Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2016

Fear God – Part II

Maybe we have to start redefining how we understand God’s love…”

(Susan May Warren from It Had to be You)

 

Last time we talked I mentioned that I had asked God a question, “What lie have I been believing that would make it so hard for me to believe You truly love me, that You aren’t out to get me?”  I really wanted to know this answer because I thought it might help explain why my mind automatically went to Him being a judge and wanting to punish me when bad things happened.

You see, God had taken me on a journey this year and while our family had trials, I started to realize that the trials aren’t meant as a punishment – they are just part of the bigger picture.  Sometimes a person has to experience pain in order to grow.  And when God wants us to grow, that’s a good thing because it usually means He’s waiting to use us in a spectacular way.

DSCN5265

So, I asked God my question, waited a few minutes and then went about my day.  I knew from previous experience that God didn’t need me sitting quietly to hear the answer.  If He wasn’t going to answer immediately, I knew He would answer in His time, and until then, there was laundry to do, lunches to pack, and dinner to be made.

As I was bending over the dryer changing out the loads, God gave me a memory… one I hadn’t thought about in years.  I was back in elementary school having a conversation with one of my friends who also happened to go to my church.  I was asked the question, “Do you fear God?” In my innocence, I answered, “No,” because in my mind, I wasn’t afraid of God.  I didn’t have to be.  He was loving, kind and just. The response I received back was this, “Well, your dad spoke in his sermon yesterday about how we’re supposed to fear God, so you need to fear Him.”

Then I was reminded of a devotional I had read within the past 24 hours describing the different words for “fearing God.” When the Bible talks about fearing God, it means to revere, respect, hold in high esteem… not be afraid of.

 

In that moment, God solved the mystery for me.  I had innocently accepted a lie that I carried with me into adulthood. I didn’t understand the different meanings of “fear” and never thought to ask my parents for clarification.  I thought I was disobeying because I didn’t “fear” God, so it was then the seed took root and grew.

I have since come to realize that while God does allow natural consequences, He doesn’t punish us for fun or because He’s cruel.  God tells us over and over in His Word that whatever pain we have to endure during this lifetime, whatever has been lost will be restored, either here on earth or in Heaven, but restoration will occur.

If you are battling health problems and continue to trust God for strength, He will restore.  If your finances are struggling and you are obeying God’s strategies for money management, He will restore.  Whatever challenge you are facing, if you continue to trust God, He will restore… in His time, in His way.

Come back next time and find out how God used the story of David to further remind me how He loves to bless His children.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

Read Full Post »

Fear God – Part I

Satan wants you to believe God is vindictive and cruel. God is just, yes, but He tempers that with love. The Bible talks over and over about how He stays His hand, how He gives His servants chance after chance.” (Susan May Warren from The Wonder of You)

I have spent too many years of my life under the false assumption that God was out to get me.  That I had to earn His love and didn’t really understand what grace meant. Unconditional love? Understood that even less.

One memory that stands out in my mind is when our children were six and three (our oldest two). My husband and I had no debt and we planned a trip to Disneyworld, with cash, for a family vacation right before Christmas.  A few weeks before we were to leave, we found out we were pregnant with our third child.  While we were both super excited to get to raise another child, we hadn’t exactly planned to be a family of five.

100_1197

I remember having a conversation with Bill approximately one week before our trip.  I told him I had this bad feeling… either that we were all going to die while on vacation or our baby was going to die.  I couldn’t shake the feeling but I felt like God was mad at me and wanted to punish me.  He reassured me that isn’t how God does things and besides, we weren’t doing anything outside of His will so there was nothing to punish us for.

We went on our vacation and had a great time.  Made lots of family memories and despite an ice storm the day before we were to fly out and a sick three-year-old on antibiotics the entire trip, it was considered a success.  One morning less than a week after we returned home, I woke up and within a few hours miscarried.  Two months later began what has been an eight-year journey of health issues for my husband that have tried us financially, emotionally, and physically.

Now, does that mean that God was mad at us and punished us? Does that mean that because I “sinned” someway, I deserved to lose our baby before I had a chance to meet him and my husband deserved to get sick? No, to all of it.

I grew up in a loving Christian home where relationship versus religion was modeled.  Our family had stresses like every other and none of us were perfect (thank goodness), so in the scheme of things, I was very blessed to be raised by the parents whom God chose for me.  So… this past year I’ve wondered, “What lie have I been believing that would make it so hard for me to trust that God truly loves me and isn’t out to get me?”

Come back next time and I will tell you how He answered that heartfelt question in such an amazing way.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

Read Full Post »

Pain Has a Purpose

Pain Has a Purpose

 

“For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:10 (NIV)

 

My oldest and I were having a conversation about people who don’t feel physical pain and how on one hand it would be great but in reality, it’s quite dangerous.  We were in agreement that we’re given the sensation of pain for a purpose… and that got me thinking.

To say I’ve been overwhelmed lately is an understatement.  I’ve felt pressure to get in my hours for one job while meeting deadlines for my other.  I’m currently publishing a book while reaching out to people for four other book projects.  Then, my real job: wife to an amazing man and mother to three terrific kids of whom I want to share in the details of their lives which includes concessions, parties, doctors’ appointments, serving at church. I’m sure you juggle your own hectic schedule. I could probably handle the above fairly well except for the fact I added some heavy emotional heartaches additionally to my already overwhelmed physical body.  I think emotional trials are worse at times than physically draining ones.

DSCN5575

While I know the answer is to turn to God and just trust that He has this, my exhausted body is crying out for more sleep and less “commitment,” less “pain.”   I know I’m where God wants me to be and that this is just a busy season… I know that it will slow down to a reasonable pace, I’m just in a period of busy and while it’s crazy at times, I will someday miss it. I know I will.  I did repeatedly stop working when the feelings of overwhelmed felt like they would crush me and go spend time in prayer, multiple times in the past few days, giving my worries and fears to Him as well as my schedule, and I saw results.  He took some things off my plate by whispering in my ear someone who could do a better job which freed me up for other assignments. He relieved the guilt when I had to turn some activities down for lack of time, and He restored my hope that He has this… down to the last detail.

But the above statement that we’re given the sensation of pain for a purpose hit home not twenty minutes after the words were spoken. I received an email asking for prayer.  When I read the email, I was filled with a sense of, “This is why God allows pain…”  One of the first things mentioned in the email was the feeling of being overwhelmed and at the end of self. I thought, “Boy can I relate to feeling overwhelmed… and I also know Who has the answer to that.” When I dropped to my knees to pray, I was able to pray from the standpoint of being there, not as an outsider who could only guess to the feelings behind the words “overwhelmed.”  While our situations are different, the feelings are the same.  When I cried out to God on that person’s behalf, I used the same language and same heartfelt prayer I had uttered to Him for myself not a few hours earlier.

Pain isn’t fun… no matter when we experience it.  And while I truly believe it was never in God’s perfect plan for us to experience, ever, it entered when sin happened.  God, who never changes, did what He always does when the evil one creates something to hurt humans.  God, in His love, took the pain and used it to spur His children on to pray empathetically for others, having experienced the same feelings themselves.

I love serving a God who takes the sin of the world and finds a way to give it purpose. While I still don’t like pain or feeling overwhelmed, the next time those feelings come crashing down on me, I will try to remember that while unpleasant, they help me better pray for others who are themselves experiencing the same emotions.  While that won’t take the pain away, maybe it will at least change my perspective and remind me once again that God has this.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

Read Full Post »

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

 

