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5 posts from April 2009

April 28, 2009

Perspectives Far and Near...

GayHeadCliffs

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 an insight or story and bless lots of people. Maybe you'll win!

Next week I'll announce the winner for April, so be sure to stop back and look for your name!

One more little piece of business. As many of you know, my husband and I co-chair the International Justice Mission benefit banquet in Minnesota, which is coming up on Tuesday, May 12th, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. Kevin and I are sponsoring a couple of tables and would like to extend this special offer to you, my friends in blogosphere. 

We are giving away four free tickets to the IJM benefit (that's a $200.00 value!). You can claim one or all four tickets, IF YOU ARE AVAILABLE MAY 12TH AND CAN MAKE IT TO THE BANQUET, please email me privately at: info@susielarson.com

Now on to my topic...

This morning during my prayer time I spent some time pondering the loaves and fishes miracle described in the gospel of Mark, 6th chapter. 

I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a bit weary and overloaded with work that I looked at this story differently this morning, but I couldn't help but picture the disciples staring out at the sea of people after a long, long day of ministry and wondering if they would ever feel 'caught up'. I imagined Peter running his fingers through his curly hair wondering if he should speak up or not. I pictured the other disciples with sweaty, gritty skin, growling stomaches, and a strong sense of their own inadequacies (maybe I'm projecting too much here). Still, indulge me for a moment.

Let's read a bit of the passage:

By this time it was late in the day, so Jesus' disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late.  Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."  But Jesus answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" (Mark 6:35-37).

The disciples faced an enormous task. Impossible, actually. 

Jesus looked at the thousands of hungry people and then at his empty-handed disciples and said, "You feed them." 

I don't know about you, but much of my own angst comes from looking at the 'multitudes' of needs and demands on my time and feeling painfully insufficient to tend to them all (which I am - and which the disciples were). 

I love how Jesus brought the disciples' focus back to Him and to what they did have available to them. It's so tempting to stare at the endless task list or the gaping area of insufficiency and despair over its big-ness and our smallness. But we must listen to Jesus say to us, "Look here. Look at me. Open your hand. What do you have to work with? Let's start there." 

Imagine if the young boy in the story would have given his lunch to one other person. That would have been nice of him, but his lunch would have only fed one person. Instead, he gave it to the disciples who gave it to Jesus. Thousands and thousands were fed with baskets left over - from one faithful offering.

Why are we so quick to forget the majesty and the power of our God? 

Even so, we do forget, and that's why we need reminders to adjust our perspective from time to time. 

I think it's good to scan the horizon on occasion, just to get the bigger picture. When discouragement plagues us, it's good to look over our shoulder and consider just how far we've come. When the daily grind begins to feel incidental and inconsequential, it's great to look up, pray, and be reminded once again to press on because there is a promised land up ahead. 

But in the day to day living, I hear Jesus saying, "Look here. Look at Me. Don't try to carry all of your tomorrows today. Open your hand. What do you have? Let's start there. A small seed is all we need."

Someone once said that it's best to 'glance at our circumstances and gaze at Jesus.' 

What do you need today?

Is it time for you to step back and consider how far you've come? Is it time to refresh the vision for your life? Do you have a sense of where is God taking you? Or are you walking around the same mountain again and again? 

May God give you a fresh insight into the landscape He has designed for you.

Or maybe you're feeling a little like I am; a tad weighed down by the demands of life;  you have more tasks than energy and time. But in spite of how we feel, we know that God is God and that He is with us on this journey!

Even so, it's time to scoot in a little closer to Him; it's time to open our hand and show Him our little offering. And it's time to cease striving and know that He is God. More is on His shoulders than on ours. Even when our arms get tired, He's still got us. 

Today I embrace a 'near perspective' - I draw near to the heart of God and leave my list at His feet. I show Him what I have in my hand, not because He doesn't know, but because I need to be reminded that He is perfectly fine with small, insufficient offerings; that's when His glory shines through and His power to multiply is revealed. Then, with His strength and under His direction, I tend to the task He has assigned me today. It's a perfectly simple plan. :) 

I said this at a conference last weekend and I'll mention it here again. Jesus said, "My Father is always working, and I too am working." God is always good and since He's always working, He's always up to something good. May we open our eyes and clearly see what He's up to in our lives!

"Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation." --Andrew Murray

Be blessed this week! I'd love to hear from you.

Susie

PS - If you haven't signed up for my quarterly E-zine, you might want to! We have great fun. Four times a year you'll receive an email 'magazine' with a devotional, some great book giveaways from my fellow authors, some great book recommendations, and a prayer to send you on your way. Here's the link in case you're interested: 

April 22, 2009

Keep Walking...

Martha'strail

Greetings, Everyone!



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. This month's card comes from Target. But you have to promise not to buy any cleaning stuff or dental floss or toilet paper. You have to treat yourself! So share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and maybe, just maybe you'll win a little trip to Target.

Now on to my topic...

In my new book (releases this October), I tell a story of an Englishman who was a prisoner in a concentration camp in WWII. One day while reading Psalm 91 (the part about people dying all around you, but death not coming near you), and he cried out to God, "Lord, people are dying all around me. Will I die here too? I am young and still want to serve Your Kingdom while on this earth!" 

At that moment the Lord spoke to his heart and said, "Rely on what you've just heard, and walk to your freedom." The Englishman walked to the first gate. The German soldiers aimed their guns at him and said, "Where do you think you're going?" He looked up at them and said, "I'm under the protection of the Most High." The soldiers instantly straightened up, saluted, and let the man pass through the gate. The Englishman then came to the outer gate and the same thing happened again. The soldiers aimed at him and asked him where he thought he was going. When he explained that he was under the protection of the Most High, they too, straightened up, saluted and let him leave the prison camp. 

That young man traveled the countryside and made his way back to England. He later found out that the soldiers secretly referred to Hitler as 'the most high.' Although, the Englishman was truly under the protection of the Most High God. He was the only prisoner to come out of that camp alive. 

Lately I've been feeling like I'm walking through enemy territory with guns aimed at me by the enemy of my soul. I feel the electricity in the air and yet I hear the Lord telling me, "Just keep walking."

I share that with you in case some of you are going through the same thing. 

Psalm 15:2 says this:

Walk straight. Act right. Tell the truth. 

I love the Message version of this verse because it reminds us to keep our head about us. Instead of being distracted by the sense of harassment all around us, we keep our focus, we behave as ones who belong to God, we remember the truth and walk in the truth, and when we apply God's principals to our lives, we know that will come out the other side with our freedom in tact. 

In the 1800's, George Hodges wrote, "Undertake the duty, and step by step, God will provide the disposition." 

I love that. 

Some seasons of life call for sheer focus and obedience. The 'skip to my loo' moments seem far and few between but we know God is on our side. These are the seasons that form character and forge a deeper faith. These are the times when we reach up and grab hold of the promises of God because they're ours for the taking. In due time, the Lord will provide the joyful disposition of belonging to Him, obeying Him, and simply trusting Him. It's amazing to think about, but we are a sheer delight to His heart. And He is watching us every moment, especially when the enemy presses in and makes his threats. 

If you're walking through a time that feels heavier than it should, wait on the Lord, He will renew your strength. See if this isn't one of those times when to obey is to simply keep walking with your eyes fixed straight ahead, on the One who went before you and made a way for you. God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever!

Have a blessed week!

PS ~ If you haven't signed up for my quarterly E-zine, you might want to. I'm telling you, we had a blast with the Amazing Book Giveaway this time. About nine of my author friends donated free books and there was a flurry of emails from women trying to claim them! Also, I write a devotional thought and offer some great book recommendations. Here's the link if you want to sign up:

April 15, 2009

The Gift of Repentance...

ADayontheVineyard
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. This month's card comes from Target. So leave a post, share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a little trip to Target (but no buying toilet paper or nasal spray - buy something FUN)!

I'm posting a little later in the day than what's typical for me. As some of you know, I release a quarterly E-zine and TODAY my April E-zine went out. I'm a member of a couple of great author networks and some of those great friends offer to give away books to my subscribers (first come - first serve). So I just sorted through a whole flurry of emails to award the winners of all of the great books offered in the give away. I need to take a deep breath for a moment....Ahhh. Okay, now I'm ready...And now on to my topic...

I was in a prayer meeting last week with some pretty amazing, godly women. At some point in our prayer time we asked God to give us a heart of repentance. We are such self-centered creatures that oftentimes our focus is on how others affect us and not so much on how we affect the One we serve. And so we prayed, "Lord, give us a heart for repentance! Grant us a heightened conviction for sin and a deep commitment to obedience. Create in us a clean heart, O Lord! And renew a right spirit within us!"

Needless to say this was a powerful time of prayer.

Well, guess what happened in the days that followed? 

I saw myself in a whole new light. The Lord answered my prayer and set the plow a little deeper. I was surprised at my tendencies toward self-preservation and self-protection. I cringed when I said words that impressed rather than blessed. God forgive me! 

I was 'pulling weeds' all week. Over and over again I found myself on my knees asking the Lord for forgiveness and for a new level of conviction and holiness. Instead of coming under all kinds of condemnation, I gained a whole new appreciation for the relentless love of God. That He can clearly see our tendencies for sin and selfishness and yet look at you and me with absolute love and passion - is profoundly wonderful. What love the Father has bestowed on us that while we were YET sinners, He went to the Cross, died a brutal death, and then defeated sin's hold on us!

This morning I spoke with one of my mentors and amazingly, she had the same kind of week I had. But she said this, "Susie, isn't repentance such a gift? Though I was so aware of my need for more of Jesus, I was powerfully purified by keeping such short accounts on my sin (my paraphrase)." I thought more about her words and I strongly agree, repentance is a gift. So let's walk through a little weeding exercise to prepare our soil for a bountiful harvest.

Repentance for Striving...

Take a few moments to think of the ways you've striven instead of rested in the Lord. Can you think of ways that you've taken matters into your own hands? Done more than God has asked you to? Committed to things out of obligation or fear of other's opinions? Precious Lord, forgive me for my tendency to strive when You call me to cease striving and to KNOW that You are God. You are God. Help me to rest in You.

Repentance for Unbelief...

Take a few moments to consider ways God is asking for faith and you've given Him anxiety, doubt, or unbelief. He wants you to open your hands and you've been wrongly clinging to your idea of what you need. Open your hand and pray. Lord, God, You are the Maker of Heaven and earth. Forgive me for thinking for a minute that I know better than You. I know You are trustworthy. Forgive me for not trusting You fully. I choose faith again today. I love You. 

Repentance for Selfishness...

Take a few moments and dare to ask God, "Search me and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there is an offensive way in me and lead me in Your everlasting way (Psalm 139)." Wait quietly before Him. Then one by one, ask forgiveness for the ways you've chosen to preserve and promote your interests ahead of God's interests. And remember as you do this, God has set His affection upon you. He cherishes you.

Take some time in the days to come and practice repentance. Give room in your life to uproot the unholy weeds and seeds that find themselves in the soil of your heart. Good soil sets the stage for a GREAT harvest.

What a gift God has offered us! We have moment-by-moment access to Him. Fresh mercies for each new day. We are blessed indeed.

Until next week~

PS - If you haven't already subscribed to my quarterly E-zine, you might want to. I'm telling you, these gals have a great time vying for the free books and reading the devotional thoughts. It's great fun! Here's the link if you're interested:

April 08, 2009

More to the Story...

Housethroughtherocks

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. This month the gift card is from Target. So leave a post, share a story or insight, bless lots of people, and maybe you'll win a few bucks to treat yourself at Target (no buying toilet bowl cleaner or anything like that. It has to be a FUN treat).

Now on to my topic...

