The Gift of Encouragement

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Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

If you’ve experienced encouragement at the just the right time, you know the truth of the verse from above. A word of encouragement is truly a grace, giving strength to carry on. Sometimes a simple phrase is what will give somebody the courage to keep moving on. This spiritual gift, sometimes also called “exhortation,” is one that we have the opportunity to practice daily, and we may take for granted how powerful it can be.

From the time a child is young, they need encouragement. Words of encouragement are like building blocks for a child’s self-esteem. Even as adults, we still need to hear encouragement. Especially in times of discouragement, it is so important to offer affirmation to those in our lives. Even if someone appears to be doing well on the surface, you never know if they are ready to throw in the towel. A word of encouragement is like a spark that can set a fire blazing again, giving someone the force to carry on. In the book of James, chapter 3, the tongue is said to be a member that can set fires. I venture that, if used as intended, the tongue can set off sparks in a positive way and spread to others as well.

Your words have the power to build up others every day. Affirm your spouse. Talk to your children about the things they are doing well. At work, find ways to compliment your colleagues. It can be easy to take for granted those in our daily lives, but also remember that we are placed in each other’s lives for a reason. Don’t forget to be mindful of the opportunities that arise to encourage others.  I venture that encouragement can take other forms. For example, a friend buying you a cup of coffee when you’re having a tough day can be a source of encouragement. Lending your ear to listen to someone who is undergoing a hardship or simply needs to talk can also encourage them. Offering to pray for someone (and following through) can also be a huge dose of encouragement.

Try to be mindful about the opportunities to encourage others each day. Whether you are married and the parent of many, or a single person enmeshed in your career, opportunities abound. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can encourage others. It is often simple words of encouragement that gives someone else the ability to carry on. Exhorting others can also strengthen their faith.  Take the time to build up others. You never know how it will affect them, now and forever.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Gossip Girl

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Talking had never really been my thing. As a child, whenever a teacher would call on me to speak, my mouth would rapidly coat with the tepid slime of fear. Maybe it was social anxiety or deep over analysis of my own thoughts but I was totally comfortable being silent. At 8 years old, I became a professional at keeping my tongue still.

But while my mouth was inactive, my ears weren’t. I learned the art of eavesdropping and soon discovered gossip. The adults in my family would collect around a crowded dining room table, a bright cozy kitchen, or sizzling barbecue grill to talk. About their spouses. Their children. Friends. Coworkers. Church folk. Other relatives. Celebrities.

When it became aware that I was in earshot, I was quickly shooed out the room. But the rich laughter and vociferous declarations were too full to be contained and always spilled into the other rooms. The conversational crumbs would tumble into my lap, sponge cake-like cubes soaked in innuendo and dusted in opinion. I’d stuff them in my mouth and scarf them down excitedly. Unlike being called upon in school, listening to juicy tidbits about people I knew loosened my tongue. I’d chew happily, surprised at how delicious they tasted and how much I wanted more.

The words of a whisperer (gossip) are like dainty morsels [to be greedily eaten]; They go down into the innermost chambers of the body [to be remembered and mused upon]. –Proverbs 18:8 (AMP)

Gossip is appetizing, there is no doubt about it. But there is equally no doubt about how damaging it is. It wrecks friendships (Proverbs 16:28), destroys trust (Proverbs 20:19), and creates an environment where love is M.I.A. and judgement reigns supreme (Psalm 69).

I wish I could say that that I’ve acquired a more mature palate or an appetite that always craves more graceful conversation. Unfortunately, I can’t yet but I have learned a few ways to keep away from the gossip platter.

  1. Walk away. Simply walk away. When a conversation among friends dives into gossipy terrain, remove yourself. Suddenly become really interested in the view from the window. Or if at a large gathering, get acquainted with people on the other side of the room.
  2. Say something positive. 99% of the time, the subject of a rumor mill is never present to defend or explain themselves. Their absence can give gossipers pretended power to tear down their reputation or even their worth. Saying an encouraging or optimistic word about the person can stop the flow of destructive words. It can remind everyone that gossip affects a real person, not a thing.
  3. Pray. When you feel tempted to gossip, pray. When you are in the midst of a gab session, pray. When someone’s name comes up in conversation, pray for them. And when someone comes to you with a load of gossip about an acquaintance, try saying, “Oh, that’s too bad. How about we pray for her right now?” There’s something about prayer that makes sin no longer as attractive after you’ve talked with God about it.
  4. Don’t talk. Do. Talk is cheap. It is emotionally and physically easy to run our mouths about someone else’s life, misfortunes, choices, and events. But that’s not what we are called to do. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Instead of talking about the person, reach out to them. Inquire genuinely about their life and their situation and offer to do what you can. Then do it.

