Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Ok, so I will admit it publicly, this embarrassing little secret of mine: I love the Duggars. I absolutely love their hokey little show and their genuinely loving family life. What do I love most? Michelle Duggar. She is positive, upbeat, encouraging. In fact, she uses the word "encourage" more than nearly anyone else in my experience.

The first time I watched them was several years ago. I think they only had 14 kids then, and they had a 1-hour special on cable. I was floored. These people were nuts, absolutely, certifiably nuts. But, they also seemed "nice."

It wasn't until last summer that I became a real fan of their show. I don't watch every single episode, but if I am sitting down to watch tv and they are on, I'm watching them.

What started as me wasting 30 minutes gawking at someone with a radically different take on life has become one of my guilty pleasures: spending half an hour watching another Christian family live out the Gospel to the best of their ability. And the core of their Gospel-living is encouragement.

Michelle uses that word, encouragement, all the time. But, she does more than talk. She backs up her talk with action. She encourages her children. The children encourage one another. The Duggar family encourages other families by their actions (outright helping one another) and by their example of living a truly "open-to-life" Christian lifestyle in the public eye.

Before I started watching their show, I never gave much thought to encouragement as a Christian value. In the past eight months, I've considered it often. And I've considered how much it means when I am encouraged in my endeavors, big and small.

Six weeks ago, we sold the above-ground swimming pool that had come with our house a decade ago. We were left with a muddy circle, 24 feet in diameter, in the middle of our backyard, one month from our big First Communion celebration. I immediately went to work, unloading 2,200 pounds of topsoil, fertilizing, seeding, watering twice a day. I was determined to replace the mud with grass before the end of April.

By the grace of Providence, we had several weeks of perfect growing weather. I watered twice a day. Lots of sunshine and warm temperatures, combined with cooler evenings, had seedlings sprouting in less than a week. Now, a month later, I've filled in some bare spots with a second batch of seed, and am pleased to see that we have just a few small patches of bare ground left.

This project was my baby, and I was encouraged by the speed at which the grass grew. But, one night, about two weeks into the growing, DH turned to me, in front of our kids, and told me how proud he was of the yard. "You did it. You did a great job. I'm so proud of you."

I glowed. My husband is a loving, generous man, but much of the stuff I do around the house goes generally unnoticed. I didn't start out on this project to gain his praise, but oh, how his small words of encouragement did give me a boost.

I am thinking of encouragement this morning, as we read about Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles. How important encouragement was for those early Christians, for the disciples going into strange lands and sharing the Good News of the Risen Jesus Christ. Never sure of the reception they would receive, especially after Stephen's execution, these early followers must have been filled with fear. But they pressed on, proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Barnabas, encouraged by the early conversions in Antioch, joined the disciples there, encouraging them further. And it was there, in Antioch, where the disciples "were first called Christians." (Acts 11:26)

One of the first defining elements of a "Christian" is encouragement. I wonder how many of us, today, consider the importance of encouragement in our own practice of the faith.

Am I encouraging to others around me? Do I inspire others with confidence? Do I promote or advance the Gospel teachings? Do I build others up, leading them closer to the kingdom of Heaven?

Just for today, can I find a way to encourage every person I meet? Including myself.

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