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5 posts from April 2010

April 27, 2010

Shut the Door!

Cottageinthewoods  

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. Each month I give away a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. For the months of March AND April I am giving away away a gift card and a couple of copies of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" so leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a fun treat this month!

It's time to announce the winners for April:

$10.00 Gift Card goes to: Pam Carlson - Congratulations!

Copy of 'Growing Grateful Kids' goes to: Nicole H.

Copy of 'Growing Grateful Kids' goes to Katherine Miller

Please email me with your mailing address and we'll get your gifts in the mail! (info@susielarson.com) 

One more fun piece of information:

Post a review of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" on Amazon and enter to win a 4GB I-Pod Shuffle! 

Now on to my topic...

This morning I posted these words on my Facebook page: 

Joy Stealer: Looking for man's approval when you already have God's abounding love and acceptance.

You'd think I would know by now not to allow myself any deep introspection on Mondays. Let me explain. During the fall and spring seasons I do a lot of speaking on the weekends. And really, I've learned - for the most part - not to look inward too much on Mondays. As I rule, I typically guard my thoughts, refuse to look over my shoulder, or obsess over what I could have done or said differently. And really, for the most part, that's just what I do. I look ahead. I work out. I catch up on things around the house and on my computer. And I thank God by faith for how He moved at the event. Then I go on to pray for the women I just spoke to. All of these things keep me focused forward on the things God has given me to do for that day.

But...every once in a while, someone says something that gets in or takes me by surprise, and like a little rat that wiggles its way through the smallest crack in the door, fear and self-awareness finds its way in where faith and God-awareness reigned. I hate it when that happens!

Thankfully, though, it doesn't take me as long to get myself back to the place of peace and assurance. Even so, that door should never be open. You know the door I'm talking about: the one that leads to your value and acceptance as someone who belongs to God. Yes, people will reject and betray us, but they still don't have the power to diminish or decide our value. Right?

Read this excerpt from my book, "The Uncommon Woman"

Giving people easy access to dethrone our identity and devastate us is not healthy. Deep in our souls there must be an inner chamber where only Jesus resides. It's  in that place where Jesus sits on the throne of our lives. By His very presence there, we are made, and continually made whole. He has already decided our worth, so it must never be up for grabs again. Since we belong to God, we can rule in the midst of our enemies (See Psalm 110:2). Some people are just plain mean; and others, misguided. We can be kind to these people but we don't have to let them (or their words) in. Others might be on to something when they point out our flaws, but if they possess no fear of God, we must confidently leave their presence and bring ourselves before the Lord. In that safe and holy place we confess our sin, admit our need for more of Him, and then throw ourselves on the mercy of heaven's court." (p. 111)

God knows our frame. He doesn't forget that we are human. But He loves us still. And His Son paid an exorbitant price to save us. Our worth is a settled issue.

It's just true. We all need to be reminded of this from time to time. We all have days when the cold winds blow that door open and leave us vulnerable to the lies of the enemy. But every day, may we identify ourselves with the Lord, as His very own. Every day, may we embrace His love as the defining factor of our lives. And every day, may we turn and love others in the way that He has loved us, because we can.

Until next week~


April 21, 2010

No Condemnation!

Breakthrough Sunrise  

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. Each month I give away a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. For the months of March AND April I will give away away a gift card and a couple of copies of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" so leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a fun treat this month!

Post a review of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" on Amazon and enter to win a 4GB I-Pod Shuffle! 

Now on to my topic...

Okay, I know I've addressed the 'no condemnation' issue to some degree in the past few weeks, but it's not going away for me. In fact, the whole idea is growing within me; it's changing my perspective of how I see God and how I view myself. 

I think there is something here for all of us. Do you struggle with being more self-aware than God aware? Me too, sometimes. But as I ponder and meditate on the truly finished work of Christ, everything changes for me. 

Because of Christ's victory over sin and death, you and I have been made righteous in God's sight. Not just on good days, but on bad days too. We have a right standing with God even when we fall down. Not to say that our sin doesn't matter. Of course it does. But if you have truly accepted Christ's sacrifice for your sin, and the Holy Spirit truly resides in you, you won't want to take Christ's gift, walk all over it, and take it for granted. You will gradually become more and more like Christ, and cherish the very thought of becoming so.

Read this powerful passage:

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:8-9). 

and again...

We know that when He appears, we-shall-be-like-Him, for we shall see Him as He is. EVERYONE who has this hope IN HIM, purifies himself, just as HE is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

Hope in HIM, purifies us. And yet, we tend to put our hope in ourselves; we hope against hope that we will get it right or that we won't get it wrong. So often we feel that we need to focus on our sin and our badness lest we get too prideful or we misinterpret life-in-the-Spirit as a license to sin. I've wasted far too many hours of my life despairing over my badness when my day could have gone better had I instead, simply reveled in His goodness. 

