Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I was thinking about words the other day (there’s a big surprise!), and the word “encourage” came to mind. It was a startlingly simple revelation yet profound. It was more on the level of “duh” than “aha” or “eureka”!

To me the word encourage always had a connotation of being positive and supportive, building up rather than tearing down, but the root of the word makes it much stronger than that. Encourage breaks down into en- (to put something into) and courage, at the heart of which is the word heart. When we encourage, we put courage into someone. We give them heart!

Courage is certainly expressed in bona fide life-threatening situations, such as wars, emergencies, disasters, etc., but for most of us, courage is needed in much more mundane circumstances in our everyday lives. It takes courage to meet life’s challenges. It takes courage to be one’s self in the face of tremendous pressure to conform. It takes courage to stand for truth and justice. It takes courage to hold unpopular views and take unpopular positions.

The word hearten is a good synonym, and it shows the breadth of meaning in that word—heart. To have heart can be to be brave, courageous. To lose one’s heart to another is to be smitten. To have the heart for something can mean to choose it, to will it. To have one’s heart broken is to be
smashed emotionally by someone or something. The heart symbol has lately come to signify the word love, a concept that encompasses will, intellect, and emotion—and takes courage.

Why was I thinking of the word encourage? I think it’s because I was thinking of the encouragers in my life. Our daughter, Bonnie, is an encourager nonpareil. She never leaves a blog entry or a Facebook update uncommented. She answers her myriad of emails, calls regularly to encourage family and friends, speaks health and blessings over those she meets. She even writes actual letters and puts them into the snail mail!

Daughter Ellie is another great encourager. She always has a good word for anyone she interacts with. When we worked together, she gently helped me to be more sensitive in my dealings with others, and she did it in a very nonjudgmental, encouraging way. A pastor’s wife, she speaks and brings the blessings of peace and love to all within her sphere of influence.

Hannah is an encourager par excellence. She loves to tell people how nice they look, how much she likes their hair, and especially what a nice dog they have! As we walk around the neighborhood, she seems to know every dog, and those she doesn’t know soon become her friends. Everyone within hearing range becomes Hannah’s target for attention and encouragement. She loves to love people and to tell them she loves them.

Jimmy encourages his friends and family with his loyalty and friendship, as well as good words. He shares the things he loves with those around him. He takes people on hiking trips and visits to places that are his favorites. His encouragement is often playful, especially with his sisters, cousins, and parents. Yet this kind of joyfulness, playfulness is also important in giving us courage to be who we are, because it shows acceptance of who we are.

My wife is my ultimate encourager, without a doubt. My self-image was tiny and shriveled when we met. Her appreciation and encouragement gave me the courage to believe in myself and blossom to be the person I was meant to be.

The more I write, the more I see how spoiled we’ve been with all the encouragers in our lives. We’ve been surrounded by them. Parents, siblings, cousins, teachers, friends. A quick learner, I was immediately singled out and encouraged in school, and it made all the difference in my academic/intellectual life. Our voices made choir directors encourage us to sing, and that has enriched our lives immensely.

Space and time prevent me from mentioning all the encouragers in our lives, not the least our mentors, Bob and Vicki, pastors, chaplains, brothers and sisters in community in Spain and Italy, Navy leaders, choir directors and members, Japanese friends, language mentors in Yokohama and Boulder, coworkers, bosses, and many, many others.

The more I think of all the encouragement and encouragers in my life, the more thankful I am. This could well have been my annual overflow and outpouring of thanks in celebration of Thanksgiving.

En fin, my prayer for all of us, all of you, for everyone is that there should “never be heard a discouraging word.” May we all have put into us the courage, the heart we need to be all we were meant to be and to do all we were meant to do. Be encouraged to encourage, my friends, as you also have been encouraged.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Central City Opera June Calendar

Central City's Opera House, one of our favorite Colorado landmarks. We'll be attending this year's festival the weekend of July 9-11. Can't wait.