Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mark Twain, Dogs, or Wisteria? What's the cost?

I can live for two months on one good compliment”  …Mark Twain… 

In today’s world, we have become a society of non-encouragers.  We are too busy with our noses to our smart phones, computers, or SUV’s.  It seems we do OK with our kids- encouraging them to be all that they can be.  But when it comes to spouses, friends or other loved ones, they are on their own.  What in the cat hair?  I can tell you right now that menopausal women need LOTS of encouragement, sometimes to just make it from one hot flash to the next:).  A couple of people have encouraged me lately, my husband, my kids, and two friends.  It made me feel like a million bucks. But to be honest, I scratched my head and said, what about everyone else?

Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors.  Right now I am trying to read or re-read some of the classics.  I just finished Tom Sawyer and have gone straight into Huck Finn.  Mr. Twain makes me laugh and takes me to a time and place that I know a little about growing up in the Midwest.  He CAN spin a tale.  If he were alive I would compliment him daily- that might last him a couple of years.
Mark Twain

Still, encouraging someone is tricky business.  You have to first figure out WHAT  will encourage them ( a phone call, a gift, a tweet?)  Then take the time to do it.  When Tim and I were in Papua New Guinea, someone visiting there came and ate dinner with us.  They brought us a carry-on bag full of those free shower caps you get in hotel rooms.  We could tell they thought this would encourage us immensely.  It did not. What in the cat hair? They had not taken the time to think about what we might want, or even ask us.  Tim and I still use this example when we teach - how NOT to encourage missionaries.

Would it encourage you to have a huge bag full of these?

 One thing that DID encourage us when we were there for our 4 year term is my dad sending us VHS tapes of TV shows and newspapers from America.  This was before email, internet, or cell phones- and we were starved for news from home. We even loved watching the commercials.  Dad did this faithfully about twice a month for the whole time we were there.  He was never much for verbal encouragement, but he DID find a way to encourage us, even from 10,000 miles away.

Tim and are are immensely encouraged by the faithful folks who have supported financially our Wycliffe Ministry for the last 25 years.  We have some dear friends who have stuck with us from the beginning- that is ENCOURAGING to say the least. Every month or so when I send out our news/prayer letter, I pray over each person as I put the letter in the envelope.  I am filled with appreciation, and am greatly encouraged.

Ed and Nancy Linn- great encouragers and faithful supporters of ours for 25 years.

 Sometimes, things, or places can encourage us.  Tim loves his doggies, and they make him smile each day when he comes home.  I would have too say they encourage him.  (except when there is an accident in his shed)  

  Right now my Wisteria is peeking through my pergola.  THAT encourages me -spring is here.

Still-the truth is NONE of us are good encouragers unless we purposefully make a plan to do it.  It does not come naturally to anyone.  I am not good at it, but lately I have been trying to purposefully and intentionally encourage a few people God has given to me.  Encouraging anyone comes at a COST to us. It might be free to the person receiving, but it COSTS the person giving.  Are you willing to be an encourager? Are you willing to have it COST you something?  Barnabas in the Bible was an encourager.  His name meant “Encourager”.  But it did COST him something.  You can read about all of his missionary shenanigans in the book of ACTS- chapter 13 to the end of the book.

 Here is the cost if you are willing:
1.Time-encouraging someone takes time. You have to take time to call or email or tweet or have coffee with them.  It’s not free to you- it COSTS you.
2.Effort-  to really be an encourager it takes effort.  It will take you effort to find out what would be encouraging.  It COSTS you. (probably not a carry-on bag full of shower caps) I know what encourages my husband- it’s not a cruise, or an all expense paid trip.  Time at home with his family, or in his yard are his favorite things to do.
3.Sometimes Money-if you are cheap and want to hold on to your money you will probably never be a good encourager- sometimes it takes a nice gift to encourage someone.  It COSTS you.
4.Pride –sometimes what you try won’t work.  You may feel irritated if the person does not appreciate what you did, or did not respond in the way you expected. That COSTS you.  Do you throw up your hands and say- Forget it! Nope -you keep on trying, even if it costs you some pride.

Mark Twain and his literature was and still is an encouragement to many folks. The truth is sometimes I don’t feel encouraged writing this blog. I think to myself “no one is really reading it”.  While I know that is probably not true, it doesn’t really matter. That just makes me understand how I need to be a better encourager to others.   It needs to COST me something. Because of my experience, I am purposing in my heart to encourage even if I don’t feel encouraged.  What about you?  Do you want to lay around on the couch eating popcorn and watching dumb TV shows?  Or just the opposite... Encourage someone today- here is what Mark Twain has to say on the matter...

“Always do right, this will gratify some and astound the rest”.