"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!'"
August 23, 2017
I have taken a few road trips over the past five years with my sister, Janie, and her son, Devin. We have driven to Orlando, FL a couple of times; to San Jose, CA; and most recently to Anaheim, CA.
The first trip that we took together was to Orlando, and we went through Tennessee and the Smokey Mountains, to the eastern coast of Florida and the beach, to Orlando. Devin was age ten at that time and he hadn't traveled much prior to that trip. He had a DVD player hooked to the headrest of the passenger seat in front of him and a boxful of movies to keep him occupied. He watched movies the entire time we were in the car. He refused to nap while we were driving; but he also refused to look out the window and take in the scenery.
When we got to the mountains, which he had never seen before, Janie and I would get his attention and point things out to him. We tried our best to get him to look at his surroundings, but he had very little interest in anything outside the car. He would glance out the window and answer to let us know that he had looked, then would immediately go back to watching his movie. It was frustrating for us, because he was being given an opportunity to see new and beautiful things, and he chose not to appreciate or enjoy them.
It was basically like that when we traveled to Orlando the second time (taking a different route) and also, when we drove to San Jose. When we would stop and get out of the car to look at something in particular, he would show interest, but not while we were driving. About the only thing that we knew that he was actively keeping an eye on was the gas gauge. When he thought we were starting to get low on fuel, he would point it out to us and let us know that we needed to stop and fill up.
But this last trip that we recently took was completely different. Perhaps it was due to him now being fifteen and growing up. He had a portable DVD player and had taken some movies, but rarely watched them. I bought him some books in Anaheim and he read for short periods from time to time on the drive home. But it was like traveling with a different boy! We traveled 3,325 miles, so were in the car for hours at a time. We took different routes on the trip there and back, so that we could see different things. Devin spent almost the entire time that we were driving, looking out the window and enjoying the scenery.
He would often comment on what he was seeing and point things out to us. He told Janie that his favorite part of the entire trip was when we were driving and he got to see things. He thoroughly enjoyed looking out the window and taking in the scenery.
I doubt that he could describe much of the view from here to Florida or from here to San Jose, other than the places where we stopped and walked around. But without a doubt, he could describe what all we saw on this particular trip! Why? He was interested and took the time to look outside, take it all in, and enjoy the scenery. Because of that, he enjoyed our driving time much more than ever before.
There are times when people are so focused on their destination, that they forget to enjoy the journey. They miss out on seeing and experiencing adventures that God destined them to enjoy during their years on earth. They can describe hardships, work experiences, family issues, etc; but very little about what was "outside the window" through their life's pilgrimage.
Psalm 8:3: "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for Him?"
"Oh Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions." Psalm 104:24
Genesis 1:31 tells us, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good."
Why would God create a world filled with so much natural beauty, if it weren't for His people to enjoy? From the very beginning, He saw all that He had made and it was very good; and that has not changed.
I am amazed when I've traveled and have been able to see the vast variety of God's creativity. It is mind-boggling when you really think about all the various types of flowers, rock, ground-cover, plant-life, mountains, seas, deserts, plains, trees, birds, sea and land animals, coral reefs, etc. Why would God take the time to see to every single tiny detail? Was it only for His pleasure or for ours?
When Jon and I traveled to Singapore we visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens, with the National Orchid Garden being one of the main areas. It was incredibly beautiful and awing! Neither of us had any idea that there were so many different varieties and colors of orchids. There were over 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids; with over 60,000 orchid plants on display. (I understand that hybrids are formed from man's grafting efforts or cross-pollination, so some could argue that God had nothing to do with those type of variety of plants or trees. But the truth is, without God first creating the original plants, there would be nothing that mankind would have to work with; plus He is the One who gave man the knowledge to figure out how to do that process.) More than 10,000 species of flora is spread over the garden; which the distance between the northern and southern ends is 1.6 miles. (I got the numbers off from the internet, due to it being several years ago and me not being able to remember all the facts.) There were old, gorgeous trees throughout the park with various kinds of brightly colored flowering vines growing up the trees. It was so spectacular that it was really kind of overwhelming and difficult to describe the awesomeness of the beauty.
Why would God choose to create so many varieties of orchids? Wouldn't four or five be enough? Perhaps it's because He just wanted to! Perhaps it's because He wanted to do so for our amazement and delight.
During our recent trip, Janie, Devin, and I saw such diverse terrain. In New Mexico and Arizona we saw mountains, mesas, buttes, canyons, and deserts. There was sage brush, cactus, and sand. In Southern California we saw mountains that were different from what we had seen in other states, Joshua trees, sand, the Pacific Ocean, and stretches of interstate that went through scenery that didn't have the astounding beauty that we had seen in other places, but it had it's own kind of rugged appeal.
While driving across Utah, the mountainous scenery was breath-taking. It was ever-changing and was different from one side of the road to the other. Some of the mountain ranges would change from black to white rock back to black all in one scene; while on the opposite side of the road would be a totally different shade or color. There were deep, gigantic canyons. The landscape was so vast and ever-changing that it was almost an overload on our senses, and impossible to take it all in. Through one particular section of winding mountains, the angles of the lines going through the rock looked as if the different sections were leaning different directions. The only way that Janie and I could find to describe the landscape while driving through Utah was as if we were driving through the middle of a painting.
Colorado had the Rocky Mountains on one side of the interstate coming right down to the interstate, while having green meadows and the Colorado River running along the other side of the road. There were lots of trees on the mountains and in the towns. Yet again, another change of scenery and God's creativity. Then Kansas had rolling hills and beautiful crop fields that were green and growing. The brilliant green of the fields and the bright blue of the sky and fluffy white clouds felt very peaceful and restful.
During the 3,325 miles that we drove, round trip, we experienced such an incredible variety of nature! Janie and I travel well together, because we both enjoy taking in the scenery and enjoying the views; and finally, Devin has reached the point where he also enjoys those same things.
Jon and I are so compatible when it comes to enjoying God's beauty. We both love looking at nature and all the tiny details that God has created. We enjoy seeing all the different kinds of birds. Anytime we are in the car together we both take in the scenery and are aware of our surroundings. Jon will point out hawks sitting on fences. We will point out all the various details that we each see. I'm so thankful that God blessed me with a husband that enjoys nature. We both love sunrises and sunsets and clouds!
I truly believe that it makes our Heavenly Father's heart happy when He sees His children enjoying His handiwork.
Psalm 19:1 (NASB) says, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands."
When we take the time to look at the heavens -- at the ever-changing colors of the sunrises and sunsets, the bright white fluffy clouds or the dark rolling stormy ones, the flashes of lightning, the peels of thunder, the millions of stars on a clear night and the constellations, the different phases of the moon, the peeks that we get of a few of the planets -- they are declaring the glory of God! No one but God is able to use the entire sky as His canvas! He does it for our benefit, to show us His glory. The vast expanse, each and every moment of each and every day, declares the work of His hands. 24/7 God uses the sky as a way to show us His handiwork. If we never look up and admire His work, then we miss out on seeing His hands at work.
An example is giving someone a nice gift, then them not ever using it or thinking that they have no use for it and wanting something different. One year for Christmas one of my sisters bought Daddy and June an electric griddle. June often cooked bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast, so they thought that this would be handy for her to use. A few months later when they went back to visit, the gift was setting on a shelf in the utility room and had never been taken out of the box. Daddy was easy to buy for because he was happy with a new pair of socks. But we girls never knew what June would or wouldn't like. June was and is a good person, and she isn't rude, but she'd tell us if she liked what she got or if she'd rather exchange it for something else; that was just her personality. She liked bright colors and I had bought her a red cardigan sweater one year, and she told me that she didn't think she'd ever wear it and if it was okay, she'd take it back and exchange it for something else. Another year, I bought her a Corning-Ware casserole dish and she bragged on that for years afterwards about how much she really liked it and used it all the time.
That's often how we can be with God's gifts. There are times when we get so focused and set on what we think we need to do that we fail to look up or around and see what He has put right in front of us to enjoy. We leave His gift boxed up and put on a shelf. Other times we may give a courtesy look around and a, "Nice job, God!"; as we continue on with our agenda. Other times we complain about the clouds, because we want sun; or about the sun, because we want rain; or about the snow falling, because it disrupts our plans. We want to exchange His gift for something different that better fits our likes. Then there are moments when we do have some time, so we stop what we're doing and just take the time to enjoy the beauty God has created for our pleasure.
Each time you're outside take the time to look at the intricacies of every single detail of a flower and each petal. Look at the various sizes and shapes and colors of each rock. Look at the various colors and shapes and types of plants and the details involved in forming them. Look at each tree and the shape and color of the leaves and trunk. Listen to the sounds of nature and see how many different types of birds and animals and bugs you can find. Observe the type of soil, the hills, the mountains, the plains, the gardens, the rivers and streams and lakes..... Then look up and observe the handiwork of God's hand at work in the vast expanse of the sky. Look at the clouds, the moon, the stars, the sunrise and sunset, the colors on the horizon; the ever-changing movements and colors on God's canvas. God daily provides something new for us to enjoy and see; if we will only take the time to stop and look.
If we are constantly focused on our problems, our daily agenda, running from one place to another.... it's like Devin was in when he was younger and would keep his eyes glued to a movie while traveling, instead of looking out and seeing what the view outside the car windows was; we miss out on so many experiences, adventures, and most importantly we miss out on seeing and enjoying all that God created for our pleasure. We miss out on seeing what God is creating across the sky on His canvas, each moment of each day, for us to enjoy.
God has gifted us with a beautiful world to live in and enjoy, but it's up to us to take the time to enjoy the views.
Suppose I give Loretta a big box of chocolates for Christmas, and she acts happy to have them, but only eats one. She throws the rest away because she is afraid she might get zits and I won't like her anymore.
Or suppose I give her a pretty purse, but she won't use it because it would wear out if she does. She wants to keep the gift I gave her in perfect condition.
Or maybe I give her a beautiful painting. And she keeps it in the a box so the sunlight doesn't fade the colors.
I would understand her intentions. But it wouldn't please me. And she wouldn't really enjoy my gifts. And after several years, I might give up trying.
God gives us meadows to walk through, and still waters to walk along. He gives us beautiful sunsets and sunrises. He gives us love, friendships, and His Holy Spirit. He has created great plans for us. We can reject them all, if we really want to. He won't give up trying, though.
Mama's Cocoa Gravy
1-1/2 quarts of milk (6 cups)
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons cocoa
3 Tablespoons flour
Pour milk into a 2 quart saucepan and bring to warm until milk steams. In a bowl mix sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt. Add enough warm milk from the saucepan to the mixture to make a pourable sauce. Stir well to make sure there are no lumps. When the milk in the pan begins to steam, pour in the mixture from the bowl very slowly, stirring constantly. Cook until it bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and add a big dollop of butter and vanilla; stir. Serve over hot biscuits.
**This was our favorite breakfast that Mama made for us girls when we were growing up; and we still all really like it today!
A couple days ago I was babysitting my great-niece, Jovie, (age 3-1/2) for the morning. Janee' called to say that she was on her way, so this was my conversation with Jovie:
Me: "Jovie, your mama will be home soon."
Jovie: "Then you will leave and go back to your home?"
Jovie: "Why?! Don't you like my mommy?" (I laughed! I didn't know if she was asking because she was ready for me to go, or what her thinking was. I didn't expect it to be that I was leaving because I didn't like her mama.)
If you truly believe that God has the power to create and sustain the universe,
then surely there is nothing in your life that is beyond His power to mend, heal, or restore.
Believe it! - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon