"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!'"
October 29, 2008
The definition of perseverance is: "Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success." Some of the words in the thesaurus for perseverance are: "tenacity, determination, steadfastness, patience, endurance, diligence, dedication, and commitment".
It is really hard to keep doing something when the results seem out of reach or are difficult. It's easy to give up and quit. I cannot even number the times I've begun a diet or exercise program, only to become discouraged and frustrated when I seemingly can't see any results. When I try something new and can't achieve success right away, I tend to give up and move onto something different. It's hard for me to stay focused when the goal seems so far away. Perseverance is an area where I have great lack, and need to work on improvement.
It's not always big things where I have difficulty in being patient and committed until I see success. Sometimes it is something as simple as trying a new haircut or styling my hair differently, and not being able to achieve the desired results right away. So I quit trying and fix it in a style that's easier, or go back to something that I'm comfortable with.
For the past couple of weeks, I've been dealing with learning something new, and it's been frustrating. I was told about the benefits of using a five pound weighted hula hoop for exercise. It is supposed to build up your core muscles and work those extra inches off your midsection. Everything that I've been told and have read say that this is very easy to do; even if you've never been able to use a regular hula hoop. This one is heavier and is supposedly easier to keep up.
So my sister and I each ordered one. She has friends who have been using the weighted hula hoop for some time now and have had great success. My sister can easily do this, and it looks like she's just barely moving and the hula hoop swings round and round with no trouble. She makes it looks so easy and effortless. All of my sisters tried it out when we were together recently and they could all do it. My husband tried it, and has been able to figure it out and do it without difficulty. My brother-in-law did it right away with no problems.
Then there's me!! The first week, I beat myself black and blue with my hula hoop -- literally! My left side had four or five big black bruises on it, and my legs were covered with bruises. Thankfully the bruises are beginning to fade now. I could get it to go around three or four times, then it would fall down, banging against my legs on it's way down. But I made up my mind that I was not going to give up and quit! I would work with it for a few minutes, then put it away. A few hours later I would walk by and see it and think, "I know that I can learn how to use a hula hoop. If everyone else can do it, so can I." So I would work with it again. I would do this at least three of four times a day all week long.
Watching other people hula hoop, and watching the "how-to" videos on-line make it look so simple. And that made me feel so uncoordinated and clumsy! But I was determined that I was going to learn how to use this hula hoop!! I was not going to write if off as being hopeless. It may be difficult and there may a delay in achieving success, but I will continue to persevere until I can easily do this.
Becoming bruised and sore were good incentives to stop trying. Feeling inferior because everyone else I know can do this without difficulty seemed like a good excuse for giving up. It would have been, and still would be, so easy for me to hide this hula hoop in the closet somewhere and mark it down as a bad exercise investment. It's easy to come up with a whole list of reasons why I could quit. After all, I already have a whole lot of other things that I've bought or tried and given up on, so why not just add one more thing to the list?
It takes very little effort to come up with excuses when something is difficult to do, but can take a lot of work and patience and determination to keep trying until we have success or reach our goal. I've come to the conclusion that one reason I usually give up on things so easily and quickly is because I really don't want it bad enough. It's more of a want instead of a desire, so it's easy to find excuses for not being faithful to it. And until it becomes something that I'm willing to work for and make a commitment to, then I'm going to continue to give up and quit.
The hula hoop is something small, but it has made me realize how often I quit things and take the easy way out. And it has made me aware of the fact that perseverance is an area where I'm lacking and need to work on. That is one reason that I'm so determined to conquer this. So what if it's difficult? So what if the results seem out of reach or are difficult? That is going to make the victory even sweeter because I will know what I had to endure in order to achieve it. No one else may truly appreciate the time and effort and work that I put into learning this, but I will know. Therefore, I will feel a great sense of accomplishment that I kept trying, even when I was bruised and frustrated, and didn't give up.
