Is Anyone Interested in a Little Privacy?

Mother’s Day was brutal.

Not because it was a bad one at our house — it was wonderful, filled with warmth and family and love, elements that make every day, and every holiday, special.

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The most intimate moments of our life remain special because we share them with few, but very beloved, people. Queen Anne’s Lace, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

No, it was the posts streaming through my Facebook feed, of some (not all) mothers desperately sharing EVERYTHING their children did for them that day, from the pedicures to the mimosas to the shopping to the hugs and kisses and squeezes and snuggles.

Now while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these wonderful events, and we understandably want to rejoice in them and share that rejoicing, what’s sad is that I — a relative stranger to most of the people who posted them (not an odd situation on Facebook, incidentally) — heard and saw it all, as if I had been there. Special times with loved ones are just that — extremely special, very personal, highly intimate — and while Facebook and other social media are ready and willing to help us disclose as many elements of our personal lives as we’re willing to put out there, I can’t help but wonder: aren’t there some moments that are so beautiful, so precious, so close to the people involved, that it’s worth not announcing them to the world of social media acquaintances?

Is there anything wrong, and possibly something wise, about keeping some information to ourselves, secure in the knowledge that we are loved, treasured, liked, and valued — regardless of how many Likes we get on a post?

Obviously, based upon the stream of posts, not everyone sees things that way, and the accusation that I am being a grump won’t surprise me. But there’s also this: the information, the photos, the memories, the images, the personal data, go out far, far beyond the limited circle of people we are comfortable interacting with face to face, and if we wouldn’t announce to the shoppers at Walmart, “My little toe is bigger than the one next to it — and my family thinks that’s really funny!” then why do we tell that to strangers?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where it is my hope that every person reading this has at least one person in their life who thinks they’re terrific, and does not need to fish for approval from acquaintances like me. Memories with family and friends are treasures worth keeping safe and in a quiet place.

Posts that (loosely) complement this one are

Saying Grace in Public Places

Who Cares Who You Voted For — Whom Do You Love?

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Mind Control: The More You Read and Question, the Less It Happens

It’s easier to sit through a mindless movie than slog through a bad book.

After all, most movies and TV shows demand little active brain involvement, so it’s possible (desirable, actually, from the perspective of the Media Myth Makers) to slump on the sofa, eyes glazed, hands reaching for the chips.

afternoon reading book woman park quiet relaxing me time

A good book, and a quiet, peaceful afternoon in which to read it — this is one of life’s simple, meaningful pleasures. Afternoon with a Book, affordable fine art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

But books, even bad ones, require some thought, and for those who read — and read often — they develop a desire for mentally stimulating fare, content that  encourages them to ponder what they’re absorbing and, eventually, question everything they are told.

Obviously, there are poorly written books (a lot of them!), and if one limits oneself to vampire chronicles, political rantings by talking heads, and “clean fiction” in which the raciest scene involves the man murmuring to the woman, “I love you with the sweet hope of Jesus,” as he brushes his lips across her hair, then there will be little demand for the mind to engage in what it was meant to do best: think, ponder, question, wonder, analyze, argue, critique, and create.

But even shallow books are better than movie media, because they depend upon words alone, as opposed to emotional music and camera trickery that gently mold the viewer’s thoughts into what the Myth Maker wants them to see and believe. Visual stimulation is powerful, which may be one reason why representational artwork — that which actually looks like something and connects to the viewer’s experience and psyche — is tossed to the side in favor of pop art and shapes and color that match the rug, and nothing more.

Time with a book is time alone, time in a state of quiet and tranquility, time away from white noise, phone buzzing, really bad YouTube videos, and constant movie myth demands to accept this opinion, buy that car, dress this way, fear this potential action, hate that group of people, and feel bad if your body doesn’t look like that one’s.

And for some reason, in today’s U.S. corporately controlled society, being alone is considered a bad, bad thing. Is it, possibly, because when we are alone, we’re better able to think?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. The image above, Afternoon with a Book, by Steve Henderson, captures a moment of perfect contentment when the day is warm, the surroundings are peaceful, and the book is really good!

Posts complementing this one are

Why It’s Important for Christians to READ

Feel Like a Loser? You’re on Facebook Too Much

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Skip the Trends and Be Yourself

For a nation that considers itself filled with maverick individuals, the U.S.A. is  increasingly a land of followers: we follow the leader, we follow fashions, we follow The Influencers, we follow trends. And in doing so — coolly repeating lines from TV characters as if we thought them up ourselves — we are turning into a very boring, squishily malleable, easily influenced populace.

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There is remarkable freedom in thinking for, and being, ourselves. But you won’t learn how to do this in a crowd. Spirit of the Canyon, art print at Steve Henderson Collections.

I thought of this the other day when I was buying glasses.

“Oh, these are trendy!” the saleswoman told me, pointing to a wall of thick-rimmed, black plastic atrocities that looked like what Clark Kent wears before he turns into Superman. (See? I can’t even dredge up a simile that isn’t linked to pop culture.)

“I wore a pair of those when I was 9-years-old,” I told her. “So did everyone. It was the trend in the 1970s.”

“But it’s the new trend now!”

Well, it is for the next six months or so, until at some point, when major players in movies and media shows switch back to cat-eyed glasses, or little round John Denver specs, or rectangular slits with jewels on top, the trend will change. And . . . people will follow.

So trained are we that the only opinions that matter are those promulgated by faces and names we recognize, that we discount our own thoughts, our own likes, our own desires, our own ideas. And if we are enough immersed in popular culture, we may not even know what we think, like, desire, and dream. But we can repeat the words of The Influencers. (By the way, that term — Influencers — is Orwellian in accuracy: they don’t teach, they don’t philosophize, they don’t empathize, they don’t care: they influence. Do we seriously want to be influenced by people we know nothing about other than what they tell us?)

Skipping the trends is not easy when they’re all you see on Facebook and in the box stores, but it’s not impossible. Thinking for ourselves has always been a matter of stepping away from the crowds, immersing ourselves in silence, and identifying the box we’re being shoved into so that we can step out of it.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

The Walt Disney World of American Christianity

Blessed Are the Rejects

 

 

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Why Do I Ask but Don’t Receive?

Christ’s words are challenging for us to believe, as is evidenced by the number of sermons attempting to explain away statements that seem fairly straightforward, like, ask and it will be given to you; or, don’t be anxious about what you will eat or drink, because your Father knows that you need these things; or, you will bear much fruit.

catching breeze woman walking beach coast sand surf sunset steve henderson art

Our understanding of God, His love for us, and His working in our lives, increases as we spend time thinking, questioning, praying, wondering. Catching the Breeze, affordable art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

If a human being made any of these same statements to us, and we knew they had what it took to back them, we would take their words literally. And indeed, charlatan preachers say they do, encouraging us to ask for a Ferrari because Jesus told us to ask and we would receive. (It works for them, doesn’t it?) These people cause incredible damage because they twist and contort words to fit their own ends, promoting a (healthy) sense of cynicism in people who recognize scam artists when they see them.

But the Words, What about the Words?

But the words remain, and away from the name-it-claim-it crowd, deep in the bowels of conservative evangelical realms, convoluted sermons about what they mean persist, because, frankly, most of us have not seen actual manifestations of those words in our lives: we ask, but we don’t receive, and we know we’re not asking for something ridiculous. So we get sermons like, “Ask, and Christ will send you something completely opposite to what you’re really asking for, because it’s good for you, and it was wrong of you to want what you asked for in the first place.” Or, “Maybe His answer is just plain No.” (Then why does the desire not go away, we wonder? Couldn’t He get rid of that as well?)

But maybe we’re stopping at the wrong point. Maybe the concept of asking, and praying, and communicating with our Father is an ongoing element of our lives, and as we learn more, we give it another go, so to speak, and see where we wind up next. I’m reminded of a recent exercise class I attended, in which I ended the session with a run around the block (on Main Street, in a small gossipy town, no less), and I absolutely hate running.

But this time, building on previous runs, I ran better than I did the very first time, and as I did so, I thought – it’s a process, strengthening the body, in the same way as understanding Christ’s words, and talking to Him about it. So why not ask, and continue to ask, and follow the path before us, and see where we wind up? In other words, why not take that jog around the block, ignore the stares – perceived or real – and see what happens as and when we persist?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at this woman writes, where I spend time — like the woman in Steve Henderson’s artwork, Catching the Breeze, above — wondering and pondering, praying, and giving a shot at believing Christ’s words are true. I find this easiest to do outside of the white noise of pop culture Christianity.

 

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Church Christianity: Teaching Two Things That Can’t Be Simultaneously True

For years I struggled to believe two opposite statements that cannot possibly be true at the same time. But because they are standard teaching in evangelical church Christianity, and since for too long I believed that these statements reflect what Jesus taught in the Gospels, I – like many church Christians today – denied reality and blamed myself for the result.

stillness grand canyon indian native american arizona steve henderson painting

Be still, think deeply, and seek God in places of silence, where the chatter doesn’t distract you. Stillness — affordable fine art print by Steve Henderson, at Steve Henderson Collections — click on the image to see more.

Here are the two statements:

1) God loves you unconditionally.

Nothing wrong with this statement at all: it’s what we long to hear as struggling human beings, and the message is so welcome that we are drawn toward the institution that announces it. But then comes the caveat:

2) You fall far short of God’s standards of holiness, and for this reason, unless you say a series of words and sentences (the “Four Spiritual Laws,” put into booklet form by – not Jesus in the Gospels, but 20th century evangelist Bill Bright and promoted around the world by the likes of Billy Graham), God will send you to eternal damnation forever.

That’s it in a nutshell, and while proponents of the philosophy wave endless Bible verses, drawn out of context, to prove their point, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Statement #2 is highly conditional – so if it is true, then it renders Statement #1 false.

Bring that up in your next Bible study and see where it gets you.

Better yet, skip the next group Bible study and spend time at home, intensely reading the four Gospels, over and over and over, doing your best to wipe out any sermon “teachings” you’ve picked up through the years. Notice how Jesus is not afraid of His Father, and how He describes His Father, our Father, as reasonable, just, merciful, and kind.

And ask yourself if a reasonable, just, merciful, and kind human father places conditions upon his children in which he determines it is right to condemn them.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I, through my writing, and Steve, through his artwork, encourage us all to think, question, and not discount the commonsense our Creator has so bountifully given us.

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When Bad Things Happen, It’s Not Because We’re Bad

Life is complicated, and there are no easy answers.

Now while this seems perfectly straightforward and logical, such a statement is at variance with much of what we are taught when it comes to Christianity. In all fairness, it’s difficult to come up with a sermon every week, but when sermons and magazine articles consist of

  1. An introductory story, generally humorous,
  2. A Bible verse that somehow relates to that story,
  3. A flurry of Bible verses to back up the initial verse,
  4. An ending joke, and
  5. An ending hymn that ties into the theme
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As God’s children, part of faith is recognizing, and accepting, that our perfect Father loves — truly loves — us. Hailey, art print at Steve Henderson Collections

there is a tendency to simplify things, and the simplified message we get is,

“If things are going badly in your life, it’s your fault. You’re either disobeying God, not listening to Him, or displeasing Him in some way, because if you were truly being good, then the problems would go away. That’s what it means to have faith.”

Advice from “Friends”

Interestingly, it’s an old, old message, one we find in the Book of Job, but just because we find something in the Bible doesn’t mean that it’s positive advice we need to follow. The story of Jael in Judges 4, the woman who drove the tent peg through the head of Sisera, comes to mind. (When I was an evangelical church-going girl, I labored under the misapprehension that everything in the Bible is there with God’s approval, and somehow or another He was pleased with stories like this. Just don’t try it at home.)

But back to Job — yes, the concept that things going wrong in our life is a sign that God is punishing us is a recurrent theme, but it is in the words of Job’s “friends,” better named accusers, about whom God speaks in the ending chapter,

“My anger burns against you (Eliphaz) and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)

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Okay, so sometimes we’ve got attitude. Any parent of maturity and wisdom knows that you tread lightly when it comes to a person’s spirit. Kymberlynn, art print at Steve Henderson Collections

Job’s consistent message through the book is that he has done no appreciable wrong, with the full recognition that he is an imperfect human being and could not possibly come up to the standards of perfection of God — and any God of intelligence and compassion would know this. But his accusers, similar to those of today, continue to propound the message that he had to have done something wrong to merit punishment, because that’s what God does — he punishes bad people which, in the accusers’ minds, are predominantly made up of God’s children who are naughty.

