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Archive for January, 2019

Teach Initiative

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:39 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about how working as an administrative assistant has given me the confidence to learn how to take initiative on my job and that has translated into other areas of my life as well.

Today I want to talk about another similar topic, one equally important in my opinion, and that is learning how to teach initiative to others. While one cannot force another person to step up and work with excellence, take pride in a job well done, or work with a strong work ethic, the “person in charge” is in charge to an extent of the atmosphere in which its employees work.

Most everyone, I’m sure, has experience being a part of a positive work environment as well as being a member of a negative work environment and I’m sure, if asked, could list off the pros and cons of each place.

In my opinion, as the mother of our household, it’s my responsibility to create a positive environment overall in our home and that translates as well into the area of chores and responsibilities. It’s my calling to train our children in the areas of the house that I am responsible for running smoothly – which include laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking. Our kids have their assigned chores and overall our house runs fairly well; however, as I was thinking about the way I’ve gained confidence over the past few years, I asked myself if I was instilling that same confidence in our kids or if they had instead been taught from the standpoint of, “This is your direction, do it.”

We have busy lives, just like everyone else who’s reading this. A lot on our plate and a lot of balls we’re trying to keep juggling in the air. I soon (sadly) realized for the sake of “time,” and probably some laziness on my part too, I was more of a “drill sergeant” barking orders that I expected to be followed instead of someone who encouraged my children to look at a problem and figure out how to solve it themselves in a way that made the most sense to them.

I have decided I want to try and teach initiative instead. Since I’m relatively new at taking initiative myself, I might need a lot of grace and will have a few false starts and stops, but I believe that is the more biblical approach to parenting then my previous dictatorship has been. And more than anything, I want to model the type of relationship Jesus would approve of with my kids and my spouse.

For me, I had to learn how to take initiative before I could begin to embrace learning how to teach it. And while it won’t look perfect at the beginning, I hope with time it will become a regular part of our family dynamic.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

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Take Initiative

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17 (NIV)

 

I’ve always been good at following directions. I’m the youngest in the family and was raised by all “oldests,” so following directions comes naturally to me in most areas. However, three years ago when I started working as an administrative assistant, my employer was appreciative when I would take initiative to solve a problem instead of waiting to ask, halting the flow of the work that needed to be accomplished. My theory was, it’s better to ask first than to do it wrong because it’s easier to do it right the first time than to go back and fix it later. After three years, though, I’m learning the benefit of taking the initiative and then even if mistakes happen, I’ve at least started the process.

I didn’t realize I was learning and putting those life skills into practice until I started volunteering at our son’s school. I have been blessed to have a job where I can go in occasionally and help out in our son’s classroom from time to time. As a result, I’ve had the privilege of serving a variety of different teachers. As my confidence has grown through my job, I am learning to put that “taking initiative attitude” to good use not just on my job but in life in general. Instead of interrupting the teacher every five minutes while she’s teaching to answer questions, I am learning to make the best decision possible and then letting her know afterwards in case I need to tweak what I did.

However, just as I’m not the boss of the company I work for and I’m not the teacher in charge of the classroom, never would I think to wake up one morning and take initiative without first taking instructions. Once I’ve been given the task to complete, then my initiative is welcomed and appreciated to finish the job in a timely manner.

I think the same principle can be applied in our relationship with God. Our Father wants us to first come to Him and ask what our assignment is; then it is up to us to take the instructions we’ve been given (sometimes spelled out exactly and sometimes only one step at a time) and then fulfill them to the best of our ability. When we do that, we please our Father the same way I pleased my boss and those teachers I was fortunate to serve.

For me, it took building my confidence, and making quite a few mistakes, before I was able to finish stronger, smarter and with more positive results than my first few attempts. Thank goodness for grace from my employer, my teacher friends and especially from God when I want to be obedient and fulfill the assignment He gave; yet somehow mixed up the instructions and created a big mess instead.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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“himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great” II Chronicles 1:1 (NIV)

 

I noticed something this morning when I was hanging the laundry outside and chatting with God. I was telling Him about my problems, issues that while not insurmountable, seemed big to me, but really, in the grand scheme of things, could be issues only for a season or two. And it was during that prayer time I realized, I’ve been going about my conversations with God all wrong.

Instead of praying for resolution from the symptoms, I needed to start praying earnestly for resolution of the root problem. For instance, instead of me praying for God to help me lose weight and exercise regularly, I need to ask God to reveal to me why I turn to food instead of Him when happy, sad, angry, worried, excited … Once He reveals to me the root of the problem, then I can ask for healing from that, and the symptoms will slowly disappear.

God brought King Solomon to mind. II Chronicles 1 tells the story of King Solomon establishing “himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great” (verse 1, NIV). A little while later, God comes to King Solomon and tells him in verse 7, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” And instead of asking for help out of financial problems, a new wife, more cattle, he chose … wisdom and knowledge because it was his desire to lead well the people God entrusted to him.

As a result, because he was humble and didn’t ask for selfish desires, God gave him wisdom, knowledge AND riches; in fact, he has been described as the wealthiest person ever recorded … ever.

By remembering King’s Solomon’s story, I realized whatever problem I was complaining about to God (and there were several this particular morning), I needed to ask Him for what was really important … a heart change. God showed me when my heart changed and I desired to be more like Him daily, all the symptoms I was complaining about above would slowly disappear.

Financial issues? If my heart is aligned with God’s, then I will want to stay within our family budget, get rid of debt and be able to bless others more with our excess instead of living paycheck to paycheck. Eating issues? Same – if my heart truly wants to obey God’s principles, then I will learn how to live within the boundaries of self-control, giving up my love of food for the overwhelming love I have for my Father. Fill in the blank with whatever problem you are facing today and the answer will be the same.

God used King Solomon’s story to remind me about what is truly important … and when I ask for that, the rest will always fall into place.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

 

I have a prayer partner I’ve been privileged to pray with for approximately two years. At one point we were connecting six days a week and it was a time we took for granted. If we had known how much our schedules were going to change the following year, I think I would have appreciated it more and not taken it for granted, assuming life would stay the same.

God warned us ahead of time, though, before the change occurred, to start our conversations with prayer because inevitably we would only have time to pray and nothing else. So, in obedience, that is how we began structuring our phone calls. It was the rare exception we would chat a little first before praying because on the few times we did do that, something would happen and we would never get to connect in prayer, which is what we needed more than anything else.

However, I’ve noticed that once in a while God allows us to “praise” first and then pray. This past week we prayed together on Monday after an extraordinarily difficult weekend for one of us and the prayers were more heartfelt than usual. It was a true crying out to God to fix the situation we found ourselves in and trusting Him (and also a time of thanksgiving before we were able to see the answer, but knowing He had the answer).

We weren’t able to connect again until two days later and this time, instead of digging right into prayer like we usually do, we took what we thought would be five minutes of publically praising God (because where two or three are gathered, there God says He is) and it urned into over 30 minutes of praising God, bouncing between the two of us as we shared the wonderful things God was doing in our lives – some of the praises amazing answers God gave which sabotaged the enemy’s schemes.

Even though the majority of the time we get together we begin with prayer because that is what our Heavenly Father encouraged us to do, I believe when we sit, sometimes for 30 minute stretches, and share with each other how God is blessing our lives, answering prayers, giving peace, etc. it pleases Him too. I believe God blesses His children not just so that we can experience His blessings and goodness ourselves, but so that we will share those blessings with others to strengthen their faith and offer hope and encouragement for the trials they are experiencing also.

That time of praise flowed into a beautiful time of prayer – mainly thanking God for His goodness, our chance to fellowship and also offering up some heartfelt requests for others in our lives.

I’m always refreshed and feel filled with God’s joy and peace after we’re done praying, but yesterday’s “filling” is still resonating within my spirit this morning and we haven’t yet had a chance to connect today.

God reinforced to me again yesterday that praising Him is as an important element of prayer as the prayers themselves.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

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“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8 (NIV)

 

We spoke last time about the battle I faced earlier this year. What was so powerful for me during this fight was that as the enemy is feeding me negative thoughts and wanting to take me down a rabbit trail that wouldn’t end well, Jesus was whispering the lyrics of these songs in my mind, giving me the choice to sing along and therefore quiet the voice of the enemy or silence His songs and listen to the voice of the enemy. A person can only focus on one thing at a time, so whatever I chose to ignore had to leave my mental space.

This battle went on all day – literally almost every ten minutes I was having to make the choice – choose the voice of the enemy and the dead end rabbit trail or chose the song of my Savior. I will admit, I grew weary throughout the day and at times followed the rabbit trail slightly until God would remind me of the song and I would change focus so the enemy would disappear. I was winning more battles than losing, and each battle was certainly a battle.

The enemy tried one more tactic on me – if he couldn’t get me while I was awake, he would invade my dreams. I woke up the following morning after having had a disturbing dream, but after talking to God about it and giving Him the details to sort out, I finally had peace.

And that peace has stayed. The situation is done. The grace and forgiveness I felt initially has returned and not wavered. I write this today for three reasons: one – to encourage those of you who are pulled into battles. The battles, in my opinion, are positive. The enemy doesn’t go head to head with his own people. He goes after those who are making a difference for Jesus in their lives. And second, I love that our church plays the same worship songs frequently. Just as it’s important to hide God’s Word in our heart to pull out when we need it, hiding worship songs in my spirit (because music speaks to me so strongly) is my go-to when I’m fighting the enemy.

Lastly, each battle we face (and win) with God’s help over the enemy builds our muscles for the next battle. While I don’t purposely taunt the enemy, I know I’m on his radar because I choose to live my life in obedience to my Father which makes the enemy mad. And when God allows spiritual battles to occur in my life, I know He will have my back and I just need to watch for the ways He wants to help me win that particular battle, and then make the right choice.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

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“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

II Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

 

Everybody in life has trials and struggles and difficult days. It’s just part of living and will be until we finally get to meet Jesus face to face. I believe that those trials, which are part of “living,” have a purpose and that purpose is to build our “choice” muscles.

Every one of us has a choice when faced with a difficulty. We can take the easy way out or we can make the right choice, which is sometimes the hard choice. I was faced with such a situation earlier this year. When it occurred, the first thought I had was grace for the others involved. Not so much for myself and the part I played in the situation (I’m my worst judge), but for the others involved. God gave me compassion and forgiveness and by the end of the day, it was over.

Except it wasn’t. That’s when the enemy stepped in and engaged me in a fierce mental battle but again, I had a choice. Was I going to engage, reliving the situation over and over in my mind, replaying the conversation to myself – or was I going to take every thought captive and not let the enemy get the upper hand? I knew this wasn’t about the situation I dealt with the day before – it went much deeper than that and it was about which choice would I make, not just today but going forward, because when I give the enemy a foothold, he likes to run wild. After all, the Bible clearly tells us that he is like a prowling lion, seeking to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10, I Peter 5:8)

However, the part I love about this battle is that I’ve battled a few times with the enemy and he is pretty predictable. He may mix things up slightly, but his weapons are fairly similar. And I had a secret weapon – God and I are closer now than we were when I first starting fighting these types of battles with the enemy, so I knew I could call on Him and He would send reinforcements. And He did … in the form of two specific songs. One song which we sing at church often and the other one being a song I hear on the radio occasionally.

Come back next time and I will share with you how this particular battle ended.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

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“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV)

 

God has been working on my attitude for the past six years. Okay, let me be completely honest. God has been working on my attitude my whole life. One of my most vivid memories is being called out in fifth grade by my music teacher for rolling my eyes after he gave a direction. I didn’t even realize I did it, but I did and still feel guilty about it 35+ years later.

Even though I don’t mean to, I have a tendency to grumble and complain, and at times, my memory can be so short that even if God came through in a miraculous way last week, I’m focused on how He didn’t show up the way I wanted Him to this week instead.

However, while I’m a slow learner, God has truly been working on this area in my life and I’m starting to see progress. I’m continually reminded from Bible story after Bible story that miracles/breakthroughs happen after the thanksgiving. Paul and Silas were released from prison after staying up all night “praying and singing hymns to God,” and even though God released them, they chose to stay. As a result, many of the prison guards and their families all became part of the family of God that night.

There has been a situation in my life, one of my own doing, that I have asked God to release me from for several years. Several long years. I’ve begged, pleaded, thanked Him ahead of time (hoping to persuade Him to answer quicker), all while nurturing and feeding my miserable attitude and spirit.

 

 

I’m not sure the exact moment it happened but sometime last fall, all that God has been teaching me for the past three years about this situation clicked into place. I realized, “This is where I am in life right now. My situation may change in the future, but for now, this is where God has placed me. I have a choice. I can be miserable and choose to wake up every morning dreading the day … or I can choose joy despite my circumstances and find the blessings in living life for Him.” No one else can choose for me … it’s my choice.

The next day I made a decision to praise God for every circumstance. If He closed a door of opportunity, I would thank Him for the closed door. I would look for the blessings in my life and choose to praise Him for those even if nothing else in my life was changing at this point.

A few days after I made this conscious decision, I was exercising with a friend and sharing with her my newfound attitude. I told her when I chose to have the right attitude, it truly did change my inward spirit and I was feeling more joy despite my situation.

Wanting to encourage me, she replied, “So you’re enjoying your situation now?”

“Oh no,” was my quick response, “I’m still hating it, but now I’m hating it with the right attitude.”

For me, it wasn’t enough to know I needed to thank God for all circumstances in life, even or especially the ones that were downright miserable. I needed to consistently choose the right attitude about the situation before my joy returned and I could honestly say while I still hate the situation and am ready and waiting for God to move in mighty ways, I’m hating it with the right attitude and that makes all the difference in the world.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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