This is the second week for me using, or trying to use, to hula hoop. And guess what? It's beginning to get a little easier, and slowly but surely, I'm keeping it up for a few more rotations each time. It still falls down quite often, but I'm no longer bruising and hurting myself. I can tell that I'm finally beginning to figure out the rhythm needed to keep the hula hoop up and going. I have hope that by continuing to practice, in another few days, I will be able to do this without any problems. I'm beginning to see results of my perseverance and am excited that I hung in there without giving up.
There are so many areas in life that we can give up on, instead of persevering. What about when your children are causing you heartache by their choices and actions, and have you constantly worried? Or they're consistently making decisions that have the potential to cause themselves grief or hurt? What about strife in relationships? When we've been let down or disillusioned by others, it's difficult to have the patience to work out the problems, in order to strengthen and heal the marriage or friendship. Sometimes it seems much simpler to dissolve the relationship and try to move on.
Recently, Jon and I were watching the game show, "Family Feud". One of the questions that the contestants were suppose to come up with the answers for was along the lines of naming something that takes a lot of work, that you might want to get rid of. Two of the top answers were you child and your spouse.
There are times when dealing with people, family or otherwise, takes a lot of patience. There are times when it takes a whole lot of prayer. But many times, if we will continue loving those individuals through those difficult and trying times, our perseverance will pay off.
It's too easy at times to write people off as being hopeless or too difficult. We may see their problems as being too great or see them as being too far gone for help. But how encouraging and fulfilling it is when we continue loving and praying for them, even when they're at their lowest point, and see God perform a miracle in their life. God can transform the most unlovable, vile, dirty, rotten sinner into a new creation. He sees their potential even when don't.
Spiritually it's easy to become discouraged at times. Especially when we're praying for something specific and God seemingly isn't answering. It's not always easy to do the right thing and make wise decisions. When we're faced with difficult circumstances, it's easy to blame God instead of allowing Him to build our faith and character.
Romans 5:3,4 says, "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."
I read that and think, "God surely can't be serious!" Are we really supposed to glory or rejoice when we face tribulations? According to this scripture the answer is yes.
The amplified version of these scriptures better explain. It says, "Moreover -- let us also be full of joy now! Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character -- that is, approved faith and tried integrity. And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation."
You can tell what a person's true character is really like when they go through hard times. I've seen it develop and strengthen them into a spiritually mature and strong individual. I've seem it take a seemingly quiet, weaker person and transform them into a bold, faith filled man or woman. But I've also seen the complete opposite occur. There are people, who seem to be strong in their faith and strong of character, when faced with averse situations, have become bitter and turned their back on God. I've often heard it said that trials will either make you bitter or better; the only difference is the letter "I". In other words, it depends on your choices. It depends on your or my willingness to submit to God and persevere, even when we don't see the outcome or know the end results. We have to trust God, even when things don't make sense.
There are times when I get comfortable and just want to coast by and not put forth any effort. There are times when I'd rather stay home or do something fun instead of attending church. Some days, I'd rather sit down and read a good book instead of reading the Bible. At times I'd rather talk to my husband or one of my sisters, instead of praying and talking to God. There are days when it would be easy to push God to the side and not think about or consider Him, until something bad happens where I need Him to intervene and help. There have been times when I got busy doing other things and later realize that it's been a few days since I've read my Bible or prayed.
I know how easy it would become to let my relationship with God suffer and take a backseat. It takes a conscientious effort on my part to make time for God. It means being faithful and trusting God, even when I may not "feel" like it. I don't want God to just be Someone that I run to when I'm having problems, begging Him to bail me out. But I need His guidance and presence in my life every moment of every day. I don't want to just slide through life, hoping that I'll make it to heaven. I know that I need God in every situation of life. I need Him in both the good and bad times. I like being able to speak His name and know that He's right there beside me. I don't want to feel guilty for calling upon God, knowing that it's been a long time since I've talked to Him, and that the last time I called upon Him was when I had a problem or need. But I want our relationship to be unhindered. I want to be able to whisper His name at any given moment and feel God right there beside me. What a comfort and joy that is!
I never want to be guilty of giving up on God or pushing Him aside; thinking that having a relationship with Him takes too much time or too much effort. I want to run this race through life with patience and perseverance, knowing that the day will come where I'll reach the finish line. I cannot see it now, but I know that somewhere up ahead it's there. But in order to reach it and cross the end and enter into eternity with God, I have to be committed and steadfast. I can't give up or quit. I can't get distracted and start doing my own thing or heading down my own path. But I have to keep focused on the end goal. I have to persevere.
May each of us determine in our heart to be more diligent in persevering; whether it's something as silly and small as learning how to use a hula hoop, or in important spiritual matters. Let's not be quitters, which in turn makes us feel like failures. But may we all patiently and steadfastly finish those things that we put our hands to. Even when we get bruised and battered, don't give up. Most importantly, may we persevere in our walk with God.
With several preachers for brothers-in-law, I can say with confidence that even the best of preachers occasionally need perseverance and endurance to make it through the service. Many have a full- or part-time job because the church can't afford to pay them much. And they often need to visit a long list of church members through the week. Saturday, they need to spend half the day with family, and the rest of the day preparing for one or two Sunday services.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Longsuffering (some versions say patience) isn't a fruit we all feel at all times, but when we need it, and ask for it, we can have all the steadfastness (or perseverance or stubbornness or longsuffering) we need.
Herb Flour Bake Mix For Meats
2 ¼ cups flour
5 tsp. paprika and onion powder
2 ½ tsp. thyme
1 tsp. pepper
2 ½ tsp. marjoram
3 tsp. salt
Thoroughly mix all ingredients. Place in a jar or double thick plastic bag. Seal and store.
When ready to use, rinse each chop or chicken piece; pat dry with a paper towel. Pour ¼ cup of oil on cookie sheet or shallow baking dish. Dip the meat, one piece at at time, in flour bake mix. Arrange meat on pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through in a 425 oven.
If I get woken up in the middle of the night, I'm normally not a very alert individual; especially if I've been in a deep sleep. This past weekend Jon and I made a trip to Missouri. I had a reunion, with some of my ex-coworkers from the good old days of banking, on Saturday evening. Then on Sunday we had got up, and visited with Jon's parents, who had spent the night in Branson and stopped by to see our land; and then we took a walk down into the woods, before church. Then afterwards we took a scenic route home, stopping at a state park and walking the nature trail there. I was extremely tired that night and immediately fell into a really sound sleep. Sometime during the night a noise kind of roused me, but didn't fully wake me up.
This is what I thought I heard and what I thought was happening: I heard a beeping noise and thought it was our security system. Then I was sure that Jon had ran downstairs and slammed the back door shut and locked it. I was about half awake and half dreaming. I thought, "Oh no! Jon heard someone trying to break into out house and ran downstairs and slammed the back door and locked it." I did yell and ask Jon if he was okay. He said yes. But then I got really confused. He told me that the shower cleaner (which I had just changed the batteries in a few days ago) was beeping. Still thinking that I had heard him run downstairs and shut the back door, I asked, "Did you just throw the shower cleaner out into the back yard?"
Not knowing what was going on in my mind, Jon was then totally confused; because this is what had really happened: Jon woke up because his skin was dry and was itching. So he got up to go into our bathroom to put some lotion on. While he was in there, he heard the beeping and thought at first that our alarm clock must have got messed up, when our electricity went off while we were gone over the weekend. So he started walking into the bedroom to fix it (I guess that was the footsteps that I thought were going downstairs), then realized that the beeping was coming from our shower (it wasn't the security alarm). So he went back and opened the shower door (which I had "dreamed" was the back door). When he reached inside the shower to get it, so that he could take the batteries out, he accidentally pushed the spray button. Normally it takes 15 seconds before it will spray, but when Jon pushed it, it immediately started spraying and got all over him. When I asked if he just threw it outside, he had no idea that I thought he had went downstairs, so he was thinking, "What does Loretta think I did? Throw it out the window?!" It wasn't until the next morning that we talked and figured out what the other was thinking, and what had actually happened.
Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.
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We hope everyone is enjoying this fall season.
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Loretta & Jon