image by Jen Kahanek from Unsplash
1. It helps you stay awake during the sermon. Embarrassing as it is to have this as the first reason, it's nevertheless the most obvious one. Let's not get defensive on this. Even if you managed to go to bed before midnight on Saturday night, chances are your body is still going to think it's naptime as you sit there in that too-comfortable chair, in air-conditioned surroundings, the peaceful atmosphere only broken by the preacher's murmuring voice...aaaaand the next thing you know you're struggling to just keep your eyelids open. Sure, have your coffee, but try taking notes.
2. You're able to see and piece together the sermon's content progression--how this point ties in to one made at the beginning, how all the points work together to address the different issues presented at the beginning...
If you're just listening to it as it comes, you tend to forget what came before--you don't realize how important it is that this point was covered, perhaps, or what's the significance that it gives to the main theme. Passively absorbing in our default Sunday-morning-sponge style might allow you to gain a few insights on good days, but it seldom enables you to grasp and appreciate the sermon as a whole, as a carefully structured argument/discussion; to see those insights and points not only individually, but in context to the rest of the sermon.
3. You can look back and have a fresh experience of benefiting from that same sermon, even years later; in summarized form--handily rephrased in the way most suitable to your own learning/reading style! Talk about getting the most out of it. I have a box of old sermon note books under my window, which still benefit me when rereading them. Also providing concrete proof that my handwriting, bad as it seems now, used to be worse.
4. It challenges you to listen attentively (this is, by the way, a whole different thing from simply staying awake as in point 1) and trains you to actively process what you hear, since you're not simply transcribing verbatim what the preacher says. You have to pick out the main meaning of the sentence, determine whether it's the next point or a supporting point, and where it belongs on the page.
5. You learn to better appreciate the work and dedication that goes into preparing a sermon. We tend to take it for granted, don't we? Turn up at church every week and plop down, ostensibly to listen--in reality, try not to fall asleep--criticize the random fragments we remember hearing, because they don't make sense, they sound disjointed, you know I think I could do better than that if I tried... And we walk out feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if the sermon vending machine didn't give us a run for our money. As a pastor's daughter I've observed how much effort and labour goes into that one hour plus sermon which we take for granted, every Sunday for years and years. Seemingly so simple, yet so unquantifiable the way other kinds of work is. Preparing a sermon is most definitely a creative process, though that's not often what we tend to think of it as. (From my own, if comparatively insignificant, experience of running this blog I know how baffling it can feel to sit down, facing a weekly deadline, and a desire to write something fresh, relevant, helpful, insightful, and yet at the same time have your brain completely blank. It's demoralizing and frustrating. Sometimes you spend hours working away at an idea, only to eventually realize it has to be scrapped. There goes all your work and time, and you're still no closer to finishing. And that's just the logistical side of the actual writing process. The spiritual aspect can be just as big of a barrier as well. You've been feeling low and disappointed in yourself recently; you question whether you've grown spiritually at all, whether you're still qualified to try and edify others after lapsing into sin or falling back into unhelpful habits...)
Let's not take every sermon for granted.
image by Belle Hunt from Unsplash
Matthew 21:12-1412 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]”
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
I remember my first introduction to this particular event in the Bible, helpfully illustrated in a children's Bible, one of those big glossy luxe editions where all the folds of the tunics, the feathers of the doves, the shininess of the flying coins, were painstakingly drawn for children like me to pour over for hours. It was with a sense of shock and secret admiration that I realized here was a lesser known, and more conventionally badass, side of Jesus, that challenged the largely passive idea I'd formed of Him. Jesus looked anything but passive flinging those tables over, releasing clouds of fluttering doves, in a reckless whirlwind of action that evoked childhood memories of jumping on sofas, rolling on the ground, screaming at the top of your lungs in wild abandon. Chaos in the midst of manmade order, control, polish, of institutionalized formality.
I have grown up all my life in a small church. We've always struggled with the same challenges--not enough manpower; struggling to maintain the basic logistical work of every Sunday's worship, let alone mission work and outreach work and additional activities. Looking for a pastor. For more Sunday School and Bible Study teachers. For people to help with setting up the worship room every Sunday, with bringing refreshments, with hosting prayer meetings. Dealing with the discouragement of having a scant handful of people turn up for the weekly prayer meetings, watching the numbers dwindle. And the list goes on; many of you can doubtless add to it...