Do you have someone in your world that has made a decision about you, has you judged, and won't let you off the hook? Or maybe you have your mind made up about a certain person because of some of the things they've done. You have them pegged in your mind and you refuse to believe anything different about them.

What's a person to do? 

Let's look at Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, chapter one, we read about when Jesus went to Galilee and called Philip to come be His disciple. Philip went off to find Nathanael and told him, "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!" 

Nathanael's response? 

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" 

But Nathanael went with Philip, and as the two men approached Jesus, here's what Jesus said about Nathanael:

"Here comes an honest man. A true son of Israel."

If Jesus was petty, He could have taken an offense with Nathanael. But Jesus always looks at people redemptively. Rather than getting tripped up by our humanity, He sees the destiny written over our lives. He knows we are works in progress and uses us in profound ways though we still have such a long ways to go. 

If Jesus can extend us such grace, how is it that we can be so un-forgiving with one another?

2 Corinthians 5:16 reminds us, "So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view." 

We have to fight sometimes to get that eternal perspective on certain people, that's our cross to bear. As Believers, we must guard our hearts and minds from forming judgmental attitudes and wrong perceptions. We may even be quite convinced that our perception is spot on, but we're wrong. 

There's always more to the story. And God always has a bigger picture.

Jesus is the One who knows things fully - and with all of our dirty information at His disposal, He still loves us. No one can gossip enough to Jesus to make Him change His mind about us! And we aren't afforded the luxury of holding on to past offenses because we think someone owes us. And we are nobody when it comes to judging others. In the whole scheme of things, our judgments hold no weight with God. In fact, it's just the opposite. He distances Himself from the proud, but draws near, and gives grace to the humble. 

When we judge others, we come to a conclusion about them. The very word conclusion is synonymous with: finish, close, and verdict. This is important: There's nothing redemptive about a wrong or limiting conclusion. We do great damage when we assume a conclusion when God is still busy, active, and changing lives every minute of every day.

Jesus is still working in and through all of us! He knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of wrong assessments and judgments. Even today many think He's nothing more than a figment of our imagination. Even so, He is God and He's coming back in all of His glory!

When Jesus died on the Cross, many thought the enemy had won. But there was more to the story.

When we judge others based on what we think we know, we are sinning, and Jesus knows there's more to the story.

When others judge us, we can hide in the shadow of His wing. We can embrace the refining work of the Lord in that safe and precious place. And we can trust Him - the One who has all of the information - to defend us. 

If someone has a snapshot of you when...and they've come to a conclusion about you based on a chapter of your life, refuse to let it weigh you down. They are accountable to God! Rise up and say, "The Lord isn't finished with me yet! He renews! He restores! And I am a work in progress. I'm not who I was. I'm not what I do. I am someone He enjoys!"

Be joyful in the fact that God knows you fully and loves you deeply.

Humbly embrace your own call to love others in the very same, deep and wonderful way.

Lord, forgive me for the countless times I've summed up others because of how they've affected me. Forgive me for forming judgements with only partial information. Forgive me for not pushing past my human tendency to judge when Your spirit inside me calls me to love and to intercede, and to forgive. I want to be a clean vessel used for Your holy work. I want to live with a pure heart that I might see You in every person I meet, because, in one way or another, they were made in the image of God. Make me more like You, Lord. Amen.

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Have a blessed Easter and wrap your arms around the power of the risen Lord!

PS ~ If you haven't signed up for my quarterly E-zine yet, you might want to. I'm doing a great book giveaway again. I write some devotional insights, great book recommendations, great quotes, and a prayer to send you on your way. The next issue releases on April 15th; here's the link:



April 01, 2009

High Places For You and Me...

Capitol

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 giveaway a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So leave a post, share an insight or story, bless lots of people, and who knows, maybe you'll win a treat for you and a friend.

This month's gift card is from Starbucks and it's time to announce the winner for March. Drum roll please...Cathy Messecar! Congratulations! Here's the catch: you have to email me to claim your prize (I'm so sorry, I don't have time to track you down!). Email me at: info@susielarson.com and leave me your address. Thank you, Cathy for your wonderful insights.

