Thursday, December 29, 2011

FIVE WAYS TO BECOME AN ENCOURAGER

Encouragers are the oil of society
Name an encourager from the Bible. Was your first thought Barnabas? His real name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him “son of encouragement”. What a joy he must have been to his friends. Can you name some others who served as encouragers? How about Mordecai, Jonathan, Timothy, Martha and Mary, Jesus.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…if it is to encourage, then give encouragement — Romans 12:6,8
Encouragers inspire hope, foster confidence, lift burdens, stimulate courage. Some possess the gift of encouragement. Some are “accidental encouragers” who surprise themselves when they’re given just the right word to share. Some want to be more encouraging, but are not sure how to go about it. But no one in the body of believers is exempt from exercising encouragement, for we are reminded to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11)
Turning to Scripture we find help for becoming an encourager:
1. Cultivate a positive attitude. Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Put this into practice and “the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8,9)
2. Use words of encouragement. Proverbs reminds us that our words can either kill or give life; we choose what we want to offer. (18:21) The book of Hebrews calls us to spur one another on. (10:25).
3. Be sincere. The book of James cautions us to back up our words with deeds (James 2:16). When we share stories of vulnerability and faith in times of hardship we can encourage others going through similar circumstances. (2 Cor 1:4)
4. Come alongside. When Moses became tired, “Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset… So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army” (Ex. 17:12-13) The New Testament names encouragers who worked alongside the apostles, such as Barnabas, Judas and Silas (Acts. 15:32) and Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2).
5. Be encouraged. Be humble and allow others to encourage you. Immerse yourself in Scripture’s words of encouragement. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you daily.
Karen Wilber serves as the Editor of the Jesus Boat Blog community.

Friday, December 23, 2011

THOSE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS

     It’s a Christmas gathering. You might be at a company event with a hundred people, or church dinner with twenty-five faithfuls, or with your family of six. You hear chatter all around you, and you are in the middle of all of this. Topics of discussion can get stuck on one thing and sometimes they meander like a lazy river in a big flat valley. There you sit (or stand) among the others. Are you the one who tells your life’s story for forty minutes while others listen? Are you the one who holds a drink, says nothing, moving the weight of your body from one side to the other, impatiently waiting for someone else to break into the other person’s endless tale, or do you drift off and try to find meaningful interaction with one or two others in a corner of the room?
     These parties are not always a heap of fun. One thing I could guarantee, though, is that if you watch for and befriend someone by giving encouragement, you will leave the event feeling good about it. If it is like most gatherings, there will always be someone whom you can affirm in some way. Interesting thing, too, is that if you become known as one who is positive and affirming, you will always have someone to talk with. Although we should check our motives, you will notice that you will begin being affirmed, also. You can do this. Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

DO NOT ASSUME THE WORST

To make a friend you will not assume the worst about the one you want to befriend. "Love believes all things" or "always trusts." That's what the Living Bible says. Love expects the best to come from people. Most often people live up to expectations and how they are viewed by others. To believe in others as a basic approach to life is mostly viewed as being unrealistic if not na├»ve. Basic trust in people rewards you many times, whereas being suspicious blocks out potentially good relationships. Jesus Christ, the most perfect of humans and also the most maligned, selected and worked with Judas for three years. He must have known the inner thoughts of this hypocrite, yet he allowed him to hang around. We do not possess the insight of Jesus Christ. So our love must be willing to give the benefit of the doubt, because it is very harmful to relationships to assume the worst. Christmas, a time for generosity, would be an ideal season to stretch out to others whose relationships are meager. You would provide much cheer to their lives.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

HOLY, BEAUTIFUL, TERRIFYING NIGHT



Unrest and pillaging filled most days back there during the Russian Revolution when my grandparents tried to raise ten children. Christmas Eve, they prayed and hoped, would still allow them a quiet, intimate time for family and worship.

     Tradition established a pattern of gathering around a freshly cut evergreen tree, decorated simply but beautifully with real candles flickering. The very special feature, however, was the Christmas tree stand, which turned and played Silent Night.

     They all gathered round their tree, a fire blazing and crackling in the big brick stove. The music played and no one spoke and when they did, the occasion required hushed tones. Such a holy night deserved and demanded respect. The Bible story of Jesus’ birth probably was read, and perhaps a few soft carols sung. Everyone savored the moment of peace and beauty.

     They cherished those moments only briefly and then the door flew open and a gang with guns plowed into the room where the family all sat stunned and petrified. Many stories circulated in the village of such intrusions, of pantries being emptied and ravaged, horses stolen, women raped, and men being kidnapped never to be seen again. Terror replaced the tranquility and beauty instantaneously.

     Then something amazing happened. The marauders stopped in their tracks when they saw the family scene. The yelling and barking orders stopped as though a switch had been turned. Without a word, they backed towards the door they had entered, left and did not return.

     The evening remained forever fixed in the minds of the entire family. When they migrated to Canada a few years later, the one item they all agreed had to come with them was the Christmas tree stand that plays Silent Night. So it could not be snatched by greedy officers on the train, they tied the stand under the train car until they crossed the border to Latvia. The delightful tree stand still plays Silent Night in a great grandson’s home every Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HOW TO BE A BORING FRIEND


How to Be a Boring Friend

If you enjoy not being befriended, here are some sure ways to guarantee you won’t be disturbed often .

1.      Wait for your friends or potential friends to make the contact. If you get tempted to make a phone call or send an e-mail, sit yourself down and tell yourself how busy you are, or convince yourself they don’t want to hear from you anyway.

2.      If you lose the battle with inner persuasion and end up talking to your friend anyway, keep your voice level and your ideas extra slow. Do not show excitement about anything. That should discourage them from categorizing you as a flake.

3.      Tell them everything you know about everything you know and talk a long time without giving them a chance to speak. After all, isn’t having friends about being able to let people know about you?

4.      Refuse to ask about them about what is happening in their lives. They’ve managed quite well without you until this moment. Just grab the occasion to unload about the terrible state of politics, taxes, the trash on television, the horrible neighbors you have, and how you really put down a nosey colleague. You might hear a click on the other end, but at least you got a chance to vent.

5.      They are bound to find you even more boring if you do not remember their milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, achievements. 

6.      Do not pray for them. Praying usually results in becoming empathetic.

I’ll have more suggestions if these do not work for you. But I think this will get you well on your way to be one of the least interesting persons your friends know. Maybe you have some ideas to offer yourself. What do you find boring in people?

(And another thing: Besides being a late starter with cyber stuff, I am also a turtle learner with internet. Right now am stretched to snapping while learning about blogging.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Priority of Friendship

I suppose the drive to have friends is at least partially selfish. But we can’t do without friends so we keep trying, praying, hoping we will meet those who will be willing to take a little time with us. There is a deep need in all of us to have people with whom we can share our daily experiences, tell our achievements, and reveal what weighs heavily on us. The old proverb is true that “a joy shared is doubled and a sorrow shared is halved.”
     I’m convinced almost all of us do not need to be persuaded that friendship is desirable. How to achieve friendship is the challenge. We’ll get into some of that in the next weeks.
     I make no excuses for launching into a topic that has been discussed many times because it bears repeating; we never become too skilled at relationships.
A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. Arnold H. Glasow




Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friendship and Companionship

"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend."
- Albert Camus

Let's stay in touch as we explore and share our pleasures of friendship and pleasures of being friends. I believe they are closely related. I welcome your thoughts. Let's get some discussion going on this topic.
Don, on a Saturday morning.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Solution for Occupiers

A Solution for Occupiers
The Occupy movement has a valid point: there is more than a little evidence of greed gone wild. Not only in the corruption-saturated governments of poor nations does greed sap life-blood from the average citizen, but the rich nations unevenly and unfairly give concessions to those who are already well-healed. The most obvious example is the bale-out given to banks. Imagine what each citizen could have done with the dollars should he/she have received that amount evenly distributed. The rich are getting richer, and the average person’s purchasing power decreases steadily. Prices keep climbing.
     Occupiers feel the inequity. They see money, lots of it, in the hands of the rich. They are not happy with their fading life style. They believe they represent 99% of the population. They have created quite a stir even with a weakly formulated and poorly communicated issue.
     I wonder if their unhappiness has still other felt but not verbalized branches of life. If, as they claim, their concerns are drawing in larger numbers each day, they must in the future, try to find a legitimate way to not only gripe, but change the greed to equity and generosity. It may very well be a whole new way of conceiving of our democratic/capitalistic structure.  Why not form new political parties that represent the values desired and build into the system ways to prevent greed running wild?  They certainly cannot count on the institutions and influential people against whom they are protesting, to see the light and volunteer to change. They will have to roll up their sleeves and do something tangible about it.
     I am, however, somewhat skeptical. If I recall, we have not yet had a system that can sidestep man’s insatiable appetite to hoard. Maybe it is possible, but greed so far, has crept into every form of government.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Desperate Woman Gets a Little Help

I found this story so moving, I had to let others see it.
A powerful story from Metro Denver Hospice Physician: 
     I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die - I barely managed to coast into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck. The engine wouldn't even turn over. Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the quickie mart building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay  
     When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.  
     At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95. 
     I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying 'I don't want my kids to see me crying,' so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now. So I asked, 'And you were praying?' That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, "He heard you, and He sent me."  
     I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked to the next door McDonald's and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little. 
     She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City . Her boyfriend left 2 months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet.. She knew she wouldn't have money to pay rent Jan. 1, and finally, in desperation, had called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and they said that she could come to live with them and try to get on her feet out there. 
     So she packed up everything she owned in the car. She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.
     I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road.. As I was walking over to my car, she said, "So, are you like an angel or something?"
     This definitely made me cry. I said, "Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people."
     It was so incredible to be a part of someone else's miracle. And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car, it started right away and got me home with no problem. I'll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won't find anything wrong. 
     Sometimes the angels fly close enough to you that you can hear the flutter of their wings....
     Psalms 55:22 'Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.'

Saturday, November 12, 2011

BEAUTY OR RELATIONSHIPS?

     When I read the article in Vancouver Sun about good looking and well - dressed persons being hired for jobs and promoted more often than those who didn’t have either quality, I recalled a laughable incident. I’d only had a few months as a new pastor in a church when the church Christmas party arrived. I was called forward to receive my Christmas gift. Or, some may call it my Christmas roast. Several truly humorous gifts had already been presented to which the crowded room of celebrants cheered, clapped and whistled.

     Then came the last gift. The presenter explained that he’d done some research before getting this gift for me. Some salient facts made it clear, he said, that pastors had to be at least five feet ten inches tall in order to be successful over the long haul. (No one needed  to measure me to know that I was doomed to failure. The room has suddenly become silent.) He explained that the whole church wanted so very much for me to be successful  they would assist me. My gift consisted of a pair of shoes with four-inch soles and heals added to them. We all laughed and cheered.

     I’m sure there is some truth in what the Sun’s columnist wrote. In the same newspaper some time ago, however, another columnist quoted statistics showing that most lay-offs and firings were not about looks and dress (would you believe), but about the inability to relate.

     Once on the job, with your competence demonstrated, it’s not about being most fashionable, or standing taller than others in your workplace, it’s about cooperation, teamwork, and care for others on the team that makes you a truly valued employee. Not that being dressed well is a handicap or being blessed with height makes you undesirable, but they these qualities cannot measure up to determination and ability to relate well.

     As a minister, I have observed what is said about people at a funeral. The comments made about the ones who pass on are consistently about their relationships. Have I ever heard someone’s looks or dress mentioned at funerals? Among the several hundred, perhaps two times. Relationships count most.

    

    


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Love or Occupy?


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This is the first posting on this blog, so I want to let you know what's going to be trumped in this space. I guess we all have subjects which have become important to us. The "Occupiers" the past few weeks have issues with the way our democracy allows greed to dominate decisions. I agree. But try to find another system which is preferable? Certainly socialism's experiment failed, largely because greed and tyranny made life miserable for even more people. I am convinced that the world has yet to come up with an ideal system.
What I do know is that you and I can make this world a whole lot better by exercising love - kindness, consideration, compassion, altruism, generosity. That is not the only theme to appear on this Have a Heart blog, but it will be a thread easily recognized in most of them.
I welcome comments and feedback.
Cheers.
Don