It's easy to wallow in self-pity and discouragement. It's also easy to become overly focused on the tasks that need to be done--just as it would perhaps in a big church. To come up with the most efficient, productive strategy for growth, to race from one activity to another, to outline more SOPs for better organization...
...none of which are wrong, of course, but when they become the main thing we're doing? When we're more preoccupied with running this church (/business/company/startup...) more successfully, more efficiently, more impressively, more productively?
Jesus entered the Temple, a huge impressive tangible symbol of religion as an institution, with all its rites and man-made glamour, with the smooth efficient methods and structure of every successful organization. Read: church services without AV problems or crying babies or embarrassing ringtones; worship where the congregation comes on time, where the preacher is a great speaker with just the right amount of emotional appeal, flawless rhetoric, academic theological references, and anecdotes for that personal touch. Where smiling ushers that look like they were born and bred in aircon and fed on ice cream all their life come swooping effortlessly towards you to escort you to your seat (don't get me wrong, I've nothing against smiling ushers, but I speak from memories of waiting outside the church doors, feeling the sweat gathering on you like a moist second skin, and yourself visibly wilting in the heat even as you clutch a sticky hymnbook and try to look welcoming while melting) Where the venue is beautiful, impressive; modern enough for all the conveniences, yet classic enough to enhance the atmosphere for worship...
So ideal, isn't it? Wouldn't you feel impressed if you attended a church with a service like that? That's the kind of response we'd want our churches to produce on visitors!
My church doesn't even have our own premise; we rent classrooms, like many other small churches in land-scarce Singapore who don't have the funds to purchase and build a venue. Every Sunday we have to drag all our barang (baggage) up from a rickety cupboard and go about the process of converting a messy secondary school classroom with graffiti on chairs, socks and Shakespeare huddled together under desks, and wads of folded paper tucked under uneven table legs, into a place of worship. If I was a preacher I'd probably draw a parallel how, like modern day Abrahams, we are reminded in this way every week how temporary our current state is--aliens in a foreign land; journeying towards a final destination, relying on our faith and purpose rather than a settled place/concrete location for our identity. But I'll spare you the sermon seedling.
From this background, I can easily imagine how, staring up in awe at that beautiful building, you would feel a very man-centric sense of pride and identity--based not so much on God Himself but more on what we have done for Him and how our worship of Him, like culture and language and race and achievements, contributes to our overarching sense of identity and purpose. Not as a faith, in the proper sense of the word, but rather as an accessory. One of many slices in the pie graph of how we define ourselves. Part of community life.
And Jesus resisted this. He resisted the smooth, efficient clock-work structure and system, the successful organization, the institutionalized man-centric idea of God and worship. Deliberately channeling all that was most oppositional to everything the Temple had become--its specific list of what you had to do, to give, to be in the name of worshiping God, converting deeds into spiritual bonus points the way the money changers and dove sellers carried out their business--He became an agent of disruption, as aptly symbolized in how He overturned tables and set the doves free. Can you imagine a more visually effective image than that?
Instead, the blind and the lame entered the Temple, and Jesus healed them. The Temple became a place where real, personal needs were met in a life-changing way, for healing, for joy; "and the children shout[ed] in the Temple courts, Hosanna..."
And after that, the next morning, Jesus comes across the fig tree.
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
I've always seen these two events in isolation, and it was the first time I realized they took place one after the other. Search the Scriptures pointed this out, identifying how Jesus's actions addressed the church and what it should be aspiring towards.
As a church, are we busy creating our own idea of what worship should be like? Our own definition of God, which fits nicely into, and in fact relies on the systems and structures we are preoccupied with maintaining? Which, in turn, enable us to present this polished, impressive, seemingly flawless idea of religion--where everyone is nice and polite and agrees with each other, where everything runs smoothly and everyone knows what to do, how to behave, what to say--one that seems like a very convincing way of glorifying God, at first glance, but really does a better job at reflecting well on us, the organizers.
I tell myself this every time something "goes wrong," every time something is less than ideal and we're reminded that we are messy, that things don't turn out as ideally as we might like. Every time I'm tempted to cringe or feel embarrassed or even discouraged.
What is my focus? Why am I feeling like this? Why am I more concerned about the front we're presenting, about how we "come across" to others, about how well or how smoothly or how impressively we manage to do something?
Instead, remember the second event, which took place the day after, and consider--
like the barren fig tree--
how much fruit--the real fruit which matters--are we producing as a church?
Or are we doing a good job at looking like we're thriving, flourishing--plenty of leaves, pretty flowers, nice straight trunks, the kind of tree that would have been picked for a stock image--
but fruitless, under all that.
Like the barren fig tree that disappointed Jesus, and earned His curse.
Christ's example reminds us to remember what we were meant for.
Remember: this is the "season for fruit."
image by Michael Parzuchowski from Unsplash
...or in your life, for that matter.
Qualifier: I speak from the perspective of a young single adult who has no young siblings or children living with me, (unless you count two guinea pigs!) but who has been teaching Sunday School for several years, and also spends the rest of my week teaching children of assorted ages! These are just some thoughts I have developed, watching how adults interact with children--myself included--and seeing what has been helpful (and not!) for the children in a spiritual context.
1. Help them develop a love for reading the Bible. Help them see the excitement and fascination in the stories, the beauty of how the Old and New Testament reinforce and reflect and complement each other, the person of Christ as unfolded across both books as Messiah, King, Healer, Friend, Saviour. Help them to see the human, personal, side of the characters, to go beyond what may seem to them as stiff and formal words, to feel for them. I remember how a major change in Sunday School Bible reading happened when I started to unpack the Bible passages, not just as static factual events with a moralistic ending, but as stories which featured people very much like us, with feelings and thoughts and weaknesses and strengths like us. How God worked in their lives and spoke to them, just as He does to us. How they struggled to serve Him, how they made mistakes, how they learned to love Him--through joy, grief, shame, repentance, as we did. The children used to go through the motions of reading, sounding bored (especially those who had already read the story before) yet when I asked them to summarize what they had just read, they couldn't. I realized right then and there that just because they could read the verses aloud without physical difficulty didn't mean they actually understood or benefited from it from the content itself. So every few verses I would stop to summarize what happened, taking pains to help them imagine and relate to the characters, the situations, the conflicts/tensions, the ironies (I suppose my lit degree came in handy here.) To help them appreciate and engage with the passage.
Often, when they relate to the stories, when they start to feel and respond together with the characters, they grasp a lot of the spiritual truths on their own, instinctively; without needing me to hammer it in "ok now this is the interpretation, the take-away lesson." Often, they voluntarily give me examples of similar situations in their own experience, drawing parallels between the Bible stories and their own lives, so that the "application part" comes naturally. I'll always remember how, after we discussed what it meant to not have any idols, one little girl said suddenly with an enlightened face, "It's like my korkor (older brother) with his hair!"
And that's how they truly remember what they learned. Once they've engaged with the Bible, not just as a fun story, but reflecting truths that apply and can be seen in their own everyday lives, even within the limited circle of their short life experience.
And if you're not a parent or a Sunday School teacher and you're wondering how on earth this relates to you--you could always ask them about the Bible stories they've read, who's their favourite character and why; tell them about your own, what part of the Bible you enjoyed reading this week... Heck, be creative.
2. Encourage them to pray often, to feel comfortable and safe and loved talking to God, to share their fears and thoughts sincerely and naturally with Him. Give them opportunities to sincerely and simply pray, without making them self-conscious or overly aware of formalities; don't insist they close with "in Jesus's precious name" or tell them they "can't" pray for their pet hamster. Children learn quickly. They watch how you pray, they remember what you impress on them when it comes to how or what to pray about. They develop their own idea of what prayer means, and that reflects their idea of God, how they relate to Him.
From how you pray, does it come across as a duty, as a formal speech, as a ritual...as talking with a beloved Father and Friend?
3. Show them by your own example what the love of Christ means. Children are basically humans at the stage where they are the most receptive to love, and the lack of love. I mean, I think I'm pretty receptive to affection too, but in the nursery class I'm teaching now, the kids in the front row will start kissing my knees and trying to sit on my lap when it's storytime. !!!
Often, they are the most sensitive and appreciative of love, and as a Christian, you have the opportunity to show them through your example the gentleness, long-suffering, forgiveness, and self-sacrificial love that Christ demonstrated for us. So that when you tell them about Christ, they can imagine from their experience what such a love means.
Be kind. Take time to play with them, to listen to them, to talk to them.
4. Treat them seriously--purposefully avoid hypocrisy.
All right, this is a very big and complicated topic. I think I didn't manage to articulate it very well but I hope the main jist of it gets across anyway, because I feel it's very significant.
Listen to them, with respect for what they are trying to say, even when they're not good at articulating their thoughts yet. You'd be surprised how many insightful or unexpectedly probing, important questions/thoughts are going on inside that little head, once you sit down and take the patience to listen to the stammering, the pauses, the garbled syntax and confused references.
And don't talk down to them. I have realized, from watching others interact with children, and then changing how I interact with them--that there is a fine line between being playful/having fun and talking down. (If I manage to come up with a litmus test for that I'll add that to this post.) It's surprising how differently the same child will speak, act, and relate to you once they know that you take them seriously, that you don't see them as a cute stuff toy or kitten that only knows how to play and be teased (and some of them then go on to milk that to their advantage, manipulating adults and "acting cute" shamelessly. Unhealthy much? Go figure.)
This sounds weird, but really there is so much unconscious hypocrisy and insincerity--taken for granted even--in the way grownups interact with children. Children appreciate sincerity and humility a lot more than we give them credit for. You might think they're particularly gullible, but on the flipside, doesn't that show how much more they value and expect sincerity/honesty?
Whenever I share about my failures, or from my personal experience, I can really see them respond--they are responding to the fact that you're putting yourself on the same level as them, not playing the adult-talking-condescendingly-to-little-kids-that-I-clearly-see-as-inferior-to-myself card, or adult-ostenstatiously-dumbed-down. Which is a long title, but pretty much sums up a lot of adult-child interaction I have seen and experienced myself. There is something very damaging in encouraging the idea that adults are always 'better', and having reached some supernatural realm of perfection (which already comes quite naturally to children in their propensity to adore and admire and emulate; they are actually more used to humility than most of us) especially since the very way we define 'perfection', by implication, is often problematic.
One of them asked me if I cried when my pet died and I told them frankly, yes. They were surprised, and quiet for a while. "But you're an adult already," one of them pointed out finally, and I realized that to them, being an adult meant you were invincible, invulnerable, all capable. Oh darlings, who are we kidding?
Likewise, if you take this together with the many instances of hypocrisy, insincerity, and even falsehood with which many adults treat children (think promising rewards/telling scary stories/manipulative love--"If you're a naughty boy Mommy won't love you anymore..." and all the times we let them get away with stuff because they're cute)--well, it's depressing. What kind of security are we teaching them to have? What kind of standards are we depicting?
I remember, even as an older child, how damaging it was when another child got away with destroying/breaking one of my belongings, simply because his mom refused to make him apologize. She dismissed it with a flippant "oh dear, but he's just a kid, never mind lah, huh? You're the jiejie (older sister), you just don't mind it ok?"
I remember looking at that child, listening to what his mom was saying, and the expression on his face as he absorbed the fact that he could get away with something he obviously knew was wrong, as long as he played his cards right.
Again, having a friend refuse to let go of my stuff toy dog when it was time to go home, because he liked it. His mom, instead of telling him off, asked me to give it to him; "it's just a toy, you've still got others". I didn't want to, and I thought it was very rude and greedy of him--I expected his mom to make him return it, and when instead she asked me to give it to him, I felt a very strong, if confused, sense of injustice and betrayal. But because it was An Adult asking me I didn't dare to say no. I cried myself to sleep that night, even though it was "just a stuff toy", and I had "so many others!"
No. NO. Take them seriously.
Teach them to be honest, sincere, fair, and reliable by your own example. Don't dumb down for them. Don't have lesser moral standards for them just because they're kids. Don't dismiss their feelings or thoughts just because they may seem less important, or may not be well articulated. Don't underestimate the impact that you have in how they see themselves, and how they learn to interact with others.
5. Teach them to desire a relationship with Christ, and be aware that your Christian witness affects how they define what it means to be a Christian.
Help them to see, even as there is so much for them to learn--Bible stories, Scripture memory, worksheets to complete, catechisms to learn--that the most important thing is for them to believe in Jesus. The Gospel, in its most beautiful and most simple essence, should never be missing from the mass of Sunday School lessons and sermons and quiet bedtime talks. Its preeminent place should never be uncertain.
Ask yourself--calling myself a Christian, what kind of impression, on what it means to be a Christian, would a child who knows me get from my life? I know many dear older Christians who have helped me in many ways, but I especially appreciate those who showed me that being a Christian didn't mean having to constantly keep up to a specific image. Or always be on the lookout for reasons to disapprove of something. Or being unable to enjoy the simpler things in life. Or relate to people who didn't agree with your worldview. Come on, before I was converted I had the idea that after being baptized you couldn't be playful and make jokes because somehow it meant you weren't properly saved. How messed up was that, and yet that was the unspoken impression I'd received and formed.
6. Be comfortable with talking about spiritual things with them, and encourage them to ask you questions on what they're unsure of. I'm not sure how much of an issue this is with you. Most of us feel rather awkward discussing spiritual things with other adults. It could be worse, or easier, to do so with a child, depending on you. But most people don't bother to, because they assume that children can't understand/appreciate such thoughts. Don't mentally shelve them on the Jesus Loves Me This I Know level of theology! Be open to, and encourage them to ask questions about spiritual things. Be forewarned though; that probably means some very probing questions you'll have to think over and even study up on before you can answer. I remember when I was seeking, how it felt so unnatural and difficult to ask questions, even though I so badly needed answers, because I had never been in the habit of talking about these things with the older Christians in my life. Whereas this would be notoriously challenging to start with teenagers, it's different with children, who often have less expectations on what is "normal/awkward," less inhibitions, and much more trust/honesty in expressing their curiosity or questions. If they ask you questions about faith, about the Bible, encourage them, don't make them feel stupid or heretical; share from your own experience. The first time one little girl in my class asked me--she wasn't from a Christian background, so she didn't feel as much inhibition--"How do we know God is real?" I was struck by the reaction she got from the others, all from Christian homes and upbringing. They stared at her in shock and one of them nudged her to indicate she'd asked a taboo question, something akin to heresy. No, no, NO. I asked them one by one how they knew God was real, and they all gave pat textbook answers that rang hollow. I probed deeper and sure enough, they eventually acknowledged that they weren't really sure why those were the answers, they weren't very convinced, though they felt bad for doubting or feeling this way. That meant having to abandon the current lesson plan for a How Do We Know God is Real series, but it was worth it. We made some real connections that day, had some serious and insightful discussions. I hope they learnt not to be afraid to ask questions, to study the Bible, and get help when they needed it without feeling ashamed or guilty.
They're not children for very long. Treasure this chapter of life when they're at this stage. There are many blessings and opportunities in it, both for you and them.
Student life as a young Christian can be one of the most bewildering and challenging periods of your life.
There are so many new things--challenges, mostly--clamouring for your attention. Uncertainties, ambitions, all the enjoyments of life; and often, so many priorities you haven't quite sorted out for yourself, or at least in application, yet.
Add on top of this all these challenges in a spiritual aspect, and overwhelming would be a good summary.
(Of course, this has a point. Youth is the best time for facing challenges creatively and courageously, rising to meet them with energy, spirit, and hopefulness. Though to be frank I don't think most young people feel exactly brimming over with energy, spirit, and hopefulness. More like ceaselessly dog paddling just out of your depth, your toes grazing the pool bottom every now and then giving you a fleeting sense of stability; other times your whole head goes underwater and the chlorine stings the inside of your nose.)
At this point in life, whether it's angsty teenagers or young adults struggling to adapt to the label 'young adults,' life and maturity largely boils down to navigating that fine balance between our often conflicting desires to be independent, and to be dependent.
(At least, from my own personal experience; a lot of the stress I experience stems from managing priorities. Fellow young adults, please correct me if I'm generalizing.)
Whichever one applies most in your case. Maybe that means being emotionally and psychologically strong. Or financially independent. Or being able to handle all the stuff that life throws at you without feeling stressed or lost (read: impossible.) We look to adults/older Christians both as role models, as people who had successfully survived/navigated this period of life and more or less (at least comparatively) seem to have found their own feet and a measure of stability and strength--spiritual or otherwise. At the same time, we struggle how exactly to define our relationship to adults, wanting to not have to depend on them, yet simultaneously still needing some guidance and help in our goal to achieve the sense of stability and security we associate with them.
This explains why, though it certainly shows love and care for your child if you cover them with concern and pre-empt their every need, it also reaffirms your child's awareness of how dependent that makes them, and simultaneously reaffirms their desire to be independent. We want ultimately to be treated as equals, but we're still vulnerable enough to need some TLC now and then. If you keep that paradox in mind, you won't feel so confused or resentful why we respond sometimes in the ways we do, and you'll be more able to give us the help we need. And forgive us, when we react ungratefully or ungraciously or just plain incomprehensibly. Or realize that perhaps the ways you thought you were helping us might be backfiring, despite your good intentions.
Whether you're a parent trying to care for the spiritual life and wellbeing of your child, or a kind soul reaching out to students in your church/life, here are some ways that I've personally found encouraging and helpful in my own time as a student.
1. Care for their physical needs.
This may mean little care packs of study snacks, oranges to help ward off colds and flus, herbal soup to boost focus during those all-nighters, buying them their favourite coffee, providing a quiet place to study, or a ride back to save on travelling time. Be creative with the gifts and resources God has given you. As a student, dollars matter so much. Food is vastly important.
2. Communicate and pray faithfully for them. Keep track of the big challenges in their lives so you can support them during those critical times, whether it's finals or waiting for results to be out, or knowing when they're stuck in a nightmarish group project with horrible team members. Let them know you're available when they need to talk, and be sensitive to gage when they do need help. Text them short, simple encouragements that don't require lengthy answers in reply. I remember feeling almost a sense of dread having to muster up the time and energy to give a detailed update on myself, when it wasn't a good time. Is this just an introvert thing? I think not.
On communication: Communication is a two-way thing. It's unfortunate, but just because you want us to confide in you doesn't automatically mean we will be as effusive and appreciative as you might think we ought to be. We may have inhibitions about opening up to adults, or fears on how you might judge us, or simply not feel ready to make ourselves vulnerable. And we've probably all had bad experiences/memories of condescending adults. Children get the worst of this, I'm telling you. Have you heard the way some adults talk to kids? Even I cringe. The worst part about opening up to someone is when they leap to conclusions and assume that they know exactly what it is, and how we should resolve it, full of I-am-older-and-more-experienced-than-you-so-I-automatically-know-better. And we creep away even more confused, unsettled, wondering if we were arrogant to dare to think otherwise, and mentally vowing never to expose ourselves to this kind of situation again. As with any other relationships, don't come to communication and interaction with a sense of entitlement, which usually arises when our motivation is dutifulness rather than sincere love and respect. I'm guilty of it myself!
3. Help us by giving us the perspective we often are too near-sighted to see. This is one of the great benefits of being older--you have a much more mature and far-sighted perspective of decisions, priorities, and events. Without downplaying and dismissing the emotional and psychological significance of things which seem to be the end of the world to us, help us to see an alternative, that life doesn't have to go exactly as we think it has to, or other people tell us it has to, in order to live a happy and productive life that glorifies God.
Or, help us to have more balanced experience and perspective on life. Help remind us that life isn't all about grades, success, (add in word of choice) but that simple things like cooking your own food, playing with children, sweating it out over sports, laughing with friends, a bunch of flowers, beautiful music, and a walk outside remind us why we were created, and by Whom.
4. Take an interest in our friends, the people in our lives, what we feel is important.
5. Encourage us by affirming our growth, abilities, and gifts. Constantly being made aware of our limitations and shortcomings, we deal with insecurity, feeling incompetent, internal and external expectations for ourselves, criticism--ah, I won't go further, it sounds like a pity party; I've written on the pressures of growing older elsewhere.
Encouragement goes a long way. Especially at this time when we're still discovering who we are, or who we want to be. When we're struggling to do everything required of us and be more, be better than who we were yesterday.
Most of all, God bless you for your kindness in wanting to help us during this bewildering and challenging, if fulfilling time of life. I saw a quote once which I've been trying to live out since, and which I think aptly sums up much of the thoughts in this post: be who you needed when you were younger.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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