Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Initiating Conversation

"...Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak." Acts 13:15

A kind word can warm three months of winter. - Japanese Proverb

I remember when we were going through the agony of dealing with a rebellious daughter. She had done everything she could think of to go against what her father and I and her church had taught her was right. I felt like such a failure as a parent. No matter where I went, I tried desparately to avoid talking with people. I dreaded the question, "How are things going with your daughter?"

Then one Sunday morning at church, another mother, a little older and wiser, took me aside and said, "I know you're having a tough time right now. We went through a really hard time with our daughter too." This was a lady I thought had it all together. She always proudly brought her grandchildren to church with her. I never knew the story behind it.

When she was done sharing, I suddenly had a deep sense of relief. Someone understood. Someone had been there before and had survived all the hurt. She didn't give me platitudes of how God was going to work things out. By initiating that conversation, she simply told me she cared and understood. That was what I needed most then and I knew that God was in it.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mailbag--God's love letters

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 13:4

"The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." Allan K. Chalmers

In a box in the closet, I have a collection of letters exchanged between my husband and myself when we were dating. It was a long distance romance and an unusual one in that we wrote letters to each other almost everyday for a year. It's hard to call them love letters since they were more humorous than sweet and sappy but they were letters of encouragement. Each of us encouraged the other in our studies (we were both in college) and in the hope that our relationship was growing and would bring us together in the future.

I have often heard the Bible referred to as God's love letters to us. It not only teaches, it inspires, gives hope, and encourages a relationship. Do you go to your mailbox each day and collect the mail? Check your e-mail box for messages at least once a day? Why not open your Bible and see what God sent you today? Be encouraged.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Smile--from a stranger

"Keep a smile on your face." Romans 12:8 (MSG)

"A smile is the number one feature that makes people attractive. It's a welcome mat." ~John Kinde

I was crossing the parking lot headed into a store in the strip mall and going over my agenda in my head: pick up one more gift, remember to get more tape and gift wrap, and be home in time to start dinner. As I hustled through the chill and drew my coat closer to my neck, I happened to look up from the pavement in time to see a lady coming toward me the other direction. I didn't recognize her. I didn't know her, of that I am certain, but she beamed a wonderful welcoming smile at me. I instantly responded (how could I not) with a smile of my own--one that I felt generate from my heart. It was a reflection of the one she gave me.

That was before Christmas and two months later I am still remembering that smile. It was so unusual. It was not the embarrassed smile of someone who had crossed my path and felt she was in my way. It was not the smile of someone who remembered me and was going to say "hello." Still, it was a smile that instantly made me connect with her somehow, that lifted my spirit, that lingers today.

Ahh! I know. With that smile she passed along joy. That's what has stuck with me even now.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Extol--give a gift of praise

"Whoever has the gift of encouraging others should encourage." Romans 12:8 (NCV)

Remember this December, that love weighs more than gold! ~ Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon

Anxiety levels rise as December 25th approaches. Everyone is looking for the perfect gift. They search and search through malls, catalogs, and online stores looking for it when all along it is well within their reach and their budget: a little praise wrapped in love.

Whether the words of encouagement are spoken or written, they will be welcomed and appreciated. It takes so little for us to say "Thank you," "You are kind (loving, thoughtful, etc.)," You bring out the best in others." "You bring joy into my life." Whatever loving praise you can think of that fits the person's special talents, personality, or need can't help but lift them and cheer them.

Love indeed weighs more than gold and to my mind, is much more precious.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Listening--a loving gift

"You have ears, then listen!" Matthew 11:15 (NLV)

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~ Epictetus

This time of year is difficult for many people who have lost loved ones especially those whose losses have been recent. I remember the first year without my mother. She defined the term "Christmas spirit" and when she died, our family was feeling the loss deeply as Christmas approached. True to her nature, Mom had already purchased gifts for us a few months before her death in September. As we opened gifts that year, we shared what Mom had done in years past. We told stories of her successful and not so successful gift hiding, her traditional dinners, and other stories that brought smiles and chuckles as we remembered Mom's Christmas adventures.

Telling the stories we remember about a loved one helps to ease that great pain of loss. A good listener will help another through their sadness at holiday time by encouraging those stories and then listening--really listening, as they are told. Listening--what a great gift to offer another this year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Make Time to Send Cards

"I weep with grief; my heart is heavy with sorrow; encourage and cheer me with your words." Psalms 119:28 (TLB)

Time goes by so fast, people go in and out of your life. You must never miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you. ~ From the last episode of "Cheers"

The holiday season is upon us. How did Thanksgiving get here so quickly? Christmas will be fast on its heels. For most of us, the holidays will be sweet and tender, festive and full of fun. But there are those in our lives, whose celebration will be tainted by grief or shadowed by fear. They need your encouragement--the comfort to know they are still loved, still thought of, still cared for.

This year as you peruse the boxes of gift cards for your annual Christmas card mailing, walk a few steps farther and check out the single card purchases. There are lots of cards available that can lift the spirits of those who are down this season. I especially like the humorous ones. One of my favorites shows a snowman on the front reaching into his stocking and pulling out two pieces of coal. On the inside he pops the coal into his head and yells, "I can see! I can see!" I've sent it to a few people who needed to smile at Christmas.

Be careful with the humor and if you're not sure, send a nice card that says you're thinking of them or one that tells them how much they mean to you. These are easy cards to make as well. Or if you don't feel creative, just write a nice note. It's never a waste of time or talent. Send some cheer this year!

©2006 Karen Robbins

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Smile--at you!

If a sponge is all dried up, it is of little use until it is filled with water again. To be an encourager, you too, must be filled--with living water.

There is an account in the Bible of Jesus meeting a woman at a well. He must have planned this meeting for he'd separated himself from his disciples and was alone when she approached the well to draw water for the day. His objective: to offer her the living water, the spirit filled life that would leave her so full, she would never "thirst" again.

Set the scene in your mind. A woman, alone, is approaching the well. She sees a man--a stranger--sitting there. She hesitates. Should she continue? After all, in these days you never knew what dangers might be associated with strangers. Now here, in my mind, Jesus smiles at her. It's a smile like no other she's ever seen. It's inviting but not threatening. It's warm not coniving or sly. It's genuine not forced. It's a smile that prepares her heart for what he is about to tell her.

Smiles are like that. They prepare the way for you. Jesus still smiles at you today. He does it through his love letters--the scriptures. Start your day with a smile. Fill yourself with the living water he has to offer. Then use that smile on someone else to bring joy to their day.

©2006 Karen Robbins

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