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 7, 2009

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

On New Year's day all of my sisters, several brothers-in-law and nephews and nieces all went to our family home in Missouri to spend the day. My sister, Janie, and Devin rode there with me and Jon. Devin is a six-year old deaf boy of whom Janie and Jimmy have guardianship. He does still maintain a relationship with his mother, but spends most of his time with my sister and her family. Devin is full of energy and definitely all boy.

He found a stick that was probably six to eight feet long, which was his favorite toy when we were at our place in Lampe. If he happened to lay it down and lose it, he would find another one that was at least that long, and carry it around. We took several pictures while we were there, and in most of them Devin had that big stick in his hand. There was a remote control truck that he played with some, and he would work and work to get the stick to stay in the back of the truck.

That afternoon Jon, some of my nephews, a niece and Devin all walked down to the bottom of the holler where the spring is. After they returned back to the house, one of my nephews came inside, and told us this version of what had occurred right before coming back to the house:

He turned to Devin and asked if he was ready to come back to the house, and Devin took off as fast as he could go, straight up the opposite hillside from where the house is. Instead of following the road, he was going through the trees and up the hillside. At the top of that hillside are some houses and the highway; which is quite a ways away and would have been quite a hike to get there. But Justin took off after Devin (remember that he is deaf, so hollering at him to come back doesn't work), trying to catch him and get him headed in the right direction. The leaves were thick and you couldn't tell what you were stepping on. Every once in a while Devin would glance around, just enough to make sure that Justin was still following him, but before Justin could motion for him to stop and come back, he would take off again. His young little legs were running up the hillside, and Justin was having a hard time catching him. Jon and the others were standing on the road below, laughing at them. Finally, Justin caught up with Devin and got him turned around and back on the right path to the house. As Justin was telling us this, my sisters and I were all laughing and giving him "advice" on what he should have done; which he didn't particularly appreciate at that time. Of course, my other nephews and niece, who had been with him, were laughing too. At the time, Justin didn't think that it was quite as humorous as the rest of us did. It's not that he was upset with Devin, but he is quite a few years older and a little more out of shape than Devin, and was out of breath after the chase. Jon was outside with the other guys, and didn't hear Justin's rendition of the story.

On the way home I asked Jon about it, and this is his more detailed account of what had happened:

Earlier, Jon and the others were playing around at building a dam in the stream, and Justin climbed up that opposite hillside and was sitting on an outcropping of rocks watching them. Devin asked Jon if he could go up by where Justin was, and he told him yes. After Devin started up there, Justin told Jon that the leaves were deep and it was hard to see what you were stepping on, so Jon got Devin's attention and told him to come back down. A little later, Justin came back down to where the others were and asked Devin is he was ready to go. Devin thought that Justin meant, "Are you ready to go to where I was sitting," and that Justin was going to take him up there. So he took off at a run, and was turning around enough to make sure that Justin was following him. He didn't know that Justin meant, "Are you ready to go back to the house." He had no idea that he was doing anything wrong or that he was going the wrong direction. Devin was having fun climbing up the hillside, and in his mind, Justin was taking him up to the outcropping of rocks. He was oblivious that he had gone the wrong way. When they finally got his attention and headed back towards the house, he probably thought, "Okay. I must have climbed high enough, and now they all want to go back to where the others are." It was no big deal to him. He was just carefree and having a good time.

When Jon told Janie and me the whole story, it made more sense. We understood why Devin reacted as he had. When we had asked Justin why Devin had started running away from them, he said he didn't know. So we were a little confused, but thought that he was just being a typical little 6-year old boy, who was adventurous and full of energy.

I was thinking about this incident and two different thoughts came to mind. The first one was of how we hear something, and immediately jump to conclusions. It was easy to hear Justin's version, and immediately think that Devin had ran up the hillside, away from the others, without asking permission and for no apparent reason. So as my sisters and I listened to him tell us about the incident, we all jumped to our own conclusions. Later after talking to Jon, I realized that some of the conclusions that I had come to were inaccurate. When Jon explained the whole scenario, it all made sense and was very clear why Devin reacted as he had. I understood, and had to readjust my earlier wrongful thinking.

How many times have we all jumped to conclusions? We hear a rumor, and put our own spin on it. Or we think we know something, and really don't, but let our mind wander and make all sorts of assumptions. Also, when someone comes to us and wants to talk to us privately or confide in us, it's easy to let that stroke our ego and make us feel good that they would choose us to "share" their situation with. But more times than not, we end up drawing one-sided conclusions from the conversation, and offering well-intentioned advice that is not what they truly need to hear, nor is it an appropriate response for what had truly taken place.

Too often, in our attempt to be helpful and sympathetic, we tell people things to try and make them feel better. But it may be against what God is trying to do in their life. And not knowing both sides of the situation, we may be taking the wrong person's side and offering opinions that are totally wrong.

I've learned over the years, that when someone is doing something wrong or are feeing guilty over their actions, they will go to someone whom they know will listen and offer a sympathetic ear, to pour their woes out. They want someone who will take their side. And so many times, we'll tell them what they want to hear in order to try and make them feel better. But we're really not doing them any favors.

I have seen people take sides in a situation that's totally hearsay, and get upset with people that were their friends, or a pastor, or a family member, etc. Their mentality is, "Well, if so and so told me this is what happened, then it must be true!" And they will then be upset with people whom have never done anything to them personally, or whom they've had confidence in up to that point.

One thing that I don't always do so well at, but am working on, is knowing when to speak and when to keep my mouth shut; when to offer advice and when to keep my opinions and "words of sympathy and wisdom" to myself; when to listen to someone confide in me and when to tell them that they need to go to the person with whom they have the problem and work it out between the two of them, without involving a third party; when to listen and when to avoid becoming involved. Not everything that comes to my attention is my battle to fight. Not everyone who comes to speak to me is someone I should advise or listen to. I believe that it takes a person of real maturity to know these things; and I have not arrived yet.

There have been times when someone has been talking to me, and something they say during the conversation stands out in my mind, and I find myself getting sidetracked. I stop listening to the rest of what they're saying, and start dwelling on that one point of interest. By doing so, I end up not really listening and not hearing all of what they have to say. And by doing so, I often misunderstand and jump to conclusions. I don't hear the full account of what they're saying and miss their point.

It's like taking one line out of a scripture and dwelling on that, without reading the whole thing and getting the full context of what it's saying. By doing so, we can completely misinterpret the main point, and get hung up on that one sentence. Many times, it's necessary to read the whole verse, as well as the verses surrounding it, in order to get the full context of what is being said.

One line out of a scripture that I've jokingly quoted is 1 Timothy 4:8. It says, "Bodily exercise profits little...." And I've stopped right there, quoting it as an excuse as why I shouldn't exercise. But that's not what that scripture is saying. It's not telling us to be lazy and not exercise. The prior verse tells us to exercise ourself toward godliness. The whole of verse eights says, "For bodily exercise profits little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come." What it's saying is that in comparison; godliness and taking care of ourself spiritually is more important that taking care of our physical man. Physical exercise will profit a little, but on the other hand, godliness [living a life that is pleasing to God] if profitable both now and throughout eternity. Taking care of our spiritual man far outweighs taking care of the physical man. But it's not saying to neglect the need to care for ourselves physically.

The other thought that I had when thinking about the incident with Devin, is how easy it is for us to want to go our own way so badly, that we conveniently misinterpret where God is leading us. God is trying to keep us on the straight and narrow path that leads towards Heaven (or our eternal home), yet we get sidetracked and see something that looks a whole lot more fun and enticing. So we "think" He's saying that it's okay for us to run off and "explore". We are afraid that God may tell us that we can't go as far as we want to go, so we glance back occasionally; just long enough to see if He is still following us, then hurry and run on. But the time will come when we're either going to have to stop, and turn around and go back and get on the right path; or we're going to eventually end up falling down and getting hurt. If we continue on in our own direction, at some point, we will come to a tough situation where we can no longer go on without help.

Jon told me that Devin had pretty much gone as far as he could go by himself. He got to an outcropping of rock, and wasn't big or strong enough to climb up on his own. He was going to have to either turn around, or figure out a way to go around it, or wait for assistance.

We have all strayed from the path that God has placed us on from time to time. Sometimes we've stubbornly refused to turn around, until we get hurt or reach a place of desperation. When that happens we have a choice to make. We can either turn back and once again follow God, or we can continue on the road to destruction and pain.

Too often, we forget that we're not a bunch of 6-year olds. Devin wasn't being mean or disobedient. He thought that Justin was going to take him up to the rock outcropping. He was excited and wanted to run there as fast as possible.

But the fact is, we're not mischievous, energetic kids. We know what we're doing when we run away from God. We know what we're doing when we rebel and head off the straight and narrow path. We know what we're doing when we give into temptation and risk going our own way. We're not immature children who are still learning right from wrong. We don't just "happen" to sin, or "accidentally" stray away from God. We choose to do so.

But yet we sometimes expect God to react as we did to Devin. We want Him to laugh at us and say, "Oh, aren't they cute and funny!" We think that God should somehow understand that we're just trying to have a bit of fun. But that's not how He reacts to our running away from Him.

Devin is deaf and couldn't hear the others yell at him. Justin was pursuing him and the others were waving and trying to catch his eye when he turned around, because they knew there were potential dangers. The piled up leaves between the trees could hide loose gravel, a big rock, a hole, or any number of things. They knew that there was a chance that he could fall down and get hurt. They wanted him to be safe and come back to them.

Too often, we turn a deaf ear when God is trying to call out to us. We don't want to hear what He has to say, because that would mean that we'd either have to blatantly disobey Him, or else turn around and head back to get on the path that leads toward home. It's much easier to pretend that we don't hear Him calling our name and urging us to turn around and come back to where He is.

God knows that when we go our own way that there are potential dangers. Satan has laid traps and enticements along the way to try and snare us and tempt us away from God. God knows that the longer we stay off the straight and narrow road and go our own way, that the more lost we'll become and the harder it will be for us to find our way back home. So He chases after us and pursues us, trying to prevent us from getting hurt and losing our way.

May we all learn from a 6-year old deaf child. Devin is a special little boy who will grab your heart. He is very smart, and learns very quickly. He is taking speech therapy, but doesn't speak real well yet. He is also working on learning to read lips. He mostly communicates through sign language. But one phase that he has down is, "I uh ooh" (I love you). He tells Janie that probably fifty times a day. On New Year's day, he told me that he loved me at least twenty times, or more. Right before we dropped them off, Janie was on her cell phone and Devin leaned up and put his face by my shoulder. He would tell me that he loved me, then turn his cheek so that I could kiss him. He did that over and over; until we realized that he had taken his seat belt off and made him put it back on. He may disobey occasionally and have to be disciplined, after all he's a typical little boy. But overall his heart is very loving, and he does what he's told, and is an easy child to take care of and love.

We need to learn to stop jumping to conclusions, without knowing all the facts. We need to learn when to listen and respond, and when it's wise to turn a deaf ear and keep our mouth shut, and keep our opinions to ourselves. May we each learn that running away from God and trying to go our own way only leads to heartache, hurt and destruction. And I hope that each of us will unashamedly tell our Heavenly Father over and over each day that we love him. And that we'll allow Him to discipline us when needed, and love us in return.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I've been reading Revelation. Actually, I finished and started reading it over again. It's confusing enough that reading it twice doesn't clear up much. But it does make a little more sense the second time through. It's no wonder there are so many commentaries on Revelation or why they disagree. I think anyone who tries to explain the Revelation should first point out that their interpretation is an opinion and not the only interpretation. I'm no exception. I don't think we'll know for sure what the prophesy truly means until after the events take place. It's even possible that many of the events in the Revelation have already taken place. Or, maybe they aren't a specific, one-time, event.

Some of the first events of prophesy are the seven seals. I've heard many interpretations for when these events will take place. Some people say that they will take place over seven years following the Rapture. Some say they will come every six months. I've also heard that each will come a thousand years apart. I think (and I want to point out this is my interpretation) that they aren't single events, but throughout history. The first seal is conquering. That could apply to the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Huns, Napoleon, Hitler, or many others who have tried to take over the world. The second seal is war (loss of peace). The third seal is financial ruin. A small dish of wheat is sold for a day's wages. Poverty has been scattered throughout our history. The fourth is death by sword, famine, death (pardon the redundancy), and beasts of the earth. The fifth represents martyrdom. Those killed for their faithfulness to God are promised vengeance when their number is complete.

The sixth seal doesn't fit my interpretation so well. When the seventh seal was broken in John's vision, there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black. And the moon became as blood. The stars fell, and the heavens (sky) disappeared. Mountains and islands moved. People hid in caves. My interpretation is that this seal represents a single event in our future. One day, and maybe soon, there will be a catastrophe that no one can ignore. Maybe it will come just before the Rapture. Maybe just after. And maybe it will come at the same time. That would make it easier for those left to explain all the missing people in the world.

The seventh seal leads in to the next group of prophesies, the seven trumpets. Before it is broken, John saw 144,000 of the Hebrews sealed with God's mark, and huge multitudes of Gentiles who "came of the great tribulation." That's especially confusing because the great tribulation seems to be described right after this part. That's why I'm so convinced that time and order in the Revelation has little or nothing to do with our time and our order. After the seal is broken, there is silence in heaven for about an hour and a half. I'm not sure this means anything. But I've also heard that this means there will be a break of one and a half year before the great tribulation really kicks in.

Please don't think that the Rapture, Tribulation, or Second Coming aren't soon just because this or that prophesy hasn't taken place yet. God's timing is His own. And our interpretations of prophesy aren't necessarily God's meaning.

ON THE MENEWE:

This is my step-mother, June's, roll recipe. For many years, she would usually make them whenever she knew that any of us "kids" were coming over to eat with her and my dad. When her arms got too weak to be able to knead the dough, she would mix them up, then have Daddy knead it for her. These rolls were always good and we all enjoyed eating them.

Miss Beulah's Rolls

2 pkgs. Yeast

3 cups flour (to start)

1 egg

2 cups hot tap water

1/2 cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted

2 tsp. salt

Mix first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, then pour in the 2 cups of hot water and beat with electric mixer, about 10 minutes, adding more flour till it's thick enough to knead. Put on floured board; knead good and place in greased bowl. Let rise until doubled in size. Stir down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll pretty thin and cut with a large biscuit cutter and dip in melted butter; fold in half and put close together in a large baking pan. Let rise, then bake at 400 until browned on top.

LAMB TALES:

Jon's cousin, Luke Lang, has written a book entitled, "I Am Standing Up", which has recently been published. It was published by Zondervan, a large Christian publishing company. If you see it in your local Christian bookstore, pick up a copy. If not, ask and see if they can order it for you. You can also go to Zondervan.com and order it from there. I looked it up, and in the "Search" you can either type in Luke Lang, and on the drop down box next to it, click on author; then on his bio page, it has an option to click on the book title. Or else you can type in the book title in the "Search", and find it from there. You can then order online. We received a copy from Jon's parents for Christmas, and I read the whole book in one day right after getting it. It is filled with stories from Luke's life, and there are spiritual insight and lessons to go along with the stories. It is very easy and fast reading, and I recommend that everyone get a copy to read.

Luke is barely over 5 feet tall. All of his life he has had people jokingly tell him to stand up [as if they're the only ones to ever say that to him], then laughing say, "Oh, you are standing." A recent example happened recently at Jon's grandmother's funeral. My sister and another lady were sitting towards the back of the chapel. Luke was officiating the service. There were two elderly ladies sitting behind my sister and her friend. When Luke began speaking, my sister overheard one of the older ladies ask the other who was talking, and where he was. The other one replied, "He's that guy sitting down behind the podium." And no, Luke wasn't sitting; he was standing up.

The book is humorous, very open and down to earth, and gives the readers the message that you don't have to be perfect. It doesn't matter if we're short or tall, skinny or plump, good-looking or plain, we all face adverse or difficult situations that can knock us down. But that's when we need to be bold and instead of giving up, get up and say, "I AM Standing Up!"

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

"The wisest investments are made in the things that matter most." - Luke Lang

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We realize that many of you have been busy, out of town, attending family gatherings and various holiday parties the past few weeks. The number of weekly readers has been way down, which is understandable during this time of year. We appreciate those of you who pull up our website and read the newsletter's when you get a few extra minutes.

We pray that 2009 will be filled with blessing for you and your family.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org