About Cheryl Ricker

Cheryl Ricker is the author of "A Friend in the Storm” and the upcoming narrative non-fiction, “Rush of Heaven,” (Zondervan). When Cheryl is not reading and writing, she enjoys watercolor painting, acting, speaking, and leading Bible Studies. Native to Ontario, Canada, Cheryl currently resides in Rochester, Minnesota with her husband and sons.

Smokin’ Hot

fried eggsSometimes my day feels like a cracked egg, running all over the pan in a yellowy glob of goo. Time slides fast. Out of control. Joy skitters away in the wake of unmet expectations.

From this broken shell of a place, the Holy Spirit whispers in the midst of waning joy, “Rejoice in me, the one who breathes fresh life in you.”

“Are you kidding?”

Of course, he isn’t. I know the chapter and verse:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5

His invitation rings warm. And in this hope-stirred moment, I unclench my fists, wondering, Is joy really a choice? By focusing on God’s truth, can I turn up the joy knob a notch? Watch this broken egg that’s staring back at me bubble up warm in its rawness?

I look up joy in Bible Gateway and find it singing and shouting everywhere, even in the broken places of defeat.

“Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Isaiah 52:9

I’m not used to singing in the midst of chaos. It hasn’t quite become habit yet. But I know neuroscience shows it positively affects our brain chemistry. Healthy thoughts register deep in our dendrites.

I also know that it’s easier to sing when I know who I am: chosen, redeemed, clothed in God’s righteousness. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me. In me. This little writer who longs to make a big difference.

God-dreams tick louder than time bombs. Do you feel their press to keep moving forward? We have much to say, but sometimes we stare blankly at that empty egg pan.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Thank you, God, for the gift of words. Crack me open for you. Pour me out raw. I want to flow in your joy and hope and all things good.

When life turns up the heat, we wait with confidence in his presence: hopeful, grateful, and open to the fact we’ll soon feel that first bubble. And one bubble will lead to another and another. And before we know it, whoa–we’re cooking, Baby! Smokin’ hot for Jesus. All we need to do is stay open in God’s great pan. Let him stir up our gifts and see what happens.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23

Eat, Think, Praise!

Eat, Think, Praise!

The busyness of the season tends to breathe a cold chill on us until we remember who’s in charge of our hearts’ thermostats.

We are!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Eat Jesus & Turn up the Heat!

“You are what you eat.”

Sometimes this saying echoes in my mind when I devour God’s Word, but mostly, I think of it when I’m reading one of a hundred Kindle books, and the Spirit calls for my attention.

Why is it so easy, so tempting, to fill up on Twinkie books at the expense of reading the Bible?

Satan reaches into his arsenal of distractions ~ even good ones ~ to keep us away from the gold mine.

The busier we are, the more we need a sweet retreat with Jesus. He warms our souls with the washing of His Word. He renews our minds and teaches us how to think, how to conform to His image ~ so we can reflect His love and maximize our impact on the world.

Think Jesus & Turn Down the Cold!

No thanks to television news, my imagination, and my neighbor’s yappy chihuahua, it takes effort to focus on the character of Jesus. But bless my heart when I do!  Because there’s no better thought in the world…

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

When I trudged into church with a bad mood one day, my pastor played a video by S. M. Lockridge, and my blahs didn’t stand a chance! Because when you feast on God’s goodness, He fans the flames of your passion. Your problems, worries, and fears shrink in the light of His flaming love. See for yourself how your perspective changes.

“He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. He’s the sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes…”

Praise Jesus & Keep it on Auto!

King David pulled off all stops on praise when he sang, danced, and worshipped with all his might. People thought he was out of his mind, but he was too focused on God to care!  Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to be out of our minds ~ especially if they’re dragging us down.

David knew praise begins with an attitude of thankfulness.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.” Psalm 100:4

During the rocky early years of my marriage, I didn’t feel like thanking God for my husband, but decided to thank Him anyway. I thanked God in my heart and I thanked him aloud to my husband. “Dwight, I’m thankful God gave you to me.” Sometimes I found it difficult to see something I was thankful for; but when I honestly started to look and I opened the eyes of my heart, I could always find something positive.

Inch by inch, my husband and I breathed God-praises into our marriage and watched God honor the fruit of our lips with restoration.

Perhaps we can start this praise habit by thanking God that we don’t need to settle for cold wintery hearts?

Thank you, God, that we can adjust our hearts’ thermostats by putting You first, and meditating on Your greatness! Thank you that we can place our highest expectations where they belong ~ on You, not on fallible people and circumstances.  And thank you that in Your presence, there is fullness of joy. When we break into praise, You allow us to gift ourselves (and the world) with happier, hot-for-Jesus hearts!

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Merry Christmas!

Have you ever praised Jesus when you didn’t feel like it? What happened?

When it comes to eating, thinking, and praising Jesus, which of these will you do more of this Christmas season?

Loaves, Fish, and Writers

Late in the afternoon the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 

He replied,  “You give them something to eat.” 

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”  (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Luke 9:12 – 17

Give it up

Poking at God about what I could cook for you today, he flipped this sizzling little fish story onto my brain plate.

Eyes scrunched on “impossibility” rather than on the Master of limitless capability, it’s easy for us writers to be disciple-like and condescend to natural-mindedness.

The crowds aren’t growing less hungry, aren’t inching any closer to food. Cloistered in the middle of nowhere, fatigued and famished, the beloved twelve scratch their heads before Jesus speaks: “Give the people something to eat.”

As we shake our heads at our scanty drizzle of words, Christ tells us the same: “Give the people something to eat. Don’t worry about sparse resources or small beginnings. If I’m in it, as sure as the heavens, you can make a difference.”

“Give them something to eat.” 

Thrust in this love-test, the apostle John records a different angle in sharing Philip’s retort: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” Andrew speaks up. “Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

No matter how measly, how un-supersized our flounderings, if God calls us to serve fresh truth in a word-stir, if he speaks the royal “ok,” we step up.

Notice how Jesus dishes up faith-stretching instructions to the disciples. Directing five thousand people to sit in groups of fifty is no small potatoes. It takes time and sweat. Just like advancing in writing.

And so we lift our minuscule loaves and fish, and give thanks.

Give Thanks

Wouldn’t you give your lunch to see the puzzled looks on those hungry faces when Jesus raises his bitty snacks to give thanks?

Thanksgiving flows from a posture of humility. The soul bends low, acknowledging our Sovereign Source, his power, ability, and desire to provide.

Jesus gives thanks and his fingers rip the bread. I wonder if he considers how his flesh will soon be broken to feed many.

Writers know about brokenness, the heart-deep pain-sap that drives and feeds our meanderings. With battle scars, we give thanks to the living Word who uses our words and wounds to paint blood-colored pictures of grace.

No matter how few or many we touch, we give thanks for the opportunity. Chosen conduits of hope, we’re blessed to be a blessing. Our words, charged with Spirit-power, awaken God-hunger. They sustain and multiply life!

Whenever we naturally live out thankfulness, we display God’s bigness to a hungry, watching world. We become more than wishful thinkers about remote possibilities.  We reveal supernatural expectancy. This is how the world sees truth in us as we step up to our dream.

Expect Much

“It will take a miracle to get published!” We say it like miracles are viruses when they’re more likely God’s favorite pastimes.

Food in hand, Jesus says thanks because he expects the miracle. He prays and “looks to heaven.” He isn’t focused on his stomach, the food, or the crowd, but on his Father, the source.

The more we fix our eyes on God, the more we see miracles. The more we see miracles, the more we look for them in him.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” God’s prayer transcends the “me,” and rests on “us,” because we, in the body, are one, and because love necessitates caring for those outside ourselves.

If we want to use our love gift to nourish souls, we can expect God’s provision to match his call. I haven’t forgotten that we can also expect spiritual warfare (perhaps even intensified tests from a rattled enemy), but ultimately mercy triumphs over Satan’s thievery. God promises to give us everything we need to win!

This gift, this impervious spawning of words, isn’t an instant dinner miracle; rather, it’s a progressive one, a long-term partnership with Chef Jesus.

Part of the miracle involves staying with the process. If God says, “Get everything and everybody in place,” that’s what we do. We plunge in for the long run, expecting to produce sweet fruits like patience and perseverance. Likewise, we expect readers, writers, characters, and observers to be transformed by our faithfulness.

We’re Christ-followers, sojourners on the cusp of miracles. In the course of our collective, out-of-this-world writer-journeys, we can expect nothing less than God cooking up his best.

Bon appetit!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. 

Marketing Love

Striding down the endless hallway of the Mayo Clinic, I passed hurting people on all sides.  This wasn’t about being heroic; I simply wanted to make my day about more than a doctor appointment.

“Okay, Lord. Who?”  My book felt sweaty in my hand.

Copy number one went to the sweet lady in a wheelchair. “Oohhh,” she said, pursing  fuchsia lips.  “It looks wonderful.  Thank you, Dear.”

Copy number two returned to me with the cold shoulder of rejection.  I kept walking because I couldn’t shake off the possibility that God might still want to do something. Besides, I was stubborn and didn’t want to go home with the book.  When I got to the end of the hallway, I discovered I’d inadvertently funneled into a large waiting room.

“Okay, God.  What now?”

Doing a three-sixty over a sea of people, I tried to look inconspicuous.  Then, with a puff of a prayer, I picked a pleasant-looking lady.  She’d be the one.  I took a deep breath and plopped myself down with only a chair between us.

After a minute of pretending to read my own book, I cleared my throat.  It worked.  We made eye contact.

“Hi,” I began.  “This may sound strange, but I prayed God would lead me to someone I could bless with this free inspirational book, and I feel it’s you.  May I give you this?  I wrote it.”

Her eyes lit up.  “Oh, bless you,” she said, glazing with tears.  No fanfare, just a simple exchange.  I went home happy and bookless.

Two or three weeks went by and apart from a few imaginations of finding “A Friend in the Storm” in a thrift shop, I basically forgot about my give-aways.  That is, until three days ago, when I received this heart-stopping email from Sara, a friend I hadn’t talked to for months:

Dear Cheryl,

I talked to my neighbor & friend about 2 weeks ago, Krista Flint.  She had an amazing story of being touched by God’s love through a stranger.  And that stranger was YOU!  It gave me goose bumps to hear of how she had been going through so much and that you sat beside her in the waiting room and gave her your book.

She was so blessed by your words, kindness, & the power of your poems. She said that she knew that God was near, but it was so comforting to hear it from someone! So I wanted you to know that your choice to follow God’s nudge to go to the waiting room and give “someone” your book was exactly what God planned for you & Krista!! It was so exciting to hear how God did that for both of you.

Sara’s P.S. explained that Krista was a breast cancer survivor.  Later, the same day I gave her my book, she was in a major car accident.  Although her car was totaled, she somehow managed to make it through it okay.  “A Friend in the Storm” gave her peace and reminded her that God has a purpose.

“Make use of every opportunity.”  Ephesians 5:16

When we ask God to go before us and use us for His glory, He makes a way.

Until heaven, we can’t possibly grasp all the ways God uses us to reach others.  We simply rejoice in these glimpses.

Giving away books is only one of many ways we can be God’s messengers.  We can also share personal notes, Scripture cards, and post cards or business cards with thought-provoking quotes or concepts from our books.

One time, when I gave a waitress a poem card, she threw her arms around me and burst into tears.  The Lord used a simple poem to reach into her heart and start a healing conversation.  Don’t you love how the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes?

How do you share marketing love?  I’d love to hear stories of how God used you and your words.

Honoring the Writer’s Call

Remember the Call

As ambassadors of the written word, we’re called to awaken people to truth. Rubbing words together, we set the world on fire!

Above publishers and agents, God’s our number one boss. With pure, submitted hearts, we make it our mission to please him first.

Am I on the right track, Father? What do you want me to share today? These are the questions we ask.

We try not to judge and compare ourselves with other writers because we know God equips each of his instruments for different specific tasks.

When fearful, overwhelmed, and wondering why we chose this career/ministry path in the first place, we remember… God never calls us where his grace won’t sustain us.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9

Persevere in the Call

When tempted to distraction by potentially good things like social media, movies, and chats, we’re privileged to consult our boss: “Please show me what to do and give me the strength to carry it through.”

When tempted to discouragement by trials, we understand they’re God’s method of making us stronger, more Christ-like, and more effective in our writing.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rom. 8:28

Because we clearly know we have been called to write, we persevere when people judge us, and we remind ourselves it only matters what God thinks, and the Lord sees every heart. 1 Chron. 28:9

We persevere when our paychecks are sparse because we know God will supply all our needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

We persevere when the road is rough and slow and we can’t see ahead because we know who leads us each step of the way. (Ps. 37:23)

Balance the Call

Balance starts with rest, and rest starts with prayer. Jesus walked a tight deadline, but rose before dawn to commune with his Father. He snuck away from the crowds to reconnect. Do we sneak away from our characters to bless the Word of words?

Jesus waited on His Father for wisdom and wants us to do the same; but it takes trust.  (James 1:5-6)  When it comes to trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, we often get it backwards, and lean on our own understanding first. Then, when things go awry, we cry “Help me!” and ask him to direct our path. He will, but we must first acknowledge him.  Prov. 3:5-7

Jesus only spent three years in ministry; however, his thirty preparation years were just as important because they defined and nurtured the Father/Son relationship, enabling him, in the right time, to turn the world upside down by submitting to His Father’s peculiar but brilliant plan of reaching the Jews first, then the Gentiles.

God writes a different plan for each one of us. He calls some of us to blog first, others to write books first, and still others to do both at the same time – in balance.

Whether we’re writing, speaking, networking or spending time with the family, God isn’t just interested in what he’s doing through us; He’s interested in what he’s doing in us.  He wants us to joyfully trust him so we can honor him with our calling.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jer. 29:11

Please talk to us about remembering, persevering, and balancing God’s call to write. We’d love to hear your stories, lessons, insights, and experiences.

And what is God reminding you about today?

You’ve Got “Connections”

It’s a great privilege to connect with the world through our words and a greater privilege to connect with the Word about our worlds.

Connect with God about our writing

“God gave you this dream,” my pastor told me.  “You need to give it back to Him in prayer because He’s the only one who can make it count for eternity.”

One of my friends posted this on Facebook:  “I struggled with my writing for three hours, but after praying, I couldn’t stop the flow.  Why did I wait so long?”

When we’re not intentional about prayer, it falls by the wayside like everything else we’re not intentional about.

God wants to be our writing partner.  He says, “Let me have it!”

  • Lord, give me wisdom and direction today.
  • Inspire me and keep me focused.
  • Help me to persevere for your glory. 

“Commit everything you do to the LORD.  Trust him, and he will help you. ” Psalm 37:5

Connect with “the connected”

“You need prayer partners,” a well-known Christian author told me.  “Trustworthy, faith-filled people who will intercede on your behalf before God.”

Because we’re missionaries of words, the enemy stops at nothing to hinder us.  We need to call on our allies.

I took my friend’s advice and prayed for a little army of intercessors I could add to my email prayer list.  They encourage me to keep going, and I encourage them that they’re a key part of my ministry’s eternal reward.

“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” 1 Corinthians 3:8

Connect with God about our readers

If we’re missionaries, our readers are the mission field.

I wrote the poems in A Friend in the Storm, with only one reader in mind, my friend Chantale who was dying of cancer.  I didn’t know my audience would grow from one to hundreds when she asked me to read them at her funeral.  I didn’t know my audience would grow from hundreds to thousands when Zondervan published them in a gift book.  I simply wanted to be a faithful friend.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”  Luke 16:10

Here’s how I pray for my readers:

  • Father, draw the right people to my book today.
  • Anoint my words to jump off the page into their hearts.
  • Please bring Holy Spirit peace and transformation.

Connect with God about your agent

If we’re going to pray about our God-given gift, we’re going to pray for our agents because they’re a big part of the gift!  Just as they represent us before editors, we’re privileged to represent them before the Father.

  • Lord, may she stay close to you, in the Word and in prayer.
  • Please help her be balanced and manage her time wisely.
  • Give her favor, Father.  Please open all the right doors for her today.

Connect with God about other writers

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2

We need to pray for other writers the way we would want them to pray for us.

Here are three great groups to remember in prayer:

  • Writers that feed us
  • Writers in our immediate circles
  • Writers we DO NOT want to pray for

Who are we currently reading?  Karen KingsburyMax LucadoKathi Macias?  We need to ask the Lord to continually inspire and bless them.

If we’re a part of a writer’s group or literary agency like WordServe that shares prayer requests, we have a community opportunity to practice true, selfless love.

Are we envious or jealous?  We need to pray!  God even calls us to pray for those writers who wronged us.  It happens.  And prayer changes us ever as much as it changes them!

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

I’m wondering, dear friends, what is your experience with the power of prayer?