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

January 3, 2018

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

What a difference a year can make in ones life!

Long ago there was a young teenager, named Mary, who was engaged to Joseph and was probably wondering how marriage would change her life and what having a husband and home of her own would be like. A year later, not only was she married, but she had experienced an angelic visitation and had a baby miraculously placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit, had given birth to the Messiah and was holding Him in her arms.

Thirty-two years later, Jesus was ministering alongside His disciples, traveling from town to town performing miracles and teaching the people. A year later, He had been crucified on a cross, buried in a tomb, and three days later had arisen from the dead. Shortly thereafter He had ascended back to Heaven. His disciples and followers found themselves with Jesus no longer with them in the flesh; but they also experienced the Day of Pentecost and being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

All throughout the Bible there are numerous examples of how a year made an incredible difference in someone's life.

Adam and Eve were living in perfection in the Garden of Eden. Daily, God would come down and walk with them in the cool of the evening. They had never known sin or disobedience or pain or sorrow. I don't know how long they lived in Eden, but there came that year when things completely changed for them. They disobeyed God and sinned, and found themselves banned from Eden, unable to ever enter back in again. They recognized their nakedness, had to labor to grow their own food and get by, and Eve knew the pain of childbirth. No longer were they in a sinless world, walking daily with God in a beautiful garden.

Noah went from living in a sin-filled, evil world, where everyone disregarded his message of the coming flood and the need for repentance; to building an ark and only himself and his family, with two of every kind of animal, being on board and saved from the total destruction of the earth. After the flood, he and his family were the only survivors on earth. The year that changed everything for him.

In the space of a year Ruth went from being a widow; to leaving her home country of Moab and traveling to Judah with her mother-in-law, Naomi; to gleaning in the fields for leftover grain to feed herself and Naomi; to marrying Boaz, the wealthy owner of the field.

A year certainly brought major changes for Job. He went from being a wealthy landowner, having many servants who cared for all his herds and home and fields, sons and daughters, many friends, and health; to losing absolutely everything and having boils covering his entire body. His wife asked him to curse God and die. He had three friends who came and sat by him, trying to bring comfort. Throughout all of this, he never lost faith in God! God blessed Job and his latter years were more fruitful and his wealth was multiplied beyond what it had been in his former years.

We all can look back over our life and see how certain years brought about changes that had a major impact. Perhaps it was something that affected our life negatively such as the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, house fire, car accident, health diagnosis, financial crisis, loss of a friendship, etc. It could have been something positive such as a birth, wedding, new job, new home, adoption, healing, restoration of a relationship, etc. Or it could have been a mixed year that held ups and downs, but they were things that changed our life.

I can look back on my own life, as well as certain family members, and see how the space of a year completely changed life as we had known it.

My niece had been told that she would never be able to get pregnant and carry a baby full-term after having her son, so they began pursuing fostering in hopes of adoption. She did indeed become pregnant again, and she and her husband began fostering at that same time, not knowing whether or not she'd be able to carry the baby full-term. The following year she and her husband went from being the parents of one son; to having a healthy daughter being born to them; as well as having two sisters in their home whom they adopted the following year. One Christmas they were a family of three, and the following Christmas they were a family of six.

About six years ago I dropped my brother-in-law and sister off at the airport. On the way there we were laughing and talking about their upcoming trip. Within a week, my brother-in-law had been taken to ER in Phoenix, AZ and diagnosed with a brain tumor. They flew back home and he was immediately taken to the hospital and had surgery. A year later, he passed away and my sister's life on earth was forever changed. What a difference one year made!

In June of 2003, I quit my job in banking in Missouri, where I had worked for 13 years, and I moved to Oklahoma. I was almost 38 years old and had never been married, and thought by that point in my life that I likely never would. In December, God brought Jon into my life and we began dating in May of the following year. We got married 13 months later in June of 2005. God had a very different plan than what I thought.

