Looking Within Archives 2010
Home2. Be Gentle3. Replace Anxiety With Prayer4. Control Thoughts5. Care for Others6. Be Content7. Know God Supplies All of Our NeedsArchives

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 All articles written by Joyce Jamerson

  • Don't You Love a New Start
  • Behind the Scenes Commitment
  • Seen Any Cobwebs?
  • A Good Spring Cleaning
  • Creating an Opportunities Box
  • Encouragement Through Writing
  • Giving and Receiving
  • Is Something Missing?
  • How's Your Heart?

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Don’t you love a new start?

by Joyce Jamerson 

Ready for those New Year’s resolutions?  Although we can be looking within at any time of year, New Year’s is typically the time for re-evaluating and making new plans.  It is said that the Romans named the month of January after the god Janus, who was depicted with two faces; one looking forward and one looking backward.  I like that.  At times, we need to look backward, considering what progress (or mistakes) we have made and to contemplate how we want to direct ourselves in the future. A New Year is like starting again with a clean tablet and a new pencil. 

      The beginning of a new year is a time for celebration.  Several other countries celebrate their new year on a different date, but regardless of when the celebration takes place, the custom of making resolutions for the coming year is a good one that makes us focus on self-improvement. 

      Compiled from two different web sites, the following list represents the top reasons for resolutions.  We generally want to improve in the areas of: 

Weight loss

Money management

Job improvement

Fitness

Education (learning something new)

Reducing stress (enjoying life more)

Travel

Volunteering

Improving bad habits

Organization

Increasing or improving family time 

      On each of the sites, I found it interesting that there were no resolutions for becoming religious or increasing spirituality with Bible study. 

      Frankly, I’ve never been very good at keeping resolutions.  Many times I’ve gotten a daily Bible reading schedule, intending to be more diligent about reading, only to get behind and drop it in a few months due to a busy schedule.  I do better studying subject by subject rather than reading a daily passage.  If I can’t link it to something, it tends to go in one ear and out the other.  Being overscheduled or having unreasonable expectations will also set us up for failure.   

      The challenge to have a quiet spiritual time needs to be scheduled or chances are, it won’t happen…or at least it didn’t for me.  Although I can get a lot done in the mornings, getting up earlier to have quiet time just puts me back to sleep!  All of us, regardless of age, position or occupation, have to give thought to whatever is best for our schedule and plan accordingly. 

      David had a lot to say in the Psalms about quiet times with God.  We find, in Psalm 101, that David is making his own set of resolutions.   He begins by saying, “I will sing of loving-kindness and justice.  To thee O Lord, I will sing praises.”  He is resolving to praise God ~ the glorious and faithful God who has guided his steps.  David well knew the mercies of God and loved to sing His praises.  Recently someone told me that singing means more to her now.  Previously, when a song service had been planned at the church with which she worships, she would think, “Sing for an hour?  What’s the point?”  The joy that is deep in our heart should spur us to sing.  As her spirituality has grown, she enjoys meaningful times, singing praises to God. 

      In verse 2, David declares to give heed to the blameless way (or way of integrity), asking “When wilt Thou come to me?”  He seems to be pleading, knowing his deepest needs include God.  We all know that David did not have a sterling record but his heart was the best.  Importantly, he never forgot his ability to sin.  On the other hand, one commentator suggested that David was inviting God to come inspect his house at any time.  That would be a good policy, wouldn’t it!  Be ready! 

      His next statement is to “walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.”  His desire is to behave wisely ~ consistently.  Consistency is the key element; not part of the time or most of the time, but all of the time, especially within his own household.  Our families are the ones who know us best and the ones who will be most influenced by our actions.  We may make a good impression outside our homes, but our families see us for what we really are.  Is our holiness seen at home or only at church?  Will this be the year in which we make more of an effort to seek God?     

      Coupled with seeking God, David’s next challenge (v. 3) is to “set no worthless thing before my eyes.”  (Maybe we should tape this on our televisions and computers!) Resolutions touch our daily lives and present constant challenges if we’re serious about them.  Who better than David to present admonitions about lust of the eyes?  Do we rationalize about the content we take in?  About the language we hear?   

      David is on his own pursuit of holiness.  He goes on to say that he hates the way of life of those who fall away and he will not let their lifestyle influence him.  He won’t put up with evil plans or thinking, haughtiness or arrogance.  He will seek out those who have integrity; not choosing his associations from those who lie or practice deceit. Obviously, he is not comfortable among those who practice such things.  How influenced are we (especially in the workplace) by those around us?  Surely, we can see the importance of being together with other Christians, especially when we are trapped in a workplace with those who are worldly and care nothing about serving God.  We may not have much choice in the workplace, but we are in control regarding who comes into our home ~ either through the front door or via our televisions and computers. 

      Looking within makes us uncomfortable; points out too many flaws and yet it is a necessary part of our spiritual growth.  Will you be looking within in the New Year?  Have more resolve?  Are there goals that need to be set?   Last year, I set two goals; one physical and one spiritual.  The spiritual goal has been kept ~ not perfectly, but working on it daily has been beneficial.  The other?  Well, maybe I can be more steadfast (persistent, unwavering, dedicated) this year and add something else, as well.   

      David goes on to mention other situations that he would avoid; a headstrong or wicked person; those who would slander others or have a proud heart.  His motive, as king, was to make the land better for his people and he started that with his own resolutions.  Isn’t that the best place to start?  If we want change to come about in others, wouldn’t we first look inward? 

      In Psalm 51, after making some pertinent confessions, David asked for his steadfast spirit to be renewed. Are you ready for some renewal?  In our own private time we can be as David and do some inward searching; then ask God to help us be more focused in developing our spiritual lives, as we go forward in this New Year. 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” Psalm 51:10.

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Behind the Scenes Commitment

By Joyce Jamerson 

 Let’s play off of last month’s article on resolutions and continue the theme regarding commitment.  Did you make one or more resolutions? Are you committed to keeping them?  (Hey, it’s early yet  ~ there’s still time!) 

      What other words come to mind when thinking of the word commitment?  We might think of pledge, duty, and responsibility; maybe even restraint?   Being steady, loyal, devoted and faithful round it out a little more.  Do particular Bible characters come to mind when you dwell on the word, either on the positive or negative side? 

      We could go on and on about the commitment of Abraham, Job, Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament as well as Peter and Paul from the New (and many others, of course).   Jonah was committed to his own thinking and needed some severe lessons to bump him back into reality.  Judas chose not to deal with reality at all, after succumbing to the temptation of money and totally losing his commitment.   

      Paul had a sort of super human ability to take things as they come, without getting stressed out, or at least that’s the way we often think of him.  He likens commitment to running a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and his motto is “run it to win it.”  If you’re going to run, then give it your best.  In Hebrews 12:1, the writer says to lay off the weights and run with endurance.  Endurance is the staying power that enables us to be persistent over a period of time.  Paul could run well because he had a goal.  How can we say we’re committed if we have no goals? 

      Now, look at Philippians 2:19-30. These verses tell us of two of Paul’s behind-the-scenes companions, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Timothy was Paul’s student; his son in the faith ~ a kindred spirit.  He was an enormous encouragement to Paul and served him like a child serving his father.  Paul trusted that Timothy would be a great helper for others and recommended him highly.  He noted how others would seek their own interest, but Timothy had proven his worth.  Whatever the need, Timothy was ready to serve. 

      Epaphroditus was another behind-the-scenes worker, not as well known as Timothy but extremely important to Paul.  He served Paul while he was in prison, doing things that Paul could not; helping in whatever way he could to further the Lord’s work.  While doing this, Epaphroditus became seriously ill, so Paul sent him back to Philippi, recommending him as a brother, a fellow worker and fellow soldier.  Paul said to hold men like him in high regard. 

      Lydia, Dorcas, and Priscilla were also behind-the-scenes workers; Bible women who helped in whatever way they could.  They were not concerned with acknowledgement or title but faithfully served others.  Women today serve in the same way.  Recognition of these efforts may never come about, but women all over the nation give to those around them; studying, teaching, cooking, sewing, cleaning, nursing ~ whatever is needed and whatever it takes.  Many congregations would be lacking if it were not for women who sacrifice their time and convenience to see that classes are taught, communion is prepared, bulletins are printed and others are encouraged, through visiting, studying together or preparing food for a family in crisis.  Their husbands, if married, may be unavailable because of their own obligations so many women carry on alone, serving their congregation or community, caring for the family; doing what is necessary so that God’s truth can be taught and others can be strengthened.  Our daily commitment may be behind-the-scenes, but is definitely not superficial.   We want to see a task through so good can be done and God can be glorified.  

        If we’re unable to accomplish certain things, we can hold up the hands of those who might be able to do more than we can at the moment.

(I know we’d much rather be the one doing the helping, but occasionally, we may be the one needing help!)  Pride can stand in the way of graciously accepting what another sister desires to give. Can we picture what Paul’s life would have been if he had the “I can do it myself” mentality?  He would have been miserable and alone with a heavy burden, fretting because of his lack of success.   What a shame, to miss out on the camaraderie that Paul felt with Timothy.  Lesson:  Do we feel alone, simply because we will not let someone else have the joy of helping? 

        Helping others often comes with a price, but James said to “count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” James 1:2.  He then goes on to mention the endurance that is necessary.  Commitment seems to imply endurance, doesn’t it?  Is a resolution only temporary; something to be soon broken? 

      Even older men and women can demonstrate their behind-the-scenes commitment.  Years ago, my husband held a Gospel meeting in Dyersburg, Tennessee.  Every night, an old man slowly made his way up to the front of the auditorium on the right hand side.  He listened carefully and when he was slowly exiting the building, he told Frank, “Brother Jamerson, that was a wonderful lesson, and I hope I’m here tomorrow night to hear another one just like it.”  You may think what is an old man like that good for?  He can’t do anything! Can’t lead the song service, can’t teach classes any more, and can’t pray publicly because of his weakened condition, but he still had spiritual strength.  What he did ~ and did well ~ was encourage a young preacher.  Every night.   

      Who could possibly know the end result of a little behind-the-scenes encouragement?  The women in Mark 15:40, 41 were probably unaware of the importance of their presence, but their presence was extremely important to our Lord and probably to others as well.  

      “And when He was in Galilee,

      they used to follow Him and administer to Him.” 

      What loyalty!  What commitment! 
 

      Commitment can be tiring but life is short and heaven is waiting.  Don’t give up on your resolutions.  If you haven’t yet made any, it’s not too late.  Keeping a resolution is not for the faint hearted.  Doesn’t endurance imply determination and staying power?   

      Commitment plus endurance ~

      Two of the keys to crossing our spiritual finish line. 

      “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

      fixing our eyes on Jesus,” Hebrews 12:1,2 
 

      (If you have a favorite behind-the-scenes worker in the Bible or a friend or relative who fits this description, please send me a note.  If there’s enough interest, I’ll compile them for a future post.) 
 
 

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Seen any cobwebs?

By Joyce Jamerson 

Even though there is snow on the ground today, before long we’ll be seeing signs of spring.  Crocuses and buttercups will appear soon, letting us witness the awakening of another season.   

As I went outside to feed the birds this morning, the windows in the sunroom revealed a lot of smudges and fingerprints (some were great-grandbaby fingerprints and they are kind of cute ~ for a while anyway).   I’m resisting the urge to clean them right away, in order to do some cold weather things, but soon we’ll all begin the task of freshening our living quarters, inside and out; cleaning windows, weeding flower beds and planting new flowers.  We’re inspecting ~ inside and out ~ what needs to be done, perhaps even cleaning out a few closets and dresser drawers.  Ahhh.  Accomplishing this task feels good! 

As we look within, at our spiritual cobwebs, what do we find?  Will we inspect our lives as carefully as we inspect our homes?  An orderly home is a blessing to those within, as well as to visitors.  Home should be an oasis; not a place of stress.  What are the benefits of an orderly life?  Just today, a friend told me she once met a Peace Corps volunteer, assigned to Fiji, who said there was very little stress on that island.  Once a week, they would hose out the hut and that was it!  The sheer simplicity of that may seem appealing for a while, but we would soon miss our fridge, stove and microwave ~ and the many comforts with which we’re privileged.  And yet, order in the midst of chaos is hard to come by.  Let’s look at a few cobwebs together ~ the spiritual kind. 

The cobweb of preoccupation 

It’s not unusual in times of recession, to be more focused on physical things:  Will there be enough money? Will my job be secure?  Will I be able to continue to stay home with our children? Etc.  Perhaps your mind has been burdened with a particular problem or perhaps you’re trying to manipulate a situation to make it turn out your way.  Do you rationalize that a thing is good when it is not?  (Break down this word and look at it:  rational – lies and then tell yourself the truth).  How many cobweb ridden Bible characters can you list?  I’m starting with Haman in the book of Esther.  Talk about manipulation!  He had lots of cobwebs: preoccupation with power, resentment of Mordecai, hatred for another race (in this case, the Jews), manipulation of facts and evil scheming.  Sadly, he went to his death clinging to his cobwebs.  Esther’s courage and dedication saved her people.  She was convicted; preoccupied in the best sense of the word. 

The cobweb of toxic thoughts 

At the top of the list is negativity, insecurity, anxiety, and excuse making.  

“I can’t.”  If you believe you can’t, then you can’t!  When our daughter was in the third grade, she had a remarkable teacher, who on the first day of school created a tombstone with “Can’t” inscribed on it, along with the date of cant’s death.  Every day, the children had to say “I Can” as they entered her room.  They made a game of it, trying to fool her, sneaking behind her in order to enter without making that statement, but she prevailed all throughout the year.  “Can’t” died at the first of the school year, she reminded them, if they ever reverted to saying “I can’t.”  Did she realize how much security she was fostering in these children? 

