Posts Tagged ‘encouragement’

In Nehemiah chapter 4, we find the enemies of God’s people becoming increasingly angry.  The Jews have begun to rebuild their city walls and gates under the direction of Nehemiah, and have already made some significant strides in that work.  As soon as the neighboring Gentile rulers hear of their progress, their anger at these people becomes even more intense.

In verse 1 we find Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, become enraged and begin to mock and jeer at the Jews.  He tells everyone he knows including his army about the work of the Jews and pokes fun at them.  Funny how he tells everyone what a crappy job these guys are doing and how their wall isn’t strong enough for even a fox to stand on, yet he is angry about their progress.  Well, which is it?  Why would the ruler of an army be mad about a bunch of fools who aren’t accomplishing anything?  Apparently this guy was insecure and afraid that the Jews were indeeding succeeding…which they were, by the way.  He was jealous and angry so he set out to stop them anyway he could.  What he didn’t know was that he couldn’t stop them because this was God’s work.

Nehemiah realizes what is happening with his enemies and he prays.  He prays a curse on them and he continues to do exactly that which God gave him to do.

Nevertheless, Sanballet and his big, bad temper decides to try to pick a fight with these guys.  He calls on all his ruler friends to help him cause confusion and problems for God’s people.

Again Nehemiah and the Jews pray.  This time they pray day and night for protection against their enemies.

In verses 10-12 we see the odds stacked against the Jews.  They didn’t think they could accomplish the job.  Their enemies didn’t think they could accomplish the job, and just in case they could, they were doing all they could to make sure of it.  Even their friends urged them “ten times” to stop trying.  This is a sad scene for God’s people!

Good thing they had a good leader who was resolved to do what God sent him to do.  Nehemiah gave the people each specific positions with their families and their weapons, and he encouraged them to remember God and fight with honor for the things that are most important: God; family; community; home.

What do you do when you have a really hard job to accomplish?  When the enemy is mocking and making war against your success?  When you doubt your own ability to succeed and everyone is telling you to quit?  Consider what Nehemiah did.

  1. Nehemiah prayed.  If you know that what you’re doing is God’s will and God’s holy work for you, pray for help and protection in it.
  2. Nehemiah organized his people and his plan.  He put groups of families together in order to strengthen their morale and give them confidence.  If you are working for the Lord, don’t work alone.  Get organized and find a group of people who love and support, and help you and always have your defenses in hand.  Our weapons are the sword of the Spirit, the Word, and the promises of God.
  3. Nehemiah reminded the people to remember whose idea this work was.  He told them to remember God.  He wanted them to remember to trust God and to know that he was the one behind this plan so they would not doubt or get discouraged in the hardships.  When God’s work gets hard and you come up against obstacles and enemies, it is always helpful to remember whose work it really is.  When we are doing God’s work and God’s will, we have nothing to fear because Our God is trustworthy.  Remember that.  When we remember that, we also remember that there is great honor in striving, working, and fighting hard for the things that matter, namely, God’s glory, the good of our families and communities, and our homes.If you are leading a group of people like this one, pray, organize, and encourage them in the Lord.  This is a great model to follow in difficult circumstances…or any circumstances!  If you are part of a group like this one, pray, organize, and encourage yourself and others in the Lord.

    Pray.  Organize.  Encourage yourself and others in the Lord.  This is the way to defeat the Enemy.

    “…Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  ~Nehemiah 4:14


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In Exodus chapter 18, Moses’ father in-law comes to see him.  He had heard of all that God had done for His people and wanted to speak with Moses first hand.

Apparently, Moses’ family had not been with him during a large portion of his ministry thus far.  His father in-law, Jethro, likely understood, not only the great importance of what God was doing through Moses, but also the great importance of Moses having his wife and children with him in any further endeavors.

Moses’ family coming with him served firstly to encourage and help him.  The very names of his sons, which are made special note of here in the scripture itself, serve to encourage and remind him of who he is.

Gershom, meaning stranger; pilgrim; sojourner, reminded Moses of his lifetime lack of belonging and future citizenship in heaven.  Eliezer, meaning God is my help or God delivered, reminded Moses of where his strength and help really lie.

Our families are called along with us as our primary line of encouragement and support – second only to the encouragement and support of the Holy Spirit – any time God calls us into ministry.

Moses’ family coming with him served secondly to be an example for God’s people on how his chosen ones ought to function in their own family.  Moses, being the chosen leader of the people of God, had a great responsibility to show them how to lead their own families and affairs to the glory of God.  This is the same reason the New Testament makes clear the importance of the leaders in God’s church having their own family in order first, before they may be allowed to lead God’s church.

 Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God he might set a good example of prudence in family-government, 1 Timothy 3:5.  Moses had now a great deal both of honor and care put upon him, and it was fit that his wife should be with him to share with him in both.”

So, when Jethro came with Moses’ family in tow, the very first thing Moses did was to greet him respectfully and take and interest in their (his own) family’s well being.  As tempting as it must have been, Moses did not run out to Jethro and Zipporah (Moses’ wife) and tell them of all the amazing signs and wonders or run them over with all that God had done right away.  Instead, Moses took care to greet Jethro with the respect he was due and to ask of his welfare first.  Others first.  This is a basic, foundational principle God’s leaders must possess.

Finally, Moses shares his wonder-filled testimony with his own family, who, had previously only heard of it second, third, or tenth hand.  Henry says, “Conversation concerning God’s wondrous works is profitable conversation; it is good, and to the use of edifying, Psalm 105:2.”

Unfortunately, we have many who would disagree with both Moses and Mr. Henry.  They warn us, “Don’t talk too much about the things God has done which cannot be explained.  Do not give him glory for his signs and wonders.  Do not even mention those things that belong to the realm of the spiritual and miraculous.” Many disagree with Moses and Jethro and Mr. Henry because they fear; they doubt; they disbelieve; they envy.  Therefore, they seek to silence anyone who would share the great and mighty works of a God who will not be tamed for mere man’s comfort.

In disbelieving and discounting the works of God, those ones miss both the blessing and the benefit of rejoicing in and knowing well a God who is greater than our greatest imaginations.

As we see evident here in Moses’ own family, the result of speaking the truth about the signs, wonders, and miracles of God first hand is rejoicing and strengthening of faith.  Some might even call this instance conversion for Jethro.  Jethro heard of the good for God’s people and he was genuinely happy for them.  He wasn’t jealous or suspicious or contemptuous or unfavorable concerning God’s providence and people.  He was genuinely happy and rejoiced – even he, a foreigner.

Because the leader and his family made their table-talk of that which glorified God, they found themselves rejoicing rather than murmuring, complaining, or running down their would be friends as the people following behind and all around them were so quick to do. This leader of God’s people kept his own family spiritually healthy even when those who were following behind him could do nothing but grumble, complain, accuse, and fault-find.

Just as in the case of the Jews and the Gentiles, the tragedy for those who actually witnessed the miraculous take place before their very eyes, truly missed it.  Those closest to the wonders closed their eyes in willful blindness, but those standing by and hearing second hand were more zealous and faithful than they despite the many, many great advantages God had given them.

It seems that this entire passage is one with the intent to teach us the great importance of respect and care for good family relations and conversations among God’s people and leading by example in all those things related to such. When God calls leaders, he calls their families.  This is his chosen earthly example for proper daily living.  Therefore, let us live up to our calling as those to whom the world looks for answers.

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“It’s MY turn!  It’s MY seat!  Get up!!  I want to sit there!  It’s MY turn!  My stomach hurts!  I have a headache!  I need to sit there!!!”

Even the baby mocks the crying and yelling of my passionately entitled seven year-old.  You know, the one who sits next to me each and every day while I read the Bible.  Every day she has that, as she sees it, privilege.  Every day she sits in, as she perceives it, the place of honor.  But any time one of my other daughters decides it is their turn to sit by me, she loses her mind.

I mean really loses her mind.

Somehow, because she has been given the privilege too often and been allowed by her sisters to not be challenged or rivaled for that place very much, she mistakenly believes that she owns the space.  She mistakenly believes that she is truly being offended when her sisters take the seat she covets.

That’s the point at which she makes certain that everyone on our block knows just whose place they are trying to take; just whose seat they’re trying to steal; just whose turn it really is – today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

This is not a frequent occurrence, but, the only reason it is not frequent is because her sisters do not often want the space next to me.  Which, of course, is another existential question of the universe.  I mean, how could they not want to sit next to the coolest mom on earth?  Nevertheless, anytime they do recognize the awesomeness of this girl, this tantrum inevitably happens and I have to give a whole sermon on putting others first, self-control, and obedience before I even begin Bible class.

“I can’t even read God’s Word until you obey, child.  Please, can we get started?  Do you really want punished?  I know you feel better when you are next to me, but God is not happy when we only think about what we want and need.”

“But what am I doing wrong?!  I want to sit by you!!!”

“You are lying by making up excuses about being sick to get what you want.  You are being very selfish.  You are using your feelings and your tears to control and manipulate.  These are not good things, babe.  You have to stop doing this.  Then we can all read the Bible and see what God wants us to do, too.”

She obeys.  We begin to read.  The girls pick Revelation for our next book.  We read what the disciple that Jesus loved wrote to the churches.  One common theme becomes evident.  He, in the wording of the International Children’s Bible, says in opening to all of them individually, “I know what you do.”

I know what you do.  I know what you are doing.  The first thing the Lord Jesus himself tells his church from the very beginning to be remembered until the present age and beyond is, “I know what you do.”  I see you.  I know the good, the bad, and everything in between.  And I am warning you.  Doing good things does not keep judgement from coming upon you if you refuse to stop doing wrong.  God knows.  Mommy knows.  Be warned.

Little wonder why God chose to use the parenting relationship to relate to us.  We are so much like little kids.  We can only see ourselves, our needs, our wants, and our desires.  We care far too little for our brothers and sisters.  The truth is, being a kid is hard.  Adults say it’s easy but I remember being little.  I remember feeling scared.  I remember feeling small.  I remember feeling powerless, helpless, and frightened many times.  Being a kid is fun, but it is hard.  And this God’s child thing is harder than I ever thought it could be.

Do you ever just get tired?  Tired of trying.  Tired of failing.  Tired of believing the best.  Tired of experiencing the worst.  Tired of ignoring the plain truth.  Tired of being ignored.  Tired of trusting and waiting and praying and being rejected anyway.

Little kids get tired a lot.  They need naps and blankies and bottles lest the fury of the unrested fly out in same manner as the seat-robbed.

I recently became a cheerleader.  Well, a cheerleader leader, as my husband calls me.  This is the effect the blankie and bottle babies have as they get bigger and bolder.  I am more tom-boy than hair-bow.  I am more football than pom-pom.  I am more fighter fists than flippy spirit fingers.  I am more grit-teeth game-face than cheer-up smiley-pants.  We will do things for our kids we wouldn’t normally entertain simply for their benefit.

The first thing I had to learn about being a “cheerleader leader” is that you have to cheer even when you are broken.  You have to encourage your team even when you don’t feel like it.  You have to learn a new dance when you would rather sit in the corner, cover your face, make up excuses, and cry instead.  You’ve got a half an hour to pull yourself together because the game is about to start.  The kids are counting on you to lead.

My own words repeat in my subconscious.  Surely it is the Holy Spirit.

“I can’t even read God’s Word until you obey, child.  Please, can we get started?  Do you really want punished?  I know you feel better when you are next to me, but God is not happy when we only think about what we want and need.”

I hold out my pom-pom prepared hand and I tell the Lord, “I trust you.”  I go and sit with the team and I give the instructions on how to smile, cheer, encourage, and lift the spirits of everyone around us.

He sees.  He sees the good you do.  He sees the fear, the pain, the injustice, and the helplessness you feel.  He knows exactly what you do.  Trust your Father.  Encourage your brothers and sisters.  Cheer for team Jesus.  We could all use some spirit power right now.  Holy Spirit power, that is.

Go!  Fight!  Win!  Amen.

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God’s people had been blessed over and over and over again.  It seemed that the more they were given, the more they cried, quarreled, and complained. These are all the tell-tale signs of being spoiled, rotten children.

Daddy gives and forgives; they cry and complain.  The pattern was very clear.  Wah! Wah! Wah! We want more!  We want different!  We want it now and if you don’t give us what we want right now we will scream, Daddy!  We don’t even remember the good you do!  We forget!  Give us more or we will say bad things about you, Daddy!  Waaaaaahh!  You hate us!

No, kids.  I think it might be you who hates me.  Because you love yourself so much, you have no room for me.  Everything I try to do to prove my love for you just leads to more unbelief, complaining, and rejection.  I have never rejected you.  You have rejected me.

So, you want to cry and complain?  You want to quarrel?  I’ll give you something to cry about.  I’ll give you someone your own size to quarrel with.

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. ~Exodus 17:8

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Esau – the one whom God hated.  Esau – the one who valued temporary comfort over his very own future.  Esau – the rejected one; the hot-tempered antagonist; the one who thought more about a mere bowl of soup than the extravagant blessing of his very own father.  What a fool!

The Amalekites were the descendants of an utter fool.  They were the children of selfishness, impulsiveness, and impatience.  This is who God sends to quarrel with his quarrelsome, spoiled rotten children.  God, through this battle with the rejected ones, teaches his children how to trust him.

Well played, God, well played.

Moses sends Joshua out to choose an army and fight.  Moses, Aaron (his brother), and Hur (his brother-in-law), go up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle.  Moses holds up his wonder-working staff to signify God’s presence and encourage the soldiers.  Joshua is called to fight and Moses is called to pray.  Both are called to minister, help, rescue, defend, and deliver God’s people.  Simply recognizing differences in personality and calling go a long way in the fight against favoritism, superiority, and inferiority structures among God’s people.

These guys only have one problem.  It isn’t that they have an enemy.  It is that their leader is tired.  Moses’ arms are heavy.  He’s been holding the staff up all day.  Every time Moses gets tired, the staff drops and the enemy begins to win the battle.  When the staff is lifted, God’s people win.

“The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still.  We do not find that Joshua’s hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses’s hands were heavy in praying.  The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it.  Praying work, if done with due intenseness of mind and vigor of affection, will be found hard work, and though the spirit be willing, the flesh will be weak.  ~Matthew Henry

God doesn’t leave Moses in this weary state of trying and failing; working and wearying.  Instead, God uses Moses’ brothers to hold up his very arms; to give him rest on a rock.

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. ~Exodus 17:12-13

God held Moses up for the benefit of his people.  God loves his children no matter how bad their behavior becomes.  He often uses the sin and selfishness of those who are not his own in order to discipline and instruct his children on what it really means to trust him.  God doesn’t allow his children to be spoiled, rotten brats.  Sometimes he sends brats who are even more spoiled and even more rotten to confront them; to show them; to draw them back to their desperate need for him.

When there is quarreling and complaining among God’s people, we ought not be surprised when God sends outsiders to come in and quarrel with us.  Though we may, in our flesh, grow weary in well-doing, if we are seeking to serve God and encourage our brothers and sisters, God will send ample support.  He will give us rest.

God longs to be our Jevohah-nissi, “The Lord is my banner.” His very presence is our strength and he wants us to look to Him and trust in Him alone.  He is our warrior who fights for us.  He is our intercessor who prays for us.  No matter how poor and petty our behavior becomes, it never defines us in Our Father’s eyes.  Our identity is found in our citizenship within his family.  He is faithful to send discipline when we are bratty and rest when we are weary.  He is our Jehovah-nissi.  He fights for us and his very presence is our banner, our sword, our wonder-working staff, and our very strength.

“Let ages come to know that God fights for his people and he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.” Matthew Henry

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She searched for three days.  She pillaged through every toy, underneath every seat in the truck, and even in the garage.  Still, her iPad was nowhere in sight.  It wasn’t until three days of rain had passed, the sun emerged, and I submitted to picking up the yard in preparatory duty before mowing that the discovery was made.  Here sister had left her beloved electronic toy in the tree house.  Soaked and soundless, it was quite obvious that this gadget had given up the ghost.

Surprisingly, my seven year-old did not cry.  She didn’t pout or fight or fall on the floor flailing.  It almost seemed as though she was completely unaffected.  Puzzled, but somewhat concerned knowing that this is the same girl who, when she is physically injured holds all emotion inside until she is positively certain no one can see her, I went back out to my yard duties.

Later, when dinner was ready and Daddy entered from work, the mystery of my mini-me was solved.  As her father greeted her, she grinned from ear to ear telling the tale.  She disclosed the item she was holding behind her back, and with unwavering confidence she handed her rain-soaked iPad back to the one who gave it to her.

“Addie left my iPad outside,” she said still smiling like it was the best news in the world, “and I can never use it again!”

Bewildered as any dad might be given the situation he replied, “I guess you can’t play your games anymore then.”

Then the key to her strange behavior was revealed as her eyes moved toward the kitchen.  “But you have another one, Daddy!  You have two other ones!  Maybe I can use that one!” she said as she pointed at the unopened box that had been lying on the counter for the past two months.

Upon changing phone companies we had received a free iPad that no one was using.  She was happy when her old broken screen iPad was left in the rain because she was counting on her daddy’s incredible generosity.  She was was depending on his unbelievable grace.  She was altogether certain of her I-can-melt-your-heart-because-I-know-exactly-who-I-am place in his great big can’t-help-but-give-you-everything heart.

As if pretending that making her wait a week would fool any of us.  We all knew he would give it to her eventually.  We knew because we know him and he’s probably the most generous man we know.  That and having four little girls does not do much for the hearts of even big tough guys who try to pretend they aren’t soft.

She did whisper the occasional, “Mommy, do you think he’ll give me that iPad?”  throughout the waiting week.  I just encouraged her.  I reminded her that Daddy would most definitely do something.  “Don’t you worry.  He will not forget about you,”  I told her.

Oh, to have that kind of hope!  To be that confident and certain of my Father’s goodness!  If I could just get a glimpse of the position I hold in his heart!  Surely I would stop crying when my favorite ideas and plans are left alone and forgotten.  Surely I would stop hurting when what I long for is washed completely away by the waters of loss.  Surely I would understand my place in His heart even when I feel altogether unnecessary in this wide world.  Surely I would stop struggling to be what I already am.  Surely I would stop wondering why I have to wait so long to be used by His perfect power.  Surely I would simply whisper my fearful doubts to my brothers and sisters and trust their reassurance.

I know my heavenly Father and he knows me.  I just wish I could be like my daughter.  I wish I could stand smiling with complete confidence while I wait for glory.

Maybe I am whispering now.

Maybe I just need what Maylee needed during the long week of waiting.  Maybe I just need my brothers and sisters to encourage me.  Maybe I’m asking.  Please.

 I know Daddy is so, so good.  I know how outrageously generous He is.  I know my place in His heart.  I know he had great gifts lying on His shelf that already belong to me.  But like Maylee’s toy, I am often desperately broken.  I often feel very alone and abandoned.  I often do not feel needed or useful and I do not know why.  I feel like I am forever reaching and rarely being reach for.  Thankfully, I do not live by feelings.  I live by the Truth.  So I’m asking.

From one who is real good at looking put together when I’m falling apart, help me.  I need you.  Be my real friend.  Tell me to persevere.  Share your struggles.  Correct me.  Help me hear His voice.  Reassure me with His words.  Encourage me with your joy.  I just want to wait faithfully.

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Runners like to zone out.  Getting in the zone is especially important for difficult or distance running.  As with many sports or intense activities, that place referred to as “the zone” is often the key to success.  It may determine whether you win, lose, or even finish.  An off day can often be chalked up to a lack of focus and inability to stay in the game.

