my mom (my first mom for those of you who are regular readers) was mischievous. i’m a “play by the rules” kind of boy. she liked to mess with the rules a little bit. one time, when my dad went on men’s retreat with the church, my mom and her friend jane rolled my dad’s car in toilet paper. while they were having fun with their harmless prank, i was providing background “music” by crying, “What are you doing to daddy’s car?” and “Stop, please.”
she liked to have fun. one of her go-to ways to pick at my brother and me was to start singing. off-key. loudly. this especially annoyed me because i loved to sing. i would sing along to my captain and tennille albums for hours. (i know all the words to “muskrat love” and i’m still not sure why someone would even record a song like that.) her warbling was violating something sacred to me. but it was always kind of funny too.
she always sang the same song, “home on the range.” every note was broken and as far from one another on a musical scale as you could possibly get. she really liked to play up her inability to sing by making it sound as bad as possible, and loud. it’s probably why the song is firmly planted in my head, even if most people have long since forgotten it.
and there’s one line in that song that i can’t seem to shake, and it has nothing to do with deer and antelope playing. it’s “where seldom is heard, a discouraging word.”
while my mom’s singing was the vocal equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, there’s something about this home on the range that sure sounds appealing.
i don’t know about you, but i don’t experience that very often in some areas of my life.
in fact, some of the most discouraging things i hear are from the lack of encouraging words i do hear.
in other words, my discouraging words are because “seldom is heard an encouraging word.”
now granted, i’m wired for encouragement. i love it. i need it.
some people can get by with less, i need it about medium level—not so much that i don’t believe it when you say it because it’s too common, but every once in a while so that i’m energized by knowing what i’m doing well.
and please hear me, this is not throwing out some bait so you’ll grab the line and give me some encouraging words.
i think that encouragement is something most people don’t experience. unless you count a “like” on Facebook, but that’s more like a hit from an intoxicating and addictive drug.
i’m talking about the kind of encouragement that settles down to the core of who you are and sticks with you for days, years, even.
i’m talking about the kinds of words when spoken make you feel like someone has “seen” who you really are and recognized something that God has placed in you.
i’m talking about the kind of words that recognize the things you do when no one is looking just because you know that’s what you’re supposed to do.
i’m talking about the kinds of words that make you feel like you are capable of hitting the mark, instead of always coming up short.
i try to provide that for others. i try to notice the things that people do and let them know i’ve seen it and appreciate it. or i try to find a way to broadcast what they’ve done so that other people can see how incredible they are. i try to give what i don’t always get.
and sometimes, i just need those encouraging words to realize that who i am, what i’m doing is good, on track, right—instead of always feeling like i’m disappointing or falling short of expectations. i need truth. i need encouragement.
you do too.
i know ultimately God defines who i am, but sometimes i just need affirmation to make sure i’m being true to who that is. and when those words come, this verse rings true: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 NIV).
those life-giving words come directly from God to encourage my heart, delivered by a faithful and thoughtful messenger.
they are the words that ring out from that home on the range.
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