Like most unhealthy foods, gossip is good to the tongue but injurious to the body. And like all unhealthy habits, God can and will overcome it.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

August Challenge: Taming the Tongue!

tongue

This isn’t my favorite, I’m not gonna lie.

All my life I have struggled with my tongue.  Saying the right thing.  Not saying the wrong thing.  Slipping up and saying the wrong thing anyway.  Half the time purposefully.

In my younger years, I was known for being sarcastic.  Didn’t really care if it was hurtful if I could get some laughs from others.  (Never mind if it was really because I felt insecure myself, putting others down to draw attention away from my own flaws.)

Then I became a Christian.  It was far from an overnight transition, but slowly my words became sweeter.  I would think about the impact on others before I spoke.  I realized that my sarcastic jokes actually hurt my friends and I stopped making them.

This change made a huge difference in my relationships.  In the past, thinking I was oh-so-hilarious, I would make the same sarcastic jokes with guys, and then wonder why they didn’t reciprocate my affections.  Wasn’t I hysterical?  Didn’t they get the joke?  Probably they did.  But they didn’t want to spend time around someone from whom every other word was harsh.

When I met my husband, I knew I needed a different strategy.  He is a sweet guy who, like anyone, appreciates kind words and encouragement, not jokes at his expense.  I try to be his biggest cheerleader and affirm him at every opportunity that I can (full disclosure: he still thinks I’m sarcastic, so I guess I have some ways to go).

Score one for relationships, but oh boy, work is a whole other matter.  I get angry and frustrated.  It rises up within me like a tidal wave and I find myself going from zero to sarcastic in less than 60 seconds.   I am right.  They are wrong.  How can they not see it?  Are they stupid?  Do they just want to make my life difficult?

See, taming the tongue is really an issue with its root in the sin of pride.  It is putting our feelings – our sense of justice or our desire to be seen as “funny,” our belief in our own rightness or our belief that our right to free speech matters more than someone else’s right to not be hurt – ahead of everything else.  We are so wrapped up in our emotions that we can’t see beyond them to someone else’s point of view.

To draw a contrast, Jesus did not get sarcastic.  He got angry, but in His anger, He did not let the sin of pride overwhelm Him.  He did not let emotions get the best of Him, or let his anger become a personal attack on others.  He was controlled and measured in His response, always remembering empathy and caring, even when He was persecuted.

I confess that I am not there.  But I want to be.

End of July Challenge: Making Space

freedom

I quit my job this summer.

It feels crazy to even write that sentence. For years, I felt consumed by my job. I was working in a very high-stress social services position. The sacrifices I made for my job were many: social, time, financial, and (unfortunately) even spiritual. Don’t get me wrong – it was a calling for a certain time. But then the Lord gave me the peace and the wisdom that it was time to let go and hand over the reins to someone else.

By letting go of one thing, I have opened myself to other opportunities.  I’m ready to make space for other aspects of myself that a high-stress, full-time job simply did not leave the time or energy for.

Space is scary. Space means emptiness. Yet that same scary emptiness is bringing me hope. That space can be filled up by my Savior. That space will give me the time to hear the still, small voice. The God I serve can show me new ways to serve with that space. Finally, I can even focus more on my writing! That space and the changes in my life could even allow a special relationship to blossom. Only God knows the great things that could happen, if we would only allow some space in our lives!

Creating space can be difficult. Most of us have a tendency to fill up our time. Like me, we can get so focused on one thing – even one that we see as a calling – that we forget to still give ourselves space to grow in multiple dimensions.

Empty space has a way of forcing us to face ourselves. Empty space brings unknowns. I believe that empty space is necessary as we move onto new steps in our lives and discern what God is asking of us. Space is necessary for growth.

I’m taking the risk and creating space in my life. Yes, it’s scary, but I’m also feeling freedom and new waves of hope in my life. I’m eager to see what God will show me as I create empty space in my life.

Are you ready to see what the Holy Spirit could do in your life, when you allow some empty space?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Finding Space…from Church

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The social media without a doubt is a great platform to share, express, inform or even be inspired, but it also brings out an unspoken expectation on how we should be, should have or should achieve. It seems to preach its own agenda and has its devotees grappling in search for approval through the number of ‘likes’ and to a certain extent defining (or redefining) culture. The awesome places others visited, the picture perfect family/ couple, new homes, snippets of moments in conferences where he/ she is invited to speak or lead worship, and let’s not forget the unforgettable proposal story. There was a season I felt suffocated by the tsunami of news feed that I decided to take a one month break from Facebook. Guess what? I survived!

Church is no different.  As a Christian, what if I feel overwhelmed by church because I’m not ‘there’ yet?

Yes, you heard me right. About 2 years ago when I was still working in a law firm in my hometown (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah), church ministry (i.e. being actively involved in church activities) for me included worship leading, hosting weekly bible study group, being a council member and for a short term as the honorary secretary of the Anglican Diocese of Sabah – all these were in a span of 7 years prior to relocating to Kuala Lumpur. I was ready to relinquish all those in view of a new season in life and thought I would quickly regain my ministry in the new city and new church that I decided to attend. As you can guess, it did not happen as I expected.

Today, I am still figuring out how I will fit in, in this new church. Since moving, I struggled with the restlessness of not being involved in church ministry. I drowned in the sea of the congregation of people that I hardly know. I felt lost.

So, I decided to retreat and give space – to allow myself to accept the Timmie who does not lead any groups or hold any leadership position, and just be Timmie. Giving myself the space allowed room for reflection, clarity and growth.

I came to realize that the one person who doesn’t need space even though I need space from Him (or His Church) is our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In my season now being free from church ministry I am able to internalise the fact that I am still worthy of God’s love, I am still approved by Him and His love for me has never changed.

I am reminded of the story of a fierce battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal and was in a run for his life from Jezebel (read 1 Kings 19 and 20). Elijah had to take a breather: he struggled with the purpose that God had for him and the reality of the persecution – he needed time off from the craziness of life. To a lesser extent, that’s how I feel about my season now.

But just as God refreshed Elijah, He constantly assures me through the scriptures and a few close friends that I am still loved and accepted for just being me. I realize that though I may need some time off from church ministry per se, I do not have to create that space between me and God.  God closes the space between Him and I with His loving assurance. I am reminded by what Christine Caine (international speaker and bestselling author) said – that our goal in life is not how much we can do for God but how much like HIM we have become. The same principle is applicable in our careers, personal lives and finances.

I pray that you’ll be assured of a loving God who cares for you no matter the season you are in.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

Teapots

teapot

When I was a little girl, I had a tea set that I adored. What I loved most about it was that it wasn’t the plastic toy kind. It was real. Porcelain. And the crown jewel of the whole set was the teapot.

It was a smooth white with pink flowers painted on it. It was dainty and delicate. I thought it so elegant with its spout curved like the neck of swans. But I, at age 8, was very remiss. Within a year, the teacups were scratched, and some saucers were lost.

And as for my beloved teapot?

Well, the teapot was chipped and cracked. The spout I so admired had pieces broken off it. I had used it so much and handled it so carelessly that its quality had deteriorated.

I think women are a lot like teapots. Beautiful vessels created to pour out nourishing care, sweet encouragement, and supportive love.

Refreshing paper cups with attentive concern. Filling mugs with warm words for the emotionally deficient. Topping off tumblers for the parched, the thirsty, and anyone who happens to have an empty glass.

But it can get so where we are always tilted, palms tapping and pounding us, hoping drops will dance out.  And without refreshing and replenishing ourselves, heavy handed use will weaken our effectiveness and sap our joy.

So it’s necessary to retreat and spend time with God to soak in His peace and settle our weariness.

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” –Luke 6:30-31

Yes, we were created to pour into the world and into each other. But it’s OK to stop the flow for a spell in order to be filled again.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

Five Things We Should All Stop Doing (and I mean now)

heart book

Sigh.  I miss the good old days.  When we could leave our cell phones, our (un)social media, and our myriad of electronic devices at home without going into a total panic.  I mean, we could actually spend an entire day having conversations with actual people and needed to have pocket change if we wanted to engage in non-face-to-face interactions.

But no.  Not today.  Today we have the opinions of every idiot, smart person, and ‘expert’ being constantly downloaded into our spirit.  We pretend as if continuously being fed the opinions and images of others won’t hurt us, but that in itself is a dangerous assumption.

And no one has change.  Ever.

It’s no different when it comes to dating.  We listen to our hearts, our thoughts, our friends, our family, our Instagram feeds with their #relationshipgoals, Google, our *ahem* baby making organs, and possibly even these blog posts.

Allowing these things to influence my decisions in the past (and also the present) has only crowded out God’s best for me.  And possibly yours too.  So here’s a list of the top five things I’ve lended an ear to that I think it’s time we give the boot.  A “Don’t Do This” sort of list, if you will:

1) Don’t listen to your feelings.  Your feelings are about as truthful and trustworthy as a 2-star rated Uber driver with no seat belts.  Would you climb into that car?  Then don’t you dare ride your feelings into a relationship without the peace of the holy spirit.

2) Don’t listen your heart.  This may seem counterintuitive.  The world is constantly telling you to listen to your heart.  Follow your heart. But the word tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9).  Ouch.  And your Father made your heart, so he understands everything you do (Psalm 33:15).  When our hearts are full, we can sometimes act without thinking.  Rash things are bad and prickly on your body, and also on the heart.  Don’t scratch that itch.

3) Don’t listen to your thoughts.  Your thoughts tell you you’ll be single forever. Your thoughts tell you you’re lonely.  Your thoughts give you ideas about how to manipulate your way down the aisle.  Your thoughts open the heart to lies and the whispers from the enemy.  Let’s not live our life based on only what we think of ourselves, but what our Father thinks of us instead.  We are loved.  We are desired.  And we are constantly being pursued.

4) Don’t listen to your sex drive.  I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory.  But just in case it needs further clarification, pre-marital sex clouds your judgement.  It causes you to stay in relationships longer than you should.  It makes babies.  It causes you to start relationships that should’ve stayed in the mud because you have a “connection.”  Honey, that “connection” is a soul tie and it will drag you, chained and bound, all the way to a broken heart.  For further reflection on lusty things, reference #2.

5)  Don’t listen to everything you read on the interwebs.  You do realize that anybody can have a webpage, right?  And everything we read is filtered through someone else’s life experiences and biases and made to look perfect for their benefit.  Not for His glory.  I even expect you to scripture check and comment below if you feel like this post gets your spirit of discernment all in a tizzy.  Just make sure that discernment is still on guard when scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or following the links to the latest “how to keep your man” advice from Cosmo.

But what if we truly listened to the guidance of the holy spirit?  When Christ physically left this earth, he did not leave us to fend for ourselves.  But for some reason, most of us are flailing about our single life (and married life) as if the Advocate’s voice doesn’t exist.

We end our prayers acknowledging the trinity, but live and behave as if God is a duo.  Or worse yet, a solo act.  And those thoughts only succeed at making God small, shortening his reach to the clouds above, and limiting his kingdom to heaven.

From what I remember, we are called to bring his kingdom down to earth.  Through how we love, how we live our life as a single person, and how we display the agape love of Christ in our marriages.  And you can’t do that without making space for the holy spirit in every single second of your day.  Every single one.

So step into your purpose as a single as if your confidence, beauty, and marital status were in the hands of a loving Father.  Receive the grace and forgiveness for your past mistakes as if Jesus, the Son, actually died for them.  And continue to make room for the gentle whispers (and sometimes hard face punches) of the holy spirit as if he actually exists.

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]…But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth].”

John 16:7, 13 (AMP….emphasis mine)

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roz Roz

Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawedblog.wordpress.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.