“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that He answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is . . . The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." ~Mark 12:28, 30-31 (RSV)
I seem to be stuck on the love theme lately. Keen took some ribbing after last week’s column, so just in case anyone was wondering how he feels about me sharing his love notes and “sweet nothings” with the world, he is perfectly fine with it. His philosophy is that anything that happens in the Umbehr house is open game (within reason, of course!). As a matter of fact, this morning I was greeted with another love note taped to my computer. It read: Eileen: Thank you for a great weekend. I know we worked on a couple of projects – but we are storing up for the right to take off extra days to do something special. I can’t wait! Love, Keen. Then he drew a picture of a heart with an arrow through it with the words “I love you.” So now you understand why it’s so easy for me to get “stuck” on the love theme. Someday I’ll have to write another book titled, “Singapore Sweethearts.” But first things first.
Last week I shared that our “fairytale romance” is not exactly “fairytale-ish” 100 per cent of the time. But I’ve been thinking that marriage is like anything else in life – jobs, children, health, finances – you have your good days and your not-so-good days, but you wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world. Recently I was attempting to encourage an elderly friend of mine and I sent him the following email: “Try to remember that the only way depression can come back on you is if you start to allow it to rent space in your brain. What you think about dictates your moods and how you feel. If you're thinking about positive things, (good friends, good health, a safe and warm place to live, enough food, ability to drive, good mind), then you will feel positive. But if you start to think about the negative things in life all the time, then eventually that is all you will see, and your whole world will appear negative, despite all that is right or positive about it. I guess it's like ‘the glass is half full or half empty’ philosophy.”
There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” That’s so true. We don’t do anything in life without thinking about it first. Whether it’s eating that second (or third) piece of chocolate cake or exercising; pounding our fist, or jumping for joy. A marriage counselor once told my sister that she had to “teach” her husband how to be nice. Bologna. He knew how to be nice; everyone at work sang his praises. He was just nice to everyone but her. So every decision we make in life begins with a thought – whether for good or for evil. That’s why it’s so important to guard our thoughts. As someone once said, “You might not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you don’t have to let it build its nest there.” And I mean really, how important are some of the things that we let drive us absolutely crazy? We act like spoiled little kids when someone cuts us off in traffic or takes our parking spot. We would do well to remember the message behind Richard Carlson’s wonderful book titled: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – And It’s All Small Stuff.”
“But refuse – shut your mind against, have nothing to do with – trifling (ill-informed, unedifying, stupid) controversies over ignorant questionings, for you know that they foster strife and breed quarrels.” ~ II Timothy 2:23 (Amp)
Life is just too much of a gift to ever be taken for granted. Make up your mind that you’re going to kick out any negative thoughts that come your way. When you make a mistake, don’t say, “I’m so stupid!” And when someone else makes a mistake, don’t tell them they’re stupid. Decide to be a positive, loving person. Remember, God is love, so the closer you are to Him, the more love you will have stored up in your heart to share with others. And the love you give away will always find its way back to you.
The bottom line is this: whether you’re married or single, there’s something bigger and more important out there than you. Something you’re meant to do – a life you’re meant to touch, to heal, to save. It may involve visiting people in a nursing home – or spending time with a neighbor who lives all alone. Or maybe you’re meant to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, or volunteer at a battered women’s shelter. It is in giving, that we receive. If we don’t sow anything good, then we can not, and will not, reap a harvest of anything good.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” ~ Galatians 6:9
In closing, I’d like to share the following story sent to me from a friend:
A Lesson on Life
There was an Indian Chief who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.
The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.
When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.
The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.
The second son disagreed. He said the tree was covered with green buds and full of promise.
The third son said he found the tree laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.
The last son disagreed with all of them; he said the tree was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.
The father then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each only seen one season in the tree's life.
He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.
If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, the fulfillment of your fall.
The Moral of the Story:
Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.
Don't judge life by one difficult season.
Persevere through the difficult patches and better times are sure to come.
Leave the Rest to God.
“If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” ~ I John 4:12b (KJV)