How times change!  In Colonial times—when laughing on the Lord’s Day could land a person in stocks on the public square—Sundays meant dreary afternoons for children.

Stuck in the family parlor, forbidden to run, whittle, whistle, or otherwise while away the time, even the most dutiful tykes grew cranky and restless.  So, it was that doting parents devised “Sunday toys” to lighten the long hours.

Inspired by religious themes, Sunday toys were also teaching tools.  A “biblical museum,” for example, was a box of tiny specimens of plants and minerals mentioned in the Scriptures.

The game of Christian Endeavor demonstrated the rewards of virtue and the penalties for vice.  Music boxes that played humans and building-block churches were allowed.

But the favorite Sunday toys were the hand-carved Noah’s Ark sets that began appearing in the 17th Century.

Two by two, every species known to the craftsmen—and many that were purely imaginary—marched into the boat-shaped chests.  Exotic jungle beasts paraded peaceably with barnyard cows and dogs; bugs and birds hopped along behind elephants and gnus.

And Noah presided over the parade.  Standing near the entrance to the ark, clad in a respectable derby and topcoat, he guided the animals into the proper room.

How times change!  Now on Sundays you hear the beep of computer games as the kids play them in the back room.

In the living room there’s a lot of stomping and hollering as the teenagers and adults watch their favorite university or professional sport’s team.

Those who are bored with computers or don’t like sports are at the malls, spending money on things they don’t need.  Those that have little or no money gaze at the beautiful merchandise and sigh, “Oh, I wish I had that.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with computer games or watching sports on TV.  The problem is when they absorb all of our time and we close our ears and eyes to the world around us.

There are people who are really hurting—they need help!  Just as kids in colonial days need activities to fill boring hours on Sunday, hurting people need an encouraging word to help them get through the day. 

Yes, times have changed, but the basic needs of people have not changed—the need for love, a sense of belonging, and the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities.

With each passing day our world changes more rapidly, and becomes more chaotic.  As we cross one valley and walk up another plateau, let’s encourage and help someone else along the way.  “Therefore (as you have the opportunity) comfort and edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  

A helping hand, and an encouraging word gives strength for living.

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