All Posts By

Elena Kunkel

Cultivate Prayer

God is Close to the Brokenhearted

Cultivate has and always will be a safe place for women to come as they are and be met with kindness and love. Last week, in lieu of our regular on campus programming, we paused to encourage and speak hope over our Cultivate community, many whom were impacted by the tragic events in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Together, Tammy Brown and Melody Workman reminded us that while our heart may be heavy and our spirit grieved, we have a very present hope in Jesus. We have the precious promises of God’s word.

He is with us. He is good to us. He will NEVER leave or forsake us.

Tammy and Melody encouraged us to turn to God in our moments of fear and anxiety, and also equipped us with scripture that we can fix our hearts and minds on when we struggle in these areas. We invite you to view the video teaching from last week, and even share it with friends and family who would be encouraged by this message of hope.

Afterwards, please take some time to dig deeper into God’s word as you work through the reflection activity below. It will not only encourage you now, but it will provide you with truth and promise to carry with you every single day.



DIG DEEPER: Discussion/Reflection Activity:

Alone or with your group, take a few moments to acknowledge any areas of fear you may be facing, perhaps even loss, grief, uncertainty, or loneliness. Grab a piece of paper or your journal and take a few moments to tell God what you feel as you admit these fears. Share with your group.

Next, meditate on this truth from God’s word:

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Do not be afraid…for I myself will help you, declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One.
Isaiah 41:13-14

How does this promise from God encourage you today? Discuss with your group.

As Christians, we live WITH fear, not IN fear. When fear rises up, fix your thoughts on the truth of God’s word. He is our refuge and strength. He loves us with an everlasting love. Fear does not have the power to dictate our life or choices, because our life is in the hands of a loving and good Father.

Fill in the blank: God, when I am afraid of_____________________, I will trust in YOU.

Close your reflection time by writing this verse in your journal or bible, and committing it to memory. When fear or the struggles of the world creep in, claim this truth as your own:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid.
Psalm 56:3-4


We are here for you. If you or someone you know is struggling with fear or has been impacted by the recent events in Las Vegas, our Soul Care staff is available for help at www.sandalschurch.com/help

You are always invited to join us at any weekend services at all Sandals campuses where we gather together as a church to worship and pray. For times and locations, visit www.sandalschurch.com or to view live online visit www.sandalschurch.tv

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus: Cultivating His Heart – Week 4

It’s the fourth and final week of our Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus series. Over the past weeks, we’ve not only walked in the footsteps of Jesus, but we’ve watched as He has changed the lives of women in the most incredible ways.

Through the stories we’ve read, we’ve seen Jesus meet women with honesty, compassion, and forgiveness. He was real with them and in turn they could be real with themselves, God and others. Their stories are a part of our history and a beautiful example of how real relationship with Jesus can transform our lives.

While our series is ending, we hope that you’re inspired to continue growing spiritually wise through reading and reflecting on God’s word. Keep immersing yourself in the stories of the bible. Dig deep, ask questions, and respond to what Jesus is showing you.

Spending time with Jesus is the very best way to cultivate His heart.

This week we’re reading five short verses that pack a punch—the story of Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha. There’s no doubt that, in some way, we all see ourselves in these two sisters. When I read this story, I get dreamy eyed as I long for Mary’s heart to be at the feet of Jesus. In reality, I’m much more Martha, setting the table and taking names, then fussing to Jesus about how nobody helped poor little me.

While we can relate to the sisters actions as individuals, together they are a picture of what the balanced Christian life looks like: first worship, then work; first a Mary heart, then service with Martha hands.

“What we do with Christ is far more important that what we do for Christ.”
Warren Wiersbe

As you read this story, put yourself in Mary and Martha’s home? How do you look when you’re about to host an important guest? What would it feel like if Jesus was coming to dinner? Imagine what it felt like for them.

Focus in on how Jesus responds to Martha. We’ve seen so much of His wise and kind heart for women, for His people, over the past few weeks, so how do you imagine Jesus’ tone of voice as He teaches Martha a life altering truth? How would you—or how can you now—receive His encouragement to choose the main thing?

By His grace,

Tiffany


Week 4: Jesus with Mary and Martha

Remember to use our REAL study method as your read. You can grab a printable version here. Take notes, highlight, re-read and focus on the choices Mary and Martha made and Jesus’ response to them. Reflect on your own life. What “one thing” is Jesus saying to you?

Read Luke 10:38-42 (The Message)

38-40 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

41-42 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. What do you learn about the heart of Jesus in this story?
  2. How do you see Jesus modeling wisdom?
  3. How do you see Jesus modeling kindness?
  4. Based on this passage of scripture, what do you see in Jesus that you want to cultivate in your own life?
  5. How can you live this out in your relationships this week? Be specific.

Pray, asking God for wisdom, strength, and courage as you seek to cultivate the heart of Jesus.

We’re so glad that you joined us here over the past four weeks as we have cultivated the heart of Jesus. We hope that you’ll follow His example of wisdom and kindness and carry it with you as you live out your faith every single day. Thank you for desiring to be women who are both wise and kind!


You’re invited to join us this fall as we cultivate emotional health by reading, discussing, and learning through An Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero. When you sign up, you’ll be registered to join a small group of wise and kind women, at the Hunter Park campus, for nine weeks beginning Thursday, September 14th at 9:30am through November 9. By popular demand, we’ll continue to offer our online option so you can cultivate community when/where it works best for you. Registration opens at Cultivate Unity on August 25th. Visit move.sc/cultivate for more information and to register.


Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus: Cultivating His Heart – Week 3

We hope you’ve been inspired and encouraged by the stories of Jesus interacting with women in the bible. Hasn’t it been incredible to see His heart for them and for us?

If you missed either the story of the woman at the well or the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, take a few moments to go back and read them. There’s nothing quite like walking in the footsteps of Jesus and reflecting on His ministry to ordinary people who needed His extraordinary love.

This week, we’re reading the short, but life changing exchange between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. As you read these verses, think about the tension that must have been in the air. This woman is brought, seemingly caught in the act, straight into the temple to stand in front of Jesus and ALL the people. What would that have felt like for her? Imagine the murmurs running through the crowd as she’s accused by the religious leaders of the day?

When I read this story, I wonder what side of that crowd I would have fallen on. I’d want to be on the side of compassion and grace, realizing that I too am a sinner. However, my heart is convicted as I think of times I’ve looked down on another’s sin and sifted the ground to throw the first stone.

Not Jesus.
The degree of love and grace He shows is lavish, scandalous even.

As you read this story, remember that Jesus is not going easy on her sin. He can respond with such radical forgiveness because He knows that soon, He’ll go to the cross to die for her sin…and ours. Linger on that thought and allow it to fill you with gratitude. Amazing grace, right?

With a grateful heart,

Tiffany


Week 3: The Woman Caught in Adultery

Remember to use our REAL study method as your read. You can grab a printable version here. Take notes, highlight, re-read and focus on how this woman must have been feeling, what her accusers were hoping to do, and then on Jesus’ response to them and her. Reflect on your own life. How is Jesus speaking to you?

Read John 8:1-11 (The Message)

1-2 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

3-6 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

11 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. What do you learn about the heart of Jesus in this story?
  2. How do you see Jesus modeling wisdom?
  3. How do you see Jesus modeling kindness?
  4. Based on this passage of scripture, what do you see in Jesus that you want to cultivate in your own life?
  5. How can you live this out in your relationships this week? Be specific.

Pray, asking God for wisdom, strength, and courage as you seek to cultivate the heart of Jesus.

We’ll see you here next week, for the final week of our real lessons from the life of Jesus series. We’ll be reading about Mary and Martha. Until then, let’s be women who intentionally cultivate the heart of Jesus, who follow His example of wisdom and kindness as we live out our faith in this world that needs to know Him.


The countdown is on…ONE MORE WEEK until Unity! We can’t wait! Here’s what to do on Friday, August 25th: grab a friend and your daughters ages 10+, then head to the campus you attend every weekend. The evening kicks off at 6:00pm with activities, NEW Cultivate merch, and sweets & treats for purchase. Doors open at 6:30pm and the program begins at 7:00pm with worship and a special message from your campus pastor’s wife. Friends, it’s going to be amazing and we want you to come! 

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus: Cultivating His Heart – Week 2

Welcome to week 2 of our Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus series. If you missed last week’s reading and reflection on The Woman at the Well, be sure to check it out.

This week, we are going to read one of the most powerful exchanges Jesus ever has with a woman. As you read the story of the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, imagine that you are present. Put yourself in the room as she pours out her tears and offers her costly gift. What do you think was running through her mind? How would you have responded to her? 

If I’m completely honest, I think I would have felt awkward observing what happened. It’s so raw and vulnerable. Don’t we all struggle a bit with true vulnerability—the kind that leaves us feeling completely exposed? Often, we don’t feel safe and we wonder how we will be received.

Pay attention to how Jesus responds to this woman’s complete authenticity. It’s why I love Him so.

We are always safe with Jesus.

Linger in this story for awhile. How would you have felt? Would you have responded differently than the people in the room? Soak in the words and reactions of Jesus and let the beauty of His grace and love wash over you once more.

Seeking Him with you,
Melody


Week 2: The Woman Who Anointed the Feet of Jesus

As you read this story, remember to use our REAL study method. You can grab a printable version here. Take notes, highlight, re-read and focus on how this woman’s approaches Jesus, and then His response to her. Reflect on your own life. How is Jesus speaking to you?

