How to Make a Difference Today

I’ve been a little “off” lately.  A bit of a cranky pants.  And as I examined why, the thing that I noticed was that I’ve really been neglecting the soul rhythm of time in God’s Word.  So this morning I started on a new Bible reading plan, breathing in Genesis 1.

And two things clicked together – God’s words for me, and words for others

First, when I read… I read, pray, & meditate (RPM).  Actually it’s not usually in that order, but RPM is catchy :).

I read the passage and meditate on it.  And what I mean by meditate is that I try to pay attention to verses God quickens my spirit to, and specifically I ask “What does this passage teach me about God and about myself?”

Then I pray the passage into my life.

Here’s what I breathed in from Genesis 1:

  • God is powerful.
  • His Word is powerful. It makes a difference.
  • Words are powerful.
  • God’s words call out life and beauty.
  • I am made in HIs image.

So…then I pray about reflecting God’s image.  How can I call out life and beauty today?

Second, I received the Best. Note. Ever. from our daughter, Katy.  It was another reminder to me of the power of our words to call forth life and beauty in others.

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As our communications guru friend reminds us, “Words Matter!”

Katy’s note was a tangible example of someone reflecting the image of God – making a difference with her words.

This practice of note writing has been a powerful one for me.

Years ago I felt prompted to write a mentor from college who I had been out of touch with.  I thanked him for his influence in my life, growing me to be a leader more like Jesus.  He wrote back that my note had come at the lowest day of his life, where personal challenges had tempted him to believe maybe nothing he had done in ministry had really mattered.   That little note I wrote at that exact time made a difference.  God used it, and God can use your words too.

I try to reflect each morning on different people, conversations, experiences…Is there something I’ve noticed, or some conversation where someone else was affirmed and I haven’t told them?  And I’m reminded of this sign at the airport:

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Here are a few of thingsI’m learning:

  • Emails are ok, but there’s something special about receiving a “real” card with someone’s personal penmanship that you can save.
  • Being super specific is the key to a life-giving note.  There’s a huge difference between “I really appreciate you.” and “The way you welcomed me with a hug and a smile the other day made me feel so loved. It was such a reminder of God’s care for me.”
  • What’s not turned to praise is turned to pride.  We’re all in this together.  We’re dependent on God and His gifts to us through those around us.  Let’s encourage each other!

What is YOUR experience with words of encouragement?  What would you add to what I’ve learned?  Share in the comments!

 

 

 

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?

Where’s your place?

I often wonder if David ever went back and visited the spot where God used him to wallop Goliath.

Or if Paul paused later in life on the road to Damascus where God had knocked him crazy bold with His grace.

Did Mary ever go back to the spot where the angel first gave her the ridiculously impossible news that she would carry Jesus into the world?

The whole earth is filled with God’s glory, but in some places He just seems more present than others. Or we are paying closer attention.  Some call them “thin places” where the boundary lines between heaven and earth are barely discernible.

Friday I got home from a trip to Great Britain, feeling a little “off”.  Jet-lag or being out of a healthy soul rhythm.  So Saturday morning I went back to one of those thin places – a path I walked daily during a season when many of those days were filled with pain and confusion.  It is a path where I have praised God and also cried out to Him in utter despair.  It’s a place I return to because it is filled with reminders of His presence and faithfulness.

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As I walked yesterday I remembered an early morning after a powerful thunderstorm years ago that had echoed the sounds of the storm in my own life at the time.  The next morning as I was walking around “my” lake I came to a place on the path where there was a bird who had been pelted to the ground by the storm…battered and broken.  I couldn’t tell if there was any life left in him, but it didn’t look good.

I thought, “Lord, that’s a picture of how I feel.  Half the time I’m numb.  Unconscious. Battered and exhausted.  Every once in awhile I regain consciousness and try to move my wings, and figure out how to fly again.  But it just hurts and I collapse in pain again.”

Though this was the way I felt, as I continued to walk this path that represented my journey with God, I had memorized Lamentations 3:21-24 “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.  His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  I say to myself: The Lord is my portion.  I will wait for Him.”

That morning and in the days after, slowly, ever so gradually, God changed the picture in my mind.  He added to it.  I was still that mangled, broken bird, but gradually, I saw myself gently scooped up into the loving hands of God, shielded, nurtured, bound up, healed.  I was an injured bird, cradled in Hands that treasured me and would restore my strength.

Yesterday as I finished my walk, and my memories of God’s faithfulness, these are the words I encountered.

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Where is “that place” for you?  Is there a chair, or a chapel, a path or a beach where you feel God has shown up in ways you can’t deny?  I’d love to see you post your place or your experience in the comments so others can be encouraged.  If you’re a first time commenter and it doesn’t show up immediately, don’t worry, it will!

If you are new to faith and haven’t experienced this, let me share what I prayed every morning I walked that path: “Lord, what do You have to show me about Yourself and myself today?”  Give it a try!

Putting us Back Together

Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend who is fighting a hard battle.  She looks fragile, but she is scrappy.

Prayerful.

And resolved.

She is grieving loss and pain and trauma, but also celebrating the simple fact that she is alive.  And alive is good.

Alive is something. Continue reading

Dear Movies About All of the Things in the Real World,

Dear Movies About All of The Things in the “Real” world,

I’m writing you to put you on notice.

I’m taking away your stars and giving you a rotten tomato.  You may get critical blah blah  for being “authentically raw”, but so what?  It’s too easy.  It’s like saying we need to hear Lindsay Lohan is behaving badly.  Again.

I don’t think so.

UnknownYou’re down and dirty, but I’m gonna take you out with a Ninja kick to your mojo and call your bluff.  Your world is not all there is.

Reality without redemption, you are dead to me.

Greed, sex, drugs, lies, betrayal, selfishness?  I know you’re everywhere, not just in the kingdom of Wall Street. I don’t need to be reminded.

I need instead, to see glimpses of another kingdom. Continue reading

One Thing it Takes to Overcome Fear

I watched this video a week or so ago and thought, “What if…?”

What if Christopher Maloney didn’t have his mom cheering for him?

What if he hadn’t had one person who believed in him?

What if he had let the voices of his detractors drown out the one voice that said, “You are talented.  You’ve got this.”?

We all need a champion, a cheerleader, an encourager in our corner.  Not someone to give us false hope or shield us from the truth, but someone who sees the gifts we have to offer the world and wants the world to have the joy of receiving them.

Who believes in you?  Make sure to thank them.  Who are you championing?  Make sure they know it.

Voices

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and if you are reading this, chances are you’ve resisted the urge to rise before dawn and scrape and claw through Walmart for the “best deals of the season”. (#walmartfights is trending on Twitter.)

You’ve said “no” to Black Friday, or perhaps you’re still just in a turkey coma and are calling it “contemplation”.  You’re reflecting on yesterday, or you still may be with family navigating dysfunctional dynamics feeling as tense as Jack Bauer defusing a bomb with 3 seconds left.

You may be with family members whose voices can strengthen you, reminding you of your inestimable value (like my mom, and basically everyone I’m related to does), or stab you in the back like the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones.

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Last week I wrote about the power of words and the Word as we move into the holidays when there’s more emotion, more stress, more people, more…family.  So today, on Fearless Friday I thought I’d just post this video that’s a reminder of Whose voice is the most important to hear from.

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Dark Days

This is my view as I write at 5:45 a.m.

photo-66Trouble is I’d have much the same view at 7 a.m., or 4:30 p.m.  It’s just that time of year when everything goes frozen and dark and silent.  It’s a living picture of Advent – that time of waiting in darkness for the Light of the World to appear.

As I write I’m wondering how many people reading this feel like they’re waiting for something.  Longing.  And how many feel like they are in a time of deep darkness when they can’t see anything that makes sense.  Fuzzy outlines, but nothing sure.

Darkness and longing.

Ever heard of night blindness?  

Continue reading

You’ll Always be Beaten by a House and Other Lessons Learned from a Race

Daughter Katy and I crossed the finish line of the half-marathon Saturday, arm in arm.

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Words can’t express how grateful I am for so many of you who prayed and gave money for clean water, cheered, encouraged, gave advice regarding injuries, gave high fives, sent texts, and were incredibly patient with me through training.  For Katy who ran alongside me, and John who rode alongside me, I’m sure there will be special jewels in their crowns.

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Many people aren’t runners and get irritated with hearing about running.  I totally get it.  But I want this experience to honor God, and I think part of that is naming what He has taught me that may apply to your life too.  So here are three things I’m thinking about… Continue reading