"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!'"
December 12, 2018
Recently I attended a christian Christmas concert with Jon and my sister. There was something that one of the artist, Mark Lowry, said that I've been thinking about the past few days. He traveled with the Gaither Vocal Band for many years and said that his favorite thing about his time with that group was getting eat breakfast with Gloria Gaither and the conversations that they had, for he learned so much from her. He mentioned that one of the things that Gloria taught him was how God interrupts our plans.
I am going to copy some of Gloria Gaither's writings regarding this, for she puts it much more eloquently than I could ever say it:
"I'm coming to the conclusion more and more the longer I live that God's will for our lives is in the interruptions."
"Dear God, You give me a job to go to so that you can interrupt my days. It's been the interruptions -- as I look back -- that really counted for eternity."
"God is in the interruptions, but He's seldom in my plans. He doesn't mind if we have our plans, but He doesn't mind interrupting them, either. What caused me to first think about that? My life. It actually happened when I turned 60. When I turned 60, I thought, 'Wow, I'm just now figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.' And I thought, 'If I wrote the story of my life, what would make the book?' And that's what made me stop and say, 'Everything that would make the book was an interruption.' But then I thought, 'I think everything that made the book for Jesus was an interruption.' In the New Testament, it says, 'He was on His way to teach His disciples'.... and as far as I know, they never got taught. Because someone would say, 'Son of David, have mercy on me,' or the woman who touched the hem of His garment. In fact, on His way to heal a woman that had already interrupted Him, He was interrupted in His grieving for John the Baptist. And finally, seeing His exhaustion, the disciples said, 'Get in this boat and we're going to take you to the other side.' But the whole country followed Him to the other side; and He ended up feeding 5,000 people. Interruptions. Time after time after time. And I thought, 'Okay, so why am I so bent out of shape about interruptions?' If I had my life to live over, the only thing I would change is I would sigh fewer sighs of exasperation. I would have known sooner that this is God's adventure. I would make my list... which is okay... and I would say, 'I wonder how God is gonna mess this up today? How's He going to hijack my life?' So instead of saying, 'Oh shoot!' I would say, 'Okay, that's the interruption for today.'"
Some time back I was listening to an interview with Gloria Gaither. She was speaking on this topic and shared a personal story that had happened to her. She had made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some fruit and was in a hurry. She happened to see an older gentleman standing in the aisle, looking lost. She felt that nudge in her spirit that she needed to speak to him. So she walked up to him and told him that she and her husband really liked the white peaches. They were shipped a little green, but if he would just put them in a brown paper bag for 3 days, then they would ripen to perfection. He thanked her and told her that his wife had always done the shopping, but she had dementia so he had had to take that duty over. Gloria could tell that he was very lonely and that her taking a minute out of her busy day to have a conversation with him meant a great deal to him. Interruptions.
Each of us have made our plans and had our own agenda, only to have interruptions crop up that changed those plans. Some have been interruptions of our time or our schedules. Some have been interruptions that were heart-breaking and life-changing or changed our entire lives. Some have brought wonderful surprises, while others changed the course of our life.
We read about many various interruptions that happened to people in the Bible. Today I'm going to focus on Mary and Joseph.
A young girl named Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph. From what I understand from a teaching I recently heard, Jewish tradition was that after a couple became engaged, the man would leave and go back to the home of his father in order to build a room in which to bring his bride to after the wedding. While he was building a place for them to live, the girl would prepare herself and get ready to become a bride. I'm not sure if perhaps she would sew things that would be needed for the home, sew clothing, and gather things that she would need as a new wife. Then she and her bridal party would keep their lamps filled with oil and wait for the bridegroom and his party to arrive to come take her as his bride. When she heard the shofar blow, she would know that her bridegroom was on his way to come take her as his bride.
From my understanding, this was the time period in which Mary and Joseph were. They were engaged to be married, but had not yet became man and wife.
One day Mary was apparently alone in her parents home. She may have been sewing her wedding trousseau or making something that would be needed for her new home. Suddenly an angel appeared in the room with Mary.
In Luke chapter one we read what happened. Verse 28 says, "Gabriel (the angel) appeared to her and said, 'Grace to you, young woman, for the Lord is with you and so you are anointed with great favor.' Mary was deeply troubled over the words of the angel and bewildered over what this may mean for her. But the angel reassured her, saying, 'Do not yield to your fear, Mary, for the Lord has found delight in you and has chosen to surprise you with a wonderful gift. You will become pregnant with a baby boy, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be supreme and will be known as the Son of the Highest.'"
Mary said, "But how could this happen? I am still a virgin!"
Gabriel answered, "The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and almighty God will spread His shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory! This is why the child born to you will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God."
