Arizona Memories

The story of the painting, Arizona Memories, by Steve Henderson at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Childhood memories are ethereal, and while firmly and solidly entrenched in the mind of the person who lived them, they are difficult to communicate, visually, to others.

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

Fine art paintings take memories and make them tangible, so that others can feel and enjoy them as well. Arizona Memories, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

So it was an intriguing challenge for Steve when a family group approached him to create a painting based upon collective memories that ranged from 50 years ago and beyond. Central to the memories was a place — a house and ranch that no longer existed — and the warm, engaging, and unique grandparents (or parents, depending upon the family member) around whom that Arizona home revolved.

There was little to go upon but a handful of black and white photographs, and vivid verbal descriptions of the time, the place, and the people.

And so the painting, Arizona Memories, was born — its nascence established long before canvas was stretched or paint set upon the palette, as Steve sketched out houses, horses, and a barn, moving them this way and that as those who saw so vividly in their mind what they wanted to see on canvas, elucidated their remembrances, “The driveway was dusty, remember? Wasn’t the house a bit more pinkish in tones? What kinds of flowers did Grandma grow? And remember Grandpa’s hat?”

Bit by bit the reference solidified, as the people, the horses, the house, and the land emerged from memory into visual reality. And after many, many hours of sketching, drawing, interviewing, checking, re-checking, confirming, changing, adjusting, and asking questions, it was finally time to set the canvas on the easel, choose the pigments, and pick up the brush.

Stroke by stroke the painting emerged. Four people from the past — some still here, but older; others gone, but never forgotten — materialized into the present, and memories that danced within the mind, sometimes near, other times elusive, now find life in a painting.

See more of Steve’s original paintings and licensed wall art home decor at Steve Henderson Fine Art. Subscribe to Steve’s free email newsletter to keep up on what is going on at the studio, and to see new works as they are featured.

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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“I Like to Sleep in on Sunday!”

If you want to get into a brisk, quickly-degenerating-into-anger, discussion, announce to a fundamentally Christian religious group at large,

“I like to sleep in on Sunday!

Catching the Breeze inspirational original oil painting of woman walking on ocean beach by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, Art.com, AllPosters.com, and Amazon.com

The Sabbath rest — regardless of what day we get to enjoy it on — is a time of peace, reflection, and rest — both mental and physical. It’s supposed to be a gift, not a burden. Catching the Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed home wall art decor at Great Big Canvas, Amazon, Art. com, Allposters, Framed Canvas Art and iCanvas.

“God calls it a day of rest — and that’s what I do. I rest!”

Perhaps, like me, you lost something in the translation, but nowhere in the Bible do we find,

“Thou shalt attend worship service — and Sunday School — on the Sabbath.”

But then again, the Sabbath has always been a point of contention, starting with the actual day on which it is celebrated (although this is an inaccurate term in the light of the way that many people spend the day), and continuing on with what one can, and cannot, do.

This latter issue is one that Jesus, who was instrumental in creating the Sabbath in the first place, got into trouble about all the time. Mark 3 records one case out of many in which Jesus walks into the synagogue on the Sabbath, encounters a sick or hurting person, and heals them.

“Some of (the religious leaders) were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal (the man) on the Sabbath.

“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save the life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.” (2,4)

Not surprisingly, Jesus in His compassion healed the man. Also not surprisingly, the religious leaders in their following of a father different from the one Jesus talked about, condemned the action. True to the ways and intent of the children of men, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’s day had all sorts of rules and regulations concerning what God meant when He said in Exodus 20:8-10,

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”

How far could one walk before it became “work”? And if one were carrying something, how much could it weigh before it became a “load” and therefore “work”?

Such were the issues upon which the great men of theological thought bent their mental energy, and as they determined, so also were the people expected to obey. And while we can laugh today at the legalistic inflexibility of their obsessiveness, can we, really?

Because today, on Sunday (or Saturday, for some), it is an expectation that on this day of rest, one must arise and eat quickly, get the entire household dressed nicely, and sail forth toward church service (in a good mood) as a means of fulfilling the obligations of the Sabbath. This, we insist, is what it means to keep the day holy. This is the fulfillment of the Sabbath.

But in point of fact, what is the “obligation” of the day, which was set up before any law, before any 10 commandments, before any temple or sanctuary or church service?

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

God, who is perfect, quite frankly does not need to rest — not the way we do — but in doing so, in setting aside one day out of seven as special and holy and blessed, He gave us a gift that many of us never use the way the Giver intended:

We are to rest.

