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“(Jesus) said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’” Luke 18:2-3 (NIV)

 

I have spoken many times about the struggle I have had with emotional eating.  I have always known that it wouldn’t be a diet that would break those chains for me, but it was a spiritual problem.  I have spent many, many years crying out to God asking for freedom in this area in my life and for whatever reason, continuing to struggle.

This past year was no different.  I spent from January through April crying out to God on a regular basis to please take this away.  I guess you could say I had some of the qualities of the persistent widow above because I kept bringing my request before God, knowing that He could answer, listening intently for that answer.

 

One ordinary day in April, after having gone to bed that night crying out even harder than usual to Him and telling Him that whatever His answer was, I would obey, I woke up with one word on my mind:  My Fitness Pal.  Now, I have to explain a little bit here in order for you to grasp the significance of this.  In 2012, I had downloaded the My Fitness pal App.  I had faithfully worked the program and seen a little bit of progress in my health but then dropped off and forgot about it… for four long years.   For me to wake up one morning with the words My Fitness Pal in my head had to be from God.  And I knew that I knew that I knew.  While I wasn’t looking forward to having to be chained to a food program to help me gain control of my eating, I had promised God I would do “whatever and not complain.”  So I looked up my password from long ago and logged in that very morning.

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I decided to take it in steps.  The first week or so I was just going to track my food and see where my baseline was – what I needed to improve on.  Well, let me just say that was a real eye opener!  But, by seeing it in black and white in front of me, I was able to see where improvements needed to be made which made it easier to get started.  Also, there is an exercise part to the program and I like to compete with myself, so I started exercising again.  It helped that our son was competing in a C25K Club with a 5K race at the end, so he and I tracked our exercise together.

 

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Then I stopped.  I’m not sure why I derailed but I did.  I stopped obeying God and whatever gains I had made quit.  Even though I quit my promise to God, He never gave up on me.  That is when He invited me to pray and fast for my family… and I realized that while obeying Him in that area, I needed to begin again obeying Him in the area of My Fitness Pal.

As I write this, I’m halfway through my prayer and fasting period.  At the time you are reading this, my fasting period will be finished.  I have continued to log in and record my eating and exercise on My Fitness Pal.  Come back tomorrow and find out what God revealed to me using something as simple as a My Fitness Pal program.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

“After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.” Acts 16:40 (NIV)

 

I spoke last time how God had changed my feelings of hopelessness to hopefulness again just by praising and worshipping Him during the prison.  However, He also taught me one other very important lesson.

As I mentioned in the previous post, God had invited me to pray and fast for my family during this period.  I’d started to feel hopeless for many reasons, but one such reason was that I wasn’t hearing anything specific from God while I was pressing in during this time of fasting.  That was even more discouraging because I felt even more hopeless that God didn’t want to talk to me.

However, as I repented to God about choosing not to praise and worship Him and began obeying, that very act of praising and worshipping God despite my circumstances opened up the line of communication between Him and I and He began speaking to me.  Whenever God speaks to me, even if it’s to gently correct me and bring me back into obedience with His Word, it fills me with hope.

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The things that God spoke to me about weren’t promises that He was going to speak and all our problems would be over.  No, but He did speak words that filled me with hope for the steps that our family needs to take in the next few months, years, etc.  He also didn’t reveal everything to me, just enough to give me hope to keep going.  He showed me ways that He is already working in our lives and helping me reach freedom and ways that we can continue to walk in freedom that might take a little longer.

The point isn’t necessarily what God spoke to me even though it was timely and personal for where I am in life.  But the point is this:  Praising and worshipping God while in the prison I was facing, instead of waiting until I was released from that prison is what released the plug that was keeping our communication from flowing freely.

While praising and worshipping God might be the last thing we want to do when facing a seemingly hopeless situation, it is the best thing to do.  It brings the focus back to where it needs to be: on God, our Father who truly does want to provide, protect, guide, comfort, heal and free us from whatever trials we will face in life.

God didn’t promise us a life without difficulty, but He did promise us hope during the heartache, peace during the pain and joy during the journey.  Hope, peace and joy come much faster and are deeper when we choose to praise and worship God despite our circumstances.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  Acts 16:25 (NIV)

 

About a month ago at church, our worship leader shared a word with the congregation.  He referenced Paul and Silas and their time in prison – how God specifically told about when they were in prison, after having been beaten for sharing God’s Word with others, they chose to praise and worship their Father while shackled, not waiting until they were released.

That simple statement caught my attention because I had been feeling incredibly hopeless lately.  I’d felt God tell me I needed to pray and fast for my family during this specific time period and it seemed as though circumstances were getting worse, not better.  I felt as though I was in prison.  As a result, I was giving into disappointment, fatigue and for a time, hopelessness.

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During this period of hopelessness is when our worship leader spoke the above statement and I felt as though God was telling me, “I’m speaking to you, little one.”  Truth was, I didn’t want to listen.  I didn’t feel like praising and worshipping God for the circumstances our family was going through.  I didn’t feel like thanking Him for even more bad news that seemed to come on an almost daily basis.  I didn’t want to thank Him for the crazy schedules, the illnesses and potentially serious diseases we might be facing and I didn’t want to thank Him for the “prison.”

