Dear Church Family,
Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said… Acts 13:13-16 English Standard Version
“We would welcome a word of encouragement!” The leaders of the synagogue in Antioch open the floor to Paul and Barnabas for testimony with the expectation that they have a word to lighten spirits and uplift hearts. Some days I can become so attentive to the problems to be solved – the long list of things to be done, that I miss receiving encouragement. Dr. Martin Seligman, the grandfather of positive psychology, points out that our focus often becomes our reality and that the pursuit of “grit” is a great enhancement to human flourishing. Often, we are what we take in and a diet without encouragement can leave us with clinched teeth and a bitter taste in our mouths. So, part of the path is to look for encouragement, part of the path is to prepare to offer a word of encouragement.
Lest we think that this mixture of bible and positive psychology is a rose-colored glasses half full whistle walk to the land of Pollyanna, let us remember that denial is not encouraging. An honest acknowledgement of challenges is necessary for an encouraging word to be hopeful. We do not have to pretend all is or has been perfect to be encouraging and in fact the best stories have at least some rags to allow the riches to be truly treasured. When Paul stands to offer his good news, he tells the story of God’s commitment to the people but also points out that there were some low times (Read Acts 13:16-39).
I am looking to be encouraged. I want some “good news,” how about you? I invite you to write, or video tape a word of encouragement; it can be a personal story, a reflection on a scripture, a movie, a book, or a song, perhaps a celebration of someone who has touched you, or something you learned how to do. I invite you to first think about that “something” that has strengthened you and ruminate on that for a while. This will do you good.
Then, if it seems right to you, I invite you to prepare to share your “Word of Encouragement.” The preamble to Paul’s witness is offered to you as well; “Brothers (and sisters), if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” We will set up a section on our web page and look for other ways to share these words of encouragement, and of course you can post them on your own. If you, like me, occasionally need encouragement, I invite you to look to these and other witnesses, and allow yourself to trust that God is with us and that hope abides.