an encouraging word

“Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play;                                                   Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

Dr. Brewster Higley, 1873                                                                                                                                Smith County, Kansas

Cloudless skies. Congenial surroundings.  No discouraging words.  How lovely.

Poor Dr. Brewster had endured his share of heartbreak.  His first three wives had each died from injury or illness.  His fourth marriage, to the widow Mrs. Mercy McPherson, was by all accounts an unhappy union.  So unhappy, in fact, that he fled to Kansas, leaving his wife behind.  Taking advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862, he settled on the banks of West Beaver Creek.  It was there that he wrote the poem “My Western Home” to express his pleasure at the place he had chosen for his homestead.

I get the impression that Dr. Brewster had heard his share of discouraging words.  Critical patients?  A shrewish wife?  Whoever it was, he seems to have escaped their biting tongue out in the isolated place he called home.

Living in seclusion seems to be a way to escape discouraging, critical words. But living as a recluse is not practical or appropriate.  We are called in live in community.  This makes it difficult to completely avoid discouraging words, but perhaps we can do better than a bunker mentality.  Why not take an offensive stance and cultivate the habit of affirming others?

At my church we have what we call Encouragement Cards.   It is a postcard that says:  I appreciate you for……  followed by a large space to write in a message of encouragement.  These cards are addressed, stamped, and mailed out by the church secretary.  I have been on both the sending and receiving end of these cards and either side is gratifying.  I have also received lovely notes from friends that  are written with the expressed intent of giving me encouragement.  I am so thankful that encouragement is one of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives the Church.

I have a friend who has the gift of encouragement.  Her upbeat, sunny nature always helps me to see the positive side of any situation.  She invariably lifts my spirits.  But even more, she tells me she sees and values the gifts God has given me.  Encouraging words!  I am motivated to press on.

On the other hand, like you, I have also been the recipient of discouraging words and have struggled with the appropriate response.  For me, the difficult truth is that sometimes we are called to just absorb the pain, in the same way that Christ absorbed God’s wrath as He hung on the cross.  Our response is to be one that demonstrates the gracious and quiet spirit which God is building in us.   Our challenge is to weed out the thorny, critical words, while at the same time looking for  jewels of truth that may be embedded in the critique.

Sometimes we long for escape from the discouraging words we are dealt.  A cabin out on the plains.   Watching the deer and antelope frolicking in the yard.  Peace and quiet.   Tempting, but don’t do it!  Be an imitator of God and go on the offensive:

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.      Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.                       1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

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18 thoughts on “an encouraging word

    • Ceil,
      It isn’t easy being an imitator of God! When Jesus was the recipient of hurtful comments, He held his tongue. I can’t imagine being mocked as He was and not fighting back, but in His wisdom he knew there was no benefit in responding. I love Him for absorbing the pain of those words.

  1. I am so doing this now, I am around such discouraging individuals with rude comments towards me, and I don’t understand why people can be so belitteling with no apparent reason except the fact that maybe there very insecure, I do pray and read scriptures but I am hermiting away from people, so this article is a helpful testimony to my life, thankyou, because of this I feel encouraged to get back out there and put up a good positive fight, RYE

    • Rosemarie, I am so sorry to hear that you are being treated in this way. I think God is pleased with resolve to respond in a positive way. I am adding you to my prayer list and will ask the Lord to give you some encouraging friends.

  2. Thanks Jill for your “scribble” — I appreciate your words of wisdom presented in such poignant, yet gentle ways. Words are sooo important — to use for the good of uplifting others. Thanks for the reminder.

    • I am looking forward to our Sunday school class on Speaking Wisely. This is something I want so much for the Lord to incorporate into my life. I know James says that no man can tame the tongue, but with the power of the Holy Spirit working in us surely there is hope!

  3. You reminded me of a book I read many years ago that actually set me on a path to Christ. It’s called “The Choice”. The author proposes that there are two ways of being and that we move from one to the other seemingly seamlessly. But between stimulus and response (what happens to us and how we respond to what happens to us) lies a moment of choice. And we choose our response. We can either be responsive or resistant. In our responsive “way of being” we see others as important as ourselves. We see their concerns, hopes, needs, and fears. And see them as important as our own. The other “way of being” the resistant way we see others more as objects. Resistant to their reality. If we see them at all they are “less” than we are. Less relevant, less important, less real. And it’s a lie. Shortly after that I read the book “Balcony People” which has a similar theme only she calls the two ways of being balcony people and basement people. Balcony people are encouraging and affirming while basement people are evaluating and critical. Either way we have a choice to see people as real and important as ourselves with similar hopes and dreams or as objects that only have value as it relates to us. The two books opened my eyes to who I really was. A broken man in need of healing. That couldn’t be cured on my own.

  4. Jill,I am so impressed with this blog! It gives me goosebumps. This is the first time I saw any of your writings and so firmly believe in what you have said, and what George has said about balcony people. It is what I strived to do when I was in the work place and it made for such a nice environment but I feel the need to look at this in my family life now. My father sang “Oh Give my a home, where the buffalo roam whenever we were in the car” It brings back nice memories. One way to grieve over the loss of a loved one is to honor what they taught you by spreading what they taught you around. I shall be singing all week “Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play; Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
    THE EMPHASIS BEING ON WHERE SELDOM IS HEARD A DISCOURAGING WORD! Words should be used to uplift others. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 is right on! We should surround ourselves with people that believe this.This blog is encouragement in itself!

    • Terri, What a nice memory to have of your dad! I agree that it is preferable to be around people who are encouragers. I definitely want to do more and more of it myself. Hope you are doing well. Shall we plan to meet in Lee sometime for lunch?

  5. Words are extremely important. As parents we are constantly encouraging our children because of our desire to see them reach their full potential. We hope that the rest of the world would have the same vested interest or concern. Positive words in general create a peace filled environment. Thankfully I am not the victim of hurtful words very often but when I am it hurts to my inner most being. Jesus spoke very often concerning the potential good or injury words could accomplish. I would even agree with Bambi’s mom when she said if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. Silence is better than negative words. I find people to be especially challenged by those they feel they have nothing in common with. If you were seated next to a person dressed all in goth with tattoos and piercings would you be able to see the soul of that person or just the outward appearance? I have made it a personal mandate of my own to do just that. Every human being deserves to hear Christ’s words of encouragement not just those in our comfortable inner circle.

  6. Anne, I agree every person needs, and should hear words of truth from the Lord Jesus…and George..balcony peeps..absolutely .!!..however ..there comes a point in knowing, and being wise to just be silent…to stop handing out the words..to be still….in that no more Christ’s words of encouragement …as it can become a case of casting the pearls to the swine..who WILL trash them..AND use them to rip you to pieces…it is at that point, where one MUST learn to be silent, and press in to Jesus, in full trust..hope, and have a inner peace and joy, that He will make good out of the circumstances…I believe this is also connected with us learning the real meaning of forgiveness?..as in ” Father , forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”…. with out Holy Spirit help..this is impossible…and even with Him, I’m not so sure we can get “there” fully.

  7. SInt Francis of Assis said ” Preach the gospel and when necessary use words”. What is most convincing of what we profess to believe is how we live and treat others. What good is our knowledge of Christ if we fail to be Christ to others. God commands us to love one another not just those we choose to love.

  8. Amen, amen, amen. Thanks so much for sharing your gift of writing and wisdom! What a wonderful and timely challenge! There is such life in kind words…such death in discouragement. Lovely thought for the day…

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