This was an interruption of Mary's plans. It was life-changing! The first baby that she would ever carry in her womb would be placed there by the Holy Spirit, and would be the long-awaited promised Messiah. Wow! What an interruption that was!
What was even more amazing was Mary's response: "This is amazing! I will be a mother for the Lord! As His servant, I accept whatever He has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass."
Not only did Mary's life have an interruption, but Joseph's did, too. From the account of his story in Matthew chapter one, it would seem that Mary first told him of her pregnancy. He didn't receive an angelic visit until after he already knew about it. Scripture says that he was a righteous man full of integrity so he secretly planned to break the engagement, because he didn't want to disgrace Mary.
While he was debating what to do, an angel appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, don't hesitate to take Mary into your home as your wife, because the power of the Holy Spirit has conceived a child in her womb. She will give birth to a son and you are to name him, 'Savior,' for He is destined to give His life to save His people from their sins."
When Jospeh awoke, he did all that the angel of the Lord instructed him to do. He took Mary to be his wife, but they refrained from having marital relations until she gave birth to her son, whom they named Jesus.
Joseph and Mary had made plans; they had committed that they were going to spend the rest of their life together as husband and wife. They thought that they knew what their life was going to look like. Then suddenly, they had an angelic interruption that changed the course of their lives. Mary found herself pregnant with the Son of God and Joseph found himself married to a young pregnant girl. That's how they began their marriage. They found themselves in the roles of being the parents of the Messiah. As other children were born to their union, they had to figure out how to balance being mother and father to Jesus and their other kids and make them all feel as if they were loved and important.
Not only did the birth of Jesus change their lives, but afterwards having Him as their child changed their plans. After the census when they had to travel to Bethlehem, they weren't able to return back to their home in Nazareth as they had planned. The king was looking for their newborn son in order to have him killed, so they had to travel to Egypt and live until after this king died. That wasn't in their plans! They couldn't go back to Bethlehem where their home was, they couldn't go back to where their family lived so that Mary could ask her mother questions and receive help from her women aunts and cousins who had children of their own. Joseph couldn't go back to his carpentry business. They found themselves far from home living in a foreign country, all alone except for having one another and a newborn.
Interruptions! I'm reminded of Gloria Gaither's comment that God's will for our lives are in the interruptions. They may not fit in with our plans, but they are what define us and what shape and mold our lives. Each of us can look back and see how God interrupted our lives and changed our plans. Our life stories are filled with one interruption after another. But we can also see how God directed our steps each and every time. We see how He protected us and provided for us. We see how He changed the course of our life and things went much differently than we expected.
Psalm 37:23 says, "The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives." Other versions say that the Lord orders or establishes our steps.
He may do so by sending interruptions our way. Instead of allowing those interruptions to make us angry, upset, frustrated, depressed..... let us each allow them to turn our eyes to our Father. When we have interruptions, let us see them as God's adventures; His directing our steps so that we can accomplish His will for our lives.
May we answer those interruptions as graciously and full of faith and trust in God as Mary: "Lord, as Your servant, I accept whatever You have for me. May everything you have told me come to pass."
I've already related the story of my truck being stolen. It was about a year ago, if you want to go back through newsletters to find it. The short version: I was trying to do a very simple job at our church. I was interrupted again and again, in very frustrating ways. All those interruptions led to my leaving my truck running in front of a rental house, where it was stolen. About 5 to 10 minutes later, an officer asked if I wanted a ride to get it back. I still don't know what the end story is. But I have faith that it brought good to several people. I had a chance to show peace, faith, forgiveness, and gratitude to several others. It was a good win for our church and for the police involved. And I suspect it kept the kid who stole my truck away from something much worse.
Normally, when I face interruptions like that, I just get frustrated, and even angry. But that particular day, I kept thinking there was something important behind each thing that went wrong. I was very glad later that I had been open to the changes instead of fighting them.
Granny Schwyhart's Fudge
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
4-1/2 cups sugar
1 container marshmallow cream
24 ounces chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Put evaporated milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 6 minutes. Stir constantly to keep from scorching after 4-1/2 minutes. In a large bowl put all other ingredients. Pour boiling mixture over ingredients in bowl. Stir until glossy. Pour into buttered dish.
This time of year brings back so many wonderful memories! As a child, the last couple of weeks before Christmas many of the area churches would have Christmas plays. It wasn't the big music productions that many churches have nowadays, but were plays acted out by church members. It was always fun to see which plays each church would act out each year. What was even more exciting was that the churches would all hand out little brown bags with an apple and/or orange, a few nuts, and maybe a couple pieces of hard candy or orange slices inside to all the children and adults who were in attendance. We would go home, all look inside our bags to see what was inside, and eat our goodies. I sometimes miss the simpler times in life when receiving small things like a little brown paper bag with a few goodies would bring so much joy.
Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon