"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!'"

Luke 15:4-6

March 1, 2017


I have been trying to work on my listening skills here lately. I still have a ways to go, but hopefully am making some progress. There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Often we may hear words, but we don't really pay attention and listen to what's being said.

I believe that there are many reasons for this. One, is that we are busy people who have a lot going on in our lives, so we are always thinking about what we need to do or what's going on that day; therefore, we often have our mind on other things when someone is speaking to us. Secondly, electronic devices have consumed us. When is the last time you've sat time with someone and talked for any period of time without one of you pulling out your phone to take a call, text, google something, or check Facebook? When's the last time you had a meal where no one looked at or used their phone or iPad? When is the last time you went somewhere or did something without seeing someone taking a picture to post on Facebook?

You cannot sit in a restaurant or fast food establishment without seeing numerous people using their phone for one purpose or another. The art of having conversations and showing interest in other people, giving them your full attention, has become somewhat non-existent.

In fact, I often see people on their phones during a church service. I do understand that some use the Bible app on their phone or iPad. But I also see people texting, taking pictures, and posting to Facebook. I often see pictures or comments that people post during a worship service or preaching. Can we truly be whole-heartedly worshipping and paying attention and listening to what the Holy Spirit may desire to speak to us, if we are texting or taking pictures or posting to Facebook?

I know that I need to work on this! Not necessarily using my phone during church, because I put it on silent and leave it in my purse; but there are other times when I need to leave it put away and pay attention to what's going on and listen to what people are saying to me. I need to concentrate on them and what they are saying, instead of getting sidetracked by answering or reading text, taking phone calls, checking Facebook, playing online games, posting pictures or post or comments on Facebook, etc. People and time spent with them need to be my priority, without getting distracted by "things". I want people to feel as if they really matter to me and that I am interested in them and what they have to say. I want them to feel as if I truly care about them; and they are more important to me than my electronic devices. I need to diligently work on that!

I have also been working on listening to what God is saying to me. I have found that when we ask God what He has to say about various situations or problems or life..... He has plenty to talk to us about.

I heard a quote a while back that was along the lines of, "It's important that we read the Bible to see what God had to say; but it's also important for us to listen to hear what He has to say to us today." God doesn't lack things to talk to us about; He has plenty to say!

Many years ago I attended church with a lady who would ask, "So what is God saying to you today?" Honestly, that used to bug me! A lot of times, I would be like, "Uhhh..... I don't know!"

I was saved at 5 years of age. It's taken me 46 years to finally get it; God wants to talk to me! He has plenty of things to say to me, if I will only ask and then listen. That's pretty amazing, to think that Almighty God.... our Heavenly Father.... the creator of heaven and earth.... wants to have conversations with me -- Loretta Kay Gray!!!

Daddy used to love it when I would call or go visit and ask his advice about something. After Jon and I first got married, we decided to try our hand at gardening; which my first time at growing vegetables. When I was a young girl Mama always planted a garden; but probably the last year that she did so, before she passed away, was when I was around 11-12 years old, due to poor health and not feeling up to all the work involved. So being a young pre-teen, I didn't get too involved in the planting or canning. When I decided to try gardening, I called Daddy several times to ask his advice on when to plant... how to plant... and various other questions that I had. It made him feel good that I needed him and his advice! He would call me periodically and ask how our garden was doing. He enjoyed being involved, through me needing his expertise. Whenever I went to visit him during the summers, one of the first things he would do was show me his garden. Sharing an interest in gardening was an added bond that we formed between us, which added to our relationship.

If it made my earthly father feel connected and special and honored that I would call and ask his opinion and advice, don't you think that our Heavenly Father feels the same? Don't you think that God wants to have conversations with us... not just listening to us talk, but speaking to us in return?

I've been practicing this, because honestly, I'm used to doing most of the talking during my prayer time. I say what I want or need to say, then get up and go about my business. But I have started praying about specific things, then asking, "God, what do YOU have to say about this?"; then I wait and listen. Surprisingly, I've often felt God respond. He has spoken a message into my spirit in reply to my question. He has answered, whenever I've asked. It is deepening my relationship with Him, and caused me to want to listen and communicate with Him even more, to hear what He wants to say to me!!

A few times, it has required me to respond and take a step of faith. Three times I have felt like I needed to contact someone with a message to encourage them. It was easy to think, "What it they think I'm stupid or this doesn't apply?" Then I would tell myself, "On the other hand, what if this is exactly what they need to hear right now and it opens their heart to what God is wanting to do in their life?" I chose to obey. Two of the people responded right away and thanked me and told me that was what they needed at that time. One of the people never responded. Obedience to the Holy Spirit does cause us to be vulnerable at times. Maybe I did mess up that one time. But I'd rather obey and try to respond according to what I feel in my heart, than to question and worry and fret and not do anything; because maybe I can make a difference in someone's life.

A couple weeks ago, my sister was teaching the youth Sunday School class. There were only two students in there, and she didn't know that she was going to be teaching until after she arrived at church. She talked to them about this subject. She had them to practice that during the time they had together.

For instance, she told them to ask God what He was saying to them about school. They took a few moments to pray and listen. Afterwards, one of the students said that she has fidget balls that she needs to begin using more while she is working so that it would help her concentrate better. The other one struggles in math and said that God said that he was going to start improving in math.

God cares about every little detail in our life. He wants to have conversations with us about anything and everything, and He desires to tell us what He has to say.

In 1 Kings 19, we read the story of Elijah fleeing into the wilderness to be alone. God had just performed a miracle prior to this when there was a showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. God sent fire down to consume Elijah's sacrifice. Following that, the drought ended and God sent rain. When King Ahab's wife, Jezebel, found out what had happened, she sent a messenger to Elijah to tell him that she was going to kill him. Elijah becomes afraid and runs for his life.

The Lord speaks to Elijah and asks him what he was doing there. Elijah tells him that he is the only prophet left, and now they were trying to kill him, too. God tells him to go stand on the mountain. The Lord passes by in a mighty windstorm, then an earthquake, then a fire; but God was not in any of those things. Then there was the sound of a gentle whisper....that was God!

Many times we are looking for God to speak to us in a loud, powerful way. We're looking for the windstorm, earthquake, and fire experiences so that we will know, without a doubt, that it is God. We want God to speak loudly and clearly so we don't miss what He's saying and make a mistake. We are so afraid of missing or mishearing God, that we seldom respond to His whispers.

I am finding that the more I listen, the more in tune to God's voice I am becoming. I am finding that when I ask God what He is saying, then respond according to what I feel in my spirit, the more God is saying to me. That is so important to understand: It's not enough to only ask God what He is saying, but we have to respond when He does speak. That takes faith. Sometimes a whole lot of faith!!

When I ask and think I am hearing what God is saying, I will respond, "God, I feel like this is what you are saying to me.... is this correct?" Sometimes there is a peace that comes, other times I will hear a soft, "Yes," in my heart. Occasionally I'm still unsure, so I wait; or I keep what I think I've heard in my heart and dwell on it until I get clarity. God wants to talk to us! He wants to have conversations with us! I wish I had really understood and got that a long time ago. But I am so thankful that I am finally getting it. It is changing my prayer life and changing how I relate to God.

I challenge you to start asking God what He is saying about various things and situations. Take time to listen and allow Him to speak to you. The more you practice this, the closer your relationship will become and the stronger God's voice will sound in your heart; perhaps because He becomes more familiar and His whisper is more recognizable.


Loretta gave me a shirt a few years ago that says, "My wife says I don't listen, or something like that." I really do listen, most of the time, though. Sometimes, I hear her saying things she later wishes I hadn't heard. But when she says something about the sister of the roommate her cousin's step-brother had 15 years ago, I'll probably just remember it as 'some not-quite-random person'. And occasionally (and this is very rare, despite what she might say), I might not be paying 100% attention to her until I realize she is talking to me.

And we've had some conflicts over how well I can hear when I'm standing 50 feet away from Loretta, and next to a running furnace. She insists that she shouldn't have to speak up, but I insist that the furnace is lower than she is, and much closer. Maybe I should never go more than 5 feet away from her, even if I do need to use the bathroom.

Sometimes, when God speaks to me, I feel it fairly clearly. Other times, not so well. I've never heard a real voice from God; only a feeling of ideas He is trying to give me. Some of those feelings are strong and certain; others are hard to distinguish from my own desires or my own self-condemnation.

If I could pin-point a reason for that, I might be able to fix it. But I do have the impression that some of the times I can't hear from God well is because I'm further away from God, and closer to the 'noise' of this busy world. Other times, it seems like I'm just not paying attention. And other times, maybe God just wants me to work harder at hearing Him.


Brownie Trifle

2 Brownie Mixes (made according to instructions)

2 (3.9 oz) packages fudge chocolate

4 cups of cold milk (for pudding)

1 large container Cool Whip

Chocolate shavings to garnish

Either make 2 8x8 pans of brownies, or the family size 9x13. Mix and cook according to instructions on box. Cool. Mix the 2 small packages of fudge pudding with the 4 cups of milk according to package instructions. In a large bowl (a pretty glass serving works well) layer the ingredients: Cut brownies into small squares and start with a layer of brownies in the bottom of the bowl; then a layer of pudding; then a layer of Cool Whip. Repeat layers, ending with Cool Whip evenly spread on top. Sprinkle top with chocolate shavings, to garnish. (I used a Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate bar. I broke into pieces and put in my Ninja blender and pulsed 4-5 times, then sprinkled it on top.) Refrigerate until ready to serve. It's better if you make ahead and allow to set in the refrigerator for several hours.

**Other variations is, you could also add layers of cherry pie filling to make it a like a Black Forest dessert. You could also crush Oreo cookies or chocolate mint cookies and add layers of that. You could also crush up your choice of candy bar: Butterfinger, Heath, etc.


I babysat my 4-year old great-nephew this past Monday. He is quite the talker!! During the afternoon, he sat cross-legged in front of me and talked nonstop for probably 20 minutes. He jumped from one topic to another without missing a beat! He talked about everything from playing MineCraft, to the reason his daddy is 30 is because he's had a lot of birthdays, to describing his watering can that he uses for watering flowers, to bushes with yellow flowers don't grow apples, to what Sun Chips taste like, to explaining that a heart gets bigger and bigger the more a person grows, to how watermelons grow.......


The opinions that we have don't make a difference like the love that we give. - Ann Voskamp


We love you!

Loretta & Jon