Sharon's Corner is a periodically updated blog exploring some of today's most pressing issues. Topics range from marriage, finances, relationships, and any other issues in your life.
Which Disturbs me More?
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The other day I recalled an interesting situation that happened a long time ago when our children were young. Funny how something one has not thought of in years, can suddenly come to mind. At such times I often figure God might be trying to teach me something. Here’s the story:

Another family was visiting at our house for a few days. Our friends’ children and our kids were having a great time playing outside together. All of a sudden one of the guest children ran over to our middle son, who was riding his tricycle. The visiting child loudly ordered our son to get off the bike so he could have a ride. When our son refused, the guest grabbed the handlebars and tipped the bike, causing our son to tumble onto the pavement. The other boy promptly jumped on the trike and rode off with our son yelling.

My husband John had witnessed the whole incident and rushed over to console our son. The other father had also seen what transpired and did nothing to correct his child. John took little Timothy aside and spoke quietly with him, “What your friend just did was very unkind. I know that you were on the tricycle first and it was not nice of him to take it from you like that. But actually, the family will soon be leaving and you will be able to ride the rest of the day. Maybe this is a time when you can return good for evil, just like Jesus taught us to do.”

Without another whimper or word of complaint, Tim wiped his eyes and ran off to play with something else. John congratulated himself on our son’s self-control and good attitude.

Our guests did, in fact leave shortly after this incident. Later that afternoon John had to run to a store and asked Timothy to ride with him. They parked in front of the store and John, who is always prone to notice vehicles, took note that they were parked next to a big old Cadillac. They went into the store to make their purchase. When they returned to the car just a few minutes later, John was dismayed to see the passenger door of our vehicle. Evidently the driver of the Cadillac had opened their door into the side of our car, making a nasty dent and scratch. Of course, by now the Caddy was gone, so there was no way that John could speak to the owner about the damage. He began fuming and muttering under his breath about how inconsiderate, irresponsible and selfish some people can be.

He told me later that at that moment he became aware of the Lord speaking to him… a quiet whisper which came to his thoughts… “John, earlier today you instructed your son as to how he should respond when he suffers unjustly. But right now is when he will really learn that lesson. He will see how you respond when something of yours is rudely taken from you.” John simmered down immediately, put a smile on his face and chose to forgive and even prayed a blessing on the driver of the other car.

I had forgotten about that incident until last week when I was sorting through some old papers of my father’s. The following article, along with the memory of that long-ago Saturday, made me take an inward look at my own priorities. What things disturb me? And what does that tell me about the state of my own heart? It has served to be a good reality-check and is helping me stay alert to ways I need to be reacting more like Jesus. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

 

Which Disturbs You More?

(Author unknown)

A soul lost in hell or a scratch on your new car?

Missing the worship service or missing a day’s work?

A sermon ten minutes too long or lunch half an hour late?

A church not growing or your garden not growing?

Your Bible unopened or your newspaper unread?

The church work being neglected or housework neglected?

Missing a good Bible study or your favorite TV program?

The millions who do not know Christ, or your inability to keep up with your neighbors?

The cry of multitudes for bread, or your desire for another piece of chocolate cake?

Your tithes decreasing or your income taking a drop?

Your children late for Sunday School and church, or late for a game?

Which really disturbs me more?

Fixing Our Flats
Thursday, March 20, 2014

Every now and then my husband comes out with some simple yet profoundly wise illustration that truly impacts me… and a lot of others as well! Such is the story of the flat tire…

A family is driving down the road on a gorgeous spring day (yes, hopefully we’ll get one of those soon:-). All of a sudden they recognize that there is something wrong. Dad, who is driving pulls over to the side of the road and everyone piles out of the car. Yep… there it is… a flat tire… flat as a pancake!  A metal spike is sticking out, obviously the culprit.

There is a collective moan that erupts from the whole gang. This is certainly not a welcome interruption. Mom speaks first and addresses Dad. “Oh no, look at that! Didn’t you see that thing on the road? You know if you would be a more careful driver, you probably would have seen it and you could have avoided it. Now our day is spoiled.”

Teenage son, coming to the defense of his father shoots back with, “Yeah, well Mom if you wouldn’t always be yakking at Dad and criticizing him, maybe he could keep his mind on his driving and maybe then he would have seen the nail!”

