"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!'"
February 22, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, I became sick with a virus or flu that many people has been hit with lately. The worst of it really only lasted 2-3 days, but then I continued having lingering symptoms that seemed to go on and on and on. I had a hard time shaking the congestion, coughing, sore throat, etc. On top of everything else, I developed laryngitis. I prayed and prayed for healing! After two weeks, my voice was still hoarse and I had some lingering congestion; with occasional coughing and sniffling. In the scheme of things, I really wasn't sick for that long, but at the time if felt like I was never again going to feel healthy and strong and completely well. Thankfully, I am finally feeling almost 100%!!
This past Thursday night, we had an art worship service at church. I mentioned that in the devotional that I wrote two weeks ago. At the time that I wrote that particular newsletter, my plan was to take my laptop and write as my form of art.
But the week that I was feeling the worst, I had problems sleeping for about three nights and spent several hours trying to get some rest, while sitting up in the recliner. I felt incredibly exhausted, but every single time I would try and lay down, there would be this really irritating, whistling type noise in the back of my throat with every breath I took! I could hear it, and Jon could as well. Each time I breathed in... I heard it. Each time I breathed back out... I heard it. It would bug me so badly to the point where that was all I could hear and I couldn't sleep. I was also horribly congested, which made it difficult to lie down. All I really, really wanted was to be able to sleep in my own bed and get a full night of rest; without making that irritating noise.
One of those nights, I was praying and begging God to please just heal me and let me sleep! I was frustrated and tired and not feeling well, which meant that I was also pretty cranky. I was sitting up in the recliner, and would doze off and on for a few minutes at a time, before waking up again. Whenever I was awake, I would begin praying.
As I was sitting there praying, an idea came to mind regarding the art worship night at church. This idea was to use charcoal and pencils, and use scripture to depict the various lines in the picture. As that thought came to mind I said, "Lord, I have absolutely no idea how I would even do that! I'm no artist, I don't draw or sketch, and I don't know what that would look like or how to begin. If You want me to do this, You will need to show me how!"
I honestly wasn't sure if this was a God idea, or a lack of sleep induced idea! I'm not an artist... I don't draw or sketch or paint. In fact, my sister and I teach the nursery Sunday School class, and anytime the kids want something drawn or made out of Play Dough, they ask her to do it. When I attempt to draw or make something you generally can never really tell what it is I'm making! But the more I prayed and thought about it over the next few days, images started coming to mind about what the drawing would look like.
It was tempting to take the easy road and stay in my comfort zone! I could spent that time at church writing, and it would have been perfectly acceptable and unquestioned. But my thought was, "What if this really is a God idea, and I don't try doing it? I will never know what could happen!! If I fail, so what?! At least, I will have tried!"
The art worship night was absolutely awesome!! We started out by doing some group worship songs. Afterwards, everyone moved into doing their chosen art. There were paintings, word art, a mosaic made from people coloring little squares of paper and putting it together, painting on wood, crocheting, drawings, etc. There was a very quiet, reverent atmosphere and it was amazing!
On Sunday morning, several who participated showed the congregation their project and gave a testimony about it and why they chose their particular subject.
A few examples are:
A few weeks ago, God gave my sister (who is also the pastor), Janie, a picture in her mind as she was praying. It was a bird sitting in front of an open window. The message behind it was that you could look out a closed window and see a bird and it may be pretty, but until you open the window, you will never really hear the song. Likewise, it is important that we open the window of our heart so that we can truly hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. She painted that picture -- a bird sitting on a limb by an open window.
My 15 year old nephew drew a picture with colored pencils depicting the scripture in Revelations 19:11-16 regarding when Jesus comes back to earth riding a white horse, with the armies of Heaven following Him on white horses. (His horse was brown -- not white -- but he had the right idea!)
One lady painted a picture of Jesus standing with His arms holding someone close to Him.
One of the men wrote words all over a page in his journal, from his thoughts he'd written down during his personal devotional time.
Jon painted a picture that God had given him several years ago, depicting two soldiers standing at the foot of the cross after one of them pierced the side of Jesus. The blood is dripping down, and everywhere it touches one of the soldiers, it washes him white as snow. The title is, "His Blood Cleanses Even Me".
It was an amazing night of many people attempting to do things out of their comfort zone; some trying things for the first time. The results were very special.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Janie preached a sermon about the fact that each of us has a treasure hidden inside of us. Sometimes we may have to dig down deep to discover what it is. If we leave it hidden, then we will never truly discover the gifts that God has placed inside of us. But when we begin to pray and ask Him to reveal the treasure that is within us, then start using what He reveals to us, we will discover the true joy of becoming everything He has created us to be.
