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Sprinkling Encouragement.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Joey’s leg brace dug into the earth as he walked home from school.

Bubba and his pack of fifth grade toadies sneered. “Your footprint looks like a tractor mark.”

Sarah, the crossing guard, stepped between the bullies and Joey. “It’s different. I like it.”

The older boys waved her off. They mounted their bicycles and pedaled away.

“It turns the earth. You make a special mark that’s deeper than anyone else’s footprint,” Sarah said.

As he trudged his way toward home, Joey studied his tracks and weighed Sarah’s words against the multitude of insults he’d heard that year. He struggled with what to believe until he passed through the garage. Grabbing a packet from the shelf, he made a decision.

The next day, Joey pulled the envelope from his backpack and ripped a hole in it. He sprinkled seeds into his brace tracks along the path to school.

At lunch time, rain broke out over the school grounds.

“Guess you’ll be making some different splatprints on the way home today, eh tractor feet?” Bubba passed by his table and gave him a shove.

“I’m okay with that,” Joey said. “Cause somethin’ will grow from them.”

What’s your footprint? How can you use your unique trials to nurture growth in others’ lives? Take one step today to sprinkle encouragement on your path. I’d love to hear about it.

Anticipated Birth.

As the thirteen-year-old girl settled into an empty seat near me this morning, I wondered if I should tell her. She folded her blonde locks over one shoulder–growing into a lovely and graceful young lady. The sentiment stirred my attention away from the sermon several times.

Do you know just how special you are? See, I knew you before your conception. I witnessed your mother’s fervent prayers for a little girl. You were born from a prayer. Have you any idea what a rare blessing you’ve enjoyed, to be wanted and adored before your birth?

Then I realized the truth–it’s not rare at all.

Each child born has been anticipated before his or her conception. Whether we’ve been told how cherished we are or not, adoration drenches us from heaven. Most of us don’t feel how soaked we are with our Father’s love.

I decided not to tell her, since she’s among the rare few who might feel the love of God in her mother’s embrace. Instead, I’m delivering the message to you.

Do you know just how special you are? You were known before your conception. Divine words showered your forming soul, mind, and body. You were wanted and adored before your birth.

Someone else needs to know, too. Who can you tell?

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

– Psalm 139:14-16

Lifelight.

“He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made…In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:2-4

The LifeKindler breathes into my heart’s tinder, stirring embers into a contagious breeze. Sparks touch a vast array of hearts within range. Those open and readied catch His light. As I lean nearer to His face, my glow brightens. Warmth and light intensifies. The whirling airflow of firestarter specks extends in a continuous rush. The melody of his breathing thrills my soul with life.

A velvety shadow lures me aside. Distraction grasps my chin, filling my senses with half truths. I drift away for what seems a moment. My lifelight flickers, dimming at an immeasurable but steady gradient. Bitter glances still the air between others and me. I wrap into a chilling ooze of selfish perspectives.

Messages written by the LifeKindler snag my attention. His words shimmer like silver and meld into a spiritual mirror. I am beginning to resemble the shadow more than my Father.

I turn to face Him and lean into that delicious breath. He renews my lifelight and emblazons His nature into and through my soul.

Thank You, Jesus. May all your tinder hearts praise You forever.

Family of God.

“God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).

When joking with my father and his uncle about our Webb ancestry, I nudged my son. “Show him your thumb.”

In a synchronized motion, he and I demonstrated the hitchhiker’s gesture. Our thumbs bent back to a ninety-degree angle. We could balance a textbook on our proof of family lineage.

“Got the crooked toe, too.” I winked.

Genetic threads link family members from one generation to the next through observable traits. Everything from blue eyes to heart arrhythmia can match us to our cousins.

“The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham…For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God”(Romans 4:16, 8:14).

After we surrender to Christ, the Lord rebirths us into eternal life as members of the family of God. Kinship networks spread beyond our blood ties to include a vast group, reaching backward and forward through the ages. God adopts us in among faith-founding ancestors, siblings, and future generations influenced by our legacy. When you consider all those kinsmen in spiritual supervision of one another, Paul’s mention of a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12) seems like an understatement.

Christ renews each redeemed soul, shaping us into His likeness as we follow Him. We share the Holy Spirit, flowing across time and space with greater power to identify and connect individuals than DNA.

While some Christian siblings might share a few divine traits with me, others carry gifts I do not possess. Though He creates us all in His likeness, we each reflect God’s nature in a unique way.  The value of our similarities remains, but we must also appreciate our differences.

Next time you enter a gathering, observe how each of your brothers and sisters resembles the Father. Who has His eyes? His lips? His hands?

What about you? Do you have a thumb joint pointing to your divine lineage? If you’ve never considered your spiritual features, pray to discern how He designed you to resemble Him.

GrateFul.

Squeech. Background noise pervades televised sports, its high pitch grinding at my inner ear bones.

Shaboom. Eeep. Whrr. Car radios, electronic signals, exhaust fans–life’s daily din raises the irritation.

Whaack. Fluorescents slam my pupils open.

Tick-tock. Minutes sift from my hours, progress slipping like sand through my fingers. Meager accomplishments pale in contrast to those yet to be done. Time shaves years of my life away.

Snip. Words, spoken and unspoken, scrape against my heart.

My senses balk at endless chafing. I reel from push-pulling on my heart and mind.

Life grates at me.

I could complain. Sometimes grating tempts me into a pity party. I whine to the Lord, since no one else listens as long. God’s patience continues for a moderate-level rant. He waits until the attitude’s sound grinds at my ear.

In trying to shake off the pitch of selfish laments, I can beg Him to adjust my tone.

He asks me to surrender my issues. He transforms irritants into character shaping tools. The Lord smooths patience and compassion onto my spirit. He carves humility into my dense areas. Layers of protective love oil me into a piece of handiwork more able to reflect His perspective.

I could complain, but gratefulness proves the better choice. Especially when life grates at me.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11, NIV).