abide in Me and My Words abide in you, you can ask what you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father's, glory, that you bear MUCH fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples."

I once did a study on that verse and I was surprised to find out that to abide means this: to be held.

If we want to see answers to our prayers, we must learn what it means to rest in Him, to dwell with Him, and to be assured that He hears us when we call.

As soon as I realized my error, I stopped in my tracks and I switched gears. And I did two things. I stood and then I rested. First I stood on the promises of God and on my position of authority in Him. My prayers changed from frantic spewings to prayers like this, "God in Heaven, I belong to You! I will not allow fear or frustration to cloud my view! I am kept and being kept by You. I am rich and being enriched because of You. You will supply all of my needs and I trust You fully. My heart rests secure in You and I am helped."

Then I went out on my deck, put on some music, and watched the wind blow through the trees. I reminded myself that the skies declare the glory of God and the Creator of the ends of the earth never grows tired or weary, even when I do. I rested because I could.

And do you know what happened? Peace came. I completed my tasks with a heart at rest. And I enjoyed myself along the way.

Psalm 91:1 says, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High God (the God who is HIGH above our circumstances), will REST in the shadow of the Almighty." That chapter goes on to promise provision, protection, and honor for the one who has learned to dwell - to camp - in the presence of God.

Why is abiding and resting in God's presence so closely linked with answers to prayer?

Well, because.

As we stay in step with the Lord, our heart beats in rhythm with His. We begin to desire the things He does. We see things the way He does. And when we pray,we say what He is saying.

God wants to answer our prayers! He wants to fill the earth with His glory. He wants us to bear much fruit so the world will see and say, "There is power in the life of that Believer. Lives are blessed because she walks with God."

If your arms are failing today, take a deep breath, and let yourself float on the water. Look up at the sky and allow the Lord to lead you to a place of peace and provision.

Read this great quote from the 1800's by Pere Hyacinthe Besson:

"Jesus our Lord loves to dwell within a quiet heart, and to come to those who are at peace with themselves; restlessness and anxiety hinder our seeing Him, even when He is beside us and speaking to us."

Be at rest once more O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you, and He'll be good to you again.

Have a blessed, restful week, abiding in Him.

June 04, 2008

Rest and Replenishment...

Stillwaters


Greetings, Friends!

And to those visiting, I say welcome! I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way. It feels like ages since I've connected with you although it's only been a short time. Two weeks ago I was in North Carolina attending a writers conference, and last week, I was in recovery mode after our hugely successful benefit dinner for the International Justice Mission.

You may notice this post looking different these days. Well TypePad has kindly imposed some "improvements" to this site that have left me pulling out my hair and wanting to jump and and down and scream. How's that for a peaceful picture? This morning I had my blog all ready to post and if can say this, I loved what I wrote about rest and replenishment. I pushed the "Save" button and my post completely disappeared. I worked all morning on that little ditty and then it was gone. I just returned from an appointment and sat down to re-write this blog and for the last hour, I've battled with the elements and barely won. So here I am with blue font, no ability to post links, and feeling completely beside myself with frustration. 

What a perfect time to stop, take a deep breath, and remember again what I wrote about this morning.

Before I get into my topic, I need to award May's winner of the $10.00 Caribou gift card. And the winner is...Lynda Bishop! Lynda, congratulations! Please email me at: info@susielarson.com to claim your prize. 

Like coffee? Post some on this blog in June and you may be a winner!

Now on to my topic...

If you've heard me speak before, you've no doubt heard me say this: With all my heart, I believe one of the enemy's ploys in our day is to get us so over-committed, so depleted, that we completely lose our sense of wonder, awe, and peace. He wants us running in so many directions, or simply running too fast in one direction, that we forget that life is more than our task list. 

I'm reading a wonderful book on the Sabbath by Wayne Muller. And though I don't agree with everything he writes, I'm learning again how to rest, not just on Sundays, but - to a certain degree - every day. There's something to be said about unstrapping the harness or setting down the load of cares, and resting for a moment. 

We need Sabbath moments every single day. 

Right now, I have all of my boys at home. And though two of them are preparing for their next phase of life, I have them with me now. I'm struck by how quickly their childhood came and went. My sons are now men. And so, for this short time, I relish their nearness. When we sit down together for dinner, I light a candle and sit down to enjoy my family. We take longer to eat; we linger at the table and laugh about trivial things. Dinners with my family have been Sabbath moments for me.

Another sacred time for me is the morning. Even on the brisk mornings my husband and I head out to the deck swing. Wrapped in a blanket and hugging our morning we coffee, we pray for our boys, our country, and for the safety of our friends at International Justice Mission. Mornings replenish me.

Since I am a doer, I must constantly watch over my schedule and make sure I'm not squandering my time on things God has not called me to do. I think a lot of us struggle doing a lot of good things at the expense of the highest and best thing.

So why do we go on overdrive and neglect our soul and body's need for rest? I submit that we do this for one of two reasons. 1 - We have a bloated view of self (we think we are the only ones who can save the world, or do our job, or whatever). 2 - We have a shriveled view of God (we lose sight of the fact that He holds it all; He provides it all; and He commands us to rest). 

Read this excerpt from Muller's book on the Sabbath:

"Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished with all our work, we will never stop - because our work is never completely done. With every accomplishment there arises a new responsibility. Every swept floor invites another sweeping, every child bathed invites another bathing. When all life moves in such cycles, what is ever finished? The sun goes round, the moon goes round, the tides and seasons go round, people are born and die, and when are we finished? If we refuse rest until we are finished, we will never rest until we die. Sabbath dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished."

I love that. 

Sabbath moments are the exhale to our inhale. They are the ebb of the flowing tide. They are the down beat in the rhythm of life. Just as it's impossible to be healthy by only eating on the weekends, it's impossible to enjoy a peaceful, rhythmic life without responding to your body's and soul's regular need for a little down time. 

Sit in your car in the parking lot, put your head back, and soak in the words to a profound song. Pull into a park, and sit on a bench. Watch the trees sway in the breeze and ask God for that kind of flexibility. Get up early, or stay up late, and take a few moments to ponder the idea that you are someone God loves. 

Refuse the staleness of a hurried life. 

Work hard, yes. Do what yo do with excellence. But don't think for a moment that your tasks are more important than the condition of your soul. 

In his book, "Celtic Devotions", Dr. Calvin Miller penned this profound little prayer, "Lord, Help me to remember that I can make more bricks in six days than I can in seven." 

I love that too. :)

Be fully present with your family around the table tonight. Take hold of those promised Sabbath moments God offers you each day. And when you feel that inner nudge to spend a little more time with Him, consider yourself honored to do so.

Have a blessed week~