On Encouragement

Happy Friday! I’m joining Lisa-Jo and the Five Minute Friday bunch and writing on the topic of encouragement. Will you join me and read, write, or both for five (ish) minutes? Thank you Jenn @ A Simple Haven for the idea.  Here’s how it works:
  1. Write for 5 minutes – no editing, no over-thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Invite others to join in.
  3. And then: go visit the person who linked up before you and drop them a note!
I was sitting around a kitchen table the other day with some British friends trying to explain to them what the 5 Love Languages were. As always, in the cross cultural communication that goes on in my world, there were giggles and gasps as I tried explaining to (non touchy) Northern Irish folks that “physical touch” was a “love language” and that it doesn’t have to be dodgy sounding for that to be a way you communicate or receive love from people. I need 10 hugs a day at least for optimum health!
The table was full of laughter and banter and muddled explanations on my part of physical touch, quality time, words of encouragement, acts of service and gifts. One of my friends decided going around the table and trying to name each persons’ love language was a good idea which brought more laughter and amusement as we guessed around at what people’s “language” of choice might be. 
Personally I like to claim three of them …just love me! Can I be greedy!? Words of encouragement would always be one quite precious to my heart. Touch, definitely as I make my Northern Irish friends frequently uncomfortable with unwanted hugs and shoulder pats and most definitely quality time. 
As I reflect on that meal and some of those friends I think encouragement is not just words of encouragement. Encouragement is the whole concept. The “love languages” idea is not best used for my greediness to be loved but for me to learn to love others well. What would really encourage my friend? My dad? My sister in law? My someday husband? 
How do I learn to think outside of myself and serve them by loving them in the way they receive love – even if it means a thoughtful gift – which is never the way I think. 
Or doing the dishes for them because they like a clean house when all you need to show me love is to hang out with me intentionally. 
I love the idea of the Five Love Languages because it is a way to encourage someone else in a way that might not be natural to you but it shows what love is- sacrificing for the other and getting beyond yourself. 
As I think back around that table, even without knowing the concept, some of those friends have been just that for me:an encouragement with offering to pray for me every day the month of November, a nice hot meal when I have had a bad day – no questions asked – just the offer of dinner, a shoulder to cry on or a hug. I’m grateful for their encouragement and hope I can learn to better encourage others myself. 

2013 : A Year in Books

I have been an avid reader my entire life. As a child, I used to get in trouble for reading too late at night. I’d be told to turn the light off and go to bed and I’d be so antsy to read the next page, I’d end up reading with a flashlight in bed. Then I would get caught and in a lot of trouble. 

As I should have been. 

Defiant child. 🙂 

I thought I’d leave you with a little run through of some of the books I have finished this year (or am still in the middle of – I am always reading many books at once!). You might find something from this list that you want to pick up and read yourself! 

My top two books of the entire year are  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown and Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. I have picked them each up in the last month or so and I could reread them both already. 

Keller’s book on pain and suffering has been released in a timely manner in my life and I’d recommend it to those who have suffered, are suffering or don’t want to speak foolishly to those who are suffering. He is kind and careful and well thought through in how various world views engage with suffering but ultimately the hope that Christ offers. The book is littered with stories of peoples suffering and their hope in the middle of it. It brings a lot of perspective. If you are not a Christ follower you might find his analysis of the different world views interesting. Where do you fall in your understanding of suffering? Does it help you cope? I am craving the wisdom in this book that I have occasionally gotten from friends and yet sometimes have not. People don’t like to sit with suffering and some of that has caused me more pain in their quick fix answers. This book is filled with 40 years of pastoral wisdom and there is no one size fits all answer. 

Daring Greatly was a gift from a friend last month and I plowed through it very quickly. It is an easy read and simple and yet profound. She is a researcher who’s research on shame led her to finding that vulnerability was the key to healthy lives and facing shame. She is famous for her Ted Talk which you can find here

“Shame resilience is key to embracing our vulnerability. We can’t let ourselves be seen if we are terrified of what people might think. Often, “not being good at vulnerability” means we are damn good at shame. Shame keeps us from being vulnerable and connected.” p61

There was a section in her book on men and women that I found particularly interesting. “Women, who feel shame when they don’t feel heard or validated, often resort to pushing and provoking with criticism (“Why don’t you ever do enough?” or “You never get it right”). Men, in turn, who feel shame when they feel criticized for being inadequate, either shut down (leading women to poke and provoke more) or come back with anger.” 

I have a lot of thoughts and time for this book.. 

#1 Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown 

All other books in no particular order of being read or favoritism or dislike 

Lewis’ made up tale of an older devil mentoring a younger devil in the Screwtape Letters is a pictorial way of understanding spiritual battle and awakening us to the spiritual world around us and Satan’s schemes to keep us from trusting Jesus, knowing God or crippled as believers. It has been on my wish list for a long time. I saw this copy in Barter Books last month and read half of it there in one sitting, bought it for £1.50 and finished it in a few days. 

I loved it. Highly recommend. I love how Lewis helps us understand complex things with his stories. It helped me see the temptations and spiritual battle for my heart in November in a bit clearer light. 

The Count of Monte Cristo. Still not finished. Determined to get through volume 2.. good but I fear I may have been ruined a bit by the technology around me that seems to be shortening my attention span. Non fiction I can read a chapter and put down and come back to later. Fiction I really need to read faster in a big chunk or I lose the storyline and have to start over. I’ll be trying to exercise a bit longer of an attention span again in 2014 and unplugging my life more.. 

Full Catastrophe Living. I’m not all the way through this yet. I’m reading it because someone I love loves this book and has dealt with a lot of pain and stress. I’m reading it to understand and to love them better. Hoping I can love people better in general and understand what this form of meditation is better. 

I may get a bit grumpy if it goes too Buddhist on me. I am sure I’ll find a gentle way of telling my friend. 🙂 

Everyday Church by Tim Chester. I loved this book. I breezed through it. I can’t remember if I read it in December of 2012 or January of 2013 but either way it was great, easy. Fueled and stirred my passion again for church planting and unchurched people getting connected to Jesus. 

 Disciplines of a Godly Woman: I was not looking forward to reading this.. it SOUNDS boring! But book group with a few girls.. We are only doing one chapter a month so only up to 4.. it’s not as boring as it sounds. Also not rocket science if you have been a Christian and in the Bible very long. 

The Gospel is all over the Bible. I and the Dr will take you on if you think otherwise.. 

Loved film two. Nearly jumped out of my skin at parts.. had to grab the books from a friend to start over Christmas.. Beneath the Hunger Games, in my poorly lined up photos: A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.. a bit more fiction needed in my life.. Christmas gift. Chapter one had me crying.. here we go.. 

Just begun this study on the Bible’s book of Judges using Keller’s notes. I’ll be studying it with some girls this term. 

I have been dawdling in and out of Shame Interrupted this year. Although I am not finished, I recommend it so far. Shame has been a concept I have wrestled with a lot the last couple of years. I think I am just beginning to face it in a real way as an emotion: both seeing it in myself in much more real ways and seeing it in others. Shame is one of the deepest places in us that we try to hide. It is also what we fear most and will cover with other emotions like anger. Beneath them is the horror that is shame.. that we are not enough, not worthwhile, and a hundred other deep and painful memories or messages that leave us with shame. How to get out? I am still working on that.. 

Walking with Gay Friends was lent to me by a friend to serve a friend… was in the middle of too many books to get very far… need to pick it up again. 

When Sinners Say I Do – I wasn’t impressed with it. I found it quite boring actually. A much better book on marriage I read twice a few years ago is The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. The Meaning of Marriage is actually one of my favourite books ever. It was so good I’d give it to ANYONE. 

You Can Change. Tim Chester writes this practical guide to engaging with sin in our lives. I didn’t get hugely into it which is a surprise because I love Chester. I think the problem was that I was reading it in a ladies book group and we read the book very infrequently.. like once a month or two and I think it would be better read and applied in a shorter time period than over 6 months… 

How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. Where did my photo go for this one? The book looks ragged. It took me awhile to read. Very good but I think I’d absorb more if I read it faster.. need to stop reading 12 books at once.. 

Notes from a Tilt a Whirl I literally just touched into it when my bestie came to visit and gave it to me as one of my gifts. All about wonder..and much needed in my life these days. I decided to pause though and give it a proper read when I had finished a half a dozen of the books I was reading above. I’ll restart it this month. Really looking forward to it. 

The Kindle books: 

I don’t actually own a Kindle but I caved and downloaded one on my phone and computer because of all of the free and cheaper books out there. I told you I was book greedy! I’d explain all of these but I am tired of writing blurbs on books. So no more for today! 

Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey 
God’s Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts
Christ-Centred Preaching by Bryan Chapell 

What did you read? Any recommendations?