"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!'"
September 16, 2015
I play very few online games, but one that I do enjoy at times is Bejeweled. The particular version that I play on Facebook is a timed game. You have one minute to score as many points as possible. The goal is to have the highest weekly score against the others who are also playing. Most weeks I rank towards the top, and at times have even gotten the highest score against my Facebook friends, who choose to play this game.
I have learned a couple of technics that have helped; in addition to having played this game in it's various forms since it first came out several years ago, therefore, having lots of experience.
First of all, I've learned that I can't watch the timer at the bottom of the game, if I want a high score. I have to concentrate on making as many moves as possible in the allotted time. If I'm busy watching the timer to see how much time I have left, then I'm not able to focus on the game.
Secondly, there are helps available that I can use to increase my score. The game is free, so the way the company makes money is to offer various helps for a small fee. I don't like spending money on games and have very rarely done so. I have learned if I am patient and will play the game regularly, then I can win free helps to use. I have to make the choice to utilize those helps when I have them available, in order to have the best score possible. If not, then I'm not going to ever win big.
Life is not really a game, but is compared to a race in the Bible. I have never been a runner, but know that those who do choose to run, have to train. You can't just go out one morning and decide, "Today, I'm going to be a runner and run a 5K!" If you do so, then you're going to end up getting hurt.
My niece has ran in some 5K races; and has ran half a marathon, which is just over 13 miles. Leading up to the half-marathon, she diligently got up really early most mornings and trained. She ran with a partner, and the two helped motivate one another. A lot of work went into training before the day of the race arrived.
When Janee' was training for the race, as well as when she was actually running in the race, she couldn't keep stopping to check her time to see how well she was doing. She had a goal in mind of what she hoped her time would be, but had she kept stopping and checking the time, she would never have met that goal.
She also had to utilize the helps available to her. She chose a good friend to train with; she had to find the right shoes that wouldn't hurt her feet; she had to wear the right type of clothing; she had to carry the right type of water bottle that strapped onto her hand while she ran, etc...
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT) says, "Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified."
This race that we are running is for an eternal prize. Unlike other races, there is not only one winner; but all who complete and finish will obtain the prize. But we can't do it alone, or else we will become discouraged, grow weary, and give up.
We must utilize the helps that God has given each of us. He has given us the encouragement of other believers. He has given us His Word. He has given us the ability to communicate to Him through prayer. If we fail to use the helps that God has made available, then we won't obtain our goal. When life throws obstacles our way and we fall down or fail, it will be easier to give up when we're not leaning on God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We also can't be constantly stopping and watching the "time", worried that we're not going to completely make it to the finish line before God calls us home. We can't be worried about what others are or aren't doing; trying to compete with them. But we must run side by side, encouraging and helping those whom God places in our path. It's only then that we will run with strength and endurance.
It's God's desire that we all run to win! But it takes discipline. We must be spiritually disciplined; but also must discipline our flesh. We can't give into temptations and snares that are along the pathway. We can't keep turning around and running the wrong direction. But we must keep our eyes on the eternal prize and run with endurance!
Last night, after Loretta had finished with the rest of the newsletter, we received a distressing call. Her sister's house was on fire, and her 13-year-old boy was missing. I'll give the whole story, which isn't all that frightening.
Loretta's sister had to go to a meeting for work, and wouldn't be gone all that long. She left her 13-year-old home. He checked in with his adult brother next-door or his brother's wife fairly often. He is a smart boy, and usually very careful. His brother saw him about 7:00 PM that night.
At some point that evening, He had been playing with a ladder. He had it put up to his second-story window. He decided that he wanted some candles, too. I'm not sure why, but guess he wanted to see them through his window. So, he went downstairs, and got a 3-candle candelabra, lit the candles, and headed upstairs. It probably would have looked like a scene from many, many movies--a boy climbing the stairs in a dark house, lit only by three candles, and evening light (sunset was about 7:30; this was around 7:00-7:15). But while he was climbing the stairs, one of the candles fell. By the time he got the other two candles down safely, and turned around, the carpet on the stairs was on fire--much too big to put out, especially from above. It appears the wax of the candle melted into the carpet, and made every string in the carpet a separate wick. You can probably imagine how bright and hot hundreds of little candles across a tread of the stairs would be. The flammable carpet took off immediately. And he was trapped!
Fortunately, he had a ladder up to his bedroom window. He remembered the fire safety he and his mother had talked about, so knew his most important job was to get out of the house. He was supposed to get a 1-year-old baby, too, as long as he could, but the 1-year-old wasn't home, so he didn't need to do that. He just needed to get to the ladder. His second job was to meet his mother across the street. She wasn't there, so that wouldn't work.
He knew he shouldn't have lit the candles. That wasn't a big deal. No one would be angry at him for it. And no one is angry with him for the fire. But he was focused on the fire. The mistake he made was lighting the candles, which wasn't so bad. The consequence was a fire, which was awful. So, he was still terrified, and was sure he would be in trouble. So he ran. He took his bike, and left.
At about 7:15, a neighbor heard a loud pop. We don't know, yet, what that was from, but are thankful for it. He looked, and saw smoke, so he called 911. Then he ran to tell the brother next-door, who came to the house looking for his brother. Meanwhile, his wife called his mom, us, and all the other family around. She was watching the 1-year-old and three other kids, so couldn't leave.
At some point, he decided he needed to atone, so he went to his church. His church was 18 miles away, but he knew his way. He is so amazing with directions, that he once pointed out how to get to a home he lived in when he was 2, after not being near it since then. So, of course he found his way there. He diligently stopped at every intersection, pressed the cross-walk button, and waited for the light. And he looked for cars each time; and walked his bike across the intersections.
No one was at the church, so he turned, and headed toward home. On the way, the passed an apartment he had lived in years before, and passed the church building he used to go to. About two miles short of getting back home, his cousin found him, and drove him the rest of the way.
We had a great welcome-home when he got back.
Meanwhile, we didn't know the whole story. What we did know was that he was accounted-for at 7:00, but at 7:15 the house was smoking and he and his bicycle were gone. Within about 20 minutes, we had a few family there, trying to find each-other among the fire trucks and police cars. Within an hour, we had about 30 family, friends, and church-members there.
Some stayed there to co-ordinate, but most of us went off in pairs looking in every place we could imagine he might go. We did send one pair to their new church, and another to their previous church, as well as every bike trail, everyone else's home, the office where his mom had been at, and nearby restaurants and stores he liked to go to. But when we checked, and didn't find him, we left. We didn't consider that he wouldn't just go somewhere, and stop.
We gathered everyone still there from time to time to pray that God would protect him and bring him home. We had faith and hope that he would come home any time. Around 1:10 AM, we got the call that he had been found, and was on the way home. We gathered again to give a prayer of thanks.
The fire inspector told our nephew "good job" for being honest and telling the truth on what had actually happened for confessing the truth; for it saved them a lot of time and effort and made their job easier. He also complimented my sister-in-law on raising him right, for the place he ran to after realizing his mistake was to the church to pray and repent. If only we would learn from this ourselves and run to God in prayer when we mess up and make mistakes!
There are quite a few things we learn from this. Some about fire safety, some about our relationship with God, some both.
If you're searching for a scared kid, flashing police lights might not help. Shine a light in your own face, so they can see and recognize you. If you don't find him somewhere, don't give up on that place. Leave someone there, or leave word with cashiers, or anyone else you could trust that could watch, or at least leave a note like "stay here, we'll come back soon. We love you!"
When you go over a fire plan with kids, include different variations on who would be home, and alternate places to go.
Hold on to faith.
When we know we've done something wrong, it's easy to panic. Our instinct is to run or hide. Maybe what we did wasn't so bad, but the consequence was. Running doesn't fix it, and may make it worse.
When we know we've done something wrong, it's great to want to look for forgiveness. But we don't have to fight hard for forgiveness. All we need to do is go back to God, and ask. He will be waiting there, eager for us to come back.
3 Tablespoons butter
6 cups peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
2 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
Peel and slice potatoes. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in saucepan; stir in flour and salt. Add milk, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add potatoes and heat, stirring until it boils again. Turn into a shallow greased casserole pan. Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter over the top. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until potatoes are soft. Onions or diced ham may be added to the potatoes, before cooking. You may also add shredded cheese to the top when almost done cooking.
Make a point to encourage someone each day this week! Go out of your way, if necessary. Lend a helping hand, send an encouraging email or mail a card to someone, call and chat with a friend whom you've not talked to in a while, let someone know that you are praying for them; or ask God each day to send someone your way whom you can help and encourage -- then wait and see what He does, while you make yourself available and listen!
"Contentment is not in the absence of storms,
but in the presence of Jesus!" - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon