An Evening with One of the Most Encouraging People I Know

For the “5th Wednesday Free-for-All” of the Encourager’s Devotional Series, I’d like to tell you about one of the most encouraging people I know. His name is Kent Sanders and I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for his new book The Artist’s Suitcase last night.The Artist's Suitcase

One of the things that makes Kent such an encouraging person is his positivity. I had the honor of working with Kent on the faculty at St. Louis Christian College and served on several committees with him. Committee work is seldom fun. The teams we worked together on often had to tackle some tough issues. In situations where there was much room for complaining, legitimate complaining, Kent has a way of looking ahead to solutions instead of focusing solely on the problems.

Kent’s not a “hide your head in the sand” kind of guy. He doesn’t white wash the situation. He’s realistic. But there’s something about his approach that makes you think, “We can do this. We can make things better.” Whenever I needed to assemble a team for one of my projects, Kent was one of the first people on my list (sorry for the extra work, Kent).

Another way Kent is encouraging is that he shows a genuine interest in others. A conversation with Kent is always affirming in some way. As he celebrated the launch of his new book last night, he took time to ask me how my book was going. And, as yet another illustration of why I find him so encouraging, he said, “Let me know if there’s any way I can help.” I know he truly means that. If you take a look at his blog (linked above), you’ll see he has a passion to help others do well.

Kent shared a story about how he even encouraged himself at one point in his life. I found that amusing, thinking, Wow, he’s that good at the gift of encouragement. To watch the video of Kent sharing that story, reading an excerpt from his book, as well presenting some beautiful music by his guest band BlackFolk, click here.

We can learn a lot about how to be better encouragers by studying the attributes of the people we know who display that gift. How about you? Can you tell us about someone you know who is an uplifting person and share a few examples of how they encourage you?

Advertisements

Help The Rock Christian Radio Expand Its Reach

In the post “Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos”, I shared a story about how Christian radio helped my father when he was battling cancer. And in the March wrap-up post for The Encourager’s Devotional Series, one of the suggestions for ways to encourage others was to support Christian radio. I’ve just learned that The Rock (a St. Louis based, internet radio station) is trying to expand its reach by creating an app with many great features to help connect Christians and offer faith building materials. It’s an interesting project and the people behind it are great people, so I thought I’d support their cause here.

For more information, or to discover ways you can support this project, click here.

Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos – March Encourager’s Devotion

March Encourager's Devotion

Just a quick scan of news headlines can be very discouraging, even downright frightening.

Justice Department finds racial bias in Ferguson police practices

Netanyahu Says Iran Poses ‘Threat to Peace of Entire World’

Iran calls Obama’s 10-year nuclear demand ‘unacceptable’

Target to cut thousands of jobs

Get ready—Fed to cause major turmoil this month

It is hard to maintain inner peace when our world is in such chaos. Yet that is exactly what Christ came to bring us – a peace that the world will never be able to offer us (John 14:27), a peace that defies human understanding and guards our hearts and minds no matter what is going on around us (Phil. 4:7).

I remember a time when I experienced that kind of peace. I was pregnant with my first child, but had been put on 24 hour bedrest due to complications. I was fearful, worried I might be losing my baby. Lying in bed, I read Psalm 91 (NKJV):

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. … He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge … You shall not be afraid.”

Things like this are hard to explain, but as I read that passage, I could just picture God “covering me” and I felt peace in His presence.

My father once shared a story with me about God ministering peace to his spirit when he was going through a bout with cancer. He was driving down the road worrying about life, death, and his family. He had a Christian radio station on and a song called “Silent Partner” by Jessy Dixon began to play. Dad said he started to weep as he was comforted by the idea that God was his partner during that difficult time – a partner you might not always see or hear, but you know He’s there giving you strength and seeing you through.

A few years ago, I discovered prayer labyrinths (you can see prior posts about labyrinths and an explanation of what they are here). The image for this post includes a picture of one of my favorites at Mercy Retreat Center in St. Louis, MO. When my sister passed away in 2012, I was so glad I had found these beautiful places to pray. My time there brings me peace.

I share these stories with you because they show various ways to draw closer to God and attain the peace He promises – Bible reading, Christian music, prayer walks. Other means of finding peace might be through the company of friends and family, through worship services, or through inspirational reading. I have also had art minister peace to me. We might do as Paul suggested in Philippians 4:8-9 and think on anything we can that is good, or lovely, or praiseworthy when we are bombarded with negative news images. Paul also says in Philippians that when you do the things you know are right “the God of peace will be with you.” It is interesting that Paul wrote all this while he was in prison. He had discovered how to have peace regardless of his circumstances (4:11-13).

OUR PEACE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND US.

IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

Now, what does all this have to do with being an encourager? Well, this is a time when those around us are worried and fearful. We will only be able to encourage them if we are at peace ourselves. You cannot lead someone to a place you  cannot find yourself. So, build yourself up in the faith and then go minister to others who need peace.

MAY YOU SHINE AS LIGHTS IN A CROOKED AND PERVERSE WORLD! (Phil. 2:15)

This post is part of the Encourager’s Devotional Series.

Accompanying materials for this month’s devotions: Click here for the Bible study for March and here for the answer guide.

A Life Mentored to the Tune of Andrae Crouch’s Music

Through his music, Andrae Crouch has been a part of my life as far back as my earliest memories. Since the evening I heard of his passing on January 8, 2015, I’ve found comfort in this loss by strolling down memory lane with his songs.

The first song I replayed after receiving the news was “Take Me Back.” Here’s what I posted that night:

I am so saddened by the news of Andre Crouch’s passing, though I know he is rejoicing with his Savior. I can’t tell you how much his music has influenced my life. I could share MANY songs of his and tell you the place in my life where the song had impact, but this one song is the one I have gone back to over and over again. I first heard it on vinyl, so I chose this version to share tonight. 

I’m so glad Pastor Andrae taught me at a very young age that I can always return to God no matter how far I’ve strayed … and He will always take me back no matter what I’ve done.

My mother loved Andrae Crouch, too, so his was the first concert she ever took me to see. We saw him a couple times. The concerts were so spiritually uplifting, but as a young teenager, I was also delighted to see how much fun Christians could have.

The image of Andrae performing “It’s Gonna Rain” at the St. Louis Kiel Opera House while dancing with an umbrella (as well as umbrellas for the choir) still brings a smile. And then – mom and I were cracking up laughing about this as we relived the memory today – at some point in the evening a choir was raised from below the stage on a lift. After singing a great “holy-rolling” number, they were taken back down below the stage but we could still see them from the balcony. That’s when the Spirit really started to move and they were having their own dance party/church service down in the pit. The audience in the floor seating couldn’t see what was going on, but they sure could hear it. The plan was to bring the choir back up for an encore, but when they did the choir members were so disheveled it took a few minutes to get them back in place to continue the singing.

Click here to see Andrae perform “It’s Gonna Rain” – but sorry, you won’t get to see the choir in action.

At that concert, as well as many other times in various recordings, I remember Andrae declaring, “We’re not just doing a concert here, we’re gonna have church!” And have church we did. I’ve “had church” in the privacy of my own home (or car, or workplace) so often with his music. The following clip is an example of how, just when you thought Andrae was done with a song, he’d take it to another level. At the end of the clip, you’ll also hear brother Crouch tell how he came to write such beautiful music despite the fact that he didn’t read music.

Andrae Crouch taught me the power of prayer and instilled in me the desire to “have church” with God’s people, whether in person or “in spirit.” I know first hand how powerfully the Spirit ministered to people through Andrae’s music. Continue reading

Sing Over Me

20051007-2

The first time I saw this painting (by dear Gwen Meharg), I immediately thought of my sister, Janell. This was before I even noticed the woman in the painting was pregnant. When I realized that, it was even more significant because I knew that Janell drew strength from a song by 2nd Chapter of Acts called “Sing Over Me” while she was going through a very rough patch of life – finding out the baby she carried in her womb had spina bifida and was not expected to live, let alone thrive, after birth. She made it through that difficult time with her Lord’s help and was blessed with our sweet Daniel.

Daniel far surpassed the doctor’s predictions. Though confined to a wheelchair, he participated in sports, stayed on grade level in school and brought joy to all who knew him. Janell cherished her role as his caregiver and was a wonderful mother to him and his older brother, Justin.

Unfortunately, Janell would experience other rough patches in life – the death of Daniel at age 15 in 2008, financial difficulties and the loss of her home, and then the break-up of her marriage which left her devastated. I always knew I could not fully comprehend the depths of her grief at the loss of her son, even though it was the most difficult loss in our family to that date. But it was only after Janell’s own death two years ago today that I began to see just how debilitating the loss of someone so significant to you can be.

When I was going through her things, I found the verse from Zephaniah 3:17 written on scraps of paper in several different places. I was comforted with the idea that she could envision God singing over her, even when life seemed the most bleak.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We had someone sing the song “Sing Over Me” at her funeral. On that day, I was picturing the ultimate fulfillment of the song’s lyrics (see below) for my sister who took such great comfort in the image of God singing over her and being encompassed by His presence. Today, I am the one seeking that place of refuge.

Look out my heart the wind is blowing again
It´s time to batten down the broken parts
Look out my heart debris is flying around
Confusion wants to shake your solid ground

Storms may come along and winds may blow
Raging tempest will come and go
But I´ll hide in the shadow of Your wings

I´ll hide in the shadow of Your wings
And listen while You sing
I´ll hide in the shadow of Your wings
And listen while You sing over me

You can listen to the song here. I pray it will make you feel at peace no matter what storm you may be going through.

Note: The link to Gwen’s work above is for her watercolors. She also does some amazing multi-media work. You can find it here.

Dancing for Peace

As I was trying to gain focus for a Facebook prayer group I’ve started to unite people in prayer for Ferguson today, I kept thinking of dancing. Yeah, it sounded strange to me, too, so I moved on to try to think of more spiritual things. I decided I’d like to find a quote by Nelson Mandela. When I found this quote, I realized the earlier prompt regarding dancing just might have been Spirit led after all.

“It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world, and at peace with myself.”
— Nelson Mandela

I’ve been using the phrase a lot lately, “putting feet to our prayers.” Today, I’m saying, “Let’s put dancing feet to our prayers.” Dance alone to be at peace with yourself so you can then bring that peaceful spirit to others. Dance with someone in solidarity. Dance with someone you have not yet found a way to engage with relationally. Dance with someone as a first step to dialogue.

As for me, I’m declaring tonight at The Merge Coffeehouse a night for dancing together. If you’re in the area, come dance with me. If you don’t live nearby, create a dance party of your own. Let’s dance to set our hearts free. Let’s dance for peace.

And for a more philosophical look at the effects of Mandela’s dancing, and the power of dance in general …

Justice AND Mercy, Truth AND Love

Justice AND Mercy, Truth AND Love

This video was a perfect backdrop to the prayer I shared earlier in regards to the issues we are facing here in North County, St. Louis in the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown. So often we want only one component of God’s plan. We separate out things that should go together – Justice AND Mercy, Truth AND Love. We also separate ourselves from others based on which end of the spectrum we want to align ourselves with, but the ultimate answer lies in alignment with the fullness of God’s commands. Micah 6:8 follows the instructions to “do justice and love mercy” with “walk humbly with your God.” It is difficult for us to find the balance between extremes. That is why we must humbly acknowledge that God’s ways are better than our ways and seek His guidance in these times. The two sides will only come together when both acknowledge the need for both justice and mercy, both truth and love.