Rest

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Art:

I looked though my Art Gallery to find a piece for this week’s Thought—Rest.  I settled on this Ink (pen without brush). I drew it thirteen years ago for the owners of Ticknor Hill Bed and Breakfast in Anoka, Minnesota.  In retrospect, I wish I had used the brush for shading to give it more depth.

Individuals or couples sometimes choose a Bed & Breakfast, like Ticknor Hill,  to ‘get away’ from everyday schedules, to actually ‘Rest’.   Do you need a ‘Rest’ from the restlessness of your Coronavirus life?

Thought:

Here’s a little back-story as to how I arrived at  ‘Rest’ for our Thought: Beginning early this year, Marj and I joined with three other retired couples—one other being a retired Pastor–for a Small Group Bible study.

We decided on: Life Without Lack, Living in the Fullness of PSALM 23 by Dallas Willard.  The paperback includes a Study Guide for the nine sessions. Our first meeting was March 2nd.  Then came Coronavirus and social distancing.  Our next six sessions were from home using Zoom technology. Last week, we met in person, outside, at nearby Thomas Lake Park in Egan. It was perfect!  Today we meet at the same park for our final session. End of back story.

I’m trying to use my improving ‘listening aid’ (from last week’s Blog’) to arriving at weekly ‘Thoughts’: “Lord, where are we going this week?” As the idea emerges, I jot it down on my yellow legal pad beside the studio reading chair, and we start to work!  I like what our book’s author said about Rest:

“Rest is an act of faith, especially today…

Few people get the rest God intends for their wellbeing.  Remember that the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, an entire day to be set aside for rest.  But how often do you keep the Sabbath?  Spiritual practices such as Sabbath, rest, solitude, and silence are essentially “casting all your care upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7).  When you’ve done this enough to convince yourself that the world will be able to function without you, you will find true rest.  This is fundamental to our lives, yet because of the way this world is set up, one of the primary temptations is to not get enough rest. This is one reason we have so much addiction and abuse today…

“You are not meant to live in a constant state of fatigue…

Tiredness is a spiritual problem, not because it is a sin, but because being tired creates difficulties for your spiritual life:  Robbing you of the energy needed to pursue God.  You may not be getting enough restful and refreshing sleep.  You might even empathize with David when he wasn’t sleeping because he had people chasing after him in an effort to kill him.  In Psalm 3, David declared that his situation was so bad that people were saying that even God couldn’t help him.  But he cried out to God and was heard (.4), and then he could sleep.  In verse 5 we read, “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.”  David went on to say that he would not be afraid; salvation belongs to the lord.  As you see here, our ability to sleep is a sign of our faith.

“Our confidence in God can lead us to “lie down in green pastures

… and rest in God, putting our minds at ease because our hearts are at peace, so that we wake the next morning refreshed and thankful.  If this is a problem for you, make it a spiritual priority to find out why you are not sleeping and how to solve it  ‘this many involve  not watching late night television… or maybe you are overeating or doing something else that keeps you from getting to sleep,  Whatever it may be, it must be identified and dealt with because you need to rest.”

As you work on getting eight hours of ‘shut eye’ per day, consider taking a look at the book our group will complete this afternoon: Life Without Lack, Living in the Fullness of PSALM 23 by Dallas Willard.

Also, consider inviting a few friends to join you in a small group study to read and discuss the 23rd Psalm using the study guide.  I believe everyone will be enriched.  Contact me if you have questions.

“He [She] who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.                                                                                                                                        Psalm 91:1

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

  Matthew 11:28

 

Listen

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Art:

Last year a neighbor, who had seen some of my artwork, asked if she could commission me to do an Ink with Pen and Brush of her grandchild’s dog ‘Molly’.  I agreed. This Art piece is a copy of my original.

I chose this for our Thought—Listen—because, considering her pose, I imagine Molly is listening.  For many animals, listening can be a matter of life or death.

Thought:

I make a distinction between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’.  For nearly three years I’ve worn ‘hearing aids’.  They do a great job overcoming damage done to my hearing when, as a young man,  I worked with certain power tools. My ‘hearing aids’ are nearly undetectable to those around me, but clearly amplify their voices. That’s a blessing for both of us!

So now, where can I purchase ‘listening aids’?  As a piece of hardware (like the hearing aids) ‘listening aids’ simply don’t exist.  If they did, I would be tempted to make a purchase for myself and raise funds for their purchase as a gift to all elected public officials!  With this Coronavirus, systemic racial injustice and a 2020 major election year, we are ‘hearing’ a lot of talking. Unfortunately, in my opinion, too much of it is diminished to finger pointing and name calling.

I must look in the proverbial mirror and ask myself: Now that I am ‘hearing’ quite well, how about my ‘listening’ capability’?  Am I really ‘listening’ to what I’m ‘hearing’?  How would I know?  I did a little research to help me understand my ‘listening’ challenge.

Why do we listen in the first place?

  • To gain an understanding of a problematic situation that needs solving.
  • To strike up a productive conversation.
  • To connect with one another.

It seems to me we have to start with connecting, then we may have a productive conversation about what might be a problematic situation that needs solving.  How do we do that?  I came across three basic listening models:

  1. Competitive or combative listening: This is the type of listening done when people want to push their own type of view or opinion rather than listen to someone else’s. “My way or the highway” seems to be their only agenda. We see lots of that.
  2. Passive, attentive listening: In this type of listening, we are genuinely interested. We may agree with what is being said, but we are doing so in a passive manner, rather than in a reflective one.
  3. Active, reflective listening: We actively listen and wait to understand what the other person is saying before we try to interject what we would like to share. In this model, you first restate or share back information with the speaker, showing that you are paying attention and are actively involved.

Bottom Line:  If we are truly ‘listening to gain an understanding of a problematic situation that needs solving’, “Active, reflective listening” is imperative.  Also, it seems to me, two key questions must be addressed:

Question #1:

What is the ‘problematic situation’ from the point of view of each participant in the conversation?  Listen until it is clear you are talking about the same problem.  There may be more than one: Listen and reflect until there is understanding. Record the findings both can agree upon.

Question #2:

What is the solution (or solutions) to the agreed upon  ‘problematic situation that needs solving’?  Most problems in the human arena did not come about overnight. Solutions start with a mutual commitment to proceed down a path in the direction of what an agreed upon resolution may look like. Continue meeting together for evaluation and adjustments. Patience!

Hope: In view of our current (pandemic—racial injustice—political) climate, last week I saw a new political candidate interviewed, during a local newscast, that gave me hope!  I know nothing about the young attorney from the Twin Cities other than this interview and his TV ads.  He said, “I will listen.” That was refreshing and perhaps even rare.

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening, when you’d have preferred to talk.”Doug Larson

“…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.       Proverbs 1:5

                     “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.”                   Matthew 15:10

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,  slow to speak and slow to become angry.”                                                                      James 1:19

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for help with my ‘hearing aids’.  Now, I need ‘listening aid’! Can I learn something from ‘Molly’?

Want a good laugh?  Go to ‘Google’ or ‘YouTube’ and type in ‘Listen Linda’, click on the short video of a 3-year old in a debate about ‘listening’.

 

 

 

 

 

Kingdom

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Art:

Not long ago, our oldest son, along with his wife and three youngest children, spent two years in China’s Yunnan province. I did this Ink with Pen and Brush at that time and felt it appropriate for our Thought today—Kingdom.

The Great Wall of China is the collective name of a series of fortification systems generally built across the historical northern borders of China. From as early as the 7th century BC, walls were being built. The most well-known sections of the walls were built by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

Thought:  

How do you like being a ‘king’ or ‘queen’?  Yes, I’m talking about you.  You are either a ‘king’ with a kingdom (males) or a ‘queen’ with a queendom (female).  Having a kingdom or a queendom was never your choice.  That was God’s choice for you.  Now, choices you make as the ‘king’ or ‘queen’ of your kingdom are yours to make.  Before we continue, let’s define a few terms:

Kingdom of Man is generally a piece of land ruled by a king or a queen, often called a monarchy: usually one person is the leader, or head of state.

Kingdom of Heaven is the spiritual realm over which God reigns as king, or the fulfillment on Earth of God’s will. The phrase is primarily used by Jesus in the first three Gospels.

Kingdom of Saints [1]”Every last one of us has a “kingdom”—or a “queendom”, or a “government”—a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens. Here is a truth that reaches into the deepest part of what it is to be a person.

What is a Kingdom?  “To gain a deeper understanding of our eternal kind of life in God’s present kingdom, we must be sure to understand what a kingdom is. A ‘Kingdom’ is simply the range of our effective will.   Whatever we genuinely have the say over is our kingdom. And our having the say over something is precisely what places it within our kingdom.  In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere.  Only so, can they be persons.

“We are made to “have dominion” within an appropriate domain of reality.  This is the core of the likeness or image of God in us and is the basis of the destiny for which we were formed.  We are, all of us, never-ceasing spiritual beings with a unique eternal calling to count for good in God’s great universe.”

 As created persons in the image of God [“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27] we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, where God’s effective will is in control. He is the creator and “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:3

As part of the Kingdom of God, men and women are subject to God’s effective will.  Out of love for his creation, God’s effective will for mankind has given each individual their own personal kingdom: A place where he or she has a range of effective will: Where what you say is what happens. Evidence of this begins in Genesis 1:26-28 where God said “… fill the earth and subdue [have dominion or rule over] it.

Our guidelines, for making these choices in our kingdom, are given to us by Jesus: Love God, Love yourself and Love neighbors.  This God-kind-of-love is “…acting intentionally, in sympathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well-being.” — Thomas Oord, The Science of Love. 

[2]“Love, then, is a condition of the will, embodied in the fundamental dimensions of the human personality, guiding them for the purpose of serving the good.  In the deepest sense love is not something you choose to do; it is what you become—a loving person.  Your will is your capacity to bring things and events and processes into existence.”

How may I approach my Kingdom?

Love God:  He loved you first (John 3:16).  He gave you his Spirit. Spend time with him!

Love Yourself: You are God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16). Take care of your body in every way.

Love Other: All God’s creation and people, within your sphere of influence (Gen. 1:26-28). Start at home.

“His master replied, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things [in your kingdom]: I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness.”

Matthew 25:23

[1] The Divine Conspiracy, Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, Dallas Willard, p. 21

[2] Live Without Lack, Living in the fullness of Psalm 23, Dallas Willard,  p, 170

Repent

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Art:

I PAINTED THIS OIL of a sunrise over Long Lake near Aitkin, Minnesota, a few years back.  At the time, our son had a cabin on the lake. It was a delight to come out on the deck early in the morning and greet a new sunrise.  Each one promised the beginning of a new day with new opportunities. I loved the color and composition through this tall evergreen.

I chose this painting for today’s Thought—Repentance—because true Repentance is opportunity for an exciting new outcome!

Thought

LAST WEEK I DEFINED the key Thought for the week—Confession—as an Acknowledgement.  In other words, ‘owning up to’ having broken a contract, a law or a promise. I said, “I wanted to look at Confession in three parts: Pre-Confession, Confession and Post-Confession

Today’s word is often associated with Confession—Repentance.  What does it mean to repent?  Definitions include words like “apologize, be sorry, ask forgiveness”.  These are good, if they truly express our Repentance. Even when sincere, they leave out what I feel is the key, often ignored, ingredient.  True Repentance is to ‘change thinking’.  It’s often a 180-degree change with intention that the change prevail as the ‘new norm’.

I WAS SHOCKED BY a recent TV newscast.  As I understood the report: Minnesota ranks #50 (bottom of the list), as states rank, in how well they do in eliminating systemic racial injustice. I may have been shocked because I am a white male who has lived in a Twin Cities suburb since moving to Minnesota in 1983.  Even if the ranking is off several points, we have failed.  I did not realize that fact. That information was one circumstance that led me to our Thought for last week: Confession and, this week, Repentance.  Let me illustrate: Here is how I break down this experience to my thoughts on ‘Confession in three parts’:

Pre-Confession:

Observation: [What is your environment telling you–visual and auditory?]  Minnesota has failed in eradicating systemic racial injustice.

Moderation: [Slow down, take time to ‘see & listen’ with understanding.]  I had to ‘see & listen’ to firsthand reports that support this Observation: Both as to what is happening and why.

Consideration: [Check the map. Where were you headed? What destination?] I believe  the goal for every citizen in this nation is ‘equal justice for all’.

Confession: [Acknowledge—agree to—the error and ask for help]:  Based on the evidence, there is no way to escape existing inequality.  It truly exists. I also hear ideas being touted as the guide to ‘help’ attain the goal of equal justice for all.

