Day of Encouragement – 4 Ways to Encourage Others

With all the recent happenings in our world, we could all use a Day of Encouragement. Here are 4 things we can do to spread a little encouragement today. 

  1. Say “Thank you”. Maybe you still know the teacher who made all the difference for you in high school. Perhaps a friend of yours has really been there for you. Was there a doctor who gave you or your loved one from-the-heart, skillful care? What about the author who’s been writing that series you love? Even if the act was done years ago, take a moment to write, call or in some way express your thanks.
  2. Ask a simple question to show interest in others. Let’s face it, we all like to be valued as people. Waitresses, retail staff and others often ask “How are you?” but may not be asked the same question back. A little courtesy can go a long way in brightening someone’s otherwise dull day.  
  3. Send a text or write a snail-mail letter just to put an little extra sunshine in someone’s day. Let the recipient know you are thinking of them and share something particular you appreciate about them. Perhaps you can let them know you are praying for them and share an encouraging Scripture as well. 
  4. Commend someone on a job well done. Do you see someone living well? Life isn’t easy – we all know what it’s like to have bad days. But let’s make sure we notice when people are doing well, too. That Mom in the grocery store with a toddler and a baby who is juggling her life (fairly) gracefully? She could probably use a compliment as much as anyone. And the nine-year-old who’s putting effort into learning good habits and multiplication tables? Definitely. 

And, in the spirit of the day, thank you to all of you who follow and read A Storyful Life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments over these couple of years. Thank you for “liking” and sharing posts on Facebook. Know that you are being prayed for today. In the words of Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV):

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”



Of Solar Eclipses, A Story Weaver and Sunlight

On August 21, 2017, much of the world focused on the total solar eclipse. Then Hurricane Harvey happened and the eclipse was, well, eclipsed. 

I’d like to take us back to the eclipse for at least a moment. 

Did you experience the darkness of totality? Or did you see it on TV? 

It begs the question, what would life be like without the light of the sun? 

Of course, this is a reality blind people experience, in a sense, every day. However, while they don’t see the sun’s light they still feel it.

One of the greatest story weavers of the 20th century, if not of modern times as a whole, was C.S. Lewis. This quote from him is rather enlightening on the topic of the sun,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1}

Something to think about when we get up in the morning and see the sun shining. And perhaps it’s on purpose that the sun rises every twenty-four hours. After all, events seem to get eclipsed in our minds rather quickly, don’t they? 

[1} C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1980), pg. 92; quoted in W. Gary Phillips, William E. Brown and John Stonestreet, Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview, 2nd ed. (Salem, Wis.: Sheffield, 2008), pg. 114. 

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

A Chance for Change

“Every day of her life and the years she had yet to live people would be changed because of her story. Her life story.” ~Karen Kingsbury, Remember Tuesday Morning

Are stories just for entertainment, not changing anything about how readers live? If the true answer were “Yes”, most writers would lay down their pens and let dust settle on their keyboards. 


Writers scribble to bring joy, give direction, shed light, build or tear down barriers, cause tears, heal hearts and change cultures. Just ask Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis and Karen Kingsbury if you get the chance. 

Isn’t it remarkable that each real-world life is its own story – a subplot of the grand Tale of Time? And each real-world life is written for change just like the make-believe lives. 

Each life brings a chance for change but not just for itself. It’s a chance to bring change to someone else. Of course, those changes may be harmful or helpful. As we step into this chapter called 2017, let’s ask ourselves, what changes will our life stories bring this year as they intersect with others’ stories?

A kind word well timed?

An offer of grace?

A sacrifice of love?

A safe, warm place?

May we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith – Jesus – and take our cues from Him, asking Him to make the changes in us that need to happen so He can use us to bring good changes to the other stories He is telling this year.

Changing Seasons

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

If you’ve ever lived in a part of the world where there aren’t four seasons, you may have a different appreciation for the change of seasons than those who have walked through life with spring, summer, autumn and winter as perennial companions. Some parts of the world have two seasons – the muddy season and the dusty season. While these places have their own unique (and appreciated) beauties, some people may miss the gentle falling snow that melts into flower beds that are warmed by summer sun and covered by crunchy, color-coated leaves.

The seasons not only add beauty and variety to our lives but also remind us that life has seasons.

Sometimes we step into a new life season smiling. Other times we drag our feet and hold onto the vestiges of yesterday like an oak tree keeping its leaves while all the other trees let theirs fly.

I’m doing a little of both right now. However, the truth remains:

There is a season for posting to one’s blog routinely, and there is a season for rearranging goals to make room for new things.

I think I need to transition into that rearranging season, so I may be posting a couple of times a month in this new season instead of every week. It’s not that I lost my love for sharing ideas or have run out of ideas. I especially still love getting good notes from readers. Beyond that, the thought of missing a week after (I think) 83 consecutive weeks is rather deflating. But life is fuller with other things these days. I hope you’ll still keep up with “A Storyful Life” in this new season. Who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise myself and get a post up most weeks anyway. 🙂



From Potter’s House: A Little of What I Carry with Me

Potter’s House, Guatemala City

I’d like to share with you a bit of this place that is part of my story. Would you stop by for a moment?

When you think of a “potter’s house” you might think of a potter sitting at his potter’s wheel, turning cool, soft clay into pots, mugs, bowls and other useful treasures.

Sometimes you might see him reworking vessels that started to go wrong. He refashions them carefully and then – ta-da! – the piece of artwork is ready for service. 

Just like in Jeremiah 18:1-4 (ESV) – 
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”

Well, at this Potter’s House, there is no wheel and there are no newly-made pots. But you can still see the work of the Great Potter turning clay into useful treasures. He has many helpers who work hard themselves, but when it comes down to it, they stand in awe of the Great Potter’s handiwork.

You’ve figured out, right? The Great Potter is the Lord God, and at Potter’s House in Guatemala City He is in the business of forming and shaping lives – even reworking lives that were getting bent out of shape. His people are His vessels of clay as well as His treasures.

If you want to read more about the story and work of Potter’s House, you can at The site does an excellent job of explaining more about the ministry.

What I want to share with you is a little of what I carry with me from Potter’s House

1) There are no social barriers to God. The people Potter’s House serves work and live in the garbage dump. They don’t have wealth, position or possessions to make them “valuable”. Yet God cares about them as His special creation. He cares about them as much as He does middle-class and wealthy people. (Vice versa, God cares about wealthy and middle class people as much as He does poor people.) One story that’s been told at Potter’s House is about two little girls who prayed for a long time for three people. Those three people were a) an alcoholic from the garbage dump, b) one of the Guatemalan leaders of Potter’s House – for his English to improve especially; and c) for a particular President of the United States! Talk about stretching across social boundaries!

2) No one is out of God’s reach. Those people in the garbage dump may feel forgotten at times, but thanks to the work at Potter’s House, for thirty years they have had an opportunity to see that God has not forgotten them. Remember the alcoholic those two little girls prayed for? What were the “chances” of him ever giving up drinking there along the edge of Guatemala City’s garbage dump? It certainly couldn’t be said that he had a great support network. However, the Great Potter touched his life and made him a new vessel in His hands!

3) When God’s people see His work, it’s awesome. Have you ever been astounded by the skill of a craftsman as he works? That’s how I (and others) have felt as we’ve watched the Great Potter reshape lives at Potter’s House. Like I mentioned, the Great Potter has quite a few workers there who work hard and well, but – if we have our thinking straight – we know that God is directing everything. We, too, are only vessels in His hands. Of course, we know God is working all the time, but we don’t always feel like we can see it. I think this is especially true for the Americans who visit Potter’s House. In a way, Potter’s House ministers to these Americans just as much as to the Guatemalans because it is a place where they get to see the Great Potter at work. They come away with a sense of awe…and maybe with the clay of their lives reshaped a little! That’s why I say “when God’s people see His work, it’s awesome.”

There you go, my friends, that’s a little of what I carry with me from the Potter’s House in Guatemala City. There is so much more I could say and so many stories I’d like to share, but this is a start, and I’ll save the rest for another time.

Until then, I hope you know the thrill of seeing the Great Potter at work and feeling His hand on your life.

A Schmuck Redefined: The Story of Mrs. Schmuck

Someone once asked, “What’s in a name?” I don’t know if anyone definitively answered that question, but I do know names play an important part in who we are. Authors sometimes struggle to find the just-right name for a character. A name can tell a lot about the bearer of it. However, sometimes this can go too far. Sometimes a name simply doesn’t fit at all.

That was the story of Mrs. Schmuck. 

Schmuck! Imagine that as a last name. “Schmuck” can even be found in the dictionary with its definition of “a foolish or contemptible person”. 

But in this particular case, the New Oxford American Dictionary got it all wrong.

Mrs. Sandy Schmuck was the best English teacher I could have asked for in high school. Even if you hated grammar in your school years, I think you could have liked it if you had had a teacher like her. Day after day, she walked with us through American literature. From the journals of John Smith, John Winthrop and Sarah Knight, through the tales of Twain, Crane, Hawthorne, and Melville to the works of Elizabeth Eliot and Ray Bradbury. She also shared with us the poetry of Bradstreet, Wheatley, Longfellow, Bryant, and Dickinson to name a few. It was as if she took down the tapestry of America’s literary heritage and let us marvel at the masterpiece while also acknowledging the snags and threadbare patches. She knew her subject and made sure we got to know it, too!

Then there was the grammar, spelling and vocabulary. If you didn’t learn how to write well under her tutelage, it was your own fault. At least, that’s how it was for my class – even if no one else slept with their Handbook of Grammar & Composition under their pillow or read it at five o’clock in the morning like I did. 

Yet Mrs. Schmuck didn’t just dump knowledge into our heads. Sure, she kept her class moving right along, but she still took time to laugh with us at funny things that happened. I also remember her tearing up when we read Longfellow’s “Auf Wiedersehen” and she told us about someone dear to her who had passed away. Moments like that became the building blocks that created a sense of camaraderie. 

What Mrs. Schmuck did might seem basic. She taught literature, spelling, grammar and composition – subjects some people don’t care much about these days! Yet the spirit with which she did it was anything but basic. Just like she wasn’t defined by her name, she can’t be defined by only what she did. 

All of these things mixed together made me love Mrs. Schmuck. At the end of our last class, I cried. 

Yes, if you looked up “Schmuck” in Kristen’s Dictionary of the English Language the definition would read something like this…

Schmuck: noun; a master teacher; a person who reflects the character of Christ through orderliness, care for others and pursuit of excellence and who inspires others to do the same 

May the world have more Mrs. Schmucks, I say!