"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!'"
November 16, 2016
With this being a presidential election year, that has been the talk and focus of our nation for quite some time. And now that the voting is over and we have a new president elect, that still seems to be the main topic of conversation. I remember in previous years, many people would make November their "thankful" month; posting daily or weekly on Facebook, things that they were thankful for. This year, I haven't seen that. There still seems to be a divisive spirit that is prevalent in America. But, we don't have to participate and be pulled into having that attitude. We can choose to make a difference, and choose to have a grateful heart and thankful attitude.
It's so easy, at times, to get sucked into our environment. I'm not necessarily speaking of the widespread negativity of our society, but we can allow the people around us to affect our thinking and attitude. If we consistently listen to someone complain, then our tendency will be to complain, also. If we are around people who are critical, we will tend to become critical. If we are around a person who likes to be involved in everyone's business and on the inside track of everything that's going on, they can bring us down and make us see things that normally wouldn't bother us. More times than not, the negative, critical attitude of someone will overrule the positive, upbeat outlook of others.
A scripture that I have probably used more than any other is Philippians 4:8: "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
I can get some ugly thinking going on at times! It's easy for me to get bogged down with seeing the negative and having a critical attitude. There are occasions when I tend to see the worst in people or situations, instead of the best. I hate being like that! My dad's family leaned toward being very critical and negative, and it made me not to be around some of them any oftener than I had to be; and I don't want people to feel that way about me. I memorized this scripture (the King James version) when I was a young girl involved in the Missionette program at the church I grew up in. Missionettes is kind of like the Assemblies of God denomination version of Girl Scouts. So I've carried this with me for the majority of my life, and have had to repeat it to myself and remind myself of this over and over again.
Not only do we need to have a godly attitude and not get sucked into the negative thinking of our society, but we also need to practice being godly examples in how we treat others. We need to show kindness and take advantage of opportunities to show the world what true Christians look like.
This past week there were a couple of incidences that occurred which reminded me of the importance of seeing the blessing in people and situations; as well as taking opportunities to do good and bless others. We don't have to carry around that ungodly, negative attitude of society and think, "Well, that's just how things are nowadays, and it's not going to change!" We can be a blessing, and be blessed, and choose to do good.
Last week, I was driving over to babysit my great-niece. I decided to drive through McDonalds and pick up something for breakfast. As I was sitting in line, the thought came to me to pay for the food/drink of the person sitting in line behind me. I look in my rearview mirror and my first initial thought was, "They're driving a nice vehicle! They don't look like they need me to pay for their food!" Immediately, I felt convicted for judging whether or not I should obey that inner prompting, by looking at what kind of car they were driving. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, "You don't know their situation! You don't know what they're going through right now! You don't know their heart's cry and what their prayer may have been this morning! It's not your business to know what's going on or why you should pay for their food; it's your business to obey what you feel like you need to do! Don't judge them or try to decide whether or not you should obey what you feel like you should do by looking at what kind of car they're driving; because you don't know their personal life and what's going on!" I paid for their food, drove on through and picked up my order, and left. I have no idea who it was behind me or what impact it may have had on their life that morning, but I had peace knowing that I did what I felt like I needed to do.
It is so easy at times to have the attitude, "Well, if I buy their food, they're probably not going to appreciate it, anyway! They probably have more money than I do -- or on welfare, living off the government! Nobody ever does nice things like that for me!" Perhaps that is why our society is in a mess. We have forgotten how to do small acts of kindness for those around us. We've stopped being a real neighbor and showing others that we care. We think that what little we have to give wouldn't be appreciated and rejected as insignificant.
This past Sunday morning I learned an important lesson from a 5 year old boy. My sister and I co-teach the Sunday School class for the younger kids at our church on Sunday mornings. The class generally has around 7-8 students between the ages of 2 to 5. After Sunday School is over, the kids join the adults for the preliminaries and worship songs, then they are dismissed, prior to the sermon, to go the their Children's Church classes. There is one family where the mom works as a nurse every Friday through Sunday night, so the dad brings the kids to church by himself. They have one biological son, then four foster children, all ages 3 to 5. So during the time when they join the adult service, individuals within the church will "adopt" one of the kids and have them sit by them, in order to help the dad out.
The five year old biological son has become my church buddy. Every Sunday morning he will set beside me. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I bring a little bag filled with fruit snacks, matchbox cars, a little Batman car, and let him play with my phone. He is so well behaved and is a little sweetheart, and we've become attached to one another.
This past Sunday, when I walked into the Sunday School classroom, he was so excited and told me, "I brought a surprise for you! But I'm not going to give it to you until after our class is over." All during the Sunday School hour, he would remind me of the surprise and tell me not to look and ask if I was excited. I could tell that he could hardly wait to give it to me! His sister was giggling and said, "Just give it to her! I have a hard time keeping a secret!!" He said no, that I would have to wait to see what it was. He told me that he had got it outside at his house, before coming to church. I had no idea what it was!
As soon as class ended, we went out to the sanctuary and found our seats. He told me that I could have my surprise now! Oh my goodness, he was so excited!! He started emptying out the pockets of his jeans, where he had stuffed them full of leaves that he had picked off a bush at his house, prior to coming to church. He asked me where my purse was, to put them in (which I didn't necessarily want a purse-full of leaves!).... asked if I had something to carry them in so that I could take them home with me.... Jon found an envelope for me to put them in.
I enthusiastically thanked him!! It absolutely made my day!! Did I need a bunch of little, half-dead leaves that had been crammed in a 5 year old boy's jean pockets for over an hour? Not really. But it touched my heart that he would want to do something for me, and take the time before coming to church to go outside of his home and pick them off from a bush to give to me. He was so excited to offer me this surprise! He didn't think, "What if she doesn't like it? What if Loretta rejects my gift? Will she think this is a stupid surprise?" NO! He excitedly offered me this gift, sure that I would love it.
There are scriptures where we are admonished to give or do what's right, not because we're forced or feel guilty if we don't, but because it's in our heart to do so.
2 Corinthians 9:7 is speaking of giving and says, "You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully."
The book in the New Testament, Philemon, was actually a letter that Paul, who was a prisoner at that time, wrote to a man named Philemon, who was a fellow believer. Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus, who had ran away. Paul met him, after he had fled, and this slave became a christian. Paul sent Onesimus back to his owner, with this letter, asking Philemon to forgive him and treat him like a brother in Christ.
Philemon 1:13-14 says, "I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn't want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced."
It is much better when we do something because it's in our heart to do so, than for us to do it only because we felt forced. Whether it be giving, helping someone, sharing, etc... we need to do so, not because we feel pressured or guilty if we don't; but to do it cheerfully and willingly. When doing what's right and good, we need to have a godly attitude of cheerfulness.
Some seem to have the wrongful thinking that if they had more, then they'd give or do more. Kind of like an employee, whom I supervised many years ago, who told me, "If the bank would pay me more, I'd do more work!" I told her it didn't work like that! If she did more work, then she'd get paid accordingly. If she was going to slough off and try to get by doing as little as possible, then we weren't going to pay her more money, in hopes that she would work harder. She had to prove herself with the responsibilities that had been currently given to her.
Luke 16:10 says, "If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities."
We can't be responsible for what other people do or how they act or their attitudes. But God has given us a responsibility to be faithful with what He has given to us, personally. It doesn't matter if someone else has more money, talents, abilities, etc.; we are to be faithful with what God has blessed us with. If not, then He's not going to give us the responsibility of having more.
I want to be the best woman that I can possibly be. I want to walk in obedience to God, even when I don't understand or will likely never know why He asks me to do something. If God puts it in my heart to pay for someone's food or drink at McDonalds, then I want to respond with a cheerful heart. If all I have is a handful of leaves from a bush to give to someone as a gift, I want to give it with excitement and joy. If that is all that someone has to offer to me, then I want to accept it with joy and thanksgiving, which in turn will give them pleasure.
The little five year old boy's gift to me taught me a lesson. It's better to give something small with the right attitude, than to not give at all, thinking that our gift is unimportant and not good enough. Often we fail to use our God-given talents or fail to give to others, thinking that what we have isn't good enough or big enough or important enough. I really believe that when we give what we have with excitement and cheerfulness, it makes our Heavenly Father proud. It brings Him much pleasure in watching His children reaching out and showing kindness and loving others.
Loretta and I both enjoy giving, when we can. In many ways, it comes naturally. It's easiest when we see someone with a need, and we have enough extra to cover that need. And it's especially good when we can see how much it blesses them. We really do prefer the times that we can give, but not let the one receiving know about it. We get to watch from a distance, and see how much they enjoy it.
We've made it enough of a habit that when God nudges Loretta to give to someone we don't know, and we don't expect to see if they are happy about it later, she does it. It's taken a long time to make that a habit. We started before we even met each other. We've both tithed regularly (not necessarily always). And we conspired together to give in small ways, till we were more able to give in much bigger ways. It really has become fun.
Pumpkin Fluff Dip
1 (15 oz.) can solid pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (16 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed
1 small package vanilla instant pudding
In a large bowl, mix together dry instant pudding mix, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the thawed Cool Whip. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve with vanilla wafers, graham crackers, or apple slices.
As many of you already know, I have four older sisters. They all have families -- grown children and grandchildren. It's become almost impossible for us to all find time to get together around the holidays. My sisters have difficulty finding a good time when their kids and grandkids can all come visit and get together to celebrate; because they have to share them with in-laws. Last year, I decided to start a yearly tradition of inviting all the girls on my side of the family to our house for an early Christmas party. It works best to have it before Thanksgiving, because the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas are busy for everyone.
This past Saturday was our 2nd annual Horton Girl Christmas Party. On that Friday night, my sisters and I got together for a sleepover, which we all look forward to and enjoy. All of my sisters, all of my nieces, a few nieces-in-law, and some of the great-nieces were able to be there on Saturday. It was so much fun! I go ahead and decorate my house for Christmas and put my tree up -- yes, before Thanksgiving! Everyone brings food. Both years, the food has been delicious! We eat, visit, the little girls play, and we have a good time. I set the date, then let everyone know a couple months ahead of time so that they can plan. It doesn't work out for everyone to attend, but that's how things generally go. It has been a fun tradition and I'm so glad that we started doing this!!
The circumstances we ask God to change
are often the circumstances God is using to change us. - Max Lucado
We love you!
Loretta & Jon