Why We All Need a Little Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 5-11

When I was in third grade, my teacher got sick. Really sick. In fact, she got cancer and left the classroom. In our little eight-year-old minds, my classmates and I wondered if she got sick because we were horribly bad kids. So we behaved like little angels for the string of substitute teachers that passed through our lives. Finally a new permanent teacher came along–Miss Marquardt.

Little did I know that not only would Miss Marquardt get me through the rest of third grade–she would get me through the next few decades of my life. She was the kind of person that could see potential in someone else. She would name that potential, nurture it, water it, and help it grow.

Miss Marquardt saw musical potential in me. I’m not sure how she was able to spot it in my halting performances, but she did. Long after third grade she continued to encourage me by listening to me play the piano, giving me organ books, signing me up for an organ competition, and even driving me to the event.I think her belief in me was one of the reasons I persevered long enough to get a music degree.

WhyWeNeedEncouragementNot long ago I was talking with a fellow writer who is working on her doctorate. Her dissertation is studying the perseverance it takes to complete a Masters degree. Her research led her to look at women who pursue advanced degrees in math or science, because these areas are not traditionally female. It turned out that the women who were able to complete degrees in math or science all had at least one person who cheered them on. Maybe it was a parent. Maybe a spouse. Maybe a friend.

They had someone who saw their potential.

They had someone who nurtured the seed of their abilities.

They had someone who believed in them.

We all need someone like that in our lives. Who in your family, in your workplace, in your church looks like they need a little encouragement?

It is our job as a member of the body of Christ to give that encouragement.

Notice potential. Name it, nurture it, and watch it grow.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Next step: Name one person in your life who needs some encouragement right now. Call them up. Or hit send on an uplifting email. Or put a note in the mailbox telling them you believe in them.

Bless These LipsFor more information on encouraging others and influencing your world with your words, check out my book: Bless These Lips.

 

Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thess 5-17

“Pray without ceasing.”

 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I don’t know about you, but I have always struggled with the apostle Paul’s command to pray continually. It always seemed like an impossible request. How could I possibly pray without ceasing?

Then a few years ago, when I was worried about a situation in my life, I thought of how that concern was on my mind all the time. I didn’t simply think about the problem once in the morning and once before I went to bed. It was continually weighing on my mind. Then I thought: What if I turned every worry into a prayer? I would be praying without ceasing! (Well, almost anyway.)

Awhile ago I read Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst where she talks about her struggles with healthy eating. Lysa used a similar prayer tactic: Whenever she had a yen for foods that she had eliminated from her diet, she talked to God about the craving instead of giving in.

We can also use this tactic with our words. Use ordinary events in your day as reminders to pray.

Before our husbands come home from work, let’s pray that our words will build them up.

Before we meet a friend for coffee, let’s ask God to guide our conversations.

Before our kids come home from school, let’s pray for listening ears and loving hearts.

Use times of everyday conversation to trigger a prayer for lips that bless the people in your life. It will be a step toward more conversations with God and better conversations with the people you love.

Question: How do practice prayer without ceasing?

Five Creative Ways to Encourage Someone

Back when my kids were young and parenting was a full-time job, when work was not finished when we arrived home from the office, and a full night’s sleep was an illusive dream, I noticed that my husband was looking a little fatigued. A bit weary. A tad defeated.

So I said to my children, “Let’s do something special for Daddy. Let’s give him a party!” They were at the age where they got excited about any kind of party, even a play tea party with the teddy bears, so they quickly got on board. Even though it wasn’t anywhere near my husband’s birthday or Father’s day, we made him his favorite meal, set the table in the dining room, and made some big banners that said, “We love you Daddy!”

The look on John’s face when he came home that night was worth all of our extra effort. His sagging shoulders lifted just a bit and the tiredness in his face dissolved into a smile. The surprise of a dinner in his honor on an ordinary Friday helped to encourage him and let him know we appreciated all of his efforts to support the family.

