The Familiarity of Foreign

unnamedI regularly write for a website that posts daily devotions. There is a team of us who write each month to share the responsibility and provide a diversity of voices. While the site is written in English, it is equipped with translation capability, so people around the world can read it. After this month’s post, the site admin sent me the following message she received about it:

Bonjour à Qui de droit  !

Merci pour  ce texte qui parle de lui-même ! J”ai beaucoup aimé   Tes écrits ….Gloire à Dieu ..Il est important de s”humilier

et de faire “comme Jésus a fait pour Nous ” !  Alléluia !
Merci d”exister !!!!!!!!!!
I don’t speak French. I have just enough experience with a variety of languages to (very) loosely translate.
It’s always fun to get encouraging feedback.
There’s an added “cool” factor when that feedback is in another language.
But I hope encouragement is never foreign. If it is, we can’t relate to or receive it. We have to find some commonality to find meaning in it. And in that way, the foreign becomes the familiar.
Perhaps it’s not always as familiar or as comfortable as our native tongue. Maybe we encounter people or situations that seem to pull the comfortable rug from under us. But isn’t that part of the joy and adventure, being able to consider what is outside of ourselves?
Let’s celebrate differences, not just for differences’ sake but for the pursuit of connection and unity in the midst of it. We don’t have to be uniform. There will always be enough to divide us. May we determine to see beyond the barriers and reach out with a hand, a hug, or a simple smile.

Community Encouragement

4578cd815ff7c7285250863a1e23cae9.jpgTherefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

How does encouraging others help them?

How does encouraging others help you?

What have you been building through this season of life, or rather, what has God been building?

We often think of encouragement as a personal thing. We send an encouraging note or someone says just the right words when we need to hear them. We think of encouragement as a moment or action, but it’s so much more.

Encouragement can become a habit, a characteristic, not just personally but in a relationship or across a community. Encouragement isn’t an individual task or accomplishment. It is intended to be given and received. Encouragement is shared. It builds community, and it can characterize a community. It’s how we build one another up. With each encouragement, we place one brick on top of another and build a bridge across which we can reach each other and take journeys into new adventures.

Encouragement reaches out to others, whether we are giving or receiving. It opens our hands and hearts. And it’s not always a pat on the back that makes us feel good. Encouragement is also challenging. It’s a dose of courage that speaks the truth in love. It can never be ill-intended or dishonest but it is also never overly sweet and sappy. It is authentic. It is equipping. It is inspiring, and it always spurs change and growth.

Pay attention today and share encouragement as often as you can. Sometimes encouragement happens with a moment, and sometimes it’s an investment over time. Either way, you can be characterized by it. Discern what you are supposed to say and do to whom and when. God will guide you. Refuse to take matters into your own hands, but don’t drag your feet and declare God isn’t encouraging you to encourage others. He always does!

The Wrong Encouragement

b9d68234cca56c554cc9bd3c17745ebdThey encourage each other in an evil plan; they talk about hiding traps and say, “Who will see them?” (Psalm 64:5)

Encouragement can be helpful or hurtful, constructive or destructive. It gives people courage to do something, even if that something isn’t positive.

What kinds of encouragement are you giving others?

What kinds of encouragement are you inviting and allowing others to give you?

Hurry Up!

Stressed business man rushing in the officeSo he gathered the priests and Levites and said, “Go out to the cities of Judah and collect money from all Israel to repair the temple of your God as needed year by year, and do it quickly.” However, the Levites did not hurry. (2 Chronicles 24:5)

Sometimes people aren’t in the hurry we wish they were. We see urgency, and we think we convey it with passion so that they’ll catch on, but they don’t.

The opposite happens, too. People move faster than we want, even though we might warn them of the dangers of hurrying and the benefits of patience.

Not that we are always right, but when we believe we’re getting clear instruction from God, we want to follow Him well and want to encourage others to do the same.

Let’s be careful. Let’s set a good example of following God well, but let’s remember that everyone is accountable to God, and He moves in different lives in different ways and timing. We can trust Him. We’re not in control, and that’s a good thing.

A Friend’s Encouragement is Irreplaceable

ShanSignCollageI cancelled my annual writing retreat because my dad died. I missed being with my writing friends in our rented Branson home, but I obviously needed to be with my family. After several weeks, I started thinking about the missed retreat and, primarily, looming writing goals and the need to get away and reflect, heal, and grieve. I contacted a friend who lives several states away, and she and her husband graciously opened up their home. It was a win-win. By weekday, I’d have the house to myself (and an adorable dog) to finish Pure Submission. By evening and weekend, I’d get to hang out with two amazing friends.

On the kitchen counter was a framed sign with a simple sentence starter: “I love you because…” along with a dry-erase marker. A couple days into my trip, I walked into the kitchen when everyone had gone to work, and I saw a personalized note of encouragement. A couple days later, I erased my friend’s encouraging note and wrote a note for her; the following day, she erased part of my message and finished it with her own encouragement. She continued to write notes of encouragement to me.

They were priceless. They motivated me, gave me a sense of focus and determination, made me comfortable, and assured me I could continue writing…and healing.

Never underestimate the impact your simple words of encouragement can have on someone. Both my friend and I would probably agree that we each get the best deal in our friendship. We both feel we receive more than we give. The truth is we both give what we can with generous hearts and loving kindness. And that nearly always results in irreplaceable encouragement.

Try to give some today.

Do You Need Encouragement Today?

traditional-front-doorsYou are not your cancer or any other disease. You are not your mental illness or your career or your awards.

Your diagnosis doesn’t determine you.

Your cause of death doesn’t determine you.

Your purpose in life and faith through life does.

GOD DOES.

How are you living today? What are you choosing today? Regardless of how this life ends, you still have a choice. Choose honorably, faithfully, truthfully, humbly, and boldly.

We Need More Truthful Greeting Cards

I looked through the “wide selection” of greeting cards in the hospital gift shop and couldn’t find the right card.

I’m a card person. I’m always on the lookout, because there are a couple people I regularly send cards for encouragement and a lot more I send cards from time to time. I like to look at greeting cards pretty much anytime I find a collection so I can keep some on hand. If I’m not regularly looking, I end up seeing the same cards again and again, so I like to try to access different brands.

Lately, I’ve particularly needed cards for encouragement through health issues. I usually look in the sections titled Encouragement, Thinking of You, and Get Well Soon. But so many say “get well soon” when that’s not really what I need to say. I’m not even sure if someone will get well, and if they do, it certainly won’t be soon. I’m not being pessimistic. It’s reality. Sure, anything can happen, but a cheesy get well card, no matter how heartfelt, just doesn’t seem appropriate when someone is dealing with a frustrating, exhausting, chronic, and likely terminal (whether that’s tomorrow or a year from now) disease. Yes, there is a Terminal Illness selection of cards sometimes, but I find most of those more depressing than the cheesy get well cards!

We need a Sobering Truth section of cards. Instead of putting a bandage or happy face sticker on something, we need to reflect reality. We need to encourage people to laugh, or challenge people toward a comprehensive heart check, or extend an invitation to cry. We need to allow people to process what’s going on in their lives and remind them we’re walking through the muck with them, or at least, we’re available as best we know how. We don’t have all the answers, but we have Hope. We don’t understand, but we can listen. We don’t need to throw a pity party but neither do we need to refuse to allow people to feel sorry for themselves for a moment.

I often end up editing greeting cards and almost always write a note to personalize the message. After all, the relationship is way more important than the folded piece of cardstock. So, maybe we don’t need more truthful greeting cards after all. Perhaps we just need to be more willing to seek, speak, and invite Truth into our relationships and the healing process.