Post-Confession:

Expectation: [Trust the validity of your guide’s advice.]  While I agree there is a systemic racial injustice problem in Minnesota that must be corrected, I can’t trust that some of the ideas to ‘help’ are either attainable as proposed, or sustainable.

Recalibration: [Change your modius operandi—habits of working.]  I believe there is now a growing grass root repentance in many communities to become increasingly aware of the need, and to actually listen and work for solutions that are both attainable and sustainable.

Celebration: [Reaching your destination, having learned lessons.] I celebrate the focus this past few months has directed to a need that many busy white citizens, like me, simply did not realize existed. That lack of awareness is changing

WHILE I AGREE that skin color is involved, I do not believe skin color is at the root of the challenge to the systemic racial injustice we must overcome.  In my opinion, our systemic injustice is more due to mutual ignorance of social/cultural distinctives.  We do not understand each other.  We do not listen to one another ‘heart to heart’.  We do not learn from one another the many valuable lessons each culture has to offer others.  Too often, we think only in terms of “them” and “us” instead of “we, (all) the people.”

I BELIEVE JESUS has given His followers the model that can eliminate systemic racial injustice. It begins with God’s love: first, for one another, regardless of our ethnicity or culture, and together reaches out with that same love to everyone.

Here I want to take a little ‘license’ in looking at the Apostle Paul’s defense before Agrippa:

First to those in Damascus [Minneapolis], then to those in Jerusalem [St. Paul] and in all Judea [Minnesota], and to the Gentiles [non-believers] also, I preached that they should repent [change their thinking] and turn to God and prove their repentance [changed thinking] by their deeds.  [future actions of love!]  —Acts 26:20

“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved.”

Thomas Merton

 

 

Confession

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Art:

I completed this Ink with Pen & Brush of the Rosemount, Minnesota Steeple Center last year.  The city purchased the old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church building in 2004, then refurbished and opened in 2010 as Steeple Center for the community. I especially enjoyed the detail artwork of the building’s front elevation.

I chose it as the art piece for this week’s Thought—Confession—partly, because we often connect Confession with Church.

Thought:

IN THIS BLOG I want to look at Confession as Acknowledgement in three parts: Pre-Confession, Confession and Post-Confession.

FIRST, A STORY FROM my childhood to illustrate: For my fourth and fifth grades, I lived with paternal grandparents in Bemis, Tennessee.  It was a ‘company town’ owned by the Bemis Cotton Mill and provided modest housing as part of the employment compensation.

My uncle had returned from WWII with his army backpack and canteen now stored in my grandparents’ shed.  I was allowed to play with them. The local woods, fields and stream were ideal for boys to play.  One afternoon, after arriving home from playing, I realized I did not have the backpack or canteen.  What happened to them?  I searched the house and yard.  Then it came to me: I must have left them by the water where we were playing. I ran back to the site and looked carefully.  They were gone. What would I do?  I would be in big trouble with my uncle Clayton.

That night I could not sleep. I had lost my uncle’s equipment from the war. I got up, went into the bedroom where my grandmother was sleeping.  I whispered, “Grandma. Are you awake?”  “Yes.” She responded.  I got on my knees beside her bed and told her the whole story and how sorry I was that I had lost Uncle Clayton’s backpack and canteen and that I couldn’t sleep.

She assured me not to worry about it, and that my uncle Clayton would not be angry with me.  I believed her, went to bed and slept.  He was sad, but he was sad for me. He knew how much I enjoyed playing with it. He always considered he had given it to me to keep.  He was not upset.  It held no sentimental value to him.  I never did know what happened to my army surplus stuff.  But I learned a few lessons from that experience that have served well through these decades.

Here is how I break down this experience to my thoughts on ‘Confession as Acknowledgement’:

Pre-Confession:

Observation: [What is your environment telling you–visual and auditory?]  I could not find my uncle’s equipment when I returned home from play. It was gone.

Moderation: [Slow down, take time to ‘see & listen’ with understanding.]  I had to stop my frantic searching and think of where I might look. Nearly everything else was on hold.

Consideration: [Check the map. Where were you headed? What destination?] My goal was to find the equipment so I could return it to my uncle whenever he asked for it.

Confession:

[Acknowledge—agree—the error and ask for help]:  There was no way to deny that the equipment was gone.  I could lie and say someone stole it.  That would be an even bigger conscience problem.  No, I had to admit what happened: I lost the equipment.   I had to ask for help, in this case, from my grandmother.

Post-Confession:

Expectation: [Trust the validity of your guide’s advice.]  She assured me that it would all work out. Go to bed and sleep.

Recalibration: [Change your modius operandi—habits of working.]  After that conversation, I stopped worrying about what was now out of my control and went right to sleep.

Celebration: [Reaching your destination, having learned lessons.] My goal was to please my uncle by being able to give him back his equipment. But I discovered it was mine.  He even felt bad I didn’t have it to play with anymore.  The burden of guilt is gone. It’s time for Celebration.

                         Without Confessing—acknowledging—our trespasses (sins), we are attempting to live our life under a burden we are not designed to carry.                                   Acknowledge and Celebrate!

 

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 Timothy 1:9

Example

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Art:

THIS IS A PHOTO of my first Oil painting. The date (2012/05/10) is when I took the picture.  If you look closely, the painting was completed in 12/1997. Hard to believe my first Oil was 23 years ago.  The story behind the painting is that Marj gave me a set of Oil paints, including a VHS tape and book by Bob Ross, for Christmas that year.  I followed the step by step process as Rob worked his way through the painting.  By following his ‘Example’, I completed this piece by the end of December.  In the last 23 years I have completed lots more!  Most of them have been featured in the last 79 weekly Blogs.  I thought this painting would be a good illustration of our Thought for this week— ‘Example’.  It was Rob’s Example that led me into Oil painting.

Thought

TWO THINGS HAPPENED last Sunday morning, leading to this Blog. THE  FIRST: In my private Bible reading I came to John 13:15 where Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” I had already been asking the Lord to guide for this week’s Blog and the word example nearly leaped off the page!

Then I read further to John 13:17 “Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.”  What things?  John 13:34, 35 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so, you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Can I really be an example of this kind of love?

THE SECOND THING that happened Sunday morning was at breakfast.  For decades, Marj and I have the practice at breakfast of reading scripture and a short devotional from a publication called The Daily Bread.  I read the scripture for the day and she reads the devotional.  When she finished reading, I said, “That’s going to be part of my Blog for this week.  It illustrates the power of the key word from earlier this morning— ‘Example’”  Here it is:

“Kelsey navigated the narrow airplane aisle with her eleven-month-old daughter, Lucy, and Lucy’s oxygen machine.  They were traveling to seek treatment for her baby’s chronic lung disease.  Shortly after settling into their shared seat, a flight attendant approached Kelsey, saying a passenger in first class want to switch seats with her.  With tears of gratitude streaming down her face, Kelsey made her way back up the aisle to the more spacious seat, while the benevolent stranger made his way toward hers.”

Kelsey’s benefactor embodied the kind of love one another Jesus spoke about and Paul encourages young Timothy to follow through the practice of ‘doing good’. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”  1 Timothy 6:18

I don’t know if the man in first class even spoke a word to Kelsey.  He really did not have to.  His action spoke volumes.  I suspect that anyone sitting near him in first class or near where she had started out, could see what was taking place before their eyes. I can’t help but think this is what Jesus had in mind when he said: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   That’s the kind of loving Example I want to be.  Perhaps more accurately: That’s the way I desire Jesus to manifest his love through me to those around me through ‘good deeds’.

I haven’t been on an airplane in more than a year and I’ve only flown in first class once, because the plane was nearly empty, and we were invited to first class by the flight attendant.  In fact, since retirement and a change of residence two years ago, not to mention ‘social distancing’ due to COVDT19 and being one in the more ‘vulnerable’ age of society, a whole week can go by when we actually interact with no one outside our home.  Where is the young mother, with the child on a flight to seek medical help for her child, in my life?   Where is my opportunity?

She is seated right at the breakfast table with me! My wonderful opportunity is Marj!  Look again at what Jesus said in John 13:15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”  In Jesus’ example he started with those closest to him (“for you”) the disciples who were his ‘family’ and closest friends.

Follow Jesus’ example, love—do good deeds—for the one physically closest to you!  Who is that going to be today?

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.                                John 13:15

 

 

Sustainable

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Art:

I painted this Oil when we lived in Andover, Minnesota.  Unfortunately, I didn’t sign or date it. I like the wild natural scene. I also wanted to use cool colors for sky and trees.  I chose it in connection with our key Thought for today—Sustainability—often defined as the practice of using natural resources responsibly today, so they are available for future generations tomorrow. Few would disagree.

