Sleep

fullsizeoutput_ddb

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

 

Patience

fullsizeoutput_dd8

Art:

Wondering why I chose a barn scene for our topic— ‘Patience’?  Two reasons:  First, if anyone, or any occupation, requires ‘patience’, it’s the farmer.  The farmer knows patience is standard procedure.  Spring patience for conditions dry enough to plant.  Summer patience for rains regulated enough to avoid drought or flooding and Fall patience for cooperative harvest weather.  No question; farming requires patience.

Honestly, my second reason for choosing a barn scene is ‘supply’.  Essentially, I’ve created no new art—Oil, Acrylic or Ink—since last November. Almost everything I have left has already appeared in the past 73 weeks.  Why?   Mostly in response to my grandchildren, last December I began writing my ‘Memoir’.  I’ve spent nearly all would-be ‘Art time’ devoted to this writing project.  No, I am not finished. But I have made a couple decisions that could help balance Art creation and Memoir writing. We’ll see how it works out.

Thought:

From last week’s Blog you know I’ve been a medical ‘patient’ for a couple months.  (By the way, I suffer little to no debilitating consequences or restrictions from my two strokes. We are thankful!)  God often uses my life circumstances, like this one, to focus my attention on a Blog Thought. This week it’s ‘Patience’.  So, what is patience?

A dictionary definition goes something like this: “…the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”  Sometimes the definition may expand to:

  • the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset
  • the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed when dealing with problems or with difficult people
  • the ability to give attention to something for a long time without becoming bored or losing interest

As I’ve been meditating/thinking about patience, it seems to me there’s another indispensable thought connected to patience—Hope. Think about it. Nearly any attempt at defining patience seems to carry in the back story of one’s mind a hope: Hope for a better and more desired condition than presently exists, whether or not we can clearly describe or understand it. I patiently wait for what I hope for:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12;

But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has? But if [since]we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Romans 8:24b, 25

“And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”  Hebrews 6:15

I find it interesting that we refer to those in the medical profession as ‘practicing’ physicians and their clients are ‘patients’.  The medical professionals have studied, are studying and will continue to study so their skills, though never perfect, will improve what they continue to practice. I wonder if sometimes medical professionals may wish their clients might also grow in their ability to be ‘patient’.   It was William Shakespeare who said: “How poor are they that have not patience!  What wound did not ever heal but by degrees?”

Followers of Jesus are not exempt from the temptation to be less than patient.  It is a condition our spiritual enemy may attempt to use on us. In those times we need to hear God’s voice:

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” Psalms 37:7

I remember the story of the little boy who planted a bean in the ground with great hope for a beanstalk that would “reach to the sky”!  So, each day, he would dig up the little bean to ‘see how it was doing’ then put it back into the ground. You know what happened.  His lack of patience destroyed, or at least greatly diminished, the realization of his hope.

When lack of patience creeps into our lives—like Covet19—a good vaccine is composed of two indisputable truths:

First: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22,23

Second: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

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”  Psalm 40:1

“Be patient, then brothers, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”  James 5:7, 8

Be Patient, God is in charge. He loves you!

 

 

 

Stroke

fullsizeoutput_dd7

Art:

The Art for this week is a photograph I took with my iPhone last Saturday from the window of my 7th floor hospital room at Southdale Fairview Hospital. Several hospital staff who came into my room thought I had the best view of any in the hospital.  I couldn’t argue.  When I return to the garage with my Oil paints, I look forward to capturing this in Oil. I may even do an Acrylic before then.  So, you may see it in a future blog.

Thought:

Is there such a thing as ‘spiritual stroke’?  I believe it’s a reality.  In fact, I believe spiritual strokes occur more often than we recognize.  Exactly what am I saying?

I believe a similar condition may take place in our spiritual life as in our physical life that physicians call a stroke. How is that possible?  First, look at the condition defined as a physical stroke and the consequences.

Condition:  Most strokes are caused by an abrupt blockage of blood vessels leading to the brain. Consequences: Depends on the area of the brain affected and what part of the body it controls. Stroke consequences may include trouble walking, speaking, and understanding, as well as paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg.

The key cause of such physical consequences of a stroke is blockage of life sustaining blood flow. So, what do I see as a parallel in our spiritual life?

Followers of Jesus are spiritual lives living within a host—our physical bodies. Our role is to allow the power of the Holy Spirit, in us, to freely flow through our gifts, talents and experiences to continue the good work Jesus began in this world.

When free flow of the Holy Spirit’s power, that sustains spiritual life, is blocked, a spiritual stroke takes place.  I see Paul describing this in two of his letters to churches.   In Ephesians 4:30 Paul instructs followers of Jesus: “Do not grieve [block] the Holy Spirit of God.”  To those at Thessalonica Paul writes, using a different metaphor, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not put out [block] the Spirit’s fire.”

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul describes examples of ‘clots’ that will block the life sustaining Holy Spirit power through the follower of Jesus in his/her sphere of influence: “…unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.’  What is the treatment protocol?

For physical strokes, treatment tends to focus on restoring an adequate flow of blood to the brain. This may include immediate action to deal with the current ‘clot’ as well as a blood thinning agent to reduce the risk of future strokes.

For spiritual strokes, it may include first identifying the ‘clot’ that caused the spiritual stroke.  Was it caused by my unfaithful action or by life circumstances? If it was my action (it often is) apply 1 John 1:9. “If we  confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” If it was my reaction to an unpleasant life circumstance, the answer God gave Paul in his request for the removal of a ‘thorn in my flesh” may apply in our case. The Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 In Physical stroke patients, to minimize the risk of future strokes will probably result in some lifestyle changes. The least of which may include taking new medications and regular checkups

In Spiritual stroke patients, In Ephesians 4, Paul lists several lifestyle changes: “[speak] only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may be beneficial to those who listen.”  And “…Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

As with physical strokes, spiritual strokes may also need some (PT) Personal or (OT) Occupational therapy to improve the function affected by your blockage.  If your speech was affected by your physical stroke, you will need to follow some prescribed plan for improving your speech.  If your spiritual stroke, as Paul outlined, wounded relationship with another person, it will probably take some time to restore that relationship to where it needs to be.

My first physical stroke was last February 22 and the second May 7.  I am grateful for the many prayers on our behalf and for God’s intervention.   The residual damage from the first stroke was a distortion in peripheral vision in my right eye.  Otherwise, my vision is normal.  The second stroke affected the right side of my face and speech.  My speech has already retuned to 90%.  My smile on the right side is nearly back to normal.

My prayer for you is that you may be protected from strokes of any kind in the days ahead, as we navigate this current Pandemic.

“Delight yourself in the Lord  and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Psalm 37:4-6

 

 

Principles

000_0156

Art:

Art this week is unlike others in two ways:  First, my dear wife, Marj, created it. Now it hangs on our dining area wall.  Second, it is not Acrylic, Oil, Watercolor or Ink.  Its ‘Diamond Dotz’. If that term is unfamiliar, check ‘UTube’.  Marj was introduced to this by a neighbor.  It begins by choosing a pre-printed color picture on canvas.  Sections of the color picture are covered with a sticky substance. Tiny Dots of correspondingly colored plastic, are provided along with  an  application stylus.  Simply apply the dots. It’s a little like ‘painting by number’.  The basic principles of color and composition apply in all kinds of Art!

Thought:

How does God speak to us?

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I believe God’s choice of ‘how’ He may choose to converse with followers of Jesus—and, sometimes, those who are not followers—is His sovereign choice. But it does appear to me, the most common way this conversation takes place is at the spirit level of thoughts. God’s Holy Spirit, residing in me, and my spirit, converse through the thoughts emanating from the heart or mind. I also believe the following is essential:

1“In order to qualify as the voice of God, a thought, perception or other experience must conform to the principles—the fundamental truths—of Scripture.  It is the principles, not the incidentals, of Scripture that count here.  Study of the Scriptures make clear that certain things are fundamental, absolute, without exception.

  • If the Bible says something once, notice it, but don’t count it as a fundamental principle.
  • If it says it twice, think about it twice.
  • If it is repeated many times, then dwell on it and seek to understand it.

“What you want to believe from the Bible is its message on the whole and use it as a standard for interpreting the peripheral passages.  The principles show up with stunning clarity as we become familiar with the overall content of Scripture.

“You must distinguish between the peripheral messages of Scripture and the essential messages.  Keep to the principles in interpreting the voice of God.  For example, in 1 Corinthians 11, we find women being advised not to have short hair and men being informed that long hair on them is shameful.  Such things are clearly incidental.

“On more serious matters, in Mark 10, Jesus tells the truly fine young man who had come to him that he must sell all that he has and give the proceeds to the poor. This too, contrary to what many have thought, is incidental to people generally (for Jesus did not ask this of everyone he met). In the particular case of this young man, of course, Jesus’ directive went right to the heart of his special problem with wealth.  But it is not a principal to which all must conform. Why?  Because it is not a teaching emerging from the whole of Scripture, and it should not, without further consideration and guidance, be taken as God’s guidance to you or anyone else.

“When you read the writings of John the Apostle, however, and learn from him “that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”  (1 John 1:5) you are on to a principle—something that wells up from the whole Bible and the totality of the experience of God’s people through history.

“We are also discovering principles when we hear Jesus saying that the most basic of all the commandments is “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strengthand that the second isyou shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

“And his declaration that “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mk 8:35) is also conveying a principle, as  is his statement that we are to “strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well (Lk 12:31).

No specific word that is from God will ever contradict such principles. Such principles place an ironclad restriction on what content can come with God’s voice.”

“Principles of Scripture are to be identified most of all from the actions, spirit and explicit statements of Jesus himself.”

“I am the light of the word.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

— Jesus in John 8:12

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Hearing God, Dallas Willard p. 232-233

Resurrection

fullsizeoutput_d1d

Art:

I completed this Ink with Pen and Brush a few years back from photos I had taken in downtown Anoka, Minnesota.  I like the architecture. The building seems to emerge from its very landscape, trailing the point of its noble steeple. I am not acquainted with any individuals in this congregation. I can only imagine that it, like so many older church buildings, could tell us a story of those who gather there. Often such stories include a bright beginning, a decline, for any number of reasons, and then once again a burst of new life!  Both the architecture and history of such congregations bring to mind our Thought—Resurrection.

Thought:

I had a dream this week. It wasn’t a long dream.  It was one of those dreams that evolve just before waking up in the middle of the night, or the last thing in the morning.  This was the one that awakened me. It was time to get up. Like many people I know, when I arise from sleep on any given morning, I may know I dreamed but I can’t recall what the dream was about. At best, I may have general recollections, but don’t ask me to describe it.  I couldn’t.  It was just a dream.  This was not like that. I remember it well.

The setting seemed suspended midair, like what you experience from the window of a 747 flying through elegant clouds.  A spacious hallway stretched forward with doors to the right.  I entered one set of doors into a large room.  It reminded me of a bright church fellowship hall.  In the room no more than four or five women, whom I did not recognize, were busy setting up tables.  They seemed in preparation for an event.  Overhearing their conversation, they were preparing a meal that would serve those attending the Memorial Service of a dear friend.

One person lamented, “How will we ever get along without her?”  Until now I had not said a word.  I’m not certain they were even aware of my presence.  But almost involuntarily I stated, “Resurrect her!”  They seemed startled by my directive.  What did I mean?  They knew she would be in the resurrection when Jesus returned.  But what are you suggesting?  Again, how I responded seemed a most natural reply: Resurrect—bring back to life—whatever you experienced in her life that you will miss. Reincarnate or re-embody the life of faithful service the Spirit of God was allowed to have flow through her. Resurrect her by carrying on the service she gave.

My dream was over. I was wide awake. Now, what am I to do with the dream?  I shared it with Marj over breakfast and I sensed to share it with you today. Why?  I’m not certain. Are you and I to be the resurrection of the service of someone we’ve  known and miss?    Could be.

Somewhere in my ‘awake time’ I read a thought I’ll share called: “The Four ‘M’s of History”.  In every movement it seems inevitable it will progress through four stages in their history.  This is stated in the masculine, but it is no less true in the feminine.

                                                                  The MAN                                                                                          A man is called to begin a movement.

                                                               The MEN:                                                                             Men are attracted to and closely follow the Man.

                                                               The METHOD:                                                                                             After the Man and the Men are gone, those remaining adopt the Method of the Man and Men.

                                                               The MEMORIAL:                                                                                    When it becomes clear Method alone doesn’t work, the Man is Memorialized.

I think the beautiful thing about these 4 Ms is not that the movement may stop with memorialization of great people who preceded us, but that in succeeding generations God raises up new Men and Women with a passion for continuing His good work in the world.

God’s work is constantly revitalized and expanded as followers of Jesus open our lives to the full power of the Spirit’s guidance. Our words and actions become a Resurrection of what we have witnessed and value in their lives as revealed in the pages of Scripture and their history.

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

2 Timothy 1:13,14

   

 

 

 

 

Unknown

fullsizeoutput_d4a

Art:

I did this Acrylic in black and white last summer while the weather was warm enough to paint in the garage.  I did this in a positive and in this negative form.  I chose this one to represent our Thought for this week–Unknown.

Today’s ‘Thought’ is the work of our middle son, Dan who is a psychologist.  I liked what he had to say and wanted, with his permission, to share it with you today.

Thought:

“It took me a month to get my head around what was going on in the world at large, and in my own world. After thinking about it and being asked questions about what to do, this is what I came up with.

“We are bombarded with information about COVID 19, the enemy, the killer! We have rapid fire predictions of how bad it could be! Some people are developing new scam strategies to take advantage of our fear. What is the fear? Is it the fear of getting sick, of dying? Is it the fear of global economic collapse? I say no, it’s the ruler of all fears, it’s the fear of the unknown!! What is the effect of the unknown? Well, it tends to create a sense of powerlessness through which we try to cope and live our days.

“Powerlessness is one of the most energy zapping, confidence crushing, and motivation destroying lenses through which we see the world.  As I work with people each day as a clinical psychologist, I hear how the fear of the unknown and powerlessness is crippling them and their spirits. Seeing the world through the lens of powerlessness makes everything worse. To name a few, it makes depression worse, anxiety worse, and it makes irritability worse. Individuals struggle, and when individuals struggle, relationships struggle.

“So, what do we do to manage this enemy? How do we deal with, no not COVID 19, the fear, and the powerlessness! “We”, every one of us, are doing everything that can be done to overcome the COVID 19 enemy; now it’s up to us as individuals to take care of ourselves and get out from under powerlessness. As members of the animal kingdom we have an instinct in the face of danger to Freeze, Flee, or Fight.

The main reason powerlessness is the ruler of all fears, is because when we sense its danger, we Freeze. The easiest way to overcome powerlessness is to use the part of our brain that lets us override instinct. We are the only species in the animal kingdom that has that ability. We can recognize that our Freeze instinct has kicked in, and we can identify why it has kicked in, and then we can choose to override that instinct with behavior, action, and doing.

“The Freeze response is like emotionally holding your breath and trying not to feel. Here are a few tips that I think will help you overcome the paralyzing effects of fearing the unknown, and the powerlessness it creates.

  • “First, recognize that the COVID 19 virus is real, and it does pose a threat to everything we know. In other words, we can’t be in denial about that.
  • “Second, Do, Do, Do, and override the instinct to Freeze. Since the Freeze response is like emotionally holding your breath, I encourage you to physically breathe with mindfulness. This means, several times a day stop and focus on your breathing and take several deep breaths, while focusing on the moment, and identifying the positive of life right then, in that moment. Also, while you are taking your deep deep breaths, think about what you ARE in control of this day. You are always in control of your choices, so choose self-care, choose to do something that will override the instinct to Freeze.
  • “Third, try to laugh! I know it’s difficult at a time like this but laugh. Laughter is a very healthy expression of emotion, and it releases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural morphine and helps create a sense of calm. Increased doses of laughter should be part of everyone’s self-care plan. What better time to navigate your web browser to YouTube.com and find a new stand-up comedian you like, or something else that makes you laugh!
  • “Fourth, it’s okay to cry! Have you ever heard the expression “having a good cry?” Well, there is some science behind that. Tears excrete stress hormones, which reduces our stress, helping us feel better. So, it’s okay to cry.
  • “Last, recognize that when the pandemic is over, there will be a “new normal.” Life will be different. Just like after 9/11, life found a new normal. Babies will be born, people will get married, and we will laugh again, naturally. Embrace it. Accept it, don’t resist it. It will be different, but it will be good; we will all work together to make sure of that.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”                                           Philippians 4:13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversation

100_4675.JPG

Art:

 I painted this original Oil—inspired by a lesson from Jerry Yarnell–about 8 years ago. I enjoyed the time of day and the wilderness. I chose it to represent our Thought—Conversation. It was in conversation with a new neighbor, when we lived in Andover, I learned of his interest in wilderness sports. I sensed this painting might make a good housewarming gift. So, in conversation with a neighbor, I was led to take action with intent to benefit him. Taking action brought joy for both of us!

Thought:

Is it possible to have a conversation with God?

You might respond with a question or two of your own: What do you mean by ‘conversation’?  I did, what I often do.

First: I checked my NIV Exhaustive Concordance to see what Scripture says about ‘conversation’.  It appears only four (4) times in the Bible: Three in the Old Testament and one in Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, …”  The Greek is actually logos and means word.

Second: I checked the etymology. Comes from the Old French word of the same spelling, meaning “manner of conducting oneself in the world.” When you have a conversation, you listen closely and respond appropriately, so that our conversation is a true exchange of ideas…

Prayer may be requesting action from God (a petition) or, it may include thanking God for something (a praise). This may seem one-way, that’s a good thing, but not a conversation. More often, it seems like a speech to God. A conversation is two-way. God talks too.

“Why is it,” comedian Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to us, we call it schizophrenia?”

I believe it is possible to have a conversation with God, where we talk to God and God talks back to us.   How does that work?  Here are a few Biblical accounts of ways people hear God:

  • a phenomenon plus a voice
  • a supernatural messenger or an angel
  • dreams and visions
  • an audible voice
  • the human voice
  • the human spirit or the “still, small voice”

I believe God’s choice of ‘how’ He may choose to converse with followers of Jesus—and, sometimes, those who are not followers—is His sovereign choice. But it does appear to me, the most common way this conversation takes place is at the spirit level of thoughts. God’s Holy Spirit, residing in me, and my spirit, converse through the thoughts emanating from the heart or mind.  The Apostle Paul seems to speak to this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

However, as it is written:  “No eye as seen,  no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit….We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit  who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us…For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”  1 Corinthians 2:8, 12, 16

The “mind of Christ” residing in follower of Jesus, by virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit, speaks to our ‘spirit’ through our mindful thoughts, resulting in two-way conversation.

Next time you are in thought, and talk to God, stop. Ask Him to speak to you about the subject.  Listen to the thoughts that comes to your mind.  Where might they be coming from?  Think about what you are hearing. Is the answer in keeping with God’s character of love?  What will you do with it?  If you don’t understand, ask again.  You may also go to someone you trust in Christ and ask for help. Young Samuel did not understand what God meant.  He went to Eli for help in understanding. After three times, God helped Samuel to understand through Eli.  See: 1 Samuel 3.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your                                                              hearts  and your minds in Christ Jesus.”                                                  Philippians 4:7

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”      Psalm 37:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness

100_5140

Art:

This week’s Art piece is the photo of a doll house I designed and built for a little girl a few years ago. Woodworking is another art form I enjoy. I chose it to represent our homes, where we have been confined to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Compliance puts some families, ‘at home 24/7’, at risk for added conflict. Most come up with creative ways to cope without ‘killing one another’. Others…, not so much.  All will experience some conflict and misunderstanding.  It’s a great time to refine the skill of our Thought for this week: Forgiveness.

Thought:

“Love is acting intentionally, in sympathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well-being.” — Thomas Oord, The Science of Love.

[1]“Love Means Getting to Say, “I Forgive You.”

“When you set out to forgive someone, it will help you greatly if you can set aside three common errors that have been attached to forgiveness in our society.

First: Forgiveness does not require reconciliation with your enemy.

“Reconciliation is two-sided, and both sides must be willing participants.  Even God himself will not steamroll over the will of another person.  If a person is sufficiently resolute in his or her heart and resistant to the Spirit of God, there can be no reconciliation.

Second: Forgiveness does not require you to forget what happened.

“It is simply wrong to say to another person, “Oh, come on, if you really forgave me, you would have forgotten it.”  You may never forget what a person did, and you may find that you treat them differently because you have learned something about their character that you didn’t know before, but you can choose to  love them for who you now know them to be, and support their efforts to grow.  Forgiveness lets people off the hook and frees us to love them.

Third: Forgiveness does not mean you stop hurting.

This is a common issue between a husband and wife when one has been unfaithful.  The offending party may ask for forgiveness, and the wounded one says, “Yes, I’ll forgive you,” but remains deeply wounded. The guilty one, who becomes offended and hurt because the other person is still in pain, says in effect “Stop hurting, so I can stop hurting! If you don’t stop hurting, that means you haven’t forgiven me. Forgiveness is the choice not to punish or seek revenge. It is not—it cannot be—the choice to stop hurting.  Forgiveness can come long before the healing is complete.

Once we make that choice to forgive, we will need God’s help.  Like love and faith and death to self, we cannot fully forgive without God’s supply of forgiveness (Colossians 3:13).  We can, however, choose not to punish the one who has hurt us, and we can ask God to help us be aware when we begin to entertain the idea of possible punishment or revenge.  Those ideas are often coming down the track long before they go into play, and we can see them growing larger in the corner of our mental eye.  That’s the way temptation works.  Temptation never hits you without announcing itself beforehand and giving you a choice.  You must be prepared to call out for God’s help to find a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).  It also helps to remember that: to forgive, is to love, is to be set free…and to know deep joy.”

A Question

How has it been going for you and yours these weeks under one roof nearly 24/7?  On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s been the conflict / misunderstanding level?  More importantly, what has been your personal ‘forgiveness’ level.  Ten would be near perfect.  Never too late to do the right thing.  Forgiving can become contagious when it infects a family member, who actually experiences it, without social distancing. “Love your neighbor.”  Forgiving your neighbor is in reality an act of Love.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:13, 14

[1] Adapted from Living Without Lack, Psalm 23,  Dallas Willard

Neighbor

fullsizeoutput_1bd

Art:

Prior to moving to Hastings in 2010, our middle son lived in St. Paul, Minnesota. This Oil is a painting I completed from photographs taken in his St. Paul neighborhood.  I called these colorful homes my ‘painted ladies of St. Paul’,  recalling sites from a visit to San Francisco and seeing its now famous colorful set of historic homes called ‘painted ladies’. I chose this Oil as a visual reflection of our Thought for this week—Neighbor.

Thought:

Have you become more aware of neighbors since COVID-19 restrictions pretty much limited us to our homes?  Since my Anytime Fitness Gym closed, I’ve been walking outside.  I’ve noticed ‘walkers’ is no longer just dogs walking their owners! And it’s not just in Minnesota.  Our California son posted:

“A few days ago, I posted on Facebook about an experience my wife Suzi and I had while taking an evening walk. Here’s the content of that post.

“I just got back from an evening walk with my lovely bride. We’ve never seen as many people out on the walking trail near our house as we did tonight. Families and neighbors out walking together, walking their dogs, riding bikes. People were smiling and greeting each other like actual neighbors! Could a silver lining of the COVID-19 cloud include a chance for families and neighbors to slow down and connect? We hope so. It seemed like it this evening. May that increase!!”

“I received several comments on that post all saying that similar things were happening in their areas. Those are examples of people making lemonade. I watched a video recording of what John Maxwell presented live streamed on Sunday, March 22nd called “Leading Through a Crisis.” (I highly recommend following the link and watching all 4 of the presentations) In that presentation, John said that a crisis is a distraction. Distraction is the opposite of traction. Traction is when you gain ground and make progress forward. Crises pull us away and confuse our priorities.

“He [Maxwell] went on to say that nothing will cause you more anxiety than trying to control what you can’t control. When life throws lemons at you, make lemonade. Leaders help people regain traction during distraction.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’ve been reflecting on the familiar biblical phrase:“Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s first mentioned in the Old Testament book of Leviticus 19:18. In the New Testament, Jesus states it first in Matthew 19:19.  The Apostle Paul quotes it in Romans and Galatians.  James, the brother of Jesus, said in James 2:8 “If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself” you are doing right.”

And who is my neighbor?”

An expert in the law once asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded with the need to love God… “and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” The expert’s follow-up question: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ response was the story of the Good Samaritan who stopped on his journey to help a wounded stranger, alongside the road. Then, “Jesus told the expert, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 11:25-37

“…Neighbor is an old English word that means, literally, “the boor who is neigh thee,” that is, nearby.  Not the bore who is nearby! A boor is a farmer, and a neighbor is the farmer nearby.  You are called to love those who are neigh thee—your family, your friends, your coworkers, the folks in your neighborhood, and, yes, even the “enemies” in your life, the ones who irritate, demean, frustrate, and mistreat you.” —Living Without Lack p. 177

One author wrote… “I was zooming on down the track of my life, focused on whatever it was I was doing, oblivious to other people around me.  I was deeply burdened when I realized that I had been living this way.  How could I love my neighbor if I wasn’t even aware of them?”

Sometime a life-changing event, like the current virus, can give one a new quality of awareness of oneself and others. You begin to see people with new eyes, with new appreciation and love, even though they have not changed.

Go for a walk…meet your neighbors, But, remember…

Love your neighbor…—by maintaining the 6-foot rule—and

as [you love] yourself.”—by washing your hands when you get home!

Have a great week neighbor!

 

 

Rejoice

fullsizeoutput_ef

Art:

 This Oil painting was inspired by a lesson from the late Rob Ross, best known for his many years on pbs television.  It’s a stylized depiction of quiet woods and colorful sky, filled with imaginary bird songs and waterfall accompaniment.  Spring is ‘officially’ here! Spring we can see and hear is soon to follow.  I chose this piece for today’s Thought—‘Rejoice’—because that’s what we’ll do (especially this year) when we see Spring once again reopening a curtain of color and sound in our yards and neighborhoods. Rejoice!

 Thought:

In my reading of Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Philippi last week, I was struck by his use of “Rejoice”. A new thought entered my mind I hadn’t had in perhaps hundreds of times I’ve read these verses.  How can this be? How can something ‘new’ come to us from the familiar?  It’s not because the scripture changed. I (we) have changed.  Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 13, “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…”  I believe the Holy Spirit focuses our ‘seeing’ in keeping with his leading in our development. So, what was it that struck my attention about Paul’s use of “Rejoice” in Philippians 4:1-7?  First the text:

 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

When I see the prefix ‘Re…’in a word I think, what does that mean?  What does it mean in this context?   Generally, it means to ‘do again’ or to ‘do over’ another time.  When I refill the gas tank of my car, I pull to the gas pump and ‘do again’ what I did the last time.  I believe the last part of Paul’s word “…joice” is ‘joy’.  What is Paul communicating here?  Simply put, I believe Paul is saying to the followers at Philippi: Your joy tank is low. Rejoice” or refill your joy tank.    What makes me think this is what Paul says in verse six, “Do not be anxious about anything,” I suspect ‘Anxiety’ with its worry, fear and unease is a sure sign the joy tank of delight, bliss and gladness is nearly empty.  It’s time to refill—to “rejoice”—the joy tank.  But, how?  I know how to refill my car’s gas tank.  How do I refill my own joy tank?

Paul’s answer seems to involve two simultaneous actions of my (our) will.

FIRST : Pray as Paul describes in verse 6. Talk to God about what I feel…what I don’t understand and… how I would like things to be instead of the way I feel they are. He is more willing to listen than I am to talk.  I can’t keep secrets…He knows already.  Sometimes I need to voice it to God, so I can hear it myself.  RESULT: v. 7 “Peace”!

SECOND: Guard my thinking. What I chose to think about gets stored in my mind and heart—my joy tank. What I think about is either ‘filling’ my joy tank or ‘draining’ it.  Paul offers the solution in Philippians 4:8-9.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice.

As this filling of my joy tank takes place, my anxiety, often evident to others, is replaced as Paul states it, “Let (you can’t help but allow it) your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (filling your joy tank to overflow!)”. “And (inside your heart and mind) the God of peace will be with you.” RESULT: v. 9 “Peace”!

Another way I feel Paul expressed the result of Rejoice—refilling my heart by thinking on these things—is in Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit (evidence of a fuller tank) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Rejoice!

Now is a great time to not only enjoy the return of the Spring we can hear and see, but a perfect time—even with difficult news—to rejoice (refill) my joy tank to overflow!