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Posts Tagged ‘building others up’

In recent days, as I have begun writing another non-fiction book, I have been thinking about various words or phrases spoken to me that have had a lasting impact in my life. Sometimes, these have been negative, sowing doubts in my mind about my ability to do something or undermining my self-worth. Yet thankfully, I can remember many positive ones too. These gave me hope for the future and reassurance that I could do the things I sensed God wanted me to do and, as I have reflected on them, I have felt so grateful all over again for them.

I wonder if there are some that immediately spring to mind for you from your own experience. Perhaps you remember some things your parents or your teachers said when you were growing up. Perhaps a friend has spoken words of encouragement into your life just when you needed them. How did you feel when you heard those words? And how did you feel afterwards, as they still rang inside your head?

I can remember my father teasing me at times when I was young by saying, ‘Oh Jo—she should have been a boy!’ I knew he was only joking and that he said it just to see my reaction. And I admit I was quite an untidy tomboy at times. Yet these words caused me to doubt myself too. Was I somehow wrong? Was I a disappointment to him?

Much later, in my forties, I remember excitedly sharing with someone that I was heading to theological college. Instead of the positive response I had expected, her words were withering and scornful. ‘What would you want to do that for? I don’t have to prove myself!’ she almost sneered. I was shocked and began questioning my motives—but also wondered why my decision had aroused such anger in her.    

Thankfully, I can remember so many more wonderful, positive words that have encouraged me over the years. I think of a time early on in my writing journey when I was so unsure about my whole approach to creating a novel.

‘Do you think this is all okay?’ I asked my lovely soul friend Joy one day.

‘Oh, I think it’s wonderful!’ she said, so delighted to be part of this new thing I was attempting.

Just a little comment, yet it encouraged me so much to keep going and keep holding onto my dream.

Or I think of an email I received only recently from a lovely new contact I have made overseas. My dear new friend, she had written—and those few, simple words stirred my heart. Yes, I thought, this person values me already as a friend. And, even at my age, I find that so encouraging and reassuring.

I wonder if I have said—or written—any unforgettable words to others lately. If I have, I hope and pray they have been of the encouraging kind, not only because they are the sort I like to receive myself but because these are the sort God wants us to say to one another. So, let’s do it—and may your heart be encouraged too in the process.

… Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 NLT

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I wonder if you have ever run into someone you know in a most unexpected place. When I was a teacher, I well remember encountering one of my more troublesome students in the middle of my weekly supermarket shop. ‘Mum, there’s my teacher!’ this girl blurted out in a shocked voice. I suspect she wanted to see me about as much as I wanted to see her that day!

On another occasion, however, I came across a pastor friend in a bookstore. While we chatted, several folk from her church came by, which perhaps could have disconcerted her. Instead, she seemed to enjoy the moment. ‘It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven!’ she exclaimed, beaming at everyone.

Recently, I headed to a nearby medical facility for an injection into a troublesome shoulder. I was certainly not expecting to see anyone I knew there—or anyone who knew me. All I was thinking about was whether my scheduled injection would help alleviate the pain I was experiencing. Eventually, a young woman called my name and ushered me into a small room. We chatted together as she prepared the injection for the doctor to give. A few moments later, it was all over, and the doctor left. But then the young woman suddenly said, ‘You must be the author, are you?’

I was stunned.

‘Um … yes, I am, but … how did you know?’ I eventually managed to ask.

‘Oh, I’ve read some of your books!’ she told me then. ‘I borrowed them from my mother.’

So that was it! She must have recognised my name from the patient list—mystery solved. But I was still curious.

‘What would your mother’s name be? Perhaps I know her.’

Sure enough, I did, from two or three occasions in the past.

‘Well, it just shows we have to behave wherever we go, don’t we?’ I joked as I left. ‘You never know who you’ll meet!’

Beneath my joking, however, I was also trying to remember what sort of comments I had made to her. I was so focussed on myself that I had not put much thought at all into anything I said. Had I been polite and considerate towards her? Had I listened well? Had I honoured God throughout our conversation?

It was too late now anyway. The exchange was over.

I came away from that experience realising again that, wherever I go and whether I feel like it or not, I am God’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). I never know whom I will meet. I never know who will recognise my name, even though I am not a famous author—yet! And I never know who will be listening or watching. But I’m so thankful God does. And I’m so thankful too that God’s Spirit is with me and in me, ready to give me those words of grace to share with others and the wisdom to act in a godly way. But I need to listen, to keep any unwise words in check and then to say those things that will bless and build others up.

May I remember to do that next time, because you never know …

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

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It’s amazing how so much conversation, uplifting or otherwise, can fly around the world so quickly on the internet via such platforms as Facebook and Twitter, isn’t it? In a trice, someone can respond to a post with a pleasant or unpleasant comment—and a whole interesting ‘discussion’ can ensue. Just a few little words, yet they can quickly become a stream or river—or even a torrent.

Sometimes, an undignified and even vicious spat may erupt. Yet at other times, people are kind and courteous, wanting to build others up rather than tear down—and I am convinced God can use such online exchanges at times in ways we would never imagine. In fact, I think God might have even smiled at one I became involved in recently and enjoyed how it unfolded.

It began when our son shared the words of Proverbs 16:24 on Facebook from his home in Sydney, together with a graphic of honey dripping from a piece of honeycomb.

Kind words are like honey—
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

These words are well worth pondering, I thought—and that’s exactly what one of our daughters did. But then she had an honest question, which she shared on her brother’s post from her home on the other side of Sydney: How can kind words actually be healthy for our bodies?

Our son then responded online that he didn’t quite know, but hoped someone out there would. And as I thought about our daughter’s question, several ideas came to me. Kind words certainly make us feel good, just like that burst of sweetness we experience when we taste honey does. We seem to relax inside when we realise someone appreciates us, don’t we? And we feel connected to them too, heart to heart or soul to soul.

Then I vaguely remembered how honey was used in times past as a kind of antiseptic on an open wound. And didn’t some people drink hot honey and lemon juice for their health? After checking online, I soon discovered that a honey and lemon drink can apparently help our digestion, flush out toxins from the body and even stop us putting on weight! So … can kind words actually have a similar healthy effect?  

Delving further online, I read that, as we experience someone’s kindness, our bodies apparently produce the hormone oxytocin. This then stimulates production of nitric oxide which, in turn, dilates our arteries and reduces blood pressure. As well, this oxytocin can act as an anti-inflammatory in our cardiovascular system, thus protecting our whole bodies. Wow—amazing! Apparently then, there really is a scientific reason for those lovely, warm fuzzies we can feel throughout our bodies when we receive a kind word from someone.

From yet another part of Sydney then, I decided to share some brief comments about this on our son’s post, in an attempt to answer his sister’s question. Soon others followed with more comments, resulting in a flow of excellent and uplifting thoughts on the subject. From one little post online of a verse from Proverbs then, a whole group of people across Sydney and beyond were connected and built up in a unique way. Those kind words flowed on—and in the process, I suspect God’s heart was gladdened too.

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