I was reminded of this little party when I recently read Hebrews 10:24 in The Message:

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.

I have read this verse in other translations like the English Standard Version:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

But I liked the idea of being inventive when we are encouraging others.

Mind you, I’m not all that creative when it comes to encouragement. Sadly, the surprise party of my husband was the only example I could come up with for my own inventive efforts. So I did a little research to come up with a few more ideas besides my own.

  1. Give someone a party for no reason in particular. Like the celebration of Dad that my children helped me to pull off, doing something special for someone when it isn’t expected is especially meaningful.
  2. Give an anonymous gift. Secretly sending a card or gift to someone you know could use a lift can make a huge difference in their life.
  3. Give a book or CD that has blessed you. Obviously, don’t give a diet book or financial self-help book, but one that offers hope on every page. My friend, Linda, gave me the book Jesus Calling last year and in this way has been encouraging me every day.
  4. Run an errand for them. Before my husband heads out to the hardware store or Walmart, he always asks if I need anything. It’s a simple idea that could be expanded to the new mom down the block, the senior citizen you know from church, the friend who is struggling with the blues. Taking a couple of extra minutes to drop off a needed item for someone else could be a simple way to show support.
  5. Find out the other person’s love language. Make your creativity really pay off by matching it with what makes the other person feel special. Does he like gifts? Find something related to his hobby. Quality time? Take her out to lunch. Physical touch? Give a back rub or send a gift card for a massage. Do a little investigating and your encouragement will hit the mark.

Encouragement is fuel for our souls.

It’s what we all need to continue to fulfill our responsibilities and chase our dreams.

Frankly, some days it’s what we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging each other.

Question: What is the most creative way someone has encouraged you?

 

Finding Purpose in the Wait

Psalm 2714

Elizabeth had a long wait.

The Bible tells us that the mother of John the Baptist was “advanced in years” when she gave birth to him.

Elizabeth waited a long time to be a mother. She probably questioned her purpose in life from time to time. But when she received the mission of bringing the forerunner of the Savior into the world, she was also given the task to mentor and encourage the mother of the Messiah.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Don’t you love it? God knew that Mary would need someone to encourage her and help her on this new journey. So He provided Elizabeth.

And if you think about it–Elizabeth was the perfect person to encourage Mary.

  • Elizabeth lived away from Nazareth. Commentators speculate that Elizabeth lived in Hebron—which was about 80 miles from Nazareth—a four-day journey for Mary. It was a bit of a trek, but far enough away from the prying eyes of neighbors.
  • Elizabeth was pregnant. Elizabeth and Mary could commiserate over morning sickness and swollen ankles. Mary didn’t have “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” It was helpful to have someone share what was ahead in this exciting new experience.
  • Elizabeth was experiencing her own miracle. She wouldn’t laugh in disbelief at Mary’s preposterous story about an angel and a miracle birth because her husband had also had a visit with an angel. Elizabeth was pregnant even though humanly speaking it was impossible.
  • Elizabeth knew the sting of reproach even though she had done nothing wrong. She was upright in the sight of God, but the first thing she does when she finds out she is with child is thank God for taking away her disgrace among the people. She would be able to give Mary advice on how to deal with the gossip and criticism that were sure to come.

Think about it. If God had answered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer for a baby sooner, she would not have fulfilled the role of Mary’s mentor so perfectly. Sure, she could have given birth to John the Baptist when she was twenty—but that would not have been as miraculous as having a baby at fifty or sixty. Perhaps she would have doubted Mary’s tale of an angel and a virgin pregnancy. She would not have had experience with the neighborhood gossip mill.

Our own experiences of waiting can connect us to other people going through similar situations. Just like Elizabeth and Mary, we can become connected in the waiting. We can use what we learned in our waiting times to encourage those who are traveling a similar path.

Wherever you are in life, remember that everything you are going through right now matters. All the waiting that Elizabeth went through prepared her for her most important role. All the years of waiting for an answered prayer drew her closer to God.

While we may never grow to like it—waiting serves a purpose. We can grow closer to Him when we expect God to accomplish something bigger than we can imagine. And we can connect to others by using the wait as a course in encouragement.

Question: How can you use what you have learned in waiting times to encourage others?

 

 

Let Everything You Say…

power of our words

Tall. Awkward. Gangly. Those are the words that described me as a young teen.

Sixth grade was the year I grew six inches and it took awhile for my coordination and grace to catch up to my height. I hated sticking out among my classmates. I hated being taller than most of the boys. I thought no one would ever like me.

That’s when the words from one of my mother’s friends gave me hope.

This woman was also tall–and beautiful. She told me she had also hated being tall when she was in junior high. But when she got to college her height landed her a couple of modeling jobs. She told me not to worry–being tall could be a good thing.

Those few words helped stop hating the way God made me.

Our words have power.

Nathaniel Hawthorne said:

nathaniel hawthorne quote

During February–the month of love–I want to encourage you to realize the potency of your words. Our words can tear down a friend’s confidence, destroy a husband’s courage, or ruin a child’s dream. But what comes out of our mouth can also build up faith, fan the flames of a lofty ambition, and comfort a hurting heart.

So every day this month I urge you to share a word of love and encouragement. Give the gift of loving words to your husband. Share a word of hope with your family members.

But don’t stop there. Tell your pastor and sisters in Christ how much they build up your faith. Give a word of hope to the person you know won’t get a Valentine this year. Look for the one person who desperately needs a word of comfort. Give it freely without expecting anything in return.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:20 NLT

 

Six Ways to Wrap Up the Gift of Your Words

 

 Are you having trouble finding the right gifts this Christmas?

 Usually there is one person on the gift list who is impossible to buy for. For me it was my father. One Christmas I asked my mother what Dad might like for Christmas. She thought a minute and replied that he could probably use some new flannel shirts–the ones that he was wearing around the house were really old and ratty. So I headed down to Sears bought a couple of warm, cozy flannel shirts and wrapped them up. When Christmas Eve arrived, I handed him the box. He opened it and said, “Why do I need these? I have a whole drawer of new flannel shirts at home!”

So the next Christmas I asked my dad what he would like for a gift. He replied, “All I want is a nice card.”

I thought: How boring!

But I decided to honor his wishes and (among a couple of other small gifts) I made sure that I gave my dad a card that expressed my thankfulness for his support through the years. On the front of the card I included a picture of the two of us from years ago. He loved it.

As I thought about that present I was reminded that our words can be a meaningful gift at Christmas.

“But,” you say, “I want to give a gift that they can open on Christmas morning.”

I did a little brain-storming and web-research and came up with some ideas for creating meaningful gifts with your words.

Give a Journal

Buy a beautiful journal. Inside the first few pages write a letter to the recipient describing what he means to you.

Present a Bowl

Buy a lovely bowl. Fill it with slips of paper that each tell why you think that person is awesome. Tell them to read one each day for the next month.

Give a Jar of Encouragement

Perhaps you know someone who is going through a tough time. Look up encouraging quotes and Bible verses and print or write them on small pieces of paper. Put the papers in the jar. Label the jar: Take one when you need a lift.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Make a little video telling the other person why he or she is so special. Put it on a DVD or email it to them.

Ribbon and Scroll

Write your letter of appreciation on a scroll. Tie it up with a pretty ribbon and wrap it in a beautiful box.

Word Cloud

Make a word cloud on WordItOut or Wordle using the name of the person you want to honor and adjectives that describe them. Here’s one I created for my son, Nathaniel. This word cloud could then be printed on paper and framed or put on a mug or t-shirt.

 

 

Our words can be a creative and meaningful gift. All those years ago, my father loved the simple card I made much more than any flannel shirt. Give the gift of appreciation. A gift that will be cherished for years to come.

 Question: How have you given the gift of your words?