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Archive for March, 2014

“Do everything in love.” I Corinthians 16:14 (NIV)

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Throughout history there have been many heated debates about many different topics. I don’t usually talk about “hot issues” and this post isn’t an exception. I’ve never been a person who enjoys confrontation but as I get older, I realize it’s not really about the issue but about the bigger picture. If you study Jesus’ life, you can see glimpses of what I’m talking about, but let me explain.

I believe, sometimes God calls us to take a stand. Sometimes, I believe, God calls us to be silent, even if the issue is one worth fighting for. Other times, I believe God calls us to be supportive of others, coming alongside them in their fight but not necessarily fighting ourselves. An example of that is found in Exodus 17 when Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold his hands up during a battle as God instructed.

If you look in John 8, it explains about the time the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus and He chose not to take the bait. Instead of getting into a debate with them, He chose to instead write something in the sand. The Bible isn’t specific about what, so I’m interested to know exactly what it was He wrote that caused all the men to leave without condemning the woman.

Another example found in John 4 explains how Jesus confronted the woman at the well regarding the man she was living with was not her husband. However, I love how all the conversations Jesus has with people are wrapped in love. He speaks in love first, then and only then addresses the individual about their sinful lifestyle.

I think we would be smart to follow Jesus’ examples. The only way to do that is to develop a close relationship with God. Read His word to find out how He handled situations and then do our best to imitate His actions. Sometimes, as a result, God will call us to take action regarding a specific issue presented in society. Other times, we could be asked to support someone else’s fight by praying quietly from the background while they do the fighting. Always, though, our actions, our attitudes, and our hearts should be ones of loving the people involved and showing attitudes that reflect the Jesus we serve.

I’m pleasantly surprised how respect can be earned by even your strongest adversary when love is demonstrated and acceptance of people themselves is shown. Jesus always loved the people He encountered even if the lifestyle they were living in was one He didn’t endorse.

I’m going to keep listening to God’s voice so I can obey. Sometimes I’ll need to join in the fight, other times pray from the sidelines, and still other times stand alongside. I want to be a person who follows Jesus’ example in all my encounters. I’ll never do it perfectly, but that won’t keep me from trying. I want to make sure love is demonstrated loud and clear in all my interactions, just as Jesus has shown me through His example.

©2014 Cheri Swalwell

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Something Bigger

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.”

John 15:16 (The Message)

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Have you ever participated in a blood drive? What about as a volunteer for a school carnival, Vacation Bible School, or your child’s field trip? During the holidays, have you ever picked a child’s name off a tree, helped serve food at a soup kitchen, or put your spare change in a Salvation Army red kettle?

Did you stop to think that by doing any of those things you’ve been part of something bigger than yourself? I was having a conversation with someone special the other day and we were talking about how peaceful it is to know that things occur in our lives not just because of us, but because there is a bigger picture, something more important than just what happens to us. And, sometimes we’re given the privilege to actively participate in blessing others’ lives through our actions.

The overlying message of the Bible is grace…and love. We don’t have to earn our salvation. In fact, we can’t. There is no work of any kind we can accomplish to earn us a spot in Heaven. And, God loves each and every one of us so much that His main goal is to heap love on us and point us in the direction to make that choice, to receive the free gift, to accept His love and choose Him.

What would you say if I told you once you accepted that gift for yourself, it wasn’t over? What would you say if I told you there was more? What would you say if I told you it was your turn to be a blessing to someone else? To point them in the direction of God’s love and show them they also don’t have to do anything to get to Heaven except choose? How would it make you feel to be part of the bigger plan, the bigger picture, a small part of pointing someone you love, or a complete stranger, or a coworker in the right direction to make the choice for herself?

Instead of measuring every circumstance that occurs in your life against the ruler of how it affects you, I want to challenge you to think differently, if only for a day. What if instead of saying, “What’s in it for me?” you instead asked, “How can I participate in being part of something bigger for someone else?”

I’m excited to think about all the people I will someday meet in Heaven…some who have been a part of my “bigger picture” and hopefully some that I’ve been a part of their “bigger picture.” To think we’ll have eternity to get to know each other, build a friendship, and just enjoy knowing God gets all the glory for any of us being there to begin with.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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“It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.”

I Peter 3:17-18 (The Message)

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We live in the Midwest and this past winter our kids had more snow days off from school than usual. One particular evening at dinner, one child prayed, “God, please let us have a snow day tomorrow,” followed by the next child praying, “God, please let us have school tomorrow.” I laughed.  I know, not the most appropriate response. It struck me as funny because one person was going to “win” and one person was going to “lose.” Literally within one minute of them finishing their prayers, a text came through on my phone signaling yet another snow day. While rejoicing with one child, I consoled the other.

