The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hannah's bitterness

1 Samuel 1:6-7  And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  This went on year after year.  Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 

Hannah was bitter.  She was so bitter that it affected her physically to the point that she would not eat.  Hannah was bitter because God had closed her womb.  That was devastating in and of itself because in Hannah's day, barrenness was looked upon as failure.  Not only was she dealing with these feelings, but she was also bullied and ridiculed about her situation. 

There are many points to make about bitterness in this story.  First, bitterness takes root in people for MANY reasons.  Those reasons involve loss, injustices, hurts, and disappointments.  Secondly, bitterness can cause severe emotions and reactions within a person.  Thirdly, bitterness can last for long periods of time.  Lastly, bitterness within a person should bring about compassion from others, but sometimes others delight in seeing people tormented by bitterness.  The three sentences in this passage tell us so much.

I wish to focus on the part of this passage where Hannah was provoked and tormented.  We should never enjoy another person's suffering, no matter the reason.  We are called to lift others up, to bear their burdens and to help them overcome suffering.  Bitterness is a type of suffering.  Grief, worry and other strong emotions can bring a person to a point where physical effects occur. 

If you know someone suffering from bitterness, offer comfort.  Offer friendship, a listening ear, or a Bible study in order to help someone overcome bitterness. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Work toward "BETTER"

1 Corinthians 10:13    No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 

God does not want us to be bitter.  He wants us to be BETTER!  

In the throws of bitterness and unforgiveness, we are tempted with several things.  We are tempted to be angry.  We are tempted with vengeance.  We are tempted with hatred and grudges.  We are tempted to think of ourselves as having little to no value.  We are tempted to turn away from God and discount his greatness. 

In the midst of bitterness, it is hard for us to think of being better.  We convince ourselves that things will never be better.  We think that life is unfair and the hurt will always be there. 

God is faithful!  Under all those temptations, God will protect us.  He will provide a strength within us that allows "Better" to show up.  Our role is to allow him to make it all better.  We cannot fix the things that happen.  God can fix our lives so that we stand up under anything that happens.  Let him make you BETTER! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Self-esteem

Romans 12:2  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind".

Allowing bitterness to take root within us affects our self-esteem.  When others say things and act in ways that hurt us or treat us with little value, we begin to question our self-worth.  Low self-esteem will steal our joy, our daily happiness and affects our decisions and may lead us to question our purpose. 

We must not view ourselves through the eyes of the world.  Instead, we MUST view ourselves through the lens of scripture.  This includes a renewing of our minds about ourselves.

God says:
     -you are important
    -you are fearfully and wonderfully made
    -you have a valuable purpose

I have used the following to improve and rebuild my self-esteem:
    -read the Bible
    -make everyday meaningful by identifying the positives
    -surround yourself with positive people that love you
    -find activities that allow you to use your gifts and talents (this gives you purpose)
   

A healthy self-esteem allows The Sweet Stuff in life to taste even better.          

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hebrews 12:15

Hebrews 12:15 “….Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

Allowing bitterness to grow within us is a decision. Yes, others will do us wrong and that it is not our decision. We are not able to control what others say and do but we are able to control how we allow those actions to affect us. When bitterness is allowed to take root, it becomes as a most stubborn weed in any garden. Just as weeds will damage the fruits and vegetables in our garden, bitterness will turn sour the sweet stuff in our lives. Bitterness will corrupt relationships, our work environment and the peace within us.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sweet Stuff clothing trailer will be at Woodlawn Christian Church in Campbellsville, KY tomorrow, January 24 from 11:00-1:00 ET. All clothing in the trailer is FREE to anyone in need. Lunch will be provided by the youth of the church. We are all looking forward to serving the needs of the community.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Giving THANKS through serving

2 Corinthians 9:12     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.

Until I began to study service and deliver motivational presentations about service, I had not thought about helping others in light of  giving thanks to God.  How is service to others a way of thanking God?  Service on the surface seems to be about helping or doing things for other people.  But service is about so much more than that.  In my own personal experience, giving thanks to God through service began in my closet.  As I prepared the clothing trailer portion of my ministry, I started in my closet.  I wanted to be the first donor to the trailer.  As I sorted through our clothing, God put it all together for me in my mind.  I thanked God for my abundance.  I have far too many pieces of clothing.  From my abundance, I was eager to share.  Why do I need multiple sweatshirts?  I only wear the same two or three each week.  Why do I keep the jeans that are too small or the shoes that I haven't worn in years?  Out of my own closet, I stocked a large shelf in the clothing trailer. 

Thank you Lord, for blessing me so that I may in turn bless others.  Thank you for putting it all together in my mind.  There are many more expressions of thanks that come about through serving in the clothing ministry.  I will share as time goes on.  As you serve, in whatever capacity, I pray that God puts it all together for you in your mind.  I pray that you will understand the thanksgiving and can worship God in that awareness. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parenting

Proverbs 1:8-9  Listen my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.  They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. 

I remember the time that each of our children, around age 9 or 10, declared that he/she was leaving home.  Each time it followed a battle of the wills, where their will did not win.  It is funny how it seems that every child makes this announcement at some point.  Because they were in a hurry, I helped each one of them pack.  While they gathered the essential favorite toy or stuffed animal, I packed things like a spatula for cooking their favorite grilled cheeses, bathroom essentials--you get the picture.  As I kissed each child goodbye and he/she walked out the front door, I stood at the window to watch.  Funny, in those moments, I vividly remembered the day I did the same to my mother; I was also 10.  I walked about half-way to my grandmother's house, at the snack that I had packed, then turned around and went home.  The farthest that any of my three children traveled in the declaration of independence was to the third tree in our driveway.  This is a distance of about 200 yards from our front door.  The remainder of the long driveway presented uncertainty and loneliness.  Then there was the realization of being on your own is tough and so each of them returned. 

I cannot say that those instances were the last battles of the wills.  Plenty have followed, especially in the teen years.  The quest for independence becomes intense during adolescence. 

Parenting is tough.  It requires fortitude, a mental toughness, with a framework of grace.  The redemptive love that Christ offers us is the same type of love that parenting requires.  In the tough times, no matter how upset, disappointed or confused you are about the situation, the children must know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are loved.  They must also know that as a parent, you are their teacher, leader, disciplinarian and protector.  I believe this is especially true in the teen years.  While they would never admit it to us, children inwardly desire for us to guide them. 

Teens do not possess the judgment required to make decisions within their best interest.  Their desires and decisions are based on fleshly emotions and peer pressure.  Even though a teenager will not always agree with your decisions or reasoning, there is deep need within them for us be the protectors.  They look to us as parents to make tough decisions for them.  


Many times children will not agree with the rules and choices of the parents.  They want to tell us that we are bad parents or that we do not want them to have any fun.  When a child or teen tells you that you are the worst mom in the world and in the emotion of that moment you are tempted to believe it and give in, DO NOT rearrange your rules and principles.  Parenting is not effective when it is based upon emotions and the desire for the children to be happy with all the rules and decisions.  Retreat to a quiet place, get on your knees and give it to God-brokenness and all.  Pray for strength and His guidance in all aspects of parenting.  

Parenting does matter.  At some point teens will come to realize the importance of the time that you held firmly to the "no" or the principle that you are teaching them.  During the rough spots of adolescence, remember that the teen years are only a brief part of the make up of their lives.  Remind them of that as often as necessary.  Also remind them that when it is all said and done, you, as parents, love them and love is the reason for which we discipline. 


Friday, January 16, 2015

Understanding God instead of situations

Proverbs 3:3-6  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

We will not always understand why things happen in this world.  We may never understand why people young and old suffer from cancers and debilitating diseases.  It is hard to understand how we can love another person or people, yet, from some, little love is ever returned.  It is difficult to understand war, violence, abuse and neglect.  The "bad" things are hard to absorb.

The key to dealing with all the bad things that life hands us is to seek to understand God instead of trying to understand the situation.   While we can never understand God in his entirety, we can learn to understand the attributes of his character.  By studying God's word, we can gain insight into his wisdom (Romans 11:33), his omnipotence (Ephesians 1:18-23), his faithfulness (Deuteronomy 7:9) and his sovereignty (Isaiah 46: 9-10). 

Hurtful things will always exist in this world.  Life on this earth may not turn out the way that we had expected it would.  There will be disappointments, sickness, injury and war.  We can rest assured that our time in eternity will turn out exactly as God promises. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Splendrous surroundings

Psalm 145:5  On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.

On of my favorite family vacations is a trip that we took to Ocracoake Island, North Carolina several years ago.  If you ever get the chance to go to this island for a visit, I highly recommend it.  It is located on the outer banks of North Carolina.  After driving to the eastern border of North Carolina, a two hour ferry ride is required to reach the small island.  What I love most about it is the fact that there is absolutely no commercialism anywhere on the island.   The beaches are undeveloped and are  protected by the National Park Service.  To say the least, it is breathtaking and offers a very relaxing vacation. 

This primitive island is a place where one can truly absorb the splendor of part of God's creation.  My favorite event of the entire week was horseback riding with my daughter on the beach.  Wide open beach, no fences, horse with freedom to run=memories that last forever!  I admit at first that I was somewhat anxious as I wondered how the horse would react to the beach and waves of the ocean.  The anxiety was short lived.  The horses seemed to pay no mind to the fact that we were on their backs.  The ocean was like recess for them.  They played in the surf, splashing in the waves and cantered up and down the beach.  I marveled at their fascination for the beauty of the ocean.  They loved it as much as I do.  It seems that even animals can appreciate the wonderful works that God has provided for us. 

Often times we look at the thing around us, but do we really see?  Do we look at the beauties of our environment and see God's magnificence?  We should look at our splendrous surroundings with great excitement and appreciation.  When we  meditate on God's magnificence, we are spending time with him and acknowledging his works.  We can see God everywhere in our natural surroundings.  I am thankful that he showed me a piece of his splendor on that particular day. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stay focused in the face of opposition

Nehemiah 2:19    But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.  "What is this you are doing?"  they asked.  "Are you rebelling against the king?"

Nehemiah had a prestigious job with the king.  He was the cup bearer which meant that he served drinks at the royal table.  It doesn't sound like a high ranking job to us in this day, however, in Nehemiah's day that position was only given to trustworthy and loyal people.  In this time, there was a high incidence of plotting to kill kings and officials and the cup bearer was a protector of the king through testing of the drinks.  Sometimes the cup bearer was required to taste some of the drinks in order to check for poison before the king drank.  This was a job of courage and loyalty. 

During Nehemiah's important position, God began to call upon his heart to go to Jerusalem and lead the people in the rebuilding of the city walls.  The job in which God was asking him to do was not glamorous.  He would first need to motivate the people in the city and convince them to work along side him.  Remember, the wall had been destroyed many years before and no one had taken any initiative to repair it.  Nehemiah was required to convince them that they had civic responsibilities to their city.  He also dealt with a financial crisis regarding the city. 

Nehemiah was obedient to the job that God called him to do.  Obedience required him to give up his high ranking position, move to another town and work with people who were less than cooperative.  He was met with opposition, mockery and ridicule. Some of the people made fun of him for leaving his job and viewed it as a negative move. 

Opposition is to be expected when God asks you to take on jobs or duties that fulfill his purpose.  When you accept a call to obedience, just go ahead and put on your armor, because you will need it.  Whether it is a squabble over how Bible School should be presented, a disagreement about a church dinner or carpet color, or opposition against a large project or an entire ministry,  Satan will find a way to oppose you.  Sometimes the opposition will come from close friends and family; other times it will come from beyond your circle.  Some people will even hope that you fail at your task or ministry. 

I can tell you without a doubt, that God will accomplish his purpose through you in spite of any opposition you may encounter.  Your role is OBEDIENCE.  God will police those who oppose you.  He will react to opposition on your behalf.

If God is stirring in your heart to begin a task or a full time job that serves him, your role is to:
                 -1. be obedient and accept the position
                 -2. stay focused on the task and mission
                 -3.  stay in tune with God and what he expects from you
                 -4.  keep working, no matter what anyone says or does.














Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Look for gain in your loss

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

In life there will be times when our hearts are broken.  Sometimes the heartbreak is due to the decisions and actions of another person.  Betrayal, rejection and relationship abandonment are all heartbreaking.  In the midst of the pain, it can seem as though you will never be happy again.  The choice to be happy is completely yours.  God promises that you can prosper and have a future.  He knows the plan that he has laid out for you.  He will reveal that plan when you seek him, even in the heartbreak. 

During emotional pain and hurt, it can seem that we are losing without a way to win.  Even in the pain, we should seek to experience some gain.  Whether the gain is spiritual growth, personal growth or moving on toward God's plan for the future, there is always an opportunity to gain instead of lose. 

If you find yourself heartbroken and in emotional pain, grieve the loss and seek God for eternal gains and a prosperous future.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The obedience of one

Romans 5:18-21  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all man.  For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

When you hear the phrase, "we were all born with a sinful nature", it comes from the fact that we were born into a sinful family with disobedient tendencies. Everyone living on this earth is a descendant of Adam and Eve.  The first sinful family.  The first people to disobey God's instructions.  Their one act of disobedience (eating the fruit from the restricted tree), set the stage for sin.  Just as we see sins in our world today, down through the generations following Adam and Eve, there were some remarkable sins committed by all types of people. 

The birth of one person, his obedience all throughout his life and his love for us, offers all people an opportunity to join a new family and be made righteous. This person was Jesus Christ.  He was born of a virgin birth, which is important in the fact that he was not born of the seed of sin.  He was obedient to die for our chance at righteousness through the forgiveness of our sins.  

If this devotion finds you in need of a new family, Jesus offers the opportunity to be born into his spiritual family.  His family line begins with forgiveness and leads to eternal life.    

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Attitude of Forgiveness

Philippians 2:5  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

Our attitude toward forgiveness should be the same as Christ's attitude. Forgiveness begins with understanding that you were forgiven when Christ died on the cross for the sins of all people.  Christ's attitude toward us when he was crucified was one of love.  He loved us before we ever existed on earth.  His attitude was pure love.  This is the attitude that we should possess when we offer forgiveness. 

This is many times easier said than done.  We tend to hold on to details, number of offenses, and the pain we feel from the transgressions of others.  We fail to see the opportunity to love others and promote Christ's attitude when we need to offer forgiveness. 

When Christ died for all the sins that we have committed against him, he did not think about the details of transgression.  He did not focus on how many times we would violate his commands.  He did not measure the hurt or count the occurrences.  His attitude was that he loved us and he wanted to make a way for us to be redeemed from our wrongdoing.  He WANTED to forgive each and every one of us.  He desired to give his life as an ultimate sacrifice and example of how we are supposed to love and forgive.  He willingly offered forgiveness and restitution. 

We must "want" to forgive.   Knowing that God expects us to forgive or merely saying the words "I forgive you", do not complete the process of forgiveness.  When I was dealing with unforgiveness, I realized that I understood what was expected of me but honestly my heart did not seem to "want" to forgive.  I had committed to memory the steps and details of forgiveness found in the Bible.  However, knowing the procedure does not qualify a bad attitude about forgiveness.   

Therefore, my prayer focus shifted from that of merely asking God to show me how to forgive.  God had already made me aware of the people for which I needed to offer forgiveness and so I prayed for God to mold my heart into wanting to forgive.

God will help you with forgiveness.  He already knows your heart anyway, so don't hesitate to ask him for assistance.  Until you forgive from your heart, you will not have the peace of forgiveness in your heart.   If you have no desire in your heart to forgive, then the steps of forgiveness serve no godly purpose.  If forgiving someone has been a difficult process for you, perhaps it is time to ask God if the problem lies within your attitude.  Do you truly want to forgive or do you feel a duty to go through the motions?

In the 18th chapter of Matthew, Jesus teaches about the attitude of forgiveness.  Pour yourself into that chapter and seek a Christlike attitude toward forgiveness.   

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Brewing bitterness

Luke 6:45  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Bitterness stored up in the heart will eventually overflow out of the mouth.  Bitterness is hard to keep secret.  It may be something that you try to keep inside and deal with privately, but somewhere and at some point, it will flow out of the mouth and become evident.  Bitterness boils when left unattended deep inside the heart.  It boils and brews and will reach the point of erupting like a hot, destructive volcano. 

Eruptions of bitterness from the mouth include words such as:  "I do not like....",  "let me tell you  what they did to me......", "I will never feel the same again....", "I will never forget how they treated me...."and so on.  More negative words and thoughts are spoken than positive when bitterness is brewing within the heart. 

When inward emotions, such as unresolved hurts, anger and bitterness manifest into outward actions, we are likely to wrong one another.  The wrongs take the form of slander, vengeance, and separating ourselves from fellowship with one another. This type of reaction contributes to a continuous cycle of bitterness.

We sin when we harbor bitterness.  We also sin when bitterness erupts from our mouths.  We separate ourselves from the thoughts and behaviors that God expects from us when our minds are clouded with negative, bitter emotions.   

If there is bitterness brewing deep inside, do not overlook it.  It may brew for long periods of time, but eventually it will erupt into words that are recognizable.  It is best to deal with it before it erupts and overflows from the mouth.    

Monday, January 5, 2015

Small amounts of wisdom

Proverbs 4:1  Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

A few weeks ago while working a shift at the hospital, I was called to the Emergency Department to get a patient for a CT scan.  When I arrived at the patient's bedside, the nurse was taking vitals and informed me that the patient was unresponsive and her blood pressure was very low.  Medically, I realized exactly what all that meant in regards to a potential drastic change in her condition.  It is the goal of the imaging department to scan patients quickly and efficiently, especially in this type of situation.  With that being said, I was in expedited mode in order to return her to the E.D. before her condition changed.  As I began to wheel her to the CT scanner, the nurse asked if I would find her son in the waiting room as I passed and allow him to see her because they had not let him go back with her because of her condition. 

In my mind, I am thinking, "I am in speed mode and do not have time to stop."  God whispered to me, "STOP". As I neared the waiting room, her son stepped into the hallway and I stopped the stretcher.  He bent over and kissed his Mama and told her he was there.  She softly spoke his name.  I took her to the scanner, completed her CT scan and returned her to the E.D.  In less than an hour later, the patient had passed away.  Not such an uncommon story for an Emergency Department, however the outstanding portion of this story is that God knew that this lady and her son needed a final greeting.  This part of the story does not happen to me every day. 

I could only say, "Thank you, Lord, for making me STOP".  How sad for her son if I had not allowed him a moment with his mother.  These are the moments in my journey with God, that I like to look at, as gaining in the wisdom department.  Wisdom to understand that God sees far more in his plans than we can ever bring to mind.   

This verse speaks to me about gaining wisdom. As I study and seek wisdom, I have come to understand that it is gained in the following ways:
        -From a love and respect for God
        -Possession of a desire to obtain godly wisdom
        -From daily obedience to small callings as well as the large ones
        -An accumulation of studying scripture, applying it to ALL life's events and realizing when God
          has moved in a situation.

We cannot expect to gain wisdom all at once.  It requires training and practice like anything else in life.  I encourage you to seek to recognize small amounts of wisdom and allow them to add up to a vast amount.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Parking at the mall

Proverbs 30:33   For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.

A couple of days ago, I took my children to a large mall in a big city.  Seems that everyone else within a two hour range had the same plans.  Parking spaces were scarce.  We drove around for several minutes in order to find a space.   A shopper was walking toward the outer row of parking spaces, so I decided to follow her to her car and wait for the spot.  When she was near to her car, I turned my blinker on and waited.  She pulled out and I pulled in.  Sounds like it went smoothly.  However, as I rounded the corner of a row of cars to pull in her spot, a lady was coming from the other direction.  I had not seen her and am still not sure if she was waiting for the spot or just felt entitled to it.  My children called my attention to her actions in her vehicle.  Let me just say that I am sure her words did not include an invitation to have lunch together!  Her arms made gestures and there was anger in her expression.  I decided to back out of my space and give it to her, however, she had pulled up close behind me and I could not get out.  I did not exit my car because I was uneasy about her intentions.  So we sat there.  For what seemed like several minutes, she continued to express her feelings from behind her steering wheel. 

I prayed.  First for protection and then for guidance.  She finally moved her vehicle and found somewhere else to park.  Needless to say, shopping in the mall had somewhat lost its appeal to me in that moment.

As we did go through the mall, I thought about the look on her face.  I am glad that I did not hear her words and I am thankful that God protected us from any acts of rage in the parking lot.  When I regained composure, I was sad for her.  Sad because obviously she has unresolved anger or bitterness that sparks rage in small, unimportant events.  After all, what material item found anywhere inside that mall could have been so important as to stir that type of response?  Really, can a few more steps to the door from another parking space cause grief?  Perhaps she viewed the situation as one of a personal nature or that I had intended to take her parking spot from her.  Her reaction was clearly a by-product of some deeper emotions.  I have prayed for her and for countless other people that suffer from unresolved feelings of bitterness.  I remember the time in my life when I felt that way inside.  It will rob you of joy.

My prayer today is for all of you reading this that may have unresolved bitterness or perhaps a loved one that does and you reap some of the behaviors that accompany this matter of the heart.  I pray for peace and a reconciled heart so that you may find joy and enjoyment even in the little things like parking at the mall.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Job 8:7  Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.

In my neck of the woods this morning, the sunrise was breathtakingly brilliant.  What a glorious way to begin a new year!  As I drove into the sunrise and marveled at the orange and blue swirls in the sky, I could not help but focus on the bright warm glow of the huge sun that was directly in front of me.  A large light with rays of radiance in all directions. 

For the past month, we have not had a great deal of sunshine in our area.  The days have been mostly overcast and many of them have been rainy.  Sometimes our lives can seem like there is not a great amount of sunshine.  There are gloomy periods and rainy days that tend to discourage us. 

The sunrise this morning spoke this to me:  Today will be full of bright things.  Our future is bright when we behold the light that God has to offer us.  His radiance and magnificence serve as a promise to us that with him there will always be a sunrise, even when the days seem cloudy.

May each of you be encouraged as we welcome in a new year.  Look to God for light and wisdom.  Look to him for peace and comfort.  Rely on the promise of light in your life when you seek God with all your heart.  There are so many new things to learn and accomplish in the new year.  I look forward to what God has in store for me to accomplish in service and wisdom. 

Happy New Year to each of you and may 2015 be a year of happiness and peace for each and every one of you!