What’s All This Talk About Grace?

Grace:  the free and unmerited favor of God

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I strongly believe in the message of the grace of God.  It’s not always been this way.  I used to strongly believe in the message of good works.  So which is right?

We know the Bible says, “Faith without works is dead.”  That is true, also…obviously since it’s in God’s Word.faithwithoutworks

But where does grace fit into the equation?  Glad you asked.

I recently heard a preacher say that grace and works go together hand-in-hand.  Say what?  

Let’s first examine what grace is and what grace is not.

Grace is NOT a license to sin, an expectation that God will just forgive you over and over and over again, a one way ticket to heaven on the “by the skin of my teeth” highway.  Presuming upon the grace of God is wrong in every way possible.  How do you know if you are taking advantage of the grace of God?  If you are one of those people who sin and sin and sin and say, “It’s okay, God will forgive me.  I’ll repent later.  His grace covers me.”  Do you realize that Jesus SUFFERED and DIED a horrific death for all those sins you’re committing?  YOU are the reason He suffered and HAD to die. Jesus_nailed_to_cross-793004 And the crazy thing is that He would do it again if He had to just for YOU.  Because that is how much He loves YOU.  Thank God the work was finished on the cross that day.  FYI:  that applies to me and everyone else who ever lived and will ever live on this earth.  I’m just speaking the truth in love, folks.

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Moving on…

What exactly is grace?  Here’s how I put it…When I didn’t deserve to be happy, God gives me joy.  When a person with cancer needs healing, God heals.  When the drug addict or prostitute should be dead, God intervenes and saves.  When we all should pay for our sinful ways by death, Jesus suffered and died in our place.  Even though He was sinless and perfect, He paid our way for healing, salvation, righteousness, the abundant life, the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and more.  It’s not fair.  Grace is not fair.  images (1)With grace, WE got the better end of the stick.  Grace says, “You owe me a million dollars.  But, that’s okay.  You don’t have to pay me back.”  Or if your bank called you up and said your mortgage is paid off TODAY.  What a great feeling, huh? Grace.

There are plenty of Scriptures about grace that I could post all over this page, but you can look them up yourself.  Go to Biblegateway.com and type in “grace” in the search bar.  You’ll have enough to read for awhile.

For word count sake, I’m going to break it down for you real simple.

Our faith in, belief in, acceptance of Jesus Christ (His life, death, burial and resurrection) produces salvation. Salvation means your sin debt is canceled, marked “paid in full,” by our awesome heavenly Father and ultimately you are getting a place prepared for you in heaven.  Grace.  He no longer holds your filthy sins against you.  They’re gonGood Workse. Hallelujah! That’s good news, right?  

When you become saved or born-again (like we are so accustomed to saying) there is something that happens inside of you.  You are changed.  There is a conversion in your spirit. You are squeaky clean, white as snow. Now when God looks at you, He sees Jesus instead of old sinful you.  You are a new person in Christ!  You are like a newborn baby. As you grow and mature, you become more and more like Jesus.  That’s what the word “Christian” means…like Christ.  As you become more and more like Jesus, you start acting like Him and DOING the things He did.

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And that’s where the “works” come in.  When you have faith in Jesus, are shown the grace of God, you WANT to do good works.  When you realize or understand what God has done for you through Jesus Christ, your heart desires to extend grace to those in your world.  It’s like you received a heart transplant!  So you see now?  True faith and realized grace produce good works.  It all goes together!  You become the hands and feet of Jesus!  

And of course, ALL of this is made possible because of the unconditional, never-ending, ocean-deep, amazing love of GOD. His love shows grace. His grace activates our faith.  His love and grace shining through us produces good works.  

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Here’s a song that sums it up so well…

Amazing love, how can it be?

That you, my King, would die for me. (Grace)

Amazing love, I know it’s true.  (Faith)

And it’s my joy to honor you.

In all I do, I honor you.  (Works)

Let’s stop presuming upon God’s grace by doing whatever we want to do, whenever we want.  Let’s honor Him in all we do.  Let’s stop doing good works in hopes of earning our way to heaven.  Let’s do good works because we want to show people God’s love and grace like He’s shown us.  

I blog because of the grace and love God has shown me.  I can’t keep quiet about His goodness and mercy in my life.  If you would like to know more about God’s grace, His love or salvation, please just ask.  God loves you so much and wants nothing more than to have a relationship with you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave the Past in the Past

We all have a past.

It’s good to remember where we’ve come from, where God has brought us from, what He has delivered us from.  I’m all for that.  He reminds me from time to time to remember, don’t forget from where I’ve come.

That’s all well and good.  This is what I take issue with and perhaps you can relate…when you run into someone and all they want to do is rehash specific events from days gone by.  That person who likes to remind you of what a fool you were when you dated so-and-so or how everyone thought you were this or that or what a great time everyone had at some camp, etc.  All the while, you’re thinking to yourself, “That’s not the way I remember things.”  And you walk away feeling all sorts of crappy.

I don’t know about you, but, my junior high years were wrought with anxiety, stomach issues and preteen girl drama.  And my high school years were full of confusion and stress.  The life of stress and isolation I experienced as an adolescent carried into my twenties and it all came crashing down around me in a divorce at 29.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve had a bad life.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I come from a loving and Godly home with great parents and extended family.  I have never lacked anything.  I was a good student. But my personality and the relationship choices I made in my life created a good deal of anxiety in my life.  So, I DO have a list of regrets and “if onlys,” just like most of you.

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The Bible says, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.”

Seriously.  I’m tired of talking about and rehashing and thinking about the “good ole’ days!”  They weren’t good!  What I have going on in my life NOW is good.  And it’s only going to get better.

The same passage of scripture continues, “Behold, I will do a new thing, NOW it shall spring forth;  shall you not know it?”

Susie’s paraphrase:  Forget about your past, stop dwelling on your regrets, shame, could haves, should haves, would haves…You can’t change the past.  Stop living with regret and shame.  It’s time to move on.  Live in the present and look toward the future with hope and excitement!  God is doing a new thing in you.  If you keep dwelling on the past, you will miss the awesome plan He has for your life NOW.

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The Bible talks about a race that we’re running.  That’s what life is.  A race.  Do you continually look backwards when you are running a race?  You can try, but you’re probably going to lose your balance or trip over an obstacle in the way and fall flat on your face.  We are to keep our eyes straight ahead, look towards where we are going.

Hebrew 11:12-13 says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our  faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”runtherace

And my favorite verse about this race we’re in…

I Corinthians 1:24 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”

You can’t drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror all the time without crashing.  There’s a reason why the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so large.  Keeping your eyes on the road ahead is vital to the journey you’re on.  You have to glance at the rear view mirror periodically to make sure nothing behind you is going to rear end you, it’s true.  But, the most important view is right in front of you.rearview mirror

Looking in your rear view mirror or dwelling on your past continually will entrap you in depression, shame, regret, insecurity and a host of other emotional “crashes.”  Who wants to live like that?  Not me.

Counseling to overcome past hurts, betrayals, abuse and other circumstances is very important for your emotional and mental health.  I cannot adequately describe what counseling has done for me. It’s good to know where you’ve come from, why you are like you are, and how your past has shaped you into the person you are now.  BUT, once you’ve done that, it’s time to move on.  Don’t dwell on and live in the past.

Look up, look ahead!  God is doing a NEW thing in your life!

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How To Fight Back

Where are your sensitive, most exposed, vulnerable areas in your life?  Do you have trust issues from betrayals in past relationships? Have you struggled with addictions to alcohol, drugs, sexual vices, etc in your past or even presently?  Are you insecure about your appearance?  Do you live in fear that something bad is going to happen to your children or your husband?  Is your greatest concern being financially secure?  Have you lived through a traumatic experience and and are afraid it will happen again?  Do you live with guilt from past sins you’ve committed?

Think about it for a moment.  Our most sensitive areas are those that cause us to tailspin out of control mentally and emotionally. Our thought process travels down a bad path when the subject is brought up, when someone throws it up in our face or maybe we encounter a temptation from our past weaknesses.  We all have at least one area that we don’t like to be touched…ever.

I’m not feeling brave enough to put my own vulnerabilities out here on the “world wide web” today, but I will admit that I am “attacked” in these areas more often than I care for.  In the past, I have not dealt with it in a healthy manner.  tailspinHere’s the order of my mental/emotional tailspin (perhaps you can relate):  anger, emotional pain, regret, bitterness, feel like giving up, questioning who in the world I think I am, feeling like a failure, depression, inability to function normally.  Sounds crazy, huh?

The really crazy thing is that I know I’m not the only one.  The Bible says that there is an “accuser of the brethren” that has been accusing people day in and day out since the beginning of time.                                 accuser

If you are a born again believer, you are a brethren…FYI.  The silver lining is that at the end of time, the “accuser” will be thrown into hell, literally, and we will be with Jesus.  But until then…

I Peter 5:8 tells us that we are to be sober and vigilant because our adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, looking to see who he can devour.  How does he try to devour us?  By attacking us in our vulnerable areas.  And he knows them well.  The scripture continues to admonish us to resist him and remain steadfast in our faith and to be comforted to know that you are not alone in your sufferings.  As Christians, we all go through it.

But how do we resist the enemy and remain steadfast in our faith?  What does that even mean?  It’s hard when our own personal weakness, failures and insecurities are the ammo he uses against us.  He does not fight fair at all.  And what would you expect from the father of lies?  He’s the master of telling you lies about who you are and who you aren’t.

I’m going to show you how to fight back.

Psalm 121:5  “The Lord is your keeper;  the Lord is your shade on your right hand.”

When a solider would go into battle back in the Bible days, he would carry a shield and a sword.  The shield would be carried in his left hand and the sword in his right.  The shield represents those areas in your life where you are strong, areas where you have no issues, temptations, weaknesses, etc.  The right side, the side with no protection, represents the side where the enemy would attack. The place where our weaknesses are fully exposed.  But we are not completely at the mercy of our enemy.  We have been equipped with a very effective tool with which to fight back – a sword.  A solider would never go into battle without his sword to fight off the advances of the enemy.  And neither should we.  Our sword is part of the armor of God that is provided for us when we become born again.  We wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  The Bible.  We can fight back by filling our minds with truth from God’s Word and speaking it over our lives.  Daily, continually.  Day and night.  And especially when we are feeling attacked and confused.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

God guards the vulnerable parts of our lives with His Word.  If we speak His Word, fill our minds with His truths, we will be strengthened in those areas where we are weak.  We will be able to quench the fiery darts of the enemy.  Speak the Word in times of temptation, fear, insecurities.  Who I am in Christ.  What I have in Christ.  NEVER lay down your sword.  Have it ready in your hand at all times.  Practice even when you are not being attacked until it becomes second nature to wield it without hesitation, with expert skill.  Before your mind even goes to a bad place, you can speak the Word and end it there.  Nip the lies in the bud immediately with the truth of who you really are!  It really does work!

And that, my friends, is what you call, “Fighting the good fight of faith.”

Change is Coming…You Can Count On It!

Last Tuesday was a bittersweet day for me and my girls. It was their last piano lesson with our piano teacher, who after 50 years of teaching, is retiring. I say “our” piano teacher because she was MINE also.  She has a mother and sister who she must look after, as well as several grandchildren who live in different states. It is time for her to hang up her teaching hat and enjoy spending time with her family. A new chapter for her and a new chapter for us, too.                                                          photo (7)

As she and Emma played their final duet piece together, “Sweet Dreams,” I was overcome with emotion. Tears burst uncontrollably out of my eyes as I tried desperately to swallow my emotion. The song they played was hauntingly beautiful and when they finished, Mrs. Orlando was also crying. That was it. We both cried on and off for the remaining hour as Emma finished her lessons and Lily played through hers. By the end of their lessons, as she was saying her final farewells, she was nearly sobbing, I was sobbing and Lily was crying  too. Mrs. Orlando loves my girls. My girls love her. As do I.IMG_2859

You see, Mrs. Orlando is more than just a piano teacher.  She taught me excellence, determination, grace, poise and confidence. There is a handful of people I can give credit to for the person I am today.  She’s on the list.  I am grateful that she had 5 years with my Lily and 4 with my Emma, but I am sad to see it come to an end.  Now I must carry on in her stead, be the teacher to my girls that she was to me.  It’s a huge task, but I’m up for it…I think…What an awesome opportunity to exercise my heart for teaching.

No one likes change, but it is inevitable.  Ecclesiastes chapter 3 talks about how there is a season for everything.   There’s a time to laugh and a time to cry…a time to be born and a time to die…a time to gain and a time to lose…There’s a time for everything!

“No one likes change except a baby with a dirty diaper!”   -Justin Argabright

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I am a person who thrives on routine.  Same thing day in and day out.  There is a certain amount of sanity that order brings to my helter-skelter mind.  But I have been learning over the past few years, that I need to embrace the change that is happening around me.  For instance, my children are growing!  That’s a major change.  They can’t stay babies and if I don’t learn to accept that change, I will continue treating them like so and their maturity and growth will be inhibited.  Another example is my husband’s work schedule.  He’s here for a week, gone for two.  An OCDer’s nightmare schedule!  But, I’ve learned to adapt and it is paying off for our family in many ways.  My husband is happy at his job and I am able to stay at home with the kids.

My point is…in order to move to the next step in our lives, the lives that we have placed in God’s hands, the lives that we pray for God’s will to be done in, the lives that we ask God to bless, the lives that we have said, “I Surrender All” about…we must embrace the change that He is orchestrating.  Each experience you’ve had, good or bad, is like the musicians or instruments in an orchestra.  God brings those experiences in to the picture at just the right time, on just the right beat, for just the right length of time.  He mixes the good with the bad, people from your past and present, hurts and happiness, to make beautiful, unique sounding melodies, harmonies and chords.  It is perfect and absolutely beautiful!  A song written by Him, orchestrated and directed by Him, specifically for YOU!                            SymphonyOrchestra_720x283

 God is the Author, the Orchestrator, and Conductor of the life that is surrendered to Him.

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So here’s the deal when unexpected change arises…

My piano teacher has retired.  I am sad.  My girls are sad.  I want her to teach forever.  But alas, that is impossible.  So I thank God for the time we had under her patient instruction.  I recognize what must happen next.  God has given me the opportunity to practice what I’ve been created to do.  I embrace it and look forward to what He has planned for my future.  Now, I will trust Him to give me the strength, patience and wisdom to follow through.

If you’ve surrendered your life to your Creator, you can be sure that uncomfortable change is a comin.’  That’s His way of getting you to the place where you can fulfill your destiny.  Learn to roll with the punches.  Rest in the fact that God’s in control, He has your back.  You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! il_570xN.493477028_3slt

And remember, His plans for you are more awesome and greater than you could EVER imagine for yourself!

Isaiah 55:9

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

 

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A Mommy’s Heartache

The words of my tween daughter pierce my heart like a knife.

“Mommy, why are my thighs bigger than all the other girls’ in my dance class?”

“Mommy, do you think I sing as good as my friend?”

“Mommy, why can’t I be funny like her?”  

Question after question.  Irrational insecurities.  Constant critical comparisons.

Her criticism hurts me.  Words that wound this mama’s heart.

You see, my daughter is perfect in my eyes.  She is beautiful, graceful, talented, kind, loving and absolutely perfect in every way.

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When she looks around and sees that she is not the same as everyone else, she imagines that something is wrong with her.  She listens to the lies whispered in her ear by the lips of the great deceiver.

I draw a picture for her with my words of how she has been deliberately and delicately designed by our Creator.  I explain how she alone can be Lily Marie.  She is the only one He made like her.

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But still, she is unsure and my sadness is a tangible aching in my own chest.  If only she could understand and see herself as I see her…

Just a moment though…

How often do I compare myself to other women?  Other wives?  Other mothers?  Other writers?

Daily and constantly.

Do I wound my Father’s heart when I am critical of myself?

Every time my daughter spews negative words about herself, God grabs my attention.

As I comfort and encourage my own daughter, His Words contradict the onslaught of lies from satan for both of His daughters.

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He sees me as perfectly crafted, created for a purpose.  There is no else like me on this earth.  Only I can do what He created me to do.  Only I can be Susie.

I cannot be Lisa or Kelly or Kim or Rachel…But I can be Susie.

God made no carbon copies…only carefully crafted creations.  

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I am a carefully crafted creation.  My daughter is a carefully crafted creation. You are a carefully crafted creation.

Let’s be who God made us to be.  And praise Him for making us exactly how He intended.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”  Psalm 139:14