Why it helps us to remember what's good and right and true

Sometimes God chooses unlikely ways to remind us we have a lot to be thankful for, doesn't He?

Blog. 2 Men talking. Focus on joy. 5.15I won't forget the day I learned a lot by eavesdropping on someone else's conversation.

Let me explain.

One morning I stopped a local coffee shop and soon got jolted out of my private little pity party. (It wasn't much fun, anyway.) 

The hostess seated me in a booth close to a table where two men seemed really intent on their conversation.  

One man had a radio-announcer voice that carried, even though he spoke softly. I couldn't help overhearing and once he started talking I didn't want to miss a word. Besides, I wanted to finish my coffee and snack. I grabbed my trusty note pad and jotted down his key points.   

Here's my best recap of his story

"I have one brother, the only family I have left. We've never been close, but we talked by phone once in awhile. We lived a couple hundred miles apart, so we didn't know much about each other's lives, but that was okay with both of us. 

"One day I got a call from a Child Welfare worker in his city. She told me the police arrested my brother and his wife for dealing drugs. They took his three children out of the house and turned them over to Child Welfare.

"The social worker told me my brother's kids would go into foster care unless my wife and I took them. We were their only hope and she wanted an answer by the next day. I was speechless and my wife even more so. We talked and talked and cried and prayed half the night. At last we said Yes, thinking it would be short-term. 

"Not so. Eventually my brother and his wife were convicted of running a drug ring and both got long prison sentences.  

"It's been hard, hard, hard, even though we've talked to our pastor and friends many times and we've had family counseling. My 9-year old nephew adapted pretty well. My 11-year old niece keeps it all inside, but those two both call us Mom and Dad and really, that's what we are. We're the ones who are there and who will be there, and we love them. They all know that, even the 15-year old.

"She still has nightmares. She rebels in just about every way she can dream up, no matter what we do. We're coming to think perhaps what she needs most is beyond our ability, maybe some kind of special mental-health treatment for awhile, to help her heal.  

"We've prayed and tried to pour out love, but we've also failed in a lot of ways. I think I didn't really know much about talking to God before this upheaval in our lives. One thing I know, we wouldn't have made it without God giving us strength, minute-by-minute. Sometimes we've thought we couldn't keep on, but God has brought us this far, so we trust Him for the future.

"Here's the wonderful surprise and extra blessing in all this. We missed seeing it for quite awhile. Then recently we thought back to the early days of our marriage when the doctors told us we never would have children of our own and we were crushed. Now here we are with three kids, two of them doing very well. Now we are at peace. In spite of all the pain, we have joy and we know we did the right thing."

As I rose to leave I glanced at the men and saw they both had tears in their eyes. They matched my own.

A change of heart 

You won't be surprised to hear I walked out with a new perspective on challenges in my life, my heart brimming with thanks and praise.  

  • Thanks for that man and his wife who opened their home and their hearts and changed the lives--and the future--of three hurting youngsters. (And their own.)

  • Thanks to God for supplying the love and strength they needed to give of themselves, day by day, and not count the cost.

  • Thanks that they can see the blessings and joy hidden within their daily sacrifices.

That conversation refocused my thinking in how to look at challenges in my life.

Like that couple, let's open our eyes to the joy!  

The Apostle Paul well knew personal suffering but he also knew how to find joy. I love the way he sums up his secret in Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! ... Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things . . . And the God of peace will be with you.                                                    (Selected from Phil. 4:4-9 NIV)

"Rejoice!" It's not a suggestion, it's more like a must. An attitude we choose.

"If anything is excellent or praiseworthy ... " Paul is telling us that whatever comes we can search out some bit of excellence or cause for praise. IF we wear that mindset as we look for it rather than getting stuck in our problems and disappointments. IF we remind ourselves that our loving God never leaves us on our own. 

We will find the good, not because we're so great, but because God is faithful to those who trust in Him.

Trusting, too, 


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