Tag Archives: encouragement

The Most Contagious Disease

Story of the Day for Monday September 17, 2012 

The Most Contagious Disease

                Then the people from the area discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from continuing to build. . 

                                                                                            Ezra 4:4

One of the most contagious diseases known to man is discouragement.

All great achievements have come about because people persevered in the face of seemingly impossible odds. In 1915, Ernest Shackleton gathered a group of adventurous men and set out to be the first ones to traverse the entire continent of Antarctica. But they never reached the mainland before ice flows trapped their ship, and crushed it.

Alone on an ice flow, with no one to call for help, they embarked on a desperate attempt for survival. The odds were grim.

If you were their leader, what would you determine was the greatest need for your men?  Food? Warmth? Shelter? All these are vital for survival.  But great leaders realize that, in times of crises, morale is vital. One man’s skepticism could demoralize the entire crew. Optimism would not guarantee their survival, but without it, failure was certain.

So, what did Shackleton do? Alfred Lansing, in his book, Endurance, describes how Shackleton made sure Frank Hurley attended the high-level meetings. Hurley was not an officer, nor did he have any previous Antarctic experience. Shackleton included him because he knew that Hurley needed to feel important and did not want him spreading discontent to the others. When Shackleton made tent assignments, he put Hudson, James, and Hurley in his tent. Why? Because these were the men most likely to discourage the rest of the crew.

After surviving the Antarctic winter the crew climbed into lifeboats and made their way through the ice flows to Elephant Island. With his crew very weak, but on dry land, Shackleton needed to leave immediately in a row boat and travel almost a thousand miles to find help. He chose Worsley because he was the best navigator, and McCarthy, because he was built like a bull. But the others, Crean, McNeish, and Vincent were chosen to accompany him because they were the ones who were the most pessimistic at the time. After a year and a half of struggle, Shackleton and all his crew were rescued.

When God’s people began rebuilding the temple, their enemies didn’t force them to quit. Instead, they tried to discourage them so that the people would decide to quit.

Pessimists like to point out what great achievers already know: that the odds their venture will fail is high. And, once any group is convinced it will fail, its downfall is ensured.

Those who refuse to give in to discouragement – who persevere through innumerable obstacles, are the ones who are most likely to attain success.

Has the Lord called you to a high goal?  Don’t give in to discouragement.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Encouraging Each Other

Story of the Day for Monday August 6, 2012 

Encouraging Each Other

 

                 Let us consider how we can spur each other on in love and good works – not neglecting to meet together, as some are in the habit, but encouraging each other. . .  

                                                                                       Hebrews 10:24-25

 

 One of the greatest moments in a grade school teacher’s career happened by mistake.

In his first year of teaching, Jaime Escalante had two students who shared the same first name, Johnny.  But they were so different.   One was an excellent student – happy and well-behaved.  The other was a goof-off and did not take his studies seriously.

At the first PTA meeting of the year, a parent asked how her son was doing. The teacher raved about her son Johnny and what a delight he was to have in the classroom.   But he was mistaken.  He was actually talking to “bad” Johnny’s mom.

The next day, the problem child approached the teacher.  “My mom told me what you said about me last night.  I haven’t ever had a teacher who wanted me in his class.”

From that day on “Problem Johnny” completed his assignments and became a model student.

 

Even though the teacher’s praise was unintentional, it demonstrates how powerful our encouragement of others can be.   People are capable of doing so much if we can make them believe they can.

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, in their best-selling book, In Search of Excellence, describe a psychological experiment where every adult is given the same ten puzzles to solve.   Half of the exam takers were told they did well, getting seven out of ten correct.   The other half was informed they did poorly, getting seven out of ten problems wrong.

But, in fact, the psychologists made the test scores up.   And when they gave each group another round of puzzles, they discovered that those who were told they did well the first round did better on the second, while those who were told they did poorly did worse on the second test.

Encouragement is urging others to believe – to believe

in what the Lord has done for them, to believe in what God has made them capable of, to believe they are loved.

But here is the important point: encouragement is what we do for another person.  We need each other.   That is why the Bible urges us to get together – not only for the purpose of corporate worship – but to encourage each other in love and good deeds.

 

Encouraging others is not always our first impulse.   We are avid fans of employing criticism to improve behavior.  And don’t get me wrong – criticism has its place.   There are times when we must point out someone else’s faults.   Yet, if we are not sensitive in our criticism, we can decrease rather than improve another person’s behavior.   The test takers who were told they did poorly are proof of that.

There is more power in encouragement than we often imagine. Every since Cheryl Pruitt was four or five she would hang around her dad’s country stores.  Every day the milkman would arrive to stock the store.  And every day he would greet little Cheryl and say, “So, how’s my little Miss America?”

In 1980, guess who became the new Miss America?

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Step Out on Our Own

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 10, 2012 

 

Step Out on Our Own

 

                              Each one should examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to someone else. 

                                                                         Galatians 6:4

 

 Roger McGuinn was bowled over the first time he heard the Beatles. McGuinn, trained on folk guitar and banjo, was a songwriter for Bobby Darin. His job was to listen to the latest hit recordings, learn them, and try to mimic the sound. When the first Beatles hits topped the charts, McGuinn noticed they used folk-style passing chords with a rock & roll backbeat.

He loved the unique combination and employed it in his performances in Greenwich Village — so much so that one owner billed his gigs as “Beatle Imitations.”

McGuinn moved to California and helped form the Byrds. But the new band so adored the Beatles that their earliest recordings sounded eerily similar to the sound of their idols. When they watched the movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” McGuinn noticed George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker 12-string, and immediately bought the same guitar.

The Byrd’s manager, Jim Dickson, however, was troubled by the band’s desire to be like the Beatles, and pushed them to create their own style. So, McGuinn began experimenting with a brighter tone and longer sustain on his Rickenbacker, and developed a simultaneous flatpicking and banjo-style fingerpicking technique to create his famous “jingle-jangle” sound.

 

The Byrds’ first English tour, hyped as “America’s Answer to the Beatles,” was a disaster. The critics dashed off scathing reviews.

But one night, two musicians attended a Byrds concert. Afterward, they went backstage and introduced themselves as John Lennon and George Harrison. They were fascinated with the Byrds unique sound and creative harmonies. They invited the Byrds to their homes and shared musical ideas.

The harsh reviews of the Byrds were tempered when the Beatles publicly announced that the Byrds were their favorite band.

Soon after their visit, George Harrison sent press officer, Derek Taylor, to California to hand deliver to McGuinn a recording of his latest song, “If I Needed Someone.” Harrison, in tribute to McGuinn, had imitated Roger’s guitar work from “Bells of Rhymney.”

The Beatles, whom the Byrds originally sought to emulate, turned out to be the ones who encouraged the Byrds to continue exploiting their own unique style.

 

We learn by imitation. The great comic writer, S. J. Perlman said, “You must learn by imitation,” and adds he “could have been arrested for imitating Lardner” in his early writing style.  Just as all great artists begin by copying the styles of others, one of the best ways to grow in our Christian faith is through role models.

While we may learn by imitating others, however, eventually we must step out on our own. The Byrds began by trying to emulate someone else, but found their greatest strength was to discover their own creative potential.

Roger McGuinn acknowledges his debt to the influence and encouragement of the Beatles. On his solo CD, “Limited Edition,” his opening song is George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” But McGuinn has also learned to step out on his own, not only by finding his own musical style, but also, in 1977, by finding Christ.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

Kind Words and A Kiss

Story of the Day for Friday April 20, 2012

Kind Words and A Kiss

What a joy to give an apt reply, and how delightful is a timely word!
Proverbs 15:23

Benjamin West was one of the greatest painters of his day. Do you recall his masterpiece The Death of General Wolfe? Okay, well never mind — he was a good painter. He painted Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. In 1763, he moved to England where King George III had him paint the portraits of the royal family. Later, he became president of the Royal Academy of Arts.

William Barclay describes a time when West was little. One day his mother left him in charge of his little sister Sally. Benjamin discovered some bottles of ink and began to paint Sally’s portrait

He made quite a mess of things, with ink blots all over.

When his mother came home, she saw the mess but said nothing. She noticed the painting, picked it up and said, “Why, it’s Sally!” Then she stooped down and kissed Benjamin.
Benjamin West used to say, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”

Kind words and a kiss. What a joyous moment that must have been.

I’m not, however, referring to the delight of little Benjamin West, but of his mother. Proverbs 15:23 isn’t talking about the joy of receiving an apt reply; it’s talking about the joy of giving one.

Many times, of course, we must criticize others, and others must criticize us. But have you ever noticed that those who are habitually critical of others look like they just found a toenail clipping in their soup?

Yeah, sometimes we have to criticize, but it pains us — or, at least it should pain us. Speaking kind words, on the other hand, does more than bring encouragement to the hearer; an encouraging word delights the giver.

This last winter I completed my twentieth Birkebeiner. The “Birkie” is a cross-country ski marathon stretching over thirty miles from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.
Thousands of spectators line the course. To reach the finish line you must ski down Main Street in Hayward. You can hear the thunderous roar of the crowd well before you hit the street. Through a P.A. system that can be heard above the din of the crowd, the announcer shouts out your name and hometown as you ski to the finish.

The Birkie is a moving experience. Everyone claps for you and cheers you on. Not once has a spectator shouted “Ski faster! I can’t believe how slow you are!”
Fatigue always catches up with you and when you feel you can ski no further, the spectators provide the lift that sees you through to the finish.

When it comes to spiritual things, I’m a late bloomer, but in recent years I’ve made a discovery. When a fellow skier is injured or has hit the wall, I like to stop now and help. I’m slow enough as it is, and stopping to help others does nothing for my race time.
Over all these years the spectators never shared their secret with me . . . but I’ve learned it’s even more thrilling to give encouragement than it is to receive it.

The Bible says Jesus, “for the joy set before him” endured the cross in our place. Slowly I’m learning how true his words are when he taught us, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Best Encourager in the World

Story of the Day for Saturday February 18, 2012

The Best Encourager in the World

                                                     We never flattered you. 

                                                               1 Thessalonians 2:5

When I browse through a sporting goods store and find a new gizmo that I simply can’t live without, I quickly track down my wife, sweep her in my arms and whisper, “Honey, have I ever told you that your eyes sparkle like shimmering pools of moonlight on a warm summer’s night?”

She sighs, rolls her shimmering pools of moonlight, and asks, “So, what do you want to buy this time?”

My wife, to my great misfortune, can shrewdly distinguish between praise and flattery. Even though both sentiments glow with admiration, she knows that praise and flattery differ greatly in their sincerity.

We flatter when we have an ulterior motive. The goal of flattery is not to give to others but to get something out of the one on whom we lavish insincere praise.

 

When the apostle Paul writes to the newly formed congregation at Thessalonika, he assures them he never seeks to flatter. He had no hidden agenda.

Yet, before disavowing flattery, he has been showering them with praise. He tells them they are a shining model for the other believers in the area. He writes of their joy in the face of severe suffering, their responsiveness in imitating Paul’s example, their faith, their love, their endurance. Paul could hardly be more effusive in his praise.

 

Unlike flattery, praise is sincere. Yet, even though the intention of praise is to encourage others, sometimes praise can inadvertently harm them.

Carol Dweck, a Ph.D from Stanford University, oversaw an experiment with hundreds of fifth graders. A student was given blocks with different colors on each side and asked to form the blocks into the pattern shown on a card.

The first card showed an easy pattern. When a student completed the puzzle, half were told: “Wow, you did really well; you must be really smart.” When the other group finished the easy puzzle they were told: “Wow, you did really well; you must’ve worked really hard.”

Dr. Dweck then had all the students tackle a far more challenging puzzle — one which forced every student to struggle.

When each student finished the two puzzles, they were asked: “Which problems do you want to work on some more: the easier ones or those harder ones?” Those kids who were praised for their intelligence usually wanted to do the easier ones. But the students who were praised for working hard preferred the challenging puzzles.

Dr. Dweck maintains that praising inherent talent motivates kids to not want to grow. New challenges are welcomed by kids praised as hard workers, but are a threat to those who must maintain their reputation for being intelligent.

True praise should always seek to encourage and make others better. And if you learn to praise others wisely, I’m sure you can become the best encourager in the world!

Or is that flattery?

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


“I Felt Like a Lion”

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 31, 2012

“I Felt Like a Lion”

                       Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

                                                     Proverbs 16:24

 According to a poll reported by Tom Rath and Dr. Donald Clifton in How Full Is Your Bucket?, 65 percent of American employees don’t receive any positive recognition for their work in any given year. The author’s also refer to the U.S. Department of Labor which says the number-one reason people quit their jobs is because of lack of appreciation.

 

The Bible says that pleasant words — words of praise and encouragement — boost us in body and soul. Why is it, then, that compliments so easily get stuck in our throats?

“I don’t want it to go to his head,” we say — as if our praise will lead others into a downward spiral of moral degeneration.

 

Have you heard of the Losada Line? Dr. Marcial Losada found that there is a correlation between a company’s success and the positive-to-negative comments made within the workplace. The dividing line between above and below-average performance is a positive to negative ratio of 2.9. In other words, for a company to be successful, workers need to be making more than three positive comments to every criticism they make of another worker.

Can you take the notion of speaking pleasant words too far? Absolutely — although few of us are in any danger of doing so. The research also discovered there is an upper limit to the positive things we say. If the ratio of positive-to-negative comments exceeds eleven to one, our positive words are perceived as insincere, and become ineffective.

 

When we frequently criticize others, we usually feel that we’re helping them to improve their behavior. The irony is that we don’t respond to critical people. We view negative people as crabby rather than as someone with their welfare in mind.

We do, ironically, respond to criticism from those whose words are predominantly positive.

 

Imagine how you would feel if someone paid you a sincere compliment. Once you’ve been encouraged by their pleasant words, then the beauty of Jesus’ golden rule comes into play: seek to encourage others as the words of others have encouraged you.

 

Barbara Tuchman recounts the story of a corporal in Israel’s armored-corps. After three days of combat he was emotionally shattered.  The destruction and carnage left him apathetic — he no longer cared whether he lived or died.

Schools had organized a program where each student sent a letter and a small gift to a soldier.  When the discouraged corporal saw the letter dropped on his bunk, he thought, “Some silly crap.”  Nevertheless, he opened the letter.

“Dear Soldier,” the letter read, “I am sending you this chewing gum. I am not afraid of bombs because I know you are out there protecting me and will not let anyone kill me.”

The corporal immediately jumped to his feet. “I felt,” the soldier said, “like a lion.”

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

God’s Thorough Inspection

Story of the Day for Thursday October 13, 2011

God’s Thorough Inspection

                    Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

                   See if there is any displeasing way in me. And lead me in the everlasting way. 

                                                                Psalm 139:23-24

When I was in high school, my best friend’s older brother used to buy old, rusty tractors – the kind that had been sitting in the rain behind the barn for ages.  He loved to take them apart, and carefully clean and fix each part and then get the engine running again. Once he got those old tractors running he would remove the rust and re-paint them. The satisfaction he found in restoration tractors was obvious.

 

For some reason, we seldom find that same kind of satisfaction in doing repairs on our souls. We’re reluctant to look under the hood because we’re afraid of what we might find. But, even worse, do you ever feel uneasy about what God would think if he lifted the hood and noticed we’re not running on all cylinders?

 

What is it, then, that King David invites God to take a look at what is going on in his heart?  Even though his mind is a jumble of anxious thoughts, he wants God to see them.  He wants God to do an inspection and find out if anything in him is displeasing to the Lord.  And, if so, he asks for help in fixing it.

 

Our natural impulse is to want to hide our faults and vices – from God, from others, and even from ourselves.  But the only way we can have David’s boldness to invite God to examine the depths of our lives is if we know he’s not going to hurt us.  David knew a holy God, a God who hates evil, yet does not want to destroy evildoers.  Instead, he wants to remove the sin from our lives and restore us.

You can’t know the boldness of asking God to examine your life until you first know that he wants to do a repair job on you – not tow you to the junkyard.

Why don’t you try it?  Ask God to do a thorough inspection of your life: your thoughts, your motives, your behavior, your priorities.  He will show you why you’re overheating, or why you’re losing power on the steep hills.  But don’t ever forget: he is there to get you back in good running order.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Step Up to the Plate….and Hit a Single

Story of the Day for Saturday July 9, 2011

Step Up to the Plate and. . .Hit a Single

 

                     When Paul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him.  They didn’t believe he really was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. 

                                                          Acts 9:26-27

 I don’t know if you’re supposed to have “favorite” Bible characters, so don’t tell anyone I said this, but one of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas.

Barnabas is not what his parents named him. His real name was Joseph, but he was so good at lifting the spirits of people that they called him “Barnabas,” which means, “son of encouragement.”

Without Barnabas there would be no Paul.  Saul (who would later be named “Paul”) used to persecute the church and all the disciples were afraid of him.  Barnabas, however, convinced them to have Paul accepted as a fellow believer.

As you read the book of Acts, you’ll find at least 20 times where Luke says “Paul and Barnabas” did this or that on their missionary trips.  But, do you want to know something?  When I think about the book of Acts, it is about the missionary trips of Paul.  Paul is in the limelight and Barnabas almost seems to drop out of the picture.

 

Are you a Barnabas?  Do you see that it is just as important to help and encourage others as it is to be the one getting all the applause?

I guess it is OK to have favorite baseball players, so let me tell you one of mine: Willie Mays.  Willie Mays was a great hitter.  He hit a lot of doubles.  But, all of a sudden, his doubles declined rapidly.

Do you know why?  When Mays would hit a double, the next batter up was Willie McCovey, who was the best power hitter on the team.  Rather than let him bat, with first base open, they would simply walk him intentionally.

Once Mays realized that his doubles took the bat out of the hands of McCovey, he would deliberately hold up at first base, so that McCovey would have an opportunity to knock one out of the park.  Willie Mays worked to make his teammate look better.

You have to be a person of great humility to help someone else become greater by getting less attention yourself. But, without people who encourage others, the church would have no effective ministry.

Willie Mays would have won more glory if he smacked a lot of doubles rather than singles.  But it is so much more satisfying when we are working for something greater than ourselves – something greater than our own glory.  Mays played on a team.

 

Why is it that I imagine Barnabas as one of the happiest and most content of the early disciples?  (The Bible doesn’t say anything about that.) Deep down, we find it impossible to imagine this first band of disciples changing a man’s name to “son of encouragement” – and then picturing the guy as morose.  Or obsessed with his own ego.

When we stop to think about it we know that those who delight in encouraging others are those who live with a twinkle in their eyes.

 

Have you heard of Haley’s comet?  If so, you are mistaken.  It isn’t Haley (as in “hale-ee”), but Halley (as in “hall-ee”).  Let me tell you about Edmund Halley.

But not right now.  First, let’s talk about Sir Isaac Newton.  You know him: the apple falls on his head, supposedly, and he comes up with a mathematical formula for gravity.  After Newton published his findings, he went on to become one of the most famous scientists of all time.

Yet, without Edmund Halley, we probably would never know about Newton.  Halley challenged Newton to think through his theories.  When Newton made mathematical mistakes in his calculations, Halley corrected them.  When Newton wrote up his discoveries, Halley edited his work.  When Newton refused to publish his findings, Halley published them, and paid the printing costs out of his own pocket.  Historians who know this story call it one of the most selfless acts in science history.

And those of us who do know about the comet he discovered rarely pronounce his name right.  Halley was a Barnabas.  He is virtually unknown, but because of his encouragement, he gave Sir Isaac Newton to the world.

Maybe it’s time for us to step up to the plate and. . . hit a single – so that someone else can knock it out of the park.

 

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)