"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!'"
December 3, 2014
On Thanksgiving, we spent the day with my sister, Janie, and her family. Early that evening, the kids were starting to get tired and Jax came and sat on my lap. He asked me to make up a story to tell him. I told him a story about children who disliked someone different, but learned to like him.
After I finished the story, Jax asked, "Did that really happen or did you just make that up?" I told him that I had made it up. He said, "That was a good story, Aunt 'Retta! Now I'll make up a story to tell you."
It was funny because the story Jax told me was almost identical to the one I had told him. He changed a few details, but it was essentially the same story.
I love listening to stories. On my mother's side of the family, there were and are a lot of great storytellers. My grandfather, who was called Poppy, passed away when I was about a year old. But I have heard those in the family who knew him, tell of how the family would sit and listen to Poppy's stories when they were all together. He made up a lot of ghost stories. From what I understand, he would tell a story in such a way that it would seem almost real. Several of my uncles were also great storytellers. I think that several of my cousins also enjoy making up stories to tell their kids and grandkids. If you heard my story, you could tell, I'm not a great storyteller! But I love it when I hear my great-nieces and great-nephews make up stories and tell them. I love seeing people, both young and old, use their imagination to tell a story or to play!
A while back, Jon and I were talking to my great-niece, Abigail. She was telling us all about her imaginary friends. She was going into great detail about them and telling us things these "friends" had said and things that they had all done together. I told Abigail that when I was about her age, I had an imaginary friend named Loretta Martin, who I would talk to and play with. She was asking about her and asked where she had gone. I told her that one day she rode off on her horse and I never saw her again. Abigail told me that her imaginary friends had horses, too, and she was pretty sure that they had seen my friend. She would ask them, next time she saw them! I had to laugh, because I was thinking, "My imaginary friend would be about forty years older than your imaginary friends!!" But then, maybe imaginary friends don't age; they can be however old or young we want them to be.
Perhaps it is because of my love for storytelling and reading books that makes me so appreciative of Jesus using parables to demonstrate His point. He didn't just state the facts, but He gave examples and stories to better illustrate His message. Jesus used stories that people of all generations could relate to.
Jesus could have said, "When a person is in sin, God will pursue them until they repent." But to better explain this, He told a story that people could envision and relate to. Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-31)
A father had two sons, and the younger asked the father for his share of the estate now before the father died. The father agreed, and divided his wealth between his sons. A few days later the younger son packed all of his belongings and moved to a distant land. There he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The young man was so hungry, that the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, "At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, 'I have sinned against both heaven and earth, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.'" So he returned home. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to meet his son, and embraced and kissed him. The father called to the servants and said, "Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. Kill the calf that we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and now returned to life. He was lost but now is found. So the party began! The older brother was out in the field working, and when he came home at the end of the day, he heard the music and dancing. He asked a servant what was going on, and was told, "Your brother is back, and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating his safe return." The older brother was angry and wouldn't go inside. His father came out and begged him to join them. The son said, "All these years I've slaved for you and never refused to do a single thing that you asked of me. In all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours that has squandered your money away on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf." His father said, "Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and now is found!"
Reading this parable that Jesus spoke gives us a clear picture of how our Heavenly Father feels when we repent and come home to Him. We may try to live life our own way and think we'll find pleasure, but will one day find that freedom isn't all it's cracked up to be. I heard it put this way one time: "The grass is greener on the other side; but it's only because it's over a septic tank." We may think that life away from God is complete freedom because we can do whatever we want. But then the time will come when we realize that life back at home with our Father is where we really want to be. That's where the real freedom is; freedom from sin, shame, guilt, condemnation...... And God, our Father, will always run to us with open arms and throw a celebration when we return home.
Some of the parables that Jesus gave were just short ones that were enough to illustrate His message. Here are a few that He gave to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven:
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and the birds come and make their nests in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32 NLT)
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough." (Matthew 31:33 NLT)
Matthew 31:34-35 (NLT) says, "Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, He never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: 'I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.'"
Psalm 78:1-4 (NLT) says, "Oh my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past -- stories we have heard and know, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders."
When we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we can read many, many parables that Jesus spoke to emphasize and clarify His point. He spoke in simplicity so that mankind could hear and understand His message.
I've heard individuals speak, whether it be at church or in a book or at a conference or in a training seminar, where I'm sitting there confused and not having a clue what they're saying. I hear the words, but don't understand the message. I think, "Okay, am I really that stupid.... is it them trying to sound knowledgeable and smart..... why am I not understanding and comprehending this?" Afterward, I feel like I had just wasted a portion of my time. I will admit, that I like things kept simple. I like things said and written clearly so I know exactly what the point being made is, and I don't have to try and figure it out; because then I may get it wrong.
Jesus spoke in a way that all mankind could read and hear and understand. Jesus didn't want to make things so complicated that only a select few could comprehend His message. But He spoke in a way that everyone from a child, to a know-it-all teen, to a uneducated adult, to a homemaker, to a skilled laborer, to a genius.... and everyone in between could understand His words and message.
I like parables and analogies, too. I use analogies a lot to explain engineering, programming, or scientific problems and concepts to others. I've been to school for 5 years to learn the background for some of those ideas, and if I want to convince someone that the programming idea they want me to make real isn't possible, I try to translate it into an analogy. If I just say, "It can't be done", there are many people who won't believe me.
Jesus knows heaven, God, and our relationship with Him in ways we couldn't possibly understand. He was there at the creation of the world. His parables help us to get a little closer to understanding some aspect, even if we couldn't understand completely until we are there. Jesus could have simply said, "God will always welcome you home, even if you squander what He's given you." But most people simply wouldn't believe that, or really understand why or how. But with the parable, we get to see God as our Father, one who is excited and celebrates when we return to Him.
It's that time of year again!!! Christmas candy and goodies!!!
Granny Schwyhart's Fudge
1 can evaporated milk
1 pint marshmallow cream
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
24 ounce chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups nuts (optional)
Put evaporated milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 6 minutes. Stir constantly to keep from scorching about 4-1/2 minutes. In a large bowl put all other ingredients. Pour boiling mixture over ingredients in the bowl. Stir until glossy (will take a while). Pour in a buttered pan.
Note: Jon prefers his fudge without nuts -- I prefer nuts. So I pour half the fudge in a buttered pan, then stir nuts in the remaining mixture before pouring it in another buttered pan. I prefer either chopped pecans or black walnuts!
Our Christmas tree is up and decorated, and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in our home! The past couple of days, it's felt a lot like Christmas outdoors. I love the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas!! I love the lights, decorations, music.... and the food!!!
Can you believe that this is our 404th newsletter?? It's unbelievable! What's even more of a blessing, is that the past few months our number of readers has been steadily increasing. When we do something that God calls us to do, we may not see success right away. But if we will be faithful and keep going, regardless of how successful we think may or may not be, then God will bless our efforts.
We just want to say a huge "THANK YOU" to everyone who reads our newsletter. We have no way of knowing who you are, but we appreciate you more than you can imagine. We pray that in someway, you will be encouraged and blessed by what we write each week.
Knowledge is knowing what to say.
Wisdom is knowing when to say it. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon