Archives For encouragement

Keep fighting

Ben Reed —  March 27, 2013 — 1 Comment
wilderness-running

image credit: iStock Photo user amygdala_imagery

I try not to check my distance too often while I jog, because running is often as much in my head as it is in my feet. I tell my legs what to do…they don’t tell me.

On this particular day, however, I was listening to a podcast, not paying attention at all to how far I’d gone. Turns out I hadn’t even made it out of the neighborhood on my trek to 7 miles.

As I glanced down to see my distance, I realized where I was.

I was at the most depressing part of a jog. The part where I realized I’d just left the house, but I still had a long, long ways to go. I was at the point where you look down to see how far you’ve gone, only to realize that on your ensuing 7 mile jog, you’ve only traveled .5 mile.

The rest of the jog, which took nearly an hour, felt like it took 4 days. Every hill was tougher. Every burst of sun more blinding. Every corner with shade was too chilly. Every puddle deeper.

It was depressing. I felt unproductive. I felt like the journey ahead was too far to go. I felt like I’d never make it.

Which is why it’s never good to measure success on the first half-mile.

Don’t measure the success of your recovery from addiction on the 2nd week, when you feel like you might break.

Don’t measure the success of your small group on the 3rd meeting, when the group still hasn’t gelled.

Don’t measure the success of your new idea on the first person you pitch it to, who tells you it’s dumb.

Don’t measure the success of your spiritual goals at week 4, when you’re still struggling with wanting to want God.

Don’t measure the success of your marriage in month 3 during a fight, when you’re tempted to walk away from it all.

Don’t measure the success of the church you’re visiting on the first visit, when you were frustrated.

Don’t measure the success of your career on your first job, which you struggled to find any satisfaction in.

Success isn’t measure .5 mile from the starting line.

Success is measured at the end of the race.

Whatever race you’re running right now, keep fighting. Keep running. Keep clawing. And don’t give up.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. – Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7

 

 

RebukEncouragement

Ben Reed —  March 20, 2013 — 5 Comments
Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.26.49 AM

image via Amber Sprung, CreationSwap, quote mine

Just the other day, someone was trying to give me a compliment. I think.

It’s great you are able to do ministry like this at such a young age, and be able to learn so much. You’re doing a great job for your age in life.

I smiled and cordially thanked him. My mind racing as he walked away. I kept thinking, “Was that an encouragement? A rebuke? A compliment? A slap in the face?”

A backhanded slap feels a little better when it’s couched with something nice, right? Especially if you can somehow mix God, ministry, theology, and “spiritual growth” all together. It’s kinda like being slapped by a sweet old grandma, while she gives you a kiss on the cheek. It’s kinda sweet. And kinda mean. And you don’t know whether to smile, be angry, run and hide, stand and fight, or curl up in the fetal position.

A few weeks ago, I was told, “For the task you’ve got in front of you, you’re doing well.” Again, I smiled and said thanks, but thought, “What does that even mean? If it were easier, would I not be doing well? If it were harder, would I be an abysmal failure?”

This is probably a reflection of my broken, depraved mind.

But I started thinking if there were other ways of encouraging someone…and backhanding them all at the same time. I came up with a few that we use in the Christian world. I call them “RebukEncouragements.” See what I did there? I brought together two biblical words and…well, you get it.

RebukEncouragements

  • You’re doing a great job for your age.
  • For the task in front of you, you’re doing well.
  • I’m glad God isn’t done with you yet.
  • If God can save you he can save anyone.
  • To pastors: Most pastors aren’t as normal as you are.
  • To pastors: It must be nice having a job where you only have to work one day/week.
  • To pastors: For all of the extra “ministry stuff” you had to do this week, it’s amazing you could have pulled together a sermon at all. I’m glad you at least preached something.
  • God can love someone even as difficult as you.
  • It must be exciting for you that you still have so much to learn.
  • God has used you in my life to teach me patience.
  • Without you I wouldn’t know how to deal with difficult people.
  • I can’t even imagine how God’s going to use you when you grow in maturity.

Anything you’ve heard/said before that is a RebukEncouragement?

 

 

The Ben Nevis

Ben Reed —  February 19, 2013 — 2 Comments
ben_nevis

image credit: reypastor.org

Over spring break my junior year in college, I took a trip with a few buddies to Edinburgh, Scotland. We had a buddy who was studying there for the semester, and it made for a good excuse to travel halfway around the world to a country none of us had ever visited.

We saw the sites in London, stayed in hostels, visited the most famous golf course in the world, and climbed the highest mountain in the UK, the Ben Nevis. Standing a glorious 4,409 feet high, we knew we were going to dominate this mountain. When you’re a college student from Tennessee, that’s what you do.

My hiking attire:

  • A gray GAP, lightweight hoodie
  • Jeans
  • Tennis shoes

Between the 5 of us hiking that day, we brought 3 bottles of water, 4 energy bars, fruit we’d taken from the hostel where we’d just stayed, and a couple of handfuls of granola.

We weren’t really clued in to our unpreparedness, even though the hostel owner gave us that look, and said, “You’re going to climb the Ben in that?” Dumb, not-scared-of-anything college students, we pressed on.

About an hour into our ascent, I remember passing this couple who looked very “official.” They were decked out in North Face gear, rugged-looking boots, backpacks that could withstand a hurricane, and canteens of water that kept their water at just the perfect temperature for days. And they matched.

“You guys making it ok?” with the same look that the lady at the hostel had given us over breakfast. Apparently our “gear” gave us away. We all glanced at each other as if to say, “Don’t you say a word about how dumb we feel.”

“Yep! Ship shape!” I said. “We almost there?”

They gave a chuckle and continued trudging downwards past us.

When we finally made it to the top, we looked even more out of place. There were guys with ice picks. People donning full-face masks to keep out the cold. And guys with gloves so thick it warmed my hands just to look at them. I cinched my hoodie a little tighter around my face, and drank in the most beautiful site my eyes had ever beheld. Everywhere I turned, making sure not to slip off of the snowy ledge, I saw beautiful Scotland countryside. Mountain after mountain, separated by green valleys, sheep grazing to their heart’s content. Turns out, we crested the top on the only day that entire month where the clouds broke. It was as if God was smiling on our little ragtag crew.

All we could stand was ~30 minutes. We were all freezing. The snow had melted into my shoes, and I could feel the blisters pulsating. Time to head down. Most people gingerly and carefully made their way down the first 200 feet, which was covered with snow. Not our crew, though. We dropped to a sitting position and slid down. What took most people 10 minutes took us less than 15 seconds. I had to dig my heels in to keep from careening off of the side of the mountain (that’s no joke…I really thought I was going to be with Jesus in that moment), but we’d started our journey back.

I was miserable, but I tried to not let that show in my face.

Every person I passed, I’d give them a smile, and a quick,

  • “Hey, you’re almost there!”
  • “It’s worth the climb!”
  • “Don’t quit now!”
  • “Trust me, you’ll be glad you did this!”
  • “Just a few more bends and you’ll get the most beautiful view you’ve ever seen!”

With almost every person I spoke this to (minus the one guy that gave me the sink eye), I saw their face brighten a bit. I saw their shoulders straighten ever so slightly. They would stand up a little straighter. For some, the corners of their lips would curl in a tiny smile.

That’s what encouragement does. It speaks hope and life into places where death would love to take control. It breathes steps for someone else, and releases unknown burdens. It says,

  • This fight is worth it.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Your family needs you!
  • Your faith is worth it!
  • The prize is coming! 
  • Not much further!
  • Now is not the time to quit!
  • I’ve been where you’re going…don’t stop now!

Somebody you know needs encouragement. Right now. They’re on the mountain, and they’re about to quit. They’ve stopped for a break, and they’re not going to start going again until they hear from you. They don’t know that, just ahead, the clouds are breaking. Only you know that it’s just a few more cut backs before they reach the top. Only you know the view ahead is breathtaking.

You may not be a mountain climber. I’m sure not. But a timely word of encouragement can change someone’s life.

Who can you encourage today?

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

 

 

I started working out at the gym a couple of months ago. CrossFit is my deal. I find it much more enjoyable…ahem…as *enjoyable* as lifting weights can be.

It’s a combination of lifting weights, aerobic activities (running, rowing, etc.), jumping/climbing, and gymnastics-type moves. Whereas normal weight-lifting can get boring through repetitive movements, I’ve never once been bored.

I’ve also never once gone home not sore.

As I was finishing up one of my runs just the other day, rounding the last corner before the mile run was over, I was about to go into cruise control. The last 400 meters were going to be easy, I thought. I was a sizable distance behind the next runner, and…who cares? It’s just a run…I don’t have to win this.

image credit: Creative Commons, user ConvergingPhoto

Until one of the coaches barked a word of encouragement my way.

I didn’t see it coming. I had already pushed the cruise button. I had taken my foot off the gas and was ready to coast. But the coach jarred me back to the grind. When I was tempted to coast, I was reminded to work even harder.

There have been a number of times where I’ve been directly encouraged. Sometimes it’s been in a cheerleading-type, “Way to go!” way. Other times it’s been a more constructive, “If you’ll just change ____, things will be easier” way.

In the process, I’ve learned much about how encouragement works.

7 truths about encouragement

1. Encouragement speaks things into existence that are not yet.

Am I good at working out? I don’t know…ask my stick arms. But they won’t be stick arms forever. Encouragement sees things that will be, based on trajectory instead of current circumstances. It focuses on potential, not only current reality.

2. Encouragement breeds hope.

When I’m ready to quit, a word of encouragement gives me a burst of energy. It breathes a bit of life into my fatiguing body. Encouragement is the breeding ground for hope, where none currently exists.

3. Encouragement builds relationships.

I feel a closer connection with those that have given me a timely encouragement. I feel like they believe in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. And I’m convinced that relationships are an under-valued key in so many areas of life. Especially decision-making.

4. Encouragement propels you further, faster.

I felt a surge of adrenaline when I heard, “You can do it, Ben!” When you encourage someone, your words help carry someone a little further. Even when you’re trying to climb a couch.

5. Encouragement tells you what can be.

Encouragement tells me that I could be better than I am right now. That I could run a bit faster. Lift a bit more. And not give up. Encouragement helps close the gap between the deficiencies you see in yourself right now and the picture of who you could be in the future.

6. Encouragement communicates, “I believe in you.”

Everyone needs to hear this. You need to know that someone else sees the same vision you do. Someone else believes you can close that gap. Someone else believes you can produce more, and become the better version of you that God intended.

7. I don’t always want encouragement.

Strange and twisted, no? Sometimes, I just want to give up. My body’s tired and my mind is mush. I’d rather throw in the towel for the day. But when I press through, I find potential that I didn’t know existed. “When you feel like you’ve used every ounce of energy you possess, you’ve still got extra reserve you can draw on,” my friend told me. Turns out he was right. And I hated him for it. :)

You’re an influencer of someone. Maybe you’re a pastor. Or a banker. Or a small group leader. Or a dad. Or a coach.

Those you lead can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.

You’re also influenced by someone. Maybe your pastor. Or your banker. Or your small group leader. Or your dad. Or your coach.

Those who lead you can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.

Time to put this on your to-do list.

Genuine encouragement is a gift you can give.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Question:

Who needs your encouragement today?

 

 

Dat cool, Daddy?

Ben Reed —  October 21, 2011 — 11 Comments

Photo Credit: Back Drop Express

My son asked me to go outside and play football with him yesterday. Mind you, he’s 3. So football for him looks a lot safer for me now than it will in a few years.

We were throwing the ball back and forth, and he was loving every minute of it. I’d throw it as high as I could, and he’d watch it come crashing down to the ground and bounce strange directions. He’d mimic me and watch it bounce again.

He’d say, “Daddy…watch me!” And I’d watch him throw the ball up in the air and hear him squeal with delight that he did it.

Of course, when he would, I’d go nuts, making a big deal and encouraging him that he threw the ball.

Then one time, unintentionally, I didn’t encourage him. I didn’t tell him he did a good job. I watched him throw the ball, then walked over to pick it up and continue the cycle.

It’s not that he didn’t do a good job…I just didn’t tell him that he did.

And he asked me a question that caused me to stop mid-stride:

Dat cool, daddy?

He wanted to know if he was still doing it right. He wanted validation from someone who knew the ropes, and knew what a “good throw” was supposed to look and feel like. He wanted to hear from his dad that I thought what he was doing was cool.

Don’t we all have a bit of that longing inside of us?

We all want to be validated by someone who knows the ropes. By someone who’s been in our shoes and walked where we’re going. Who can shed a little light on our paths to make the journey a little more navigable.

Older leaders: we need your encouragement. We need your ‘atta-boy!’ We need your wisdom and insight. We need your gut-level response to our gut-level response.

Don’t give up on us. We need you.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

*Photo credit: BackDrop Express

 

What great leaders must do

Ben Reed —  July 6, 2011 — 1 Comment

image from iStockphoto, user: LDF

You might think that great leaders always leave you confident of the product (or service, or idea) that they’re “selling.”

You might think that great leaders always leave you with a clearer understanding of a key idea or concept.

You might think that great leaders have to be a certain age or stage in life.

But if that’s your sum total of a great leader, you’ve missed out on the one thing that all great leaders do well.

Great leaders leave you feeling better about yourself.

When you meet with a great leader, you feel more confident in God’s call on your life.

They aren’t afraid to point out holes, and prod into the areas that need work.  But somehow, when your time with them is up, you feel more confident and sure of your leadership than before you’d met.

Great leaders look for tiny glimmers of hope and expose it for you to see.  They look for areas where God’s working and say, “Do you see that?”  They listen for God’s voice and sound the trumpet when He’s working in your life.  Great leaders see the best in you and say, “Do more of that!”

I only know a couple of great leaders.  And I love when I get to sit down with them.

Great leaders encourage.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up… – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

 

Bike Riding & Community

Ben Reed —  July 12, 2009 — 3 Comments

I rode bikes a fair amount in college.

I was into mountain biking for a while, but going to school in West Tennessee, the flattest part of the state, doesn’t afford many mountains.  So I traded the mountain bike in for a road bike.  I rode some with my roommate, but also a lot by myself.  I would tell people, “I love just getting out there and riding by myself.”  I must not have liked it that much, because after college I gave up biking.

In the last couple of months, I’ve picked it back up. I ride three times/week.  Twice it’s a shorter sprint, and once/week is a long ride.  I’m loving it!  And I’m sticking with it.  Why?

I experience community when I ride my bike.

You see, I don’t ride alone.  I ride with three guys from my community group, one of their sons, and my uncle.  Somehow, in riding 30 miles with people, life happens.  Significant conversations happen.  The distractions of normal life are stripped away, and riding through the country opens up the heart.  I’ve built great relationships with these guys, and I look forward to our rides together.

Biking alone is ok, but I

  • get tired more quickly
  • don’t have the motivation to keep going
  • don’t have the motivation to get up early and push myself
  • get bored
  • go shorter distances
  • quit earlier than I intended.

When I bike with the guys, I am encouraged to get up early, to keep riding, to push myself even harder, and to finish the ride.

That’s what authentic, God-honoring community does.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.  -1 Thessalonians 5:14

 

Rejoice!

Ben Reed —  June 18, 2009 — Leave a comment

When life falls apart, we tend to lose hope.  Whether that’s getting a flat tire (I just had one!), getting a headache, hearing tragic news, or losing your job, our response is often to recoil and lose hope.

When life falls apart, do you run to God or from Him?  Those are the only two options.  The biblical ideal is this: “we rejoice in our sufferings.” (Romans 5:3)  What?!?  Rejoice in our sufferings?  Isn’t that counter-intuitive?  How could somebody ever be joyful in the midst of pain?  Emotions aren’t something you can control, right?  They’re just a reaction, aren’t they?

Being joyful in the face of difficulties is a work that God must do in you.  It’s a process, and doesn’t happen overnight.

“Suffering produces endurance.” (Romans 5:3)  “Produce” implies that there is time between suffering and endurance.  No runner will tell you that they built up endurance in one week, or even in one year.  It takes a lot of time.  The same holds true for:

“Endurance produces character.” (Romans 5:4)  Former Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carril said, “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”  Hardships have a way of revealing the worst in us, but endurance in the face of them produces character.  This passage in Romans finishes with:

“Character produces hope.” (Romans 5:4)  What is that hope in?  That our sufferings are not in vain, but that they bring glory to God (Romans 5:2).  We rejoice because we are being made into the image of Christ, the One who died for us.  We don’t rejoice because we enjoy suffering.  We don’t hope because we think that life on earth will some day be rosy and easy.  We have hope because Christ died the death we deserve, and is shaping us into his image so that, when this life is over, we will be ready for an eternity with God.

In your suffering may you “not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

The next time that life falls apart, turn to God, and let Him do a work in you.  May your suffering ultimately produce hope in Christ.