"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!'"
October 15, 2008
The past couple of summers since I've stopped being a career woman, I've taken care of our yard. I do the mowing, gardening, and whatever else needs done outdoors. By spending so much time outside, I've made a lot of observations about our neighbors. Our backyard is surrounded by the yards of other houses. We can see into the backyard of the three houses directly behind us, then the yards of the neighbors on either side of us. There is a street running in front of our house, then we can see into the front yards of the houses directly across from us. Several people living around us are friendly, but mostly we just wave at one another when we happen to be outside at the same time; we don't particularly talk to each other very often.
I have learned and observed several things about our neighbors, from my time spent outdoors. We've talked to the people directly behind us. The man's family lived there when Jon was growing up, so he and Jon know one another. He got married the same year as us, but went to India and met and married his bride there. He knew her brother beforehand, due to him already living in the states, and it was basically an arranged marriage. I've talked to the wife, and she is very friendly and nice, but it's hard to understand her English at times. I've learned that she enjoys flowers and working with plants; and the husband enjoys talking.
We can also see into the backyard of the house adjoining that particular neighbor. They have a workroom of sorts on the back of their house that the husband seems to use as his space. He's outdoors quite often in the evenings and weekends. A few months ago, he took up the electric guitar and we hear him practicing all the time... and he likes to crank up the volume! He also likes watching sports. Jon and I were recently sitting outside on a Sunday afternoon and saw this man standing in the doorway to his workshop. All of a sudden he let loose a yell, and started hollering at the TV. He was really involved in the game and was totally engrossed. I doubt that he realized he had an audience sitting there watching him; or perhaps he didn't really care.
On one side of us is a family who has two big rotweiller dogs. This summer they put a wooden privacy fence around their backyard, so that does give us a sense of privacy, at least on one side of us. We probably talk to this family more than any of our other neighbors, which isn't very often. We know that she's a nurse and he's in real estate. Their three grown kids still live at home. The two girls seem to be quieter and keep to themselves, but the son is very friendly and we've talked to him some.
On the other side of us is a man who lives alone. He seems to be a bit of a hermit. But finally this summer he has started waving occasionally if we happen to be outside at the same time. I've talked to him one time in the year or so that he's lived there, and Jon has never talked to him. His parents inherited the house, and they come fairly often to work around the house and do most of the mowing and yard work. They told us one time that this house was just a hobby for them to work on. If I'm mowing when the parents happen to stop by, and their yard hasn't been mowed in a few days, I can always count on the fact that the dad will get on his riding mower and mow before they leave.
A neighbor two doors down has a radio in her shed and likes to play oldie country music really loud, when she's out working or sitting outside.
A family lives right across the street from us. The father and son are friendly, and will wave when they see us. We have no idea what the man's name is, but call him the "car guy". He drives a corvette, and fixes up and sells older cars. Cars seem to be his passion and something that he really enjoys.
I think you get the picture, that you become familiar with your neighbors and can pick up things about them by observing. Whether or not you actually spend time with those that live around you, after a few years of living in a specific place, you learn things about them. Even though none of us hang out or spend time together, we've become informally acquainted by seeing one another come and go.
I looked up the word neighbor in the dictionary. It says, "A person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to: a person or place in relation to others or next to it: any person in need of one's help or kindness (after biblical use)."
We are all aware of what neighbors are, in the sense of those living near or next door to us. That's a term commonly used, and we're all familiar with the meaning and context. But the Bible carries the word "neighbor" another step further.
On a side note, the morning that I was planning to begin working on this devotional, my husband asked if I knew yet what subject I was going to write about. I was joking around and told him that I was going to write from Leviticus. That was the first book from the Bible that popped into my head while we were talking. We were laughing, for at that time, I actually had no idea what I was going to write this week. I told Jon that Leviticus would probably be one of the last books I'd choose to get my scripture from; after all, what could possibly be in there to write about! As I was praying, I began thinking about the subject of neighbors, and started looking up references in the Bible. Guess where the first scripture I came across was from? You've got it! It's in Leviticus!!
We find that the Lord was speaking to Moses and giving him laws for the people to live by. Many people will try to disregard all of these laws today, saying that when Jesus came, the laws became of no effect. The laws of sacrifice and things regarding that did change when Jesus died and became the sacrifice for our sins. But there are other commandments, given by God to Moses for the people, that is still in effect for us to live by. After all, if all those laws and commandments were no longer valid, then that would make the 10 commandments void; and we are still required to honor and live by those today.
In Leviticus chapter 19, God tells Moses a few things regarding your neighbor. Verse 13 says, "You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him." Verse 15 says, "You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor." Verse 16, "You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor. I am the Lord." It continues on in verses 17 and 18. "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."
Hmm, we find verse 18 repeated in the New Testament. In Matthew 22:35-39, Jesus is being tested by the Pharisees, and one of them asks him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
In Luke chapter 10, we find Jesus teaching. Starting in verse 25 it says, "And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" Jesus answered by asking him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"
The lawyer responded, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"
Jesus told him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
But the lawyer wanted to justify himself, and said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus taught many times by using parables. They told a story that the people could relate to, and made it easier for them to understand the message that He was trying to teach them. So Jesus began telling this lawyer a parable.
"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. Now a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him,'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"
And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Romans 13:8 says, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law." Then verses 9 and 10 continue, "... and if there is is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."
There are numerous verses in the New Testament that speaks of our need to love one another. It's not just a suggestion, but Jesus was serious when he commanded that we were to love others as we love ourselves.
That's a love that looks out for the needs of others, and doesn't just respond by saying, "Oh that's too bad," then go on our way without responding. This is a love that requires us to take action.
1 John 3:18 says, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
It's easy to say that we care for others. But we have our own agenda and become busy in our own personal pursuits and interests. We hear or are made aware of someone needing help, and pass it off by thinking, "I can't help everyone! Someone else will take care of it." If we're not careful, we become harden to the plights of others and become self-centered. We can justify it by saying, "Well, I had such and such happen to me, and no one reached out to me or did anything to help." But we are called to love, and that often requires us to do things we may not want to do. We may have to give up some of our time and put forth some effort. It's not enough just to say we love others, but it requires action on our part.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, we see that the man who had been beaten, had been passed by twice. Here was a man who was lying by the roadside, bleeding and dying, yet two men went around him not wanting to get involved. The man who did stop, was busy himself and had a destination that he was trying to get to. Yet he took the time to bandage and treat the wounds. But he didn't just leave it at that. He loaded the hurt man up onto his donkey, took him to an inn and cared for him overnight. Then he went above and beyond those acts of kindness, and paid the innkeeper to care for the wounded man; promising to come back by on his return, and repay the man for any additional expense that may have occurred. That's being a true neighbor and showing mercy.
Several years ago, I was driving by myself from Missouri to Austin, Texas to visit my sister and her family. This was back before cells phones were so prominent. She had moved to a different house from the previous time I had been there, so I was unsure how far I was away from my exit, when I had a blowout on a back tire. I was on the interstate and there were no businesses, houses, or exits close by. I felt like I was out in the middle of nowhere. I was earlier time-wise than I had told them to expect me, so knew my sister and brother-in-law wouldn't worry about me or come looking for me for at least two or three hours. I was sitting beside the road, desperately praying and trying not to cry. Traffic was whizzing by and truckers would honk (which was making me mad!). I knew that I couldn't just stay there. I had never changed a tire before, but knew I had to at least try. I began unloading luggage out of my trunk, so that I could get to my spare. I saw a really nice luxury-type car pass by, then they pulled over and backed up to where I was. An older couple got out, and they looked like they were probably fairly wealthy. He was in a suit and tie, and she was in a really nice dress and heels. They were on their way to a wedding. He changed my tire for me. She told me that when they saw me, she told him, "You can't resist stopping and helping her can you?" He responded that no, he couldn't. He told me that they had daughters of their own, and if one of his girls was stranded beside the road with a flat tire, he hoped that someone would be nice enough to stop and help them.
I will never forget that incident. Here was a couple who had their own agenda, and definitely weren't dressed to stop beside the road and change a flat tire. Yet they responded in kindness and love, and weren't afraid to get a little dirty. They even followed me to my exit, which ended up only being a couple miles away. They didn't know me or anything about me, but that didn't hinder them from taking time to stop and offer their help. Numerous others had passed by without giving me a second thought nor offering to help. I will always be grateful for my "Good Samaritans" who had compassion on me. This couple were true neighbors.
Remember, the dictionary definition for the biblical sense of neighbor is, "any person in need of one's help or kindness". I know that I need to be more diligent in being a better neighbor. I need to be more aware of those that I come into contact with, and be willing to give help or show kindness. I believe that it's not always the big stuff that we do that matters so much, but sometimes it's the small things that really count. It's listening and responding to the Holy Spirit, when He impresses us to respond to the need of someone or do a deed of kindness. Not making excuses or putting off what we feel we should do; but being willing to stop what we're doing and act. It may require our finances, time, or resources; but it also may require something as simple as offering a smile and word of encouragement, fixing a meal or baking cookies, sending a card or making a phone call, etc.
Jon and I went to Missouri for the weekend a while back. During that particular trip, we had left on a Friday evening and didn't arrive back home until late Sunday. We get the weekend edition of the newspaper, and hadn't even thought about the fact that both the Saturday and Sunday papers would be left lying out on our driveway, until we got back home. When we arrived home, we didn't see any newspapers in our driveway or yard. We thought that was a little strange, because we should have had two of them. I happened to look up by our front door, and saw that someone had picked them up for us and laid them on our front porch. We aren't sure which neighbor did that for us, but it was nice that they saw the papers and put them on our porch, so that people passing by wouldn't see them and know we were gone. Sometimes it's the thoughtful acts that sets us apart as being a good neighbor; to both those living around us, and those we may come in contact with elsewhere.
It's my desire to take each and every opportunity that God lays in my path and be a true biblical neighbor. May each of us be aware of those around us and fulfill the commandment to, "love our neighbor as ourself."
I recently joined a conversation between a Christian and someone else with some very confused ideas. He had built up most of his theology from movies and hearsay.
He is one of many people who feels that he has to earn his way into heaven. It seems to be a common misconception. But the fact is, Jesus offers forgiveness freely. But we do have a duty to respect that gift and treat it well. We do need to share it with others, and obey God. It isn't that we have to buy our way to forgiveness or earn points. But it's a show of thanksgiving and a matter of honor.
He also thought that any kind of spirituality was enough to earn a route to heaven. It isn't a new idea. There are many who think that every god that people worship are the same as The God of Abraham. But God is the same today, yesterday, and forever, and He doesn't change from a God who makes "love your neighbor as yourself" the second most important commandment to a god who tells his disciples to lie, cheat, steal, and murder as many others as you can.
Satan is jealous. He wants nothing more than to take away from anyone's devotion and love for God. He can use all sorts of deception to achieve that, including convincing people that they can get to heaven by any route. Satan has been deceiving people for around six thousand years, and he's learned far more tricks than we could ever come up with. And enough of his tricks are very convincing. Just look around at how many people have been convinced.
This is the time of year where the temperatures start getting cooler, and I start thinking about cooking soups and chili. I think everyone has their own variety of chili recipe. I remember my mom used to make a big pot of pinto beans (or brown beans as we called them), and would make chili out of the leftovers. She would brown her hamburger with some onion; then would drain it and add to the beans. She also had a big garden and would can tomatoes and use those in the chili, as well as adding chili seasoning. I made my chili like that for years, and still do occasionally (well, except for the home canned tomatoes).
But more times than not, I most generally buy canned beans and make my chili that way now. My stomach can't handle eating brown beans very well anymore (just thought you might want to know that!); at least not very often. I don't use a particular recipe for my chili, but just add whatever comes to mind at the time; sometimes it more spicier than others, depending on my mood at the time. I usually just buy a few cans of different kinds of beans (pinto, ranch-style, kidney, black, pork-n-beans); whatever looks good at the time that I'm buying them. I put put them in the crockpot; brown hamburger with some onion and add to the pot. Then you can now buy cans of diced tomatoes that already has the chili seasoning in them. So that's what I do. If I want the chili spicier, I add a couple cans of rotel tomatoes. Last time when I was buying the beans, I saw a can of Bush's baked beans that had brown sugar and bacon in them. So I threw that in. It gave the chili kind of sweet/spicy flavor. The thing about chili is that you really can't mess it up.
And I cannot make just a small batch! I don't mind using the canned chili to use on hot dogs, but don't particularly like it for eating a bowl of chili. I prefer the homemade for that. So what to do with all that chili?! We eat it the traditional way with crackers. But to change it up, we will have chili dogs; I'll buy a package of Frito's and make Frito pie; a new variety I've learned since moving to Oklahoma is to cook up spaghetti noodles and pour chili over the top and have chili spaghetti.
Of course you can't forget the toppings! On our chili dogs we just use mustard and cheese. But pretty much any other way, we top it with sour cream and shredded cheese. Sour cream and cheese makes almost anything taste better!
You can always freeze part of the chili in a freezer-proof container, and thaw it out for later use too.
This past weekend, I decided to be a good wife and give my husband some time alone. I get alone time during the week, but Jon rarely gets anytime to himself; and having that time is something that we both need occasionally. I ran some errands, then when I got home decided to go upstairs and read for a while. Jon was downstairs playing computer games and watching a movie that I had absolutely no interest in -- it was one of those sci-fi flicks.
I got settled with my book and glass of iced tea on the love seat in our bedroom, when I started hearing this beeping noise. I thought perhaps Jon had left his PALM or cell phone on the chest in our walk-in closet and one of them had an alarm going off. But when I got up to check, neither device was upstairs. I hollered downstairs and asked Jon if he was working on something that was beeping. Nope, he didn't hear anything. The beeping was real sporadic and had no pattern to it whatsoever. Jon came upstairs and was helping me try to figure out where it was coming from. Jon checked the hall closet where our alarm system and other things are connected, but couldn't hear it in there. It sounded like it was somewhere in our master bathroom or closet. We would go into the closet and it would sound like it was coming from the bathroom. We'd go into the bathroom and it would sound like it was coming from the closet. Wherever we stood, it would sound like it was coming from the opposite direction. We looked for probably ten or fifteen minutes before we were able to locate the source. Jon finally opened the shower door and stuck his head inside to look around, and thankfully the beeping noise went off again.
I have one of those Scrubbing Bubbles automatic shower cleaners inside our shower. The batteries were getting low in it, and that was what was beeping. This is the first time that the batteries have needed changed, and I had no idea that it would beep; I just thought it would stop working when I pushed the button to spray the cleaner. The beeping was vibrating and echoing off the tiles inside the shower, which was making the noise sound like it was moving around and coming from a different direction from wherever we were standing. It was funny after we found out the source of the beeping, but had been rather frustrating during our search.
"Too many people work up a head of steam before they know what's cooking." - unknown
We hope everyone is enjoying this fall season.
We love you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.
Loretta & Jon