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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

 

 

 

“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

 

 

“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

Go … and Wait

 

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.” Genesis 12:1-4 (NIV)

Always in the past when I’ve read the story of Abraham, I focused on the promise God gave that he would be the father of nations, sometimes remembering it took 25 years from when God first promised it to him until it was actually fulfilled, but mainly taking away that God does keep His promises. Rarely do I remember God called Abraham to take action first (leave your country and relocate to a foreign land) … and then grew silent while He made Abraham wait … for a long time.

Maybe this story has touched my heart lately because it seems to parallel the journey I’m on right now. Approximately six years ago, God started our family on a path which began with preparation. I used to be a medical transcriptionist and one day, while typing away at home, God whispered to me, “Finish your book.” Unlike Abraham, who didn’t question God’s authority but promptly obeyed, without any details, I argued. “What do You mean finish my book? I’m not a writer, this book is just something I do in my spare time, a form of therapy, and while we’re on the topic of spare time, with three kids under the age of 12, I don’t have any of that.”

God, in His infinite patience and knowing I wasn’t back talking (not really) but instead I more so mirrored the insecurities of Moses, answered with three simple words, “Finish your book.”

This time I obeyed. Without knowing what exactly God wanted me to do, I “finished my book” … which led to attending a writer’s conference … which led to creating a blog … which led to joining some writers groups … which led to a job for a book club … which led to the elimination of my medical transcription job … which led to where I am today, having published over 20 nonfiction books on a variety of topics and working on writing and publishing in the fiction realm in 2019.

Just like with Abraham, my path in the direction God wanted me to go hasn’t been a straight line. I have taken a few detours (rushing ahead in trying to find employment when God instructed me to rest) and suffered a few lasting consequences just like Abraham did also when he had a son with Hagar. However, just like with Abraham, God has taken my mistakes and allowed me to experience blessings as well. One major blessing I have noticed is that God used my 10 years of medical transcription work to teach me grammar and typing skills which come in handy with my current employment, not to mention with writing itself. In addition, He has taken these past three years with various jobs and taught me skills and given me experience I need for whatever future He has for me, which appears to be somehow in the world of writing.

Rereading this story in Genesis, I was encouraged with God commanding him to take a step of faith and then providing a waiting period of 25 years before fulfilling the promise He spoke over His friend, Abraham, and Abraham’s wife, Sarah. And despite the many detours they took and the times they failed to wait and tried to make things happen quicker, God still fulfilled the promise in His way, His time.

While I’m not comparing myself to Abraham, it is encouraging to me that I took the step of faith God asked and “finished my book,” and now, while I wait for God to reveal the ministry or purpose He has for my life more clearly, I can wait with purpose, continuing to take each next step He commands, whenever He chooses to speak, and until then, learn to wait patiently and expectantly. Learn being the operative word because as with my latest manuscript, I’m still a work in progress

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

Happy New Year

 

Praying Blessings and Favor over Everyone in 2019!

Merry Christmas

 

Merry Christmas to all my Friends and Family