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Archive for June, 2018

“ … all we’ll remember of our lives on earth will be what follows us into the everlasting … the fruit of our lives will be the people surrounding us, the people who’ll be there with us because, by the power of God Himself inside us, we lived out God’s message of love and goodness and redemption while we were here.”

Kim Woodard Osterholzer, author of A Midwife in Amish Country: Celebrating God’s Gift of Life

 

Kim, the author above and a good friend, has blessed me to share her story in an upcoming book of mine, Peace Through the Pain.  I was reading the chapter this week and the words she wrote spoke directly to my heart. Without ruining the impact of her story, she was writing about what really matters in this life … and reminded me of what it says in God’s Word about how “all we’ll remember of our lives on earth will be what follows us into the everlasting.”

God Himself has been speaking to me lately about priorities and choices. I shared recently about how God has been stirring in my heart that change is on the horizon – good change, but I need to continue to live life instead of prematurely stepping in the river while I wait for God to work behind the scenes.

As God was reminding me of the truth that sometimes He shows up while we’re living our lives instead of commanding us to step into the river without knowing the full destination, that is when I read Kim’s sweet words.

God used her words to further cement in me what really matters in life.  It’s not what job I work at, it’s not even what ministry I step into. It’s all about relationships. Making the most of the time we are given with the people God places in our lives – whether for our entire lifetime (our family), brief seasons (some friends) or chance encounters (strangers through God instances). What I do with those encounters, those relationships, is what will last.

Do I want to waste my time worrying about which job I’m supposed to work at for whatever length of time God has ordained? Or, would a better choice be to “live my life” working to the best of my ability while waiting expectantly for God to show up, focusing not on the wait but on cultivating the relationships God has placed in my life?

I admit, while dealing with the situation I explained about more fully in Back to the Basics – Part III, not only did I waste my time worrying, but because of obsessing about the “what if’s,” I ruined the evening I had with my family.

After spending time with God, surrendering the situation to Him, praising Him for the Plan “B” and choosing to trust Him with the outcome, I’m at peace and I’m able to fully engage in the relationships around me the way God intended, even without knowing the final outcome.  Instead of making the enemy happy as I did last night, I’m choosing to please my Heavenly Father by allowing Him to handle the details of my complicated life and focus on His real assignment for me – cultivating relationships with those around me and always pointing them back to Him.

A big thank you to my friend, Kim, for reminding me of this important truth.  May I continue to focus on what truly matters in this life in order to build lots of wonderful memories with those I love, knowing with confidence I will get to enjoy them in Heaven for eternity as well.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“And now we look back on all this and thank God, an artesian well of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!” I Thessalonians 2:13 (The Message)

 

I spoke last time in Living in the Peace of His Promises that I believe the promises God spoke over our family will be fulfilled.  I also stated that when they are fulfilled, I’ll be the first one to give God the glory and share how He used those promises in our lives for His purpose.

This is how I choose to live … in faith.  God speaks numerous times in the Bible about having faith, how a little faith moves God, and how a person’s faith has healed them.

Faith is really quite simple; yet so difficult at times to live day in and day out.  Faith means that when God speaks directly to me, personally, through the Bible, through a fellow believer, through other avenues that line up with His teachings in the Bible, then I choose to believe the words spoken.

Over the past four years, God has spoken quite a few promises over our family. They have to do with finances, ministry opportunities, and other areas in our lives. Some of the promises spoken have come true, some have partially been fulfilled and some we are still waiting to be revealed.

When I spoke earlier about how I had become one of the Israelites, it was because despite all the ways God has shown me He is moving our family in the direction He spoke over our lives, I was starting to doubt. I was letting worry and fear and doubt creep in and lessen the faith God had been building in me.  I was asking God for more signs, more words, more … action because it had been over four years and I was ready to step into the Promised Land that He had spoken for our situation.

However, God reminded me that sometimes it takes me believing, claiming and living out my faith in His promises to be positioned to receive the blessings He spoke over us. At first I wondered what that would look like. Then I realized it was merely a simple shift in my mindset; yet it would make a big difference.

When living in doubt, it looked something like this: Waking up, living life constantly worried I was missing something, wondering what action God needed me to take in order to “make the promise happen,” and stressing out, ruining relationships, missing out on the joy of life and further doubting that I had heard God spoke at all.

However, when I chose to believe the promises I know God spoke (especially since He spoke them multiple times), claim them personally and then live them out, my life started looking something like this: If God has promised x, then I’m going to concentrate on the last command He gave me which was “finish strong.” How can I finish strong in this particular situation?  Well, I have three major projects that need to be finished.  I will work on those, not open-ended but with a specific deadline. While I’m working on hitting those deadlines, what other choices do I need to make to finish strong in the other areas in my life so I’m ready to step when He gives the command? I will need to schedule those appointments sooner rather than later and continue to praise Him for the answers that are coming even though I don’t see them yet.

It means living my life with anticipation.  Instead of praying God will rescue me from whatever situation I’m in, it’s choosing to believe I’m one day closer to the dreams He placed in my heart and He wants to fulfill.  It’s living with hope of the answered promise instead of doubt that He loves me. It’s choosing to ignore the lie from the enemy that my Father has forgotten about me or I’m not important enough to Him.

It’s not a genie-in-a-bottle type of faith.  It’s an action-filled faith.  It’s living from the standpoint of believing that the promise God spoke into my life will come true and then taking action steps in preparation for that answered prayer. Staying alert, ready and watching for the answer.

Believe it. Claim it. Live it.  Choosing faith instead of doubt.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”

Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about the week God reminded me He can (and does) show up while I’m living my life, He used another set of Scriptures to encourage me, reminding me of another truth.

When you think of the story of Job, what comes to mind? Is it that his children all died, he lost his livelihood, his friends and even his health? That all he had left was a crabby wife? I was reminded this week that while Job lost a lot, it was only for a brief season in his life.  While the losses hurt (especially the death of his children – a parent does not ever stop missing their children) and the grief I’m sure never entirely went away, the majority of Job’s life was blessed. God didn’t just replace all Job lost – He doubly restored it all, including the joy of raising more children.

What about Joseph?  His childhood was pampered.  He was his father’s favorite and quite spoiled. His brothers were jealous and eventually beat him up and sold him into slavery.  He continued to obey God’s commands, and yet it seemed as though he “couldn’t catch a break.” God used those circumstances, though, to grow Joseph and help him mature. Eventually, he was exalted to second in command over the entire nation of Egypt.  God used Joseph’s obedience to save millions of people from starving during a seven year famine, including his whole family.

God reminded me that while our family has definitely gone through “a season of testing and growth,” He has spoken words over our lives and our family that He will fulfill.  I believe that when God speaks, His words aren’t casual.  When God speaks, what was spoken will be fulfilled.

And that, my friends, is why I believe that what God has been stirring in my heart will eventually come to pass, as it did over a year ago, and three years before that and eight years before that. I also believe that when I get out of His way and fully surrender to His plan instead of trying to mesh my plan with His or tell Him how to work the plan, what He has spoken occurs more quickly.

When God fully reveals the promises He has spoken over our family, I will be giving Him all the glory and praise, not just for the end result but for how He used the whole journey to prepare me for what He knew I would need to learn. Until then, I can rest in the peace that God’s promises will be fulfilled in His time, as long as I stay out of the way.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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I had the privilege of being interviewed on Heart Talk Blog today …

I invite you to go on over and check it out.

 

http://www.lindarooks.com/2018/06/18/caring-for-the-caregiver-author-interview-with-cheri-swalwell/

 

 

 

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“God calls us out of bondage, often through a time of testing to build our trust in Him, and then leads us into His blessing.” Stephanie Clarke

 

I’ve been talking quite a bit lately about the Israelites and their trek through the wilderness. I believe God didn’t intend to just use that pattern with the Israelites (calling individuals out of bondage into a time of testing and then leading them into His blessing for their lives), but instead with all of His children.

