"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!'"
May 25, 2011
Happy Memorial Day
Next Monday we will be celebrating Memorial Day. I was curious about the origin of this holiday so did a little research. The abbreviated version is this: "Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. Soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War 1 to honor Americans who have died in all wars. Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they served in the military or not." There's a lot more, but this is it in a nutshell.
There have been a lot of people who have influenced me during my life, and those who hold special places in my heart. I know that my life and relationship with God probably wouldn't be what it is today without the impact and prayers of those individuals.
First and foremost are my parents. I know that I would not be the woman I am today had it not been for the upbringing and influence of Daddy and Mama. They loved me, provided for me, cared for me and did all those things that good parents do for their children; but most importantly, they raised me in church and taught me about God. They didn't just send me to church, they took me to church. They didn't just tell me to pray, but we had family prayer together every evening before going to bed. They didn't just tell me that they loved me (although my dad found those words hard to say), but they showed their love for me in numerous ways each and every day. I never had a moment of doubt regarding Mama and Daddy's love for me.
I remember coming home from school during those years when Mama was going through chemotherapy, which made her sick and gave her bad headaches. She would be lying on the bed where she could look out the front bedroom window. Her Bible would always be lying on the bed beside her. I remember coming home from school and lying down beside her and she'd ask about my day. We'd lay there and visit first thing before I did anything else. I'm sure there were days when she didn't feel like listening to my chatter, but she always want to know how things had gone for me. She put me above her own pain and suffering. Mama was interested in my life and wanted to hear all the details. I had an aunt once tell me that the reason Mama had fought cancer so hard and hung on so long was because of me. She wanted to make sure I was going to be okay and did everything possible to stay with me as long as she could. That was a very humbling thought when I was told that. It personifies what true love is: putting the interest and welfare of someone you love above your own suffering and pain. Everyone loved coming to our house, and it was mainly due to Mama making our home a place where all were welcome. She was a great cook and we would sit down as a family around the kitchen table and eat our meals. Her brothers would stop by anytime they were driving by to see if she had a cobbler or cake made; or just to sit down and drink a cup of coffee and visit a few minutes with her. Mama was a gentle woman and very kind-hearted. Even in the midst of her suffering, she didn't complain. Mama was a strong woman of faith that everyone loved and honored. I want to be as well respected and thought of and as greatly loved as she was.
Daddy didn't express his feelings in words very often; in fact, it was rare. I remember one time when I was probably late-twenties or early-thirties that Daddy and I had gone to visit my sister and her family in Texas. My brother-in-law had me sing and speak in a church service while we were there. Daddy and I made the whole trip home and he never said a word about it. It was only as I dropped him off and he got out of the car that he leaned down and said, "You did good last night," then cleared his throat (which was a sign he was emotional or having a hard time saying how he was feeling) and closed the door. I was so astounded that I called one of my sisters and told her about it as soon as I got home. Her reply was, "Wow! I don't think Daddy has ever told me that." It wasn't that he didn't love us girls or wasn't proud of us, but he just had a hard time expressing his feelings and saying the words. But we knew that he loved us. My stepmother once told me, "I don't know if you girls realize how much your daddy loves you. If anything ever happened to one of you, he wouldn't be able to stand it." Daddy worked hard and was strong as a mule. He had his opinions and would sometimes express them whether we wanted to hear them or not. He was very modest and if I walked in their house to visit and he was sitting with just his overalls on, he'd jump up and go put a shirt on. In a lot of ways, he was quiet, and when we called he might talk our ear off, or if he wasn't in the mood to visit, it was like pulling teeth to get him to say much. Daddy was highly respected by everyone who knew him and had a solid reputation. During those years when he hauled sandstone or creek rock for contractors to build fireplaces with or put on the exterior of houses, he would always pile on extra rock to round up the load because he didn't want anyone to ever think he was trying to cheat them. When he was younger and we all lived at home, everyone in our family was an avid reader. Daddy liked to read the old Louis L'Amour westerns. And I had a book I had ordered from school about the civil war that had some pictures in it, and I remember many times seeing Daddy reading it and looking through it. But most importantly, Daddy loved the Lord and was consistently faithful in attending church. There were times when we thought he was overly strict about a few things (at least I did) but he just wanted us to know right from wrong and wanted to protect us as much as possible. I will cherish the times that Daddy and I would travel together to go visit one of my sisters, because the two of us got to visit and have some special one on one time while we were in the car together. Daddy taught me about integrity and honesty.
We have all heard the news and seen the pictures of the devastating tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri this past Sunday evening. It is heart-breaking to hear the reports and look at the photos of the destruction and loss. This morning (Tuesday) I was listening to the local news and weather, and the area in which we live is under a high risk advisory this evening for tornados and severe storms. I started thinking, "What if we were to experience the same type of horrific weather situation that hit Joplin tonight and a tornado swept through the neighborhood in which we live? Would I live today any differently? How would I spend my time today?"
The first response (in my head) was that we can't live in fear of catastrophe. Yes, it may happen and we may lose our life or lose everything we own. But we can't allow the dread of that possibility to fill us with anxiety and fear. None of us know how or when our life will come to an end, but we can be prepared. And in prepared I don't mean having our funeral and burial pre-arranged, although that's fine should you choose to do so. It also doesn't mean having a will made out, although that's also a good thing. But we can be prepared by having our heart right with God. Knowing that should an unexpected tornado hit and we lose our life, or if we are driving to the grocery store and are in a car accident and lose our life, or if we have a major attack on our body in the middle of the night and die in our sleep, or should Jesus return and rapture the christians to heaven, that we have asked forgiveness of our sins and have accepted salvation. We can have peace in knowing that no matter when or where or how our lives end, we're prepared and ready to meet God face to face.
I have that assurance and know that my sins have been forgiven and I'm ready to meet God. I have no fear of death, but have peace in knowing where I'm going should I die. I'll be okay, for my eternity will have started and I'll be home in heaven with Jesus, my parents, loved ones and friends.
Although I don't question my salvation, I do wonder if my life on earth has made a difference to anyone. Have I served the purpose that God placed me on this earth for? God doesn't just haphazardly allow people to be born without them having a purpose and having a plan for them. They may choose to disregard God's purpose and plan, but that doesn't mean that He didn't have one designed for them to follow. I hope that someway, somehow I've touched the lives of individuals and have made a difference. I hope that people's lives have been richer for having had me as a friend. I hope that I have fulfilled the destiny that God planned for me. Some days I question whether or not I'm doing my best and if I'm being the woman that God desires me to be. It's easy to get in a rut and become spiritually lazy. It's easy to become so contented with life that we don't want God to rock our boat and make any changes, or require more of us.
I don't know how many hours, days or years I have left on earth; only God knows. But however many it may be, I want to make the most of them. I want to enjoy life to the fullest and not be worried about what someone else may think or if they approve, nor do I want to worry about all the "what ifs" that could go wrong. I want my relationship with God to grow stronger and for my life to have a greater influence on those around me. When my life comes to an end, I want people to say, "Wow, what a woman! She really knew how to enjoy life and make the most of God's blessings!" I want to know that people respected and loved me, and I want them to know that I returned that love. I hope there's some young lady who will say, "When I grow up, I want to be like her." I want to use the influence that God has given me to impact people's lives for the Him and to make a positive difference. I want God to direct my steps so that I can go where He wants and do what He'd have me do. I think the greatest epitaph I could have carved on my tombstone to sum up my life would be, "No Regrets!"
But more importantly than how people may perceive me after I die, is having my heart right with God and knowing that when I get to heaven I'll hear Him say, "Well done, Loretta! You've been a good and faithful servant. Welcome!!"
Out of the 100-plus people who lost their lives in the Joplin tornado, some of them probably went to church Sunday morning, just like usual. They may have gathered around the table for a big family dinner, just like they always did on Sundays. They may have been on their way to church, or in Walmart getting groceries for their family for the week, or grilling with friends in the backyard, when disaster struck that evening. Without warning, families were changed forever as loved ones were taken into eternity. My friend shared a story about a father and son who were in a Hummer on their way home from the son's graduation. They wrapped their arms as tightly as they could around each other trying to hang onto the other, when the wind of the tornado ripped them apart. The father was found critically hurt, and the son has not yet been found. When they drove to graduation that afternoon they had no way of knowing that would be their last day together. They didn't know they'd not make it home.
When Jon leaves for work in the mornings I'm not guaranteed that he'll make it home safely in the evenings. When I go to Walmart, Jon doesn't know with 100% assurance that I'm going to return home safely. Not that we live in fear of that happening, but we have made it a habit since the beginning of our marriage for our last words before one of us leaves the house, we hang up from a phone conversation or we go to sleep at night to be, "I love you." Should something ever happen, we want our remembrance of the others last words to us to be of our love.
This Memorial Day take a few moments to thank God for those people, who have passed away, that He placed in your life throughout the years who have been a great influence and blessing to you. But also remember those who are still here with you that hold a special place in your heart and have made a difference in your life. Thank God for them, but also take a minute and tell them thanks and let them know how much they've meant in your life. Too often, we forget to tell people that we love them and share special memories we have of them, until it's too late; then we tell others. But it may be the encouragement or boost that someone needs to hear that they've been an inspiration and special part of your life.
It's interesting to watch what people do when there is a prediction (I'll avoid the word prophesy) of doom and danger. We're watching weather reports now, and there is a severe storm headed this way. There have been fatalities reported already, and a risk of more. It's a real and serious danger. But there's nothing we can do to stop it. And as accurate as the prediction seems, it's only a prediction.
All we can do is prepare. But different people prepare differently. A lot of people went home early to make sure they were with their family before the storm came. Some appeared to run out to get provisions. There was a serious car wreck in front of a grocery store nearby, quite likely caused by someone too distracted and anxious to look before turning left across four lanes of traffic (there is a similar wreck there about once each month). We've made sure a strong closet under our stairs is cleared and ready for us to take cover, if we need to. More importantly, we've prayed. God may have something more important planned than protecting our home or even our bodies (the truth is: our neighborhood is more lightly populated than most nearby, so we'd understand), but we know our souls are under His protection. What else do we have to fear?
1 pie crust, unbaked
1 cup shredded cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cooked meat (see below)
1 can soup (see below)
1/2 cup vegetables, cooked and drained (see below)
1/2 cup light cream
Beat eggs. Add 1 can of soup (choose from cream of mushroom, cream of onion, cream of celery or cream of cheese). Add cream and shredded cheese. Mix in cooked meat (choose from diced ham, diced or canned chicken, or cooked and crumbled bacon). Add in vegetables (choose from broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms or spinach). Put in unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until set. You can mix and match the soup, meat and veggies to your own personal taste.
Recently, my nephew's wife posted a picture on facebook of their 3-year old daughter sitting in her chair, watching TV upstairs -- and eating a stick of butter! Everyone was commenting along the lines of, "Poor baby! Do you not feed your child?" She replied, "Poor baby?! She's the one who opened up the fridge by herself and out of all the food inside chose a stick of butter. And yes, we did take it away from her!" I know they have never let her eat butter by itself, so I'm not sure why she chose to eat that. There was a big chunk out of the end and she was nonchalantly sitting there holding it and eating. Yucky! You never know what kids will eat.
The greatest achievement in life is to stand up after falling;
but while you're down on your knees, pray to God Almighty.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon