"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

September 7, 2011


I love books and stories, and always have. I remember my mom reading or telling me stories when I was a child. I've loved books ever since I learned how to read. When I was an adolescent, I liked the Boxcar Children book series, then as a pre-teen I enjoyed reading Trixie Belden books, and also the Nancy Drew mysteries. Now as an adult my favorite genre of books are historical christian; and they must have a happy ending. And of course a little romance is a must!

I attended a small school, and we stayed in the same classroom until 8th grade. Our class ended up having the same teacher for both the 6th and 7th grades, because Mr. Butler ended up changing which grade he taught. He was absolutely my very favorite teacher, so I was thrilled that I got him two years in a row. He would play with the kids during recess, we did fun projects, and he made learning fun. But the one thing I enjoyed most was every afternoon after lunch he would read to us. For 15-20 minutes we could put our head down on our desk and rest or just sit and relax while he read a couple chapters from a book to us. The one book that I remember him reading to us was, "The Summer of the Monkeys". That was my favorite part of the day, and I looked forward to it!

When I was a kid, my mom's family, the Parton's, would get together a lot. We would sometimes all get together as a family, but mostly it was visiting Mama's brothers and sisters in their homes or them coming to our house. The one thing you could always count on was stories being told. I've been told that before I was born, the Parton's would often get together with Poppy, my mom's dad, and sit around listening to him tell stories. Throughout the years I have often heard my older cousins talk about how much they loved listening to Poppy. Sadly, he passed away when I was about a year old, so I have no memories of him. From what I understand, the family would get together a lot of times and sit outside after dark and Poppy would tell ghost stories. They were a very close family, and although they enjoyed the stories, I think perhaps it was the fact that they were getting to spend time together with Poppy and each other that really mattered to them the most.

Storytelling was a big part of the Parton family. I always enjoyed listening to my uncles tell stories, which were mostly true with a few embellishments from time to time. There was something special about being with relatives and listening to the stories. I now wish they had been written down for the younger generations to enjoy, and so that I could read them and remember. These are special memories that I will never forget; time spent with a family that truly loved each other and wanted to be together as much as possible. Whether it's made-up stories, or reminiscing about times past, or sitting around and visiting about the present, I love being with family as we sat around and talked.

My sister's grandkids also enjoy stories; both hearing and telling them. They like their parents or grandma to tell them stories or read books to them. My nephew has a 5-year old son and 4-year old daughter and instead of having their parents tell them stories, they'll say, "Let me tell you a story," then will proceed to make one up. Dan Betzer, who used to host "Revivaltime", recorded a taped series of Bible stories many years ago with himself and his ventriloquist dummy, Louie, telling the stories. My sisters bought them for their kids. They would put a story tape on each night for the kids to listen to as they fell asleep. The kids absolutely loved them, and learned a lot about the Bible, listening to those tapes. Dan and Louie told the Bible stories in such a way that was entertaining and kept the kids attention. Now one of my sisters is buying those same stories from Dan and Louie for her grandkids to listen to, although it's on CD now and not a cassette.

When we were kids, our parents bought me and Janie a record of the story of "Winkin, Blinkin and Nod," and we listened to that over and over again until we had the story and songs all memorized. Our family used to listen to the radio sometimes, to the old "Lum and Abner" show, and in fact, several years ago bought Daddy a boxed cassette set of "Lum and Abner" for Christmas. We didn't have a TV growing up, so would listen to stories on the Christian radio station. Several years ago when I was working at the bank, I got off work at 5:00 and "Adventures in Odessy" came on the radio at that time and I'd listen to it on my way home from work each evening, then sit out in my car when I got home so I could hear the ending of the story.

Stories and books have always played a very important part in my family. Perhaps that's why I love reading scripture where Jesus shares stories. There's something about a good story that lets you use your imagination and you can create pictures in your mind. Instead of Jesus just saying, "Do this or do that or don't do this or that," He tells stories and illustrations that we can relate to, which makes His points much clearer and easier to understand.

I think Jesus liked stories, for He used a lot of parables, which is "a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson" (dictionary definition). Honestly, I don't think all His conversations were always about spiritual things. I can picture Jesus sitting around the campfire at night sharing stories with the disciples. I can imagine Peter, James and John telling stories about various fishing trips they went on, and the other men and Jesus teasing them about the size of the fish they caught or how many. Luke may have told them stories about different patients he'd treated as a doctor. Perhaps he'd share funny things that people paid him with when they didn't have money. The disciples may have ribbed Matthew about being a tax collector. They may have teased Bartholomew about his snoring or Thomas about always having to be shown something before believing it to be true. Jesus may have told stories about His early years of helping Joseph in his carpenter shop and different mistakes He made as an apprentice; or He may have told stories of growing up with Mary and Joseph's other children and things He and his brothers did together.

I'm sure that Jesus and His disciples had a lot of laughs together as they traveled from town to town. Remember, they either walked or traveled by boat everywhere they went so it wasn't like they just jumped in the car and got there in a matter of a few minutes or hours. They may have journeyed several days to get from place to place, so they had a lot of time on their hands to visit and talk. Perhaps after being raised in the home of Joseph and Mary, then traveling with the twelve disciples, Jesus knew that to get His point across and keep the people's attention He needed to share parables that they would remember and could relate to. And perhaps when He was growing up the neighbors or family would get together in the evenings and visit and tell stories, and that may have been one of His favorite parts of the day; a time when everyone relaxed after a hard day of work and laughed and swapped tales. I'm sure that Jesus and the twelve disciples had some deep theological discussions at times. But I also think they had times of laughing together and just talking and visiting about every day life. I believe that Jesus probably had a great sense of humor, and had a great relationship with these twelve men who traveled and ministered by His side.

Over the next few weeks we're going to take a look at some of the parables (or stories) that Jesus used when teaching, in order to get His point across. He used these stories, that people 2,000 years ago as well as today, could and can relate to and understand. There are times when using a simple illustration can paint a mental picture for us that helps us better understand the deeper meaning of something. By using a story that relates to every day situations, people can identify with it and it helps them to apply it to their own life. There are times when you can tell someone something by using facts or scripture. It may sound good, but they may not truly understand your point or how it applies to them personally. But if we use a personal example or an illustration that relates, then it becomes clearer to them and makes more sense.

One of the first illustrations Jesus uses is found in Matthew 7:24-27: "Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Jon and I (mostly Jon) are building a gazebo on our property in Lampe. Jon did some research before beginning, drew up some plans and figured out how much support he'd need for the framework so that it would be plenty strong. He wanted to make sure that our gazebo will be built to last for many, many years. Apparently, most gazebo's foundation consists of concrete blocks that the corner posts sit on. My nephew was surprised when he saw that Jon had dug holes and poured concrete for each corner post, then set an anchor into the concrete in which to attach each post. He commented that this gazebo is going to be really sturdy. Jon is painting the ends of each piece of treated wood with sealer after making cuts to prevent the wood from rotting or ants from eating on it. I've watched him work, and Jon is being very conscientious about measuring and trying to make our gazebo is not only sturdy, but he is making every effort to make it pretty. He knows that as the builder, everyone that sees it will be able to see his workmanship, therefore, he is taking his time and doing the very best he possibly can. When people see the finished product, he doesn't want to be embarrassed or ashamed of his work, but would rather be able to say with pride, "My wife and I own that gazebo! We built it with our own hands." That's why he's not using used, rotted lumber. He's not just slopping it together, hoping that it will be strong enough to endure the different elements of nature. He doesn't want people to be afraid to stand or sit on it because it looks like it could fall apart at any time. Jon is measuring each and every board precisely and using the best materials so that it will look good, and we'll be able to enjoy it for many years to come. Honestly, it's taking him a whole lot longer to build it than he anticipated and the progress seems extremely slow, but he wants to do it right and knows that taking the extra time will be worth the end result.

We know that a severe storm may come through at some point and do some damage to the structure, and perhaps we'll have to do some repair work. But we're doing everything possible to make sure that doesn't happen. How foolish it would be for us to put our time, effort and money into this project and do a half-hearted job on it with the attitude, "Why bother with doing a good job; it will probably tear up or fall down someday anyway." Why would we even built it, if that were going to be our attitude? Yet many go through life with that type of attitude towards their choices, decisions and the way they live life.

Our pastor used this scripture in his sermon recently and summed it up very well: "Building a life: it matters where and how you build. Everyone of us are building a life. Everyone of us build 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is no vacation from life. You can try, but you are building something with your life, with your choices, with the decisions you make every day. Every choice, every decision matters. And you need to build with the right foundation. It matters how you are building and what material you are using. If you are building your life with poor choices, building your life with material that is damaged and rotten with sin and bitterness, building with materials that are impure and decaying, your house, your life is not going to stand the storms of life. It won't stand at the judgement when it is tried by fire. (I Corinthians 3:12) 'If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.' It matters what you are building with. Build with integrity, with honesty, with purity, with faithfulness, with excellence, with patience and love and mercy. Build with the right stuff. It should matter to you because you are going to give an account to God someday. It matters to your children, it matters to those who are following you, who are being influenced by you. Build with the right stuff. It matter what foundation you build upon and the material you use. The wise man and woman will build their house upon the rock, the solid foundation which is Jesus Christ."

There is hymn that sums this up very well: "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand." Let's make sure we're building our lives on the right foundation. Jesus is the rock that we can depend on when storms of life blow.


It isn't just storms that can blow down a house. A slow, steady exposure to moisture can take down a house, too. We used treated lumber for the gazebo so it should be able to take moisture for years. But we also kept it up off the ground with concrete pillars, steel anchors, and copper spacers. There aren't many structures stronger than a tree. But after a tree has died, it will rot away and fall.

Some people might be able to take a storm well, but a slow, nagging temptation might tear them down. It could be that work is getting too busy, and we might not feel like getting all dressed up and cleaned up for church, so we just work instead. Or we might have financial issues constantly creeping up. Or a spouse who never seems happy.

The treatment that protects lumber is also a poison. It may keep a gazebo strong for dozens of years (it better!), but it could kill a tree. I'm not really sure what that means, but maybe it can mean something different for each reader.


Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

1 yellow cake mix

1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding

2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup sugar

8 ounces sour cream

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bundt cake pan.

Combine cake mix, instant pudding, cocoa and sugar (all your dry ingredients) in a large bowl and mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, oil, water and eggs until thoroughly blended. Turn on mixer and gradually add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, stopping halfway through to scrape sides of bowl, being careful not to over mix.

Once mixture is combined, fold in chocolate chips. Pour mixture into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Allow cake to rest for 20 minutes before cutting.


Jon and I spent this past holiday weekend in Lampe. On Sunday morning we were sitting outside eating breakfast, hoping to catch a glimpse of some wildlife. We've seen wild turkey, a fox, and deer occasionally, so we always spend time looking around trying to spot one of these animals. We were gazing off into the woods, visiting with one another, when I happened to glance towards the drive leading down to our property. A huge skunk was slowly meandering down the drive and making a beeline straight for our shed, which had the doors opened. I didn't want to alarm the skunk, so quietly informed Jon that we had a visitor! The last thing I wanted was for the skunk to feel defensive and feel that it had to raise a stink to protect itself. We couldn't tell for sure where it went, so Jon quietly made his way towards the shed, while keeping a safe distance. Thankfully, the skunk had not gone inside but Jon could see it sitting underneath the corner of the shed. We didn't want to let it stay there, but neither did we want to scare it and be sprayed. Finally, it slowly made its way out and slowly made its way down into the woods. Jon had me to stand guard to make sure it didn't come back while he ran to get a weed-eater. He cleaned out really well around the shed, hoping it will keep the skunk from thinking it had found a safe shelter. Not quite the wildlife we were looking for, but it did add a little excitement to our morning! Ahh.... life in the country!! Gotta love it!


Regardless if I'm glad, sad, mad or bad, Jesus will never stop loving me!


We love you!

Loretta & Jon