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“Nobody Ever Tells Me That!” Ezra 5:1-2 Key verse(s) 2b:“And the prophets of God were with them, helping them!”

When was the last time that you went out of your way to encourage someone? I’m not talking about the little remark or that wink of an eye. While these things encourage, they are conservative in that there is little required of us. I have always felt that encouragement was something that you possessed as a resource inside of you; something that needed to be processed and replenished in order that it would always be there at the ready when someone needed it. That means it required aforethought and a little planning. The type of encouragement I am talking about here you might even call scripted. It is something that you tuck away inside of your heart like a necessary resource as you begin your day. Then, when you cross paths with someone who looks like they need some of it, you reach down inside and pull a bit out and give it away.

Recently I stopped at a local sandwich shop with my wife to buy a sandwich and enjoy an hour or so of quiet time together. I don’t go to a lot of fast food places. In fact there are some that I have never visited at all. In large part it is due to the nature of the “food” that is there. But there is also the factor of service. Fast food restaurants don’t have waitresses depending upon tips. Things are often heated up and served quickly with little thought given to the diner. For this reason I do enjoy a good sandwich shop where you can watch the food being prepared fresh and see your sandwich put together with some skill and thoughtfulness. Sandwich shops, like any other “fast” food establishment, have their front-line people. It is the smiling face at the cash register that greets you with a “May I help you?” and finishes with “Your order will be up soon.” The cash register person has a tedious job. They deal with people who don’t know what they want and need help. They deal with people who know what they want but talk too fast. They deal with people who are rude, in a hurry, out of money, and just plain lost in space. It is not always a pleasant job and, in most cases, it is a tedious one. How many times can you say “May I help you?” with a smile on your face that is genuine? Keeping one’s patience and looking fresh under all and any circumstances is a tall order when you stand behind the cash register.

When my wife and I had stepped in front of the “May we take your order?” sign, we knew what we wanted so there was little need to scan the menu board behind the clerk. We rattled off our order and handed the clerk our debit card. As Holly handed the card to the young lady, there was something about her that simply fascinated me. She had not stopped smiling pleasantly from the time she saw us park the car in front of the building until now. It wasn’t that fake sort of disinterested and practiced smile. It was a real, genuine happy smile. She spoke softly but clearly as she handled our card and the receipt with confidence and care. I looked at her jumper and saw the name “April” on her name tag. As we began to step away from the counter I stopped and returned. “April. You have a wonderful smile and I enjoyed buying that sandwich from you. Thank you for serving us.” The words just came out like they had been parked there at the tip of my tongue idling and anxious to get going. The little clerk looked up at me with that same smile and a slight glisten in her eyes. “You’re Welcome. Nobody ever tells me that.”

“Nobody ever tells me that.” Those words surged into my heart at that moment and a question came to mind. Why don’t we tell people that; like the bumper sticker “Commit Random Acts of Kindness?” Why don’t we get up every day with the predisposition to go out into our jobs, homes and places of business with one of our primary goals being to be encouragers? The opportunities are everywhere around us. People are hungry for words of encouragement. There is the old adage that people crave only two things more than money and sex . . . recognition and praise. If people need it so badly, why are we hoarding it within us.

The Bible gives us many examples of the power of encouragement and none more apparent than the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. This was a big job –– a really big job. It would take skill, time and resources, all of which were available in limited quantities. Yet, they got the job done on time and as God had ordained it. Why? I would like to think it was many random acts of kindness committed by “God’s prophets” as they daily walked among the stone and iron workers, the carpenters and masons, encouraging them, complimenting and praising their working spirit. They became conduits of God’s grace by which each worker could individually taste the love of God. And, that’s what we are when we go out-of-our way to be encouragers. Look for someone today who needs to experience His love through you.

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