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Archive for June, 2017

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” I Corinthians 9:24-25 (The Message)

 

I don’t always like my personality.  I feel disrespectful saying that because I’ve learned over the past few years how insulting it is to God when we say we don’t like something about us that He created and hurting my Father is the last thing I want to do.  However, I think the part of my personality I don’t like wasn’t part of His original design for me.  Or maybe He allowed that aspect of me so that I’d need to reach out and ask Him for help.

I have a tendency at times, maybe it’s to combat the laziness I also possess, to jump in with both feet and bite off more than I can chew.  I don’t think that was God’s purpose when He created me. I’m thinking He wanted me to have that zeal for living but to learn how to balance it alongside rest, fun, etc.  So, it’s not a coincidence that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my relationship with God isn’t a race.  It’s something to be savored and enjoyed – including the ways I grow deeper in that relationship with Him.

I used to work for The Book Club Network and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was in charge of their READERS ONLY GROUP where they give away free Christian/family friendly books every month in exchange for an honest review.  These books are nonfiction as well as every genre you can think of for fiction.  Great books.  Wonderful books.  My own personal library.  (If you’re interested in checking them out for yourself, visit www.bookfun.org) And I learned a lot about God as I read the different types of nonfiction books offered. I use a “Read Through the New Testament in a Year” guide for my Bible reading every day and then I like to read a chapter in a nonfiction devotional type book as well.  It works well for me and I grow deeper in many different spiritual practices that way: marriage, parenting, prayer, self control, etc.

God invited me to resign from that position in mid-January and since then, I’ve been playing a lot of catch up in every area of my life.  That includes reading books from the library.  But my schedule is much busier than it was previously, so I’m finding I have multiple books I’ve reserved from the library sitting, waiting to be read, and I’m having to give them back before I can crack open the spine.  And I’ve been feeling guilty.

However, just because a book is offered at the library, doesn’t mean I have to read it right now.  It’s not a race to see how fast I can read all the great information to help me grow in my relationship with Him; it’s more about the journey and asking God what He wants to teach me in our relationship together. God would much rather I enjoy my time with Him – exploring, talking, debating, communicating, listening and recalculating when I get off course then to check off some imaginary boxes because I’ve “mastered” yet another topic.  It’s a relationship, not a registered class.  It’s about building that relationship, not racing to some imaginary finish line.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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Good Morning!
My website, www.cheriswalwell.com, got a makeover.
I want to invite you to head on over and take a look.
Have a wonderful day!

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“This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” John 15:12 (The Message)

 

I know I’ve talked about this topic before, but it’s worth repeating. I read a great book a couple years ago titled, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.  I loved this book and it has stayed with me long after I closed the cover.  While it was filled with great information, the part that spoke the most to me was how an eight year conversion from Muslim to Christianity came about because of relationship. If you want to be inspired and see how personal God is, I would recommend reading this book.

Maybe I keep thinking about this topic because for so many years I was so busy with little kids, careers, activities and so forth that I didn’t have as much time for relationships as I would’ve liked.  While I filled my time with family and enjoyed it, God allowed me to stay in touch with a few friends who have challenged me, helped me grow spiritually, encouraged me and just plain been there for me.  The last several years God has shifted my schedule some and while I’m still quite busy, I’m able to make a little more time in my life for relationships.  Most of the time it’s spontaneous, but that’s when I know God is in the middle of it.  A spur of the moment invitation to grab coffee, a quick call to see if I’ll be home so someone can “drop something off,” a phone call for prayer and encouragement in between meetings or talking in line when we happen to meet at Panera at 8 AM on a work day.  Relationships.

God is all about relationships.  He modeled that when Jesus walked the earth and desires a personal relationship with all of us.  We get to choose if we have one with Him or not, because He has already issued the invitation to everyone.  It’s up to us to RSVP.

I believe one of the best ways to share what is most important in my life with others is to invite them into my life, my authentic life.  Quickly you’ll see I’m not all put together but that’s okay, because God isn’t asking for perfection.  He only asks for our heart. He doesn’t want us to clean up before RSVPing, He wants us after a hard day’s work, all dirty and sweaty and tired. He’s mastered the skill of creating masterpieces.  Spend any amount of time with me and you’ll see discover I don’t have all the answers, but I can point you to the One who does.

