Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 16, 2004



Some People Are “Fresh Heart” Donors


      Life is a mixture – the bitter and the sweet, the bad and the good, sunshine and rain. Reasonably mature people find a way to handle life’s mix without losing their joy. Others allow the bad stuff to rob their joy, leaving them cynical.

          Maturity does not come easily. It comes gradually, the continuing result of a lifelong search. Oddly, none of us can reach it without help. We all need the encouragement of other strugglers who come alongside us and inspire us to reach for the best. What they offer, in a word, is simply encouragement.

          Encouragement is like oxygen – we cannot live without it. Yet we do not receive encouragement from everyone. Some people are examiners; others are encouragers. Examiners check us out with a critical eye. They always want to know why we did not make an “A” when we bring home a “B+.” Tell a good story and they tell you the story you should have told. Examiners try to convince us we are inadequate; they love words like “fail” and “quit.”      Encouragers offer us praise instead of criticism. They are like cheerleaders who give us hope that “we can do it.”  Praise inspires us to believe in ourselves and reach for the heights.

          Saint Paul spoke of his friend Onesiphorus in this way: “Many times did that man put fresh heart in me” (2 Timothy 1:16, J.B. Phillips). Onesiphorus was an encourager, not an examiner. Paul was grateful for his friend’s encouragement, which he called “fresh heart.” Organ donors help people live. Onesiphorus was a “fresh heart” donor. Every person has the potential to be one.

          Everywhere I go I look for the “fresh heart” givers. I do not have to look for the examiners; they pop up all along the way. These people thrive on the negative. They freely tell us what is wrong with the world, and what is wrong with us. Listen to them very long and they will pull you down into their dark zone of despair. In that realm, smog is dense and it is hard to breath. The favorite dish of examiners is low self-esteem pie.

          Most churches have a good supply of both examiners and encouragers. I prefer those churches where I keep running into “fresh heart” donors whose encouragement is better than a shot of B-12. Such persons are good medicine for the soul. Examiners try the soul, making life more frustrating. Encouragers strengthen the soul. They can restore the laughter that we allowed the examiners to steal from us.

          I got to thinking about all this during an overnight trip with my siblings to Warm Springs, Georgia. Sisters Neva Williams and Margie Flower, my brother Seth and his wife Pearl, joined my wife Dean and me to revisit the Little White House. We spent the night in the Warm Springs Hotel, now a bed and breakfast enterprise. The women “saved” us money rummaging through the downtown shops while Seth and I sat on sidewalk rocking chairs, enjoying our ice cream cones.

          The six of us laughed and talked for two days. No ridicule had to be endured; instead, we enjoyed much vigorous laughter and encouragement as we discussed life today and compared it with life in our yesterdays. Our conversations, though sometimes silly, were wholesome and uplifting.

          Dean and I returned home from our brief journey thankful for these family members who once again were “fresh heart” donors to us. In a beautiful way, they are our encouragers, not our examiners.  I reminded myself that no one ever gets up in the morning and thanks God for their examiners!

          Our trip prompted this good affirmation for today or any morning: Today I will only glance at my examiners but gaze thankfully at those who put fresh heart in me. Somehow, with God’s help, I will do my best to be a “fresh heart” donor today. + + + +