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3 posts from November 2008

November 26, 2008

The intimacy of Justice...

Bunkbeds at Orphanage

Greetings, my 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.

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on this blog. So leave a comment, share a story, and just maybe you'll win a treat!

Now on to my topic...

First of all, thank you to so many of you who offered to pray for us while we were in Guatemala last week.

Let me tell you, it was a life-changing event. And I felt your prayers more than I can even explain.

Though there were countless opportunities for danger to present itself, God kept us hidden in the shadow of His wing. And yet, at the same time, He exposed us to the vast needs of humanity. We were with a team of donors and the IJM staff in Guatemala and we received an inside look at this heroic organization.  

Wet met with government officials and saw firsthand the mutual respect and cooperation between the Guatemalan government and the folks at IJM. Because of the tireless, consistent, heroic, and excellent work of investigators, lawyers, social workers, and interns, children have been rescued, families have been set on the path of recovery, and the societal structure has been strengthened as a result. In that meeting with high ranking officials, we saw the power of IJM's influence.

The next day we visited an incredible children's home which was tucked in the mountains where approximately 40 young girls live because they've been rescued from horrific situations. We watched as two of the IJM staffers put on a skit that included ten of the girls. The other 30 sat on the concrete ground and giggled and whispered to each other, much like you'd see on a playground at recess time. The IJM investigator joined us on our 'field trip.' This man risks his life on a regular basis. He is savvy in the habits of bullies and oppressors. And he is also a gentle man of God who loves his family. I watched him hand out Cinderella gift bags to this group of orphaned girls and smile at every one them. He understood there might be trust issues so he was notably careful, but abundantly kind. Watching this man, knowing how he puts his life on the line day after day, and then seeing him with these children, brought tears to my eyes. I just know that's what Jesus was like. That's what He is like. Tough against the ones who abuse their power, and tender with those who need an advocate.

Our day at the children's home connected us in a very deep way to the tender heart of God.We brought treats, played games, kissed the tops of their heads, and ran around with them. It was a glorious time. As we rode away on our little bus, my husband whispered to me, "Yesterday we saw IJM's influence at a very high level. Today we got to see their impact in a very tangible way." 

On our final day, we had breakfast at a client's house. The little girl who lived there had received justice through the work of IJM. Her perpetrator was sent to prison and her little family was beginning to heal. This was a poor family and we were so honored to be in her home. Through a translator, and through her tears, the mother thanked us profoundly for securing justice for her daughter because now she feels safe again. 

Forgive the alliteration please, but leaving this incredible home Kevin and I determined that we had just experienced the intimacy of justice. Though this family owned little, there was peace in the home. You could see the trust and the genuine affection between this family and the IJM social workers. Spending time in this tiny little home, playing with the children, praying for the family, witnessing the tears and gratitude, showed me once again, the incredible heart of God.

He reigns and works in the hearts of great leaders and governments. 

And He resides in the nooks and crannies of life. He knows where the poor live and He loves them. 

As Gary Haugen wrote in his book, Just Courage: 

"We have a God of moral clarity. God does not respond to injustice or abuse with mild interest." 

And Deitrich Boenhoeffer wrote this:

The Church is her true self only when she exists for humanity.

Just as the human body was made to engage in strenuous exercise to be made stronger and more efficient, the Believer is called to engage in work that calls her beyond the borders of what she naturally cares about, to tend to those who'd be much easier to ignore. 

It's easy not to exercise. Not very many people love the idea of getting in the car, getting to the health club, and pushing the heart rate up to the point of gasping for breath (okay, that means your heart rate is too high, but you get the point). Most people don't want to lift weights that make them strain and sweat and feel sore the next day. But millions engage their bodies in this way because they know they were made for it. And the fruit of the workout pays them back in dividends: higher energy, better outlook, stronger frame, less extra weight.

Well, as easy as it is to neglect our body's God-given assignment to engage itself in movement, it's easier still, in this abundantly wealthy country, not to engage in nor pay attention to the suffering world around us. But we must.

We have to make ourselves 'go there.' We have to carry a portion of God's burden in this world. Not the whole thing. That would crush us. But part of it. 

And this is not an 'ought to' or a 'should do', it's a 'get to.'

This past week I interviewed Sara Groves and Susan Andringa on Along the Way (a two hour talk radio show). Sara said something amazing, "Part of maturing is knowing the difference between guilt (which is not from God), and conviction. My journey is going to be different from yours. I'm just following the bread crumbs God gives me into this world of advocacy. You have to ask yourself, 'What is God asking me to do? And then do that. We must act on our own conviction." (*That's my paraphrase of what she said. If you'd like to listen to the interview, go to the following podcast link:)

This may seem like an odd post for the day before Thanksgiving. I know things are crazy in our world right now, but God is still very much on His throne and He calls us to join Him in His work. We have our own needs, yes. But when we seek first, His Kingdom, He'll have our backs. He provide for our needs. And we'll have the honor and privilege of engaging in life - of being the hands and feet of Christ - and of seeing the fruit and a close up look at God's heart for justice. Now that's living.

