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

November 28, 2007

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Christmas is absolutely my most favorite holiday. I have always loved this time of year. I think one of the reasons is that for me, it's not about just one day, but it's the whole month leading up to that special day. I love the Christmas trees and decorations, the Christmas carols, the special programs at church, all the secrecy and planning of gifts, and the festive feeling in the air. I enjoy celebrating the birthday of Jesus.

When I was growing up, my parents would always cut down a real Christmas tree in the woods by our house. My dad would go down in the hollar (that's what it's called in Lampe, MO...not a gully, or a ravine, or whatever city folk call it) and cut our tree each year, then Mama, my sisters and I would decorate it.

Mama would sometimes sew a new dress for us girls as our gift. Other times, she would buy a gift or two at a time during the month as they got a few extra dollars. I remember several occasions, when they wouldn't have the money until a day or so before Christmas to finish up their shopping. They never had much to spend on us, and we never got a whole lot, but I never remember being disappointed or wishing for more.

When I was a little girl, my mom's family would get together every year on Christmas Eve night for a family potluck supper. No gifts were exchanged, but we would have a big meal and visit. All the uncles, aunts and cousins would be there. When we got home, our family would read the Christmas story from the Bible, then we would open gifts. The next day, my dad's family would all get together for dinner at Grandpa and Grandma Horton's house. All the women would bring covered dishes. Over the years as families grew, it became harder to get together, and the family gatherings stopped. Each individual family then began having their own dinner and celebration with their kids and grandkids.

Every church in the area would have a Christmas play and they would schedule it on a week night, because all the people from the other churches would go see one another's programs. Afterwards, the church would hand out to all those in attendance, little brown paper bags with an apple or orange, two or three mixed nuts (in the shell), and two or three pieces of hard candy.

One particular Christmas that stands out in my mind, is the year that I was about eleven or twelve years old. I found a sweater in a catalog that I really wanted. Mama told me that it cost too much and not to expect to get it. I knew in my heart that I wasn't going to get it, and had decided that I was going to like whatever Daddy and Mama got me, and not be disappointed. When we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, I was so excited when I opened my gift from them to find a sweater. It wasn't exactly like the one in the catalog, but it was so much better! It was white and zipped down the front. It had a blue hood, and a blue band around the bottom of the sweater and around each sleeve. Not quite halfway down on each sleeve was a wide light blue band with a red stripe in the middle. On front was a pocket on each side, trimmed in blue. I loved that sweater! I wore it for many years and it seemed to just keep stretching with me as I grew. I wore it all the time, and even when it started getting old and worn out, I would wear it outside at home when it was cool. I kept it and wore it until it started falling apart, and I had to finally throw it away. That sweater stands out as my most favorite gift that Daddy and Mama ever bought me for Christmas. I'm sure that's probably all they got me that year, because we usually only received one gift from them. I'm not sure why it was so special, but I think maybe because it was something they knew that I really wanted, so they looked until they could find a sweater like the one I had found in the catalog. I remember asking Mama where she had found it and she wouldn't tell me. Whether it was true or not, I felt like Mama had put a lot of time and effort into the gift, trying to find a close replica of the sweater I had chosen. I honestly did not think that I was getting it, and when I opened it up I was so surprised and ecstatic.

When I opened the gift and saw the sweater, I could have chosen a different reaction. I could have acted like a spoiled brat and thrown it on the floor and said, “This isn't the sweater from the catalog. I wanted that one! Why did you get me this one?” If I had, two things would have happened. First of all, it would have deeply hurt Mama's feelings, that she tried to find something that she thought I would like, and I discarded it and cast it aside. Second of all, Daddy would have quickly yanked me to him, put me over his knee (backside up), and I would have gotten a much deserved spanking. But I wasn't a brat, and I had been taught to be thankful and grateful for whatever gift anyone ever gave to me, so I didn't react like that. And I really was excited and thankful!

We read in Matthew 7:11, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

Mama would ask us to give her ideas of what we wanted for Christmas. She wanted to make the day special for each of us and get us something that we truly wanted. It gave her pleasure to give each of her girls something that they desired. If doing that brought that much joy to my mom, how much more does it give our Heavenly Father pleasure to give good gifts to us? We are the children of God, and He delights in blessing us and bestowing good things upon us.

But many of us, even those of us who may not have been brought up with much, have gotten very spoiled over the years. We've gotten used to having what we want, and if something isn't exactly right, we'll take it back and exchange it for something better. In a lot of ways, perhaps we've forgotten how to be grateful. Instead, we've grown accustomed to getting our own way and having things exactly as we want them. That attitude can carry over to our spiritual life. If God doesn't give us exactly what we want, how we want it, when we want it; we pout and get upset.

I have heard people say, “I don't like getting gifts, but I like to buy gifts for others.” I have to be honest and say that I thoroughly enjoy receiving gifts! But I also really enjoy doing things for others, and buying or making gifts to give away. When I buy someone a gift, I put a lot of thought into it, and I like getting something that I think the recipient will like or enjoy. And I like feeling like my effort is appreciated.

After Daddy married June, we found that her personality and way of saying things was different from what we had been used to. If we bought her something that she didn't think she would use or wear, it didn't bother her at all to say right then and there, “If you don't mind, I'll take this back and exchange it for something else.” At first, it really kind of hurt our feelings. I always tried to put a lot of thought into her gift and pick out something I thought she would really like, and when she didn't, it was easy to think, “Fine, if you don't like what I get you, I won't buy you anything at all from now on!” She honestly never thought anything about it, and in her way of thinking, it was better to say if she didn't like something and go exchange it for something she'd use. She never meant to be rude, and had no intentions of hurting anyone's feelings. She was just very honest and upfront.

God gave us the ultimate gift when He sent His son, Jesus, to this earth. He knew that we could never pay the price for our sins, so He chose the very best He had as our sacrifice. Yet many people have rejected His gift. There are those who refuse to ever accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and never accept His gift of forgiveness of sin. They see the gift, they know it's available to them, yet they never unwrap it and accept it for themselves. Others have opened the gift and asked forgiveness of their sins, but then something happens where they become disappointed or feel like they've been let down by God, so they toss it aside. Then there are those who see all that God has to offer them, then they want to exchange the gift for other things; whether it be false teachings or religions, material possessions or wealth, or numerous other things.

I wonder how it makes God feel, when He offers every single individual salvation and eternal life, yet so many reject His gift? Yet no matter how many times this gift may be pushed aside and rejected, He still makes it available to each and every one of us. It is God's desire that we all repent of our sins, and choose to spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Then we read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This Christmas, if you have never accepted God's gift of salvation, please do so. Jesus is the best gift you could ever receive into your life. Perhaps at one time you did ask Jesus into your heart, but you feel that He's somehow forgotten you or let you down. Know that He loves and cares for you; even more so than any of your family members or friends do. He is always present, wherever you may be, and is waiting on you to call out to Him. It's easy at times to let daily “life” issues crowd God out. Busyness of caring for family and work can take so much of our time, that we forget to make time for God. Whatever your situation, whether your relationship with God is non-existent, on shaky ground, or is strong and solid, during this holiday season make time for God and thank Him for giving us the gift of His son, Jesus.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Believe it or not: there have been people in my life that I just couldn't stand. For whatever reason, I didn't like them; I didn't want to be around them; sometimes my dislike was even stronger. But however I feel about them myself, I have a hard time holding onto that feeling when I stop to wonder about how God feels about them. They are as much His creation as I am. Some of those people have already received the same salvation and redemption that I hold so dear. For the rest, I can't be angry toward them because I am too overwhelmed with sorrow: for them because they miss out; and for God because He misses them, too.

ON THE MENEWE:

Mama's Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar

1 cup white syrup

1 cup water

Cook the above ingredients together until it spins a thread. Add 2 cups raw peanuts. Cook until golden brown. Add 1 Tbsp. butter and 2 tsp. baking soda. Stir well. Pour in a thin layer into a well buttered dish. It will harden as it cools. Break into pieces after it cools.

RAM-BLING IDEAS:

I think one of the greatest gifts you could make for your kids or grandkids (or other family members) is a memory book. One of my biggest regrets is not writing down the stories that I heard my Parton uncles tell as I was growing up. Now that those storytellers are no longer here, I've forgotten all those precious stories. It's important for future generations to know their family history and what different events or situations they faced; the good, bad, funny and sad.

I recently made up a photo/memory book for my family. The book contains thirteen sections, with each section consisting of two pages to write on and then places for four pictures. I made up a section for my Horton grandparents, Parton grandparents, Daddy, Mama, each of us five girls, grandchildren, great grandchildren, uncles and aunts, then family memories. For each section, I typed up information I had such as birthday and anniversary dates, then a few memories I had for each one. Using scissors, I cut around the typed copy and taped it in the appropriate place using two-sided tape. I used both serious and funny pictures. I finished the day before Thanksgiving, just in time to share it with my family who was visiting the next day. One of my nephews sat down and read through the whole book while he was here, much to his mom's surprise. He found some of the things humorous, and found out some information that he hadn't known before.

I'm also eventually going to put together a more in-depth book for our family. I've asked all my sisters to get a notebook and write down things they remember as they think of them. Some will remember things that the others don't, and by us all working together, we will hopefully end up with a memory book that covers a broader spectrum of our family.

These memory books probably mean more to my sisters and I than they do to the grandchildren right now, but in a few years as we all grow older, it will take on new meaning to the generations coming up.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

My niece (who just happened to be a blond when she was younger) was at our house for Thanksgiving. She was talking to her parents, Jon and me. Her dad mentioned something about Salt Lake City. She asked if that was the same state where Cincinnati was, where one of her cousins recently moved. After a discussion about the difference between the states of Utah and Ohio, she said, “Well, I didn't take geometry in high school!” That of course, led to a further explanation between the difference between geometry and geography! She is a senior in high school this year, taking college courses in the afternoons. She also has just been approved for several scholarships for college for next year. We all wondered how!? She is a bright girl, but just easily confused and a little flaky at times; but we love her!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

When is the last time you've stopped to just sit and listen to Christmas music, or turned all other lights out except the Christmas tree and just sat and enjoyed the solitude, or driven around to look at lights? Don't rush through this holiday season, but take time to ENJOY it!

Although you've heard it many times in the past, may you truly remember the “Reason for the Season” this year.

Keep Christ as the center of your lives and your home.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org