"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!'"
May 13, 2009
I am an avid reader, but there are certain genres of books that I don't particularly care for. I enjoy historical fiction, but really don't care for mysteries. I don't particularly enjoy heavy reading or books where there are a lot of characters and you have to closely follow a plot. In a lot of historical fiction (which have been well-researched) there are enough facts to make it believable and interesting.
I enjoy going to historical sites and seeing different aspects of various time periods. Perhaps I took my enjoyment for history after my dad. I once ordered a book from school about the civil war that had a lot of pictures and stories in it. I remember Daddy spending hours looking through that book. I wasn't real great at remembering names and dates and keeping all the facts straight for history classes in school, but I did enjoy reading about the different eras and events.
I think one reason I am drawn to history is because it makes me wonder about the people who actually lived during those time periods. Although I like reading about and seeing historical places, I'm not so drawn to historical facts as I am to the people and what they were like and what type of situations they faced.
When Jon and I recently vacationed in San Antonio, TX we visited the Tower of the Americas. This tower was built in Hemisphere Park for the World's Fair in 1962. It is 750 feet tall and has an observation deck that circles the top, which you can walk out on and do a 360 walk that overlooks the city. There were drawings around the inside of the deck that showed the area of the city you were looking at and named the various buildings. On the inside walls were drawings and historical facts about the history of Texas. On the lower level of the tower were photos which had been taken during the construction of the tower.
All this was interesting, but other than the fact the tower was built for the World's Fair, it really had no historical meaning. No one famous lived there nor did any monumental events occur within its walls. It was built specifically for one event in 1962; therefore, it is a monument because of that. In fact, that was and is its one and only purpose; to impress and stand as a monument to the 1962 World's Fair.
While there, we also spent one morning driving the Mission Trail and touring the various missions. The mission trail actually begins with the Alamo, then extends out from there. There are four other missions besides the Alamo, and each were unique in their own way. They each had something that was intriguing to me. All of the missions were built in the 1700's and there were still original churches, walls, buildings, etc. There were some things that had been rebuilt or were replicas of the original. As I read about the missions and walked around the grounds, I began to think about what life would have been like back in the 1700's when the missions were active and working.
Mission Concepcion is the one most left in its original state. As I walked into the church there, the one thing that really caught my eye were their pews. They were made out of heavy wood and you could see where they had years of wear and use indented into the seats. I started wondering about the people who had sat there over the years; what were their lives like, were they happy or did they live in fear, were they thankful for what the Franciscan priests were teaching them or resentful, what type of activities filled their days, were they healthy or did they battle sickness and disease, what were their families like, etc.
As I walked around the various mission compounds I tried to imagine what life would have been like 200-300 years ago.
Most of the mission walls were three feet thick and there were holes along the walls where cannons and artillery could be placed to protect those within. The Apaches and Comanches were constant threats. These walls were built to withstand attacks and last.
What I found amazing was the detail work that was put into some of the buildings. They used something as paint and had borders and pictures painted onto walls. The doors to the churches were very ornate and carved. In one of the buildings at San Jose Mission there was a vase placed into the wall to apparently catch rain water. Beneath it carved into the stone was a sink with a hole for a drain. There were carvings in the stonework around the entrances of the churches. Bells were placed on top of the churches. It was very impressive.
When these missions were built, they were not built to be monuments. Those who were hand cutting the stone and building the walls and various buildings were not doing it while thinking that in 300 years people would come and tour the missions. They had a purpose behind all their hard work. They were building the walls to withstand attacks and for their protection. The churches were being built so the Indians could be trained in Catholicism by Franciscan Friars and Priests in order to make them better subjects of Spain. They were also being taught how to farm and ranch. There was a purpose behind all the hard work and labor that went into the building of each mission. The intent originally behind the building of them were not so tourist would have a place to go and learn about their history. The workmen weren't thinking, "We better built these walls and buildings strong and sturdy so people can come and admire our handiwork for the next few hundred years." They were more than likely thinking, "We need to build these walls and buildings strong and sturdy to protect our lives and the lives of our families. This is our only chance of survival."
I can read information and try to imagine what life was like for the individuals who lived at the various missions, but I will never really know. Other than Davy Crockett being at the Alamo and seeing pictures of him, I can put no faces to the individuals who made the other missions their home. I'll never know who they were or what their lives were like. I may be able to find out the names of a few select folk who were instrumental in developing or working at each mission, but there were hundreds of others who are unknown.
It's frustrating for us at times when we try to figure out how or why things happened in the Bible. All we have is a written record of those things that occurred, but some of the events are hard for us to visualize. It's hard to imagine the Red Sea parting and the Israelites crossing on dry ground. It's hard for us to comprehend Moses hitting a rock with his staff and water gushing forth; or Moses dropping his rod and it becomes a snake and picking the snake up and it turning back into his rod. It's beyond our comprehension how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo can be thrown into a furnace that is so hot, those who threw them in died from the heat. Yet these three men came out of the fire unharmed and not even smelling like smoke.
We can't put a face to any of the individuals we read about in the Bible. We can't put a face on what Jesus looked like. We can read the Bible or study history, but not fully understand what it was really like during these individuals' lifetimes. Some things we will never know. That's when we have to put our faith into action, and accept that even though we don't understand or can't comprehend; it's factual and true.
People will go to historical sites and read the plaques and believe that what they're reading and seeing really occurred. Yet they have trouble believing that the World of God is factual and true. It's not made up and not exaggerated. It is as accurate, or even more detailed and factual, than any other occurrences that took place throughout history. Those individuals written about in the Bible were very real people just like you and me. They were real people just as those individuals who lived at those missions in Texas. All of these men and women faced hardships, difficulties, problems, and blessing just as we do.
Just because we may not always understand something doesn't lessen the facts. We may not always be able to comprehend the miracles of God, but that doesn't mean they didn't occur. We may not be able to truly get a grasp on how much God loves us by sending His only Son to die for our sins, but that truly took place.
Isaiah 55:8,9 says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
The truth is, we will not ever comprehend or understand or know why things happen as they do at times. God doesn't have to explain Himself to us. It's difficult to do many times, but that's when we have to just say, "Okay God, I don't get it, but I trust that You know best." If not, we'll go through life in constant turmoil. We don't have to have big faith, but we just have to have little faith (as a grain of mustard seed) in a big God.
Lastly, the landmarks that I wrote about had two distinct purposes. The Tower of the Americas was built purely for show and the missions were built for use. Each of us will leave behind an impression upon others when our life is over on earth. We can try to leave behind houses and wealth and material things to our loved ones that are basically all "show". Or we can live our lives so that it will be a memorial and example that others can "use". How we live is so much more important than what we accumulated.
Jon and I were recently watching a program on HGTV where a couple were wanting to buy a vacation home because they weren't able to spend as much time with their children as they would like. So they bought an ocean home for somewhere around $1.5 million. Our thinking was, "Spending that kind of money on a vacation home probably meant that the parents would have to spend more hours working in order to pay for it. Wouldn't the kids rather not have the fancy home and have their parents home with them more instead?" It seemed as if the answer to having more quality time as a family contradicted their solution.
I may not have very many items of value to leave behind when I'm gone, but I'd much rather my family have memories of time spent with me. I'd much rather not have expensive houses and cars, and be able to spend quality time with my husband and have him home with me in the evenings and on weekends. Time spent doing things together as a couple or as a family or with friends is what will be cherished and remembered.
The memories I treasure of my parents and sisters are times we spent together: going to Springdale, AR to the big outdoor gospel singing at the rodeo arena in August; piling in the car and going for Sunday afternoon drives through the countryside; all us girls hollering every night before going to sleep, "Good night all of you, I love all of you," and Mama answering, "Good night, I love you all."; we girls hurrying and getting ready for church early so we'd have time to play the piano and sing; going visiting to relatives houses several times a week, or having them come see us; always going to church together as a family; gathering in the living room for prayer every night before going to bed; all of us sitting around reading in the evening (we didn't have a TV); laughing together; gathering at the kitchen table for a wonderful homecooked supper each night; and the list could go on and on. The most precious gift we can give others is that of our time.
Are you building your life as the "Tower of the Americas" so that it's all wrapped around one event and built for show? Or are you building your life as a mission; strong and supportive, protecting those around you, reaching out to help and teach others, and having a purpose in your every day existence? May we each truly make our lives a mission.
Oklahoma is very blessed right now. Some of our neighbors are doing well through this slow economy. We are also well known as the Bible Belt. Coincidence?
Through the Old Testament, there are many cases where all of Israel or all Judea are blessed for following God or cursed for turning away. Not everyone in the nation followed or turned away from God. Just like now, America can't agree.
All America seems blessed far above other countries. The Bible Belt is even more blessed than the rest of the country. God is good to us. Even as many people push Him away, and demand that God leave them alone, His blessings for us all are still visible.
Okra -- cut in chunks
Dip okra in buttermilk to coat; then roll in flour. Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown.
Apparently while Jon and I were gone on vacation it rained at our house almost every day. We came back to cool temperatures and a tall yard. It continued raining after we got home, so it was a few days before we could even attempt to mow. Even then, we were mowing over standing water in the yard and mud. But it was sunny and there was more rain predicted, so we went ahead and got it done. I began mowing on a Thursday afternoon before Jon got home from work. There was several inches of water standing in the ditches, so I knew I'd have to ignore that. But I had intended on mowing the tops of the ditches and then the bank beside it. It was muddy on those slopes and somewhat slippery. I was mowing the along the bank when I happened to look over and there was a dead squirrel laying in the water. It was pretty gross! I decided to wait until my husband got home from work and give him the honor of mowing around the ditch area. I could just picture myself mowing beside the ditch water, sliding in the mud, and toppling over on top of the dead squirrel. No thanks! Jon got home from work and buried the squirrel, which had been dead for several days and was starting to rot. He was also kind enough to mow the tops of the ditches for me and help me finish up the back yard.
I was feeling kind of bad for him working all day, then coming home and helping me mow. So I decided that I'd roll our trash dumpster to the back door of the garage, and load it up with bags I had piled right outside with dead canna stalks and canna bulbs I had dug up. There were some small limbs lying on top of the bags where Jon had trimmed one of our small pecan trees. I got the hand clippers and was cutting them up so they'd fit in the dumpster better and not take up as much room. I got a little too carried away and careless! I was clipping off a branch and didn't realize that my other hand was in the way. The ends of the hand clippers (which are pointy and sharp) cut right into the side of my left palm. The cut was maybe a quarter inch long and fairly deep. Blood was spurting everywhere. It was one of those things where I felt really stupid as soon as I cut my hand; wondering what in the world I was thinking and why hadn't I been more careful. I'm not usually quite so careless or accident prone. Jon was on the back side of the yard mowing, so I couldn't get his attention. I didn't want to go through the backdoor of the house and make a mess, but the dumpster was blocking my path through the garage and I couldn't around it easily. It was impossible to move the dumpster with one hand and try to keep the other one from bleeding all over everything. I finally managed to get around it and inside the house and get my wound cleaned up. It was quite sore for several days and was swollen for a while. It's still a little sore, but is healing quite nicely and is not that noticeable unless I point it out -- which probably wouldn't get me any sympathy from anyone. Maybe if my husband ever mows for me again, I should enjoy the moment and sit on the back porch and watch him, while sipping a glass of iced tea!
Time is the most valuable commodity we each have.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon