Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Trials/challenges + TRUST (in God) = GOD gets all the GLORY! (Pastor James Sunnock)

 

This year on the first Sunday in January our pastor gave a very encouraging sermon. He talked about if we dedicate each new year to God, it should build excitement in us about the adventure we’re about to travel with Him. To illustrate his point, he used the above equation.

I agreed with the sermon wholeheartedly and could even relate when he said “some people will experience more trials/challenges this year than most.”  However, during the closing prayer, I had a little talk with my Father about how I would love a reprieve from “trials/challenges” for a few months.  I wonder if He laughed at me or if He just gently said, “Buckle your seatbelt, little one – we’re going for a ride, but if you let Me drive, it won’t be as bad as you fear.”

Our family had been feeling “challenged” since 2013.  To be completely honest, we’d been challenged since December 2006 and I was tired.  Besides that, ushering out 2014 had been difficult for our family…a painful anniversary falls on December 14th…we unexpectedly said goodbye to our four-legged family member on December 16th…and then December 21st began the cycle of an upper respiratory infection which knocked out four of the five of us for over a week.

 

DSCN5244

 

At the close of the above Sunday night, God invited me to spend time with Him.  We enjoyed fellowship for 90 minutes while everyone else slept.  Our kids were returning to school after their two-week Christmas break and even though I’d had quiet time while they were home, it just wasn’t “quiet.”  During that night God reminded me of so many promises He had given to our family, starting back in June of 2013. I was enveloped in peace as I drifted off to sleep.

Monday morning brought the harsh reality of our regular routine. I was greeted with an email from my boss, explaining that due to electronic medical records, my job would be phased out effective February 1st.  I believe God asked me for a date the night before so He could cushion my heart with reassurance before the blow.  I had a choice:  I could use this trial to strengthen my trust in God, giving Him the glory for the blessings that would follow…or I could try to solve this challenge on my own with no guarantee of a positive outcome. I chose to trust God and do it His way.  Come back next time to find out how God used a smaller challenge not even 30 days before to begin the exercising of my trust muscle when it was needed most.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

The Best Hands Ever

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

 

Twice the first week in January God showed me firsthand how He is our protector.  Tuesday night my husband, youngest, and myself went to get gas before heading home to relax.  Driving along a well traveled suburban road, talking quietly, we noticed two police cars in a driveway of a random house and naturally, my husband slowed down for a minute, wondering what was happening.  Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he continued driving.  Not two seconds later, a deer ran out onto the road in front of us.  And right behind him, a pack of five deer clustered together ran out onto the road as well.

If Bill hadn’t slowed down to look at the police cars, the deer would have shattered the driver’s side window along with the passenger’s window on that side, where our littlest was sitting.  I immediately thanked God for His protection and realized how close I had come to witnessing the serious injury or death of two of my loved ones in front of my eyes.  Instead we were all safe and continued on our journey while the deer continued on theirs.

Three days later, we woke up to a significant snowstorm.  Over 100 schools closed in the area and my husband was debating whether to travel the highway to his job as well.  He finally decided to call in and stay home, enjoying a three day weekend.  Turns out his work closed after all which further reinforced he made the right choice.  A few hours later we found out there was a serious accident on the highway, on the route he takes back and forth to work.  When it was all complete, almost 200 vehicles were involved with one death and 24 injured, many stranded for hours in the middle of the wreckage.  There were fireworks igniting as well as hazardous material that had spilled, causing the authorities to issue an evacuation order for a 1 to 3 mile radius surrounding the accident.  I can’t tell you how many times on Friday and throughout the weekend I thanked God for protecting my husband, giving him wisdom to choose to stay home and prayers of safety for those involved.

 

DSCN3474

 

Those two incidents, occurring just three days apart on a very significant week for me, had me wondering.  How many times has God protected us from serious injury or death that we aren’t even aware of?  I believe that God lifted the veil that particular week to reassure me of a truth from the Bible:  Just as He was physically protecting my family, He is willing (and able) to provide for our family in all areas.  I’d been hit by a whammy that week and while I was clinging to trust in my Father, humanly speaking I was wrestling with fear of the unknown. I believe He loves me so much that He wanted to show me repeatedly all week – through reassurance from His Word, through friends and family members’ encouragement, songs, and devotions – that He’s got this, using my family whose importance in my life is second only to Him.

Three days later we woke up to icy road conditions again.  Our littlest was able to stay home but everyone else had to go about life.  I have to say…I was peaceful when I said goodbye, after praying for their safety, knowing I was leaving them in the best hands ever – Our Father’s!

© 2015 Cheri Swalwell

“God will never call us to do something without giving us everything that is necessary in order for us to finish the task.  It may not be what we think  we need, but it will be all that we do need. That is not to say that the job will be easy.”  (Gary Thomas, A Lifelong Love)

Last time we talked, I shared the beginning of an adventure God has given me the privilege of joining.  When God calls us to do something, I believe that most areas of that calling will line up with our gifts and talents and desires…however, there is also always a learning curve involved. Sometimes we gain experience before the calling happens and other times the chance to learn occurs after we have been called and we learn as we go.  However, God will always equip us with what we need to finish the job He calls us to do.

I also believe that when God calls us to something, if we press into His word and pray hard, we will have His peace about which direction He wants us to go. For some it may look different, but for me, I have a peace that I know that I know that I know what He wants me to do. However, just because I receive a peace that can only come from God, that doesn’t mean the adventure will be smooth sailing. I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but when we are walking the path God puts us on, expect great things to happen but also expect resistance along the way.

 DSCN5693

When we are obedient to God’s plan, He will use us to do mighty things.  We have an enemy who doesn’t like that.  He doesn’t want us to be used for God and doesn’t want God getting the glory.  He doesn’t want our lives to positively impact others, pointing them toward Heaven.

When I first agreed to my new adventure, obstacles came.  One particular obstacle that stands out was sickness.  Our family hadn’t had the stomach flu in years…it had been at least five years since we had dealt with that particular nuisance.  Winter/spring of 2013…our family got it three times! One particular day, I had two children vomiting simultaneously, one every 10 to 15 minutes, one episode away from an ER visit.

However, God is bigger than the enemy. My new boss is family oriented and worked with me through the sickness.  He is full of grace and patience as I learn new responsibilities. Each month I fall more in love with the ministry which further reinforces I’m right where God wants me.

After that, each month I thanked God ahead of time for His provision for things to run smoothly and they did.  Were they perfect?  No. But I felt God’s help and that made a big difference.

Do I know the big picture of what God has planned?  No…and for this particular adventure, I choose complete trust. I know that I know that I know God put me here.  I also know that I know that I know that God has a reason for my being here.  And, I know that I know that I know that I can trust Him with the final outcome of how far this adventure will go and where my place is in it. As a result, not only do I have peace during the process and joy during the journey, but hope for the future while being content in the present.  And I’m not just content…but truly happy. This is a great place to be.  I still have to obey, I still have a job to do (to my best ability) but I have faith that God will supply what I need to fulfill His purpose (as long as I stay close to Him) and that He has me where my talents and passions align.  In January 2013, when God spoke, I knew I couldn’t NOT obey! And I’m so glad I listened!

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

“God doesn’t get upset with us asking for confirmation. He’s proud of us for making sure we’ve heard Him correctly.” 

Bob Yandian

 

I began January 2014 fasting for 21 days.  It is my way of dedicating the new year to God, showing Him He has control over every aspect of my life. One morning during the fast, God impressed upon my heart a new assignment He wanted me to take. My first internal response was…fear.  Imagine that! Fear that I wouldn’t have the time to add one more thing to my busy life (despite the fact God used the fall of 2013 to rid my life of extra things to make room for His new assignment). Fear that my children would be neglected due to me working extra hours.  But, mostly, fear of the unknown.  However, even though at the time fear tended to be my default button, I started learning I didn’t have to listen. Instead of ignoring His voice, I decided to ask God for confirmation that this new assignment was truly from Him. Then I waited.

 DSCN5267

For two weeks I prayed…waited…listened…and continued walking in the path I was already on.  During those two weeks, He confirmed through three separate events that yes, this was the job He wanted me to take.  However, here’s the funny part. The job He wanted me to apply for didn’t exist.  There was no job posting.

So…with fear of the response, I called up my future boss and the conversation went something like this:

“You’re a Christ follower, right?” (I already knew his answer. I just needed a way to begin.)

“Yes.”

“Well, as a Christ follower, when God asks us to do something, we have to obey. I think He’s asking me to ask you something.  And before I ask, any answer you give me is the right answer.”

(Patient silence on the other end.)

“I think God wants me to work for you.  Could you use my help?”

“What a blessing.”

It was then that I knew that I knew that I knew I had heard God right. Now…it took a little more conversation before we figured out what gifts and talents I had that would be the most help, but because God was the One who started this process, the answer was already there.

I have no doubt that I pleased God by walking in faith and starting a conversation with an amazing boss.  And I also believe God wasn’t upset with me for asking Him for confirmation before taking that first step.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to obey – I just wanted to make sure stepping out was obeying Him and not a selfish agenda of my own.

Come back next time for the conclusion to this life changing adventure.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

“I am a faith person — in the way of God’s awesome character…He is for us and often I settle for less than His best.”

Bethany M.

I received an email this week from a friend who wanted to share some great news with me.  She had been having a conversation with God about how tired she was and needing a getaway to rejuvenate and refresh.  She let her mind wander and thought about how perfect it would be for such and such to happen.  She wasn’t asking God for anything.  She wasn’t pretending He was a genie in a bottle, but just sitting there as a daughter sharing her thoughts, dreams, and wishes with her Father.

Two days later, God overwhelmed her with an answer that was more than she could have dreamed.  She received a call from another friend who offered her a weekend retreat in Hawaii, plane ticket and accommodations taken care of.  “Just because.” My friend hadn’t shared her conversation with anyone but God.

 DSCN5834

I have had similar things happen in my life.  I remember one time in particular our family was going through a faith-stretching period.  God was demonstrating His provisions for our needs repeatedly, but always in my love language.  I remember thanking God repeatedly for His provisions and then one day asking Him if He would be willing to provide in a way for our family that spoke directly to my husband’s heart? Something so awesome that he would know it could only come from God.  And then I went about my day…trusting that my conversation with God was heard and confident that if God wanted to answer “yes” He would and if not, His will was best.  I didn’t ask for anything specific – just that God would shower love on my husband.

Within the week, I received a phone call from relatives asking me if we wanted a 32 inch flat screen TV…for free.  We had a box (tube?) TV that was many years old.  I asked my husband when he came home that night if he would like a 32 inch flat screen TV for free.  There was no hesitation when he gave his answer.

I hadn’t talked to anyone about my conversation with God except God.  I wasn’t looking for material possessions or wealth…I didn’t ask for a flat screen TV or anything specific.  I was just a daughter asking her Daddy to speak love to her husband…and what better way to shower blessings to my best friend than through how he relaxes at night? We have had the TV for almost a year now and every time I look at it, I’m reminded not just of the amazing generosity of our relatives, but I’m reminded of how God wants to bless us sometimes “just because.”

Does that mean every time I ask God for a blessing He will automatically give it to me?  Do you, as a parent, give your children everything they ask for simply because they ask? No – and neither does God.  Does God want us to come to Him always asking for things and never developing a relationship? No again.  He desires a close relationship with us as well.

Developing and savoring a deep relationship with my Father is the true blessing.  Anything He chooses to give beyond that is just an extra blessing.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

“until His sovereign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply. And getting what you want isn’t the goal, the goal is glorifying God by drawing circles around the promises, miracles, & dreams He wants for you.”

(Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle)

 

I grew up the youngest in a family of leaders.  I think that position in life gave me a unique advantage.  I had the privilege of learning good leadership skills from three people who led naturally while receiving lots of practice in how to follow.  Those skills have served me well as an adult. I’m able and willing to take instruction, not having to do things “my way,” but once instructed, I have the ability to take ownership and get the job done with minimal supervision.