When - in the face of one's own frailty, selfishness, and sinfulness - a true Believer focuses on the fresh mercies of God and His abundant, amazing love - do you know what her response is? It's definitely not, "Well, hey then, let's run out and sin some more!" No! For me anyways, it's a drop-to-my-knees moment that compels me to soak in the fresh love of God with a truly grateful heart. 

Grace saved us. But grace also keeps us. We are sustained by grace. We breathe and live and serve and love because of the beautiful grace of God. We can do nothing apart from Him. 

I used to think that this next passage only spoke to the unbeliever whose mind is set on running amuck with sinful desires. But now I think differently:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God...those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8:5-6,8). 

Now hear me correctly. This passage is of course speaking of the unbelieving, carnally minded man. But it also applies to the Believer bent on living under the law; being controlled by a tally of sins and things done right; overwhelmed with despair for mistakes; and maybe pride for what she does right. If you think about it, that's like accepting God's grace for salvation, but then adding in the law in order to live righteously.

To truly live by the Spirit, is to embrace grace, every hour. And when we mess up, we look up, and we pray, "Lord, it's me again. Forgive me for forgetting what I possess in You. Thank you, so much, for Your forgiveness, for the power of Your finished work on the Cross, and for giving me access and right standing with You. I am free, I am whole, and I am clean because of You! Even here, even now, I can wrap my arms around grace. I can embrace Your precious gift that allows me to get up again and move forward in my walk with You. I am Your Beloved, and You always love me; on good days and bad. I refuse to be sin and self aware! There is no shred of condemnation in me. I choose to be fully and completely aware of You and of the righteousness You provided for me! It is a gift of God, not a result of ANYTHING I have done! What a gift! I celebrate the priceless, unfathomable gift of grace today! Amen.

Be encouraged today. No one can snatch you out of His hand. Because of Christ's finished work, you are beautiful and clean and you're a wonderful work in progress. Every day, becoming more like Him. And when you see Him, you will be like Him. You are His. Amazing grace. 

~Until next week.


April 13, 2010

Thinking Rightly About God...

Kids on the Chest  

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. Each month I give away a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. For the months of March AND April I will give away away a gift card and a couple of copies of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" so leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a fun treat this month!

Now on to my topic...

Last week I wrote about an experience my brother and I had when we were little children (please check out last week's post if you haven't already).  We were playing a game and got stuck inside a heavy cedar chest. We were in there for an hour. My dad had to break us out of there with a crow bar. When they found us, we were listless. Needless to say, that experience deeply affected both my brother and I.

Today I received the best gift in the mail: a letter from my sister along with the Willow Tree (brand) Keepsake (pictured above). In the letter my sister these beautiful words:

"My prayer for you both is when you think of that traumatic event in that chest, instead of feeling overwhelming fear, or wonder why it ever happened, or just having that pit in your stomach when you think of it...instead of those things, think of these things (look inside the box)."

Inside the box she placed little pieces of paper with the different names of God: Deliverer, Sustainer, Defender, Life Breath, etc. 

When I looked at the two little children sitting on top of that chest, I was instantly overwhelmed! Isn't that a picture of how God delivers us? Though the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, God will not let him have the last word.

Today I read from the Gospel of Mark and noticed a couple of different insights. In chapter four I read about the time when Jesus fell asleep in the boat during a storm.  I've never noticed this before but when the disciples woke Him up, their first question was not, "Can you do something about this storm?" 

No, their question was, "Don't you care that we were about to drown?" 

Isn't that the same question that rises up from us when we encounter painful and traumatic experiences? Don't you care, Lord? Where are You? Where were You? 

But Jesus responds to them (and us) with another question, "Where is your faith?"

In other words, Jesus is saying, "I'm right here" because He is. He wants us to trust Him even in the scariest of times. 

Jesus exhorted His disciples not to be afraid. Then He rebuked the storms and the storms obeyed. And the disciples' response? Read the verse (Mark 4:41):

They were absolutely terrified. "Who is this man?" they asked each other. "Even the wind and waves obey Him!" 

Imagine what it was like to be them. Picture Jesus telling them not be afraid. First they were afraid, thinking that He didn't care, then they were terrified of His great power. The Greek translation for the fear described in verse 41 is this: they feared a great fear.

