"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!'"
June 2, 2010
Psalm 37:25 begins, "I was young and now I am old...." There are various stages of aging, but most of us can relate to that statement. I remember when I thought people in their 40's were old, and now it's me that my nieces and nephews are looking at and thinking of as being old. Where did the time go?
Recently, I had a 50th birthday party for my sister who is next to me in age; although I will say that I won't hit 50 for another 5 years, just so you know that I have a ways to go before entering a new decade. The party was held at the family property in Missouri where my sisters and I grew up. It was an absolutely awesome get together. The weather was perfect and everyone brought their lawn chairs and food, and we spent the afternoon sitting outside visiting and eating.
There were 10 kids in my mom's family, and all but three have passed away. My mom's sister and two brothers, who are the only ones still with us, were all at the party. Kenneth is 85, but still very spry and drives, and doesn't look his age. He brought his wife, Nina Jean, who has Alzheimer's. She does still know who Kenneth is, but I'm not sure she knew anyone else. She lives at home and Kenneth takes care of her, with the help of a daughter who lives next door. She only stayed for an hour or so, then her daughter took her home. It was great seeing her, but was also a little sad.
My aunt Ruth, who is 80, was there. They live about a half mile from our home place, where they've lived ever since I can remember. I drove over to help get them to the house. My uncle Bill, has some dementia and isn't always clear on who people are or what's going on. But he's always joked around a lot, and he covers up a lot by making jokes, so you're not always sure if he remembers something or not. He's pretty feeble and unsteady on his feet. Then their daughter, who had a stroke a few years ago and has to get around with a walker, was at their house for the day. Her husband works part-time and had dropped her off that morning. When I got to the house, my cousin told her dad that she was going to stay home with him and her mom could go visit by herself. He was having no part of that! He told her that he was not staying home with her, and we couldn't keep him away [from the party] for anything. Then he started towards the door. I helped him out to my car and got him settled. My aunt decided to go ahead and drive so they could come home when they got ready. There is a back road you can take from their house to ours without ever getting onto the highway. My uncle told me that he didn't want me driving on the highway because I probably drove too fast and might have a wreck. We got to the party, got everyone settled, and they all enjoyed visiting and seeing everyone.
Then my mom's youngest brother, Wayne, is 72. One thing that has always stood out to me about Wayne is his laugh. He's always joking around and laughing. Wayne is having some health issues so didn't eat anything, but if he was feeling bad, you never knew it.
My mom had a brother, Delson, who passed away either when I was a baby or right before I was born. His youngest daughter brought her mom down. She has to use a cane and had to hold onto her daughter to get around. She's in her 80's now.
I was sitting at the party looking at my uncles and aunts and thinking, "How did they all get so old?" It seems impossible that they're all in their 70's and 80's. Seeing them age and becoming frail is a little heartbreaking. I remember when Bill was the life of the party and would tease everyone unmercifully. He was a deacon at his church for many, many years. Seeing the decline in his health and the changes taking place in his mind and body is so sad. As I was watching them laughing and visiting I thought, "Next time we all get together, one of them may not be here." Not that I was being morbid or a pessimist, but we don't have opportunity to all get together very often, so you never know what may happen.
Then I thought, "When my nieces and nephews get to be the age of me and my sisters, that's going to be us sitting there." It's going to be them going and picking us up, helping us walk, fixing our plate of food and bringing it to us, taking our picture because it may be the last time we're all together, etc. And it's going to be their kids and grandkids who are looking at us thinking, "My parents are in their 40's and 50's! They're getting old! And poor old grandma and grandpa, and my aunts and uncles are ancient."
The aging process happens to us all. Years pass, kids become grown up and begin raising families of their own. Aches and pains are felt, hair turns gray, and skin begins sagging and wrinkling. That's part of the cycle of life, and no one can stop it; regardless of how many surgeries or face lifts they may have. Birthdays happen and each year the age goes up. But we don't have to despair and can enjoy our lives and make the most of each day. There's a second part to that scripture!
It says, "Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed."
When I look at both my immediate and extended family, I can honestly say those words. I attended church with a lot of my uncles and aunts over the years. I saw their faithfulness to God, and saw how God took care of them and blessed their family. Does that mean they never had problems or never endured heartache or difficulties? No. But regardless of their circumstances, I saw God provide for them and meet their needs.
Even in the direst times when Mama was sick and we were short on money, God never forsook our family. We always had food to eat, clothes to wear, and our home was filled with love. I've watched my uncles and aunts suffer throughout the years with health issues, but they leaned on God. Some have not always had the best of homes to live in or a dependable vehicle to drive, especially when they were raising their kids, but through it all God met their needs and provided for them.
Jon commented to me recently that our families are really blessed. We still have all our sisters and brother, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, nephews and nieces, and most of our cousins. Out of such a huge family, we really haven't suffered a great deal of loss, other than uncles and aunts. Out of a multitude of cousins, only about 6 -- 8 have passed away. When our extended families get together, we remember them and they are greatly missed.
Overall my family has been abundantly blessed. I believe that's because my grandparents were faithful to God and raised their family in church. My uncles and aunts then were faithful to God and raised their kids in church. The descendants of my grandparents, who were righteous, have had their needs met throughout these many years and God has blessed them.
But the mantle is handed down to the generation of me and my sisters and our cousins, and it's up to us to pass down our faith in God to those coming up after us. The majority are in church, but not all. If we choose to not follow God and live righteous lives, then what happens to the promise that God makes that our children will not have to beg for bread (be in need) and be blessed?
We have a responsibility to make wise choices, which includes being faithful to God and living as righteous people. Not only for our sake, but for the sake of our descendants coming after us. I want my nephews, nieces and their children be able to quote this scripture when they're older and my sisters and I are reaching the end of our lives upon earth. "I was young and now am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children are blessed."
I want them to look at me and my sisters and our spouses and see our faithfulness to God throughout our lives. I want them to realize that God has never forsaken us and has been our provider in all situations. I want them to know that blessing is upon them and their family because of our faith in God and steadfastness in our relationship with Him. And I pray that they each choose to live righteous lives so that their children and grandchildren will be blessed.
May that be the prayer of us all.
I've been around my parents often enough that as they age, I rarely notice or think about them getting older. But I have an aunt and uncle about the same ages that I don't see very often. Each time I see them, I can tell that they are a little older than the last time I saw them.
We've been watching a show where people collect all sorts of garbage. They start off with little things, not throwing away things they think of as keepsakes. Eventually, they won't even throw away trash. Just like growing old slowly, they usually don't even notice what's going on because they watch the piles gather slowly. Eventually, they get to a point where they feel no hope of cleaning up.
The same can be with our walk with Christ. It can be easy to let things slide and deteriorate. It can start with things that seem little, like skipping tithing one week because money is tight. After skipping once or twice, it can get easy to quit completely. Or, maybe it starts with a hateful attitude, quitting church, quitting praying, or whatever. I want to be clear that skipping something important once in awhile isn't usually a problem. But when it becomes a habit, it's easy to let other things slip. Before long, we can lose touch with God all together.
I'll pass along a tip I heard somewhere, with a little modification. Loretta and I are about to celebrate a wedding anniversary. When we do, I'm sure we'll look back at the past 5 years. When we do, we should look at how our relationship together has grown and how our relationship with God has grown. I recommend everyone take time each year, whether a wedding anniversary, Christmas, or any other day, to look at how your relationships have grown over the past years.
In Acts Peter had a vision and saw heaven open and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. What was it filled with and what was the message God spoke to him regarding the vision?
How many days was Lazarus dead before Jesus arrived; and what three words to Jesus cry out to call Lazarus out of the tomb?
In Acts there was a disciple named Tabitha. The scripture says, "This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds." What other name was Tabitha also known by?
Who was bitten by a viper on the island of Malta, but suffered no harm?
Who did Paul write a letter to regarding a runaway slave saying he "once was unprofitable to you, but now if profitable to you and to me," and "If he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account?" And what was the name of the slave?
(Answers are below.)
Onion, chopped (optional)
dash of Olive Oil
Crumbled Feta Cheese
(Amounts depend on how much you want to make.) Chop cucumber and tomatoes; add crumbled Feta Cheese. Add chopped onions, if desired. Add a dash of Olive Oil to coat. If someone doesn't care for raw onions, you can put them on the side or make two bowls. (My nephew's wife who gave me this recipe prefers using the block feta -- she thinks it has a better texture than the kind that is already crumbled. But either is fine.)
The sheet was filled with all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. God told him to eat, and Peter said, "No! I have never eaten anything common or unclean." God's answer was, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." Up until that time it had been unlawful for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation, but God showed Peter that he should not call any man common or unclean. (Acts 10:10-28)
Lazarus had been dead for 4 days (John 11:39) and Jesus cried out the words, "Lazarus, come forth!" (John 11:43)
Dorcas (Acts 9:36)
Paul (Acts 28:3-5)
Philemon was the slave owner that Paul wrote the letter to, and Onesimus was the slave (Philemon)
The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. Proverbs 13:4
We love you!
Loretta & Jon