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The Bhutanese people in Southeast Asia receive the New Testament that has been translated into their language for the first time. BP photo.

Escaping the comfort zone  |  Mark Larson

I’m here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

I’ve heard that said from the pulpit more than once, when the next thing to be taught from the pastor might be a bit uncomfortable.

It’s an excellent concept, you know. Those who are hurting need consoling and support. Others are so comfy that they seem to miss the essentials and freshness in life, so a nudge or kick in the pants may be in order.

In our country we are blessed with so much that the slogan “America the Beautiful” could be changed to “America the Comfortable.”

Most of us live a charmed life when compared with much of the rest of the world. Generally what counts as poverty in the USA looks wealthy when contrasted with millions living in squalor in other nations.

We reside in an exceptional place and, for the most part, live very good lives. In a recent Heritage Foundation report, scholar Robert Rector notes this, based on U.S. Census data:

“The typical poor household, as defined by the government, has a car and air conditioning, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there are children, especially boys, the family has a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household has a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave.

“The home of the typical poor family is in good repair and is not overcrowded. In fact, the typical average poor American has more living space in his home than the average (non-poor) European has.”

Yes, there are plenty of situations in our country that aren’t nearly this positive, and those are addressed with plenty of our tax dollars. But I’m not being political here. I point this out to help us realize how beautifully blessed we are, overall. And, if we as comfortable citizens are too used to what we enjoy, it seems we may risk taking everything for granted… and missing opportunities.

For years I wanted to do something outside my own comfort zone. Wasn’t sure what, exactly, until back in 1997 when I received an invitation to travel with the Bible League to Vietnam. Much to my own surprise, I felt confident about the project, even though it involved visiting persecuted Christians in what’s known as “the underground church” in that communist country. Oh, and we were “placing” Bibles along the way (a.k.a. “smuggling”). We also went inside a refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), a place so sad that even the U.N. didn’t want to deal with it.

Outside of my comfort zone, indeed. Along the way I met some of the most inspiring people. To this day, their stories of courage resonate in my mind and heart. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds—poverty, disease, prison, torture, violence—they rose above circumstances to do the right things in life.

Building confidence
When we step out of what’s comfortable, exploring new worlds, we expand friendships and learn new things. For me, it began with seeing poverty in a different way, gaining fresh perspective. No, you and I can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can start, and do something, somewhere.

From that first out-of-the-comfort excursion to Southeast Asia, I’ve been to China several times on medical and humanitarian outreaches, to Tibet, Afghanistan, into the war zones in the Middle East, you name it.

Through it all, I learned that confidence builds as we find our gifts and daily “niches” of involvement. And most often, it’s the people we want to help who end up touching us in numerous ways.

Yes, I’ve been blessed to be able to travel, but I also know that the chances to boldly connect with others are right down the street, around the corner, at school, work or church. There’s no shortage of needs under our noses.

Start with small steps
Just imagine how much better the world would be if each of us did just a little more each day, committing to that which takes us out of easier spots.

Are you stuck in a big, fat on-the-couch comfort zone? Only you know for sure. I discovered that if a person feels increasingly restless, edgy, cynical, ungrateful, even bored… it could be time for something new.

That doesn’t mean buying more “stuff”… nor does this mean finding less positive ways to “escape.” While a shopping spree or makeover can be helpful in shifting attitudes, it’s only temporary.

Looking for new ways to reach out to others…especially when it’s uncomfortable at first… is something worthwhile, with lasting value, built for a lifetime.

 

Mark Larson

 

— by Mark Larson

Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. His voice is heard on KPRZ 1210AM, and his weekday talkshow airs 6-9 a.m. on KCBQ 1170AM. Learn more at www.marklarson.com.

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