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

April 10, 2013

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Recently, my niece and her family were taking an evening walk. Their almost four year old son, Jax, was riding his tricycle in the street and she got onto him, telling him that cars couldn't see him. Excitedly, Jax yelled, "I'm invisible?!?!"

This past Friday night, my sisters and I had an overnight get-together. Before we got there, my oldest sister had gone through some boxes and found some keepsakes that had belonged to Mama, that she had forgot she had. They were a few items that we didn't want to get rid of, but really didn't know what to do with them at the time of my mom's death. We drew names to see who got which items.

My mom had a round tin filled with buttons. The buttons are of various colors and sizes; leftovers from dresses she had made for herself and us girls. It represents years of sewing projects. If a button fell off one of Daddy's shirts or one of our dresses, Mama would go through her button tin to try and find one that matched. As a kid, I remember Mama letting me play with all those buttons. I would spread them out on her bed and try to find ones that matched and play games with them, etc. I had completely forgotten about Mama's tin full of buttons until I saw it last Friday night.

Afterwards, my oldest sister laughed and said she was surprised at how excited I was to get Mama's button tin. It is common knowledge that I hate sewing and always have, so she thought that I would be the last one who would want this. But Joyce got married when I was age five, so likely never knew that I had played with those buttons.

When Jon and I got married, he didn't own a suit or a tie or a pair of dress shoes. Almost eight years later, he still doesn't own a suit or tie! For our wedding, we rented a suit for Jon to wear, knowing that to purchase one would be a waste of money, since he likely would never wear it again. But I did take him shoe shopping and we bought him a pair of black dress shoes to wear with the suit. They are leather lace-up shoes; and are shiny only because they are new. They are NOT like the black, patent leather, super shiny shoes that normally is rented with tuxes. But I think Jon has only worn those shoes maybe once or twice since our wedding because they are his "tux shoes" (his words -- not mine). I have tried to explain the difference between black dress shoes and tux shoes to him over and over again, yet in his mind these are tux shoes for the simple reason that he wore them with a rented tux/suit for our wedding. At the time that we bought them, my thinking was, "These will be nice black dress shoes for Jon to wear with khaki's or black dress pants for family weddings, funerals, etc." But it has back-fired on me, and he rarely will wear his "tux shoes".

You may be thinking, "What do all these unrelated stories have in common?" People often will respond in ways that are totally unexpected from our expectations.

When Janee' disciplined Jax for riding his tricycle in the street, she wanted him to learn that it was dangerous because the drivers in cars couldn't see him. But his response was one of excitement: "I'm invisible?!" When my name was drawn to get Mama's tin of buttons, my oldest sister thought that I wouldn't want it because I hate sewing. But I have fond memories of playing with those buttons and seeing Mama digging through them whenever she needed one, so I was thrilled. When Jon and I went shopping for black dress shoes for him, I thought we were being wise in buying shoes that he would be able to wear later whenever he needed to dress up. But he thinks they are too "fancy" to wear with black dress pants or khakis, (after almost 8 years of discussing these shoes, I still don't get it or understand his logic!), and doesn't like wearing his "tux shoes".

Have you ever bought a gift for someone, and you find something and think, "Wow! I found something that they are absolutely going to love!" You are excited and can hardly wait for the recipient to open their present; just knowing that they are going to be excited and will love it. They open it and you can tell by their expression and response that they really don't like it. They may try to hide it and will tell you thanks, but you know that they really didn't care for it. It's a let down!

Then there are times when the roles are reversed, and you receive a gift that the giver has raved about and think that it is something you'll absolutely love. Yet when you open it, your first thought is, "Why in the world would they think I would like this... or want it?!"

People have been the same since the beginning of time. They have all had fears, worries, disappointments, jealousies, made mistakes, have made unwise choices and decisions, and have reacted in surprising ways. There have been those who have had their faith tested and some came out courageous, while others didn't.

Sometimes when reading stories in the Bible, which are true accounts of real men and women, I am expecting one outcome but the people react in another.

Elijah was a prophet who was mightily used of God. A severe famine had been in Samaria for three years and there had been no rain. Elijah and the prophets of Baal had just had their showdown on Mount Carmel to see see who was the real God. Elijah prayed and God sent down fire to consume the altar and sacrifice that Elijah had built. All the people fell on their faces and declared that the Lord was God. Shortly thereafter, Elijah prayed and God sent rain to Samaria.

King Ahab went and told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and she threatened to have him killed. When Elijah heard, he ran for his life. He traveled a day into the wilderness, then sat down under a tree and prayed that God would let him die. Elijah had just witnessed an awesome miracle, then allowed fear to dictate his actions. That's not the reaction you would expect.

Jonah rebelled against going to Nineveh to preach. After spending 3 days in the belly of a big fish, finally repenting, and being spit up on the shore of Nineveh, he preaches and the people respond and a great revival occurs. Instead of rejoicing and praising God, Jonah gets mad and pouts. He asks God to let him die. That is not the response you would expect!

When the soldiers came to the garden to arrest Jesus, Peter took his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Not quite what you would expect from one of the chosen disciples of Christ. But Jesus reached down and healed the servant's ear; that is what you would expect.

When Jesus was taken to the high priest for trial, the disciples all fled and left Him. Peter followed at a distance, and went in and sat with the servants to see what was going to happen. Three times people came up to Peter and said, "You were with Jesus!" Three times Peter cursed and denied knowing Him. That is not what you would expect from a godly man who had traveled and ministered alongside Jesus for three years.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given the choice to either bow before a golden idol and worship it or be thrown into a fiery furnace, they stood strong in their faith and chose to not bow, saying that they would only bow to the one true God. That would have been a tough choice, seeing the fiery furnace in front of you, and knowing that you likely were facing death. In fact, the men who were stoking the fire died from the excess heat. Yet God walked in the furnace with them and they came out alive, not even smelling of smoke. That outcome is unexpected.

I would like to think that I would be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and stand strong in my faith and be willing to face the fire. But honestly, that would be tough. I'm not sure but what I'd be like the disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested, instead of staying by His side during His trial. I'm not sure if faced with the choice if I would be like those three Hebrew men, or like Peter who denied knowing Jesus and being one of His disciples.

But after Jesus arose from the grave and the women went and found the empty tomb, they were told, "Go tell the disciples, and Peter......" Even though these godly men had fled, and Peter had denied being one of Jesus' followers, Jesus forgave. After He ascended back to heaven, these men were greatly used to preach and minister.

We may respond incorrectly or not as expected, but we can always be assured of the mercy and grace of God. Even though we may face times of discouragement, frustration, lack of faith, or disobedience God will continue to speak to us if we will only listen.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Guys usually don't like the unexpected. If I came home to see our furniture re-arranged, I'd feel out of sorts for weeks. We like our comfortable ruts.

But honestly, the unexpected isn't always bad. It's rare for a good joke to be completely expected. The punch-line usually has to be unexpected to be funny. The same goes for slapstick.

It seems like God rarely works things out the way we'd expect. When the Israelites were running from the Egyptians, they had doubts. I'm sure there were quite a few, though, who could say, "God got us away from Egypt. I trust he has a way to get us away from their army." But I doubt any of them would say, "I bet God will cut us a dry path through the Red Sea, so we can get away, then let the water come back and wash away the Egyptians."

It may feel uncomfortable for most of us, but God's unexpected is good. Be patient, listen, and trust.

ON THE MENEWE:

Eclair Cake

(This is a really easy dessert and very good! It's also not real heavy, so good for summer. You also need to let it sit in refrigerator for 24 hours (you could make it in the morning and eat in the evening, but the longer it sits, the better it gets), so this is a good make-ahead dessert recipe.)

1 box graham crackers

2 (3 1/4 ounce) boxes instant French Vanilla Pudding

3 1/2 cups milk

1 (8 ounce) Cool Whip, thawed

Butter the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Line with whole graham crackers. In a bowl, mix pudding with milk; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour half the pudding mixture over graham crackers. Place another layer of whole graham crackers on top of pudding layer. Pour remaining pudding mixture on top; cover with another layer of whole graham crackers.

***Below is the frosting recipe if you want to make homemade, but I bought canned chocolate frosting and thought it tasted great.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

3 Tbsp. Butter, softened

1/3 cup milk

2 tsp. light corn syrup

2 tsp. vanilla

For frosting, blend together powdered sugar and cocoa. Add butter and milk, mixing well. Add corn syrup and vanilla. Stir until creamy. Cover the top layer of graham crackers with frosting and refrigerate for 24 hours.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

My great-niece started pre-K a few weeks ago. Leading up to her first day of school she kept saying that she didn't want to go to school, and wasn't going to go. The family was a little worried about her and how she would handle pre-K. The first day of school, she walked in and a little boy in her class ran up to her, hit her on the head, and said, "You're my friend!" Some kids would have responded by crying or getting upset that someone had hit them, but that was just down her alley and she loved it. She thought that was hilarious and it was the ice-breaker she needed. He's been her best friend ever since that first moment and she loves school.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post. - L. Thomas Holdcroft

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org