Posts Tagged ‘encouragement

30
Jul
21

Silent Encouragement

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

One ritual that must be observed as part of any visit to the town of Pacific City, Oregon is The Climb.

That is, The Climb to the top of the giant sand dune at Cape Kiwanda (pictured here).

I have done it several times before and was ready (or so I thought) to do it again on this visit.

Reliable sources tell me it is only 240 feet from the base to the top of that big dune. The legs and feet actually making the climb tell me it is more like 1.5 miles.

And so, early on that Monday morning, my brothers and I set out to make The Climb. As we all expected, Eric – the youngest and fittest brother – was the first one to the top. Somewhat surprisingly, Douglas, the brother who has recently picked up the smoking habit again, made it up in second place. Alan was third, while I was struggling mightily, far behind the others.

Although I have been dealing with acute lower back pain since early May, my back was not the problem. The problem was my leg strength and overall stamina. 

You see, the gym and I have been estranged since my back trouble began. And so as I strained to put one foot in front of the other, that frosty relationship began taking a serious toll.  

Crawling up on my hands and knees worked for a while. It got me as far as the little rock ledge you see there in the photo. As I attained that ledge, however, I turned to myself and said, “OK. That’s it. That’s as far as I can possibly go. I will just sit here and wait for the brothers. I will head back down when they are ready.”

After a few minutes of sitting on the ledge, wheezing, and looking out at the view, I saw that Eric had arrived. He plopped right down beside me. 

Eric glanced over and said, “Hey!”

I looked at him and somehow managed to croak out my own, “Hey” in reply.

And then, for the next several minutes we just sat there in silence, admiring the view. Eric didn’t coax. He didn’t cajole. He didn’t remind me that he and the other bros were waiting for me to gather my strength and join them at the top of the dune.

He just sat with me. Silently.

And waited. 

And then, after a bit more time sitting there like that together, I decided it was time to rally myself and complete The Climb. 

Which I did.

Thinking back, I realized Eric gave me an incredible gift up there on that rock ledge. For one thing, he gave me the gift of silent encouragement. He also gave me the gift of non-judgmental support

And somehow – without the benefit of a single seminary class on pastoral care – Eric blessed me with the gift of presence, right there in my moment of need. 

He taught me – by his example – how to really BE WITH someone who is going through a tough time. And because of the way he went about it, I felt as if the victory of attaining the summit of the dune was completely MINE to claim.

All throughout the Bible, we are shown that God is the God of healing PRESENCE. In Genesis, God says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3, NRSV). In the last part of God’s speech to Moses from the burning bush, God says, I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you…” (Exodus 3:12, NRSV).

And of course, we remember the words Jesus spoke to his disciples at the top of that mountain in Galilee, after his crucifixion and resurrection; “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NRSV).

All I can say is, thanks a lot, bro. Thank you for reminding me of the amazing power that a silent, non-judging presence can be for someone who has come to the end of their rope. 

I will be more than happy to return the favor, if and when the time comes.

Abundant blessings;

21
Apr
20

Someone to believe

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.”
Isaiah 43:4, NRSV

George MarshallIf you know the name George Catlett Marshall, you know him as the general who led the U.S. Army through World War II, or as the man who served as the U.S. Secretary of State, or as the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, in honor his plan to rebuild Europe following the devastation of that war.

You may not, however, know him as a poor student whose academic ineptitude was a source of great shame to his father and older brother. As Marshall wrote in his autobiography, “The truth is, I was not even a poor student. I was simply not a student, and my academic record was a sad affair.”[1]

Marshall had his sights set on following in his older brother’s footsteps and attending VMI – the prestigious Virginia Military Academy. But his heart was broken one day when he overheard his brother Stuart talking to their mother. He was begging her not to let George go to VMI. Marshall wrote his brother did not want him to attend VMI because, “… he thought I would disgrace the family name.”[2]

So how does that happen? How does anyone make the journey from hopeless academic underachiever to Nobel Prize winning diplomat in the course of a single lifetime?

Marshall wrote that one of the things that proved to be the key in turning his life around was the extreme nature of his brother’s negative attitude. It drove him not only to prove his brother wrong, but also to OUTDO his brother’s performance at VMI.

