The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A new year

James 1:17   Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!  My, how the year has flown by!  The years seem to roll by like weeks.

I want to take this opportunity to reflect upon the past year of The Sweet Stuff Ministry.  It has been a year of spiritual growth and spiritual strengthening.  The year has been filled with many opportunities within this ministry, both through the online portion and the up-close-and-personal portion.  I have met many new people and God continues to reveal his expectations for the future of the ministry.  I am excited to enter a new year with broadened horizons.

I want to thank each and every one of you that supports The Sweet Stuff Ministry through your interactions, prayers and kind words.  A special THANK YOU to each of you that has donated clothing for the trailer.  I cannot begin to tell you how the clothing ministry blesses me continuously.  The trailer has made several stops this past year to distribute clothing.  When it is parked, it sits in our driveway and serves as a clothing closet for needs that are ongoing.  Several times per month, clothing is distributed to people in need.  Some folks have lost their homes to fire, some have fled abusive situations with only the clothing on their backs, others have lost jobs and need clothing for growing children.  Several boxes of clothing went to Mississippi yesterday, via a local pastor, to be given to the victims of a destructive tornado that hit there last week.

All the clothing distributions are made possible because each of you was obedient to God's call to donate items.  A loud THANK YOU! for your servant hood and obedience!  It is amazing on this side of the ministry to see how God works to fill the clothing trailer.  I have never solicited donations for clothing or money.  Yet, God sees to it that the trailer stays fully stocked.  He is perfect in his timing and gifts!  I sometimes receive phone calls to pick up bags of clothing, other times, boxes and bags arrive at my doorstep.  I stand in awe of how it all falls into place.  There have been times when I have had people request clothing in sizes that I do not have in stock.  In a matter of a couple of days, sometimes the same day, I will receive a call or message and guess what, the exact sizes that are needed will be in the donated items. If you have ever doubted that God takes care of little details, I can assure you that he does!

As we enter a new year, I covet your prayers for the ministry.  It is my prayer that everything that The Sweet Stuff Ministry offers will afford each of you a closer walk with God.  I pray for healing, particularly emotional healing, for any of you that may suffer from bitterness and the affects of discord in your life.  May each of you live out the words in Isaiah 40:31, "but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Much love to each of you! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

He is our refuge

Proverbs 30:5  Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Do you ever worry?  Do you ever lie awake at night going over in your mind, "could haves, should haves, would haves"?  Have you allowed your mind to own the details of situations over which you have little to no control?  How many of the things that you worried most about ever happened or if they did happen were as bad as you had imagined.

Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said this, "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened".  Studies have proven that at least 85% of the things we worry about never happen.  The 15% that did happen turned out to be less difficult than expected.

Worry is linked to fear.  When we allow our minds to imagine all the "what ifs" of any given situation in our lives, we worry.  We entertain the exaggerations and misperceptions that Satan clouds into our thoughts.  We are afraid of all the possibilities that might become realities.  We fear that we will not be able to control the details or reactions of others.  We fear stepping out of our comfort zones of security and relying fully on God to manage ALL the situations that we encounter. 

I am guilty of worrying just as I have described.  Does it mean that I don't have faith and trust God?  No.  But it does mean that there are times when I need to strengthen my faith and redirect the focus of my thoughts to God's word and his promises.  When we become distracted by exaggerated thoughts and fears of how a situation may develop, we lose sight of how faithful God is.  

We must be careful when our minds begin to wander into worry.  If we believe that God is in complete control of our lives and well being, we must allow him to manage all the details, even the small ones.  Worrying wastes time and causes us to loose our focus on God and his purpose for us.

If you find yourself worrying and fretting over any situation, seek God's word and ask for his comfort.  He will give it to you.  He truly is our refuge.  His word and his promises are flawless.  Allow him to take charge and carry the burdens for you.  If you find yourself fixated on worrying, it is a good time to direct your focus on prayer and studying God's word.  It is there that you will find strength, reassurance and comfort.   

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Emotional healing

John 5:8   Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

This verse was Jesus' command to a man that he had healed after 38 years of dealing with a condition that prevented him from walking.  This infirmity had become a way of life for the man.  He had lost hope of anyone helping him or of being healed. 

Jesus came by and in an instant told the man to get up.  Walk.  Move forward.  No looking back.

Many of us have infirmities, some of which are physical, many of which are emotional.  Emotional infirmities can cripple us from moving forward.  We may be physically walking but we are going nowhere.  Stuck in negative, non-productive emotions.  Negative emotions and bitterness have become a way of life for some. 

The new year is before us.  A time of new beginnings and resolutions.  There is no time like the present to decide on a resolution to be healed emotionally.   God will heal you and show you how to move forward.

The decision is yours.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A proper attitude

Luke 18:10-13  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'"

Self-righteous pride is dangerous.  The attitude of the Pharisee in this parable was improper.  He was trying to justify himself before God by identifying that he was good.  He was publicly announcing his perceived righteousness.  He saw that others around him had done evil things and he thought that since he had not committed acts such as them that he was free of sin.  He listed the ways in which he was not like other people.

The tax collector had the attitude of humility.  He realized that he was a sinner.  He did not list all the ways in which he had or had not wronged, yet he knew that by our human nature, we need mercy each and every day.  The next verse, Luke 18:14 tells us how his humility is viewed, "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

No matter how many things we have done wrong, God offers mercy and forgiveness.  He does not want us to declare before him our goodness.  He wants us to seek his mercy with humility.  He wants our attitudes to be humble and not filled with self-righteous pride.  He expects admission of sin and submission of all areas of our lives unto him.  Each and every day, we all fall short of God's standards.  We may do good things, as God wants us to, but unless our hearts are filled with humility, those deeds are nothing more than fulfillment of self-righteous pride.

Today's prayer:  Lord, help me to realize any areas of self-righteous pride that may reside in my heart.  Please replace those areas with humility and the proper attitude for the advancement of your kingdom.  You promise that "the humble will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).  I pray for your mercy and that I can receive that humble exaltation.   In Jesus' name, AMEN.    

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:  15-16   When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."   So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

This is what Christmas is all about!  Have you found Jesus in the manger?  Have you met him at the cross?  If not, it is time to unwrap all the gifts that he has to offer you.  He offers the gift of salvation.  He has in store for us peace, joy, healing and eternal life.  What a wonderful Christmas gift!

In order to celebrate with family and friends, The Sweet Stuff will take a couple of days off.  May you and yours have a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the birth of our savior.   

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Follow him

Luke 5:27-28  After this Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

This verse in Luke speaks loudly about obedience to Christ.  The last few words of verse 28, "left everything and followed him", express the obedient nature of those who desire to serve him.  When Jesus commanded Levi to follow as he led, the response was immediate.  Levi did not say that he needed to finish his work first or that he would have to wait until the time was right.  He directly obeyed Jesus' prompt to get up and go. Levi left everything.  He left his work; he did not worry about his business.

Are we so willing to follow Christ immediately?  When he bids us "go" are we excited to leave everything and follow him?  Do we worry about our work or business that needs to be attended to?  Do we postpone being obedient to tasks with which he calls us to do?  Is following Christ our first priority or do we plan to follow him when we have more time?

We are told Matthew 16:24 that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.  There is a cost to discipleship.  Sometimes the cost is monetary, other times the cost will be friendships or other relationships.  However, the cost of refusing to follow Christ is much greater.  The risk of disobedience to God's principles involves eternity.  The worldly things we might gain do not mean anything compared to what is to be gained in eternally.   

Monday, December 21, 2015

The soda can smile

Philippians 2:3-4  Do nothing our of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Good Morning!  I missed you all last week while we were on vacation.  It was a wonderful trip and I returned feeling refreshed and newly inspired which leads into today's devotion.

While on the beach with my oldest daughter one morning during our vacation, we noticed an elderly gentleman close by our mats going through the garbage can.  He was collecting empty soda cans and water bottles.  He had a cart loaded with his belongings and the cans that he had recently collected.  We had just finished our sodas and I suggested to my daughter that she take our empty cans and give them to the fellow.  When she handed him the soda cans, an enormous smile came over his face.  His eyes sparkled as he beamed with gratitude.  He waved at both of us as he walked away toward his cart.  I could tell that his heart was touched.

When my daughter returned to our spot, she said this to me, "Did you see that fellow's face when I gave him the cans?"  I told her that I had indeed noticed his response.  She was deeply moved by his response and the impression that it left on her heart was as precious as the smile on his face. We then had a discussion about giving and how the blessings are experienced by the giver as much as the receiver.  I love it when I recognize hearts being moved!

I have pondered the smile on his weathered face.  A face that seemingly revealed hardship, loneliness and struggle.  I will forever remember that moment that his heart was touched by two empty soda cans.  You see, when we are given things and shown acts of kindness, it is not the "things" that mean so much to us.  What touches our hearts is that someone cared about our interests.  We are moved within our souls when we realize through the loving deeds of others, that others care for us.  We all want to be thought of as important and to feel loved. 

As we quickly enter the Christmas season, may our hearts always be in tune with the interests of others.  May we realize that everyone under the sun wants to be cared for and thought of by others.  May we never forget to consider the interests of others.  May we share those empty soda cans in life when they will touch the heart of another!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


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 our faces and cause us to experience worldly sorrow.  God wants to put regret in its place.  The only sorrow he wants us to experience for our mistakes is that which will cause a realization of the wrongdoing 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.  He does not want us to wallow in regret.

Worldly sorrow results in ruminating, chewing the cud, wallowing, rehashing-you get the picture.  This type of sorrow and regret hinders spiritual growth.  If we constantly dwell on mistakes and regrets, we fill our minds with discouragement and negativity.  This will keep us from moving forward and growing spiritually.

If you find yourself drowning in regret, take a look at why you continue to ruminate.  Have you given it over to God?  Have you repented?  If you have done these things, then God tells us to stop dwelling on our mistakes (Isaiah 43:18).  He tells us that he forgets our mistakes (Hebrews 8:12).  Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.  Treat mistakes the way in which God expects-with repentance and growth not regret.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Numbers 6: 22-26  The Lord said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites.  Say to them:  "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."


We hear this phrase in Christmas plays.  We read it on numerous Christmas cards.  We see it in commercials and hear it in Christmas carols.

I pray for it.  I ask for it every year for Christmas.  Will we ever witness it?  Will it ever happen?  How do we begin to experience PEACE ON EARTH?

Peace on earth starts in the heart.  In my heart.  In your heart.  Before it can exist worldwide, peace must begin in the hearts of individuals.

Make peace with any turmoil that dwells in your heart.  Make peace with events that have caused you to be bitter.  Resolve feelings of vengeance and malice.  Reconcile any relationships in which there is contempt.  Replace negative feelings with positive emotions. 

Establish peace within yourself.  Seek complete peace so that God will shine his face upon you.  When we make peace within our own hearts, PEACE ON EARTH may then begin to take place.    

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Season of Forgiveness

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.   The Christmas season stirs our hearts to deal with forgiveness-I believe this is no coincidence!                    

Monday, December 7, 2015

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!

Friday, December 4, 2015


Ephesians 4:26-28  "In your anger do not sin"  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  

"I have every right to be angry!"  "If that person did to you what he/she did to me, you would be angry too."  How many times have you heard someone say these things?  Maybe you have said them yourself trying to justify your feelings of anger and thoughts of vengeance. 

Anger is not an entitlement.  It is a by-product of hurtfulness.  Anger is one of the strongest emotions that the human heart ever feels and is a feeling that can lead to destructive words and actions.   The Bible does not tell us that we cannot feel anger, but it does tell us that we are to handle it properly.  We are expected to control our anger in spite of our hurts.  

Released thoughtlessly, anger can destroy relationships.  If left bottled up inside, anger can cause bitterness and resentment and destroy us from inside.  If anger is allowed to "fester" inside us, we give the devil opportunities to cause disruption and division.  As I read somewhere, ANGER is one letter away from DANGER!  

Anger belongs to the beholder.  No one else causes you to be angry.  The emotion of anger is one over which you have complete control.  Anger is not an entitlement because of another person's transgressions against you.    Yes, transgressions do hurt and they are going to happen but anger is not the response that God expects from us.   James 1:20 tells us, "for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires".

In Ephesians, Paul instructs us to deal with our anger promptly and properly.  Are you angry with someone right now?    Examine the situation, take a look into your own heart and seek ways to resolve the anger.  Do not allow the strong emotion of anger to cause you to give way to the devil's schemes.  Feel the anger.  Deal with the anger.  Put the anger in its place.  



Thursday, December 3, 2015


2 Peter 1:5-7  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Once upon a time a frog and a scorpion sat next to each other on the river bank.  The scorpion wanted to get across the river but could not swim.  He asked the frog to take him across the river on his back since he was a good swimmer.  The frog said to the scorpion, "why would I do that?  You and I both know that you will sting me and neither of us will make it across the river."  The scorpion laughed and said to the frog, "my friend, I will not sting you, for if I do, I will not make it across the river either."   This made sense to the frog and so he trusted in the scorpion and allowed him on his back to carry him across the river.  About half way across the river, the frog felt a mighty sting in his back.  As his legs began to fail from the poison of the sting, he asked the scorpion, "why did you sting me when you promised that you would not do that?"  The scorpion simply stated, "It is my nature". 

We are all born into this world with a sinful nature.  Satan is always around to tempt us to do wrong and to treat others in ungodly manners.   Having faith is more than believing facts, it must result in action and a growth in Christian character.  Moral excellence, knowledge, perseverance, doing God's will and loving others is faith in action.  

The story about the frog and scorpion is an example of a lack of self control on the scorpion's part.  He did not treat the frog with brotherly love.  He did not keep his promise to the frog and in doing so, set himself up to die as well.   God expects from us temperance in both our thoughts and actions.  He expects us to love one another and to be good to one another.  Seeking his will and understanding the principles that he expects us to uphold are not optional, they are part of the Christian life.  They require hard work and constant attentiveness.  God gives us the strength and power to keep these virtues as well as the responsibility to learn and grow.                                                     

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A positive outlook

Philippians 4:8   Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

If you do not have a positive outlook, you cannot expect a positive outcome.

There are so many things in the world around us that can foster a negative attitude.  The news seems to be a pit of negativity.  We will find people around us who seem to have lost hope and joy.  It can be a challenge to maintain a positive outlook within the world today.

Having a positive outlook does not mean that nothing negative will ever happen in your life.  A positive attitude means that in whatever does happen within the world around you, you can find God's truth.  He wants us to ponder those truths and appreciate the positive things that we do experience in life.  He wants us to find peace even through any negativity that we encounter.  He wants us to focus on the good things in which he fills our lives.

If we focus on negativity and discouraging things around us, we will only spread that same negativity through our words and actions.  Focus on a positive outlook, so that your outcomes will also be positive and encouraging. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Stay encouraged through the holidays

Luke 2:6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

"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 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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thank you, Lord for the things you have taken away.

Psalm 100:4    Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Several years ago in a women's Bible study group, one of the ladies present prayed this in her prayer, "Thank you, Lord for all the things you have given us and thank you for all the things you have taken away".  I hold dearly to that last part of that sentence.

Each and everyday, may we be mindful and forever grateful of all the things God has given us.  He offers us salvation for an eternal life.  He provides for us with a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothing to wear.  He blesses us with children to fill our quiver.  He blesses us with opportunities throughout life.  He gives peace, health and happiness.

But, what about the things he takes away?  We must be grateful for the things he takes from us.  For in these instances, he reveals his sovereignty.  First and foremost, he takes away our sins.  Much gratitude should be expressed for this on a daily basis!

He takes away pain when our hearts are most broken.

He takes away fear and replaces it with promise.  

He takes away opposition when we work to accomplish his purpose.

He takes away the storms, just in time to allow the sun to shine through.

He takes away sorrow and restores our joy.

He may take away earthly things.  It is likely we did not need them anyway.  He uses these instances to teach us reliance on him.

As we look at the things that he takes away, we can recognize much gain.  So, the next time you pray with thanksgiving for all the things that God has given you, also remember to acknowledge all the things he has taken away. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Contentment in God's plans

Proverbs 19:21           Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.  That has been my plan since I was a child.  My plan has not come to fruition.  I say this, not to out of bitterness or disappointment but to share with you how God's plans are triumphant in accomplishing his will within our lives.  I am sharing this story with you so that you may see that even when things do not turn out as we think they should, God is guiding us toward his goals and purpose.  I have also realized that we can learn many lessons about ourselves in recognizing God's guidance in our lives. 

When I was a high school senior, my plan was to join the U.S. Navy in order to complete medical school.  The recruiter brought the paperwork to my house for me to sign.  To this day, I cannot tell you why I did not sign the papers.  After all, this had been my life long dream.  I tease my husband by telling him that I didn't sign the papers because had batted his big brown eyes at me a couple of weeks prior.

The gears changed quickly over the next few months as my high school graduation approached.  I did complete a degree in the medical field, Radiologic Technology, and have thoroughly enjoyed my career and serving patients.  Upon the completion of that degree, God laid the path for me to complete a higher degree in the field of education by providing a job that paid the tuition for that particular degree.  Now, bear in mind that I had never (NEVER) considered a job that involved teaching.  NEVER!  For several years, I taught Radiography at a local Community and Technical College.  Loved every minute of it!!  Then God called me home.  Not in the eternal sense, but in the literal sense of being home full time with my children.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, God called me to home school our children.  This year marks our 15th year of home schooling our three children. Wow!

Can you see how God's plans prevailed in my life, even when I could not see myself in the roles that he had planned for me?  As I look back, I can see how he groomed me for what he needed me to do.   I am content with his purpose for me even though I often joke about still becoming a doctor someday.  I am so very thankful for the role in which he appointed me.  I also realized these things about myself over the years:
                      1.  If I had become a doctor, I would have missed so many milestones, laughs and great memories with my children because as much as I love the field of medicine, I would have been completely engulfed in my career.
                      2.  God has life completely mapped out for us and as long as we are willing to yield to his purpose, we will find great contentment every day, whether at home or at work.
                      3.  God knows us better than we can begin to know ourselves.

If you feel disappointment or confusion because your plans have not seemed to play out as you had expected, yield to God's molding and shaping in your life.  Seek that inner craving to truly fulfill his purpose for you.  When God is changing your life, perhaps you should make some changes in your perspective.  Contentment is available and yours for the taking!  Enjoy your appointed purpose and find that contentment that God has for you. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

There is peace in the valley

Psalms 23:1-4  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.

Psalms 23 is such a well known Bible passage.  We typically think of it as a scripture to read when someone has passed away.  It is common to see the first four verses of Psalms 23 printed on funeral programs and read aloud during a funeral service.

Psalms 23 is as much about everyday life as it is about death.  Let us focus on verse 2, "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul".  This verse can bring to mind many pleasantries.  If you have ever walked beside a river or stream in early spring,  you can recall the freshness that is in the air.  One of my favorite places to be growing up was at the river.  At the river bottom in early spring, I could never resist the urge to take my shoes off and feel the lush, new green grass between my toes.  The flowing water, chirping birds, warm spring sunshine and crisp air always offered a sense of renewal.  The body's energy levels rise in the spring and being in the green pastures beside those still waters of the river was a place in which I felt that I could stay forever.

In the green pastures that God provides for us, we can find peace.  By the quiet streams of life, we can exhale and find comfort from God our shepherd.  It is in those time frames of living that we can gather a renewed strength and rest in the salvation of our souls.  Each and every day in this fallen world, the shadows of death are all around us.  In our lost and dying surroundings, there is darkness and despair.  We walk through these shadows daily.  God's rod and staff offer us protection and guidance in order to survive the world in which we live.  He shows us the way into eternity where all valleys will be lush and peaceful forever more. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Job 42:12

Job 42:12    The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.

I recently studied the book of Job seeking to understand his strength and perseverance.  When we think we have it rough, a good look at Job's life will put ours into perspective. 

Job's experiences opened his eyes to the indescribable holiness of God.  God used Job's sufferings to refine his character.   To make him a better person.  We often hear that when we suffer trials and temptations that we should seek to find what God is teaching us.  Job is a great example of this.  

In all the sufferings and losses that Job experienced, he was still able to worship God and acknowledge his sovereignty.  Many times Job was tormented by others and encouraged to turn away from God.  He was humiliated, rejected, knocked down and beaten while he was down. 

The central theme of Job is that through God's grace, we shall trust and serve him merely because of his sovereignty and not in return for earthly benefits.  God's sovereignty means that he is not required to give a reason for all that he does, however, we are required to trust in all that he does.  

Trusting in God's grace and sovereignty in the midst of suffering is not always easy.  We can see the benefits however in the last chapters of Job where his life was fulfilled and blessed way beyond all that Job had lost.  If you feel that you have lost many things in your life, hold fast to God's promises.  He intends to bless you when you trust and accept his sovereignty.             

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christian chameleons

Psalms 27:1-4  The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?  When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.

Chameleons are interesting creatures.  They are a class of lizards that are able to change the color of their skin in order to blend in with the environment around them.  Chameleons are able to vary their skin color in 11 different hues and some can even alter the pattern of their skin to include spots and stripes.  The variance in skin colors is dependent upon the chameleons state of relaxation or excitement, affected by sensations of safety or danger.  The chameleon determines the need for changing colors by a situation called social signaling.  In other words, a chameleon may change colors depending upon the perceived intentions of other chameleons.  What they think their peers are planning to do to them can change their skin color and its patterns.

How many times are Christians much like chameleons?  How often have we seen Christians in our environment, or as leaders in our communities and country, change their colors and/or add spots in order to blend in with the environment around them?  Can you think of a time when a Christian allowed fear of peers or colleagues to prevent standing for God's word?  Has there been a time when you witnessed a Christian being a different person according to the crowd in which he/she is around?  Do Christians hold onto God's promises for protection of their businesses and families or are they afraid when the enemy lashes out and threatens to destroy?

Self-preservation is a dangerous mind set.  The Lord promises through salvation that we need not fear the attacks of the enemy.  He expects integrity.  He wants us to be in the same skin no matter where we are or who we are with.  He does not want us to camouflage our Christianity.

There may be times when you feel inhibited to display your Christianity.  There may be times when the world expects you to be divided in your actions and behaviors.  Stand strong with integrity.  Be the same in every environment, even when the enemy is up close and in your face.  God will protect you and bless you for your integrity.

Standing up for God's word is not always easy.  But, it IS always worth it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

God's yardstick

2 Corinthians 10:12  We do not dare to compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

This verse contains a lot of "selves" and comparing.  Have you ever compared yourselves to others?  We all have.  I find myself needing to reel "self" in fairly often and stop trying to measure up to others.  It is a difficult battle in the mind to compare ourselves to others and use their accomplishments and blessings as yardsticks for our own lives. 

Facebook and other social media is a breeding ground for comparisons.  Social media captures fleeting moments of happiness and accomplishments.   Status updates and photo posts do NOT represent what life is like all the time, yet we are tempted to believe that many have "perfect" lives and it leaves us feeling like we are holding the short end of the stick.   At times when I read posts that contain a list of things that one of my friends has completed since she started her day, (and it is now only 9 a.m.), I am left thinking that I am a lousy housekeeper.  When others have washed 12 loads of laundry, cleaned the entire house, and cooked two meals all in one morning, my thoughts turn to, "either she has several washers and dryers or I am not doing this right."

Comparing ourselves to others is not a new issue with people, however, I do think that it has escalated with so much social media available today.   When the activities of others is ever before us, comparison is an easy temptation.  We must stay focused on our own journey and not spend time trying to measure up to what others are doing. 

I tell you, and please hear this loudly and clearly:  God does not use the same yardstick that is used by people.  Don't worry about other people's accomplishments, job titles, material possessions, or their comings and goings.   Focus instead on what God expects you to accomplish.  Measure and compare your life with the life of Jesus Christ and strive to accomplish things that would please Him.   Perhaps God asked you to visit someone at the hospital one morning and your laundry remained piled up.  Maybe your babies needing holding an extra hour after breakfast or it is your day off and you feel a calling to spend it with a friend you haven't seen in while.   These are the things God measures.  How you submit to his callings and expectations are the markers on his yardstick.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Let us pray for the broken hearted

Job  30:15    Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.

Job was a man that suffered immense tragedies in his life.   Along with his extreme loss of his family,  possessions, health and his position, he was also mocked by the younger people.   They even mocked the way he suffered.  Talk about a lack of compassion. 

Verse 15 conveys such deep emotion and raw honesty.  Job cries out about his fear and anxiety.  He was insecure and worried.  He even felt like he had lost his honor, that his name was no longer respected. 

Job's situation typically brings to mind a man of great patience, endurance and steadfast faith in God.  I am certain that he felt broken in ways that seemed unbearable at times.  I would like to focus on his broken heart.  Think of a time in your life when you have suffered.  Maybe it was the loss of a marriage, job/finances, family member or close friend, friendship, health, pet, or home.  Maybe you have suffered broken dreams.  Whatever the loss, think of how your heart felt; the fear that terrorized your mind, the worries and anxieties that kept you awake at night.  Can you recall the despair that left your heart feeling empty and beyond repair?  Now, multiply that times 10 and perhaps that will come close to how Job suffered. 

With the thought of the brokenness, I also want to focus on compassion (on our part).  When we hear of the suffering of others, do our hearts break or do we acknowledge that the situation is bad yet move on with our busy lives?   When we listen to someone describe their brokenness and suffering do we merely hear the words or do we hear the emotion, fear and distress?  Let us make it our personal prayer to be more compassionate for situations no matter what the source of the suffering.   May our hearts feel the brokenness along with our our friends and family members.  I pray that we will have a burden for the brokenness of others and that we will not forget what it is like to hurt and worry.  Hurt and brokenness are in the eye of the beholder and we should not discount any one's suffering.   I encourage you to today to make it your prayer that God will pierce your heart with a deeper level of compassion that each and every one of us could be concerned with the hurts of others.  We cannot always fix the brokenness of others but God can!  When we pray in earnest for others, God will hear our intercessions.                                              

Monday, November 16, 2015

God is always with you!

Psalms 139:8-10  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

God is sovereign.  He is ever present, all knowing, all powerful and ever loving.

He loves us when we are in the depths of destruction and despair.   He cares for us when we feel as if we are under the deepest part of the ocean without an oxygen tank.  He is aware of all the evil schemes that are plotted against us.  He knows when things look and feel hopeless to us and when we feel helpless.

God always, ALWAYS, has a way to protect us and provide for us.  ALWAYS. Period.  Those provisions may not look exactly like what we expect, however, he can and will provide.  Through our perception of things in life, we often will have tunnel vision.  God does not have tunnel vision, he has panoramic vision with x-ray sensors that can see around and through every situation that we may ever find ourselves in.  He can see backwards, forwards, high and low, deep and wide.

If you feel that God is overlooking you and your situation, remember he is there with you wherever you are and whatever you are going through.  He will provide and protect.  Keep loving him and building a deep relationship with him.  You will be amazed of all his capabilities. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Are you spent?

Luke 15: 11-16  (I encourage you to read 11-32 for the full parable)   Jesus continued:  "There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.'  So he divided his property between them.  "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything."

This parable is packed with action and consequences.  Self-gratification and rebellion ring loudly in these verses.  The son wanted his share of the father's wealth now so that he could spend it on "wild living".   Wild living in that time period was likely a bit different than wild living today but the principle was the same.  The son was focused on himself and his own fleshly pleasures. He lived as he pleased and spent his money frivolously without regard to the future and the fact that he might need money once all that he had was spent.  The money that he was spending gave him instant gratification, however in another instant, it was all gone.  The consequences of his actions caused him to hit rock bottom financially and emotionally. 

As I look around our world today, many people are wandering about living as they please, spending aimlessly-seeking instant gratification.    Many do so to avoid commitments or responsibility.    Others do so trying to fulfill a void that no form of spending or material things will ever fill.  No amount of vacations, new clothing, vehicles, or jewelry will ever complete any person.  Only Jesus Christ can fill that void. 

Does this devotion find you spent?  Have you chased other things in life looking for contentment and  fulfillment?   Are you spiraling to the bottom emotionally and/or financially?  It is time to end the grief and stress.  Look to God.  Seek him and submit to him with all your heart.  Turn it all around before great sorrow or tragedy occurs.  He can change your heart!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mission work is "heart to heart"

Galations 6:2  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Life should be a journey filled with teamwork, encouragement, support and a passion for the people around us.  Unfortunately, for some people, life becomes a competition filled with self-promotion, and a disregard for others.  In that disregard for others, there is an unmindfulness for Christ.  In the climb to increase "self", Christ is decreased.  During the trek to the mountain top, it becomes easy to forget those that are in the valleys of life.  If we become inattentive to the burdens of others, we have forgotten that at some time in our lives, we had burdens as well. 

When friends and church family members are experiencing the valleys of life and feel great burdens, one of the greatest pieces of yourself that can be offered is your heart.  One of the basic human needs that we all have is the need for belonging.  We want to know that we are not the only one in the world that is experiencing a hard time, an illness or discouragement.  We may not always be able to fix every situation in the lives of those around us.  However, we can do many things to fix broken pieces of their hearts.  Short conversations, cards of encouragement, phone calls, or a hug and a smile can offer encouragement and love to someone is experiencing a heavy burden. 

I encourage you to seek out someone with a burden.  SEEK OUT, don't wait for it to fall into your lap.  Go find it.  Pray for God to send you a situation in which you may share your heart to make a difference.  Mission work can be right under your nose on the pew in front of you.  Mission work does not have to be in a foreign country nor does it require spending thousands of dollars.  At the end of the day, mission work is about the "heart to heart" transfer of Christ's love, joy and the hope that he offers.  Touch a heart in your church.  It is amazing to witness the power of God and there is much of his power available in near proximity to all of us!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans-a sacrificial love

John 15:13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his live for his friends.

Jesus Christ represents the perfect example of sacrificial love.  He lay down his life for us, his friends.  He never met the majority of the people for which he sacrificed his life.  His act of love was over 2000 years ago, yet the benefits of the crucifixion are available for all of us today.  We have the opportunity to accept him as our savior and reserve our place in heaven for eternity.  The freedoms that accompany salvation provide us with peace, joy, purpose and contentment.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day.  As I think of all the men and women who have served in all the branches of our military, I think of sacrificial love.  Throughout America's history as a nation, conscription (better known as the "the draft") has been employed on three occasions.  Otherwise, all active military duty, both in peace time and in conflict (war) has been completely voluntary.  Let us ponder the word VOLUNTARY.  This means that somewhere around the age of 16-24, on average, men and women in our country make a conscious decision to willingly join a military service branch.  WILLINGLY!  The loyalty that these young people feel toward our nation is astounding.  Each of them will enter the military with full knowledge that they may lay down their lives in the midst of their service.  They do this for you and for me.  They join for friends whom they have never met and likely never will.  The offer sacrificial love so that we may enjoy a life of freedoms in America.

I love it when I see a military veteran with his/her baseball cap on that identifies the branch of service represented.  I enjoy meeting veterans and I make an effort to approach each one and thank them for service to our country.  In all the times that I have spoken with a veteran of the U.S. military, one thing that I have noticed is that I have never heard a complaint nor a regret for the the service that he/she offered our country.  That is truly a sacrificial heart!

I encourage you to seek out veterans and thank them for their service.  It doesn't have to be today, after all they did not only serve us one day per year so let us remember them all the days of the year!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Isaiah 41:10

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

For those days when you simply want to pull the covers over your head, stay in bed and hide from the world, remember this:
                              God has a plan and a purpose for you each day.
                              He can bless you in the midst of a mess.
                              He will guide you through any rough patches in your life.
                              He does not want you to feel lonely or discouraged.
                              Even when your ideas and plans fail, he will work it all out for the good.

So, my friends, get up out of the bed of discouragement, dust off your britches and know that God is in complete control of whatever hurdles you feel are in your path.  Pay no mind to the enemy's schemes that attempt to steal your joy.  Do not give Satan any foothold in thwarting your work for God. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

We need a spiritual uprising!

Hosea 4:1-2  Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land; "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.  There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

The Israelites had periods of lawless behavior.  Their religious leaders were not leading them toward God.  They were extremely disobedient of the laws that God had given them.  There was spiritual and moral decline within the nation.  In this passage, the Israelites were quick to condemn Hosea's wife for adultery, all the while overlooking their own unfaithfulness to God.  

There was much bloodshed within the kings and rulers at this time.  There was no respect for authority.  Self-promotion and self-preservation was the main motive.   Murder was taken casually and there was no regard for the value of life.  They were quick to blame others for their sinfulness.  Repentance was absent.

This description is regarding events from nearly 3000 years ago.  Sounds like the description could have been taken from our news headlines today.  Bloodshed, lack of respect for authority, no regard for the value of life, lack of accountability, moral decline and self-preservation are tones found in countless news stories all over our world today.  Cold blooded murder stories can be found daily in the news.  Repeated acts of criminal behavior and disregard for God's laws abound in our society today.  Political ads and speeches reveal attitudes of self-promotion.

We need a spiritual awakening to sweep the hearts and minds of our world!  Please join me in prayer for a filling of God's love in the hearts of all people.  Let us pray without abandon for the lost that they may fall in love with God and the goodness that he can bring.  May we never turn our backs on the evil acts in our world, that we might offer boldness in standing for Christ against the evil.  Let us pray with all our hearts for the leaders of our nation.  May we seek each day ways in which we can contribute to a spiritual rise in our communities, our country and our world.  AMEN.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Service is our duty

Luke 17:10    "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, We are unworthy servants;  we have only done our duty."

Purposeful, heartfelt service is our duty.  It is commanded (1 Peter 4:10).  Service is a form of gratitude (2 Corinthians 9:12).  The gratitude that we express to God through service should never become at attitude of entitlement.  We must be cautious in our service and in using our gifts that we do not begin to feel that we deserve something in return from God.  When we serve, we do receive blessings in return from God, but we must be careful so that we do not expect material things as a payment for our acts of service.  New cars, vacations, jewelry and other material items are not part of what God blesses us with upon service to him.

Our attitudes should be continuously humble.  We must view service as a responsibility of being a Christian.  If we received what we really deserve, life would not be pretty at all.  We deserve condemnation.  We receive mercy and grace.  Therefore, service is a form of grace.  The grace is offered from us as servants to those in need.  Grace is also a gift to us from God as we fulfill our duty to serve.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God is ALWAYS good!

Psalms 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.

As the Thanksgiving season approaches, it is a good time to take inventory of our gratefulness.  As we gather for festivities, we give thanks, most usually, for those things near at hand.  We should give thanks for all things in our lives, both near to and far from the present.  If you woke up this morning, you can give God thanks for protection, sustainment and a promise for the future.

Often times we want to thank God for all the "good" things in our lives.  We are grateful for the happy times, the job promotion, relationships that are pleasing, and our overall prosperity.  What we need to remember in our gratefulness is that God is good--ALWAYS.  His goodness, His grace, and His love never changes--NEVER!  Even when the world around us is bad, God is still good.  When things in our lives seem to be going in negative directions, God is still good and he is a god of love.

Be grateful for all the good in your live.  Be grateful for when things do not seem so good.  Those are the times that God gives you strength that you may not have had before.  In bad times, God will reveal himself to you in ways which you have never known.  Give thanks to him.  He is ALWAYS good and he is ALWAYS filled with love. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Living for the future

Matthew 6:33   But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.       

Bitterness will grow when we live only for the present and in the past.  Constantly wallowing in "what happened to me" and "why me" is a recipe for bitterness.

We must live for the future, trusting in God's sovereignty and have faith in his promises.  Seek his kingdom first and all his promises will be fulfilled unto you. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Emotions and decisions

Proverbs 2:6  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

"Do not make permanent decisions based upon temporary emotions".  I found this written on a stick-it note.  I don't remember where I read it, however, I like what it says.  In fact, NO decision should ever me made based solely on emotions.  Feelings are often unreasonable and unreliable.  Strong feelings such as anger are truly temporary and many decisions have been made by many people in the midst of their anger.  When this happens, regret usually follows.

I remember the time when each of our three children decided to leave home.  Not in the grown up sense to pursue college and careers, but in the little child stage around seven or eight years old.  It always followed a request for something they wanted to do or purchase.  When the answer was "No", which went against their desires, then some anger followed, along with the announcement, "Well, I will just leave home".  I remember when our oldest daughter announced her leaving, it caught me off guard and as I stood there looking at her in disbelief, she looked at me and said, "Can you help me pack a few things?"  I knew that she could in no way at seven years old make it on her own.  Seems like I can also remember when I announced this to my own mother.  I took a piece of cheese and some crackers and set out walking to my grandmother's house.  I was only gone a couple of hours and when the emotions subsided, I was ready to reverse my decision to leave home. These instances were real to me at the time. 

When emotions are strong they take over our thought processes.  We begin to reason that if we cannot get what we want, we will just leave the people that will not give it to us. When reasoning returns to our minds, we realize our permanent decisions may not have been the best thing for us.   

Wisdom is not found in emotional decisions.  Permanent decisions based upon an emotional state can cause permanent damage to the journey that God has planned for each of us.  Emotions are unreliable and many times short lived.  The decisions that we make are not always short lived.  They have compounding effects on all aspects of our lives.   Wisdom is found in the Lord.  Wisdom is acquired through concentrated and focused time with God. Some decisions in life will be made in short periods of time while others will require long periods of seeking God's advice.  Emotions must be put aside when making permanent decisions in order to allow wisdom to permeate the situation. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Don't worry about the future

Today may find some of you worried and frightened about your future.  Whether your fears are related to relationships, your job or the world around us, remember these truths:

              -God loves each and every one of us.  (John 3:16)
              -God will provide all things that you need.  (Matthew 6:25-34)
              -He cares about all your worries, so talk to him about them.(1 Peter 5:7)
              -He has a plan for all things to be good for you.  (Jeremiah 29:11)
              -God has great things in store for you. (Job 8:7)
              -The future looks bright (Proverbs 23:18)
              -You can find joy and happiness in the good times and the scary times (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

When your burdens seem heavy, count your blessings and hold fast to all that God has done for you.  As God tells us in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Forgiveness Without an Apology

Colossians 1:19-20  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Genuine forgiveness is not an act in a movie scene.  We might envision that forgiveness should transpire much like it does in a fictional movie with the offender coming in person to express remorse and the desire for reconciliation.  We seem to expect that forgiveness will be escorted straight into our hearts with ease. The reality of forgiveness is that it is often awkward, messy and sometimes a lengthy process.  The course of forgiveness and letting go does not always happen immediately.  It may occur in steps and stages, often accompanied by realizations of issues within ourselves that need to be addressed.

There will be times when someone that has caused hurt will have remorse and a genuine desire to seek you forgiveness.  Those instances are very special because they are opportunities for both hearts to demonstrate the love and grace of God.  A cold, hard fact is that there will also be times when you need to forgive but the offender is not sorry.  Maybe the one that caused the hurt is no longer alive-but the hurt is very much alive.  So, how do we forgive in a case where the offender never feels remorse or seeks to be forgiven?  How do we forgive someone who is no longer alive?

Forgiveness is in the eye of the beholder.  It is for the offended to experience.  We are never promised that forgiveness will happen with all parties involved.   We are promised that forgiveness is expected on our part (Matthew 6:14-15).  Forgiveness is an act of grace in the heart of an offended person.  It is an intimate transaction between the offended and God.  Forgiveness is not necessarily between the hurt and the one who committed the hurt.

In order to forgive a person that has hurt you deeply but is no longer in your life because of death or a choice to be absent, you must reach a level of acceptance about the event or situation.  The sequence of "Sort, Sieve, Learn and Leave" is helpful in reaching acceptance.  We must come to an acceptance with what has occurred yet not become comfortable with resentment and anger.  The real point of acceptance at which we must arrive is that God will deal with whatever offenses any person has committed. Vengeance is His (Romans 12:19).  We must also remember that we are accountable for all feelings and unforgiveness for which we hold in our hearts.

Forgiveness of someone that is not sorry or is no longer alive is an act that must be worked out between you and God.  Really, any act of forgiveness is between you and God.  He is the one with whom we are accountable.  He is THE one that expects us to have a clean heart that is filled with love and peace.  To forgive someone that is not sorry does not minimize the hurt that you feel.  Forgiving him/her will maximize your peace and move you toward healing.  Forgiveness will harmonize your relationship with God.  Forgiveness is not always accompanied by reconciliation but it will reconcile your heart to align with God's expectations. Our peace comes through reconciliation with heavenly things. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Forgiveness is good for the heart-LITERALLY!

Psalms 32:3-5  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

Forgiveness is a complicated business.  As humans, we all need forgiveness throughout our lives.  We also are required to forgive others throughout our lives.  Needing forgiveness and needing to forgive will zap the energy out of us.  Anxiety and stress can come from both sides of the equation.

When we sin and need forgiveness, our conscience will not rest.  We may mull over the event and worry about the hurt we have caused.  When we have been sinned against, the hurt will not rest.  We may continuously replay the event and announce the degree of hurt to those around us.  In both instances, our bodies and minds undergo stress, anxiety and at times even physical symptoms.

Surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic recognizes the effects that forgiveness, or a lack thereof, can have on our physical health.  The following is listed as proven effects of forgiveness:   "Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
        • Healthier relationships
        • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
        • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
        • Lower blood pressure
        • Fewer symptoms of depression
        • Stronger immune system
        • Improved heart health
        • Higher self-esteem"
When we say that forgiveness is a "heart thing" it can be taken in the literal sense as well.  Forgiveness leads to a healthier heart both spiritually and physically.  It is similar to exercise.  A healthy spiritual heart will provide us with healthier bodies and happier lives!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Love your enemies

Matthew 5:  43-46    "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?......."

God does not give us any reason not to love everyone.  We find the reasons.  We fill in the blanks with "I don't like him because _____________________" or "How can I love someone who did _____________ to me?" 

We have a tendency to love only those that can love us in return.  We are comfortable loving and being around those people that we trust and that we expect will do us no harm.  It is difficult to love people that have offended us.  One of the obstacles that is hard to get past is knowing that enemies have the desire to harm us or cause us grief.   It is much easier to avoid people that we know are difficult to love. 

We are not responsible for the treatment or lack of love that we may receive.  We ARE responsible for the love or lack of love that we give.  The ability to love our enemies comes from giving ourselves fully to God;trusting the Holy Spirit to show us how to love those that we may not "feel" a love towards.  In order to grow more Christlike, we must overcome any feelings of "unlove" and function in the capacity of God's love.  Is this always easy?  NO.  But it does get easier the more we practice and the more we pray to love others the way that God expects us to. 

I have worked for several years in a clothing ministry in which free clothing and food are given to those in need.  I remember that the very first day that I served in this ministry, a couple of people came for the clothing and food that had said some pretty nasty things about my family.  I immediately prayed desperately for God to allow me to open my heart to serve them without anger or ill will.   It was very awkward as I wrestled my fleshly emotions.  I wanted to leave and not participate in the service.  But God showed me that when we can love and serve others without expecting anything in return, there is growth in our closeness with him.  Through his grace and strength that comes only from Him, I was able to serve those people without erupting like a volcano. 

God wants us to show Agape love, a selfless sacrificial love; the kind of love that he has to offer.  It is a love that expects nothing in return.  It gets easier the more you practice loving those that cannot offer or perhaps will not offer love in return.   

I encourage you to pray for your enemies.  Pray that you can love them in spite of it all.  Pray that God will soften your heart so that you can get past your feelings and understand Agape love.  Praying for your enemies, the ones that you know have caused you harm, is a difficult prayer to pray.  It goes against what we as humans feel in the flesh.   The ability to arrive at a place where we genuinely pray for our enemies comes from the Holy Spirit.  It is a fleshy battle that does not feel good.  However, the rewards are great for loving as God expects us to love!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

How do you know when you have really forgiven someone?

Matthew 18:35   "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

In Matthew 18:15-35 Jesus tells us about what is expected of us regarding forgiveness of one another.  Forgiveness must be from the heart, not just from the lips.   In a recent Bible study class, someone asked the question, "How do you know when you have forgiven someone?"  Good question! 

Forgiveness from the heart means that as  the offended, we must many times change our attitude about the offense.  We must overcome the fleshly reactions to the injury-the anger and other negative emotions must be subdued.  The bad memories of the situation must be erased from the mind.   Thoughts of vengeance must turn to prayers for God's justice and mercy. 

If the Holy Spirit is reminding you with that still small voice that the situation needs attention, then forgiveness has not occurred.  If bitterness and grudge-filled remembrances about the injury remain, forgiveness is not within the heart.  If you say that you have forgiven yet continue to replay and repeat the offense your heart is not free of the hurt.   If physical reactions such as adrenaline rushes and angry emotions flow through your body when you see the offender or any reminders of the offense, your heart has not forgiven.  I call this "heat behind the ears".  This is an adrenaline and physical response to the offense.  The adrenaline rush is a bodily response to anger or fear.  The "fight" or "flight" indicator. 

You have completely forgiven someone when you no longer feel that the offender owes you a repayment.  When you can pray for the offender, genuinely pray for their well being and not pray for vengeance, you have forgiven from the heart.  When you grieve with them and their losses and do not rejoice in their calamities, you have forgiven from the heart.

Forgiveness from the heart requires self-discipline, close communion with God a desire to advance in spiritual growth.  It is not easy and it does not always feel good to our flesh.  However, it is expected and necessary as Christians. 

If there is someone that you need to forgive, there is no better time than now to begin the process.  Look for the signs.  Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Review the checklist to make sure you have completely forgiven. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

We must love in the midst of brokenness

Colossians 3:13-14 "...Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

As we look around us, we can see many broken families.  The divorce rate is said to be around 50% in the United States.  Divorce causes much brokenness and heartache.  However, divorce is not the only type of broken family.  This post will focus on broken relationships of other kinds.

Conflict between siblings can also break the family structure.  Addictions cause brokenness and stress in families.  Bitterness that goes unresolved will also cause fractures within relationships that might otherwise be whole.  There are times that the degree of brokenness and damage is not evident at first but comes into light at a time when much repair is needed.  We can be oblivious to damaged relationships when we are engulfed in the busyness of life and neglect to attend to the state of our family and friends.

During conflict, it is often tempting to fall out of love toward the person with which there is contention.  Our fleshly emotions want to disengage feelings of love when we do not get along with others.  After all, people that are in love are supposed to get along. Right?  Not necessarily.  It is correct that true love (as described in 1 Corinthians 13) should rejoice and not be self-seeking.  Conflict, to some extent, is inevitable when humans interact with one another.  The escalation of conflict depends upon the individuals involved.  Each family member or friend that you have in your life will not be on the same level of understanding of the biblical meaning of love.  Some may have a deeper relationship with God while others may have a lesser relationship with God than you have.  We can love someone without getting along 100% of the time.  We are capable of loving others in the midst of conflict and hurt.  It takes strength, forgiveness, and grace to love those that we may not even like.  God can and will supply those qualities so that we may love right there in tumultuous relationships. 

I recently read a statement that Billy Graham made.  He was talking about the difficult years he and his wife had with their son, Franklin.  Franklin had some years of rebellion and as his father said, "He was into everything you can think of".  While Mr. Graham did not approve of his son's lifestyle, he maintained a loving relationship with him.  The relationship was difficult, however Billy Graham said this, "You need to keep their love at any cost.  Because when they come through it, they'll still have the love there". When his son, Franklin, returned to the Lord and his lifestyle changed for the better, his relationship with his parents was still strong because the love had remained there-unconditionally.

God's grace and mercy will allow us to love unconditionally.  In those moments when we are tempted to be so angry with another, yet our heart bleeds because of the conflict that is present-there is grace.  When we are willing to forgive offenses because we know deep down in our hearts that the other person is wounded as well-there we find grace and mercy.  When we are able to love our broken families in spite of dissension-there we find, grace, mercy and the love that binds in unity.  When we can offer love to someone that does not love us, we have arrived at what God describes in 1 Corinthians 13.

It is important to find love in the midst of brokenness.  In fact, it is commanded.   By keeping love alive when a relationship seems dead, we keep hope alive.  When the wounds begin to heal, there will be strength in the relationship in order for the brokenness to become whole. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Listen to the HURT instead of the words

Ephesians 4:29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

Have you ever had someone come to you in anger and "let you have it with both barrels" as the old saying goes?  Or perhaps you have unleashed your own anger at some point on someone.   I have been on both sides of this situation.   

Neither is fun. 
Neither is productive.
Neither is uplifting. 

Both wreak of hurt.  If a person lashes out verbally at another, then the entire tone of all the words is HURT.   Underlying hurt, whether from the past or present, has the potential to produce volatile words.  Those words in anger only produce more hurt.   Bottled up, unhealed hurts, resentment, and bitterness will lead to an explosion that erupts from the mouth.  Luke 6:45 tells us that "out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks".   When a heart is hurting, the mouth will call attention to it.

If ever a person lashes out at you verbally, instead of hearing their words, try to hear their HURTS.  Seek what is truly bothering them, which may not have anything to do with you at all.  If you are tempted in the future to verbally lash out at someone, or "unload on" as some call it, stop and think about what you are really trying to say.  Do you really want to say all the destructive words and critical adjectives or are you truly trying to let the other person know that you are hurting? 

I often ponder why it is difficult for us to share our hurts and vulnerabilities with others.   Why can't we simply say to another, "your words or actions have hurt me and I want to discuss that with you"?   Why must character assassination accompany hurt feelings or offenses?  

Emotions carry powerful punches.  When those emotions are not controlled and are contained inside the heart, eventually the mouth will spew out those feelings.  Misuse of strong, negative emotions can cause much damage.  Repair of the damage can take great lengths of time and effort because words are one of the elements that we remember most in our relationships.

The next time you receive a verbal blast of emotions from someone, try to listen to the hurt instead of the words.  The next time you are tempted to deliver a verbal blast to someone, take the initiative to address within yourself why you feel the need to lash out.  Listen to the hurt in what you are saying. Put a label on the hurt that causes such strong emotions to surface from within you.  Seek God's help to heal that hurt before it hurts anyone else.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Broken hearts and breaking hearts

Psalms   73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Each and every one of us is vulnerable to a broken heart and capable of breaking the hearts of others.  We all are subject to the uncertainties of life.  Hurts and disappointments will happen because we are all imperfect as human beings.  Our flesh and our hearts may fail and often do just that.

Most of us have suffered a broken heart at some point in our lives.   Broken hearts come from disappointments when our dreams are shattered.   The grief of losing a loved one will cause our hearts to literally ache within our chests.   Our emotions will be broken when people fail to keep their promises.  Brokenness comes through betrayal. 

By the same token, we are all capable of breaking the hearts of others with our words and actions. Chances are that if you are causing a broken heart in someone else, it results from brokenness within you.  Brokenness can be cyclical.  By allowing your own broken state to lash out and hurt others, you have acted in vengeance. 

Broken hearts can lead to broken attitudes that turn into bitterness, broken relationships, distrust or loss of excitement about life.   A broken heart can feel as if the world is coming to an end and that things will never be the same.    

A broken heart does not have to be  permanent.  God can fill up your broken heart in ways that you can only imagine.  Look to him for strength and allow him to mend your brokenness and restore your heart.  If you have a broken heart or have caused a broken heart, confess that to God, and pray for him to show you how find restoration.  It is time to stop the vengeance and the cycle of hurt. He does not want us to be broken and he does not want us to cause others to be broken.  He wants us to be whole.                                                                       

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Self-righteous pride

Ecclesiastes 7:8  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Self-righteous pride is basically the largest obstacle to forgiveness.  Pride doesn't want to  let go of hurts and disagreements.  Pride wants to ruminate, hold on and not move forward. 

Pride wants to always be right.

Pride wants to be smarter or better.

Pride wants to be more righteous. 

It is difficult to admit to one's own pride.  It is equally as difficult to set it aside.   Holding on to pride causes us to miss the sweetness of God's grace, both from him and between us and others.

Setting aside pride, experiencing forgiveness and fore bearing all things in love puts an end to all matters of conflict and exposes us to sweet grace.                                      

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Do NOT be afraid to go against the herd

Exodus 23:2   Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

I grew up in the country where having cattle was a large part of my life.  My dad is a livestock trader and so many loads of cattle arrived and departed from our farm.  Before cattle are loaded onto the truck to be taken to the market, they must first be rounded up and corralled in some fashion.  At our place, the corral was around the side of the barn so that the cattle could be herded into the loading chute and onto the truck.  

One thing that stands out about herding cattle is that there is always that one cow that will go in the opposite way of the herd.  For the people trying to herd the cattle into the corral, to have one that wants to stray is very frustrating since cows are herd animals and the next thing to happen is that all the rest will want to follow and the efforts to get them loaded must start from the beginning.  That cow was referred to as the one of the herd with the least sense.  (My sister will recollect the words spoken about the intelligence of cows.  LOL).  But let us think about that.  If you ponder this for a moment, the cow that goes in the opposite direction of the rest of the herd is trying to escape and run free.  It is not an animal's nature to be penned up in fences and stalls.  It is the nature of animals to do as they were designed-to run free and roam.  Perhaps that cow that goes in the opposite direction is actually the smartest one! 

People have tendencies to follow crowds.  It is a herd mentality.  If the crowd is going in a righteous direction, then there is no problem.  However, if the crowd is not traveling toward the cross of Christ, there will be danger of falling into sinful practices.  If you sense that you are following along in a crowd that is not traveling in righteous directions, turn around.  Do NOT be afraid the be the one who walks away and travels opposite of the herd.  You may be just the one to lead others in a new direction.  Your leadership may bring someone closer to the cross.