THE NEW EWE

"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

January 14, 2009

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Jon and I rent from his parents, and each year we take on a project, either inside the house or in the yard, in order to help maintain the value of the house; which will be a benefit to his parents should they ever sell. The first year we painted the living room and replaced the carpet. Last year we replaced the lamp post in the front and back yards, and put pavers down on the front sidewalk and back porch. This year our project was replacing the shed in the backyard.

This has turned into a much bigger project than we thought it would be. When we ordered the shed, it said "easy installation". When it was delivered, we found that the manufacturer's definition of easy installation was totally different than what we, the buyers, were expecting. We apparently should have asked more questions and done a little more checking. We mistakingly thought that it would come partially pre-assembled, but that was not the case. After delivery, I asked Jon if he had checked to make sure we had received the right thing. He had, because he was also surprised at how compact and small the package was. We were caught off guard, and had thought perhaps a mistake had been made. The shed is 10x12, so we expected the kit to be fairly large. Upon opening it, we discovered why it wasn't. We found that the boards were all cut into the right lengths, but we had to do all the actual building and work ourselves. So what we thought would be a one or two day project, has turned into 5 weekends so far; and we're still not completely finished . With the holidays and cold weather, it's been difficult to find time to work on it.

Jon's parents came and helped with the demolition of the old shed, then Jon's dad helped him build the floor and one of the walls. One of my nephews came a couple of days and helped build the other walls and put them up, as well as putting the roof on. Then Jon was stuck with me! I helped him install the two end pieces that go in between the roof and walls, then did what I could while he shingled, and helped with the front doors. Finally, we have it enclosed and weather proof. We still need to paint, install the windows and a couple of vents, put in the loft and workbench, and nail all the trim up on the outside; but that can all wait until spring and warmer weather.

Having me, his parents, and Jared all help with various aspects of the demolition and installation, has made it much easier for Jon; as well as cut down on the number of hours it would have taken him to do it all alone.

In Nehemiah, there was a major building project that needed to be tackled. Jerusalem had undergone a siege and was now in great disrepair. Nehemiah was serving as a cupbearer to the king in Shushan. One of his brothers and some other men came from Judah, and Nehemiah questioned them about the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and also about Jerusalem.

They answered Nehemiah, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."

When Nehemiah heard the report, he sat down and wept and mourned for many days. He began praying and fasting, and cried out to God on behalf of Jerusalem and the Jews who were there.

He waited for an opportunity to speak to the king regarding this situation, and God made a way for him to do so. Nehemiah, being the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, took up the wine and gave it to him. He had never been sad in the king's presence before, so the king asked him, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart."

Nehemiah was very much afraid, but spoke up and replied, "May the king live forever. Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"

Then the king said to Nehemiah, "What is it you want?"

Nehemiah requested that he be allowed to travel to Judah, to the city of Jerusalem, so that he could rebuild it. The king asked how long he would be gone; then granted permission for the journey.

Nehemiah had a couple of other request for the king, and asked if he would write letters to the governors of the region so that they would allow him to pass through safely, until he reached Judah. In addition, would he also write a letter to the keeper of the king's forest, that he would give Nehemiah the timber that he needed. Because the gracious hand of God was upon Nehemiah, the king granted all of his request. He also sent army officers and cavalry with Nehemiah.

Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah didn't tell anyone his purpose for being there. Three nights later he arose, took some men with him, and walked around; examining all of the broken down walls and the gates which had been destroyed by fire.

He then spoke to the officials, priest, the nobles and the Jews. "You see the trouble that we are in; Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace." Then he proceeded to tell them about the gracious hand of God upon him, and what the king had said.

They replied, "Let us rise up and build!" So they began this good work.

In chapter three of Nehemiah you read where a different family, individuals or group took a section of wall to work on. Instead of everyone going out and all working on the same area, they each had their part that they were responsible for. The priests went to work rebuilding the Sheep Gate. Then the scripture states that next to them the men of Jericho built the adjoining section; and continues on around the wall, naming who worked on each section of wall and the gates.

One of my favorite verses in this chapter is verse twelve. As you read this chapter it gives the names of all the men and groups who are rebuilding each section. But in verse twelve it says, "Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters."

I wonder if perhaps Shallum didn't have any sons to help him with his part? When I read this verse I always think of Daddy and my sisters and me. Raising five girls and having no sons, there were times when he needed help, and we were it. I'm sure we weren't nearly as much help as sons would have been, but we were all that he had.

There were times when Janie and I would go with him to haul rock. These were sandstone or creek rock used for fireplaces or to put on the front of houses. He had a rule that the rock had to be 4-6 inches thick, and fairly flat so that they would be easier for the contractor to lay. The rocks ranged in size from probably twelve inches in diameter to up to 2-3 feet. He had a big flatbed truck and we had to stack them on back of the truck. I was short, and the truck bed was almost as high as my head. A full load was 4 rocks high, stacked on the whole truck bed, with it rounded up in the middle for good measure. Daddy would get the big rocks (yes, my daddy had great big muscles and was strong as an ox) and he would have us girls get the smaller ones. I didn't mind unloading, because I was usually the one who got on back of the truck and moved the rocks over to the edge, so those unloading could reach them. But I hated loading! It seemed to take forever and I'm sure we drove him crazy. Janie and I would continually hold up rocks and say, "Daddy, is this one okay?" If we threw one on that wasn't quite right, Daddy would throw it back off the truck. So we knew that he was keeping an eye on what we were loading. But I don't remember him ever getting impatient at us for asking. It was probably easier to have us ask, then for him to have to watch us and throw the rocks back off.

When I read this verse, I always think that if Daddy and we girls had of lived back then, it would have read, "Doyal the son of Thomas, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters."

I can just picture this father and his daughters building this section of wall that had been assigned to them. The dad was probably doing his own work, as well as keeping an eye on his girls to make sure they were doing their job right. I'm sure he was having to give them instructions, and possibly having to show them how to do some of the work, and get them started. At times, they may have been fetching tools and water for him, in order to make his work go faster and easier. I'm sure the various groups were spaced fairly far apart, but the father was also probably keeping an eye on his daughters to make sure they were safe. And he was more than likely answering a bunch of questions! "Daddy, am I doing this right?" "Daddy, is this how you wanted this done?" "Daddy, is it almost time for lunch?" "Daddy, how much longer do you think this will take?" "Daddy, what do you want me to do now?"

I don't know the particulars of this family, because other than the scripture saying that Shallum and his daughters made repairs, it doesn't give any details. It would have been easy for Shallum to make excuses and say, "I can't help with the rebuilding of the wall because I only have daughters, and have no sons in which to help me do the work." But somehow I think this was a man who desired to see the walls of the city restored and rebuilt, and was up to the task. The daughters may have been used to working with their father, and were willing to get their hands dirty and help do their part. They were probably strong women who didn't mind working, and wanted to participate in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Imagine the stories they could later tell their children!

Too often, there are jobs that need to be done, but the excuses far outweigh the willingness and eagerness of those who will respond. Rebuilding the wall and gates of Jerusalem was a huge undertaking. When the men stood back and looked at the damage and monumental task ahead of them, it may have looked impossible. The survivors, who were in Jerusalem before Nehemiah arrived, may have been mourning the loss of their city and wondering if they would ever be safe there again. Looking at the broken down walls and burnt gates day after day must have been disheartening and discouraging. They had already endured so much, and now this.

But then Nehemiah arrived and offered them hope and encouragement. And that was the little push that they all needed.

At times we can look at a task before us and think that it looks too difficult, or too time consuming, or too overwhelming. But when we receive a word of encouragement and a helping hand, it doesn't look quite so big or daunting. And as we work, little by little, we begin to see progress. Many times, we'll look back and say, "That wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be" or "If I'd know it would have turned out so well, I would have done this a long time ago" or "It was a lot of work, but well worth the time and effort," etc.

In addition to receiving a loving word or gentle push, we also need to be willing to be the ones who will speak words of encouragement and hope to others; when they are facing a task that may be difficult or overwhelming. That one word of inspiration may be what will be the motivating factor in another's life.

If Nehemiah had of arrived on the scene and gathered the people together and began lamenting over the ruin and desolation of Jerusalem, it would have only made them feel worse about their situation. If he had of begun telling them how much work they had ahead of them and how hard it was going to be and how long it was going to take, that would have made them feel even more overwhelmed. But he had set out to complete a task, and rallied the people together and gave them hope. They responded by saying, "Let's do it," and going to work.

Nothing gets completed by us sitting back and "wishing" it done. It takes us getting up, putting our hand to the task, and getting busy.

Sometimes our goal seems so far out there ahead of us, that it looks impossible to ever reach. But if we procrastinate and make excuses, then we'll never achieve it. It takes us making that step of faith and getting up and doing something.

Rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem probably looking pretty impossible and daunting to the Jews. And if only a handful of people had been willing to work on them, it would have possibly taken years to get them rebuilt. But when everyone was willing to come together in order to achieve the goal of restoration, it didn't seem so overwhelming and the job was completed quicker. And upon completion, the people could feel pride in Jerusalem once again, were no longer disgraced and shamed, and could move forward and be healed from the pain of their past.

We all have a job to do on this earth. We have positions that we fill in our family, our community, our jobs and our church. When everyone works together to achieve a goal, it takes the pressure off from just one or two individuals, and makes it much easier on everyone. Things get accomplished, goals are met, and work is completed.

Jon and I each have a role that we fulfill in our marriage. I can't carry the whole load, nor can Jon. It takes both of us committing and doing what is needed, in order to be successful and happy. We're not in a competition to outdo the other, and we both have to contribute equally. Even during those occasional moments when we may not feel like it, we have to treat the other with respect and fulfill our roles and duties as God ordained husbands and wives to do.

Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men."

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..."

When we work as unto God, and not for men's appreciation or applause or attention, it makes a huge difference in our attitudes. There's not the competition of who's doing the best job, or the feeling of unfairness that "I'm doing more work than you are!" When we work to bring pleasure to God, none of those other things really matter.

May we all strive to do our part in fulfilling our role that God has placed us here on earth for. If there is something that needs done and you've been putting it off, for whatever reason, decide to step out and get started on it today. Nothing gets done by being idle.

Our situation is different than that of Nehemiah and the Jews, but we can learn from their example. We each have a place in the body of Christ, and it's up to us to see that we accomplish that which God has given us to do.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Over the past week, I've read about the second group of seven judgements listed in Revelation. I've been reading a commentary on them, too. It helps to see different viewpoints.

The second group of judgements are the trumpet judgments. Those judgements may take place after the seven seal judgements, but the order of events in Revelation aren't necessarily the order they will happen on earth. Several of the events appear to be asteroids which hit the land and seas. The rivers will be poisoned. The seas will be overturned. A third of the ships will be destroyed. Vegetation will be destroyed. And a hole will be opened up into the abyss. Horrible creatures will come out of the abyss and attack those who don't have the seal of God.

As I read about it, it struck me that it sounded like a bad alien invasion movie. No, I don't mean to belittle the Revelation. But not long ago, we had a lot of movies about asteroids about to destroy the world. In one, people ran to the mountains and closed the door, almost resembling the prophesy.

Satan is no fool. He knows the prophesy as well as anyone who has read it. I'm sure that he has tried very hard to set people up to take it lightly when the prophesy does take place. He wouldn't want people to see the destruction around them and say, "Hey, that's what John wrote about in Revelation. God must be real, and our only hope is in Him!" Satan will want to convince as many people as possible that it's an alien invasion or some other kind of attack. And it seems like he's done a good job of setting that up in advance. After all, Satan has "great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time." [Revelation 12:12]

ON THE MENEWE:

Calico Beans

1 lb. Hamburger, browned

1 can pork and beans

1 lb. Bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can lima beans

1 cup ketchup

1 can butter beans

1/2 cup cup brown sugar (can take a little out if too sweet for your taste)

1 can kidney beans

1 Tbsp. White vinegar

Add all ingredients together in a crock pot for 2 hours or so until thoroughly heated.

LAMB TALES:

This past Christmas, I didn't know what Jon had bought for me, but I did know that one of the presents came from a jewelry store. In fact, when he bought it for me, we had been together but he dropped me off at a Christian bookstore, while he went and shopped for this particular gift. He bought me a beautiful necklace, and the lady from the jewelry store had put it in a gift bag for him; which he placed under our tree when he got home. When it came time for us to open our presents from one another, he asked me which one I wanted to open first. Of course, I chose the one from the jewelry store!

Imagine my surprise when I open the bag and inside were parts for a lamp! We have a small lamp that turns on with a pull chain, that needed replaced. To be ornery, Jon had picked up a new switch and cord to repair it, then took the necklace out of the jewelry store gift bag, and placed those items inside instead. He knew that I would want to open that gift first. Needless to say, I was a tad disappointed! He thought himself quite clever.

But it ended up kind of backfiring on him. The way the lamp is made, the bottom is sealed and you can't get inside to replace the cord and switch -- not very easily anyway. We decided that it would be much easier to just replace the lamp base!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

"Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; but today is a gift -- that's why it's called the present."

-line taken from the movie Kung Fu Panda (who know you could get insight from a cartoon movie?!)

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org