They were afraid of the notion of a disinterested Savior. They were even more terrified at the thought of His overwhelming power. We vacillate in the same way: Does God care for me? Will His supernatural influence overpower and consume me?

After Jesus calmed the storm, they all headed across the lake. Jesus met up with a demonized man (possessed by many demons). The tormented man could not be restrained even with shackles because he could tear them apart. He lived among the tombs. Night and day he would cry out (I'm sure it was a horrifying sound) and cut himself with stones. Imagine this poor man.

Jesus, filled with compassion, delivered this man and restored him fully.

When the towns people gathered around and saw this once-crazed man sitting fully clothed and in his right mind, what was their response? They were afraid! So afraid in fact, they begged the Restorer to leave town. They preferred the comfort of 'what they knew' over knowing a Power that could change them forever. 

Imagine that!

If we don't think rightly about the Love of God, we will doubt that He cares, especially when the winds feel stronger than His presence. 

If we don't think rightly about the Love of God, we'll be afraid when He moves in power. We'll prefer our captivity to the uncomfortable-glorious process of being set free.

Yes, we the storms will come against us, and yes, God will seem absent at times. But, when the storms rise up and try to tell you they are bigger and stronger than the God you serve, declare this verse at the top of your lungs: 

But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's GREAT love, WE-ARE-NOT-CONSUMED. His compassions they never fail; His mercies are new every morning; His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:21-22). 

May we not doubt God's love and care for us when He presence doesn't seem real. And may we not prefer captivity or shrink back from Him when He moves in power. We will not be consumed. We can get close to Him and live, because He loves us.

Isn't that amazing?

Lord, God, help us to think rightly about You! Help us to trust that You are always good, always near, and always a prayer away. Because You love us, we have everything we need! Help us to see Your hand in our past experiences - because You have intervened on our behalf, whether we can see it or not. Help us to see Your hand in our present circumstances - because You are working in our midst, because You love us. And help us to see Your hand as we face our future - because You have a plan to prosper and not to harm us; to give us a hope and a future. You are always with us. Thank you, Lord. 

Until next week~


April 07, 2010

He is With You...

Heleadsmepic  

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. Each month I give away a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. For the months of March AND April I will give away away a gift card and a couple of copies of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" so leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a fun treat this month!

A Quick Note:

I am thrilled to announce the release of my next book: Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places." Let me tell you, I am excited about the message in this book. If you have children at home (or grandchildren you want to influence spiritually), order a copy today. I do believe this book will equip you to parent from a spiritual perspective (but it's loaded with lots of practical application). You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired and encouraged (that was my goal, anyway). :) 

Now, on to my topic...

A couple of weeks ago I was really battling a chest cold and trying to press through my back to back engagements lined up this spring. My body felt like it had been through the ringer. I had a little TMJ flare up (actually, a BIG flare up), a little vertigo, and to top it off, a nice, obnoxious cough. I was wiped out. 

With my spicy hug around my neck, my cup of chai warming my hands, and my head resting back on the couch, I shared an update with one of my mentors over the phone. In response, she made a simple observation but her words brought back a vivid memory from my childhood. 

I shared my memory with her: When I was about three years old, my brother and I were playing hide and seek with our other siblings. He was about four and a half at the time. We decided to hide inside a small but heavy cedar chest. Something happened and we were suddenly locked inside and stuck there for a long time. I guess my dad used some kind of crow bar to break us out of there; when he found us, we were red cheeked and listless.

Just recalling the story caused the muscles in my jaw to seize up and my chest to tighten up. My mentor suggested we pray through the memory of this experience and ask God to show me where He was during that time. Long story short, as I prayed and tried to imagine my brother and I in that cedar chest, I saw myself spooned up close to him, holding on, feeling terrified and out of breath. Just as quickly the Lord showed me a picture of Him spooning up behind us both and blowing His breath into our faces so we could breathe. 

Now that may sound a little out-of-the-box to some of you, but that beautiful picture filled me with God's peace replaced the anxiety and fear that were so strongly attached to that memory. 

This past weekend I talked to my brother about our childhood experience. Oddly enough, we've never talked about this particular memory. I barely got out the words when he finished my sentence. 

I said, "Do you remember that time we were stuck..." and he chimed in, "in the cedar chest? Yes. I remember it perfectly. I think about it all of the time." 

"What happened?" I asked. I was amazed at what he said:

Grandma was babysitting us. We were playing hide and seek. You and I decided to hide in the cedar chest. Before we pulled the top down on us, I stuck a ruler in between the top and the chest so we could see through the slit. Somehow you and I bumped the ruler and it slipped out. We were stuck inside. Grandma never checked on us. Mom and dad came home and asked where we were. They looked all over upstairs before they figured out we were inside the chest. Dad broke it open with a crow bar. We were in there for about an hour. We were listless when they got us out.

How is it possible that we survived for an hour? Or that we didn't sustain any brain damage? 

I hesitated to share this story in such a public forum but I really think there is something for all of us here. And this is the point I am making today: God is always with us. He is intimately engaged with us on this journey. Nothing can separate us from His love. Terrible things are going to happen sometimes. The enemy gets his shots in there every once in a while. But God is always with us. He'll go to the deepest pit or the smallest cedar chest to save us, sustain us, and take care of us. The enemy cannot take us out until God is ready to take us home.

No one can snatch us out of His hand!

It's easy to question God when we experience traumatic events. But instead of getting offended with God and assigning a wrong motive to Him (which consequently blinds us from seeing any of His goodness), may we humbly and trustingly ask, "Jesus, where were you in all of this? I know You are good. I know You are near. Show me where You were. Show me how You intervened in this painful experience. Heal my memory. Remove the lies I've believed and replace them with the truth. I know that You are good and I will trust You with all of my tomorrows. Amen."

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39). 

Safe in His Presence...

Lake Vermilion  

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. Each month I give away a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. For the months of March AND April I will give away away a gift card and a couple of copies of my new book, "Growing Grateful Kids" so leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a fun treat this month!

A Quick Note:

I am thrilled to announce the release of my next book: Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places." Let me tell you, I am excited about the message in this book. If you have children at home (or grandchildren you want to influence spiritually), order a copy today. I do believe this book will equip you to parent from a spiritual perspective (but it's loaded with lots of practical application). You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired and encouraged (that was my goal, anyway). :) 

Now, on to my topic...

If you've heard me speak before, you've no doubt heard me joke about what it's like being married to a giant. Okay, I know he's not that huge, but his 6'3" frame looms large over my 5' 2" frame. I'm as big as his leg. We laugh a lot about it now but when we first got married we had a lot of adjusting to do. When Kevin moved to put his arm around me, he'd often accidentally clock me in the face with his elbow. Instantly my nose turned red and my eyes filled with pools of water. Awkward moment = one, Romantic interlude = zero.

Here is another scenario that happened a number of times: I'd be in bed with a nice cup of tea and a good book. My husband would sweetly and innocently pull back the covers. Well, uh, sweetly and innocently to him that is. To me, he'd create a minor earthquake by whipping the sheets back with such force that my cup of tea would go flying in one direction and my book, the other. With that sweet deer-in-the-headlights look he'd simply say, "Oops. Sorry." 

My husband buys things in proportion to his size. He drives a big truck, loves his big lawn mower and owns a sizable snow blower. He uses a mixing bowl for cereal and he takes up most of the space on our bed. But let me say this, in all of the ways that matter to me, my husband is a gentle, strong, and protective giant of a man. He is gentle with my fears and lovingly protects my hopes and dreams. He is kind and loving and true.

He simply moves in proportion to his size. 

One day I pondered the whole concept of moving in proportion to your size - in light of our majestic God. He is unfathomably mighty and immeasurably powerful. There is no match to His greatness. He moves and the earth shakes. Read how the earth responds to His power: 

Fire goes before Him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax in the presence of the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth the heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory (Psalm 97: 3-6). 

Sheer power goes before Him and surrounds Him on every side. With that in mind, isn't it amazing that we can even get near the Living God? If we get too close to the sun, we will burn up. However, we can draw very near to the Creator of the sun without being consumed by this formidable power!

Because of Christ's finished work on the Cross, we can do more than simply draw near, we can come boldly into the Lord's presence, and, be assured of His glad welcome! We can enjoy an intimate, engaged, and loving dialogue with the Creator of Heaven and earth. 

Why are we allowed such an incredible privilege? Because of Jesus Christ's finished work on the Cross!

Read this verse (it overwhelmed me this week):

But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great love - WE-ARE-NOT-CONSUMED - His compassions they never fail; His mercies are new every morning; and His faithfulness is great (Lamentation 3:21-22).

We are safe in God's presence because of His incredible love for us. We can wrap ourselves up in His love because He has boundless compassion for our weakness and our humanity. We can live with NO condemnation because His mercies are fresh and new every single morning. We are free.

As you ponder the days leading up to Easter, fully embrace the idea that your hopes and your dreams are safe with God. Your mistakes and missteps don't shake Him in the least. He's already made provision for your weaknesses. Just draw near and cherish the idea that you can draw near.

Have a blessed and beautiful Easter celebration. 

Until next week~