"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!'"
July 9, 2008
Several members of my family all got together to celebrate Independence Day at our family home in Missouri. My oldest nephew had brought a metal kiddie car that you can sit in and push, for his young nephew (Winston) to play with. The car looked like an old black police car, and he could climb inside and push himself. There were pedals he could use, but Winston wouldn't use them and would use his feet instead. When he wanted to change directions, he would just stand up, pick up the car, and turn around.
On Saturday afternoon, Jon and I were sitting outside when Winston came out of the house, climbed in the car, said he wasn't coming back, and headed up the road. Winston is two-and-a-half years old. The house is at the end of a fairly rough and rocky dirt road. He started pushing himself up the road. His dad, Brian, came outside and I told him that his son was running away from home.
Brian got on one of the 4-wheelers and rode up next to Winston and asked if he wanted to race. He would rev up the motor and go a foot or so, then wait for Winston to catch up. It was hard for Winston to sit down and push himself with his feet over the rough road, so occasionally he would just pick the whole car up and walk. You could tell by the expression on his face that he thought he was really doing something big. He was very serious and diligent about "riding" along beside his dad. They went several feet up the road before Brian was able to talk him into turning around and coming back to the house. It was quite a ways for a little boy riding in a toy car. Winston's mom ended up putting his feet on top of the pedals and ran behind the car, pushing him so they could "win the race with Daddy".
I wondered what was going through Winston's mind when he climbed into the car and headed up the road. There were a couple of 4-wheelers that the "big kids" had been riding up and down the road all day, so perhaps he had seen them doing that and wanted to be big like them. One of my other sisters had a couple of her granddaughters at the house and they had been playing with the car, so maybe he wanted to play with the car and didn't like them riding in it. Perhaps he was tired of going up and down the sidewalk in front of the house and wanted to go on a longer ride. It could have been that he was just tired and sleepy and frustrated of so many people being around, and wanted to get away from everyone and all the noise.
Regardless of the reason, he was determined to ride his car up the road. His dad was able to sidetrack him and make it a game; yet even then, he had a purpose in mind and he was going to go for a ride. You could see him looking over at the 4-wheeler and watching it as he was slowly moving his little kiddie car along side it. All the adults knew that there was no way that he could possibly go faster than the big 4-wheeler with a motor. But Winston didn't know that. He thought he was racing his dad and was fulling concentrating on his task. At that time, all he saw was that his dad was riding with him. It kind of reminded me of the tortoise and the hare. He was so adorable and it was one of those moments that I'll remember for a long, long time.
Earlier in the day, my cousin's son, who is probably around age ten, had seen us all riding the 4-wheelers up and down the road, so had got on his grandpa's 4-wheeler and started riding too. I'm sure he felt like he had a bunch of buddies who were playing with him. My sister, Shirley, was going to take a ride up the road and he saw her coming, so stopped to wait on her. Just as she got to where he was, we could hear him holler and ask if she wanted to race. She doesn't like to go very fast, so said no. But they took a ride together to the end of the dirt road and back anyway. He had seen us riding double on the 4-wheelers and apparently wanted someone to ride with him, so asked the neighbor lady across from his house (who is another cousin's wife) if she wanted him to give her a ride. Later, one of my nephews asked if he wanted to race him. His mom told me later that the boy's dad had seen him going too faster earlier, and told him to either slow down or park it. So when they raced, my nephew said the boy rode really slow. I'm sure he was afraid his dad would see him and he'd have to go inside and stop riding.
In our society, we think of a race as a contest where you see who can go the fastest. The winner is whoever can run the fastest, or who has the faster car, etc. But in the Bible, it speaks of our life being a race and it has a different meaning altogether.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, now does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."
Hebrews 12:1 says, "... let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance (endurance) the race marked out for us (that is is set before us)."
The race of life is not one where we try to outdo each other, to see who's the better person or who can obtain the most wealth or have the most accomplishments; at least it shouldn't be that way. It's not one where we are in a contest with others to see who can reach the end first. We're not to rush through life, being so single minded that we lose sight of the purpose that God desires us to accomplish and fulfill with the time allotted us. I've heard the saying many times that someone is "so spiritually minded that they're of no earthly good". We are to live our life the way that God would desire us to, but should never be superficial in our spirituality where we ignore the needs of others around us.
I've known individuals who spend all their time at church and devote their entire life to working and serving at the church (I'm not speaking of pastors). It's not necessarily ministry that they are involved in, but it has become a lifestyle based on "works". Their spirituality is based on how many hours they spend at church each day or each week, or how many positions they hold in the church. Jesus very clearly speaks that we are to be a light to those round about us and go into the world and tell others about Him. If we only spend time at church and home, how are we to minister to others and be an example to the lost? If the only people we ever come in contact with are those from church, how can we to reach out and minister to those who need God in their life?
Christians have no choice but to be in the world, but we are not to partake in the sins of the world. God has not called us to isolate ourselves from the world or to only join together with other believers. We are not to be clannish and make unbelievers feel that they are beneath us or that we are better than they are. We are to love and walk in love. If necessary, we're to get dirty while we clean the wounds of the hurting. We may have to leave our comfort zone.
The race we're to run is a steadfast, ongoing walk with God, until He calls us home. It's a race where we stay focused on Jesus and our ultimate goal of Heaven, lest we lose focus of the finish line and become distracted by the cares and sin that so easily besets us.
Just as Winston had his dad along beside him to help him and watch over him, we have our Heavenly Father who promises to never leave or forsake us. During the race that we must run here on earth, we are never alone. God is always by our side, protecting and caring for us.
Some people are only given a short span of time upon this earth, and their journey is over very quickly. Others can be compared more to the tortoise. They are given many years of life, and it's a slow race that takes a while to finish. Yet they are assured that the finish line is somewhere ahead of them, even though they're not sure exactly where it is, or how long it will take to get there. But they never lose hope or faith; but step-by-step, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, they run the race with perseverance and endurance.
There may be times when others pass us by and finish their journey quicker then we do. But if we will remain faithful to God, and walk steadfastly in the way that He has laid before us, we will be able to one day say with Paul:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing."
There are times in a Christian's life when it is good to spend as much time in church as possible. It may be when they are new, and don't have the strength to spend time with old friends or at old places that will nag and tempt them away from Christ. Or it may be when they have been weakened by circumstances, life, and persecution. It's a good safe place, and a good way to build up some strength. But this isn't supposed to be how we spend our entire lives. Just as a baby builds up its strength on milk, then grows out of it, we should build up our strength, but move on to meat. I don't mean we should abandon church, or give up service. I only mean that we can't hide out at church forever.
Hebrews 5:12-14 says, "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partakes of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil."
½ cup margarine/butter
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts
Blend flour and margarine in 9x13-inch baking pan. When well-blended, pat out to cover bottom of pan. Scatter and press chopped nuts into crust. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 until lightly browned. Let crust cool thoroughly.
1 cup Cool Whip
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (8oz.) pkg. Cream Cheese
In mixing bowl, cream softened cream cheese with the powdered sugar. Then blend Cool Whip with creamy mixture. Spread over the cooled crust.
1 large pkg. Instant chocolate pudding mix
Mix per directions on back of package.
Note: Can use any flavor of instant pudding desired.
Spread a layer of Cool Whip. Sprinkle top with chopped nuts. Chill in refrigerator a couple hours before serving. Store any leftovers in refrigerator.
Correction: Last week I had wrote that Daddy didn't buy firecrackers for my sisters and me. Apparently, I was mistaken! My three oldest sisters told me that they remember him buying fireworks for them when they were little. I asked Janie (who is the sister just older than me) and Daddy didn't buy fireworks for her either, so he must have stopped after his third daughter. Either he was older by the time Janie and I came along and didn't enjoy them himself by then, or there were more kids and he didn't have the money to spend for fireworks. Either way, he never bought the two of us any firecrackers, and I was unaware that he had bought them for my older sisters! We got gypped! The first ones I ever remember seeing or playing with was when I was probably five or six years old. We went to visit my mom's brother, Kenneth, and his family, and his oldest son and family were there. The son had bought sparklers for his two boys and I got to play with one. The first ones Janie remembers are firecrackers and snakes (ones you light and they grow and move like a snake) her cousin, Danny had. His family would camp out and Daddy and Mama would go where they were to visit. Don't you feel sorry for us?! (smile)
This year, on the Thursday night before July 4th, Jon and I and a couple of my sisters and their husbands went to our family property in Missouri and spent the night. A couple nephews and a niece also got there around midnight and stayed. It started pouring rain and storming after Jon and I arrived, and lasted until later the next morning. The original plan had been to pitch a tent and sleep outdoors, but the weather prevented that from happening. We were smart enough to realize that. But my oldest sister and her husband had arrived earlier that afternoon and had their camp (more like their own little compound) set up behind the house. Around 10:00 my brother-in-law said he was going to bed and went outside to his campsite. My other sister and I tried our best to talk our oldest sister into staying inside and sleeping in the house since it was so stormy. (Have you ever tried to talk older folk into doing something when they already have a plan in their head? It's pert near impossible!) Nothing doing, but she was going to sleep outside in the tent with her husband.
So a little later she headed outside. She got bedded down inside the tent, only to realized there was a leak right over where she was sleeping, which resulted in a drip right on top of her. Her husband had already laid there earlier and moved over when it started dripping. So she got up, got back out in the rain again, and came into the house to sleep.
The moral to this story is: The older are not necessarily always the wiser! Sometimes it pays to listen and pay heed to the younger siblings.
"Don't take yourself so seriously; no one else does."
We love you!
Loretta & Jon