"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"  Luke 15:4-6

May 2, 2007


For several years I worked at a bank as a supervisor to the bookkeeping department and also to the tellers.  Overall, I usually seemed to have a great group of women working in my departments.  I remember one particular situation though when my employees began to gripe and complain.  It started out gradually and over time, reached a point where that's all they'd do all day long.  They were still good people and hard workers, but they would talk about other employees, and how they didn't like this or that, and complain about management, etc.  It was an oppressing atmosphere, and they had stopped laughing and enjoying themselves.  I finally realized that this wasn't something that was going to go away, and that they had gotten into the habit of being negative.  I called a group meeting and told them that this was going to stop and from that from that moment on,  I didn't want to hear it anymore.  There was a dessert that I made that they all really liked, so I issued them a challenge;  if they could go one week without complaining, or being negative, or talking about other people, then I would make that dessert for them.  The response of one of the ladies was, "Well, it's going to be really quiet in here because I'm not going to have anything to say."  My office was by the bookkeeping department, so they knew that I could hear everything they said.  For the first couple of days, it was very quiet in there.  One of them would start to say something, then stop and say, "Never mind, I can't say that."  I wasn't doing this to be a hard taskmaster or to be mean to them.  What I wanted to accomplish was for them to think before they spoke, and realize exactly what they were saying.  By the end of the week, they were once again laughing, having fun and joking around.  They were talking positively, and everyone was getting along.  Each of them had stopped by my office during the week and told me that they hadn't realized how negative they had become, until they had to stop and think each time before they spoke.  I told them that I didn't want them to fall back into bad habits, and we made a game out of this situation.  For about a month, every Friday I would give them some kind of little prize if they had done well that week.  One week it was a little smiley face you set on your desk, another week it was a bottle of bubbles you blow.  If they started feeling stressed or just wanted to have fun, they would get out their little bottle and blow bubbles at one another.  It was silly stuff, but it made them laugh and gave them an outlet other than complaining.  The situation was totally turned around, and it made the work day more fun and enjoyable for everyone.

The old saying that "Misery loves company" is very true.  When we are unhappy or upset about something, we don't want to be alone in our misery.  We want to bring someone else along for the ride.  I think that at times we don't even realize what we are doing.  What happens many times, is that the person we tell may not have even noticed that there was anything to be unhappy about, until we point it out to them.  Then they will start thinking about it, then we will discuss it more, and they will start thinking, "Come to think of it, I really don't like that either."  Now not only are we not contented ourselves, but with our words we have caused another person to become discontented also.

There is someone that I used to spend time with occasionally and she could be a lot of fun to hang out with.  But she also lacked self-confidence, so was constantly on the defensive and was very negative.  There were times when after spending time with her, I was exhausted.  She was very blunt and out spoken, but I felt that I always had to be on guard around her, so I didn't hurt her feelings.  If asked whether or not she perceived herself as being defensive or negative, she would have argued that she was neither. 

Negative people seem to drag others down with them.  After spending time with them, we begin to gossip,  complain, and criticize right along with them.  The sad thing is, we usually don't realize what we're doing until someone points it out to us, which will either hurt our feelings or make us defensive, or until we become so unhappy we stop and think about our attitude and how we've been acting.

The stress of constantly being around someone who uses their words to cut, can also affect our health.  Several years ago, I had an employee who had a very sarcastic sense of humor.  It wasn't necessarily what she said, but how she said it.  If you questioned her about it, she would say, "I was just playing around."  She did her job and never did anything bad enough to get herself fired, but she was always on the borderline.  I had to listen to the tone of voice she used when dealing with customers, and reprimand her occasionally.  She would be fine for a while afterwards, then fall back into old habits.  I began having severe headaches every day.  Within an hour of arriving at work, I would get a headache and no matter how much Tylenol I took, it wouldn't go away until I got back home.  One of the other women in the department began having stomach problems.  She eventually transferred to another department.  We didn't connect the reason for our problems as being related to our co-worker.  When she finally resigned, my headaches went away.  It was only then that I realized how the stress of having to always be on guard and being continually on edge was affecting my health.  Bad attitudes and unhappiness ripple out and can have an affect on many people.  We need to make sure that we are never the pebble that causes this ripple.

I was church secretary for many years and it seemed that when someone grew unhappy with the pastor, or someone within the church, or something that was happening at the church, they would never go to the source.  They would either come and complain to me, or start calling other people within the church to see if they could find someone else who agreed with them.  When my suggestion was to go talk to the pastor or the church member with whom they had the problem, they would never want to do that.  So with their words, they would stir up strife and discontent among some of the other church members.  Once again remember the saying, "Misery loves company."  If we're unhappy, we want to form a group so we're not alone.  We also need to be careful and make sure that we're not the one to get pulled into other people's discontent.  When church members realized that they weren't going to have an ally in me, people stopped coming and trying to get me involved, because they knew I wasn't going to be pulled in.  It's okay to not get involved in everyone's argument and problem, and point them to the source they need to go to.  The most productive thing we can do is pray.

James chapter three is very bold and to the point when it speaks about the tongue and the power of our words.  James talks about how the tongue is such a small member of the body, yet it makes great boast.  He says to consider that a forest can be set on fire by a small spark, and compares our tongue to a fire.  We can cause a "forest fire" with just the smallest of words.  James also says that every type of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  With our tongue we praise God, and with it we curse men.  Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing, and he plainly says that this should not be.  A fountain can't send forth both fresh and bitter water at the same time.  Nor can a salt spring bring forth fresh water.  A fig tree cannot bear olives, and a grapevine can't bear figs.  Neither should our words  praise and edify God, while at the same time be negative and filled with condemnation and complaints for others.

Luke 6:43-45 speaks about every tree being known by its fruit, both good and bad.  It compares man to a fruit bearing tree.  We are each known by the type of "fruit" we bear.  This is shown by what is in our heart.  Verse 45 says, "...for of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaks."  What is inside of us will eventually come out.  If we are filled with love, faith, and good treasure, that will be what is seen.  But if our heart is filled with bad treasure and negative attitudes, then that will be what is revealed.  What's in our heart cannot be kept hidden.

There is a prayer in Psalms 141:3 that I personally need to pray more often.  It says, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."

I am issuing a challenge to each of you, and  I am also going to participate.  This coming week, listen closely to each word you speak.  Think about what you say and if it's not positive or edifying, then don't speak it.  See if you can go one whole week without speaking any negative words, criticism, gossip, or complaints.  You may be thinking to yourself, just as my former employee did, "That will mean that I won't be talking this week."  If you will take this challenge, I believe that it will be a life changing experience for you.  It will help each of us develop better patterns and habits in our thinking and the words we speak.  I also believe that if you will accept this challenge, that some of the issues that seem so overwhelming or are weighing you down, will not seem so big and intimidating.


I take a lot of things from the perspective of a scientist.  So, I've started just trying to observe conversations and people's moods.  I've heard somewhere (I don't remember where) that no large group can find someone they agree to love, but any group can find someone they agree to hate.  It sure seems true.  It's very easy to join in a group talking about something or someone they hate, and it's almost always easy to start up a conversation with something like, "Man, terrible weather down south, eh?"  Complaining doesn't seem so bad.  It's just being sociable.  And, when I feel angry or resentful, it feels good to let it out and talk about it with someone.  It's therapeutic.  That's the sneaky part.  With most unhealthy things, it's easy to know when we are headed for trouble.  But talking about what we wish were better with the world seems positive for at first.  And we rarely stop to ask if we're headed wrong.



(I received this e-mail from one of my friends and thought I'd pass it along.)

It's about that time folks--so thought I'd send out this reminder!!!!

OK, mosquitoes... prepare to be repelled!!!!!


People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.



Turtle Cake

1 box German chocolate cake mix

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

3/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 (14 oz.) pkg. caramels
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

Prepare cake mix as directed.  Pour 1/2 of the batter in a greased and floured 13x9 cake pan.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Take the cake out of oven and pour the caramel ice cream topping over the cake. (Or melt the butter with caramels and milk and pour over cake).  Sprinkle with pecans and chocolate chips.  Cover with rest of cake batter.  Bake 20 minutes longer.


With Mothers Day coming up, next weeks newsletter will be dedicated to honoring mothers.  If you have a special memory about your mother or about being a mother that you would like to share with our readers, please e-mail me by this Sunday evening (May 6th).  We want to make this a special edition and would love hearing from you and having you participate.  Our e-mail address is listed on the bottom of this newsletter and also on our web page.  (Note: Please don't be offended if what you write is lengthy and I edit to shorten it.)

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds though Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7)


Thanks for the e-mails and messages of encouragement we have received.

Hearing from readers is truly a blessing to us.

Loretta & Jon Gray