And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:24, 25


No, I’m not thinking of Fr. Timothy’s dog in Jan Karon’s “Mitford Series.” As delightful as I found big, shaggy Barnabas, I’m thinking of a saint with the same name who appears throughout Acts and in a couple of Paul’s letters.
The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and that’s just what we find Barnabas doing at almost every sighting. For instance, Luke writes in Acts 4 that Barnabas was generous in selling a property he owned and bringing the proceeds to the apostles to apply to the needs of other believers. His example surely must have stirred others to follow his lead.
After Saul experienced his dramatic conversion on the Damascus road, he tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they were all afraid of him. It was Barnabas who went to Saul and brought him into the closed group, telling them about Saul’s amazing encounter with the Lord and about his preaching afterwards. It was because of Barnabas’s courage that Saul (whose name was changed to Paul) was accepted by the church and freed to speak and teach about Jesus in Jerusalem.
Later, when the church at Jerusalem heard that Greeks in Antioch had believed and turned to the Lord upon hearing the Good News, whom did they send to encourage those new believers? Barnabas. And when he arrived, his faith and Spirit-filled life caused many more people to come to the Lord. But Barnabas didn’t stop there. He went to find Paul (who had gone to Tarsus) to come help disciple the new believers, and it was at Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians” (followers of Christ).
When Paul took his first missionary trip, the Holy Spirit directed that Barnabas accompany him. A bit later in the journey, young John Mark left the group and headed back home while Paul and Barnabas traveled extensively throughout Asia preaching and establishing new groups of disciples. Sometime after their return, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they make another trip to check on the fledgling churches, and Barnabas wanted to take John Mark. Scripture notes that they had a “sharp disagreement” wherein Paul refused to let Mark be part of the mission. It may be that Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance. Whatever it was that caused Mark to leave them earlier, Barnabas forgave him and invited him to go with him as they parted company with Paul on their second missionary voyage.
Notice the beautiful characteristics that identified Barnabas: generosity, trust, advocate, reconciler, encourager, “discipler”. Barnabas was the kind of person you would want with you when the chips were down. Everywhere he went, Barnabas seemed to radiate a deep-seated joy, confidence, and Jesus’ amazing love. He modeled redemption, just like his Lord. He was the saint who lived into his name.
If you had one call to make, you’d want it to be to Barnabas.


Father, make us Barnabases who go around lifting and cheering, affirming and encouraging because of who you are in us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.   I Thessalonians 5:11


I had noticed the Arkansas sweatshirt earlier when we were exploring Pompeii and made the obvious comment, “So, you’re a Razorback?” I asked the young woman. “Yes, she is,” her mom replied, “and we’re from Arkansas.” Diane then proceeded to expound on the athletic prowess of her two daughters, as would any proud mother. And then they blended into the crowd.


Pompeii continues to impress, particularly after the recent eruptions of Kilauea in Hawaii and Volcán De Fuego in Guatemala. I’d studied vulcanology in university and so was interested in the archeological site, but the opportunity to hike to the top of Vesuvius was especially interesting. I didn’t realize how challenging the incline would be.


We’d been warned that the first part of the climb would be hard. And I’d forgotten that my respiratory system hadn’t completely recovered from my last illness. My two grandchildren and I started the hike together, but the farther we climbed, the harder it was for me to keep up—and breathing became even more difficult.


That’s where Diane, my new friend from Arkansas, came in. Coming up from behind, Diane called out to the grands, “You go on up. I’ll climb with your grandmother.” I knew the two youngsters were like racehorses, ready to bolt, but they were hesitant to leave my side. “Go,” Diane urged, “I’ll stay with her.”


And so we climbed, Diane and I. We hiked a few yards, and when she’d see me struggling, she’d suggest we stop and rest. Then we gained a few more yards and stopped. She never suggested that I give up and go back down. Instead, we inched our way up—almost to the top—when we saw those two Razorbacks come running down. They saw me and said, “You’re almost there. You can do it.” And with their mom, those girls who had run up the mountain encouraged me to keep going.
We made it, the four of us. And at the top, I joined my grandchildren. And I saw the caldera and the steam making its way through the cracks in Vesuvius’ massive crater. I had made it to the top of Vesuvius.


Could I have done it alone? Probably, but not likely. It was hard. My breathing was labored; my heart was pounding . But Diane climbed with me; she stopped and waited with me; she encouraged me. She didn’t demean me. She made the journey interesting and carried on a vibrant conversation as we ascended. She acted as if climbing steep mountains with struggling people was something she did every day.


And that’s what I think we’re all called to do. People struggle all around us. Almost everyone is involved in some sort of conflict. We’re all in a battle that we can’t win alone. As the Church, it should be our normal, everyday activity to look around and cheerfully say, “I’ll walk with you. I’ll encourage you in this challenge. I’ll rest with you. I’ll stay with you.” And then we just do it…until we’re no longer needed. And if we’re the ones needing help, we need to humbly acknowledge the fact and reach out.


As we were loading up the bus for our return to Rome, I made a point of seeking out Diane. “I couldn’t have made it without you,” I said…and meant it.


Father, thank you for bringing into our lives those saints with hearts of love and compassion. Make me to be one of them. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Bear one another’s burdens…Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

Then Jesus called the Twelve to him and began to send them out two by two…”   Luke 10:1

I laugh when people emphatically declare their single-handed accomplishments. I remember a young man who was so thrilled that he’d built a thriving enterprise from scratch and all alone. He forgot the people who believed in him when he was nothing and who financially and psychologically supported him. He forgot the successful people who mentored him. He even forgot his own family who, in their limited way, were there for him.

When I was in primary school, my Sunday school teacher saw potential in me and asked me to be her assistant. She turned the class over to me to teach once a month. She convinced me that I could do it – and I did. In youth group, our adult sponsors assured me that I was a leader, and they invested time and themselves in developing my skills. A college professor encouraged me to keep studying and taking advantage of scholarships. Her belief fueled my confidence and a career that would inform many aspects of my calling. My husband, a first generation American, trudged along through school, working as many jobs as he could while studying, and caught the attention of one of his teachers.  “Young man,” she admonished, “you can be something some day.” And because of that and other affirmations, Peter went on to noteworthy service as a state judge.

So, are there really any self-made people? Moses needed Aaron by his side; Ruth and Naomi were brilliant companions; Jonathan encouraged David during some of his darkest hours; and Paul always ministered with a friend. Even Jesus himself traveled, lived, and worked in community with disciples who were themselves learning.

Pride and delusion tell us we don’t need anyone. But think of all the advantages we have in community. If one falls down, the other can help him up (Ecc. 4:10); we can encourage each other (Heb. 3:13); we become wise by being with wise people (Prov.13:20); there is safety with an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14); and we sharpen each other in fellowship (Prov. 27:17). The challenges of community are real, but the benefits are eternal.

Jesus’ first appearance to his disciples after his resurrection was in a closed room where they had gathered for fear of the Jewish leaders. Everybody but Thomas was there.  Could it be that Thomas was one of those people who had to process his grief alone? Did he have the need to suffer in isolation? By focusing on himself and attempting to resolve his doubts alone, he missed seeing Jesus. When he rejoined the group, his doubts were dissolved, and he recognized Jesus as his Lord and his God.

John Donne was spot on when he said, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

Father, you said it wasn’t good for a man to be alone, and you instructed us to bear one another’s burdens. Cause us to love one another, to walk together in peace and harmony, and to live and learn together. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.