I just finished sharing about the way that God saves, frees and heals.  But it wouldn’t be right for me to ignore the fact that sometimes God chooses not to heal physically or emotionally here on earth.  Just in my circle of acquaintances and family members, I know of too many children who have suffered with cancer only to lose the fight here on earth.  A baby who was born with a heart condition spent only one day outside the walls of the hospital, finally succumbing nine months later after a valiant fight. Babies that never breathed their first breath on earth, being chosen to take their first breath in Heaven instead. An innocent man involved in an accident which left him with physical disabilities as well as a traumatic brain injury, allowing him to struggle everyday with tasks he used to perform with ease. A mother of three leaving her children too soon due to a congenital heart condition, here one minute, gone immediately the next. Alzheimer’s. Friends and family members diagnosed with chronic illness, mental illness, or depression – suffering daily on the inside while they look healthy on the outside.

WP_20150510_11_44_39_Pro

What about them? Why have they not been healed?  After asking God this question for years, here’s my answer. Look to the verse above.  The older I get, the more I don’t pretend to know why God does what He does.  Why He allows (He allows bad things to happen – the sickness is due to sin and the evil one gets credit for that) some people to suffer more during their time on earth than others.  Why some people are entrusted with more than others, gifted more than others, and destined for greatness above others.  I do know that He made us – each unique and each with a different set of skills, talents, gifts, and passions. Some of our passions naturally move us toward fields of greatness – medicine, finance, a business sense which enables us to manage corporate companies without batting an eye.  Others of us are more gifted in the creative arts, engineering, politics, or law.  Still others have a caring nature that leads them to work in daycares, be homemakers, teachers, or nurses.  All with varying education and all with varying salary potential.

Is it the same with healing?  I do know that everything God does is so that He gets the glory to point people back toward loving Him and being introduced to a relationship with Him.  Whether a person chooses that relationship or not is up to each individual, but everything God does is with that goal in mind. He wants everyone to experience a relationship with Him in Heaven for all eternity.  That is His heart, His mission, His passion and He wants us to have that goal too.  So, then, does God allow some people the “privilege” of sickness, disease, trials, and struggles so that His glory can be shown through their lives?  I do know that from everyone I’ve talked to, when trials and sickness and challenges come, we have a choice to either cling tighter to God and let His glory shine through our lives or turn away from God and harden their hearts. Those who cling to Him are heaped with blessings and comfort and a closeness with God that can only come from being in the thick of that war with disease, illness, or specific challenge.

I want to leave you with one last thought: While God may not choose to heal everyone we want to in the way that we want Him to, God does eventually heal everyone.  Some here on earth, others not until Heaven, but they are healed. While it’s not my job to understand why and how the God of the universe makes His decisions, it is my job to come to His throne and ask for healing for those I love, those He puts in my path, and those He lays on my heart.  Since I don’t know His mind and what His choice is, who am I to not ask for healing for everyone, knowing full well that the ultimate decision of where that person is healed is in God’s hands, not mine?  And, really, are there any other hands I would rather entrust my loved one to than His?

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

Read Full Post »

 

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Psalm 29:11 (NIV)

 

Friday I spoke about how our family was greeted with two whammies the first Monday in January this year.  While praying the prayer of Exodus 14:13-14, I asked God a question: “Lord, why does it seem as though there are always Egyptians?” And out of the silence, here was His response: Egyptians are always present when you are living your life correctly.

I had to think about that for a minute.  It was true.  Ten years ago I prayed and asked God to use me for His purpose – whatever that meant.  He answered that prayer by taking our family on the journey of writing.  It’s been exciting, scary, and definitely not the safest route with a 401K and paid time off.  However, it’s been what’s right for our family.  It was then I realized that “whammies” will continue to pop up in a life that is living for Christ.  When we make choices that please God, ultimately those choices anger the enemy.  This year our family has made some choices that are angering the enemy.  The Bible is very plain – the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. Now my choices weren’t made in an attempt to anger him, but anger him I do when I choose to live a life sold out for God.

Spoken_from_the_Hear_Cover_for_Kindle

What does that mean?  It means I’m the same person you’ve always known, just someone who loves God a little deeper and stronger.  When He asks me to share about the excitement I have in my relationship with Him, I’m going to. When He prompts me to call people to encourage them that He wants that relationship with them as well, I’m going to reach out. When He nudges me that it’s time to quit pretending to change areas in my life I’ve struggled with for years and get bold and serious about the changes needed, no matter what, then I’m going to boldly approach God and say, “I’m done dealing with a food addiction.  Help me change, whatever it takes.”

Those types of statements anger the enemy. Those types of statements can at times create whammies in my life to distract me from the purpose God wants me to pursue for Him.  However, God is right there ready to remind me of the Truth. He is stronger than anything the enemy can dish out, He loves to take what the enemy means for evil and bring good for His glory out of it, and He loves children who are willing to obey Him no matter what.

I finished my walk with peace – the peace that can only come from the Person Jesus Christ Himself.  The circumstances haven’t changed.  There is still the possibility of some big whammies hitting this year.  However, they are just possibilities.  The God I serve is bigger than possibilities.  I have a choice.  I can trust His Word, which reminds me He will do the fighting (He wants to fight for me). I can choose to rest in His peace until we find out exactly what we are dealing with (the outcome may be better than we originally feared) while listening for God to direct what He wants us to do.  Or, I can start out 2016 worried about things that may never come to pass.

Embracing the Adventure kindle cover

I realized on my walk this very important point.  Life, when lived right, should be lived boldly for God.  That means living with the possibility of whammies – not something to be feared, but instead to embrace for two reasons.  One, if we’re making choices in our lives that anger the enemy, then we’re doing something right.  And, two, if we are God’s children, then we already know the final outcome.  He wins!  Which means we win!  It doesn’t mean the fight might not be hard at times, but we weren’t called to live a life of pleasure on this earth.  We were called to share God’s love with people who desperately need it.  When done authentically, that decision won’t make Satan happy. It just won’t. However, when done the way Jesus modeled in the Bible, God will continue to fight for us.  He never asked us to fight by ourselves or in our strength.  He asked us to come boldly to His throne and ask for His strength.

 

TheAdventureContinuesKindle - FINAL

God gave me the word “peace” this year for a reason.  So I’m choosing peace as I face the whammies presented yesterday.  God wins! Now I’m going to wait and see what part God wants me to play in that victory.

I might still see if my husband wants to take the first Monday in January off with me next year – not out of fear but because I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of a new year that having an all-day date with my best friend!

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

 

Two weeks ago I talked about anniversaries and how instead of greeting the first Monday in January with fear, I was peaceful because God reminded me that He knew the circumstances of my “new year” long before I was even born.  Even more than that, He knew the outcome and how He was going to take care of me and my family.

I planned to spend Monday, January 4, 2016, taking care of me.  Instead of jumping right back into work with both feet, I was going to take that day and organize, respond to emails, work a little on some writing projects that God has been nudging me to focus on, and just ease into my routine, in a quiet house, without my children’s chaos in the background that I absolutely love.  If they could stay home every day, While they were glad to go back and see their friends, I was going to just take the time to be thankful for my employment and cross off many things from my too long “to do” list.

DSCN5836

Six hours later, I didn’t have much progress to show except that I’d received two whammies instead of the one whammy dealt last year.  I jokingly told my husband that next year I was cancelling the first Monday in January since the third time you either strike out or it’s a charm and I wasn’t going to find out which it would be.  These whammies are more of an indirect hit on our family, but the resulting blow would still be significant. I prayed, reminding God that He gave me the word “peace” this year for a reason – the peace that comes from Him despite our circumstances, not from the circumstances themselves. God reminded me of the promise He gave me the week before: He knew what news would be received on Monday, January 4th, before I was born.  He also knows the outcome.  God also gave me an amazing husband who reminds me of these truths and talks me down when worry tries to creep back in.  I can either trust God or I can try and fix it myself.  His wisdom or mine? I knew what answer I was choosing.

The next morning, I started out praying the promise of the above verse.  God gave me that verse in the spring of 2014, right before our family stepped into a time of testing.  I started praying it again, reminding myself that God is fighting the Egyptians in our life for us.  I don’t have to fight.  I just have to name the Egyptians I want God to take care of for me, take my hands off and go about completing what He has called me to do. Then I can watch and see what He is going to do, while listening for His whispers in case He gives me a new assignment.

I asked Him a question: “Lord, why does it seem as though there are always Egyptians?” Come back next time and find out how God answered me.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

Read Full Post »

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together, I spoke about how I took a leap of faith and asked God to heal me from my food addiction, an addiction I’ve had for over 30 years. Throughout the rest of the summer, while I didn’t see much progress of the scale going downward, I noticed the changes I talked about last time. During that time, we had another guest speaker who added more puzzle pieces to the journey of healing.

He spoke about how healing can at times be instantaneous.  Other times we have to carry out Jesus’ instructions in the above verse, Matthew 16:24, and deny ourselves, give up our selfish ways, practice discipline.  He also spoke about how a person has to really, really want the healing to take place.  He used his father as an example with alcoholism and while his dad had asked for freedom from the clutches of alcoholism many, many times, he admitted that he honestly didn’t want to be freed from never drinking again. He wasn’t ready to give up drinking, not really, and it wasn’t until he came to that place of desiring freedom over a drink that God could fully work in his life.

WP_20150510_11_41_29_Pro

I had to think about that in my life.  Many times in the past I had begged God for healing of my food addiction, but yet as I described last time, I still wanted to be able to eat whenever/whatever I wanted. I wanted the freedom of eating how I wanted, not the freedom from food addiction.  This time, however, when I prayed and asked God to heal me, there was a difference.  I truly wanted to be free from this burden, this stronghold in my life. While I wasn’t healed instantaneously, I could tell healing was taking place.  I notice subtle things, as described last time, but yet the missing piece was spoken above – I still had to practice self discipline.  I could enjoy all food but within the discipline (boundaries) of listening to my body and choosing health.

During this same time, a friend and I started having some in-depth conversations about inner healing.  While I know that I have trust issues, I never really knew where they came from. Because my Father loves me so much and knows that I want to be completely free, He brought the “classroom” to me through the above sermons and even through a radio program, Family Life.

One of my jobs involves repetitive work once a month.  I actually get excited when I know it’s coming up because that means I get a chance to listen to the Family Life archives while I work.  Approximately six hours of God’s truth being poured into me.  I log on and then select from the list of different topics what I feel God is whispering He wants me to listen too.  One particular topic I picked last month ended up speaking to me a bit more personally than I imagined. Like others, I have areas in my past that I regret. I’ve never claimed to be perfect, but I thought I had moved on…forgetting the past and looking toward the future as Paul writes about in Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV). So when I was listening to the message late one night and the truths about what was being said started resonating with me, I was thrown a little… okay, a lot.  I thought that was one area of my life where I had “moved on.”  God showed me that healing still needed to take place because the symptoms of that incident were further reaching than I realized.  The next night I had a dream which left me feeling melancholy. Instead of letting it ruin my day with my family, I took those feelings to God and said, “I don’t know what to do with this, but You do. Show me how You want me to process this and what, if anything, You want me to do.” That night, when we went to church, God used Pastor James’ sermon about healing to speak directly to me about this particular incident.

While I’m not healed yet, I’m confident that God loves me enough to continue that journey with me… whether through more sermons at my church, radio programs, books He puts in my path, or friends I can bounce sensitive topics off of.

I know that my experience with God isn’t unique. He loves each of His children so much that when we actively listen, seek His best for our lives, and are willing to go down the paths that are marked “difficult,” God can do amazing things in our lives.  Sometimes it’s instantaneous, sometimes it’s a process, but always, in God’s timing, it’s perfect for our individual situations.

Come back next time for one more aspect of this journey.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »