Service

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Ink with Brush some time ago. I liked the farm setting with contrasts of the barn, chicken house, and fresh white snow.

I chose it for this week’s Art to accompany the Thought for the week—‘Serving’. Anyone who has lived on a farm (I haven’t) or knows those who have (I do), know that a farm will not succeed without lots of ‘Service”.  The family ‘Serves’ one another, the crops, animals and their community.  This allows it all to help ‘Serve’ you and me at the dinner table! 

Thought:

Seated in my study ‘Quiet Time’ chair, I was meditating on thoughts for blogs this month. Problem was, I had seven or eight thoughts down on my yellow pad. Where to begin? I was drawn to focus this week on ‘Service’ and quote what our Son Jim shared in his recent weekly blog.  As empty nesters, Jim and Suzi recently moved from Manteka California to Lincoln, Nebraska.  He shared two ‘Service’ experiences.   

First Story

“I HAD MISUNDERSTOOD Suzi earlier in the day. She had wanted to stop at a Dairy Queen in Baker, California. I didn’t realize that and rolled past the exit without getting off. We were talking to our son on the phone (hands-free of course) at that moment and by the time she noticed we were passing the exit. It was too late and it’s too far to get off and turn around. She was disappointed.

I wanted to make it up to her, so I found a Dairy Queen in Las Vegas and asked Google to navigate us there. We got off at W Sahara Ave and headed there. I pulled into the parking lot and went to the door only to find, you guessed it, the dining room was closed. I couldn’t go through the drive-through with my trailer, so we sat in the parking lot behind the restaurant for a minute consoling ourselves when Suzi noticed an employee coming out to throw out the trash.

I opened my window and called out, “Excuse me! How can I get some ice cream when I can’t go through the drive-through?”

“I got you!” he replied and came over to the car. “What would you like?”

“Can we get a hot fudge sundae with Spanish Peanuts and a small vanilla cone?” I asked.

“Sure!” I’ll be right back. I gave him a $20.00 bill and off he went.

I joked with Suzi that that might be the last we see of that 20 bucks, but very quickly the young man came back with my change. The total was 6 dollars and change. “Keep the change,” I said. “I really appreciate you doing this.”

“No, no,” he surprised me, “It’s my pleasure.”

“Wow!’ I thought. I pressed him and he said, “How about you keep the 10?”

“How about you keep the 10,” I countered. “I really do appreciate you.” He graciously agreed and Suzi and I went on our way enjoying our ice cream…”

Second Story

“A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO Suzi and I went through the drive-through (no trailer in this story) at a Culver’s in Lincoln, Nebraska. They asked us to pull up because we were going to have to wait for part of our order. Boy did we wait! After way too many minutes I was getting ready to get out of the car, go inside and ask if they had to go catch the fish for my fish sandwich (snarky, huh).

Just as I was about to open the door, I saw someone coming out of the restaurant. “Here comes someone,” I said to Suzi, “maybe this is our order.” When I noticed he wasn’t carrying any food, I said, “Nope. It looks like he’s got someone’s change, he’s carrying money, not food.”

To my surprise, he came to our car. I rolled down the window and he said, “I’m so sorry it’s taken this long to get your food. It shouldn’t have happened this way. Your order will be out in less than 3 minutes. Here is your money back and here’s a coupon for another free meal on your next visit. Again, I’m so sorry. Thank you for your patience.”

The message? It’s twofold. First, there are great people out there overcoming barriers and doing great work. Acknowledge them when you can. Second, strive to deliver ABCD [Above and Beyond the Call of Duty] service in everything you do and if you fail (it happens), deliver a monumental recovery.”[1]

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Peter 4:10


[1] Jim Thomason| November 18, 2021 at 6:00 am | Tags: ServiceStories | Categories: ServiceStories | URL: https://wp.me/s9HxTC-service

“Spirit”

Art:

This Acrylic was completed ten years ago as part of a lesson from Jerry Yarnell’s Painting Inspirations.  For acrylic painting, Jerry’s books are a great place to start.

I choose it for this week’s Thought—“Spirit”—because of the sunrise.   I see it as a symbol of the “Spirit” dawning in the hearts and minds of increasing numbers around the planet. Some are very avantgarde venues in the opinion of many ‘Westerners”. 

Thought:

ONE NOTED HISTORIAN observed: “The nearly two thousand years of Christian history can be divided into three uneven periods:

“Age of Faith

THE FIRST might be called the “Age of Faith.” It began with Jesus and his immediate disciples when a buoyant faith, propelling the movement that Jesus initiated, continued through to sometime in the fourth century.

“Age of Belief.”

THE SECOND period in Christian history can be called the “Age of Belief.” Emphasis on belief began to grow about church doctrines and creeds and catechisms, replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about Jesus. A turning point came when Emperor Constantine the Great (d 387 CE) made his adroit decision to commandeer Christianity to bolster his ambitions for the empire.  Ultimately Christianity generally became about a legalistic system of politics and power having a top-down dictatorial leadership with absolute power. This period lasted for some fifteen hundred years. [1] 

“Age of the Spirit

THE THIRDperiod has been called “Age of the Spirit”.  The term is not without its problems. Those who study in comparative religion are seeing some unexpected changes around the world.  What is the change? What does it look like? What has precipitated the changes?  These are all good questions. Before sharing what seems to me to be an answer, here is another observer’s explanation more than a century and a half ago.

 European Observer

IN THE EARLY nineteenth century historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) observed that it was American religion that provided the indispensable fertile soil for democracy.  Without the myriad congregations and other voluntary associations, he found in America, he wrote, there would not be the “habits of the heart” democracy requires.  In the religious congregations he visited, Tocqueville observed, people learned to discuss issues, make corporate decisions, compromise where necessary, link moral principles to current events, and finally, to accept the results the procedural strategies produced.  Having absorbed these skills in congregations, he wrote, they could then apply them in the public arena.  In short, the free churches of America, unhindered by state sponsorship or hierarchical control, built networks of responsibility, trust, and an idea of the common good that made America an ideal venue for democracy [2]

“Age of Faith”

WHAT ENABLED the message of Jesus to rapidly spread around the Mediterranean world in two and a half centuries some call “The Age of Faith”? I believe it was God’s “Spirit” freely moving in each follower as a child of God in his Kingdom.  That indwelling “Spirit” knows the mind (will) of God and the ‘fruit’ (manifestation) of that “Spirit” is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[3] “Habits of the heart.”

A Wounded Bird

RECENTLY I COMMENTED on a divide I see in our country between Right ‘Wing’ and Left ‘Wing’.  Each seems bent on defeating the other at nearly any cost.  Like birds, nations cannot fly with one ‘Wing’. I believe that somewhere in the heart of each side is yet a spark of desire for the best interest of everyone and everything that makes up this planet. We need a shock. Coronavirus got our attention.  Others could be added: shortages on the shelves of shopping destinations, cyberespionage, fuel shortages, unsustainable national and personal debt, to name a few.  Pain is not fun but it can get attention as a first step toward wellness.

“Age of the Spirit”

GLOBALLY, SMALL GROUPS of younger citizens are seeking solutions. Some are becoming aware from their own religious texts as well as world history of what Jesus taught and did. Many are requesting bibles in their own language to study more of Jesus in the New Testament.  Small groups are gathering to learn how to become followers of Jesus in practice.[4]  They may be the ‘sunrise’ of an “Age of the Spirit” returning to what was called the “Age of Faith” before it was commandeered by a political system diverting its attention away from a heart of love for God and all his creation.  

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.                                     John 14:12


[1] The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox,  page 4-5

[2] Ibid. p. 206

[3] Galatians 5:22-23

[4] Examples: Community of Sant’Egidio; CRU, A caring community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ; ecclesial base communities CEBs; ReIMAGINE and the Jesus DOJO

Faith

Art:

THIS IS THE full color Acrylic of the Art I used last week for the Topic ‘Wing(s)’. It’s the same formation of Canada Geese preparing to make their annual return South.

Our Minnesota weather changed a lot in one week.  We moved from above average temperature, October through early November, to wet white flakes returning for a new season!

Thought:

Wing(s) to Fly

LAST WEEK I wrote, “In recent years it’s been disheartening to watch our nation (intentionally or unintentionally) ignore basic lessons we learn from observing our birds: It takes two ‘Wing(s)’ to fly! Our nation I see increasingly divided in what’s often labeled: Left ‘Wing’ blue or Right ‘Wing’ red.  Each seems bent on defeating the other at nearly any cost.  Think about it.  Like birds, nations cannot fly with one ‘Wing’. I ended promising to share one model this week, that’s working in other parts of the world, to help us avoid the inevitable aftermath of what I label ‘The broken ‘Wing’ syndrome.’

What is the Solution?

AS A FOLLOWER of Jesus, I see the world through my lens of more than eight decades. More importantly, I’m learning to see through the eyes of many better equipped and in whom I trust. To say ‘Solution’ may be overzealous and optimistic.  Nevertheless, I believe the solution is that the world needs a World Leader without hostile restriction of government or religion.  During social unrest and when citizens become fearful for their future, they often allow a malevolent dictator to ‘rescue them’.  I believe this not to be the solution.

Global Uneasiness

THERE IS GENERAL uneasiness about current world conditions and hope of a sustainable future.  The uneasiness is global involving many governments and all major religions:  Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and others. This uneasiness is evident in the daily challenges confronting nearly all governments and religions. A growing conviction (especially among young people) is that current systems have no adequate solution. At the root is a spiritual deficiency at work in the world and no form of government or religion by itself will be able to solve the problem alone. 

A World Leader

PEOPLE ARE LOOKING for a benevolent leader.  I believe Jesus is the leader we need to guide us in “The Way”. Harvard professor Harvey Cox said he was apprehensive at first about teaching a course on Jesus to undergraduates from many religious backgrounds.  “But” he said, “I quickly learned that Christianity has no monopoly on Jesus. Hindus understood him as an avatar. Buddhists as a bodhisattva, and both Muslims and Jews as a prophet of God.  Even agnostics found something fascinating and admirable in him. They were not all that attracted to Christianity, but they were all drawn to Jesus for his exemplar courage, his compassion for the disinherited, and his willingness to stand up to corrupt political and religious authorities.  But what attracted them more than anything else was his emphasis on the possibility of another kind of world where gentleness and equality prevail.” [1]

What about the Future?

“WHAT DOES THE future hold for religion, and for Christianity in particular?  At the beginning of the new millennium three qualities mark the world’s spiritual profile, all tracing trajectories that will reach into the coming decades.  The first is the unanticipated resurgence of religion in both public and private life around the globe.  The second is that fundamentalism [of all kinds], the bane of the twentieth century, is dying. But the third and most important though often unnoticed is a profound change in the elemental nature of religiousness” [2] 

 Jesus vs Creeds

“OUR-POST-CHRISTIAN era is becoming more like the first century than like the many centuries of creed-making “Christian civilization” that followed.  Rick Warren, the influential evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, says that what the church needs now is a “second Reformation” one based on “deeds, not creeds.” [3]  Next week I plan to come back to this ‘Thought’ topic—‘Faith(?)’—once again with “Spirit”.


From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Matthew 4:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17


[1] The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox Page 48

[2] The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox Page 1

[3] Ibid. p. 76, Quoted from Frances Fitzgerald, “The New Evangelicals,” New Yorker, June 20, 2008 p. 31

Wing(s)

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Acrylic a couple years ago as part of a lesson from Jerry Yarnell’s Painting Basics. I chose this pre-sunrise flight because I’m a morning person and to symbolize good things to come.

Last week Marj and I drove up to Ramsey (about two hours roundtrip) for an appointment.  On that beautiful sunny day, we saw hundreds of Canada Geese preparing for migration south.  They are amazing creations!   

Thought:

Wing(s) to Fly

When Marj and I lived in Michigan, we visited the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop in historic Greenfield Village.  It never ceases to amaze me how fast human flight has developed from a few hundred yards in 1903 to supersonic jets today. Birds remind me that it takes two healthy ‘Wing(s)’ to fly.  In animal rescue shows we’ve seen Veterinarians work with birds suffering with injured ‘Wing(s)’. Without repair the bird will not survive if returned to the wild.  Flying is essential to survive and to thrive. 

Reading the Signs

I’VE LIVED LONG enough to see numerous changes take place in the world and in this country.  Many benefited people and the planet. Others (intended or not) have damaged (sometimes irreversibly) both people and our planet. Arguably, most that harmed rather than helped could have been prevented. When the western sky turns dark and winds increase, these evidence an approaching storm.  We can’t change nature, but we can prepare for it. Serendipitously, preparing for natural disasters often brings people together to help one another and nature.  That’s a good thing!  However, what about those we cause?

Takes Two ‘Wings’

IN RECENT YEARS, it’s been disheartening to watch our nation (intentionally or unintentionally) ignore basic lessons we learn from observing our birds—It takes two ‘Wing(s)’ to fly!  Try flying to any destination with but one ‘Wing’. Gravity takes over. You may spin but you are going nowhere but down.  Forget the flight plan.  You’ll end up on the ground every time. I doubt I’ve said anything that you didn’t already know.  So, what’s my point?   It seems to me I see our nation increasingly divided in what’s labeled: Right ‘Wing’ and Left ‘Wing’.  Each seems bent on defeating the other at nearly any cost.  Think about it.  A nation cannot fly with just one ‘Wing’.

Red’ vsBlue’ ?

ONE ‘WING’ ONLY (Left ‘Wing’ blue or Right ‘Wing red) cannot know everything necessary for the best interest of the whole bird (nation) to fly in this world.  As an artist, I know that what we call white reflects (or represents) not only red and blue, but all colors at once.  Continuing with the bird analogy, the very life of the bird cannot survive on either one of these two ‘Wing’ options alone.  It seems to me that to do so is to enter and continue in a suicidal spin to death as a free nation. The dichotomy or polarization, seen so vividly portrayed at top levels of this nation, is spreading, and infecting nearly every segment of society. 

Are We Willing…?

OFTEN, IT SEEMS to me, in our political polarization of Red ‘Wing’ Conservatives and Blue ‘Wing’ Liberals, both miss the point of why they exist. Members of any political party are elected to represent (all) the people of the United States. It seems hard to deny that parties have often forgotten to take time to consult their people who reflect all colors. Instead, they succumb to power pressures in their party who seemingly represent themselves to keep a position of power and control.  To the extent this is true, this is dangerous for a nation intending to have a healthy flight for everyone into an everchanging future.    

Power…

“THE PROVERBIAL saying ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’ coined by the English nobleman Lord Acton in 1857, conveys the opinion that, as a person’s power increases, their moral sense diminishes. Absolute monarchies are those in which all power is given to or, as is more often the case, taken by, the monarch. Examples of absolute power having a corrupting influence are Roman emperors (who declared themselves gods) and Napoleon Bonaparte (who declared himself an emperor).“[1]

Solution Model

Next week I plan to share one model that is working in other parts of the world that I believe can keep our nation from the outcome of what I see as: ‘The broken wing syndrome.’

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  Psalms 36:7

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34


[1] The Phrase Finder, Gary Martin, founder

Religio

Art:

I COMPLETED this Ink with Pen & Brush from photo references of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s one of my Ink favorites.

I chose it, not to represent any specific religion or style of religious building, but as a representative structure behind the Thought for this week—‘Religio’.    I’m stretching the point a little by using this piece. I hope it may help symbolically.    

Thought:

Merriam-Webster

NO, I DIDN’T misspell a word (although I’m quite capable of doing that) for today’s blog. I didn’t mean ‘religion’ is our topic.  In fact, I wish to distinguish what I see as a significant difference between ‘religio’ and ‘religion’ (as we think of it) in this volatile decade. Let’s start with a dictionary definition for ‘religion’: “(1.) the belief in a god or in a group of gods. (2.) an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.”  Most often, its used to describe belief in god(s) distant from mankind who require veneration for protection or rewards.  Literally thousands of religions fit this definition.  Let’s dig a little deeper into the etymology of our Thought –‘Religio’.  

‘Religio’ vs Religion

ALTHOUGH THE ANCIENT definition of religio emphasized “a warm reverberating and sustained affirmation of a personal relation to [a] transcendent God”,[1] the actual etymology of the word religio is equally helpful.  Modern scholars argue that the word itself comes to us from ligare, meaning “to bind or connect”.  Hence re-ligare, or religious (as we may use it today) means to “reconnect.”  By its very nature, its ancient definition and meaning is the territory of the and, of reconnecting, and of the longing to bind ourselves to God and others.  ‘Religio’enfolds rituals and theologies with experiences and wonder.  It enlivens the heart, opening the soul to others and to creation.” [2]  One might simplify these two: Religion= cognitive belief.  ‘Religio’= heart experience.

Church History in “Three Ages”

AMERICAN THEOLOGIAN Harvey Cox proposed that Christianity reflects this broader transformation regarding human knowledge and experience by dividing church history into three ages: the ‘Age of faith’, the ‘Age of Belief’, and the ‘Age of the Spirit’.  During this first period, roughly from the time of Jesus to 400 CE, Christianity was seen as a way of life based on faith (i.e. trust)in Jesus. Or as Cox states: “To be a Christian meant to live in his Spirit, embrace his hope, and to follow him in the work that he had begun.”  Between 300 and 400, however, this dynamic sense of living in Jesus was displaced by an increasing emphasis on creeds and beliefs, leading Professor Cox to claim that the tendency increased until nascent beliefs thickened into catechisms, replacing faith in Jesus with tenants about him.  From an energetic movement about faith [Christianity] coagulated into a phalanx of required beliefs. Cox argues that the Age of Beliefs lasted some fifteen centuries and began to give way around 1900; its demise increasing in speed and urgency through the twentieth century. ‘We have now entered a new phase of Christian history, which he calls the ‘Age of the Spirit’.

“Age of The Spirit”

IF THE AGE of Faith was a time of “faith in Jesus” and the Age of Belief a period of “belief about Christ, the Age of the Spirit is best understood as a Christianity based in an “experience” of Jesus… Cox claims, this shift from about Jesus to the experience of Jesus seems reflected in a growing desire to be described as spiritual rather than religious.

Gallup Poll

IN 1999, GALLUP polled Americans, asking whether people understood themselves to be spiritual or religious.  At that time people answered as follows:

Religious only:                                   54 percent

Both spiritual and religious:                 6 percent

In 2009, Newsweek, a Princeton Survey Research asked whether respondents considered themselves spiritual or religious.

Religious only:              9 percent       dropped   45 % in  10 years

Both spiritual and religious:               48 percent       gained     42 % in  10 years

Why?

“ANY NUMBER of factors might account for this shift. In ten short years, the positive image of religion significantly decreased in public perception.  In the midst of all this, “religion” became a less acceptable word, and people searched about for new ways to articulate their faith…” [3] I prefer experiential ‘follower of Jesus’.

[Jesus] said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16


[1] Wilfred Cantwel Smith, Meaning and End of Religion, p. 29

[2] Dian Butler Bass, Christianity After Religion, p. 120ff

[3] ibid. ff

Invest

Art:

IN 2019, I COMPLETED this Ink with Pen & Brush of the reconstructed Mill Creek Pond Water Powered Sawmill near Mackinaw, Michigan. The mill supplied lumber for buildings on Mackinaw Island in the late 1700s.   

It represents our Thought for this week— ‘Invest’—in two ways: First, investment in constructing the original sawmill, which allowed construction of the ‘The Fort’ and other buildings across the lake on Mackinaw Island.  Second, investment of time and effort by a schoolteacher and students who rediscovered the site of Mill Creek sawmill in 1972 leading to extensive archaeological work and this reconstruction.  

Thought:

‘Invest’ Hijacked?

USING THE WORD ‘Invest’ today suggests many others: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pensions, 401k, trusts, stock exchanges, brokers, estate planning, retirement, the list goes on. These are tools to help understand, communicate, and navigate the highly commercialized consumer driven world in which we live. While this may be the nomenclature of the business world, I believe (unfortunately) that the commercial world has hijacked a meaning considerably larger in scope than monetary by its use of the word ‘Invest’.

The Definition

English dictionaries generally offer more than one definition for ‘Invest(ment)’. But they are basically expressed in one of two ways:

  • “…the action or process of investing money for profit or material result.”
  • “…an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”

First (1st) Definition

THE PROBLEM I SEE with the first definition is its temptation to elevate gaining money to the point of  losing contact with God. Jesus warned, “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.”  Matthew 6:24

Second (2nd) Definition

THE TRUTH I SEE in the second definition is expressed by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:40 and “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’  Matthew 25:23

TWO-PRONGED QUESTION

THE SECOND DEFINITION begs a two-pronged question: (a.) what do I have to ‘devote’ and (b) what is the ‘worthwhile result’?  What we do have to ‘devote’(‘Invest’) might well be summarized as: our time, our talent, or effort, and our energy.  So where do I ‘Invest’?  In relationships.  I find this precedency helpful:

  • God                            
  • Self
  • Spouse
  • Physical family
  • Spiritual Family
  • Friends, Neighbors, Community,
  • World, environment, domestic, and foreign

As I increasingly make ‘Investments’ in these relationships, the ‘expectation of a worthwhile result” (as Jesus expressed it) is to Come and share your master’s happiness!’  Matthew 25:23 plus the joy of being God’s instrument to “Invest” in even more… I will put you in charge of many things.

‘BOTTOM LINE’

NOT LONG INTO my first year of college, September 1956 (age 18), I read the biography of missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred earlier that same year, January 8, 1956, (age 28).   In his journal Jim expressed what I see as the ‘bottom line’ when it comes to followers of Jesus “Investing”: “He is no fool who gives [‘Invests’]what he cannot keep [our time, our talent, or effort, or our energy]  to gain [return on ‘Investment” ROI] that which he cannot lose [share your master’s happiness for time and eternity].!”

Other quotes from Jim Elliott: 

“Wherever you are, be all there!”

“Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God”

Advisers…

IN THE COMMERCIAL world licensed ‘Investment’ stockbrokers advise on how to: (a) define ‘Investment” goals and (b) how, through periodic consultations, to best ‘Invest’ resources to reach those goals

As followers of Jesus, we have periodic consultations with Him—our eternal life broker—to guide with our ‘Investment’ goals and how to best ‘Invest’ the resources he provided.  For me that meeting takes place in the mornings. There, I’m reminded to Be still and know that I am God, Psalm 46:10    I want to be attentive to the Spirit’s direction as to where and how ‘Investments’ of my time, my talent, my effort, or my energy are to be made for the day.  

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’  Luke 19:17

Repent

Art:

I painted this canvas in Oil as part of several Oils completed while studying the work of Jerry Yarnell in his Painting Basics, Volume One. 

I may be stretching the point just a bit by using it to represent our Thought—‘Repent’. See any connection?

Thought:

Made a Bad Choice?

LAST WEEK’S blog about ‘Choice’ got me thinking about how to handle situations when we realize we made a bad choice and regret it. Since my bad choices produce less than desirable consequences, what are my options? The place to start may be to ask questions: What consequences did I desire?  In line with last week’s blog, was my desire motivated externally or internally? What could have been a better choice?

‘Repent’ & Religion

SEEING THAT TODAY’S Thought is ‘Repent’, many readers immediately connect the word to religion. This is understandable in a culture influenced by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sacred texts. The Hebrew and Greek root words translated into some form of the English word ‘repent’ appear more than 1100 times in the Old and New Testaments. We see this influence on the English dictionary definition of ‘Repent’: “[To] feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin. “The priest urged his listeners to repent”’

‘Repent’ in Day-to-day Life

What about day-to-day life where I feel I made a bad Choice: I ‘messed up’?  Even if your bad Choice was not in the moral realm, I believe ‘Repent’, in its root meaning, is still the right word.  You may still view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse: Why did I paint that room such a ridiculous color?  Why did I not respond to her question sooner and avoid all this stress? Most of our choices and their consequences are not strictly in a moral category, but ‘Repentance’ is still the right response.     

‘Repent’

I like the way Wikipedia broadens the use of ‘Repent’ beyond the moral arena. “Repentance is reviewing one’s actions and feeling of contrition or regret for past wrongs which is accompanied by commitment to and actual actions that show and prove a change for the better.”  I see five steps:

  1. Review my choice that turned out to be a bad one
  2. Reflect on my sorrow for the consequence it produced
  3. Seek and implement ways to repair the damage where possible
  4. Identify a better choice based on better information including this experience
  5. ‘Repent’: Implement new action based on my changed way of thinking.

 Forgiveness

IT SEEMS TO ME that to truly ‘Repent’ one must also be able to ‘forgive’. Think about it.  When our bad ‘choice’ (intentional or unintentional) hurts someone else, and we see the undesirable consequence, we ‘Repent’ and seek to repair the damage.  We may seek ‘forgiveness’, whether it is extended or not.  So, do unto others as you would have them do unto you– Luke 6:31.  If I seek ‘forgiveness’ through my ‘Repentance’, am I also willing to extend ‘forgiveness’ when someone’s ‘Repentance’ includes me?

Our Model

ONE WAY I see our having been created in the image of God is in the combination of ‘Repentance’ and ‘forgiveness’.  Throughout Scripture when mankind ‘Repents’ from the bad ‘choices’ related to God’s loving teaching for us, God is there with ‘forgiveness’ and the opportunity to make a better ‘choice’.  God’s example of this forgiveness when we fail to follow Jesus’ model is exemplified in the ministry of John the Baptist. And so, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Mark 1:4 …and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his [Jesus] name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:47

Quotes on ‘Repentance’

“‘Repentance’ means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.”– Bruce Wilkinson

A man [or woman] walks on through life – with the external call ringing in his [or her]ears but with no response stirring in his heart, and then suddenly, without any warning, the Spirit taps him on the shoulder. What happens? He turns ’round. The word ‘repentance‘ means ‘turning ’round.’ He repents and believes and is saved.” –Peter Marshall, former Chaplin of U.S. Senate.

 More Peter Marshall Quotes

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”

“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

“Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”

Choice

Art:

I DID A SERIES of Michigan lighthouses in Ink with Pen & Brush a few years ago.  This is from my photo reference of the lighthouse at the entrance to the small harbor on Mackinac Island, Michigan. 

I chose it for our today’s Thought—‘Choice’. Every time a Captain or Skipper of a watercraft is confronted with a lighthouse (especially before electronic guidance systems) he or she was faced with a ‘Choice’, do I or do I not follow protocol? 

Thought:

Made any ‘Choices’?

MADE ANY ‘CHOICES’ today?  You got out of bed… You had breakfast… You may have done neither of these.  But you did.  Why? We constantly make ‘Choices, often without conscious thought.  Now another word enters the conversation—consequence. No matter the ‘Choice’ made, there will be a resulting consequence: getting to work on time, vs being late; not feeling hungry vs ‘starving’.  Some are more extreme than others: selecting a career,.. a marriage partner,.. live in the city or country,.. get a Covid shot. 

‘Choice’ Defined & Illustrated

‘CHOICE’ OFTEN  DEFINED as:  an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. 

This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln , the second largest ship in the United States’ Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that’s a one-five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

Did this take place?  Don’t know.  Some say it’s one version of an urban legend. It illustrates how important information is before the final ‘Choice’. Right?

Motivative Choices

IT SEEMS TO ME ‘Choices’ are motivated either by: (1.) seemingly rational scientific facts: an outcome is equal to, lesser than, or greater than two or more alternatives. (2.) or a new relationship where alternatives are on a par. It may matter very much which you choose, but one is not better than the other.

When choices we make are on a par, the reason given to us (the ones that determine whether we are making a mistake) are silent as what to actually do.  It’s here, in these hard choices, we exercise our normative power—the power to make reasons for yourself, to make yourself into the kind of person where one of the choices is preferable to the others: a career, a marriage partner, life in the country the city, a Covid shot. 

When we do something where the choices for the follower of Jesus are rather on a par, we do something that is rather remarkable.  We can put our very selves behind an option—here is where I stand. Here is who I am.  This response in hard choices is a rational response. But it is not by reasons given to us. Rather it is created by reasons influenced by our relationship to our Heavenly Father. When we create reasons for ourselves like this, we become this kind of person rather than that. We wholeheartedly become the people that we are. We could say, we become the authors of our own lives for His glory.

People who don’t use their normative powers in hard choices are drifters. Drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives. They let mechanisms of reward and punishment dictate their lives. The key to making hard choices? Reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for, and through hard choices, become that person. [1] 

THAT’S WHY HARD choices are not a curse but a Godsend!  God is the Lighthouse to guide my ‘Choices’ for a best result for time and eternity!

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will [choose to]serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will [choose to] serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15


[1] I found helpful the TED Talk by Ruth Chang, faculty of Philosophy and Chair and Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford and a Professorial Fellow at University College, Oxford.

Harbinger

Art:

I PAINTED THIS Oil one Fall after taking a walk near Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Struck by the brilliant colors, this is my attempt to capture the essence of that experience.

Last week I mentioned Fall is our favorite season.  That’s true for many reasons. Fall is the ‘Harbinger’ of things to come—Winter. I’m aware of the ‘downside’ to that icy cold season.  But today I am thinking of its coziness and special celebrations like Christmas.  Fall is the ‘Harbinger’ of both the ‘coziest’ and ‘coldest’ season for us in this northern hemisphere. Nevertheless, we recognize Fall as a positive ‘Harbinger’!

Thought:

A Definition

I ENJOY DISCOVERING the story behind words. ‘Harbinger’ (though we haven’t used it as much since the 12th century) is alive and well. Today we define it as ‘a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another’. It’s often substituted by words like herald, omen, precursor and portend.

The Backstory

‘HARBINGER’ COMES from Old French and Old German words that meant “to provide shelter or lodging”.  When medieval travelers needed lodging for the night, they went looking for a ‘Harbinger’. By the late 1300s, ‘Harbinger’ was also being used for a person sent ahead of a main party to seek lodgings, often for royalty or a campaigning army, but that old sense has largely been left in the past. Both of those historical senses are true to the Anglo-French parent of ‘Harbinger’, the word herberge, meaning “lodgings.” The most common “forerunner” concept, has been with us since the mid-1500s.

Biblical ‘Harbingers’

FROM GENESIS CHAPTER ONE’S account of creation on into the New Testament, we see God’s ‘Harbingers’. [T]he Spirit of God was hovering over the waters and became a ‘Harbinger’ of there was light.  That light then became the ‘Harbinger’ of all succeeding days of creation. 

On at least two occasions Jesus referenced examples where Jews culturally acknowledged ‘Harbinger’.  [Jesus said] “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance [‘Harbinger’] of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs [‘Harbinger’] of the times.  Matthew 16:2, 3.  Again in Matthew 2:32, 33 Jesus said, Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know [‘Harbinger’]that summer is near.

‘Harbinger’ of all ‘Harbingers’

IT SEEMS TO ME God gave followers of Jesus the ‘Harbinger’ of all ‘Harbingers’ when Jesus summarized God’s laws: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:38-39.

To follow that command becomes the ‘Harbinger’ of God’s blessing to and through our life for his will to be done for his glory in his creation.  I first began to understand this from the Psalms more than a half century ago.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

‘Google’ or ‘YouTube’

TO SEARCH ‘HARBINGER’ in Google or YouTube produces many results including things like: the name of a restaurant, music group, brand of clothing, and a furniture store.  On that list is Rabbi/Pastor Johnathan Cahn’s book The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. Using Isaiah 9 he outlines 9 ‘Harbingers’ God provided Israel to encourage repentance before judgment would be felt because of their rejection of God.

Be Reminded…

SO WHEN WE WALK through the colorful Fall leaves this October, be reminded that God oversees all things, including the seasons, and he provides this, sometimes brilliant, ‘Harbinger’ of that which is next—Winter.  For romantics it’s: the cozy warmth of a fireplace, the celebration of Christmas, peacefulness of a new fallen snow and even Hallmark Christmas movies! I’m aware that in our northern hemisphere this is also the darkest and coldest season. But, most of all, it is a ‘Harbinger’ of God’s love and blessing for all of us, especially you as a follower of Jesus, in all things, at all times and places!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Waiting

Art:

I PAINTED THIS Watercolor fourteen years ago as part of a lesson (as best I remember) from Gordon MacKenzie’s The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, 1999.  It was a great help with Watercolor.  its subtitle is, “A Treasure of tricks and techniques discovered through years of painting and experimentation”.  It was.

I chose this painting to represent our Thought—‘Waiting’.  Marj and I enjoy Fall as our favorite season. I must admit that as we grow older, Spring is a very close second! We enjoy the colors and smells of Fall in the upper Midwest where we have lived all our lives. Officially, Fall arrived just a few days ago. 

Thought:

Waiting For What?

“PLEASE…WILL YOU just wait a minute!” How many times do words like that flow from the lips of parents across the country daily.  Don’t try to answer.  Just think. How many times have you or I voiced them to our children?  They’re having a hard time ‘Waiting’ and we are having a hard time ‘Waiting’ on their hard time ‘Waiting’!  We’re both bursting with impatience.  Be honest, do you sometimes have a hard time ‘Waiting’?   Welcome to humanity!   So, why is that?  What’s so hard about waiting?  It generally boils down to what we’re ‘Waiting’ for, doesn’t it?  We can probably narrow our answer to two categories: we are either ‘Waiting’ for something we anticipate will be a good result or a not-so-good result.

The Good Result

TO JOG YOUR memory, here are some things generally agreed to be well worth ‘Waiting’ for:  Your  wedding day… arrival of the baby… Christmas celebrations…a child home for the holidays… vacations…graduation…closing on a new home…tax refund… retirement… Fall or Spring.  Add to your list.  If “Hope is patience with the lamp lit”, as Tertullian once said, we call that process ‘Waiting’.

The Not-So-Good

THE NOT-SO-GOOD anticipations from having to ‘Wait’ often revolve around anticipated loss.   Rejection is huge: Rejection by someone close to you…rejection of your application for the position you wanted…rejection of your submission for publication…waiting on the bill for an uninsured loss…medical result to determine if its terminal…we would rather not think about these… so we won’t.

“Why Doesn’t God Do Something?

WHEN WE SEE PEOPLE suffering in the world around us for lack of food… shelter… justice… health care… and in so many other ways, we are prompted to shout… “What is God ‘Waiting’ for?  “Why doesn’t he do something?”

Marj and I join with three other couples in a Small Group Bible Study that meets every other week. We are currently in a study of the Life of Jesus from the four Gospels.  It’s our turn to facilitate this week. One passage for the week is Mathew 13:24-35 known as ‘The Parable of the Weeds. This parable (as are several others in this context) is about ‘Waiting’.  Jesus’ followers didn’t want to wait.  They wanted to immediately pull out the weeds that had been sown along with the good seed by the evil one.  Jesus’ parable lesson was to ‘Wait’ until harvest for good reasons. One of my favorite New Testament scholars is N. T. Wright.  I loved his closing paragraph at the end of his thought on this passage…

N. T. Wright

“WE WHO LIVE after Calvary and Easter know that God did indeed act suddenly and dramatically at that moment.  When today we long for God to act, to put the world to rights, we must remind ourselves that he has already done so, and that what we are now awaiting is the full outworking of those events  We wait with patience, not like people in a dark room wondering if anyone will ever come with a lighted candle, but like people in early morning who know that the sun has arisen and now waiting for the full brightness of midday.”[1]

Worth the ‘Wait’!

I LOVE IT!  Calvary and Easter remind us that Jesus came into the world to bring the light of God’s kingdom–sunrise [John 8:12; 9:5]. Jesus also said that his followers continue to be God’s light in the world [John 5:14]. We live in the morning before his ‘noon’ return [Acts 1:9, 10]! We are part of his loving plan for all creation.  It’s all worth the ‘Wait’! [Romans 8:28]

[Jesus said,] “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                                                                                                                    John 8:12


[Now]“You are the light of the world.”

John 5:14

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28


[1] Matthew for Everyone Part 1, by N.T. Wright, p. 170