"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

October 5, 2011


Jon and I are in the process of building a gazebo on our property in Missouri. We have a lot of it built, except for the roof, steps, painting and some finishing touches. It is an 8-sided gazebo that is 10x20 feet in dimension. It's one of those projects that seems to be taking much longer than we originally anticipated, but that's the way it usually goes. And I will admit that I'm not a lot of help to Jon, but am a good encourager. I do stay close by to lend a hand if he needs it and I run errands, and I've done most of the painting so far.

We took a week's vacation, thinking we'd be able to finish it during that time. On the Saturday at the end of our week's vacation, we planned a party and invited lots of family and friends, thinking we'd be able to show off our finished gazebo. It didn't get completed, but we did have enough done for our guests to get an idea of how great it will one day look.

Most guest were complimentary, but there were a handful of men that were full of advice and opinions; but then isn't that the way it always is? One mentioned that Jon should have added more roof supports and done the roofing frame differently, another said the treated wood would shrink and we'd have problems with it, and then there was someone who thought we should use a metal roof instead of shingles. No one (except my nephew) offered to come help, although most knew we were down there building all week, but after the fact they were not opposed to telling Jon, "You should have done this...." or "You shouldn't have done that...." or "Why aren't you going to use this...." No one was being vicious or hateful and had no intention of hurting our feelings, but they more than likely thought they were being helpful in giving their unsolicited advice. Honestly, none of those comments bothered us because a lot of discussion went into the planning of this gazebo and we are building it the way we want it; and it really doesn't matter if anyone else approves or not. As Jon has put it, "There's more than one way to accomplish most things, and this is the best way that I thought it should be done." Someone else may have done some things a little differently, but overall it really doesn't make that much difference. Does that mean that ours is perfectly built? Probably not, but Jon designed and built it to the best of his ability; and I have to say that he's doing an awesome job.

Then we had a few, who saw we hadn't got the gazebo completed, who asked, "Why didn't you call me? I would have come and helped you!" How did we know that when they hadn't volunteered and asked us to call? And Jon had told one of the guys that he was welcome to help, if he'd like, but he had excuses and other things to do. Some people are more willing to help after the fact, when they know the job is already done, than they are when they know there is work to be done. They will volunteer when it's too late and they know you won't or can't call them, or after you already have someone else helping, or after the work is done. Sometimes it's much easier to say you'll do something than it is to actually follow through and do it.

In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus gives a parable: "A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second son and said likewise. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?"

We read that parable and can agree that it was the first son that obeyed. He may have originally said no, but he starting feeling bad after telling his dad no, and went to work. The second son said he'd go, but then didn't follow through. Perhaps he thought his dad would nag him if he didn't say yes; or he may have known his brother had said no, so said he'd go in order to look like the "good son". At the time, he may have fully intended to go work in the vineyard, but other things came up that distracted him and he failed to show up for work. Or he may have never intended to go to work at all, but said what he thought his dad wanted to hear in order to appease him. It's not enough to utter words that may sound good or is what someone wants to hear; we have to follow through and do what we say we'll do.

It can be a little aggravating at times, but also a little humorous, that no matter what you do, there will almost always be someone who will tell you how you should have done it differently or should have made a different decision. You can buy a car, and afterwards there will usually always be someone who will tell you that you should have bought a different make or model. There will be someone who had a bad experience with Fords or Chevys or whatever brand you chose, and tell you about it. You can eat at a restaurant and enjoy a great meal, but then there will be someone who will tell you about the bad experience they had there. It always amazes me that when someone is scheduled for surgery, there will always be those who will tell their "horror" stories of having had that same surgery, or they know someone who had it, or they had a totally different kind of surgery and had a bad experience. I've heard people comment, "You should never go to that doctor or that hospital!" Someone will be going through treatments, and there will always be those who will advise them about alternative treatments or new medical discoveries or holistic/natural healing methods, etc. It doesn't matter if they know all the facts or not, they are convinced that their way would be best and you're wrong if you do something different.

Then there are also those standing on the sidelines, seemingly waiting for someone to fail, so they can say, "I told you so!" Especially if they've offered advice or given an opinion that wasn't taken, they'll be the first to say, "You should have listen to me!"

Why are people so gung-ho about pointing out mistakes and failures? Why are they so quick to offer their opinions and advice, instead of offering encouragement? Why is it so important to be the one who was right? We've all had those moments when we've messed up or made a choice that we shouldn't have made. We've all erred in our judgement. But how quickly we point our finger at others, when they don't do things like we'd do them ourselves or when they make mistakes. And how we hate it when others do that to us! We do love it when we can say (or think), "You should have listened to me! I was right!!" But how we hate to hear those exact same words said to us.

