Getting Built by Encouragement

There is so much to learn.  It comes from deep.  It comes from wide.  Learning comes from choosing compassion, connection and sometimes pain.  It comes from being humble, bold and brave.  I am constantly encouraged and inspired by great men and women around me.  I hope to become more of who I am by God’s truth and by the path others are walking.  I am getting built by Encouragement.

What I Learned as a Friend: It feels like the stars have come out when you share with your closest friend what God puts on your heart for this season of her life.

What I Learned as a Parent: It is essential to treat your kids equally and to teach them the value of equality.  That way, they will know that nothing is impossible by their own experience and by definition.  Inspired by my own mother and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Malala Yousafzai.

Verse:   Therefore encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Deep Thought: Driving on the expressway a few weeks ago, I pushed back on making a phone call.  I finally made a deal with myself that I would make the call when I got to my exit.  The call stretched me and caused a certain amount of relational tension.  Later, I see that change does not happen without connecting.  Without bringing about a certain amount of tension with the eyes of compassion. Change does not happen without being bold and brave.  Thanks in part to Seth Godin’s keynote message at Leadercast 2015.

Quote: You don’t have to be an extrovert or fearless to be a bold leader.  You don’t have to have a specific gift or talent.  You don’t have to be ultra smart or resourced.  You need clarity around an unreasonable commitment to what should beParaphrase from Andy Stanley’s keynote message at Leadercast 2015.

Book(s)/Blog(s)/People that Shape Me: Roarke Denver, US Navy Seal Commander, I love the way he speaks about his family with gentleness, shares his combat experiences with humanity and the way he defines the path to bravery.

My Prayer to You: I pray that we would trust the way God speaks to us and that we would share His insight when He calls us to.  I pray that there would be no sweeter moment than putting words into God’s Book of Remembrance.  I pray that we would remember that all of us are conduits of bravery and capable shaking fear.  I pray that we would remember the call on humanity to equality.  And, that there is no greater cause than laying down your life for your friend.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Stories Worth Remembering

By JMathis

My book of remembrance.

It’s not like HIS book of remembrance, which is brimming with stories of forgiveness and redemption.

It’s not like HIS book of remembrance, which tells of stories that owe their existence to the greatest love story ever told.

No, no, my book of remembrance is insignificant compared to HIS. My book is certainly not grand by any stretch of the imagination.

Nonetheless, I do have a book of remembrance.

My book of remembrance is filled with the sweetest of memories from when I was just a wee, little lass. Filled with far-reaching memories of people and experiences that have changed me profoundly.

It even has silly memories of my preschool friend, Nina, who taught me that smiling is always the best policy.

Even through the tears after your mommy drops you off at school.

Even through the tears of breaking up with your boyfriend.

Even through the tears of losing your job.

Even through the tears that God only sees.

Yes, this book holds life lessons from people like Nina who may not even remember me, or whom I haven’t seen in many moons.

These very same people may believe that they have never made a difference to anyone. That their lives have no significance or meaning.

Oh, but if only they knew about my book of remembrance. If only they could read its pages to see how much they have impacted me.

If only they could see how much life is worth living because of what they taught me.

If only they could see that their wisdom is more priceless than Solomon’s jewels.

If only they could see that their reach stretches beyond the annals of time.

If only they could see how God shifted my course in life through them.

AbbyA and Bindu, you are in my book of remembrance.

In fact, there are whole chapters devoted to you both.

The pages where you are found are lovingly bookmarked, highlighted and worn to the touch.

In case no one ever told either of you…

In case you doubt your role in this life…

In case you forget why you’re here…

Know that your lives are part of a rich tapestry of stories that eternally matter.

Stories that matter to me.

Stories that matter to Him.

Stories worth remembering.

Christie A.

Abby A and Christie A

By AbbyA

We walked into each other’s lives at a dinner party.  Her work colleague was my best friend N.  N’s last gift to me before moving far away was the promise that Christie A. and I would hit it off perfectly.  Towards the end of the party, we sat down at the long dinner table and confirmed the few things we both already knew.  Yes, we went to the same church.  We were both lawyers and fairly newly married.  That’s it and we were off to the beginning of one of the sweetest friendships I have ever known.

Christie A. is a tough cookie.  She flings words around like – See you later, loser or You’re a dork – like it’s nothin’.  Me, on the other hand, I have a medically confirmed non-existent level of testosterone and surplus of estrogen.  In other words, thin skin and sometimes fluffy.  Christie A. finds all of this hilarious and tells me that it explains a lot.