Thought:

In the past six months I’ve watched the evening news lead story shift from major political party fights; to coronavirus pandemic; to racial injustice.  Rather than ‘shifting’, it’s more like a ‘pile on’.  Each new lead story piled on the previous.  What else might be on the horizon to insert itself before the November election? Stay tuned.

I watched the creation of several blocks in Seattle, Washington declare itself an autonomous Police free entity. One commentator’s essential analysis was: “This entity is ‘not sustainable’’.

It does not have the DNA for survival.  Regardless of the merit of outcomes desired, this method cannot succeed.

SUSTAINABILITY is often defined as the practice of using natural resources responsibly today, so they are available for future generations.

When asked what do Americans value most? ‘Freedom’ often tops a list of options. Applying that response to our definition looks like this:  Sustainable ‘Freedom’ is the practice of responsible use of ‘Freedom’ today, so ‘Freedom’ is available for future generations.

It seems to me Freedom has two key perspectives:

Freedom from something undesirable and unsustainable and Freedom to something desirable and sustainable. I believe one example is: Freedom from systemic racial inequity to systemic racial equity. How does a city, or a nation, move from one undesirable to a desirable present and future?

First: I believe the undesirable must be defined, in all its forms, where freedom is lacking, and overcome by peaceful means.

Second: I believe the desirable must be defined, implemented and sustained by constant review of conditions necessary for freedom to thrive.

It seems to me racial inequity is an Achilles’ heel threatening the American way of freedom envisioned in the minds and hearts of the nation’s founding fathers. In every way it continues to weakens us as a nation.

Os Guinness writes: “[T]he ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans.  The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor” The future of the republic depends on whether America will rise to the challenge of living up to America’s unfulfilled potential for freedom both for itself and for the world.”

The emancipation proclamation of 1862-63 was a start toward racial equity.  The Civil Rights act of 1964 was a further step. What can be accomplished, now?  Abraham Lincoln said: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.”

There are many facets to what I suggest as First and Second actions above.  Government, education, finance, corporations, health and many others will each be in a position to make positive contributions in both definition of the current undesirable racial inequities and the desirable sustainable present and future for racial equity.

In my opinion, if church leadership and congregations from all racial backgrounds don’t ‘together’ take a prominent presence at the table, any effort will ultimately fall short of a sustainable outcome for generations to come. I believe sustainability is a heart issue.

“Know the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.  And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing joy, which come from the Lord who is the Spirit.’

2 Corinthians 3:17, 18

MY PRAYER IS that followers of Jesus, ‘marching’ through our daily lives, will so manifest the sustaining ‘Freedom’ of God’s love, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that all races and creation, will recognize where the grace originates to sustain this nation and its positive influence for ‘Freedom’ to the world.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.  

Psalm 51:12

 

 

 

 

 

Fear

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Art:

This week’s Art piece is a small 8” X 10” acrylic I did about 18 months ago. When I painted it, I wanted to create a somewhat foreboding setting.  I used several elements to help with the mood: nighttime, winter, graveyard, rural setting and aged church structure.  It’s not one of my best acrylics. Perhaps even that contributes to the feeling I was after.   I chose it for today’s thought of fear because it includes what for many become fearful images or thoughts.

Thought:

CURRENT ENVOLVMENT with a global Covet19 pandemic; social distancing restriction that closed, schools, churches and businesses; social unrest resulting from racial injustice; destructive rioting by nefarious groups; a near collapse of  the economy resulting in unemployment; falling markets and increased national debt seem to have created, what I think of as, ‘a perfect storm’.  This idiom refers to a rare combination of events or circumstances creating an unusually bad situation. In my lifetime our current combination is a first, and its’ bad.  Fear grows in the hearts of many we know.

Some defined fear as one of the seven universal emotions experienced by everyone around the world. Fear arises with the threat of harm, either physical, emotional, or psychological, real or imagined. While traditionally considered a “negative” emotion, fear actually can serve an important role in keeping us safe as it mobilizes us to cope with potential danger.

[1]Studies have demonstrated that globally these are 5 of the most common fear triggers:

  • Darkness or loss of visibility of surroundings
  • Heights and flying
  • Social interaction and/or rejection
  • Snakes, rodents, spiders and other animals
  • Death and dying

I suspect today many would add “pandemic disease” to the list.

It seems to me, at the root of fear, as currently defined, is a feeling that I have no control.  Looking carefully, in each of the 5 (or 6) listed, the common denominator is “I’m not in control.”  When we are able to cope with a threat, this lessens or removes the fear. Alternatively, when we are helpless to decrease the threat of harm, this intensifies the fear.

It also seems to me the antidote to this fear is establishing who is ‘god’ in my life.  Am I ‘god’, or is God ‘God’?  If I am ‘god’ then I am alone in this fear filled condition.  I have no assurance of how to respond or what to do.  I can only guess, realizing whatever guess I’ve implemented, there will be inevitable consequences.  Can I risk that?  Do I want to risk that?  There is a better place to start.

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.”  Proverbs 1:7 The Message

 It’s certainly true that fear actually can serve an important role in keeping us safe as it may mobilize us to cope with potential danger.  Through wisdom and learning from God we can learn and be enabled to cope with many fears in our daily lives.  Then, we need not fear consequences of the action we take because, we know God loves us!  We trust His guidance through wisdom and learning.

“There is no fear in love.   But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love:”                                  1 John 4:18

When God is ‘God’ in my life, even things that, on the surface, may seem like ‘punishment’ are not out of God’s control.  He may simply be using them to equip us for the present and future.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”                             Psalm 23:4

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children.”                               Romans 8:15-16

What fear is in your life today?  You may be able to add to the list above and make it  personal.  Identifying your fears may be a good place to start…but not a good place to end.  Allow God to be ‘God’.  Then, seek His help. He loves you!

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

  Psalm 34:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Source: Atlas of Emotions

 

Thinking

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Art:

This week’s Art piece is a mixed medium: Ink with Pen and Brush and a touch of Watercolor. I took a photograph of our granddaughter’s cat when they lived in St. Paul, Minnesota 13, years ago. At the time, I probably gave her the original Ink, but I do have a photograph of the original on my studio wall.

I sometimes wonder what her cat was thinking at the time.  Today, I wonder the same thing about our two cats, Tommy and Maggie. “What are you thinking?  What’s going on in your minds?”

Thought:

WHEN I CONSULTED a thesaurus to find words exchangeable for ‘thought’ or ‘thinking’, I found nearly 50 words in six categories: supposed (adj.), consideration (n.), idea (n.), philosophy (n.), reasoned (v.) and believed (v.). This begs the question: exactly what do I mean by ‘thinking’ in today’s blog? I thought I would attempt a metaphor.

It seems to me, ‘thinking’ describes the process undertaken when I open my medicine cabinet in search of a headache relief and find three products that may offer relief. In the past, I’ve used each one with success.  This time is different.  I’ve recently experienced two minor strokes and take Eliquis, this narrows my thinking to one recommended safe choice. So, what’s the point I want to make?

When I approached the medicine cabinet, for the purpose of developing a plan to remedy the headache, I was limited to the current contents of the cabinet. This information—contents of the cabinet—becomes the limit of my resources. My choice will be limited to choosing, based on my headache, what I perceive is my best choice from my immediate resources.

One source put it this way: “Thought (also called thinking) is the mental process in which beings form psychological associations and models of the world. Thinking is manipulating information, as when we form concepts, engage in problem solving, reason and make decisions. Thought, the act of thinking, produces thoughts.”   When this is applied to the medicine cabinet metaphor, my thought is to act by making the best choice based on available information.

Dallas Willard says, “The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.”  In the medicine cabinet metaphor, my selection is limited to what we had previously decided to place in the medicine cabinet.

Think of our mind or heart as our life’s medicine cabinet.  Daily we make selections about how to live and deal with life’s past, present and future ‘headaches’.  What resources are available to us?  What have I placed in the medicine cabinet of my mind / heart with a label I can trust to form the basis for best answers?  Truth!  Truth that comes from God who created and sustains all that is. Truth of God incarnate in the person of Jesus: “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know the Father as well.”   John 14:6, NIV

To become a follower of Jesus is, for me, to recognize that to have an inventory in my mind / heart medicine cabinet that can truly meet my need, it must come from God as incarnate in the life of Jesus.

Here’s the big question: What is currently in the medicine cabinet of my heart / mind that gives me a ‘truth choice’ for what life puts in my path?   What contents in my heart / mind would constitute a properly stocked medicine cabinet?

Our ‘spiritual pharmacist’ Holy Spirit, offers this response: “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.  Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” –2 Timothy 3:16, 17, The Message

Our ‘pharmacist’ Holy Spirit, summarizes, through the words of the Apostle Paul, the contents available for my mind / heart that are trustworthy for dealing with daily life in this physical world.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.  Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” –Philippians 4:8, 9, The Message

So, how exactly can one practically add what’s needed into the medicine cabinet of the heart / mind?

  • It is a daily
  • It will require time in the schedule.
  • It requires a reading plan. Suggestions: Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 23, I Corinthians 13
  • It requires listening to the Holy Spirit (pharmacist) as you continue to read.

 

 

 

 

Sleep

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Art:

At one time our middle son lived on Laurel Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, three blocks from Summit Avenue’s historic homes. We once took a walking tour and learned more about some of these works of Art.  For some time, I have wanted to do an Ink with Pen and Brush of the [1]William W. Bishop’s Queen Ann style house built in 1887. I actually did it last week.

I choose it for our topic, ‘Sleep’ this week because I like the architecture and can only imagine what it would be like to spend a few nights there should it ever become a Bed & Breakfast—that’s not likely!—and wonder what one might hear ‘if walls could talk”. I enjoy old buildings and their stories.

Thought:

“How did you sleep last night?”  That’s a question often asked as Marj and I enjoy breakfast together. Mostly our answers are pretty positive: “Good, how about you?”

Here’s a question: What if you went to sleep tonight and did not wake up for 20 years?  That’s 7,300 days and nights without ever waking up.  For example, if you live to age 60, and average sleeping 8 hrs. per 24, you will have spent 20 years sleeping—1/3 of your life.   Why is this so important?

One unique characteristic of being created human is that God breathed into mankind something unique: God breathed into us ‘spirit’, a characteristic that is a unique part of being created in the image of God. We have a physical body, but we are more than our physical body. We are eternal, our current physical body is not.

As a follower of Jesus, I like to think of my physical body as the temporary dwelling for my ‘spirit’ along with God’s Holy Spirit.  My physical body is a wonderfully equipped physical vehicle (or tool) prepared for service in God’s Kingdom today.  Part of my responsibility is to be a good custodian or steward of my physical body.  I am to take care of it, nurture it and in general keep it ready for its primary service. It is the physical channel for God’s love to flow through the work of my ‘spirit’, via my physical body, to creation. This allows the glory of God to be seen by all.

Part of that custodianship of my physical body is to provide adequate ‘sleep’.   How much is ‘adequate’?  According to the Sleep Foundation.org, latest research suggests these amounts per day:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months):  12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years):  11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5):  10-13 hours
  • School age children:  9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17):  8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25):  7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64):  7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+):  7-8 hours

Some may come to the erroneous conclusion that those 20 years or so of sleep is wasted time.  Not so! Sleep is an active state.  Scientists used to think that everything shuts down when we sleep.  But over the last 60, years scientists have discovered that our brains are very active while we sleep.  In fact, some parts of the brain use more oxygen and glucose while asleep than when awake.

God had a purpose in creating sleep.  Sleep is like taking your car in for a regularly scheduled tune up.  Repairs to our immune system and much more can take place while we are sleeping. God gave us a mission in this world, and He gave us a tool—our physical bodies—to carry out that mission.  I’m reminded of the flight attendant announcement: “If you are flying with young children and the oxygen mask falls down, place it on yourself first then the child.”  In other words, to effectively help others, your first have to be healthy yourself.

Getting adequate sleep for your body is part of God’s plan for our bodies to be healthy for service.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices [tools], holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world [sleepless pursuit of ‘stuff’] but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Romans 12:1-2a

Historic homes on Summit Avenue are beautiful works of Art having housed families for generations.  But, followers of Jesus bodies are the wonderful home of the Holy Spirit’ lovingly working through them in the world today. “For we are God’s workmanship [Art], created in Christ Jesus to do good works; which God prepared in advance for us to do,” Ephesians 2:10, King David expressed in the Psalms: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8

“I lie down in sleep; I awake again because the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3:5

Get your sleep!

[1]  For more information & photos of Summit Avenue homes:   Great Houses of Summit Avenue and the Hill District, Karen Melvin, 2013