It’s all about relationship – first a relationship with the One who created us all and who wants so much to have a personal relationship with all of us.  Next, with each other so that those who don’t know Him, can be introduced and decide for themselves.  Not beaten over the head to make a decision, but just sit back and watch, if they choose, to see how Christ followers are normal people, not perfect, just forgiven.  And then discover they are given the chance to be forgiven too.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

 

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“Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea, Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!” Psalm 96:3 (The Message)

 

Are you burdened for family members who don’t have a relationship with Christ like you do?  What about a friend, neighbor, co-worker? Do you find it difficult to share your faith with someone close to you or have you tried and walls seem to get built higher instead of torn down?

I used to believe God gave the gift of evangelizing (you know, the fancy word for sharing from our hearts about our relationship with God with others) to some but not others and therefore, if we didn’t have the gift, we were off the hook.  But then I started reading the Bible more closely and realized that “evangelizing” is a command He gives to everyone who is His child.  His main purpose for humankind is to share His love and the gospel message (how someone can gain eternal life in Heaven too) with everyone.  He didn’t say only Johnny and Cindy had to evangelize and Brad and Mary could use their gift of hospitality instead.  No, every single one of us is invited to share the gospel message with those who will listen.

Lately I’ve been thinking about that a lot.  There are certain people that I pray for regularly because I know they don’t know God personally and I’m not sure if they really want to.  It’s not my place to determine their choice; I’m just supposed to be obedient.  I also know that God doesn’t call us to beat people over the head with His message either.  He’s a gentleman in every sense of the word and therefore, if He’s not going to force us into a relationship with Him, He doesn’t want us manhandling others into His kingdom either.  So what do we do when we have people we love who don’t seem to listen?  I pray God will send someone into their life whom they will listen to.  I don’t care if it’s me who is able to have that heart-to-heart talk with them and lead them to Christ or if it’s someone else. I just want the people I love to be in Heaven with me for all eternity and sometimes I’m not the right person for the job.

That got me thinking.  If I’m praying for someone to come into the lives of those I love, maybe other Christ followers are praying that exact same prayer about those they love.  And if that’s true, then maybe God wants to use me in someone else’s life to share about how much God loves him or her in the same way I pray that God will use another person in the lives of my loved ones.

Have you considered that you might be the one God is wanting to use in the life of someone else?  To reach someone’s loved one who can’t reach them himself?  I wouldn’t want the person I’m praying to touch those I love with God’s love to ignore His prompt.  And I don’t want to ignore the prompt to be that to someone else either.

Maybe God is waiting to use you and your invitation to share His love with someone you least expect it. Maybe He is wanting you to be willing to step out with that message while He invites someone else to do the same for those you love but can’t seem to reach.  Maybe…

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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Choosing Life

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love… ” Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 (NIV)

 

Those of you who follow me regularly know that God gave me the word JOY and also Blessings for 2017.  A few years back God started to speak to me about putting “fun” back in our family and while I wanted Eyeore kicked out and Tigger to move back in, it took a little longer than I had hoped.

(photo courtesy of Stephanie Wittenrich)

One of the amazing things about our Father is that while He is ever the gentleman and doesn’t force His choice on us, when He knows it’s good for us and He knows we want to do life His way, He will continue to offer opportunities for us to get off the path we’re on and follow the path where He’s leading.

When God told me that JOY was my word this year, I was determined to figure out how He wanted me to implement that into our family life.  I had many false starts and stops, the enemy tried to derail me a few times with throwing curveballs, but I was (and am) determined to find that JOY (which lasts longer and is a lifestyle change compared to temporary “fun”) and figure out how to infuse it into our family life regularly.

As with all other metamorphoses God chooses to take me on, it has become more of a mindset change than a “follow the directions for expected result” change.  God used a simple thought, shared with me through multiple people, blogs, and messages over a number of days: God gave me this life and He wants me to ENJOY it.  He not only gives me permission to enjoy it – when I don’t enjoy His blessings, I hurt Him.

It may seem strange to others that I have to give myself permission to enjoy the life and blessings God gives me on a daily basis, but I do.  I get so fixated on making sure I’m walking in the direction God wants me to walk, achieving the goals God wants me to achieve, teaching my children the lessons God wants me to teach, blessings others and not missing opportunities, etc. that I suck the joy out of life until there isn’t anything left over.  That’s NOT the way God wants us to live.
While God doesn’t want me to be selfish and only live for myself, He does want me to wake up in the morning and enjoy my husband.  He wants me to wake my kids up and enjoy a conversation, a joke, a hug before we start the chaos of the morning.  He wants me to enjoy that cup of coffee, that workout (no, really), my work, my ministry, my friends, that shopping trip.  He wants me to see the joy in life.  And when I started looking, really looking, I realized there was so much joy waiting for me and I was missing it.

I know God gave me the word JOY for a whole year for a reason. I’ll admit I get sidetracked easily and slip back into my life of rules, schedules, get it done, etc. and forget to look up and see the JOY waiting for me.  If you ask my kids, they probably don’t see much of a change yet; but I’m slowly changing and soon, hopefully they will notice too.  A quick get away with my husband this past spring, a spontaneous coffee date with a friend one Friday morning, turning the radio up loudly while cleaning the house with two of my kids last night – all reasons to feel JOY.

Life is hard… sometimes really hard.  But even in the hard, look up and see if you can find the JOY God is waiting for you to discover.  Then, if you really feel energetic, share that JOY with someone else to keep the cycle going so they can find the JOY in their life to share that with someone else… and someone else… and someone else.

(photo courtesy of Stephanie Wittenrich)

I’m going to try and be more mindful to choose JOY daily instead of waiting until that special vacation or when I retire or when I get to where I think I’ve achieved whatever I think I’m supposed to achieve. God loves us all and wants us to feel JOY as we daily choose to embrace life, not just merely survive.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“… didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”

I Corinthians 6:19-20 (The Message)

 

God loves each one of us so personally.  Did you know that He wants us to succeed more than we do? Let me say that again.  He wants us to live an abundant life and succeed more than we want to succeed.

I’ve struggled with eating healthy and exercising for a long time.  I’m not sure why.  When I think about it realistically, it makes sense to move my body purposefully every day and the benefits I get from those movements last all day, all week, all month.  However, life gets busy or I get sick and my routine falls by the wayside and it’s hard to pick it back up again.  Sitting on the couch with another cup of coffee sounds more appealing than putting on my workout clothes and climbing onto the treadmill.

However, because God loves me so much, He gave me an accountability partner this spring.  One who has the right mix of compassion and “you will do this, no excuses!” Not only that, but this person is knowledgeable about fitness and has been helping me work on strength training instead of just cardio.  I was introduced to the 7-Minute Workout Interval in order to help me work my core muscles, not just burn calories. While I’m still new enough at it I’m not sure I notice a difference, I definitely am gaining more energy and feeling sore in muscles that are starting to wake up again.

One of the things my accountability partner said that made a lot of sense to me was this, “It’s seven minutes out of your life.  Who doesn’t have seven minutes to invest in themselves?”  Point well taken.  God used those words to make me think about it a little deeper.  It’s not just seven minutes out of my life… it’s seven minutes toward life.  A healthier life ready to serve Him.  A healthier life to serve my family.  A healthier life to life abundantly because the opportunities will be more available when I’m healthy enough to say “yes” to them as they are presented.

The goal is to do the workout three times a day every day.  I’m not quite there.  I’m still working on every day once a day, but I will get there, eventually.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  I’m not working out to fit into a specific bathing suit by beach weather.  I’m working out to be the healthiest version of “me” that God created so that I can fulfill the purpose He gave for me during my lifetime.  I’ve noticed that while I may not be at every day yet with 7 minutes a day, I’m working out on the treadmill daily for longer and faster stretches.  I’m gaining endurance, I’m gaining energy and ultimately I’m gaining health.  Slow and steady, but it’s coming.

Seven minutes out of my life?  Or seven minutes toward life?  I thank God for bringing into my life my accountability partner and I thank my accountability partner for offering plenty of encouragement while not allowing any excuses to enter the conversation.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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~~  AVAILABLE NOW  ~~

 

Spoken from the Heart:
Parenting 101 Vol. 5

 Just in time for Father’s Day!

Now a days it seems as though everyone has an opinion on how you parent… and isn’t afraid to share it!

If you choose to read the words between these pages, don’t expect lectures, how-to guides or magic formulas.  Nope. No judgement here.  Just one parent to another, sharing my own experiences and the truths that the best parent, the First Parent, our Heavenly Father, has shared with me.  Please join me on this adventure of parenting… one of the most rewarding positions in life.

Available now at Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions

http://amzn.to/2s07UPk

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~~  AVAILABLE NOW  ~~

 

Spoken from the Heart:
Parenting 101 Vol. 5

 

Just in time for Father’s Day!

Now a days it seems as though everyone has an opinion on how you parent… and isn’t afraid to share it!

If you choose to read the words between these pages, don’t expect lectures, how-to guides or magic formulas.  Nope. No judgement here.  Just one parent to another, sharing my own experiences and the truths that the best parent, the First Parent, our Heavenly Father, has shared with me.  Please join me on this adventure of parenting… one of the most rewarding positions in life.

Available now at Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions

http://amzn.to/2s07UPk

Read Full Post »

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

 

A few months ago I attended our church’s Awana award’s ceremony.  This is the night when all the kids’ hard work culminates and they receive awards depending upon how much work they put in all year long. I helped lead a “team” throughout the year, so while sitting with my own little charges around me, I enjoyed watching all the other leaders congratulate their kids.  In addition to words of encouragement spoken, more often than not it was accompanied by physical touch.  Big hugs for the preschoolers, side hugs or high fives for the middle age kids and fist bumps and high fives for the older kids.  Each according to the comfort level of the child, all very appropriate.

Two days later, on what I thought was a typical morning, our family was scrambling around to get ready for school.  In the usual chaos I guess I was more “harsh” than usual because one of my children got upset and accused me of “yelling” all morning and then cited several examples of when those injustices occurred. I remembered each of those examples clearly but I didn’t think I had even raised my voice except to be heard over the chaos, certainly not to be “mean.”

However, does it really matter how I perceived it?  Or does it matter more what was spoken to my child’s heart?  I immediately gathered our child in my arms, apologized for what sounded mean, explained it wasn’t meant that way and made sure my body language and tone reflected my true feelings this time around.

The very next day I was listening to the radio and caught the tail end of a conversation.  The host was stating how a person’s body language was just as important to the conversation as the words that were said.  I couldn’t agree more.  I had to stop and think, “What message do I send to people when we’re talking – whether it’s family, friends, co-workers or strangers?”

That particular week I made a special point to add more physical touch into my repertoire with my family.  All of my family… even the teenagers who might not ask for it as much.  I want my husband and my kids to know unequivocally how much they are loved and valued just because they are “them.”  I was glad for the chance to sit and observe at the Awana award’s night that week… and to let it soften my heart and remind me that everyone, no matter how young or old, can benefit from appropriate loving physical touch as well as the right tone of voice daily.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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God Never Quits

“Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.” Psalm 119:90 (NIV)

 

God loves us.  Each one of us.  If you were the only person alive, God would still have sent Jesus to die in your place so that you could have a relationship with Him.  That’s how much He loves each one of us.  Completely.  Totally.  Personally.

God has been inviting me on a journey of learning how to make that knowledge heart knowledge instead of just head knowledge.  You know, the kind of lesson that sticks, where “you know that you know that you know,” even on days where the enemy tries to distract you or make you think otherwise.

Because He’s so personal, He uses a variety of ways to get my attention and I love it.  I’ve spoken before about the significance of deer for me.  While I know it’s spring and deer are out in abundance right now, God has been showing me them when I least expect it, but when I need it most.  I love that.

I’ve been talking lately about the inconveniences we recently experienced as a family.  We’ve had a chance to catch up on sleep before we face an extremely busy week coming up.  I went to bed fine last night, peaceful and tired enough to sleep through the night.  However, I was jolted awake at 3 AM this morning, afraid.  I wasn’t even sure what I was afraid of.  I asked God to tell me if He wanted me to pray for a specific person.  Nope.  Didn’t get a positive response to that.  I got up and checked my email in case He had a message for me about someone that way and nope, all was quiet.  So I went back to bed, but still couldn’t sleep.  My mind was racing a mile a minute and all kinds of things to be afraid of were spinning around.  Things that were possibilities as well as things that weren’t.

However, the whole time my mind was racing, a particular song was also vying for my attention.  Only the chorus was playing through my mind, so I decided to combat the “worries” with singing the song.  Instead of dwelling on the “what ifs” I chose to sing silently in my head (I didn’t figure Bill would appreciate getting serenaded at 3:30 AM by this time). I never did go back to sleep but singing that song reminded me of my blessings and I woke up “happy” in my Father’s love and my husband’s physical arms.

My day was busy.  After dropping off all three kids, I had a few errands I needed to run and I turned on the radio since I was alone in the car.  The exact song of the chorus that had been repeating through my mind this morning at 3 AM was playing on the radio which gave me a chance to hear all the words.  The words spoke about having God’s peace through crippling fear and being safe in God’s arms the whole time.

I love how personal He is.  He didn’t have to reassure me at 3 AM when I couldn’t sleep.  He didn’t have to woo me with a love song, inviting me to sing along until I felt His peace, chose to see the amazing blessings He has lavished on our family or thanked Him for always being there.  He didn’t have to but He chose to.  Because our Father never quits loving us, blessing us, protecting us, being there for us.  He never leaves us… because He never quits.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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