The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, February 27, 2015

Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 5:11  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just in fact as you are doing".

The dictionary defines encourage:  (v.) to inspire with courage, spirit or confidence.  Encourage is an action word; a verb.  It requires us to act in ways which will build up others.  

God continues to show me the link between encouragement and love. Love and encouragement are directly proportional.  When one increases, the other increases with it.  If one decreases, so does the other.  Love builds us up.  Love helps us to remain encouraged. When we love others, we want to encourage them and fill them with confidence. 

President Theodore Roosevelt said this, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care".  I have seen this to be true on many levels.  Caring and loving, also actions words, are directly related to encouragement.  Of course, we all seek encouragement during those periods in our lives when we feel extra discouraged or when we are going through rough times.  But honestly, we want to feel encouraged and loved all the time. 

Encouragement comes through love and support.  When we value things that others hold dear, we are showing encouragement.  For example when we attend sporting events, recitals and science fairs with our children, there is an unspoken display of encouragement.  We love them enough to value what is important to them. 

Calling family members and friends regularly, especially the older members that  live alone, is a huge source of encouragement.  We often minimize the effects of loneliness in elder people. They can easily become discouraged and begin to feel as if no one loves them.  Taking 10 minutes to call and talk to someone may completely turn the day around in a positive way. 

Random compliments, texts or messages filled with love and kind words are encouragement in action.  Seek a way each day to send a random card, note, e-mail or text that will be uplifting to someone.   

Encouraging others is a type of service.  Being an encouragement to people is an easy task when our hearts are filled with love for others.  Deep in the hearts of people there is a desire to know that others care about them.  Encouragement does not have to include "doing" something because most of the time we cannot fix the source of discouragement.  Instead, encouragement can fill someone's heart with love which in turn may lead to a heart that turns to God for all its needs. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Remember the time......"

Psalm 90:12   Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Our area was hit with a snow storm of historic proportions last week.  Schools were closed. Some businesses were unable to be open.  The mail was not delivered to some parts of the surrounding counties for a couple of days.  It is reported to be the worst snow storm in 20 years.

I am thankful for the snow storm.  Your eyes are not playing tricks on you, yes I am thankful.  Even though I greatly dislike winter weather and really do not like playing in snow, I enjoyed the time last week.  We tend to remember our lives in blocks of time.  Often we will begin a memory with, "Remember the time......".  I have arrived at a point where I savor those blocks of time, especially when my children are involved.  For those of you that have children that have left home, I am sure you understand to what I am referring.  The time seems to go so quickly while they are growing up that after the first one leaves home, we appreciate quality time on a deeper level. 

While most things were closed and we were snow bound in the house for a week, we had time.  I look at it as a gift from God.  We had time to laugh, time to rest, time to get caught up on some things, time to share our hearts with each other and time to make plans.  So much of our normal routines are filled with going here and there and talking about the details of getting all our business accomplished.  A snow storm affords us time to talk with each other about anything and everything.  We were offered time to grow in love and in wisdom. 

Savor those blocks of time, no matter how they are presented.  Being snowed may restrict you from physically going many places, but much contentment can be gained from simply being together-not necessarily "doing" something every minute of the day.  The snow is beginning to melt away and will soon be a memory itself.  What lasting memories will you have from this time that God gave us?  When you begin your memory with "Remember the time we were snowed in for a week?", how will you complete the sentence?


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Trust Him

Psalms 22:10  From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.

God has loved us even before we were born.  He designed us with love and He designed us to trust Him.  As babies, we are helpless and cannot live on our own.  He allows us to be cared for and to thrive.  God reveals His trustworthiness early in our lives.  We take all that for granted.

As adults, we are equally as helpless, even though we want the think that we are very much in charge.  We cannot control the world around us.  We cannot control what others around us do.  We must put our trust in God to provide for us.  We must trust in Him in order to thrive and survive. 

He has loved us since he created us. 

He will continue to love us long after our time on this earth is finished. 

Put ALL your trust in Him. 

He designed it to be such. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Testimonies

Mark 5:19 "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you."

Each of us has a testimony. Each testimony is unique to our situations and experiences.

Each testimony offers us the opportunity to reach others.

Each testimony contains power and the chance to tell others about what God has done and to show others what he can do.

Testimonies offer hope, healing and comfort.

I found that a deeper level of healing comes each time I share my testimony-a deeper level of healing for myself. It offers a sense of freedom within my heart and strengthens my relationship with the Lord.

I encourage each of you to share your testimony. It may not be in public, it may only be with one friend or a group of friends, but it is important to do so. Share and give thanks for all that God has done for you.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Beautiful friendships

1 Samuel 18:1  After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathon became on in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

David and Jonathon had a remarkable friendship.  Their friendship was based upon love; love that was for the other more than for self.  The verse above tells us that Jonathon loved David as he loved himself.  They loved one another so deeply that they made a covenant between them.  The covenant included promises of loyalty, protection, friendship and to always consider the best interest of the other.  The most remarkable part of the friendship is that they kept the covenant and all their promises.

No
matter
what!! 

The covenant was honored even when it required actions against family members.  The promises were kept even when it was not easy.  One always thought of the other before acting upon impulse.  The covenant was considered-ALWAYS!

Imagine having a friend like that.  Just take a moment to savor this perfect picture of friendship. 

Is it available to us today?  I believe so.

We can all think of an instance throughout the years where we discovered that a friend was not who or what we thought he/she was.  We can recollect times when friends disappointed us.  Some of us have been betrayed by friends when we never believed it would occur. I must confess that one of my prayers for many years has been that God will show me how to have bonded-for-life friendships, not  superficial, but rather a deep sharing of hearts full of trust and love that is bigger than "self". 

How do we find friends that will offer a friendship like David and Jonathon had?  We must seek our friends wisely.  How do we do this? 
                      1. Pray for friends.  Pray for friends whose hearts will match ours.  It is easy to get along with most people but it is not always easy to become deep, long lasting friends.  Do not limit your circle of options for friends to a certain age or type of person. 
                      2.  Understand the efforts required of you to be a friend.  Friendship requires intentional efforts in order to bond.  Time over and above normal work/church schedules may be needed to foster a friendship.  It can be tricky balancing schedules and relationships.
                      3.  Take the focus off  "self".  1 Cor. 13: 4-9 is a good checklist for friendship-it focuses on the other person. 
                      4.  Get to know the character of your potential friends.  If your standards do not align, it is not likely going to turn into a great friendship. 
                      5.  Do not expect to find a great number of friends with which you will experience a deep covenant bond.  You are more likely to have only a few friends that fit this bill.  The world wants us to think that we are better when we have a large number of friends.  I have found this to be untrue.  I think we are better when we have good quality friends, even if they can be counted on one hand.

I will end with a passage from a book that I am reading that was written somewhere in the 1400s titled The Imitation of Christ written by Thomas a' Kempis.  This quote spoke to me in the sense that throughout time, it has been important to people to have friendships.  "Do not be anxious for the shadow of a great name, for the close friendship of many, or for the particular affection of men.  Those things cause distraction and cast great darkness about the heart".

Friday, February 20, 2015

Look the struggle in the eye

Romans 5:3-5    More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The struggles that each of us face do not often cause us to feel like rejoicing.  In fact the struggles of life most of the time cause us to feel at our lowest.  When we are facing difficulties and trials we are often tempted to focus on the "struggle" portion.  It is easy to become burdened with the negativity of the situation and loaded with worry about how we will make it through the hard times.   Illnesses may cause us to think we will never be well again.  Financial struggles may lead us to think that we will never be in a secure place.  Relationship struggles may cause us to feel as if we will never have peace among people. 

Look beyond the "struggle" in difficult situations.  Look at the struggles as endurance training for the marathon of life.   Look ahead and focus on the character development that suffering offers us.   Look the struggle in the eye and find the love that God has to offer you no matter how small or large the situation.  Allow God to pour his love into your heart and let him wrestle the "struggle" for you.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Set aside 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 conflict resolution and forgiveness.   Pride doesn't want to let go of hurts and disagreements.

Pride does not like correction or discipline.  Pride wants to always be right.  It is more important to be righteous instead of being right.

Pride wants to be smarter or better.



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.              

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lessons

Isaiah   64:8     Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 

Learning is not always easy.  Take physics for example.  It is a difficult course; not one that can be absorbed in a day.  Elements of physics build upon one another and many students have said that at some point in the course the "light bulb comes on".  That "ah-ha" moment when it all falls into place. A point where they have absorbed the lesson from all the material that has been presented.  

In the midst of trials and the valleys in our lives, we may question why things are not changing or improving for us.

We lose patience. 

Our faith waivers out of frustration.

God is a wonderful teacher and he uses situations in our lives to offer hands-on learning; to mold us and shape us for advanced degrees!  He will put us in a place to listen and receive his instructions.  He will not advance us into the greatness he has in store for us until we learn the lessons that he wants us to learn.   

I have learned, the hard way I might add, to ask myself in those trials if I have learned what God is trying to teach me.  Is there something that I need to change about myself?  Do I need to study more in order for the light bulb to come on?   

Seek the lessons that God is teaching you in every situation in your life.  Step into the greatness that He has for you where The Sweet Stuff is waiting.   I promise you that his instructions are much simpler than physics!                             

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Deal with anger ASAP

Ephesians 4:26-27  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.

"Anger is one of the many profound effects life has on us.  It's one of our emotions.  And we're going to feel it when it comes our way-or else repress it"     Melody Beattie

Bitterness will come from bottled up, repressed anger.  Unresolved frustration and anger that is not addressed, provide the perfect environment for the root of bitterness to take hold.  God does not expect us to never become angry.  He does expect us to be self-controlled in how we express our anger.  Expressing anger in its raw emotion by venting without thought, causes more hurt and frustration.  Nursing anger while keeping it inside is also unacceptable.  When we bottle anger, it manifests in other forms-bitterness being one of those forms. 

In this passage of scripture, Paul is telling us to deal with anger ASAP.  Do not waste time in resolving angry emotions.  The more time that goes by, the more suns that set on that anger, the more our problems will compound.  The more compounded the problems and emotions, the more the devil has to work with in getting you to fall into his antics.   


Monday, February 16, 2015

Let us be real

1 John 4:7-8  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

We seek realness in others.  Others seek realness in us.  When we say we want "real" friends or a real relationship, what does that mean?  It means that we want "real" love from others.  The same steadfast, unconditional realness that God offers us.  People seek to be loved by others with the same love, mercy, and grace by which God loves us.

We have the opportunity to offer this "realness" to others in an tangible way while on this earth.  When we recognize the real, steadfast love that flows freely from God, we then have a model for how to love others.  1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 is a reference point for that love.  In this passage we are told that love is patient, kind, selfless, protective, and humble.  Love is also not a scoreboard that keeps records of rights and wrongs.  1 Corinthians 13 shows us the manner in which God loves us.  If we can absorb the way in which He loves us, then we can express the same depth of love to others around us. 

Let us be "real" to others.  May our walk match our talk.  May love not only be lip service, but may it be a service that comes directly from a heart that loves God.  May we all get to know God well enough to love others as He expects.   

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8   Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

This passage of scripture is a checklist of all things that love shall consist of.  Godly love for another person or coming from another person needs to match this checklist.

Love is to be unconditional. 

Love is to be SELFLESS.  True love expects nothing in return.  We should never ask, "What is in it for me?"  Love is not about what we can get out of it.  Instead, it should be about what we can put into it.

Love is a DECISION.  Love is not an emotion.  Although love brings about good feelings, it is not based upon feelings. It is based upon a decision to be committed to another person.

Many people in the world are looking for live from other people to fulfill love that only God can place in our hearts.  We cannot fully love others until we understand how Christ loves us.  The more we are filled with His love, the more we can love others in his likeness.  


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A pink suit and identity negotiation

Matthew 5:14  "You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden."

A pink linen suit and identity negotiation.  What on earth do these two things have in common?  

Many years ago when I was a Junior in high school, I participated in a program called Junior Miss.  The program was a competition that included academic achievement, talent, self expression, poise and appearance and personal interview.   For around three months, all the participants prepared and practiced together for the program.  We learned dance routines, polished our speaking skills and practiced talent presentations.  

Behind the scenes, I was working on a pink linen suit.  Those of you who know me personally are aware of how much I love to sew and  that creating things with fabric is such a huge part of my identity.  I have been sewing since I was 8 years old (much thanks to my Nana).    In high school, I took all the sewing classes that I could find my way into.  I had a wonderful teacher who shared my passion for sewing (we still discuss techniques and fabrics today!).  I decided that I wanted to make a suit to wear for the interview portion of the program.  I picked out a gorgeous pale pink linen fabric.  The suit had a full, gathered waist and a long sleeved jacket with a stand up collar-quite the fashion in the early 1980's.   I worked many hours on the suit setting sleeves, inserting the zipper, hemming, etc. 

When the day came for my interview, I wore the suit- but only on the outside of my body.  You see, in high school, sewing was not "cool", especially not in the 1980's.  I did not want to be labeled "Becky Home-Ecky".   Therefore, I kept this part of my identity in low profile.  At the interview, I negotiated my identity and only focused on the parts of it that I thought were "cool".  I thought I needed to be like everyone else instead of my self.  I opted to bring into light my involvement in sports, my academic achievements and "cool" interests.  I sat there wearing one of the things that made me unique and never said a word about it. 

The next year of my life, God spent a great deal of time teaching me about my identity and how it is not important to gain the approval of others regarding who we are.  He created us to be unique with our own set of gifts and talents.  He never intended for us to be just like everyone else.    Just for the record, I did not win the program.  However, I feel like I gained many valuable lessons in the couple of years that followed and God used the pink linen suit to teach me. 

Whether you are 16, 26, 50 or 100, if you feel that you must negotiate your identity in order to gain acceptance and a place of value from others, STOP right now.  Stand strong in your identity.  God gave you a unique identity with gifts and talents to use for his glory.  Look to him to validate who you are.  He is the keeper of all the measurements of a person's value.  He gave each of us a light to shine in this world; not to hide it and shine in the light of others.                         


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Grace

Ephesians 4:7
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Grace is a simple yet complicated concept. God offers us grace out of love. An unconditional love with a never ending supply and easy access to his graces.

To know grace is to know love. God offers his graces because as his creations, we are more important to him than anything we have done wrong.

We should offer grace to others and that grace can begin with forgiveness because forgiving clears the way for love.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Difficult people

Matthew 5:43-45 "You have heard that it is 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 his 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?

At various times throughout our lives,  people will cross our paths that will tempt us to falter in our love and compassion for others because getting along with them is extremely difficult.  There are just some people that make it seemingly impossible to be around.  When we are in situations that require us to spend a great deal of our days in close proximity with these types of people, discouragement can easily set up housekeeping.  It is easy for our spirits to become dampened.  If the door is opened wide enough, then insecurities and despair can enter and lead into bitterness.

You have met some of the people to which I am referring. 

Abrasive.  Rough.

Self-centered.  Unwilling to be accountable.

Emotional bullies.  Instigators.  Confrontational.  

While being in these situations will cause torment on our emotions, we must keep things in perspective and remind ourselves of the truths and strengths that God offers.  I have found that this type of person is usually one or all of the following deep inside themselves:   emotionally wounded, insecure, lacking self confidence, cowardly, rejected, in need of salvation and looking for love and acceptance.  

It is human nature to want to stay away from these people, to seek peace or even think about retaliation.  

To be God centered requires us to show love, compassion, patience, prayer and a genuine burden for their salvation.  Through consistency, kindness and seeking to understand what is deep beneath the surface, the relationship has the opportunity of  becoming smooth instead of rough.  Easy?  No.  Important?  Yes.

God's truths: He will protect you; He will always love you; anyone that hurts you will be accountable for every thought, emotion and action;  you, also, will be held accountable for every thought, emotion and action, therefore, pray and guard your reactions.

Loving our enemies is not easy.  God can help us to love those that seem to be unlovable.  I encourage you to intentionally seek out someone that you know that fits the bill of being difficult to love.  Do something random that involves an expression of love.  Love is exactly what difficult people need most.                                

