Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nourishing, Chocolately Encouragement

I recently returned from the second annual New England Christian Writers' Retreat (find them on Facebook at New England Christian Writers Retreat to learn of future events) in Plainfield, NH. Surrounded by the colorful foliage, I even found myself crossing one of New Hampshire's famous covered bridges. Singing Hills Conference Center is (seemingly) in the middle of beautiful Nowhere, the perfect setting for quiet creativity, refreshing encouragement, and snack-fueled fellowship. We alums were returning for more of what we'd first tasted last year. Invited by the organizers to serve, we filled such integral capacities as taking registration, staffing the snack and book tables, and giving the morning devotional. I brought the Proverbs 31 Woman to deliver that message, and again offer my undying thanks to Nicole Johnson for her brilliant scriptwriting.

Among our teachers/facilitators/hosts were authors Tessa Afshar, Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Cecil Murphey, publisher Karen Porter, viral-blogger Lori Stanley Roeveld, and Broadway theatre critic Lauren Yarger. (Please forgive me if I've omitted your name from this list - I arrived late Friday, so missed the first day of workshops.) Each and every one of the leaders was generously helpful and willingly available throughout the weekend, at meals, in front of the fireplace, for one more cup of coffee in the dining hall. The theme that ran through all the keynote speeches and breakout sessions was "Be honest, be transparent, and you'll become the writer you're called to be."

Several of the attendees brought their own books to sell - something I aspire to! - and among others, I picked up Karen Porter's book entitled "I'll Bring the Chocolate"(Irresistible!). I'm reading it this morning, watching oak leaves and pine needles fall in my back yard, and sipping my second mug of CafĂ© Mocha. 

I'm on the chapter about Chocolate-Kiss Encouragement. This chapter opens with a quote by Lucy Van Pelt who says, "All you really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." Indeed it doesn't! To paraphrase the New Testament book of First Corinthians, chapter 13, 

"Encouragement is patient, encouragement is kind, encouragement is sometimes just quiet, sitting  beside you, and listening if you need to talk, or just being there if you don't…"

Encouragement reflects the encourager's faith and brings hope to the "encouragee" (is that a word?). Hope despite the circumstances, hope despite 'sight', hope despite public opinion offers a view of a brighter, resolved, promising future. 
Let's put it this way: Job's "comforters" should have quit at the end of Chapter Two. They are NOT in the Encouragers Hall of Fame.

Encouragement says "I care". Direct sales companies train new recruits that "Your customers don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." If they see how smart you are about your product, they may be impressed, but they won't buy. But if they see how committed you are to help them, answer a need, and provide a product that will meet that need, they will buy, and then they'll go out and tell other people to buy from you too.

Coincidentally, I recently had a rather energized discussion with a preacher friend on this very subject. I held that his audience needs to know how much he cares in order for his message to reach them. He contended that if the message was adequately compelling in itself - The Word of God, for example - it doesn't matter who delivers it. Ok, ok, I conceded, selling burpable plastic storage boxes is not the same as sharing the Gospel. 
(As I drove away from his door, my cell phone rang. "You know I care for the people I preach to, don't you?" Oh, yes, my friend, of that I am absolutely sure!)

Encouragement is difficult via social media, especially if you're bringing the chocolate. So if you can't pull up a chair, at least pull up a phone.

I've always loved it that Barnabbas' mom named him "son of encouragement". 
What a cool name! 
I'm really curious about what she named his sister… 
since, let's face it, she would have been the one bringing the chocolate...

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