THE NEW EWE

"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

September 20, 2017

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

To be honest with you, I have struggled with sharing this with you this week. I know that the personal experience that I'm going to share is going to either sound weird and unbelievable, because it is really odd; or people will read it and try and figure out what really happened; or some will think I'm just getting older and not seeing as well; and then there will be a handful who will read it and believe it and find encouragement in my story. So I will preface what I'm going to write by saying that what happened really is true, whether or not it seems believable, and God has impressed upon me that I am supposed to share it with you.

In the summer of 2015 my sister, Janie, and her son, Devin, and I took a trip together. Janie was interpreting at the General Council of the Assemblies of God on Orlando that year and we left a few days early in order to sightsee and vacation.

When we got back home, we unloaded the car in Janie's garage. Janie's car has a GPS that is built into her car, but we had taken the portable GPS that belongs to me and Jon. After we got everything sorted out, we couldn't find the bag with our GPS in it. We thought, "Well, it will show up; it's got to be here somewhere." Over the next few weeks Janie, Devin, Jon, and I all would think of possible places it could be and look for it. It wasn't in her car anywhere, it wasn't in the garage where we had unloaded the car, it wasn't inside Janie's house, and it wasn't at our house. Late one evening on our way home it had started storming and pouring rain about the time we stopped for a hotel, so we had rushed inside and only grabbed what we needed. Devin had later ran back out for something that had been forgotten. We thought possibly it had accidentally gotten either knocked out of the door into the parking lot, or had gotten thrown out with a bag of trash. Finally, Jon and I went ahead and bought a new GPS when we went on our next road trip.

A month or so after we got back home from our trip, Janie had a house fire that destroyed the inside of her home. She had to live in a rental house for a year during the reconstruction, and moved back into her house in September 2016. When the storage company brought back all of her belongings that they had packed up after the fire, Janie was unpacking the boxes and low and behold our GPS was in one of the boxes. We have absolutely no idea how it had got there! That is story number one.

During that particular trip, we had made a stop at Pipestem State Park in West Virginia and spent the night. There was a gift shop there and I had bought a souvenir, which was a little plaque that had a picture of a bear and mountains on it and said, "The mountains are calling me and I must go." It was something that I had thought was cute. When we returned from this trip, I couldn't find it anywhere. So I had thought that perhaps it had been put in a bag of trash and accidentally thrown out. We keep a plastic bag in the backseat when we travel to keep all our trash in, and Devin tosses it out whenever it gets full. The keepsake I had bought was wrapped up in a brown paper sack. Over time, I had completely forgotten about it.

Last week we loaned our camera to my nephew and his wife so they could take maternity pictures. They are expecting their first baby next month. This past Sunday morning, Jared walked into church and handed me this brown paper bag and said, "I found this in your camera bag." It was that souvenir I had bought two years ago! Here's the thing: Jon and I have both been inside that camera bag at different times in these past two years and neither of us saw it. I asked Jared where it had been and he had told me that it was right in plain sight inside the camera bag, and he had no idea how I could have not seen it. Jon had just been inside the bag last week, before giving it to Jared, to get the camera charger out in order to charge the battery before giving it to them to use. That souvenir wrapped in the brown bag was probably 3x5 inches and 1/2 inch thick, so it wasn't tiny. Jon and I both know that it had not been there when we had looked inside that bag over the past two years; but it was when Jared looked inside. In fact, the last person to use that camera before this was Jared. He borrowed it last March to photograph donations to our church auction.

A few weeks ago Janie was sewing a birthday quilt for one of the little boys that she had fostered a couple years ago. General Council is every two years and it was in California this year. Janie once again interpreted and she, Devin, and I drove there and were gone for almost two weeks. When we got back home, she went upstairs to her sewing room to finish up the quilt and it was nowhere to be found. Janie, Devin, and I all diligently searched for that quilt for several days. We looked under everything, in drawers, searched every room of the house, she asked her kids if they had been at her house and happened to have seen it while she was gone, and Janie and I both went through her entire sewing room and looked through every piece of fabric and searched it from top to bottom.

One day, after several days of searching, we had gone to Hobby Lobby to get some quilt batting and other sewing supplies we needed. Janie is kind enough to allow me to share her sewing room with her, which is nice since it is already set up with everything we need. Janie and Devin were downstairs and I went upstairs to put the supplies that I had bought in the sewing room. I bent down to set my shopping bags and right there in plain sight, folded up all nice and neat, was that missing quilt.

On Wednesday of last week I began sewing a new quilt top. The top is made up of nine blocks that are each about 18x18 inches. On Wednesday I had finished sewing those blocks together and had laid them out on the bed in Janie's guestroom. Janie and I had figured out which order would look best for them to be laid in, then I picked them all up, keeping them in order. I carried them into the sewing room and measured each block to make sure they were all trimmed to be the exact same size. When finished I counted to make sure that they were all there and still in order, folded them up together, and laid them with the backing fabric on the table behind the sewing machine that I use. Janie was in the room at that time and saw me do this.

Friday, I went back to Janie's house to begin sewing those nine blocks together. I got the top three sewed together, which was going to be the top row of the quilt. When I finished with them, I looked and realized that there were only three blocks remaining in the stack. Three of the blocks that I had made were missing. Here's the thing; none of Janie's grandkids had been there, and no one other than Janie had been in the sewing room since I had last been there. The only two places I had had those quilt blocks were either in the sewing room or in the guest bedroom; which there is only a bathroom between the sewing room and that particular bedroom, so it's really close by. I am 100% positive that those nine blocks had all been there and accounted for and folded together when I had left on Wednesday afternoon.

I cleaned the sewing room, after I realized that they were missing. I looked through the big bag of trash with the fabric scraps in it, looked inside every drawer and under every table, and looked through every bin of fabric we have. There was absolutely no place in that room that I did not look or go through. Those three squares are not there. Janie and Jon have also looked for them.

Understand this: Devin is not pulling a prank on us! He is not the type of person to do kind of thing, and I doubt that it would even enter his mind to do so. He likes to please and is extremely protective of Janie and he absolutely adores me. We know that he would fight for us if necessary (he's a black belt in taekwondo), and he loves us unconditionally. We know that it's not any of Janie's adult children or her grandchildren. In fact, they didn't even know that anything was missing until we told them. Janie generally keeps her sewing room door closed when she's not using the room and keeps her house locked when she's not home. Jon is definitely not hiding things from us.

Janie and I don't really like sharing these incidents with anyone, because we know that many tend to not really believe us, or think we're weird, or it makes us look foolish, or some think those things were really there all the time and we just didn't see them. We have talked about these happenings and have prayed and asked God to reveal to us what the meaning behind these things that have gone missing, only to later reappear, is all about. We can't explain it; we only KNOW that they have disappeared, only to miraculously reappear at some point, with no explanation.

This past Sunday morning, right before the service began, is when the missing souvenir from two years ago was handed to me by my nephew. During worship the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and revealed to me what was going on and what this was all about. It's not to frustrate me or to be mean or done as a prank or to make me angry; but Jesus is wanting to teach me something, and is giving me personalized lessons to learn from. That's pretty spectacular that Jesus loves me so much that He takes the time to personally give me and Janie personal object lessons and be our Teacher!

When the disciples were with Jesus, He gave them parables and object lessons all the time in order to give them examples to get His point across. If He could do it back them, then why couldn't He do so now?! He's the same now as He was then, and is unlimited by space or time or distance.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, "If God cares enough to reveal the hidden things to you, things that are small and really have little value, don't you know that He will reveal the big things to you, also? If God will restore back to you those small things that have been lost, believe that He also wants to restore the big things back to you, also!" There are things that I've been praying for, promises that God has given to me that I've not yet seen the answer to, things that I've felt like were going to happen but they haven't. They seem as if they are lost or hidden to me right now. Sometimes it feels like I almost have them in my hand, only to find them missing. I may not know when they will be revealed, when the answer will come to fulfillment, but it is going to happen! Those things are not gone forever, but God will bring restoration!! God is teaching me a lesson about faith and restoration. I may not know when restoration will come, but I can believe and hold onto faith and trust that it will happen. I don't have to worry and fret or try and fix things myself, but I can rest in Him.

Sunday morning at the end of our church service a few of us were sitting around the front praying and sharing. I shared the above stories and what God had spoken to me about restoration with the group. Afterwards, the Holy Spirit gave one of the women a word to share with us. I cannot remember it exactly, but it was along the lines of God telling us that we need to let go and allow Him to work things out for us. He doesn't need our help, He doesn't need us to try and fix it ourselves, but He is big enough to do it if we would just trust Him and believe.

In order for something to be restored, it has to have first been lost. The meaning of the word restore is to bring back or reinstate; to return someone or something to a former condition, place, or position; to repair or renovate; or to give (something previously stolen, taken away, or lost) back to the original owner or recipient.

There are many scriptures about restoration or about hidden things being revealed.

Psalm 23:3 says, "He restores my soul." Our soul doesn't need to be restored unless it has been in disrepair or something has been stolen or taken away from it. If we are being blessed and growing and maturing in our relationship with God and spiritually thriving, there is no need for restoration. But when our soul has been hurt or shattered or weakened or Satan has stolen our joy, then we are in need of God restoring our soul.

Psalm 51:12 says, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit." When do we need the joy of salvation restored to us? When it's been lost or stolen from us.

In Isaiah chapter 61, Isaiah is writing about restoration. In verse 3 he writes, "To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair." Verse 7 says, "Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor." These verses were promising restoration for those things which the enemy had stolen from the people. Those same promises are valid for us today.

Joel 2:25: "The Lord says, 'I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you."

Again, the verses in this chapter in Joel is speaking of restoration. He called the people to repentance and promised restoration when they do. We can receive that same type of restoration today and receive from God everything that the enemy has tried to strip away from us.

There may be times when what we've lost is due to our own sin or negligence or disobedience. But we don't have to stay in bondage or in mourning or in a state of condemnation. God is willing to deliver and save all who call upon His name and repent. There may be consequences for ungodly choices that we make, but God can also bring about restoration. It's not because we're worthy or deserve it, but because He is full of mercy and compassion.

Satan may try and steal what God has given to us, try and steal our salvation, try and steal our peace, try and steal our families, try and steal our health, try and steal our finances, try and steal our blessings..... Over and over again, Satan will come in order to bring destruction and chaos, and like a thief will steal whatever he can get his hands on. He's persistent, but God is bigger and stronger and has enough power to overcome the devil and has promised us abundant life.

John 10:10 says, "The thief (Satan) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

God comes to restore back to His children everything that Satan has tried to steal away from them. He sent His Son to destroy the works of the devil. He made a way for us to be overcomer's. It was never His intention for us to remain in our sins or to be crushed by our enemy.

1 John 3:8 says, "The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."

1 Peter 5:8-10 says, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation."

Job lost everything that he had; his family, his wealth, his cattle, his servants, his health. He endured a time of suffering and great lost. During that time, he had no idea what the outcome was going to be. He didn't have a written script to read how his situation was going to turn out. Yet he chose to be steadfast in his faith and to trust God. God blessed Job more in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. That is what restoration looks like!

During Job's most trying times when he really needed his friends and family, they weren't there. Well, he did have three friends who showed up and sat with him. His wife asked him to curse God and die. He was covered in boils and probably stank from the infection and looked horribly ugly. He was no longer a wealthy man that was respected and looked up to. I'm sure all his family and neighbors were daily discussing his situation and trying to figure out how a godly man lost everything... what did he do to deserve God to allow that to happen... and had their two-cents worth of opinions to give.

But look what happened once God brought about total restoration to Job and God gave him twice as much as he had before: Job 42:11 says, "Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring."

They weren't there during the duration of Job's hardest days, but they were there afterwards for the restoration. And they brought him gifts of money and gold rings!

Sometimes we may feel like we're alone and no one truly understands our situation. We may feel like some have words of advice about what we're doing wrong or what we should or shouldn't be doing or how we should or shouldn't be feeling; but no one comes alongside us to offer support and encouragement. Honestly, sometimes people truly don't understand because they've never been in the situation that we find ourselves.

We can always be assured that God never leaves or forsakes us. We are never truly alone. It may seem as if something has been lost or stolen or hidden from us. We may not understand why and it may not make sense. Sometimes it may seem unfair and we may feel as if God is being slow in revealing His answer and plan for a particular situation. We may not know how or when restoration will come, but we can be assured that it will happen! It's not up to us to figure it out or fix it ourself, but our responsibility is to hold fast to our faith in God, knowing that He is capable of handling our situation without our input or interference. Don't worry about what someone else may think or say or their opinion. They may try to discredit us or think us foolish or not believe what we say. But when we choose to maintain our belief in God and keep our focus on Him, then nothing else really matters. God will reveal the hidden things to us, in His time, and bring about full restoration!!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

My first impulse when I find something that's been missing is to assume I didn't really look as closely as I thought I did. In some cases, that might apply. I could fall back on that once or twice, maybe even 3 times. But as often as it's been happening, it's hard to just assume none of us looked well. The plaque in the camera bag is about the best example. It was in a brown bag, almost too big to fit in the black camera bag. Even though I never looked for the plaque in the camera bag myself, it would have been in the way, and I would have known it didn't belong. I'm sure I didn't just move around it over and over again.

I have been thinking that with the quilt squares missing, we should have several people look for them, especially those that would be the most skeptical. So, when it turns up later, they would know that they had looked in just the spot it turned up. That was before the plaque showed up.

So my intentions to get other people to look for something I expect to turn up later has already been done. Just as Loretta said, God already has it worked out. We may need to cooperate, but we don't need to take over.

ON THE MENEWE:

Twice Baked Potatoes

4 Baking Potatoes

1 Stick Butter, sliced

8 ounces Sour Cream

1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional: Bacon, crumbled and Green Onions

Bake potatoes until done in 400 oven; about an hour. Do not wrap in foil. When done, cut in half and with a cloth hold the potato halves and squeeze them gently to loosen the potato inside. Scoop out most of the potato and put in a bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together. Stuff each potato skin to overflowing and place in a baking pan. Cook in 350 oven about 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

I was supposed to take my great-niece, Jovie, to her dance class last week. I wrestled her into 3 pairs of tights, with the first 2 pair belonging to her older sister, Jemma (the first pair were in her dance backpack, the second pair I found in her dresser drawer, then found the third pair that fit in another drawer!); finally get her dance clothes and shoes on her and her hair up in a ponytail while she was rolling around on the couch saying, "But I don't want to go to dance! Why do I have to go to dance? I so sleepy!" I finally get her outside, open my car door only to find that I had taken her car seat out and had forgotten to put it back in. Jovie won!! She didn't have to go to dance.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

We reflect God's love when we build bridges, not fences. - Karen Ehman

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org