LIGHT

Art:

This Ink with Pen & Brush was completed last week using a stock photo of an abandoned English stone farmhouse with broken-down stone fences. I hope someone will one day give it a new life.

I chose it for today because the original photo was nearly as dark as I have rendered it here with Ink. Today, Dark and ‘Light’ are opposites to us. I want to focus on ‘Light’.  

Thought:

Choosing ‘Light’

HAVING ‘LIGHT’ as a future blog ‘Thought’ has been a subject on my mind for some time. I’ve invested time thinking about ‘Light’ and its meanings. When should I use it for a blog?  Early mornings I read from the Old and New Testament. Recently I came to these words from 1 Timothy 6:15,16God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.   There it was…“unapproachable Light”…it’s time to write the blog!

MY Disclaimer

FIRST A DISCLAMER:  ‘Light’ is that relatively small part of what can be detected by the human eye from electromagnetic radiation occurring over an extremely wide range of wavelengths. I am not a physicist.  I am an artist. An artist’s consideration of ‘Light’ is imperative.  The artist has an aesthetic appreciation of the visual world. Through the sense of sight, ‘Light’ is a primary tool for perceiving the world and communicating within it. To think about a few basic lessons in the visual art world may help frame the main point of this week’s blog.

Absorb and Reflect

VISIBLE waves called ‘Light’ become visible when they contact a surface and are either reflected or absorbed.  When all those visible waves are absorbed, our human eye sees what we call Black.  When all are reflected, we see White. An optical prism reveals three primary hues (colors): Red, Yellow, and Blue. Mixing these three produces the hundreds (if not thousands) of hues our eyes can see and comprehend. That could be an interesting subject for another time.

Unapproachable ‘Light’

ONCE AGAIN PAUL’S comment to young Timothy:  Godwho lives in unapproachable ‘Light’whom no one has seen or can see, brings to mind Moses and the burning bush of Exodus chapter 3 and Mount Sinai in Exodus 34:29 Then Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

AT JESUS’ transformation in  Matthew17:2 There he [Jesus] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the ‘Light’.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  John 1:5  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John 9:5 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

The Apostle Paul was on his way to persecute followers of Jesus.  As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. Acts 9:3 It was so bright that it temporarily blinded him.  To you and me…For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

What Speaks to Me

AS AN ARTIST here is what speaks to me in this Thought about ‘Light’.  God our Heavenly Father who loves every one of us is not visible to our human eyes. Often when God wishes to be ‘seen’ by humankind he appears as/in what we call ‘Light’. Remember White is all the visible wavelengths being reflected from the object it touches. Moses reflected God at Mount Siani.  Jesus reflected the Father on the mount of transfiguration. 

FOR GOD who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 The more time I spend with the Holy Spirit of Jesus the more of Gods reflection will be seen radiating through me by who I am and what I allow Him to do through me as I following Jesus.

Who am I reflecting today?

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

Matthew 5:14-16

Psalm 23

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS 16 x 20-inch Acrylic last week. Artist Karen Llari was my inspiration. I chose to paint white Daisies because they are Marj’s favorite flower. It honors her for Mother’s Day.

I am also using it for today’s Thought—The 23rd Psalm. A shepherd may come across Daisies while leading the sheep! 

Thought:

Anxiety Creators

HOW ARE YOU feeling today?  Hard to verbalize?  General sense of anxiety or lack of wellbeing? You are not alone. With what the world has experienced the last two years and now with the war in Ukraine; street shootings reported nightly in the news; global warming affects on weather; lingering Covid-19 unknowns; uncertainty in the domestic and international markets and much more, there are lots of anxiety creators.  Add to that personal and family relationship issues in flux.  This world can be a frightening place.

You Are Not Alone

SEVERAL NIGHTS AGO, I woke about four a.m. from a dream in which someone, whose identity was unknown to me, was filled with fear and overcome with anxiety.  What could I do to help?  Immediately the 23rd Psalm came to mind.  I began to review it in my mind, listening intently to each phrase as I silently recalled the verses.  Thoughts about what the Psalm says were coming through clearly. This is what the person in my dream needed to hear regarding their fear and anxiety: “You are not alone.  You have an all-wise Shepherd.  He is holding your hand and will guide you through from this valley of anxious fear to amazing peace.”  I had to get up and write down some of the thoughts. 