Materialistically, Evil Thrives

If these self-appointed righteous looked around, as Job did, they would note that there are lots and lots and lots and lots of truly bad people out there who, by the materialistic standards of the world, are doing quite well. For some reason, God isn’t punishing them, possibly because He is so busy focusing on the wandering thoughts, expressions of impatience, driving infractions, and dietary foibles of those who call Him Father.

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Grace means just that — our Father is gracious in His interaction with us, and the resulting sense of freedom we experience comes out at joy. Grace, art print at Steve Henderson Collections

By any standards of decent parenting (which you probably won’t find in “Christian” parenting books, by the way), such harshness is unwise, not to mention cruel. How many of us advocate micro-focusing on small issues in the life of a child who, for the most part, is trying to do right? And yet, that’s the type of God many people serve, which may explain why “Christian” parenting books focus on instant, non-questioning, mindless obedience as a sign that the child is “good.”

Craven submission to authority is not goodness, but it is an excellent route to slavery. As sons and daughters of God, with an Elder Brother who is firstborn of many brothers (Romans 8:29 — sorry about the verse jumping), we are so much more than slaves, and our expectation of how we can be treated by our perfect and loving Father can at least come up to what we’d expect from a good, honest, compassionate, loving, wise, secure human being in the same position.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

The question of why bad things happen to people is one that goes back a long time, as evidenced by its treatment in Job — a book variously ascribed to be written sometime from the 4th to the 23rd centuries, B.C. — and it is a subject of both pop-Christian and pop-culture books, in addition to thoughtful musings by people whose interest is less in their celebrity than in the actual answer to the question.

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As children of God, we learn by imitation. The best parents are patient with their children’s attempts. Into the Surf, art print at Steve Henderson Collections

But no one has yet come up with a good answer.

As sons and daughters of God, however, perhaps we can, like Job, dispense with the constant flagellation of ourselves, the insidious worry that we are disgusting to God, the gnawing doubt that He could possibly accept us as we are right now, and still love us.

Instead of seeking, searching, wondering, guessing, probing, and agonizing over what we’re doing wrong — something that a judgmental God won’t tell us, apparently, even though we ask — maybe we can rest in His unconditional love for us, and take our chronic and aching problems straight into the room with Him.

“I hurt,” we say, much as a toddler brings to us their scratched finger, an older child their feelings about not being invited to a party, a teenager their humiliation at backing the car into the garbage can. When we are free of the fear that God’s default response will be reprisal and fury, we enter then into the true comfort of God, resting securely in our position as His beloved children, able to lean on the strength, wisdom, and compassion that are His.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I explore the things we are told and taught about Christianity.

Posts complementing this one are

The Walt Disney World of American Christianity

The Lost Christians of America

Tired of the Command to Repent?

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The Walt Disney World of American Christianity

Do you remember What Would Jesus Do?

It was a pop culture phenomenon in the 1990s, still limping along today, that prompted Christians to question their every action and thought, with the goal of aligning it to Christ’s message. And because it — like many “Christian” movements — was market driven, Christians were encouraged to buy bracelets with WWJD on them.

cows ruminating in country rural field watercolor steve henderson

It’s a sad reflection that, sometimes, cows spend more time ruminating than humans do. Rumination by Steve Henderson, available at SteveHendersonCollections.

Apparently, the idea was not only to remind Christians of the message, since it’s incredibly difficult to remember four words in succession — What. Would. Jesus. Do? — but also to tease and tantalize outsiders (these are non-church attending people, by the way) into asking, “Say . . . what does that WWJD on your bracelet mean?”

Like most fads and Walt Disney movies, it crested and waned, and even enjoyed — as do the ubiquitous Disney princesses — being plastered across t-shirts and over an endless array of products. But, just like the movies, it carried too little substance to make a meaningful difference in the way that people act and think. (Positive impact, that is. Christian pop products, similar to their fairy tale counterparts, prompt confusion between fantasy and reality, to the point that pretty ditties like, “When you wish upon a star . . . Makes no difference who you are . . .  Anything your heart desires will come to you . . . ” take on the nature of prayer.)

Not a Bad Question

The sad part about What Would Jesus Do? is that it’s asking a valid question, one that bears reflection far beyond finger waggling at the dieter breaking their resolve with an Oreo cookie and chiding, “What would Jesus do00000000000?”

As children of our Father, with Jesus as our Elder Brother — the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29) — to lead by example, we benefit greatly by truly asking, throughout the day, “How would Jesus act, or react, in a situation like this?” whether that situation is an encounter with our eminently unreasonable boss, some absolute idiot cutting us off in traffic, or being dumped, via text message, by the jerk who isn’t worth all the thoughts we spend on them.

Curiosity little girl in hat toddler charcoal drawing by Steve Henderson

Children ask questions, and adults can learn from this habit. “What would Jesus do?” honestly asked without condemnation, is a good question. Curiosity, original charcoal by Steve Henderson

The point is, the situations are real, living situations, and if Jesus is to be a real, living factor in our lives, then He needs to enter into them. And one way He enters into them is by joining us as we go about our business.

Dallas Willard, in his excellent book, The Divine Conspiracy, described the situation like this:

“If he (Jesus) were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles.

“In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job, have your education and life prospects, and live within your family, surroundings, and time.”1

Words such as these prompt thought, but then again, unlike the acronyms or one liners assaulting us on social media, Superbowl ads, and sermons from the pulp, thoughtfully written words don’t fit on a bracelet, bumper sticker, or Tweet. Digesting them takes time and effort, and putting into practice concepts we learn requires a lifetime, one which we will more successfully live — from a meaningful standpoint — when we don’t allow our relationship with God to be reduced to purchasing a product, repeating a mantra (“It’s a God thing . . . ya know?”), or following a movement.

Jesus is, after all, real.

1(Willard, Dallas (1998) The Divine Conspiracy. San Francisco, CA. Harper Collins Publishers) P. 14

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes.

Posts complementing this one are

Got Jesus? Nope.

The Lost Christians of America

Is Jesus the (American) Way, Truth, and Life?

 

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To All the Discouraged Mommy Bloggers

Years ago, in the efforts to “grow” my blog, I participated in blog carnivals. These involve a host site setting up a single page where other bloggers leave a link to one of their articles, with the idea that the many visitors to the carnival will see it and click.

Afternoon reading book young woman black and white charcoal drawing Steve Henderson

We all want people to read what we write. Afternoon with a Book, framed art by Steve Henderson at Steve Henderson Collections

Theoretically, it’s a way to drive traffic to one’s own site, since the carnivals are supposed to attract actual readers — as opposed to other bloggers — like flies. Hosts tried to counteract the natural outcome of desperate bloggers dropping links and running by encouraging — or demanding — participants to read another person’s blog and comment on it, and/or follow the host to increase her own numbers. It is one of many schemes propounded by social media “Influencers,” many of whom find success — both in readership and finances — by selling their wisdom through webinars, seminars, books, online or in person classes, and “consulting.”

“Build that brand!” they command, so successfully that few stop to ask, “What is your brand, by the way, other than that you sell others ‘secrets’ to building theirs?”

But few do ask, and in homes throughout the world, moms with young and/or multiple children snatch precious hours — late at night, when the kids are asleep; early in the morning, before they’re awake; during naps; and any other time that would otherwise be classified as free — to

  • Create quality content!
  • Connect with followers on social media!
  • Maintain a regular and consistent posting schedule!
  • Build relationships with readers! (All six of them. Thanks, Mom.)
  • Build that brand by commenting on other people’s posts, joining forums and online groups, and oh, don’t forget the most important one: promoting the blogs of other people, especially the Influencers, so that they, in turn will promote the blogs of their followers! (Does anyone seriously believe this? Apparently so.)
  • Write an ebook, and sell it! (This is sort of like, “Create quality content, and market it!”)
  • Set up streams of income on the blog so the money starts rolling in, as the viewers exponentially multiply!
  • Join with other blogs and create a group effort — and watch that blog GROW!
dandelions spring little girl mother child green grass flowers Steve Henderson impressionism representational

If we do not watch it, this is what we could be, but are not doing, because we are spending all of our time in front of the computer, working on our blog. Dandelions, custom framed art print at Steve Henderson Collections

For a very small percentage, this stuff works — at least in building numbers — and they join the ranks of Influencers to create Successful Blog consulting options of their own, but numbers are funny things. They — like the Influencers — don’t necessarily tell the full, unadulterated, honest truth (something that one does tend to look for in, most especially, a person who calls herself a Christian).  In looking through various Christian Mommy Blogs to see if we wanted to advertise in them for our business, Steve Henderson Collections, I was struck by the numbers they put out in the effort to draw me in:

“Christian Mommy Go-Go Blog is one of the fastest growing brands on the Internet, boasting 500,000 monthly views, of which 350,000 are unique visitors,” is typical of what I read. “We have 85,000 Twitter Followers, 250,000 Facebook Fans, and 20,000 Email subscribers. Advertise with us!”

mom child daughter ocean surf fabric teaching steve henderson impressionism

Parents are the best teachers of their children, and the first and foremost concern of every mom, mommy blogger, or Christian mommy blogger, is that very personal audience in our home. Into the Surf, custom framed art print at Steve Henderson Collections

Wow. My blog is such a failure.

Burrowing further in, I was struck by two things:

  1. I didn’t notice the advertising, either because there was so much of it or because it was buried in odd places, and
  2. The various posts, most of which didn’t hit me in the face as compelling, quality, well-written content, had few, if any, social media shares. Those that did were on the host’s blog carnival site, or linked to it. (There are exceptions. I am continuously amazed at the popularity of the “Titus 2 Mom” message, used to browbeat women into 18th century submission to their husbands.)

But obviously these people were successful — because they had numbers — and, carrying this to its natural conclusion from the teachings of American Christianity, they also enjoyed the blessings of God, who drove those numbers.

If you are one of the many, many Christian Mommy Bloggers who do not have these numbers — despite following all the bullet points above to the point that you spend more time at the keyboard than you ever did nursing your children — then there can be, within American Christianity (which we’ve exported around the world), only two reasons for this:

  1. You’re not working hard, and smart, enough, and
  2. You don’t have the blessing of God. Your blog, in order to be the ministry that it should be (been pressured by that one yet?), needs to reach lots of people and bring in income to your family. (Let’s be honest. Money, if we don’t watch it, is the driving force behind why we do things. This, also, is one of the major teachings of American Christianity.)

Before you believe 1 and 2, please stop.

follow me Jesus beach footprints ocean inspirational impressionism Steve Henderson painting

In anything and everything we do, this is sound advice. Exposé, custom framed art print at Steve Henderson Collections

Yes, your blog can be a ministry, in the sense that it touches someone who needs, deeply, your hard earned wisdom. Mine does this now and then, and it’s why I write — to counteract the corporate message of American Christianity that makes up the “teachings” propounded to church believers.

I don’t get a lot of viewers, but I treasure the ones who do stumble in, taking time to comment, “I’ve felt this way for a long time, but you put it into words. I thought that I was the problem!”

No, you’re not the problem — whether you’re a dissatisfied member of the pew-sitting populace who thinks that Christianity should consist of more than leadership meetings and Saturday church work days, or whether you’re a busy mom who has some funny, poignant stories to tell; or great recipes that are fast and easy to make; or thoughts on God and His love, beauty and guidance — and you can’t get a lot of people to discover what you have to say.

If it’s burning in you to write, then keep doing so and posting — but because the most important people you’re serving live with you and need face to face time, forget about the pressurized posting schedule, equating efficiency with godliness — and drop the idea that numbers equate intelligence and acumen on your part, or a sign that God approves of what you do.

Children grow up fast, and time is not something we can recapture. Be the true Influencer that you are, right now, by focusing, first, on the members of your household, family, and friends: stop what you’re doing and look at people when they speak, listen with your heart to their words; and invest your time in growing the love that exists among you.

This is success, and it has nothing to do with numbers.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. I used to post on an insane schedule and hover over my stats, waiting for the numbers to confirm what I knew in my heart: I write worthwhile content that has meaning and purpose to it.

If this describes you, then don’t despair when your results don’t match what the Influencers say they should be. Who, after all, is the One who should influence us most?

Posted in blogging, Christian, Culture, Current Events, Encouragement, Faith, Family, God, home, inspirational, Life, Lifestyle, Motherhood, Parenting, Social Media, success | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

Blessed Are the Rejects

Maybe it’s because we live in the country and don’t have a proper lawn, but I really like dandelions.

Dandelions original painting impressionism girl and mother in green field of flowers in spring

People with the minds and hearts of children see and understand with a wisdom denied to the canny and clever. Dandelions, by Steve Henderson

To most (urban/suburban) people focused on keeping that living carpet pristinely green, dandelions are a scourge, a pest, an abomination that need to be trampled upon, plucked out, and sprayed at all costs. And while the hostility is understandable, it’s also a bit sad when we consider we’re talking about a bright yellow flower that covers the hillside in spring with its blooms.

As a bonus, the flowers turn into white puffy rounds that many of us remember, as children, blowing into, oftentimes while making a wish.

Such is the difference between the thought process of an adult and that of a child, and while there are many advantages to thinking like an adult, we do it at our peril when we totally forget how to think like a child.

Jesus understood this, which is why he repeatedly urged us to look at children and emulate them — not the immaturity, not the lack of knowledge, not the naivete (all aspects, incidentally, which are abundantly found in people claiming to be adults) — but the sense of wonder, the humility, the acceptance of not being powerful and influential, and the ability to appreciate and enjoy the world around us for the simple reason that it is beautiful.

Light of Zion woman in red fabric walking through canyon impressionism representational painting steve henderson

Life is a gift, to be wisely used. The best way is to ask the Giver for guidance. Light of Zion by Steve Henderson

Dandelions are beautiful. In a rural meadow, blanketed with golden sunshine on the ground, dandelions shout with joy and invite us to sing along. It is only when they pop up in our perfectly groomed yards that we attack and kill.

In the world of flowers, dandelions are the rejects, never to be seen at shows or flower shops, although some people are willing to eat them.

But like most rejects, they are misunderstood, especially when they are in the wrong place, and if dandelions were as capable of thinking as they are of reproducing, they would feel very bad about themselves indeed.

We, however, are capable of thinking. And those of us who are followers of Christ in a world that worships power, money, cunning, manipulation, and control, get the idea that we wind up looking like dandelions on a suburban lawn — something to be dismissed, derided, rejected, and treated with contempt. We don’t fit into the suburban theme, and because we so supremely don’t fit, we begin to wonder if we are missing it all somehow because we’re . . . ugly flowers.

Surely, we muse, there must be some way to be believers in Christ and still manage to meld into the world’s mold of success and acceptance?

But we already know the answer to that — Jesus told his listeners in Matthew 6:24,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

He wasn’t telling us not earn a living. He was, however, making the distinction between working to live and living to work, a distinction that is blurred beyond recognition in our own day, our own world. Too many Christians try to blend two very polarized ways of looking at things, with the result that we’re not very good at functioning with either one of them.

As long as our goal, our world, our place of living is the suburban lawn, we will feel like rejects and outcasts — which we are, in the world of suburban lawns.

But if we recognize that our home, our real home, is the meadow, the field, the wild expanse of nature’s great outdoors, and that children gravitate toward our happy yellow color, and that these children understand the sheer wonder and beauty of a field of dandelions, then we will stand up straight in the breeze, calling to the world to glory in the beauty and wonder of our Maker.

We make our living by writing and creating art, two very dandelion-like professions that are not cool, savvy, or sharp. But without art, our homes, offices, and lives are dreary places filled with technical toys and worries about finances.

Beautiful art gives us a glimpse of the fields of dandelions, and reminds us that suburban lawns are not mandatory.

Find affordable prints, home decor (throw pillows, towels, duvet covers), personal items (tote bags, phone cases, coffee mugs), and greeting cards at Steve’s collection at Fine Art America. Click on the image to the left to see the Dandelions page.

Posted in children, Christian, Culture, Daily Life, Encouragement, Faith, Family, fine art, God, home, inspirational, Life, Lifestyle, spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Saying Grace in Public Places

The other day I ran across a Precious Moments/Norman Rockwell style meme of a little boy — looked like some child in the 1950s — with his hands folded and head bowed, saying grace in a government school lunchroom.

In the background, snickering children laughed and pointed.

Afternoon Tea mother and child in meadow on sunny day oil painting by Steve Henderson

In saying thank you to our Father in heaven. we can learn from the actions and attitudes of children, who do not worry about their public persona. Afternoon Tea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

The saying was forgettable, which is why I don’t remember it exactly, but went along the predictable lines of,

“I will stand up for the Lord regardless of what people around me think.”

Now actually, this concept is not a bad one at all, especially when one considers standing up for the Lord in light of befriending the awkward person who is embarrassing to be around, or forgiving someone’s thoughtless comment about how we look that day, or not making a judgment about the food the person ahead of us in line — obviously on public assistance — is buying, or giving $20 to one who asks for it without worrying if we’ll ever get paid back, or refusing to add our opinion about So and So’s family situation to the office water cooler or back-of-the-church coffee chat fest.

These are tangible, unromantic, far-from-glamorous ways of honoring our Lord by imitating Him in His own actions. They take five seconds to do, and generally do not engender any sense of pride or puffiness in our soul that cause us to say to ourselves,

“As for me and my house, I will serve the Lord!”

Saying grace in public places, however, is a dicey situation, and rare is the person who can do it without thinking to himself,

“Everybody’s watching me. I’m going to pretend that they’re not, because I’m so absorbed in relating to my dear, Sweet Jesus,”

or

“I feel awkward, but if I’m afraid to show thanks to God in public, then I’m ashamed of Him,”

or

“I am a living testament to my Lord, and people around me will be inspired by my actions! (If they’re not, then they’re wretched sinners who do not have His Spirit).”

white blooms flower roses shabby chic oil painting Steve HendersonAll of these thoughts, which are extremely understandable, are evidence that something is not quite right in our actions, and it’s highly likely that saying “Thank You” is not the foremost motivation behind our public prayer.

But why should this matter? some ask, insisting that the outward action witnesses to those around us, bearing rich, rich fruit.

But does it?

When it comes to living our Christianity and loving our Lord, the motivation behind our actions matters, a lot. This is one reason why Jesus says in Matthew 7:21,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

With apologies for Scripture jumping, the immediate thought that comes to my mind when I see someone in a restaurant with head bowed and eyes closed, or, if they’re in a group, clasping hands with heads bowed and eyes closed, is,

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

It is eminently possible to pray in public without anyone around us being aware, and indeed, the more we talk to God throughout the day — asking Him for insight, clapping the hands of our heart with joy over the beauty of a sunset, admitting that we’re impatient and inclined to be snappy, observing the actions of a toddler and remembering Christ’s words about children — the more normal it becomes. How easy, then, to look with our eyes into His and say,

“Thank you for this meal. I’m hungry, and it smells delicious. You take such good care of me.” Even if we had to briefly close our eyes, we could do so without drawing attention to ourselves and, more importantly, would genuinely fulfill what we say is our intention, thanking God.

If we’re concerned about showing God’s love and grace to those around us (and this is a great thing to be concerned about), maybe we could do so by treating the wait staff as social equals, leaving a good tip (consider leaving something as well for the people in back who did the cooking and wash the dishes), listening — truly listening — to the people in our group, smiling kindly to the woman with the crying child, and not grumbling about the guy in back who laughs too loud and sounds like a donkey.

Of course, none of these actions will overtly alert those around us to our status as Christian, but that’s probably a good thing. While showing off our piety is a poor way of drawing others to the unconditional love of our Father in heaven, living that unconditional love is a much more attractive — and effective — way of getting the message across.

Social media buttons for sharing this article are at the bottom. If the words in this essay resonated with you, please consider sharing. (That sounds really self-serving, doesn’t it? I ask, however, because in my search for truth, real truth, I found few people talking about the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about.)

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

The Lost Christians of America

It’s Okay to Do Nothing for God

Attack and Kill Style Christianity

The artwork on my site is by my husband, fine artist Steve Henderson, who creates images of beauty and hope. View his original paintings and commissioned work on his website, SteveHendersonFineArt.com, as well as find prints of his work at the online retailers below:

         

 

Posted in Faith, Family, God, home, inspirational, Life, Lifestyle, prayer, spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments