My wife and I - along with an entourage of 14 close friends and relatives, made a seven-day cruise down into the Caribbean in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. I could write all day about the euphoria and surreally associated with that - but what I really want to address is the cruise.
I have truly been reminded of just how amazing, and how needed people are in our lives -- all kinds of them. When you live on board a 1,200 foot craft with 4,000 other people, of every faith, socio-economic class and lifestyle, you really enjoy great fulfillment, as well as getting an education.
I'm thinking of Yolanda, a bubbly, wonderful, petite little 30-something year old girl from Indonesia, who not only waited our table in the dining hall, but became our friend and loved one during the cruise. It was probably a result of intense training to become a crew member of the company, but she knew us all by name - all 16 of us, no matter where we were on the ship. During the final dinner meal, we all embraced her and wept at the thought of leaving her. She was like family. She asked my wife, Carolyn, to remember her in prayer. There must have been some issue going on in her life.
I think of the cool, early morning last Sunday, sitting in the aft section of the ship, taking in the sea air, sipping strong coffee, and having deep, intense conversation with a long time pastor friend, Jackie, a cousin-in-law to my first cousin. As we were sharing ministry experiences, a lone-vacationer, dressed in shorts and a tank top, who was sitting near us, overheard us, and with only one comment from him, we instantly knew he was also a pastor. Not only was he a preacher from south Texas, but it turned out, his family was long-time close friends with my son-in-law's family. The three of us sat there, suddenly not feeling guilty that we were not preaching in our own pulpits (actually I didn't really feel all that guilty) but sitting on a Sunday morning talking about -- what else? -- ministry. It was like attending a church leadership seminar.
I think of Lori -- a director of a group of people from a large church in south Texas who was hosting a trip for 22 people with special needs. We had a wonderful exchange with her, and she asked me who the lady was in our group who designed little monogrammed cloth bags. I told her it was my kid sister, and connected them so my sis could send her some of those bags.
I think of the little girl in Cozumel who gave me a pedicure. She was wonderful, professional and personable. As she was meticulously giving my feet the works, I couldn't help but feel compelled to tell her that she was doing a task that Jesus seemed to be the most passionate about -- washing feet. I believe it brought a little tear to her eye.
I think of sitting on a short bench in Mahogany Bay with another elderly man - from Wichita, Kan. We were conversing as though we had known each other for a lifetime. Suddenly a jolly, bubbly African-American lady walked up and asked if she could "squeeze in" between us. I said, "Of course!" Her name was Carol -- and she and her husband were co-pastors of a church in east Dallas. We talked and laughed for several minutes about family, faith and ministry. In every exchange with every person, it was as though we had all been friends for life.
Then as I get home, I find myself asking, "Why isn't it that way when we are in our regular old 'grind' here at the home front?" Then it occurred to me -- we are usually too busy concentrating on our own little agendas -- our jobs -- our grave responsibilities, our misgivings, and frustrations -- we, somehow, refuse to stop, laugh and interact with total strangers, sharing at least some of our innermost thoughts with them. Now why is that? Why can't most all of life be like walking on the deck of a luxury liner, and treating everybody else like we are all on some kind of exotic vacation together?
In reality, we are. It may not be a Carnival cruise, and at times, it may not seem exotic, but we are all on our own journeys. We're all headed to an eternal port somewhere. For those of us on this earthly "cruise" who love Christ, we claim Philippians 3:20 -- "For our conversation (life) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Or to borrow a phrase from an old song in the "Heavenly Highways" hymnal, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through."
I know where my "ship" is headed -- and I hope yours is headed in the same direction. But for the time being, I'd like to interact with people like I did on the big ship I've been on for seven days.