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Archive for April, 2018

“Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’” John 11:40 (NIV)

 

This past winter a lot of the country went through a significant period of deep, bone-chilling temperatures.  At the time of this writing, I honestly have forgotten how many weeks it’s been since the thermometer has been above a single digit number and that doesn’t account for the wind chill factored in either.  Yesterday was the first day I started to acknowledge that I’m cold … really cold.  I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude about the cold snap.  “It can’t last that long … it should break soon … remember I’d rather be cold and try to warm up than be hot and not able to cool down.”  However, all that positive self-talk finally gave in this week to the simple truth that it’s freezing and I’m freezing no matter how many layers I put on.  And I allowed myself to acknowledge that fact.

This morning I listened to the seven-day weather report and saw two days next week of 36 degrees.  Those numbers seem almost spring like compared to what we’ve experienced. And I realized while it’s been probably over two weeks of frigid, arctic like temperatures, next week we’ll get relief.  And I’m hopeful again. Even though I’m still chilled to the bone despite how many cups of hot coffee and hot tea I’m drinking, by next week I’ll be peeling off at least one of the three layers and may even break out into a sweat.

The bitterly cold weather reminded me of my spiritual life.  When I would face challenges or difficulties in life, I tried to maintain a positive attitude, especially when they first began.  “Oh, this won’t last long.  It’s a good learning experience.  Soon this test/training/lesson will be over, I’ll have learned what I was supposed to and be ready to move on to some rest in between the storms life gives.”  But then days turned into weeks and there usually came a time when I finally acknowledged, “Okay, God, this is a lot harder than I thought it would be.  It’s not ending nearly as quickly as I thought it should.  There are more factors to this than I originally planned for,” and I began complaining, either out loud or inwardly.  But then God, in His mercy, would show me a few days of higher than normal temperatures and I would realize, “Oh, there is an end … it will get better” and all of a sudden the weeks, months and years that our family dealt with an issue didn’t seem as long or as hard as they were when we were walking through them.

I wrote this post while still experiencing the cold snap even though you’re reading it in the spring when all thoughts of snow are a distant memory.  Another great reminder to me to always praise God while I’m still going through the trial because it will get better, eventually.  Then, when the trial finally is over, I can look back and realize it wasn’t as bad as it felt when I was actually walking through it. Or, maybe it was seriously that bad … but God got me through.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Spoken from the Heart:
Choosing a Faith-Filled Adventure

 

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If you sign up to join the Spoken from the Heart READERS CLUB

Email me at (clSwalwell99@gmail.com) that you’ve signed up

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For a limited time, get the whole Adventure Series for only 99 cents each

Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith

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Buy your copy today and one for a friend.

 

Please share with your friends and encourage them to join the READER’S CLUB for their free book

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Available Now for Preorder for only 99 Cents:

Spoken from the Heart:
Choosing a Faith-Filled Adventure

 

On Amazon:

eBook: https://amzn.to/2vPKHD8

If you sign up to join the Spoken from the Heart READERS CLUB

Email me at (clSwalwell99@gmail.com) that you’ve signed up

and I will send you the first book in the Adventure Series FREE

For a limited time, get the whole Adventure Series for only 99 cents each

Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith

Spoken from the Heart: Embracing the Adventure

Spoken from the Heart: The Adventure Continues

Buy your copy today and one for a friend.

 

Please share with your friends and encourage them to join the READER’S CLUB for their free book

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God’s Silence

“O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.”

Psalm 83:1 (NIV)

 

Have you ever asked God a question about your life, an important decision you have to make or for guidance and wisdom … and all you hear is silence?

