Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

An Encouraging Word

Encouragement is so vitally important in our lives. The effect it has on a person is impossible to measure, but it is clearly evident.

I don’t know if kids still sing, “Home on the Range,” but there is a line in the song that I always found peculiar. “O give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play. Where there seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” I don’t know who wrote this song, but obviously he was aware of the power of encouragement.

What is the ratio of encouraging words to discouraging words in your life? Perhaps 10:1? 4:1? Or is it the other way around? 1:4? 1:10?

As a pastor, I visit a lot of people. I’m in there homes, I see them in church, I run into them around town. Most of the parents I know are very conscientious in the way they raise their children. But, others have fallen into the trap of using a negative approach to parenting. What I mean is, they are in a constant mode of correcting little Johnny. “Johnny, don’t touch that!” “Johnny, do you want a spanking?” “Johnny, your room is a mess. Clean it up.” “Johnny, can’t you do anything right?” “Johnny, you’ll never amount to anything.” “Johnny, you’re stupid.”

My wife, Isaura, works for a foster family agency, training adults to be foster parents. She loves her job! Unfortunately, most often the children they receive for placement in foster homes are terribly damaged emotionally and psychologically. Prior to working with foster families, Isaura worked in a group home for juvenile boys. These boys, some as young as ten or eleven, would be brought into the group home exhibiting hostility, anger and hatred. Typically, they couldn’t care less about anything or anyone. Let me put it like this: Many of these boys had committed crimes that would have placed them in prison had they been adults.

I remember Isaura telling me of one young teenage boy who was a “Skinhead.” Skinheads have bought into the racist vileness of Hitler’s Naziism. This young lad quickly discerned that my wife was a Christian, and proceeded to call her a foul name. Over the next number of weeks and months, she encouraged him every day. There was always something, however remote, that she could say to encourage him. One day she found him standing in front of the window, staring outside. She asked him if he was okay. He said he was. Then he said these words to her which will forever be in my heart. “If you had been my mother, I would never have had to come to a place like this.”

It is said that King Solomon of Israel was the wisest man to ever live. We certainly see some evidence of this in the Bible. One verse comes to mind, found in Proverbs 12 and verse 25. It says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

Each year the month of October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a time in which church congregations have the opportunity to openly express their love and appreciation for their pastor. I have truly been blessed by the folks in my church, many who have gone out of their way to share encouraging words.

One family of nine, which includes seven children, two of which are adopted, gave me a plastic jar filled with post-it notes, thirty-one in all. I was instructed to take one out each day of the month and read it as a word of encouragement. What a priceless treasure! Allow me to share some of them with you.

This is from Daniel, the fourteen-year-old. “Thank you for being a good pastor.” Sixteen-year-old Nathan says, “I like the way you tie in stories in your messages.” Dustin, ten, wrote, “I like how you preach to us.” Jake, the eldest at nineteen, wrote, “Wow! What a singing voice you have.” The middle child, Andrew, twelve, says, “Dear Pastor Chuke (sic), I like how you give me hugs on Sunday.” Eleven-year-old Hannah writes, “Your teachings are really great.” Hannah’s twin, Rachel, writes, “Dear Pastor Chuck, Each time I see you on Sunday I can’t wait till after the sermon, thinking, ‘I’m going to give him a hug!’ But while I’m listening to you preach I can feel a little seed growing every day. And you and God put it there.”

I could go on sharing what the rest of the family wrote, but you get the idea. Do I need encouragement? Of course! And you can bet I’m going to keep every last one of these thirty-one notes.

Do your children hear encouraging words from you? How about the people you work with? Are they glad to have you in the office? Or the clerk at the store? Or the waitress who brings you coffee? Or your aging parent?

Today, decide to be an encourager. It’s lots more fun, and everyone benefits!

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