Justice

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Art:

This original Ink with Pen & Brush of the Minnesota State Capitol was completed a few year back from photo references. I choose this from my gallery because, for Minnesota, it’s where elected officials create laws to benefit all Minnesotans. The goal is “Just” laws that will be “Justly” administered. This, ideally, is “Justice”.

Thought:

This is a first for me. I’m including a long quote from Richard Rohr. Why? I felt he closely mirrored my thinking on “Justice”. I’ll follow up with a few of my comments.

“Let me expand on our secular and limited definition of justice which for most Westerners is merely retributive justice. When people on the news say, “We want justice!” they normally mean that bad deeds should be punished or that they want vengeance. Our judicial, legal, and penal systems are almost entirely based on this idea of retributive justice. This much bad deserves this much punishment; this much good deserves this much reward. The rational, logical, tit for tat, quid pro quo system makes sense to most of us. It does appear to be holding civil society together at some level, and seems to be the best our dualistic world can do.

I certainly recognize there are many early passages in the Bible that present God as punitive and retributive, but we must stay with the text—and observe how we gradually let God “grow up.” God does not change as much as human knowledge of God evolves. A sole focus on divine retribution leads to an ego-satisfying and eventually unworkable image of God which situates us inside of a very unsafe and dangerous universe. Both Jesus and Paul observed the human tendency toward retribution and spoke strongly about the limitations of the law (see the Sermon on the Mount, Romans, and Galatians).

The biblical notion of justice, beginning in the Hebrew Scriptures with the Jewish prophets—especially Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea—is quite different. If we read carefully and honestly, we will see that God’s justice is actually restorative. In each case, after the prophet chastises the Israelites for their transgressions against YHWH, the prophet continues by saying, in effect, “And here’s what YHWH will do for you: God will now love you more than ever! God will love you into wholeness. God will pour upon you a gratuitous, unbelievable, unaccountable, irrefutable love that you will finally be unable to resist.”

God “punishes us by loving us more! How else could divine love be supreme and victorious? Check out this theme for yourself: read such passages as [1]Isaiah 29:13-24, Hosea 6:1-6, Ezekiel 16 (especially verses 59-63), and so many of the Psalms. God’s justice is fully successful when God can legitimate and validate human beings in their original and total identity! God wins by making sure we win—just as any loving human parent does. The little “time outs” and discipline along the way are simply to keep us awake and growing.

As Isaiah says of God, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Yet I am afraid we often pull God down into “our thoughts.” We naively and erroneously think fear, anger, intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to love. Show me where that has worked. We cannot lead people to the highest level of motivation by teaching them the lowest. God always and forever models the highest—love—and our task is always to “imitate God” (Ephesians 5:1).”

[Quote from: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Justice in the Scriptures, Sunday, July 7, 2019]

Because God loves us, he set up the rules under which we can live our lives and enjoy all the benefit he intends for us. Jesus reduced those to two: “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 22:37-38

Because God loves us, there are consequences. Because God loves us, he applies “Justice”.   If we choose to take control and choose the path of our way, there will be a “time out’ consequence until we repent and return to God’s loving thought path for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Read the context of this verse to see God’s restorative “Justice”, born of God’s love, at work.

“ My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” Isaiah 55:8

“God is love.” 1 John 4:16b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] These are classic examples of the point being made here as they worked with Israel. I strongly suggest taking time to read them at least once in silence and once aloud.

Quiet(ness)

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Art:                            

This oil painting, completed a few years back, was inspired by Jerry Yarnell’s Volume one Painting Basics. I chose it from my gallery for this week’s Thought—Quiet(ness). The time of day, wildwood Chapel, placid water and leafless foreground tree all convey a feeling or thought of ‘Quiet’. Whether alone in a Chapel pew or perched in the tree fork, one can sense a ‘Quietness’.

Thought:

“Be Quiet!”: An often heard parental command, front seat to backseat, where scuffling kids are letting off steam from a ‘too long’ road trip.

When overtired grandchildren wanted to take their nap with grandma, just talked and talked, grandma had an idea: “Let’s play the ‘quiet game’. See who can go longest without talking or making any sound with our mouth.”  Mostly, the winner wasn’t aware of victory, till nap was over. But, grandma won a well deserved nap!

When we say, “Be quiet” what are we saying? Quiet(ness) is one of those words we use, but give little thought to meaning. Synonyms include: Silence, Noiselessness, Inaudibility, Soundlessness and more. Absence of sound is one thing they all seem to have in common. I’ve made an attempt at a definition for myself. For me, quietness is defined at two levels: physical and spiritual. Physical quietness is the absence of man-made sounds. Spiritual quietness is the absence of distracting thoughts. Is this even possible?   In physical quietness I accept the sounds of nature. Some would find that distracting. I find spiritual quietness in asking for and listening for God’s voice—“Speak for your servant is listening.” [I Samuel 3:10b]—to be key ingredients.

Some seem afraid to be quiet. To be surrounded by manmade noise seems a contemporary addiction. Scientists sometimes call this ‘noise pollution’. Why would that be true? Fear, comes to mind: Fear of feeling alone? Fear of what God might ask of me? Fear of being overcome with anxiety? Fear of my past? Fear of the future? Once we’ve eliminated from our physical life as much external manmade noise as possible, what’s left? It is my Spiritual life. Quietness here I believe to be essential.

Research by health professionals support the practice of daily meditation as beneficial to both our mental and physical well being. I would add spiritual. Many who follow Jesus practice a ‘Quiet Time’ almost daily. It’s a period of time, often between fifteen minutes to an hour, each day for the purpose of “speaking” and “listening” to God. The personal Quiet Time is a time to, “Be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10]

Science teachers never tire, so I’m told, of the moment when a child first looks into a microscope. What, up until then, had seemed a boring little speck of dirt can suddenly become full of pattern, color and interest. The child will never look at things the same way again; everything now has the potential to be more than it seems. Telescopes too transform the night sky into a world of awe and power. I think a Quiet Time is like a microscope or telescope into the will of God. It allows us to see things about God, us, and his creation that keeps us from ever seeing things in our world and life as mundane. God loves me. God loves his creation. Nothing of his creation is boring. In a sense, he indwells it all for his glory.

[1]“Henry David Thoreau saw how even our secular existence withers from lack of a hidden life. Conversation degenerates into mere gossip and those we meet can only talk of what they heard from someone else. The only difference between us and our neighbor is that he has seen the news and we have not. Thoreau put it well. As our inward quiet life fails, “the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while…Read not The Times,” he concludes, “read The Eternities!   [Today he may say ‘Read not Facebook’, read the Eternities!…]”

When you see a picture that says to you “Quietness”, see it as a message for you to find a ‘chapel’ in the fork of an old tree or in your kitchen or bedroom and explore with God through the microscope of a personal Quiet Time what he has for you…because he loves you!

“Be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10]

 

[1] p. 162   The spirit of the Disciplines” Dallas Willard.   From Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau: Walden and Other Writings, ed. Joseph Wood Krutch, p. 366

 

 

Time

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HAVE A GREAT INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION THIS 4TH DAY OF JULY 2019!

Art:          

This Original Ink with Pen & Brush was completed a few years back from photo references I took of the Depot in Aitkin, Minnesota. Marj and I spent several weeks each summer for as long as our middle son had a cabin ten miles from Aitkin on Long Lake. I was impressed by the architecture of this early Railroad Depot, now serving as a museum. I chose it for todays thought—Time. In the ‘hay day’ of railroads in this country, railroad time was the trusted standard wherever you traveled.

Thought:

What time is it? When was the last time someone ask you that question? Until the Denver airport a month ago, I couldn’t recall either. I’ve an interesting observation. In a public place observe those around you. See any watches? Your answer may indicate the dominant age represented. Are you wearing a watch? It seems most young people use ‘smart phones’ for time.

Our twenty-five year old granddaughter is sitting at the dinner table with our family. She looks at the clock on the wall and asks: “Grandma, what time is it?”   She never learned to ‘tell time’ with a ‘short’ hour hand, a ‘long’ minute hand and a ‘skinny’ second hand. Only ‘digital’, please! Amazing.

A good part autobiographical, Ecclesiastes reflects experiences of Solomon “…the Teacher…King in Jerusalem”. I am drawn to the first few words of chapter three.   “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.”

[1]  Time may be a minute or an hour. It may also be a long duration—a season. For me, these words from Ecclesiastes begs an answer to three questions:

Q #1: When were you born?a time to be born”  Your birth certificate provides the answer.

Q #2: When will you die?   “a time to die”  Normally, you don’t know.

Q #3:   How long will your “season” [years of life] last? “a season for every activity under heaven”

Answers to the first two questions are documented with a birth and a death certificate. Over these we have no control. But, you and I have great control over the “season” of our lives between the two? How long is that going to be?

I have two files holding special meaning for me. The first has two documents:  a birth and a death certificate dated less than 24 hours apart. An Infant girl!   The second is a death certificate of a man 100 years old. I knew the man and the parents of the little girl. He was a kind and loving man who invested his “season” of life channeling love to God only knows how many. He had no control over his birth. He had no control over his physical death. But, during his “season” [100 years] for every activity under heaven” he accepted the love of God and the privilege of extending that loving service to everyone else.

Digital or analogue timepiece, the next time you see a Railroad Depot remember your time—season”. How is the investment of your “season” going? Never give up! In early adult life these quotes helped set the direction for my “season”:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliot 

“Only one life it will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” — Unknown

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the man [woman] who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his [her] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he [she] meditates day and nigh. He [she] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he [she] does prospers.

 

[1] You may find this lecture of interestA Brief History of the Calendar and Timekeeping

YouTube lecture by Donna Carroll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

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Art:    

These four original Inks with pen and brush are scenes in downtown Anoka, Minnesota completed a dozen years ago. While searching my gallery for art to correspond with the theme ‘words’, I landed on this one. What English word(s) might describe each piece separately or together? Separately: Waterfall; Bridge; Florist and Clock.   Together: Collage; Assortment; Group; or Collection. Could other words be used? Absolutely.

Thought:

When was the last time you gave thought to the meaning of the word, ‘word’? Me either! Last week I suggested looking up words we couldn’t define while reading a book. The question came to me.

What is a ‘word’? Simple question? Yes. Is it? Check a thesaurus:

        Word (noun)

  1.  Divine reason;
  2.  Christian holy scriptures

word(s) (noun)

  1.  Meaningful unit of language sounds
  2. Brief utterance
  3. Information,
  4. Rumor,
  5. Promise,
  6. Command,
  7. Password,
  8. fixed number of processed bits;…a long list continues!

Linguistics delves into the fascinating etymology of words. What sound(s) might we make to represent a person, place, thing or action? When we make the same sound(s) as our neighbor to indicate an identical subject, we have communication. From sounds we advance to symbols representing the sounds. Presto, written communication! We see this in nascent form when we find ourselves in countries speaking a language unknown to us.

Years ago our family had this experience while visiting Spain. We rented a car for a day trip from Madrid to Toledo. We returned after dark, in fog. We were driving on a freeway. Familiar landmarks were obscured by the fog. I pulled into a ‘truck stop’. No one spoke English. Now what? We didn’t speak Spanish. [this was years before phone apps could translate for you]. You try to hit on a sound that may also be familiar in their language—‘Castellan Hilton’—the name of our hotel was understood as a location. Somehow we got back on the freeway, the fog (literally and figuratively) lifted and soon we saw the hotel.

According to the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) International catalog, there are over 7,907 distinct known living languages in the world today. That’s an astounding amount of linguistic diversity! Only 230 languages are actually spoken in Europe. In Canada and the United States, 101 languages are spoken. By contrast, over 832 languages are spoken in the small region of Papua New Guinea. Many languages died and are dying today because they are no longer taught to the children. Many linguists estimate that at least 3,000 languages are guaranteed to become extinct within the next century. When a language dies, an entire culture and way of seeing the world dies with it.
Words are like tools. They may be used for positive or malevolent purposes.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Is that true? No. Words can hurt you. As a child on the playground I remember hearing this expression. I understood what was attempting to be communicated, but they are not true. This next quote demonstrates yet another inappropriate use of words.

[1]“To Be Honest (TBH), …, I’m not gonna lie, …, To tell you the truth, …, Honestly, …, It’s interesting how many phrases we use in every-day conversation to emphasize the truthfulness of what we’re saying. Does it sometimes make you wonder whether everything else the person says, without using one of those phrases, is true? If I say, “I’m not gonna lie,” does it mean I’ve lied before? How many times? It might just be me, but it seems like this speech pattern is becoming more popular. What does that mean about the status of truthfulness in our society?”

Communication with verbal or written ‘words’ starts with intention of the heart— motive. Do we need to look, listen and think more before we choose and release our words? I think everyone would benefit.

The four pictures we saw above may have been relatively simple to match with our English vocabulary. Thinking about the words we use.

“Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong.   Jesus, quote in Matthew 5:37 [LB]

[1] From my oldest son’s blog.  http://www.engagerdynamics.com 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] From my oldest son’s blog http://www.engagerdynamics.com

 

Books II

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Art:  

I return to Books as our ‘Thought’ for one more week. I completed this Ink with pen and brush of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis seven years ago. Last week I mentioned my admiration for the beauty and construction of European Cathedrals. These two—the Cathedral of St. Paul (last week) and Basilica of Saint Mary (above)—both incorporate Gothic and Renaissance elements. Remember, art for cathedrals was a way for those who could not read a language to ‘read’ the Old and New Testament story in picture form.

The Basilica of Saint Mary of Minneapolis is also recognized as one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture in the country. Along with the St. Paul Cathedral the Basilica was constructed between 1907 and 1915. It was elevated to the rank of minor basilica in 1926 and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Thought:

Once again our thought is Books. Begin with four personal questions.

  1. What’s the first book you remember being read to you? For me it was Heidi. My maternal grandfather read it to me when I lived with them in their Louisville, Kentucky flat from birth through second grade. What was the first book read to you?
  2. What was the first book you remember reading? For me it was Dick And Jane in my Louisville first grade public school class, in walking distance from where we lived. What was yours?
  3. What was the last book you read? For me it was a reread of Reordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. What about you?
  4. What is the next book you plan to read? I just began a rereading To Change The World by James Davison Hunter. What title have you decided on?

Why read books anyway? Why do you read books? Actually, there may be numerous reasons: Required reading…Recreational reading…Reading for research…Rereading for review… Inspirational… to title a few. I believe reading is a strong means by which our spirit or inner person grows. The stories, insights and exploration they provide meet the essential diet on which one can thrive. Metaphorically, they have a way of ‘sticking to your (spiritual) ribs’.

I met Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones when he was invited as our key banquet speaker in Michigan a number of years back. I’ve never forgotten the story he told about his son. As his son was off to college, Charlie made a deal with his son with two stipulations: “Here is a list of books. For every one of these books you read I will give you $5.00. And, you write me a postcard every week”. During those college years, in the weekly postcards, Charles could hear his son’s life changing as he was being enriched with ideas from those books.

One of [1]Charlie “Tremendous” Jones’ most memorable quotes is, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for two things, the people you meet and the books you read.”

Here are a few thoughts that helped me as I read a book. Why am I reading this book? Recreational reading is for fun. I don’t need to invest as much mental energy to concentrate. For most other reasons to read, I need to be where distractions are at a minimum.

When I don’t have a clear definition of a word …look it up! Defining one new word can open a flood of understanding. Stop reading after each paragraph and ask yourself: What did I just read? Put it into your own words. Understanding. Isn’t that why you are reading?   If permissible, mark key ideas that trigger the main thought in a paragraph. These are invaluable for a reread later. That kind of reread review helps move knowledge from ‘short-term’ to ‘long-term’ memory. I see this as a process where ‘nutrition’ from reading is absorbed into our spirit. It becomes a change agent for growth!

[1] Charles ‘Tremendous’ Jones is the author and editor of nine books, including Life is Tremendous with more than 2,000,000 copies in print in 12 languages.

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing he word of truth.”   2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Charles ‘Tremendous’ Jones is the author and editor of nine books, including Life is Tremendous with more than 2,000,000 copies in print in 12 languages.

 

Books

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Art:

I completed this Ink with pen and brush of the St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota a decade ago. I’ve a great respect for the beauty and construction of European Cathedrals. This design incorporates Gothic and Renaissance elements.

The cornerstone was laid in 1907. The first liturgy was held on Palm Sunday 1915. Work continued on the interior for decades. It was consecrated in 1958 and placed on the National Register of Historical Buildings in 1974. As with most European Cathedrals, it too continues to be ‘a work in progress’.

Thought:

Question: What does a Cathedral and Smart Phone have in common? Think about it. Don’t rush!   Again: What does the Cathedral and your Smart Phone have in common? Answer: Both can serve as books!

Early European Cathedral worshipers were mostly unable to read in any language. To help attendees ‘read’ the Old and New Testament stories, stained glass windows, sculptures and frescos allowed worshipers to ‘read’ the Bible in graphic form. Today Smart Phones can provide opportunity to ‘read’ the entire Bible in many translations. Many books may be ‘read’ on line or by audio recordings. Some prefer books in hard back or paperback. To them, turning pages provides an irreplaceable ‘good feel’.

Having books available at home, from a friend or a public library is one thing. To actually read them is quite another matter. I recently reread Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World. As readers, Gordon and wife Gail are especially drawn to biography. Browsing through a used bookstore, a biography of Daniel Webster caught their attention. The cover jacket was worn. When opened to read, some pages had not been properly cut at the printer. It was necessary to take a blade and separate them before one could actually read. How unfortunate. A previous owner never read the book. The cover was worn from moving place to place. It’s like possessing a valuable resource without personal benefit. Do you have unread books? Wonder what you may be missing?

I once facilitated a weekly meeting of Pastors from a numbers of backgrounds in our area. Each Wednesday morning we met in the conference room of a local bank for relationship building and prayer. Periodically I asked the question: “What are you reading?” Too often the response was (other than what was required for sermon preparation): “Nothing, recently”. They weren’t happy with their own honest response. But, they were ‘too busy’. At the same time, they all realized that if they continued this way, eventually even their preaching could grow ‘stale’.

            “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”                                                                                                                       Goethe

Motivational speaker, Earl Nightengale, warned his listeners: “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”

Think about it. If you get ‘too busy’ to eat and drink liquids, what happens? Exactly! Your body and mind require fuel. Food and water fuel the body. Ideas—often from books—fuel the mind and spirit.

Marj and I spend time after dinner, most evenings, when she reads, out loud, books of interest to both of us. We’ve read 200+ books this way, in addition to our independent reading. Knowing how to read and actually reading are not the same. You may read at turtle or rabbit pace. Don’t worry about speed. God wants you to grow. You do the reading. He will do the enriching!

It may be we are seeing some return (by young people in particular) to ‘reading’ graphically, something like a return to the ancient Cathedral era! Our youngest son, Pastor Steve, just completed a graphic novel version of the Gospel of Matthew titled A Cartoonist’s Guide to the Gospel of Matthew. I thought you might like to take a look.

 https://www.stevethomason.net/studies/the-bible-bookshelf/loj/matthew/

The great Apostle Paul counted his “books” as important to him as shelter from the weather—his “coat”.

“When you [Timothy] come, be sure to bring the coat I left at Troas with Brother Carpus, and also the books…2 Timothy 4:13 (LB)

 

Future

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Art:

This black and white acrylic is one of several versions I painted recently. The technique was inspired by legendary PBS painter Rob Ross. To me it has come to symbolize a new day…new beginnings.

Thought:

My blog this week reflects on a trip Marj and I made to Modesto, California last week for the high school graduation of two grandchildren—Jordan and Janessa. They are the final two of five in their family to graduate high school. Their mom is already overdosing on ‘empty nest syndrome’ pills! As part of their graduation gift we gave them each a personalized version of the above Art.

Their 6:30 Commencement Ceremony was held on the athletic field of a local community college. Weather was perfect. Our ‘kids’ provided portable ‘stadium seats’ to use on the bleachers with soft seats and backs. Perfect! More than 300 graduates participated in the 55 minute ceremony.

For fun, I like to give graduates a little quiz following their Commencement: “What does ‘commencement’ mean?   What is symbolized in this ceremony?” The answers can be humorous. They may range from: “I don’t know” (an honest answer for too many I’m afraid) to “We finally made it…we’re finished!” Really!? Sometimes you actually get a forward-looking answer (not that the past 13 years were unimportant, mind you). But, those years are preparation for the future. Commencement has the symbolic meaning for now commencing, launching, embarking, inaugurating the rest of ones life! It launches the next step of a plan.

Most do have a plan, strategy, design or blueprint worked out for the next year or more. I think that’s a good thing. My counsel is to make plans. But, hold them in your hand palms up. Allow God to agree, or rearrange that plan in your best interest. Holding your plan in a tight fist can be risky business

Our return trip from California became a real-time example of plans needing to be held palms up, allowing God to rearrange as He sees best. Our plan was: Have our son drive us the 90 minutes from Madesto to Sacamento International airport for a 12:45 p.m. Tuesday flight to Denver with a layover before the final flight to Minneapolis arriving 9:40 p.m.

As it actually transpired: Our son did drive us to the airport. At the gate we discovered our flight to Denver had been canceled! We were rerouted from Sacramento to Bois, Idaho then back to Oakland, California and on to Minneapolis arriving at 12:25 a.m. and home by 1:30 Wednesday morning. From our son’s house in Modesto, CA to our home in Rosemount, MN it took 13 hours, 4 airports and 2,700 miles flying time.

I’ve not mentioned the airline name to protect them. God made the change in our plan. The airline was the instrument He used. Actually, the airline personnel were all very kind and supportive. Through the experience we got to visit Idaho for the first time. We enjoyed great flying weather. We met our nice pilot who once lived in Stillwater. We found Caribou coffee in interesting places.

As we were landing in Minneapolis we could see lighting in the far distance. We had avoided the worst storm of the season in our area with its 70 mph winds and tornado sightings. People were without power. Our original plan would have had us scheduled to land in part of that storm. We have a great story to tell and, with storm delays, would have probably been getting home about the same time. How good is that! My sore back is another story for another time. Plan? Yes!   But, palms up and give God a chance to rearrange. He knows best. He’s got your back!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring

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Art:

I painted this original Oil a few years back. It reminds me of fun in exploring and camping in places the first time. As a family of five we took a three-week trip from Wheaton, Illinois to California in our Plymouth station wagon loaded with tents and   gear for camping on top, in our ‘Clam Shell’. A campsite in the Estes Park, Colorado area afforded opportunity to hike and camp in the National Forest. It was a fun challenge. Starting in the rain didn’t go well with Marj! That’s another story. But, to say the least, it was never boring!

Thought:

I want to consider Heaven one more week. Stay with me. I find it interesting how familiar the word itself is in our culture and yet how little we know about it. When was the last time you overheard someone in a conversation about heaven? Memorial and Funeral Services don’t count! Sometimes it feels like ‘Heaven’ is the elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge or talk about. Why is that? Fear?…Fear of floating on clouds with nothing to do but sing in a choir every day all day? Fear of boredom?

More quotes from Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven:

“Our belief that Heaven will be boring betrays a heresy—that God is boring. There’s no greater nonsense. Our desire for pleasure and the experience of joy come directly from God’s hand. He made our taste buds, adrenaline, sex drives, and the nerve endings that convey pleasure to our brains. Likewise, our imaginations and our capacity for joy and exhilaration were made by the very God we accuse of being boring. Are we so arrogant as to imagine that human beings came up with the idea of having fun?”

“We think of ourselves as fun-loving, and of God as a humorless killjoy. But we’ve got it backward. It’s not God who’s boring; it’s us. Did we invent wit, humor, and laughter? No. God did. We’ll never begin to exhaust God’s sense of humor and his love for adventure. The real question is this: How could God not be bored with us?”

“Will there be laughter? ‘If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.’ It wasn’t Mark Twain who said that. It was Martin Luther.”…“Will we play? Will there be sports? Can there be thrills without risk? Will we design crafts, technologies, and new modes of travel? Why not?”

It seems we erroneously associate evil with all that is tangible. I think it’s not tangibleness that equates with evilness.   It’s more likely the replacement of ‘agape love’ with anything else. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking almost anything can meet our core needs that, in reality, only ‘agape love’ can meet. Today, I enjoy (and can paint) God’s creation: mountains, forests, waterways, sunsets and living creatures all in their current, yet imperfect, beauty knowing it is only the appetizer of Heaven!   Enjoy! Love! Hope!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 [NIV]

Portal

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Art:

Abstract is not normally associated with my art. This piece does fall in that genre. Originally, I sketched it in pencil, from a forgotten reference, then in Ink. I imagine a portal leading to a destination not yet visible. It reminds me of this week’s thought.

Thought:

In the late 50s, as a college student in Chicago, my part time job was a twenty-block walk from Chicago Ave. to Jackson Blvd. Across from my destination a city block was fenced with solid materials to protect pedestrians from a gigantic construction site. But, people are curious. So, every 50 ft. a hole was cut into the fence allowing us to see what was on the other side. This portal allowed us to see a concurrent reality. It was a spectacular sight.

In recent months I’ve given careful and rewarding attention to two questions: “Who Am I ?” and “How Can I Improve My Study Habits?” Equipped with the results: In what areas do I currently want to increase my understanding—expand my paradigm?   ‘Art’ and ‘Bible’ are the big answers. More specifically: In Art, color theory…In Bible, Heaven. Thoughts for today center on the words portal and Heaven. Where is Heaven? I go back to the twenty-block walk along LaSalle St. to the wall around the building site. The world on both sides of the fence was undeniably functioning simultaneously. Is this true of Heaven?

This week—for the third time—I finished reading Dr. Randy Alcorn’s 517 page book titled Heaven. It is the result of his twenty-five years of research on the subject. Here are a couple quotes:

“I’ve never been to Heaven yet I miss it. Eden’s in my blood.   The best things of life are souvenirs from Eden, appetizers of the New Earth. There’s just enough of them to keep us going, but never enough to make us satisfied with the world as it is or ourselves as we are. We live between Eden and the New Earth, pulled toward what we once were and what we yet will be.”

“Life on Earth matters not because it’s the only life we have, but precisely because it isn’t—it’s the beginning of a life that will continue without end. It’s the precursor of life on the New Earth. Eternal life doesn’t begin when we die—it has already begun…Understanding Heaven doesn’t just tell what to do, but why. What God tells us about our future lives enables us to interpret our past and serve him in our present.”

In the ‘abstract’ piece above I imagine both the present existence and portal with excited hope of what’s head!

Hebrews 11:4 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV)   John 14:6 “Jesus answered, I am the way [portal]…” [NIV]

Listening

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Art:

I didn’t choose today’s Oil painting for its season. We’ve had enough winter! Agreed? This couple caught my eye in relation to the ‘thought’ for the week. Our need to actively listen is no respecter of seasons. Only love could motivate a young couple to choose the privacy of a fence gate at twilight in winter to listen…to each other. Reminds me of mid-winter visits Marj made from Michigan to Chicago while I was in college. Our ‘fence gate’ for privacy was walking the beach with strong mid winter winds off Lake Michigan. It wasn’t crowded! We actively listened; we shared and still do more than 60 years later!

Thought:

Sometimes it’s pointed out we have two ears and one mouth and that the math suggests listening twice as much as talking. Admittedly, and without criticism, that’s easier said than done for some of us.

Active listening is a pattern of listening that keeps you engaged with your conversation partner in a positive way. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.

Active listening adds new brushstrokes to the ever-evolving canvas of our paradigm. When we stop to consider our past, and the paradigms it helped us form, we realize how much active listening has been at work in our studio.

Below are some features of active listening based on research: Active listening is…

  • neutral and nonjudgmental
  • patient (periods of silence are not “filled”) give time to process
  • verbal and nonverbal feedback to show signs of listening (e.g., smiling, eye contact, leaning in, mirroring)
  • asking questions that will lead to understanding
  • reflecting back what is said in other words
  • asking for clarification
  • summarizing

Active listening serves the purpose of earning the trust of others and helping us to understand the thoughts and feelings being communicated. Active listening comprises both a desire to comprehend as well as to offer support and empathy to the speaker.

I was impressed with this quote from an article in the May 2019 issue of ‘Fortune Magazine’ titled Bill + Melinda Gates.

“If Bill’s superpower is speaking truth to the mighty, Melinda’s may well be hearing the truth of the unmighty—and then internalizing and sharing that secret often brutally repressed wisdom. For a generally soft-toned speaker, her voice has the command of a church bell. But those who know her say her truly uncanny talent is simply the ability to listen.” [Emphasis added]

Active listening benefits every relationship. In this example, it’s the second most wealthy couple in the world. But, active listening also enhances the relationship of a couple on top of a wintery farm gate at twilight and a couple weathering the icy Lake Michigan winds of January! Are we listening?

Prov. 1:5   Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance…