Up till now, I’ve been trying to help us understand the need for encouragement in our day. In Part 1, we explored the impact of a culture that focuses on the negative. In Part 2, we considered the impact of fear-based marketing tactics. We could continue to explore the reasons people need to be encouraged. But, I’d like to shift the focus to the positive.

A little encouragement can make a big difference. You can even start small.

Encouragement tip #1: Validate Existence!

Some people have been so abused or neglected by so many people, that just saying hello will make a difference in their day.

For example, the movie musical, Chicago, has a sad-sack character, Amos Hart, who exemplifies this. His big solo reveals the depth of his self-esteem crisis…

John C. Reilly as Amos Hart. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoMovie

John C. Reilly as Amos Hart.
Photo: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoMovie

And even without clucking like a hen
everyone gets noticed, now and then,
Unless, of course, that personage should be
Invisible, inconsequential me!

Mister Cellophane
Should have been my name!!!!
Mister cellophane
’cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I’m there!

Now, his character is written to be somewhat likable and largely pathetic at the same time. John C. Reilly does a masterful job at portraying this. As if the lines above don’t paint enough of a picture, when the lawyer (played by Richard Gere) suggests Amos should divorce his wife, Amos rises to his feet and shouts, “I’ll divorce her!” Then he catches himself and says, “She probably won’t even notice.”

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What comes to mind when you hear the term, The Battle Is the Lord’s?  or The Battle Belongs to the Lord?

Does the military imagery trouble you? Are you OK with the military imagery but troubled that our part seems to be too passive?

Image by 3dconceptsman DepositPhotos #19467907

Do you ask yourself, if the battle belongs to the Lord, then what do l DO?  Do I just sit here and do nothing?  Well, sometimes the answer is yes.  Other times, the answer might be different.

Be Still

When the Israelites were rescued out of slavery in Egypt, God was setting a trap for their captors that would include rescuing His chosen people while punishing their captors but His own people couldn’t see past the obstacle in front of them.

When they saw the vast Red Sea before them, they complained to Moses that they should never have left Egypt. Continue Reading…

My wife’s parents were role models in showing hospitality.  Dinnertime was not only a social event, it was the main event!  The food was always great and so were the welcome and the conversation.

This is the third in a series of posts honoring the life of a true encourager, my father-in-law, Joe De Ruvo, Sr.  You can find Part 1 and Part 2 on the Encourage and Equip blog.

A Friend of People

My father-in-law was a friend of people, regardless of their church affiliation or absence. Let me explain.

As a kid growing up in New York CIty, I remember the occasional big holiday dinner around the table for hours but the normal daily routine was sitting on the couch with folding snack tables with the evening news on the television.  When I made a dinner reservation at a restaurant, they would ask “what time?” so they could estimate what time the table would be available for the next guest.

While living in Italy many years ago, I noticed a key difference between American culture and Italian.

My daughter Cathy enjoying time with her grandpa after dinner.

In Italy, I quickly learned lingering at the table with loved ones was one of the rewards of making it through the day.  When I made a dinner reservation in Italy, they only asked what day because they reserved the table for the evening.  When you were invited for dinner at Joe and Rose’s (my wife’s parents) you were invited to linger.

At my mother and father-in-law’s, Continue Reading…

Shortly after his ninetieth birthday, my father-in-law was given a few months to live.  What would you do? Let me tell you what Joe did.

My father-in-law had the rare blessing of getting a “two-minute warning” so to speak.  Shortly after his ninetieth birthday, he began experiencing unusual health complications that made treating one problem impossible without creating or escalating other problems.  Long story short, the prognosis was a few months left to live.  What would you do?  Let me tell you what Joe DeRuvo did.

Among other things, he made the most of the opportunity to contact and say goodbye to friends and family–a rare blessing indeed.  He also planned out his own memorial service with the help of long-time friends and pastors.

In the memorial service that he planned, my wife (his daughter) shared some of her personal recollections and a note that he left behind. Continue Reading…

One of the greatest influencers in my life passed away as that Sunday drew to a close after some weeks in hospice. My father-in-law, Joe De Ruvo, was truly a great and gentle man used mightily by God and will be missed by many.  Earlier that morning, May 28, 2017, I preached my final sermon as the Intentional Interim Pastor for the First Church of Christ in Lynn, MA.


Celebrating his 90th birthday with homemade cheesecake.

Joe De Ruvo celebrating his 90th birthday with homemade cheesecake.

My final sermon focused on the Last Words of Paul–not the last words he uttered in life but his last words recorded in the New Testament to a special young pastor in 2 Timothy chapter 4.  Along with his command to Preach the Word and Keep his head in the midst of ministry challenges and persecutions, the older Apostle shifted young Timothy’s attention from implementing Paul’s teachings to emulating Paul’s life.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Those words took on a special meaning for me as I read them in the context of watching a man who had walked with God for ninety years look forward to meeting his Lord face to face.  That calm assurance comes from knowing that he could face death confident that it is merely a passage to the place Jesus has prepared for him.

I generally enjoy people but there is a handful of people in my life that are truly impressive and have made a difference in my life and the lives of many others as well.  My father-in-law is one of a very rare breed.  Thirty years ago, I married the love of my life.  I knew I was truly blessed that day.  But wait, there’s more!  As a bonus, Joe De Ruvo transitioned from the father of my girlfriend to my father-in-law.  I gained a faithful prayer warrior, mentor, and role model when Joe De Ruvo transitioned from the father of my girlfriend to my father-in-law.

This past Saturday, June 24, 2017, friends and family gathered to celebrate this special life.  This memorial service was unlike any other I had ever attended.  By God’s grace, I was able to record the service.  I will post it here in four parts for those who were not able to attend.  I also share the video for the benefit of those who never met my father-in-law but still want to benefit from the remembrances of those who were deeply impacted by his love for his God and his love for them.





Be Kind: We’re All in a Battle.

My first two posts on Encourage and Equip were designed to lay a foundation for why we need encouragers so much in our day (Why Pt. 1, Why Pt. 2).  However, there is one area I really wanted to write about because it is so critical. But, I wasn’t sure people were ready to receive the message. I wasn’t quite sure how to communicate the message clearly without sounding like an alarmist, a religious nut or fanatic.

At the very core of my being, my heart cries out that the reason we need to encourage people is that we are all in a battle.  Most people don’t even realize it.  Those who are aware of the battle tend to underestimate the opposition–It’s much more than a pillow fight!

The Foundation

At the heart of my thinking on encouragement Continue Reading…

I write to model or provide encouragement, to point people to God as the unending source of strength, or to help develop our skills and gifts as we live out our faith and seek to love God and people.

God commands us to encourage one another. Please consider with another of the major reasons I think we need it now — perhaps now more than ever.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)  In our day, an average person faces a myriad of challenges and obstacles that can tear down and destroy their drive, effectiveness, and the quality of life that God desires for us to enjoy.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at our tendency to focus on the negative.  To further illustrate the point, Jon Acuff tells a classic New York story of Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) attending a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.  During the game, his picture was shown on the screen and he was announced as being at the game. 50,000 people stood and cheered.

As David left the stadium, a guy drove by and yelled, “Larry, you suck!” “That’s like, literally all he heard,” Berg (David’s friend) says.  David spent the ride back from the Bronx obsessing over that moment, running it over and over in his mind. It was as if the other 50,000 people, the ones who loved him, didn’t exist. “Who’s that guy? What was that?” He asked. “Who would do that? Why would you say something like that?”

Today, I’d like to direct out attention briefly to another factor that challenges us every day.

Fear Based “Motivators”

In politics and marketing, a growing number of people are seeking to get their message or products into people’s hearts and homes with ads or entire campaigns designed to capitalize on people’s anxieties and insecurities.

Shadow puppet symbolizing inordinate fear.

1. Political Campaigns

The last presidential campaign season has developed the attack ad to a whole new level.  A major dynamic of this is also known as scare tactics. In a personal conversation, one journalist covering the election told me that most people were actually voting against the opposing candidate rather than voting for their candidate.   They weren’t even sure what their own candidate’s platform was. Continue Reading…

God commands us to encourage one another. Please consider with me of the major reasons I think we need it now — perhaps now more than ever. In our day, an average person faces a myriad of challenges and obstacles that can tear down and destroy a person’s drive and effectiveness. Consider the following as examples.

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Read the Bible? Me?

April 27, 2017

You might ask, how does someone go from not reading any kind of book for six years and then start reading the Bible? Allow me to share my story.

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I had the honor of guest blogging on the Defying Shadows website today as part of their #Fearless365 series. I was able to share some personal reflections on Luke 5:10 and part of my own testimony as I related to Jesus inviting Simon Peter to a career upgrade.  The following originally appeared at https://defyingshadows.com/2017/03/03/fearless365-luke-510/.


and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Luke 5:10

I can empathize with Simon Peter. When Jesus spoke the words, “Don’t be afraid”, he knew that the Holy Spirit was at work in Simon’s heart.

Exhausted after a long night of commercial fishing with nothing to show for his efforts, Simon agreed to let Jesus use his boat as a platform to address the gathered crowd on the shore. Simon continued to wash his nets while listening to the master teacher at work. When Jesus finished, he told Simon to go out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch. The experienced fisherman surely knew it would be fruitless to expect to catch fish in the heat of the day. But, something inside compelled him to follow the teacher’s suggestion.

I can imagine Simon’s shock as the image of his formerly empty nets contrasts with the nets that were now so full that he had to call to his partners to help bring in the catch. Continue Reading…