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

July 23, 2008

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

It's pretty much a guarantee that whenever I'm with my oldest sister, she will at some point mention something about me that happened years ago. I am the baby of my family, and am five years younger than the sister who is next to me in age, and fourteen and a half years younger than my oldest sister. I was six when my oldest nephew was born, and seven when his brother was born the following year. Over and over and over again, my oldest sister has brought up how jealous I was of them, and if someone bought something for the boys, I wanted something too. It's not like she's just mentioned this a time or two, but for over thirty years has brought it up continuously.

The thing is, I don't even remember it. When she brings it up, it's not even a vague memory in my mind. Being a little girl, I'm sure that when they got something, I wanted to get something too. I think that's pretty typical of kids. But I honestly can't remember ever being jealous of the boys or disliking them or feeling like they were infringing on my territory. More than likely, I just saw it as an opportunity to get some candy, a present or some little something given to me. I really don't know, because I have absolutely no recollection of this occurring. All I have is what has been told consistently to me over the years by the boys' mother.

The truth is, from my perspective, I have always felt like I had a special bond with these two. They spent the night at our house quite often when they were growing up. When they got older and I was living on my own, they would come over and spend the night with me. I would take them shopping and we'd do things together when they were teenagers. Even today, I have a special place in my heart for the two of them and we have a close relationship. I think growing up, in a lot of ways, they felt more like my little brothers than my nephews.

So when my sister continues to bring up my being jealous of them, it's hard for me to comprehend. At times it gets frustrating because I feel like I need to apologizing for something I don't even remember doing. I get aggravated at constantly being reminded of a past transgression that I have no memory of. Perhaps as a new mother she wanted her boys to have the family's full attention and felt that I was infringing on that. Maybe it hurt her feelings that Mama and Daddy or one of the other sisters would go ahead and do things for me, and she felt that her boys should be the only ones who were treated special. She more than likely felt that I was being spoiled, and didn't think it was fair. Whatever the case, it is obviously something that has been in the forefront of her mind all these years.

Our minds and the things we remember are amazing. I may be introduced to someone and two minutes later can't remember what their name is. I have put things in a "safe place", then when I need them can't remember where they are. Jon can hang up from a phone call and I ask what they wanted, and he can't remember what was said. Yet he can remember engineering formulas in order to do software programming, know more about computers than I'll ever care to know, and repeat lines from movies and songs that he saw or heard fifteen years ago.

There have been people who have said things that offended me or hurt my feelings, and after it's over and done with, I can move on and forget it. Other times, I can hold onto it and when I think about it years later, I still get upset. Every time that person's name is mentioned, I immediately think of what had happened in the past. Very likely, that person has no recollection of it and has forgotten about it. But I'm tightly holding onto it and have never really forgiven or moved on.

For some odd reason, we humans seem to latch onto imperfections or downfalls of others, and find humor in those things. Jokes are made about people's looks, weight, singleness and other personal aspects. It can hurt feelings and make people feel badly about themselves. It can make them feel inferior and self-conscience. And it can be very offensive.

For many years, I heard all the jokes about being single. I was asked all the questions regarding why I wasn't married or dating. It was my heart's desire to find the right man and be a wife, but for a long, long time, that didn't happen. In my heart, I knew that people were just joking around, but yet it still hurt. It made me feel like I was doing something wrong, or was undesirable. Yet I would laugh and pretend like I was fine with all the teasing.

For most of my life, I've also had countless jokes and comments made about my weight. People seem to think it's humorous to tell someone how fat they are or how bad they look. Honestly, I have known throughout the years who was just joking and meant no harm by their comments. But it's been the vicious, hurtful remarks made by those individuals who "were just trying to encourage me and help" that were offensive and hurtful. There have been remarks made to me where I can tell you exactly who said it, where I was at the time, and what was going on. They have been ingrained in my memory, because they were made by people whom I loved and trusted, and their words cut deep. Someone told me once that I would be pretty if I would lose weight. Someone else told me that the reason no guy ever asked me out for a date was because of my weight, and if I ever wanted to get married then I would have to lose weight; no man would ever marry me unless I did. I had someone buy me a membership to Weight Watchers for a high school graduation present. These are just a few out of many examples.

When you are putting other people down or making negative comments about them, you are not being funny and you're definitely not being an encouragement to them. The end result is offense, hurt feelings, making them feel badly about themselves, and destroying their self-confidence. They may laugh and pretend that they are fine with what you say, but deep down it cuts.

Proverbs 18:19 says, "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel (castle)."

Not only does offense and hurt feelings occur among family and friends, but it often occurs among church members. There are individuals who were hurt by a comment made by a pastor or fellow church member, and never attended church again. Sometimes the comment may have been distasteful and was inconsiderate of feelings or circumstances. But other times, it may have been innocently made, and the person making it may have intended a totally different context than what it was interpreted. Other times, it may have been made in jest and the person on the receiving end misunderstood or was already sensitive about the situation, so took it differently than it was intended. And some peoples' way of helping or giving advice or offering encouragement is well intended, but that is just not their area of expertise; therefore, they end up making you feel worse than you did to begin with.

Often, an individual who has been hurt will build a wall around themselves, trying to guard their heart, not wanting to get hurt again. It's like a city that builds a wall around it, trying to keep out the enemy. Or a castle that puts bars on the gates, to keep unwanted visitors away. But when a city is under attack, the walls may keep out the enemy (at least for a while), but it also keeps food supplies and other necessities from being able to get inside. It also keeps those who may be outside the city walls who need help or protection from having a safe place to go.

When we try to protect our emotions and heart from being hurt again, we also keep out a lot of the good things in life. It can keep us isolated from others, so that we don't have the support that we need when we go through difficulties. It can also keep us from reaching out and helping others who may need a friend or someone to care about them.

A few days ago, I was at my sister's house and my brother-in-law had been outside trimming a tree. It was hot out, and when he came inside, he was dirty, sweaty and stinky. He didn't want to sit on the furniture, so got a kitchen chair to sit in. Joking around, he brought the chair over right beside me and sat down. I got a whiff of him, immediately got up, and moved to another chair. He asked what was wrong, and said that he was offended because I moved away from him. I replied that I was offended that he had came over and sat that close to me when he smelled so bad. We were both laughing, and knew that the other person was just kidding around. Had he come inside and been hurt or sick and needed attention, I wouldn't have thought anything about the how he smelled or looked, and would have done what was necessary to help him. I wouldn't have pushed him away just because he was unclean and stinky. But he was just wanting to cool off, and we were joking around.

There may be times when we need to recognize when someone is teasing or joking, and not take everything so serious. I've known too may people who can tease and are very vocal about their opinions, but they can't take it in return. They will tease and joke around, but when someone tries to do the same to them, they get offended and are upset. They are very outspoken in what they say, but get their feelings hurt if someone is upfront with them. If we go through our days looking for reasons to be offended, more than likely we'll find them. I would much rather go through life looking for the blessings and enjoying the good people that God places in my life, wouldn't you?

I'm so thankful that God never carries a grudge and forgives our offenses. Some have the idea that God is sitting right beside us with a notebook, writing down every tiny mistake we make. We have a bad thought or get angry. Oh no! God is writing it all down and keeping tabs on us. They think He is just waiting to pounce on us every time we mess up so He can pronounce judgment upon us.

Honestly, God does know our every thought. He hears our every word, knows our every deed, and never takes His eyes off us. We can't hide from Him; it's impossible.

But I am so thankful for the grace and mercy of God, and His forgiveness. When we repent of our sins, He removes them from us and forgets. People may remind us of our past wrongdoings and sin, but God will never do that. He doesn't remember past offenses. He is the ultimate example of forgiving and forgetting.

Psalms 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am He who blots our your transgression for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins."

When one of my nephews was around middle school age, he had done something and got into trouble on the school bus. Afterwards, my sister sat him down and talked to him about it. She told him that his punishment was her judgment for his actions, and he had known ahead of time what that punishment was going to be. Yet she chose to give him grace, even though he deserved the punishment. He could choose to accept that grace and not ever do it again, or he could choose to face the consequences of judgment if he did.

We deserve any punishment that God would choose to mete out whenever we sin. But He chooses to offer us grace. We can accept that gift of grace and turn from sin and do those things that we know are pleasing to God, or we can choose His judgment. The Bible clearly tells us that we can have forgiveness of sins if we will only confess our sins and believe in God.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

But it also clearly states the penalty and judgment that will occur if we refuse to do so. Just as my sister couldn't force my nephew to accept her grace and to not transgress again, she gave him the choice and it was up to him to decide. God will not force Himself upon us, but He does lay the choice out before us and leaves the decision up to us. Grace or judgment; it's our choice.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I have two different things I'd like to comment on. First, I'm glad that Loretta took verses on forgiveness from the Old Testament. I can't count the number of times I've heard the Old Testament described as rigid law, and the New Testament described as forgiveness. It makes it seem almost as if God has changed from before Christ to after Christ was born. But God hasn't changed. Jesus gave us a way to receive redemption. That is, he's paid the sentence for all our blasphemy, anger, hatred, forgiveness, and other past sins. And he asks so little in return: turning away from those sins, loving God, loving our neighbor, and forgiving others.

And for the other point, I will just pass along some imagery from a popular song. A man who is heavy with regrets, asks Jesus about Psalms 103:12 (above). And Jesus describes "As far as the east is from the west" by holding out his hands as they were while he was on the cross. The song says, "From one scarred hand to the other." I can picture Jesus standing with His hands wide-spread. In one sense, He would look much like He was still on the cross. But in the other sense, He would look like He was waiting for me to come to Him for a great big hug. When I feel down for any reason, all I have to imagine is the day when I will get to hug Jesus, and it ain't so bad.

ON THE MENEWE:

Veggie Spaghetti

Put enough oil to just cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat. Cut a squash into large chunks. Slice an onion into thick rings. Put the squash and onions into the skillet and begin to saute. Add a package of fresh, sliced mushrooms. Add garlic (either fresh diced cloves or the bottled minced garlic) to the mixture (amount desired); as well as a little salt and pepper. You can also add sliced green pepper if you would like. Just as the vegetables become tender, sprinkle brown sugar over the top and stir. This will caramelize the mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes or so, then remove from heat.

Right before adding to brown sugar, you can also add wedges of tomatoes to the mixture and saute the last couple of minutes with the other ingredients.

Serve on top of cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

For better results, just after straining the spaghetti, add butter.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

One snack food that I absolutely hate is pork rinds. I think they just taste nasty. Several years ago I was at Silver Dollar City with a couple of my cousins, and one of them insisted that I taste a pork rind that they had sitting out as samples. They cook them fresh and have a bowl sitting on the counter for people to taste-test. I told my cousin that I did not like pork rinds and she said it was only because I had never had good ones, and supposedly these were the best. Finally, I gave in to her nagging and took a bite. It about made me sick. It felt like the pork rind kept growing inside my mouth and I couldn't swallow it. I believe that I finally spit it out into a napkin.

This past weekend, my husband and I went to Silver Dollar City. We walked past the area where a man was frying pork rinds and I asked Jon if he liked them. He said he had never had good ones, so wasn't sure. We were sharing a funnel cake and I told Jon that if he was going to taste the pork rinds, he might want to do it before we finished up the funnel cake. That way if he didn't like it, he wouldn't be stuck with that taste in his mouth. He took a bit of the pork rind and chewed...and chewed. I asked if he liked it and he said, "NO!" He was glad we still had a little funnel cake and some pop left to wash the taste out of his mouth.

I was telling one of my other sisters about it. She and her husband recently went to Silver Dollar City with my oldest sister and her husband. My oldest brother-in-law had bought a big bagful of pork rinds while they were there and ate and ate them. She said she took a bite because she had never tasted them, and told him she thought they were nasty.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

I received this email and thought this story was pretty awesome. This story is a little long, and I normally don't share things of this length (except for what I write), but thought this well worth taking the time to read and consider. It made me question how I would have responded to this situation... or if I would have responded at all. Honestly, I don't think I would have responded as the lady in this story did.

*HAIRBRUSH EXPERIENCE OF BETH MOORE AT THE AIRPORT*

For those of you who do not know Beth Moore, she is an outstanding speaker and Bible teacher, and the author of several excellent Bible studies. She and her husband of a number of years live in Texas and have two grown daughters.

This is one of her experience:

April 20, 2005, at the Airport in Knoxville , waiting to board the plane, I had the Bible on my lap and was very intent upon what I was doing. I'd had a marvelous morning with the Lord. I say this because I want to tell you it is a scary thing to have the Spirit of God really working in you. You could end up doing some things you never would have done otherwise. Life in the Spirit can be dangerous for a thousand reasons not the least of which is your ego.

I tried to keep from staring, but he was such a strange sight. Humped over in a wheelchair, he was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that obviously fit when he was at least twenty pounds heavier. His knees protruded from his trousers, and his shoulders looked like the coat hanger was still in his shirt. His hands looked like tangled masses of veins and bones.

The strangest part of him was his hair and nails. Stringy, gray hair hung well over his shoulders and down part of his back. His fingernails were long; clean, but strangely out of place on an old man.

I looked down at my Bible as fast as I could, discomfort burning my face. As I tried to imagine what his story might have been, I found myself wondering if I'd just had a Howard Hughes sighting. Then, I remembered that he was dead. So this man in the airport....an impersonator maybe? Was a camera on us somewhere? There I sat; trying to concentrate on the Word to keep from being concerned about a thin slice of humanity served on a wheelchair only a few seats from me. All the while, my heart was growing more and more overwhelmed with a feeling for him.

Let's admit it. Curiosity is a heap more comfortable than true concern, and suddenly I was awash with aching emotion for this bizarre-looking old man.

I had walked with God long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. I've learned that when I begin to feel what God feels, something so contrary to my natural feelings, something dramatic is bound to happen. And it may be embarrassing.

I immediately began to resist because I could feel God working on my spirit and I started arguing with God in my mind. "Oh, no, God, please, no." I looked up at the ceiling as if I could stare straight through it into heaven and said, "Don't make me witness to this man. Not right here and now. Please. I'll do anything. Put me on the same plane, but don't make me get up here and witness to this man in front of this gawking audience. Please, Lord!"

There I sat in the blue vinyl chair begging His Highness, "Please don't make me witness to this man. Not now. I'll do it on the plane." Then I heard it... "I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to brush his hair."

The words were so clear, my heart leapt into my throat, and my thoughts spun like a top. Do I witness to the man or brush his hair? No-brainier. I looked straight back up at the ceiling and said, "God, as I live and breathe, I want you to know I am ready to witness to this man. I'm on this Lord. I'm your girl! You've never seen a woman witness to a man faster in your life. What difference does it make if his hair is a mess if he is not redeemed? I am going to witness to this man."

Again as clearly as I've ever heard an audible word, God seemed to write this statement across the wall of my mind. "That is not what I said. Beth, I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to go brush his hair."

I looked up at God and quipped, "I don't have a hairbrush. It's in my suitcase on the plane. How am I supposed to brush his hair without a hairbrush?" God was so insistent that I almost involuntarily began to walk toward him as these thoughts came to me from God's word: "I will thoroughly furnish you unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:17)

I stumbled over to the wheelchair thinking I could use one myself. Even as I retell this story, my pulse quickens and I feel those same butterflies. I knelt down in front of the man and asked as demurely as possible, "Sir, may I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?"

He looked back at me and said, "What did you say?"

"May I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?"

To which he responded in volume ten, "Little lady, if you expect me to hear you, you're going to have to talk louder than that."

At this point, I took a deep breath and blurted out, "SIR, MAY I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF BRUSHING YOUR HAIR?"

At which point every eye in the place darted right at me. I was the only thing in the room looking more peculiar than old Mr. Longlocks. Face crimson and forehead breaking out in a sweat, I watched him look up at me with absolute shock on his face, and say, "If you really want to." Are you kidding? Of course I didn't want to. But God didn't seem interested in my personal preference right about then. He pressed on my heart until I could utter the words, "Yes, sir, I would be pleased. But I have one little problem. I don't have a hairbrush." "I have one in my bag, "he responded.

I went around to the back of that wheelchair, and I got on my hands and knees and unzipped the stranger's old carry-on, hardly believing what I was doing. I stood up and started brushing the old man's hair. It was perfectly clean, but it was tangled and matted. I don't do many things well, but must admit I've had notable experience untangling knotted hair mothering two little girls. Like I'd done with either Amanda or Melissa in such a condition, I began brushing at the very bottom of the strands, remembering to take my time not to pull.

A miraculous thing happened to me as I started brushing that old man's hair. Everybody else in the room disappeared. There was no one alive for those moments except that old man and me. I brushed and I brushed and I brushed until every tangle was out of that hair. I know this sounds so strange, but I've never felt that kind of love for another soul in my entire life. I believe with all my heart, I -- for that few minutes -- felt a portion of the very love of God. That He had overtaken my heart for a little while like someone renting a room and making Himself at home for a short while.

The emotions were so strong and so pure that I knew they had to be God's. His hair was finally as soft and smooth as an infant's.

I slipped the brush back in the bag and went around the chair to face him. I got back down on my knees, put my hands on his knees and

said, "Sir, do you know my Jesus?"

He said, "Yes, I do." Well, that figures, I thought.

He explained, "I've known Him since I married my bride. She wouldn't marry me until I got to know the Savior." He said, "You see, the problem is, I haven't seen my bride in months. I've had open-heart surgery, and she's been too ill to come see me. I was sitting here thinking to myself, what a mess I must be for my bride."

Only God knows how often He allows us to be part of a divine moment when we're completely unaware of the significance. This, on the other hand, was one of those rare encounters when I knew God had intervened in details only He could have known. It was a God moment, and I'll never forget it. Our time came to board, and we were not on the same plane. I was deeply ashamed of how I'd acted earlier and would have been so proud to have accompanied him on that aircraft.

I still had a few minutes, and as I gathered my things to board, the airline hostess returned from the corridor, tears streaming down her cheeks. She said, "That old man's sitting on the plane, sobbing. Why did you do that? What made you do that?"

I said, "Do you know Jesus? He can be the bossiest thing!"

And we got to share.

I learned something about God that day. He knows if you're exhausted, you're hungry, you're serving in the wrong place or it is time to move on but you feel too responsible to budge. He knows if you're hurting or feeling rejected. He knows if you're sick or drowning under a wave of temptation. Or He knows if you just need your hair brushed. He sees you as an individual. Tell Him your need!

I got on my own flight, sobs choking my throat, wondering how many opportunities just like that one had I missed along the way. . . all because I didn't want people to think I was strange. God didn't send me to that old man. He sent that old man to me.

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Life shouldn't be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly shouting, "Wow! What a ride! Thank You, Lord!"

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org