"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!'"
May 28, 2014
There is an older worship song that says: "Turn your eyes up on Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim; in the light of His glory and grace."
That is often easier said (or sang) than done. We want to keep our focus on Jesus. We don't want to be overwhelmed by life and distracted by daily situations. But too often, we begin looking at what's going on in our life or around us, and find ourselves focusing more on those things than on God. Over and over again, we have to remind ourselves and make the choice to get our priorities and focus back in the right direction.
Jon and I have been on vacation the past two weeks. For several weeks leading up to vacation, we had been counting down days, making plans, and looking forward to spending two weeks relaxing and having a good time. Due to Jon's work schedule, he was unable to take any time off last year, so this made vacation this year even more needed. We were ready and excited about having 17 days together.
Leading up to vacation, I had gone online and made reservations and plans. I wanted those two weeks to be absolutely perfect! I had planned a trip where we would go to Florida for a few days, then head to North Carolina and into Tennessee, driving through the Smoky Mountains. We were hyped. But right before vacation, life circumstances happened, and we found that we weren't going to be able to take the trip I had planned. I was able to cancel our cabin in the Smokies, but it was past the deadline for canceling our condo in Florida. We decided to go ahead and go to Florida, then come home and vacation around the great state of Oklahoma; taking day trips and doing things we talk about doing, but never actually go do.
Honestly, there were several times during those two weeks when I had to do an attitude check and focus on what was important; getting to spend two full weeks with my sweet husband.
Our trip to Florida wasn't all that I had anticipated and hoped for, and it was a bit of a let down. That first day, everywhere we ate, either the food wasn't that great, the servers were rude, or we had to wait for extremely long amounts of time.
It had rained the days leading up to our arrival, so the ocean was a dirty brown color and there were red flag warnings on all the beaches because of the water being so rough. We had expected the beaches to be uncrowded, due to schools not being out yet, and there were a whole lot more people there than we had expected. Our condo had a gated parking lot, which we hadn't been told about, so when we arrived we couldn't get in. Another man drove up behind us and used his card to let us in. We found out that the office closed early on Sunday's, which we also hadn't been told about. Thankfully, another man helped us by showing us a lock box and a number to call so we could get inside to get our packet so that we could get into our condo.
The best part of the entire trip was Monday morning when we were standing on the balcony of our condo and looked out and saw a pod of dolphins close to shore and we got to watch them for probably 15-20 minutes.
We got back home, and I went online to find things in Oklahoma for us to do. I knew that my attitude could either make or break how good our bad our vacation turned out. I could be disappointed because our original plans hadn't panned out and pout; or I could find other options and enjoy time with my husband. I knew that I had to get my focus off what had not worked out like I thought, and focus on making the most of our days and having fun. And we did. We ended up having a good vacation.
In Matthew 14:22-33 we read the story of Peter walking on the water. The disciples were in a boat in the middle of the sea when a storm came. The boat was being tossed by the waves, for the wind was strong. At about 3:00 AM, the disciples saw someone walking towards them on the water. Their first reaction was that it was a ghost, and they became fearful. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and told them to not be afraid, that it was Him.
Peter responded by saying, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Jesus told him to come.
Peter jumped out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. Can you imagine the other disciples' thoughts as they watched Peter actually walking on the water?
As long as Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he walked on the water, even though it was still storming and the wind and waves were strong. But he took his eyes off Jesus and started focusing on the storm instead and became afraid. He begin to sink and cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter, and said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" They got into the boat and the wind ceased.
We all encounter storms in our lives and our first initial response may be to call upon Jesus. We can see Him and know that He is there with us in the midst of our situation. But then we begin looking at how big our problems look, and take our focus off Jesus. The storm in our life suddenly feels overwhelming and bigger than God. But all we have to do is cry out, "Lord, save me!" and immediately we will find Jesus standing right there with His hand outstretched, ready to pick us up and catch us. He will walk through the remainder of the storm with us, until the time is right when He speaks to that particular storm we're going through and tell it to cease.
All we have to have is faith the size of a tiny mustard seed. We don't have to have a big faith. But we can put our little faith in a big God, knowing that He is bigger than any circumstances we will ever face. God can turn our impossibilities into possibilities. Nothing is too hard for God to do! No problem we face will ever be too difficult for God to handle.
What are you focusing on? Turn your eyes on Jesus.
A few weeks ago, I walked into a bar. I know I shouldn't have. I know I should have went a different way, or should have ducked. And immediately after I waked into it, I felt incredibly stupid. I knew I had clamped the bar-clamp about forehead high. And I should have thought about the bar sticking out where it could be walked into. But I guess I thought no one would be stupid enough to walk into it. But I was, and I have a scar on my forehead now to remind me of it.
The main reason for hitting my head on the bar clamp was that I was focused on something else. I was walking over to look at that, and didn't pay attention to the bar sticking out from the clamp. My sister-in-law recently used a similar story in a sermon. She was focused on something on the floor, and hit her head on the wall while walking over to look at it.
Matthew recorded Jesus's words in chapter 7, verse 13-14: "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it."
It's easy to wander off a narrow path if you start focusing on trees off to the side, or the mountains on the other side. One of our trips last week included some hiking on a small, very rocky path. We stopped to look around fairly often, but if we had tried to walk without keeping our eye on the trail, we probably would have tripped or sprained an ankle.
If we stopped to look around the whole time, we would never have gotten to the end of the trail. The path to life is similar. We may stop and enjoy the view a little, but we'll never reach the gateway to life if we don't move down the trail. We have to take time every day to learn about God, and make some progress down the road. I recommend reading The Bible at least 5-10 minutes and praying frequently.
Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos
1 lb. Sausage
20 large jalapenos
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Bacon - optional
Half each jalapeno lengthwise and remove seeds (I suggest wearing plastic gloves). Cook sausage; drain. In a small mixing bowl combine the cream cheese and parmesan cheese; fold in browned sausage. Fill each jalapeno half with the sausage mixture. To make them even better, wrap each sausage-filled jalapeno with a half strip of bacon. Place in un-greased pan. Bake, uncovered, at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until filling is lightly browned and bubbly or bacon strips look cooked. Serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.
We were recently visiting with family and the subject of kids "running away" from home came up. When my niece was young she decided to run away, and carried her clothes on the clothes hangers when she left. Of course, she didn't get far before deciding to go back home.
Jon said when he was a kid and thought about running away, he first figured up how much it would cost to stay in a motel and buy food, and decided that it was too expensive and he didn't have enough money.
Jon's sister ran away when she was a little girl, but when she turned the corner where she could no longer see the house, she turned back around and ran back home crying, "I promise I won't ever run away again!" Her parents didn't even know that she had been gone!
It's hard to listen while you're planning something you think needs to be said. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon