Hello weekend readers. I have been musing about the word ‘encouragement’ because I find so many people that I know who need to be encouraged…perhaps you are one of them? Let’s face it, we’d be lying if we didn’t say a dose of encouragement would make our day, right?! For me, I love to “troll” to find real stories for my devotions. Today, one really caught me because I loved to play music and still do. As a kid I had piano, violin, saxophones, and so forth. My parents could probably have had a rental for musical instruments! But, oh that violin. I know they worked hard to buy it for me and it was precious. Learning to play it was at my heart’s desire, so along with that and piano I had dreams of being on the musical stage! God’s choice was different—my musicianship was to honor him so at 9 years old I got up on the organ bench and have been in worship music my whole life.

The Rev. Dr. Ernest Mellor, professor at Wheaton College, loved music. His wife was an accomplished pianist so their home was filled with music. Some friends invited them to attend an outdoor performance by young violin students which included their son. After the concert, the instructor spoke about this program and how they begin teaching children as young as two, three, and four years old to play the violin. First, they must learn a proper stance. And second, even before they pick up their violin, they must learn how to take a bow. (I concur, that is what my violin teacher had us do as well.)

The instructor went on to ask if anyone had questions. Dr. Mellor was interested in why taking a bow was so important. The instructor chuckled and admitted this is the first question everyone asks! He answered: “If the children just play the violin and stop, people may forget to show their appreciation. But when the children bow, the audience invariably applauds. And applause is the best motivator I have found to make children feel good about themselves and are not afraid of performing. They really do want to play well and share it.”

Our society isn’t very good about affirmation any more. In fact, it has become way too easy to discourage and demand perfection, like: ‘The paper you wrote was only a ‘B’ – not good enough. You dropped the ball—not good enough. You were off-key—not good enough.’ Say that long enough to your child, friend, spouse—or to yourself—and what happens? Loss of self-esteem, depression, self-hurt, etc. Your joy has been kicked right out of you.

If we profess faith in Christ, it means we also embrace His love and grace for not only ourselves but for others. Living in this world is tough, encouragement is so needed and don’t be afraid to say “I need it” – because when you acknowledge that you will be ready to accept encouragement and not be afraid to share it with others. Ask yourself, “is there someone that I know who needs encouragement?” Hang in there, you might have a pretty long list, but no worries. The power of the Holy Spirit is right there leading you into the wisdom of words and care needed to help another out and/or accept another’s encouragement to you.

I’d like to end this devotion with a reminder of how the Apostle Paul lived his life. It was a dungeon. It was a prison where he could not stand up, manure from the streets were swept into the dungeon, ruining his health and for most of us, we would probably give up and ask God to let us die. But Paul knew the antidote! And thank God he did and the letters he wrote to the churches that still speak to us today and they are filled with encouragement—like a “you can do it” attitude. His two letters to the church at Thessalonica are one my favorites and the Message translation says it best—enjoy—and take this encouragement to your heart today so you can be encouraged and then share it with someone who needs it! AMEN.