A side note: Recently, IJM received a 'match' offer on any donations made before the first week of December; those monies will be doubled. More funds equals more rescues.

No pressure though. Give what God has determined in your heart that you should give. (follow IJM link above if interested).

Thanks again for praying and for asking about this trip. I hope you enjoyed the update. :)

Have a blessed and thank-filled Thanksgiving holiday!

Peace to you all~

November 12, 2008

The Right Way...


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.

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So leave a comment, share a story, and let's do this journey together!

Now on to my topic...

These are turbulent times, no?

Every which way we turn, we hear more bad news, bad numbers, and speculations about how much worse things might get.

Just how do we keep our peace and our focus amidst such trying times? 

My sister and I spent some time on the phone this morning. We discussed the over abundance of information out there, and how easy it is to get bogged down by it. 

It's important to be educated on what's happening in our world.

It's even more important to take a stand on issues of faith, morality, and integrity. It's essential that we walk closely with Jesus. 

We need His power to invade every nook and cranny of our lives!

God's power, not our ability to debate the issues, is what will change hearts, leaders, and ultimately nations. 

Read this great excerpt from a book I love, "God's Generals" by Roberts Liardon,

"...It seems that evangelicalism today has shifted from a spiritual to a political emphasis. While we still largely focus on the work of evangelism, we have laid aside the power of God for the more easily controlled power of a conservative voting block. We seem to have forgotten that it was revivalism that changed nations and righted social injustices during the past three centuries - not the power of democracy or the right to vote alone. it seems that evangelical Christianity has lost much of its relevance to societies because it tends to focus more on changing laws than changing hearts...I believe God is ready to anoint new revivalists. He only needs those who are willing to pick up the torch of these Generals (Finney, Wesleys, Booths, Graham, etc.) and pay the same price for the power of God that they did. His ways and blessings have not changed - Jesus Christ is still the 'same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)." (p. 483-5)

I understand the angst in many Believers today. I too am sickened by the number of babies aborted every year. Every day. I too think the Church needs to do more for the poor and the oppressed in our world. 

But, as my sister and I discussed, you can stand for what's right with a wrong heart. You can put your foot down on behalf of all that is right and good, but do so with anger, frustration, impatience and irritation, only discredits yourself and your message. 

If you read what I write or have heard me speak with any regularity, you've heard this story before, but it works here:

I always tell my sons that the Christian life is like a winding country road, with deep ditches on each side. One ditch represents your outright rebellion, the other ditch, your response to someone else's sin. The devil could care less which ditch he gets you into, he just wants you off the road.

If I stand for all that's right but with a wrong heart, my words sound like noise in the ears of a world in need. 

So what's our answer?

Well, I may sound like a broken record but it's Jesus. Time with Him. Walking with Him. Listening to Him. Doing what He says.

Guy King wrote this, "His love wants the best for us; His wisdom knows the best for us; and His power gets the best for us." 

Lately I've been praying a powerful passage from Scripture: Phillippians 1:9-10 (here's my paraphrased prayer from that passage)...

Dear Lord, 
Help me to abound in love more and more...
That I may increase in all knowledge and depth of insight...
That I may easily discern what's right and best in every situation...
That I may walk blamelessly and purely before You...
That my life will be filled with an abundance of the fruit of righteousness. 

Is that not amazing when you think about it? 

I've been praying this prayer many times a day lately. I love it. :)

As the days grow evil, may your love grow stronger.
With an abundance of information at your fingertips, may you focus in on the Word of God and listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit within you.
With the call to be set apart, may you stand for what's right with a humble heart of love, that people may be won over more by what you do, than by what you say.

Have a blessed week~

PS - Please pray for me next week. I'll be in Guatemala. I return home late Thursday night and have a large speaking event the following night. I need divine protection, direction, and provision!

Peace to you all~

November 05, 2008

Life and Peace...


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.

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. Well, it's time to announce the winner for October. Drum roll please...

And the winner is...Carolyn Crust! Congratulations, Carolyn! Email me at: info@susielarson.com and claim your prize. Just a quick reminder, you have to make the connection and claim your prize before I announce next month's winner! 

Now on to my topic...

When my son Luke was in sixth grade, he attended a youth retreat and had a terrible experience. A bully held him under water. Luke used to struggle with terrible asthma, so much so, he couldn't even go on carnival rides because he couldn't get a deep enough breath to handle them.

Imagine Luke's absolute terror when without warning, he was shoved under water. He didn't have a moment's notice to inhale even a partial breath. 

His chest tightened up and his throat wrenched. He locked his jaw trying desperately not to open his mouth. He reached up through the water and clawed the arm of the one holding him under.

The boy felt the deep scratch and pulled his arm back. Luke exploded out of the water and gasped for breath. The bully shoved Luke for scratching his arm. 

This is what the enemy does to us. He shoves us under water and makes us feel as though we are at his mercy. When we respond in a way that's not pretty, he accuses us for it.

He seduces, then accuses. 

Lately I've been battling angst on several levels. I'm concerned about many things: the state of our country; the state of many Believers; the impact of the church; my capacity for smallness; and that I would be able to discern God's highest and best plan for me in the midst of it all. And every single day, I hand those concerns back to God and ask Him to carry them for me.

But sometimes I spout my frustrations first. Or I get angry. Or I have a less-than-charitable thought. Ugh. I hate my humanity. 

I long so-very-much to be righteous and to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus, that when I do misstep in even the slightest way, the enemy is there to remind me of my wrong-ness. And unfortunately, I'm all too quick to agree with him. 

The other morning during my prayer time, God revealed a profound truth to me. One that I already knew, but not on a deep enough level, obviously. 

Here's the passage that sparked my interest:

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is LIFE and PEACE (Romans 8:6).

When the enemy's accusations and taunts come in a like a flood, and threaten to drown you - and you become more aware than ever of your own weaknesses and missteps as a result - it's all too easy to focus on, dwell on, and mull over the deeds of the flesh (because that's just what the devil wants you to do). 

This is not to negate our call to holiness. Not at all.

In fact that's what maturing is all about. As we learn to handle opposition and trials with holiness, integrity, and perspective, we can know that we are gaining ground in this walk of faith.

But we are not perfect. Not just yet. 

We are going to mess up once in a while. And when we do, guess who is there to remind us of past mistakes and taunt us about potential future ones? The devil himself, that's who!

His aim is to 'set our minds on the flesh.' Now I know the primary meaning behind the verse above refers to those who devise evil plans in their minds and those who allow their thoughts to dwell on sinful things.

BUT, to take the enemy's bait and allow our thoughts to go towards our own wretchedness and stay there...or towards our own fears, and stay there...or towards someone else's flaws, and stay there...is to set our minds on the deeds and the issues of the flesh - which, according to the verse above, only leads to death (death of perspective, relationship, peace, joy, life, health, etc., etc.).

To me, it's the difference between eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and eating from the tree of life (See Genesis 2:9).

To notice and dwell on sin and shortcomings, be it your own or someone else's, brings death. To pride yourself in an acute ability to dissect someone else's shortcomings, is, evil and pharisaical, and, well, it breeds death.

But to set your mind on the Spirit, well that brings LIFE!

Does this mean we never acknowledge the truth about our sin, and other's sin? Not at all!

But the truth about such things must always be linked with love. In other words, "If I can clearly see how wretched I am and how wretched you are and my only response is angst, judgement, self-loathing, or self righteousness... well then I'm nothing but a noise maker; one that brings ruin and not life and peace to the situations God has entrusted to me. But, if in my discerning, I bow to my knees and pray for God's mercy to fall upon us both, well then, I'm bringing a little bit of Heaven to earth."

God calls us to perfection and He's the One who perfects us, layer by layer, in His own due time. Yes, we must respond. We must choose rightly. And every once in a while we are going to react - or we are going to come out swinging when we shouldn't. Yet, wonders upon wonders, God has already made provision for us. Praise Him!

God calls us to perfection because He can. He's perfect. And gifts upon all gifts, He loves us!

The devil on the other hand, doesn't get to ask us for perfection. He doesn't get to remind us of our imperfection. He is perfect at nothing except at being a miserable, lying, cheating, schemer. And he's not even good at that because he does the same thing over and over again.

So when you are in the fire or under attack, and you have a 'human moment' where you handle things in a way that's beneath you, don't listen to the enemy's taunts. Don't set your mind on the things you should have done. Right away, set your mind on what God has already done for you and what He intends to do through you. It's good stuff. :)

I'm a decent swimmer and a fairly strong athlete for a forty-something year old woman, but once when I was at the wave pool, I got caught in the undercurrent and was sucked to the bottom of the pool.

I was stuck face down on the pool floor and I could not move. My chest burned for air and I thought I was going to drown right there. 

With everything in me I mustered the strength to pull my knees in and push my feet against the bottom of the pool. I pushed so hard that my body shot up and I broke through to the blessed and beautiful air I was meant to breathe!

This is a picture for you and me. We were created by God. We were made for life and peace. Just like our bodies were made for oxygen. We are not designed to be held under water.

So, the next time the enemy pushes you under water, muster what you have, put your feet on the Rock and push past the 'deeds of the flesh' until you're breathing in the air of righteousness! 

I know this is a long post, I apologize. This just feels like an important message for some of you today.

In closing, here's a great poem that was written some time ago by W.M. Tomkins:

Reach my blessed Savior first
Take Him from God's esteem
Prove Jesus bears one spot of sin
Then tell me I'm unclean! 

Dear Friends, there's no spot on Him, which means, if you're a Christ-follower, then there's no spot on you!

There is now, therefore, NO condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1).

Until next week~

This even applies to others who are bothering you or