The Gift of Encouragement

encourage

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.

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.

Finding Space…from Church

church

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 !🙂

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.

Unexpected Conversation with Jesus

girl

Loves Jesus? Check.

Respectful? Check.

Good breath? Mostly.

Has a sense of humor? Uh, something like it.

Six feet tall? No, he’s precisely 1.7 millimeters taller than you.

Makes six figures? Well, not exactly.

Owns a home? The way his life is set up right now.…

Wait wait wait, Jesus.  I think you got my order wrong.  Maybe you misheard my prayers?  Because I was very specific and I was sure that the man of my dreams would line up with your will.

No, I heard you.  And I know what you desire and what you think you want.  But more than that, I know exactly what you need. 

What you want can sometimes be based solely on what you know.  Things you’ve done before.  Things you’re comfortable with.  And how many broken hearts have you gathered in the name of comfort up until this point?

But I am going to do a new thing.  Something that will stretch your faith and test your trust. However, believe that what I desire for you will soon be something that you desire even more.  Something that you didn’t even see coming.  But something that will bring more glory to my name and more joy to your life than any man from a list could ever do. 

What I’ve created for you will be infinitely better than what you could create for yourself.

So don’t be afraid to seek me when someone may not fit all of your criteria.  Or when someone you’ve noticed, and who’s noticed you, has asked you to try new things.  Or when your list opens your options up to everyone under the sun. Or when your list narrows your options down to, well, just me and Moses. 

As long as I’m in it, different won’t always mean unattractive.  New won’t always beget fear. And your ‘type’ will be exactly who I’ve chosen as my best for you.

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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 beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

Comfort Zone

picnic

And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”- Matthew 14:28-29 (ESV)

What does your comfort zone look like?

Some design their zones with a red carpet, blazing lime lights, and velvet ropes fastened on platinum pillars. Some construct theirs with brick walls, a steel roof, and a narrow doorway. Others complete their zones with a rose petal carpet, diaphanous curtains, and a smoky pink haze.

Mine is a sphere that’s coated in two-way mirrored glass. People can look in the sphere and see themselves but not what’s inside.  The interior of the sphere, however, is soft carpet where I sit on a huge grape colored cushion. And beside the cushion is a remote where I can decide if I want to weaken the reflective coating to reveal what’s inside.

We like familiarity. Things we know feel safe and cozy and comfortable.  But the Lord triggers our growth by moving us away from the known.

A few years ago, my sphere was divinely shattered when I received an e-mail. I reread it, blinked, and read it again.  I had just been invited to a company luncheon with a handful of other co-workers. It was a free meal with a group of friendly people.

And I was scared of going.

As the dictionary definition of an introvert, the idea of making small talk with colleagues, some of whom I see maybe once a month, made me queasy. What if I embarrass myself? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t like me?

But since there were no loopholes I could escape through, I forced myself to accept the invitation. And it turned out to be a golden decision. While at the luncheon, I clicked with a co-worker, Jenole. In the days following, we had lively conversations that were encouraging and at times, very challenging. She’d periodically push me to try new things that garnered great surprising results, successes that wouldn’t have happened had I played it comfortable.

God used that simple luncheon to show me how my comfort zone, while feeling wonderful to me, was stifling my faith. How can we see how big our Father truly is if we only want Him to stay inside of our boundary lines?

Taking that first step outside of your life lane is scary. The ground quivers like jelly beneath you.  For me, it was conversation with new people. Maybe for you, it’s leaving your job to start a new career. Or accepting your friend’s offer to set you up on a blind date. Or pursuing your degree in a field you’ve always been interested in. But if you remember that God is ordering every one of your footsteps, including those that are directing you away from the familiar, the jelly will turn to solid rock.

What if God Doesn’t Send Your Boaz?

WhatIfGodDoesntSendBoaz

Jen found this amazing post that speaks to the heart of many MRP readers!  Maybe your new thing that you try this month is broadening your vision of who the right man is for you!

So often, I hear within the single Christian women community to just keep working in my field. I hear that Ruth was found working and busy doing her purpose when she positioned herself to be found by this man of perfection, Mr. Boaz. So many women post statuses about being found by this famous man and even caption photos that tell the story of her wait. We’ve been sold this lie that when it comes to singleness, Boaz in all of his manliness, will come and rescue us from our singleness.

But I must ask you, “What if God doesn’t send you Boaz?

It’s clear that he’s a hot commodity and millions of Christian women are a part of the rhetoric that if we just position ourselves, flow in purpose, and know who we are, that our prize at the end of it all would be marriage with our Boaz.

But what if God sent me a Moses?

A man who is a leader, but sometimes emotionally driven and in need of my assurance to stand in the fullness of who He was called to be? Although Moses was called, He still felt extremely inadequate and battled insecurities that almost caused him to forfeit the leader that the Lord was trying to pull out of him. What if it were my responsibility to encourage him into his identity?

Read more here!