I believe that is the attitude God desires us to have.  The Bible tells us multiple times how God desires a relationship with us.  Not a robot-like existent but a true relationship.  He wants me to share with Him what’s on my heart while He listens.  Then when I grow quiet, He tells me what He desires for my life and I obey.

That thought used to scare me.  I grew up with the idea that if I surrendered my will to God, He would “punish” me by creating a job for me that I truly hated and my life would be misery until I died and was rewarded with Heaven for eternity.  I obviously didn’t read my Bible enough growing up, because that scenario does not describe the God I serve.

Truth is, God made me. That means He created the desires and talents and dreams inside me. Any good leader knows that if you want a person to be productive, you lead them in the direction of their talents and gifts. Sometimes, though, training might be required to help prepare us for the job that best uses the skills and talents God created within us and the training period isn’t always fun.  It is our choice, though, how long it takes us to learn what God wants to teach us.

 Digging_Deep_Kindle_Cover_copy

I’ve found for myself, when I surrender my life to His goals while continuing to have an ongoing dialogue with Him about my desires, I am giving Him freedom to work in amazing ways in my life.  When I hold tightly to my agenda, then I’m restricting God’s power from working completely.  Matthew 16:25 says it best, “Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.’” (The Message).

The key to receiving God’s blessings in my life isn’t coming to Him with the mentality of “Here’s my wish list…I would like this and this and a little bit of that too, please, and you can deliver it all by next Friday. You remember where I live, right?”  No, the key to receiving God’s blessings is first asking Him what He desires to see in my life and then waiting until I receive His answer…usually directly from His guidebook, the Bible.  Our basic genetic makeup, likes and dislikes remain the same, but God is then able to use our deepest desires to help fulfill His plan…and His plan becomes our deepest desire.  Then it’s my responsibility to work hard on the job He gave me while living in faith that what He promised will happen…in His time, in His way.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about the extra special blessings that God sometimes gives “just because.”  We love to surprise those we love – why wouldn’t God?

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

God Loves Failures

“…Because failure is good at convincing us it’s too late, even before we even start…I swallowed down my frustration…I didn’t remember my failure. I remembered what God can do with it.”

(Kristen, We Are THAT Family)

 

How many times have I gotten a “great” idea, thinking it will bring our family together, start a new tradition, or just create some wonderful memories and by the time we’re finished, it has officially been labeled, “Do not attempt this again…EVER!”?

How many times has God whispered to my mother’s heart something He wants me to start with our family, but when I try to implement those changes, they are met with resistance and distractions and disastrous attempts?

Then I remembered what God has been teaching me all last year…He doesn’t want me perfect.  Just like I don’t want my kids perfect.  If they were perfect, life would be boring.  And, if they were perfect, it would just highlight all my mistakes and I really don’t want that.

You see…just as we don’t need (or want) perfect kids, God doesn’t want or expect perfect children.  If we’re perfect, then we quickly lose sight of the Truth – that He is the only perfect in the equation and He’s the Master at fixing our mistakes.  So while He doesn’t want perfect, He does want our heart.

 DSCN3510

We don’t have to look very far to be reminded that God used imperfect people in the Bible all the time to accomplish great things in His name.  Remember Moses? He killed a fellow Egyptian out of anger…then was used by God to free the Israelites and lead them in the desert for forty years, teaching them how to obey God.  Rahab?  She was a prostitute whom God used to save the spies from being killed and as a result her entire family was spared and her name is added to the lineage of Jesus in the Bible. Anyone remember Paul…first Saul?  He killed and tortured Jews, only to have an encounter with God which changed his life and then become one of the most outspoken and influential men to be used by God, helping many others find a relationship with Him.

Realizing God uses my imperfections for His glory helps take the pressure off.  Now when I hear God whisper an idea that He wants me to try, I have confidence that as long as I walk in the right direction, with the right attitude, He will keep me moving in the right direction or put me back on the right path.  Sometimes, when great things are about to happen, my imperfections show through most clearly.

Remembering that when my attempts end up more destructive than decorative, I have peace that God can take my mess and turn it into something worthy to hang on His refrigerator. He wants my heart…and that will always be His.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 383 other followers