Maybe we’ll go to church, and afterwards eat out at a restaurant — but if we do so, and we look down upon the waitress because she’s working and she “shouldn’t” be, are we quite possibly missing the whole point of the day?

And then maybe after we leave the restaurant (and a decent tip, one hopes) we head to the grocery store to buy snacks for our evening Bible study, and while we’re being checked out, we look at the checker (who should have been in church!) and say, “After work, why don’t you drop by our small group — because this is the Sabbath, you know, and God tells us we are to honor it,” are we, again, limiting ourselves and God by misinterpreting His intent?

If we, through the blessing of our particular job situation, are able to take the day off — to rest — it can hardly be pleasing to God if we judge others who are not able to have the day off, but would welcome a rest, if the schedule and their income permitted it.

Because that’s what the Sabbath is — a gift given to mankind — an encouragement to the children of men to take one day off, and give that day off to their manservants and maidservants (today we call them “employees”) and not spend our entire life, and seven days a week, focused upon making money.

The Sabbath is not about attending church, it is not about singing songs, it is not about looking down upon people who by choice or necessity are not sitting in the pews next to us –and although there is nothing wrong about attending church on the Sabbath, it is not ultimate intent of the day. The Sabbath is about resting, and being grateful for that rest.

Perhaps our prayer should be, not that everyone come to church on the Sabbath, but that everyone be able to enjoy, one day a week, a healing rest from our labors, a gift from our Father and God.

Please read more on this topic at my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, How Do You Spend Your Sundays?

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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Fomenting Hate Divides Us — and Divided, We Are Weak

“From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:52)

I was chatting with a Millennial the other day. Millennials, if you haven’t noticed, are popular in corporatized America. This group of people — loosely defined as being born between the 1980s and the early 2000s, eclipses the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), because we’re getting older now, and not spending as lavishly.

Incandescence inspirational original oil painting by Steve Henderson

A good fence requires individual fence posts, standing tall together. Incandescence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold

Boomers are also being dropped by corporate America because some of us, after learning about life during our impressionable years through the Andy Griffith Show, The Partridge Family, and One Day at a Time, have started to realize that what we see on TV and movies is . . . make believe, and life doesn’t resemble, at all, the perception-shaping world of Hollywood. Slowly, incrementally, but doggedly, we’re waking up.

Some of us, that is. Many remain asleep, content in thinking that things are fine, because the pension check arrived on time (Millennials — don’t hold out any hope, unless you secure a government job with benefits), and life is just like it was during Leave It to Beaver days. If the Millennials can’t get a decent paying job, it’s because they’re lazy, and they wear inappropriate clothes, and they talk back to adults in a manner that we Boomers, raised by members of the Greatest Generation (those who survived World War II and are glorified in cinema) would never have dared.

It’s a generation gap, we say, but like all divisions — political, religious, gender, racial — it’s tenuous, and maintaining the distance, distrust, and tension requires a lot of work on the part of people who make it their place to shape the attitude of a nation. To keep up divisions requires emphasizing our differences — one of my favorite Facebook memes to hate is the one that says, “If I ever spoke to my dad the way kids do today, I would have been slapped across the room,” as if

1) being slapped across a room is a good thing

and

2) we had nothing to do with raising the kids of today,

but it’s remarkably effective in strengthening an existing Us vs. Them relationship, Us Older Ones (but we still look and dress young!) vs. Those Immature Shallow Things.

Divisions between people exist — and indeed, some should not be torn down. Embracing, enabling, and empowering evil people whose primary goal is to play god, control others, and grab a far bigger piece of pie than they could ever eat, is not wise, but we continue to genuflect before them.

When Jesus told His listeners, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division,” (Luke 12:51), He was not fomenting hatred based upon skin color, “lifestyle choices,” or even religious ablutions (all distractions), but stating that, when you take a stand for goodness, fairness, compassion for the weak, humility, and true justice, you engender the hatred of those who do not want, or value those things.

 

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Sailboat Thoughts for Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day — make it more than a day.

Maybe you own a sailboat, and maybe you don’t.

But the beauty of the human imagination — and fine art — is that we are free in our minds to sail where we will, and throughout our lives, our dreams propel us forward.

Golden Opportunity inspirational original oil painting by of sunset journey on Puget Sound near Port Townsend by Steve Henderson

Golden Opportunity by Steve Henderson

Autumn Sail inspirational original oil painting of sailboat on columbia river gorge between washington and oregon

Autumn Sail by Steve Henderson

Al Fresco inspirational original oil painting of sailboat on ocean sea by steve henderson

Al Fresco by Steve Henderson

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Love, from Paris

The story of the painting Love, from Paris by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

There’s something about Paris, France that is timeless in its sense of vogue.

Love from Paris inspirational original oil painting of vogue 1940s 1950s nostalgia woman by Eiffel Tower in France by Steve Henderson

Love, from Paris , original oil painting by Steve Henderson; open edition prints also available

And there’s something, as well, about the sophisticated classiness of the 1940s and 1950s. The combination of the two leads to a sense of adventure and excitement as the viewer, whether she has a little black dress or not, and whether she is she or he is he, stands with our modish model near one of the most iconic travel locations of all, the Eiffel Tower.

As one Facebook fan put it, “This reminds me of the style of the Cunard travel posters from the 40s and 50s.”

Good art takes people places.

Love, from Paris, is available as an original oil painting. We also have six open edition prints for sale through the website.

Complementing Love, from Paris is Hello New York, as both an original oil painting and prints.

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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Pretending to Be God

There is a fine line between trusting God for the future and getting out there and working to make it happen. I am reminded of a couple I knew whose constant prayer was,

“Oh, God — solve this problem!” and their only activity in participating in the solution was to anxiously wait, wring their hands, and hint to others around them that the problem (it generally involved money) existed.

Mountain Lake inspirational original oil painting of alpine wilderness by Steve Henderson

Considering that God made the mountains, He’s perfectly able to work with us on the mountains in our own lives. Mountain Lake, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold

After enough hints and enough time, someone was sure to produce a check, at which point the couple said, “Praise Jesus! He sent us the money!” And then they were fine until the next large bill arrived.

This attitude of victimized helplessness, which looks like it is dependent upon the strength and mercy of God, is self-deceptively damaging, not only to the couple — who are fooling themselves into thinking that they are relying upon God — but also to their testimony of God’s goodness to those around them. Depending upon God to meet our needs, it seems, is a crapshoot, and if He’s in the mood to help, He will, and if He is not, He won’t, and there’s not a thing we can do about it but fret.

(Which contradicts Christ’s encouragement to us in Matthew 6:31-32, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” )

On the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum are those who figure God has relatively nothing to do with life — theirs or anybody’s else’s — and if anything is going to get done, then they’re going to have to do it. In others words, God helps those who helps themselves, an unfeelingly harsh dictum that quite fortunately, is not in the Bible at all.

But you wouldn’t know this by listening to the advice you are given, ranging from watered-down platitudes,

“You need to work on your faith (did you notice the word, “work”?) or God won’t answer your prayers,”

to the siren call of prosperity preachers, whose message is indistinguishable from Get Rich Quick business seminar speakers,

“BELIEVE! Your thoughts are powerful, and when you focus them on your goal, you will RECEIVE whatever you are asking for.”

To be fair, the prospero-preachers incorporate God into their sermons and writings, but only so much as He falls into their plans and does what His children demand that He do. Apparently, it is our belief in what we want, as opposed to our belief in the Person who gives us life, that has the power. And God is good with that.

But anyone who reads the Bible as a whole, with the idea of learning more about God, rather than carefully selecting (and twisting) verses to encourage people to aggressively pursue one of the major elements — mammon — that Jesus identified as a potential problem when we worship it, will get a different idea of how our Father works.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21 tells us, an echo of 16:9 that says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

So while we can think and believe and declare and aver and dictate all we want, God does have some say in the final result. And His thoughts, when they’re different from our thoughts, do not bow down in deference to ours.

But let’s say that we’re not fooled by the prosperity preachers and, quite sensibly, keep the TV turned off most of our life and don’t listen to those particular voices. It is still easy to absorb the import of their message, which, specifically is,

“You’ve got to do this yourself. God doesn’t expect you to just sit back and eat snack chips while He fixes all your problems.”

And that’s sort of kind of true — like most lies, it has that element of truth in it — because as we saw with our couple at the beginning, throwing our hands up in consternation and then sitting on them while we do precisely nothing, is no more trusting God than is wrenching everything from His hands.

But the fruit of this lie — that we’d better get thinking, and scheming, and conniving, and designing — is bitter, setting a heavy weight upon our heart that nothing, absolutely NOTHING, will happen until we make it do so. It is at this point that we frequently describe ourselves as overwhelmed, and this is a good indication that we need to REST.

No, not to sit on our hands. But yes, to close our eyes and pray,

“This is too big for me, God. I’m standing in front of a brick wall that is so high I can’t climb it, so broad I can’t get around it, and so thick that I can’t get through it. I need a door, but I can’t see one.”

And herein we find the answer, again, in Proverbs:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (3:5-6)

We need to get off of our hands, but out of God’s way. Perhaps it’s not so much the fine line I mentioned at the beginning of this article as it is a perfect blend.

Our loving Father, and His trusting children.

For more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article, If I Were Taller, I’d Look Thinner — and Other Bible Truths.

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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Why It’s Important for Christians to READ

Our little library is literally just that — quite little — but it has a generous attitude toward ordering inter-library loan books for patrons, and our family must use up a good portion of their budget each year.

Provincial Afternoon inspirational original oil painting of two girls in French meadow reading by Steve Henderson

Reading is a gift, and those of us fortunate enough to have received it sometimes forget how valuable it is. Provincial Afternoon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

We read about nutrition, genetic modification of our food supply, the corporatization of our society, history, and a lot of theology — many of these being books that are not mainstream thought, but which (unlike many mainstream books) actually provoke the reader to thought.

Most of it is not quick, easy reading, but then again, the asking of questions and seeking out thoughtful, intelligent answers is not necessarily quick fare. This is not to say that quick fare is bad; I love an Agatha Christie mystery and have spent the last few weeks absorbing myself in the Dame’s world.

But quick fare, like quick food, isn’t something to which we should limit ourselves, which, we unfortunately do. Our TV shows, even the “news” and “commentary,” are divergent from provoking the viewers to analysis, and any movie attentive to reflective contemplation that can make it out of a prominent film production company generally languishes, barely breathing, in the theaters.

We don’t want thought; we want action and snack chips. Like bread. And circuses.

It is for this reason that I am grateful to Jane Austen, an author whose command of the English language and ability to convey nuances of meaning in her prose is so at variance with the latest sado-masochistic, dystopian fairy tale of wizardry and and vampire romance simultaneously targeted at 15-year-old adolescents and 45-year-old women.

Austen’s complexity and depth is also disparate to much of what we call “Christian” fare, which as far as I can tell has the words Jesus in it somewhere, whether it’s an affectedly shallow romance knock-off (“He kissed her gently and murmured, ‘Praise the Lord how Jesus has brought us together,'”) or a one-sided political diatribe thinly veneered by Bible verses that not so subtly instructs its reader how to think (“Hate these people. Worship those.”)

Not so long ago, I was chastised by a reader for what he considered snobbery on my part about people’s reading abilities; my article had to do with poorly written, pretentious “Christian” fare that was sold more on the basis of the writer’s name than the content of his (and his obscurely unreknowned “co-author” whose name was much smaller but who was probably responsible for most of the actual work) book.

“Are you criticizing people because they don’t have a high enough reading ability?” he wanted to know.

No, I’m not.

I’m criticizing people who do have a high enough reading ability to pick up, now and then, literature written above the fifth grade level, but never do.

I am concerned about those literate Christians — who belong to our Father and are charged with the joyous message of telling others about Him — who consider the Bible itself beyond their ability to analyze, comprehend, study, and read, and thereby rely upon pap fare — the kind with the author’s name larger than the title — to interpret deep, significant truths that they will never discover for themselves because they’re not looking to do so.

I agonize, and pray for, people who cannot read, or read well, because I know that those in power use this as a weapon against them — it’s hard to argue against someone when you can’t find, understand, and use resources to counter their claims.

And for this reason I call out to those who do have the ability to read, and read things much more difficult than what they generally do, but refuse to do so. The dumbing down of our society has not happened, and does not continue to happen, without the complicity of many of its members who should know better.

The ability of prominent voices — in the “sciences” especially, and the atheist camp — to make sweeping announcements of what constitutes truth, and how society should bend itself to it, is able to assert itself so strongly because Christians — who are to seek and follow truth — lack the confidence, or the knowledge, to counter speak — because they don’t read.

Reading is a precious gift, my friends, and unlike watching television, it does not involve the glazing over of one’s eyes, the drastic reduction of one’s metabolism, the apathetic propensity to just absorb what we are seeing and hearing. (If this sounds like hypnosis, well, maybe it is. Natural News has an interesting article on the subject.)

As with any gift, reading is meant to be used — with joy, anticipation, wisdom, and regularity — as a means of saying thanks to the Giver.

“Fix these words of minds in your hearts and minds,” God says in Deuteronomy 11:18. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

We don’t have to do a small-group Bible study on sticking verses on Post-It notes throughout our household; we just have to pick up the book and read.

And from there, as we realize that the Bible really isn’t beyond the ability of a reasonably competent reader (which, one assumes, should be the status of those who have made it through our public school system, and certainly those with post-secondary degrees), we can keep reading — other books, on different topics, by various authors whether we agree with them or not — gaining knowledge and wisdom and discernment, so that we can counteract, with confidence and ability, the voices of non-reason that rule our world.

Please read more on this topic at my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Christian Sheep: We Can Learn from Goats.

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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What Richard Dawkins Teaches Us about God

Many Christians get angry at prominent atheist Richard Dawkins because he speaks out so forcibly against Christianity, God, and the Bible.

It’s silly, really, to get angry at such an angry man, one whose bias against God is so strong, and his business of decrying Him so fruitful, that he has little worldly to gain by even contemplating the changing of his mind.

Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains inspirational original oil painting of deer eating grass in meadow by Steve Henderson

We can learn about God from many resources — His created world, for example — and even from the words of those who disbelieve Him. Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Atheists don’t believe in God. Why should that surprise us?

One of my favorite quotes by Dawkins, from his book The God Delusion, is ironically vitriolic:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

One can’t help but admire the sheer opulent fulsomeness of written elocution, and the point is most definitely made. This man really loathes the God he doesn’t believe in.

But there is something to be learned in Dawkins’ diatribe, and that it is embedded in a book entitled The God Delusion is especially apt:

We Christians, who know, believe in, follow, read about, seek, and say that we love God, don’t necessarily disagree with Dawkins’ assessment, although we tend to phrase it more mildly:

“I don’t like reading the Old Testament. God seems so angry somehow,”

or

“The Old Testament tells about God’s law, but the New Testament tells of His love,” as if the two were mutually exclusive.

Many Christians spend so little time in the Old Testament — because they’re afraid of it and what people like Dawkins say about it (we really need to read it more than he does, which shouldn’t be too difficult) — that they’re pretty clueless as to what it says at all.

In other words, we have a deluded idea about God, much like Dawkins does.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1:5 tells us, but do we believe it?

Before you automatically answer “Yes,” because you’re supposed to, stop for a moment and reflect:

Have you ever felt that God is far from you, and not attendant to your prayers?

The Psalmist did when in 44:24 he cried out, “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?”

And in 88:14: “Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”

And 10:1: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

And yet when we venture to express concern that God isn’t listening to us, because we have prayed so long and so hard and nothing is happening, we tend to get scolded for our lack of faith. This is generally enough to shut us up, but what is most unfortunate is that it shuts us up from telling our feelings and hurts and anxieties and doubts to the one person who really wants to hear them — and help us do something about them:

God.

“Having loved his own who were in the world, (Jesus) now showed them the full extent of his love,” John 13:1 introduces a long section in which Jesus washes His disciples feet, assures them that He won’t leave them (and us) orphans, and reiterates the Father’s love for His children.

And therein, in that last aspect, is where we ought to differ from Dawkins: we must (not because God will get mad at us if we don’t, but because we’ll never truly know and trust Him until we do) seek to make the knowledge and confidence of His unconditional love for us, our priority.

In other words, we approach God, and life, with the attitude that our Father is all loving, merciful, gracious, and kind, and when issues arise that make us wonder, we give Him the benefit of the doubt and say,

“I don’t know why God did or said this, but I’ll ask Him. And I’ll research and read about it, and gain more understanding of both the Old and New Testaments, so that I’m not so easily knocked off my feet.”

Now Dawkins, and those who admire and emulate him, do scoff at the attitude of embracing the goodness of God, but in the end, it’s all a matter of world view:

One can choose, like Dawkins does, to see God (in whom he doesn’t believe) as all bad and the belief in Him as the source of all human problems. One can then look to mankind, with its sterling history of generosity, grace, and goodness to all, as the means to human happiness and welfare.

