"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 25, 2016
When Jon and I were in Singapore, one of the favorite places we visited was the zoo. Normally, zoos are not places that we visit; but we had been told that this was a must-see, and was rated the top rainforest zoo in the world. It was absolutely amazing!! In fact, we spent one full day there, then found out that they also had a night safari where you could view the nocturnal animals, so we went back one evening. The night safari was interesting, but being there during the daytime was by far our favorite.
The only zoos that we had ever visited prior to us going to Singapore were in the US, where we were used to all the animals being caged. In Singapore, it was in a very natural setting and was absolutely beautiful. We saw many of the animals very up close and personal, which was surprising. There were kangaroos in an area with a one-rail fence that somewhat bordered the area where they were; but they didn't stay inside the fenced area. They were out on the sidewalk and right there beside the people. There were monkeys swinging over the walkway where people were walking. We walked through an area where there were lemurs and flying fox (which is a large variety of bats) right there with us. I took a picture of Jon standing with a lemur lying on a ledge right beside him.
Even the larger and wilder animals, such as the elephants, white tigers, giraffes, lions, etc, felt as if you were walking through their habitat. As I said earlier, you never saw any fences or cages. Instead, there were moats of water and gorgeous landscaping and flowers that separated you from those animals. As you walked through, it seemed as if you were actually walking through a natural animal safari, and not so much a zoo.
There were also beautiful orchid and flower gardens, as well as a garden with tropical crops.
The entire experience was absolutely amazing!! The entire time that we were walking around that day, Jon and I were in awe and kept commenting on how incredibly unique and awesome it was. It's something that I doubt either of us will ever forget.
In Singapore, about the only transportation was either to walk or take a taxi; at least at the time that we were there. I looked it up online and the information shows that they have a train and bus system, too. Neither of us remember ever seeing busses, so perhaps that is something new since we were there, which was several years ago. They may have had the train when we were there, but I don't think there was a train station in the area where we were staying, and neither of us remember ever seeing them either. Therefore, we either walked or took a taxi.
Getting to the zoo was quite an experience! It was the scariest taxi ride that we had the entire time we were there. The zoo is in the rainforest area and probably 30-40 minutes outside the main city area where we were staying. All the taxi drivers would weave in and out of traffic and tailgate and do it while driving fast. It made it difficult to enjoy the scenery! The taxi driver we had on the way to the zoo was an exceptionally scary driver. Jon and I were both praying and holding on!!
Sometimes the journey to where we want to go can be scary and we wonder why we thought it was a good idea to go. After Jon and I got to the zoo and saw how incredible it was, we were glad that we had endured the taxi ride to get there. We could have stayed inside the hotel the entire time we were there, in order to try and stay safe; but had we done so, we would never have experienced the great things that we got to see and do.
In life, there are times when we like the safety of staying "home". Being in ruts can make us feel secure, because we are familiar with the routine and know what to expect. We don't like anything upsetting our routine and interrupting our life. In fact, there are even times when we get uncomfortable if God wants to get us out of comfort zone and we will fight against what He wants to do in our life and where He wants to take us. But we will miss out on so much beauty that God wants to show us when we refuse to budge and allow fear to keep us from moving forward.
The truth is, our journey through life can have some pretty stinky situations that we have to go through. Not everything is smooth-sailing and scenic and perfect. There are times when life doesn't make sense and things that happen are difficult to understand. The key is to never give up; keep your eyes on Jesus; and hold fast to your faith.
James 1:12 (NLT) says, "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."
If we want to receive the blessing of God, then we must patiently endure testing and temptation. We want the blessing of God without ever having to go through hardships and difficult times, but often that's not how God works. He rewards those who remain faithful to Him, regardless of what is happening in their live. He wants us to not only love Him in the good times, but to love Him when our journey is difficult. He promises that if we will patiently endure, then afterward, we will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
A scripture that has recently been on my mind is Psalm 30:5 (NLT): "For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."
The favor of God lasts a lifetime! That's incredible. Even when we don't understand life and our path is rocky and full of pot-holes, we can still experience the favor of God. Wow! There may be a time when we experience weeping, but we have the promise that there will be a breakthrough, and joy will come. Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NLT) tells us that there will be, "A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance." Seasons will come and go, but through it all, God's favor will endure.
The past couple of weeks I have written about my father-in-law's battle with Alzheimer's. Something that we have tried to consistently remind him of is the fact that God can still use him, even now, in the nursing home. There have been times when it seems as if Stan "gets" it and understands that fact; then other times when he doesn't. He is happiest when he feels needed. When he encourages and visits with other residents, or when he shows new residents around and helps them "find" things, he feels fulfilled and senses that he still has a purpose. We've tried to help him realize that there are people there who need Jesus, who need prayer, who need someone who will be the light of Jesus; and he can be that person. Nowadays, it's becoming more difficult for him to comprehend this, but still there are moments when he still gets it and wants God to use him. Even now, when Stan gets frustrated and doesn't understand the changes taking place in his mind due to the disease, the favor of God is still upon him. How do I know that? Because the scripture promises that God's favor lasts a lifetime!
When Jon and I were in Germany, we decided one Saturday that it would be fun to ride on their train system. We boarded in Celle, changed trains in Hanover, then rode to a town which was probably an hour away to visit a small castle. The first train ride was fun and different and we thought, "Oh, this is going to be fun!" Then when we changed trains in Hanover, it was a double decker train that was packed. We chose the wrong car to ride in! It was filled with drunk students coming home from some type of soccer or hockey tournament. Yes, these were young teenagers. We saw the policemen riding the train with them as security and thought all would be well. We got an inside glimpse of German customs and quickly realized that this was not an offense, and the officers thought it was humorous. There was drunken singing from the top to the bottom deck of the train car. It was miserable!! I had the aisle seat and was terrified that one of the students walking around was going to throw up on me. We thought we had made a huge mistake taking the train!!
But the first town we visited was very peaceful and fun to walk around and do some sightseeing. We then found where there was another large castle, so figured out the train system and backtracked to that town. Touring an old castle was something that both of us had really wanted to do while in Germany. It was breathtaking!! Except for that one train ride, our day was perfect. Had we judged the train system on that one ride and decided to go back to Celle without sightseeing, we would have missed out on getting to tour that beautiful castle. We would have missed out on seeing a lot of countryside. We would have missed out on seeing the young boy who got off at a train station alone, where there was another young boy waiting at the gate for him; and the two boys so excited to see one another and embracing in excitement. We would have missed out on a wonderful day of sightseeing and memories.
If we want to experience the favor and blessing of God, if we want to see what awaits us at the various stops on life's journey, if we want to have memories and stories to share of God's goodness -- then we have to go through those yucky, stinky, scary, heartbreaking, wearisome times of testing and temptation and weeping. But what we experience upon reaching the place where God wants to take us, we can look back and realize that it was well worth the journey!!
Something we noticed at the zoo was that the habitats for the animals gave them somewhere to go and be safe from the humans. In some of the areas, you could see across the animal's area. From inside (or looking across), the motes and walls were more obvious. But our side was decorated with flowers and other things to hide the barriers. So, we had the feeling that we were right there with the animals. Some of the animals, like the kangaroos, could come right up to people, if they wanted. But they could also slip through the fences, and be safely away from us, too. The more dangerous animals were kept apart from us. But the visibility of the barrier was for their sake, so they would feel safe from us. The zoos in the U.S. seem to be designed the other way around. We make the barriers big and obvious to the human visitors, and try to give the animals a more 'natural' feel from their side.
Which is better? I couldn't say for sure, but I know I enjoyed the Singapore Zoo, the Singapore Night Safari, and the Singapore Bird Park better than any other zoos I've been to.
My point, though, is that we frequently see things backward. We might see a barrier in our lives, and despair that we are being kept apart from what we want, or think we need. We might feel excluded from what others seem to be enjoying. But the barrier might not be to keep us away from what we desire; it might be to keep those things we desire from getting at us.
German Chocolate Upside Down Cake
1-1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
German Chocolate Cake Mix
Mix together and pour in bottom of cake pan.
Prepare German chocolate cake mix according to directions. Pour over coconut and pecans.
1 stick butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
Mix together and put spoonfuls of this over cake mix.
Bake at 350 for 40-48 minutes.
Loosen edges from pan and invert on platter while still warm.
Memorial Day is coming up this weekend. Many of you will spend time with family, take flowers to the cemetery to decorate the headstones of loved ones, BBQ, relax and/or be traveling out of town. Whatever your plans are, may you be safe and blessed!
You can't live in the past, worry about the future, and expect to enjoy the present. - John Lindell
We love you!
Loretta & Jon