Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creative Encouragement

One of the rites of spring is the beginning of baseball season.  From Major League stadiums filled with thousands to much smaller little league fields with stands filled with dozens of adoring parents, diamonds which lay dormant for the winter months are now bustling with activity.  One of the most curious demonstrations of America's pastime is the sight of the youngest of ball players who are taking their first stab at the game.  They march to the plate with bats as heavy as they are and swing their little hearts out.  Each swing is loaded with anticipation yet most frequently met with little if any results.  Many times a complete whiff and when contact is made often a slow dribbler back to the mound.  They may call it baseball, but what happens on those fields hardly resembles what Abner Doubleday had in mind.

In spite of the pitiful resemblance to the real game, one aspect of the game shines through - a cheering crowd!  Strike after futile strike, dribbler after slow dribbler, words of praise flow from the aluminum stands, regardless of the outcome.  Parents applaud wildly.  Words of encouragement are showered down on the athletes:

"Way to swing that bat!"
"You'll get 'em next time!"
"Good try!"
"Way to stand up there!"

I call it "creative encouragement."  A loving parent can always find the silver lining.  If you look hard enough, there's always something to stand up and cheer about.  Even a strikeout elicits cheers from the crowd.  We all recognize the need to encourage and as our children take those first swings we heap it on.

But somewhere in between those early days on the baseball diamond and adulthood we lose the skill of creative encouragement.  If only we could be consistently like those parents who can find good in almost anything -- and if we keep our eyes peeled for the good, we will invariably find it.

The Bible speaks often of the value of encouragement. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up ...
Judas and Silas said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers...
But encourage one another daily...
Let us encourage one another.

It's how we survive the difficult times.  It keeps us going when we're down.  It validates us when we're on target.  Everyone needs it and everyone can give it.

There are people around you every day who are in desperate need of a good dose of encouragement!  People in your office.  People in your churches.  People in your homes.  People you bump into at the store!  Let's get creative.  Find something good in people and shower them with those encouraging words that will give them the strength to pick up the bat again, march confidently to the plate, and swing away!