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

January 2, 2008

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

(Correction: In last week's devotional I mentioned my oldest great nephew was now in kindergarten. I received an e-mail from one of my sisters and she reminded me that her granddaughter was in 1st Grade this year, so she is actually the oldest “great” attending school. Oops!!)

A few weeks ago, Oklahoma had the biggest ice storm in the state's history. We were without electricity for three days. We have several big pecan trees, and lost a lot of limbs. Our yard looked like the aftermath of a tornado. We got our front yard cleaned up fairly quickly, where we didn't have as much damage, but our backyard was another story! We worked and worked, and at times it seemed as if we weren't making much progress. Finally, this past weekend we finished up all the chainsawing, picking up and toting of limbs, and stacking beside our front drive in preparation of hauling away. All that's left is a carpet of sticks all over our yard that will need to be raked and bagged, before mowing season begins in the spring.

The ground has been soft and mushy, so every time we go in and out we end up getting mud and dead leaves stuck to the bottoms of our shoes. Every time Jon uses the chainsaw, he ends up getting covered in sawdust. I have vacuumed and swept our floors over and over. No matter how careful we try to be, we still end up making a mess inside.

What would have happened if I had decided that I was tired of cleaning, so wasn't going to vacuum or sweep our floors until we got all the outside work completed? The mud and debris would begin to dry and harden in our carpets and become ground in, and would be much harder to get out later. The dirt and sawdust would build up on our linoleum and get caught on our socks or house shoes, and we would end up tracking it through the rest of the house. Instead of having just a little mess to clean up each time, I would end up having a major cleaning project, that would be time consuming and harder than it needed to be. Also, if I did let my floors go and allowed all the filth to build up, and then someone stopped by unexpectedly at my house, it would be a reflection on my skills as a housekeeper. I would be perceived as being inadequate, and as someone who doesn't care about the appearance of their home.

This principle can be applied to our personal and spiritual lives. Personally, we may let little things in our lives that may not seem to be that big of a deal, but over time it can grow and become a huge obstacle. Somehow we never seem to think that anything bad will come of it, even though we may know the possible consequences. We always seem to feel that we can handle our own downfalls easier than other people deal with theirs. We are very good at minimizing our habits and behavior, in order to justify us not having to make any changes.

How often do we “discuss” other people and judge them and situations, without considering the consequences of our words and actions? Yet if you have ever been on the receiving end, you know the hurt that can be experienced. Words can never be retrieved, once spoken. At times, we need to be honest with ourselves; we're not “sharing” about someone because we are concerned or care about them, we are gossiping. And we're not listening because we're wanting to intercede and pray about someone's situation. We are just plain nosy and enjoy hearing all the juicy details of other peoples business, which is no concern of ours or has nothing to do with us. Bad thing about gossip; it rarely stops with the telling to one person, but gets spread to others. Before long, the facts get misconstrued and opinions are given, and the whole episode gets blown out of proportion. None of us want others talking about us, but we seem to have no problem discussing other people.

It's easy to allow others to influence us. There is a lady I used to spend a lot of time with. She could be a lot of fun at times. But she could also be very sarcastic, opinionated, rude and a real downer. She had a low self opinion of herself, and always thought that everyone thought they were better than her. So she would overcompensate and try to be someone she wasn't. After spending the day with her, listening to her criticize and gripe about people, I would go home and feel depressed and be in a bad mood. Negative people tend to bring you down, if you are around them for any length of time. After a while, you begin to judge and be critical right along with them any time you're together.

There have been times when I have become very critical of others. It may start out as one little thing they do that bugs or upsets me. If I don't deal with it, I end up criticizing everything they do and say. It eventually gets to the point where I don't like anything about them and don't want to be around them. Is the real problem with them or me? It's with me! Sometimes they may not even be aware that I feel the way that I do. Other times, I find myself being rude, short tempered, and sarcastic when I talk to them. I get upset with myself when I act that way, and don't like myself very well. I know that my attitude and actions are not pleasing to God.

Just like the example I gave in the beginning of this devotional, if I had of cleaned up the problem when it first occurred, I would have been happier and not had to worry about cleaning up a big mess afterwards. Too often though, I choose instead to let things build up; and even “track” it into other people's lives, by telling them how I feel about the person who I have the problem with. Then that person, who wasn't even involved, “tracks” the dirt and grime into other peoples lives by telling them. Sometimes unrepairable damage, that we had no intention of doing, can end up being done.

This principle can be applied spiritually too. We may sin and not think it's big enough to bother God with, so end up not repenting for it. That opens us up for allowing bigger sins to start entering into our lives. We are a people who are so adept at making excuses and justifying our actions. Our conscience bothers us, and instead of asking God for forgiveness, we try to justify and excuse our behavior. We find someone who has done something worse than we have, and compare ourselves to them by saying, “What I've done isn't near as bad as what they've done.”

I have seen people get their feelings hurt at someone or something that happened at church. It may not even be a big deal, or may be something that was misconstrued or misunderstood. Instead of trying to get it worked out, or going to that person and talking things over, they let the situation build. Eventually they either leave the church and go elsewhere, or even may quit attending church altogether. At times, it may even cause them to have a negative view of Christianity and they decide that they want no part of it.

How much easier it would be, if we would only “clean the dirt” when it first gets tracked into our lives, instead of letting it get spread around and ground in. I get tired of vacuuming and sweeping sometimes and think, “What's the use, it's only going to get dirty again.” There have been days when I've thought about just leaving it until later, but every time I walked through the room it is a constant reminder of what I need to do. It's not going to just magically disappear on its own. Having a vacuum cleaner and broom sitting in the closet doesn't take care of the problem, until I take the initiative and put them to use.

God is the source we have to go to when we need help and forgiveness. But just having Him available, and willing to cleanse our lives and wash us white as snow, isn't enough. We have to take the initiative and go to Him and ask. Whether it's asking for forgiveness of sin, or asking for help to break a habit, or asking for a change of attitude and behavior; God will respond and clean up the mess.

Psalms 51:2 says, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Verse 7 says, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

When we allow God to wash us, we become clean in his sight. All of the old filth and grime disappear, and there are no longer spots or blemishes in our lives. We become pure and holy. It would be great if we would remain that way, but we are human and we fail and sin from time to time. Yet we can come to God as often as necessary, and He will wash us anew. It would be nice if I could do laundry and get the clothes all clean and they'd never get dirty again. But the only way that will happen, is if my husband and I never wear those garments again. But in the daily grind of life and the duties we do each day, our clothes become soiled and have to be washed anew. In the same way, it would be wonderful if we could come to God one time, when we received His gift of salvation, and never “got dirty again”. But in our daily life we do, say, and think things that are not pleasing to God. But we can come to Him as often as we need to and He will cleanse us.

My daily prayer is Psalms 51:10 and 11, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

May that be the sincere prayer of our heart each and every day.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

There are scriptures that compare the tongue to a ship's rudder. It's a pretty good analogy. The rudder is the main thing that controls the direction of a ship. Just like steering a car, the pilot has to keep adjusting the rudder to keep a course. If the pilot makes even a small change to the rudder, if it isn't fixed, can lead the ship far off course in just a few miles. In the same way, a negative comment can grow and take us far off course. That's why we have to keep making course corrections.

ON THE MENEWE:

Baked Potato Soup

6 large potatoes, peeled and diced

8 oz. Velveeta

2 chicken bouillon cubes

8 to 10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

1 stick margarine

1 bunch green onions, chopped (optional)

1 pint sour cream

salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine potatoes and bouillon cubes; add enough water to just cover. Cook over medium high heat until potatoes are tender and break easily with fork. (If my potatoes are cut in larger chunks, I use a fork and break them up some.) Do not drain water. Add butter, Velveeta, and bacon. Lower heat and simmer until cheese melts. Add green onions and sour cream; continue cooking until onions are scalded. Add salt and pepper to taste.

(This soup is almost better the next day after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat on low heat on stove top or in the microwave.)

RAM-BLING IDEAS:

As my family has grown, it has gotten harder for me to remember birthdays and anniversaries. A few years ago, I bought a calendar and went through and wrote all my families birthdays and anniversaries, and the year they were born or married, on the appropriate days. This way I can keep track of how old everyone is and how long they've been married. When I buy a new calendar each year, I go through and copy the information from the prior year. As babies are born and marriages take place, I try to remember to write that on my calendar as they occur. Then I hang the calendar someplace where I know I will look at it. When I was single, I had my calendar hanging in my bathroom beside the toilet, where I knew I would see it (hopefully) everyday. Now that I'm married and cook every day, I hang it in my kitchen on front of my refrigerator. For you really tech savvy people who want everything online and not have to deal with paper products, you can set up a calendar online with that info on it.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

When my sister and brother-in-law were youth pastors at a church in Arkansas many years ago, there was an incident that happened one Sunday that they have never forgotten. A lady got up and went to the restroom during the service. She walked back into the sanctuary and was heading back to her seat, which was about halfway up the aisle. Unknowingly to her, the end of the roll of toilet paper had got hung in her pantyhose. The roll of toilet paper was unrolling behind her as she walked, all the way from the restroom. A man sitting in the back who saw what had happened, got up and was following her down the aisle, trying to step on the toilet paper so it would tear off. He eventually stepped on it and got her “paper trail” stopped.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

If everyone were to stop and think about their words before speaking them, fewer words would be spoken.

We hope you enjoyed your New Year day, and are looking forward to everything 2008 has in store for you.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org