Little sister chimes in with yet another perspective and lights into her brother, “Well, if you wouldn’t have made us late in the first place, maybe we would have been past this spot before the nail even landed here!”

Then erupts a 30-minute session of finger-pointing, and bickering. Tempers flare, nasty words are spoken and everyone feels miserable.

Meanwhile, the tire remains unaddressed and still flat as a pancake.

The squabbling continues. Every family member weighs in on who caused the problem, why it happened and how frustrated they are about the inconvenience. But NO ONE suggests that they open the trunk, get out the jack and actually work together to change the tire.

How absurdly foolish for a group of people to see the problem but fail to do anything about it! Yet, I routinely meet such folks and would have to confess there have been times when I’ve reacted the same way. In life, it is inevitable that we will experience “a flat” of some kind… some sort of dysfunction or disagreement that stops us from moving forward toward greater love and unity. Instead of surveying the problem quickly and rallying as a team to fix it, we let time roll by while we wallow in our misery and play the blame game, sometimes for days or weeks on end.

I’m so grateful to be married to a “fix-it” kind of guy. If something’s broke, John is quick to grab tools and get to work. Whether it’s a broken gadget, or a broken relationship, he sees little value in just fussing about the problem. It makes most sense to him to figure out what can be done to repair “the flat” and get moving again. What a truly wise guy! We would all benefit from following that example…  not bemoaning our tough situations… instead choosing to better them.

And even if we feel poorly-equipped to solve our personal or relationship problems, there’s really no excuse for getting stuck in them. As Christians, we have a Master Mechanic who journeys through life with us and is always willing to help us, no matter what challenge we’re facing.

Lord, I want to spend less time focusing on and fuming about my problems, and more time fixing them with Your help! When I want to blame people or circumstances, help me keep my mouth shut. And when I just want to stare at “the flat” and whimper about it, please point me to the jack. Life’s too precious and too short than to spend it stuck by the side of the road. I want to “fix my flats” fast and get cruising again… with You and a very smart husband by my side!

Taming the Tongue
Monday, January 20, 2014

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” was not, in my opinion, telling the truth. Of course it is accurate that words do not cause physical injury to a person. However at an emotional and spiritual level, words are potent. They can steal hope, discourage progress, undermine faith and destroy love. They can lift a person up, or tear him down. Within a marriage and family they can bind the members together or tear them apart.

Although improving our speech is always a good project, what better time than the start of a new year to break some bad habits and start talking God’s way? For those of us who have the “gift of gab” we need to be especially alert to kinds of speech that should be eliminated and others that should be developed into healthy habits. Consider the kind of communication that the Bible warns against:

Arguing/Complaining Philippians 2:14

Gossip Proverbs 16:28, II Corinthians 12:20

Harsh words Proverbs 15:1

Deception/lying Proverbs 12:22, Micah 6:12-13, Colossians 3:8-10

Foolish/silly talk Proverbs 18:6-7, Ephesians 5:4

Cursing Exodus 20:7, James 3:10

Insolence/boasting Romans 1:29-32, Psalms 94:4

Threats/attacking words Psalms 64:3-4, I Peter 2:22-23

Careless words Matthew 12:34-37

Flattery Psalms 5:9, Psalms 12:3-4

Slander Psalms 15:1-5

Rash/impulsive words Proverbs 12:18

But Scripture doesn’t just tell us how NOT to talk, it tells us what kinds of words we SHOULD use:

Wise words Proverbs 31:26

Words of blessing I Peter 3:9-10

Words that build up Ephesians 4:29

Sweet speech Proverbs 16:21

Persuasive words Acts 28:23-24

Controlled words Proverbs 17:27-28

Gentle words Proverbs 15:1 & 4

Truth with love Psalm 15:1-5, Ephesians 4:15

Controlled, thoughtful words Proverbs 15:28

Thanksgiving Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:17

Praise to God Hebrews 13:15, Psalm 34:1

Words testifying of our hope I Peter 2:9, I Peter 3:15

Confessions of faith Romans 10:9-10

Words filled with grace Colossians 4:6

Encouraging words Proverbs 12:25, Job 4:3-4

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” So as I start into 2014…

Lord, help me to be a verbal LIFE-GIVER this year. Help me listen more and blab less. Keep me quiet when I feel like flying off the handle. Fill my mouth daily with speech that is loving, gentle, joyful, inspiring, and full of hope. Make me a tongue-tamed, word-watching, faith-feeding, praise-proclaiming, gladness-giving kind of talker! Help me say what Jesus would! Make the words of my mouth acceptable to You! And THAT, I know, will make for a truly wonderful gift of gab!”

A Recipe for Change
Tuesday, November 26, 2013

“I just can’t change.” Ever said that to yourself, or at least thought it? I have. Even at age 61, there are still many of my actions and attitudes that I would like to change. In spite of that long list of “want-to’s,” I am gratified to look back and recognize that I am not the person I was at age 21. I have indeed made many changes. And I’ve come to recognize that whenever I have been successful in breaking a bad habit, or establishing a good habit… I have followed more or less the same recipe:

C… Choose the behavior change which will be your focus for the next six weeks (it usually takes about 40 days of consistent behavior to establish a new habit… which may be why God often chose 40 days in which to accomplish major changes). Of course the project needs to be realistic enough to actually implement. Telling myself that I’m going to change into a more loving wife may sound nice, but unless I choose a specific loving behavior to implement, I’m unlikely to meet my goal.

H… Harness support from other sources. If my objective is to organize the garage, I might be wise to consult a “how-to” book or video. Sometimes accountability to others helps. For example, when I decided to start memorizing Scripture each week, I asked a friend to call me, so that I could recite my verses to her… a huge motivator. And of course the Lord is always our best Helper! Simply calling on Him at the start of each day and quoting Scriptures like, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength,” bolsters determination and confidence.

A… Activate the new behavior. That’s right… start doing it every day or several times a day if possible. Make it a priority. Think about it, talk about it and practice it over and over and over. Most of us learn by doing, and by doing repeatedly. We’ve heard the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” But perhaps it could be better stated as, “Practice makes permanent!”

N… Nip failures in the bud. Most people have great intentions, but when they slip back into their old way, they quickly throw in the towel and quit. Children learn to walk only after repeated falls and repeated “trying again.” Likewise, the path to change involves slip-ups, but there will be success to those who quickly brush themselves off, jump up and try again.

G… Give yourself short-term deadlines and rewards for meeting them. For example, the goal of losing 100 pounds won’t be accomplished in six weeks. But a realistic short-term goal of losing five pounds over the next six weeks could be reasonable. And giving yourself a little reward for meeting the objective can motivate you to continue on.

E…Expect success. Many individuals program themselves for failure right from the get-go by giving only a half-hearted effort. I’ve found I must envision myself comfortably established in the new behavior. When I picture myself speaking the new way, or behaving the new way, it helps spur me on. It is really an exercise in faith… believing that with the Lord’s help, I WILL be able to follow through on this project.

This same recipe has not only worked in my own life, but also was effective in helping my children learn many new skills and habits as they were growing up. Although change isn’t usually easy for any of us, many life-giving improvements are definitely within the realm of possibility. In fact, I might just choose a new one to get started on today!J

The “I Can’t!” Zone
Thursday, September 12, 2013

We’ve all been there. I know I certainly have! We’ve all found ourselves in that horrible place where all we can think is… “I can’t!”” I can’t take it anymore.” “I can’t put up with one more …” “I can’t stand his/her ….” “I can’t try again.” “I can’t change.” “I can’t make it any longer!”

Over 40 years ago, my older brother who was a young Christian at the time, wrote an interesting article for a church newspaper. It was entitled, “You can’t live the Christian life.” The gist of the article was this… if we try to live the Christian life in our own strength, we will end up messing up, giving up, or cracking up.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t put human effort into living according to God’s principles? Of course not… in the Bible God tells us to work, to put off certain things, to put on other things, to persevere, etc. There are many instructions which are clear commands for us to do something. However, we are also promised a Helper who will enable us to hang in when we’d rather quit, who will lift us up when we’ve fallen and don’t think we can get up, who will help us take another step when we think we can’t even lift a foot, who will increase the effectiveness of our best efforts.

As is often the case, it comes back to my belief system. Do I really believe the Scripture which says, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me the strength?” (Philippians 4:13) I don’t believe this means that next week I should jump out of an airplane without a parachute just to see whether Jesus will rescue me. I think the apostle Paul is saying that when we feel like giving up, quitting, abandoning hope, running away… in the midst of the challenges that come our way… that the Lord wants us to keep trying. And He will give us the strength to do so, if we ask.

So, I’ve concluded that when I say, “I can’t,” I’m lying. Certainly, I may feel that I can’t tackle a job, complete a task, try again, love again, give it another shot. But if I am honest with myself, I must admit that these are just feelings. They can be strong and tough to experience, but they are just feelings. They are simply temptations to resign myself to human-powered living. In such times, when I declare, “I can’t,” the truth is I’ve decided “I won’t!” And that attitude smacks of stubbornness, laziness, and plain old unbelief.

Perhaps then the “I Can’t” Zone should be renamed the “I Won’t” Zone. But no matter what the label, it is a miserable place to live. A friend of ours who is also in the counseling field refers to some of his clients as “folks who have a problem for every solution.” I love that description. Such people hunker down in the “I Can’t” Zone and even when Jesus opens the door and offers to help them escape, they refuse to go.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Cor. 10:13) Amazing… I don’t have to resign myself to “I can’t.” Jesus promises I never need to be locked in the “I Can’t” Zone. He is always willing and able to provide a way out. That means I CAN try again, I CAN persevere, I CAN keep going, I CAN make it through with His help. I CAN trust Jesus to replace my weakness with His strength. With Him, I can escape the “I Can’t” prison.

Mmmm… I guess the next question is, “Will I?”

Caring…or Coddling?
Friday, August 30, 2013

I’ve been running into them a lot lately… folks trying desperately to communicate the message, “I love you,” by over-indulging the whims of their loved one. Of course they wouldn’t say they are overindulgent. They wouldn’t want to use the words “coddle” or “enable.” But that is what they are doing.

These are the husbands or wives who cave in to their spouse’s selfish demands and wilt when they throw a pity party. Consequently the person becomes more and more needy. Often these spouses have legitimate struggles, but pampering is rarely what will help them make the most progress. So, should the husband or wife of such a spouse take a tough, “Suck-it-up-and-deal-with-it” stand? Should they convey a cold, “this-is-your-problem-not-mine” attitude?

Definitely not. Scripture tells us to “weep with those who weep” and “mourn with those who mourn.” It tells us to “comfort the afflicted.” It is always a good idea to give assurance to a troubled partner… “I love you Sweetheart. I really care that you are going through this hard time. Do you have a suggestion as to what I could do to best help you?” This moves the person from replaying the problem to actually formulating a possible solution. Maybe they just need an opportunity to verbalize their feelings (although throwing blame on other people for how he/she feels must be off limits). Maybe they just need a little break to take a nap, or go for a walk outside. If their solution is reasonable and doable, this is a practical way their husband or wife can help. And it is always good to bring God’s truth into the situation… not in a preachy, condescending way, but in an encouraging, uplifting way. “We’re going to make it through this… the Lord has promised to be our Helper and Deliverer… His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Let’s trust Him together.” Then a sincere prayer for help along with a big hug can make a huge difference.

The same principles can apply between parents and their children. Unfortunately, we have raised a generation of “entitled” individuals. Many of these young people have grown up depending on Dad or Mom for everything… chauffeuring, financial support, food, shelter, clothing, help with school work, participation in all of their activities. They have reached adulthood barely able to make their own decisions, yet becoming angry and/or petulant when their parents don’t give in to their demands.

Of course, the real solution for this is to not even begin to coddle children… but to teach them from an early age to be responsible, independent people. A good principle to follow is “never do for your child what your child is capable of doing for himself.” And most children are capable of doing a lot more than we give them credit for. We don’t have to look back very far in history, to recognize that children a generation or two ago carried much more responsibility, at much earlier ages than most young people do today. Certainly parents should communicate bushels of love and care for their children. They can do this by encouraging their children, be interested in their pursuits, being quick to comfort, advise and support them, by hugging them, laughing with them, playing with them. But children thrive best when given the opportunity to bless others, rather than always being the center of attention.