I’ve experienced that multiple times throughout my life.  I’ve had many discussions about that with Christian friends and they have been quick to remind me God gave Abraham the promise of being the father of many nations … and then He was silent for 25 years before it was fulfilled.  Noah was 500 years old when God told him to build the ark … and he was 600 years old when God told him to enter the ark. Moses wandered the desert for 40 years learning how to survive in those conditions so that he could then lead the Israelites through the desert for 40 years.  And … did you know that God was completely silent for 400 years between the end of Malachi (the Old Testament) and when Gabriel spoke to Mary in the New Testament of Matthew?  Four hundred years of silence …

With the above examples, how can I be upset when I think God doesn’t answer me soon enough because I don’t get an immediate answer?  I can’t imagine the lifespan of four of our generations going through life without hearing from God.  I know God had a divine purpose for that silence … He has a divine purpose for everything He chooses to do and I’m not arguing or debating His choice.  I’m just saying I think we’re blessed we serve God who chooses to talk to us and wants to have a personal, living relationship with us.  I, for one, want to take advantage of that relationship and talk with Him as often as possible.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing the concept of praying without ceasing.  Praying throughout the day.  I was telling her I thank Him for being able to merge onto the highway without having cars all around, I ask Him to help me with the work I have to accomplish that day that feels overwhelming, I ask for His wisdom and advice about which books to write, which jobs to take and what to make for dinner.  I ask Him what books He wants me to read, thank Him for the time to read them or the work to keep me busy.  I talk to Him about the big things, little things and everything in between.  I ask for wisdom and blessings on our marriage, on any issues our kids are dealing with, thank Him for the many blessings He provides daily (whether it’s an unexpected gift or a hug from my husband).  I talk to God continuously and when I’m not talking to Him, I’m sitting in silence listening for Him to talk to me or worshipping Him through singing along with the radio or the song He has put on my heart.

Silence … I’ve always associated silence with something bad.  Silent treatment.  Someone is displeased with me. Pins and needles.  However, I’m learning in my relationship with God silence isn’t always bad.  Sometimes God allows silence between us so that I will pray harder, listen closer or wait … until He’s ready to speak.  Sometimes silence is a faith test.  Will I walk in the direction He asked me to walk before I see what He’s going to do?

Silence can be very difficult to break down and figure out what exactly it means.  But silence can also be the perfect place to find God and really hear His voice. Trust God in the silence in your own life.  Ask Him questions and then sit silently waiting for His answer.  Trust the promise He gave you ahead of time and keep walking in that direction until you see the promise fulfilled.  When we come to God with the right attitude of wanting His will, He will answer, in His time.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Hedge of Protection

“The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;” Psalm 34:19 (NIV)

 

I’ve talked here many times about how I used to be afraid … very afraid of many things. I was afraid of the dark, afraid my family would die and leave me an orphan, grew to be afraid of thunderstorms, etc.

I don’t remember exactly when I started praying the following way, but when I would pray before going to sleep, I would ask God to “surround our house with His angels” and would picture the angels all joining hands (as children would who were playing “ring around the rosey”) and that no evil could penetrate the strong angels’ bodies or interlaced hands. As I got older, that prayer turned into asking God to have His angels give our family and our extended family a “hedge of protection,” just a fancy way of saying, “Please put them in the ring around the rosey pose again and keep us safe.”

Last week Monday I had to go to the hospital for a routine procedure.  It had been six years since I was last hooked up to machines to keep track of my heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, an IV for fluids and the sedation I would receive, etc.  There were a lot of wires and tubes stuck in and on me.  The doctor was delayed so I was hooked up and then allowed to wait … and wait … and wait.

It was during that time of waiting I started having a conversation with God.  I was thanking Him that I wasn’t familiar with hospital procedure anymore because it had been a long time since we had visited one, and never for trauma from a car accident, heart attack, etc.  Eleven years ago we had spent a lot of time in the ER and Bill was even admitted for a few days for testing, but trauma and major accidents haven’t really been a part of our family history.

Three days after that conversation with God, I found myself in another type of “emergency” situation.  While this one wasn’t life or death and didn’t affect our family physically, it was an emergency nonetheless.  And while it only took 24-48 hours to fully resolve, God used this emergency to remind me of something else.

When I pray for God’s hedge of protection around our family and extended family every night, my thoughts usually drift to keeping burglars away, sickness, accidents – issues that affect us physically.  However, God showed me not three days after our conversation while I was hooked up to a gazillion wires and waiting, He loves His children so much more than just protecting us physically.

When we take the time to invite Him into our lives, all of our lives, He promises us protection in every area – spiritually, physically, emotionally, physiologically, psychologically, financially … and the list goes on.  Whatever area of life that the enemy can touch, God promises protection when we invite Him in.