Being confronted with anxiety and stress is common and Job so adequately describes the accompanying feelings.  "I am seething within and cannot relax; Days of affliction confront me,” Job 30:27.   Sadly, we can identify with that passage all too well and have to look for answers, just like Job. 

Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, had these thoughts on destroying mental cobwebs in the Ottawa Citizen, August 12, 1961.  Google “spiritual cobwebs” and choose “Clear your spiritual cobwebs in church” if you’d like to read the entire article. 

1.  Sit in a pew and deliberately throw your mind into neutral.

2.  Consciously relax your body, letting all muscles go limp.

3.  Think of the problem as being lifted free of your mind; conceive of God as taking it over from you.

4.  While the problem is mentally separated from you, conceive of your consciousness as being reconditioned to receive it back.

5.  Ask for and believe that you are receiving guidance, that new insights will come.   

He stresses the importance of separating oneself from hustle and bustle to focus on being quiet when trying to find answers to difficulties.  Although he seeks answers by going to a church building for a quiet time, we know that Jesus often sought time alone.  How difficult is it to throw your mind into neutral?  (Some might jokingly say their mind is always in neutral!)  Loosening and tightening muscles is a common relaxation technique as is practicing mind control.   Jesus led the way, of course, but Paul was the ultimate positive thinker! His inspired writings are the perfect positive thinking manual.  Those of us who are anxiety prone can meditate on the following: 

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.   Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light," Matthew 11:28-30 

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul,” Psalm 94:19.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7.  

"Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do notbe anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Matthew 6:31-34. 

Lack of focus can also be a cobweb. Earl Nightingale once said, “All you have to do is know where you're going. The answers will come to you of their own accord.”    We do need to focus on what we want to accomplish and where we are going, but the apostle Paul said it much better in Colossians 3:1-2:  “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” 

Know where you are going:  Heaven.  Heaven is the focus and the answers are not of our own accord.  Once we set our mind on things above ~ those cobwebs just seem to disappear!  

In the meantime, there are still some busy spiders on the sun porch and I’m taking applications for window washers for those cute little fingerprints.   

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Spring will arrive soon, won’t it?  Some recent weather has caused us to wonder!  We cleared out some spiritual cobwebs last month, so now it’s on to a thorough spring cleaning!  Enjoy this good article by Bubba Garner as we remember our “looking within” goals. JJ

A Good Spring Cleaning

Bubba Garner

The trees are starting to bud. Little green blades of grass are peaking out where the lawn had gone dormant for the winter. People are beginning to notice pollen and mold spores and other allergens floating toward their nasal passages. These are all signs of spring. Soon, even our clocks will “spring forward.” And that means it time for a good spring cleaning. 
 
When I was growing up, I soon learned the difference between spring cleaning and just a normal Saturday cleaning. The curtains and drapes would come down for washing. The eaves on the outside of the house would be swept for cobwebs and dirt daubers’ nests. Toys and clothes that were no longer used or seldom worn were piled up and hauled off. It was just a sign of spring. 
 
Perhaps it’s time that all of us to engage in a little spiritual spring cleaning, the kind that removes the buildup and clutter. While the world around us awakens from winter, we, too, can spring back to life. It is not just a sign of the season, but of seasoning, growing, and maturing. 
 
As you gather your supplies, may I offer four quick cleaning tips?
 
 
Remember that you are renting. The reason we must keep our body, our earthly house, in good shape is because we are borrowing it from the Owner. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19)? Nobody has the right to say, “it’s my body, I can do whatever I want to with it.” You belong to God. Everything you have is from Him. That means you’re going to have to give it all back. So, “glorify God in you body” (1 Cor. 6:20). The best way to do that is by keeping it clean.
 
 
Start at home, not your neighbor’s. Spring cleaning sometimes doesn’t go very deep because we start noticing what bad shape everyone else is in. We’ll think, “I have weeds in my flowerbeds, but they’re not as high as his.” Or, “my shelves are dusty, but look at the cobwebs in her closet.” Jesus said that you don’t have the right to criticize other peoples’ imperfections when you have not even addressed your own. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matt. 7:3)? Stay focused on your own messes. If you’re like me, that ought to be enough to keep you busy.
 
 
Throw out the junk drawer. Surely you have one, don’t you? That’s the one where you put things that don’t have a place. Twist ties, used batteries, expired coupons, and little plastic pieces that we have no idea what they go to. Why do we feel the need to keep stuff around that has no value or use? We are instructed to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” only after we “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). If it’s junk, if it has no use, if it’s a piece from the past, throw it away. Get rid of it. Just because you’ve found a hiding place for it does not mean that it’s no longer there.
 
