I have to hand it to my wife, Rebekah; she does everything with a sense of style that most of us could seldom muster.
She can talk to anyone, anytime, about anything; no holds barred.
Perfect strangers tell her their life story; shoppers in the grocery store line bare their souls; people in elevators open up with refreshing sincerity.
To be honest, I am often in awe of her. She challenges me, and her example always seems to make me better. It is her gift.
Recently, pumping gas, she noted the worn and defeated expression another customer wore. "You look terrible," Rebekah observed, as only she could get away with.
"I feel terrible," the man acknowledged, and proceeded to tell her what was going on with his family. It was a sad tale.
"Do you go to church?" she inquired.
"Used to," he replied, "but all they ever did was tell me I was going to hell."
He looked her in the eye. "Lady," he continued, "they don't need to tell me I'm going to hell; I'm already there."
Obviously, that wasn't the end of the conversation.
This week, snarled in traffic, she observed the tension pouring out of so many other drivers. At a long stop light, one driver was especially eaten up with the pressure of his life. As she often does, Rebekah took the scene in, and prayed for this man.
Then, she waved an obviously friendly greeting, made eye contact, and smiled brightly. The man, taken aback, smiled in return. The tension seemed to leave him visibly.
One of my favorite names in the Bible is Barnabas. Barnabas means, literally, "son of encouragement." We need to have a widespread Barnabas movement in every community.
The fact remains: there is too much pain, too much hurt in this world. There is an urgent need for all of us to live the lives of deliberate encouragers.
What better season to get the ball rolling? Here we are, three days into December already; six days beyond our national pause to celebrate with grateful hearts; well into our latest opportunity to get the holiday season focused in proper perspective. Yet, we are surrounded by tens of thousands of people who need our encouragement in the worst, or maybe the best, way.
Don't wait for Jimmy Stewart, when you catch a rerun of "It's a Wonderful Life;" don't delay until a chance viewing of "Miracle on 34th Street" makes you remember to count your blessings; don't be the kind of Grinch who, all of a sudden, remembers at the Christmas Eve candlelight service what this is all about.
The time is now, the opportunity is the gift of encouragement to a hurting world, and the imperative is the same it always turns out to be in this column. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light. Live, therefore, as children of light." (Ephesians 5:8)
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