Sometimes that protection includes having to go through the trial, as happened to our family three days after my procedure.  We still had to go through the “emergency,” but even when in the midst of it, I could see God’s protection keeping it from being much, much worse.

I’m actually glad I had the routine procedure last week.  It reminded me to be thankful for God’s protection – not just physically but in every area of my life.  I’m even grateful for the emergency three days later because God used that to show me He protects even when we have to go through the trials, keeping things from being much worse than they could be.

Now when I pray for God’s hedge of protection, I don’t just envision the angels surrounding our home in a ring around the rosey position. Now I realize God uses them to offer us protection in every area of our lives. And that allows me to rest in God’s peace not just throughout the night but all day too.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

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“And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:20 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together I shared how I’m a recovering “controlling Momma.”  I don’t mean to be, but God lovingly showed me how much that title truly fit.  I think it started when our kids were infants and I feared for their safety.  Therefore, to keep them safe I must pay attention to what activities they participate in, where they go, what they eat … basically how they live. If you had asked me years ago if that was what I was doing, I probably would have denied it, thinking I was just being an involved parent. Now that God has released my grip on fear and taught me how to trust Him instead, that’s exactly what I was doing.

After losing our baby to miscarriage and then welcoming our bonus blessing two years ago, I even drove myself crazy with how protective I was of our youngest.  There was such an age gap between our older two and the “baby,” that I worried about him eating small pieces to toys that weren’t even on my radar when our first two were young. Looking back, I feel sorry for our older kids because their formerly playful mom had temporarily turned into a lunatic.

When God showed me this morning about how it’s not up to me to control anyone, including or especially my children, He reminded me that He, the God of the Universe, doesn’t try and control His children either.  He has given us free will (a fancy way of saying we’re allowed to make our own choices in this world and He won’t step in and stop us even if those choices are dangerous or fatal), even to the point of allowing us to choose hell for eternity instead of Heaven with Him.

That’s a sobering thought, but that’s the truth staring me in the face.  God loves His children so much that He didn’t create robots. He created human beings with minds and thoughts and desires, likes and dislikes.  He loves us so much He will let us choose death for eternity if that is what we want.

That means … if God is willing to let us choose death, then we as humans need to allow our children, parents, siblings, friends, extended family choose death too if that is what they want. Because of God’s great love, though, He came up with a way for us to receive the free gift of salvation (eternity in Heaven) but it’s still a choice. In addition, God wants us to share the plan of salvation with everyone we have contact with – that part is our responsibility.  However, the ultimate choice of whether or not someone will spend eternity separated from God (in hell) or in a relationship with God (receiving the free gift of salvation) is not ours to control.  Cajoling, pleading, threatening, bribing, getting angry, pouting – don’t bother, because it’s not ours to control.

Do you know the one method that does work more than any others? Prayer. Share your heart and God’s plan with those you love (and come into contact with) and then pray.  Ask God to open their hearts, minds, eyes and ears to His loving invitation.  Pray for moments inspired by God Himself to share more about your relationship with Him, answering questions they may have about a relationship with Christ or however the conversation is led.  But pray for God’s divine intervention to soften the other’s heart to want to receive the invitation of the free gift offered to all of us.

While where anyone other than ourselves spends eternity has never been ours to control, we still have the power of prayer and authentic sharing of how God is a living, breathing deity who personally and individually does mighty things in our lives and others who are His children. And it is definitely within our power to decide whether or not we will share.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

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“I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live.”

Deuteronomy 30:19 (The Message)

 

We have two teenagers in the house and one elementary school child.  Looking back over this past school year, I’ve realized that God has been teaching me a big lesson regarding control … and how little of it I actually have in life.

Throughout the past five months, we’ve had the privilege of shopping for clothes for high school dances. First for our daughter who was on the homecoming court and most recently for our son who was nominated for the winter fest court. Neither shopping experience was pleasant at first. Soon, I realized I was the common denominator for that discomfort.

I haven’t learned how to give up control yet.  I know in my head our kids are older and the independence they express is healthy and natural.  Truly I do.  However, my heart hasn’t quite received the memo it’s time to step back and watch them fly. Our kids are truly wonderful.  They know how to stick with a budget, they shop within that budget and are extremely grateful for what they receive.  The issue had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. To make matters worse … I’m not even sure I can articulate what exactly I was trying to control because they weren’t pushing back at all.

Three days later, I was driving home from dropping our youngest off at school and God brought these events back into my mind.  I realized that a much smarter choice, for my personality, would be at the beginning to give them the allocated budget and then go ahead and participate with the intention of observing what styles and colors they gravitate toward, making the effort to get to know their preferences instead of injecting mine into the conversation. Oh how I wish God and I had this conversation on Saturday, the day before we went shopping!

 

However, He used that shopping trip to remind me it’s very similar to more important decisions people make in life.  It is never my role to control any other human being.  It’s my privilege to support, encourage, love and comfort my spouse, children and friends. It’s my job to teach, train, disciple and guide my children – but never does God tell me in the Bible to control another human being. Ever.

I wish I’d learned that lesson 17 years ago when our first child was born. However, with that knowledge now, and lots of practice to get it right, I hope to change the atmosphere in our house for the better.  Despite my tendencies to try to control things (and people), my children have turned out pretty fantastic.  In fact, going back to the shopping trip, I did excuse myself from the primary decision making and took a backseat role to my husband (forever the patient, non-controlling personality) and our daughter (the fashion guru who is amazing at giving suggestions and not taking it personally if they aren’t eagerly accepted). The final outcome of the shopping trip was a success – an outfit that our child feels confident in and peace among all family members.

Come back next time when I share an even more important time in one’s life that others should never try to control.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

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A Second Chance

“Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”

Colossians 3:13-14 (The Message)

 

I’ve been sharing with you lately about the truths God showed me through a movie our daughter and I watched.  Today I want to talk about the last message God downloaded into my spirit.

I talked previously about the “based on a true story” movie in which the wife received a traumatic brain injury and experienced amnesia, blocking out her entire relationship with her husband. However, that was just part of the story.  Approximately a year before the woman met her now husband, she had disowned her family, quit law school, broken off her engagement to another man and moved into the city, severing all ties with her old life.  However, that whole chapter in her life (and the reasons why) were lost through the amnesia.

When she woke up in the hospital and her parents tried to “take her home” to their house, her husband gently informed his wife that she hadn’t had contact with her family in over five years.  He also stated that her family had never met him (her choice) and that she had changed from who she was growing up into who she was now. However, not remembering anything except her family, law school, and her ex-fiancée, she had a hard time grasping why she would leave everything she loved and was familiar to her; yet no one would share with her the details.

The truth was: her family didn’t want to remind her of why she turned her back on them. They were happy to be reunited after five years of silence and wanted to erase the past. Her husband loved her too much to share that information with her because he knew opening those wounds would further hurt her, severing her emotional ties with the only connection she had while she tried to regain her memory.

However, in the course of regaining her life, she discovered again why she broke off her engagement with her old boyfriend, why she disowned her parents, and why she moved to the city to separate herself from them.  And, in time, she realized she needed to put space between herself and her family again to create healthy boundaries.  However, this time, she chose not to alienate herself from them completely but was able to see how she could stay connected, yet separate.  Healthy versus co-dependent.

The first time she ran.  The second time she chose a healthy separation with boundaries to keep the lines of communication open but still choose her independence. I believe in situations where there is no threat of physical and/or severe emotional injury, God wants us to keep the connection open with those He places in our lives.  Sometimes the relationships can be difficult, but with God’s help, they can be healthy and contain boundaries. I was impressed when the woman was given a second chance, knowing the same information she knew the first time, she made the choice to stay connected, yet with healthy boundaries.

In case you’re wondering, the woman never did regain her memory of her lost years with her husband.  They were divorced early on in the movie (her choice, not his) but she continued to be drawn to him. The movie ended with instead of them trying hard to regain what they had lost, they chose to start over and make a new relationship. They eventually married again, had two children together and remain together currently. A wonderful ending to a traumatic event, made even better by the reunification of the woman with her family.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“God put the Man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man.” Genesis 2:21-22 (The Message)

 

I spoke last time we were together about a movie that our daughter and I watched together and the different truths God reminded me of while enjoying some downtime.

The couple in the movie had only been married less than two years – long enough to begin building a life they loved together but short enough that when the woman received a traumatic brain injury, that was the part of her life that was erased. When she woke up from the coma, she was awakened to a man she had “never met” before into a life she didn’t recognize.

Her last memories were of her biological family, attending law school and being engaged to someone else. While I felt somewhat sorry for her, my heart literally broke for the husband. While the woman was trying to remember things she couldn’t, he didn’t have the blessing of not remembering their old life together. He remembered every joyful moment; yet, because of her memory loss, he couldn’t act upon those memories.

The movie beautifully portrays him naturally responding to his wife the way they used to interact; yet having to face her repeated rejection because in her mind, they were virtual strangers and her heart was drawn to someone else.

At one point in the movie, the husband is doing all he can to show her patience and love, but in her frustration, she snaps at him. His response? To let her know that isn’t “them.” Her reaction isn’t the way they talk to each other, isn’t the way they have ever talked to each other.

That one phrase spoke right to my heart. I’m blessed to be married to my best friend. We genuinely love each other and like each other. There is a respect between the two of us, purposefully choosing not to hurt each other. We choose to talk thing out rather than yell. We choose not to accuse or blame. We choose to believe the best in the other instead of assuming the worse. And it was with that mindset that my heart literally broke for the husband. He had lost far more than a wife who couldn’t remember his face. He lost his best friend.

Maybe you don’t have the type of relationship I described above. It’s not too late. First, I would invite you to bring your relationship before God and ask Him to heal the areas that need healing.  Then, begin by choosing the right response once … and then again and again and again. It requires dying to self and choosing respect, friendship, forgiveness, a fresh start. Your choice is not dependent upon your spouse’s response. The husband from above chose not to respond to his wife’s snarky reactions with rude comments back. He continued to choose patience and love. I want to encourage you today, my friend. If, after inviting God to bless your marriage, you then begin making the changes you want to see in your marriage, watch and see what God can do with that obedience.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Sum Total Of …

“But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.” I Timothy 6:11-12 (The Message)

 

The other day our daughter and I had the privilege to spend some time together watching a movie, just the two of us.  It was an older movie but one I had wanted to see for quite a while.  It was based on a true story about a husband and wife.  They were in an accident and the wife suffered a traumatic brain injury, resulting in amnesia from the time period directly before and since meeting her husband.  When she woke up, she had no recollection of their life together or other major life experiences that helped shape her identity. There were so many gems packed into that movie and today I want to talk about one of them.

The husband narrated throughout the movie and at one point in the beginning, he stated that life breaks down to each individual being the sum total of our experiences. What an accurate description. Depending upon what circumstances one faces in life, they cannot help but shape and mold us into the people that we become.

I want to take that statement one step further though – God is in the business of taking all of our circumstances and bringing good out of them if we surrender and let Him lead. Think about the men and women from the Bible: David was described as a man after God’s own heart but we don’t have to read very far into his life before we see how he made many mistakes.  God was able to take those mistakes, though, when David surrendered his will, confessed his sin and turned back to God and bring about good. Moses, who had a hot temper, was raised in the palace of Pharaoh as an adopted son; yet impulsively killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite and then fled into the desert to hide before God used his life to rescue the whole nation of Israel and lead them through the desert to the Promised Land. Paul, formerly known as Saul, spent the first half of his life killing Christians; yet, when God showed up on the road to Damascus, Paul radically changed and became the God’s boldest witness.

As I love to say often, what God does in the lives of others, He’s willing and wants to do in our lives as well.  What areas of your life, what sum total of … do you have that you would like God to bring good out of?  We all have areas of our lives that need to be restored or redeemed.  The question is … are you willing to surrender to God so He can create something beautiful?  I want to encourage you today. God loves to redeem, restore, bring about beauty from our mistakes.  And … when we allow Him to do what only He does best, He will use the sum total of our lives for His purpose.

Come back next time for the next truth God reminded me of through a movie based on a true story.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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