"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!'"
August 6, 2008
My wedding day was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible days of my life. I had waited and longed for that day for many years, and it was all that I had ever imagined it would be. Every detail of my wedding day is still ingrained in my mind. I remember the way I felt as I walked down the aisle on Daddy's arm; seeing Jon waiting at the front of the church for me. I was filled with nervous excitement and couldn't stop smiling or shaking. For the one and only time in my life, I absolutely felt like a beautiful princess, all dressed up in my long white wedding gown with the train and the tiara and wedding veil. I told my sisters that every woman should have one day in her life where she experiences that feeling. That day was all about me and Jon, and I felt like the most special lady on earth, for those few moments of time. Family and friends were there specifically to honor us and celebrate our union. It was absolutely awesome!
But far more important than the beauty of the wedding and being surrounded by family and friends, were the vows that Jon and I spoke to one another. What we said weren't just words spoken out of tradition, but they were heart-felt promises made to one another.
That's exactly what a vow is; a promise. The dictionary definition for vow is: a voluntary promise solemnly made to God; a solemn or formal promise. To give by solemn promise; to devote.
At one of my bridal showers, the ladies were giving me marital advice. One of the ladies told me that something she had experienced within her own marriage was that most of the time, love for her husband came easily. But there were other times when it was a choice. For example, there had been occasions where he did something that she disagreed with or that aggravated her. She may not feel the emotion of love for him in those moments; yet she made a choice to love him anyway. Even when circumstances are difficult, she chooses to remain faithful to her vows and love her husband.
Jon and I have a solid marriage, but there are times when the emotional sensation of love is stronger than it is at other times. There have been occasions when we've gotten on each other's nerves, times when we've been frustrated with one another, times when I've been moody and hormonal and not a pleasant person to be around, times when he has spent hours playing computer games and ignored me, times when we've each needed our "alone" time, and times when we've disagreed. But even in those circumstances, we know that we are committed to our relationship and committed to the vows that we made to one another. We made a solemn pact, before we went through the wedding ceremony, that the "D" word (divorce) would never be spoken between us, regardless of how angry or disappointed we were with one another. That is not an option in our relationship, and that thought or threat should never be spoken between us. We choose to work through any struggles or difficulties or unexpected situations or disagreements, and honor our vows. We choose to honor one another and treat each other with respect. We make a point to frequently say, "I love you", and not assume that the other person knows how we feel. Those most generally are the last words spoken before going to sleep at night, first thing in the morning, and last words said before one of us gets in the car to go somewhere, or right before we hang up when talking to one another on the phone. If something should ever happen to one of us, we want those words to be the last thing we heard the other say, and not words spoken in anger. We want our marriage and relationship with one another to be one with no regrets.
(On a side note: I do understand that there are specific scenarios and situations where there are no other options than divorce; and for the best interest or safety of one of the spouses or children involved, that is the only solution. I neither condemn nor judge those who are or have been divorced.)
I believe that in our society, too few people understand what wedding vows really mean. There are those who enter into marriage thinking that they will give it a try, and if it doesn't work out, then they can end it. Too many individuals get married, then as soon as difficulties arise or they have their first disagreement, they want out. Or they realize that marriage is a lot more work than they anticipated. At times, one or both spouses begin thinking the grass is greener elsewhere, and get involved in an affair with someone else. At other times, one spouse can become upset or unsatisfied and begin to nitpick and find fault with everything the other one does, or begin to compare their husband/wife to someone else whom they think would be the perfect mate. The promises that they made to one another are easily broken.
There are many other ways, besides marriage, where individuals break vows. Too many children have endured hurt and hardship due to parents breaking their promises. There are promises broken every day in the business world between employers and employees. Ever since Saul became the first king in the old testament, to the kings and presidents in our world today, there have been vows that have not been kept between leadership in government and the people.
But the most crucial vows that we all individually make, are those made to God. How many of us have "bargained" with God by saying, "God, if you will do such and such for me, then I promise that I will do such and such in return?" It may be a prayer that we pray out of desperation for a loved one whose life is spiraling downhill and need God's intervention. Perhaps we have a spouse, parent or child who have been diagnosed with a devastating sickness or disease and we plead for God to heal them. It could be for protection and safety for ourself or a loved one. It may even be for something that we really think we want or need. There are numerous scenarios where we can try and make a deal with God, by making promises.
But how many of us, when God does intervene and answer, try to renege and get out of the vow that we made to Him? We can come up with all kinds of reasons why God would excuse us from keeping our word. Or else we try to ease our conscience by thinking that God would probably have answered anyway, even if we hadn't made our promise to Him. We may truly mean it when we originally make the vow, but then afterwards realize how hard it's going to be to keep our word. Or we may make the promise to God, not really intending to follow through. After all, shouldn't God be proud of us for our willingness to say that we will do whatever it is that we promised? And God is a God of love and mercy, so He should go ahead and answer our requests without expecting us to keep our word, shouldn't He? I believe that when we make a vow to God, He expects us to fulfill it.
One of the greatest examples of someone making a vow to God, and then keeping it, is the story of Hannah found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2.
Hannah wanted a child more than anything. Her husband, Elkanah, had two wives; Hannah and Peninnah (BIG mistake). Peninnah had children, and would provoke Hannah in order to irritate her because of her barrenness. Each year, Elkanah would take his family to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. He would give portions to each wife, and also the children belonging to him and Peninnah, to offer as sacrifices. Because of his love for Hannah, he would give her a double portion to offer. This occurred year after year.
One particular year, Hannah went into the temple and was greatly distressed and began bitterly weeping. She was praying and made a vow to God saying, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life."
Eli, the priest, saw her lips moving but heard no sound, and thought she was drunk. He came and admonished her, but Hannah told him that she had not been drinking wine, but was pouring out her soul to the Lord in her great anguish and grief. Eli's reply was, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him." Hannah went on her way, no longer sad.
She returned home with Elkanah and the rest of his family, and the scripture said that the Lord remembered her and granted her request. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying "Because I have asked the Lord for him."
After longing for a child for so many years, I'm not sure that I would have been able to keep my vow to God, had I been Hannah. I can only imagine the depth of love that she had for this much desired and longed-for baby son. But Hannah kept the vow that she had made to God.
When Elkanah went to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices soon after Samuel's birth, Hannah told him that she was going to stay home. She said to her husband, "After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always."
After he was weaned, Hannah took her young son, and sacrifices in which to offer to God, to the temple in Shiloh. She presented Samuel to the high priest, Eli, and left him there in the temple so that he could be dedicated to the Lord. Samuel spent his whole life there in service for the Lord.
I would think that it would have been almost unbearable for Hannah to turn around and walk away from her little boy. Yet she willingly did so and kept the vow she had made to God. Each year she would make Samuel a new coat and take it to him, when she went to the temple for the yearly time of worship and sacrifice. The Priest, Eli, spoke a blessing upon Hannah and her husband, saying, "May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord." The Lord was gracious to Hannah and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters.
A later scripture states that, "And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men."
Another scripture says that the Lord was with Samuel as he grew up. And all Israel recognized that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
I believe as difficult as it may have been for Hannah to leave her son in Shiloh, her heart was so filled with gratefulness and thanksgiving to God for allowing her to bear a child, that she was willing to fulfill her promise and keep her vow. She knew that she would have remained barren, had it not been for God remembering her and opening her womb. When she gave up Samuel and fulfilled her vow, she didn't know at that time that she would be blessed with more children. It's easy at times to keep a promise, if we know we'll get something back in return. But Hannah was so thankful for God giving her her petition for a son, that her heart overflowed with thanksgiving and praise. In fact, 1 Samuel chapter two begins with Hannah's prayer of praise. She begins by saying, "My heart rejoices in the Lord!"
It is important that we keep the vows that we make to God. Not grudgingly or half-hearted; but with a heart filled with praise and gratitude. There is much that we can learn from Hannah's example.
This is not only in regard to promises that may be made when we want God to answer our prayer, but vows made when we commit our life to serving and following Him. We may ask Jesus to forgive our sins and come into our lives, and promise to follow Him always and give Him first place in our life. Then we get busy, things come up, we allow things to interfere with our relationship with Christ, and we slowly begin breaking our vow. Thankfully, if we realize this is happening, we can recommit our life to God and He will bestow mercy and grace upon us. But this isn't a promise to be playing around with, and should be taken seriously.
If we have no intention of keeping a vow made to God, then we should never make it. We need to realize the importance of the words that we speak. God doesn't play games with us, and expects the same honor and respect to be given to Him in return. When making promises to God, we need to realize the seriousness and consequences; whether we choose to fulfill our word, or renege and don't follow through. May we each be ready and willing to fulfill the vows we make to God.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 says, "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, 'My vow was a mistake.'"
Deuteronomy 23:21-23 says, "If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord you God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth."
Lastly, we need to remember that the vows we make to God are made freely of our own mouth. God does not force us to make promises to Him. When we make those vows, we do so of our own free will and from our very own lips. We can't later blame God or someone else for us making those promises. We may make a vow, then later feel backed into a corner. We then try to find someone to put the blame on to get us out of our situation. "God, if I had of known that You would have really made me follow through, then I would never have spoken those words!" But God didn't make us utter our promise, therefore, how could we blame Him?
Let us each be careful with the words we speak. And may we realize the commitment that we are making when we speak words of promise; whether it's to God, to a spouse, family member, friend, employer, etc. May we willingly choose to keep vows made to individuals, in good times and bad. More importantly, may we be willing to fulfill any vows made to God; and do so with thanksgiving and praise.
I've heard an old expression, "My word is all I've got." It seems hard to take a stranger at their word these days. And mostly because there are a lot of individuals who will give their word freely and meaninglessly. It's so pervasive in our culture: advertisements, campaign promises. It seems so natural to be casual with truth in America today. And I feel helpless to change it. But each of us has the opportunity to be careful when giving our own word, to give it sparingly and truthfully.
1 head lettuce -- cut up
1 can ranch-style beans
1 lb. Ground beef -- browned and drained
Dorothy Lynch dressing
Brown ground beef and onion together; drain. Add ranch-style beans (I usually drain some of the juice off first); stir together with the ground beef and set to the side. Cut up lettuce and put in a large serving bowl; add the diced tomatoes. Add the shredded cheese and beef/bean mixture. Crush the tortilla chips and add to mixture. Pour Dorothy Lynch dressing over all and mix.
** Everyone has their own version/recipe for taco salad. The good thing about this recipe is that you can take the basics and changed it to your own families taste. I've bought the bagged lettuce that is already pre-chopped to make it a little quicker and easier to put together. I've also added taco seasoning to the ground beef (follow directions on package) before adding the beans. I prefer the ranch-style beans, but you could also make it with a can of pinto beans, kidney beans or black beans instead. I've also made it without the onion. Also, I've made it using various other dressing instead of the Dorothy Lynch -- such as French or Catalina Dressing. Instead of tortilla chips, you could also use Dorito's or corn chips.
Jon and I like to top ours off with salsa or picante sauce and a big dollop of sour cream. Also, if you have leftovers, the chips will get soggy when you store the taco salad in the refrigerator. For just me and Jon, I don't add the chips to the salad bowl. We each crush our own chips and add them to our own individual bowls. I also don't mix the Dorothy Lynch dressing in; we each add our own individually. This will help keep the leftovers from getting soggy and will taste better longer.
When I was in my late-teen years, my uncle Jay hired me to stay with aunt Chloe, who was terminally ill with cancer. He didn't want her staying alone while he was working, so I would go over in the mornings and spend the day. She was on an all-liquid diet at that time and spent all of her time either in bed or lying on the couch. When she was awake and in the living room, she would tell me stories about her and Jay's early years of marriage and various other stories about the family. I wish now that I had written them all down, because I've forgotten most of what she told me.
One thing I did was clean their house, and another was cook supper for Jay. I hadn't really been cooking that long at this time (maybe a couple of years), and I'm sure that some of the meals I made him weren't very tasty. I did know how to read and follow a recipe, but I learned how to cook mostly by my sisters telling me what to do. I started cooking supper after my mom passed away, because I was the first one that got home. I was still in high school, and my other two sisters who were at home, worked and didn't get home until after five. So they would write down what to cook and tell me how to do it. I guess it couldn't have been too bad, because the two of them and Daddy always ate what I made without complaining. And I don't remember really burning anything or having a huge disaster. And I certainly never suffered from malnutrition or had any weight loss during those years!
But back to my story! One particular day, Chloe told me that Jay hadn't had fried chicken in a long time, and she thought he would really like it, if I would make that for his supper. Now when I was younger, we would raise chickens to butcher and my mom would always cut them up. When I started cooking, we didn't raise our own chickens and I'm not sure if we bought them already precut, or if one of my sisters would cut them up. Regardless, I had never cut a whole chicken up into pieces in my whole life.
I got the chicken out of the freezer to defrost, and realized that it was a whole chicken that I was going to have to cut up. I didn't want to tell Chloe that I didn't know how, because I knew that she didn't feel like getting up to show me. I thought, "How hard can this be?! Just cut the obvious parts off first, then go from there!" So that's what I did. I'm sure some of the pieces were not cut how they were supposed to be. My sister had dropped me off on her way to work that morning, and picked me up on her way home. Jay wanted us to stay and eat supper with him. I had made mashed potatoes and gravy to go with the fried chicken. I remember being really nervous about how the chicken looked and tasted. If Jay thought it looked odd, he never said a word! I remember that he just bragged and bragged on how good that chicken tasted and ate a big supper that night, like it was the best he'd ever had. That is the one and only chicken that I have ever cut up in my entire life! Why do all that work yourself, when you can buy it already done for you?!
That time of cooking for Jay really boosted my ego and confidence in my abilities. Chloe would tell me how much Jay liked what I made, and he would always brag on how good everything was. She said that it reminded him a lot of my mom's cooking, which was the highest compliment that I could have ever been given.
Everything can be changed in the blink of an eye.
But don't worry; God never blinks. -Regina Brett
We love you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.
Loretta & Jon