Category Archives: Spiritual Morsels

Spiritual morsels digested here!

I am thankful…

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Lord, I am thankful.

I am thankful for the wild sunflowers and the low-hanging wispy clouds that could only have been from you as Bren drove us safely to the airport this morning. The check-in and security lines were short and you stopped my waterworks before I embarrassed myself too much as I said good-bye to the beautiful girls. Thank you.

Thank you Lord for providing two extra hours (via delays) to work on my drawing and the empty seat next to me at the Denver airport so I could spread my pencils and erasers out with abandon. Thank you for Starbucks in airports. I am grateful on the second flight that you filled the seat next to me with a wisp of a man, allowing my hips to fill the whole seat without the uncomfortable hip and leg rub. But really, you owed me after the linebacker you sat me next to on the first flight. No, that’s wrong. I am thankful that he gave up his seat so a couple could sit together and sought the only open seat left on the plane, the one next to me. Oh, and I almost forgot, thank you for your super natural powers extending the effects of Dramamine in my system even after the prescribed six hours. I would not have made it to the ground without utilizing the small white bag in front of me if you were not so equipped.

Thank you for the dishes that were washed and the laundry that was folded when I got home even though nobody was there to welcome me. I know these tasks were done in love and I might have felt sad or insignificant (ok, maybe I did for a moment) except that I know this is their love language and I know how rarely they show it. Little did I know that they were hiding upstairs, awaiting my ascent to assault me with hugs. Thank you.

Lastly, thank you for the sunset as the vibrant pinks and purples glowed on the underbellies of the clouds and the mountains stood as a strong and sure sign that you are. Thank you for speaking your love language.

I am thankful.

Speaking

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Still unfinished, but much closer to being done

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Attention and Intention

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Whew…what a year.

I look back over the last year, from my travels around the world to my next journey across the states and I am without words (well…almost without words. I have to write something on this blank page).

Last June when I returned home from Africa, I was drifting between two worlds and trying to make sense of it all. Silly me, I know. I tried to fit back into the rhythm of my life the way it was before but of course, it didn’t work. How could it? I had seen and experienced so much. I was foolish to come home and think that I could be the same. I was very excited to see my family and share all that I had seen and done but they didn’t walk that walk with me. I was an open book of emotion upon my return, feelings of joy and shame, anger and peace, gratitude and hopelessness. How could I convey all of that?

I had big plans for my family (unbeknownst to them): I was going to learn Zulu fluently, write a book about my experience to benefit their cause, raise money to return with my whole family, and even thought for a moment, “We could be missionaries.” I wanted my kids to feel the curiosity and excitement that overwhelmed me when we would roll into the care point and kids would come running. I wanted my husband to walk with me and deliver food to a family in desperate need of it. I promised myself that I would continue to fight this fight, keep the flame burning, carry them with me, keep my attention turned to them. Why would God send me there just to forget it all?

It saddened me as the big plans I had slipped through my fingers and reality resurfaced. I had a family that needed my attention, here and now, not living in the future or past in Africa. Not that I can’t have a passion for Africa, I can, I just can’t blow it into full-blown obsession and neglect everything else that I have been given. So, now I’ve not accomplished learning Zulu or going to missionary school and I’ve neglected my biggest allies and support system. I felt more and more like a failure in both places, on two continents, an intercontinental failure!

A year has passed. I have spent much of this year in, shall I say, spiritual boot camp; studying, praying, and listening. I needed balance again. I prayed. And I prayed the next day and again, and again. And God showed up over and over, giving me direction for my budding passions and peace – peace about all that I want to do in Africa and peace in knowing that He’s got it. I am a pawn and I am in play but He will tell me when and where to move. Being rooted right here and now and faithfully keeping my eyes turned to Him so that I may be intentional every day, that is all I need to do.

In a few days I will be heading back to Colorado and I’m in the process of saying good-bye to the many friends and experiences that have blessed me here in California. This is a tough week and there is a certain mourning that I must walk through. Thanks to my spiritual sabbatical, I approach the change this time with a certain sadness but with the wisdom and peace that I am a part of the ultimate strategy and certain end-game.

I am ready, eyes pointed high and heart open for direction. Oh, the places we will go…

Beyond Survival

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Beyond Survival: A Hope for Swaziland, Africa…

 

Hi friends and family,

 Five years ago I first learned of Swaziland while attending Vanguard Church. A few church members had returned from their first mission trip to the region and wanted to share what they had seen and what they were hoping to accomplish there.

Honestly, I had never heard of the country and I was not looking forward to the mini documentary that they were planning to show. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a big cry baby and kids in poverty get the tears flowing in less than 10 seconds flat. “Just bring a whole Kleenex box,” I thought as the title credits began.

     As expected, my eyes were swollen and red for hours after the clip but I also noticed a change in my heart that did not fade away with time. I ached to help these kids. I did what I could and was fortunate enough to help prepare and fund-raise for most of the annual mission trips but due to circumstance, or God’s timing as I like to call it, I was never able to go.  Until this year…

 

I will be going to Swaziland, Africa with Vanguard Church’s (www.vanguardchurch.org) ministry called Beyond Survival (www.beyondsurvivalonline.org) from June 9th to 22nd to serve with Children’s HopeChest (www.hopechest.org) in order to invest in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children.  Most of these children’s lives have been greatly devastated by HIV/AIDS. Children’s HopeChest was founded in 1994 to provide God’s hope and practical help to orphans around the world.  Many children are living orphaned, abandoned, and rejected in Swaziland.  With no one to care for them, and offer them God’s hope and practical help, their chance for survival and to live a full life of faith, family, education, and work is slim.   Through offering resources and relationships to children in need, our church and others are making a difference in the lives of several hundred orphans in Swaziland… one child at a time.  Vanguard Church has partnered with Children’s HopeChest to sponsor what is called a Care Point where children receive food, clothing, medical attention, education, discipleship, and care. Currently we are providing for over 200 children on a daily basis in Swaziland at our Care Point.

            Never before has there been such a great need for the lives of children and families in Swaziland, Africa.  HIV and AIDS are ravaging an entire generation leaving families devastated and children alone.  Approximately 46% of Swaziland’s total population is infected with HIV (population is 1.2 million- that is 552,000 people).  Because of HIV/AIDS there are over 150,000 orphans and vulnerable children living in Swaziland. Most people are dying at home. Children are attempting to take care of their parents. An entire generation will disappear in the next 5-7 years. The result is a generation of orphans. But we believe God is moving in a remnant of His people and I have an opportunity to partner with them.

I, along with a team from Vanguard, and other churches, will have the opportunity to build a new legacy with your help.  We will offer medical clinics, work on needed construction projects, sports camps, teachers training, and leadership development to the leaders and children there in Swaziland. We will visit and share hope and help with children in other areas and ministries.  And that’s just the beginning.  The real beauty is in the life-long relationships and real life changes that we are building through a mission trip of this kind.

Without you, this mission can not be successful.  I need your support in one or more of following ways.    Please pray for me and with us as we go on this trip.  Please consider giving resources or supplies towards this new endeavor.  Please consider supporting me through a financial donation.

 

I need to raise approximately $1,260 to cover my land costs

 

I know this is short notice and I appreciate any help that you feel lead to give. 

Due to the short notice, online gifts can be given at http://www.vanguardchurch.org, click Give on the right side, then Give Online and Vanguard Church. On the secure page, designate Swazi Mission Trip in the drop down box. You cannot designate the recipient online so please email me at clarks012000@hotmail.com with the amount so I can receive credit towards my expenses.

Fear

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     If a cobblestone road is our path in life, built stone by stone on wisdom and what we know is true, then fear is the dark, overgrown dirt trail that looks like a shortcut but is always a dead end.

     It’s so easy to be sidetracked by fear. It causes us to abandon what we know is true and for an empty guarantee that it will be easier on its road. Whole lives can be missed while caught in the snare of fear.

My buddies…the Israelites

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   I just finished reading Joshua and was struck by some of the same themes that have struck me in the New Testament: How can the Israelites possibly worship other idols in the presence of God and His miracles. I mean, the Jordan stopped flowing, the walls of Jericho fell in front of them and the sun stood still in the sky. Yet, Joshua warns the Isrealites repeatedly not to associate with the nations that remain among them, invoke their names or serve their gods, like they should need any reminding.

     In the New Testament, these people are walking with Jesus and still question his authenticity. I have never understood how this could possibly be…until this week. 

     The downward spiral began slowly; a cookie here or a cheese stick there. It really does start small. The miniscule breech snowballed and now it’s a week later and I’m sitting in my car, shoving the last bite of a Whopper into my mouth, washing it down with some Diet Coke and emptying the greasy cardboard container of all its french fries. There is an urgency to my shoving, washing down and emptying, as if the healthy food authorities will catch me in the act.  At first I was sampling, tasting, trying but now I’m hoarding, savoring and delighting.

       I am a recovering food addict and this is what it looks like to fall off the wagon. I’m not going to lie, I have worshipped food throughout my life. I always thought it was from being raised with a brother who would eat super fast just to get seconds so I couldn’t have any but no, the problem went deeper. Is it sad when all your vacations are filed in your memory by the delicious food that was eaten, not by the activities paticipated in? Sad? Maybe, but we all have something. At times, it was hard for me to share MY food, my special food that I had bought only for me. I would buy it and claim it was for my new eating program. That’s food addict lingo for HANDS OFF!!! It didn’t have to be sweet though, just good. I never hid anything; well, maybe once – dark chocolate peppermint bark is seasonal so I had to take covert action with that. Completely understandable, right?  My name is Cheryl and I am a recovering food addict.

     Truth be told, I’ve been down this road of gluttony before, as I said, I lived on it for most of my life. Two years ago, after the neighborhood had really gone to shit, God walked up to the door and gave me the keys to a new house on a new road and I left Addiction Lane with no baggage.  I found freedom from food. Thank you, Jesus! My eyes saw anew and food had lost all of its control. I was free. Miracle…hello…hand of God, right? How could I ever eat anything remotely drenched in a savory sauce again? And here I am, sitting in my car with mere crumbs left in my takeout bag and a napkin to wipe the evidence away. I’m guilty, guilty of worshipping something besides my God, even after witnessing a miracle.  Sound like somebody else?

Trainer – owner – dog: Spirit – soul – body

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     A dog will do whatever it can get away with. With no training, it will eat what it can pull off the counter or lick up from the floor, blindly chase an animal scent until it is thoroughly lost, bark at everything because everything looks like a threat, and relieve itself whenever the urge arises. It lives by the will of its untrained heart, doing whatever it fancies, regardless of the consequences. 

      Being the new owner of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel puppy, Scarlet, I have been trying to head off her puppy instincts at every turn. I’ve followed her around to make sure she doesn’t go potty on the new carpets, picked up everything that might be remotely chewable or edible for her (which I’ve learned is just about anything), yelled louder than she can bark to get her to stop barking (it doesn’t make sense when I write it either), and ran marathons to catch her when squirrels pop up and she has to give chase. I have been frustrated, angry, tired, dirty, sore and hoarse. I’m the one who’s supposed to be in control but she’s definitely controlling me.  

     With my resentment growing and patience short, I decided to turn to a professional to seek guidance and hopefully gain some kind of peace in my home again (and some sleep, honestly). I love my dog and I expect these behaviors in her until she is trained and I know good training is important to have a healthy, meaningful relationship with her. So, a professional dog trainer it is at whatever the cost. It will be worth it.

      I immediately noticed a parallel between her wanton actions and my spiritual past (and sometimes present). I couldn’t help but think of myself as the foolish young girl that I was, running around the world, doing whatever I wanted, oblivious to the consequences unless they directly affected me, and if they did I would deal with them then. I drifted among different things that caught my attention (some good and some bad), and believed that I was the only one looking out for myself so I had to be strong and defensive. I was important because of what I did, who I knew and how I looked so I was always striving for those things. My untrained heart was controlling my life, focused on all that it wanted but never receiving enough. I was always empty with no idea how to fix it.  

      My soul was the frustrated owner, trying to coerce my strong-willed heart into good behavior. As with a dog, it doesn’t work. A spiritual professional was needed so training could begin. I didn’t have to train myself to be good, I had to train myself to look to the Holy Spirit for everything. All the instruction I needed was available now if I would only ask. My heart, full of its own ideas and agenda, did not want to conform. Why would it? I had much to learn. My training has come in the form of daily journalizing with the Holy Spirit. These lessons became my new hearts desires and by following them, I am following the will of God. There is no coercing or struggling because now, I desire to do it from the inside out. That is a HUGE difference. The freedom that I experience now is from the inside and spreads outward instead of trying to sample freedoms from the outside to heal the inside. That just doesn’t work.  

 It isn’t a done deal and you’re cured, it is an active way of living. If my soul doesn’t keep its eyes turned to God or the puppy doesn’t listen to its trainer for guidance in everything, it will turn back to its old self-seeking ways.  

  Are you listening to the professional or trying to DIY?

Scarlet

Visionwriters weekend

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   I was so blessed last weekend to attend a get together of Visionwriter women in Palm Springs, CA. The focus of Visionwriters (www.visionwriters.com) is journalizing, literally taking dictation from the Holy Spirit. Let me tell you, if you are willing to listen, He has a lot to say! I established a routine of daily journalizing and have been so enriched by the loving and healing that can only come from Him. 

    The best part about the weekend was meeting fellow visionwriters and sharing our personal stories of struggle and triumph. Some have been called to make huge leaps of faith and travel to unknown places, others have started the process of healing after a lifetime of oppression, and others are now capable of just sitting still in obedience (not as easy as it sounds). Every story that was shared was written by God’s hand, unique and specific to the main character, and I was encouraged by their diligence and blessed by their wisdom. 

Visionwriters, Palm Springs, CA

 

My visionkeeper, Cynthia and I, at breakfast. I already look like I've been crying!

The Pen

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Have you ever had a favorite pen? One that just writes your words effortlessly? Whether it’s to write in a journal, check the kids homework or just to write out the grocery list, it is the only pen you want to use.  The pen is formed perfectly for your hand, it fits comfortably and little pressure is needed to produce beautiful manuscript. You can maneuver this tool over the cheapest notebook tablet or attack a thick luxurious parchment and the result is always the same, perfection. The ink is exquisite and plentiful, and it never leaks, spills out, or halts while composing. Every letter is legible and complete with the flow of your hand, not missing even the slightest nuance of your masterful stroke.  A small, otherwise insignificant tool for writing can become a cherished, powerful literary sword because the writer so desires it. It’s that important. I know I’m sounding a little, well, cuckoo, but my point is…  

You are not the writer in this life, you’re the pen.

Absence

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This whole writing every day thing is hard to keep up with!

The truth is I have been writing, just not on here. I embarked on a personal journey a few weeks ago in the form of a Visionwriter’s course. This is an intense, daily writing project that pushes you toward a deeper connection with God and, in turn, an endless flow of writing material. It’s a love/hate right now!

I could not have started this journey at any other time and been as fruitful. It is a daily commitment, a discipline. January and February set up an early morning routine of meditation that has evolved into my writing time. I would not have given this program my daily attention if God had not put forth this routine in me. Period. I am amazed again at how little changes can reap big rewards. An hour can slip through my fingers in the blink of an eye and when I am done there are ideas, stories, and strategies that have been birthed on the page. I have an energy and passion for this crazy, totally unexpected thing called writing. Now, to the negative: I have an energy and passion for this crazy, totally unexpected thing called writing. It is overwhelming. I have the ideas, stories and strategies unfolding on the page and now I have to organize them. Write them. And write them well. And write them so people will want to read them. There are days when the task is too daunting and my fear puts the old, “What are you doing? You are not a writer!” face on and I … go shopping instead. Target has some really good sales going on right now.  

Regardless of my inner battle between the plethora of words and the desire for a great sale, I am going to try and keep my progress posted on my blog. I’ve missed writing on here (yes, I just said that!).

I’m an air head!

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Giving in to the analytical side of myself, I decided to get a book on how to meditate. I’ve trudged along in the mornings, dedicating at least 15 minutes to the process of meditating, and I need help. I have discovered two distinct ‘awarenesses’ that I have: popcorn brain and foggy shores. Popcorn brain is fueled by caffeine. My morning coffee acts as the hot oil that warms up the kernels and gets the thoughts sizzling, just waiting to pop. Ideas begin to randomly escape and fly freely across my brain, eventually, popping uncontrollably and encouraging other ideas to pop along with them. Completely random. Not productive. Once the calamity begins, it’s hard to control and before I know it, my 15 minutes is over and I’ve popped a whole bag worth of nothing. Nothing meaningful, anyway. Now the opposite of that is foggy shores. This is that fog that hangs over the mountains on the shoreline, or in this case, my head. The fog is too thick to fight so you just sit and close your eyes, melting into the sweet sleep that greedily envelops you. Foggy shores is my brain without coffee in the morning; just go back to sleep, don’t think, no dialogue, just sleep. This will get you nowhere in meditation except maybe well rested for your next attempt.

So, I decided that help was needed and I enlisted the help of some dummies. Yes,  Meditating for Dummies. Perfect. I wanted something that would address me as a beginner but I could grow with as I got better. I wanted tools of the trade, not new age verbiage that talked of ethereal, airy fairy methods.

As I sat down this morning, armed with my two chapters of meditating insight, I awaited enlightenment. I was a little foggy so I poured half a cup of coffee to avoid the early morning bag of nothing.  It didn’t help that the wind was howling this morning, driving the rain straight against the windows or that my battery operated clock was ticking extra loud (I’ve never even noticed that clock before). Both my feet fell asleep in the semi-lotus position that I was attempting and my back does not stack like they say in the book. I’m constructed more like the leaning tower of Pisa. But, amidst all this brouhaha, I did manage to close a mental door, seal off the windows and pull the shades for a few minutes. The feeling was like a black void above my eyes. Emptiness. All my thoughts were pushed to the outer rim of my brain where I could keep them at bay and I “lived in the breath” for a few fleeting moments. Excited by this miniature break-through, I completely blew it and giggled with glee. I know, I know, I’ll never get to enlightenment if I crash and burn with every baby step but it was exciting! It was progress.

Now, being blonde, empty-headed is not something I normally strive for but I am extremely proud of the emptiness between my ears this morning. So, today, on this very blog, I am standing up and bravely stating, “I am an air head!” (with conditions).  🙂