Category Archives: Encouragement
My son and I were watching a preview on TV about cyber-bullying. The preview started a conversation about cyber-bullying, name calling, and otherwise attacking someone’s character. He asked me about the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
I have heard many sermons on gossip, and of course we all know that lying, ‘Bearing false witness’, is a sin because it’s a commandment. I told my child these things, but nothing illustrates a point like a good story.
As Grace would have it, on the very day my son was to ask me this question, I heard a story about a Rabbi.
There was a wise Rabbi who did his best to teach his students, but he was a tough teacher. He was particularly hard on his most promising student. This student became frustrated and angry with the Rabbi. After class, he told some fellow classmates a lie about the Rabbi. He and his fellow students thought it was funny. But, the lie began to spread. Each student took the lie home to their friends and to their families who also began to spread the lie as the truth.
The next day the student heard a much bigger and more serious version of the lie from someone else, and he felt remorse. He realized he had wronged the Rabbi and needed to ask for his forgiveness. He gathered his courage and went to see the Rabbi.
He hung his head and wrung his hands as he sat before the Rabbi. “Rabbi, I have sinned against you. I told a lie about you, and I seek your forgiveness.”
The Rabbi was silent and thought for a while, “Son, you are one of my brightest students, and I am glad that you have asked for my forgiveness.”
“Do I have it?” asked the Student.
“You will have it, but first you must do something for me,” said the Rabbi.
“What? Anything! Just name it and I will do it because I really need your forgiveness in this matter.”
The Rabbi said, “Go and buy me two feather pillows and bring them to me.”
The Student did as the Rabbi asked, and returned with the pillows. “Rabbi, I have the pillows. Now do I have your forgiveness?”
“Not so fast,” the Rabbi said, “Take my knife and go outside on the street and cut a slit in each pillow. Once you’ve done that, empty every feather out of each case and return to me with the empty cases.”
The Student puzzled, but did as the Rabbi asked. He cut the pillow cases, and shook out the pillows. He emptied every feather from the cases and watched as the feathers scattered in the wind.
The Student took the empty pillow cases to the Rabbi and said, “Rabbi, I’ve done as you asked, now do I have your forgiveness?”
The Rabbi said, “You shall have my forgiveness, but I ask you to do one more thing. Go take these empty pillow cases and fill them with every feather that was in them. I ask you to do this as an act to demonstrate recovering all the harm you have done to my good name.”
When I finished the story, my son’s eyes grew wide and then he said, “Wow.”
I can think of no better way to explain the harm of a lie, gossip, or cyber-bullying than this parable. Words DO hurt, and they are impossible to contain once released.
May your words be compassionate and encouraging today.
Lately, I’ve heard from many people who feel defeated. They feel like giving up. They feel like the battle has already been fought, and they’ve already lost.
Have you ever had conversations play out in your head long before you have them, as if you already know what’s going to happen? That’s a trap. It’s a trap of the enemy to get you to concede before the battle is over.
I’ve been guilty of that, but no more. It affects your attitude and your expectations. It lowers your expectations, and diminishes your attitude.
If you’re going to play out a battle in your head, see yourself as the victor. See yourself winning, see yourself completing, see yourself succeeding. Better yet, go in with the attitude that you will do your very best, and leave consequences to themselves.
Finally, here’s a clip from one of my favorite movies, “Facing the Giants”. I would recommend it to anyone, and suggest you rent it ASAP if you haven’t seen it.
PS The makers of this movie are releasing a new picture this Friday, September 30th, called Courageous. Why not take it in? I’m going.
What’s the biggest traps you’ve fallen into that make you feel defeated? How did you overcome them?
A few years ago, a friend of mine drove home from work and stopped to call all his family members to tell them he was ‘going home’. The tone in his voice alarmed one family member who called the other family members and asked them to meet at his home before he arrived. Everyone was standing in the driveway waiting for him. When he arrived, he didn’t say a word. He quickly passed by them, walked into his home with family hot on his trail, picked up a gun, and shot himself.
There were none of the warning signs we are taught to look for. He didn’t give away his belongings. He didn’t lose interest in school, work or family. He didn’t even seem depressed. He was going through a difficult time, but he seemed to be dealing with it.
In the wake of his death, many people didn’t know what to say. Most offered condolences and left it at that. A few people speculated out loud about his ‘eternal fate’. They implied that he was in hell. One person said so definitively, “How terrible that the family will never see him again unless it’s in hell.”
This troubled me for many reasons. First, it was inappropriate to heap more grief on an already grieving family. Second, this attitude defines suicide as a weakness of character and/or a weakness of faith.
I was troubled, so I sought the advice of someone I respected. She’s a teacher, a friend, and a life-long Christian. When I told her what had happened, she said, “Good grief. I can’t believe that someone would think that let alone say it. Even God’s smallest creatures fight to survive. A tiny little mouse will fight to survive if threatened. It’s a defense mechanism that’s built into all God’s creatures. If that mechanism is broken, then it needs mending just like a broken leg. The problem is, you can’t always see it because it’s a mental break. God knows before we do what is going on with us. Either you believe that, or you don’t believe in the word of God as a whole. So, if God knows, then he also must understand. I can’t believe in a God that would punish someone who is mentally ill anymore than I can believe in a God who would punish someone who drives recklessly and gets killed in a car accident.”
Psalm 139:1-3 – O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar, you discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways. (NIV)
No one, including my trusted adviser, is advocating suicide. Life is harsh. No matter how tough you think you are, you never know what might break you.
God gives us strength. I do not doubt that.
When someone is depressed or suicidal, I can’t help but believe something else is at work. Many people say that during bouts of depression everything hurts. Even compliments are turned around in the mind as an arrow to the heart. I can’t imagine such agony. For many, medication and therapy works. That leads me to believe that depression is an illness, and not a lack of faith. I do know that no matter how the person got there, they need help to get out of it, and it is not for me to judge them. Thankfully, there are religious and non-secular counselors there to help those who suffer from depression. There should be no stigma attached with seeking help. Seeking help takes strength and courage….and a good deal of faith.
I know protecting our hearts and minds from ‘negative’ or ‘harmful’ thoughts is part of practicing our faith. Meditating on God’s word, praying, and listening for God’s whispers can help keep our internal compasses on course and help us eliminate negative thoughts. As the old saying goes, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest on your head.” So, maybe religion alone can’t cure depression, but perhaps it can help prevent it?
I don’t know all the answers. I’m not a doctor or theologian. I just know there are people suffering, and once depression takes hold, it is difficult to make it go away without help.
Here’s to fostering positive thinking with God’s help. And, if you know of someone who is suffering from depression, please encourage them to seek help immediately.