The above scenario got me thinking about a bigger spiritual lesson. What if two people are simultaneously praying for the same job – one will ultimately be told “yes” while another is told “no.” Does that mean God loves one person more than the other? Is He punishing one person and rewarding the other?

As I’ve learned more about God’s personality and His motives, my answer would have to be “no.” I don’t believe He’s punishing one person and rewarding the other. I think there are a couple things going on that we need to consider the next time we receive our answer from God. First of all, as the above verse explains, God’s ultimate goal in life is for everyone to go to Heaven. His purpose isn’t to make us comfortable or provide a life free from difficulty. One look in the Bible will prove that point. Study the lives of Joseph, David, Moses, or Daniel to name a few. These men dealt with difficult circumstances. They continued to obey God’s commands and as a result, God ultimately got the glory and they were blessed. Everything that God does in life is to point people toward His Son, giving us the choice to choose Him and eternity in Heaven together.

Second, what might seem like the perfect “yes” for you may in fact be “just enough.” I’ve talked quite a bit about how God wants more for us than “just enough.” He ultimately wants “the Best” for our lives. When we look from our small viewpoint, some scenarios scream “yes” at us as though they would be the perfect solution. However, from God’s much higher perspective, our “yes” could in fact spell disaster. I find for my own life, most often the easy road I prefer doesn’t allow me to grow and mature in the skills I need for the next leg of my journey. Easy is nice, but most of the time easy just prolongs the growth necessary to fulfill my purpose as well as delays the potential blessings.

I want to encourage you the next time you pray and receive “no” when you really wanted “yes,” or visa versa. God loves each and every one of us. He sees not only where we are but where we ultimately are going much clearer than we do. Trust Him with your “yes” and with your “no.” If you continue to obey and listen to His voice, the final result may be better than you originally asked for.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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Ready for Spring

“Trees need the winter…They need time to strengthen for the growth they experience in springtime. All that green, pulpy growth has to harden, or the tree would not be able to withstand the seasonal winds that whip against it.” (Captain Dale Black, Flight to Heaven, page 79)

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I think it’s fair to say winter in 2014 has been rough everywhere. More snow, ice, and subzero temperatures then we’ve experienced in a while. While standing with my daughter waiting for the school bus with windchills in the single digits, I vaguely remembered hearing someone say it was going to be extra cold because the fur growing on the horses this fall was thick.

I experienced a “winter” in my personal life in 2013. I felt like nothing was happening. I wondered what God was preparing me for, questioned my direction, and contemplated whether or not I’d heard Him correctly. I had a choice. I could’ve turned away, looked for the solution myself, and ended up moving further in the wrong direction. Or, I could’ve pressed in closer, asking God to speak, waiting patiently while walking where I thought He wanted me to, listening intently for any change of direction. I chose to press in closer.

I discovered multiple answers. The first was that He was preparing me – I didn’t know what for, but this was preparation time. I was in winter. Winter is dormant. Action takes place underground, but the movement isn’t visible. Instead of growth, it’s a time to strengthen.

Second, He gave me a verse to learn how to “Stand firm and see the deliverance He would give.” God needed to bring me personally to a place where I trusted Him, stopped trying to earn His favor and love, and just let Him provide. That was a hard lesson for someone who has struggled with sitting still. I’m used to working for things, but needed to learn the true definition of grace.

Lastly, He gave me permission to rest. In fact, He was very clear that now was the time to rest because soon I’d be working hard. He wanted me mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually ready. However, He only gave me the “all clear” to work after He’d taught me first what it felt like to have Him deliver me. This last one was hard for me also because I like to get my work done and then rest instead of resting ahead of time.

In 2014, God started showing me a glimpse of what He has planned. Only a glimpse. He gave me some very clear directions and it is with excitement that I’m beginning to accomplish what He’s asking of me, in His strength. He’s continually adding to the bigger picture what He wants me to do and while I have a little residual fear, I’m choosing to venture out and obey in those areas as well. Most importantly, He’s showing me how wonderful the spring feels after having endured what has felt like a very long and difficult winter. In addition, He’s showing me how important winter is to prepare for spring and summer.

As you begin to see signs of spring weather in your community, can you identify any areas of your personal life where God has brought you out of a winter season into the freshness of spring?

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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“A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.” Proverbs 31:10 (The Message)

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Last time we were together, I talked about going shopping on a Friday morning for four hours. I prepared everything the night before, ready to set out bright and early the next day. In all honesty, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I needed to restock our pantry, had limited funds, and wasn’t sure how it was going to be accomplished. Not to mention, I knew it would take a lot of time and my day was pretty full.

After waving to my daughter, we headed out, first to a new store to see about getting good bargains before venturing to our normal venues. To my dismay, the store wasn’t open yet. I didn’t want to wait around in the parking lot, so decided to head to our main store first and circle back around. My first instinct was frustration and annoyance. I wanted what I wanted and I didn’t have time to waste. However, God spoke softly to me, and reminded me I had a choice. I could either choose to be thankful even for this or I could complain, setting a negative tone for the rest of the day. I made my choice and prayed, “Father, this isn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to shop in a different order but I’m going to choose to be thankful and trust that Your plan is better. Somehow You will work this flip flop out for good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Our littlest piped up from the backseat, inquiring what I was talking about and I had a chance to explain to him the choice I just made. Not only was it a great reminder for me, but I was able to show through example that complaining isn’t necessary. We ended up saving $50 on groceries at our main store that morning because so many things I hadn’t realized were on sale. If I had bought them at the bargain store, I would’ve ended up paying more instead of less. That was the first blessing that occurred. Then, at the bargain store, an older man approached us and started talking to me about my purse, the one I mentioned in the post, Free or False Advertising. We ended up in line next to each other which gave us even more time to talk. Turns out, he and his wife are looking for a new church and I had the opportunity to invite them to join us at our church. And, the fact that the man was hard of hearing and I had to speak loudly, I just may have invited a few more unsuspecting people who were close by as well.

As I was driving out of the parking twenty minutes later, I thanked God for the saved money and the divine appointment He created between us and the older gentleman. I asked Him if this was possibly why He changed the order of my shopping that morning so that I could invite this family to our church.

I may never know the exact reason my schedule was changed. But I learned a valuable lesson. When I choose to be thankful, God has a chance to work through me to bless others. He also has a chance to bless me as well. When I harden my heart through temper tantrums, I restrict the ways God can use me to bless others and I miss the blessings He has for me as well.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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“There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books” John 21:25 (The Message)

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One Friday in late January, I was on my way to help chaperone my son’s dance when all of a sudden I was filled with thankfulness. I was also tired. I had spent four hours that morning traveling to several groceries stores searching for the best bargains, putting groceries away, grabbing lunch, and then leaving again. As I was driving, my knee was screaming at me. I realized standing for the next two to three hours probably would make it worse, but I was happy. I was feeling blessed to experience throbbing knees and an aching back. Then my thoughts went further and I was happy for stretch marks, a little extra cushion in places I wish it wasn’t, and wrinkles, sunspots, and a gray hair or two. Okay, maybe not so much for the gray hair.

You see, it was then I realized that all the above “discomforts” were really a blessing. It meant I was living life instead of sitting on the sidelines. A full life. Yes, there were lumps and bumps in places that used to be smoother, aches and pains in places I used to take for granted, and lines and wrinkles in undiscovered territory…but I wouldn’t change my journey. Has it always been fun? No, but what true adventure is only filled with laughter and fun? Most adventures, that you reminisce about with your friends anyway, are filled with the unexpected. That’s what makes them adventures. That’s what makes life worth sharing.

I believe God doesn’t want us to sit on the sidelines either. If you take a look at Jesus’ life while He lived on the Earth, He seized every opportunity He had to tell others about His Father’s love and how to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. While He made sure to take good care of His body, many times He preached all day long. That’s what I want to do with my own life. I want to take better care of myself so I remain healthy to continue living until I breathe my last breath.

And my happiness continued throughout the dance. I was in charge of pouring pop. It gave me a chance to practice some bartending skills, but the most fun was making a connection with middle schoolers. Some I knew previously while others I was meeting for the first time. I left there a lot more tired but also a lot more happy.

I ended up falling asleep early that Friday night, but it was with a smile on my face. Thankful for the chance to be a wife to a loving husband, mother to three terrific kids, part-time bartender of middle school dances, part time coupon-savvy grocery guru, and full-time Christ follower. I’m still working on getting healthier so I can fulfill my mission in life easier, but in the meantime, I’m thankful for the lumps, bumps, aches and pains.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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COMING SOON

EXCITING NEWS MY FRIENDS:

Tentative release date end of March/beginning of April.

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As spring approaches and you dream of digging in the dirt…here’s an opportunity to Dig Deeper into God’s Word.

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