Read Luke 7:36-50 (The Message)

36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”

40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Oh? Tell me.”

41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”

43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.”

“That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”

48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.”

49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!”

50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. What do you learn about the heart of Jesus in this story?
  2. How do you see Jesus modeling wisdom?
  3. How do you see Jesus modeling kindness?
  4. Based on this passage of scripture, what do you see in Jesus that you want to cultivate in your own life?
  5. How can you live this out in your relationships this week? Be specific.

Pray, asking God for wisdom, strength, and courage as you seek to cultivate the heart of Jesus.

We’ll see you here next week, for more real lessons from the life of Jesus through the story of the woman caught in adultery. Until then, let’s purpose to be women who cultivate the heart of Jesus as we grow spiritually wise and relationally kind.


Cultivate Unity is right around the corner! We’re talking the women and girls (ages 10+) of Sandals Church gathering together at the campus you attend every weekend. One church, one event, multiple locations. Join us at 6pm for activities, NEW Cultivate merchandise for women and girls, plus sweet treats, coffee, and beverages for purchase. Doors open at 6:30pm and the program starts at 7pm with worship and a special message from your campus pastor’s wife! Come and bring a friend, or come and meet some new friends. We promise you won’t want to miss this night. Join us on August 25th! We can’t wait to see you!


Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus

Real Lessons from the Life of Jesus: Cultivating His Heart – Week 1

We’ve been all about Cultivating Community this summer. We hope you enjoyed learning and growing through the wisdom of God’s word in our July Wise and Kind Proverbs series. As we close out this summer season together, we’re inviting you to continue to cultivate God’s word into your heart and life by digging deep into the life and ministry of Jesus. Each Friday in August, we’ll be reading and reflecting on real lessons from His life. There is no one more fascinating to me than Jesus. There is just no one like Him!

As you read and study things He said, immerse yourself into each story. Pause and imagine you were there. Reflect on what you might have been feeling in those very moments. As you observe how Jesus interacted with all kinds of people, our hope is that you will be deeply moved and motivated to cultivate His heart into your own life.

In Jesus, we have the perfect example of wisdom & kindness.

Jesus loved people well, while also speaking truth into their lives and giving them grace when they didn’t get it right. Imagine what could happen if we as a community of women committed to cultivating the heart of Jesus into every aspect of our lives. It would not only change us, but it would change the world around us.

There is no greater pursuit than cultivating God’s word into our hearts and lives. We love being on this journey with you, and we encourage you to share what you’re learning with a trusted friend or your community group. We want to to hear from you too, and invite you to tell us what God is showing you in the comments below or on Instagram and Facebook.

Seeking Him with you,
Melody


Week 1: The Woman at the Well

This week, we are going to read the story of the Woman at the Well. It is one of my all-time favorites. There are so many nuggets of truth tucked away in this exchange. This woman was desperate for hope, for grace and for a new chance at life. I wonder if you can relate? Jesus meets her right where she is and this one encounter changes everything.

As you read, remember to use our REAL study method. You can grab a printable version here. Take notes, highlight, re-read and focus on who you see Jesus becoming to this woman. Then, reflect on your own life and how He is speaking to you.

Read John 4:1-30 (The Message)

1-3 Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

4-6 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

11-12 The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

13-14 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

15 The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”

16 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

17-18 “I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

19-20 “Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

21-23 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

25 The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

26 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

28-30 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. What do you learn about the heart of Jesus in this story?
  2. How do you see Jesus modeling wisdom?
  3. How do you see Jesus modeling kindness?
  4. Based on this passage of scripture, what do you see in Jesus that you want to cultivate in your own life?
  5. How can you live this out in your relationships this week? Be specific.

Pray, asking God for wisdom, strength, and courage as you seek to cultivate the heart of Jesus.

We’ll see you here next week, for more real lessons from the life of Jesus through the story of Mary, who anointed His feet. Until then, let’s be women who intentionally pursue the heart of Jesus as we grow spiritually wise and relationally kind.


Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Wise & Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge

Cultivating a Servant’s Heart

It’s our fourth and final week of the Wise and Kind Proverbs Reading Challenge Blog Series. We hope you’ve loved reading how the women of Sandals church are living out our vision to grow spiritually wise, relationally kind, emotionally healthy, and cultivate community. This week, we’re looking at the final attribute—cultivating a servant’s heart.

If you’re inspired to serve, keep reading and you’ll have a chance to learn more about the teams at Sandals Church that need someone just like you! Also, if you’ve missed any of the previous posts in our series, take a few minutes to go back, visit, and be encouraged:

Cultivating Wisdom & Kindness

Cultivating Emotional Health

Cultivating Community

As always, we love hearing from you. We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.


To all my fellow people-pleasing friends, let’s say it together: My name is [insert your name here], and I’m a recovering people-pleaser.

I am in no way making fun of support groups. Seriously, I’m relating people pleasing as the problem that it is. Hear me ladies—It. Is. A. Problem. Especially when one is a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Serving and people-pleasing can get intertwined and become a messy dysfunctional thing.

Let’s talk about the difference in the two:

People pleasing has its roots in insecurities. It’s the attempt to “do for someone” acts of all diverse kinds to gain favor, acceptance, or even to earn love. Take it from me, a former people-pleasing queen, there is nothing more exhausting and further from the service Jesus intended for us to embrace and live out than people pleasing.

Serving is giving of oneself freely because of one motive and one motive alone…love. Jesus served because He loved. He loved us to death, literally. The only thing that should motivate us to serve tirelessly and continually is our love for the One who loved us first.

The Bible tells us that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28) The key word is “give.”

Although many of us are a tad tainted with this culture that teaches us to “be served” rather than to serve, we have to take our eyes off of our confusing culture and look square into the eyes of the One who modeled servanthood perfectly—Jesus.

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you. Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation. Proverbs 3:3-4 NLT

Our serving should never be an attempt to gain favor, be recognized, or work for God’s love and acceptance. Sister friend, you are LOVED and ACCEPTED by God before you lift a finger in Sunday school class or pick up your mic to belt out a worship song.

You DO NOT need to serve to gain God’s love or favor. You definitely do not need to serve to become more spiritual in the eyes of man or God. If you are serving in this way, you’re missing a beautiful opportunity, sweet friend.

Serving is simply a way we say “I love you back, God.”
It’s a beautiful way to express gratitude for all He has done.

Not all of us can forsake all and become Mother Theresa. She is my favorite example of a human servant. Although she sets the serving bar high, we can still serve in simple yet impactful ways. And yes, it counts to serve your family, but they are the easier ones to serve because we love them. At least, most days we do. 😉

Jesus served His disciples and He served strangers. He made Himself available to whatever the need was. Yes, we are all gifted in some capacity, but that should never limit us in the ways we are willing to serve.

You may be a gifted orator and sharing the gospel comes out as smooth as butter.

You may have the vocals of an angel.

But poopy butts need wiping in the nursery, and the trash needs taking out in the foyer. Those things are serving too.

A couple Sundays ago, I was attending a leader meeting at Sandals East Valley. When I walked in, I observed a man carefully vacuuming every piece of debris on the floor. Shorty after the meeting started, we were introduced to that man: Dan Zimbardi. Um, the renowned D.Z.?! Our Executive Pastor was vacuuming!

I heard so much about him and I met him for the first time as he modeled servanthood by vacuuming the floor. He was not too important to push a Dyson. High five, Pastor Dan!

I think people pleasing has messed up my serving game in the past big time. As I’ve aged, I understand far better the joy and privilege of serving out of a heart of genuine gratitude for all God is and all He has done for me.

He loves me. He showed me how much on Calvary 2000 plus years ago. I love Him and I show him by serving Him with gladness.

Simply serving Jesus is a joy, a privilege,
and truly brings a satisfaction like nothing else.

Go get em’, girl. Serve your little heart out all you can, just because you love Him back.

In His perfect and matchless love,

Diane


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. What does being a servant look like to you? Is your definition based on the truth of God’s word or is it derived from what you’ve been told “serving” should be?
  2. Who do you know that models a servant’s heart? How do they inspire you to serve?
  3. Read Proverbs 3:3-4. Are you trying to earn favor with God and people through serving? Reflect on the truth that you are loved and accepted by God not because of what you do, but because you are His. Now, respond to God and tell Him what that truth means to you.
  4. Has people-pleasing impacted your willingness to serve God? What do you need to let go of (fear, insecurity, doubt) in order to simply serve God with a heart full of love and gratitude?

Is God stirring up a desire to serve in your heart? If you’re willing to respond and step out in faith, you can learn more about joining a team at Sandals Church here. There is a place for you!

As you continue your study of Proverbs, consider these other verses on cultivating a servant’s heart. Choose the one that most speaks to you, and be intentional about applying it to your life and allowing it to change who you are.

Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. Proverbs 12:24

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor. Proverbs 21:21

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. Proverbs 31:17


Diane Huntsman is the Sandals Ministry Partner for Cultivate East Valley. She’s a wife of 31 years, mom to 4 adult children and Grammy to her 3 gifts. She is in love with Jesus and determined to use all her mistakes, messes and years of living to help women in all seasons to make this life count for eternity. Diane has served in different women’s ministries for 25 years and desires to leave a legacy of loving Jesus to the max. She enjoys all things outdoors, hates running and burpies but loves to make her body do all the things her mind says it shouldn’t do. You can find her on her porch some days, and wishing she was there on all the rest.

Wise & Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge

Cultivating Community

Welcome to the third week of our Wise and Kind 31-day Proverbs blog series. Over the past weeks, we’ve asked women at Sandals to share how this book of wisdom has instructed them in cultivating wisdom & kindness, as well as cultivating emotional health. This week we’re looking at the difference that cultivating community can make in our lives.

What are you learning through your daily reading in Proverbs? How are you cultivating the word of God into your heart and life, and how is it changing you? Share with us in the comments section below, or interact with our posts on Instagram and Facebook. We want to hear from you!


I’m a Cultivate and groups junkie! You may laugh, but it’s true. I’ve grown up going to church and attending bible studies, but I missed one crucial aspect—community!

I’m not talking friendship. I’ve had lots of friends—and great ones. I’m talking about doing life hand-in-hand with one another and life hand-in-hand with Christ. This idea of community was a concept completely new to me and so were the women around me when I first attended Cultivate Book Club.

I learned quickly that with intentional vulnerability comes deep connection.
Transparency is both a scary thing and a freeing thing.

My mask was down and so were theirs.

I felt safe.

I felt loved.

I was treated with kindness.

After my first day at book club, I left feeling filled, alive, renewed, and free. I felt like I had discovered a gift and experienced friendship in a new way.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
Proverbs 27:9 NLT

Each time I’m with the girls in my group, each text we share back and forth, brings joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

They lean into my mess and help me see clearly. They speak truth into the lies I’ve believed for far too long. They encourage me to press on.

They see blessings that I miss. They pray for my family. They’ve comforted me in my grief. They make me laugh.

They’ve been in situations that I haven’t, but might walk through someday. They offer wisdom. They give me grace. They hold me accountable.

I treasure their hearts, their friendship, and their counsel. With each new season of Cultivate, I come to realize that the depth of friendship and community goes beyond just what we can see.

Community gives us opportunity to be Christ’s image-bearers
and share His great love with others in our lives.

We are able to be His hands and feet for one another. We are able to be reflections of His love, His grace, and His kindness. We can help bring healing, encouragement, and hope to those around us by imitating our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As wives, moms, sisters, students, daughters, employees, we are busy. None of us need to add one more thing to our already filled schedule, but I ask you to consider joining us in our journey of being real and cultivating community.

Cultivate has changed my life and brought me into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Cultivate has created relationships that I will be forever grateful for…a new community of friends and family!

In His Love~
Megan


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. Think of a time when you have experienced sweet counsel (e.g. truth, advice, encouragement) from a friend. What did that look like and how did that make a difference in your life?
  2. Friendships are important to all of us, but especially to Jesus. He could have done His work alone, but He surrounded himself with disciples. Read John 13:34-35 and 15:12-17. What command does Jesus give over and over? How does Jesus’ view of friendship and love impact the way you see community?
  3. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another.” A lot of people can influence our lives, but who are the people in your life that truly refine and strengthen you as a follower of Jesus? How can you be intentional about cultivating community with these people?

The next season of Cultivate begins in the fall, but you don’t have to wait to find community at Sandals Church. We have a group for you! Find a community group that fits your schedule and needs, or even start your own today. You can learn more here. 

As you continue your study of Proverbs, consider these other verses on cultivating community. Choose the one that most speaks to you, and be intentional about applying it to your life and allowing it to change who you are.

Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Proverbs 9:9 NLT

Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. Proverbs 13:20 NLT

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success. Proverbs 15:22 NLT

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 NLT


 

Megan Suarez is a Sandals Ministry Partner and Small Groups Coordinator for Cultivate. She has a passion for connecting and encouraging women. She is the proud wifey of Jesse, and mommy to 3 crazy, baseball-loving boys ages 7, 9, and 11. Megan loves camping with her family, watching her boys play baseball, going to Angels games, and anything and everything to do with the beach!


Have you heard about Cultivate Unity? We’re talking the women (and girls ages 10+) of Sandals Church gathering together at the campus you attend every weekend. One church, one event, multiple locations. What do you need to do? Come and bring a friend, or come and meet some new friends. It’s just that simple. What a beautiful way to cultivate community right in your own backyard. We promise you won’t want to miss this night. Join us on August 25th. We can’t wait to see you!

Wise & Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge

Cultivating Emotional Health

Last week, we applied the truth and insight found in Proverbs to cultivating wisdom and kindness. As we continue our Wise and Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge, we take a look at how the fullness of God’s word can help us grow emotionally healthy. We hope that you are not only making time to read the Word, but apply the truth to your life with intention.

Remember, you can share what you’re learning with us by commenting on the blog or interacting with our posts on Instagram and Facebook. We love growing spiritually wise together, and we love hearing from YOU!


“Where do you see us in five years? What is one thing we said we were going to do that we probably won’t?” My husband and I had planned our lives out pretty much entirely. We are that couple…or at least we were. I was nine months pregnant when he asked me those questions.

I cringed at my answer. I didn’t even want to say it out loud. “I know we always said we would adopt later, but I just don’t see it.”

We had bought into a lifestyle that was depicted by where we lived.

Two kids, two cars, two incomes, too much! We were both thriving in our careers, had just bought our first house, and were expecting our first child. I knew adoption was expensive, time-consuming, and emotional. It didn’t seem to fit this lifestyle we had purchased.

“I feel the same way,” was my husband’s response.

We realized that our lifestyle was not in line with what God had called us to do. We felt that calling to adopt very strongly, and we were letting the life we had made get in the way. We made a promise right then and there that our next child would join our family through adoption.

It wasn’t our plan, but it was our calling.

Things moved fairly fast after that. Our daughter was born, and it was the greatest joy we had experienced. We kept trying to push the adoption back. We told ourselves we would start the process when she was a year old because of finances, closeness in age, and overall fear of the unknowns. But God kept pushing and knocking. So we let Him in on His timing. We let Him provide. When our daughter was four months old we began the process of adopting from South Korea.

And it was a process!

Paperwork, a home study, fingerprints, doctor appointments, financial statements, notarized everything, employment verification. Basically everything in your life is put into words to show that you are a capable, loving family. Then everything stops. You wait. You pray. And the waiting for me, was unbearable.

To me, being emotionally healthy means being real with myself,
knowing what diverts my focus, and facing emotions head on without hiding them.

But during the adoption process I forgot it all. I couldn’t stand not knowing what was going to happen, not being in control, and not being able to plan it. Our adoption took over two years to complete.

I watched friends have biological children in that time. I saw other adoptions move at lightning speed, and I questioned why our son’s process took so much longer. I saw my faith tested month after month with no word. I wiped tears from my eyes day after day for weeks at a time. I saw my marriage have ups and downs because these were new waters for us. I felt insane jealousy like none other that made me feel weak.

I felt absent and distant from God because I didn’t hear Him anymore. All I heard was the empty silence that no news brings when you are adopting.

“Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.”
Proverbs 14:13 NLT

I was not okay, but to everyone on the outside I was. I didn’t let anyone in to see my pain or the ugliness I felt from jealousy to regret. But I realized rather suddenly (and after a complete melt down one day) that God’s silence was really His patience with me.

God was waiting for me to listen so that I would hear Him.

He was teaching me and leading me back to Him.

He has the best intentions for my son.

He has the best intentions for our family.

God has the best intentions for me. 

I told my husband, my mom, and close family members how I felt. We prayed together, focused on optimism and hope, and I joined an adoption support group. Once we let God in, He radically changed our lifestyle. We moved closer to family. I am now a stay-at-home-mom. We don’t feel the pressures of the lifestyle we had before to act, look, or be a certain way.

We seek to imitate God rather than others.

Thinking back to the adoption process still brings every emotion and hurt to the surface. But being emotionally healthy for me is recognizing the hurt and facing it rather than masking it.

God has given me opportunities to share my story with other adoptive parents to help fully equip them for the journey. I may not be emotionally ready to say, “I would do it all over again,” but if I can see my weaknesses from the past, I know God will help me use them to move forward in the future. He will help you move forward too.

In Him,

Meghan


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. What does being emotionally healthy mean to you?
  2. Read Proverbs 14:13. The first step is being real. Are you masking your real emotions (grief, fear, worry)? What can you cultivate instead (peace, truth, community) to pursue emotional health?
  3. Does the pressure to act, look or be a certain way keep you from being real? Who in your life allows you to be honest about your emotions? If you don’t have this kind of community, know that we at Sandals Church care about you. Learn more about joining a community group or speaking to our Soul Care team.

As you continue your study of Proverbs, consider these other verses on cultivating emotional health. Choose the one that most speaks to you, and be intentional about applying it to your life and allowing it to change who you are.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones. Proverbs 14:30

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22


Meghan Benson is a Sandals Ministry Partner, serving alongside the women of Cultivate by supporting social media design and outreach. She is married to Nick and they are working together to raise their three kiddos, Natalie (4.5 years), Jameson (4 years), and Hadley (5 months). A mom first, Meghan spends “nap time” creating handmade jewelry and expanding her knowledge on all things tech related. She enjoys white mochas and local coffee shops, but with three little ones at home she is grateful for a re-heated cup of homemade coffee and this irreplaceable time in their lives.

Cultivating Wisdom & Kindness
Wise & Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge

Cultivating Wisdom & Kindness

Welcome! This month on the blog we’re taking a deeper look at Proverbs and the heart of Cultivate. Proverbs is packed full of motivation and inspiration to help us grow relationally kind, spiritually wise, and emotionally healthy, as well as encouragement to get connected in community and serve on a team.

If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to join our Wise & Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge. Just read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the date on the calendar and use our REAL study method to respond to what you’ve read. Share what you’re learning with friends, your community group and join us here on Fridays or throughout the week on Instagram and Facebook.

Grab your Reading Challenge resources here.

Every Friday, we’ve invited real women to share how Proverbs is helping them cultivate the wisdom of God’s word into their heart and lives. Since we’re in this together, we’ve also included questions so that you or your community group can reflect, discuss and share what you’re learning. We can’t wait to hear what God is showing you!


— Cultivating Wisdom & Kindness —

We aren’t handy. In our 18 years of marriage, my husband and I have agreed that if someone in this universe has the gifts and talents to do what we need—repair the plumbing, paint the eaves, change the oil in the car—we will gladly write the check.

Why? We can’t. These things terrify us. It takes me 3-hours to hang a picture frame and only that long because I resort to pencil lines on the measuring tape just to avoid the fractions. I know, sad.

But when my husband decided he could save us several hundred dollars on a car repair by watching a YouTube video and attempting the job himself, I [for some absurd reason] agreed. The first clue we were in trouble was when he asked, “What’s that tool called?”

When things go sideways, my default is not wisdom and kindness. It’s justice.

I want to bullet point my reasoning, defend my position, and right all the perceived wrongs. Generally, this involves a bit of blame shifting and at least one “I told you so.” I confess, this isn’t at all attractive, but we rarely look in a mirror while we’re losing our minds, do we?

So, when the well-intentioned man I married walked in from the garage, his face pale and panicked, declaring, “I broke everything. Everything is broken and it’ll probably cost us a million dollars to fix it. Get your checkbook,” my reaction was not, Lord, what wise and kind words can I speak over this dear man?

My first thought was: I was right, you were wrong and let me tell you all the reasons why.

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking;
the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words. Proverbs 15:28 NLT

Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I believe in the truth and fullness of His word, and I know my Father’s voice that speaks into my life through the Holy Spirit. One of my greatest prayers is that my heart would be pointed toward God and that daily He would weed out the sin and transform me. I’d like to believe there’s a bit of wisdom in me.

Not only have I experienced the power of kindness, but I’ve seen the effects of unkindness in places it should not exist and among God’s people who should know better. I want to be known as a woman who is kind.

But in the 3.5 seconds between my husband’s words and the search for my own, there was a war of spirit and flesh. Seriously. I’m almost positive I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Shut it.” If Jesus were at my side, He likely would have put His hand over my mouth and said, “Don’t even go there.” And really, sometimes I wish He would.

I wanted to speak my mind, but in those moments, something greater captured my heart: obedience.

If we know Jesus, wisdom and kindness are always within our reach, but without obedience they’ll just be empty virtues.

I’ve ignored the strongest prompting to hold my tongue because I wanted to be right.

I’ve read God’s word, then set it aside because I thought I knew better.

I can hear what God is saying, but the truth does nothing to change me if I do not obey.

My justice loving mind didn’t want to surrender control and submit to Christ’s authority, or to the respect my husband deserved from me. It took purpose and intention—a conscious choice to obey—to close my mouth and let a godly heart win over evil words.

I’m so glad I did, and I want to do it again…and again.

Anyone can be smart and nice, but we have a more excellent path to choose. Yes, we have a God of grace, who forgives every misstep and misspoken word that we confess, but we are also accountable to a good and just Father who desires obedience from His children.

I don’t want to settle for less. I want to be a woman who is wise and kind ON PURPOSE. I want to obey the Father who loves me and become who He has created me to be. Don’t you?

With grace,

Tiffany


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. What does being a woman who is wise and kind mean to you? How can you cultivate these attributes into your heart and life?
  2. If you don’t choose wisdom or kindness first, what is it that you’re choosing (anger, fear, bitterness)? How does that choice impact you and what can you cultivate instead (kindness, patience, hospitality)?
  3. Read Proverbs 15:28. Have you ever allowed evil words to win over a godly heart? How could carefully thinking before you speak change things?

As you continue your study of Proverbs, consider these other verses on cultivating wisdom and kindness. Choose the one that most speaks to you, and be intentional about applying it to your life and allowing it to change who you are.

“Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.” Proverbs 15:33

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24

“When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” Proverbs 31:26


Tiffany Parry is a Sandals Ministry Partner and is thrilled to serve Cultivate by supporting the blog and social media outreach. She’s married to Jason, who isn’t a mechanic but is a fantastic teacher, and is mom to her one and only son, Dylan (14). Tiffany is a lover of words and enjoys writing and sharing stories about faith in the middle of the messiness of life. If she can be surrounded by family, friends, dark chocolate, and sweet tea, she’s just about as happy as a girl can be.

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What “Serving on a Team” Means To Me

What does serving on a team mean to me? I am not sure which part of this Cultivate value is more impactful to me – SERVING GOD or being part of a TEAM.  I’m going to share a bit about both, but before I do, let me introduce myself.  I’m Denise White, Pastor Jeff White’s wife, and together we are loving, leading, and serving at Sandals Church Moreno Valley.

Four years ago, we came to Sandals from a small church in Riverside. It was the only church either of us had ever attended. Over the years, Jeff and I both served in a variety of roles as volunteers, leaders, teachers, and eventually staff. Sometimes it was because there was a need to be filled, but other times we intentionally used the gifts God gave us and stepped into a role or started a ministry.

In May of 2013, we left our church because Jeff was invited to join the staff at Sandals Church as the Director of Family Ministries. It became clear that God was calling us to serve Him at Sandals and a new season of ministry was about to begin. Our hesitation came in leaving the church and friends we knew, but that was replaced with an excitement in serving the God we love.

Serving God is an act of obedience but more than that, it is a response of the heart.

We serve because we respond to God’s affections for us. We serve to show our gratitude for all He’s done.

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

He loved us so much He sacrificed His Son for us to save and give us eternal life. (John 3:16)

He chose to love us even in our brokenness. (Romans 5:8)

Rest on these thoughts for a moment and respond to God. 

If to love Him is to serve Him and to serve Him is to serve His church,
how then should we serve His church?

We should serve the way Jesus served us! We serve with a posture of humility. We put others first. We love unconditionally, and we serve sacrificially. Our attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. He humbled himself even further, going so far as to actually die a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)  

“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life
as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 NLT

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-3 NLT

As we transitioned to Sandals, it didn’t take long before our family found places to serve. At a church our size, there is always opportunity. Plugging into a team was essential in grafting ourselves into this church. It was not something we had to convince ourselves to do or negotiate a way to fit into our schedules.

Serving is a part of who we are.

One of the beautiful aspects of serving God and His church is the invitation to participate in what God is doing.  So many great things are happening at Sandals Church. Lives are being changed, from the littlest kids to our more seasoned adults. As we serve within our church, we get to be a part of the amazing things that God is doing.

I like to say we get a front row seat! 

Serving God is an act of obedience but more than that, it is a response of the heart. | Serving on a Team |

What does serving others at Sandals look like? 

It might be holding a baby while parents listen to a much needed sermon, or giving a warm smile and friendly hello as a new family walks in our doors. Maybe it’s teaching a 3 year old what it looks like to pray.

It could mean operating a camera so people can watch the message from other locations, or you could be the one who directs cars so nobody gets frustrated while parking before service.

Maybe you’re called to pray over the man who just learned he has cancer, or listen to the woman whose marriage is falling apart. You could be a group leader and relationally draw others into a deeper walk with Jesus.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s making cookies for our new guests.

God in all His power and majesty could share the good news and bring healing to broken places without us, but He doesn’t. He’s called us to be part of that plan so we will see His powerful work unfold and give Him honor and praise along the way.

God desires for you to love Him, serve Him, and serve His church.

You just need to respond to His invitation.

  • BE WILLING: Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23 NLT
  • BE YOU: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5 MSG  

Jeff and I have served on many teams and ministries over the years and I hope many more to come. We serve because we are willing.

We said YES.

Most recently, we said yes to serving at Sandals Church Moreno Valley. Yes to stepping out of our comfort zone. Yes to serve until God leads us otherwise. We say yes to where we are needed.  And we serve as we are – ordinary people. We don’t have an extraordinary talent, we just utilize the gifts God has given us to the best of our ability. But we don’t stop there. We allow ourselves to grow in those gifts as God leads.

Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!

God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. Are you called to preach? Then preach as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies so that God will be glorified through Jesus Christ—to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11 TLB  

It is my deep hope that through my story you will realize just how much you are loved by our Father. He doesn’t need us but HE WANTS US.  Say yes to Him. Say yes to his gift of salvation. Say yes to his love. Say yes to his calling on your life.

That’s what serving on HIS TEAM means to me!

Love to all of you,

Denise


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. Think of all the ways God has loved and served you. How might your service be a response to His sacrifice?
  2. God gave up His son for our salvation. What do you need to give up in order to serve others?
  3. Consider your gifts, talents, and resources. Where and how do you think God can use those at Sandals?
  4. Are you ready to answer God’s call to serve? If not, what would it take for you to say yes to Him?

If you’re ready and willing to serve on a team at Sandals Church, you can learn more here.


 

Denise White is the Cultivate Coordinator at Sandals Church Moreno Valley, where she loves doing life and ministry alongside her husband of 26 years, Campus Pastor Jeff White. Her joy is watching her children, Amber (23) and Tanner Callison, Justin (21) and Emily (17) become who God has created them to be. Denise loves creating, event planning, traveling and spending quality time with friends. While she’s known for baking her delicious Friday cookies, her secret wish is for a personal chef to cook dinner every night!