"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!'"
July 25, 2018
I attended my uncles funeral last week. It was held at the church which I had attended for many years. Prior to the family arriving, I was playing piano as people were coming in. All of a sudden, there was a really loud thump and probably 15-20 people who were sitting on one side of the church all jumped up at the same time. They all immediately ran to the back of the sanctuary.
The thump sounded as if someone had fallen and hit the floor or a pew really hard, so that was my first thought. But then when everyone jumped up and started vacating the area, I knew that it was something else.
The pastor and board knew that they had an issue with the pylon underneath the flooring. What I heard was that someone was supposed to come repair it the previous week, then didn't show up. Someone from the church called and had someone else to come out to check it and were told that it would need to be fixed in the next few weeks, but assured the pastor that it would be fine until then. When that many people came into the church and were walking and sitting in that area, the pylon broke. When it did so, the flooring suddenly dropped about 5 inches. Imagine sitting quietly in a church pew, waiting for a funeral to begin, and without any warning you hear a noise and the floor beneath you drops 5 inches! It definitely caused a quick reaction from those sitting in that area.
It was embarrassing to the pastor and board to have this happen when the sanctuary was filling up with guests, most of whom normally don't attend that church.
The funny thing is, my uncle would have gotten a kick out of that happening at his funeral, and would have had a good laugh at the floor suddenly dropping and all those family and friends jumping up and running. It just so happened that the floor dropped right in the area where Wayne and his wife sat every church service for many, many years. The pastor laughingly said that Wayne would have joked that this happened so that no one could sit in his pew; and he would have! Thankfully, it happened prior to the funeral starting and before the arrival of the family, instead of in the middle of the service.
This is an example of how something can happen very suddenly and unexpectedly. You are going along in life, and without warning, the flooring falls out beneath your feet and you are caught unaware and have no idea what is going on or why it happened. It may not literally be the floor as in this instance, but it may feel as if that is what happened.
A few days ago there was a horrendous accident in Branson, MO. For 40 years there has been a Ride the Ducks tourist attraction, which is a vehicle that goes on both land and water. A storm with high winds approximately 65 miles per hour hit suddenly, which caused excessively high waves. There had been a thunderstorm warning, but how many times are we under storm or tornado warnings and nothing happens? The duck vehicle was almost to shore when the high winds caused it to capsize. There were 31 people on board and 17 of them lost their lives. One survivor and her nephew lost nine family members in the accident. When those 29 passengers, the driver and the captain got on board that day, none of them had any idea what would happen just a short time later. Suddenly and unexpectedly, 17 people, including the driver, faced eternity and their families are now dealing with the grief of losing loved ones. One moment they were enjoying vacation, having fun, and spending time with loved ones, then tragedy struck. That's not what anyone expects to happen on vacation.
A couple weeks ago, Jon's aunt and her son were both diagnosed with cancer the same day. Prayers had been prayed, loved ones were hoping for miracles. But with little warning, the words "breast cancer" and "non-Hodgkin lymphoma" were the diagnosis. Cancer is no respecter of person. Marilyn is a mighty prayer warrior and woman of faith; and her son is a middle-school pastor and author and lover of Jesus. They went from living full lives and enjoying each day, to suddenly having tests ran and going to oncologist appointments in which to decide and discuss treatment plans and options. Suddenly and unexpectedly, their lives have taken a very unplanned turn.
For a couple of years after Jon and I got married, we attended a church close to our home. Shortly after we left the church, the pastor and his wife were driving home after visiting their daughter, who lived an hour or so from their home. The pastor was driving, and his wife was sitting in the back seat with a young boy that they were caring for at that time. It was raining and the car hydroplaned and left the highway. It hit a tree on the back door by where the wife was sitting and she was instantly killed. The pastor and young boy were completely unscathed and had no injuries or scratches. Suddenly and unexpectedly this godly woman went into eternity and the husband was left a widower.
The truth is, none of us know what each day has in store for us. When we awake, we don't know whether or not we or our loved ones will still be alive at sunset. We don't know if sickness or emergency situations will suddenly hit. We have no idea if a sudden storm or disaster will unexpectedly blow in and catch us or our family unaware, perhaps causing harm or death. We don't know if we're going to go in for a routine exam that will result in an unexpected diagnosis. We don't know if the floor is going to drop out from underneath us.
Sounds gloom and doom, and that is not my intent. My intent is to make each of us think about our life and how we are living it and if our relationship with Jesus is where it needs to be.
James 4:13-15 says, "Look here, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.' How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog -- it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'"
We often think that these type of things happen to others, not us. People often assume that they will have enough time to make things right with God, before it's too late. Individuals plan for the future and always think that they will have time, at a later date, to accomplish what they want to do. But the reality is, none of us know what life holds for us from one moment to the next. That is why we need to put our faith fully in God and keep our relationship with Him our priority. We need to enjoy each day and look for the blessings. We need to hug our loved ones and tell them that we love them, even if that isn't in our nature to do so. We need to live each day with no regrets!
But there is a flip side to this. The sudden and unexpected events in life that catch us off guard aren't always negative or bad. I think that often the heart-breaking or seemingly bad or ugly or negative events is what stands out to us, because it can be life-changing in ways that bring about grief or heartache. It causes our faith to be tested, and often brings up questions that often cannot be answered sufficiently.
The truth is, God often allows blessings to suddenly and unexpected to fall upon our lives. Many times, instead of giving Him thanks and praise for it, we attribute it to our own hard work or "luck" or having a good day or just the way of things. Isn't it odd that we immediately tend to cry out to God, many times with questions or anger, when there is a health crisis or disaster or death or job loss or finances are lost, etc; but then when things are going well and God pours out blessing and protection and good things are reigned down upon us, we take it for granted or give ourselves credit, without acknowledging God?!?
Sometimes God will pour blessings out upon us, with no warning, simply because He can and wants to. We may experience an answer to prayer during moments when we least expect them. Other times we may have the favor of God poured out upon us in our finances, on our job, or with relationships with other, etc. A job promotion or bonus or raise is given unexpectedly. A situation that looks impossible suddenly turns around and good things begin happening. We receive a good report from the doctor, when we were expecting the opposite. We return from vacation to find that a neighbor mowed our yard right before we got back home. We are expecting to receive a large bill, only to find that when we receive it, it has been drastically reduced. There are all types of situations in which God blesses us!
I was going through life, thinking that I'd never meet the right man or marry after years of praying for that to happen. I had finally came to terms with the fact that God's plan may not include marriage for me, and had peace about that. Then one Wednesday night, Jon shows up at the church I was attending. God orchestrated my life so that I would move to Oklahoma when I did, then He brought Jon back to Oklahoma a few months later. His parents were attending my brother-in-laws church at that time. Neither of us were looking to get married at that time, but God unexpected interrupted our plans so that His will could be accomplished in our lives.
Several years ago, when I was single, I was really struggling financially. I had a good job, but I had just purchased a new mobile home and the cost of getting everything set up for it (permits, sewer, water, electric, etc) had cost a lot more than I had accounted for and had set my finances back more than I had expected. I was working hard to get back on my feet and knew that it would eventually happen, but it was really tough for a while. Really, really tough! For probably six months, I was only buying basic necessities and cutting corners and trying to get my finances built back up; but there were times when it seemed as if I were in a pit that I couldn't get out of, no matter how hard I tried.
First, let me say that for almost ten years I had lived in a really small, really old, broken down, ugly mobile home that really should have been condemned....and that is not an exaggeration. So I had saved and was patient about buying something new and better. Even then, I paid less than $25,000 for the new mobile home, so I wasn't being extravagant. In fact, I think I had paid somewhere $18,000-$21,000 for it.
But during those months after moving into the new home and struggling, God also used people to bless me suddenly and unexpectedly! Shortly after moving in, Easter was coming up. An uncle and aunt came down one Wednesday night after church to see my new house and before leaving, they gave me the money to buy myself a new Easter dress. I received $50 cash in the mail with an unsigned note that said that the person had felt God impress upon them to send me the money. This happened three weeks in a row! I would receive $50 cash, with postmarks from different states, with a note of encouragement. I never did find out who had sent the money. But it was needed at the time and although I couldn't say thanks, I prayed God's blessings upon that person and that if they should ever have a need, that God would provide for them.
There have been times when God has used me and Jon to bless others, suddenly and unexpectedly. Sometimes they knew that it was us, other times we felt led to do it anonymously. We bought clothes for the kids of one of my nephews and his wife when they were going through financial hardships. I shopped and sent a care box to them through the mail. Another time, we secretly gave the pastor money to give to a couple in the church who was struggling, so they could buy new shoes for their kids for Easter. A few months ago I had made a quilt, but had no idea who it was going to be for, so held onto it until God told me who to bless. In March, I found out that it was my uncles 80th birthday. I mailed the quilt to him as a surprise. He called me to thank me when he received it, and he was so thrilled. We had a really good visit on the phone, which was the last time I got to talk to him. This is the uncle who passed away a couple weeks ago. It made my heart happy that I was able to bless him and do something special for him.
Whatever happens in our lives, both good and bad, may it always direct our focus to God. Life can bring about unexpected events that can come about suddenly. But if we are rooted and grounded in our faith in God, then that faith is never going to be shaken and destroyed. We will know, with complete confidence, that God is with us regardless of what happens. We will fall on our face and worship when devastation or hardship or heartbreak occurs; believing that God will hold us and be our strength. We will rejoice and give thanks when blessings fall upon us; recognizing that even if they came through hard work or was given to us by a person, God was and is the source.
I do work hard for the money I make. But I also remember that I couldn't make that money without God. For one thing, there are a lot of people who work as hard as I do, or even harder, and make less.
Actually, I don't make the money. It is given to me by my employer. He didn't really make it, either. Ultimately, American currency is made at mints. They don't really even make the cotton or metals or most other ingredients that go into bills and coins. God created the cotton plants from seeds, and all the metal, and other ingredients.
We put a lot of effort, energy, and emotions into shuffling those bills and coins around.
So, each dollar I receive is a gift from God. So, when I return a dime of it, it shouldn't feel like a hardship. And I need to stop and remember to be grateful for it. I admit, I tend to forget that part. So here's a little reminder for us all.
Ham Steak, sliced (with or without bone)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
Melt butter in skillet and add ham; cooking until brown on both sides, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove ham steak from pan and keep warm. Add remaining ingredients; water, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and paprika to the pan and cook until sugar is dissolved. Place ham steak back in the skillet and cook approximately five more minutes with the caramelized glaze. Serve hot.
****This is how the recipe reads, but not how I made it! There were 2 large ham steaks in the package and I didn't want to have to take the time to cook them separately, and didn't have a pan large enough for them both to fit into at the same time; so I cooked them on my griddle.
I left out the water. I mixed the brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and paprika together (the mixture will be fairly thick). Then I basted the ham steaks on both sides with the glaze mixture. I melted the butter on the griddle, then cooked both ham steaks in the butter. The brown sugar/mustard glaze caramelized as it cooked and seared into the meat. I cooked the meat approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. We both thought it was very, very good!
Acts of kindness are things that will stay with you throughout your life. I have many memories of kindnesses shown to me; some little, some big. When I was around five years old and had chicken pox, my pastor and his wife came down and brought me a tin of candy. Shortly after Mama died, two ladies from our church made me a dress, simply because they wanted to do something special for me. One time I was at a local gas station/convenience store after a church service. An uncle had stopped there, also, and when I went inside to pay for my gas, he had already paid for it (this was before "pay at the pump"). When I was still single and living in Missouri, a cousin and his wife came up to me after a church service and told me that they wanted me to know how much they truly appreciated and loved me; they told me that I was faithful... steadfast.... a rock. One year when working at the bank I was going on vacation to visit my sister and her family who were living in Texas at that time, the radiator went out of my car and had to be replaced the week right before going on vacation. In fact, I got my car back from being repaired the very day that I was leaving for Texas. That pretty much took all the money that I had saved for vacation. One of the loan officers at the bank gave my boss $50 cash to give to me right before leaving work that afternoon, with the message to use the money to go out for a nice dinner while on vacation and do something fun. I sang at a Saturday night singing at a church that one of my sisters was attending years ago, and afterwards someone handed me a note from someone who was in attendance. The note was unsigned and was passed to me from someone else. It simply said that I had been used as a messenger of hope that evening through my songs.
These are only a few examples. But I want you to understand that kindnesses come in many different shapes and forms. It can be anything from spoken words, to a handwritten note, to paying for someone's gas, to buying clothes, to sending money through the mail to meet someones need, to buying dinner..... and everything and anything in between. Kindness, when done with love, is something that will stay in the heart of the receiver and never be forgotten! Let's be good receivers when acts of kindnesses are bestowed upon us; but let us also be givers of acts of kindnesses to others, and do them with love.
You will never regret kind words, warmth, or acts of generosity -
but you will regret the love you never gave. #BeKind -Lisa Bevere
We love you!
Loretta & Jon