I’ve lived most of my life with the mindset of trying to avoid the wilderness.  When finding myself in the desert, I tried to “quickly” learn the lessons so I could leave and live in the Promised Land, whatever that looked like.  However, lately, God has been showing me a different, better perspective about the wilderness.  There is definitely a purpose to the wilderness and until it’s fully grasped and understood, I believe our time there will be lengthened because God loves us too much to leave us partially mature.

The wilderness isn’t something to be feared or ignored. The wilderness has a valuable purpose and everyone, that’s right, I said everyone who wants to walk in the purpose God has planned for their lives must first take a trek through the desert.

Let’s look at Joseph’s “wilderness.”  His included being beaten up by his brothers and then sold as a slave, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and then thrown in jail.  God used that time in jail for Joseph to use his gift of interpreting dreams which eventually placed him on Pharaoh’s radar, which eventually led him to the position of second in command of all Egypt.

I could talk also about Moses, David, Daniel, Esther, etc. from our previous conversations in past blogs and their individual wilderness experiences.  However, the point I’m trying to make is there will always be a testing or training period before being allowed to walk into the calling God has for our lives. I used to fight the training period or do whatever I thought might speed it along.  I believe that all that extra work just kept me in the desert longer.

Looking back over my own life, I see now how much I needed my personal training period because I had (and still have) a lot to learn. I needed to learn how to fully surrender my life to God. I needed to learn who was my real boss – not employers but God Himself. I needed to learn to trust God to provide for our finances, I needed healing from depression and panic attacks, I needed to learn other important skills in order to use them for the calling God had on my life.

I’m glad God showed me a new perspective of the wilderness.  It’s not something to be avoided, it’s not something to be feared … and it’s also not somewhere to build a vacation home.  The wilderness has its purpose which is to prepare us to be used for God’s purpose. I’m still only visiting, but I’m more willing to enjoy the process now, fully trusting God that my time here is still temporary.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

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“The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about how I’m currently struggling with fully surrendering to God – giving Him complete control and not worrying. I shared how I’m more like the Israelites than I want to be – that despite the ways God has continually been there for me, I’m always asking for confirmation, affirmation before stepping because I’m so afraid I’m not moving when I’m supposed to be, moving when I’m not supposed to be or missing the mark altogether.

I’ve been struggling for the past five months or so. God has begun speaking dreams and desires into my life.  Passions that He planted there eight years ago from nothing but a sincere prayer that I wanted to live a life of purpose for Him, whatever that meant.  Passions that now have become my passions and longings and gifts and talents to offer back to Him.

A few years ago I had to go through a process of giving those dreams and desires He planted into my heart back to God, similar to when Abraham offered his son Isaac to the Lord. Abraham had confidence that God would either give Isaac back to him or would fulfill His promise to Abraham that he would “be the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4b, NIV).  However, this past December, God started waking those dreams up again and I believe now is the time.

Just as God started stirring my heart almost two years ago that He was going to bring about change and then He did, approximately six months ago God started whispering to me change is getting ready to happen again.

I feel as though I’m in limbo right now, though, and am struggling with whether I’ve missed the mark and was supposed to step into the river, or if I’m still waiting for God to give the command to move. For months I’ve been acting like the Israelites.  Despite all the times God has shown up and worked miracles and orchestrated things in my life, I’m still asking for confirmation, affirmation and proof.

This week, while reading in Judges about Gideon, I believe God gave me the answer I needed.  I was given a Life Application Study Bible from a dear friend last year and God has used that version to further cement truths into my heart He doesn’t want me to miss.  Judges 6:11-12 states, “The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” God opened my eyes to the truth of this verse.  While Gideon was living life, actually while Gideon was hiding away in his family’s winepress to keep their enemies from stealing their food, God showed up to give him his assignment.

God then reminded me about Noah, Moses, David, Esther, and Mary.  The Bible isn’t specific about what Noah was doing when God approached him to build an ark, so that leads me to believe he was busy living life, providing for his family. Moses was tending sheep in the desert for his father-in-law when God used the burning bush to get his attention. David was tending sheep for his family, doing his job, when he was summoned by Samuel to be anointed as the next king of Israel. Esther was living in the palace with her eunuchs and female attendants when God called her to step up into her assignment and Mary, mother of Jesus, was living with her family preparing for her wedding to Joseph when God called her.

As I shared in Back to the Basics – Part IV, there have been times in my life when God has called me to step into the river before I knew the next part of His plan. When I chose to obey, He did amazing things.  However, God was very specific during those times and made sure I didn’t miss the memo it was time to take that step.

I believe He used the story of Gideon and David, Noah, Moses, Esther and Mary to remind me sometimes I’m required to step and other times He will show up when I’m living life, as He works in the background to set up the amazing things He wants to perform.

It’s up to me to stay fully surrendered, listening to His voice so I know when to step and when to continue to live life. I believe the stirring He started in my heart for the change that is coming is true. I’m having to learn patience while I wait because I want to step into His purpose yesterday. I believe when it does arrive, it will be more amazing than anything I can ever imagine, not because I deserve it, but because I got out of the way and let God dictate the direction and timing that was best to fulfill His purpose.

Bottom line? When I’m fully surrendered to Him, I’m living to fulfill His purpose. When I stay out the way and focus on it being all about Him, I allow great things to happen for His glory.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.” Romans 4:3 (The Message)

So far I’ve talked about how God wants us to praise and worship Him despite our circumstances, trust Him with the outcome and our issues at the first sign of problems. Today I want to talk about another aspect of the history of the Israelites also found in the Old Testament. This time we’ll be looking in the book of Judges even though other examples are scattered throughout the entire Bible.

Why do you think we’re urged to prepare for an emergency before it occurs? Why do they hold fire drills and tornado drills at schools? It’s so when an actual emergency occurs, everyone knows what they are supposed to do. It should lessen the feelings of panic and pandemonium occurring and keep people safer than being in an emergency without any preparation.

In the same way, in our spiritual lives, God gives us instructions (or a chance to prepare) ahead of time for life’s difficulties.  The first instruction is to fully surrender to Him every day.  You might wonder what exactly that means.  It’s very simple to say, yet harder to live out every day. It basically means, if you’re already His child (have asked Jesus into your heart), then every day choosing to let God be in charge instead of yourself. If you’ve never made the choice to ask Jesus into your heart (become a child of God/Christ follower), then it means taking that step first.  **If you want to make that decision but don’t know what to pray, I have placed a copy of a prayer you are welcome to pray to ask Jesus into your heart at the bottom of this blog.  According to Romans 10:9 (NIV): “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” and you are now God’s child.

Once you’ve surrendered your day to your Father (which needs to be done every day, sometimes multiple times a day if you’re like me and try to take control back), then it’s time to get back to the job of living.  I have to admit, I’ve been struggling with this step for quite a while.  Not so much the surrendering to God part. I want Him to be in charge of my life and lead my life where He wants it to go.  But I’ve been struggling with what exactly that means.  And while God has showed up more times than I can count in my life, this is when I revert back to the Israelites way of thinking … needing confirmation, afraid I’m missing the cue to step into the river like Joshua did. I wonder if I’m supposed to be moving instead of sitting quietly in God’s presence and trusting Him to speak loud enough for me to hear.

The truth is, God has shown up in my life in big ways more times than I can remember.  Years before I was going to lose my job to advanced technology, God started preparing me for a writing career.  Years before.  At first I questioned God’s invitation (which I am NOT proud of), then I took the step and obeyed.  A few years later, God again invited me to another position.  This time I asked for two weeks of confirmation and then stepped where He wanted me to step.  It was uncomfortable taking that first step, but so worth it. Two and a half years later, God started stirring my heart that He was going to bring about change again but didn’t tell me exactly when.  Then four months later, He showed me clearly what He wanted and again I stepped.

Come back next time as I finish what God has been teaching me this time through the example of the Israelites.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

** O Heavenly Father, I come to You in Jesus’ name.  I believe You died on the cross, and that You rose again and You’re seated on the throne.  Jesus, forgive me for all that I’ve done wrong and I choose to forgive all others.  Come into my life, today and forever, I am Yours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen”

 

 

 

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