 I always joke and say I’m not allowed to talk to my husband when he drag races.  I have learned to speak as little as possible out of respect for his need to stay completely focused and on task.

Sometimes not being distracted is extremely important – like with drag racing.  Sometimes the distraction itself is extremely important – like with distance running.  When laboring with serious intent, on one hand we need autonomy.  That’s the leave me alone zone.  On the other hand we need a neutral plan of action meant to distract us from the pain and push us to persevere without it feeling like punishment.  We can choose to make this zone a leave me alone zone, too…or we can actually choose to lean on the thoughts, needs, words, or even worries of another to help us finish the task before us.

I competed in the Mt. Summit Challenge Race this past weekend.  Well, participated is probably a better word for me this year.  Anyway, it is a 3.5 mile race straight up the mountain.  It is not the first time I’ve run it by any means and it certainly isn’t the longest or most difficult race I’ve ever run.  But it ranks.  It ranks up there among the races requiring an in the zone mentality.  If you are not all in, you are probably still on the mountain somewhere right now.

I had run up the course four times before the race over the past month or so and I am happy to say I did beat the goal I was striving for.  Though ten minutes slower than previous years, I needed some slack for this I just had another baby year.  So I feel really good about my slow time of 48 minutes.  I did not make it up alone, though.  I didn’t realize my goal without help.  The leave me alone zone only worked until the really hard part.  That’s the part of the race where you’re tired, you drank too much wine and ate too much food last night, your music is played out, you’re almost certain the feeling in your chest is legit heart failure, and you’re still climbing.  I had to find a way to get my mind off the pain or I was soon to be a spectator rather than a participant.  I texted my drag racer because I knew he would be able to speed me up.  “Tell me a funny story” was my plea for help.

He began to tell me about a dirt farmer and a beautiful girl who planted seeds on his dirt.  He told me how they made big messes and how their Master helped them clean up.  And they grew pickles and eggs and omelets and babies.  He sent me a picture of my baby, Sonny, and told me that that “egg” grew sonny side up.  I corrected his grammar and he encouraged me with good words all the way to the finish line.  I found myself laughing during the most difficult part of my race and smiling where I hurt the most.

That was this weekend, though.  Last weekend that dragster needed some encouragement of his own.  Last weekend my husband wrecked his drag car going 170 mph at the drag strip.  The first thing he did after realizing that he was still alive was turn off all the switches to cut the power, unbuckle his five point safety harness, and crawl out the window.  Even after rolling the car several times, taking out at least 50 feet of guard rail, and, by a miracle of God, not getting hurt or losing consciousness in the process, he was still in the zone.  He knew he had to do what he could to keep the car from getting fuel and catching fire and get out as quickly as possible just in case.  Because he is so tuned in to detail, all of his safety equipment worked and the Lord spared his life for his own purpose through those details.

A family from church came and brought us dinner even though he had no injuries.  The wife sat and talked with me about how thankful she was that his life was spared and her husband went and mourned the wreckage of a car he’d been working on since the age of 15 – a car his father gave him.  Another man from church brought Tylenol, cookies, and ice cream for the kids.  The pastor asked how he was several times throughout the week and talked with him about what it might mean in the grand scheme.

A friend told me just the other day that the gym is her church.  I know why without her saying it.  The people there love her, encourage her, teach her, and help her.  That is what feels most like family, especially to those who have no family.

 When I file these realities next to what we’ve been discussing in church about questions like, “Why should we even go to church?” and “Why not stay at home and be a lone Christian?”  I find the answer is crystal clear.  It is not that we cannot make it though life alone.  It is not even that we cannot be a Christian alone.  We can and we can.  What we cannot do is smile and laugh through the pain that life inevitably brings to each and every one of us.  Without encouragement, togetherness, help, and, yes, others whose main task from the Master is to cheer for us and we for they, life does not work as well.  The one-anothering theme is unmitigated throughout the entire New Testament and the focus on doing life in community is littered through the entire Bible.

Getting out of the leave me alone zone is crucial for Christian people.  Whether it is sharing our struggles, confessing our sins, or inviting others into our every day lives, we need one another.  This is how we glory God.  We must learn to encourage as well as or better than the world does with its own.  When the “family” that the gym has created among its members looks, feels, and sometimes even proves more attractive than the church family, we are missing the mark.  If you are a Christian, get out of the leave me alone zone.  Go to church.  Get involved.  Invest in others’ lives.  Serve them.  Listen to them.  Encourage them.  Love them.  Tell them a silly story when they hurt.  Remind them you are glad that they are alive.  Bring Tylenol and cookies.  Ask how they are and contemplate the possibility of intergalactic purpose.

Life is an intense activity.  Get in the zone and run with endurance the race the Master has marked out for you.

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I received a call recently from a lady who had looked my number up in the phone book. She told me she reads my articles in the Herald-Standard and she felt that the Lord wanted her to share her devotional reading with me because she thought it was for me. I was amazed both that she went out of her way to encourage a stranger and that people still use phone books. But this is not the first time someone has looked me up and called to encourage me.  People stop me in Walmart and tell me they recognize me from reading my articles.  I’ve received cards in the mail, too.  It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it is always so refreshing to see people going out of their way to be a blessing to someone they don’t even know.

It got me to thinking about how little we do this.  I am wondering why.  Is encouraging others really a difficult thing to do?  I do not believe it is.  The difficulty lies in getting our focus off of ourselves, our needs, our work, our desires, our busyness, and placing it on the needs, work, and desires of others.

I used to know a man who would actually tell people they were doing a good job consistently.  He would tell the server at the restaurant, “You’re doing a great job! Thank you!”  He would tell the choir, “Your voices sound beautiful together!”  He would make frequent encouraging comments to almost every person he came into contact with.  He always tried to make peoples’ day a little brighter.

Do I do that?  I know all too well how it feels to be discouraged.  I am no stranger to plugging along with nary a nice word from anyone – or worse – not nice words.  I want to be an encourager.  I try to be an encouragement to those around me.  If you ask my daughters, though, they may tell you a different story.  It might go something like this:

“Mom never likes anything.  She says, ‘Good job,’ then tells me five ways to work on my so-called ‘good’ job.  Just when I think I’m done and that I did really great, she sends me back to work again.”

I want my kids -and anyone whose life I have the privilege to speak into – to be the very best that they can.  I encourage their efforts, but often I also critique them. It is not to make them feel small, but to make them great.  I already see the greatness in them.  It simply needs pruned and shaped.  Therefore, words of encouragement often walk hand in hand with words of correction in my household.  Both are out of nothing but love. I have to remind myself, sometimes, that things do not necessarily always need to be perfect, though.  They are children.  Just the fact that they had an idea, took initiative to carry it out, and pursued it to completion should be more than enough to warrant words of affirmation with no strings attached.  And sometimes it isn’t a perfect job, but an imperfect one that needs the very most encouragement.

When my kids are trying really hard and just cannot seem to “get it.”  When they seem frustrated, tired, or exasperated, these are the times when I must be keen to give genuine encouragement without criticizing their attempts to succeed.

All of this takes discernment and wisdom.  It takes a heart that is purposeful and other-centered.  When I am wrapped up in my own agendas, I do not even notice what those around me are working towards and trying hard to accomplish.

We are all children.  We are God’s children.  As brothers and sisters, we must find creative ways to support one another.  Whether it is gentle constructive criticism, giving positive feedback on a frustrating job, or simply taking notice of the good work and goals of others, the Bible instructs us to offer encouragement and help to one another in every way we can.

  To that end I wanted to thank the lady who took time out of her day to encourage me – a perfect stranger.  It really means a lot to me when I receive encouragement. It inspires me to do better and to encourage other people.  Therefore, I  wanted to encourage you to go and do the same.  Find someone and build them up as best you can.

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