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Archive for October, 2015

 

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought…”

James 1:5-6 (The Message)

 

We have a policy in our house that our kids can ask us anything…anything!  In fact, we want them to always feel comfortable enough to ask us anything.  No topic is off limits.  As a result, we had to come up with some guidelines about answering.  A full explanation right then, an answer that is age appropriate to where they are developmentally, or a “this conversation will be answered, but not until you’re older because it’s an adult topic and needs to wait.”  They aren’t always happy with that rule, but because my husband and I are united on that front, they don’t have much choice.  We always try to answer questions fully that if left unanswered, they could go to another source such as friends or the internet to get what could end up being erroneous answers and confuse them further.  But, answers to more personal questions, aren’t appropriate to answer always until they are a little older and seeing life through a more mature lens.

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I started thinking about that and realized my Father does the same thing with me. He allows me, in fact, wants me to ask Him anything.  Anything! And He also is in charge of how He answers: Right away, telling me just a little of the answer now and more of it later, or waiting until it’s more appropriate and I’m more mature and can handle the answer He’s going to give me.  Whether that maturity is to handle a “no” response or that maturity was needed to grow before I would be ready for a “yes,” whatever answer He chooses to give is the BEST answer, despite how it makes me feel.

There have been times, especially over this past year, that I have fought the “wait.” I wanted to know the whole picture, I wanted the answer to my question and I wanted it NOW. But God doesn’t work that way.  Just as I as a mother ignore my children’s temper tantrums, God knows it’s best to ignore mine. He knows that I’d be miserable with too much information too soon and it could be disastrous. He also knows so much better than I do in what areas I need to grow before I’m ready for the answer He wants to give me.  Sometimes that answer is in the form of a blessing – a desire or passion being fulfilled. Sometimes it’s maturity that says, “I’m so glad God didn’t give me a yes to that answer because what He had in mind for me is so much more than I could have imagined.” Sometimes, it’s not even that spectacular or I never find out why He denied telling me something or…He gave me an answer but I never found out the why behind it.

I’ve learned a lot this past year.  Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is this: I can come to my Father with any question and He will always welcome me.  I can trust my Father no matter what: when He answers on me on the spot, when He only reveals part of the answer, and when He says, “Later, my child, but for now you need to wait.”  I won’t lie. The waiting is still sometimes hard, especially when I really, really want the answer. But, I’m learning, each day to give thanks for the “wait” as much as for the full answer.

My prayer is that my children can learn a little of what I’ve learned over the past year.  They can always ask me anything, and I will always answer, just not always in the way they want. But it’s always with their best in mind and because of how much I love them.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

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“From the four corners of the earth people are coming to their senses, are running back to God. Long-lost families are falling on their faces before him. God has taken charge; from now on he has the last word.” Psalm 22:28 (The Message)

 

A friend of mine emailed me this morning and shared about two incidences of violence that occurred in her hometown this week alone…acts of violence that were gruesome, deadly, and devastatingly tragic.

Reflecting on those events, I was reminded of the series our pastor has been preaching about this past summer regarding the end times. It’s been truly fascinating and one I have looked forward to each week with enthusiasm.  Anyone who knew me a few years ago would be shocked as I used to take the stance of an ostrich with her head in the sand…don’t talk to me about it because maybe I won’t be around to experience it.  Either I’m more mature or God has been gently working on me, but I’ve come to a few conclusions.

First, God allowed me to be born and live in this century for a reason.  He wanted me to walk the earth during these years and interact with others who were born now as well.

Second, it’s important to keep the big picture in perspective.  I believe the Bible is infallible, which means that what it says I take as truth.  Therefore, if God says it in the Bible, I believe it. God tells us multiple times in the Bible that while the devil walks around the earth seeking those he can devour, God claims the victory.  He is the ultimate winner.  Not only do I know and believe that, but Satan knows it too and I think that truth makes him angry…very angry.

Knowing that truth helps me realize that before Jesus returns, and He will return, things on earth are probably going to continue to get worse.  Because, if it were me, and I was in a battle that I knew I would ultimately lose, I would be angry…very angry.  And, if I were angry, I would probably let others feel my wrath as well…especially if I was the type of person who enjoyed watching people suffer in their misery.

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Realizing the above, I have started to think about the times that we are living in through a different lens.  I realize that all time periods in history have had uncertainty and difficulties. I don’t think I would have wanted to live in Roman times when they cut people’s heads off, Jesus’ time when they crucified people on the cross, or the “olden days” when people didn’t know if their children would survive childhood due to disease and other tragedies. Logically we can conclude that we are closer to Jesus’ return in 2015 than they were in 1900.  Therefore, it would only make sense that the devil realizes his time to influence others and cause problems is coming to an end, a time unknown to anyone except God.  When it’s over, he will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity. With that to look forward to, I can only imagine how a temper tantrum could build.

Having thought about the above, I try to see difficulties, trials, and challenges from a different angle.  I picture the evil one as having a major temper tantrum.  Anyone who has been around anyone (adult or child) throwing a tantrum realizes that the person only gets louder before the tantrum is finally silenced. I think that is what Satan is doing now – displaying his temper tantrum while he can, not knowing when he will be defeated but that his time is shortening the longer humankind is alive.

Realizing the above doesn’t lessen the pain of the trial or difficulty being faced, but at least it keeps me from wallowing in fear or uncertainty about my future and the future of the world I live in.  I realize that all this life has to offer is temporary – blessings, excitement, trials, and sadness alike. I might not enjoy the temper tantrums the evil one chooses to display – but I do realize, while loud and obnoxious at times, they are temporary and he will be silenced in God’s perfect time.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

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“…If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought…” James 1:5-8 (The Message)

 

I have a saying I love to repeat often in our family, “Everyone has problems.” I say this for multiple reasons: one to remind us all that nobody’s perfect and therefore none of us are expected to be perfect, but also to remind us to give grace for each other’s problems because before too long, it will probably be the family member issuing the judgment who will need grace next.

Recently one of our recurrent family issues reared its ugly head again. When someone in a family is suffering for whatever reason, there is usually a ripple effect and it filters down to everyone else.  One particular night as we were heading to bed, after having had what felt like a very unfruitful discussion with our kids, Bill and I prayed, asking God for wisdom for this particular “Achilles heel.”  I fell asleep confident that God had this but in all honesty, not knowing what He would show us differently since we’d been dealing for years now with variations of this particular topic.

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The very next day while my husband was at work, I continued the conversation that was started the night before, hoping to go at it from an angle that would make more sense. That’s when God answered the prayer from the night before so clearly.  It was as though God lifted the veil and I was able to see the problem from His perspective.  Instead of seeing the symptoms of the issue we’ve been wrestling with, I saw the issue for what it truly was.  God didn’t stop there – He also offered hope. In that moment I spoke to the direct issue and shared with my kids what God had revealed to me, hopefully in a way that made sense.  Then I left it alone until Bill and I could get together and see what God wanted us to do next.

We didn’t have to wait long.  As I shared with Bill what God had showed me, he then shared with me what God was showing him.  He had been drawn to an audio book from the library and it was not a coincidence that God had valuable information on the CD that spoke directly about what we were dealing with in our family and needed divine intervention for.  At the same time, God reminded me of another resource that we had in our home that would also be helpful and we started to implement that as well.  All the resources kept bringing the issue back to the Bible and what God has to say about the issue – and how He wants to help us gain victory in this area – once and for all.

There have been multiple times in my life when I know that I know that I know God is speaking and I have obeyed, but usually that was for a career change or something that affects me directly and my family indirectly.  This time, though, God spoke so clearly to both Bill and I about an issue our family has been dealing with for years and offered us both hope together…in ways that complement each other and I believe will help bring healing faster. There is hard work that needs to be done diligently for the healing to take place, but God got us started in the right direction and I have confidence we are walking in the right direction.  Sometimes, for me, that’s the hardest part of the battle – knowing I’m walking in the direction God wants me to travel.

I want to encourage you today.  If you are going through an issue or difficulty in your life, offer it to God and ask for His wisdom.  I believe you too will be amazed at how quickly and how specifically He will answer when you truly seek His will.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

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Peace Versus Panic

“(Peace) does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” (Unknown)

 

I knew that 2015 had been a year filled with lots of changes for our family but I didn’t realize just how much God was changing me.  I’ve been very honest about how I used to live a life filled with fear and how God has slowly been working on me in that area.  I would cringe when I had to drive anytime from October through February because “what if there was a snowstorm?” The year I was pregnant with our daughter I refused to go away alone with Bill during the month of December because I was certain we would get into an accident and leave our oldest an orphan as a Christmas present. Even though my husband knew my fears were irrational, he chose a place for us to get away locally so I could still relax and enjoy time with him without stressing about the distance (or weather).

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I talk about the above incidents (which seemed normal and perfectly sane to me at the time) not because I’m proud of them. In fact, I cringe mentioning them because they demonstrate just how firmly fear had a grip on me.

I didn’t realize how far God had brought me through fear into a life of peace until this week.  Bill and I were talking about booking tickets to see a concert in October, about 1 ½ hours away.  Now, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my first (fleeting) thought was, “October? There could be a snowstorm,” but it was quickly replaced with, “If it’s not on a school/work night, what a great date night seeing Bill’s favorite group, Sidewalk Prophets.”  That’s when it hit me.  I may still not like to drive in the snow, but the fear isn’t there suffocating me like it used to.

If God can (and He did) get our family through difficult challenges, and if I truly believe God knows the numbers of our days ahead of time (and He does), then I don’t have to fear the weather, out-of-control drivers, disease, accidents, or…anything. That’s what living in peace can do for someone.  That’s what regularly choosing God’s peace can do for someone who used to be gripped in fear.

Like most other character traits, it’s not a one-time only choice.  I still have to actively choose it, some days more than others. I find the more I walk in His peace, the sooner His peace envelops me. Then, the next time I face a difficult situation, sometimes peace comes immediately and fear isn’t invited for even a minute.  The fact is, God loves us so much He wants us to continually choose Him on a daily basis.  I’m glad He made me so that I constantly need to be filled.

While I may never fully enjoy wintertime or other areas of life that used to leave me panicked, it feels good to have crossed over from the irrational, paralyzing fear to living a life filled with peace – God’s peace.  I want to invite you, friends, to press in and experience God’s peace.  There’s nothing like it and once you’ve tasted it, you won’t want to go back.  I sure don’t.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

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Jesus’ Radar

“…That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (The Message)

 

My husband and I received some bad news yesterday.  I had felt a real peace about it and even though I knew whatever answer we received would be the right one, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.  I felt like God had led us in this direction and so I figured He had it all worked out. With all the adventures and challenges He has brought us through in the last year or so, instead of dwelling on the bad news, I chose to praise Him for the “no,” focus on the positives that occurred, and choose hope that He had something better, the “best” in store for Bill and I in His perfect timing.

Today I was listening to a radio program talking about how before I even knew about the news that we received yesterday, Jesus had been praying about it for us years in advance.  That while things are uncertain for us, God is perfectly at peace in Heaven because He is focused on the outcome – one He already knows.  My job isn’t to worry about what’s next or fear that we’ll miss another opportunity – nope, my job is to focus on Him and trust that when it’s the right time, God will allow all things to fall into place, without my help.

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Now, that isn’t to say I shouldn’t pray about the desires of my heart or pray for a loved one’s safety or healing or pray intercessory prayers for others. On the contrary, the Bible is very clear that intercessory prayers can at times change God’s plans.  However, instead of worrying about the future, instead of worrying that God can’t change my “seemingly impossible situation,” I can have assurance that He has it all under control and before I even knew there was a problem, Jesus was bringing it before our Father for me.

That, my friend, feels peaceful. I love the reassurance that not only does God have the things I bring to Him in prayer under control, but He also has the issues that I’m not even aware of yet under His covering and He’s working on them before they are even on my radar. With that kind of a Father watching out for me, how can I not live my life with peace, joy, and hope?

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

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No Need for Jealousy

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

 

Our family enjoyed a great vacation this summer and I came back refreshed, renewed, and ready to see what else God had planned for our family.  I believe He has some great things planned and I’m excited to get moving on them.

Sometimes I get impatient because I catch a glimpse of what I think God is doing or wanting to do in my life, and then He asks me to wait. And wait.  And wait some more.  However, if God has taught me anything this past year, it’s two very important truths.

