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Archive for December, 2013

I’m No Mooch

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” I John 3:1 (NIV).

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For much of this year, my family has been tightening our financial belt. We have learned how to live with less and are realizing what’s nonnegotiable in our budget and what we can do without. As a result, both of our parents have taken pity on us more than once and invited us out for lunch or dinner, always with the words, “Please come…it’s our treat.” In addition, there’ve been times they’ve brought us something they knew we wanted but wouldn’t buy for ourselves. It’s always been a pleasure to accept their generosity, although a part of me feels guilty for not paying our own way. I feel sometimes like I’m “mooching from them,” even though I haven’t asked, expected, or demanded.

Fast forward to payday, which occurs for us, as in most households, twice a month. As is my habit, I sit down and pray first, asking God to bless the money He provided and to give me wisdom in how He wants it spent. One particular week, God blessed us with a little extra. After rechecking the numbers a few times, my gut reaction was fear. I was happy, but I truly wanted to make sure I was being wise with what God had provided and didn’t know how He wanted it spent. I set a little extra aside to work on our debt, and then was relieved since this particular shopping trip was going to be bigger than usual. We had two birthdays, a party, and some extra essentials that were needed in addition to our usual grocery items.

The next morning I woke up, prayed again for God to give me wisdom in how I spent our money and then set about going to the store. I had to stop for gas and knew I should fill it up since I had a lot of driving ahead. Again, I started to panic. Then it hit me. This was my Father! He had blessed us with extra money and despite being thankful for His provisions, I was acting in fear. Is that the way God would want me to react? Is that the way my parents or my in-laws would want us to react to a gift they graciously gave us? Is that the way I would want my children to react to something I lovingly provided.

Come back next time and find out what my response ended up being.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

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Blessed or Lucky?

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” I Chronicles 16:34 (NIV).

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The other day I overheard our middle and youngest having a conversation. I wasn’t really tuning in to their words until I heard our daughter tell our littlest, “We don’t say we’re lucky. There’s no such thing as luck. We’re blessed.” Later that night, our youngest was settling down to sleep, having a conversation with himself aloud. He started to say something about being lucky, stopped himself, and goes, “Oops, I mean I’m blessed,” and continued on without missing a beat.

That may seem silly to some that our family would have a hang up about using the word “luck” versus blessed, but it’s significant to us. You see, we know that all good things come from God. It’s not because we’re just lucky or happenstance or chance. It’s my prayer that whenever something good happens throughout the day, we automatically give God all the praise and glory. I used to get upset when I thought God wanted us to sit around worshipping Him all the time. I thought, here He calls us to be humble but yet all that He does, He does for His glory, to show off His power. That seemed hypocritical to me. That is, until I really thought about what message He’s sending and why.

First of all, it’s pretty bold (and incredibly wrong) of me to sit and tell the God who created everything that He’s not important enough to be praised, worshipped, and glorified. I can’t even make dinner successfully once a week without something going wrong. He made everything and so yes, He deserves the glory and praise if He wants it, for whatever reason.

However, the more I dove into the Scriptures, the more I realized the reasoning behind His wanting everything to point back to Him. It’s not as much for Him to be praised and adored in a conceited way – Satan has that arena covered. It’s because He knows that the only way He can have all His children join Him in Heaven for eternity is to point us toward Jesus and a desire to have a relationship with His only Son. When we accept that we need God in every aspect of our lives and we invite Him into our hearts in a genuine relationship with Him, then and only then will we have the privilege of spending eternity with God in His house. And, the best way for people to crave a relationship with the God of the universe is to see how much they need Him and how willing He is to protect, love, embrace, and cherish them.

So, when looked at that way, it means even more to me to have our children embrace the concept that good things don’t happen to us in life because of luck. No, when blessings shower down, it’s because God chose to give us those blessings and my Heavenly Father deserves all the credit for those blessings. I don’t want to have to stand before Him, when my life is over and I’m spending eternity in His house and have to explain why I neglected to say “thank you.” Especially when He has blessed me with so much.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

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He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,” Luke 1:14 (NIV).

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My question to you today is this: Where do you stand? Are you worshipping God or are you worshipping yourself? Have you become a Christian, but question your allegiance to God because you still struggle with sin in your life? You don’t have to be perfect to remain in God’s family. You might be happy to learn He doesn’t expect perfection. Bottom line: God looks at your heart. If you are truly seeking to obey the boundaries He sets in the Bible, His blueprints for a blessed life, then He knows your heart and is pleased.

However, just like in our family, you still have a choice to make. You are either 100% committed to worshipping God or you aren’t. And, He’s so much a gentleman, He lets you make that choice. He wants you to choose Him. He wants to help you navigate your way through the troubles of this world and can’t do that unless You ask Him to, but still, it’s your choice.

As we’re reminded at Christmastime, God sent His son, Jesus, to earth as a baby. His mission was to spend 33 years among us, equipping us with examples from His own life of how to live a life of love. He knew His mission was to live among us before choosing to die a gruesome death on the cross for our sins. This was done for the sole purpose of allowing us the privilege to become part of His family for all eternity. I can’t think of any bigger gift than that to prove His love for us. However, it still comes down to you making the choice.

I’ve made my choice – what about you? If you want to discuss the two choices, feel free to email me at clSwalwell@gmail.com. I’d be happy to talk with you more.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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Love.

I want to take a few minutes to say “Merry Christmas” to all of you.  I pray that you are able to spend time this week with loved ones.  I pray you have the opportunity to rest and refresh before jumping into 2014.

