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

October 19, 2011

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Occasionally there is some travel involved with Jon's job. Sometimes I am able to go with him, and sometimes not. We don't mind Jon having to travel when I'm able to go with him, but when he has to go alone, neither of us enjoy being apart.

What's frustrating is that plans can change at the last minute. He may be told that he will need to be at a particular place on a certain date, then that date may change several times. Or he may be told the trip will last a certain length of time, and that will change after he arrives at the destination. It makes it hard to plan anything ahead of time, which means when I'm able to go with him, we cannot make our reservations ahead of time which would generally be a lot cheaper. We normally can't make our travel arrangements until a few days prior to leaving, which makes it more expensive for me to travel with Jon.

Early last year (2010) Jon was told that he would be traveling to Germany for a job sometime in the fall months. We decided that it would be a trip in a lifetime, so I would go with him. It is now a year later, and Jon still has not gone to Germany to do that particular job. A couple months ago, he was once again told that he would be going the last week in September, but it's a month later and we are still here. The most recent date he's been given is early-December. Yet we cannot go ahead and make our flight and hotel reservations because those dates have not yet been confirmed with the customer. More than likely, it will be the week before we actually leave before Jon will be given final instructions and the dates confirmed so that we can then make flight and hotel reservations. Since this trip has been discussed for over a year now, it's a little difficult to get too excited about it and feel like it's going to be a reality, because we know that plans can change right up to the last minute before we board the plane.

I was thinking about our potential trip and began thinking about different journeys talked about in the Bible. The first one that came to mind was the Israelites pilgrimage from Egypt to Canaan. Their ancestors, who were the family of Joseph, had originally left their homeland and traveled to reside in Egypt during the great famine. These people were now several generations past Joseph and his relatives, and none of them had ever even been to Canaan. Even though they had been born and raised under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians and lived in slavery, that was the only life they had ever known. That was where their roots were and the only home and lifestyle they had ever experienced. They were tired of being slaves and wanted to go back to the home of their ancestors, but as you read about their journey, every time they encountered difficulties their first response was, "We wish we were back in Egypt."

Perhaps they felt like that because when they were slave for Pharaoh, at least they knew what to expect from day to day. It may have been a drudgery and back-breaking work, but that was all they had ever known and they knew what to expect from day to day. Out there in the wilderness on their journey to freedom and the promised land, they didn't know what each new day would bring. They had never been away from home and traveled, so they had no idea what the road ahead looked like. The first few days may have been exciting and spirits were high; after all, they were the chosen ones who were being led back to the promised land of their ancestors. But then when that first obstacle came, they were fearful and complaining and wanted to go back to the familiar.

A journey that should have taken a relatively short amount of time ended up lasting for forty years. Moses, their leader, ended up dying without entering Canaan. Many of them died in the wilderness and never saw what had been promised to them.

It's easy for us to read the biblical account of the Israelites journey from Egypt to Canaan and judge them rather harshly. But many times in our lives we can be a whole lot like them. Even though our circumstances are difficult, we grow contented in them and don't want to do anything to change because it's familiar and we have grown comfortable in our discomfort. And when we do make a change or our situation pushes us our of our comfort zone, we gripe and complain and worry and are fearful at every single obstacle that we face. It's easy to say, "They should have trusted God and had more faith!" But how many times is our faith tested and we rely on ourselves or other people rather than put our whole trust in God? It's much easier to tell others to have faith and trust God than it is for us to do so ourselves when things aren't going the way we think they should. There are times when we have to make changes and decisions that aren't easy. But instead of always looking back, wishing things had stayed the same and we had stayed where we were; we need to focus on the opportunities that lie ahead of us.

On a side note, an example that came to mind is when a parent passes away at a relatively early age. We can cry and mourn and think, "If only that hadn't happened, the outcome of my life would have been so much better." We "think" we know what the future would have looked like if things had of stayed the same and had turned out like we wanted. But the truth is, none of us know what would have happened. We don't know the outcome if death had not taken a loved one. We may dream about how much better things would have been, and think we know that things would have been good had nothing changed in our world. But we don't know that for certain. We can't know that life would have been better. But the truth is, for whatever reason, God orchestrated our lives and the lives of our family according to His plan. And when things occur that we don't like or understand, we have to make a choice, much like those Israelites did. We can stay in bondage to our grief and stay tied to our past, and live out our days much like slaves. Instead of moving forward to the freedom and new life that God has promised, we prefer being enslaved to the memories of the past and how we wish things had been. There comes a point when we have to move on. Does that mean we forget or stop loving the one who was taken from us? Absolutely not! But we do choose to enjoy and embrace life and move ahead towards that land of promise that God has for us all.

Another journey that comes to mind is the one made by Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12 & 13). God tells Abraham, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1) Abraham took his wife, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and people he had acquired and set off. God didn't tell Abraham where he was going or how long the journey would be, but to leave and go to a land that He would show him. That took a lot of obedience and trust on both Abraham and Sarah's part. I can imagine Abraham coming in and talking to Sarah after having received his instructions from God. "Honey, I have something to tell you. God just told me that we needed to leave our country and my father's household and move to a land that He would show us. I have no idea where that will be, or how long we'll have to travel to get there. So could you get everything packed and let our household know that they need to get packed and ready to go, and I'll start taking down the tents and get all the livestock ready."

Abraham was seventy-five years old, which would have made Sarah sixty-five, yet they were willing to be obedient and make the journey to the unknown destination only known to God. In our day and time, most people those ages wouldn't be too excited to leave their country and family behind and start on a new adventure. But back then, people lived a lot longer than they do today. Sarah lived until she was 127 (Genesis 23:1) and Abraham died at the age of 175 (Genesis 25:8); and at the time this occurred their son Isaac had yet to be born. Granted, most couples don't have their first child when he's 100 and she's 90! And after Sarah's death, Abraham took a wife named Keturah, and they had six sons (Genesis 25:1,2); but I digress!

It's one thing to take a trip and know exactly where your final destination will be, but yet another to take off having no idea where you're headed. But sometimes in life God may require that type of trust from us. There may be times when we know specifically what we should do, and other times when all we know is God said, "Follow Me," without giving detailed directions. If we will choose to do so, we can be assured of God's promised blessing.

Although Abraham wasn't given the exact destination for his journey, God did give him a promise. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." Had Abraham chosen not to obey God and stay where he was, I believe that he would have forfeited the favor and blessing of God upon his life.

Whether or not we realize it, our entire life is a journey. When Jon and I travel, we have a specific destination that we go to for a specific amount of time, then we come back to our home. Our day to day walk through life is much like that, where there are seasons and different periods that make up our day to day routine. We may encounter difficulties, but we know if we will persevere that eventually we will enter into a time of refreshing and blessing. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 probably describes it best. There's a time to plant and a time of harvest; a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to be silent and a time to speak, etc. We will all go through those various times and seasons in our life; both the good and bad.

But then there is a one-way journey that we are all on that begins at our birth and ends at our death. Although we may not have a lot of control over our daily lives and what happens, we do make our choice on where our ending destination of life will be. There are only two choices: heaven or hell. There is no in-between oasis that we can just hang out, should we choose to be a good person without committing our life to Jesus. Just as the Israelites knew that their goal was reaching the promised land, some chose to doubt and disobey God and were unable to enter into Canaan and died in the wilderness. God has promised us eternal life in Heaven, which is the ultimate Promised Land, yet there will be those who will chose to not accept salvation, therefore will not be able to enter in.

John 14:2,3 says, "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

What an awesome promise! We don't have to travel blindly through life, not having any direction or not knowing what is waiting for us at the end. But we have the promise and hope ever before us that Jesus has prepared a place just for me and you. There is a mansion waiting for me in heaven that will be the most spectacular, beautiful home I could ever imagine. Jon and I often daydream of what the home we'd like to someday build in Lampe will look like. But nothing we come up with can even begin to compare to what is waiting for us in Heaven.

Let's make this journey from here to Heaven together!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I've wondered many times about the sudden jump from Joseph and his brothers living in Egypt to Moses and his generation. Joseph was the second in command over all Egypt. His brothers were invited with open arms, and given land to live on. But by Moses's generation, the pharaoh had Israelite children killed to keep their population down.

When the whole gap is covered in a single chapter (Exodus 1), it doesn't seem so long. But Exodus 12:40 says it was 430 years. That's close to twice as long as the US has been an independent country. The Mayflower came to America only 390 years ago. It's amazing how much has changed here in the last 400 years. From that perspective, it might not be so hard to imagine how much the relationship between the Egyptians and Israelites changed.

It was probably only little changes every decade or so. Or more likely every time the pharaoh died and a new one took over. Maybe the first step was to make a law that the Israelites could not display The Ten Commandments in a public place [actually, The Ten Commandments wasn't available till later]. The next pharaoh might have made a law that allowed alternate marriages or that forbid marriage between Egyptians and Israelites. The next one might have started taxing any preachers who preached about the God of Abraham. Or it might not have been the pharaoh, but Egyptian preachers who started preaching false doctrines.

Okay, that's probably not quite how it went. But when a few changes come every once in awhile, it's easy to overlook them. But when you look back over 400 years or 10-20 generations, it can look huge.

ON THE MENEWE:

Baked Oatmeal

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 baking dish. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Spread mixture evenly in prepared dish. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately spoon into bowls. Top with any of your favorite oatmeal toppings: warm or chilled milk, brown sugar, fresh or canned fruit, nuts, raisins

THIS & THAT:

If you are looking for a pretty fall decoration, here's an easy, cute idea. The instructions call it a mumpkin; part mum and part pumpkin.

The supplies you'll need is a pot of mums, a pumpkin and an awl or ice pick.

Instructions:

Look for mums in pots ranging in size from 1.5 quarts to 3 gallons, depending on the size of the pumpkin you buy.

Step 1: Use an awl or ice pick to poke holes, approximately 1/2 inch apart, around the entire pumpkin.

Step 2: Cut blooms with 2-3 inch stems off the plant. Strip leaves from the stems. Larger pumpkins will need around 120 blooms to completely cover them; smaller pumpkins need about 100 blooms.

Step 3: Stick blooms in the holes. The moisture from the pumpkin flesh will keep your "mumpkin" looking good for 3-4 days, if not longer.

Another suggestion to make this project easier and go a lot faster is: Instead of poking holes in the pumpkin and sticking the flowers inside, cut the entire stem off the flower and use Oasis Floral Adhesive, also know as "cold glue" to glue them onto the outside of the pumpkin. Oasis Floral Adhesive "is used to glue flesh flowers to ribbon, tule, foliages and garland." If you do this, you may try misting the flowers lightly once a day to keep them looking fresh longer.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org