I DID GET UP and wrote on my yellow pad.  I was reminded of a book in my library, Life Without Lack, Living in the fulness of Psalm 23, by a favorite author of mine, the late Dallas Willard. The book with eight chapters has a study guide for individuals or groups.  Marj and I used it in a small group Bible Study in 2021. You or a friend might find it helpful.

Psalm 23

HERE IS A QUICK REVIEW of the Psalm with brief comments that I trust may be helpful.

The Lord is my shepherd,

I’m not the one in charge The Lord is my shepherd.

I lack nothing.(I shall not want)

That’s the natural result.  I shall not lack anything.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,

 Only a full sheep will lie down in pastures.

he leads me beside quiet (still) waters,

Waters that will not frighten you

3        He restores (refreshes) my soul.

With His eternal kind of life.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for
     his name’s sake.

As I walk these paths, my trust in the Shepherd runs so deep that I can declare…

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,

…no fear of life, ageing or death, disease or hunger, no fear of any person or creature, not even the loss of all my possessions. “I will fear no evil.” Why?

for you are with me;

God is most clearly and fully present to us in Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us!

your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

The Shepherd’s strength and protective safe place is where I have no fear.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies
.

God’s provision and safety in my life is so great, I would invite enemies to enjoy what God has prepared for me.

You anoint my head with oil;

Blessing me with a life that is full and free and powerful in him—including clothing, comfortable furnishings, joyful experiences, and deep relationships.

my cup overflows (is full).

So much that I can be as generous as my Shepherd without fear of ever running out.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Eternal life is available to us now in the kingdom of the heavens. Because of this we have no reason to be anxious (Philippians 4:6-7). The world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.

Action to Take

BEGIN TO MEMORIZE Psalm 23 in a translation familiar to you.  This text is from the New International Version (NIV). Review it daily…remembering you are not alone. Your Shepherd has your hand to protect and guide you in peace.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

The Lord makes firm the steps    of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. 

                                                                     Psalm 37:23, 24

Choice

Art:

Inspired by several photo references, I completed this 16 x 20-inch Acrylic last week.  I like the brilliant sunrise (or sunset if you prefer) colors and fog lifting from the valleys.   

It reminds me of our Thought—“Choice’.  May we always ‘Choose’ to see the positiveness and beauty in God’s creation as a stimulant toward bringing God’s peace into our world.

Thought:

How many ‘Choices’ have you made today? My guess is: you can’t recall.  I see there are at least three groupings where ‘Choices’ are being made.  First are physiological choices programed into our brain to sustain life. These don’t require conscious choosing unless we include choices to maintain our health. Second, are ‘Choices’ made  as a result of training.  As I type this sentence, I don’t need to purposefully ‘Choose’ to strike each key. A third kind of ‘Choice’ for this week’s Thought is a more conscious use of ‘Choice’.

What is the true meaning of choice?

It’s the act or opportunity of choosing or the thing chosen. ‘Choice’ suggests the opportunity or privilege of choosing freely. Freedom of a ‘Choice’ option implies a power to ‘Choose’ that is specifically granted or guaranteed. Some common synonyms of ‘Choice’ are: alternative, election, option, preference, and selection. Aristotle defines ‘Choice’ in Nicomachean Ethics, as “characterized by two things: it is voluntary and preceded by deliberation. Without either of these things, we wouldn’t be acting on ‘Choice’, but by compulsion or impulse”. ‘Choice’ gives life meaning. Researchers conclude we can influence our future by the ‘Choices’ we make. How you think about it, can change how you act on it, and how you act on it, can change how you feel. And when you change how you feel, think, and act, you can change your physiological well-being for the better.

What affects our choices?

During the ‘Choice’ making process, four behavioral factors may influence the ‘Choice’ we make. These behavioral factors are our values, personality, penchant for risk, and the potential for conflict. Also, when making a ‘Choice’, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories. The simple act of ‘Choice’ supports the notion that we have a free will. We weigh the benefits and costs of our choice, and then we cope with the consequences.  All ‘Choices’ have consequences. We seek desirable consequences.   

I believe God gives us the free choice and free will to live our lives the way we desire. That gift of freedom is the greatest gift that he can give. God wants our ‘Choice’ to be because we love him and want to obey him, to make our ‘Choices’ within the overall blueprint of his will.

The First ‘Choice’

As I researched various forms of ‘Choice’ in the Old and New Testament, it became evident that they more often record  ‘Choices’ God made. To me, the key idea for us, as expressed in the Old Testament, is from Joshua 24:15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then ‘Choose’ for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will [‘Choose to’] serve the Lord.” 