However, I realized that is exactly when God wants me to praise and worship.  When I’ve lost hope, praising and worshipping God reminds me of the promises He has answered in the past and the promises He still wants to answer in the future.  When I feel discouraged as though the trials won’t end, that is when God wants me to praise and worship Him because it gets my focus off the problems and back on Him, who takes cares of the problems.

So… I put into practice what God was nudging me in His oh-so-loving way to do.  I started by repenting for not praising God always, because He deserves my praise and worship all the time, whether I feel as though I’m in prison or feel free.  Then, I simply put on the radio.  Our local Christian radio station is amazing and has wonderful songs.  So with that playing in the background, as a song would draw my attention, I would offer it up as a prayer to God.  Then I started looking around at the various ways God was blessing our family despite the “prison walls.”  I notice that when I start paying attention, I see so many blessings I had missed or was ignoring before.

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That’s when I noticed that my mood was changing.  It didn’t happen immediately but soon I started to feel hopeful again.  Focusing on God and His promises didn’t guarantee that all my prayers would be answered immediately or when answered, in the way I choose.  Instead it aligns my heart with God’s will and I’m more able to delay gratification while still feeling hopeful about the future.

Do I know more now than I did a month ago as far as my future is concerned?  Do I automatically have a promise that God is going to make life easier for our family?  Nope.  But I was reminded that God loves our family and wants the best for us, just like He does for all of His children.  And whatever the future holds, God has it under control.

And all that came about when I was reminded how important it was to praise and worship God while in whatever prison I feel like I’m sitting in.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

“God’s calling on your life is rarely convenient. If things aren’t going ‘your way’ as you follow Him, it’s still the right way to go.”

Pastor Scott Rodgers

 

Do you ever wonder if you’re fulfilling God’s plan for your life or if you missed the mark because life just seems hard?  I think I’ve had this misconception for several years but God is showing me what is really happening instead.  Throughout a three-year timeframe, God transitioned me slowly from a career in medical transcription into administrative assistant, encouragement and organizational manager, editing, content writing and promotions.  Many different positions within two separate companies which line up so nicely with my gifts and talents.

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Just because someone loves what they do and knows they are in the position that God called them to doesn’t mean life is free from stress.  Sometimes, when placed in the position that God calls us to, we find the path rough and ourselves more inconvenienced because the enemy isn’t happy that we are fulfilling the purpose God intended for our lives.

I think God allows inconvenience and obstacles and challenges in our lives for a variety of reasons, the main one being relationship.  Bad days cause us to stick close to His side, asking for His wisdom, and consulting Him before making decisions. Imperfections keep us humble and moldable, ready to be used by our Father when He has a part for us in His ultimate purpose of introducing others to a relationship with Him.

I have tried to change my attitude regarding obstacles that arise in my life.  While thanking God for my new normal, whatever that looks like each new day, I try and remember that this is where He placed me.  When (or if) the time comes that He wants me to move on, I can rest assured He will make that very clear.  Until then, it’s my purpose to carry out His plan to the best of my ability using His strength.  As I spoke about in a previous post, I need to always write my agenda in pencil because when God changes the direction for my day, it will always be to bless someone else and that ultimately blesses me too.

I don’t think I would want to live a stress free life.  I have a feeling that could get boring quickly.  I’d rather live a life that is sometimes inconveniencing in the confidence that I’m where God wants me – not looking for the detour but keeping my eyes fixed on His plan.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

Psalm 103:1 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together, we talked about the first two steps one can use to turn a bad day into a beautiful experience.  They were sitting in God’s presence and worshipping Him through prayer.  Today I want to continue by talking about the final three steps for turning a defeated day into a victorious one.

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The third step is one that I have been practicing regularly for the past two to three years.  Choosing to name the blessings God gives instead of dwelling on the obstacles.  This can be done in many different forms:  A blessings journal, simply naming different blessings aloud, or whatever form you choose.  I remember distinctly one particular summer.  We had a bad storm and our electricity went out and the job I did from home was affected by a power grid on their end, so I wasn’t able to work all week, 4th of July week, finding me playing catch up on the actual holiday. In addition, we had a dentist appointment that day and discovered several cavities we were going to have to pay for as well as our generator dying.  I was irritated, frustrated and just plain mad.  I made the choice to thank God for the blessings He gave despite the obstacles that were staring me in the face.  It changed my outlook and turned the whole experience into one I look back on with thanksgiving now instead of anger.

The fourth step is to repent of the part you played in creating the atmosphere for a bad day.  While God is full of grace and expects His children to make mistakes, He still wants us to acknowledge our part and ask Him for help.  I admit – I’m getting much better at this step.  I used to hide from God when I messed up, hoping to improve before coming back to Him, thinking He would love me more that way.  What a waste of my time and His!  He wants to help me fix the mess I get into just like I want to help our kids fix the messes they find themselves in.  Any loving parent wants to help their children learn from their mistakes.

The last step flows into what I shared above.  God wants us to use our bad days as a stepping stone to maturity.  What did we learn from the experience and how can we do things differently so that the same things don’t keep occurring?

I can’t promise that using these steps will eliminate all bad days from ever occurring (we do live in a sinful world).  I pray these steps will help you grow closer to God so that when the bad days do occur, you have tools available to help keep those days from totally defeating your spirit.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

 

Have you ever had a bad day? That’s probably like asking if you’ve ever sneezed or caught a cold.  What constitutes “bad day” for you?  Traffic jams?  No cell phone service? Too many appointments and not enough “you”?

While the definition of “bad day” may be different for everyone, there are five things that each of us can do to combat and crush our bad day.  Five things that can change our mindset and turn what began as a major loss to a huge victory.

I don’t take credit for thinking of these steps.  The credit goes to Ignatius of Loyola as well as others in my life who have encouraged me to put into practice quite a few of these steps on a regular basis.  This list is modified from various sources, not spoken verbatim.

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The first step is to sit in God’s presence. This one really resonated with me.  At the end of a long day when my body and mind are both tired and I know in a few short hours I have to get up and start all over again, I love lying in bed or sitting in my favorite chair… silently.  Not talking.  Just listening.  I might ask God a question similar to this: “Is there something You want to tell me today?” and then just listen.  Sometimes God will answer right away, sometimes I have to wait a while, and sometimes my mind is racing so fast that I continually refocus.  Other times I fall asleep while waiting.

I don’t think any response is bad.  God made me and He knows me.  He knows my heart wants to truly hear what He wants to tell me and I believe that pleases Him.  Sitting and listening quietly can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, but it’s also the most rewarding and when He answers, it makes me hungry for more.

The second step is worship who He is. This step is one that I started implementing long ago and I use it to begin each time I pray.  Sometimes I will quickly thank God for something and then move on to the next stage of prayer.  However, when life is especially trying and I’m emotionally drained, I use this time to reflect on who God is and remind myself of the promises we are given about Him in the Bible.  This quiets my heart and I don’t rush this process.  The more I initiate worship in prayer, the more I find I want to worship God at the beginning of prayer and the more I find I end up worshipping Him through song after I’m done praying.  Even if I start out depressed and despondent, it’s hard to stay sad when speaking words of God providing, God healing, and God taking a hold of my right hand and reminding me not to fear anything to name but a few.

In addition, I will speak the various names of Jesus aloud.  This alone instantly brings comfort to me.  He is my Good Shepherd, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rapha, El Shaddai, El Elyon, Adonai, the Alpha and the Omega, I AM, etc.  I have literally fallen more in love with God by repeating back to Him His various names.

Come back next time and I will talk about the other steps that were shared with me… ways to turn a bad day into a beautiful adventure.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

“Point your kids in the right direction—     when they’re old they won’t be lost.” Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together, I talked about how I’m quicker to encourage my friends to talk to God about the issues they are facing instead of offering my less-than-perfect solutions.  It wasn’t until a week later that I realized that while I’ve improved, I still have some work to do in that department.  While I’m quick to point my friends in the direction of our Father, I need to get quicker at pointing my children in His direction too.

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We are raising our kids in a Christian household, which simply means that God is the center of our family.  We invite God into every situation and He is talked about constantly in many ways: “What would God want us to do in this situation?  What would Jesus do when faced with this issue?”  What would the Bible tell us to do about this, or that, or…?”

However, I realized that while I’ve stopped offering advice to my friends and choose to point them to God and His advice, I get in the way more times than not with my kids even as I’m pointing them to the One who has the answers.  I will ask the above questions and then instead of giving them a chance to think about or better yet, ask God themselves how He wants them to handle a particular situation, I share with them what I would do.

I’m realizing now how wrong that is.  I think I’ve always felt a responsibility as the parent that I have to engage, have to give advice, have to share wisdom, etc.  I love to talk, especially if given the opportunity to share what God is doing in my life or what I’m learning about Him or from Him.

There are times that my kids will want me to give them help and guidance as they navigate the road to adulthood.  However, we have three kids in three different stages of development.  One is still in elementary school and while he still needs correction, he’s very good at solving issues logically.  When given a direction, he will obey even if he chooses to do it from a different angle than was suggested.  Our middle schooler needs more guidance from me than strict discipline.  Having a different personality from her younger brother, I need to consider that fact when approaching her with issues.  And then we have our oldest, two years away from adulthood.  He needs more connection than correction at this stage.

I need to remember that it’s my job at this stage in their lives to create opportunities for our kids to connect with their Heavenly Father more than with my feelings or opinions.  Our worship leader, Caleb Sunnock, made an impactful statement last night.  He said that he grew up knowing about God and learning about God, but it wasn’t until he stepped into a real relationship with God that he fell completely in love.  Just as it’s more loving for me to point my friends in the direction of our Creator than to give imperfect advice, it’s the most loving thing I can do as a parent to create opportunities for my children to grow their relationship with God personally instead of constantly wearing them out with my opinions.  Their roots need time to grow deep and it’s my prayer that they will be firmly planted in God’s lap before they fly our coop.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

 

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