Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Work of Peter's Miracle

Ok my friends. I've talked about this for years and it finally officially hit Amazon today and should be on Barnes and Noble, Ingram, Books a Million, etc. soon!

I truly hope I am not driving anyone crazy with it, because that is the last thing I want.

What I would like, is to tell you a bit more. The kind of backstory that I would share with you in my kitchen or sitting on my couch, so snuggle up dear friend, I have a story to tell you.

When my oldest was about 7, he had been having struggles in school, particularly with "friends" and being the very little guy, was just very down. I had been noticing this going on and wanted to help him, but didn't really have any ideas. After one really rough day, he came home so discouraged. That night, as is our tradition, I laid down next to his bed to tell him a story while he fell asleep. But this time I wanted the encouragement to come from the scriptures. So as I lay there I thought of the story in Matthew 17 where the tax collectors ask Peter about Jesus paying taxes and the Savior sends him fishing. I told him about this very unremarkable, very ordinary fish, very much like every other fish in the sea. Then I told him how this fish was part of an amazing miracle. There was a coin to pay the taxes for both of them.

He seemed to really like the story, so after he fell asleep I went down to work on writing it down the way I had told it to him.

Part of the story came. But then it stopped.

Then I researched fish to figure out how it could've gotten there, because that could truly happen, I mean really the miracle was that Jesus knew it would be there.
So for years, and I mean years, I would go back to this story and try to write it. And I could never get it to come out right!

Meanwhile we had a few other kids, the night time stories continued, but this one kept coming back to me.

We moved, far away. I had more kids, but I also didn't have friends or many expectations, so I went back to work on this story that was driving me nuts!

I began praying about it. I knew there was a good message there. Why couldn't I get it to come out?
While in prayer one day, asking God about the story, I got a very clear impression.

"This story isn't about the fish. Cheryl, this story is about Peter and what he needed to know."

That's when the story came. It didn't take long to get it out. It did take months to get it better. And it took friends who were willing to read it and give input.

Then came the attempts for publishing. I sent it off several times and got really nice rejection letters and finally put it on the back burner. The market for Christian Children's books is pretty small.

I told the Lord, that if he would help me get it out, I would try to do good with it.

Because the realization also came that this wasn't my story. I wish it was, but it's not.

One night, I saw a commercial for Christian Faith Publishing and went with them. It is considered "self publishing" and as such I put money up to make it happen. But in so doing, I also got to choose my illustrator and we worked very closely to get what I envisioned the book to be, and frankly, I think she nailed it! Thanks Bethaney!

So after I make back what I have invested in publishing it, my portion of the royalties will go to Feed My Starving Children. It is a charity that I love. Should that one ever go away, I will choose another charity that seems appropriate.

So if you like the book and feel like you know someone who would benefit, please share. And please also know that you will be helping others!

At least, that is my fervent prayer!

Right now, it is available in hardback but will be available in soft cover and digitally soon.

If  you get it and like it, please comment on Amazon, or wherever. It does bring it up more often so others will see it.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The oh So Ugly Duckling

The past few months I have been struggling with myself. I keep finding myself in situations with people and I truly don't know what to do or how to handle them. The kind of situations where it is so unanticipated that you find yourself pulling your jaw up off the ground.

I have found myself completely stunned.

I have found myself incensed.

I have found myself having to get super uncomfortable and stand up and say things that are right but are making me shake in my boots.

I have also found myself questioning me. Examining my motives. Examining how I am choosing to handle things. Examining my patience.

Frankly, it is all uncomfortable.

This morning as I woke up, again struggling with things, I realized that I may not be doing all this self examination if it wasn't for being so uncomfortable.

I'll admit. I like to be comfy. I like comfy clothes and comfy chairs. I like comfy friends and cozy surroundings. But as much as I like all that and need those things (especially the comfy friends) those don't make me grow as much and as quickly as wiggling in my own skin and tossing in my mind does.

This morning I came to realize that all this wrestling with myself is for my own good. God in His infinite wisdom is going to help reveal something better in me. I just have to be willing to go through some yucky and somewhat painful scrubbing with a wire brush!

I sure like the beautiful swan idea. Have you ever seen a beautiful stark white swan? They are absolutely gorgeous with their contrasting black bill. But they aren't just pretty to look at! They are strong, powerful birds. They can handle long migration. They are loyal and dependable.

So please bear with me as I'm in my ugly duckling phase! I hope it won't last long, but while it does, I'm going to keep examining and questioning and learning.

Come to think of it, it might be good to consider that for others. They may be going through an ugly phase too. Let's get through the ugly together, by being as kind as possible, learning how to stand up kindly, express joyfully and live fully, that we may become the beautiful creatures God made us to be.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

His Little Hero

When you think about what a hero looks like, what do you envision?

Perhaps a face damp with sweat and streaked with dirt,

Or maybe a face contorted in pain coupled with incredible strength.

A face of peace and love.

Tears of compassion and understanding.

You may notice strong arms, carrying or lifting.

Hands that are digging, pulling, grasping.

A body that is fully engaged in a struggle.

A weary, but content form.

Have you ever seen any or all of these in yourself?

I was busy getting my usual million things done and realizing that there was no way I was going to accomplish all that I felt I needed to do, when one of my kids just reached in and helped. And together we got it done.

Another day, I had my priorities wrong and was trying to do things that I felt needed to be done, but were not really essential when my little one asked me to play and then wrapped his sweet arms around me giving me a hug and patting me on the back. Priorities shifted.

This morning a dear friend called to check on me after a super big event I was part of last night. Making me smile and reminding me to take a moment to settle in the accomplishment.

When you look in the mirror, would you pick yourself as the hero for someone else?

I wouldn't pick myself.

I would probably pick that super smart, super strong, beautiful, courageous, never tired, perfect, oh wait... that doesn't exist.

Then I remember that every day my Heavenly Father picks me.

I believe He looks down and says, "Oh good, another one of my heroes just woke up. I have a work for you to do."

And then in all our doings, He sends these little promptings.
"Smile at this person."
"Reach out to ______"
"Hug your child who just broke your favorite_____"
"Make that meal your son loves, just because."
"Give that compliment to her."
"Forgive that rudeness."

 God has handpicked YOU to be a hero. He knows your face. He knows what you can do and the life He would put you in. He knows the people you will somehow have contact with. He knows the influence that you can have.

He knows that in the end, love, faith, and courage win and we are part of that in each of our "heroic" acts.

Your face may be contorted in pain, coupled with incredible strength as you give birth.
Your face may be the one with tears of compassion for a friend who is grieving.
Maybe your strong body is helping to carry the burdens of someone else who just can't carry it all today.
It may be your face damp and streaked with dirt as you help change the tire on that old lady's car.
Maybe your weary body is crawling into bed at the end of a long day of doing what you consider all your normal non-heroic things called "taking care of your family".
Your face of peace and love is healing a person who needs forgiveness.

My children have often been my heroes.  As a child of my Heavenly Father, I have that same opportunity. He has given me all that I need, and what I may lack in the moment, He will provide.

He knows there are days you will act on those whisperings and moments you won't.

And all the while He loves you!

His little hero.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Return Calls

Have you ever called and left a message or emailed a loved and trusted friend about an important matter only to wait and wait to hear a reply and not get one? How does it feel?

If this is someone you love and trust, do you simply wait, do you send another correspondence, do you call again, do you stalk their answering machine or voice mail?

Do you assume they are thinking about your dilemma and trying to come up with good advice, an appropriate response, or even an answer?

Or do you assume they just don't want to be bothered by you, think your problem is silly, or that your issue doesn't really merit their time?

I have had a struggle that has lasted for years, one that I never expected, and one that has seemed insurmountable. I have been stalking God about it for a long time, and prayed and prayed.

I started with prayers of "please fix this, " to "help me understand," to "help me change me." And finally, "Hey are you even there? Really, are you listening, because I've called on this one about 5,000 times and have you checked your machine lately? It must be broken!" 

Funny how my talks with God on this one have become. Because I really want it fixed for crying out loud and fixed now already! To get to the point that I'm asking if He's even there listening was a super low point for me. And this time, I let Him know that that's how I was feeling, ALONE.

You know what He did? He heard me! And this is what happened. Shortly after this prayer I had two conversations with dear and trusted friends that I admire greatly. Conversations that I didn't initiate about this problem. Yet these two dear friends described issues and heartaches very similar to mine! I didn't really have to share too much about my issue, because I knew they too were in pain, and suddenly knowing I wasn't alone helped. More than that, knowing that He was listening and wanted me to know I was heard and that I'm not alone filled my empty, aching heart.

In the many times I have earnestly sought Him in prayer, I may not have gotten the answers I was seeking. For example, "fix this." He hasn't "fixed it," but that doesn't seem to be the plan right now to fix it. It seems like there is much, much more that needs to happen, not only for me, but for the others involved. "Help me understand," while I don't understand why this is going on, or what He has in store for us in all this, I do understand some things much better now. "Help me change me," that is definitely happening. I am changing. And realizing how much I need to change. I often joke that I stopped praying for patience years ago, because I really didn't want him to make me learn patience. He is helping me have experiences that are teaching it to me anyway. Yes, God has a sense of humor.

I am so grateful for these two friends who don't even know they were part of a Heavenly answer that day. But I know them well enough to know that they recognize promptings and by acting on them, they were an answer to prayer to me. They were the return phone call/email/text that I very much was begging for. They filled me with God's love. I'm also grateful that He gave me the gift to see that as His return call. It makes me wonder how many times I may have overlooked His answers because I was looking for the "fix."

I'm not going to stop calling Him on this. I still need answers and guidance. But hopefully I will be more aware of the answers He does send. Hopefully, I will also be wise enough to hear his Spirit whisper to me when He is trying to answer someone else's desperate plea.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pray On!

I was listening to a Christian radio station when someone shared a thought that has resonated with me in so many ways. Please know this is not my thought, but I have to share because it was amazing.

The idea was this, what would happen if God answered the prayer you said this morning?

Would anyone else's life be affected?

Did your prayers include anyone else? If so, were they specific? When you were calling on Heaven, did you have a purpose in mind?

I couple this with some recent thoughts of my own.

Am I so busy going to the Lord with my own agenda, have I even thought of Him? What did I think? Did I think to express my love to Him? I do that each morning with my family, do I also do that with my Heavenly Father? Have I asked what His agenda may be and how I may be useful to Him that day?

There was a man in our church who I loved to listen to his prayers, because he truly recognized the Lord for who He is. He would begin his prayers with words like these, "Almighty God, creator of all that was, is and ever will be..." and then he would give thanks. That greeting to the Lord always humbled me in my seat, to reverence the Creator.

Have I taken the time to notice his daily gifts to me?

There was a different man at church who I remember thanking the Lord for "the beautiful crisp, white glittering snow that blanketed the trees." He was so purposeful in noticing the beauties of the daily gifts of God that listening to him pray made me notice those gifts more fully and also be thankful.

There was a woman years ago that prayed as though the Lord was sitting directly in front of her. She spoke to Him in reverence and conversation, that made me at times take a peak and see if He was right there! Her prayers made me think about the relationship of Him as my Heavenly Father.

The prayer group I belonged to taught me about the power of group prayer. Many voices of many faiths all praying to the same Being who loved them all. Thanking, asking, noticing in all ways.

I also read somewhere that "the prayers of yesterday are not enough for the world today."  That gave me pause. Are my prayers enough? What does that mean?

Am I acknowledging God for who He is?

Do I recognize His bounteous blessings?

Am I being specific in who/what I am praying for?

Am I praying for others and their welfare as fully as I do for myself?

If just one of my prayers in one day was answered, would anyone else be blessed? Would my Heavenly Father know that I appreciate who He is? Would He know that I see and recognize His hand in my life, my surroundings, my world? Would I feel His presence still with me because the conversation was ongoing?

I have to say, I need to be more thoughtful in my prayers. I'm so grateful to have heard this idea. I hope that today it will help you in your relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I pray that we will be able to see God more fully in our lives, world, and the miracles all around us, and that as we do, we will acknowledge His greatness, we will trust His ability and we will help bring to pass His plans.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Christians: Get Over Yourselves!

Last week I received a "share" on Facebook that sort of sickened me.

It was a clip of a preacher who had been visited by someone of another faith, and in this clip it was pretty clear that the preacher felt he had the corner on the market on faith, prayer and knowledge and what these other people believed was completely wrong.

While I am not of their faith, it saddened and sickened me for a few reasons.

First of all, mocking another for their beliefs, is not only sad, but as Christians, it is so beneath us.

Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, the Savior made it clear that it is our job to "love one another, as I have loved you."  Let that sink in a minute.

Who are we to decide whether someone else is right or wrong in their belief of the Bible? You are entitled to your opinion, but even if you disagree with someone else's interpretation, it is not up to you to decide if they are right or wrong. Not your job! It is His to judge.

The Savior himself, expressed His displeasure with the Pharisees who were judging others. They judged Him, the Savior, for not washing before dinner. And he didn't mince words with them calling them "fools" and saying, "Woe unto you".

I cannot tell you the number of times I have been accused of, or not considered Christian, because I am the "wrong brand".  Really?

It doesn't really bother me, because I know better, but it bothers me that as religious people, we tolerate that kind of teaching from those within our churches. Have you ever been in church and heard another denomination maligned? I have and it drives me nuts!! Rarely have those people ever known someone of that faith, watched them hold onto their faith through trials, or asked questions of what they really believe, rather than what "they've heard."

Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, if they weren't (fill in the blank with a religion) they probably wouldn't have that trial/problem.

Last I checked, I don't know of a single religion whose people don't have problems and trials. Why? Maybe because God is trying to make us more like Him and more reliant on Him.

I wasn't raised as a young child in the religion I have chosen, I went to a private school of another religion, and it was there that several of the questions they couldn't answer helped me to find the beliefs I have now. However, even though that church wasn't where I wound up, I'm so grateful for the goodness of its people and for many of the teachings, as well as not being able to answer my questions.

Let's face it, we all want to be right. But we will never be right by mocking others, not loving others, not allowing ourselves to ask questions of our own faith as well as ask genuine questions of others. And then if we need to agree to disagree, so be it. The Judge will take care of it in the long run.

Our greatest challenge is to love others. If we can do that and bring others to Christ, we have no need to fear. But if we mock each other and send people away from the Savior because we are too busy judging and being right, we lose. We lose BIG.

I'm not perfect in my faith, but frankly, I don't know anyone who is. We are not here to be perfect, someone already did that. We are here to follow His example the best we can. That may come in calling out the Pharisees, but more often it will be in reaching out to the sick, the poor, the hurting and suffering, the lonely, those faltering in their faith.

So my fellow Christians it is time to get over ourselves and get on to being the best follower of Christ that we can be. Let's embrace the good things we see in each other as we practice our faiths, as we see the goodness in other churches, in other believers.

There probably has never been a time where we are needed more collectively than right now. So let's unite in our faith in Christ and uphold each other in our respective faiths. Let's respect each other's faith and show this world what believers really are all about: love.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Get Your Game On!

Have you ever been on a winning team? You know, the one that may have lost a few games during the season, but really nothing to be worried about and your team kept going on and on defeating in game after game.

How did that feel? Were you so proud to wear your jersey or uniform? Did you like it when people wanted a play by play of some of your hardest games? Which do you remember better, the easy wins or the tough ones?

Do you realize you get to choose to be on the winning team right now?

We know at the end of this, God will win.

It is as simple as that. Which is funny because usually we have to wait game after game throughout a long season to find out who the victor will be.

But in this, we know that God will win. We have to decide, are we going to be on His team?

The great thing is, you don't have tryouts, He takes you as you are. It doesn't matter how tall, how fast, how smart, how knowledgeable. He will train you throughout the season. He will give you plays and He will show you how to improve your game in whatever capacity you are playing.

He will give high fives when you have done well and pat you on the back or dry your tears when you lose or mess up.

And He will keep putting you back in, no matter what. No one sits the bench on His team, all play.

It won't matter how long or short our season is, or what position he chooses to play us at, if we are on His team, we win!