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

February 25, 2009

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

For the past several days, I've been so focused on one particular thing that it has completely consumed my thoughts. It's all that I think of during my waking hours, and when I go to bed at night I lie there thinking about it. Vacation!

The furthest that Jon and I have traveled in the almost four years of marriage is to either Branson or Eureka Springs. A whole whopping three and a half hours from home! I told Jon that this year I want a REAL vacation -- and not just a weekend trip to the family homestead in Lampe. And Jon was in agreement that he too wanted to go on a nice vacation this year.

At first, we thought we might possibly go to San Jose, CA. Jon was involved in an electronics design competition and the top five get a trip to the finals there. But unfortunately, Jon did not make it to the finals. So where do we go now?!

That's been the thought that has consumed me here lately. We've considered several options. We will think of a destination, then I will get on the computer and start researching the area, the cost of a flight, hotel, excursions, food, etc. So far, we've changed our mind three times.

Saturday night I was so wound up, that I could not relax. We went to bed, then I lay there tossing and turning, with my mind spinning in a hundred different directions; or so it seemed. Finally, I told Jon that I was going to get up for a while so that he could fall asleep. It was around 1:00 in the morning before I finally wore myself out enough where I could fall asleep. I never stay up that late! We're both usually in bed around 10:00.

I know that it's ridiculous to be this caught up in vacation planning. But I am so excited that we are actually going somewhere, that I want to find the idyllic spot where we are going to have the "Garden of Eden", perfect experience. I will find a place and think, "Oh this is beautiful, let's go there!" Later I will find another destination and think, "No, I think this is prettier, and we'd have more fun here!" There are too many places to choose from, and we can only choose one. Plus, there is the big factor of how much it will cost!

How easy it is for us to get our focus and attention on one particular thing, and allow that to consume our whole life. It may be a good, worthy, wonderful thing, but we go overboard and take it to an extreme. Going on vacation is not a sin; it's not wrong or bad. In fact, it can be a good time of relaxation, getting away from the normal daily routine and rejuvenating oneself, and spending uninterrupted quality time with a loved one. But as with anything, we can turn it into something all-consuming.

I have heard the saying about someone being, "Too heavenly minded for any earthly good." Thinking on God and spiritual things is a good thing. In fact, Colossians 3:2 says to, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Praying, thinking about God, living our lives to please Him are things that we are all called to do. They are worthy, noble, and honorable things. Yet there are individuals who can go to extremes with Christianity. They become so wrapped up in "religious" endeavors, church activities, and [spiritual] talk, that they lose sight of people and other worthwhile deeds that need to be taken care of. I've noticed that people like this generally will become very "I" focused, as if they want recognition for how they "sacrifice" their time and lives for God.

For example, I had a lady once tell me that she spent almost every waking moment at her church. She oversaw the womens activities, and I believe she possibly held another position within the church. After her husband left for work, she would go straight to the church and stay there all day long. They had quite a few night activities scheduled at the church, and she would stay there until after they were over, and be one of the last to leave. Her husband, who was a deacon in the church, would just meet her there. Throughout the conversation she told me how tired she got, and how much people depended on her, and how much responsibility she had, and how exhausting it was at times, and on and on. But I could tell that she enjoyed the attention and playing the "martyr". Her every thought, activity, decision, action, etc. was based upon her church and what was going on there. That consumed her life and her conversations. It was almost like she was obsessed with it. My thought regarding this was, "This is not emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually healthy."

Don't misunderstand me, attending church and being actively involved is a good thing. Loving God and wanting to serve Him is the best decision we can make. Reading our Bible and praying will give us daily strength and peace. But there must be balance.

There are other things in life that we must attend to. We need to be diligent to care for and show love to our family. We need to care for those who are hurting or in need. We need to cultivate friendships. And there are jobs and work that has to be attended to.

I have heard evangelist, pastors, and lay people speak as if their every thought and activity are always spiritual. I have then heard baby Christians or non-Christians respond with, "I can't live like that, so why even try." They feel as if the mark has been set so extremely high, that they are inadequate to ever be able to obtain that level of Christianity.

I honestly don't think that is how God intends for us to live. I do not believe that He wants us to be "so heavenly minded, that we are of no earthly good."

Jesus instructed the disciples to care for the needy, to look out for the widows and fatherless, to work and labor. He didn't tell them to go to the temple and spend all their time there. He didn't tell them to neglect their families, work, and all other activities. In fact, you can read many times where some of the disciples went fishing. That is how a few of these men made their living, and part of the time they may have been fishing to provide for their family and other times it may have just been for fun and food. There are stories about various families and how they cared for and related to one another. You will find shepherds, makers of fine linen, farmers, land owners, reapers, tax collectors, doctors, soldiers, homemakers, businessmen, and all kinds of occupations and trades in the Bible; and these were people who were believers. If anyone spent all their time in the temple, it was most generally the priest. Everyone else took care of their families, worked, provided for the poor and needy, and stayed actively busy, while serving God. That is found in both the Old and New Testament.

I tend to get very focused and obsessive about a particular thing from time to time. I will allow that to consume my every thought and action. When I realize what is happening, I know that I must stop and get refocused. When I realize that something is consuming my thoughts or life, I have to take a step back and get my priorities straight. It may be something good that I'm doing or thinking about, but if it is filling my every thought and taking up every minute of my time, then I need to recognize the fact that I am becoming obsessive about it; which is neither good nor healthy.

Yes, Jon and I are still planning a vacation for the end of April. I am still going to be researching and trying to find that ideal location and the best flight and vacation package, because I want to be wise with our time and money. But I am no longer going to let it consume me to the point where I want to spend every waking moment on the internet, or that I cannot sleep and rest at night.

Sometimes it takes me a little while to recognize when something is taking over my life and get back on track. And sometimes I don't like to admit that I've been neglecting other things because of my preoccupation with one particular thing. But in order to have the proper balance in my life, I have to do so.

I encourage you to take a moment and see what is consuming your thoughts and your life. Is there a balance between your spiritual life, family, friends, work, and other activities? Is there something that you are obsessing about? If so, take a few moments and get your life back in focus.

Perhaps it's not a vacation, work, buying a new car or some household project, etc. that is filling your mind. Sometimes we can become obsessed with problems and difficulties. We spend so much time thinking about it, stewing about it, and trying to figure it out, that eventually that is all we can think and talk about. When that happens, we become negative and there is nothing right with the world. It's like there's a big dark cloud hanging over our head all the time. And frankly when that happens, no one really wants to be around us and listen to us. Sympathy will only last for so long from family, friends or whomever you choose to vent to. After a while they are either going to avoid you, or tell you to quit griping and get up and do something about your situation.

Whatever you focus the most on is what is going to be magnified in your life. First and foremost, may we allow Jesus to be Lord of our lives. May He always be the main source of our focus so that He will always look bigger than anything else in our life. Let's all take a few minutes today and allow God to realign our priorities and focus.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

At one time in my life, I was very curious about demons and demon possession. There are many scriptures, mostly in the Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that talk about people being demon possessed. I read about it, and was a little obsessed with it. It was easy to justify because it's good to know your enemy.

Then, I heard a sermon about what it truly means to worship God. We worship Him in several ways. The part that struck me was that a way to worship God is to read about Him, study Him and His word, and try to get to know Him.

Put together, it scared me. Later on, I looked back and realized how negative my attitude was then. Even studying something spiritual can fill my heart with negativity, anger, and hatred. I'm still studying end time prophecies. And I have to be careful not to look at it with a negative view.

The verse says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God." It doesn't say to seek spiritualism or to seek to have the most hours in church or to seek anything else first.

ON THE MENEWE:

Easy Salsa Dip

9 oz. whipped cream cheese

small jar salsa

tortilla chips

Mix salsa and cream cheese together until completely smooth. Serve with tortilla chips.

LAMB TALES:

I don't know if you've ever had a wardrobe malfunction, but they can happen at the most inopportune times. This is probably more prominent with women more than men, since we have more clothing articles that we have to deal with. It's something that has more than likely happened to all of us at one time or another. It can be quite embarrassing at the time, but is usually funny afterwards. Unzipped pants is probably the most common thing for men, but we women can have all sorts of issues.

Several years ago I had bought a new undergarment with a front closure. I bet you all can figure out that it was a brassiere. (Is that a more diplomatic way of saying bra?!) I was sitting at the piano one Sunday morning playing my little heart out. The church was particularly full that day -- I remember! All of a sudden I realized that something was badly wrong!! It had somehow come unclasped. What to do?! I couldn't very well just jump up and run out during the middle of worship service. I tried to sit as still as possible, while playing the piano, and prayed that this wouldn't be one of those services where God really moved and worship went long. I know -- I shouldn't pray that God wouldn't move in church, but I was desperate! Finally, it was over. I crossed my arms and walked down the side aisle and got to the restroom as quickly as possible. Needless to say, I went home and threw my new purchase away and have never ever bought another one that fastened in the front.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. Proverbs 10:12

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter each week; we truly appreciate each and every one of you.

And we really do enjoy hearing your comments and words of encouragement from time to time.

I'm not sure if you realize just how heartfelt our thanks is, or how deep our gratitude.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org