The Importance of Encouragement

Today I was reminded of the importance of encouraging others.

Orange Glory Restaurant

We live in a negative world.  Every time I drive on the highway I see billboards trying to sell us things by telling us we do not have everything we need or that we are inadequate as we are.

Political arguments swirl around the drain hole of who is or is not getting their “fair share.”

Satan himself is out to “steal, kill and destroy,” and we would be naïve to ignore that spiritual reality.

The point is that you and I are inundated by negativity and the affects of sin every day.

We all need to be encouraged.

One of the greatest blessings of going to counseling over the years throughout and after my divorce was meeting with someone who continually encouraged me in spite of regularly hearing the worst about me.  I would walk into an appointment tense, bound up with guilt and shame, and at the point of tears, and I would walk out refreshed and ready to try again.

During that time I also met with a friend for lunch every week, often at Orange Glory in downtown Rochester, NY, and he would listen, ask good questions, and more often than not pay for my lunch.  He is still one of my very best friends.

We all need two things:

  1. Christ.  As Shauna Nieguist puts it in her fabulous and transparent book Bittersweet, the most important part of dealing with difficulty and pain and loss is the comfort of Christ.  Without him we have no hope; with him we have strength to carry on and a guide through the maze of life.
  2. Encouragement.  Other than Christ the one thing we need is a genuinely encouraging word from someone.  We don’t need to know if everything will work out, although that would be nice.  We need to know we are loved and not alone.

Who has encouraged you?  Have you thanked them recently?  Who do you need to encourage now?

How to Recover from a Public Mistake

If you have a pulse, you have made a mistake.  Period.  Some of us have made much more public ones than others, but we have all made mistakes.  It’s called sin and the fallen nature of humankind.  And I’m right there with everyone else.

Rarely do we have good examples of famous people who know how to recover well and how to model a repentant heart.  Today I simply want to direct you to Donald Miller’s blog.  He is author of Blue Like Jazz, and he is currently on a tour with the producer of a film based on the book.  Recently he responded poorly to a question he was asked about the Christian film industry, and here is his apology.

Have a read and see what you learn from him.

What to Do When You Put Your Foot in Your Mouth

How do you recover from your mistakes?

spiritual grammar

I have been thinking about the primary questions of life: who, what, when, where, how and why. These questions unleash the truth of any situation, idea, or creed. Police use them to reconstruct a crime or crime scene, CEOs use them to challenge the validity of a new product, elementary school students use them to discover the meaning behind a sentence or paragraph, and scientists use them to analyze processes and substances. These questions are the foundation of the modern age.

We also use these questions in belief. Who led the Israelites through the Red Sea? Moses. When did Pharoah let the Israelites leave? After God killed the firstborn of Egypt. What is the color of my true love’s hair? Wait a minute . . . wrong post.

You get the idea. The same thing goes whether the faith system is Christianity, Islam, or any other religion. They are the language of taste, touch and feel.

These questions are completely appropriate for human experience and existence, but what about God? Can these questions illuminate him as they illuminate so much of the human experience?

Example: God says, “I will remember your sins no more.” If God is all knowing, can he forget something, or is he simply talking about making a choice to set aside our sins because of Christ and not “remember” them when he thinks of us? Every systematic theology has an answer for this, but my question is, Can one say definitively HOW God does this? God does give us hints throughout Scripture on this issue and so many more, but God does not lay out a blow by blow description of how his omniscience and grace coincide and cooperate. We have to embrace some mystery.

God says in Isaiah, “My ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts.” We get into trouble when we attempt to describe God using human terms and tools. He is “other,” and we should be willing to grasp a little mystery. Search Scripture for sure; Solomon said it is the glory of kings to search out a matter. “I don’t know” could be the best answer to some questions of God, however.

Ultimately, if you can describe God completely using the scientific method (who, what, when, where, how, why), you suddenly have no God at all. Embrace the mystery of faith in a God you cannot completely explain, and suddenly your faith will have life, because we cannot give life to an idea on our own. Allowing God to be God allows him to fuel your faith, rather than trying to charge up your spiritual car on human batteries. A car can run on batteries, but it’s nothing like the real thing, baby. 🙂