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First:  He’s never early, never late – His timing is always perfect.  I can be the impatient child more times than I care to admit. I want to get started and rationalize that I will “learn on the job,” but God in His love knows what I need in order to be equipped for what He ultimately has planned for my life. Honestly? I do appreciate that He holds me back. I would rather be over-prepared (which isn’t His way either) than underprepared.  I would rather learn the skills so I can walk with confidence where He leads than flounder because I stepped too early.

Second: God wants to see me succeed for Him more than I want to succeed in life for Him.  As a result, He doesn’t need my help.  He needs my willingness, my hard work, my obedience – but He doesn’t need my help.  Those divine appointments or encounters that happen?  They will happen as long as I’m obeying and being where He wants me when He wants me there.  Working for someone, advancing in my ministry, adopting a child, choosing to quit my career or change careers – He knows the steps needed more than I do and He knows what needs to happen in what order before I do as well.

As a result, I’ve started to see life and my ministry from a different perspective.  While I always want to be listening closely to His still small voice so as not to miss any of His directions, I don’t have to worry or control the outcome.  God has it.  He saw the ending before I was even born and as long as I’m willingly allowing Him to guide my steps, I will get where He wants me to go when He wants me to arrive.  He’ll put the right people in my path, He’ll give me the right training and for the right length of time, and He’ll put the message in my heart that He wants shared – whether with one person or a crowd of many.

Looking at life from that perspective frees me from being jealous of what others may have.  Instead I can focus on praising God for what He has so abundantly given to me and my family. Regardless of where I am in the journey, I always have a ministry to someone as long as I’m allowing God to use me every single day.  With that truth, there’s no need for jealousy because I’m right where He wants me.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

 

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“You don’t know the impact your step will have on those around you.” Joshua Prius

 

I want to discuss one more truth I learned from Joshua’s sermon regarding Peter walking on the water toward Jesus (Matthew 14: 22-36). The last truth that spoke to my heart was one I had never thought about before…ever.  Matthew 14:33 (NIV) states, “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” I’d assumed that because all the people following Jesus were disciples, they realized who He was and what He was there for.  I’ve always thought about it from hindsight – I knew Jesus died on the cross and rose again, but at this point in history, even though they had seen Jesus perform miracles (many miracles) and heal people (many people physically and spiritually) it says that now is when they worshipped Him and realized Who He really was.

Joshua pointed out not only the above that I’d never thought about before, but that if it weren’t for Peter asking to step out of the boat to get closer to Jesus to begin with, the disciples might not have had that insight until much later. He reminded us that we never know who might be impacted when we chose to step out of the boat in obedience to God.

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While the journey God has me and my family on doesn’t seem all that impressive, I’ve had friends comment about it. I’ve replied that all I’m doing is trying my best to obey and carry out what He has called me to do.  It doesn’t seem all that fancy when my salary still doesn’t pay the bills I’m responsible for, my jobs aren’t all that glamorous, and I work more than I wish I did.  But that part doesn’t matter.  This is where God has called me to be at this point in my life. It doesn’t matter what the job description but it does matter that when God said, “step,” our family stepped.  When God tested our stepping to see if we were truly going to obey, we held on and didn’t turn back to the boat.  God chose to bless that step and will continue to bless our stepping in His time, in His way. While I believe there is more blessing to come (like an income that will be fully replaced), in the meantime I’m choosing to focus on other things. The blessings we do have, the steps that still need to be stepped, and making sure I don’t lose sight that it is Him that I’m to obey and follow – not step out on my own path.

Joshua’s sermon really encouraged me. We’ve just finished a period where God has lavished blessings on our lives.  I would love for this to be the end and I can just relax that the storm is over.  However, while I believe He intended those specific blessings as a chance to refresh, now I need to get back to stepping.  Where the steps are going to lead at this point, I don’t know.  I had started to get discouraged because as I mentioned above, the journey doesn’t appear to be over.  I don’t believe we’ve fully stepped into God’s best for our lives yet but I didn’t see the next step either.  God doesn’t call us to be discouraged, just to continue to be obedient where we are until He shows us the next step.

Thank you, Joshua, for encouraging me to continue to obey where I am until God shows the next step He wants our family to take.  While I got a little sidetracked this past month, my priorities are back where they need to be and I know from prior experience, whatever next steps God has for us, they will be exciting because we’ll be headed where God wants us to go.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

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