"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

July 18, 2018


I know that this will come as a surprise to you all, but I have never been athletic. What?!? It's true! I hated gym class when I was in school. I was always one of the last ones chosen when teams were picked for games. I can't think of one sport that I even half-way excelled in. I wasn't a fast runner; nor am I now. I can't swim. I don't like to exercise and get sweaty or stinky, and have never been very motivated to do so.

In grade school and junior high, we had to do physical fitness tests each year. I think it was a required thing. We were timed to see how many sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, etc that we could do. I think we were even supposed to climb a rope. Are you kidding me?! I could pull out a few sit-ups and push-ups, but there was no way I could do chin-ups or climb a rope. It was one of the most dreaded weeks of the school year!

About the only exercise that I find halfway enjoyable is walking. Even then, I'm not consistent. It's always too hot, or too cold, or too humid; or I don't want to get dressed, drive somewhere to walk, get sweaty, then have to drive back home and shower and re-dress.

But there is a race that I'm involved in, and have been for many years, where it doesn't involved physical prowess or athletic abilities. Yes!! That's my kind of race!! AND.... I'm promised a prize when I complete this race. Double yes!! I've never won a prize for running a race before; but this time I will obtain the prize of all prizes!

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TPT) says: "Isn't it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor's prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor's crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don't run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won't be disqualified."

There are times when we are running the race of life, and things become difficult and we are tempted to give up. Circumstances discourage and dishearten us, and we feel as if God has put more on us than we can handle. Life situations stink at times and doesn't seem fair. We sometimes trip and fall, and it seems as if it takes more strength than we have to get up again and keep running.

Oftentimes, people lose faith and let go of hope when they lose focus and their situation or their problems seem bigger than God. That's the place where Satan wants us to get to, then he wants to keep us there. He wants to get us to that place where our perspective is skewed, then he messes with our thinking and whispers words of despair in our ear. Satan wants us to stop running this race, and will whisper in our ear and try to persuade us that God doesn't really love us or care, or else He wouldn't allow these bad things to happen. Satan speaks nothing but lies!

That is when we have to stop... get our focus and priorities back where it needs to be... and determine that we are not going to give up and quit! We determine that the price of quitting is too high and that we will persevere and hold fast to our faith in God.

Let's see what Philippians 3:10-11 says: "And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me. I will be one with him in his sufferings and I will be one with him in his death. Only then will I be able to experience complete oneness with him in his resurrection from the realm of death."

We like it when we share in the blessing and glory of Jesus; but don't much like it when we are called upon to "be one with him in his sufferings".

1 Peter 4:12-13 says, "Beloved friends, if life gets extremely difficult, with many tests, don't be bewildered as though something strange were overwhelming you. Instead, continue to rejoice, for you, in a measure, have shared in the sufferings of the Anointed One so that you can share in the revelation of His glory and celebrate with even greater gladness!"

Philippians 1:29-30: "For God has graciously given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for Him. For you have been called by Him to endure the conflict in the same way I have endured it -- for you know I'm not giving up."

Did you see what that scripture said? It said that God has graciously given us the privilege to believe in Christ (we like that!); but it also says, that He has graciously given us the privilege to suffer with Him. In the previous scripture it tells us not to be bewildered as though it were something strange happening when life gets extremely difficult, with many test. But we are to rejoice... yes, rejoice... that we have shared in the sufferings of Jesus. This happens so that we can share as His glory is revealed and we celebrate with even greater gladness! Suffering and testing are not to break us, nor are they used as punishment. The Father doesn't allow those things to happen to beat us down and try to cause us to sin or fall away from Him. No! But they are so that we can share in the glory of Jesus!

Philippians 3:12-14 continues: "I admit that I haven't yet acquired the absolute fullness that I'm pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover. I don't depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus."

The truth is, every person who has ever lived and who is living now, is part of this race. But there are two destinations, and we chose the outcome by whether or not we receive Jesus into our heart.

You cannot be on both roads at the same time, no matter how much you may wish it to be so. There's no way to walk with one foot on the road to heaven, and one foot on the road to hell. We all have to fully commit to either one road or the other. We can't be running the race that leads to the prize of eternal life and a crown of righteousness that is promised to all believers, while living as we want and not fully committing our heart to Jesus or not keeping our heart full of faith. We also can't keep jumping back and forth between the two paths; but we choose either one race or the other.

Nothing is worth missing heaven for; absolutely nothing! No matter how tough life may be, or how difficult the path, or what we have to deal with, or what we may struggle with.... it's not worth letting go of faith in Jesus and turning away from Him.

I encourage you to recommit your life to Jesus, if you've been struggling with your faith. The Israelites, too, struggled with remaining committed to God. Finally, Joshua spoke to them and told them that they needed to choose whom they would serve. He wasn't giving them permission to turn their back on God and serve their gods, but he was telling them to stop trying to straddle the fence and make up their mind. He told them, "If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve!" Then he boldly affirms: "But as for me and my family (my house), we will serve the Lord."

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (TPT) says: "I have fought an excellent fight. I have finished my full course and I've kept my heart full of faith. There's a crown of righteousness waiting in heaven for me, and I know that my Lord will reward me on his day of righteous judgement. And this crown is not only waiting for me, but for all who love and long for his unveiling."

These are the words that I want to be able to say when my time on earth comes to an end. I want to be able to end my life with no regrets. I want to be able to say that I have fought with excellence, and have finished my full race and have kept my heart full of faith.

But I also want each of you to be able to say that exact same thing. For the scripture promises that the crown of righteousness waiting in heaven for me, is not only for me, but is there for all who love and long for Jesus.

Let us all run this race toward heaven, together, with excellence. When one falls or stumbles, let's pick them up and help them continue on. Let's encourage and help each other. Whatever happens along the way, may we each run with excellence and finish well!


I wish I could either remember where I heard this, or be able to find it, so I'll just have to share it without a credit... "It doesn't matter if you take big steps or small ones, as long as they are in the right direction." When I have a long distance to go, I may be able to start off jogging. Before long, I have to slow down to a walk. Then, I may be able to start a jog again. But as long as I don't turn off a different direction, I'll eventually get to where I'm going.

We may have times when we are more energetic, and can run in our spiritual race. And other times, we can barely crawl. All too often, we wander off the path to find a bench to rest on. Of course it's tempting, but when we wander off the path, it just adds more distance to the total walk: from the path to the bench, and then back.


Copycat Panera Bread Creamy Tomato Bisque Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, sliced or diced

2 (28 ounce) cans peeled tomatoes

1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup half and half

8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher sale and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a heavy bottomed pan (or dutch oven) heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds -- until fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring as needed, until translucent -- about 8 minutes.

Add both cans of peeled tomatoes (with juice), chicken stock, and sugar. Bring to a low boil, then simmer uncovered for 12 minutes or until it has thickened.

Add the half and half, basil, oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using an immersion blender (or carefully transfer soup to a blender), puree soup until there are no large chunks left.

Serve in bowls. Sprinkle croutons and grated parmesan cheese over the top.


This past week my mom's youngest brother passed away; which resulted in my thoughts for this weeks devotional. There were ten children in my mom's family, and Uncle Wayne was the last sibling left. Our hearts have been saddened by the passing of our last uncle on my mom's side of the family. Wayne was a man who loved to laugh and joke. He and his wife married when he was only 16 years old, and celebrated their 63rd anniversary last November. They were members of the same church for 58 years. Wayne loved his family. He told his wife and kids that the first thing he wanted to do when he got to heaven was give his mom a hug, who died when he was only 13 years old; then visit with his brothers, whom he greatly missed. My heart eagerly awaits the biggest Parton reunion ever, when we all get to heaven; where we will never again be parted. You'll probably hear us; we are a loud, laughing, talkative family!


"We see a face of God through times of struggle and tribulation

that we would otherwise never see of Him." - Havilah Cunnington

"God is multifaceted, and as we journey with Him through the wind and waves that life may bring, we experience new sides of His nature. It is only in the moments where breakthrough is needed that we see the God of Breakthrough, and only in the moments where we need healing that we experience the Healer. We pray that whatever your season looks like right now, you are experiencing His nearness and learning more of who He is."


We love you!

Loretta & Jon