Updates from the back of the pen
If you were to meet Wendy Swentz today, you would think she has lived a charmed life. She is beautiful, successful, and a leader in her community. But as is typically the case, there is always more to every story than what you see on the surface.
My story my story my story…. How do I share this succinctly?
My childhood was bliss. It truly was. Nearly every summer day, my black lab Casey and I would set out on the four-wheeler and explore the beauty God’s creation. I went to Catholic school growing up, so I was at church 5-6 days out of the week. I didn’t really connect, and I had a hard time understanding what the priest was talking about. But I did believe in God. I never questioned that and knew I would get back to faith and deeper understanding a bit later.
When I started dating, I fell in love and got pregnant early. I found out when I was 17 and had my son Todd when I was 18. What a miracle, we collectively raised him. His dad, his stepmom, my parents, Todd’s dad‘s parents, my sister – it really does take a village and we have raised one exceptional human being. I am so proud of him, we all are.
When I was searching for faith again, I stumbled across a contemporary church. I tried to go to the Catholic church, but I just didn’t understand much of any lesson leaving church. I wanted to continue attending this new church but knew it would disappoint my grandma on both sides, because they were devout Catholics and really lived by the letter of the law. But I took a step of faith and decided that trying to help my son and I get our lives sorted out with God was important enough to risk offending the family.
Then came Easter Sunday.
The church had invited an artist, and after the message, the artist came on stage and began painting. He moved his arms across a huge canvas to a beautiful song the band was playing. I really couldn’t make out what was going on. I just remember seeing lots of colors, mostly dark – dark greens, dark blues, and then he started with a large brown piece of wood, then came the brightness of the yellows and orange. It was beautiful, but I still didn’t see what he was painting. I looked and looked, and within just one four minute song he created one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen.
I finally saw it.
It was Jesus on the cross. I saw him keeping away the darkness, and I saw the light in front of him. I was so touched. The way he painted it, and the final result, was such a picture of my own story, colorful darkness and confusion, eventually revealing the light of Christ. I wondered if there could be a way where I could have such a reminder with me forever?
At that time, I was making about $1500/month trying to support my son, go to college, while working three jobs. I didn’t have a lot of extra money. Something compelled me to call the church. I was told that they were auctioning it off to raise money for a building program. By faith I offered $175. Two days later I got the phone call that I could come pick up my painting, I was thrilled. My son was thrilled. That painting still hangs in my house, reminding me that Jesus has a way of making himself known when you are willing to take the risk to seek him! He is never very far away!
Word of the Week
Noun: the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends. “old ties of love and friendship”
We readily admit that having good friends is important. Vital! Relationships matter. Good relationships are a rare gift, worthy of being treasured. When we are together with people who are safe, thoughtful, fun, and committed to our success, we remember those moments as the “best of times.” But we are also busy people with jobs, family obligations, and unfinished house projects. And in light of those responsibilities, it feels frivolous to just “hang out” with a friend. And yet, how often have we said, ‘Let’s get together some time soon?’ We mean it when we say it. We are well-intentioned, but often poor on the follow-through. How about this: take a moment this week (perhaps right after reading this) to send a text or make a call to someone you’ve been meaning to spend some replenishing time with and get a date/time on the calendar! You might discover you need it more than you realize
A Book I’m Looking Forward To Reading
by Michelle Jackson and Debbie Kirland
Review: Part of what excites me about reading this workbook and using it as a personal study tool is that I know the people who have developed it and seen the fruit of it in their own lives. This comes from a very sincere place. These ladies have lived with and taught this material for years! I am confident it will be a helpful resource to all who want to go deeper in the Word!
Many believers know they should be reading their Bible more, but they struggle for many reasons. Ravenous, Hungry for God‘s Word is a step-by-step plan that will guide you into a deeper relationship with God as it takes you through a method that helps you show up in God‘s Word daily, position yourself with a right heart to hear Him speak, linger longer as he shows you things that speak personally to you as you get curious, digging deeper. Then, you’ll discuss with a partner or small group of friends what he is showing all of you. Reading your Bible daily will become something you cherish and never want to miss.
A personal request
Pocket Prayer: O Lord, please open a door that no man can close…
This is my friend Lynn Blackmore. She is a fellow cancer warrior and one of the most courageous people I know. But she is in a tough spot and needs our prayers. This is a request posted on her husband’s Facebook page this past week: Lynn is still struggling. I brought her to Henry Ford Hospital for evaluation by their top cancer doctor and researcher. After long conversations and significant prayer, we are applying to be admitted to the Moderna Clinical trial. There are no openings right now, so we are praying for an opening and asking them to advocate for us to be admitted into the trial.
Yes Lord, hear our prayers!
Pocket Prayers 4-Pack!
“Even a black sheep knows that the soul needs to be fed…”
But where? By whom? In what way?
Over the years, I’ve always felt a bit intimidated by prayer, never thought I was very good at it. Odd for a pastor to say. What changed for me was I needed to become OK with praying simple and sincere prayers (not long and wordy ones). Think there might even be a Bible verse about
I started writing them down and over time I began sharing them with others, and they started getting passed around. I called them ‘pocket prayers’ and over the last year I was challenged to turn them into a 365-day devotional. So I did!
They are now ready for preorder!
Many have asked for multiple copies to share with family and friends, so for the next month you can pick up 4 copies for $99, and we’ll send a free beanie along with it – a cap for your head and a prayer for your pockets!
A great Black Friday deal for fellow Black Sheep Messengers!
Take advantage of the offer by clicking HERE.