 

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Most importantly, I pray that in the hustle and bustle of going from celebration to celebration, you take time to pause and reflect on the real reason we celebrate Christmas.  It’s “love.”  God’s love for us that He sent His Son with the sole purpose of dying so that we could be joined with Him in Heaven someday.  Love.  He loves us so much He didn’t create us to be robots, but instead gave us the ability to choose.  Separation from Him by choosing our own path or submission to Him by choosing the Only way, His way. Even if we think we aren’t choosing – that’s still a choice.  Love.  Just like with earthly parents, God wants the very best for us and sometimes in order to get the very best, we need to learn a few lessons along the way.  Any parent realizes that giving our children everything they want isn’t healthy or good for them.  While we hate to see our kids hurt, we realize sometimes growing up requires a few bumps and bruises.  Just as we don’t turn our backs on our kids while they learn the lessons necessary for growth, God doesn’t turn His back on us either.  He’s right there with His children the whole time, protecting us while allowing the lessons to be learned.

Love…Everything God does centers around how much He loves His children.  And, we are all His children.

Merry Christmas, Friends.  I pray if you haven’t experienced God’s love for yourself, 2014 will be the year you will.  He won’t force Himself on you…But He’s waiting.

(I’d be happy to have a one-on-one conversation with anyone who wants to – clSwalwell99@gmail.com.)

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It’s Your Choice

“Scripture sees hell as self-chosen…Hell appears as God’s gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping Him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves” (J.I. Packer).

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In our household, we have a rule. We care more about honesty than mistakes. If our children come to us honestly and admit a mistake, they won’t get in trouble. We’ll discuss the issue and possible ways to do better next time, and the incident is over. However, if our children are confronted about something and then choose to lie, then they’ll get in trouble double: First for the infraction and then for lying. That’s how important it is to my husband and I that honesty is practiced in our home. We care more for the heart of our children than their actions.

When I read the above statement by J.I. Packer, I was reminded of our household rule. It’s quite simple. Most of what we face in life boils down to a choice. We can choose to tell the truth and live in peace or we can choose to lie and eventually the consequences of dishonesty will catch up to us. We can choose to live authentically or we can choose to forever look over our shoulder while we cover up half-truths and try to remember what we told to whom, when.

Some choices we make don’t matter as much. What we make for dinner, whether or not we clean the house, or what hobby we want to pursue. Other choices do. The spouse we marry, the job we pursue, and whether or not to have children. However, despite how important some of the above choices are, the most important choice we make is whether we worship ourselves or God.

As with truth and lies, there is no middle ground regarding who we worship. We can’t pretend to worship God while worshipping ourselves and we can’t worship ourselves while thinking we’re worshipping God. It’s a heart thing and God knows better than anyone with whom our heart lies. In Matthew 12:30, God is very clear regarding the fact there is no middle ground when it comes to the allegiance of our heart. Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me” (NLT).

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV).

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If you remember, last time we were together I shared with you about the blessing our children received using the example of ice cream and how much my husband and I enjoyed rewarding our oldest with double what he was willing to give up.

I wonder if God isn’t like that sometimes?  He asks us at times to give up something that means a lot to us: A job we love, a house or town where we have lots of friends and have built a community of support, or sometimes even our church because He has something better in store for us. However, unless we step out in faith (taking action before seeing a tangible reward) we’ll never know what exactly God’s plan is. Sometimes the blessing we receive is solely the knowledge we obeyed God and our circumstances don’t change. Other times, our reward is a double blessing of what we willingly gave up. Always, though, the reward is knowing we are strengthening our faith, trusting God’s way is the best.

So, while trying to teach the principles of blessing others to my children, they ended up teaching me a lot more. They’ve been doing a better job at blessing others than their mom, and I need to catch up to their level. More often than not, the real blessing received is just the knowledge that I have touched someone else’s life in a selfless way. After all, just as I feel blessed when my kids bless others, we bless God when we reach out to bless selflessly as well.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

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“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16 (NIV).

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It blesses me when our children model for me how to be selfless and go out of their way to help others. They are putting actions to Matthew 5:16, which says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (NIV). It prompts me to wonder – how can I step it up and be a blessing to others as well?

I had the opportunity just a few months later to be a blessing to my family and watch our oldest step up to the challenge once again. We had some free coupons for ice cream. Two were for plain cones, one was for a one-scoop sundae, and one was a buy one, get one free two-scoop sundae. The one-scoop sundae was our oldest’s certificate, so the plan was to let our younger two get the plain cones, he get his one-scoop sundae and my husband and I get the two-scoop sundaes, in order of youngest to oldest. However, I decided I would rather give up my two-scoop sundae to our oldest if he was willing to give up his one-scoop sundae to his sister. Without telling him the possible reward, we asked if he’d be willing to let his sister have his sundae certificate. As he first considered the request, realizing it didn’t equal fairness in the way we presented it, he hesitated. However, within a few minutes, he decided to let her have the “reward” and he would be content with a plain cone. I enjoyed seeing the smile on his face when he found out he was receiving a greater reward of a two-scoop sundae for being willing to give up his one-scoop sundae. It made me happy that he was willing to give up his sundae when he thought he was getting a plain cone, but made me even happier to reward him with double of what he thought he was giving up.

Have you ever had the opportunity to bless someone unexpectedly?  What was their reaction to your blessing?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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