I am forever grateful to my own father, who although he communicated tons of love and interest in me, clearly expected me to shoulder responsibility for myself. Unlike many parents today, he chose to invite me into his world, rather than feeling obligated to revolve around me. And he didn’t protect me from adversity, but helped me learn in the midst of it. It is interesting to me that as I look back over my life, some of the greatest lessons I learned, were learned through tough times. And it was in the struggles of life that I learned to go to the Lord and seek His help. What a loss if I had been protected from these struggles.

The beautiful butterfly must work its own way to freedom. The well-meaning observer, who splits the cocoon, actually ends up ruining the insect’s chances for flight. I fear that by coddling many of our loved ones, we’ve robbed them of their greatest potential.

Jesus definitely displayed the perfect balance. No doubt He cared deeply for all human beings… so much so that He laid down His life for them. Yet He didn’t trot along behind His disciples. On the contrary, He set the course each day… He took the lead and called others to follow Him. He sent them out on their own and allowed them to fail. He showed tender compassion on those who were suffering. He was boldly tough on the arrogant and the self-centered. He cared… but He didn’t coddle… and His followers ended up changing the world. Perhaps when it comes to truly caring, we could all take a lesson from Jesus :-)

A Journey Home
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It must come with being a sexagenarian (sounds more perky than “senior citizen”)… but reunions have suddenly become appealing to me. For years I attended multi-generational gatherings more out of duty than desire. But this summer my husband and I cheerfully travelled over 8 hours to attend such a get-together. It was a reuniting of people who had attended the same church clear back in the 1960’s.

Interesting how 40+ years changes some people a LOT and others just a little. There were many in attendance whom I would have recognized immediately, had I run into them on the street. However there were others that looked so drastically different from my memory of them, that I had difficulty believing them when they gave their names. They seemed like imposters assuming the identities of my old friends. Obviously, we had all aged… but the years had seemed to take more of a toll on some than others.

Judging from the fact that I noticed the eyes of several people sneaking a glance at my name-tag, I had to conclude that I don’t look like I did at age 16. Of course back then I had the parted-in-the-middle, long, straight, hippy-type hair style and didn’t need glasses. I was also 20 pounds lighter. Without a doubt we were a roomful of “mature” adults. It was obvious from our appearance. It brought new understanding to the term, “ripe old age.” Some definitely looked like they had passed ripe and were starting to shrivel!

But it occurred to me that the years had matured us all in other ways. As we chatted with one another, asking about where life’s roads had taken us, a couple of things stood out. First, was the importance of family. Almost everyone’s first question after, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to tell me who you are,” was “tell me about your family.”

A second observation… sobering really… was the shared experience of pain and suffering. My mother-in-law used to say, “You haven’t had pain or problems in your life yet? Just be patient. They will come!” In that crowded room of old friends and acquaintances, behind the laughter there were stories of loss and grief, challenge and heartache. Life does that… to everyone… sooner or later.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Soon after returning from our trip down memory lane, I found myself sitting by the hospital bedside of an elderly aunt. Almost every morning when I entered her room, she would look up and say, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” It wasn’t that I did much… the nurses and doctors and aides provided the primary care… but evidently there was something very comforting about a loved one’s presence that made the whole ordeal much more peaceful.

I’ve often wondered why the Lord doesn’t spare us from the ordeals of life… but the reunion stories, plus my own experience tell me that it is in the tempests of life we cling tightest to Jesus. My favorite New Testament story is the account of Peter and his attempt to walk on water. He figured, if Jesus was walking on water, why couldn’t he? He got out of the boat and did okay for a few steps. But when he heard the wind and saw the waves kicking up, he got scared and began to sink. Jesus reached out and grabbed him. At that point I envision Peter clinging desperately to His Rescuer. Then together they walked back to the boat. And after they climbed into the boat, the storm died down.

Most sermons based on this text emphasize the need to keep our eyes on Jesus and off the tumultuous circumstances around us. That’s a great lesson. But what really impacts me from this story is the fact that even when we are clinging desperately to Jesus, we may still have to walk a distance with Him IN THE STORM… before arriving safely home. In other words, He doesn’t always eliminate the tough stuff from my life, just because I’m hanging onto Him. But He does keep me afloat. He sticks with me, no matter what!

