Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sight - another set of scales removed


Stunning. The clarity was stunning.

The thoughts tumbled at first. The clearest was, "Oh no, these have been my mottos my entire life."

Cheri's Mottos

  • Work hard, you'll figure it out. 
  • Pretend until you do. 
  • Find people you like and like you back. 
  • When you get overwhelmed embrace the idol. 
  • Feel remorse, apologize
  • Repeat

It's shocking to realize how much I have ignored God. Shocking. Pick a story, look at it through this grid. There it is. Oh my.


Meanwhile God...  Look at the list of spiritual practices the Lord has been inviting me to since I was in my mid-thirties.

Sabbath

Love the Lord with all that you are

Humility

Integrity

Gratitude

Abide in the work

Prayer of Examen

Love your enemies

Lent

Fasting from idols

Confession

Worship

The Lord had me circling in and out of all these practices, plus more. His patience and wisdom are breathtaking. He never gives up on revealing Himself and His mottos and right in the midst of all my unbelief and arrogance. Right there while I'm behaving like an enemy, the Lord is helping me to see His ways are better than mine. Grace. Oh, the love and mercy of God.

All of this explains so much. I have lived a life of wrestling with God. I was loyal to the "old man" right alongside a passionate desire to learn the way of the "new man". I have spent my life living at war within. This is why surrender has become a precious word, an increasing reality in the last couple of years.

Where will things go from here? For once I'm not pretending to know. :) May the "with God mottos" be preferred. May recognition of the old ways be easier to see, feel and reject. May I become as welcoming to Jesus as He has been to me.

Oh Lord, what scales do you desire to remove from each of us this Lent? May it be!



Thursday, February 04, 2021

Prayer and Rosa Parks

I first want to say, I am grateful for Black History Month. 

I also want to acknowledge the feelings I had when Black History month started. I felt awful.

I feel awful about everything that has happened that's not right. Everything I've ever done. Everything I've witnessed. Everything I've heard about in first-hand stories. In a world that has taught us to identify with success and to fear failure, it's very difficult to fearlessly engage with comprehensive failure. Especially when there is so little vision for what to do now.

What I've been encouraged to do I have attempted. I've listened to gain understanding. I've read books. I've listened to friends. I've grieved. I've wondered what is my part right now. What am I capable of? What do I need help with? Where will that help come from? What do I need to own? How do I do that in a way that's restorative? All questions, I'm glad I have explored. I have felt helped but eventually, I felt more overwhelmed than helped. What do you do when you're doing what is good to do and it just gets worse, more confusing, not better? I paused. I've wondered, am I really going to be one of those people who start out wanting things to change but isn't willing to discover and do what is needed? 

If that wasn't bad enough, I added looking out at the culture. How impossible this seems with people canceling each other or ignoring each other. If I sound like a boiling tea kettle with the whistle going off you'd be hearing me correctly.

But God...

On February 4th, I listened to an App called Lectio 365. This has been a regular prayer practice for me since last fall. The theme this week is "blessed are the peacemakers." On occasion, they recognize a Christ-follower that has embodied the theme. They chose Rosa Parks and  Psalm 62 because they match one another. 

Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)

Let all that I am wait quietly before God. for my hope is in him. 

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.

My victory and honor come from God alone.

He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

O my people, trust in him at all times. 

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 


Mrs. Parks had a moment when she knew what to do, in a Christ-like way. She knew what she could do to move all people in their community towards reversing a broken promise. She wanted all citizens to experience living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. She knew what to do and she did it.

Later in the day, my friend Darlene told me about the video link that I had missed by listening to the App. In the text, they had embedded an interview from 1995 where Mrs. Parks shares what happened and why. Why was she willing? What created her willingness? It was humbling and reorienting to realize it was many things over many years. 

While I listened to her patient and clear answers to the questions she was being asked, I was struck by her embodiment of peace and quiet joy. She had done something revolutionary and she carried that with humble strength. The kind that comes from doing something inspired and truly good. I could see in Rosa Parks something that I desired. I don't want to be so rattled by all of this forever.

Next, I could see the guided prayer was pointing me towards trusting God when I'm invited to do something unexpected simply because it's good and just. Do it with humility and with confidence in God. 

The chaos I was feeling around our collective failure started to settle. The invitations became clear. Don't be afraid of the sadness, you know grieving leads to change. The only way out of the sadness is to move through the sadness with other people. There are people who know how to help. Watch and pray for those people. Don't be afraid that you don't know how to participate in bringing justice. God will help you know what to do and say at the right time and place.  Think about all the people who are genuinely longing for this. The Lord must enjoy orchestrating all the good that has come, is coming.

To my friends of all colors that have shared your stories of discrimination and disrespect, I'm sad it has happened to you. I'm sad for what it has done to you. I'm sad people don't easily listen or wonder what it's been like to live in a world that still thinks and acts with disrespect and without trust. If I've been guilty of doing something that caused you to feel unloved, disrespected, or not trusted, please tell me about it so I can apologize and learn to do better. I'm also inspired by your relationships with God, your desire to forgive. 

Isn't it beautiful that God used praying in community and listening to Mrs. Parks to give me words to name what I've been experiencing and the courage to share them? This gives me hope. With love, grace, and seeking the good of all, I have renewed faith we can work through this. Jesus knows the way.

I leave you with the link to Rosa Parks' interview and I encourage you to give Lectio 365 a try if you are looking for a community to pray with.


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Reflections on Mother’s Day

What a privilege it is to be a mother. The benefits and joys of motherhood have turned out to be surprising. With awe, I offer a few of those surprises.

I have been granted forgiveness 1,000,000 times or more. I'm amazed that a soul can be that forgiving.

I have watched and enjoyed the slow and daily process of transformation of a child into a man. My faith in the slow process has been tested, mostly due to my limitations of faith. The limits have taken me right to the heart of our Heavenly Father assuring me this is how it works and He can be trusted with what I don't understand.

The acceptance of our differences as parents held together by common and ultimate desires has taught me to see the goodness of difference. It's given me a place to keep choosing to trust differences that intend good.

In recognizing our limitations as guides we've welcomed others brought into our circle of life. Thankfully, for the most part, I've gotten to say thank you and I love you to those people. Your contributions are some of the gifts I hold most dear. It's surprising to realize you're a piece of the puzzle when you've overstated your responsibility in the silent places way too many times.

As  I ponder these things, I'm thankful to our Moms for the ways they instilled faith, hope, and love. Can it accurately be stated how much that matters? I hope you enjoy the blessings of watching faith, hope, and love flow down to the generations after you.

Happy Mother's Day! Raising a glass to the surprising gifts of motherhood and having survived the receiving of them! Cheers!


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The word was Joy





For a number of years, I have asked God for a word to pay attention to for the coming year.

Many of us are in the process of discovering that word for 2019.

It occurred to me this morning we don’t often share what God did with our word, say for 2018. 

My word for 2018 was joy.

I was both hopeful and nervous entering into 2018 as we had just made a big move to a far far away land called Wisconsin.

2018 turned out to be a year of hard things that at a few points could only be described as soul-crushing.

The events began in the late winter and the hits kept rolling in through the summer. It was a combination of things: multiple painful and long health challenges; looking for a new community; deep grief over the loss of community; cultural chaos; vocational shifts; seeing my idols with new clarity and deeper remorse; a tragic event in the life of a friend; other things too. It wasn't one thing. It was a combination of things. 

Simply, it was an ongoing invitation to wander in the wilderness and meet God anew.

It’s incredible to notice how God was preparing me before 2018. A few years ago, through my involvement in Life with God, I had discovered that when I get overwhelmed with what’s hard in life I have addictions I use to cope. When I get completely overwhelmed I sit down and shut down.

God was making space to notice the shutting down, to own it and to plead for Him to teach me how to do life differently this time.  This time, I was willing to learn how to do life with God when I felt completely overwhelmed. I was willing to die to the habits of protecting myself and take the Lord’s extended hand. He was very willing to do His part. My head would have told you I expected that. My heart was scared. 

So we were at a new beginning. I felt like a young believer once again.

This part will be the hardest to convey with words. Over the months, something happened in my heart.  God was loving and faithful and revealing His good intentions towards me. I wish I could explain how much more I believe this after slowly moving through 2018. The parts of my heart that were strongly defended against letting him in were slowly cracking and crumbling. He was showing me how to let go. What to let go of and how to embrace Him instead. My heart was becoming available to encounter God in places I had not been willing to trust before. I kept asking God to melt my heart and then I'd have a moment when I'd recognize melted as - less defended, more open and wanting the good of others.

An aspect of God’s faithfulness was His people. Without spending much time glancing over the year, I can count 30 people that had direct involvement in discovering God with me in the midst of these heartbreaks and needs. Some had a daily roll, others weekly and yet others were God appointments. The kind that comes just in time.

Then there were all the hours alone with God, pouring my heart out in journals. I filled at least three journals this year. At some point, the writing decreased and the listening increased. Oh, the things I came to see. The lies. The truth. The way to trust God in specific relationships and circumstances. Jesus knows me. Jesus sees me. Jesus wants to be with me - right here in all this hurt and mess. Jesus wants to teach me how to do this life. My ways are killing me. I might as well try His form of death. What does it mean to die with Christ? This question rumbled inside me.

In the early fall, JOY started to spark. That’s when I remembered the word God gave me in January. Wow. Wow.

Am I tasting resurrection?

Some say that our capacity for joy is equal in measure to our capacity to grieve. I grieved deeply in 2018. My heart was melted and opened up deeply in 2018. My relationship with Jesus grew more loving and trusting no matter the circumstances in 2018. My capacity for JOY is richer and more consistent than I have ever known before. I can say without reservation that every price paid to get here now pales in comparison with the generosity and love of God that I have experienced. I want to tell this story because I want to say one more time that Jesus Christ is everything He claims to be. 

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5



What was your word at the beginning of 2018?

What is your story with God and that word? I would love to hear it.

My words for 2019 are "listen" and "cooperate". They make me smile with wonder.

May the words we receive help us to know Jesus more intimately, love him more fully and follow him more closely in 2019. Amen. 

P.S. To all the people who directly cared for my soul in 2018, thank for doing Kingdom work on my behalf. I love you.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Melting heart

You may have noticed that I don't write as often as I used to. A reason for this is the pace of growth seems to have slowed. As evidence,  I believe I have a new record for how long it's taken me to read a book. I'm eighteen months into Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud and I still have 60 plus pages to go. Reading for integration rather than information is slow work.

In the last six months, it feels like I've been playing with a new puzzle. The pieces have come together and I have something new to offer. The latest segment began last spring when I left a women's retreat with two words - melted heart. The speaker had shared a prayer with us that had developed in her life over time. Her prayer, "Lord, I am willing to receive what you give, release what you take, lack what you withhold and do what you require and be who you desire." When we were asked if there were any invitations to us in this prayer, the words - melted heart - appeared.

In early summer, after continuing my lent practice, (reflecting on moments when I had chosen to be judgemental and also considered the Lord's desire to let Him be with me in all things) I started to realize how effective these two practices were in helping me identify hard places in my heart. I began to long for and receive what I needed for melting those places. Two plus two!

In the slowness of summer, I was seeing something new. I started to notice moments when I would self-protect. It was like hard spots of my heart and self-protection were teaming up. As teams do, they had a playbook. I was like an athlete with well-honed skills. Rather than muscle memory, I had heart memory and  I would execute the play without even thinking. Recognizing this was sad and brought up new questions. What will it take to melt this heart of mine? Will I be able to embrace a new way or ask for the help? More than ever before I believed I will not be able to change on my own and change only comes when I choose something or someone new to trust.

I began to pray with a sense of purpose and hope for a melted heart. I longed to have what I needed to avoid self-protecting. What did I need? I needed fear to be replaced with love, trust, and courage. And so the opportunities to develop and practice a new playbook began to appear.

From this vantage point, two opportunities stand out. That is because they were similar to situations from my past. But something was different. I was different. This time around, I was completely filled with freedom and peace as I trusted the Lord. And I really mean the word completely. It was shocking. What a huge contrast with the past. A year ago, in a similar situation, I was completely filled with fear and paralyzed by it. In something altogether different, I was spinning with so much anxious energy that I was left exhausted.

It was like I kept blinking to see if I was awake or dreaming. I kept saying, "I just can't get over how different I am in my response."Those responses were the fruit of newly melted spots. My melted, pliable and trusting heart had capacities to love that were simply impossible before. Growth. Can I get an "Amen"?!

Even as I write a new connection appears, last December I felt compelled to memorize a prayer from Romans, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him." Can you see it? The Lord has been powerfully answering this prayer. It inspires me to dare to dream these qualities will become hallmarks of my life in more and more circumstances. What an amazing dream?!

Why do I share this? My answer is the twelfth step of the Twelve Confessions. "Having experienced some measure of authentic transformation as a result of surrendering all aspects of myself to power and presence of Christ, I will carry this message to others and continue to practice these principles in all my affairs." May God be seen, recognized and trusted. Amen






Helpful companions:
Unlikely Rebel by Kelli Gotthardt
Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to live like the Master by Gary Moon- Twelve Confessions which closely resemble the Twelve Steps from AA- see pg. 41


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What God gave me for Easter

Lent

This year for Lent two ways of praying daily emerged. I believe the Lord prompted me to pray, "Judging?" That was shorthand for reviewing the last 24 hours and instead of judging things I had done to instead observe things I had done. It took a week or so for me to feel the impact of this. The first realization was how many negative feelings I still have around choices that I make. Those feelings cause reactions - denial, shame, disappointment. When doing this practice it trained me to observe what I was doing and wonder what I was doing. That simple change gave the Lord an opportunity to be with me at that moment.

When I made that connection, that caused me to laugh out loud. (I love when praying leads to laughing.) That was because at the beginning of Lent the other prayer that formed was Jesus saying: "Let Me be with you". Look at that connection. I was putting off judging myself, which normally causes me to break off from relating with others and instead put on the practice of letting the Lord be with me.

I deeply smiled in the recognition that this was another moment in a long list of moments that demonstrated how well God knows me and knows what I need. He is capable through His loving Spirit to reveal these things to me. My faith was built up in Him once again!

Dear Lord,

Thank you for inviting your people to reflect and pray in preparation for Easter. You were inviting me to let something that brings me death, die. You were giving me a new desire: to simply observe and in those honest observations turn to you in faith, and trust, and hope. May the roots of this new way go way down deep into my life. May I remember that when I say, "Yes" to you that I come alive! It's a moment of embracing the resurrection, of being brought into a Jesus way of life. Forgive me for all the moments when I wonder if you are up to anything good and transformative in my life. Thank you for reminding me this Lent and Easter that you are alive, present and active in my life. In the lives of all.

Hallelujah,

You are Risen! A piece of my soul is risen, indeed!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Spiritual Direction

Have you read or heard talk about the benefits of meeting with a Spiritual Director? Are you wondering if you'd like to experience it? I offer a few questions that may help.
  • Are you a leader in ministry? I ask because for as long as I can remember I've had compassion for and desire to be an encouragement to leaders.
  • Do you find yourself with more questions than answers about your relationship with the Lord or your vocation? 
  • Have you come to value soul care and are looking for a place to honestly explore what is going on in your soul? 
If any of this rings true, I'd love to connect.

Where would we meet?
I meet with people via various video conferencing formats or over the phone. I live 20 minutes north of the Dallas/Ft Worth airport and have space to meet in person if you are within driving distance. Typically, we would meet once a month.

Is there a cost?
Usually, I receive $65.00 per one-hour session.

Additional information
Graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2008 with a Master of Arts in Theology.
Completed the Selah Spiritual Direction training program in 2013.
Supervisor of Spiritual Direction trainees since 2015.

I am married to David and we have our son Matt and his lovely bride Jordan. I became a grandmother in 2020. I love developing friendships, reading, and crave time in creation. I enjoy being creative and appreciating the creativity of others.

Next steps if interested in Spiritual Direction
The best way to connect is via email at chudspith@soulcare.com

This blog site is composed of snapshots of my spiritual journey, you may find it helpful to look around.

If we are not a good fit, but you remain interested in Spiritual Direction, I’d like to help you locate another Director. Check out other directors at www.soulcare.com and www.graftedlife.org