By Ed Decker

One of my sons called me a while ago to tell me that the steel-head run was the best in over 30 years, and we should go out to my favorite hole and pick up a few before the season ends at the end of the month.

But my mind didn’t focus on the great fishing I have experienced in years past, but on the long climb down a steep hill to my special spot and the aching that would go along while standing in a cold river for a few hours and the pain of climbing back up that rocky hillside. No fish is worth it anymore.

I was brushing my teeth this morning and took a second look at the guy in the mirror, and I was shocked at what I now look like.  My golden years are turning into molding years, more rust than gold. My blonde hair is now pure white. Those wrinkles are not scars of battle but ruts of old age and perhaps smiling too much. Many of the activities that I used to enjoy; I can no longer do. I now judge any outing on how far I must walk and how many stairs are involved and where I can find the closest bathroom.

I find that over the last few years, I make a lot of decisions based on what I can’t do rather than what I can do. I can’t ski like I used to ski, and I can’t run the way I ran as a youth.  I am totally unable to get on the back of a horse even with the help of a ladder, let alone run it through some jumps. I wouldn’t even try.

I can’t hear or see the way I did 50 years ago.  Who am I kidding here? I can’t hear or see like I did back when I was just 80! 

I can’t hike up the mountain trails the way I did a few years ago and we never go out for a late meal anymore. Our dining out now seems to revolve around early bird specials or two-for-one dinners. We hurry home so we don’t miss Wheel of Fortune.  I now plan on going home even before I get wherever I’m going.

Having said all that, my mouth still works, and I can smile at everyone I run into. It’s my secret weapon. I can always find something nice to say to everyone I encounter.  I can listen with an intent ear and even when a hurting friend talks so low that I can’t hear the words, I can nod and share the hurt I see.  I can look at others, all  those “others”through the eyes of Jesus. I can feel His compassion for the lost and hurting.

Ephesians 6: 20 says that we are to be His ambassadors in bonds..speaking boldly.  I try to live that Ephesians Chapter 6 kind of life in Him. And in doing so, I must take on His words when asked,  

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22]

In the rush of life, we focus our spiritual lives on the first of the two and quite often miss the importance of the second.

I know that we usually are in too much of a hurry to get where we are going to make eye contact and say a few kind words to the checkers and grocery-baggers at the grocery store or the waitress and busboy at the restaurant or that neighbor standing in his or her driveway or that stranger who came to your church last Sunday.

But I promise you that if you do that one simple thing, your life will change for the good and the gold will begin to bust out through the rust.  It’s like your very own mission field.

But before you race out to be His hand extended, you need to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.   

You need to get that first commandment right. You need to be able to be ready to be that hand extended, that connection with Him. I promise that if the first is in order,  Holy Spirit will guide you in the second.

Some years ago, we lived in a small town that sat in  the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and I worked from my home office. Being the one always at home, my wife often gave me shopping and other errands.

One day, I was in line at the Supermarket  and overheard a conversation between a harried looking woman and the Checkout clerk, who asked how she was  “holding up.” After hearing about the crisis the lady was dealing with, I stepped forward and asked the woman if I could pray for her.

Stunned at first, she almost burst into tears as she said, “Please Pray for Me.” And there in the middle of the checkout lane, I did and she wept and the Checker reached out to touch her, tears in her own eyes.  When done, there was silence throughout the checkout area . 

From that day on, I became the man who would pray for people. In the stores, at Dry Cleaners or at the gas station or on the street, I became His hand extended. People sought me out. I found that I was soon making excuses to go to town.

Let me share just one more example from many hundreds of such occasions. Last Thanksgiving, we went to a wonderful restaurant for dinner.  On the way out I took a little detour and stopped at the kitchen and thanked the cook staff for the delicious meal they provided.  I received a lot of high fives and a lot of smiles.

After we left the restaurant, the manager caught up with us to thank me for taking the time to bless the cook staff.  He said that with the hundreds of tables they were serving that day, I was the onlpatron who took the time to do that.  It was a small thing but made an impact on people who were working hard and just needed a kind word.

This is what I want  you to know. I pray each morning that I have an abundance of what I call “people gifts” so that I can give them away in loving all my neighbors as myself, bringing kindness and love to those I meet who need it. And I assume they all need it. Start at home with your own family.         

Try it the next time you run those errands that take you around the neighborhood. It will bless you and those whose paths you cross. Then watch out. When you walk into a place, the people will already be already smiling. Trust me on this. I know.

~Ed Decker