photos and writings by June Friesen
SEPTEMBER 12 – NATIONAL ENCOURAGEMENT DAY
The above sign was on a wall in a large shopping mall in Virginia a few weeks ago when we were there visiting. I was immediately focused on it and stopped to just let it resonate with my spirit and then took a photo. When I got to thinking about National Encouragement Day I immediately thought of this sign – what if we had a sign like this on our door and saw it whenever we left our home? Or maybe have it on the dashboard of our vehicle and see it as we are out and about in the world? Kindness is always in fashion – what a great way to be an encourager in our world today. We know that there is indeed much unkindness, even hatred present in our country and even in the world … one way to begin to change or curb that would be through encouragement.
How and why did we get a day set aside known as National Encouragement Day? I have to admit that the phrase captured my attention and I wondered, “Is it really such a struggle in our country for people that we have to be told by the government to encourage each other?” The second question that came to my mind was this: As a country that is referred to as a Christian nation why do we struggle so with encouragement for/of each other as it is actually a concept that is taught in the Scriptures?
In 2007 some teenagers were given an assignment as to their needs and what may be done to help: What is the biggest problem for teens today (2007)? The teens said that lack of encouragement was one of their biggest issues. Second, why was September 12 chosen? This day was selected as September 11 is a day of darkness for our country because of what happened on September 11, 2001. Since that day it has been a time to honor and memorialize the many who lost their lives that tragic day. What better anecdote than to have the day after be one where we are reminded to reach out and encourage one another.
National Encouragement day actually started in the state of Arkansas in 2007. In August 2007 the mayor of Searcy Arkansas signed it into a local law/observance. In September 2007 the governor of Arkansas signed it into law as a State holiday and a short time after that President George W. Bush signed it into law as a national observance.
Some questions that enter my mind are: 1) If this is a Christian nation, the Scriptures tell us to encourage one another so why do we need to be told/or have a particular day to remember it? 2) Since this has been set as a National observance how come so few of us are really aware of it? One may respond: It should just be a given that we encourage each other. While that is indeed true the question that comes to my mind is: Then how come we hear so many negative words? How come so much complaining about what one does or doesn’t do? And how can we turn those things into positive encouragements?
Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
Paul wanted the people to not lose hope because of the struggles in their lives. He definitely encouraged people who were followers of Jesus to remember the great blessing of being one of God’s children and that should be the source of their ability to encourage each other. I love Paul’s confidence that the people were already encouraging one another so he said just keep on. This should challenge as well as spur you and I forward to be those who are encouragers as we have been gifted with God’s peace and hope not just for today but for eternity. So what might encouragement look like today? How might you encourage others? I am going to share something that I have learned especially since the pandemic and I would challenge you – why not get creative and step out and begin to reach out as well.
Over the past 2½ years many of us have struggled with discouragement, sadness, possibly depression etc. wondering when will my life get better or when will things be ‘normal’ again, or will I ever be able to just relax and live like I want to do without having to take precautions. I am sure if we talk to people from our past about epidemics and pandemics they would be able to relate to our feelings as well. I found that people were looking to me for answers, encouragement, possible solutions, etc. As I considered how to shepherd and encourage people in spite of the pandemic I found that the technology of today was a great tool. I decided to combine my gifts of writing and photography and every morning I sent out a text message to those who looked to me for spiritual leadership and encouragement. Then there were a couple who I messaged via messenger. Word of mouth has grown my list and the messages are not just to local people anymore but go all over the nation and even further. Another means of technology that I have used is Facebook and I try to post daily words there for encouragement. Again, that opportunity extended as I was invited to post these daily words on a blogspace. So, the challenge I see here is that for each one of us, we need to possibly think outside the box that we have been trained in or grown up in. I am going to share what an encouragement message might look like as well as some ways photos also encourage people.
Here are three photos of flowers, each one unique. Yes, I admit the one is photoshopped. Let’s consider each one of these photos separately as I did recently as encouragements and I also am going to try to make them relevant to the subject matter.
In the first photo, the flower looks tired. It may be a lack of water, too much water, or its life span is nearing the end. As I ponder this flower I think that it might also be bowing in reverence to its Creator for the opportunity to grow and not only bring beauty to the space but it also has given pollen to the insects as well as it now can provide food for the birds as well as some insects. Some people also enjoy the treat of sunflower seeds and oil so I see this flower as an encouragement even with its ending of life. So too it may be in our lives – there is sadness as some things are changing and some things may be coming to a close in our lives. It was that way on September 11, 2001 – there was great sadness and still is sadness for the great change that it brought to so many people. Today we find ourselves in different places and spaces – how might we be an encouragement to others today who have been affected by this or any tragedy?
In the second photo, the flower is standing very straight and very tall. In fact, this rose had managed to grow through the dense branches of a tree, stretching up tall to find the sun so it could grow a bud and bloom there among the tree leaves. Yes, it kind of looked out of place but it gave such a gift of hope. For me I share this as an encouraging reminder that there are times in our lives when life seems full of darkness, gloom, and sadness. It seems as if our hope has been grabbed away by all the tragedy, all the problems, and all the pain in the world and our lives. Yet, God encourages us to hold strong to our faith in Him, remembering to hold hope out to others. As our faith is placed in God we can stand strong in the dark times and in the dark moments. We too can be like this rose and give hope to others.
In the third photo, again a flower, there are a couple of lessons. A hollyhock begins with a bud or two beginning to bloom. That stem continues to stretch and grow and slowly adds one more bud after the other. As one blossom dies another opens and this particular stem on this plant has been now blooming for about five weeks and continues yet to add buds.
In our lives we continue to grow each day. Some things need to also die in our lives and let new things begin to take their place. We need to be willing to embrace this growing and changing process just as the hollyhock. The second thing here is that I added something – some beautiful song notes. One person responded back that they loved the dancing, singing flower. Yes, we too should be accepting of the things that God wants to add to our lives to share hope with the world.
My final photo is a collage of clouds – the beauty of clouds continually brings my spirit to give praise to God. May this photo encourage you to remember as you look heavenward – God is in charge and He is watching over all of us, collectively as well as individually.
It is my prayer that you will have first of all been encouraged just reading through this writing. Second, it also is my prayer that you will accept the challenge and begin today to practice encouragement on a regular basis. Maybe you are not a photographer or a writer; maybe you are a baker – you can share some cookies, bread, or cake. Maybe you have a flower garden – you can pick a flower or two and share it with someone. You have a broom, a shovel, a mower and someone needs help with cleaning up their yard – you can volunteer. Maybe someone just needs a hug in silence. The sky is the limit on ways we can reach out and help someone. Let the Spirit be your guide and let’s begin to encourage those around us with the love, joy and peace of God. Amen.
Look to the skies and see the many gifts of God’s light, colors, and clouds. I find the skies/heavens a reminder of Jesus’ return to this earth. That alone gives me great encouragement to live in the moment and every moment for His glory. May God bless you and yours today with the gift of peace and hope. Amen.
Research obtained from website on National Day of Encouragement. Scriptures references from The Message Translation.
We are collecting recipes across our Godspace community for our first-ever cookbook. Send your recipe written in your own words, where it came from, and why it’s special to you to firstname.lastname@example.org – if you send 3 or more recipes in, you will receive a FREE digital copy of the finished cookbook! For more information check out this post: https://godspacelight.com/2022/08/03/the-great-godspace-cookbook-gathering/