Some of us are wired similarly. We hear aspersions being cast on our ability or character and we respond with a defiant, “I’ll show YOU!” surging on to greatness. Others among us might hear those attacks and cave in, whimpering, “You know, they’re right. I really am a schmuck.”

But Marshall had something else going for him. Although his father was disappointed and embarrassed by George, his mother, “… rejoiced in him, offering unconditional love and support.”[3] She even sold the last of her family’s property – including a lot she had hoped to eventually build a house on – to raise the necessary money for Marshall to attend college.

How about you? Do you have someone like that in your corner? Someone willing to tell you how much they love and believe in you? Someone who will go to extreme lengths to show you just how much you mean to them, even when you continue to fall short and miss the mark?

Before you hasten to say “NO,” go back and re-read the Bible verse at the top of the page. These words were originally spoken by the prophet Isaiah and were intended to convey the heart of God. They were addressed to the Israelites living in Babylonian exile to help them understand – even though their future appeared bleak and hopeless – that their Creator considered them precious and valuable.

George Marshall’s mother gave up a valuable piece of real estate to ensure her son’s future. In this passage, God says he will give up NATIONS for you.

We are in the middle of a time that has become incredibly difficult for many people. You may know people who have lost jobs because of this virus. You may know people who have become sick or even some who have died. As the days of isolation stretch into weeks and months, it is hard to see any light on the horizon.

Even on the bright days a cloud seems to have parked itself permanently overhead.

Today, however, we should all stop and take a moment to remember this unchangeable fact; we each have a very powerful SOMEONE in our corner who believes in us. We have someone who will go to outrageous lengths to give us a future with hope.

That SOMEONE loves you more than you will ever know.

 

Abundant blessings;

[1] The Road to Character, by David Brooks. Random House, New York. 2015. Page 106

2 Ibid, p. 107

11
Oct
19

Celebrating Women in Ministry

Female pastorFrom watching the TODAY Show this morning, I learned that today – October 11 – is the International Day of the Girl. Seems like something I should have known already.

I hope you won’t take offense at being called girls, but to celebrate this day, I want to give a big shout-out to female pastors.

I have had the privilege of knowing some phenomenal women who have answered the call to ordained ministry and who have served Christ faithfully, tirelessly, and creatively… all while enduring challenges we male clergy types have never even imagined experiencing.

  • I, for example, have never had a congregant come through the hand-shake line and compliment me on my hairstyle, utterly ignoring every word of my painstakingly prepared message.
  • I have also never heard the comment – overtly or covertly – that “men just don’t belong in the pulpit.” (And yes, that is still being said in 2019 in reference to female clergy).
  • No one has ever told me that they couldn’t focus on my message because I was “too pretty.”
  • My denomination has not systematically overlooked my leadership abilities when appointment-setting time rolls around.
  • I have never been called “overly emotional” (even though I really am an overly emotional guy).
  • Concerns have never been expressed about how I will balance my parenting responsibilities with my ministry.
  • I have never been “accidentally” groped while serving Holy Communion. (And just to be crystal clear; the quotes there around the word “accidentally” mean there was nothing accidental at all about the groping. And yes, that happened just a year ago to a female clergy friend).
  • And the list goes on and on, ad nauseum

It was only fifty years ago that the Methodist Church (pre-merger) began ordaining women. The largest protestant denomination in the world (the Southern Baptist Conference) still cites 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”)for its outlandish refusal to permit women to have any position of power in the Southern Baptist Church.

[So just a question for you here, SBC: are you also “all in” with Paul’s instructions on how to treat our slaves? Or on the covering of heads? Or the Levitical ordnances against mixing fibers in our clothing? Just curious…]

Even though I would love to believe that the CHURCH would be the last place we would find injustice, intolerance, and bigotry, it is just not the case.

Even here.

Even now.

So, blessings and much love on this International Day to you Shelly, Gayla, Maria, Kara, Nancy, Barb, Nanette, Libby, Melinda, Trudy, Sylvia, Sharon, Amy, Dee, Anne, Karen, Stephanie, Ally, Shayla, Esther, Joyce, Ashlee, Jada, Lisa, Rebecca, Nadia, and to every woman who nevertheless persists in following God’s call on your life.

We need you now more than ever.

And to the rest of us, let’s do everything we can to support and encourage these women as they lead us in following Christ.




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