In the New Testament its John 7:17 where Jesus said,  “anyone who ‘Chooses’ to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. AndMatthew 6:33 But seek first [‘Choice’] his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” As followers of Jesus, our ‘Choice’ is to depend on the wisdom of God as our first value in considering and implementing all our ‘Choices’.

Helpful Steps for Making ‘Choices’

Start alone with God. Confirm your desire to follow God’s will by seeking his wisdom in this suggested process:

  1. Step 1: Identify the ‘Choice’ that needs to be made. …
  2. Step 2: Gather relevant information. …
  3. Step 3: Identify alternative solutions. …
  4. Step 4: Weigh the evidence. …
  5. Step 5: ‘Choose’ among the alternatives. …
  6. Step 6: Take action. …
  7. Step 7: Review your ‘Choice’ and its impact (both good and bad)

God Bless You in your ‘Choices’!

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should ‘Choose’.  Psalm 25:12

Therefore, as God’s ‘Chosen’ people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Colossians 3:12

But you are a ‘Chosen’ people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.        

1 Peter 2:9

Communitas

Art:

I COMPLETED this 16 x 20-inch Acrylic last week.  I did a Winter Oil a couple years ago of the same landscape.  I’ve intended to use this same landscape in a summer painting at dawn. This is the result.

I use it for today’s Thought to symbolically represent my hope and prayer for a new dawn of ‘Communitas’ in our struggling world.

Thought:

 Escalation

IT SEEMS TO me there is an escalation of violence in the US and around the globe.  Or is it that the means for reporting ‘bad news’ have grown exponentially.  Anyone with a cellphone (from almost anywhere on the planet) can spread unverified and biased information without restraint. Bottom line: our ability to get along with any degree of positive solidarity is in decline. What’s missing?

Communitas

“COMMUNITAS’ is a Latin noun for the spirit of community, typically those groups that form beyond regular institutions and organizations and create a profound sense of equality and togetherness.  It is the opposite of the feeling of alienation and isolation.  Instead, it’s the movement of some sort of spirit in which people discover that solidarity is possible.  Some sociologists have noted that ‘Communitas’ has spiritual or sacred dimensions through which people overcome division and achieve a new sense of identity and purpose. Author Barbara Ehrenteich puts it more bluntly: ‘Communitas’ and collective effervescence describe aspects or moments of communal excitement; there is no word for the love—or force or need—that leads individuals to seek ecstatic merger with the group.” [1]

“Sacred Dimension”

IF MY SENSE of escalation in violence is even half correct, the optimist in me also says that many have a desire to somehow reverse the condition. Some seeds for peace are producing positive results. Some are not. Others haven’t been implemented.  Someone once said:  “Don’t expect a better outcome by using the same means that got you where you are in the first place”. In my view, passing and enforcing ‘just laws’ have an important  place in a civil society but do not positively change people’s inner spirit. I think Diana Butler Bass is correct when she said, “…’Communitas’ has spiritual or sacred dimensions…”. Without this dimension it is my view that all the best laid plans of mankind will come short and ‘Communitas’ will not be attained. 

Democracy and Communism

TWO OF THE WORLD’S major systems—democracy and communism—have largely failed at ‘Communitas’.  Why?  It seems to me they each have some good and some not-so-good points, but both have moved away from “spiritual or sacred dimensions” as an indispensable key. Democracy with its accompanying consumerism fosters the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal and that a person’s wellbeing and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions. Communism with its accompanying oligarchy (a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution) [2] is a political theory advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned, and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs. Secularism and Atheism seem to be their dominant philosophies.

Observation

MOST OF THE world’s religions and ethical systems teach some form of the ‘Golden Rule’: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism to name a few. It is written in different languages but the ‘bottom line’ of all their statements follow the meaning of what Jesus said in the Bible: So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets– Matthew 7:12.  Some say the first record of any ‘Golden Rule’ dates back to 1,800,  B.C./ BCE in Egypt.

Possibility

WHAT IF ALL these religions that include the principle of what is known as the ‘Golden Rule’, took five years to practice and teach this philosophy to and for its followers and through them toward all mankind, regardless of his or her religion or non-religion?  It seems to me the outcome, even if small at first, would see reporting of ‘peace’ and ‘Communitas ‘grow exponentially in our homes and our world. This is great 2022 seed to plant in my/our garden of influence this Spring!  

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.                                 Matthew 5:9


[1] GROUNDED, Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution, by Diana Butler Bass, 2015, p. 249

[2] Some say “…a few examples of modern oligarchies are Russia, China, Iran, and perhaps the United States”– Google search example of oligarchy  Nov 14, 2019

Inflation

Art:

INSPIRED BY one of my favorite artists, Victor N. Yushkevich, I completed this 18 x 24-inch Acrylic last week.

Here I see the marvelous balance God created in nature between soil, water, air, and fire. The balance is not only beautiful to observe but essential for life.  

Thought:

Ask Marilyn

MY NEIGHBOR gave me this clipping from a Sunday, April 3rd  ‘Parade’ newspaper insert column ‘Ask Marilyn’.

Question:  “I realize gas stations make only a couple of cents per gallon but the price I pay at the pump is so painful.  My grandfather says it seemed just as bad when he was young. But how can that be?   I read that in 1950, the average price of gas was only 27 cents a gallon.  In my reckoning, inflation doesn’t account  for it.   – Matt Sorensen, Albuquerque, N.M.

Answer:  “Adjusted for inflation, the purchasing power of 27 cent in 1950 dollars  is $2.97 now.  But here’s a big difference:  The average gas mileage for passenger cars in 1950 was l5 mpg,  but it’s about 25 mpg now.  So, what grandpa experienced in 1950 is what we experience when gasoline is $5.00 per gallon today. In short it was even worse for him.” —   by Marilyn vos Savant  

What is ‘Inflation’

I BEGAN TO wonder what lesson(s) followers of Jesus might learn from ‘Inflation’ in 2022.  We are reminded daily that ‘Inflation’ in the US is at a record 40 year high. This begs the question: What is ‘Inflation’?  The generic answer is the action of inflating something or the condition of being inflated: ‘Inflation’ of a child’s balloon.  In economics ‘Inflation’ is a general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money. Some experts say current ‘Inflation’ in America has been driven higher by soaring demand and a lack of supply caused by Covid-19’s global impact on trade. Price rises for food, electricity, and shelter were the largest contributors to the increase.

Is ‘Inflation’ good or bad?

I WAS A BIT surprised at the honesty in the answer to this question given by one economic writer who wrote, “Inflation’ is viewed as a positive when it helps boost consumer demand and consumption, driving economic growth. Some believe ‘Inflation’ is meant to keep deflation in check, while others think ‘Inflation’ is a drag on the economy.”  Another report titled ‘Why do governments want inflation?’ said: “… ‘Inflation’ makes it easier for a government to pay its debt, especially when inflation is higher than expected. In summary: Higher inflation increases nominal tax revenues (if prices are higher, the government will collect more VAT, workers pay more income tax).” I’ll let you decide what you think whether ‘Inflation ‘is good or bad?

Observations

TWO PASSAGES from Scripture flood my mind as I thought about what I, as a follower of Jesus, may learn from ‘Inflation’—Psalm 23 and Matthew 25.  Specifically, Psalm 23:1,  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing and Matthew 25:40, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

In the first passage I see a promise: I will take care of your needs. In the second a prescription: Allow me to take care of others through you.  It seems to me that God’s balance will continue to sustain our true ‘lack’ as we trust him to be the ultimate source.  He promises to take care that we not ‘lack’ essentials. But not all our ‘wants’! God may choose to provide the ‘lack’ of someone else through me.  He may also want to meet my ‘lacks’ through someone else. This balance may overcome ‘Inflation’.  

Application

I SUGGEST A GOOD place to begin is to give thoughtful answers to two questions:

Question #1. How influenced am I to demand and consume things and services that are not  essential “lacks”?  One source said: ‘Inflation’ is viewed as a positive when it helps boost consumer demand and consumption. It seems to me these two words may tempt us too far beyond essential “lacks”.

Question #2. What can be done through me to allow Jesus to help someone else fill their essential “lack”?

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide. Listen for  answer(s) through prayer, meditating. reading, conversations and taking  inventory of what you have that can be shared with someone else.  Start with family, congregations, neighbors, and needs expressed in our daily mail.  

FYI:  In Michigan I paid 19 cents per gallon in the early 1960s during a local gas price war!

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23:6

Witness Marks ?

Art:

I COMPLETED these four Ink with Pen and Brush drawings fifteen years ago from photos I took during a walk in historic downtown Anoka, Minnesota. It’s one of the state’s ‘River Towns’ located where the Rum River joins the Mississippi. All four locations are within two blocks.

For decades each location has made a ‘mark’ for good  on those taking the time to walk by the river’s edge and surroundings, with open eyes, ears, and heart.  Try it sometime!

Thought:

“Witness Marks”

AFTER LUNCH Marj and I read the Scripture and Devotional in The Daily Bread. This is from last week.

“See that?”  The clock repairman pointed his flashlight beam on a small, fine mark roughly engraved inside the old grandfather clock he was working on in our home.  “Another repairman could have put that there almost a century ago.” he said. “It’s called a ‘witness mark,’ and it helps me know how to set the mechanism.”

“Before the age of technical bulletins and repair manuals, “witness marks” were used to help the person making a future repair align moving parts with precision.  They were more than just time-saving reminders; they were often left as a simple kindness to the next person doing the work.

“The Bible encourages us to leave our own “witness marks” as we work for God by serving others in our broken world.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2).  This is the example of our God, “who gives endurance and encouragement” (v. 5).  It’s about being a good citizen of both earth and heaven.

“Our “witness marks” may seem like small things, but they can make a vital difference in someone’s life.  An uplifting word, a financial gift to someone in need, and a listening ear—all are kindness that can have a lasting impact.  May God help you make a mark for Him in someone’s life today![1]  

“Find Us Faithful”

I FIRST HEARD this song by the late Steve Green more than twenty years ago.  It brought tears to my eyes and the hope that it may somehow express ‘Witness Marks’ in my life one day.

We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road

And those who’ve gone before us line the way

Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary

Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses

Let us run the race not only for the prize

But as those who’ve gone before us

Let us leave [‘Witness Marks’]to those behind us

The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone

And our children sift through all we’ve left behind

May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover [‘Witness Marks’]

Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

CHORUS:

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

May the fire of our devotion light their way

May the footprints [‘Witness Marks] that we leave

Lead them to believe

And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful[2]

Terry Redlin

TERRY REDLIN remains one of my favorite artists.  My artist son Steve and I visited the Redlin Art Center in Watertown, South Dakota a few years ago to see Terry’s 150 original oils.  I received an email recently from the Center and thought this quote a grand example of a mother’s ‘Witness Marks’ on her son along with God’s through his creation.

 “I was sitting in the shallow water of a river playing with the darting minnows.  It was beautiful and warm and comfortable.  I think I was about two years old.  My mother would show me how to fish with a  small cane pole.  She would encourage me with a ditty that strangely, I can still recite: ‘Fishy, fishy in a brook, come and bite on Terry’s hook, mama fries them in a pan, Terry eats them like a man.’  We visited that river area many times in the evening, too. I can still see the sun setting against the bluff across the stream and how beautiful it was.”– Terry Redlin

Our Prayer

FATHER, REMIND ME of the ‘Witness Marks’ you have made on me through others. And, Father, show me ‘Witness Marks’ you wish to leave on others through me.  A-Men

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40


[1] The Daily Bread, Friday, April 1, 2022.  Written by James Banks

[2] Find Us Faithful, by Steve Green, 1988 release  I added [‘Witness Marks]

Friendship

Art:

DON’T REMEMBER when I completed this Watercolor with Ink or the photograph that inspired me.  I know it’s been at least five years. We lived in Andover, MN at the time.  I like the vivid colors.

I chose this piece to represent our Thought for this week—‘Friendship’.  I’d  like to think this pair represents a kind of ‘Friendship’ that may exist in the world of ornithology. It does exist in the world of people.  Let’s take a look.

Thought:

Jesus Was Her ‘Friend’

I WAS DRAWN to ‘Friendship’ for this week when Marj and I finished reading Diana Butler Bass’ book: Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence, and watching the discussion of her book with Tripp Fuller on his Homebrewed Christianity podcast.Diana’s first chapter deals with her introduction to Jesus in pre-school Sunday School where she learned Jesus was her ‘Friend’.  Subsequent chapters deal with the various ways she encountered Jesus through her education leading to a PhD in Religious Studies. Last year she published the book and, in a way, ending up where she started, with Jesus as Friend!  So, what does that mean?

Defining ‘Friendship’

‘FRIENDSHIP’ IS A RELATIONSHIP of mutual affection between people. It’s a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an acquaintance or an association, such as a classmate, neighbor, or colleague. Friend is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.  Friend is more than just an acquaintance, pal, or ally but is a supporter: protagonist, champion, admirer, and booster.  In other words, there is something special about ‘Friendships”. It does not automatically include everyone who is not your enemy. So, who is your friend?

‘Friends’ Inventory

THINKING BACK eighty-four birthdays, seven people come to mind that fall into the category of my ‘Friendships’: Three neighborhood boys while we were in 6th through 9th grade. One girl (I first met in high school and married 64 years ago) remains BEST of all! One young man served with me on the Ministerial Staff of a congregation in Michigan. One man was a lay leader in a church I served in Minnesota. Another was on the Ministerial Staff where I served in Minnesota. [I didn’t become aware that Jesus is my ‘Friend’ until my Sophomore year in High School.] So, what brought these seven into the ‘Friendship’ category for me?[1]

‘Friendship’ Characteristics

PROXIMITY IS A GIVEN.  You can’t have this kind of relationship with someone you don’t know. You will have  some common interest(s). You share similar values.   You value the other person’s opinion. You can trust the person to ‘have your back’. You have shared and survived both highs and lows together over time. Longevity plays a part.  It would be difficult to form this ‘Friendship’ level without some extended time in a relationship at some level. True ‘Friendships’ allows each to ‘agree to disagree’ on things without ending the relationship.  I first met the three boys mentioned above when I moved from Tennessee to Michigan to live with my Aunt and Uncle when I was in the sixth grade.  I moved away following the nineth grade and the ‘Friendships’ we developed during those four years ended. Positive memories remain.  

‘Friendship’ With Jesus

WHAT DIANA BUTLER BASS learned in Pre-school Sunday School never ends.  Jesus is your “Friend”!  He is in proximity to you.  By his Spirit he shares common interests with you.  He ‘has your back’.  He has been through great persecution for you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends  (John 15:13).  You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:14). I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you ( John 15:14).

More to Consider

I HAVE A special category with three members.  The category is ‘Son/Friendships’.  The members are Jim, Dan, and Steve!  I highly value our relationship and the times we can spend together!

Here are three ‘Friendships’ thoughts to consider for this week: Who is on your special ‘Friendships’ list? How do you maintain those ‘Friendships’?  What does it mean to you knowing Jesus counts you with his ‘Friendships’ ?

“The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons [Friendships], with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.”
― Dallas Willard


[1]I admit that narrowing this list to seven was not intended to undervalue hundreds of others very important to me serving as: Associates, Helpers, Companions, Workmates and Acquaintances in many valuable ways through the years.

Acquaintenship

Art:

I COMPLETED this Acrylic last week with the work of a favorite Russian artist, Victor N. Yushkevich, as my primary reference.  I thoroughly enjoy his subjects and use of color.

I chose this piece for today’s Thought—‘Acquaintanceship’—for a couple reasons.  From what I have seen of his work, Victor has a strong ‘Acquaintanceship’ with his subjects.  Most of his work I’ve seen is of gorgeous landscapes. To me, he seems to have more than a casual acquaintance. My assumption is he often paints plein air before completing his detailed studio work.  Painting plein air (live & outside) gives a level of ‘Acquaintanceship’ with the subject difficult to accomplish with photos alone.  

Thought:

Request for Prayer

MOST OF US have been asked: “Will you please pray for me?”; “Will you pray that my friend will be healed?” or “Pray for the crisis in Ukraine.” You may be part of a ‘Prayer Chain’ and receive prayer request from any number of people in a single day.  You are being asked to intercede with prayer on behalf of a person or circumstance.  What can you do?  This is where it seems to me ‘Acquaintanceship’ becomes a key factor. 

How Do We Pray?

“SO HOW do we pray in Jesus’ name, that is, in conformity to his nature?  Jesus himself says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever  you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7) This “abide in me” is the all-inclusive condition for effective intercession.  It is the key for prayer in the name of Jesus.  We learn to become like the branch, which receives its life from the vine: “Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me”  (John 15:4).  Nothing is more important to a life of prayer than learning how to become a  branch…

“Acquaintanceship” The 1st  Challenge

“AS WE LIVE this way, we develop what Thomas a Kempis calls “a familiar friendship with Jesus.”  We become accustomed to his face.  We distinguish the voice of the true Shepherd from that of religious hucksters in the same way professional jewelers distinguish a diamond from glass imitations—by ‘Acquaintanceship’.  When we  have been around the genuine article long enough, the cheap and shoddy become obvious.

“When we have immersed ourselves long enough in the way of Christ, we can smell Gospel. So, we ask and do as we know he would ask and do.  How do we know what Jesus would ask and do, you may ask?  Well, how does  a couple who has been married many loving years know what each other thinks and wants and feels?  [Marj and I celebrated our 64th Wedding Anniversary on the 15th and affirm this to be true!] We know, even as we are known.  This is how we pray “in Jesus’ name.”[1]

“Acquaintanceship” The 2nd  Challenge

THE SECOND challenge when requested to intercede in prayer, is your lack of ‘Acquaintanceship’.  What do you know?  You may know little to nothing about the person other than a name.  You know someone believes having you pray is important.  You may have allowed your name to appear on a prayer chain list.  There’s enough ‘Acquaintanceship’ about you that you are being asked.  It would be wise to conclude that the Spirit of Jesus is involved.

How Can I Improve?

HOW CAN I improve my ‘Acquaintanceship’ with this request?  Asking “How can I pray for you?” is  not always possible.  Ask the Spirit of Jesus to give you wisdom for this prayer opportunity.  Listen through what you are reading; what you are hearing in your meditation and with your imagination. Imagine you are that person or in that circumstance. What would your prayer be?  Pray that way. Trust that the same Spirit of Jesus that brought the request to you will guide you to faithfully carry out this mission. 

Follow Up!

LISTEN AND watch for movement surrounding the request.  This will guide your prayer follow up. It will allow you to bring thanksgiving for wisdom and for the an answer when it comes. Intercessory prayer often calls for patience, longsuffering, and grace.  Someone once said that grace is God’s enabling me to do what I cannot do alone in carrying out His will through my life. 


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.     Colossians 1:9


[1] PRAYER, Finding the Heart’s True Home, by Richard J. Foster  p. 195

Paternoster 2

Art:

I competed this Oil painting ten years ago from photo references of the Neushwanstein Castle in southwestern Germany. In the 19th century many castles were constructed or reconstructed, often with significant changes to make them more picturesque. Neushwanstein embodies the contemporaneous architectural fashion known as romanticism. It was finished around 1900.

Last week featured an Ink with Brush castle. It was one of only three castles I’ve painted.  Today’s castle is the only one in Oil. 

Thought:

Three Words

“THE PATERNOSTER’ (Lord’s prayer) is essentially petitionary–asking. Adoration is present at both the beginning and the end, but petition is present through the main body of the prayer.  Of its seven perfectly crafted requests, three are relate to personal petition.  These three entreaties can be gathered up into three words: give, forgive, and deliver.  Together they form a paradigm for Petitionary Prayer by which we can conjugate all the verbs of our individual asking.”[1] Last week we considered give. Today we consider the remaining two: forgive and deliver.

Forgive Us

“I AM CONSTANTLY amazed that the petition give precedes the petition forgive and not vice versa. It is as if God’s graciousness in giving to us, allows us to see the enormous debt we owe and allows us to cry out, “forgive us our debts.”…God loves to forgive… At the very heart of the universe is God’s desire to give and to forgive…We are forgiven as we forgive…Why is this?…  It is simply that by the very nature of the created order we must give in order to receive…Once I give love, I am a candidate for receiving love.

“In the affairs of human beings there is a vicious circle of retaliation. You hurt me, and I’ll hurt you in return… If forgiveness is so important, we really need to ask the question: What is forgiveness?  It is a miracle of grace whereby the offense no longer separates us.  Forgiveness means that the power of love that holds us together is greater than the power of the offense that separates us.  God has bound himself to forgive when we forgive.”[2] (Matthew 6:14) 

Deliver Us

“THE FIRST OF THE three prayer petitions we saw last week, give us, is followed today by forgive us and finally,  perhaps this most important of them all is, deliver us.   It contains both a negative (lead us not into temptation) and a positive (but deliver us from evil). The first part of the petition has disturbed many.  How can God tempt us or lead us into temptation? The Greek word itself means “trials” or “trying circumstances” and the only time God tries us is when there is something in our hearts that needs revealing…Therefore the prayer “lead us not into temptation” means this: “Lord may there be nothing in me that will force you to put me to the test in order to reveal what is in my heart.”  We want to be progressing in the realm of transformation with no hidden sins so that God will not be forced to put us to the test.” (Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: Psalm 139:23 [KJV])

“Now with regard to the petition “deliver us from evil”. As much as we might like it otherwise, the original text is quite clear that Jesus is urging us to pray for rescue not from evil in a generic sense but from the evil one  namely, Satan.  I know that does not sit well in our modern and postmodern understanding of reality, but it is there nevertheless.”[3]

Final Thoughts

PRAYER IS communication between you and God. It’s generally classed as monologue, where only one speaks or dialogue where both speak. For some people, prayer is a monologue:God speaks through words in the Bible and a person speaks by reciting prayers. The missing word here is relationship. It’s a 24/7/365 relationship!  Think about how other person-to-person relationships works. There are pauses where each might share a monologue whilethe other listens.  This is reversed many times and may touch on many topics.

Remember, you are never away from Jesus. You are encouraged to talk (and listen!) to Jesus any time and during any activity: work, play, entertainment, study etc.  My frequent request is,  “I need your wisdom in this.” Or “What should I do next?” Then I listen for the Spirit of Jesus’ response. Yes, like with any other close friend, you will also set aside a time and place where just you and Jesus meet—a morning Prayer Appointment or Quiet Time is a good place to start.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:16-18 [NIV]


[1] Ibid.  p.185

[2] Ibid.  p. 187-188

[3] Ibid,  p. 189

Paternoster

Art:

I completed this Ink with Pen & Brush last week from a European Castle reference photo. It’s one of only three Castles I’ve painted in Oil or Ink with Pen & Brush.  I enjoy watching PBS programs featuring the history of Europe’s Castles. I ponder of what it might have been like to watch their construction centuries ago, to witness the engineering required to create such massive and arty designs. Amazing!

I imagine that several times a day one might hear the echo of voices from somewhere in the quiet cavities of this Castle reciting the ‘Paternoster’. Curious?  Read on…

Thought:

“Our Father”

‘PATERNOSTER’ (sometimes called ‘Pater Noster’ or ‘Lord’s Prayer’) is ascribed to Jesus’ teaching on prayer in  Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. ‘Paternoster’ comes from Latin, literally meaning “Our Father” the first two words of the prayer text. I first came upon the word years ago while reading The Book of Hours where,in a small English village, church bells would ring certain hours of the day to remind its citizens to pause and recite the ‘Paternoster’. Most scholars see Jesus’ prayer to the Father recorded in John 17 as the true ‘Lord’s Prayer’, while Jesus’ teaching here in the Sermon on the Mount is seen more as a model or outline for prayer. Nevertheless, in many settings it is commonly recited as a stand-alone prayer.  

A Whole Prayer

“THE PATERNOSTER’ is really a total prayer.  Its concerns embrace the whole world, from the coming of the kingdom to daily bread.   Large things and small things, spiritual things and material things, inward things and outward things—nothing is beyond the purview of this prayer.

It is lifted up to God in every conceivable setting.    It rises from the altars of the great cathedrals and from obscure shanties in unknown places.  It is spoken by both children and kings.  It is prayed at weddings and deathbeds alike.  The rich and the poor the intelligent and the illiterate the simple and the wise—all speak forth this prayer.”[1]

Individual Asking

“THE PATERNOSTER’ (Lord’s prayer) is essentially petitionary–asking. Adoration is present at both the beginning and the end, but petition is present through the main body of the prayer.  Of its seven (7) perfectly crafted requests, three relate to personal petition.  These three entreaties can be gathered up into three words: give, forgive, and deliver.  Together they form a paradigm for Petitionary Prayer by which we can conjugate all the verbs of our individual asking.”[2] Today I want to consider the first of these three words.

Give

“If we were not familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, we might be astonished that sandwiched in this prayer Jesus has instructed his followers to pray giveus daily bread.  The creator of all the universe speaking of his “Kingdom come to earth as in heaven” is including such a simple thing as asking him to give us “our daily bread’.  Love does that.  Love says to the object of that love I care about you and the 1,001 trifles of concern in your life.  Bring them to me any time of day or night.  You need a babysitter?  You need a little space to rest from your overflowing life?  You need help with a test? You need help in relationships?  In one sense these are in the category of ‘daily bread”.”[3]  Ask!  Mothers and Fathers understand that their children may ask for anything.  Parents encourage their children to ask because they love them. Equally, because they love them, the answers may vary. Is it wise to always give what is requested? No. But it offers further relational guidance into something better.

Application

What do you need today? I suggest, start by asking for a gift of wisdom. Your Heavenly Father loves you!  As you pray, don’t hesitate to ask that He might give you what you need in your life.  That’s what love does!  

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
[for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
 Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 

James 1:5 [KJV]


[1] Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard J. Foster,  p. 185

[2] Ibid.  p.185

[3] Ibid. p. 186