Christie A. and I share a seriousness about the things of God.  We have sat on her plump couch snuggled in blankets sharing our souls over conversations that I think must be in His Book of Remembrance.  Malachi 3:16.   She is the kind of friend that I get so excited to see – – so much so, because I know we will get a chance to talk about God and spiritual things late into the night.  She will undoubtedly offer for you to sleep over.  And, most of the time, you can’t resist the comfort or welcomeness of her home.

Christie A. loves things like Pepperidge Farms cookies and red wine.  She loves orange and blue together for some incomprehensible reason.  She loves her boy N.V. and her man.  She follows rules, breaks them when necessary and stands up to fight when she is called to it.

She’s undergone pain and loss.  First through almost losing her boy N.V. shortly after his birth.  Later through almost losing her marriage.  But this woman doesn’t clam up or give up.  Even when she is lying broken on the floor, she grasps onto truth and life.

God has plans for her beyond her wildest imagination.  I think she is in a place where she can see that now.  I am the friend who found just enough favor with the Lord to see just a glimpse of what is ahead of her.  I am the friend who at times has been able to share with her what I see in that glimpse.  God has made me one of the many vessels in her life.

And, she has been a vessel to me by leaning away from her tendency to be opaque.  By being transparent.  By choosing to trust me.  By telling the truth.  By being steadfast.  By prospering out of the pit.  By going against her grain to wear her heart on her sleeve just to be my friend.  That is my friend, Christie A.

Recalling An Island Called Depression

By AbbyA

After a few years of disappointment, my prayers to God started with a heart that needed her daddy so badly, but quickly took a left turn to bitterness.  My needs were so great, my well so dry.  I started to turn my cheek to my God who seemed to be failing me.  As my once strong and deep connection to Him filled with static and sadness, I floated away from Him…only to find myself lonely and depressed.

If you are like me, at some very down times in your life, you have said to God…although I need you very much, I am not going to ask you for help or wisdom anymore because you are not going to do anything anyway.  That was the beginning of me chipping away at my own faith.  Creating an island for myself.  When you are on an island by yourself, already sad thoughts permeate the secret places where God once was the center.  It is sort of like pulling the plug on a powerful whirlpool that was generating the light in you.

Alone on an Island.  Floating in the dark.  The flicker of the light sort of makes you sadder.  You really want the light because it is familiar, warm and calling.  But what is takes to get up and head back (or forward) takes the last bit of energy that you really don’t know how to find within you.  The latter, most assuredly, is the trap of feeling depressed.  However do I get home when I am frozen here on my island?

Awhile back, driving to work, it came to me that I had been pretty argumentative and harsh towards God in my words and feelings.  It seemed to me that He had been silent for so long.  God said something like – – my child, in the way that I ask you not to answer another with argumentative, harsh words, I also refrained from answering you.  You were not aware enough to see my Hand at work and too lost to hear me.  In a flash, He showed me how patient He is.  In a quiet, omniscient way, He had been waiting for me to open the door for Him again.

I am a book-of-the-bible reader.  Devotions are for the in-between.  I like to read books of the bible and write notes.  That became hard for me, on my island, with so little inspiration.  For some months, it was even harder to read my old notes.   Professions of my gratefulness, unending faith in His prophetic promises and appreciation for the fullness of His word.  I hardly knew who that person was who wrote with such freshness and freedom in Him.  God has chosen the middle of the night and early morning to begin His changes in me.  Somewhere in the night, in a searching, sleepy way I asked Him about where again to start with His book.  Wherever would I start?  Malachi, Malachi and Malachi again.  Take a look at the excerpt from Malachi below.

“Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’  You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of Hosts?  So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’”

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.  And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”  Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.  Malachi 3:13-18.

In the pressures, stress and disappointment of this life, we lose sight of following Him.  Where is He anyway?  We lose our freedom in Him and start to question our bondage to Him.  Bitterness.  Our words are harsh against Him.  Why isn’t He delivering me?  How far can I be stretched?  We begin to lose sight of His purpose.  We lose our way.  Alone on an Island.  But, He is there.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18.  He is praying for you.  Luke 22:32.  You are His.  I contemplate that, at the very time we are speaking harshly against Him, He is reading His Book of Remembrance of His jewel – – you.  He is quietly reading, meditating, remembering you as you really are.  A time will return when you see that.  His power will help you open the door to Him again.  For He is the way, the truth and the life.  John 14:6.  He will not leave you; He will come to you.  John 14:18.

I don’t know what has brought you to leave for your island or how deep your wounds are.  If you are on your island, I only ask you to rely on what you know to be true.  Whether or not you can believe you have the strength, your heart will return to Him.  His heart has never left you.  And, one day He will read to you from His book – -not only about the day you came home, but every last praise you sang of Him.  He is that faithful to you.  For you, my fellow sister, are His precious jewel.