Now on to today's topic...

During my prayer time this morning, I meditated on this wonderful passage:

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to walk on high places. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me YOUR shield of victory. YOUR right hand sustains me. YOU stoop down to make me great. YOU broaden the path beneath my feet so that my ankles do not turn (Psalm 18: 33-36).

God has high places for you and me. We're going to look at three of those high places:

  • The High Place of Humility 
  • The High Place of Influence 
  • The High Place of Your Heart's Desire 

Just yesterday my husband and I returned from Washington D.C. where we had the privilege of attending the Global Prayer Gathering for the International Justice Mission. My friend Sara once said, "Everyone should experience these two things in their lifetime: Disney World and the Global Prayer Gathering."

It's been years since I visited Disney World and I honestly don't remember much, but I heartily agree that everyone should experience IJM's Global Prayer Gathering! Referring to the Psalm 18 passage above, God used the GPG to lead us to the high places, to train our hands for intercessory battle, to assure us that He is on our side, and that we can thus count on HIS shield of victory and HIS hand to sustain us. Everyone felt the power and strength in numbers and yet such a personal sense of responsibility for the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the slave and the human trafficking victim. 

Somehow the folks at IJM managed to make a gathering of nine hundred people feel like an intimate, personal, and profoundly important time.  

Once the GPG ended, a few of us stayed on and went to Capitol Hill to lobby for a bill designated to the rescue of children from human trafficking and slavery. Walking the halls of power was a surreal experience. Advocating for the voiceless was humbling beyond measure. Asking the government to pay attention to this issue reminded me that we all have God-given spheres of influence that seem out of our reach. 

So, just what are those high places God has for us? Here are a few:

The High Place of Humility...

The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: "I live in that high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts (Isaiah 57:15 NLT).

The Lord distances Himself from the proud, but draws near and gives grace to the humble. As we walk closely with Him, we're repeatedly reminded of our need for Him. We get too big for our britches when we go too long without regarding the greatness of our God. When we forget how big He is, we forget how small we are. We're never more powerful for the Kingdom than when we're painfully aware of our desperate moment-by-moment need for the Lord. He considers our humble heart and high and privileged place to reside. Imagine.

The High Place of Influence...

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to walk on high places. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me YOUR shield of victory. YOUR right hand sustains me. YOU stoop down to make me great. YOU broaden the path beneath my feet so that my ankles do not turn (Psalm 18: 33-36).

Here's that passage again. When we dare to take God at His Word, He takes us to high places - places we're not qualified to be, but as far as He is concerned, we're equipped for. He wills that we have influence but not for ego's sake (absolutely not!). He gives us influence that we might help others. We're made strong to strengthen the weak. We're comforted that we might be comforters. We're set free that we might help the captive. He puts gifts in us, and then makes a way for us. His gifts bring us before Kings and people of even greater influence. What a mighty God we serve!

The High Place of Your Heart's Desire...

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires (Psalm 37:4). 

I once did a word study on this passage and what I found amazed me. While I don't have time to delve into it today, I will say that the essence of this verse is beautiful. The word 'delight' means to be in deep relationship with - to remember and dream together - to enjoy life together - to pamper yourselves together. Sort of reminds me of a healthy, thriving marriage. All too often we come to God and list our needs. But to pamper ourselves in the Lord is to say, "I just want to be with You because You're You. I love who You are." When we dream with God, and recall the ways He's come through for us; when we enjoy sunny days with Him in mind; and when we make the time for restful, intimate moments, we are truly delighting in God. And when we delight in God, He uses all kinds of creative methods to get His gifts to us. He knows where we live. He knows what we love. And He loves giving good gifts to His children.

It's a pleasure and and an honor to walk the high places with God. To which high place is He calling you right now? 

I'd love to hear from you!

Have a blessed week.

PS ~ If you haven't signed up for my quarterly E-zine, you might want to! Each quarter I do a great book giveaway, offer some devotional insights, great book recommendations, and a few other things. Here's the link in case you're interested: