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Penciled In

pencilI was a young Air Force officer, likely insufferable and most certainly highly enamored with my own early success.  I was moving on up; on the “fast track” (though early promotions were not yet possible at my career stage).  I had been moved into a job reserved for more senior officers and had hit the ground running–inflicting upon all my “innovative” ideas for brazen success in that new job. 

My new boss (last name: Sullivan; we called him “Sully” long before the advent of the big, blue monster), would sit at his desk with an increasingly bemused look on his face as he observed the undeniable evidence of my embrace of the Myth of Indispensability.  I was fully and firmly convinced that the Air Force, nay the entire Military Establishment, could not move forward without my genius.  Mystifying it was and puzzling too, how the Air Force had survived lo those many, many years without me. 

Sully took me to lunch one day; he even bought the meal.  After we consumed our burgers, he looked me in the eye and said words so profound in their impact that I repeat them to myself each and every day.  Sully stared straight on at me, his words cutting right to my mind and heart and said, “You know, Howard, we’re all just penciled in.” 

Of course that was in the days when pencils had not been replaced by the ubiquitous keyboards and people actually wrote things out by hand, in pencil, with the option of erasing their efforts if they ran afoul of wisdom or common sense or just plain accuracy.  “Penciled in,” Sully had said, meaning I could be erased and replaced at any moment. 

I was taken aback as Sully succeeded in his mission: to debunk the Myth of Indispensability I had created about myself and replace it with an eye toward excellence tempered by humility.  We’re all just penciled in. 

These days, of course, the metaphor might be lost on the “What’s a pencil?” generation.  So maybe we should instead say that we’re all Snapchat fodder; visible for mere moments and then gone in a screen wipe. 

The Bible gets at this in the Book of James.  James calls us “mist(s) that appear for a little while and then vanish” (4:14).  Is James denigrating the species?  Kicking dirt in the face of God’s greatest creative efforts?  No, James is just reminding us that we are all penciled in.  Our own endeavors, as impressive as they might seem, and even our very earthly existence, all have expiration dates.  We will be, in this life, surpassed and replaced–likely when we least expect it.  The energy that we expend will be caught up with us when we “vanish.” 

James (in context) intends this as encouragement to do our best with an eye ever towards God’s good pleasure.  It doesn’t make us lazy (or ought not); it helps squash our personal Myth of Indispensability and move forward, in Christ, in the pursuit of excellence, tempered by humility. 

Sully was so very right; even now, when I ponder how exceptional I am (just ask me), his words clang and bang loudly in my mind. 

We’re all just penciled in.  Jesus is the only Indispensable One; He is the Alpha and the Omega; He is the One to whom we look as we pursue excellence on His behalf, tempered by humility. 

We’re all just penciled in. 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture quotations from the NIV. 

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Is God Your Biggest Cheerleader?

Lately I’ve been going through a trial. It’s a trial, but it’s also a test. I’m not complaining, because I understand that this is meant to help me.

God has brought me to a situation, where someone who is an integral part of my support team has suddenly dropped out of my life. I’m not angry at God for this, because I see the lesson that He is trying to teach me.

That brings me to the topic for this article. God wants to be our Number One everything in life. Sometimes in our busy lives we get caught up in asking one specific person for advice, encouragement, etc. I’m certainly guilty of this, and I know that I’m not alone in this behavior either.

So what does any of this have to do with cheerleaders? I believe that God uses our trials and tests to strengthen our faiths, and to draw us nearer to Him. He is definitely using my trial to say, “I am your number one supporter.” Which is so true, and He is revealing this through the pain that I’m enduring from the loss of a friendship. Not because He wants me to hurt. It’s because He wants me to depend on Him most.

Think about times that you’ve been through a trial. Maybe you’ve encountered a similar situation to the one that I’m experiencing. It is important that we examine our trials through eyes that are searching for God’s message. Instead of getting angry or being resentful, we all need to take a step back and think about what God is trying to show or teach us.

Especially if these circumstances of trials repeat. That’s God’s way of asking, “Can you hear Me now?” From my own personal faith-growth and experience, if we aren’t listening for Him, He will make His will known one way or another. Which is awesome! What determines whether a trial is a good thing or not simply depends on the way we look at it.

Specifically, if people that we go to often for advice and emotional support are randomly dropping out of our lives, we should reassess who our number one “cheerleader” is. God wants us to run to Him with every little worry, fear, accomplishment, or joy.

I’m going to be processing through these sad feelings, and this time around I’m going to the Father; my main supporter.

How has God spoken to you through a trial? Leave your comments and ideas in the comment section below! :)

Be blessed!


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DIVINE INTERRUPTIONS: A Bible Study Through The Book Of Job is now ONLY $10.04 on Amazon!!! Normally, it is priced at $12.95. (Kindle version is just $2.99)

If you are going through a struggle, the book of Job is full of encouraging and helpful scriptures. In this Bible study I share my testimony, and tell how I had to rebuild my life due to a brain tumor that nearly took my life. God has turned my wailing into dancing and I plan on praising Him for the rest of my days!

Ps 30 Wailing 2 Dancing TL

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Rise From Your Ashes


Ps 30 Wailing 2 Dancing TLRight after my brain surgery, I was alone while recovering in an assisted living facility in Phoenix, AZ. My life was so uncertain. My dream home in Oregon was sold, my teaching career seemed to be over, I didn’t know where I would live, ifI would ever recover my health, work, or live independently. MY LIFE WAS IN ASHES. Then….

While driving in my car I heard this song. Tears came to my eyes as I realized God had sent me a message of hope.

“Yes I will rise Out of these ashes rise From this trouble I have found And this rubble on the ground I will rise”

When we need it most, our God will faithfully send us word that we are not alone. That with HIS strength… we will rise out of our ashes to new victories. Don’t ever loose hope, hang on…. you have yet to live the best day of your life!

“And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 63:1 (NIV)

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Ethel Waters

images[7]When I was sixteen-years-old I attended a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in Winnipeg, Manitoba that profoundly changed my life.  Of course, the world-famous articulate and persuasive ministry of the great evangelist, anointed by the Holy Spirit, was enough to make an indelible mark on my life forever.  Even though I had given my life to the Lord at the early age of four, I was totally awed by the thousands of people who thronged forward to make decisions to follow Jesus.  In addition, I will never forget watching Mr. Graham’s pianist, Tedd Smith, warming up on the keyboard and accompanying the crusade choir made up of men and women from many churches.  I thrilled to the voice of George Beverly Shea and enjoyed Cliff Barrows’ congregational song leading.  The whole experience left me in awe.

But the one thing that literally moved me to tears, and I shall never forget the experience, was a sweet, elderly African-American woman by the name of Ethel Waters, who sang “His Eye Is On the Sparrow”.  She prefaced the song with, “Listen, children….”, and from the first line, “Why should I feel discouraged...” which she articulated with such a nuance of feeling, tears began to come to my eyes!  As she proceeded through several choruses of, “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free; His eye is on the sparrow; And I know He watches me!”  with the mass choir singing along in the background, I really thought I might be raptured at any moment!  The sheer ecstasy of the whole performance left me feeling like I had been sitting at Jesus’ feet.  It wasn’t even that her voice was the most elegant or dynamic that I had ever heard, but the fact she was able to project to her audience something we all felt way down deep in our souls, that intangible quality that literally brought us into the presence of God!  It was definitely the anointing of the Holy Spirit!

Ethel Waters didn’t always use her talents to sing anointed songs of praise and worship to God.  In fact, she didn’t surrender her life to the Lord until she was in her late 50’s.  She was born in Pennsylvania around the turn of the century, the unwanted product of a rape!  Her mother, Louise Anderson, was raped at knife point when she was only thirteen years old by a middle class mixed-race pianist and family acquaintance by the name of John Waters.  Raised in poverty by her grandmother, Ethel grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighboring cities, seldom living anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time.  She later recollected in her autobiography,  His Eye Is On the Sparrow, “No one raised me; I just ran wild.  I never was a child.  I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.”  She married at age 13 but soon left her abusive husband and became a maid in a Philadelphia hotel working for $4.75 a week.

However, God had His hand on Ethel.  She soon began singing and dancing, as well as performing at church functions.  In 1917 she made her debut on the black vaudeville circuit and performed in Harlem nightclubs in the 1920’s.  Soon she entered the “white time” vaudeville circuit, becoming one of America’s most celebrated and highest-paid entertainers.  At New York City’s “Cotton Club” she introduced what would become one of her #1 hits on the Billboard charts, “Stormy Weather”.  She wrote of her performance, “I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, the story of the wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted.” Later Irving Berlin, impressed by her soulful performance of this song, wrote “Supper Time”, a song about a lynching, for Ethel to perform in a Broadway revue.  She became the first African-American star of a national radio show, was cast several times as a dramatic actress on Broadway and in the movies, and had three of her recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Still, with all of her success, and even a wonderful husband whom she married in 1938, Ethel knew something was missing!  In the late 1950’s Ethel walked down that famous aisle in a Billy Graham crusade and gave her life to Christ!  Her life was never the same! After becoming a born-again Christian, she dedicated the remainder of her life, until her death in 1977, to touring with and singing at many of the Billy Graham crusades, as well as recording several albums of sacred music for Word Records.  Her life was transformed by the power of Jesus Christ!

Talented musicians have always made a deep impression on me, but for this sixteen-year-old girl sitting in that audience so many years ago, the anointing and impact of the music of Ethel Waters would never leave.  God used her to bless a teenager who decided to use her talents in the same way to influence many for Christ!  I hope to see her and share her music in Heaven one day!

*Divine Interuptions take 2

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Win A Free Book On GoodReads!

*Divine Interuptions take 2

How would you like a free signed copy of my book DIVINE INTERRUPTIONS: A BIBLE STUDY THROUGH THE BOOK OF JOB? Just go to the link below and enter my GoodReads giveaway. It doesn’t cost anything to enter. Be sure to tell your friends!!


*Divine Interuptions take 2


Cheryl Zelenka Radio Interview On Woman To Woman

*Divine Interuptions take 2

If you missed my radio interview with Kathy Thomas from Woman to Woman, no worries! Why not kick back and listen to the podcast now? Let me know what you think and be sure to go to the link below to order my newest book DIVINE INTERRUPTIONS: A BIBLE STUDY THROUGH THE BOOK OF JOB.

**Bk Cover Front & Back


Book Discount Only For One Day

**Bk Cover Front & Back

A positive attitude during my trial recovering from brain surgery brought about spiritual growth and quicker physical healing. I share my testimony in my newest book, DIVINE INTERRUPTIONS: A BIBLE STUDY THROUGH THE BOOK OF JOB. It will be available on Amazon this Saturday.

I decided to sell this Bible study for $9.99, but only on March 1st, then it goes back up to $12.95. It is also available on Kindle for only $2.99 for the day (Then back up to $4.99)

Hope you get your discounted copy of this big 9×11″ study and learn many lessons from this wonderful Bible character. I praise God for the book of Job!

**Bk Cover Front & Back

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Exerpt From Divine Interruptions: A Bible Study Through The Book Of Job

**Bk Cover Front & Back


Waiting On New Wrapping Paper
Chapter Seven


Throughout my recovery the question “Why?” was in the forefront of my mind. Like Job, I wanted explanations for my suffering. My spiritual maturing and painful refining required a lot of waiting on the Lord, and patience has never been a virtue I exuded. God was under no obligation to explain His actions, including that which He permitted in my life.

Resting in Him, even while under the shadow of His wings (Ps. 17:8), was difficult. At the ripe old age of 50, God was asking me to make a new life and a new start in Colorado. I felt like a tree uprooted from rich soil and transplanted in rocky, less fertile, DIRT. My roots were deep and established in Oregon. I resented how suddenly I had been ripped out of my community. It felt like a rude interruption at first, but now I see that it was a Divine interruption.

The foggy journey I had to travel was leading uphill, and I was feeling so weak. Leaning on God’s strength was the only way I could get to my feet and move forward. It wasn’t long before I noticed Curiosity and Fear walking beside me. They wanted to know all about my future, but were afraid of what they would discover.

There is more to my story but let’s move on to Day Five of Chapter 7…..


Almighty God,
Your existence was established before time itself. You created time for our benefit. Please help me in becoming more patient and teach me how to wait on You. I want to train my ear to recognize Your voice, even within the chaos of my day. Putting You first needs to be a priority in my life!

Send encouragement my way, as I wait on Your promises, and for the answers burning in my heart. Please, wipe away all fear when the path I travel is blocked from my sight and my future seems unclear. May my feet remain firm as they stand upon the Rock, the living Word. Help me to understand Your ways for I want to gain a heart of wisdom and knowledge. Amen.

1) Write down questions in your heart or blessings you are personally waiting for God to answer.

2) Write a prayer of patience and inquire of God about His delays concerning your prayer requests.

3) Take a moment to reflect. See if God has already answered your prayer requests or questions. It may be in a different way than the one you expected. Write down your thoughts. 

4) Read Romans 12:12 and write down the three things listed as Fruit of the Spirit. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Scripture of the Week: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.” 
Romans 15:5 (NIV)

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” Hebrews 10:36

Lexicon: sabar (saw-bar’) to expect (with hope and patience): hope, tarry, view, wait. 

Name of God: Jehovah Nissi-The Lord my Refuge

*Divine Interuptions take 2


My First Reviews Are In For Divine Interruptions


*Divine Interuptions take 2My publishing consultant from 40-Day publishing is leading a small group of women through my new book, Divine Interruptions: A Bible Study Through The Book of Job. I could not ask for better feedback. Here are just a few of her comments…..

” The Bible study was a raging success. You have a hit!”

“Even though we have read the book of Job numerous times it felt like the book came alive and was deeper than it was before.”

“We would chat about a line that felt especially inspired to us…for instance, the first paragraph in your testimony, you write: ‘Recognizing the negativity in our thinking is the first step toward a perspective transformation.'”
(and healing)

“Many tears were cried…hearts were shared. And were in tears over what you went through.”

“Oh…we discussed how it takes time to come to the right perspective. And that Job was in God’s presence daily…and if we want to be able to react the way he did…that is what we need to do. Commune daily with the Lord.”

And the best for last….
“They told me they can already tell they are going to grow immensely through the study.”

I am hoping this study will be proofed and available on Amazon by next week. I will let you know. I am feeling so blessed. God has turned my wailing into dancing and removed my sackcloth…. He has replaced it with joy. I am thankful that my testimony will be used to encourage others. Never give up!! There is always hope.