Three Important Truths about Encouragement

Good Morning!  Hope you had a refreshing weekend soaking up God’s goodness.  This is what greeted me this morning as I started to write.

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Now don’t you wish you lived in Minnesota (or woke up earlier :))? 

Since it’s summer and we have lots of new readers to the blog, (and, let’s be honest…I’m ready for a writing break), I thought I’d share a post from a couple of years ago.  Hope it’s helpful to you. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Last weekend John and I preached together on the topic of Encouragement from the book of Acts.

AARRGGHH!  When we do this he is exceedingly kind and because I’m a planner and he’s a “fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants” guy which freaks me out, he lets me study and write the sermon and then he just naturally does his thing, which is always authentic and conversational and makes everything better.

Anyway, I’ve always thought about encouragement as a good thing, a nice thing…

But as I studied it in the book of Acts I began to see it as a crucial tool that God uses to combat Satan in a spiritual battle that is continually raging.  I fear that sounds all hokey/pokey intense and mystical, but think about it…

Satan’s goal is to get us to believe the lies that

we don’t matter,

that God is powerless,

and that we’re all alone.

When we encourage, we remind others of God’s truth – that they do matter, it’s gonna be ok, and they’re not alone.

You can listen, or get more resources here, but what I’ve been thinking about is three things we didn’t say.

1.  Discouragement is personal. Not only does Satan lie to discourage, but he is also crafty liar.  He tailors his whispers to each of us uniquely.  His attacks usually center around our identity.  So if we’re tempted to find our worth in being married, he’ll whisper “You’re not lovable.  You’re not attractive to anyone.”  If we’re tempted to find our worth in accomplishment he may whisper “You’re only a mom, or a secretary, or a barista, or a whatever…  You’re not making a difference.  You’re not good enough.”

Be aware.

2.  Encouragement is personal. The most powerful encouragement is very specific.  When someone says, “Nice sermon.” I tend to discount it as just polite small talk.  It’s like the difference between “You’re terrific!” and “You have a gift of hospitality that helps people experience the welcoming heart of God.  Thank you.”

Be specific.

3.  Timing is personal.  Never underestimate the power of encouragement used in a timely way by God.  Years ago I “randomly” felt prompted to write a guy in another part of the country who had been a mentor in leadership training for me in college.  I hadn’t had contact with him in 20 years.  I wrote of the impact his modeling had made in my life, specifically how his investment had made a kingdom difference.  Little did I know that this was a divinely timed prompting from the Holy Spirit.

I received a response from him saying “Your note came at the absolute lowest point in my life.  I had lost perspective.  I was in despair, convinced that my ministry hadn’t made any difference, that I had sacrificed for years with no fruit.  Your note was the reminder from God that I needed.”  Wow.  Blew me away!

Be responsive to promptings.

In what situations are you likely to be discouraged?  What has been most encouraging to you?

Finding Your Own Walk

In the summertime I feel like a thirsty person at the end of a long run, standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant, mouth open wide to receive big gulps of sparkling, cold water as fast as I can.  In Minnesota summer is short, so we have to drink quickly!  It’s the DELIGHTFUL season of barefoot and bike rides, corn-on-the-cob and birdsong, pink sunrises and living large outdoors. All of the time.

A friend went strawberry picking and made shortcake for our small group.  Another divided his Hosta to share with me (my yard bunny thanks him 😦 ).  I got fresh vegetables at the Farmer’s Market Saturday.  Today I’ll celebrate a friend’s birthday lunch outside on the lake.  A baby robin, Roberto, rescued from our window well, has become like a member of our family.

Summer, you are so good.

This past week I had the added gift of getting away to a retreat home in Virginia – tucked in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghany mountains.  It is a place that has been built with love and prayer and attention to every detail.IMG_7524

I wanted to share some excerpts from a poem, written by our host, Anne Grizzle, in hopes that you might find your own walk with God this summer and “join in the applause”. Continue reading

How do You Carry a Tree?

Fourteen years ago we took our daughters to Africa for the first time.  We spent a month there on a sabbatical.  One day we saw a woman walking down the road with a tree balanced on her head.

Yep, you read that right.  A whole tree.

You see people balancing a lot of unusual things on their heads (or on their bikes) in Africa, but this was the first and last time we saw a tree. (apparently it’s not THAT rare cuz I was able to Google this picture!)

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That night, our daughter, Maggie, walked into our room, carefully balancing a book on her head.

“I’m working up to a tree.” she said.

Since then, Maggie’s “tree” has been a dream of helping underprivileged girls and women around the world to be healthy and happy and to carry their own dreams. Continue reading

When We Can’t See the Angel Armies

I know this is a long post, and it’s still just a tiny bit on a hard topic. I’m posting it because I know many people are facing really hard battles. If you want to listen to the whole message, it’s here.

This past weekend I got to preach at our church.  It is a privilege and a blast for me, but it is also very humbling when you’re preaching the weekend after the 4th of July to a handful of the faithful, and the old guy in the front row is asleep before you even start speaking. Too much celebrating with root beer floats?

Anyway, I got to preach on a passage I love – 2 Kings 6:8-23. The Israelites are being attacked by the enemy Arameans.  Map-Aram attacking

Elisha’s servant is afraid and here’s what happens:

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyesLord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.elisha-army

It’s a story about Elisha, his servant, and trying to see God in hard circumstances.  I love this passage because it highlights the challenge of the with-God life: to pay attention and recognize His presence and power with us in the everyday situations and the dramatic moments. Continue reading

“I have a certain set of skills”

Along with Liam Neeson in Taken, I can say, “I have a certain set of skills.”  Unfortunately, anything technological is not included in that set of skills.

I am proud of myself for facing my fears and incompetency in this area and persevering in figuring out stuff, but it’s an uphill climb!  All that to say, I’ve been trying to publish a post with a survey included, and the tech gremlins have been conspiring to undermine my efforts.

I published the post yesterday, but somehow it didn’t go out to subscribers.  Soooo, let’s try this.  Please click hereTen Questions that Will Change Your Life , take the survey, and then pray that for the love of sweet baby Jesus I don’t smash my computer.

Thanks for your patience!

Laura

10 Questions That Will Change Your Life

photo 2Ok, maybe that title might be a tad of an over-statement, but I really wanted to get your attention.  I started this blog 2 1/2 years ago with the goal of helping people pay attention to the relationships, experiences, and practices God uses to form us.

One of my goals this year is to improve.  To write more engaging, relevant, valuable posts that will make you smile or ponder or respond.  Well, that kind of thing is a little hard to measure!  One thing that would be SUPER helpful is if you would take a second (ok, maybe 2 minutes) to fill out this survey for me.

I asked John if I should include an incentive (like free money) to get more of you to respond, but he pointed out that I have no money, so I’m just banking on your good will and desire to help me get better. 🙂  My goal is to get over 300 responses.  Pleeeeease take 2 minutes right now and help a sister out.

Click here > 10 Questions Survey

 

About Ellen and Giant Space Acorns and Choosing Life

It’s One Word Friday!  How’s it been going for you?  Has your word changed your life or do you have a hard time remembering what it is?  Here are some of my recent thoughts on Choose Life.

Text message convo with daughter Maggie…

Me: Guess who I just ran into at the pool??!!!

Maggie: Ellen???!!

Me: Close, but no.  Not this time.

Maggie and I love Ellen (Degeneres) and are pretty sure she wants to meet us and be best friends.  We also made it to the finals auditioning for the Amazing Race as a team.                        And we’ve visited the giant space acorn (which is probably on your bucket list too).

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All that to say, we set our sites pretty high.  No halfway stuff for us.

I figure, in John 10:10 Jesus didn’t say, “I have come so that your life might be kind of okay.”

Then the other day I was having a conversation with my husband (small caveat: it may have been 6 am and he may still have been half-asleep when we had this conversation).

Me: Honey, Light of my Life, what are some exciting things you’d like to do in the next 10 years?

Husband: “Road trips.  Like up the coast of Oregon and Washington State.”

Me: Road trips???!!  NOOOOOOO!  Wrong answer!  (You think you know a person!)

Husband:  What are some exciting things YOU’D like to do in the next 10 years?

Me: Hike Machu Pichu, teach with you in Africa, hang glide in Switzerland, are the first things that come to mind.

Husband:  Well, whatever you die of it won’t be boredom.

True, but as I look back over my “high expectations” I think, how many of them are eternal?  How many of them reaaaaallly matter?

When we “choose Life” we’re choosing to live into all of God’s abundance, but He also warns us about investing in what won’t last.  And then there’s that whole annoying thing about losing our life in order to gain it.  And the reminder to “live a life worthy of our calling.”

I love it when choosing life includes my passport, or chocolate, or doing anything outside preferably with really exciting people.  But what about when choosing life means choosing inconvenience or grace, or discipline or service?

When I’m not sure, this reminder helps:

Choosing life will always be consistent with choosing love.

Choose life = Choose love.

So today I’m thinking about the “Life” I’m choosing.   What about you?  How’s it going?

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Brave Knights, and a Trustworthy King (for young parents)

Not infrequently, husband John and I will be part of conversations with our daughters like the following one.  It’s about Maggie’s summer internship in Northern Uganda where the Lord’s Resistance Army has forced children to be soldiers.  She’ll be working with those who have been brutalized but have escaped…
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The other day after he read this husband John asked me (rhetorically), “How does this keep HAPPENING??!”

Others also ask us this too (although it sounds more like: “How did you raise your daughters?”)  The primary answer is: “With a LOT of mistakes and loads of God’s GRACE.”

Both our daughters, and we, will continue to mess up as we try to follow Jesus, but we also trust that God will pick us up when we stumble,  Here’s what we tried to teach them as they were growing up… Continue reading

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Want to Hide

I’ve titled this series “When Mistakes Have Been Made”, but I’m thinking that may minimize what we’re talking about and what many of us experience.  Maybe the title should be something more like “When you’ve messed up messier than Lindsay Lohan.” or “When your sin seems like a toxic waste dump”.

The problem is most people are doing the best they can.  They’re trying really hard to do the right thing.

Sometimes as a leader you make an error in judgement that hurts many like friendly fire.  Other times you feel like you’re walking through a land mine of personal sin. But you long to do better.

Whether it’s your personal choices, or identifying with a community that has behaved badly, sometimes you just want to hide. I’ve written about silence and lament, but clearly there’s more.

When I make mistakes I think I want to hide, but I realize I really want something else.

This is a note I framed that Katy wrote when she was about 4 or 5 years old.

IMG_3323 In case you can’t decipher it it says,

“Do not come in! P.S. I will be under the covers.”

In other words, I’m hiding, but I really want to be found. I want you to find me and love me no matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up. 

Isn’t there a part of all of us that feels that way? A desire to be known. Found. Accepted no matter how big the mistake. No matter how “not good enough” we feel.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should hang another picture underneath this note.

picture of the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman trying to hide in plain sight, going to the well in the middle of the day – like an obese person shopping at Walmart at midnight – so she wouldn’t be shamed by critics.

It struck me recently when I was teaching on this passage… What is it that she runs back and tells everyone after her encounter with Jesus? What impacted her the most? “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” (John 4:29 MSG). He saw her and He still accepted her. She mattered to Jesus.

Just a reminder. In case you’re feeling like you’re under the covers and no one knows, you’re wrong. God knows. He sees. He loves you. No matter how “not good enough” you are.

 

6 Sentences Jesus Followers Need to Learn to Say in the Midst of Controversy

It’s an unusually cool morning in Florida and the wind is blowing.  As I rode my bike to Starbucks I thought of one day when Katy was little and came in from outside.  She said, “Mommy, the wind struggles me!”

Yep, Katester, the wind has been struggling us this week.  Winds of uncertainty and criticism and emotion and drama all stirred up out of a desire to serve God well and make wise choices that honor Him in a complex world.

Wind-struggling weeks (that we all have) are made more difficult when the decisions we’re making are public and impact thousands of people, like the one the World Vision Board announced this week. The stakes go up and it seems that no one wants to let any critical thought go un-tweeted or un-commented or un-updated.  Even the headline of a balanced article is mis-leading and inflammatory.

We, as Jesus followers, love (I love!) black and white.  We love clear-cut, “thus sayeth the Lord”, and “Bam! Take that you spawn of Satan!”  Ok, maybe not the last, but some responses feel that way – gleeful in their self-righteous put-downs.  And is this what Jesus desires of someone following Him?

This morning Michael Hyatt had an excellent post on 5 difficult sentences leaders need to learn to say.  It made me think that there are several sentences we Jesus-followers need to learn to say in the midst of controversial conversations (what the Bible calls “disputable matters”). Continue reading