"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 6, 2015
A few weeks ago, my sister was teaching her mid-week junior high class at church. She asked the question, "Who is the richest person that you personally know?" One of the girl's answer was Bloody Mary, who was the first queen of England. Supposedly, this queen is in her family lineage. My sister clarified that she wanted people that they themselves personally know, not someone that they've heard of. My thirteen year old nephew piped up and said that he was the richest person that he knew. My sister (his mom) was somewhat puzzled and said, "Really?!" He said yes, that he has a big jar and has been saving his money and the jar is almost full. She thought it humorous, and her thought was that it is all about perspective. The one girl named a queen, and her son named himself.
Jon and I sometimes daydream about building a house and living out in the country on the property where I grew up in Missouri. Even if we stay in Oklahoma, we dream of moving out of the city into the country. One time when we were visiting with Jon's parents, we mentioned that fact during the conversation. His dad, very seriously and matter of fact, commented, "Well, there's a lot of people in your income bracket who own two homes! You can afford to keep the house you have in Bixby, and also build one in Missouri." Granted, his dad was showing signs of Alzheimers at that time!! When we left to go back home, Jon and I had a good laugh over that statement. We weren't exactly sure what income bracket his dad thought we were in, but it most definitely was not (and still isn't) one that allows us to be able to own and maintain two homes.
I was thinking about my nephew's perception regarding his finances and asked myself that same question, "Who is the richest person that you personally know?" There are a whole lot of people whom I assume are much better off financially than Jon and I. But honestly, I have to say that I don't know that to be a fact. We don't discuss our finances with others, and vice-versa. So basically all I'm doing is guessing or making an assumption based on the type of job someone has, or the kind of car they drive, or how big their house is, or how often they vacation, or how fancy they dress, or extra material items they own, or how freely they spend money, etc.
My conclusion was this: The richest person that I personally know would have to be Jon and myself. What?! Now don't be calling to ask to borrow money or get the wrong idea!! Here's how I came to that conclusion: I don't know the income to debt ratio of anyone else other than the two of us. There are likely others who make a lot more money that Jon does, but I don't know what their outgoing monthly expenses and debt are. I don't know what anyone else may or may not have in a 401K or in investments, nor do I know whether or not they have a savings or retirement account. I also don't know if they try to live beyond their means, in order to impress others or try to compete or because they feel that they always have to have the latest and greatest technology, so are deep in credit card debt. So really, I can't compare our situation to anyone else and say that they are better off, or worse off, than we are. All I can do is make assumptions. I am only privy to our financial situation, therefore, can only truly and honestly speak accurately for the two of us.
I worked in banking for many years. For several of those years we stuffed bank statements by hand, so saw people's account information. We kept all information we had access to confidential; and honestly had too much work to do to sit around and keep watch of people's accounts that we may have personally known. One thing I discovered over those years, through customer service and seeing daily insufficient funds/overdraft reports and other reports I had to keep track of due to my supervisory position, was that there were a whole lot of people who have a lot more money than I ever dreamed of; and then there are those who I thought were well-to-do and had a lot of money that really didn't. There were even some whom I would have perceived as being wealthy due to their lifestyle and how they presented themselves to the community, that I found out played the "rob Peter to pay Paul" game. They had accounts at 2-3 banks, and would write a check from one bank to deposit at another to try and cover incoming checks that had been written; but really didn't have the money at that bank either. But they presented themselves to the community as being outstanding, well-to-do, prestigious citizens.
Being wealthy not only refers to finances, but also to how people conduct themselves. If a person's heart if full of love, peace, and joy it will be reflected in their countenance, attitude, and treatment of others. On the other hand, a bitter, hateful, discontented spirit will bring about strife and division.
Jon and I were recently visiting with his mom about a particular person and she mentioned that she really liked them and that they were so nice and such a good person. On the other hand, we had dealt with that person one time on a business level and saw another side. They had been dishonest with us and cheated us. We also knew another person who had been cheated by them. We hated to burst her bubble, but also wanted to warn her to be careful in her dealings with them, and to not be naive or taken advantage of. They were telling her what they knew she wanted to hear. Jon commented that good, upstanding people will be honest in their business dealings, as well as how they conduct themselves personally. You can't speak one way, then treat people or take care of business another.
We can see these same principles applied spiritually. Often we can look at others and "think" we know how spiritually wealthy they may or may not be. We may perceive someone as being a very godly, upstanding, christian man or woman. They present themselves to the public as being full of good works. But honestly, sometimes they can disappoint us when we see them fail and we realize that we had them on a pedestal that they shouldn't have been on.
Other times we may see someone who seems to be doing very little spiritually and we don't see them giving or working in the church or helping their neighbor and we perceive them as being weak or lazy. But we may not know what they're doing in secret. They may be mighty prayer warriors. They may secretly do good works that no one sees or knows about. They don't get the recognition that others do because they do their deeds in private and don't want others to see or know.
The question may be asked, "Who is the richest person, spiritually, that you personally know?" You may guess someone that seems outstanding and seems to always be busy doing good; but honestly, only God truly knows their heart and sees their motive and intent.
Could you answer that question by truthfully saying, "I am the spiritually richest person that I know?" It's not enough having someone else think that we're spiritual or full of good works. But it's God seeing our heart and saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Matthew 7:15-20 speaks of the fact that you can identify others by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, you can identify people by their actions.
There are those who can put on a good act for a period of time. They may pretend or try to be something that they're not. But there will come a time when their true fruit will be revealed. What's truly in their heart will be seen for what it is. It doesn't matter how appealing and holy they appear on the outside, it's what's inside the heart that really matters. When someone is put through a time of testing or face a difficult situation, that's generally when their true nature and relationship with God will be revealed for what it is.
May we all strive to be rich spiritually. May we allow God to work in our heart and prune away all the old unfruitful, dead areas that need to be done away with; getting rid of habits, attitudes, choices, thoughts, guilt, condemnation, selfishness, pride, etc. that are ungodly and causing areas in our lives to be unfruitful and poor. I want to be a woman of God that is full of good fruit, and spiritually rich. I pray that you, too, desire to be spiritually fruitful and wealthy!
My dad introduced me to someone years ago, who he said was very rich. Or at least, he made a lot of money from a company he had built. He didn't keep much of it, though. He donated most of what he didn't use or need to organizations that needed it more. When Dad pointed out who he was, I was expecting someone who would be humble, but probably well dressed, and who would look like a leader of his business. But he was wearing over-alls with worn spots and several stains. He was grilling burgers for his business and his guests. Here was a man who could easily hire catering for the celebration, but who chose instead to serve the people who worked for him to help him keep his business so strong. Anyone who didn't know better would have guessed he was just another employee who just enjoyed grilling for the day. But to those who knew him, he was a man willing to serve others, and didn't consider himself better than anyone else.
While I'm typing, our puppy is trying to gnaw his way into the center of an antler. He loves gnawing on it. It looks like he is always excited and eager to get to whatever is inside. But it's a lot of work to get inside, too.
It can be a lot of work to get a glimpse of what is inside someone else's heart. But it can also be rewarding. I'm sure the man my dad introduced me to insists on good and quality work from his employees. If he didn't, he couldn't have stayed competitive. But by working for him, they were rewarded by seeing his good nature, and willingness to work for them, too.
Cooked chicken breasts, chopped
Red grapes, split in half
Boil chicken breasts; cool; debone and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add Hellmann's mayonnaise (the real stuff tastes so much better), chopped celery, and grapes that have been cut in half. Mix until good consistency and serve on croissants.
** Amounts vary due to how small or big a portion you want to make. If you want to make enough for 1-2 people, you could even cheat and used canned chicken (may not be quite as good, but it will be fine). I would start by adding a smaller quantity of mayo, grapes, and celery and then add until you get it to the consistency that you like. You can always add, but not take out ingredients!
Jon and I have been trying to somewhat adopt a healthier lifestyle. We're not going nuts or over the top crazy, but trying to make changes that we can live with that will hopefully lead to us being healthier and feeling stronger and more energized.
About 3 months ago, we decided to give up drinking Pepsi (or any other pop). That was a huge change for Jon! When we got married almost 10 years ago, he went through a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi about every other day.... in addition to what he drank throughout the day at work. Gradually, he started drinking less pop and more iced tea and fruit juices and water. For probably the last 3-5 years, a 2-liter bottle would last the two of us almost an entire week. Now for the past 3 months, we've basically been completely free from drinking any kind of pop. I think I've had one glass and Jon has had two during that entire time.
I have read reports and so-called studies that say if a person will give up drinking pop, they will begin to lose weight. That has yet to happen for the two of us, so I'm not completely sure that the study is correct!
A few days ago my sister and I were having lunch. She looked at me and said, "Wow, I can tell that you're losing weight. Your cheekbones are getting more defined and your face is getting slimmer. How much have you lost?" Me: "Absolutely nothing!! I think gravity is just pulling the fat off my face to down around my neck!" Sometimes it's not necessarily about weight loss, but about maintaining a healthier lifestyle in order to preserve and protect your health as best as you can...... at least that's what I tell myself!
He [God] is so rich in kindness and grace
that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.
- Ephesians 1:7 (NLT)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon