THE NEW EWE

"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

August 8, 2007

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

One of my very least favorite activities is playing group games. I get no enjoyment out of that whatsoever. Whether it's at a church party, bridal or baby shower, family or friend gathering, etc., I absolutely hate it when they want everyone to play a game. I have never liked doing that, and probably never will. I, personally, don't think it's fun to sit around playing games when I'm with another couple or with a group. If I'm there and others want to play a card or board game, charades, or whatever, I have no problem with them doing so. I would be perfectly contented to sit over in a corner reading a book or flipping through a magazine and watch the others play. But I hate being made to feel guilty like I'm spoiling their fun, or pressured into feeling like I have to join in. On the rare occasion that I do have to play, and even if I find the game somewhat enjoyable, after a few minutes I've had enough and am ready to call it quits.

As a side note, if you are one of those couples who thoroughly enjoy getting together with other couples and playing games, I think that's great! Just because I don't necessarily find fun in it, doesn't mean that I have a problem with those who do. We're all different and have a wide variety of interest and things we all enjoy for entertainment.

The first Christmas we were married, I bought Jon a PlayStation 2 (PS2). I have never had any interest in any of the games he played on it. A lot of them were strategy games that really made very little sense to me. Most of them seemed too complicated and you had to keep track of too many things and push too many buttons. He would start a game and spend hours playing. I just didn't get it! Until now!!

One of my sisters bought her son the game, Guitar Hero, for his X-Box as a birthday present last month. My sister's son-in-law had the same game for PS2 and has let us borrow it for a few weeks. We've had the game for over two weeks now, and many nights we have each taken turns playing it for long periods of time. The game is a lot of fun to play, and is very addictive! I think one reason we've had so much fun with it, is because this is the first PS2 game that I've ever taken an interest in and have played along with Jon. We have actually spent so much time playing it, that we are both beginning to get a little tired of it, which is good considering we have to return the game to the owner in a few days.

One evening, I needed to play one last song to finish up the level I was on. The song was very difficult and I couldn't get through it. When I went to bed that's all I could think of, and when I got up the next morning that was the first thing on my mind. After Jon left for work, I thought, “Before I do anything else, I'm going to try that song and see if I can do it.” After two failed attempts, I got all the way through.

I don't play the game during the day, so I'm getting things accomplished here at home. But while I'm doing other things, I sometimes will be thinking about the game and trying to figure out ways to be able to play better. To the outsider looking in, it would seem as if I'm working hard and getting a lot done. No one would have any idea by just watching me, that my mind is planning strategies and thinking about how to do better at playing a PS2 game.

The same principle can be applied to some who attend church. People can sit in a pew, and to everyone around them it looks as if they are participating and worshiping, but their mind is planning what they're going to do as soon as church is dismissed or what they need to do that next week. Perhaps, they're daydreaming about various things. They may even be obsessing about something in particular. Individuals may look as if they are giving their full attention to the service, but their mind can be a million miles away, and they have no idea what's taking place. I dare say that we all can be an actor/actress at times, and play whatever part we want in order to fool others, when we really want.

Throughout the years, I have played the piano at numerous funerals. I am one of those people who sees other people crying and my heart just goes out to them and I find myself crying along with them. Especially in situations where someone has lost a family member. Because I've been there many times, I can feel both sympathy and empathy for them. When it's a family member whose funeral I'm playing at, I can't help but shed a few tears. But I know that I have a job to do, and I can't fall apart while doing it. When I'm sitting at a piano in the front of a church, where I have full view of the family and friends who are grieving, it's extremely hard for me to not weep. I've had people ask me how I can possibly sit up there and do it. I play the piano by ear, so really don't have to concentrate on what I'm doing. I will play all the right songs and hopefully hit all the right notes, but my mind is miles away. While I'm playing, I have planned vacations or what I would do if I had a million dollars. No one knows by looking at me, but my imagination is thinking up all kinds of scenarios.

There are also those who may attend church with the intention of repenting of a sin they did the previous week, in order to ease their conscience, yet they are also planning their next sin. There are those who will intentionally go out and sin, knowing all the while that what they are doing is wrong. Yet in their mind, they are also planning on hurriedly asking God for forgiveness as soon as they're finished sinning. It becomes a game to them; go out and do what they know in their heart is sin, then hurry and repent to ease their conscience, or hopefully before they get caught. They hope that by doing this, they will be able to continue enjoying whatever it is they're indulging in, without having to pay the consequences.

When I was a teenager, there was a young man in my church who was a couple years older than me, who enjoyed playing guitar. He had become friends with an older man who had a band that played in bars every weekend, who allowed this teenage boy to play with them. He would go play in the bars every Friday and Saturday night and drink while he was there, then would feel guilty for doing so, and come to church every Sunday and cry and ask God for forgiveness. But then the next week it would be the same scenario all over again. He never fully repented, but would only pray enough to ease his conscience. This would happen week after week, until finally the pull of the bars was too strong and he gradually stopped attending church.

2 Corinthians 7:9,10 talks about the difference between two kinds of sorrow. There is a genuine sorrow for sin that leads to repentance, which leads to a change of heart. Then there is the kind where the person is only sorry for the consequences of their sin.

These verses read, “Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Jeremiah 7:11 reads, “Has this house (temple or church), which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.”

In old TV westerns or in reading historical books, we see or read of robbers hiding out in caves to plan their next crime. In the above verse, Jeremiah uses that visual picture to depict people who would go to the temple and offer their sacrifices in order to try and hide their sin from God. At the same time, they were planning to continue in their sinful ways.

Jesus depicts this same picture in Matthew 21:13 when there were people in the temple who were buying and selling for their own profit and gain. “And He said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

There are times when those who call themselves Christians, begin playing games with God. They try to bargain with God in order to get their own way. “God I will do this for you, if you will do this for me in return.” There are those who attend what they consider “prestigious” churches in order to boost their image or to make the right contacts. At times people may attend church in order to keep family members “off their back”. There are so many different methods that people can use to “hole” up in the church. They use the church as a hideout.

There are many people who will sit in church every Sunday, but throughout the rest of the week never take time to pray, read the Bible, or even think about God. Many can say all the right things and do all the right things, but it's what's in their heart that really matters. They may clap at all the right times, say “Amen” in all the right places, and raise their hands at all the appropriate times during worship. But that's not what the Lord looks at.

Isaiah 29:13 says, “The Lord says: 'These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.'”

Our relationship with God is not a game. It's not about who makes the most points or finishes first. It's not about obsessing about strategies. We can never outsmart God! It's not about who has the biggest daydreams or the most vivid imagination. It's not even about who gets the most enjoyment out of life and has the most fun. It comes down to what's in our heart. Not what other people think is in our heart, but what we know and what God knows is in our heart. We may be able to fool family members, friends, pastors, neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members, and everyone around us about our relationship with God. If we lie to others long enough, we may even be able to deceive ourself after a while. But we can never, ever deceive or fool God.

Life is not a game of pretend. It's not a game of plotting and planning our next sin. It's about being real with ourselves, being real with others, and most importantly being real with God!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Sometimes a new Christian will turn their lives around completely in one step. But more often, it's a process. First, he will turn toward God and accept Jesus as His Son. Later, as the Holy Spirit convicts him, he will give up one sinful behavior after another. To change everything in one day is pretty overwhelming for most of us. But God leads us to the right path in His timing and in His wisdom. I should emphasize that it is the Holy Spirit that has the authority to convict, not other people. But if someone else tells us we are sinning, they mean well. It's worth listening.

When we start to consider that something we do might be a sin, a very important question is do we feel guilty because we have done something our Father doesn't approve of or something our neighbor doesn't approve of? And then, do we regret what we did, or that it was wrong?

I should also point out that Christianity isn't just about giving up sin. There is also a new life to gain. It isn't always pointed out often enough, but there is a lot to enjoy about a new relationship with God. Simple prayer time is a great start. When I was young, my big brother talked me into trying jalapeños—not for the heat, but for the taste. They were great! In the same way, I recommend you try just enjoying talking with God, not because we have some need to ask for, but because He's our Father and Friend.

ON THE MENEWE:

Quick Peach Cobbler

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup flour

1 (1 lb. 13 oz.) can peaches in heavy syrup

¼ tsp. salt

cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

Pour peaches into a baking dish. Mix together the remaining ingredients and crumb over peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

RAM-BLING IDEAS:

Some things we learn how to fix things by the errors we make. This is one of those times!

Jon and I eat supper in the living room most evenings. This past week, I had made enchiladas and we were having chips and salsa with them. I was carrying my plate, glass, and a small bowl of salsa into the living room, which I should not have tried to do all in one trip. When I was sitting my glass down, the bowl of salsa slipped out of my hand and went all over our light beige carpet, which is only a little over a year old. I learned the hard way, that tomato based stains are very difficult to get out of carpet. We also learned that you are NOT supposed to rub the area where the spill is (which we did), but you are to apply moderate pressure and dab at the stain. Rubbing will not only make the stain go deeper into the carpet, but will mess the carpet nap up. You are also supposed to use cool water to sponge the stain with, and not just a dry cloth. I did some research the following morning and this is what I finally found to take the stain out. If you ever need to try this, test a small patch on your carpet first, to make sure it will not further stain it.

Sponge (the method of using a dampened pad to apply light strokes, moving outward from the center of the stain) the stain with cool water, then sponge the area with lemon juice or rub a slice of lemon over the stain (use with caution on wool). Flush with water and blot as much liquid as possible. Let dry. [This method worked for me. I didn't have any lemons, so poured some lemon juice onto a sponge. I sponged the stain with lemon juice, then dipped a cloth into water and dabbed it to rinse. I did this process three or four times before the stain all came up.]

If stain persists, apply a wet spotter and cover with an absorbent pad moistened with wet spotter. Let stand as long as any stain is being removed. Change the pad as it picks up the stain. Keep the stain and pad moist with wet spotter. When no more stain is visible, flush thoroughly with water and allow to air dry.

Wet spotter:
To prepare a wet spotter, mix 1 part glycerine, 1 part white dishwashing detergent, and 8 parts water. Shake well before each use. Store wet spotter in a plastic squeeze bottle.” [I did not need to use this, so have not tried it.]

After several days, the carpet nap will begin to mat back down and match the rest of the carpet again.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

I'm not sure why, but things always seem to be funnier when I'm in church. That's also the one place where if something strikes me as being funny, the more I try to stop laughing the worse it gets.

My husband and I were in a church service one Sunday morning. (To protect the innocent, I will not tell which church we were in at the time, nor will I tell how long ago this happen. I will just say it's been within the past two years. It could have happened in Oklahoma, Missouri, or Arkansas.) The pastor was concluding his sermon and was leading up to serving communion. I had enjoyed the sermon and had been in a pretty serious frame of mind throughout the service. The pastor asked us to stand, and it just happened that the person directly in front of me stood a split second before me so that I had a clear view of their backside. I wasn't necessarily looking, but it was just there in my line of vision. They were experiencing a wardrobe malfunction where all their clothing had got hung between their “cheeks”. What made it even worse, when they stood it didn't fix itself. For some odd reason, it struck me really funny. The more I tried to not laugh, the worse it got. When I'm trying to hold in a laugh like that, I have a tendency to eventually let out a snort and let loose giggling. Plus my whole body bounces and shakes, when I'm silently laughing. Therefore, it's not like I can hide it from anyone. I was desperately trying to stop laughing!

My husband was looking at me trying to figure out what was wrong. I nodded towards the person in front of me and he saw what the problem was. He thought it was humorous, but was able to contain himself. He kept trying to shush me and get me to be quiet. I had my eyes squeezed shut and was trying to get my mind on communion, but it just wasn't working. The pastor asked us to look towards the front for a moment, and when I opened my eyes they just zeroed in on the clothing malfunction. The humor of the situation just hit me all over again.

I was trying to decide whether or not to leave the sanctuary, when the pastors wife walked out. I was afraid if she saw me leave, she would ask what was wrong, and I didn't want to have to try and explain it.

Finally, the person shifted around a little and their clothing fell back into their proper place.

I kept taking deep breaths and was finally able to control myself (without snorting or bursting out in laughter), until after the service was finished and we got out to our car.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Men are born with two eyes but with one tongue, in order that they should see twice as much as they say.” -Charles Caleb Colton


May the blessings of God rest upon each of you.

We love and appreciate you all very much.

If you would like to e-mail us, we appreciate hearing from our readers.

Loretta & Jon

shepherd@grayengineers.com