"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!'"
November 29, 2017
A while back I was driving down my street, headed to my sister's home, when I happened to glance in my rear-view mirror and noticed the flashing lights of a police car in the opposite lane as he was pulling someone over. I thought, "Hmm... I must have just passed that police vehicle, and hadn't even noticed!"
I often see police cars driving down our street. When I'm out mowing our front yard, more times than not, at least one police car will pass by, if not more. Whenever I'm outside for some reason, there is often a police officer that goes by. Many times we have seen flashing lights sitting on the side street across from our home, due to someone being pulled over for speeding. It has become so common to see a police vehicle, that I rarely take notice anymore.
It's the same with firetrucks. We have a fire station within sight of our home, so we daily hear sirens and see flashing lights. It's become like background noise and I seldom really focus on it, unless there are multiple sirens passing by -- such as the firetruck, police, and/or ambulance. It is just part of the noise of our neighborhood.
Occasionally, Jon and I have been driving down a street that we often use and one of us will suddenly notice something that has never caught our eye before and ask, "Is that new, or have I just never noticed it before?!" The scenery that we often see becomes so mundane after regularly passing by it, that we don't really pay attention to what's around us.
How often do things become so routine and mundane that we fail to observe what is happening right in front of us?! We've heard it, seen it, done it..... it's just life! No longer do we sit up and take notice, but it's just background noise or blurred scenery.
A few days ago I was babysitting Jovie, my great-niece, and was lying beside her during "rest time"; aka nap time. Our bedroom has muted light during the daytime, due to closed drapes, and I had taken my glasses off, which meant that everything was fuzzy. Jovie was talking and fighting her sleep and I was lying beside her humming (she will tell me whether she wants me to sing or hum) and had my eyes closed. She asked for a Kleenex, so I reached over and got one off the bedside table and handed it to her. I heard her blowing her nose, so peeped through one eye to see what she was doing. She would blow, wipe her nose, blow, wipe her nose.... and honestly, I thought she was just playing and trying to keep herself awake. She never said anything. When Jovie was finished, she handed me her wadded up Kleenex and rolled over and fell asleep.
Later that evening when I went upstairs to change into my pajamas, I saw that Kleenex lying on the bedside table and picked it up to throw it away. I was wearing my glasses at that time, so could see clearly. I glanced at the Kleenex and noticed something all over it. When I better looked, I saw that it was blood. Jovie had had a bloody nose and was wiping it clean while lying right beside me, and I hadn't even noticed! She didn't say anything and I didn't ask any questions, thinking she was just playing. I felt bad, that my little 3-year old niece had been next to me and I hadn't even known that she had a bloody nose! I just wanted her to stop wriggling and take a nap!
How often do we pass right by people who are hurting and in need of encouragement or a helping hand or prayer, and we miss out on what God has placed right in front of us, due to us not paying attention or being focused on ourself?! How many people are sitting next to us or nearby in church who are battling addictions, dealing with the possibility of their family being ripped apart by divorce or concerns about rebellious children, hiding the guilt and condemnation of a shameful past and fear that someone will find out and judge them, facing a deep depression and/or loneliness that feels overwhelming and they wonder if there is even a purpose in them living?
It is so easy sometimes to become so wrapped up in our own life and become oblivious to those nearby who may need our prayer and support. Perhaps we can even use our own life examples to minister to what they are dealing with; helping them to realize that they are not alone in the battles that they are fighting and that someone else can empathize with their situation and offer them hope. Other times, we may not truly understand their battle, but we can support them with our prayers and let them know that we care.
Philippians 2:4 says, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
In verses 20-21 of that same chapter, Paul writes this: "If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ." Paul continues in the next verse, "But you all know how Timothy has proved himself.....".
Pastor and author Rick Warren wrote in a devotional: "The starting point for all happiness is shifting the focus away from yourself. If all you think about is yourself, you're going to be a pretty miserable person. If you truly want to be happy in life, you have to care about the needs of those around you. I have to admit it saddens me how many times I have missed the needs of people around me that I love, because I wasn't paying attention. I wasn't taking an interest in them. I hadn't shifted the focus from me to the others in the room. Because I wasn't looking out for their needs, I missed their needs. And it grieves me a lot. Instead of grieving missed opportunities, be intentional about looking away from yourself and to the needs of others, where you'll find happiness in serving God through serving others."
May we look to Timothy as our example and prove ourselves as being someone who genuinely cares about the welfare of others. This doesn't come naturally, because we often get so wrapped up in our problems and life and work and family and busyness that unintentionally our focus is limited to those things. Shifting our focus away from ourself and taking an interest in those around us takes practice. But as Paul wrote, I truly believe that this is what matters to Jesus Christ. This is how we bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Some friends of ours are having a struggle in their marriage. It has apparently been growing for a long time, but none of us knew, even one of the spouses I'm referring to. The other spouse has been hurting for a long time, and has grown apart from God. And that led into other problems. And none of us knew what was going on.
Looking back, there did seem to be a loss of joy in both of them. They went through the motions, and kept up appearances, but didn't seem to enjoy the church services, especially the one who had been hurting for so long.
It's easy to tell someone they need to find joy, or to enjoy what they have instead of focusing on the negative parts of life. It sounds good. And it feels like we can help a little by offering advice. But honestly, it isn't an easy thing to act on. How do we find joy?
It feels kind of like trying to find a raccoon. I know raccoons are around. I know there must be live ones, or there wouldn't be so many dead ones on the road. But if I went out looking for one, I doubt I could find it. Being told to just find one and be happy doesn't really help.
There has been a lot of talk about finding your "happy place" in years past. There's really a bit of truth to that. I enjoy remembering times I've spent in the peace of the country, far away from cities and people. And I enjoy thinking about going back, and returning soon, and basking in the warm sunlight.
But the best "happy place" isn't really a location, but a focus on God, and simply enjoying basking in His presence. We can close our eyes, and know the sunlight is surrounding us. We can also close our eyes and know that God surrounds us. It's a good and comforting place to be. With practice, it will even bring joy.
Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole
6 slices bread, cubed
2 cups milk
Sausage, bacon, or ham
2 cups grated cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dry mustard (not really vital to recipe)
Optional: veggies (mushrooms, olives, etc)
Spread cubed bread in bottom of 9x13 casserole pan. Cook breakfast meat; drain. (Sausage, bacon, and/or ham -- you can use one or mix two or more meats together.) Beat eggs with the milk and seasonings; add in meat and any veggies you may want to use. (Can add chopped mushrooms, black olives, chopped fresh spinach (I wouldn't use the canned spinach due to the vinegar).) Pour mixture evenly over the bread cubes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 for 50-60 minutes, until eggs are set and cooked.
You could spoon some picante sauce or salsa over the top of your serving, if you want to add a little kick.
To God be the glory; great things He has done!! Three years ago our church purchased property that had an older house and a large metal workshop on it. We have been meeting in the house, with the intention of remodeling the workshop and making it our permanent sanctuary. For three years we've been trying to get zoning issues resolved, worked with architects trying to get the correct city permits, and have seemingly run into one problem after another. Finally, we are seeing a lot of progress and are moving forward!!
All of the needed permits have been obtained and much work has been done on the building; electrical, plumbing, heating and air, drywall, soundproof foam insulation on the wall that is next to a neighbor (deaf church music is loud!), conduit being ran overhead for all of the speaker and monitor wires to be run through; and we have passed all of our current inspections - except for the HVAC that did not pass this week, but it seems to be easy fixes.
Excitement is building as we walk into the building and see it coming together, knowing that one day soon (hopefully in a couple months) we will actually have our sanctuary completed and be utilizing the building for the purpose that we have been dreaming of and planning for these past three years!
Never give up, never stop dreaming, and keep believing God for whatever miracles you are praying for! He is not limited by our time schedules, so keep praying with faith!
If we want to change our life, we have to change our attitude.
If we want to change our attitude, we have to change our thoughts.
And if we want to change our thoughts, we have to change what we meditate on. - Kris Vallotton
We love you!
Loretta & Jon