The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Forgiveness Checklist

Colossians 3: 8  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3:12-13  Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. 

One of the most common questions that I receive when counseling people about forgiveness is, "how do I know if I have any lingering unforgiveness?"

The two passages above from Colossians can serve as a check list for lingering unforgiveness.  When you begin to search your own heart for the need to forgive, if any remnants of the emotions listed in verse 8 can be identified, then you likely have some amount of forgiveness to address.  The following questions will answer the checklist of what God commands of us when are offended and fall into an attitude of malevolence:  1.)When you think about the particular situation or person, do you experience any temptation to hold a grudge?, 2). Do any feelings of resentment or animosity surface when you see the person or think of the situation?, 3).   Do you secretly wish for ill-will to find its way into the life of the one that offended you?, 4).  Do you desire to tell others about the offense, presenting the offender as an evil doer?  If you are able to answer "yes" to any of these questions, then you have not completely forgiven the offender.

Verses 12 and 13 of Colossians offer a checklist of how we can live out forgiveness day-by-day.  By clothing ourselves in compassion, we can offer a strong sense of sorrow for the other person.  If someone wrongs you in way that is ungodly, unethical, illegal, or immoral, they are lacking an intimate relationship with God.  Therefore, that person needs your compassion and prayers.  Your prayer should be for them to become closer to God so that repentance and reconciliation of the heart may occur.

Next on the list is kindness.  Yes, I know firsthand that it is difficult to be kind to someone that caused deep hurt or harm to you.  It is difficult to even want to be in the presence of that offender.  Maybe you will not be in their presence and sometimes it is best that you do not continue to be in the presence of harmful behavior.  Kindness from you is an attitude of the heart.  Kindness is when you are rid of the thoughts of malice and can think about the person without wishing harm or vengeance.

Humility is perhaps the most important check point in forgiveness.  When we are able to release the need to feel like the most important person in the entire situation, then we are expressing humility.  God is the most important person in the equation of forgiveness.  His importance and His sovereignty must be considered paramount in any offense. If we reach the point of humility and surrender, then we have reached a point of releasing the offense.

If we can clothe ourselves with patience and gentleness, then we are able to bear the burdens which others may inflict upon us.  Patience to seek God's heart and His word on any situation will lead us into the path of forgiveness.  We must be patient with ourselves as we grow into the mature Christians that God wants us to be.

If you are wondering whether you hold unforgiveness or if someone near to you has suggested such, then study Colosssians chapter 3.  Utilize the check list as you ask God to show you any areas that may need to be addressed.  Free yourself of all the emotions that are on the list in order that you may experience the freedom that comes through forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Let go of the expectation of an apology.

Ephesians 4:32   Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

Is it easier to forgive someone who repents and is remorseful of the wrong they have done against us?   Allow that to soak in.  It seems easier to forgive someone that comes to you with repentance and is genuinely sorry for the offense.   But, should it be easier to forgive in this manner?  If we have an attitude of forgiveness, it should be easy for us to forgive in any circumstance.  

God expects us to forgive with or without repentance and apologies.  However, our pride and stubbornness will sometimes hold out for the remorse from the other person.  The emotional side of us wants an emotional forgiveness.  We want to see that a lesson was learned on the part of offender.  We long to know that they realize the hurt that was brought upon us.  It may feel like a bit of justice is  served if there is genuine remorse.

Forgiveness is not about emotions and feelings.  We cannot entertain the expectation that our offenders will ever show remorse or repentance.  There are so many situations where this never happens.  Perhaps the offender passes away before amends are made.  Maybe the offender is not a Christian and never acknowledges God's convictions about doing wrong to others.  Some people simply feel that they do no wrong and refuse to be accountable for their wrongs.  

We cannot wait and delay taking care of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is in the heart of the beholder.  It is beneficial to the offended more so than the offender.   Forgiveness is to be worked out between you (the offended) and God.  It is necessary for your heart to align with God's expectations.  Forgiveness should free your mind of the attitudes of injustice, anger, vengeance, and bitterness. 

If you have unforgiveness in your heart that beckons to be addressed, yet you are waiting for an apology or repentance from the offender, let go of that expectation.  You may wait forever and it may never happen.   Take care of the unforgiveness ASAP.  To hold unforgiveness in your heart is a sin on your part.  Forgiveness is between you and God anyway. 
  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Forgiveness does not cure the offender. Forgiveness cures the offended.

Hebrews 12:15  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Forgiveness does not cure the offender.  Forgiveness cures the offended.

In dealing with the need to forgive another person, we may hold ourselves back due to a lack of understanding of who benefits most from forgiveness. Choosing to forgive and get rid of bitterness presents some feelings of vulnerability.  We may feel as if forgiveness is permissive.  We may think that forgiving someone will give the impression that it is acceptable to hurt us.

If we forgive, is it the same as saying that what someone did to hurt us is alright?   NO!
Forgiveness is not equivalent to tolerance or permission.  Granting forgiveness does not mean that we agree with the wrongdoing.  Forgiveness means that we agree to rearrange the emotional effects of a transgression.  Forgiveness is a measure which forfeits the grudge.  By forgiving, we prevent our hearts from feeling hurtful emotions and contempt. 

We cannot prevent someone from saying hurtful words or holding contempt in their heart toward us.  We cannot prevent betrayal or rejection from others.  Forgiveness does not mean that these things will not happen more than once in our lives.   Forgiveness DOES mean that each of us can be cured of bitterness that will grow in the heart.  Forgiveness means that as the offended, we have made the choice to deal with the situation in a Christ-like manner. 

Forgiveness does not weaken, it strengthens.  It empowers us to heal, move forward and have a stronger relationship with God.  Forgiveness also serves as a witness to others.  Forgiveness may very well be the act that causes someone to see the love of Christ in you.   Forgiveness may offer another person a glimpse into the grace of God.      

Monday, June 26, 2017

There is no need to react to the actions of the enemy.

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


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

Satan wants to disrupt our peace and comfort and he will use anyone that will listen to his schemes in order to accomplish misery on our behalf.  The schemes will make us think that our world is upside down.  The actions of others may cause disruption of our peace.  We may be tempted to react in a manner that causes more chaos.

There is no need to react to the actions of enemies.  When God shows us His goodness through peace, we must reflect such to others.  By reacting to the actions of enemies, we fail to show God's goodness and grace.  If we provide an equal reaction to an evil action, we have only contributed to the evil.  

When turmoil, anxiety, and disruption of peace are present in life, remember that we ALWAYS have the promise of comfort from God.  When people around us intentionally cause pain and discomfort, God is available to offer comfort.  When you hold on to God's comfort, and submit to the inner peace that he offers, the schemes of enemies will not seem as significant.  Through God's protection, our comfort can prevail and the enemy's plan will be thwarted. 

It is up to each of us to submit to that comfort and to enjoy inner peace.  Do not pay attention to an enemy's actions that are intended to cause you discomfort.  There is no need to react to the enemy-God will act in your behalf.   Reacting to actions from enemies will disrupt your inner peace even more.

Allow Him to comfort you whatever your situation.  Recognize His authority and permit Him to deal with your enemies.  Resist the temptation to react to the schemes of the enemy.  Not only will God comfort you, He will take care of all your enemies!!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Positions and Possessions

James 4:1-2   What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?   You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it.  You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. 

I remember a time several years ago when my youngest two children were fighting over a Butterfinger candy bar.  A bite sized one at that.  Butterfingers are my son's favorite candy bar.  There was one of the bite sized bars in the candy jar and little sister had gotten it out for herself.  He claimed it was his because they are his favorites, she claimed it as hers because she took it from the jar first.  Verbal cruelties ensued along with a list of reasons that ranked the position of each sibling.   Neither was hungry so I know they were not fighting for the basic survival need of food.

They asked me which one should have the candy bar.  Since I don't like chocolate, or I would have eaten it myself, I took the bite sized bar and put it into the trash can.  Yes, jaws dropped to the floor in disbelief.  The second round of moaning began.   "How can you do that?" "It was mine!" "I need that candy bar" were among the wails coming from both of them. 

Was all of this over a bite sized candy bar?  No, all of this was really over  the position of  most importance.  It was a battle of clout.   A battle to see which sibling could outrank the other.  A fight because one sibling had something that the other wanted.  We see this in our world every day.  Politics, positions withing the workplace, and siblings within families are arenas for fighting over rankings of position as well as possessions.  We see it several times in the Bible:  Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers.   Jealousy and rivalry can lead people to wage war against one another. 

Life is filled with opportunities to place more value on possessions and positions rather than our relationships.  When possessions and rank are of more importance than people, rejection occurs. Jealousy and anger may take root.  Bitterness can grow filling the heart with contempt.  With these things in place, sin is in the mix.

The candy company makes millions of Butterfingers each and every day and we can get them at the store anytime.  God only makes one of each of us.  Neither a bite sized candy bar nor being the president of a large corporation are nearly as important as each human being and relationships with one another.  Positions nor possessions will ever equal the importance of loving one another.  If possessions cause us to wage war against another person, a heart check is in order.  If we feel that we should be ranked above others in importance, we need to evaluate our intentions.  May we never allow evil desires to replace love for others. 

          

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The desire to help others should never be replaced by the self-gratification of power.

1 Kings 11:11   So the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates".

When the desire to help others is replaced by the self-gratification of power, kingdoms are torn down.  The love of power and splendor separates people from God.  God does not favor the actions of those who are self-serving.

Solomon was appointed as king when his father, David, was near death.  Solomon was a wise king.  He was granted wisdom and authority by God to be used for ruling the kingdom of Israel.  As king, Solomon became wealthy and famous.  His advice and wisdom were sought by people.  He was approached as a counselor of sorts as people desired the wisdom that God had bestowed in his heart.  He was often paid for his counsel and he accumulated many assets as a result.

As Solomon absorbed the fame and power that he had acquired, his heart became more interested in  self-gratification.  He enjoyed many women and began to worship idols.  The women, who were from many different countries, introduced him to their idols and other gods.  God had warned Solomon when he became king that he needed to guard his heart against going astray.  He had been specifically warned about marrying women from foreign countries, "because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods" (1 Kings 11:2).  The self-gratification of his power led Solomon to follow after things other than what God had intended for him.

Solomon's attitude and rebellion caused his kingdom to be taken away.  God was angry with Solomon, "so the Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates'" (1 Kings 11:11).

No matter the task that God has placed before us, we must not allow any authority or attention to become an idol.  When God grants us wisdom or appoints us to preside over a calling, we must use that appointment for His glory, not for self-gratification.  If we become like Solomon, then we lose the desire to help others and to glorify God.  We must guard our hearts against the idols of recognition  and prosperity.  We must remain eager to help others and never lose the desire to advance God's kingdom.    

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rise Above Challenging Circumstances

Hebrews 10:35-36  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

The message for today: 

Do not conform to your circumstances.  Rise above the challenging situations that life presents. 

I am so thankful that Jesus did not conform to his circumstances while he was here on earth.  I am thankful that he faced each challenge with courage and the mind set that he was going to carry out God's will no matter what he encountered.   He was mocked, cursed, rejected, and pretty much homeless, yet he did not dwell on those details.  He did not sit in the sand,  have a huge pity party and invite all his friends.  He did not become paralyzed by the actions and treatments of others.   He remained focused on his purpose, moving forward with all that he was to accomplish. 

Was it all easy for him?  I doubt it.  I am sure there were times that he stood in disbelief of how people thought and behaved.  I imagine that his heart was broken several times as he witnessed the actions of people around him.  I am sure that discouragement tried to creep into his mind at various points during his ministry.

Jesus' confidence never faltered.  In challenging situations, Jesus did not react with with defeat or discouragement.  He had complete confidence in his Father.  His confidence and faith that God's perfect will in his life would be fulfilled, allowed Jesus to pursue his earthly ministry with assurance. 

When we face difficult situations in life, we are tempted to react with an attitude of defeat.  We are often tempted to define ourselves by the circumstances which we experience.  While we may suffer defeat at some points in life, we are not defeated!  If we can learn to view defeat and difficulties as challenges in which we are eager to rise above, we can grow and abound in our relationship with God.  Perseverance without dwelling on any negative details strengthens faith.  Confidence in God's purpose for each of us will allow us to pursue our earthly ministry work with the same assurance that Jesus embodied. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

God Sees Our Potential

Philippians 3:13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this on thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling me. 

We have all done things in life that we regret.  Satan tries to cause us to dwell on our mistakes.  He wants us to ruminate our failures.  He tries to fill our minds with regret.  If we allow our minds to  be consumed with mistakes and regret, we become distracted Christians.  If we wallow in the past, we cannot effectively proceed into the future.  By looking backwards, we lose our focus on the goal before us.

In this passage of Philippians, Paul is saying that he has not reached perfection, but that he presses forward to reach the perfection that Jesus Christ has to offer (Philippians 3:12).  Paul wanted to know Christ.  He wanted to experience the resurrection power that Christ has to offer.  Paul desired to be all that Christ had in mind for him.  Paul had many regrets from his former life.  He realized that dwelling on his regrets and mistakes was not conducive to becoming closer to Christ.  

Mistakes are isolated moments in time, not permanent reflections of who you are.  Learn from mistakes and allow the lesson to add to your wisdom.  Do not allow your mistakes or memories of past mistakes to overpower the whole person that you are.

God does not focus on our mistakes.  He does not repetitively look at our past.  God sees the potential in each and every one of us. God knew that we would make mistakes.  He made provisions for us (John 3:16).  Once you call upon His name for forgiveness, you do not have to think about or worry about those mistakes any more.  God's intention is to mold us to fulfill his purpose which is to for us to be more like Christ every day.   

If you spend time ruminating about things for which you regret, STOP!  Lay aside harmful thinking that includes mistakes and failures.  Refuse to live in the imbalance of what you have been versus what you can be.  Begin to live in the stability of the potential that God sees in you.  You can grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God.  He offers a fuller and more meaningful life because of our hope in Christ.   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Instead of justice, focus on purpose.

Psalms 3:7-8       7-Arise, O Lord!   Deliver me, O my God!  Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.   8-From the Lord comes deliverance.  May your blessing be on your people.


In verse 7 David is calling out to God for justice against the people that were persecuting him.  He wanted equal treatment.  He wanted justice.  When we have been beaten down, insulted, persecuted, we want justice from God.  When we feel as if enemies are surrounding us with intentional acts of maltreatment, we may dream of vengeance.  We might think that our enemies should receive equal treatment. 

In verse 8, David reveals humility and patience for God's timing.   He realized that victory over his enemies comes from God's perfect justice and judgment.  He can see that revenge is not the answer.  He leaves the matter in God's hands.    

In times of persecution from our enemies, it is easy to fall into a state of focusing on their punishment, especially how we think the punishment should be carried out.  Our minds may become filled with vivid details of how we think revenge would be best served.  When we are hurting, we often wish hurt upon those who caused our pain.  Vengeance is not ours to distribute and focusing on punishment is non-productive.   

Instead of focusing on punishment for our enemies, we should focus on our purpose.  What does God want us to learn from our enemies?  How might we gain strength from situations in which we are mistreated?  What is His purpose for us from day to day?   These are questions to ponder while humbly leaving our enemies in the hands of our victor.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bitterness: The Receiving End

Romans 15: 1-3  We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:  "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Self-Worth

Genesis 1:27  So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 

In the first book of the Bible, we are shown the value that we have in God's eyes.    From the beginning of creation, God valued us so much that he created us in is image, both men and women.  

We are all born with the same worth to God.  From the beginning we are all valued the same.  In the end we will still all have the same value in God's eyes.   As we go through life here on earth, experiences and situations add to or take away from our perception of our self-worth as well as our view on the worth of others. God's view of our value never changes.

It seems easy to allow others to affect how important we feel.   The relationships and the communication within those relationships have a strong impact on our perceptions of our self -worth.  Negative words cause hurt feelings. Actions that tear down character can cause us to doubt our worth or wonder if we have any value.  Trials and tribulations may leave us feeling insecure and  unimportant.  

When we allow others to have an impact on our self-worth, our relationship with God is diminished. Our relationships with others in our lives will be impacted if our self-worth is low.  Job performance will be affected as well as the goals that we pursue.  How we perceive our self-worth affects everything in which we are involved.  Feeling unimportant can change the course of the rest of a person's life. 

We must remain strong and grounded in the worth that God has for us.  When we allow the words and/or actions of others to have a bearing on our esteem, we forget who holds the yardstick.  God is the keeper of the measurements!  He is the one, the only one, who declares the value of a person's worth.  Guard your self-worth.  Do not look at the value of your worth according to the people on this earth.  Look to God to assign worth to your life and the purpose He has for you.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dissatisfaction

1 Timothy 6:6   But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Disappointments in life can lead to dissatisfaction.  Perhaps you are disappointed about your circumstances, acts others have committed against you or perhaps you are dissatisfied with poor decisions that you have made in the past.  Dissatisfaction should NOT give way to feelings of unworthiness.   Trust that the work which God is performing in you and your life is exactly what he has planned. 

I can recall a situation in my family's life a few years ago that left us feeling disappointed and dissatisfied.  I felt confused as to the direction in which God was leading us.  Because of the dissatisfaction and the fact that I thought our situation should have been going in a different direction, I began to have feelings of low self-esteem and of little worth.   I can tell you from my own experience that if you are telling yourself that you are of little worth, then you begin to be clouded with only those thoughts.   My mind was cluttered because I allowed worldly measures to influence my feelings of worthiness and importance.  When we can have a positive attitude about ourselves and maintain a positive self-worth, we can keep our minds open for self-improvement and to hear what God is asking us to do. 

We must learn to be content in "whose" we are, not who we are.   We are all God's creations.    We are all valuable and should use any feelings of dissatisfaction to improve ourselves and seek God's direction.     

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Make Changes in Your Future!!

Isaiah 59:2   But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face
                    from you, so that he will not hear.

Forgiveness changes nothing from the past.  Not one detail is taken away from an occurrence that happened in your life by offering forgiveness to an offender.  What has happened cannot be rewound or erased. 

Forgiveness changes EVERYTHING about the future.  It will change your relationship with God.  It will change you as an individual.  Grace and mercy will affect your blessings and your Christian journey.

When we refuse to forgive and offer grace to one another, we harbor sin.  We hold onto grudges.  Bitterness festers like a cancer.  We easily fall into ruminating about the occurrence and capturing all the details involved.

The facts related to the offense will always remain.  Like history books from the beginning of time, the facts cannot be rewritten.  No changes can be made to events that have already occurred.

As long as we have the sin of bitterness active in our lives, we will not receive the full blessings that God has in store for us.  He expects us to deal with the bitterness and mature spiritually before he will advance us in the blessings department.  I have seen this firsthand in my life.  

If you are harboring bitterness of any kind, now is the time to begin to deal with it.  In doing so, you will change many things about your future-in a great and mighty way.  As we are told in Isaiah 59:2, our iniquities separate us from a close, mature relationship with God.  There is no better time than the present to make changes in your future!!








Monday, June 5, 2017

Symbiosis

1 Timothy 18-19  Command then to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Symbiosis is a word that is used in Biology classes quite often.  It is defined as a relationship between two organisms for which there is an advantage for both parties involved. 

In the ocean, there are many kinds of fish that have symbiotic relationships.  Two that I find quite interesting are the cleaner wrasse and the Sweetlips fish.  The cleaner wrasse is a very small fish, about the size of a minnow that we catch in streams. Stunning in color, this fish often has a blue streak down its side.  The Sweetlips fish, named for its big fleshy lips, is a colorful stunning fish.  It is many times larger than a wrasse and as a matter of fact could have the wrasse for a snack.  In the order of the food chain, based on the size of each fish, they really should not be friends, but instead the Sweetlips should prey on the wrasse.

Their relationship, however, is very unique.  The Sweetlips will open its mouth and the wrasse goes into the mouth to clean away the build up that gets on the teeth of the Sweetlips.  Yes, there are dental hygienists in the ocean!   Think about this scenario for a moment.  The larger fish holds its mouth open while the smaller fish scrapes away the goop on its teeth.  The wrasse needs the goop on the teeth to survive-that is the diet of a wrasse.  One chomp of the Sweetlips mouth and the wrasse could be lunch.  These fish perform these actions intentionally.  A symbiotic relationship.  Mutually beneficial.

Considering the relationship of these fish, I wonder why as humans our relationships aren't this simple.  Why are so many human relationships so complicated?  Why do we not experience such symbiosis as demonstrated by these simple fish?

Often times human relationships are nonequivalent.  The benefits lean to one side of the relationship more than the other.  Pride and arrogance sometimes keep humans from experiencing truly symbiotic relationships.  Feelings such as envy will foster relationships that are imbalanced or mismatched. 

Symbiotic friendships are treasures here on this earth!  If friends are willing to serve one another in love then there is beauty in the relationship.  If friends are willing to stay in your life even when there is goop to clean and get rid of, a relationship of true symbiosis exists.  

Life is truly about loving and serving one another.  How wonderful it would be if people could recognize the mutual benefits that relationships have to offer.  We each have strengths that we bring into relationships.  How great it is when those strengths contribute to the needs of others!  What a rewarding experience it is when friends are willing to share all the good and bad things that come along without fear of one person harming the other.