The Encouraging Push

We picture an encouraging person as a feel good huggie person, and they often are. Sometimes, in addition to offering encouraging words, they offer words of wisdom. They offer direction that pushes us, much like a mother bird pushing her babies out of the nest. I think that’s a good analogy for my relationship with Dr. L. Dale Potratz, my Bible teacher from Christ Unlimited Bible Institute.  Continue reading


I’ve always thought of a mentor as a teacher or guide. Merriam-Webster agrees with me. “Someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.”

I’ve had so many mentors in my life. Thinking of them is easy, but asking myself if I’m mentoring anyone is much harder. I’m going to start by listing some of my mentors. The list is too long to name them all, but here are a few of the highlights. It’s still long, but it’s necessary.

I’ll start with family. My dad was probably one of my greatest teachers because he was always patient with me. My Aunt Ruby mentored everyone she came in contact with. You can read my blog about her. Aunt Ruby

My cousins Vicki and Valerie taught me how to come out of my shell. Vicki (Dr. Vicki Johnson) is also probably the sole reason that I passed Algebra in high school. Aunt Kathryn, better known as Mary Kay, is Vicki and Valerie’s mother. When I started my career, she was right there to cheer me on and to make sure that I was getting the training I needed to move up. Even though she isn’t feeling well now and has some memory issues, we had a 30 minute talk a couple of months ago about a class for work. She was really excited and so encouraging.

As a young child, I didn’t have a lot of mentors other than family and teachers. I did have one teacher at church who made an immense difference in my life, Zeta Davidson. She told me recently that because she was the assistant, her main job was to love on the kids, and that’s what she did. Read about her story. Zeta

I did have one person who was a major impact in my life at church in middle school and early high school – Jim Landers. He was in seminary then and a lowly youth director. Now he is an Associate Pastor at one of the largest Baptist Churches in our area. We did an exercise one night when we took a rock and explained how it was like our spiritual journey. Then we traded rocks with other people. I ended up with Jim’s rock, and I had it for over 30 years, until we had a fire at our house. Jim and his fiance Mary were there to pour love and leadership into us. Paul Carter became a mentor through Youth For Christ. By example, he taught all of us to work hard. He drove us everywhere. He even became our Youth For Christ Club Leader at the age of 19 so that we would be able to have a club. he taught me not only how to be a good Christian but also how to be a good person. He taught me how to do whatever you needed to do to get the job done. That tenacity has served me well over the years.

School is difficult to pick mentors because there are so many teachers who impact you. I could easily name ten teachers, but I’m going to stick to two. Mrs. Rigdon was our Librarian. I also had a Library Science class with her. She encouraged me to read books that I didn’t want to. She helped me to make good choices. She taught me that I couldn’t make every wrong right, but that I could stand my ground. I really only had her one year, but she was really a guide to things I needed to learn in my life. She wasn’t afraid to speak truth in my life.

Mrs. Faye Ervin was definitely the teacher with the most influence in my life. After my first class with her, I took every class I could with her. Mrs. Ervin looked at each of us with God’s love and was there for us. She became a teacher later in life, and I think that’s what gave her the patience and love to deal with us. I plan on writing a blog about her next week.

In 1980, I embarked on a journey at a Bible College in Kansas City Missouri. Charlene McGowan became like a mom to all of us. She helped me and everyone else make it through that very intense year. She helped me to get organized. She poked and prodded for us to get our work done, but she also loved on me when I developed an ulcer that year. Dr. L. Dale Potratz was the academic dean and professor at our college. He didn’t just teach us head things. He taught us heart things too. He taught us through stories from his own life. Instead of telling us what the right decision was in our lives, he us the skills and led us through that decision-making process. Dr. Potratz wife Carol, quietly became a mentor in my life. She didn’t intrude. She didn’t push. Instead she invited me into her world. Vidy Metsker, the wife of the founder of the ministry and Bible College also showed me how to be there for people. Her husband was a big vision person. Vidy was the relationship person, and I learned so much from that.

When I went back to college after my mom died, I quickly became active in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. I learned from so many students, who gave me the courage to stick with it even though I wasn’t a traditional student. The officers, the leaders. Jan Rog, who then was one of the Phi Theta Kappa advisors at Longview College, was a mentor in so many ways. She helped me learn what Phi Theta Kappa was all about. She helped me to rediscover my creativity and my love for writing.

When I started my career, I knew nothing , but I had so many people who taught me. Clarissa Grill was one of the first who took me under her wing. She taught me how to write resumes and what bosses were looking for. I’ve been here for over 26 years now in many different jobs, and I really have Clarissa to thank for that. Marian Pant helped me to learn how to get along with even difficult bosses. She also mentored me in how to be professional. She was a friend when I needed a shoulder to cry on and gave me gentle nudges when I needed that too.

When I moved into our front office, I needed to learn how to be really professional, and it was Theresa Matthys to the rescue. She helped me to learn protocol, poise, diplomacy and tact (not really my best thing). More recently, Cindy Burgess has helped me to really begin to understand budgeting and accounting. If you would have told me 26 years ago that I would be doing budgeting or accounting, I would have thought you were nuts, but patiently Cindy has taught me so much over the past almost seven years. She has also been a friend teaching me how to do all kinds of things, like get stains out, help my kids, etc.

I’ve had numerous mentors at church, but probably the ones who stand out the most are Tim and Michelle Backs and Mardy Lundgren. They have become good friends who are always willing to speak both encouragement and truth into my life.

My husband and I are involved in United Marriage Encounter and Pam and Steve Chapman have become mentors in our marriage. They have demonstrated how to have a great marriage. They have shown us how to work hard when it’s needed to get a job done. They have shown us how to have fun along the way.

I’ve also gotten involved in the Heart of America Christian Writer’s Network. So many people there have helped me to learn how to write better. The group is all about teaching and mentoring writers, but there is one lady who stands out. Her name is Sally Danley. She would probably tell you that she doesn’t do much, but don’t let her food you. She is always there to help. She has taught me how to have faith in others again, and how to pray with faith. Every time I see her. The first words out of her mouth are “I have to give you a hug.” Then she stops whatever she is doing and delivers that hug. There’s nothing better.

I’ve had all of these wonderful mentors, but how am I doing at passing that on? It’s difficult to think of someone who I’ve mentored into something successful. I’m good at giving love. I’m not always good at speaking truth that people need to hear. Our house has always been open and many of my children’s friends have stayed with us for a while. I like to think I’ve made a difference in their lives, but sometimes I wonder. I definitely need to do a better job of mentoring people at church. Maybe I need to do better in my own spiritual journey so that I can set a better example. I definitely sometimes let life get in the way.

I’m going to continue next week with my Special People Blogs, and I’ll fill you in on the spiritual journey and mentorship challenge along the way too.

Karen (Brown) Ash

Live so that when people get to know you, they will want to know Christ. Who has been your mentor? Are you mentoring others? – from my friend Karen Ash’s Facebook page.

I was considering who to write about this week, when this quote from my friend Karen popped onto my Facebook News Feed. I had my answer.

Karen Ash was my mentor all through middle school and high school. I was 12 years old, in a new house, in a new town, with few friends and now in middle school. Karen, who was a year and a day older, had gone to camp that summer and decided with friends to start a Youth For Christ Club in our small town. She invited me, which was convenient because her parents could take all of us the seven miles into town. I enjoyed going, and made a profession of faith, that year.

Karen became my best friend. I rode to church with her family. She always encouraged me. I spent many afternoons at her house talking about life. Having a friend take an interest in you is always good, but in our small town it was vital. Back then was cliquish, and if you didn’t belong to a group you were sort of invisible. It was difficult to be in the popular crowd. That left the jocks, which I am most definitely not. The group that was most accepting of new people were those involved in drinking and drugs. I’m not saying that I would have been involved in that group, because I was pretty scared of my mom’s reaction (and it would have been bad). Karen most likely kept me from being one of the invisible people or someone who was picked on a lot. She acted like my life meant something and that I was important. That vote of confidence helped me to succeed in school. She also mentored me in my Christian life and in my relationships with others. As an only child I didn’t grow up automatically knowing how to relate to people my own age. Karen’s patient friendship helped to change that in my life.

We stayed friends until I moved several hours away. In the days of expensive long-distance phone calls and before email, internet and Facebook, it was much harder to be friends with someone far away, especially since I don’t write letters well. We lost touch for several years, and then would see each other occasionally. Once I was on Facebook, I continually looked for Karen, until she finally got a Facebook account. Now, I get questions, like the one I quoted, to make me think about my life, and Karen continues to be a mentor to me.

Karen Ash thank you for making a difference in my life.