Friday, February 6, 2015

Seeking guidance


Psalm 25:4-5   Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

When a major hurt or disappointment happens in our lives, one of the first things we want to do is get answers.  Can you remember a time when your prayers regarding a particular event contained many "why" or "why me" sentences?   Instead of seeking answers, we should seek guidance and direction.  Instead of asking "why", it will serve us in a better way to ask, "what do you want me to do with this?" or "where do I go from here?".  In Psalm 25, David asks God for guidance instead of answers.  David recognized God's wisdom and regarded his attributes.  He wanted God to teach him how to move forward and fulfill God's will. 

Spending a great amount of time seeking to find out why something happened or why someone did what they did, is a type of ruminating or wallowing.  This type of mindset holds you back, preventing you from moving forward and letting go.  Asking God to give you direction, helps to build wisdom.  Wisdom is cumulative.  Wisdom is what equips us to be prepared to react to the next disappointment or hurt that comes along. 

If you are on a path of asking the same "why" or "why me" questions, rearrange your inquisition.   Seek guidance in how to process and react to what has happened or what will happen in the future.  No more wallowing or dwelling on "why".  It is time to ask, "how do I move forward and gain wisdom from disappointing situations"?  Inquire of God what He wants to teach you.  He will lead you in truth and grant you the wisdom to move forward through any situation. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Facing hurts from the past

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


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

I seem to thrive in a busy environment.  Not that I need to be going somewhere all the time but I think I need to keep my mind busy with hobbies, reading, projects, work, etc.  I have often said that being busy keeps my mind off the bad stuff, some of the unpleasantness of the past.   This works to a degree.  However, if you will read Psalm 139:23-24, the words of the verses show us a different view.  This verse tells me that God wants us to take time to focus our minds on those unpleasant occurrences.  He does not want us to dwell on them but instead he want us to lay them to rest and rid of bitterness.  He wants us to sort the truth from emotions.  It is his desire that we arrive at a point where we can reflect upon any unpleasantness as merely opportunities to experience spiritual growth. 

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Do not use the rewind button

Letting go is not always an easy process.  In order to heal emotionally and to move forward, letting go is required. 

Many of you remember cassette players-I was a teen in the era of cassettes.  The rewind button was one of my favorite parts of my stereo.  It allowed me to go back and replay a favorite song without having to listen to the entire tape before it came around again.  I would play the song, rewind, play the song again.  It was handy for helping me to memorize all the words in a short time.  

It was not possible to punch rewind and play at the same time.  The tape would not move backwards and forward simultaneously.  It would either go backwards or forward but not both.

The same is true with our lives and emotions.  We cannot move backwards and expect to move forward at the same time.   By continuously rewinding a situation or hurt, we do exactly as I did with my favorite songs, we memorize all the words and details and it plays in our minds, except unlike the favorite songs, these details have negative consequences and hinder us from punching the "PLAY" button to move forward.

If you use the "REWIND" button with hurts and situations, it is time to LET GO.  When you feel the need to go over the details and events, focus on the "PLAY" button and move forward.  It takes practice and commitment, but moving forward is essential in letting go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Do not allow fear to interfere

Psalms     27:1    .... The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?

Do not allow FEAR to INTERFERE with the plans that God has for you and your future. 

Fear is of the enemy.  Fear stems from a lack of feelings of security and trust.   If we allow damaging strongholds to exist in our lives, then fear will accompany.  

Strength is of God.  Strength and security will allow us to fulfill the plans that God has for us. 

Gather strength and persevere.   Trust in God's strength, truth and promises.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Stop holding on

Bitterness grows when we do not allow our minds to let go of the things that have hurt us.  One of the most common elements of being unable to forgive is the "holding on".  This is the grudge portion.  The forever remembering, replaying, revisiting; the "drama". 

Holding on is exhausting! 

Holding on can consume one's mind and lead to dwelling only on the negative things in our lives.  Many people that have talked with me about bitterness and letting go will ask, "How do I let go?  How can I get this off my mind?"

Ways to let go:
      - Pray for God to change your mind about it; trust in His sovereignty.
      -Stop entertaining the thoughts of 'why did this happen to me
      -Do not confuse feelings with facts; let go of feelings, put the facts into perspective
      -Focus on the positives in your life.  Make a list of them each day if necessary.     
      -Remember that what ever happened, whatever has made you bitter is not all there is to your life
      -Remind yourself that what someone else did to you does not define who you are