What Does “Real” Church Look Like?

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

What does “Real” church look like?

Those of us who have given up on traditional, weekly meetings in a brick-and-mortar building are fully aware of what “Real” church looks like to many, many Christians:

Eyrie inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite facing sunrise by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at icanvas, framed canvas art, great big canvas, amazon.com, art.com, posterhero, prints.com, vintage art, fulcrum gallery and allposters.com

Worship, joy, adoration of God, support of one another — we limit ourselves when we limit church to a particular building, closed group of people, or denomination. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Prints.com, Fulcrum Gallery, iCanvas, Art.com, AllPosters, and more.

It’s in a building, generally Sunday morning.

You get handed a bulletin by an usher, but you don’t have to read it, because within 20 minutes, an elder or deacon will arise and repeat any pertinent news (upcoming work days, mid-week small groups, leadership meetings) that you are expected to attend. (Metro churches may be able to send this information to your phone; but someone will still read it aloud. A sign of a Real, Excellent church is that it keeps up with technology because that’s what people are looking for, the material written for pastors avers. That, and lots of specialized, age and lifestyle-specific group activities.)

You sit. Until the minute hand points to the 12 or 6, depending upon your local “community,” you may talk to your neighbors around you. Once the music starts — originating from the raised platform, ahead — it’s time to shush and hush. (Short, simple statements are popular, incidentally, like “Prayer and Share,” “Flex and Obey,” “Walk the Talk.” It’s a God Thing.)

Corporate Worship

In front of you is a large white screen with words on it. Sing those words.

You will alternate between singing, listening to announcements, enjoying a “special,” and possibly being allowed to express yourself through raising your hand and “sharing,” until it is time for the pastor, generally in a suit but sometimes in a clerical robe, to bounce up to the platform, adjust the microphone behind his tie, and begin to speak (this is either “teaching,” or “preaching,” depending upon your denomination). Remember the introductory joke throughout the week; it’s the key to the lesson.

After the final song and prayer, you may leave — either to head home and do errands and work you couldn’t get to during the week, if Adult Sunday School was before the service (you did attend, didn’t you?), or to ASS. The children, the same way they are during the week at public school, are divided according to age and grade. There is no time to freely associate, because there is much managed, appropriately directed fellowship that needs attention.

A Couple Hours a Week

Such is many people’s answer to Hebrews 10:25, the verse custom-made to impose acquiescence upon those who, for some reason, tire of the program above, and ache to meet and interact with other believers in different, meaningful ways. (By the way, it is nominally acceptable to meet together in a “house church,” since that is our impression of how the first century Christians did it, but the morning’s itinerary must mimic the Real Church version. And it’s fully understood that you’re only meeting in homes until you find a Real Church to fully meet your needs.)

If it seems shallow or empty, be reminded that, in order to fully immerse yourself in the Christian experience, you must take advantage of mid-week small groups (which are the abiding trend even within churches whose population is small enough to qualify as a small group in a mega-church) and fellowship in a slightly more relaxed, but still managed and appropriately directed manner.

Any loneliness, frustration, isolation, alienation, ennui, detachment or apathy you experience is your fault, because if you fully participated in all the organized and purposeful activities — the ones which you are qualified to attend, that is — then you would be receiving all the necessary encouragement that Hebrews 10:25 promises.

As some churches reluctantly acknowledge (because people are either sleeping or leaving) that the rigidly prescriptivist approach is a bit . . . frigid, they’re adding fun things like candles, incense, open mic, and comfy couches (sip your latte!) to the worship experience. There should be something for everyone, and if you still feel . . . incomplete, remember that this is your fault.

No Real church is perfect you know.

But you must attend one.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes where I encourage Christians, whether they attend a conventional weekly church meeting or not, to make their individual relationship with Christ their priority. Read the Bible for yourself. Pray, by speaking with God, who doesn’t insist upon our using “Thee” and “Thou.” Don’t stop until you find out why this is called the Good News.

Posts complementing this one are

When Christian Leaders Say “Jump!” Do We Leap?

Why You Don’t — And Won’t — Fit In

I Like to Sleep in on Sunday!


Posted in Christian, church, Faith, Family, home, Life, Lifestyle, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fear Mongering

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

The Facebook term “news feed,” which describes the constant update of links, posts, videos, and chatter from people and pages we Like,  is an apt summation of how many of us live our mental lives.

Too much information -- true, untrue, and partially true -- inspires a sense of fear and anxiety, hardly useful in anyone's life. Vintage post card image of Paris by Pierre Yves-Petit

Too much information — true, untrue, and partially true — inspires a sense of fear and anxiety, hardly useful in anyone’s life. Vintage post card image of Paris by Pierre Yves-Petit

We consume information.

Doesn’t matter if it’s good information, accurate information, helpful information, interesting information, or disingenuous, fallacious, specious, and spurious information, we eat it up, mentally, all day long as if we were snacking on chips, dip, cookies, fast food, soda pop and Cheese Twisty-Os.

The half-cup of broccoli and filet of salmon that we manage to get down for dinner compete heavily against the bagged, boxed, frozen, vacuum-sealed, and canned prepared food products that, arguably, have little to do with actual food. But we have been trained to think of them all on the identical plane.

In  the same way, much of what we accept as “news” has less to do with imparting actual information as it does the melding and the molding of how we think: there is analysis, commentary, interpretation, and exegesis — all concerning “news” of which we don’t, realistically, know the veracity.

A Harvest of Fear

The result — or fruit — of our passion and fascination for up-to-date enlightenment frequently looks like fear, and whether one listens to the convenient, neatly divided Left or Right, Liberal or Conservative, CNN or Fox, or even hangs onto every word of alternative news gurus or the sputtering, vitriolic radio voices, the general result is that we walk about in a state of concern for the future, anger at injustice, and, most importantly, frustration at our inability to do anything.

(It is a disturbing aspect of many alternative news sites that their primary solution to our escalating world problems of grab and greed is that we 1) prepare for martial law, 2) buy their survival kits, and 3) send them money so that they can keep on sending us updates. But at least they provide a refreshing counteraction to the standardized message of the corporate media, which simply encourages us to keep shopping, register to vote, and tune in at 11 for more of the same.)

Magenta inspirational original oil painting of dancer by Steve Henderson

We , who are so easily lumped into “the masses,” are individual, unique human beings, each created in the image of God. Remember that, when you’re lumped into the group. Magenta, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

If we allow ourselves to be — by opening our ears to all the voices that are available to us via mass media (is anyone else out there offended by the entertainment and corporate world’s lumping of billions of unique, precious, individual people into “the masses”?) — we are assaulted by more information, mis-information, and disinformation than we can possibly handle.

And whether we use 10 percent of our brain or 75 percent, in concordance with what number pop-science decides upon today, commonsense tells us ordinary, non-brilliant sorts that there is only so much material that can go swimming around in there.

When our thoughts are focused on the ever-morphing news that has a two-day shelf life (what happened with Ebola, by the way? Are the Cupcake Wars over between the Christian bakeries and gay marriage community? And what’s Bruce/Caitlyn up to these days?) we have little room to reflect upon important things, and for Christians, important things have to do with God: His nature, His words, His promises, His reassurances, His love. Reflecting upon God is the path to truth. When we recognize truth, we more easily spot the lies.

A 30-minute small group Bible study, once a week, doesn’t suffice for chasing out the buzz on our news feed, and indeed, if our brains were Facebook (thank God they’re not), deep, meditative, healing thoughts about God might not even make it on the feed. There’s too much other stuff.

Take a break from it all — the “news” will still be there when you get back — but for a week, or just a day if that’s all you can manage — walk away from social media, turn off the TV, quit obsessing on your phone, set the magazine aside, and just give your brain a break.

Don’t turn it into a spiritual thing — a self-imposed law which you will inevitably break, and thereby manufacture into a failure of sin — but consider it a rest, a reprieve, a respite, a Sabbath, if you will.

In seeking the Kingdom of God, by ignoring, for awhile, the dissonant voices of men, we breathe the air of freedom.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage all Christians to seek — most ardently and with enthusiasm — the Kingdom of God. I have a feeling that, when our feet are planted firmly within, the things of this world won’t freak us out so much.

Posts complementing this one are

Your Vote Is Worth Less Than Your Prayer

Three “Christian” Teachings That Jesus Didn’t Teach

Does Jesus Get Mad When We Complain?

This article is linked to Sincerely Paula, Think Tank, Domestiblissity, Favorite Things, Simple Homestead, Thoughtful Thursday, Shine On, Hearts for Home, Shine, Grandma’s Ideas, Pat and Candy, This Is How I Roll, Wholehearted Home, Wake Up Wednesday, While I’m Waiting, Happy Home, A Little R and R, Intention, The Mom Club, A Wise Woman, Homemaking, Jennifer Dawn, Tip Tuesday, Hit Me with Your Best Shot, Share It, Tuesdays at Our Home, Terrific Tuesday, Tuesday Talk, Tips and Tricks, Turn It up Tuesday, Moms the Word, Strangers and Pilgrims, Titus 2, Meandering Mondays, Blog Booster, Learning from Each Other, Rebecca, Friday Fun, Friday Flash Blog, Pretty Pintastic, Grace and Truth, Freedom Friday, Awesome, Funtastic Friday,

Posted in Christian, Culture, Current Events, Daily Life, Faith, Family, home, Life, Lifestyle, mass media, News, self-improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How to Recognize a False Prophet

“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:11)

Recently I ran across a blog from a mega-pastor who was refuting the teachings of another mega-pastor. Mega-Pastor B, the apostate, had some decent things to say about grace, mercy, acceptance, and Christ’s love that millions of Christians have not yet grasped, but quite unfortunately firmly wove the weft of good truth with the warp of prosperity doctrine.

Duck detail from Autumn Dreams, inspirational original oil painting by Steve Henderson

The old adage really applies: if it looks like a duck, walks like duck, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Detail from Autumn Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Mega-Pastor A, who looks like he agrees with Mega-Pastor B when it comes to prosperity, unfortunately recoils at grace. The good news of the gospel, according to this modern prophet, is that we can ask God, again and again and again and again, to forgive us our many, many, many, many sins, and He will. (It’s up to us, however, to root out and discover those sins, and if we don’t, well, we’d better hope we don’t die because straight off to hell we go. Yup. That’s good news. It’s amazing that so many people pay Mega-Pastors to preach this to them.)

Mega-Pastor A’s dire prediction is that many well-meaning Christians will head to hell because they have the wrong doctrine, and they need to be protected from this.

While it’s true that many well-meaning Christians fuddle and muddle through life trying to worship an off-putting, easily offended and decidedly unlikable God, they don’t need the counsel of yet another wolf to find, and walk, the path leading to the loving Father that Jesus constantly talked about.

Like Dorothy with her ruby red slippers, we as Christians have the means to protect ourselves from false teachers, and while nothing is life is simple, we can start by keeping a few simple precepts in mind:

Be Skeptical

1) Stop believing everything we’re told. Just because someone says he’s a Christian, a prophet, a teacher, an apostle, or a financial consultant who will turn our $1,000 initial investment into $100,000, does not mean that we must accept his word. Acts 17:11 records the Bereans, who checked and cross checked everything the Apostle Paul preached for accuracy. (It’s worth noting that the Apostle Paul, like Peter, and John, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah — and . . .  Jesus — did not make a financial killing off of his ministry.)


2) Use our common sense. Regardless of how many billions and billions of hamburgers have been sold throughout the world, this does not translate into a well-fed planet. In the same way, millions and millions converted through mass proselytizing events does not equate to a world full of mature, committed Christians. Away from the hype, the music, the thrill of the mob and the pulsating tones of the speaker — just what, exactly, is the preacher preaching? Spiritually, it may have all the nutrients of fast food.

There’s No “Christian Dynasty”

3) Ancient Israel no longer exists. We are not Hebrews, there is no physical temple, and we do not operate under a Levitical priesthood responsible for our personal and corporate spirituality. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that all Christians are a chosen people, a royal priesthood and holy nation, a people belonging to God, and this means every single member of the Body. There is no modern priesthood of generational Christian families who command the attention, loyalty, obedience, acceptance, and — most importantly — financial resources of the rest of us.

Stop Worshiping Celebrities

4) Okay, we’re ordinary and have no degree in theology, but neither do some of the celebrity Christians upon whom others depend for spiritual guidance. James Dobson, listed once by Time Magazine as “the nation’s most influential evangelical leader,” is not an ordained minister, and yet his teachings permeate the church. But don’t genuflect before that blessed “Reverend,” title, either; there’s a wealth of difference between the teachings of the apostle Peter and the teachings of the high priest Caiaphas — and our job as Bereans, and a chosen people, is to not be fooled into thinking that the honors and degrees man confers automatically translate into knowledge and truth.


5) Money talks, and we should listen to what it says about people who worship it. God’s blessings are one thing; God providing a personal jet for a teacher, prophet, apostle, or leader to jaunt about on is another. When a leader announces that he needs to maintain a certain lifestyle because he preaches to the wealthy, the politically powerful, and the captains of industry, then we have to ask, “Then who preaches to the poor, the downtrodden, and the weak — the ones that Jesus focused on?” Trickle-down Spirituality is as valid as Trickle-down Economics.

An Ass in a Lion’s Skin

In C.S. Lewis’s book, The Last Battle, the animals and people of the land called Narnia were fooled into thinking that their loving creator, Aslan the Lion, was an ass dressed up in a lion’s skin. The ass, who was manipulated by the cleverness and shiftiness of others, apologized for his part of the trickery by saying, “I shouldn’t have listened to what I was told because I knew it was wrong. But I’m not a clever donkey.”

“Maybe you should have spent less time saying you weren’t clever and more time trying to be as clever as you could,” another character aptly observed.

No, most of us probably aren’t Bible scholars. We didn’t go to seminary. We don’t feel confident, and millions of people aren’t Liking our posts and re-Tweeting our aphorisms.

But we’re not stupid, and if we spent less time apologizing for our defects and more time talking to God, relying upon His goodness, reading His words for ourselves, and tuning out the noisy voices telling us what He’s saying — then maybe there wouldn’t be so many false teachers.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes.

Posts complementing this one are

When Christian Leaders Say “Jump!” Do We Leap?

What Doe a Good Boss Look Like?

Why You Don’t — and Won’t — Fit In

Posted in Christian, Current Events, Faith, Family, home, Life, Lifestyle, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Your Vote Is Worth Less Than Your Prayer

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:17, KJV)

Oh, ho hum.

Ending the Day on a Good Note inspirational original oil painting of nostalgic WWII woman in Victorian house with Victrola by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor prints at Vintage Wall, Prints.com, Fulcrum Gallery, and Posterhero.com

At the end of the day, what matters is that we walked with, talked to, and learned from God. Ending the Day on a Good Note, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, Prints.com, Vintage Wall, and Poster Hero

There’s a presidential election looming in the United States, more than a year from now, and in accordance with the evangelistic inculcation of mass media, people are getting pumped up about it.

“VOTE!” we are adjured, “We live in the finest democracy on earth, and this is how we make our voice heard!”

Oh, yes. One vote. Once every four years. And once the guy’s in (maybe it’ll be a gal this time!), how much of a voice do we have then?

“But we need to get the RIGHT guy in! Your vote counts!”

Funny, that one person, in one office, would make so much difference. Aren’t we supposed to live in a three-unit set-up that technically checks and balances each other?

Just wondering. It’s what I was programmed to believe in public school.

A Media Circus

John Rappoport, a free-lance investigative journalist who posts the thought-provoking blog, nomorefakenews.com, describes national election campaigns as,

. . . media events. Media run them. Media pump ratings. They produce the soap opera. They construct the illusion. Many people hate hearing this, because they prefer to believe the few candidates who can actually win are real. No one with that much face time on national television is real.”

September inspirational original oil painting of flowers and fruit still life by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at PosterHero.com, Prints.com, Fulcrum Gallery, and Vintage Wall

Words mean nothing without action to back them up; the quality of the fruit is the best indicator of the truth of one’s words. September, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, prints.com, PosterHero, and Vintage Wall

Whether one accepts Rappoport’s observation or not (it’s difficult to refute), one has to admit that people spend (waste?) a lot of time, multiple months before the election, discussing this candidate or that. Much of that discussion, for evangelical Christians, tends to be about the candidate’s “spirituality,” and any smart, tough, no-nonsense politico knows that it’s wise to trot out a favorite Bible verse, or stare thoughtfully off into space, or — as former president Reagan did so well — tear up and choke out, “God . . . bless . . . America!”

Militarized Christians swoon.

Wise ones remember that we are known by our fruit. And faith without works is dead. So it would only make sense to look at the promises of past presidents — both Republican and Democrat — and see if they told the truth or not. And when we find that they lie, what then? What power does our one little vote, every four years, have then?

Oh, yes. We write our Congressional Representative. They mentioned that in school, too.

The Military, Industrial Christian Complex

For those who think that politics do not belong in a blog on Christianity, consider this:

The very same people — militarized, politicized Christians who weep with joy at seeing U.S. Marines sing “Days of Elijah,” or “There Is No God Like Jehovah” — throw up despairing hands at the world around us, fixating their hope upon the most “Christian” candidate as God’s choice for reformation. We need a Christian president. Christian congressional representatives. Christian judges. Or, as Billy Graham likes to say, those who “support Biblical values.”

Rarely does it occur that the answer — for Christians — lies in praying.

“Oh, but God is Sovereign, and the end is near! We have no say in His Master Plan!”

Then why are we bothering to vote?

The apostle Peter calls believers a chosen people, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and James reminds us that the great prophet Elijah was a human being, just like us (James 5:17). So was Moses. And Abraham. Elisha, David, Deborah, Jacob, Isaac, Noah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the apostles.

These people then, as we do now, lived in a world overrun by evil men, corrupt institutions, totalitarian governments, and those whose love for money was greater than any other emotion. There may not have been digital voting booths, and digital money, and digital phones (chronocentrism is the belief that one’s own generation is bigger, better, and smarter than any time before us) — but godly men and women lived around, amidst, and within evil.

And, despite their day jobs, the one thing they all did in common was pray.

If we’re so convinced that our vote counts, then why do we so doubt our prayers?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage Christians to think outside the confines that people set up for us.

Posts complementing this one are

When Christian Leaders Say “Jump”! Do We Leap?

Blogging Pays — Even When You Don’t Make Money at It

Why You Don’t — And Won’t — Fit In

This article is linked to The Chicken Chick, Motivation Monday, Soul Survival, Mom Moments, Busy Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Meandering Mondays, A Mama’s Story, What Joy Is Mine, Anything Goes, Mopping the Floor, Mix It up Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Strangers and Pilgrims, Moms the Word, Good Morning Monday, Turn It up Tuesdays, Tips and Tricks, Good Tips, Terrific Tuesdays, Show and Share, Titus Tuesdays, Titus 2sday, Enchanting Rose, Intentional, Testimony Tuesday, Homemaking Party, Intention, Grandma’s, A Little R and R, Wake up Wednesday, Wednesday Showcase, Jennifer Dawn, Raising Homemakers, Wise Woman, The Mom Club, Ducks in a Row, Happy Home Life, While I’m Waiting, Wholehearted Home, Pat and Candy, Messy Marriage, Shine, Shine on, Thoughtful Thursday, Our Simple Home, Thursday Favorite Things, Share Your Cup, Think Tank thursday, Your Turn to Shine, Sincerely Paula, Blog Booster, Learning from Each Other, That Friday Blog Hop, Family Fun Friday, Friday Flash Blog, Pretty Pintastic, Grace and Truth, Freedom Friday, Awesome

Posted in Christian, Culture, Current Events, Encouragement, Faith, Family, home, Life, Lifestyle, Politics, prayer | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

When Christian Leaders Say, “Jump!” Do We Leap?

“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” James 1:5

For many years, my literary junk food was celebrity people magazines. Once every two weeks I headed to the library, grabbed a stack, and caught up on all the latest news of the British Royal Family, heart throbs of my adolescence, and (my favorite) shots of sloppily attired female stars, make-up free.

Reflection inspirational original oil painting of little girl on ocean beach jumping in puddle by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, AllPosters.com, Posterhero.com, Art.com, Framed Canvas Art, Vintage Wall, Prints.com and Amazon

Very young children tend to jump before they look; mature adults, while we may seem more boring, reflect before we land in a puddle. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Fulcrum Gallery, Prints.com, Art.com, and more

Even after I awoke from the delusional trance of the American Dream and Christian Utopia on Earth (promised from the pulpit, if only we “have enough faith” and “work together as a community”), I still snuck the magazines in, like guilty spoonfuls of ice-cream snatched over the kitchen sink. But eventually, like bad eating, I realized that I never felt happy, content, hopeful, encouraged, or confident after I read these things.

(By the way, Baptist sorts, I wasn’t laboring under the guilt of sin, condemning myself for worldly, evil thoughts; I was just putting commonsense into place.)

Aging Celebrities

And one day, it snapped — and I lost all interest. Perhaps it was the sight of my adolescent heart throb, who at 37 was so sexy to my 17-year-old eyes, but now talked (and looked!) disturbingly like my late, elderly father-in-law. I no longer cared about these people, none of whom I knew personally, and all of whom inhabit a world that is so far out of my sphere that we have remarkably little in common.

So it is within the industrial Christian complex, which really should publish a celebrity magazine of its own, focusing on the prophets and teachers and evangelists and names and holy faces that millions of Christians come to follow, and worship, as being wiser, more righteous, and blessed than the rest of us: they’re rich and well-known, after all — surely that must be a sign of God’s favor?

Arizona Memories inspirational original oil painting commissioned of horses and people on a ranch by Steve Henderson

Real people forget how beautiful we, and real life, really are. Arizona Memories, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

(If only Jesus had grasped the secret of their success. He could have really made something of Himself, you know?)

Like the Sexiest Men of the Year of the 70s and 80s, many of these celebrities are entering into their 70s, 80s, and 90s themselves, and sadly for them, are no longer on the lips of the saints. But a new crop — in its sexy 30s, 40s, and 50s is there to take their place, writing the books, shaking mighty fists at the camera, and granting interviews to Fox News and Oprah. Their wives are all coiffed and slender, beautifully dressed and appropriately submissive.

Blinded by the Glamorous Light

When the Great Christians give their opinion on the gay marriage issue, people listen, nod their heads, and say, “Yes, yes, that’s it. Prophet Pulpit Pummeler says so.” When they tell acolytes to boycott a store, the believers do. When they meet with ecumenical leaders to discuss a global religion, some followers wring their hands, wondering, “Why does Pastor Protector do this? Doesn’t he know that Catholics and Evangelical Protestants differ on fundamental issues? and that Jewish people and Christians differ on a REALLY major issue? How can all people believe one thing, and what will that one thing be?”

Good questions, but unfortunately, the followers of celebrity Christians do not have enough confidence in themselves to seek answers on their own, considering themselves spiritually unqualified to process through the tough, tough issues facing people who live in the globalized, mass-media dictated, corporately controlled world of the 21st century. The best they can do is listen to the voices of the Voices, and adjust their belief system accordingly.

(It’s not so strange, really, given that millions of Christians are trained, multiple times a week, to sit in a chair and passively listen to the person pacing the dais in front and above them.)

But this is not what we are called to do, or be, anymore than our diet consists of snatching spoonfuls of ice-cream over the kitchen sink. The world is filled, and has always been filled, with complex issues — complex because they involve people — and no pithy saying, Tweet, or meme from any Big Name is going to solve the problems, or do the thinking, for us.

We need wisdom, and wisdom — unlike money, power, celebrity status, and fame — is not held out of reach from ordinary people. It is there for the asking.

If we will only ask.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my consistent and constant encouragement to believers is to be discerning in what, and more specifically — who, they believe.

Posts complementing this one are

Why You Don’t — and Won’t — Fit In

Three “Christian” Teachings That Jesus Didn’t Teach

Defining Success

Posted in celebrities, Christian, Culture, Faith, Family, home, Life, Lifestyle, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Blogging Pays — Even When You Don’t Make Money At It

“The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good . . . for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

If you blog, for any reason, you’ve no doubt felt the pressure to make a success of it — you know, rack up those numbers, post third party ads, and start reaping a staggeringly generous residual income.

Blogging Pays but not always with money

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money — we need it to live, after all — but when the central purpose of our endeavor is just that, we’re simply asking for frustration. Meme credit Carolyn Henderson

Everyone else, apparently, is doing this, and if you are not, there is a strong temptation to feel that you are a failure, and perhaps it’s not worth blogging after all.

Don’t stop.

There is more to blogging than making a residual income, and indeed, with millions of blogs in the digital stratosphere, most of them aren’t money makers. (And as blogging becomes more common, so also do online blogging schools, which purportedly teach others to make pots of money on the endeavor, the way that the “academicians” of the schools apparently did; but if blogging is so smoothly lucrative, why not just keep at it? Or, possibly, is it more profitable to “teach” than to “do”?)

We Value Money More Than We Do Persons

For a Christian, a seeker of truth who lives an honest life and has good things to show, blogging provides more than the opportunity to justify one’s existence by announcing (those staying home to raise children come to mind), “See! I make money too! I’m a worthwhile person!”

(There is too much emphasis, among Christians in corporately-controlled societies, to associate the ability to generate income with value as a human being. And while many families proudly point to being different because they are willing to make a go of it on one income, they falter when the one staying home operates mentally as a second-class citizen.)

Where Is the Voice of the Ordinary Person?

If you can write, and you have something to say, the value of blogging lies in this alone, because — for now at least, in nations that do lip service to freedom of speech — speaking one’s mind, sharing one’s skills, imparting analysis and commentary on everything from news to spirituality — is free, both monetarily and societally.

Where else can one do this?

Child of Eden inspirational original oil painting of little girl in garden with radishes by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, Amazon, Vintage Wall, iCanvas, framed canvas art, and Poster Hero

Children are one of humanity’s most precious “resources,” and yet how little they are valued in the corporate world. Why, then, do we permit the corporate world to so strongly dictate our sense of values? Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, iCanvas, Prints.com, and more.

On TV? In the movies? — these arenas are well controlled by a small group of moneymakers, their subtle message of propaganda shaping the mores, the opinions, and the thoughts of millions who stare, glassy-eyed, at the screen in front of them.

On the news? One of the most powerful, and despised, results of blogging was its ability to question the pronouncements so blithely made on the nightly news. Increasingly, alternative news is, literally, an alternative (but beware — when anything gets big enough and popular enough, it will be infiltrated, to the point that we need alternatives to the alternatives).

How about books? Ever tried to publish one of those? “Christian” publishers are especially good about promoting their pay-to-publish options. The “real” stuff, standard industrial Christian complex fare produced by the same names, and their children and grandchildren, leaves no room for ordinary nobodies. (Every so often, someone who appears to be ordinary, and nobody, is vaulted to exalted status, but predictably, their message remains strong on “conform to community.”)

The thoughts, skills, and messages of ordinary people — who are targeted by mega-corporations to think, vote, and buy a certain way — are not important to those mega-corporations.

Freedom of Speech

But they are important to other ordinary people. And blogging is a way to get that information out.

Do you successfully live on one income with a bunch of kids? Don’t look for a movie to be made about you, or a publisher to perform obeisance before you (“Tell the world, ma’am, how you’re able to live differently from the way most people are pressured to live!”), but if you blog, your stories, your experiences, your successes and failures, are meaningful to others who want to know how real people, living real lives, do this extremely difficult thing.

Are you tired of “church” culture? You’re not alone, but you’ve probably thought so because the books, the resources, the DVD’s, the “Christian” news and lifestyle sites, all nudge you to get back into that box and wriggle about in the space allotted. An increasing number of believers, like me, write about life, and Christ, and the pursuit of seeking Him as a real person, in a real life, with real issues that celebrity Christians understandably avoid. In violation of reverence for tradition and convention, regular people are asking, “Why DO we need the particular religious authorities that we have? And what makes them qualified to rule over us?”

Many real people, who blog, are small, and ordinary, and unfunded, and our message does not reach millions.

One by One

But it doesn’t need to. It only needs to reach one person, who through reading what we say, questions something he or she has been told is incontrovertible truth.

You’re no dummy, and because you breathe your way through 24-hours each day, you have skills and knowledge that are worth passing on.

You know how to cook, or sew clothing, or raise chickens, or make candles, or mix essential oils for healing purposes. You recognize deceitful marketing practices used to pressure people to buy a certain way. You run a small business and know that it’s not a quick-to-riches endeavor.

Because you’re independent, and you value independence, you live a certain way that is NOT promoted, talked about, or promulgated by the voices that seek to shape global economy, spirituality, mentality, and belief. Why is this, do you think?

If you are given the ability and desire to speak, and write, and blog, then use it, while you still can. Because, one by one, the voices of “nobody bloggers” make a difference in the lives of “nobody people.”

And “nobody people” are precious, made in the image of God.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage Christians to think for themselves, connect individually with Christ, and stop feeling compelled to be a certain way.

Posts complementing this one are

Why You Don’t — And Won’t — Fit In

Defining Success

None of Our Children Attended Harvard

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Does Jesus Get Mad When We Complain?

“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Some of the most insensitive sayings, passed on via social media memes, are posted by people who call themselves Christians. There is a lamentable desire to encapsulate and solve problems in one-sentence increments, and rather than post Scripture — which generally needs elucidation to be properly misinterpreted — good people who should be thinking pass on pithy sayings from seminar gurus, Christian celebrities, and the never-ending supply of Pro Positive Pop Christian “ministers.”

God Doesn't Post Insensitive Facebook Memes Thank God by Carolyn HendersonA recent banality scolds people for complaining about their boss.

“Be grateful you’ve got a job,” is its advice. Well, that really helps to get through another stomach churning, gut wrenching day under the thumb of an insecure, incompetent overseer who threatens the very existence of our employment in order to maintain the security, and advancement, of his or hers.

In effect, we are to quit whining, quit complaining, and be grateful for what we have.

Admittedly, there is a tiny nugget of truth in this — a pessimistic outlook in which we’re constantly picking life apart and finding it faulty, isn’t the best way path to peace, contentment, humility and wisdom.

However — and this is a big however — denying that problems exist, and settling into a mentally narcotized Happy State in which we forego thinking, and most importantly expressing, anything negative because being negative is so very, very naughty, isn’t the path to wisdom either — although it does lead one to an attitude of self-righteousness and judgment upon others.

Insensitivity to Others

“People shouldn’t complain about the price of food — they should just be grateful that they’ve got food on the table! (and perhaps if they worked a little harder, and smarter, like I do, and trusted God more — like I do — they WOULD have all their needs met!”

Arizona Memories inspirational original oil painting by Steve Henderson of family homestead in desert

God’s message to us is one of welcome, joy, and love as He invites us to join our lives with Him. Arizona Memories, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Despite the plethora of smooth, cultured voices who purport to speak for Him, God does not post social media memes, and His message — it’s a deep one — focuses on His love for us, His desire that we be more like Him, and His willingness to patiently and compassionately work with us in this process. Nowhere do we find Jesus saying,

“Suck up and shut up, guys! Quit your whining and bellyaching and give thanks to Dad, for His sake! We need to see an Attitude of Gratitude here!”

And yet, this is a popular message that people eat up, swallow, and regurgitate onto social media memes. If things are going wrong, we’re told, it’s because

  1. We don’t work hard enough,
  2. We don’t have enough faith,
  3. We speak negatively,
  4. We haven’t sufficiently thanked God.

We Never Measure Up

Always, always, the onus is upon us to perform — to “get things right with God” first before He will bother listening to us, and the end result of this in our prayer life logically looks like this:

“Dear God: Thank you for everything, and for all the problems in my life. I am grateful for them because they all work together for good.

“As I am unable to admit that things worry me or bother me or make me angry without coming across as negative, I will not talk to You about what hurts me, and I will work very hard through the week to get past my emotions.

“I’ll get back to you when I’ve got everything solved.”

So much better is the message of truth, in which we are urged to cast — hurl, throw, pitch, chuck, and dump — our very real concerns, fears, doubts, pain, anger, exasperation, and frustration upon the only Person in the Universe who can actually do something about them.

He already knows the deep, hidden resources of our hearts and soul — it is we who frequently do not realize what is burbling about in there. And as long as we insistently deny that there are issues, we remain blind, and deaf,

and dumb.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage those who love and seek God to do so with the knowledge that He loves us, and seeks a relationship with us that does not include fear, condemnation, or disdain.

Posts complementing this one are

Why You Don’t — and Won’t — Fit In

Three “Christian” Teachings That Jesus Didn’t Teach

Defining Success


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Why You Don’t — And Won’t — Fit In

“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” John 17:16

If you did not fit into the group at high school, you won’t fit into our contemporary corporate-based society.

Cadence inspirational original oil painting of woman on beach by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, iCanvas, Art.com, AllPosters, Poster Hero, Vintage Wall, Prints.com

Living as a Christian means that, often, we walk alone — not on a wide path surrounded by our large and garrulous Sunday School class. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, Art.com, iCanvas, and more

That’s the bad news — although it really isn’t bad news. It just seems like bad news because, as human beings, we like to belong — to be embraced by those around us, to be a part of “normal” and accepted.

However, when “normal” is restrictive, and being accepted into its embrace involves giving up one’s individuality, then not belonging — while it feels painful — is actually the better thing.

Many People Don’t Fit In

Many, many people in the world today feel as if they do not fit in. Some of them realize this; others, in a state of denial, keep subverting who and what they are and submit to the strictures of whatever group plays a major factor in their day. In much the same way we adopted, during our incarceration at public school, particular fashions (remember “Star” jeans? Don’t worry, they’ll be back), certain patterns of speech, make-up options, lifestyle choices and odd hair coiffures, so we find ourselves doing throughout our lives, because we never, in a corporate-based society, get away from the group: it’s at work (“We’re a team!”), in the military, (“We’re a TOUGH team!”), on the news (“We’re a nation, and we have an exciting election coming up!”), and, quite strongly, in church (“We’re a community! In Jesus!”).

Catching the Breeze inspirational original oil painting of woman walking on ocean beach with flowing fabric by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at allposters.com, art.com, amazon.com, framed canvas art, icanvas , Fulcrum Gallery, Prints.com, Poster Hero, Vintage Wall, and Great Big Canvas

Let us walk the path set before each of us, and not look around to see how many surround us. Catching the Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Fulcrum Gallery, iCanvas, Prints.com, and more

This latter area, the religious arena, where we should be the most free to, literally, be the uniquely crafted individuals that God created us to be, is sadly one of the most successfully repressive environments, one in which many people get a regular, multi-weekly dose (kind of like a vaccination schedule) of conformity.

Regulatory Christianity

Be on time. Punctuality is godliness.

Make sure your homework, for Sunday School, is ready. Did you read the passage assigned last week? Did you fill in ALL the workbook blanks?

Listen to your pastor, and submit to the authority of those above you. (Franklin Graham, risingly famous son of the perennially famous Billy, had some chilling things to say about submission to authority — “If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that.” Even more chilling is the number of people who “Liked” this comment on Facebook.)

Stand when you’re told to stand; sit when you’re told to sit; repeat this statement and sing this song. This is called, tellingly, “corporate worship.”

And while we can’t be instructed, directly, for whom to vote, we can be admonished, as Billy Graham tells his acolytes, to “vote for biblical values.”

One can’t help but wonder — which, and whose, particular “biblical values”?

If It Quacks Like a Duck . . . 

Church Christians in the United States, the country in which I live, like to bemoan that they are rejected and spurned by the world, because, like Jesus, they are not of the world — but how?

Many approach a level of consumerism indistinguishable from the average American; they equate material blessing with God’s approval; they believe everything they are told by the “Christian” equivalent of news media jabbering faces; and they’re insanely busy. That much of what they do is church-related is somehow acceptable: we’ve watched families head out for a “Sabbath” afternoon of what plainly looks like work, in between morning service and evening small groups. But as long as those two latter obligations are met, so, apparently, is enjoyed the day of rest.

As Christians, we are called to be members of a body, not a group; we are told to love one another, not promote conformity so we that look, externally, like we unanimously agree; we pursue an individual relationship with Christ, from which point we are then strong enough to join together without being pushed, prodded, nudged, shaped, and adjusted into a building block that fits, quite neatly and tightly, into the hole prepared for it.

Because that, you know, is what it looks like to “fit in.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where it is my profound prayer that God’s people see themselves as salt, an extremely strong and necessary seasoning that isn’t particularly glamorous or plentiful.

Posts complementing this one are

Three “Christian” Teachings That Jesus Didn’t Teach

What Does a Good Boss Look Like? 

Defining Success

This article is linked to A Little R and R, Wake Up Wednesday, Terrific Tuesday, Wednesday Showcase, Jennifer Dawn, Homemaking Link up, Wise Woman, The Mom Club, Intention, Ducks in a Row, While I’m Waiting, Wholehearted Home, Anything Goes, Moonlight and Mason Jars, Pat and Candy, Grandma’s Ideas, Wednesday Round-up, Turn It Up Tuesdays, Tips and Tricks, Titus Tuesdays, Mom Moments, Inspire Me Mondays, My Joy Filled Life, Mom Moments, Meandering Mondays, Mopping the Floor, Moms the Word, This Is How We Roll, Shine, Hearts for Home, Shine On, Thoughtful Thursday, Our Simple Homestead, Daily Cup, Favorite Things, Thriving Thursday, Sincerely Paula, Your Turn, Family Fun Friday, Pretty Pintastic, Grace and Truth, Blog Booster, Home Matters, That Friday Blog Hop, Saturday Link, Friday Flash Blog, Awesome Friday, Freedom Friday, Funtastic Friday

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When Being Frugal Becomes Non-Christian

“A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:38

The last few weeks, I have been itinerantly cleaning the home of a friend’s elderly relative, while that relative is in the hospital. This is the chance of the lifetime, my friend exults, because the elderly relative is determined and self-sufficient (good points) to the point that she refuses assistance or help (not so good — bit of pride there).

Being wise with our money does not necessarily mean being cheap with our money. The Misers, by 17th century Flemish painter David Ryckaert III

Being wise with our money does not necessarily mean being cheap with our money. The Misers, by 17th century Flemish painter David Ryckaert III

Speaking of pride, the elderly relative takes much of it in her frugality, and she is where she is, she repeatedly says, because she’s not a spendthrift.

Be that as it may, it clearly becomes obvious to anyone attempting to clean her house that the reason this has become so difficult is because the broom, which looks like what a witch would ride, consists of a few remaining determined straws; the wash rags have more holes than material; the vacuum’s belt broke years ago; the plastic bucket is cracked at the bottom; and there are absolutely no cleaning materials other than dish washing soap.

And while elbow grease is a great resource, when those elbows get into their later 90s, they don’t work as efficiently as they used to.

Frugal, Not Cheap

I understand frugality. As the mother of four children, managing a single moderate income, I learned from daily experience how to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. But I also recognized the necessity of buying — if it couldn’t be found or made — the right tool for the right job. Expecting someone to create a professional product or put forth a top performance from cobbled together resources is unreasonable. (While The Little House on the Prairie stories are engaging and fun, but they tell stories first, and relate facts second.)

Into You inspirational original oil painting of woman and man on date with red car in front of hotel by Steve Henderson

It is possible to make others feel like a million bucks, without having to spend a million bucks. It’s all in the attitude. Into You, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Frugality, when it is pushed to its extreme, becomes cheapness, and cheapness — which we find in the slavish obedience to the mantra, “Never pay retail!”, or the constant bargaining down (of the small, independent business owner, not the mega corporations) on price, or the paying of teen babysitters at the church half as much as an adult would make (because kids are “learning to give”), or the insistence that others within our responsibility  circles make do on ridiculously, severely limited resources when we have the ability to provide the means they need — does not, in any fashion, represent “good stewardship.”

And yet this form of “good stewardship” is frequently practiced and praised among Christians as pleasing to God. It’s a trap.

Good Stewardship Is “Good”

Years ago, when my husband the Norwegian Artist worked as a graphic designer for a small firm that depended heavily upon religious clients, two sweet little, fluffy white, cold-blooded women repeatedly showed up with jobs “for the church,” strongly expecting that, because the firm owner was Christian, he should cut them a very, very good deal. And while they were unfortunately not alone, among the many religious clients, in this expectation, the contrast of their syrupy exterior with the granite interior was especially memorable.

The better the deal and the deeper the cut, however, the less the firm owner — and his employees — took home, and while the little old ladies expected a top quality product, they were adamant that it be at a low quantity price. One could tell that they took great pride in this good stewardship, along with their regular tithing to the church (which they frequently mentioned as being an obligation of all Christians), and their cheery greetings “in the name of Jesus.”

For some reason, it fell a little flat to my ears.

It is important to remember that, when we talk about good stewardship, it is not to be achieved on the backs of, or by the sacrifices of, others. Also notable is that good stewardship is not something in which we take pride, denoting a deeper faith in Christ.

Good stewards manage their money and resources well, and as Christians, the money and resources we have been given are a means to bless others — all sorts of others. What measure are we using?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage Christians to live our Christianity, as opposed to studying it to death in a weekly small group. If you like what you read, please pass it on through the social media buttons at the bottom of the article.

Posts complementing this one are

Defining Success

Three “Christian” Teachings Jesus Didn’t Teach

None of Our Children Attended Harvard

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Defining Success

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42)

When I was in college, I endured an extremely unhappy and bitter professor who, as far as I can tell, managed to keep his tenured position only because all of his classes were required ones.

Brimming Over inspirational original oil painting of young laughing woman on ocean beach by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at allposters.com, amazon.com, art.com, Framed Canvas Art and Great Big Canvas

A successful person, we infer, should be a joyful one — otherwise, why bother? Brimming Over, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed wall art home decor at AllPosters.com, Art.com, Amazon.com, Framed Canvas Art, and Great Big Canvas

Despite this extra protection from the dean, my unhappy don nearly lost his position — which he denigrated as loathsome and unfit for his ability — when he described the college where he taught as “some half-sassed (racial slur) backwater.”

The woman next to me, a graciously beautiful, compassionate yet tough fighter who, unfortunately for the professor, happened to be of the race he had just slurred, puffed up like wild grouse, erupted from her seat, and within 10 seconds surged from the classroom to the office of the department chair. You could tell, from the professor’s face, that he had just experienced the first perceptive, sapient thought he’d had for a long time — and it wasn’t a pleasant one.


A Failure at Success

Interestingly, while the professor considered his life and career — through no instrument of his own — a failure, from the perspective of an independent college student who worked several jobs to pay the tuition that funded a man like this, he was a material success:

He had a job (yes, he kept it; the dean was a virtuoso at smoothing things over, and the graciously beautiful fighter was, after all, just a student), and it didn’t pay poorly. At all.

He lived in a house that wasn’t split into little apartments, and any roommates he had were relatives.

The Evening Ahead inspirational original oil painting of lovely young woman preparing for a date by Steve Henderson

Nice clothes, good food — these are to be enjoyed, not used as standards to judge our, or anyone else’s, lives. The Evening Ahead, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Weekends, afternoons, and evening were free, because he was not required to spend hours doing the homework that he piled upon his pupils — homework he cursorily skimmed before scrawling a grade across the top.

But according to his definition of success — which included tenure at an Ivy League college and much, much more money and prestige than he felt he presently enjoyed — he was a failure.

Corporate Culture

Success is a serious issue in the United States, the country in which I live, and indeed, in any culture that is driven by corporate thought and group-speak. And while this is no surprise, it is a distinct challenge for the Christians who live within these cultures.

“Different people define success different ways,” we are told. “We mustn’t judge them harshly.”

I don’t, actually — observing the intricacies and difficulties of a situation does not automatically connote judgment — and what I observe is that many, many Christians, who say they want to know and love and follow and learn from Jesus, firmly associate, to their emotional detriment, material wealth with God’s blessing.

“God promises,” they insist, “that when we seek His kingdom, all the blessings will follow,” in an interesting twist on Luke 12:31.

There are two problems with this interpretation:

First, we never get serious about seeking His kingdom — First.

And second, those things that will be given to us as well are the basics of what we eat, and drink, and wear. There is no assurance that the food be haute cuisine, the drink cost $200 a bottle, and the clothing carry labels of Versace, Dior, or Armani. Neither is there an understanding that possession of any of these, or similar high grade items, implies passing, with flying colors, a litmus test of how much we trust Jesus. (This might be a good time to point out, as well, that for many people of the world — seeking God’s kingdom is interlaced with severe deprivation in what they do, or frequently don’t, eat, drink, or wear. Are they lesser, somehow, than those of us with more?)

There’s nothing wrong with wanting good food to eat, a pleasant home in which to live, and nice clothes — indeed, these are all possessions the professor in this story enjoyed.

But when we judge ourselves — and our success — by things, we quickly discover that those things are never enough, and like our unfortunate professor, lapse into despondency because we are — according to the definition we have created — failures.

Yes, different people have different definitions of success, but oddly, so many people’s definitions conform with attention to materialism, money, position, and prestige that we have to ask: where are we getting this definition from? Did we come up with it ourselves, or is it — subtly yet firmly — foisted upon our consciousness by external forces?

Maybe it’s time to analyze, ponder, question, and reevaluate our definition of success.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage Christians to examine what we are told — which influences what we believe — and follow it to its source.

Posts complementing this one are

Three “Christian” Teachings Jesus Didn’t Teach

None of Our Children Attended Harvard

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