I Want to Be a Kind Christian, Not a Nasty One

I saw an old photo the other day of a man I never knew. What leapt out from the faded ink and crumpled paper was kindness, a sense of humor, and generosity of spirit. He looked like someone I would like to meet, and given that we are eternal beings, I look forward to the day that we do.

Blossom inspirational original oil painting of woman by fruiting and flowering tree by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and amazon.com

What’s on the inside really does come through to the outside, and our goal is make both beautiful. Blossom, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.com.

Now while it would be easy — and flattering — to say that I was spot-on in my assessment (I was) because I am such an excellent judge of character, the truth is that who and what we are comes across more strongly than we think:

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart,” Jesus says in Luke 6:45.

“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

On a supremely shallow level — and unfortunately more than one Christian on the planet operates here — this verse could be interpreted as an injunction not to swear. Now while swearing is a habit most of us would like to get over, severely limiting this verse to a narrow, narrow way of thinking eclipses its meaning, beauty and significance.

And also unfortunately, once we get into the habit of narrowly and shallowly looking at things, like Bible verses, we start relying upon law as opposed to grace, following a set of rules instead of truly allowing God to transform us into different, and better, people.

Please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet and read the rest at What Kind of Vibes Do We Give Off?

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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She Danced by the Light of the Moon — The Story of This Painting

The story of the painting, She Danced by the Light of the Moon, by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

Individuality is something we like to pride ourselves on, and to this extent we seek out ways to express how different we are, without being too different, that is.

She Danced by the Light of the Moon inspirational original oil painting of woman with pink cloth in Grand Canyon by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at art.com, amazon.com, Framed Canvas Art, and Great Big Canvas

We all have our unique dance, our own steps, our individual way of doing things. She Danced by the Light of the Moon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Art.com, Amazon.com, Framed Canvas Art, and Great Big Canvas.

One is reminded of middle school, in which everyone dressed a particular, outstanding way, in order to stand out, while fitting in.

Other people truly do stand out — recognizing that they are outside conventional norms indeed, they go the whole way with body piercings, tattoos, distinctive hair styles, unusual clothing — and there would be nothing wrong with this at all if the continued sensitivity to being different weren’t heightened by the additional attention they attract.

An older woman we know told us once of waiting in line, and absentmindedly looking at the man ahead of her, whose body art made him look very different indeed.

“Are you staring at me, Lady?” he demanded, surprising her more by his rudeness than his choice of attire and decoration.

“Actually, I wasn’t,” she replied. “But don’t you expect me to?”

So it’s a fine line, being different, and the happiest people are those who recognize that we are all unique in some ways, and the same in others — and the fastest way to dissatisfaction is constantly trying to fit our feet into shoes that are too small for them.

The exuberant woman in She Danced by the Light of the Moon is absorbed in her nighttime, canyon dance, focusing on the elements around her, the fabric embracing her, the movement of her steps, the thoughts and meditation driving her action. And while she would garner a look, or two, were she doing this on a city sidewalk, she is celebrating a moment of solitude, free from the eyes and critique of others.

We all need these moments of solitude, this time of dancing by the light of the moon with only the stars for company, so that when day comes, and we walk out on the streets looking purposeful and socially normal, we retain within a strong sense of our individuality, which just can’t help peeking through.

Read the rest, including Christmas cards at GiveWrite, and Santa flags at Discount Decorative Flags, at the newsletter, Start Your Week with Steve.

She Danced by the Light of the Moon is available as an original oil painting, 30 x 40, through Steve Henderson Fine Art.

She Danced by the Light of the Moon is also available as a licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, Framed Canvas Art, Amazon.com, and Art.com.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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It’s Work — Trusting God

For many years of my young middle adulthood, life was smooth. Not perfect, obviously — when you raise a family of six on one ridiculously modest income, there’s always the stress of making the mandated property tax, insurance payments, and assorted fees involved in living in a “civilized,” bureaucratic regime.

Enchanted inspirational original oil painting of woman in green dress in meadow and sunlight by Steve Henderson licensed prints at iCanvasART, art.com, amazon.com, Great Big Canvas, and Framed Canvas Art

We can be free to bask in the warmth of God’s love — as we seek Him, let us seek that. Enchanted, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Framed Canvas Art, Amazon.com, Art.com, Great Big Canvas, and iCanvasART.

But life was relatively predictable, and God was good.

I knew that latter because people were always telling me how good God is, and how much He loves us, and how He is always there to meet our needs. Given that most of our needs were being met adequately through sources considered standard and expected in our society, I really had no need to put my foot on the waters, step off the boat, and see if He would catch me.

But the one constant thing about life is that it never stays the same, and when circumstances blew in, they didn’t leave us much option about stepping off the boat, since they pretty much overturned it and left us hanging on to the sides. At this point, the goodness of God lost it theoretical usance and it became very, very important to know that it is truly real, and something upon which we can depend.

He is, indeed, someone upon whom we can depend, but getting to the point that we understand this is a process that can take a whole lifetime to undergo. This is not the impression, however, that we get from many Christians who look askance, horrified, when we admit that we’re frustrated with God, wondering if He hears our prayers, doubtful that He will answer them.

Well gosh, we’re human.

If you’re human, too, and find yourself questioning God, and His goodness, and His love for you, please read the rest of the article, Grasping the Goodness of God, at my BeliefNet column, Commonsense Christianity.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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Sometimes the Richest Christians Look Poor

Within the Bible, many words that we think of in one way mean another, but most seeming discrepancies — as opposed to being the result of deceit, manipulation, or dis-ingenuousness — can be reasonably addressed and understood. Take the word “rich” for example.

Ending the Day on a Good Note inspirational original oil painting 1940s nostalgia by Steve Henderson

Food, shelter, clothing, warmth — it’s easy to have these and forget that they are riches for which to be grateful. Ending the Day on a Good Note, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

I am confident that we’re all pretty familiar with the primary meaning of the word “rich” –

Lots and lots of money — as much money, actually, as the average person deals with in paperwork. When a person says, “I want to be rich,” we envision cars, big houses, trips to tropical islands, ownership of the aforementioned tropical islands, and the ability to hire a team of secretaries to handle all of the paperwork.

That latter — someone to take care of the paperwork, would be nice indeed.

But this interpretation of rich — as materially pleasing as it seems — weakens us when we make it the priority in our lives. In seeking the world’s definition of wealth, we necessarily abandon seeking God’s version, because while a person can be rich and a Christian, the true riches of Christianity have nothing to do with money.

Please follow the link to Rich Christian, Poor Christian — Which Are You? at my Commonsense Christianity column at BeliefNet.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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Dumbed Down Bible Studies — Give ‘Em a Pass

Flattery is a remarkable weapon.

Though I’m not a Bible Study Group girl, someone almost caught me years ago by commenting,

Phonograph Days inspirational original oil painting of woman in Victorian House by Steve Henderson

We’re smart, we’re savvy, we’ve got rhythm, and we can read the Bible for ourselves. Phonograph Days, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“You’re smart.”

Got my attention, that did.

“I think you’d do great in our Bible Study for Intelligent People class,”(and no, it wasn’t called that), “because we’re looking for students who are willing to read and do research during the week.”

“You mean there’s homework?”

“Oh yes, only we don’t call it that. But there’s a good 7 or 8 pages each week to write up answers to questions. Sometimes it’s multiple choice, there are essay questions — 3 or 4 hours a week, minimum. It teaches people to be accountable.”

“Do I have to underline words and make little triangles around others?”

“Yes, there is that. It’s a splendid way to learn.”

Not for me, it isn’t, friend. I passed, compliments to my intellect aside.

Bible study doesn’t have to be an exercise in fruitless activity, terminal busy-ness, or dumbed-down “inspirational” books that encourage us to Drive Forward with a Purpose. Bible study — done with an actual Bible, on our own time, and on our own — can be exciting, exacting, and fun. Please read the rest at my Christian Post article, Trust Me: You’re Smart Enough to Read the Bible.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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Christians: Stop Being So Obedient

Just how obedient are Christians expected to be — and who expects them to be this way?

In recent posts, I’ve been discussing Christian submission toward leadership (Must We Obey Church Authorities? and Is It So Bad to Be a Lone Wolf Christian?), and you can’t bring up that topic without someone putting forth Hebrews 13: 17:

Dream Catcher woman at canyon with shawl cloth by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art, Art.com, Amazon.com, and icanvasart

Generally, when you stand up for yourself — at work, school, or church — you do it alone. Dream Catcher, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed prints at Art.com, Amazon.com, Framed Canvas Art, and iCanvasArt

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

The study notes below helpfully explain,

“Dictatorial leadership is not condoned by this command, but respect for authority, orderliness and discipline in the church are taught throughout the New Testament.”

This reminds me of the statement I regularly run into:

“Jesus talked more about hell than He ever did about love,” and my response is the same:

Really? Where?

In the New Testament, grace trumps law, every time.

If you are a thinking human being who questions where, and how much of, your loyalty to give, then please follow the link to Why Standing up for Yourself — at Church — Is So Important at my blog, Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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Last Light in Zion — The Story of This Painting

The story of the painting, Last Light in Zion, by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

Like many beautiful places, Zion National Park is frequently crowded with people, and it can be difficult to find the solitude that one needs to fully appreciate the awe-inspiring landscape.

Last Light in Zion National Park inspirational original oil painting by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art. Art.com, and Vision Art Galleries

If we’re willing to walk a bit away from the crowd, we see a different landscape. Last Light in Zion, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, Art.com, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries

But there is a secret that we have discovered, through the years, about getting away from people in crowded places: we call it the Quarter Mile Rule because the average person is reluctant to walk beyond 1320 feet, and if one is willing to do this, one leaves much of the crowd beyond.

While this is especially obvious on beaches, with many ambling sorts content to stay within sight of the public access entrance onto the sand, it is also works inland, and if the trail from the entrance is steep at all, the population of users drops off well before the 430-yard mark.

So it was at Zion National Park. The Emerald Pools Trail, one of the most popular in the park, is as crowded as a shopping mall on Black Friday at the initial level, but for those willing to climb to the third pool, 1.5 miles away, the crowd significantly drops off. Indeed, Last Light in Zion, captured just before sunset, takes place between the second and third pools, and the sense of quiet meditation is achieved because very few people advanced that far.

Life is like this: in any endeavor, the majority of people are content to stay at the initial level where everyone else is, and it’s difficult to see the surrounding clearly because of all the noise and activity. A goodly number are willing to advance up the trail to the first pool; far fewer go beyond that to the second; and remarkably few are willing to keep walking, keep moving, keep trying, until they reach the third.

There is comfort in the crowd, a feeling that we must be doing something right because everyone else is, but to truly see the beauty of a place, and to truly accomplish a goal, one must be willing to strike out away from the crowd, not worried whether anyone else chooses to follow or not.

Read the rest — Classic Floral painting sold off the easel, Steve’s art at Art.com — at Start Your Week with Steve.

Last Light in Zion is available as an original oil painting, 30 x 30, through Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Last Light in Zion is also available as a licensed print at Great Big Canvas, where it posts in the Top 10, sales, for the Zion National Park Category, where it is also a staff pick.

Last Light in Zion, the print, is also available at Framed Canvas Art, Art.com, iCanvasArt, and Vision Art Galleries.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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Whom Should Christians Obey?

Obedience, subservience to authority, submission, docility, accountability — these concepts are so prominent, and so interwoven within many Christian circles, that you’d think they were the foundation upon which Christ taught.

The New Hat inspirational 1940s nostalgia oil painting of young woman in dress and blue hat inf front of mirror and dressing table by Steve Henderson

Part of preparing for each day is prayer, in which we seek guidance from God in how to interact with Him, and the people we encounter on this planet. The New Hat, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

In other words, a good Christian does what he or she is told.

“Jesus was passive,” someone told me the other day, “and He taught His followers to be the same.” My speaker was expressing frustration with contemporary Christians, and Christianity, and while I agree with his assessment that followers are actively taught to be passive, I disagree that it is Christ who gives them this message.

Men say this, and they’ve been saying it for a long time.

Anne Bronte, in her book Agnes Grey, has a great quote about what men expect of other men, when it comes to obedience — and they expect a lot. Please follow the link to my article, Must We Obey Church Authority? at Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet,  if for no other reason to read Bronte’s quote — 167 years old — that describes just how much lay people are expected to put aside their beliefs, thoughts, and independence in accepting the mandates of another.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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The Dangers of Staying Asleep

At my house, if you walk away from the toaster, your breakfast will burn.

Lady in Waiting inspirational original oil painting of woman at ocean near Victorian House by Steve Henderson licensed prints at amazon.com, icanvasart, and framed canvas art.

Stay awake, stay alert, stay vigilant — that’s part of living as a Christian. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Amazon.com.

In the same way that people in my household who want decent toast do not leave the room or drink tea, dreamily incognizant  of the evil appliance on the counter, Christians must keep — in the back of our minds at all time — the awareness that this world is not our home, heaven does not exist down here right now, and the world of men — its politics, educational institutions, corporate entities, medical establishment, legal system, media, entertainment industry — are not set up to proclaim, honor, obey, or celebrate God.

Allow me to add, in a separate paragraph for emphasis, to the list above — its religious arena. Just because a person, a denomination, a group, a magazine, a charitable organization, or a business announces that it is Christian and teaches the way of Christ — does. not. mean. that. this. is. so.

There-in is where many Christians are allowing the toast to burn, abstractedly inattentive to warning after warning in the Bible about wolves that enter the sheepfold, false teachers who promote bad doctrine, apple trees that bear Twinkies.

Please follow the link to Stay Alert: Burnt Toast Is the Least of Our Concerns, at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

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If We Don’t Trust God Enough, Does He Still Answer Our Prayers?

Commonsense goes a long way, and if we used more of it, we wouldn’t rely on Dr. Phil, or Oprah, or, within the religious realm, the myriad of psycho-spiritual counselors writing books telling us how to live our lives to . . . tell us how to live our lives.

Child of Eden inspirational original oil painting of little girl in garden with radishes by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and iCanvasART

We are God’s children, and we have a Father who loves us and is patient with us. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and iCanvasART.

But like ravens attracted to shiny objects, we people are funny, gravitating toward media and its bright exterior, and when the right voice tells us something patently obvious, like,

“Trust is a necessary component to a healthy relationship,”

we mentally genuflect at their perspicacity. And we buy their book.

Perhaps if we trusted in ourselves more, and our intelligence, ability to ask questions, and relationship with God as a means to acquire wisdom (“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him,” — James 1:5), we wouldn’t have to be so dependent upon the thoughts, opinions, and interpretations of others.

Those others, incidentally, are generous in giving us spiritual advice, not the least of which is, if we don’t trust God enough, He won’t answer our prayers. But is this true? I don’t think so.

If you don’t think so, either, or sincerely hope that you don’t have to be the ultimate Faith Warrior in order for God to listen to you, please read my Christian Post article, Dang: I Don’t Trust God Enough.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

 

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