"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 30, 2013
I've had a few moments when I've been proud of myself and my accomplishments. Then there have been those not so proud moments that were downright humiliating..... and sometimes quite funny.... afterwards.
A few years ago my family was gathered at our home-place in Missouri. As usual, we five sisters were sitting outside under the big oak trees visiting. Some of the brothers-in-law were off doing their own thing -- probably fishing or something such as that. Jon was hanging out at the house. He always has a list of projects he wants to do each time we go: trees to trim, brush to burn, mowing...... So he was walking through occasionally, visiting with us. A few of my nieces and nephews were hanging around with us under the shade trees.
We have a big homemade swing-set that sits between the two oak trees. On this particular day, I had this flashback of when I was a kid and would sit on the bar across the end of the old swing-set, which was much smaller than the current one that is there. I would hold onto the bars and flip upside down and hang by my knees, then flip off. I was evidently daydreaming and not dealing in reality, because for a fleeting moment, I apparently thought I was still as young and flexible as I was forty years ago, and in my mind, I would still be able to do that.
My first clue should have been when I had a hard time even getting up onto the bar to sit. This swing-set was much taller than the one we had when I was a little girl, so I had to stand on a folding chair to climb up to that bar. I did get up there and could sit -- yippee for me!!
But from that point on, everything began falling apart! I tried to hang upside down with my knees bent over the bar. The momentum of falling backwards to my knees started my chubby body to swinging back and forth. It all went downhill from there! I lost my grip on the bar and one leg fell off. In seemingly slow motion, I fell off the bar and landed on my backside in the dirt-covered rocks.
Jon happened to be walking by at the time and was witness to the entire fiasco, as well as all my sisters and the nieces and nephews that were present at the time. But here is the clincher to this story: while I was slipping off the bar and wildly swinging by my knees and falling, not one person jumped up to try and help me! Everyone sit there, apparently glued to their chairs or the ground on which they were standing, watching the entire humiliating chain of events, laughing and laughing and laughing. I could have broken something or been hurt!!
It was a not-so-proud moment, and I realized that I should never try doing those things that I haven't done for the past forty years!
We all go through those times in our lives when we feel like we are hanging by our knees, swinging out of control, losing our grip, and falling. It may even seem like everyone around us is sitting or standing around watching; waiting to see what happens next, and not offering to run to our defense. We feel like our situation is out of control and there is nothing we can do but wait for it to crash to the ground. And often, it feels like it happens in slow motion and we're thinking, "Surely, someone will run to help me so that fall isn't so hard and I don't get hurt." But often it feels like we have to go through those times alone.
What we frequently forget during those moment is that we're not alone, and that God is there with us. He's not sitting by waiting to see what happens next. He's not laughing or judging or giving an opinion on why we shouldn't be in that situation to begin with or why He allowed our circumstances to occur. But God is sitting beside us, and believe it or not, is holding us when we feel like we are falling and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
There are times when we may put ourselves in situations, of our own choosing, then have to deal with the outcome. We've all done that and have tried to handle things in our own power and strength. And we've all dealt with the dire consequences. Even though it may be our own fault, God is still with us and will never leave us.
But there are times when we are faced with circumstances that are not of our own choosing. We find ourselves in the middle of something that we don't deserve and never thought we'd face. We may even find ourselves questioning where God is and why He chose us to have to endure such hardship. If we're not careful, we can become bitter and feel that God has left us and doesn't care.
We've all heard it said that God won't give us more than we can bear. What the scripture actually says is that, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Regarding temptation and sin, we do have a choice. We can either choose to engage in it or we can choose to run from it. The promise is that God will not allow us to be temped more than we can handle and will always provide a way for us to run away from it.
There is a huge difference between temptation and suffering. There is a choice when it comes to temptation, but not when it comes to suffering.
When someone is personally battling cancer or a severe illness, or dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis of a family member, or have lost everything they own in a fire or a natural disaster, they did not bring those things on themselves and did not choose the path of hardship and suffering.
There are times when our hearts feel overwhelmed with grief and sadness. The night before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38 NLT). Jesus felt as if this were too much to endure and prayed, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me." But regardless of what He was feeling during those moments, He was willing to accept the will of His Father and added, "Yet I want Your will be be done, not Mine."
David cried out many times to God and at times felt as if he had been forsaken. In Psalm 22:1-2 David asks, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are You so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief." In Psalm 88, David again cries out, "For my life is full of troubles and death draws near. I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left. Oh Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day. O Lord, why do You reject me? Why do You turn Your face from me? You have taken my campanions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend."
The truth is, there are times when we feel overwhelmed and as if we can't go another step further. Our burden feels heavy and cumbersome and it has weighed us down to the point where we feel bent over from the load. Yet, if we were able to bear all of our burdens all by ourselves and find the strength and peace that we seek by our own devices, then why would we have need of God? He desires that we look to Him for help and strength, and will give us what we need each moment of each day.
In the midst of our suffering and difficulties we can find promises that God will be with us and help carry our burden. Even when it seems as if He is far away and our life is swinging out of control, we can go to His Word and be reminded of those promises (all scripture from the New Living Translation):
"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'" (Matthew 11:28)
"Give all your worries and care to God, for He cares about you." (1 Peter 5:7)
"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." (Psalm 55:22)
"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
One of my favorite scriptures during times of hardship is 2 Corinthians 4:17 for it is a great reminder that whatever we're dealing with is not going to last forever, and we have so much more to look forward to.
"For our present troubles are small and won't last long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"
When Loretta described the events at the swing-set, she wasn't entirely accurate. I wasn't glued to the ground where I stood. I just didn't move quickly enough, and she had managed to get up on her feet before I got to the camera.
She was never in any mortal danger. From her angle, it might have seemed so. But from everyone else's perspective, it was obvious that Loretta was only inches from the ground. She may have gotten a little dusty, but she wouldn't have gotten hurt.
Sometimes that's the same with situations that we get into. God knows whether we are truly hanging head-down dangerously high above the ground, or just inches from getting dusty.
1 pkg. White Chocolate Instant Pudding (small)
4-5 Apples, peeled and diced
1 large container Cool Whip
1 can Pineapple Chunks or Tidbits, with juice
1 Banana, sliced
1 cup Miniature Marshmallows
Add dry pudding and Cool Whip together. Add remaining ingredients and fold together. Refrigerate.
A while back I picked Jax up at pre-K. On the way to his house he asked if we could watch Scout on Netflix. I replied, "Sure; if I can figure out how to turn on Netflix on your TV." Then knowing how kids nowadays tend to know how to operate electronics, I asked if he knew how to turn on Netflix. "No, Retta! I'm just a kid!" I told him that I knew he was a kid, but he was a really smart kid, so I thought he might know how. Jax replied, "Well..... there are some things that I'm too little to know how to do."
It is comforting to know that not only the steps but also the stops of a good man are ordered by the Lord -- George Mueller
We love you!
Loretta & Jon