As I think back over 2017, I think of various events in my family and friends; some very unexpected, some joyful, some painful, some disappointing, some exciting. Jon's dad passed away from Alzheimers; a former high teacher's husband was instantly killed in a car accident; the death of a cousin's wife; a former pastor's wife who unexpectedly became very sick and passed away shortly thereafter; a new teaching career for a nephew; the birth of three great-nieces and a great-nephew; a nephew and his wife had a baby girl in February and had a huge unexpected surprise, finding out that she was pregnant again and expecting a son this coming February; permits finally being obtained at our church and remodeling begun, only to seemingly run into one problem after another this past month; just to name a few. There were prayers that were answered, and others that we are still praying about and waiting for the answer to come.

None of us know what God's plan for us is from one year to the next; or really from one day to the next. We can map everything out according to our desires or wishes, but that doesn't always mean that things will go as we want. Things can happen very suddenly and bring about changes that we never anticipated. Other times, things can move slowly and we don't know exactly when something will take place, although we may see where the path seems to be leading. Then there are those times when things seem to be moving at a normal pace and there are really no unexpected surprises and life can move along pretty normally and uneventful.

Whatever 2018 may bring, we can be assured that God loves us and will never leave or forsake us. His plan may not always be ours and we may not always understand His ways, but His plans are for good and not for evil. Whatever happens, we can trust Him and find strength and comfort and joy and peace in our relationship with God. He's a good, good Father!

May this year be blessed for each of you; and whatever it may bring, may you know the fullness of the love of God in every situation and in every moment.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I've been told there's an old Gaelic curse, something like "may your life be full of excitement." Well, I've had enough excitement for this year, so it can just stop now.

The day started with having to wake up early on my day off, because Loretta was so kind and generous that she took my mother to an appointment (she really is a great daughter-in-law). That wasn't so bad. I rolled over, and went back to sleep.

Then, I had to call the gas company because our church has been getting so much water in our gas that it quit working. We actually have 3 gas meters. (That may seem like extra information, but if you'll bear with me, it really is important.) I made the call at 8:00, as soon as they have operators on duty. Instead of scheduling a service call for later in the day, she flagged it as 'emergency', so there would be someone on the way as soon as they were available!

I was still at home, so needed to rush to beat them there. But my truck wouldn't start. It's been having a hard time in the cold, but this was the first time it refused. I put it on a charger for about 15 minutes, and it worked.

I rushed to the church building where the meter was that didn't have gas flowing. I opened the gate, so someone could get in, if they needed, then drove around to another meter to make sure the address I had was right. It wasn't. The gas company technician had already come and left. For emergencies, they must always shut off the gas, but can't turn it back on without someone there to walk them through the house looking for gas appliances.

So, I had to call the gas company back. They sent someone to fix the bad gas line (replace the meter that was filled with ice), and he was just about to go to the other address and turn the gas back on (I'd be glad to do it myself, but they can fine you $100 for that) when he got called away to another emergency. (Gas not working is an emergency, but gas shut off isn't?)

About 5:00, I was ready to give up, and ask someone else to stay there in my place. But just before I actually left, I got the call that someone was on the way to turn the gas back on.

So, instead of going home, I went to the house with the shut-off gas. Now, remember that my truck wouldn't start... I was able to start it just before sunset, but didn't know if I'd be able to again. So, I pulled it into the driveway, but left it running while I unlocked the gate and house, and ran in to make sure the furnace and hot water heater were off. By the time I opened the front door, I saw the back end of my truck heading out of the driveway.

Yep, my truck was stolen! Along with a lot of tools, some belonging to my employer. The gas company technician drove up at the same time (the thief almost hit him). I yelled that that was my truck, and he tried to follow him, but couldn't safely. I called 911, reported it, and gave the details ('police'... 'stole my truck'... the address...'5 seconds ago'...'headed north from here'...).

There wasn't much else to do, so I worked with the gas company tech (when he got back) to get the gas turned on. He was about half-way done, when a police car pulled up. The officer told me they found my truck, and asked if I wanted a ride to it.

Like I said, that's enough excitement for 2018. I'd really rather not go through all that again, especially in one day.

Looking back, it seems like there were quite a few little details that seemed random, but worked together to make sure I was the one at the house at 5:05, and that I would leave my truck running (I almost never do except with the doors locked). It makes me wonder if there was some great reason for my truck being taken then recovered tonight.

One reason I'm sure of, is that our church has been through quite a bit the past few weeks. The same house where my truck was stolen was broken into a few days earlier. We just learned we need an inspection on our remodeling that we aren't really prepared for (and covered over with sheetrock). We really needed a win. (Okay, you could say the theft & recovery is a wash, but I'd rather call it a win.)

I've been feeling we need a good demonstration of forgiveness and mercy. We need a chance to show others that we have a chance to feel angry, but choose not to. This meets that need.

The guy who took our truck was caught. I don't feel vindictive or angry toward him. But I hope that by being in jail tonight, he won't be somewhere doing something much worse. I also hope that he will meet someone he can respect, who will help him change his life.

There were probably 8 police cars at the scene where they caught the guy. I'm sure they all had a great night, and enjoyed having a victory tonight. They might have needed that just now.

Loretta and I both showed compassion instead of anger. The gas company tech seemed surprised by that. Maybe our attitudes helped someone tonight.

There may be other benefits that we may never know. But we can be sure that what Satan had meant to tear us down has been turned into something good. We don't always see that, so it's good to start the year off with one good example. (Not that I want to do this next year...)

ON THE MENEWE:

Slow Cooker Creamy Tortellini Soup

1 pound ground Italian Sausage, browned

Onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 teaspoons beef or chicken bouillon powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)

1/4 cup cornstarch mixed and dissolved in 1/4 cup water

12-ounce can evaporated milk or half and half

12-ounce packages three cheese tortellini

5 cups fresh baby spinach

1 cup milk

Place the browned and drained sausage, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, Italian seasoning, beef bouillon powder, salt, and broth in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low on 7 hours.

Uncover and skim any fat that is sitting on top of the soup with a spoon; discard. Stir in the cornstarch mixture with the evaporated milk (or half and half or cream). Add the tortellini and mix well. Cover again and cook on High heat setting for 45 more minutes until the soup has thickened, and the tortellini is soft and cooked through.

Add in the spinach, pressing the leaves down to completely submerse into the liquid. Cover again for a further 5-10 minutes until the leaves have wilted.

Pour in milk in 1/3 cup increments, as needed, to reach the desired thickness and consistency. Taste test and season with extra salt, if needed, and pepper to your taste.

Good served with warm crusty bread.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

Just a few reminders and suggestions for the wintery cold temperatures that we've been experiencing lately:

Be sure that you have unhooked any water hoses from outside spigots.

Carry a blanket in the car trunk, in case you should have a flat tire or have car problems or get stuck in stopped traffic or hit icy roads where you would need to pull over and stop for any reason. We have put blankets and a small travel pillow in our car. Other suggestions that could come in handy are flashlights and bottled water. These items could also come in useful should you happen upon an accident. Jon's sister came upon a wreck where they were looking for a blanket and pillow for the victim, who had gone into shock, until the ambulance could arrive. She happened to have blanket in her vehicle that she was able to give them to use. And for goodness sakes; wear a coat and have gloves with you; or at least have it in the vehicle!

An extra cell phone charger could also come in handy to keep in your vehicle, should you get stuck somewhere, so that you could charge your phone, if necessary.

Don't run your gas tank on empty! When the weather is extremely cold or there is a possibility of precipitation, try to keep at least half a tank of gas in the vehicle at all times, in case you should get stuck in traffic and have to sit for an extended period of time waiting for a road to clear due to an accident or weather.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace. (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org