 
Get a good finish. Discouragement is a big deterrent to spring cleaning. When you start pulling everything out, it can look more cluttered than when you started. Progress is often slow. Before long, you get overwhelmed and just put it all back where you found it. Paul commended the church in Corinth for the benevolent work they had begun. But a good beginning was not good enough. “Now finish doing it also, so that just there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability” (2 Cor. 8:11). Any job worth doing is going to have its moments where you want to turn back. But we must press through the difficulties and press along to our destination. 
 
You won’t regret a good spring cleaning. It will bring seasons of refreshing. It will bring you back to life.

http://folsomchurch.com

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Creating an Opportunities Box

By Joyce Jamerson 

      

     Many years ago, when my brother and I would spend a few weeks in the summer with our grandparents in Ohio, we would anxiously look for the mail, for a letter from our Mom and Dad.  When the expected letter didn’t arrive, we were rather forlorn for a bit but soon recovered.  It was during the time that autograph books were popular, and every new person I met just had to sign the book.  Some would just sign their names and others would write a clever saying or praise me in some way.  (Of course, I loved that!) 

      My grandmother wrote:  “There is nothing quite so empty as a mailbox full of air, when the letter you expected simply isn’t….isnt’ there.” 

      I’ve never forgotten that little saying and it is still a good one, although with our high tech age, texting and e-mail take the place of many letters.  It almost seems criminal to me, to send a thank you note through e-mail, but I do confess ~ I’ve done it ~ to close friends who understand that handwriting is sometimes a chore.  But still, there is a special feeling when one receives a note through the mail.  You can sit down to read it (sometimes over and over again), seeing the person’s handwriting and knowing that they took the time to send their thoughts.  It’s still special.  

      Recently a friend from Lakeland, where we used to live, called me a few days after my birthday.  He was a computer buff, who regularly sent personally designed cards to others on special days.  Now, he is up in years and not able to accomplish some tasks, but still able to pick up the phone and call.  It was good to hear his voice.   

      As we’re looking within to find things we can do to encourage one another, there are many opportunities to praise and build up, just through cards, letters and phone calls; guess I should add texting and Facebook in this techno age.  E-mails will be deleted, phone calls will be memorable for a while, but cards and letters stand throughout time.  There are several that I just can’t throw away, and you probably feel the same way.   

      At times, we fail to take advantage of our opportunities because we don’t plan ahead, and the good intentions remain in our head instead of making it to our mailbox.   

      So, look for bargains on note cards and greeting cards and gather them together with stamps, pens, an address book or membership directory and a pocket calendar and find a special place for them.  How about a special drawer or tote bag?  All the essentials will be together and you’ll soon be looking for ways to encourage others.  Put special dates and events into the calendar and then every week or so, sit down to decide who can be encouraged today. 

      Is it the young man who just started a public role where you worship?  Would it be the teen who is inviting younger girls to sit with her?  How about clipping an obituary to send to the family or clipping a newspaper column of a special event to pass on to a family member?   

      Did you see how quietly little Drew sat while his daddy was leading singing and mom was busy in the nursery?  Could you share with parents how much you admire their teenagers? (Believe me, positive comments about teens would mean a lot to them AND to their parents!) How about the older lady who faithfully attends even though she is in daily pain?  Or the gentleman who leads such meaningful prayers, putting into words the feelings that are in your heart? 

      If someone is burdened with problems of any nature, a short note will lift their spirits.  Hospital stays can become long and dreary.  Depression goes hand in hand with illness, especially heart problems; grief from loss of family members is not lifted quickly.   

      If Christians are truly the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16), should these opportunities be neglected?   

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which as also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:3-5.   

Examples:  I’ve noticed, Clay, that you’re always here on time.  We never have to wait on you to begin class. 

We miss your sweet smile, Shelby, when you’re at home sick.  If you’re taking any medicine, I hope it tastes good! 

You crack me up, Polly.  Don’t we wish everyone could face the day with your sense of humor? 

Your prayers, Sammy, are so meaningful.  They help me to put things into better perspective. 

Thank you, Bryan, for the special effort you put into our song service.  It must take some extra time, but coordinating songs and sermons help us to get more out of our worship together.   

I’ve noticed, Wylene, that you have had problems adapting since the death of your mother.  Can we have lunch together soon? 

Search for opportunities ~ they’re all around us ~ and let me know how you’re progressing on that opportunity box! 

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Encouragement Through Writing

By Joyce Jamerson 

      We’re in the process of discovering writing as a way to encourage one another, and last month shared ways to create an opportunities box.  Since last week was an extremely busy week (with opportunities!), collapsing and watching Pride and Prejudice was part of my weekend down time.  During the time period in which that story took place, important communications came to them by delivery on horseback.  They hung onto every word, and on one occasion, there had been a delay and two letters came at the same time.  (Hard to conceive of in this day of texting and e-mail).  The agony of not knowing the outcome of a situation would be almost unbearable. 

      In my stash of precious things are postcards my grandpa received while he was in college and a few years after as he began to teach.  These pieces of insight into his life are over 100 years old.  While reading, you learn how his sisters loved and cared for him.  They even sent a post card if they intended to write a letter the next day!   

      I confess to being intrigued by some of Paul’s writings and can only imagine how it would have felt to be on the receiving end of some of his thoughts.  He had time alone and could dig deeply into his thoughts – thoughts revealed by the Spirit.  Is having time alone a barrier for us?  Do we not slow down enough to have deeper thoughts? 

      Some of his thoughts were encouraging; some were very pointed.  His words display his concern, his disappointment, as well as joy and encouragement.  He mentions how he was comforted when Titus came; reporting to Paul how much the Corinthians missed him.  They missed him, even though his pointed words to them had brought about their repentance, 2 Corinthians 7.  His words helped them grow spiritually, therefore they loved him even more. 

Look at some of his positive words in this chapter. 

Make room for us in your hearts.

You are in our hearts to die together and to live together.

Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf.

He is bursting with pride for them.

I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy (even in affliction). 

      The God of comfort had sent Titus to cheer Paul with a good report from the Corinthians and Paul thanked them for that comfort.  Titus encouraged Paul by his visit – motivated him.  The Corinthians also encouraged Titus.  Paul boasted to Titus regarding the Corinthians and never regretted it.  The bond shared by Paul, Titus and the Corinthians was tight.  Paul could depend on them completely. 

      What a chapter!  We could use the expression “what goes around, comes around” in its best sense.  What a lesson in encouragement!   

      What can we gain from this chapter?  Will Paul’s writings give us some ideas? 

      Most of the time, we don’t write because we don’t know what to say.  Paul used words of encouragement and praise freely, speaking of how he had been refreshed by those who cared for him.   

      First, have a purpose; note the occasion for writing.  Ever have a day when you feel refreshed?  Look around, note the events that surrounded that feeling and then write a word of encouragement and gratitude to those who may have contributed to that good feeling.   

Thank you for pitching in when I was really struggling.

Your beautiful note came the other day at the best possible time.

My health is not the best right now.  You are a dear for helping. 

      Second, set the tone, as Paul did, for optimism, and then build on it.  In Philippians 4, Paul is commending the Philippians for their concern and care for him.  Many times, they sent what he needed, and at the end of the book, he describes their care as a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing unto God. 

      We can be that fragrant aroma for someone else.  One little note of encouragement can make someone’s day.  Look around and focus ~ one at a time ~ on those around who may have a special need.   

Am I ever glad my desk is next to yours!  Your calm & pleasant demeanor often helps to sooth the bumps in my road. 

Don’t give up on bringing those babies to church.  Your presence (and that of those sweet little ones) brings so much joy to those of us who are older. 

You are a wonderful teacher; the pathway of life is more beautiful because of you. 

Spend some time in solitude to gather your thoughts and plan the plan, using your opportunities box, then head down the road of encouragement!

You can do it! 

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Giving and Receiving

A different slant on encouragement 

Joyce Jamerson 
 

      In the last two articles, we’ve talked of ways to encourage others, and the question arises, “How good are we at letting others encourage us?” 

      Because of the love in our hearts and our desire “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10), we want to cherish and care for others. If we’re able to run errands, cook, and be busy doing good works for someone who can’t get out, that’s great.  But how do we react when a loving act comes our way? Accepting a kindness from someone else may be a problem!  Love, Paul said, is “the perfect bond of unity,” Colossians 2:14. Illustrating this, we may refer to it as “super glue” – we’re stuck together in unity! Being able to do things for one another does create a bond, especially between sisters in Christ.  The Greek word for encouragement is parakaleo and literally means “to call alongside.”  The word encouragement indicates that we are under pressure and need help; having someone alongside to give us a boost.  I like that and it is a two way street.   

      My mom was fiercely independent, wanting to take care of herself as long as possible.  Nothing wrong with that actually, unless we carry it to an extreme.  We’re in such a self-sufficient age, wanting to be independent as long as possible, that we’ve forgotten how to receive goodness from others.   

      When it was needed, we took care of mom and she was a happy receiver.  

Paul knew how to be a happy receiver.  He had received from the Macedonians several times.  Epaphroditus was the errand runner (or camel express, maybe?) and Paul described his care as being “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God,” Philippians 4:15-18. 

      Are you at a low point?  Can you recognize when someone is trying to encourage you?  How do you react when someone praises you?  Are you able to accept praise?  Actual encouragement (to accomplish a task) may differ a little from affirmation, when someone pats you on the back for a job well done. 

      I had no vision for being able to write anything worthwhile, but God sent several encouragers that gave me the incentive to at least try and then praised me for the effort. They were my “fragrant aroma.” He may be sending one of His people just to praise and encourage you!  1 Thessalonians 5:14, NASV. 

      Paul encouraged Timothy, and Timothy profited greatly!  What a servant he became!  God’s Word has great power for encouragement (Romans 15:4-6), so we can be of the same mind with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  You may be thinking right now of someone who has been special in your life; who has given you spiritual direction.   

      In addition to spiritual encouragement, how do we accept having special things done for us?  For every giver, there has to be a receiver.  Many times, I’ve taken a small gift or casserole to someone to have them react in such a way that makes me wish I hadn’t!  “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that!”  Do we think because we are Christians, we should be beyond needing anything? Are we so self sufficient we never need to receive?  If a gift is sincerely given, don’t we need to be sincere receivers?  

      Receiving doesn’t necessarily mean we are needy; it’s because the one delivering wanted to do something special.  We may hold back from developing really good friendships just because we don’t know to give, wondering how the receiver will react or on the other hand, because we don’t know how to receive.  And that’s a shame.   

      We can get the most out of our relationships when we learn to accept graciously.  I gave a friend a Christmas ornament during that holiday.  We don’t usually exchange gifts or anything, but I saw an ornament that was calling her name!  It was a little glitzy, just like she is and was the initial of her name.  I didn’t want her to run out and get me anything; just accept the little inexpensive trinket that I had given her.  And that’s exactly what she did.  She smiled, kind of shrugged to indicate, “Well, I wasn’t expecting this!”  And then said a genuine “Thank You.” 

      I love being able to surprise a sister with a trinket at times, but hesitate because they’ll think they have to reciprocate.  Receiving is a talent – maybe we should work on it?  I know I need to.  We want to give and it’s more difficult to receive, and developing humility will be part of the key to doing so. 

Assignment?  Live with appreciation and joy; be thankful for the day and any gifts it may contain.  It will be the glue – to stick us together in unity.

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Is something missing?

Joyce Jamerson 

      Do you ever feel as if something is missing in today’s society?  Things that ought to be there? This is a different time for many of us; a time of uncertainty and economical change.  Sure, we’ve always tried to be good stewards and get the most for our money, but there was money to be had.  These days, dollars have to be stretched and ways to save need to be shared.  When money is tight, it seems to bring out the true character of those around us, and as we take a look within, we may or may not like what we see in ourselves.  Jobs may not be plentiful; services are being cut and our dollar has to go pretty far.  How do we react?  Will we trade our integrity for a few dollars in these difficult times? 

      Today, in the grocery store, there was a sale on beef, particularly shoulder roasts.  As I picked up one package to look at it, the price label jumped out at me.  It said:  $0.61.  No, the sale wasn’t that special.  Immediately, I knew something was wrong.  Should I leave it there and choose another?  Should I check out with it and consider it my good fortune?  Our missing quality (among many) in society today is integrity.  What would integrity demand of this situation?  When I took the roast to the meat counter to be re-weighed, I told the clerk that it was a really good buy, but I hardly thought the sale was that good.  She blinked a couple of times while looking at the price and took it behind the counter to be weighed properly.  When it was returned, the label revealed what had happened.  Now the roast cost $4.61.  No one caught the mistake when the 4 had been dropped.  She thanked me for being honest and I was on my way.  

      Perhaps that was the trigger for the memories – memories of my parents telling me to sit up straight, stand tall, look others in the eye when speaking, shake hands firmly, always tell the truth and all that…and I remember the word integrity.   Integrity isn’t about being perfect but about strength of character. Proverbs 24:10 in the NIV says, “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”  These days, if you stand firm with conviction and can be trusted, you are among the few who have integrity.  It’s a shame that employees are chronically late, pilfer supplies and cheat their employers.  Bickering and gossiping are common.  Instead of being an example, high ranking officials are publicly in the news because of their dishonesty and infidelities.  Looting and lawbreaking are widespread when there is some type of national disaster.  What does that say about our society? Where is integrity?  Where is caring for our fellow man?   

      Living a life of purpose requires certain characteristics and we find these qualities in the life of Daniel.  Even though he was a captive taken to Babylon when Jerusalem was besieged, Daniel continued to make good decisions.  I guess we could say his greatest strength was his attitude.  So much so, that God gave him (and his 3 friends) “knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom,” Daniel 1:17.  We can see the source of Daniel’s strength as he approaches God in prayer in 2:20-23.   

      How is our attitude?  Even if we think we’re doing pretty well in the attitude department, how high does it rank when we’re challenged?  When we’re passed over for a promotion or if the department evaluation doesn’t score as highly as we think it should?  How dare that employer take points off my score!  When someone makes an accusation against us; how do we hold up? 

Daniel was a faithful worker.  He performed so well that he was made a ruler over the whole province of Babylon and at his request, his 3 friends were also promoted, Daniel 2:48-49.  He was trusted! Faithfully doing his work. Employers today would love to hire someone like that. 

      There is a story about a wealthy man who had a friend who was a builder of homes. The builder was down in his business so the wealthy man decided to help him out by having him to build a home for him. He gave the builder a set of plans and a hefty check for $300,000. He then told him that he trusted his decisions and to do the best job that he could and if satisfied he would be paid well. The builder was very excited to receive such a large check but even more excited that he would be able to cut expenses which would enable him to keep a share of the money he had received. He went out and purchased the cheapest concrete that he could find as well as the cheapest lumber, all the while thinking about the money that he was going to be able to pocket.  He did the same thing with the plumbing and wiring.  When it was all said and done he was able to pocket $40,000 dollars.  Without his friend knowing about it, he deposited the money into his personal account. After completing the job he called his friend to come to look at the completed job.  His friend was quite impressed.  On the surface the house looked great, however the corners that were cut made the house much less than what it actually appeared to be.  The builder could not wait to see how much he would be paid for the job.  After going through the home, the wealthy man turned to his friend and told him that he already had a beautiful home and handed his friend the keys and said welcome to your new home.  The builder nearly passed out.  Any idea why?

      Daniel had the keys to integrity.  But those keys didn’t keep him from being persecuted by others.  We all know the lion’s den story by heart, but read through the book once more and note how Daniel behaved during challenges in his life and from where he received his strength.  He was faithful and diligent in his everyday life, had personal purity and was consistent in his walk with God.  He was a man of prayer; diligent in his prayer life. 

I remember seeing a sign that said: 

When you’re faced with a busy day,

save precious time by skipping your devotions.

Signed, Satan

Ouch!  Looking Within can be painful!    Lord, help us to be diligent in our daily walk with You, in spite of the challenges of our society.   
 
 
 
 

 

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 How’s your heart?

Joyce Jamerson 

      David was a man after God’s own heart.  We know him as a shepherd, poet, musician and singer; two-thirds of the psalms are attributed to him.  He was inspired by God’s creation as he kept his father’s sheep.  The visual images that come to mind in Psalm 23 however, are quite different in another of David’s psalms.  The green pastures and quiet waters that calm our anxious spirits are not calming at all in Psalm 51.  David is lamenting the filthy side of sin and knows he needs to be cleansed.  The description at the beginning of this chapter notes that this Psalm took place after Nathan the prophet came to David to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba.  He convicted David with the familiar story of the poor man and his favorite little ewe lamb; a family pet.  (Read this account in 2 Samuel 12.)  David readily admitted his sinful actions.  

      David is now asking God for a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.  His agony is clear in Psalm 51, considered the foremost of 7 psalms of repentance (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143).  David accepts responsibility for his wrongs and doesn’t try to excuse his actions or pin the blame on anyone else.  While Psalm 23 praises God for the restoration of his soul, Psalm 51 in contrast, paints the agonizing picture of separation from God.  He wants his joy to return!  This time of looking within reveals a broken heart.  He examined himself and didn’t like what he found.  He wants to use the return of his joy to teach others the joy of knowing God. 

      God wants a pure, clean, humble heart and He delights in mercy, so David had to put away the lustful, self-centered, prideful actions that led him into the depth of sin.  When that clean heart is restored and lips are used for singing and praising, David can once again enjoy the calm and quiet described in Psalm 23; the image of our Lord as a protective shepherd. 

      I’d be happy to give credit if I knew who originated the analysis below.  Each time I’ve seen it, it has helped me to stop and reflect on this psalm that we’ve probably known since childhood. 

The Lord is my Shepherd – that’s relationship!

I shall not want – that’s supply!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures – that’s rest!

He leadeth me beside quiet waters – that’s refreshment!

He restoreth my soul – that’s healing!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness – that’s guidance!

For His names sake – that’s purpose!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – that’s testing!

I will fear no evil – that’s protection!

For Thou art with me – that’s faithfulness!

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me – that’s discipline!

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies – that’s hope!

Thou anointest my head with oil – that’s consecration!

My cup runneth over – that’s abundance!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life – that’s blessing!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – that’s security!

Forever – that’s eternity! 

      Is my heart ready to share eternity with God?  How blessed we are to be able to examine our hearts; to see the consequences of our faults through the eyes of another in Psalm 51, and through Psalm 23, to know the provision of forgiveness, rest and healing as we continue to walk with God. 

Walk as David walked...in integrity of heart and uprightness..., 1 Kings 9:4.