Category Archive: Encouragement

The Wisdom of Leaning

Yes, leaning.

Who are the people we tend to look up to, admire, want to follow? Generally, it’s the strong; the leader; the successful entrepreneur or the woman who always appears put together.

And yet, sometimes the wisest, and strongest, thing we can do is recognize our weakness and lean in–to Jesus, to others–for help, support, guidance.

The apostle Paul recounts asking God several times to heal him of a physical affliction. In II Corinthians 12:9-10 he shares the message he got back. “Each time he (God) said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s ways are so opposite of our North American “can-do” mentality, our focus on independence. When something in our lives isn’t working, we try harder, like the little train that could. Only sometimes we can’t. And God doesn’t want us to try apart from Him. I sometimes find it a challenge to step back from my own striving to say “I can’t do this; can’t help this person; can’t change this situation. Only You can, so help me lean into You and allow You to work without my getting in Your way.”

We’re instructed to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:17 (NIV) God never planned for us to carry our burdens alone. He has promised to guide, instruct, counsel and love us. We have this great resource wholly available to us. But how often do we forget, or neglect, to call on Him for help?

Sometimes wisdom is just leaning into Jesus, trusting His heart even when I can’t see His hand at work. There was a time when I couldn’t see the next step ahead, when I felt devoid of hope, unsure of what to do, in a mire of despondency, confusion and despair. While I trusted God, I had no strength left with which to hold onto Him. But scripture, and truths I’d learned from His Word, assured me that He would not let me go even when I couldn’t hang on even by the tips of my fingers. During that time He gave me a song, to which I clung.  I listened to it every night for at least three weeks before going to sleep. Here are the lyrics, and a link to the song as sung by the Gaither Vocal Band.

 

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,

While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.

‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try,

For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”

But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise

Where the storms never darken the skies.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,

Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;

In that land where the tempest never comes, Lord, may I

Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

I want to be wise enough to lean into my Lord and Savior, trusting Him through the storms and joys ahead; and to rejoice as He leads me through this new year. Won’t you join me?

The Wisdom of Words

         Golden apple by krzysiu                    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong–way wrong. Sometimes the deepest wounds are those caused by the sharp blade of hurtful words.

When I was around ten years old, a neighbor said I was “pleasantly plump.” Those words, meant well, have never left me. Who wants to be “pleasantly plump?” Words can cower a woman, destroy her spirit.  An abusive husband can tell a woman she’s worthless, never affirm her in her business or homemaking skills, or tell her she is important to him. A husband whose wife degrades him in front of others shows by words and actions that she doesn’t respect him. A child’s parents may tell him he has big ears, is lazy, stupid, uncoordinated.

Words can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes I ask God to give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. Proverbs 10:19 warns against too many words: “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (NLT) A tremendous gift given to me after my first husband died was the attentive ear of a dear friend, who spent several hours sitting on the floor while I poured out my heart, talking about Jerry’s last day and his death. Her words were few, but precious. “Mmmmm ….”, “Oh my”, “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes listening in silence is the greatest gift we can give others.

Gossip destroys people and reputations. Lies and flattery hurt by raising false hopes; perverse or crude words bring others (as well as the speaker) down. And angry words destroy. It’s been said that the one thing you can never take back is your words. Once they have left the mouth they are always out there, never to be pulled back in. Thankfully, we can repent, we can ask those we’ve hurt to forgive us; but the damage can never be erased.

Another close friend ministered to me through words. A nurse, she told me how to read Jerry’s vital signs on the monitor and what each meant; how to know when his health was getting critical. So both silence and words can be a tremendous gift to others.

Wise words are a blessing. Proverbs 16:24 says it beautifully: “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (NLT) With our lips we praise God; and with our lips we encourage and influence others.

It was my eighth grade civics class. Our amazing teacher, Mrs. Goolsby, returned the graded tests to each of the students in the class, except me. What could have happened?

“Carol, I’d like you to stay after class for a few minutes.”

Mrs. Goolsby told me, in private, that I had failed the test. I was a reasonably good student, so this didn’t make sense to either of us. She questioned the process I’d used in answering the true/false questions and together, we figured out I had crossed out the right answer rather than crossing out the wrong one and leaving the correct one showing. When she re-graded the test with this criteria I had passed. But her words were kind, her heart discerning to understand what had gone wrong, and I knew she believed in me. Words of honey! And with her words, she influenced me for good.

The bottom line, as Pastor Val said last week, is that our words reveal our hearts.

Do you recall a time when words were either a curse or a blessing to you? How has that impacted your life?

“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

Speaking our Thanks

Driving home, I was conversing with a friend on my phone. On the center curb between lanes stood an older gentleman with a sign asking for help, saying he was a Vietnam vet. I spoke into the speaker: “Hold on a minute, Cindy.”

I reached over to pick up one of the food packets I often carry in my car for this purpose, rolled down my window, and smiled as I handed it to the man. “Thank you for your service.” He responded. “Thank you for acknowledging my service. God bless you.”

His words spoke to me, emphasizing the importance of expressing our thanks. My point isn’t to talk about the politics of that war; but I thought of how vilified many of the vets returning from ‘Nam were, and how much it may have meant to this man to have someone say ‘thank you’ rather than spit on him.

Expressing thanks is critical. As Rene said last weekend, it’s not enough to “feel” grateful; we need to express it! If we don’t, the person to whom we feel thankful can interpret that as rejection.

So … to whom can you speak thanks or appreciation this week?

Maybe it’s Jesus. How often have we stopped to thank Him – for salvation, unconditional love, forgiveness, sunshine, family, friends, puppy dogs, flowers, the beauty of nature?

Maybe it’s a loved one we’ve taken for granted, to whom we need to reaffirm our love, appreciation and care.

Maybe it’s a friend with whom there’s been a break, who needs to know we still appreciate them.

Maybe it’s a pastor, who probably hears more criticism than affirmation.

Maybe it’s a boss, a subordinate, or a co-worker, who has helped you complete a project, or has challenged you to grow in new directions.

Maybe it’s your child, who needs to know how incredibly precious he or she is to you, regardless of behavior, tantrums, or choices with which you disagree. Proverbs 17:17 says that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

I want to be a person who speaks thanks, who reflects gratitude, who encourages others in word and deed. How about you?

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (or perhaps, affirmation!) Proverbs 27:9

Thanksgiving – Today, or Every Day?

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

(Psalm 95:1-2 NIV)

 

Thankfulness has been scientifically shown to have significant health benefits, including an increase in happiness. But to receive its highest value, we need to SHOW our thanks, not just feel it. As pastor and author Tim Keller states, “It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”

So as we enter this Thanksgiving week, I’m reflecting on the things for which I am grateful. And they are many.

  • For Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who enfolded me into His family, who died and rose again so that I might have a relationship with Him now and for eternity. Who enabled me to move forward after the most devastating loss of my life, into a new life of love, joy, service, and community.
  • For Mom and Dad, who loved me unconditionally, even when I hurt them by actions or choices, and who taught me as a child to love Jesus.  Who provided a secure home foundation as well as resources for me to grow in faith and in life. Who pray for me, and their other children, daily.
  • For three loving brothers, Melvyn, Arnold and Robert, and their wives Vicky, Carol and Sheila, who have always had a significant presence in my life, and who have walked with me through significant joys and sorrows.
  • For Sunday School and public school teachers who taught, challenged, encouraged me to learn and grow and study and pass on what I learned that impacted my life.
  • For single missionary to Nigeria, Katherine Dick, whose life showed me that service to God was a joy rather than simply a duty.
  • For two loving husbands, Don and Jerry, both of whom love(d) me well, sacrificially, joyfully; with whom I delight in sharing life; and who work(ed) with me through the difficult times all marriages face.
  • For two precious daughters-in-faith, Grace and Tanith, who give me deep joy as I watch them develop their own walks with God, and who love me back.
  • For grandnephew Joshua, visiting from London these past two weeks, who helped Don put my new desk together and taught me a great deal more about my online presence and possibilities.
  • For my writing mentor, Karen, and my writing critique group members who hold me accountable and critique my work to make it better and more impactful.
  • For sorrow, without which I might not recognize–or appreciate as deeply–joy.
  • For my dear friends, who have stood with me through good and bad times, who have forgiven me when needed, who have invited me into their hearts and lives. You know who you are, and I thank you!
  • My readers, who take the time to let me know if something touches them, or if there is something I say with which they disagree.

And there’s more! Our country, the wonderful church Don and I are part of, a home, food, clothing, friendships, our sweet doggie …  laughter, tears, the ability to think, walk, see, hear, smell …

Charles Stanley: “Gratitude produces deep, abiding joy because we know that God is working in us, even through difficulties.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!” 

So, as we enjoy the food and festivities of this special day (and every day), have you expressed your thanks to others? If not, I challenge you to do so–for both your benefit and theirs!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

 

 

Keep me Safe ‘Til the Storm Passes By*

Generosity – largeness of spirit. So often we think of generosity relative to finances, to money. Earning it, keeping it, spending it, sharing it. But scripture speaks about much more than money in relation to generosity. Pastor Rene is teaching on this and talked of how generosity is the “overflow of a heart filled with gratitude.”

In studies compiled in GRATITUDE WORKS, Dr. Robert Emmons says grateful people sleep better, have lower blood pressure and increased alertness and energy, better stress coping mechanisms, and improved cardiac health, among other physical and emotional benefits.

When we realize how much God has done for us, our gratitude leads to a response of generosity. It may be expressed through time given to listen or help others; through welcoming others into family times; or through personal sacrifice that allows another to thrive.

Learning to sleep after surgery, while protecting my right shoulder, has been a process — several nights I’ve been unable to sleep. Don has gotten up with me, tucked me in for comfort and security, and done extra to cover what I can’t do right now. The other night I got comfortable and was able to doze off in Don’s arms, with our Cavalier Paige at the foot of the bed.

Paigey often wanders awhile before settling into sleep. She leans against Don’s body, then mine, checks to be sure she has her chew bone, then wiggles around a bit more. As I started to roll over onto my own pillow later that night, I found I couldn’t. Paige had rolled up against me, moving from my shoulders to my knees, securely tucking my blanket around me.

I had to laugh in thanks. I have a loving provider in my husband, who cares for me in little and big ways. Friends and family express love through calls, meals, visits, notes. And I even get tucked in by my little canine.

There are many who are finding it difficult to feel any gratitude right now: between mass shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes and fires, our country is in a world of hurt. I can’t imagine the horror country fans in Vegas felt as they began to realize what they thought were firecrackers were really bullets. Or the agony of watching your home and belongings burn before your eyes in Sonoma, surrounding counties, and in Southern California. And my heart breaks for these.

There was a time in my own life when I experienced severe depression. I wasn’t able to push past the pain to find any gratitude, I asked God to hold me, confessing I had nothing with which to hold onto Him. And He did. Because He is faithful.

As I pray for the many who are in emotional, physical and spiritual pain right now, I also pray for the firefighters and police personnel who are trying to bring stability and order out of chaos. And I pray that we as a nation might lean into Jesus for hope, comfort, restoration, peace, for repentance as we turn our hearts back to Him.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV

*From a hymn written by Mosie Lister.