To me… Jesus’ presence on life’s journey… is what has come to count most to me. It’s waking up in the morning and being able to say, “Oh, Jesus, I’m so glad You’re here!” Actually, He never left me for a minute… He doesn’t even sleep, but is by my side even in the darkest of nights, or roughest of circumstances. Someday my current storm will die down and my world will be crisis-free for a bit. For awhile I’ll enjoy smooth sailing. But when I find myself out on life’s sea, with my world howling around me, I’ll be glad that I’m not alone on my journey home… and that makes for peace at any stage of ripeness!

Is it Enough?
Thursday, June 6, 2013

The other day my husband read part of a magazine article to me. The gist of the excerpt questioned our North American emphasis on achievement and accomplishment. It suggested that this “gotta-reach-the-top” mentality has even permeated Christian culture.

It struck a chord with me, because I’ve been thinking the same thing lately. Not that we shouldn’t have plans, goals, purpose and drive. But my observation is that many people… including Christians… including myself at times… feel an enormous pressure to do something really big in their lifetime.

As Christians we owe a lot to the “greats” of Christendom… the apostles, the church fathers, the early martyrs, the fiery evangelists. But I’m recognizing that we are perhaps even more greatly indebted to the “suburbia” Christians of the past… the everyday, common, simple-living believers who worked hard just to survive, but managed nevertheless to maintain their faith and even pass it on to the next generation.

Growing up in the church I definitely had a “blue-ribbon Christian” mentality. I considered pastors and missionaries to be God’s award winners, His special pets. Certainly they were the cream of the spiritual crop… obviously more genuinely committed than the average Joe Christian.

But now I’m not so sure.

True… giants like Peter and Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Sunday and Graham have been used by God to influence whole cultures. But their work would have been wasted without the persevering peons of His kingdom. These were…and are… the folks that get up every day to do mundane work because they must in order to put food on their tables, clothes on their backs and roofs over their heads. Yet in the midst of the ordinary, they are extra-ordinary people, because they love Jesus and strive to live like Him in their own little corner of the planet. They love their spouse and their children; they care for their neighbors; they live honest, upright lives; they keep the faith in their lifetime and inconspicuously transfer it to their progeny.

And so I wonder… could it be that this is enough? Is God’s hall of fame different than ours? Is it possible that it includes not only the renowned of Christianity, but also its most obscure saints? Does it include the folks who never preached a sermon to a crowd… never wrote a best-seller… never launched a revival? But they prayed; they believed the Bible; they taught it to their children; they touched those around them with kind words and actions; they kept Christianity alive.

· I Thessalonians 4:11,12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

On the one hand, I can’t help thinking that God is disgusted with many of today’s “American-dream” Christians. The faith of these suburban believers is little more than an occasional add-on to lives centered on acquiring more wealth, leisure time and fun. I regularly have to guard against this mentality. But on the other hand, I must also guard against the lie that says Christians must do something truly “great” in order to count in God’s kingdom.

So I think I’ve decided I want to do a great job of being an ordinary Christian… content to love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. Whether that simple life is lived out in a high-rise city apartment, or in a country bungalow with a white picket fence is not so important. Whether I’m known by crowds or only by a handful of family, friends and neighbors is not critical. I’ll be content with contributing my little bit and trusting God to use it as He wants. And I think that just might be enough.

Global Reality Check
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My husband and I just returned from an amazing trip overseas. I always enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of different cultures… but hands-down, my favorite part of travel is meeting people along the way.

Some years back on a missions trip to Brazil, a local business-woman expressed doubt that we would be able to “counsel” people from a different country. She was convinced that Americans and Brazilians had too many differences, thus rendering any advice we might give, irrelevant. We didn’t argue with her, simply saying, “Well, I guess we’ll find out.”

Later, as we met with many married couples and individuals, we heard described (albeit in another language) the exact same kinds of situations that we hear weekly in Lancaster, PA. Yes, there are cultural idiosyncrasies among different people groups which present some unique challenges. But the basic struggles of human relationships are identical around the globe.

We found it to be true again on this trip. As we chatted with folks we met, from taxi-drivers to entertainers, to billionaires, it was obvious: people are just … people… with similar hopes and dreams and frustrations and fears. And we were struck anew with the longings of all of them for love and joy and peace and fulfillment… all things that can only truly be satisfied by their Creator.

Between the poorest beggars on the streets to the most sophisticated world-travelers, there were two blatant similarities… a desire to love and be loved and a craving for some sense of significance for their existence.

I think Jesus hit the nail on the head when He told the young rich guy that life’s top priorities are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.” When these are the guiding principles in a person’s life, those universal cravings somehow get taken care of…. not surprising really since the One who designed humankind understands best what makes folks tick. As I’ve told my children often: Jesus’ way of living is absolutely the best way to live… always has been, always will be, world over!

Now we’re home again. Laundry needs to be done, e-mails caught up, appointments scheduled, jet-lag vanquished. I’ve found myself lamenting, “back to reality!” But the truth of the matter is we never really left reality behind. It travelled with us. It stared back at us from the faces of Greeks, Italians, Australians, Philippinos, Cambodians, Brits, Portuguese and Brazilians. We heard their “real” concerns in their conversations. We saw the pain of their personal realities on their faces. And if we could observe all this… how much more does their Creator see it and care!

So, I’m freshly thankful that I get to do what I do… i.e. help people deal with the real issues of life, by pointing them to Jesus. I’m glad to do it in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And if once in awhile, I get to do it on vacation, in places like Europe or Asia or South America… well, I’ll be happy to deal with that reality too!

Big Thought for Little Brain
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This month my husband and I traveled to New York City with friends who were visiting from Brazil, South America. Our typical sightseeing day in the Big Apple includes a ride on the subway. Although I think New York’s metro system is shabby and dungeon-like compared to some other big cities, I nevertheless enjoy riding on it.

It’s not the mode of transportation I like so much… it’s what I see while using the mode of transportation. People! Lots of people! All shapes and sizes and ethnicities! I love watching people! Some stand and converse enthusiastically with friends. Others sit and doze (do they ever fall asleep and miss their stop?). Some are deeply engrossed in a good book (I have a huge urge to peer over their shoulder and read an excerpt). Still others are staring off into space. Some smile in response to my smile. Some turn away as though human connection on the subway is forbidden. I just love watching all the people!

Then, while bouncing along on the tracks, I had this thought, “Each of these people is an individual and each has a unique life story.” As I watched them, I wondered about their stories, and tried to imagine what they were thinking about at that very moment.

Then I had another epiphany… “God knows what all these people are thinking about right now, just like He knows what I’m thinking. How does He do that?” Psalm 139:2 says, You perceive my thoughts from afar. I was seated right up against some of these folks and I could have taken a guess as to what they were thinking. Their facial expressions, posture, conversation, etc. seemed to reveal their mental state. But God knows EVERYONE’s thoughts… SIMULTANEOUSLY… not just mine and not just the thoughts of the thousands of New York subway riders… but He knows the thoughts of the billions of thinkers around the globe.

My puny brain cannot begin to comprehend how this is even possible. As the train rushed along, I thought, “This is TOO BIG of a concept for me to grasp!” And as I sit at my computer right now, wondering what words to type next, and what I’ll make for supper tonight… those thoughts register with my Creator. And so do all the thoughts of every other human being alive at this instant.

My mind says, “There is NO WAY anyone can do this!” But then my mind answers, True… no PERSON could be all-knowing, but a supernatural God could. After all, if He designed the mind and all its amazing capabilities, surely He could design it in such a way, that He would be able to read it. And if He cares enough to read our minds, perhaps He cares what’s on our minds! I wonder if when He reads my mind, He thinks it’s good stuff or junk. I wonder if He ever feels slighted because my mind hasn’t turned His direction very often throughout the day. I wonder if He gets tired of my negativity… my grumbling, complaining, worry, anger and frustration… my lack-of-trust thoughts.

There’s an old hymn, “May the mind of Christ my Savior, live in me from day to day.” I bet if my thinking were like Jesus’ thinking that would make God grin. And I figure that if I want a mind like Jesus’ mind, I probably need to get to know Him better… through consulting with Him, spending time with Him, copying Him … THINKING about Him!

It occurs to me that I can do that any time, any place… at home, at work, with my family, when I’m alone and yes… even when I’m crammed onto a crowded Manhattan subway! And that’s a good thought… isn’t it, God!?