Jon and I have a huge hole in our backyard. When we first got married there was a dead tree trunk, probably 15-20 feet tall, in that particular spot. There were no branches on it, just the tree trunk. Finally, it started rotting so badly that we were afraid it would fall and hurt someone if they pushed against it; or if a strong wind blew, we thought it could take out the fence between us and the neighbor. That was probably 4-5 years ago that we removed it. Grass grew over that spot and you couldn't tell that anything used to be there, until this year. We had an exceptionally dry summer and we're not sure if the roots underground finally rotted or exactly what happened, but the ground has started sinking where that tree trunk used to be. There is a huge spot probably 2-3 feet in diameter that sinks down 12-16 inches. While mowing, I noticed that the ground in that area kept getting softer and softer until if finally gave way and formed this large sinkhole. I showed Jon and he was surprised. We haven't yet filled in the hole, but I know to watch for it when I mow. The grass has started growing taller in that area and is hiding the hole. I remind myself to watch for it because I know it can be deceiving, and if I'm not careful it would be easy to let my mind wander while mowing and I could end up stepping on the side of the hole and twisting my ankle. It's harmless, as long as we know to watch for it and avoid it. But should I forget about it and not pay attention to where I'm walking, or if an individual unaware of the problem area is walking in our yard, they could fall and hurt themselves. We can't continue to leave it in it's current condition, or someone (probably me) could eventually end up getting hurt. We can't just turn a blind eye and forget about it and hope if fixes itself; but eventually we're going to have to do something to take care of the problem. We cannot think that no one will get hurt, or is nobody's business whether or not we fix it, so leave it there and not take care of it.

We are like that sinkhole with our words at times. We think what we say is not going to hurt someone or make any difference; and that's true as long as we're aware of what comes out of our mouth and are careful. But if we become careless and forget to pay attention to the words we speak, our words can cause discouragement and cut like a knife. We can try and cover them up, much like the grass growing over the sinkhole, but the hurt is still there. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you smile, or say, "I'm just teasing," or think you're only giving your opinion; unsolicited advice or opinions can bring hurt or discouragement. And sometimes we may not know all the details of a situation, and are making judgement calls on the limited amount of information we've been given. Freedom of speech doesn't necessarily mean you're free to say anything and everything you want to whomever you want. We need to speak with love, at all times.

There comes a time when we have to take responsibility for our words and actions and stop always blaming the other person, or stop trying to excuse and justify what we said. We cannot justify hurting someone's feelings by saying, "I didn't really say that much! There was a whole lot more that I wanted to say!" It's not enough to say, "Well, they shouldn't be so sensitive!" And we can't say, "Well, I was just telling it like it is; and if they don't like it, then that's just tough!" Sometimes the wisdom is not in what we do say, but in knowing when to keep our mouths shut and not say anything at all.

Perhaps a beneficial prayer for us all is found in Psalm 141:3, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips."


We know a couple people related to one-another who've had some trouble with talk. He's made such a habit of annoying people for fun that he doesn't even seem to realize sometimes that he's the only one having fun. He mostly makes idle comments just to annoy his target, but mixes in a few commentaries about how he thinks the other person should change themselves. She gets annoyed easily, so he usually targets her. She has a hard time realizing that most of what is said doesn't mean anything. More often than not, he'll get distracted, or just back off about the same time she gets really mad.

Not long ago, they were at it. I don't know all the details of what was said, but know it went much too far. For several months, it created a lot of strife for their whole family. Fortunately, they aren't married to one-another (sadly that happens too often). But they behaved the way a lot of divorced couples do, trying to make everyone around them choose sides. They seem mostly past it, now. And I'm sure it'll be just another distant memory soon.

I've heard, "Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger." The theory is that if we break a bone, it will heal back stronger than the original bone. But bones also tend to heal back crooked, if they aren't tended to and taken care of very carefully. I've seen a couple of toes that were broken, then ignored. They grew back bent at odd angles--very gross.

A harsh argument might not cripple a relationship, but it cause a pretty bad limp.


Cheesy Potato and Ham Soup

6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

Onion, chopped

6-8 carrots, chopped

1/2-1 lb. Ham, small cubes or shredded

4 stalks celery, chopped

1/2-3/4 box Velveeta cheese

Chicken broth

Salt and Pepper

In large soup pan put potatoes and vegetables; cover with water and cook until getting tender. Add ham and Velveeta. Fill remaining pot with chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until Velveeta is melted. Add or decrease ingredients to pot size and personal taste. This is good warmed up the next day, too!


Another cute Jon story! When Aunt Jan was babysitting Jon, he one day told her that when he grew up he wanted to be an offiter. She thought he meant officer, and asked, "You want to be a police officer?" Nope! He meant offiter -- he wanted to take things off. When Jon was a little boy he loved taking things apart. He didn't know how to put them back together, but he enjoyed taking them apart to see how they worked. He usually asked permission, first.


Grace is when we get what we don't deserve.

Mercy is when we don't get what we do deserve. - by Pastor Jack Blansitt


We love you!

Loretta & Jon