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Encourage

 

encourage

Our pastor has told us before that he gets some pretty heavy condemnation on Monday mornings, critics of yesterday’s sermon or people with better ideas of how church should be done will often unload on him via email. I can imagine he dreads opening up his laptop at the beginning of each new week. He says the only thing worse than that is to receive it in person before, or between gatherings on Sunday mornings! Can you imagine?

I think we all have some idea of how he feels; does everyone have at least one person in their life who at any given moment, could be releasing harsh words on you as readily as encouragement? You take a look at your phone and see that a call/text/email is coming in from that person and you need to take some time before even touching it. Yuck.

There isn’t much I can do about that person in my life, except limit the access I have with them, out of a need for protection. If it were someone who I completely trusted, maybe I wouldn’t need a barrier, but if it were someone I completely trusted, maybe they wouldn’t need to bash. Right?

There is one thing I can do. I can resolve not to be that person to others. Can I have the self-discipline to communicate encouragement and positive observations when I am reaching out with the help of my phone? Of course I can, but it will take intentionality. If I truly feel the need to correct or critique someone, I want to do that with kindness and if possible, in person.

So when my pastor sees a text message pop up from me on a Monday morning (or any other day, for that matter), I want him to eagerly see what I have to say because he can expect nothing but encouragement from me. Heck, I want that for all my friends.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

My Cheerleader

IMGKaren was my single friend, you know, the one who met me at the clubs and bars after work when we were both single in a large city in the mid 1990’s. We originally met at work and hit it off immediately, spending time with family and friends and getting to know each other better. This was during the time that my guy and I were not together, after calling off our engagement and being apart for almost three years, but when we started talking again, and working towards getting back together, Karen was our cheerleader. Hopeful and positive, my friend encouraged me to go for it, moving across the country to take a risk.

That risk paid off and when planning our wedding, I knew who I wanted for my Maid of Honor; our cheerleader, Karen. You see, we had a small wedding in a state where we knew very few people, so most everyone who attended had to travel a distance. And they had to want to be there. We didn’t want anyone witnessing our event who didn’t fully support us. Karen was the only woman in our wedding party. My guy had two best men. We didn’t worry about being lop-sided or non-traditional, we just wanted to be intentional.

In the years that followed (22 to be exact) Karen and I stayed in touch, with me moving all over the country and her staying in one place. She got married, we had babies and we continued to be friends from a distance, checking in at holidays and commenting on each others pictures through social media. One thing that remained constant was Karen’s hopefulness and encouragement. I knew she had fought breast cancer years before, and when we communicated a few months ago she said she was still in remission. I was completely shocked to learn over the weekend that my sweet friend died of cancer.

I feel an ache that I cannot explain. The friendship that we had was so special for me, Karen did something that most don’t do; she encouraged me to leave her. Although it would mean a major shift in our relationship, she selflessly pushed me towards the future that she knew I wanted, and taught me how to love someone with open hands. How I wish I could have been there for her in the final days, cheering her on to the future that awaited her in heaven. I can’t imagine how her family and closest friends must be hurting right now, but I am sure that they all have stories that are similar, of a very special woman who encouraged them and showed them hope. I’m really going to miss my cheerleader.

Food For Thought

tattooImagine….really thinking about each word before saying it because it would stay with you forever. We have a choice every single day to speak life and encouragement or gossip and hate. We tell our teens to be careful of everything they type and text because it can be saved or retrieved….but what about what we say aloud? I have been so reckless with my tone and words over the years. I need to get this right.

But encourage one another daily,as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

What Else?

lightThere are two magic words when someone is sharing their heart, that encourage them to continue. They could be sharing their dreams or baring the big questions in their hearts, describing their fears or recounting past failures.
What else?
It encourages the talker to dare to dream bigger and ask more questions.
It allows the other to have more darkness to share, even when they thought you, the listener, would be scared away.
What else do you think about that?
What else scares you?
What else do you want to do?
What else you got?
This may be the best question you can ask someone.

Everybody is a Genius

fishRecently while in Europe we had the opportunity to see the works of great artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and daVinci, as well as many more. I’m not a big art enthusiast, but was able to appreciate the different styles, time periods and subjects that were created. Standing in front of well known pieces of art like The Last Supper and Michelangelo’s David was an experience unlike any we can have in the United States. The only thing that really comes close for me personally is being in the room with someone who is dying, someone you know you are visiting with for the last time. There is a sense of reverence, even if you don’t fully understand it.
I found myself wanting to learn more about these great artists; who inspired them, who financially supported them and who encouraged them to be so different than others during their time? Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist, engineer and artist who had so many new ideas that he was constantly drawing and writing to get them onto paper. Did he ever stop to eat and sleep and spend time with those around him? I cannot imagine being a part of his family, or being his friend. Before being recognized as great, was he viewed as crazy and eccentric?
Do you think God made a handful of great artists, primarily during the 1400-1500’s and then stopped?
What if there are people on this earth right now who have the capacity to look way ahead of technology and see the future, or the ability to create music and art unlike anything we have heard or seen?
What if today’s pressures and distractions are so great that these budding geniuses are sitting in cubicles, trying to make enough money to get by instead of having the freedom to create?
Are we giving people room to be good at what God created them to do? Are we encouraging those around us to find their work of art, or insisting they do what we think will make them most successful?

Remind Me Who I Am

Maybe you’re different, but it is very easy for me to pull up a negative remark that someone has said about me, or that someone has told me that someone else has said. Bring up a weak quality about myself and I can probably run through a catalogue of opinions/observations/comments that have been made, or that I perceive have been made about me over many years.

On the other hand, ask me to list my strengths and amnesia kicks in. I like to think that I am an encourager but first I filter that thought through everything that I have received about myself over the years and doubt even that. Why do we discount our areas of strength and give so much power to the weak places?

I have found a way to help me remember the positive aspects; it’s an Atta Girl folder. I have a manila folder in our hanging files of old tax filings and vet records that is just for me. It contains cards, notes, drawings and scrap pieces of  paper that remind me who I am, or who I have been, to someone else. I also have a folder on my desktop for kind emails or comments received via computer.

Often it seems like I will receive one of these gems when I don’t really need it, but I know I will in the future. When a big bout of amnesia comes around, I have a folder I can open up and drink in, reminding me who I am. This also shows me the huge importance of speaking into others’ lives, telling each other what we see and how we have been helped. We all need to be reminded sometimes.

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