Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!
Strive for full restoration,
encourage one another,
be of one mind,
live in peace.
And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)
Our conversation was about centerpieces, place settings, and the menu. My mom always tells me about her plans. This week she's trying a new meat dish, something she saw on Pinterest. Something that had her mouth watering before she'd finished reading the list of ingredients. She wants everything to be perfect for the company she's invited.
That company? They're strangers, really. She knows their names from the directory; she's seen their faces sitting in the pew at the back of the church on Sundays. But she doesn't know about their families. She doesn't know the stories of their growing-up years. She doesn't know their hopes, or their dreams, their fears, their strengths. They will be sitting at her dining room table tomorrow, along with my dad, my sister and her kids, and the new pastor of the church.
Why? Because my mom is doing a Celebration Dinner. She invites church members to her home once a month for good food and conversation, an opportunity to get to know, to enjoy, to fellowship. To honor.
I hardly know how to express what I'm thinking. See, my mom didn't make this up herself. She and my dad were the recipients of a different kind of Celebration Dinner several years ago; a dinner given by a man my dad had rented a room from during his once-upon-a-time-before-his-retirement-contract-work-out-of-state days. This gentleman and my dad became discussion buddies and friends. He opened his home to my family, not only for a Celebration Dinner, but also as an overnight stop while they traveled cross country.
He explained his reasoning to my mom. He explained that he always held a dinner for eight, but he only invited one. That one got to invite the other guests. That one got to choose the menu. Whatever they wanted. If he didn't know how to make it, he learned. He was a 'there you are' kind of guy and made his guest feel welcome and interesting. He honored them. This impressed my mother so much that she brought her version to her hometown. To her home.
Here are some thoughts.
First, I sometimes wonder how many absolutely wonderful, positive expressions of reaching out, of community, of fellowship are happening across America. Without the fanfare of media attention. Without a 'good-job, or pat-on-the-back'. Happening because it's just, plain cool. I think it's happening more than we know. I hope it's happening more than we know.
Second, even if we can't or don't do full-blown Celebration Dinners, can't we do SOMETHING to celebrate each other? To get to know one another better? To share our stories? To encourage?
Send a card
Write a note
Call an old friend
Write a personal message on Facebook
Share what you enjoy
Leave an encouraging comment
Jot down a friendly note on a restaurant tip (not instead of the tip...with it - servers work HARD)
Ask to help (I added this after reading 3 Magic Words)
Just some thoughts - What do you think? Do you have other ways to reach out to others in celebration?
Linking with ThreeWordWednesday, and TellHisStory
And now, a confession. I know better than to write a post without an actual scriptural reference, and though I used the reference to 2 Corinthians, it fit the fact that we should encourage one another, but didn't address or reference how. I've been given a gentle nudge in a better direction and want to share the results.
Honor each other (this sounds like Celebration Dinners..)
1 Corinthians 12:26 (ESV)
"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
Meet together (it's hard to encourage in a vacuum - there are multiple verses that address fellowship)
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Choose positive language
Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
"Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them,"
Sing more - share your music with others
Colossians 3:16 (KJV)
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
Be a friend, buddy, mentor
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."
Accept (This one sounds easy, but we so often try to change people to our own expectations...)
Romans 15:7 (NIV)
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."
Forgive, don't gossip, be careful with sarcasm
Ephesians 4:31-32 (KJV)
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
There are more. But these are enough for me to consider for awhile. How about you? Do you have a favorite verse that leads to encouragement?