The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:11   Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:14   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men......


Jesus was born in order to open the way for us to have peace with God.  He is also the door through which we have peace within ourselves.  Through His love, we have the opportunity to be at peace with others.  

This Christmas season, may your hearts spill over with the peace and joy that comes from knowing our savior.  May you enjoy that peace which passes all understanding.  May you find new peace where chaos might exist in your life.  May you offer peace where you are able to make a difference.

Merry Christmas to each of you and may the season be filled will love, laughter and a deep appreciation for the meaning of Christ's birth. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Seventy times seven

Matthew 18:21-22  Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?  Seven times?"  "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!"

Forgiveness is multifaceted. 

Forgiveness is tough.

One of the toughest parts of forgiveness involves fear---the fear that comes with feeling vulnerable to being hurt again.  For as many times as we are hurt, we must forgive.   Non-negotiable. 

Worrying about subjecting ourselves to the possibilities of hurt is not fun.  It is also NOT forgiveness.  Forgiveness is letting go of the actions or words that caused hurt in the first place; the decision that we will not allow the actions or words to affect our inner beings and service to God.  Forgiveness pertains to things in the past, no matter how recent or distant.   

The fear of being hurt again is a trust issue.  It pertains to the future.  Fear is anticipation of something that might happen.  Fear is not of God, it is a tool of the devil.

We are required to forgive over and over and over.  Think of it from God's perspective, He forgives us over and over and over.  The offer is always good.  

Do not allow fear to prevent you from offering forgiveness.  Trust in God to protect you from hurts and decide to live in forgiveness.  

The Christmas season is a great time to offer forgiveness.  After all, Christ was born in order to die and offer forgiveness for us.   Christmas stirs our hearts to deal with forgiveness-I believe this is no coincidence!                   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Children's Christmas plays

Luke 2:11    For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

One of my most favorite things of the Christmas season is the play presented by the children.  There is just something so special about such a play.  During the children's play this weekend at our church, I was flooded with memories of all the different presentations of the story of Jesus' birth that I have seen throughout the years.  Some plays have a modern presentation, some are musicals and some are very traditional with the acting out of the story. 

There are some memorable moments to most every children's Christmas play.  There is usually a wardrobe malfunction of some sort (wings or halos that fall off), a wedgie that needs attending to, a nose that needs picking, or a line that is forgotten and requires a prompt.  Many times there are bath robes and baby dolls involved.  Occasionally, there is a case of stage fright and a child runs to mom or dad, declaring an end to his/her acting career.  I call these the precious moments of the children's  Christmas play!

One thing that we can absolutely ALWAYS depend on during a children's Christmas play is an uninhibited, plain and simple presentation of the birth of Jesus.  Children singing from their hearts, huge smiles and sparkling eyes are always found at these plays.  They proudly wear their costumes and jump into their characters to spread the word of the savior.  They give it their all!! 

I want to be more like the children in the Christmas play. I want to be uninhibited about proclaiming the news of Jesus Christ.  I want to give it my all.  Let us all pray that more of us can be like the sweet children in Christmas plays everywhere-ready and willing to present a great message of the wonderful story! 





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swarms of locusts

Joel 1: 4-5   After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops, the swarming locusts took what was left!  After them came the hopping locusts, and then the stripping locusts, too!  Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you wine drinkers.

When locusts swarm in an area, the can quickly devour a large amount of vegetation in a short amount of time.  In the book of Joel, the locusts represent devastation.  Joel used the description of the locusts to alert the people and call upon them to repent of their sinful nature and turn to God for mercy. 

Our nation today is being swarmed by plagues of locusts that are destroying the vegetation.  Sin and rebellion against God has a profound presence at this time in our existence.  Moral senses are dulled which leads the awareness of sin leading into an oblivion.  We all should awaken from our complacency.  When we have times of peace in our lives or when there is no impending crisis, we must not allow ourselves to slack or become complacent in our spiritual lives.  We must remain on guard spiritually.  

May we wake up from spiritual sleepiness and pray.  Pray for all those who are lost.  Pray that we will not live in rebellion.  Pray that we will never become oblivious to the destruction around us.  Pray in times of peace as well as times of crisis. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Regret

2 Corinthians 7:10  For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.  There's no regret for that kind of sorrow.  But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 

We all have regrets.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda, and if I had only are thoughts that we all have somewhere throughout our lives.  Dr. Charles Stanley said this about regret:  "If you do not have regret, you have either not lived or you have not learned".  Either you have been sitting on your couch wrapped in bubble plastic or you have not realized how God expects us to treat our mistakes.

Satan wants to magnify regrets.  He wants to put them right in front of your face and cause you to experience worldly sorrow.  God wants to put regret in its place.  He wants you to experience only the sorrow for your mistakes that will cause a realization of the mistake which will lead to repentance.  God wants us to improve our behavior in order to grow spiritually.  He wants us to become wiser and closer to him.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

A renewed attitude

2 Corinthians 9:7  You must each decide in your hear how much to give.  And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure.  "For God loves a person who gives cheerfully."

The main mission of The Sweet Stuff's clothing trailer is to give away clothing.  The other mission is to teach youth groups in various churches what service and giving looks like.  I have a program in place to teach the meaning of service and what God expects from us when we serve.  I enjoy teaching and this program is a joy to teach.  However, I think that I am learning more from the youth than they are learning from me.  I love it when God applies things to us in unexpected ways!

This weekend the ministry sponsored a clothing give-a-way with the youth of a local church.  The way that we set the day up is this:  The clients filled out cards that contain the sizes of clothing that they need and then wait in the fellowship hall of the church.  I stayed on the trailer along with a few of youth.   We searched through the clothing to find sizes to fill the lists and then bag the items to present to the clients. 

Saturday morning it was 40ish degrees with a biting wind blowing all day.  Several 9-12 year olds (boys and girls) worked on the trailer with me for around three hours, sorting, folding and filling orders.  I would like to share with you what did NOT happen. 

Whining did NOT happen.

Complaining did NOT happen.

Drama did NOT happen.

Conflict did NOT happen.

NOT once did I hear any of them complain about being cold, tired or hungry.  In fact, I tried to send some inside to have a snack or take a break and they would not hear of it.  NOT once did I hear any of them ask "how much longer".  I actually think they would have worked hours longer.  Now folks, I am here to tell you that I have worked in many arenas with many different people in my career span and I am hard pressed to think of more than a handful of adults that can work three hours in a row without a complaint, whine, bathroom trip or cigarette break! 

These children taught me, in the purest form, what it means to be a cheerful giver.  They smiled and worked together with excitement and energy that was contagious.  I left the event with more excitement that when I arrived.  They gave from their hearts.  Now, bear in mind that some of them never saw who they were gathering clothing for, yet it was important to them to pick out things that they thought matched and that the recipients would like.  Small details are important details!

It is pure joy to see God work in the hearts of young people.  While they filled bags with clothing and shoes, they filled my heart to the brim with a renewed attitude of  love, compassion and a genuine eagerness to serve the Lord. I thank God for our P-R-E-C-I-O-U-S children!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Clothing trailer events

Two stops scheduled for The Sweet Stuff Clothing Trailer for give-a-ways this weekend.  Please pray that needs will be met, both material and spiritual needs.  Pray that God's endless love will be projected within every interaction. 

If there is a need in your area or church for clothing, The Sweet Stuff clothing trailer is available to anyone.  The ministry is happy to travel in order to meet the needs of your area.  Feel free to contact me for arrangements. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Seasonal Discouragement

"It's the most wonderful time of the year".   I love that song.  It paints such a picture of happy hearts and fun Christmas time activities.  Christmas is a special and magical time.  However, for many it is a time that causes discouragement and disappointments to rear their ugly heads. 

The media portrays only the happy thoughts and events.  Pictures of the perfect decorations, an abundance of gifts, and flawless family gatherings.   This is purposed at selling merchandise or ideas.  In reality, many folks have families that are dysfunctional, broken or in distress, finances that are a mess, or emotional longings that go unfulfilled.   Discouragement threatens to set up housekeeping when our expectations are not met and we focus on the negative elements of the situations over which we have no control. 

Many of us, if we would be honest with ourselves, find that at the end of all the activities, we are left with an anticlimactic feeling.  Perhaps we compare the "perfect" movies and media to the imperfections of people in the real world.  We feel compelled to continue to participate in gatherings out of tradition, even if they produce stress.

How will you stay encouraged?   I have these inspirations to offer.  I plan to practice them myself this year!!
                  -God expects us to realize the meaning of Christmas  (Luke 2)
                  -God expects us to accept the meaning of Christmas  (John 3:16)
                  -All other expectations are worldly standards
                  -God does not expect us to attend a certain number of dinners or functions
                  -God does not expect us to spend an enormous amount of money on gifts
                  -If it produces stress or discouragement, it needs to be evaluated and perhaps eliminated
                  *Repeat the first 2 as much as needed.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Daily bread

Exodus 16:14-15     When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is this?"  For they did not know what it was.

Daily bread.  That is what it was.  The Israelites did not even realize that the manna which God sent them fresh every morning was their daily bread.  The manna rained from heaven onto the grass.  The interesting thing was that it could not be stored.  It only lasted long enough for the Israelites to eat and then it spoiled.  But, each morning, there was fresh, new manna to sustain the hungry people. 

Daily bread.  The Israelites had a literal "daily bread" with a symbolic meaning.  While they grumbled and wondered what they would eat and how they would survive in the desert, God was showing them that he would provide everything that they needed, exactly when it was needed. 

Same goes for us.  Daily bread.  What we need, when we need it.  Everything we need for the moment, for the day.

Several scriptures in the Bible speak of daily bread.  In the Lord's prayer, Matthew chapter 6, asks the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread".   Proverbs 30:8, "give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread". 

Daily bread means more than just our "manna" for the day.  When I think of daily bread, I think of these things as well:
                  -peace that God offers in the midst of tumultuous storms in our lives=daily bread
                  -protection from all the evils in our world=daily bread
                  -phone call from a friend at a moment when you needed it=daily bread
                  -an unexpected act of kindness that beams with God's love=daily bread
                 
Daily bread consists of those things that keep us filled up with God's love.  Daily bread sustains us when the world around us is chaotic.   Daily bread fills us until our cup runneth over. 

We should thank God each day for our daily bread, the literal slices as well as the figurative slices.  Daily bread is everything we need today. Tomorrow, new manna will be sent from above!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Temper tantrums


Proverbs 14:17     A quick tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated.

Proverbs 14:29    A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.


Temper tantrums are common in children between ages 1-4.  Psychologists say that temper tantrums are a normal response when something blocks a child from gaining independence.  In plain "mama" terms, a temper tantrum occurs when a child does not get his/her way. 

I remember the temper tantrum stage several years ago when our children were smaller. We had three children within seven years and so the stages of development repeated in a short span of time.  One of our children in particular is a strong willed, determined child, born with an independent nature.  The temper tantrum stage tried my patience with this one.  I remember one day in particular when I felt as though  my theory of overlooking temper tantrums seemed to be ineffective in ridding of the behavior.  Around supper time when the children began to express their hunger and readiness to eat, I did something profound.  With all three children standing in the kitchen, I got down on the floor, flailed about, and had myself a temper tantrum, protesting that I did not want to fix supper.  As I continued to demonstrate how I viewed their throw-down-on-the-floor tantrums, I remember glancing up and seeing my children with their eyes and mouths wide open as if they wondered what on earth was coming next.  Psychology books may never suggest this technique but not one of our children ever had a temper tantrum again!  Awareness can be a wonderful thing at all ages!

Children have temper tantrums because of frustration.  They lack the wisdom to reason and think a situation through, therefore the raw emotions surface instead of logical behavior.  Do we ever have temper tantrums when we are upset with God?   Do our raw emotions surface in the form of anger, bitterness or discouragement?  Do we stop going to church or studying God's word each day with attitudes of protest?   Do we flail about in self-pity, lacking control over our emotions?  Do we make hasty decisions in the midst of a tantrum?

God does not want to see our temper tantrums.  He does not acknowledge those types of behaviors nor does he bless us when we act out of raw emotion. When we are faced with situations that tempt us to react out of anger, God wants us to seek Him.  The godly reaction comes from prayer, reading the Bible, and logically making decisions that do not reflect that we merely wanted our way. 

We all will experience emotional growth spurts in life.  Studying God's word, spending time in prayer, and gaining wisdom to grow spiritually will equip us to deal with our frustrations in ways other than temper tantrums.  Emotional intelligence can be acquired through a deep understanding of how God desires for us to react.

When we are tempted to react with self-pity and raw emotions, we need to evaluate the reaction.  We should seek wisdom in order to respond to frustrating situations.  We should seek a response that is not fueled by intense emotions.  We should instead pursue a reaction that is filled with godly behaviors and attitudes.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The scorpion and the frog

Matthew 5:41-42     If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 

Once upon a time there was a frog and a scorpion sitting on a river bank.  Both wanted to cross the river and be on the other side.  The frog had the ability to swim across.  The scorpion did not.  The scorpion said to the frog, "I would like for you to allow me to ride upon your back while you swim across the river."  The frog, with apparent wisdom, said to the scorpion, "How can I trust you?  If I allow you to ride on my back and then you sting me, and we will both drown in the river before we get to the other side."  The scorpion, with an offended attitude, replied to the frog, "Why would I do that to you, knowing that we will both lose in that situation?"  Reluctantly, the frog agreed to give the scorpion a ride across the river.  Halfway across, the scorpion stung the generous frog.  The frog asked the scorpion, "Why did you sting me?  You said you would not do that."  The scorpion simply replied to the frog, "It is my nature."

Have you ever experienced someone in your life that reminds you of the scorpion?  Have you ever tried to help someone with loving intentions in your heart only to have them stab you in the back?  I am sure that it has happened to all of us at some point.  It is frustrating to deal with people that are "takers" and rarely are "givers".  For some people, it seems to be their nature to "sting" others and cause hurt. 

How are we to react to the scorpions in our lives?   The frog in the story had no defense.  In the middle of the river, paralyzed by the scorpion's sting, there was nothing he could do to retaliate.  He had no choice but to accept that situation.  We should have the same mindset.  God offers us the strength to love others when they wrong us.  He offers us the ability to forgive and have an attitude of love instead of vengeance.  We are instructed to love others instead of seeking vengeance.

When we seek vengeance instead of peace and forgiveness, we perpetuate the situation.  There will be "takers" in our lives that can seem to paralyze us and zap the energy from us.   Give to them anyway.  Go the extra mile in order to show them the love and mercy that God shows us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Feast on the manna

Exodus 16:14-15     When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is this?"  For they did not know what it was.


After God freed the Israelites from the slavery of Pharoah, they wandered in the desert, grumbling and groaning; complaining because they were hungry.  Obtaining food was different than when they had lived in Egypt.  Food in a desert is scarce and their gratitude for having been freed from bondage quickly turned to grumblings because they had to obtain food in a different way than before.

The "flakes like frost on the ground" were sent from heaven.  It was called it manna and it came down like rain from the sky.   Manna means "what is it?".  Manna is described in the dictionary as something that is needed and is received unexpectedly.  The Israelites did not know what the flakes were nor what to do with the manna.  Moses explained to them that God had sent it and that they were to gather the amount needed to sustain them for a day.  Each day, God sent new manna down to the Israelites to meet their needs.  They crushed it and made delicious, honey flavored pancakes to eat.  The manna was a gift each day that satisfied their needs.  

How many times do receive our "manna" each day amidst our own grumblings and ungrateful attitudes?  How often do we wish for other circumstances, i.e. more money, more possessions, bigger home, better car, different job?  How often do we miss "feasting on the manna" because we do not know what it is? 

God is wonderful provider.  Each day when we arise, their is new manna raining down from heaven.  I can think of many times over the years in which manna has appeared unexpectedly in my life in order to meet a need.  God understands our needs.  He will supply us with just what we need each day.   Feast on his manna, those gifts that we receive each day.  Seek to recognize the manna.  Give thanks for it!
 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Face your Goliath

1 Samuel 17:32  David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him."

David was a small, young boy full of determination and a desire to serve God.  He volunteered to fight a Philistine giant over 9 feet tall with nothing but a slingshot and some rocks while the giant stood before him with a large sword capable of decapitating him.  As I think of this, I visualize David likely being waist-high to Goliath.  The giant must have looked like a sky scraper to such a little boy. 

1 Samuel 17:38   Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic.  He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.  

David was dressed in armor for the battle.  Man-made protection with shields and helmets and a sword was available to him to take to the fight.   However, David said he could not function in the armor because he was not used to it.  So he took it all off.  He went to the battle line dressed in his shepherd's clothing with only a slingshot and a hand full of smooth stones that he picked up in a stream.  Smooth is a key word describing the stones; they were not sharp nor were they large such as you would think necessary to kill someone. 

1 Samuel 17:48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

As Goliath ran toward David in battle mode, David ran toward the Goliath.
No fear.   No second guessing.  Full of faith.  Totally confident.  Bring it on!

David's sling and rocks were ORDINARY.  What was extraordinary was David's mind when he threw the stone.  David's mind was filled with trust in God and faith that God would provide him with the strength to slay the giant Philistine.   With one small stone, the first one that he hurled at Goliath, he killed him.   One little rock to the forehead pronated the over 9 feet tall giant.  "Deader than a doornail".   (1 Samuel 17:49)

What are the Goliaths in your life?  What gigantic obstacles do you face each day when your feet hit the floor?

Fear?  Addiction?  Financial trouble?  Depression?  Bitterness?   

Stand in the face of your Goliath!!!!  Do not run.  Do not hide behind man-made shields and masks.  Sling your rocks with faith and trust in God.  He will provide you with the strength to slay ALL your giants.  Run to the battle line and take God with you.                                         

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Agape love

Luke 10:27   He answered:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself".

     AGAPE is the Greek word for love.  Agape is a non-romantic, brotherly, Christian love, representative of how Christ love humankind.  It means to love without expecting anything in return.  Charity and service are types of agape love.  To give freely from the heart whether the giving is time, money, compassion, material possessions, or kindness.   Agape is the type of love that Christ offered during his time on earth.  He gave of himself as representation of God by teaching, healing, and showing love and compassion.  He did all this freely, never expecting anything in return and by the way, most of the time what he did get in return was mockery, persecution and mistreatment. 
     As we enter the Christmas season, many people feel a desire to give to those in need.  I challenge each of you to search your hearts for agape love, offer it to someone and serve God by doing so.  May agape love become a permanent attitude of the heart and not just a mindset at the Christmas season.   

Monday, November 17, 2014

Make yourself vulnerable to God's plans

James 4:7-8   So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God and God will come close to you.

It is possible to spend years in bitterness and misery.  Some people spend a lifetime in misery, living with bitterness, anger and malice in their hearts.  It is Satan's desire for us to be miserable and to distance ourselves from God.  If we have drifted into a state of bitterness and misery, how can we establish a closeness with God?  The first step is to humble ourselves before God (James 4:7).  To humble ourselves means to surrender and submit.  We must surrender all our ungodly thoughts and attitudes and yield to God's authority.  This step can be difficult. 

Why is it so difficult to surrender and submit to God?  Pride and control are part of the issue.  We want to feel as if we are in control of our lives; we are really not.  Surrendering all our thoughts and attitudes to God may present a feeling of vulnerability.  We fear that we will be hurt again.  However, by holding on to bitterness, we are vulnerable to Satan and that is far more risky than being vulnerable to the goodness of God. 

There is a part of us that holds on to bitterness because we are holding on to the desire for vengeance.   If we can hold on to bitterness or keep the grudge kindled against our offender, we feel more in control.  Tough to admit.  Tougher to let go.  We may even think that if we hold these thoughts and feelings inside of us that no one will notice.  They do notice.  The loved ones in our lives are grieved by those types of attitudes. 

If you are harboring bitterness and anger, all the while thinking that it is your own battle, please realize that everyone around you is affected by that battle.  I ask that you ponder these things:  1. God is in control.  2.  When we try to control, we go against God's will in our lives.  3.  We cannot change things that have happened to us   4.  We can change how we feel about the things that have happened.  

Humble yourself.  Surrender.  Make yourself vulnerable to God's plans.  Life will be much sweeter this way!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts and Attitudes

2 Corinthians 10:3-5   For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

In this passage, Paul is defending his authority because the people in Corinth were not taking his  advice seriously.  He was trying to teach the people what God expected of them and they could win their battles over sin with God's weapons and armor.  This particular passage is dealing with thoughts and attitudes that keep people from finding God and having a close, personal relationship with him.

Attitudes and thoughts can be sinful.  Bad attitudes and ungodly thoughts can become strongholds in our lives.  Bitterness is fertile ground for bad attitudes and ugly, ungodly thoughts.  Such dispositions can lead to a cold, hardened heart.  When I was in the depths of my bitterness, my attitude was BAD.  I cannot even candy coat it.  It was bad.  Many times my thoughts and words included, "I did not do anything to cause this.  He/she/they did ______________ and that is why I feel this way."  I justified my attitude.  I argued with God, placing the blame on others.  I used my own methods of thought to fluff up my pride and destroy my attitude.  When I finally realized and saw things as God showed me, all of it was a huge pill to swallow.  A HORSE pill going down sideways.  With no water.

A huge wall had been constructed in my mind.  A wall that had prevented me from seeing things as God intended.  The wall that Satan had built in my mind was a barrier to love, joy, fulfillment, and worship.  I could go through the motions, but my heart seemed empty and without affection.

Thoughts and attitudes have enormous power within us.  A single thought can change our entire attitude about ANYTHING.  Thoughts can change how we view others, how we feel about ourselves, and how we view our relationships.  A single thought can lead to changes within us that enter into damaging attitudes.  This path can be destructive to our relationship with God as well as our loved ones.

If this devotion finds you with an ungodly attitude, I urge you to allow God to crumble the barriers that keep self-righteous pride festering inside you.  I pray that you will allow God's weapons of prayer, faith, His word, hope, and love to fill your hearts and minds so that your relationships will be full of all that he has to offer.  Swallow that horse pill; it is good medicine.  Drink plenty of water to flush your system and allow God to heal you of your poor attitudes and ugly thoughts.  It is God's plan for each of us to enjoy Him and life to its fullest!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Facing past hurts

Psalm 139:23-24   Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.


We are all busy.  Life is busy.  Some of the busyness is necessary to take care of our homes and families.  Perhaps some of the busyness is in the name of evasion.   Let's think about that for a minute.

I seem to thrive in a busy environment.  Not that I need to be going somewhere all the time but I think I need to keep my mind busy with hobbies, reading, projects, work, etc.  I have often said that being busy keeps my mind off the bad stuff, some of the unpleasantness of the past.   This works to a degree.  However, a while back when I read Psalm 139:23-24, the words of the verses pierced my heart with a different view.  There are times, however,  when God wants us to focus our minds on those unpleasant occurrences in order to lay them to rest and rid of bitterness.

When we possess emotions, attitudes and thoughts that are offensive to God, it is beneficial to allow him to show us what those are.  We can then in turn deal with emotions, thoughts and attitudes that contain vengeance, bitterness, anger and hurt.  Filling all our time with work, hobbies, or social activities does not afford us time to hear God and seek the things in our hearts that he would have us address.  Busyness in the name of evasion only perpetuates things of the past that need attention. 

In order to emotionally heal and grow in our relationship with God, it is necessary to face past hurts, emotions and thoughts brought about by those hurts, as well as any wrong motives.  We do not necessarily need to face or confront the people involved, but we do need to deal with the feelings.  Admit to the emotions and allow God to replace them with righteous motives.   Facing the past and dealing with the emotions frees the heart to accept the love and good things that God has in store for us.  Bitter, negative emotions and attitudes crowd the mind leaving little room for positive, productive ones.  Facing hurtful feelings and events is not always easy.  No one wants to recount unpleasant events.  However, by facing feelings, we are able to allow God to take the hurt and turn it into healing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Put rejection in its place

1 Samuel 8:7    And the Lord told him:  "Listen to all that the people are saying to you;  it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king....."

There are many emotions involved when bitterness is present within a person.  One of the most common feelings experienced with bitterness is rejection.  Because bitterness usually stems from an offense, a hurt of some type, rejection is a by product of hurt-especially intentional hurts. 

Rejection is an implied gesture that we are not accepted, liked or valued.  We do not feel important or of any worth.  Rejection causes our esteem to suffer.  Rejection, unaddressed can lead to a deep degree of bitterness.

We can all recall a time in our childhood days, whether at school, in sports or within our families that we felt rejected or left out.  It affected our esteem.  Rejection allowed an open door for Satan to talk us into all sorts of self-defeating ideas and beliefs about ourselves. 

Even in our adult lives, things happen that cause us to feel rejected. 
  
Unaccepted.  

Unimportant.
 
Of little value. 

I have been there.  Period.  Exclamation point!!

When people hurt others and fail to love others as God expects, then the rejection is not personal.  It is a rejection of God and his commands.   Believe me, I know that the hurt and pain is still as great, but when we draw near to God and understand his sovereignty and recognize his love and commitment to us, it lessens the intensity of what others have caused.    If we can put rejection in its place, it is easier to prevent bitterness from entering our hearts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

God promises comfort and peace

Psalm 86:17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.


We serve a God of comfort and peace. His offer of both is always available.

When turmoil, anxiety and disruption of your peace are present in your life, remember that we ALWAYS have the promise of comfort from God.

It is up to each of us to submit to that comfort and to enjoy inner peace.

Allow Him to comfort you-whatever your situation.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Worry

Matthew 6:25-27   "That is why I tell you not to worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"   

What causes us worry?  We commonly worry whether or not we will be able to buy groceries, clothing and pay the bills.  Why do we spend so much time worrying about these particular topics?   In Matthew 6:25-7:12 we are reminded that our basic needs will be met.  With that promise, why do we continue to worry?  Do we not believe God's promise?  Or is it really that we fear that we may have to come out of our comfort zone and make sacrifices?  Will we have to learn to do more with less or change the things that we are used to doing in life in order to buy the things we need.  Are we afraid that our standard of living may change or that we will need to rearrange some material things in our lives. 

Matthew 6:33 says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you."  God will provide the things we need when we seek his kingdom.  No amount of worrying is ever productive.  As a matter of fact, worrying is a distraction from productivity in working for God.  Worry is a time-waster and stressor.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Take a stand

1 Peter 3:14   But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.

Doing what is right will not always make you popular.  In fact, it may cost you relationships.  Doing what is right may put you in a minority.  You may feel persecuted, isolated and rejected, especially when someone else expects you to go along with doing wrong.  Doing what is right will sometimes cause strife and suffering.  However, the suffering is only here in this life and the blessings of doing what is right outweigh any suffering that may occur.

A situation that occurred a year or so ago came to mind when I read this verse.  A young college student told me of this occurrence and was trying to understand why she was being persecuted for making a decision to do what was right.  By the way, college is a trying time for young Christians.  They are on their own to make decisions and sort out the wiles of the world.  Many new enticements are presented during this time in their lives.  Back to the story.  The young college student was in a lab group that had been assigned a project that required work over several weeks.  The work was to be documented each week with clear-cut steps to follow and document.  The project required extra time and attention and if steps in the project were skipped or missed, the outcome would not be desirable and the project would not be complete.  Responsibilities were divided and each of the lab group members had detailed instructions to follow at specific times.  Two of the group members fell behind in their responsibilities.  As the assignment due date drew near, parts of it were not complete because of the downfall of the group.  The third young lady expressed concern about the assignment and what the outcome of the grade would be.  One of the group members said that she would not accept anything less than an A, therefore they would falsify the documentation in order to complete the assignment with a desirable grade.  The young lady that spoke to me about this refused to participate in the proposed cheating.  She met with the professor to discuss options for completing the assignment and told the professor that the other group members had not taken responsibility for the required work to be completed.

I am sure you can see the direction of all this. Group dynamics changed.  The group members quickly turned on the young lady.   Because she was not willing to seek a good grade at any cost, she was no longer liked within this group.  Friends of the group members began to treat her as if she was in the wrong.  She was no longer included in their reindeer games.   You get the picture. 

I can think of other situations that are similar to this one.  Different details, names and faces, but the same common core.  Striving to please the flesh often requires a compromise in morals and ethics.  It will make people popular among other people, especially when "me" is of benefit.  There is often peer pressure to go along with "saving face".  Pride and arrogance are also included in the equation.

God expects us to take a stand.  Doing so requires much more that proclaiming our belief in him.  Taking a stand involves going against the "norm".  It means that we many times will stand alone among our peers, friends and neighbors.  Committing oneself to doing what is right is not always easy.  It is always expected. 

Perhaps you can think of a time when taking a stand changed the dynamics of a friendship or group that you were in.  Those changes may be permanent.  So be it!  It is better to change friends than to compromise your relationship with God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Disappointments

Isaiah 55:8-9   "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

This time of year presents to me the memory of a great disappointment that my husband and I experienced a few years ago.  I remember having a plan in mind that appeared to be clear and the plan had many indications of becoming something that we perceived as being "perfect" for our lives.  We had dreamed, planned and worked diligently for this plan to become a reality.  That plan never became a reality.  Disappointment, discouragement and uncertainty followed.  I can tell you from experience that disappointments are fertile breeding grounds for bitterness to grow.  That will be another post in itself. 

In our lives we will suffer disappointments.  They are inevitable.   Some are very large and will cause us to feel as if our world will end.  Some will leave us wondering if we will ever understand what is going on.  The most important truth to remember about disappointments is that we must seek the path that God is preparing for us.  He knows what is best for us.  Many times what we view as disappointments are areas of protection that God offers when he is taking care of us.  Trust that God is working in your life for your own good.  Embrace his protection and wisdom.

In the midst of disappointment, we are tempted to focus on the "why me?" and "what next?" and have a self-pity party.  Instead we must focus on what God is showing us, what he is teaching us through the experience and where he wants us to go next.  Disappointments do not feel great and at times leave us with the need to re-evaluate ourselves in order to see God's plan.  Take full advantage of the opportunity to draw closer to him and seek his plan.   His ways are higher and greater than anything we can plan for ourselves.

If this post finds you suffering in the midst of a disappointment, grieve it, bury it, take note of the lessons God has taught you then move forward to the next project that He has planned for you.  I encourage you to move forward and grow, sooner rather than later.  Wallowing and ruminating in the details of the disappointment are not productive and will not change the outcome of the situation.  Remember the four steps to moving on:  sort, sieve, learn and leave. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Warfare

2 Chronicles 20:15    "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God's."

Even though we cannot always see or understand our enemies, we truly only have one enemy:  Satan.  He is the evil one who seeks to devour us in every way.  He uses people to accomplish his evil deeds.  There are times when it seems like a huge army with thousands of people is camped at our doorstep.

When we are dealt injustices, hurts and dirty deeds, it is difficult for us to understand why.  It is so hard not to take the injustices personally.  This is an opportunity for the seeds of bitterness to sprout and grow.

Spiritual warfare is important to comprehend yet difficult to accept.  Basically, it boils down to this:  the war is between God and Satan; we are on the battlefield but the battle is not ours.

Our best defense against spiritual warfare is a deep, intimate relationship with God.  When this is in place, He will fight our battles and keep the devil off our backs.     

Monday, November 3, 2014

Accolades

Proverbs 22: 6   Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

I think that many times adults underestimate the potential and the hearts of our youth.  Saturday I had the privilege of working with a youth group at a local church.  They hosted a clothing and food give-a-way and served lunch to the attendees.  As I observed the youth, I stood in awe of the love and desire to serve that poured from their hearts.  They served with compassion and concern for others. The temperature was around 40 degrees all day yet I did not hear one young person complain.  There was no whining, no conflicts, and no drama.  There was initiative, diligence, dedication and delivery.  I so enjoyed the smiles on their faces and the sparkles in their eyes. 

I taught them a couple of things about folding clothes, finding sizes and organizing the trailer. 
They taught me many things about serving with a pure heart.  The parents and youth leaders deserve accolades for the training of these precious children.   I know that these children will make great contributions to God's kingdom throughout their lives. 
 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

2 Corinthians 9:12-13     This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 

All praise, honor and glory goes to God for meeting our needs.  On a daily basis, he supplies everything we need and many times, far more than we need.  Serving God and helping to meet the needs of others is worshipful.  Doing so allows us to give thanks for what he has given us and affords the opportunity to share from our abundance and give to others. 

All praise, honor and glory goes to God for The Sweet Stuff Ministry.  If you know me personally, you know that this ministry "found me", for I was not seeking such a role.  During a deep valley in my life, I simply said, "God I give it all to you.  Do with me what you will."  I continue to be amazed at how magnificent and omnipotent God is.  He can make a way for ANYTHING!

The trailer is full.  Many thanks to each of you that have donated in any way.  My cup runneth over!  I seek your prayers as we go tomorrow to serve God's people.  Pray that we will touch hearts and offer the love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

If you feel a need within your community to serve people with clothing and food, message me and we will arrange for the clothing trailer to meet that need.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Clothing give-a-way this weekend

The Sweet Stuff Ministry clothing trailer will be at Trammel Creek Baptist Church in the Pierce community, Saturday, November 1 from 11:00-1:00.  The trailer is loaded with fall and winter clothing and is free to anyone.  Lunch will be available.  If you are in need of clothing and shoes, this is an opportunity to have those needs met.  Feel free to share this status and pass the word. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Galatians 5:13-14   "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
 
Service to one another should be full of love, compassion and mercy.  Serving others should be selfless and encouraging.  Service should be obedient to God's commands-not because of feelings of obligation but because of a conviction in the heart full of sincere desire to love one another. 
 
                 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Easing burdens

Matthew 11:28   "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

One thing that I have learned from serving in clothing and food ministries is this:  There are burdens in the hearts of those in need.  The burdens may be financial but often the burdens are on an emotional level, deep within the heart.   While serving we may give a way some jeans, tee shirts and cans of corn but the service is about much more than that.  Many times when people face hardships and are in need of the basic necessities of life, they are discouraged and have lost hope.  Serving others offers hope.  It offers hope that is found in Jesus Christ;the hope that offers love and compassion.  To share hope with others is serving at the level of the heart and goes far beyond canned goods.  

Service to others should include a desire to lessen or put an end to the hurt and difficulties with which they may be dealing.  It is a sharing of their burdens.  By serving others, we are able to demonstrate the rest that is found in relying on Christ through witnessing and the display of love and care. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The BIG news

John 21:17   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"  He said,  "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that The Sweet Stuff had exciting news.  Today, I share that news with you. 

Last year God asked me to expand my ministry and gave me a vision of how to do so.  It involves a cargo trailer, clothing and food.  The trailer is a clothing closet on wheels so to speak.  It will travel from place to place giving away free clothing and food baskets to those in need.  At the same time that God manifested the details of this portion of the ministry, a friend of mine taught me how to make infinity scarves.  Hang with me here, it is all intermingled.  When I finished the scarf, I posted it on my sewing Facebook page, RibbonsnRags, where it immediately sold.  I made more scarves and each of them sold quickly.  I was at my sewing machine one day, talking with God and I said, "Lord, I can sew as many of these scarves as you can send customers to buy them.  I can use the proceeds to buy a trailer for the clothing ministry."  Guess what?  The scarf business boomed way beyond my imagination.  I also sold some aprons and tee shirts with The Sweet Stuff logo on them and put those proceeds into the trailer kitty.  In a few weeks, I had enough funds to purchase a trailer. 

I looked at several for sale, priced new ones and waited for God to show me which to purchase.  It did not happen quickly.  The trailers that we looked at did not work out for various reasons:  too small, leaky roof, priced out of budget, etc.  So, I continued to pray for this ministry and for all the details to fall into place.  As always, God sent the details right to me (we must remember that it has to be in his timing and he knows the perfect time and place for our purpose). 

I was browsing Facebook one day and a friend of ours had a picture of a cargo trailer for sale and it said:  "Must sell, make offer".  I immediately sent him a message and we arranged to see the trailer.  It was well taken care of, used very little, no leaky roof and the perfect size.  It was perfect!   Since there was no price listed in the ad, I had prayed before we looked at it for God to arrange that detail so that I would know this was the one.  An amount came to mind but I did not speak it to anyone.  When I asked about the price, the friend said that he was asking $$ but since the trailer was for the ministry, he would take $$.  You know what is coming next.  The price was the EXACT figure that had come to my mind following my prayer. 

The trailer was purchased.  It will be lettered this week with the ministry name.  It is loaded with shelves full of donated clothing to be given away.  Saturday, November 1st, I will take it a church nearby where the youth are sponsoring a clothing give-a-way.  They are learning about service, compassion, sacrifice and love.  I am beyond thrilled that God has entrusted me with this service portion of my ministry.  I have always had a heart for clothing and food ministries and I know that I will receive many blessings as the ministry embarks upon this mission.

Please be in prayer for my ministry and our first clothing give-a-way.  All posts this week will pertain to service and "feeding my sheep".  A huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you that purchased a tee shirt, apron or scarf.  You donated to this ministry and for that, I am grateful!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rest time

Mark 6:31   Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

I was talking to a friend the other day about the demands of life.  It seems with each passing year, more is required of us to merely exist.  Rising costs of living without an increase in income puts a burden on everyone to make ends meet.  Raising children is demanding and requires time and attention (I would not trade this job for any other!)  Jobs are demanding and many people work two jobs to pay bills.  Add a couple of extracurricular activities for the children and more time is filled. 

Everyone is busy.  How on earth can every hour of every day become filled with something?  It seems at our house lately that if we do have a free block of time on our schedules, something will tear up and need repairs, therefore filling that time.  I can totally relate to the first part of Mark 6:31 about coming and going and not having time to eat.  In this passage, Jesus and the twelve apostles were on tour preaching and healing.  They were walking from village to village, meeting with people, having church and witnessing.  Their bodies and minds were tired.  People have always been busy.  It is relative.  It is not a new issue with our generation. 

How do we become less busy?  I am still trying to find a solution to that.  But I do know this:  It is extremely important to carve out rest time, "down time" as I like to call it.  Our brains and our bodies need time to rest, be quiet and have no demands upon us.   Those times of rest are wonderful times to commune with God.  Down time is a perfect opportunity to talk with God, feel his presence and hear what he has to say.  Whether you schedule a few hours each week or a couple of days away each month, rest time, beyond sleeping each night, is vital to our physical and spiritual health.  Tend to your rest.  Schedule it on your calendar.  Make it a priority. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Facing bitterness

Psalm 73:21  When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.  

I remember when I realized how much bitterness my heart was harboring.  I know that others around me saw the evidence long before I faced the facts of my feelings.  There were some of my close family and friends that tried to show me that I needed to make some changes but I did not want to listen.  It was only when I saw the effects of my bitterness echo through my children that I was awakened to the condition of my heart.  Talk about a humbling experience!  To see stress and grief in the eyes of my children and realize that I was responsible for it was gut wrenching. 

I have realized that it is important to regularly have a check up on the condition of my heart.  Think of it as quality control.  Psalm 123:39 screamed at me during the time that my heart needed spiritual surgery.  It says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."  I prayed for God to point out to me all the things that I needed to change in order to deal with bitterness.  Since our hearts are subject to emotions and experiences on a daily basis, it is important to have our hearts examined frequently. 

When we cry out to God for help in matters of the heart, we must be willing to yield our hearts to his commands and principles.  Ridding of bitterness is not an easy process, nor does it occur immediately.  Ridding of bitterness and freeing your heart of grief is commanded:  Ephesians 4:31.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Forgive "whatever grievances"

Luke 11:4   Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. 

Do we offer forgiveness unconditionally?   

When we think about conditional vs. unconditional, the first thought that we have is usually about love.  We know that God expects us to love unconditionally.   But what about forgiveness?  Do we offer forgiveness unconditionally or do we assign conditions to what or whom we might forgive.  God expects us to forgive unconditionally.  Period.

I was talking with a fellow a couple of years ago about forgiveness.  He had forgiven a parent for infidelity and the hurt that it had caused the entire family.  However, he holds a bitter grudge against one of his siblings for an argument in which angry words were spoken.   I asked this fellow how he could forgive one situation, that to me seemed much more hurtful and difficult than the other, yet carry a grudge against the one that seemed less hurtful.    He only offered this statement:  "It is easy to forgive someone when your paycheck depends on it" (the parent in the situation is also his employer).  I have often thought about this situation.  How is it that we assign priorities to forgiveness?   Is it truly easier to forgive when there is "something in it for me" such as something tangible?   Does an immediate need or desire that we have make forgiveness easier in our minds?  If so, then forgiveness is conditional.  Can we sincerely have forgiveness in our hearts when we pick and choose where we offer mercy?

When Jesus was praying one day his disciples asked him to teach them to pray.   He told them to pray in what we know as the Lord's prayer which includes Luke 11:4.  We are to pray for strength and wisdom to forgive EVERYONE who sins against us.  We are not to treat it as a cafeteria plan where we pick and choose who and what we forgive.  We are to forgive everyone.  Repeat- everyone.  We are promised in scripture that we will be forgiven according to how we offer forgiveness (Matthew 6:14).  We want to be forgiven of everything we have done, not just a few of the worst things.   Ephesians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another."

Key words to keep in mind regarding forgiveness:  "EVERYONE" and "whatever grievances".   If there are situations and people with which you are withholding forgiveness, remember these key words and pray like Jesus commanded so that all can be forgiven.  Just as God expects us to love unconditionally, he also expects us to forgive in the same manner.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Memories of Bitterness

Lamentations 3:19-22   "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for is compassions never fail."

Funny how the memory works.  To this day, I cannot eat tuna salad sandwiches because of a distinctive round of morning sickness that involved a tuna sandwich.  I will spare you the details.  The smell or sight of a tuna sandwich triggers my memory of that episode.  I can recall how my head and stomach felt, where I was and all the associated unpleasantries .  Therefore, I avoid tuna salad.  Period.  Non-negotiable.  I will go hungry before eating it again.

Even though I am no longer pregnant, nor am I suffering from morning sickness, that memory is forever planted in my mind.  I cannot erase it.   If I could erase it, good memories would likely be erased along side.  So, I learned from it:  tuna salad + morning sickness + eating while driving does not equal a pleasant morning.  You can trust that during my subsequent pregnancies, tuna was never on my menu!

The same can be learned when dealing with memories that trigger occurrences which brought about bitterness.  Even though I have dealt with bitterness in my life and put it in its place, there are still some things that trigger my memory and remind me of the unpleasant feelings that accompany bitterness.   Someone may speak about an event that caused bitter feelings. Certain time periods on a calendar may trigger a memory or even seeing the people involved in causing bitter feelings may stir up negative emotions within us. We must use caution when the memory is triggered because Satan pounces on those times quickly and takes our minds into unhealthy directions. 

When these things happen and bitterness tries to creep back into our lives, we must remind ourselves of Lamentations 3:22 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed".  We do not have to be consumed with negative, hurtful thoughts and feelings.  God can take care of all of those feelings and replace them with positive feelings full of love and joy. 

Once bitterness has been dealt with and removed from one's heart, any triggers of the memory to revisit the bitterness can be quickly dismissed by remembering that God will surround us with hope and not sorrow.  He will wrap us in love and compassion.  He does not want us to remember the bitterness and negativity.  He wants us to learn from it and move forward. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Spiritual Epidemic

Ezekiel  34:4   You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.  You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.  You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

Each time that we hear or watch the news, we learn new information about Ebola, the frightening disease that threatens to become an epidemic.  While visiting a family member in the hospital last week, I noticed signs posted in every hallway that contained information about the signs and symptoms of the disease and what to do if one suspects exposure to Ebola.  Epidemics of deadly, incurable diseases cause panic and fear in people.  Media hype and sensationalism elevate the fear and panic.   It is beginning in our country. 

I tell you that there is a greater epidemic among us than any physical disease that may threaten our health.  It is an epidemic of oblivion for the lost and spiritually dying world that we live in.  Widespread unawareness of the spiritual condition of our family members, friends and neighbors exists all around us.  This should cause as much panic as any microscopic organism that we may fear.  We should be willing to read and learn of all the signs and symptoms of the lost people around us.  As Christians, we should have a burden in our hearts for this deadly spiritual condition and have a desire to share with them the cure that God offers (John 3:16;  1 John 1:9). 

It would be wonderful indeed to see concern for the lost and dying when we turn on the news or pick up the newspaper.  I would be wonderful, if we as a nation, felt enough burden for the lost that we would go to great lengths to present the cure. 

I have a deep burden for some family members that are suffering spiritually.  I know that many of you do as well.  Let us join together in prayer and in love.  May we reach out to the lost.  May we search for the strays that need to join God's fold.  May our hearts never forget the importance of seeking the lost and dying. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

May we serve God by serving others

Galations 5:13   "You my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."

God expects each of us to serve.  He expects us to serve him first and foremost.  He expects us to serve one another.  By serving one another, we not only meet the needs of others, but we also are showing our thanks to God  (2 Cor. 9:12-13). 

We each have the freedom to choose what we do with our time.  It is easy to become idle with our free time.  Serving others is a rewarding way to spend any of our time.  God has much work for us to do.   Many people serve in mission work by going to another country.  That is a wonderful work of service.  It allows God's word and his reflection to reach many people that may have never heard of him.

There are many opportunities to serve God and others right where you are.  He does not call upon everyone to travel to other countries to serve his people.  There are many people in our own communities that are oppressed and need God.  There are people in our own counties/communities that are in need of basic necessities of life. 

It is my prayer that each of us will desire to choose to serve one another.  May our hearts be burdened with the needs of others.  May God lead us in serving him by serving others in love.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

CRUMBLED or HUMBLED

Acts 20:24     However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. 

Crumbled or Humbled? 

Every day we are each granted the opportunity to be HUMBLED in God's throne room of graces.

We also have the option of being CRUMBLED by the things that Satan puts in front of our faces.

To be humbled by God's graces looks like this:  
                  -divine assistance in all matters of our lives
                  -mercy, mercy, mercy and more mercy
                  -His offerings of kindness, courtesy and clemency to us
                  -unmerited pardon of sin

All day.  Every day!!!!!

To be crumbled by Satan's antics looks like this:
                 -discouragement
                 -fear
                 -feelings of worthlessness
                 -bitterness
                 -discontent
                 -misery, misery and more misery

All day.  Every day!!!!!

The choice is ours.   CRUMBLED or HUMBLED?                   

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The "C" word

Romans 8:38-39   For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The "C" word.  Cancer.  A dreadful, frightening word that we never want to hear our doctor utter.  Conditions that devastate the mind and body.  A word that has affected my family on both sides.  Cancer is no respecter of persons.  It invades the young, old and anyone in between.  It descends upon athletes, businessmen, farmers, teachers, and any other person.  It does not seem to matter who nor how healthy a person may be.  It is always a possibility.

Cancer can separate people from their jobs.  It disrupts the comfort zone and turns the world upside down.  It affects the quality of life.  It causes insecurity and uncertainty.  Often, cancer permanently separates people from their families as they succumb to the horrible disease. 


As we strive to raise the awareness of cancer and treatments, may we also raise the awareness of God's presence and love for us.   I have been reminded of God's love and comfort in this matter a few times in my life.  I have been in the waiting room while family members have undergone surgery a cancerous tumor.  I have waited to speak with surgeons to hear whether the surgery was successful.  I have watched family members undergo chemotherapy.  God's comfort and security is the only thing that will provide peace in these situations.

As much as this disease causes earthly separations, it will never cause separation from our loving God.  His love endures through it all!  His comfort, in the fearful times of dealing with cancer, shows his love and faithfulness to us. Thank you, Lord for your love and comfort!   Thank you, that even though we may experience earthly separations, we are never separated from you. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Psalm 102:6-7

Psalm 102: 6-7   I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.  I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.

Psalm 102 offers instructions for distress. I encourage you to read the entire chapter.  It is a prayer for pouring out one's troubles and problems.  God wants us to pour out our troubles to him and look to him to relieve our distress. 

Verses 6-7 refers to an "owl in the desert and a solitary bird on the roof".  These bring to mind a picture of loneliness and solitude.  God does not want us to be lonely or desperate.  Sometimes we want to be alone with God.  But we must be careful not to isolate those that may reach out to us in our times of trouble and distress.  God often sends people to comfort us when we are troubled.  We should accept the loving support of family and friends instead of suffering in solitude. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lessons from Plymouth Volare and Pontiac Executive

James 4:3   You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

It is wonderful when we experience lessons in life that have come full circle.  I realized one of those lessons this weekend.  Our almost 17 year old son wants a vehicle of his own.  He has a certain vehicle in mind, not a fancy or outrageous vehicle by any means, but a vehicle that is out of his budget.  His goal is to purchase his own vehicle-I love his work ethic and mindset!  He has worked at this goal for nearly three years saving and looking for extra jobs to make money.  This is a big deal to him.

A friend of ours offered him an opportunity this weekend to purchase a vehicle from his wife as she bought a new one.  We took him to look at the vehicle and test drive it.  I could see the disappointment on my son's face.  It is a car, he wants a truck.  It is white, he wants gray. 

Insert story of my first car in order to teach a lesson that I learned many years ago when I was 17.  My parents' rule at our house growing up was that we did not get a car when we turned 16, we were given a car our senior year in high school.  It was the summer before my senior year and I was dreaming of my car.  I wanted a Ford Mustang, a sporty, fast, popular car in this era.   My dad knew how badly I wanted a Mustang.  Unlike my son, I had no money saved for a car.  One day my dad went to Indiana to a state government surplus sale as he did quite often.  He mentioned before he left that there may possibly be a car there for me.  Think about this-I have not known state officials to drive Mustangs.  He must be joking with me.  Later that day from a pay phone (long before cell phones), Daddy called to tell me that he had bought two cars and I could choose the one I wanted.  I asked what kind of cars they were and when he told me I had not ever heard of either kind.  One was a Dodge Aspen, the other a Plymouth Volare; both 1979 models.  They were from a different decade and I could not begin to picture what they looked like.  Those were the days before Google, so I just had to wait until Daddy got back home in order to see the cars.  When he pulled into the driveway with the cars my heart fell all the way to my ankles.  I was thinking, seriously, he expects me to drive one of these?  The cars were white, plain as all get out, four door (what 17 year old girl wants a four door car?), and they were retired from the Indiana Division of Forestry.  The large round silver emblem on the doors had been rubbed off, apparently with sand paper.    He asked me what I thought.  I said, "These are the ugliest cars I have ever seen." (How disrespectful and unappreciative I was)   What he said to me next, changed my mind about the cars and humbled me.  I now see that lesson full circle as it taught me so that I could teach my children a lesson when the time arose.  He said, "Here they are.  You can either drive one of these or ride the bus to school."  Bear in mind that we lived 22 miles from town which involved a one-hour and 15 minute bus ride and I hated riding the bus.  All of a sudden, those were the most beautiful cars I had ever seen.  I chose the Plymouth Volare and drove it my entire senior year in high school.  My parents bought a newer, two-door, sportier car for me for graduation.  I have included a photo below of my Volare.  It is the car exactly except for the star emblem; use your imagination and picture a circle emblem sanded off.  Those of you that may have ridden with me in this car will get a laugh from the photo.

As I reminisced about my first car, my husband shared with our son about his first car.  It was 1967 Pontiac Executive, the size of a house and 13 years old when he bought it from an elderly neighbor.  He was in college when he bought his first car for $250 and drove it until he graduated.  He tells the story of how it completely broke down while he was moving home from finishing college.  He called a local auto salvage yard and told them that they could have it if they wanted to go pick it up.  He had not dreamed of that car, however it was available and within his budget.  I have included a photo of it as well for your viewing pleasure. 

There are many lessons from these experiences.  I am thankful that my dad humbled me in a way that has forever changed the way I view material possessions.  What we want is not always what we need.  I wanted a car that would boost my ego and satisfy my fleshly pleasures.  I needed a car that would transport me to school each day.  I am thankful that my son realized that the vehicle that God placed as an option this weekend meets his needs and that he can strive to save for the vehicle that he wants.

Thank you Lord for lessons in life!  Thank you for teaching us so that we may teach our children!  Thank you for the Plymouth Volare and Pontiac Executive. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

There is much to see in the dark.

Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I recently heard a beautiful song for the first time.  The song talks about the dark places in our lives-the dark valleys that we all experience.  The line of the song that caught my attention was this:  "It is in the darkest places that I see most clearly". 

Dark places in our lives come in the form of finances, broken relationships, illness and other great trials.  Those dark places can cause us to feel as if we are walking in the pitch black night with no flashlight.  We stumble, afraid of completely falling.  We are afraid of what is lurking around us.  Fear and despair lurk in those dark places.  The darkness can be very scary. 

When we go out in the dark to drive or walk we plan to have lights with us.  We try to pay more attention and focus on what we need to see.  The same is true when our lives seem to be in dark places.  We need light and to focus with more attention.  In those dark places, God is there.  He is there when your finances are in a mess.  He is there when your relationships seem to be on a downhill spiral.  He is there with you every minute of any sickness or horrible disease that may take you into the darkness.  He knows your fears.  He feels your despair. 

Wherever you go, even in the darkness, God is with you.  He will comfort you and guide you.  In those dark places, seek what God wants to show you about himself and about yourself.  There is so much to see in the dark. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Don't be afraid of your gifts and callings

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Recently as we were driving home from soccer practice, my youngest daughter was talking about what she wants to be when she grows up.  She said, "Mom, when I grow up I want to be a surgeon.  But, BUT, can someone else talk to the family when the surgery is over?  I don't want to have to talk to people about the bad stuff."  I started thinking about why she thought talking to the family involved bad stuff.  Then I remember that when my dad had emergency surgery, there were some complications and unexpected findings.  She was sitting with me in the waiting room when the surgeon came to talk with us.  She could feel the unpleasantness of receiving unexpected news. 

As I think about all that is involved in becoming a surgeon, my mind wants to focus on the years of studying, residency, long hours in the operating room, and tedious work in order to repair the human body.  In my career, I have seen doctors tell families of bad news but I never considered if they had worried about that prior to entering medical school.  Even though becoming a surgeon is a few years away for my daughter, she should not allow that one fear to keep her from her calling in life. 

Isaiah 41:10 comes to mind.  God will give us strength when we are troubled or frightened.  For all our worries and fears, he is ever present and willing to strengthen us.  We all have fears and weaknesses.  We should never allow those to interfere with what God is calling us to.  No matter how large or small the task, he will uphold us and provide us with what we need.  We need only to seek him and trust in that promise. 

I wonder how many of us never use a gift that God has given us because we are afraid of one specific detail of using that gift?  Is God asking you to fulfill a calling?  Has he given you a gift that you are afraid of putting to use?  Seek him to strengthen you and to lead you in applying the gifts and talents he has given you.  He will equip you with all that you need in order to apply that gift to the advancement of His kingdom. 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

God's Sovereignty and Radiologic Technology

Isaiah 40:12 "Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?"

Can God speak to us through a CT scanner? It happened to me. I have been a Radiologic Technologist for 27 years, a career span that has seen the world of medical imaging advance in leaps and bounds.

One day last year I was scanning a patient on a modern CT scanner when I was reminded of God's sovereignty. The scanner is omnidirectional which means it is capable of producing images of the human body from three directions, front to back (coronal), side to side (sagittal) and top to bottom (axial). This scanner can take hundreds of images in less than 1 minute demonstrating the anatomy of the body in great detail. It can produce images faster that the human eye can view them. As I watched the scanner flash the images before me, I was reminded that God is paramount. He is all knowing, all seeing, ever present and all powerful! 

A mere glimpse of God's sovereignty!

If man can build a machine that can image the human body in such capacity, think of how much more God can do!!

I encourage you to read all of Isaiah chapter 40 as it describes for us God's sovereignty and that He has no equal!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cupcake Crown

Today I have a cupcake crown for a precious 12 year old young lady.  She is on the middle school basketball team in her county.  A very dedicated young lady, hard working and diligent.  She had a choice to make yesterday (Sunday).  Her coach scheduled basketball practice for yesterday morning-the time when church is going on.  Practice was mandatory if the players wish to play in the game tonight.  Players were told that if they did not attend practice the result will be dressing out and sitting the bench.  This young lady chose to go to church instead of practice and to spend her Sunday with her family. Such maturity and wisdom!   I love the fact that she does not fear negative consequences in order to stand firm in her relationship with God.  She will be greatly rewarded in ways much larger than basketball for making such a grown up decision.  We should all use this example as a model for standing firm in our faith.  The crowd at the basketball game may not ever know about her decision and why she is sitting the bench.  God knows and will greatly bless her! 



Friday, September 26, 2014

The receiving end of bitterness

There may be times in life when someone treats you in ways that are difficult to understand. The treatment may include disrespect with unkind words, manipulation, rejection or attitudes of indifference. Some acts may be outright malicious with the intent of causing harm. This kind of treatment sends mixed signals to us. A person may say "I love you" or "you are important to me" but not show it with actions. When this happens, you are on the receiving end of bitterness that is present in that person's life. Deep hurts in the past will lead a person to lash out at others, especially when it is perceived that another has what he/she is missing in life.

You may never be able to explain or understand why these things happen. However, I have come to realize that when people act in ways as stated above, one or more of the following will apply:
-the person has unresolved hurts that need to be healed
-the person is in need of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ
-the things that they say and do really have nothing to do with you-it is an internal battle
-compassion and unconditional love may be something the person has never known

I do not intend to imply that any of these behaviors are acceptable. What I do want to emphasize is that when you are on the receiving end of these behaviors:
1. you must remain strong in knowing that you are not the cause of another person's actions
2. you must NOT allow bitterness to grow within you from their actions and words
3. being on the receiving end says more about the other person than it does about you as a recipient
4. it is your responsibility not to entertain thoughts of vengeance or similar actions

Prayer and patience will go a long way in coming to accept that everyone will not love you as God does. It would be a wonderful world if that could be the case. When you are placed in these situations, pray that God will reveal to you what he expects from you in response to the actions/words of others.           

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We should weep alongside

John 11:35.      Jesus wept.

This is the shortest verse in the Bible.  The meaning of this verse is anything but short. To understand the full meaning of this scripture, please read John 11:1-44.

Lazarus had become ill and died.  He was the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany.  Mary had poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet when he visited their home.  Jesus loved Martha and Mary and he was troubled when he heard of their brother's passing.  

In this period of time, Jesus was traveling around with his disciples to different towns and villages teaching and performing miracles.  He had much work to do and many places to visit.  However, when he heard about Lazarus, he told his disciples that they were going back to Bethany.

There are so many points to gain from this story;  let us focus on "Jesus wept".  Mary and Martha were deeply saddened by their brother's death and they wanted Jesus to heal him and bring him back to life.  Jesus wept when he realized how troubled his friends Martha and Mary were.  He took the time to physically be near the sisters and grieve alongside them.

Jesus went out of his way to have time for them in their grief and mourning.  He had time to weep in their sorrow; time to express concern and show compassion.  He understood their emotions. 

Jesus understands our emotions and he cares about our grief and sorrow.  When we weep, He weeps along side us.   Each of us should care about the emotions of the people around us.  We should weep when a friend is discouraged or depressed.  We should weep when a family member has cancer or other illness.  We should weep when we see someone whose heart or bank account is broken.  We should weep for the lost in our world.   We should weep with deep compassion and emotion, not just a few tears flowing down our faces but a deep heartfelt sorrow for the troubles of others. 

I pray that each of us will feel the burdens of others, weep for their hurts, fears and frustrations.  I pray that our compassion for the burden of others will deepen and cause us to move on their behalf.  I pray that we can all find time and desire to be near someone who is grieving and weep alongside. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Serve

Romans 12:10-11   Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.   Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Each of us has been given specific gifts and talents.   God calls each of us specifically to use those gifts and talents to serve him through serving others.   The gifts which we have been given should be utilized wholeheartedly.

Serve in love.

Serve in truth.

Serve with excitement and joy.

Serve in ways that will lessen the burden of others.

Serve in ways that will engage another to become a better person.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Moving Forward

Philippians 3:13-14    .....Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


Have you ever noticed that toddlers spend a large amount of time walking forward and looking behind them. I'm not sure why, but it is something that I noticed with my children. I would always tell them to watch where they were going and not where they had been. 

The same can be said of all of us. Do we walk forward with our bodies yet constantly look at where we have been? Do we spend time looking into our pasts at regrets, disappointments, hurts and, oh yeah, those "coulda, woulda, shouldas"? 

It is time to walk forward and look forward. We will see our futures better if we look ahead and hold on to God's promise to prosper us and bring us hope. His promises do not fail us!  He has forgotten what was in our past and he is looking ahead to our future.      

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Love with intentional actions

1 John 3:18   Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

How many times do we intend to do good things?  The birthday card that we think of sending, the phone call that we could make, giving away clothing or shoes that we no longer need are all thoughts of good intention but also are things that are easily postponed or never carried out. 

Each day God will place opportunities before us to serve him and serve others in ways that he desires.  We may pass someone on the street with a cardboard sign indicating that he/she is hungry.   We may know of a family in financial need in order to make ends meet for the month.  We all surely know of older folks that are lonely and can be uplifted by a phone call or card in the mail.  

How often are we contenders and oppose those whispers of  opportunity to help others that God speaks in our ears?   I know that I am guilty of hearing messages of sending cards, visiting the sick, calling the lonely, yet procrastinating instead of surrendering to that still small voice that is calling me to do something for another person.

May we surrender to those opportunities in which we might serve others.  Intentions are never seen by other people.  They only see what we actually do.  Let us be intentional with actions that show love. May we be prayerful that God will help us to love more with our actions than with words.  Lord, help those whispers to resonate in our ears as loud explosions of opportunity to serve you and make a difference in the life of another.  Amen.