"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!'"
November 2, 2011
A while back I took a day trip with my sister, Janie, and her son, Devin. We had toured the Oklahoma School for the Deaf and were walking back to the car to head back home. Janie and I were visiting about the school and where to eat lunch as we were walking, and Devin, as usual, was running ahead of us -- we think it's because he thinks we're old and feels that he has to show us where to go and what to do. Janie was digging in her purse for her car keys and couldn't find where she had put them. I looked in the car window, and there they were, inside the locked car, hanging from the ignition. Our first thoughts were, "Oh no! What do we do now?!" We were almost three hours from home, so calling someone to bring us the spare key wasn't an option. I happened to remember that I have a AAA card, which I've never had to use. Janie also had one, but it was inside her wallet (she thought) which was attached to the car keys. I called AAA and they placed a call for me to have someone come and unlock the car. The wait was about half an hour, and the process of unlocking the car took about three minutes. The young man who came to our rescue was excited. He told Janie that he was good at unlocking cars and was fast; then afterwards smiled at me and said, "That was fun!" I told him that I was glad that someone had enjoyed it and had fun.
It didn't matter that we could see the car keys dangling from the ignition and knew where they were. It didn't help that they were only a couple feet from us and within reach, had the car not been locked. We didn't have access to them, so seeing them so close by did us no good.
Having access is a big deal. As homeowners, Jon and I have a key in which to enter our house, as well as a garage door opener, and we also know the code to our security system. We have full access to our home and can come and go as we please. There have been times when we've traveled and have had someone check on our home as well as pick up our mail and we've given them limited access, but they do not have full entry. They can't enjoy the full privilege of our home, as Jon and I can.
My dream is to someday sing and play with a full orchestra or a band of seasoned, talented musicians. I have gone to concerts and enjoyed great music. I have a ticket, which gives me access into the concert hall and generally I have an assigned seat. I can sit in the audience and enjoy the music, but I do not have access to the stage. I cannot get up onto the stage and sing or play with the performer(s). I don't have the right to do so, so am limited on being an audience participator only.
I have never met anyone well-known or famous. I don't have friends or family who are wealthy or renowned. But I do have friends and family who have given me the authority to enter their home or use their things when they're not there. When I go visit one of my sisters, I don't have to knock on the door or ring the doorbell before entering, but am welcome to walk right in upon arrival. I know that they don't mind if I get something to drink or look in their refrigerator or in their cabinets for something to eat if I'm hungry. And it's the same when family come to visit me. They don't have to ask if they can have something to eat or drink, but are welcome to go help themselves.
There is something special about having access to a place, person or thing. But should we be given access and refuse to use it, then it's our loss.
In Romans 5:1,2 the scriptures speak of us having access to grace, through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:18 says that through Jesus we have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit.
So how do we gain this access to grace and to the Father? John 10:9 tells us that "I (Jesus) am the door. If anyone enter by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." Ephesians 2:8,9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast."
Through salvation we can gain full access to the Father. We don't have to go through a priest or have someone say our prayers for us, but we can pray directly to God ourselves. The only door to salvation is Jesus, and when we repent of our sins, then we are given the authority to go in and find pasture. Psalm 23:1, 2 speaks of this: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures."
Jon and I have made a lot of trips back and forth to Missouri the past several weekends. It has been interesting to observe the countryside as we make the drive. There are places that are so dry and barren and the grasses are brown and dead. Then there are fields that are still vibrant and green and look so beautiful. Apparently, this is also the time when a lot of farmers are plowing up their fields and fertilizing them in preparation for next spring. Depending on what the land is used for and whether or not it is attended by someone seems to often determine how it looks.
When we try to get through life relying on our own strength and resources, we often find ourselves dwelling in those dry, brown, brittle fields. It feels hard, and may seem as if nothing good grows around you. There may only be fleeting periods of peace and joy in your life. Even barren fields that are not farmed will have flowers grow in them, but often they are only weeds. Neglect of your spiritual life doesn't mean you won't ever experience good times or times of blessing. But when winter sets in and things begin to turn brittle and dead and things get hard, you're going to be missing the peace that only God can bring.
But even in the life of a christian, we may go through those barren seasons. It may seem as if no matter what we do, one thing after another hits us and nothing is going right. It is hard to pray and God may seem far, far away. It seems as if there is no beauty in our own private world, and all we can see is death and hardship and pain. These times are difficult and the struggles can seem overwhelming. But yet we can read the word of God and be assured that we are promised a new season ahead of us, and that God has never left us or forsaken us.
Then there may be those times when we feel as if we're being plowed under and there's some stinky fertilizer being spread in our life. Those may be periods of discomfort and hardship, but you can have the assurance that God is with you and that the harvest and newness of life will come in the springtime. Whatever you're facing is not going to last forever, but just as seasons change, your situation will also change. The sun will shine again, seeds will be planted, and blessings will spring forth.
The times that we all enjoy the most is when God allows us to lie down in green pastures. Life is beautiful and all our needs are met. "He leads me beside the still waters. He restores me soul." (Psalm 23:3) We love those seasons when water is plentiful and we feel restored in our soul. We want for nothing, and it seems as if all our prayers are being answered. Peace is abundant and we are skipping through life with a smile on our face.
Regardless of which season you may be facing right now, you can have direct access to God. You can pray and ask for peace. You can tell God how you feel and ask for His help and intervention. Or if you're enduring a time of blessing, you still have access to the Father and can raise your voice in a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.
May we each take advantage of the access we have available to us through Jesus Christ. Our relationship with God doesn't have to be like those car keys dangling within view, but not within reach. God is not locked away from us, but we each can have direct access to Him.
I find the wording of Psalm 23 interesting. It says, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures", not "lets me". For the last few weekends, I've worked all weekend. But last time, I did take a couple hours to walk with my sweetie, and enjoy the beautiful trees. I wasn't really being made to enjoy it, but I really needed the break. And if I didn't go willingly, I might have been forced.
It's a great break for me going out, working with wood and construction on the weekends. The rest of the week, I mostly use computers, and electronics. But on the weekends, I get to go outside, hang out at the edge of the woods, and get some sun.
As much as I like the work, I sometimes do need to be made to lie down in the green pastures. We all need breaks once in awhile. We don't need to be scared to lie down in green pastures once in awhile; we were made to.
For many years when the family got together at Daddy and June's or when one of us went to visit, we were always excited when June made her homemade rolls. They were always so delicious and was one of our very favorites. June know how much we all liked her rolls so would try to always make some when she knew we'd be there. Brown beans and buns; two things we could generally count on when we ate there!
2 packages yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups hot tap water
1 stick melted butter
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups flour (to start)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat about 10 minutes with a mixer. Add more flour to make thick enough to knead. Put on floured board and knead good; place in a greased bowl. Let rise until doubled in size. Punch down and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out and cut with big cutter. Melt butter in baking pan (this is additional butter from what was added to the roll mixture). Roll each roll in butter then fold in half and place in pan. Bake at 350 until golden brown.
Two of my cousins and I were visiting this past weekend about how we used to play church when we were kids. We each had singers that we would try to imitate. I remember that playing church was one of my very favorite things to do. It was also something that all my older sisters played when they were younger. It's funny to hear different ones tell of their memories of things they'd do when pretending to be in church. My oldest sister shared recently that she remembers going down to our pond with her cousins and them standing on the bank and pretending to have a water baptism. She'd dip a hanky in the water and wipe her face with it so it would be wet and look like she'd just been baptized. Not that we sprinkled, our church baptized by immersion, but I'm sure they knew that Daddy and Mama wouldn't want them to get in the dirty pond water. Another sister said she remembered preachers sweating when they preached (not many churches had air conditioning back then), so she'd run up and down the road to get sweaty so that she could pretend to be preaching and could wipe her sweaty forehead with a hanky. Some of my sisters would get one of Mama's old purses and put family pictures inside and pretend to be late to church and come in and show off family pictures. Apparently, they were pretending that they lived away and were visiting, so needed to show the others who were playing with them pictures of their family. What an imagination we all had!! I'm thankful that we didn't have a lot of toys or a TV growing up, because we got to use our imagination and pretend. Our childhood memories aren't of TV shows we watched or toys we had, but are of games we'd play outside with our cousins or using our imagination while we played. I love reminiscing with my sisters and cousins about memories we all have of things we did; both together and separately.
The things you want God to bless, you have to give to Him!
The things you hang on to, you are responsible for.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon