"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!'"
October 26, 2011
I recently read this quote: "If nobody knows the trouble you've seen, you don't live in a small town." And having been raised in a small town, I know that to be the truth!
I was raised in a small town called Lampe, Missouri. We knew everyone who lived there and in the surrounding community, and everyone knew us. I attended a small school with 30-plus in my class from kindergarten through my senior year, and we pretty much knew everyone in the school; who were brother and sister and who was related to whom. Nobody locked the doors of their homes, and they sure didn't lock their cars. You waved at every vehicle you passed when driving, because you knew who they were. We lived about a quarter mile from a country store and parents would let their kids walk to the store by themselves, without fear of them getting hurt or a stranger bothering them. This was back before the seatbelt laws, so you'd pile your family and any friends who may have spent the night into the car, sitting on each other's lap or doing whatever you needed to do to all get in. It was a common sight to see pickups or flatbed trucks going down the road with kids riding in the back. Daddy would stop at the feed store on his way home from work and throw the sack of feed on top of the car trunk. Vehicles didn't have air conditioning, so you'd roll all the windows down in the summertime and not worry about your hair. And you'd only bathe on Saturday nights!
But you also knew that you better stay out of trouble, because not only would your parents somehow find out, but everyone else would also hear about it. People visited with one another and genuinely cared about one another. Everyone knew what was going on with everybody else. That's just how it was back then. You knew your neighbors, and knew who you could and couldn't trust. People reached out to help one another, and no one was scared to stop and help someone whose car was broken down beside the road. It was a simpler way of life, and I'm so thankful that I grew up in that atmosphere and have the precious memories of those years gone by.
Much has changed since that time, but there is still something special about a small town. It's still not surprising when other people find out about what's going on in your life; whether you want them to or not.
Recently, my oldest sister and her husband moved from southwest Missouri to northwest Arkansas to pastor a small, rural church. They found a house to buy at a really good price, which just happened to be next door to another sister, but had a lot of problems getting the loan approval and it ended up being a long process. They both had found jobs and were dividing their time between living in a RV parked beside their church and staying at our family home in Lampe. The original job where my sister was hired had really long, really bad hours, that prevented her from attending church every other Sunday, which was not good considering she was the pastor's wife. So she applied for another job and was immediately hired. She told our sister (who is now her next door neighbor) not to say anything to our stepmother about her getting another job, because June's niece worked at the bank where their loan had just been approved and she didn't want to do anything to sabotage them closing on their house; plus our stepbrother's brother-in-law was their realtor. She wanted to wait until everything was signed and they were moved in before telling anyone about the new job. Right after that, my sister was visiting with June on the phone and she asked Linda, "How does Joyce like her new job?" What?!? Linda called Joyce afterwards and told her about the conversation and said she was sure she hadn't mentioned anything about the new job. Linda and Joyce were stumped on how June could have known about it so quickly. A few days later, another stepbrother saw Joyce and after her conversation with him, the mystery was solved. He had driven by her new job and saw her in the parking lot, so called his mom and asked if Joyce was working there. June told him no, she didn't think so, then he told her that he had driven by and saw Joyce standing outside. Joyce was telling Linda about it, and Linda started laughing and said, "Welcome to life in a small town! You can't do anything without someone seeing you or finding out about it."
I will always consider Lampe as being my hometown. Jon and I enjoy spending time there and the feeling of being a part of a small community. We love attending the small church that I attended for many years; visiting with family and friends; going to a local diner for breakfast and listening to the old men gossiping (I'm sure they don't think of their conversation as such) while they sat around drinking coffee; the quiet and solitude of sitting outdoors; having a relative tell Jon, "If you need to borrow any tools, just come to my garage and take what you need anytime you want. The door is usually open, so go on in if I'm not there;" the sense of belonging; the genuine feeling of being loved and cared for and people being excited to see us and spend time with us..... There's something comforting about driving down that dirt road and seeing our property in the distance.
Jesus knew all about life in a small town, but after beginning His ministry, going back home wasn't as comforting and fruitful as it should have been. Mark 6:1-4 says, "Jesus left and went to His hometown, accompanied by His disciples. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed. 'Where did this man get those things?' they asked. 'What's this wisdom that has been given Him, that He even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't His sisters here with us?' And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their lack of faith."
Sadly, there are times when it's easier for some individuals to get respect and response from strangers than it is from their own family and friends. Perhaps it's because they worry that you're making a mistake and going to be hurt. Or it could be from a sense of jealousy or envy at the success of an individual. Instead of rejoicing and celebrating the blessing or success that someone experiences, friends and neighbors will criticize and find fault. Sometimes those attitudes may come from their own feelings of being a failure or being stuck in a rut.
Perhaps the people who had known Jesus all His life remembered Him as the ornery little boy who used to run around the neighborhood, and it was hard to reconcile themselves to the fact that He was truly the promised Messiah. They knew that Joseph had worked as a carpenter, and knew that the family wasn't wealthy or distinguished, so had difficulty thinking of Jesus as a prophet. So instead of listening to His message and being amazed at the miracles He performed, they took offense. By taking offense at Jesus, the people in His hometown missed out on experiencing miracles and hearing His teaching. There may have been those who Jesus knew were sick or handicapped and He longed to heal them, but their lack of faith hindered them from receiving their healing. I think that it saddened and disappointed Jesus that His family, friends and neighbors rejected Him.
Since Joseph is never mentioned during the ministry years of Jesus, it is assumed that he had already died by that time. Perhaps these were the same friends and neighbors who had mourned the loss of Joseph and had brought over casseroles and been there to support the family during their time of grief. But I wonder if these are the same people who would ridicule Jesus when speaking to Mary and the brothers and sisters, after He began His three years of ministry? "Who does He think He is, going around preaching and saying that He's the Messiah?" "I remember when He did this.....back when He was just a boy, and now He's out laying hands on people and praying for miracles." "Well, I heard that this happened when He was preaching in a neighboring town...." People like to talk, and too often, what they don't know they will make up. Rumors and gossip were just as prevalent back then as they are today. There were so many trying to destroy Jesus and finding fault, that I'm sure there were made-up rumors started about Him, trying to ruin His reputation and discredit His ministry.
Being home can be a wonderful place of relaxation and rest. It can be a place where you spend time with those you care about, and have the love and support of friends and family. When Jon and I recently had a party on our property in Lampe, it was an awesome feeling to have so many friends and family come and spend the day with us and see them thoroughly enjoying being together. It is a great feeling to know that they are looking forward to us doing it again next year, and are genuinely excited about coming together at something that we have dreamed of doing for quite some time. When my dad passed away, it was incredible to see the many, many people who came to the visitation and funeral to pay their respects to my dad and to feel the love that they had for our family. I think part of that comes from being from a small town and knowing your neighbors and building relationships within the community. Lest I offend: it's not that you can't do that in a big city, but there is something special about being part of a small community. We all have our special place where we enjoy being and feel the most at home; for some it's in the city, some in the country, some in the suburbs, and some traveling around in an RV.....
Wherever we live, whatever circumstances God places us in, it is so important that we are slow to criticize and judge others. When we see God using someone or see someone being blessed, we need to rejoice and give our love and support instead of making them feel as if they have "no honor in their hometown". It may be an effort to celebrate the success of someone, especially when we feel as if we deserved the blessing or honor instead of them, or if they enjoy a success that we've longed for. And when we're the ones receiving the blessing or honor, we need to do so with a spirit of humility so as not to offend others, and to not think more highly of ourselves than we should. Blessings come in all shapes and sizes, if we will take the time to recognize them. But if we're not careful, our attitude may be the one thing that will prevent us from receiving all that God has for us. Let's not ever amaze Jesus by our lack of faith, but allow Him to do miracles and wonderful things in our lives.
There's a great story about kids who take over a nativity play. The practices and rehearsals go so terribly that they never really go through the entire story until their production in front of the whole congregation. The play finally reaches the end with no injuries. Then, to the horror of almost everyone, the girl playing Mary picks up baby Jesus and burps him.
What a lot of people forget easily is that Jesus wasn't just the Son of God prophesied. He was also the Son of Man.
I didn't live in those same times, but I'm sure He learned almost all the same things boys today learn. He probably learned to burp, how to spit without drooling, how not to burp in front of your dad's friends, the funnest ways to play with a stick, and so on.
To the kids five years older, he probably seemed like a little dork. Just like any kid five years younger than them. It would be hard to imagine that the kid was fulfilling the ultimate prophesy.
We won't have a neighbor who is the Son of God again. But we might still have a neighbor, cousin, friend, or dorky schoolmate who grows up to be great and respectable. Will we be happy for them, or discount the good they may do for others?
Perfectly Marinated Grilled Pork Chops
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder (recipe says "2 dashes or 2 shakes")
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup water
Extra-thick cut loin chops (approximately 1/2 inch thick)
In a bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, water and garlic powder. Pour marinade into resealable bag or shallow dish (covered). Add pork chops and marinate in refrigerator for at least 8 hours, flipping occasionally. Grill, fry or bake pork chops to desired doneness. If grilling, baste occasionally with the remainder of the marinade to keep the chops moist.
I recently saw a demonstration of this, but have not yet tried it, although it does look interesting: To remove the corn silks from an ear of corn, put it in the microwave for 4 minutes per ear (if doing 2 ears, that would be a total of 8 minutes), leaving it in the husk. Use an oven mitten or potholder to remove the hot ear of corn from the microwave. Use a knife to cut the end, where the husk are attached, off the cob. Hold onto the top where the corn silks are showing and the corn should slide right out of the husk and silks, totally clean. I have not done this, but from the demonstration, it looks as if it truly works.
The psychologist tells us to look within. The opportunist tells us we should look around. The optimist says we should look ahead and the pessimist says we should look out.
But God says we should look up!
We love you!
Loretta & Jon