As a recent recipient of a new kidney, I got to understand and experience the life-giving power of when someone gives you a part of them. Letty’s kidney has not only improved my physical health, it has literally improved everything in my life: my energy, my perspective, my ability to communicate, my discipline, my spiritual and emotional life. Of course, God’s divine hand is involved in all this, but it took a human agent (Letty) doing something tangible (going into surgery to give me one of her kidneys) that opened the way for me to have a new life.
(By the way, Letty is recovering nicely. She’s still a little sore and achy around her incisions. Continued prayers for her full recovery are appreciated!)
But what I want to share with you today is another “body” part that was given to me in this season of life. This “body” part was given by many, many people. Like Letty’s kidney, it took a tangible human act, accompanied by God’s grace, resulting in a powerful life-giving transfusion in me. And like Letty’s kidney donation, I am eternally grateful and humbled by the giving of this “body” part to me. What is this “body” part I’m talking about?
Many, many of you gave me a part of your “heart” throughout this season. You might not have thought you were actually giving me a part of your heart. After all, you didn’t go through a surgical procedure. You might not have thought that what you did was all that big of a deal. But for me, it was.
What I’m talking about is “encouragement.” En means to “infuse” or “insert.” Couer or corage is French for “heart.” And ment is the action or process of what it follows. So encouragement literally means to “infuse heart into another.” It’s the art of giving part of your heart to another person. “Encouragement” is a strong, godly activity in Scripture (mentioned 54 times; most notably in the New Testament letters as a command to Christ-followers).
God knows we need encouragement. We live in a fallen world and it is so easy to get dis-couraged. We face hardships, trials and difficulties that get us feeling down and out; even defeated. And although we may know in our minds that the season of suffering or hardship can produce good and amazing things in our life as we “sow the Seed of Jesus” into it (see last Tuesday’s blog, click here), sometimes we need a little help to get there. So God designed us with the capability to give part of our heartto others; to en-courage. This is an extremely important and powerful function for Christ followers to do for others. As Paul writes:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thess 5:11
As I’ve shared in previous blog posts, there were times when my suffering was getting to me. I was discouraged, sometimes in despair. I felt like I had no strength. I wanted to give up. Even though I knew in my mind that Jesus was right there for me, I did not have the strength in my heart to press into him.
But then, almost out the blue, I would get a sudden boost of strength! I believe someone took the initiative and prayed for me – possibly in that very moment. I’m not sure where it came from (was it solely grace from God or did He use the prayer of another person?) but encouragement came and it was just what I needed to get me to press into Jesus.
A lot of times, however, I knew exactly where the encouragement came from.
People. People who cared. People who loved. People who took the initiative to “give heart” to me. Many times it took form in the form of a greeting card and a short, written out note. Check this out:
These are the cards and notes that Letty and I received in the past 3 months. These cards have ministered powerful encouragement to us! Some were very emotional. Some were prophetic. Some made us laugh. Some inspired us. And all were timely and en-couraging.
Others encouraged us by bringing us a meal after we came home from the hospital. We never ate so well (and so healthy) in our lives! Our dear friend, Lorretta Atkinson, coordinated the meals with people who volunteered (from our church and other churches, as well) and made sure they were all under the strict guidelines that our doctors gave. As a result, our recovery and healing process was accelerated (I got signed off to drive a week early because my progress has been remarkable). But the healing has been rapid not only because the meals were healthy, but also because of the spiritual encouragement this ministry of food has given us.
And a surprise source of encouragement has been those of you who posted on my blog (wholelifeworship.com) or on my Facebook page. Wow! Hundreds of posts and emails from all over the world, from different seasons of my life have poured in. Some of you I haven’t seen or heard from in years, even decades. But you came and reached out and en-couragedme! What a blessing! I am so humbled and amazed and strengthened.
I share this with you, not only to give you my thanks but also to en-courageus to do it all the more. It might seem like a little thing, but every time you send a card, or prepare a meal or post a short note or lift up a prayer, it makes a significant, if not powerful impact on others. You are giving a part of your heart. And it’s a beautiful art-form that builds up, inspires, motivates and transforms.
En-couragement is part of the Whole Life Worship response to God’s goodness and greatness in our lives. It leads us back to Jesus. It strengthens us to live for him 24/7. It draws us to God’s immense reservoir of His lovingkindness.
PS – I want to take this opportunity to personally thank each one of you who sent us a card or brought us a meal (I also wanted to shout out to all who posted encouragement on FB and the website, but that would be too hard to get everyone!) So a special shout out to the following brothers and sisters (not in any particular order):
Mike and Lorretta Atkinson, Gracie Lee, Gary and Robin Proctor, Mike and Carolyn Pruitt, Mary Ellen Leonard, Gary Keith, Terry Elsdon, Natalie Stidham, Wayne and Mary Moore, Nadine Peters, Annette Graversen, Robin Nicoles, Felix and Ronni Nunez, Doug and Debbie Bremer, Steve and Deanne Wells, Eunice Clark, Sister Vivian Curato, Sue Taylor, Gary Lee and Holy Trinity Church of Frome, England, Warren and Mary Burchett, Carol Pilgren, Solorio Kindergarten Team, Bud and Cindy Watts, the “Rosebuds” (anonymous donation), Jim Carey, Andy and Jasmine Valenzuela, CBC Pastoral Staff, Dan and Judy Long, Kathleen Acker, Neva Robinson, DiAnne Drachand, the Gillespie family, Brianna, the Fleenor family, Jackie Smith, Martin Lebovitz, Kristine Miguel, Northminster Presbyterian Church of Bakersfield, CA, Mary and Fred Dahm, the Tira-Tira family, the Guion family, Larry and Louise Murdock, Rose Marie Taylor, the McGinley family.
I hope I didn’t miss anyone. My apologies, if I did. But God knows who you are and He’s smiling at you!