About This Blog

The butterfly picture in the upper left corner is a symbol and reminder for me of the spiritual process. Sometimes I am the caterpillar - barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I find myself in that dark place of the soul, and I remind myself that it is simply my cocoon. While all may seem dark, and I may feel like everything is totally disintegrating around me (and in me!) a miracle is at work in my life and I will soon be able to fly! I love those days where I experience the butterfly in my life! The ability to fly above all the mundane earthy matters and remember the truth and experience God's power in tangible ways in my life are wonderful times indeed that occur more and more often as I continue this journey! Thank you, God!

If you are so inclined, I invite you to journey with me as we seek the promised land together. While I hope to share some "faithbooking" (scrapbook pages or artistic journaling about my faith journey), much of the time the journey may well be seen in words, rather than pictures. I invite you to create your own pictures. How do these things play out in your life? I'd love to hear from you about your own spiritual journey!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

God's Armor


This page was probably a month in preparation and finally took form on Sept 23rd.  It first began to take form in my mind as I thought about a story in a book I came across.  It was a story titled "Master Potter" by Jill Austin.  I'll admit I haven't finished reading the book, so don't really know much about it, but the beginning chapters brought to life the idea that when we feel discouraged, depressed, fearful, etc. it is not really coming from within us.  We are under spiritual attack!  What a concept!  This idea REALLY resonated with me.  After all, we've been told that our struggles are not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12).  It also helps me understand Paul better when he speaks of it not being himself, but sin within himself that is doing that which he doesn't want to do (Romans 7:15-25).

I found myself pondering the idea for several days.  As I did so, the idea of the armor of God as presented in Ephesians chapter 6 began to really come into focus for me in a way I had never understood it before.  As I pondered the idea that any negative thought might be a "fiery arrow" from the enemy that needed to be extinguished by the shield of faith, I began to see many things in a different light.  No wonder we're to guard our thoughts!  How many times have I taken negative thoughts into my being, dwelt on them, and allowed them to wreck havoc in my life?  How much better to allow God's shield to protect me!

I spent some time pondering what those "flaming arrows" might be in my life.  As you can see in the picture above, some that God spoke to me about include:
  • Condemnation - We are told that there is NO CONDEMNATION (Rom 8:1), but yet, I am so quick to condemn myself!  That is one of those flaming arrows that I need to be protected against.
  • Discouragement -  This is a big one for me.  I too often hear a voice in my head saying words like, "It's too much!  You can't do it!"  This is NOT the truth.  With God, all things are possible! (Matt 19:26).  Discouragement is another of those flaming arrows which must be extinguished.
  • Selfishness - Oh, how easy it is to focus on myself and my needs to the exclusion of those around me!  This is another of those fiery arrows!
  • Pride - We think of the phrase, "Pride goeth before a fall", but the Bible puts it even stronger than that - "Pride goes before destruction . . . " (Proverbs 16:18).  And yet, it's quite easy for me to see that when I am concerned about what others think of me, I'm much more likely to move out of alignment with God's will and into situations that will bring pain.
  • Discontent - The old testament has a lot to say about the Israelites and how discontented they were in the wilderness and how they murmured against God.  And yet how different am I?  How quick to complain when things don't go the way I think they should?  We're told to "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4).  We can't rejoice and be complaining at the same time!
  • Fear - This is another biggie for me.  Too often when I'm asked to do something that takes me the least bit out of my comfort zone, I move into fear.  God reminds me, "I have not given you a spirit of fear . . . " (2 Tim 1:7)  When I feel fear, it is not GOD'S spirit at play in my life!
  • Depression - I praise God that he extinguished this flaming arrow for me years ago when I was feeling suicidal.  That's not to say that this arrow isn't still flung my way from time to time, but I'm more likely to recognize it as the enemy that it is.  I can't be depressed and "Rejoice in the Lord always" as I've been instructed!
  • Appetite - This is an arrow that got through my defenses at a time when I didn't realize what it was and that God's armor could protect me from it.  Now, God needs to surgically remove it from my being so my appetite no longer controls me and no longer encourages me to eat those things which will destroy me! Thank you, Father, that you are healing me!!!!
  • Judgement - This arrow is not the gift of discernment God promises, but is instead that insidious voice that finds fault with everything and everyone - especially myself!  Related to the arrow of condemnation, I am again reminded tha there is NO CONDEMNATION (Rom 8:1)  I want no part of these arrows from the "accuser" and look forward to the time when he is cast down (Rev 12:10).
  • Distrust - This can take the form of not trusting God to handle things in my life, or of not trusting myself to hear His voice clearly.  Either way, if that flaming arrow hits it's mark, my life is much more painful!
Those are undoubtedly just a few of the many flaming arrows the accuser throws at us, but it's enough for me to much better understand the importance of clothing myself in the FULL ARMOR OF GOD so I am protected!
So what is that full armor, and how do I clothe myself in it????  Here's the passage about God's armor as translated in the New International Version:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." - Eph 6:10-17 (NIV)
I want to be sure I have taken up EACH piece of the armor!  There are 6 specific things that are mentioned:
  1. Belt of Truth - surrounding the very core of our being needs to be the truth.  I see this belt of truth applying in a couple of different ways.  First, I have to tell the truth - especially to myself! Father, what truths about me do I need to face and be honest about?  What do I need to confess to you and allow you to cleanse? We are promised that the truth will set us free (John 8:32).  A second application of this belt of truth that I see is that when the truth of God is held in the very core of our being, we can not be moved.  "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." (Psalms 16:8)  What truths of God are we talking about?  I'm sure there are many, but for me one of these core truths is "God IS love". (1 John 4:8)  When I really understand God's love for me in the core of my being it changes me and enables me to stand and face things I never thought I could!
  2. Breastplace of Righteousness - We are told that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), so clearly we need God's garment here!  I tend to have difficulty with the word "righteousness".  It is one of those words that is not a part of secular vocabulary and which tends to be relegated to "church speak".  What does it really mean?  Once again, I'm sure there are many things it covers, but as I sat asking God this question and thinking about the breast plate as guarding our hearts, what came to me was that this is about doing what we know to be right: walking the talk and living ethically.  If I know "in my heart" that I have behaved in ways that are not in alignment with God's will, I am vulnerable and those flaming arrows can find their mark much more easily. 
  3. Shoes of Peace - I think of Romans 12:18 - resolving to "live peaceably with all men" as much as it is within our power.  If we go about with a "chip on our shoulder" (or perhaps it is more like a heel spur???) we are predisposed to take what others say in a negative way.  When we actively put on shoes of peace, setting our intention to walk in peace with all, this too gives us protection from those fiery arrows.
  4. Shield of Faith - This is what quenches the fiery arrows, so is a very important part of our armor!!!  I am so grateful for passages that remind me that even if my faith seems very small, it is big enough to move mountains (Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6). More than that, it is not something I must manufacture on my own - it is a gift from God! (Ephesians 2:8).  Can you picture this magnificent shield? A beautiful shield of protection given to us by our Father. Thank you, God!
  5. Helmet of Salvation - What does this symbolize?  As I pondered this question, the first thing that came to me is that this is the piece of armor that protects my MIND.  As I continued my musings, I realized that YES!  When I know I am saved, my mind is protect from doubts and fears that otherwise could quite literally kill me!  When I truly trust in God's promised gift of salvation, I am not vulnerable to attacks based on the weaknesses of my flesh - because I know that by faith I am saved - not by works! (Ephesians 2:8).
  6. Sword of Spirit, the Word of God - While certainly the "word of God" can refer to scripture, to me, this is even more than that.  It is that still small voice behind me saying "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:21).  When I have taken the time to check in with God for guidance and direction in my life, I am much better able to meet the enemy with strength and power.  God reminds me, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. (2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Version)
 One more thing stood out to me as I pondered this passage from Ephesians 6.  Yes, we're told to take up the full armor of God - and that's important.  But there's something that is emphasized repeatedly and I've come to recognize repetition as one of the ways I'm told to PAY ATTENTION - THIS IS IMPORTANT!.  I'm quoting here from Ephesians 6 in the American Standard Version - bold emphasis mine:
    Verse11 - "that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."
    Verse 13 - "and having done everything, to stand firm".
    Verse 14 - "stand firm therefore"

When I completed this page, I knew those words - "STAND FIRM" were important, but I also knew I was missing something.  What did they mean???  In what way was I supposed to STAND FIRM?

This morning, I finally got "the rest of the story".  It came from a story in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 as God's spirit came upon Jahaziel to prepare the Israelites for battle.
"You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17  ESV
There are those words again - STAND FIRM.  I'm being told: "Cheryl, the battle is not yours, but mine!  There is nothing for you to do but to wear the armor you've been given and stand where I tell you to stand.  Then you can watch me vanquish the enemy on your behalf!"

Thank you, Father!!!  You are so good to me!  I am so grateful for your guidance and protection!  Thank you for extinguishing those fiery arrows that I saw so clearly the other day!  You know how vulnerable I felt and how close they came!  "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness . . . " (Isaiah 61:10)  Thank you, Father!

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To see how I made this Bible Journaling page, please see my paper crafting blog - here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Courage

The last two posts have been about fearlessness & faith.  Today's is about courage - which is also the opposite of fear.  This morning I was drawn to Psalms 27:14 "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."  

Whenever I see a phrase repeated like that, I figure it's a pretty important concept.  So my questions were two-fold.  1) What does it mean to have your heart strengthened? 2) What does it mean to "wait" on the Lord?

The answer to the 1st came quickly enough.  While it could mean many things, for me today it means courage.  When God strengthens my heart he gives me courage to face the unknowns ahead without fear.

So what does it mean to wait on the Lord?  The picture that came to mind for this one was that of a child and parent out for a walk.  The parent has asked the child to stick to His side.  Often, however, children like to run ahead - the parent seems to be moving so slowly!  But in this case, my Heavenly Father knows there is a lion near the path ahead - "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).  As I see this picture in my mind, I realize that if I run ahead on the path, not only will I be fearful when I face the lion on my own, but I will be in serious danger as well.  BUT, if I wait on Him and walk with Him, when we come face to face with the lion I will feel no fear because I KNOW my Daddy can handle it and I am safe!!!

Father, please keep me by your side this day.  I do not want to run ahead and get myself into dangerous situations.  I want to face any dangers with you by my side where I will be safe.  Thank you, Father!!!!

Monday, August 7, 2017

FAITH


Today I was taken to Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  I've been reading the story of a man who had a very special encounter with God.  His son was in a coma and the doctors had told them there was no hope - but God told him otherwise.  As he prayed, God spoke to him in an audible voice so there was no doubt!  God promised him that his son would be healed and told him to go tell the others at the hospital.  The man describes how when he went back to the hospital, nothing had changed in the physical world.  To all appearances, his son was still dying.  But he had been given the assurance by God and was convinced that things were happening in the UNSEEN world that would soon manifest in the healing of his son in the physical world.  

This is the faith that is needed to experience miracles - the assurance of things hoped for - the conviction of things not seen.  Certainty of God's power and willingness to change the situation.  I'm reminded that this faith is a GIFT. (Eph 2:8)  

Suddenly I have better understanding of at least one of the reasons Jesus told us to KEEP ON ASKING.  It keeps us centered in that gift of faith, helping to ensure our certainty of God's promise and ensuring that seeds of doubt are not allowed to grow and flourish and steal our miracle from us.

Father, thank you so much for your gift of faith!  You know there are yet things I do not yet understand in Jesus' teachings on this subject.  But you've shown me that my certainty does not rely on my own understanding - it relies on the gift of faith in your love and power - your character.  I KNOW you love me and that you can be trusted.  I KNOW you want me to have freedom from fear and a solid faith walk full of joy and peace - and that you are gifting me with that now!  Father, I choose to continue to boldly come before your throne of grace so you can keep my feet planted on the path and keep the weeds of doubt from growing as you continue your work in me.  Thank you, Father!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fearless!!!!


It seems like forever since I posted on this blog.  I tend to not think about posting when I don't have to have a picture to go with the message!!!! Anyway, today I DO have a picture, though it's mostly words and those may be a bit challenging to actually see in this photo.  But here's the story behind the picture. 

The focus for this page is 1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment." (NKJV) This is something God's been bringing to my attention.  Though I hadn't really realized it until recently, I've had a tendency to live with a low (medium???!) level of anxiety as my natural state - and that is NOT His plan for me!!! He wants to give me freedom from even that low level of fear that has been tormenting me!!! 

I am so grateful that His choice for me is a life of freedom from tormenting fear - a life of love, joy, and peace!!!  But He's been showing me that I haven't been accepting the whole of that gift from him.  As he relieves major fears, I have been content to settle back into my "natural" state of low-level anxiety instead of letting Him remove it ALL!!!!  

One of the things that has helped me visualize this is work that I've been doing, with the help of a specialist, to relieve pain in my physical body.  She explained to me that due to stress in our lives (physical trauma, emotional tension, etc), we tend to live with a constant level of stress.  She drew a line and numbered it 0 at one end and 100 at the other.  She said this is a picture of our muscles - they can be firing at 100%, or they can be completely relaxed at 0% or somewhere in between.  Then she said that often, our brain has become so used to our carrying a certain amount of stress, that it comes to believe that 20% firing of a muscle is as much as it is possible to relax.  Part of my work with her is to re-train my brain to realize that it can actually relax the muscle farther than that!

For me this has been a great visual for my relationship with nervousness and anxiety (other words for fear!).  I have become so used to living with a certain amount of nervousness or anxiety that I've seen that as normal.  But God offers to remove ALL of it and replace it with His Spirit!

2 Timothy 1:7 reminds me, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."  (ISV) 

Suddenly I find myself understanding the story of Mary & Martha (as told in Luke 10:39-42) much better.  I'll admit that I've struggled with this story.  I can REALLY relate to Martha who is trying to get food on the table while everyone else is relaxing and enjoying their time with Jesus. She's feeling a bit resentful that her sister isn't helping her and speaks to Jesus about it.  But Jesus gently tells her, "Martha, Martha!  You worry and fuss about a lot of things.  But there is only one thing you need.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her." (ISV - emphasis mine).  Other versions use words like: anxious, bothered, troubled, distracted, upset.  THIS is the real issue here.  It's not about making dinner - it's about allowing anxiety to distract us and drain our energy so we aren't able to move forward with 100% focus on anything.  THIS is what God is speaking to me about. 

He's promised that His perfect love casts out fear - ALL of it, if I will let it!!! Thank you, Father!!! What a wonderful promise!  I choose this.  Please cast out ALL fear and replace it with your spirit of POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE.  I don't know how to do this for myself, but I know I don't have to know how.  You are doing it FOR me.  I just have to allow you FULL access to change my life!  Father, I am so looking forward to experiencing life from this new perspective.  To face new challenges and opportunities with excitement and joy instead of nervous trepidation.  What a concept!  Thank you, Father, for doing this work in me and for your promise that the work you've begun in me you will see to completion.  You've got your work cut out for you, but I know YOU can do it!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!     

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Social Etiquette & Food Choices

For some time I've struggled with food issues.  One of my challenges is that I've found that it can be challenging for me to make healthy food choices on an ongoing basis if I, even occasionally, eat foods that I've found to be less than helpful for my body system.  And yet, what to do when I'm in a social setting?  Eating out with friends?  Or even being a guest in someone's home?  

In a social setting, I hate to say anything about special dietary issues because I hate to make extra trouble for my hosts or make them feel I don't appreciate what they've done in preparing a meal.  I also don't want to be excluded from social events because people don't want to deal with my food sensitivities - especially since many people would see my diet as quite restrictive and wouldn't have a clue how to handle it!  After all, relationships are more important than food!

It's been an on-going challenge - one I've faced mostly internally.  I kept remembering the story in Acts chapter 10 about Peter's vision about the unclean meat.  He was told, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."  While I knew that for Peter, this vision was actually talking about the "unclean" gentiles, I also felt this story indicated that with prayer, I should be able to eat anything and not have it adversely affect me - especially when coupled with Luke 10:10 - "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." (NIV)

Recently, however, I was brought to a different story.  One I've heard since I was a child, but didn't absorb the full significance.  That is the story told in Daniel 1:8-16.  I've always seen this story as a lesson that a plant-based diet can be superior to one that is based in rich "delicacies", but I completely ignored the fact that Daniel ASKED that he and his friends be given a different meal than the other people were being given!  Now, this was an on-going situation and not a one-time thing, but it really struck me.  Daniel asked to be fed differently.  This realization has helped me both to feel better about choosing to eat differently than the "norm", and to feel less uncomfortable about saying something about it.  I still want to pray about each situation, but am more open to a wider range of responses.  Thank you, Father!

I was faced with a related dilemma again this weekend.  My husband's aunt is in an assisted living situation.  The facility had a special "Valentine's" meal where the residents were encouraged to invite family to join them for lunch.  So, this aunt asked my husband and me to join her.  It turned out to be quite challenging food-wise. The main food that I could eat was the appetizer salad.  Our aunt noticed I wasn't eating much and questioned me about it. I knew that she knew my dietary choices and would understand that the food in front of me did not meet those criteria, so what should I say?  I knew she wasn't particularly happy with the meal either, but she really had little choice.  She lived there!  I didn't want to make her feel any worse about things.  But the fact remained.  I REALLY couldn't eat much of what was in front of me!  

It was a lesson I continue to ponder and pray about. I want to understand all that God had for me to learn in that situation.  One of the questions I'm sitting with after my experience yesterday is, "what I can do to help improve our aunt's experience."  My heart hurts for her.  She's faced many changes that she didn't WANT, and is in a situation that isn't ideal.

Father, what is your will concerning her?  What is my part to play?

Father, this day I once again seek your guidance in my life.  May each thought, word, and action be in accordance with your will!  May I not only gain increased clarity on HOW best to eat, but also WHEN and WHAT to say about it to others, and WHEN I need to just eat what is put before me, trusting you to protect me.  Father, I know this lesson goes beyond physical food. 

I think of a couple passages in 1 Corinthians: 
  • "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."  1 Cor 6:12
  • "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." 1 Cor 10:23
It's clear to me that I need to make sure my focus is on what is BEST, not what I can get away with!  While it may be true that I can get away with eating certain things - whether we're talking about physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual - that doesn't necessarily mean it's best.  God wants the BEST for me.  Shouldn't I support Him in that endeavor?  Likewise, I know God wants the very best for our aunt, and I want to support Him in that endeavor as well.

Father, may I be willing to learn from you about what is BEST for me.  May I be open to whatever changes may be necessary in the physical, emotion, mental, and spiritual parts of my being.  Thank you for wanting the very best for me.  May I cooperate with you on that.  And may I also recognize how I can facilitate that for others and be willing to follow through with the tasks you place before me.  Thank you, Father!

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