Isaiah 45:3 says, "I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."
The hidden treasures that God places inside of us are for one main purpose -- to point others to God. As each treasure is revealed and we begin using them to glorify and honor God, it will cause others to recognize who God is. They will see Him at work within us!
What is the hidden treasure within you? It's never too late to scrape off the dirt and dust and allow the Holy Spirit to bring it to life. I believe that we don't have only one treasure, and once it is opened up and used, that that is that. But God places within us treasures -- plural. Once something is revealed and we begin utilizing it in our life, then we can keep digging and find other riches that God has stored in secret places within us. Sometimes we may go through various seasons in our life, and each season may reveal a different treasure that God has placed inside of us.
Really, it's kind of exciting, when you think about it -- that God has given us each our own personal treasure hunt! I believe that within us all are gifts and talents and abilities that we've barely tapped into. Let's seek God and allow Him to uncover everything that He has placed within us; and let's use those things whole-heartedly, not worrying whether or not we will be good at it or if we'll fail. We will never know what could happen, until we try!
I am really happy with the outcome of my drawing, pictured on the left; especially for my first attempt at this type of art.
If you look closely, you can see the name "Ezekiel" written in the center among the vines and trees. The first vine has no buds or fruit -- depicting Israel who was barren and serving no purpose. The scripture along the edges says that the vine has no purpose, other than for burning. The second vine/tree has buds on it. The third tree has leaves on it, and the scripture is from the end of Ezekiel where it talks about how the trees will flourish and the leaves will never die or turn brown. The left side with the valley and bones, is the scriptures about the vision of the valley of dry bones. The river on the right is where Ezekiel went into the river and was ankle deep... knee deep... and kept going further until the water was high enough for him to swim in. The top left is the wheel in the middle of the wheel from Ezekiel chapter 1. The right top is a cloud and the scripture is about the showers of blessings that was promised.
I've heard someone give some career advice; something like, "If you don't enjoy your job, then you need to keep looking till you find a job you enjoy." Huh. That sounds so nice. But it isn't very realistic. Sure, I enjoy a lot about my job, but if I had the choice between watching a movie, or going to work, I'd rather see the movie.
If you enjoy your job sometimes, you're doing pretty well. If you enjoy it all the time, great. But just because you don't enjoy it more than once in a while doesn't usually mean there's a problem. If you can finish the day, and know you've helped someone else, or done a good job, that may be enough. If not, then maybe it's time to look for something else.
The same goes for using our gifts. We may not enjoy it every single day. But we should at least see some good come from it. If not, then keep digging around, trying to find more gifts.
Slow Cooker Chicken Fajita Soup
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup salsa
2 cups frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray. Add chicken to the bottom of the bottom of the slow cooker. In a medium-sized bowl, mix cream of chicken soup, salsa, corn, black beans, water, cumin, and cilantro. Pour over the top of the chicken. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Place back into the slow cooker and add shredded cheese. Continue cooking until cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Serve with favorite toppings.
Optional toppings: sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onions, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded lettuce, diced avocado, shredded cheese, tortilla strips. (I served using sour cream, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, diced avocado, and tortilla strips on top of the soup.)
Today is the 36th anniversary of Mama's home-going to Heaven. There are times when I wonder how differently my life might had been, had she lived. I think about how the world has changed from how it was in 1981 to where it is today. I look at the lives of my sisters and myself, and wonder what Mama would think if she knew all we've accomplished and how our families have turned out. I look at our little house in Lampe, with no dishwasher or garage or all the conveniences that my sisters and I have in our homes, and think how differently things were for her than they have been for us. I think she would be happy for us. It's hard to comprehend that she never used a cell phone, computer, iPad, and we never had a TV in our home during her lifetime. She never had a furnace or central air; only experiencing wood heat and one small window A/C and box fans. She never had carpet on her floors. Ronald Reagan had only been sworn in as President a month before Mama passed away. There were no ATM's or debit cards. Mama only ever met her four oldest grandkids, with the fifth being born exactly one month after her death. Only two of my sisters were married. Now all five of us girls are married and my four sisters are all grandmas. About 9-1/2 years ago, Daddy joined her in Heaven. Four years ago, my brother-in-law, Jimmy, had his home-going. These past 36 years have brought about many, many changes!! Now my sisters and I are all older than Mama was when she left this earth, which is hard to comprehend. I'm so grateful for that "Blessed Hope" that we, as believers, have! We know that the day will come when we will be reunited with our loved ones once again, for all eternity. After that, there will never be anymore separation. Eternity is going to be pretty awesome!!
Growth stops when you become inward focused, rather than outward focused. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon