Encouragement Skill #5


Some years ago, I recall reading about a professional violinist named Ed Stanistreet. As he aged, arthritis crippled his fingers, causing him to lose agility and technical ability.  He retired from the symphony but didn’t lay down his instrument.  He loved music and knew its ability to touch people.  So, several mornings a week, he’d board a bus in downtown Philadelphia, go to the local hospital, take the elevator up to the neonatal floor, and play for the preemies. No matter our age, no matter our challenges, no matter our financial constraints, there are always things we can do to reach out and touch others.

When my mother lived out her two year battle with cancer, I was blessed to live less than two hours away and could visit her every few weeks. On those days, I made a habit of stopping at a store in upstate New York called The Silver Strawberry.  It was the place to go if you needed silk or dried flowers, baskets, pots and mosses.  My mother liked to go and browse there, often coming home with the makings for a small flower arrangement.  When she was no longer able to easily leave the house, I created a ritual for our visits.  I’d stop at the store on the way to visit her and purchase everything we’d need to create an arrangement together.  This became our shared experience for the day.  She’d have the coffee ready when I pulled in the yard.  As she became too weak to participate, she’d take a nap, I’d make the arrangement by myself, and watch her face get excited when it was time to see it.

Creative gifts do more than make momentary impacts.  The meaning attached to the gifts can give strength for days and years to come.  As you read and think about all of this, consider the interests of the person you’re trying to encourage.  What is their favorite artist, classical composer, garden flower, painter, dessert choice, even fresh fruit choice when the growing season is right?  Oftentimes, our best creative gift originates from our natural or spiritual giftedness.  I consider the value of David’s gift to a tormented King Saul.  I Sam. 16  “Whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand.  So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.  How unique was that!  Music was then, and still is, a way to bring God’s whispers to hurting souls without a need for words. Being a musician, I have sung over the phone to someone more than a half dozen times or brought my flute to play at someone’s bedside.

Any kind of gesture, big or small, prompted by the Spirit of God, will be accompanied by the Spirit’s energizing work and power.  If my idea is birthed and bathed in prayer, it has the potential to leave someone feeling that Jesus, Himself, has come personally to express His love to them.  Whether a pretty mug with a peach tea bag in it, a poem, or a well-timed prayer, God is hoping we will really believe that we are His hands and feet.

You are a creative God.  Help me think and pray outside the box. Bless even what feels radical.  Amen

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