Or one can choose to not mimic — in a watered down fashion — those who distrust God. This involves, first, allowing ourselves to freely admit that, as humans, we have a propensity toward this attitude (think Eve, and her readiness to believe the serpent’s misinterpretation of God). Second, we take that admission to God — without fear or quaking — and let Him direct us, because that’s what He promises to do.

To read more on this matter, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, It’s a Secret, but Many Christians Do Distrust God. And an excellent book on the God of the Old Testament is Iain Provan’s Seriously Dangerous Religion.

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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“Why Do You Keep Doing Things That Hurt You?”

It’s amazing how often we don’t listen to our friends and family who have some fairly intelligent things to say.

White on White inspirational original oil painting of flowers in a vase in neutral setting by Steve Henderson

Our inner self is like a flower — beautiful, resilient, yet vulnerable to being bruised. Human beings need to be treated with gentleness. White on White, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

(The inverse of this is that we pay undue attention to others who frequently don’t care about us at all or actively dislike us. We embrace their barbs, close to the heart where they scratch, and define ourselves by the opinions of disinterested strangers or active enemies. Don’t believe me? Talk to someone from middle school for ten minutes and see whose opinions have the most effect upon their self-worth.)

I’ll never forget the conversation we had with a family friend, who was visiting as a house guest for a few days. We were regaling her with what we thought at the time were amusing stories about the church we were then attending — or, not attending, because its actions were irritating us to the point that we enjoyed our time away far more than we did our penance in the pews.

“Why do you keep going? What are you getting out of it?” she asked. “This sounds like an abusive situation.”

That word “abusive” stopped us short, and we exerted ourselves to explain that while, yes, the leadership was controlling and distant, and no, we really didn’t feel of any value in the congregation, it wasn’t abusive, really. Actually, it was probably our lack of charitable thought that made us overreact. We should be more patient.

“Maybe so,” she replied with a smile, “but going there doesn’t seem to make you very happy.”

Her words stayed with us long after the visit, encompassing an increasing number of Sundays when we found something else to do with our time, but still interspersed with sporadic church attendance because, you see, we Christians define our spirituality by that church attendance.

(This is not untoward. The Barna Group, which describes itself as “the leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture,” defined a practicing Christian, for poll purposes, as one who attends church at least once a month and says that his or her religion is very important in their lives.)

“If you really love God,” we’re told, “you’ll want to be with God’s people.

“And no church is perfect.

“We show the world that we love God by being patient with the things we don’t like, and not hyperfocusing on them. It’s not all about you, you know. We are a community.

“You need to give more in your spirit — flex and obey!”

There. Did I cover it all?

As time went by, and the little irritating quirks — increasingly introduced by a leadership team focused upon corporate growth philosophy and methods — kept piling on, we heard our friend’s question over and over:

“Why do you keep going? What are you getting out of it?”

And the answers that made the most sense were,

“We don’t know,”

and,

“Very little.”

And increasingly, we stayed away.

Our leisurely Sunday morning breakfasts replaced the hurried fellowship before the song worship service; random evenings with friends fulfilled our aching need to laugh and love and interact; long walks and discussion stimulated intellectual and spiritual thought; reading Scripture for ourselves — and debating it over the dinner table — sharpened our swords.

We found, to our surprise and quite without any intention, that we had replaced a bad situation for a good, and we were happy with what we were doing.

And we also found, not at all to our surprise, that many people who were not our friends and had no personal interest in our lives or family, were irritated by this, and called into question our Christianity because we no longer participated in what, for us, didn’t work.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth,” 1 John 3:18 tells us, and for the first time in a long time, this was making sense, because we were interacting with humans — those who called Christ their brother as well as those who didn’t — and had time to love and laugh and argue and listen.

I think it’s called fellowship.

“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.”

No longer did we accept the subtle, and not so subtle, condemnation of a narrow way of looking at things, a way that begins and ends its definition of a person’s spirituality by easily defined outward actions.

We answered two questions, ones that we were asking within our hearts for a long time, but never admitted, outwardly, to having until a family friend — who DID care about us as people — asked them:

“Why do you keep going? What do you get out of it?”

To read more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Abusive 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

This article is linked to Imparting GraceI Choose JoyMisadventuresWoman to WomanSoul SurvivalWholehearted HomeIntentionMy Joy Filled Life, A Little R and RGive Me GraceGrowing in GraceThe Life of Jennifer DawnMoms the WordHomemakingTime Warp WifeWise WomanRoses of InspirationWednesday LinkSo Much at Home, Thriving on ThursdaysHomemaking ArtEmbracingChristian Mom BloggerLook at the BookSimple MomentsMissional WomanRebeccaArabah JoyFriendship FridaySincerely Paula

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Just How Equal Are We in Our Society?

I live in a theoretically egalitarian society.

I say theoretically because, although the Declaration of Independence which we, in my country, purport to honor, accept, and abide by (along with the Constitution of the United States) avers that “all men are created equal,” there’s difficulty in the very wording at the beginning:

Evening Waltz inspirational original oil painting of young couple dancing on ocean beach by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and amazon.com

Life is a dance, and we do it most gracefully when we honor all those who dance it with us. Evening Waltz, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.

Even Thomas Jefferson, in his forthright way, didn’t accept that women, or people of color, or non-land-owners fit into this “equal status.” Nowadays, of course, we hem and haw and say how things have changed and congratulate ourselves on being so much more advanced in a societally evolutionary state, but we, too, operate under our own set of peculiar standards and filter people through a sieve of our own making.

Every day, no matter how culturally sensitive we assure ourselves of being, we look at others and make judgments on how hard they work, by what kind of car they drive; or how intelligent they are, by the title of their job; or how worthy they are of existing at all, by whether or not they happen to reside inside a woman’s womb.

One way or another, we have a lamentable tendency of categorizing other human beings, assigning a mental value number to their lives, and justifying, all to frequently, a subtly different way of treating them based upon their income, education, appearance, or groups to which they belong.

“Well of course the President of the United States, or a Congressman, deserves our respect!” we are told.

Of course they do — and so does the woman who waitresses their table, or the man who mows their lawn, but for some reason we’re not expected to snap to attention when either one of those people walk into the room.

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism,” James says in the book by his name, 2:1. He goes on to explain:

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there” or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

You bet we have, and we do it all the time. But such is the way of the world, and that is the point: in the world of men, the value of a man — or a woman, or a child, born or unborn — is significantly related to how much money he makes, how much power she holds, and how readily one recognizes his or her name, and for those who score high in these three areas, there is much glory and honor to be received from other men.

“But you are not to be like that,” Christ tells his disciples — us — in Luke 22:26. “Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

Our value, as humans, is not what we do, how much we make doing it, or whom we know, but rather, in who we are. And who we are, when we are Christians, are sons and daughters of God. There is no higher title than this.

God, unlike man, shows no favoritism, something Christians really need to get through our heads because there is a pervasive, and perverse, tendency to believe that we quite reasonably have what we have because we are so righteous, and thereby blessed by God. (Have you ever heard that tiresome dictum, “The U.S. has been blessed by God because it is a Christian nation?”)

While it is true that there are many promises blessing the man or woman who fears the Lord, and prosperity advocates point loudly to verses like Psalm 112:3 — “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever,”

we would do well to remember that truth is three-dimensional, and as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount addresses in Matthew 5, God’s ideas of blessings do not incontrovertibly include money. Jesus singles out the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, those who seek God, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and the persecuted and He calls them blessed.

Quite frankly, these blessed people do not resemble  the smug, self-satisfied, opulent “successful” people who attribute their lifestyle to their superior sense of Christianity. Some of these people have had the effrontery to look down upon their brothers and sisters of more humble station, and attribute that poverty to laziness, sleeping in too late, watching the wrong movies, and just a general sense of being “wrong.”

“If they were truly following God,” they sniff, “they would be where I am.”

I’m not sure that’s such a good place to be.

Where we are, and where we find our value as human beings, is in our position as God’s children, no longer slaves (or undervalued employees), but sons or daughters; and within that position, heirs with our Eldest Brother, Jesus Christ. (Galatians 4:7)

To read more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Are You Ashamed of Your Job Title?

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

This article is linked to Imparting Grace, I Choose Joy, Misadventures, Woman to Woman, Soul Survival, Wholehearted Home, Intention, My Joy Filled Life, Shine, A Little R and R, Give Me Grace, Growing in Grace, The Life of Jennifer Dawn, Moms the Word, Homemaking. Time Warp Wife, Wise Woman, Roses of Inspiration, Wednesday Link, So Much at Home, Homeacre Hop, Thriving on Thursdays, Homemaking Art, Embracing, Christian Mom Blogger, Look at the Book, Simple Moments, Missional Woman, Rebecca, Arabah Joy, Friendship Friday, Sincerely Paula

 

 

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