Remember

Art:

THIS INK WITH Pen and Brush is a sketch of our son’s cabin on Long Lake near Aitken, Minnesota.  The photo reference was taken as it appeared when he first acquired it.  We added a full kitchen and a 500 sq. foot wrap around deck with a sliding door off this back wall.  Marj and I spent two or three weeks there each Summers for about ten years.

I use it for today’s Thought— ‘Remember’. Dozens of photos remind me of those years: pontoon boat rides, bonfires, smores, laughs, good food and family. I enjoyed each construction project. The last one was a tree house. Admittedly, falling off the ladder and breaking my back was not so much fun, but is part of the full tapestry called experience!

Thought:

MY CURRENT READING plus two events influenced today’s Thought: ‘Remember’. First: Last Saturday I participated in the Memorial Service for a dear lady who was a member of the congregation I had the privilege of Pastoring for 22+ years, until my retirement in 2006.  Second: In just over two weeks—Monday, May 31—our nation celebrates ‘Memorial Day’. In both cases “Memorial” carries the idea of ‘in memory’ or ‘Remember’.  I’ve been contemplating the word. We often use it, but what do we actually mean?

What is Memory?

‘MEMORY’ AS [A VERB]:  It has, or is able to bring into one’s mind, an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past). Some common synonyms are recall, recollect, remind, and reminisce. While all these words mean “to bring an image or idea from the past into the mind, “Remember” implies a keeping in memory that may be effortless or unwilled. Reminisce is a dreamy way of saying “remember the past”. If you’re swapping old stories with friends and remembering all the silly things you used to do, then you’re reminiscing. Reminiscing is all about happy recollections and thinking back to stories from the past.  You may ask, “So, what’s the point?  Is it just having fun remembering fun stuff from my past?  If so, then I’m in deep trouble.  My ‘Memory” has stuff that was definitely not fun. In fact, I would like to forget it!” 

“So, What Is the Point?

GOOD QUESTION. I believe your Memory is a gift from God.  It is part of how he made you. Why? Think about it. In creation we experience life in sequential chronological ways: past, present and future. Every time we experience a sunrise we think in terms of yesterday, today and tomorrow. In our physical development we think of a human life first beginning totally dependent on others, then becoming independent and, ideally, moving on to interdependence.  Without ‘Memory’ none of this would work.

As dependents, we develop independence as those responsible for our development ‘Remember’ what and how to enable us. Our growth into interdependence depends heavily on our ‘Memory’ and application of what we have been taught through words and deeds. And Interdependence provides opportunity for us to use our ‘Memory’ of God’s Love in the community of Jesus followers, and beyond.

Can I Facilitate the Process?

‘MEMORY’ DOESEN’T materialize from thin air. It’s limited to what has been seen, known, or experienced in the past.  Nearly anything else is imagination. Some of this we have little or no control over. Very often though, we do make choices that affect what we choose to see, know or experience.  Either way (with or without our choosing) they become deposits in our ‘Memory’ bank. For better or worse they become tools affecting our present and future growth into the person we are becoming. God’s best for us, means making the better choices for where we choose to invest our time and attention. How can I best choose to make positive ‘Memories’?

Truth to Consider From…

 …The Apostle Paul

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 praiseworthy—think about such thingsPhilippians 4:8      They become positive deposits into our ‘Memory’ bank. 

…The Apostle Peter

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have… And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.  2 Pet 1:12-15

…The Lord Jesus

 And he [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  Acts 22:19

Make Memory Bank Deposits with your best Choices!

“Well done good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Desire

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS 16” x 20” Acrylic a couple weeks ago from a photograph taken during the years Marj and I vacationed near Mackinaw, Michigan.  For ten Summers we spent a week at a midcentury motel just South of Mackinaw City.  Lake Huron was a five-minute walk through the woods.  We spent hours there reading with no one in sight. To the left was this view of the Mackinaw Bridge connecting the Lower and Upper Peninsula, and straight across was historic Mackinaw Island. Ideal, in so many ways!

I selected it for our Art to accompany the Thought for this week—‘Desire’.  Annually, we had a strong ‘Desire’ to escape and recharge our batteries at ‘our spot’ on the shores of Lake Huron! 

Thought:

MY GUESS IS that most people simply haven’t given much thought to ‘Desire’.  When did someone last asked you: “What do you ‘Desire’?”  Stop for a minute. Think about your answer before you read on… The answer may not be as easy to articulate as one might think.  Of course, if I don’t understand the question, any conversation is terminated before getting started. Understanding the question requires both of us having a beneficial definition for ‘Desire’.  So, I put pride in my pocket, and do what no one is supposed to do.  I answer the question with a question, “What do you mean by ‘Desire”?

“What do you mean by ‘Desire’”

I SENSE THE HUMAN characteristic we call ‘Desire’ is one of the important ways we are created in the image of God. Everyone has this capacity. ‘Desire’ is what moves us off the couch and into action. The primary role of human “Desire” is to impel us to action. The best ideas may exist in the mind, but until ‘Desire’ kicks in, nothing happens. It starts with an idea. The more you dwell on that idea, the more apt you are to develop a ‘Desire’ toward action to transform ideas into reality. A key question is where your ideas originate and to what extent have you become possessed by them. Are they from a trustworthy source or the opposite?  ‘Desire’ may be influenced from either direction, causing you to take action in either direction.

Choice Before “Desire”

‘THE HUMAN WILL or “spirit” is very different from flesh actuated in unrestrained ‘Desire’.  It considers alternatives. That is its essential nature. It is our God given ability by which we have an interest, not just in the present, but what is better or best overall.  It takes a broad view of possibilities; not just one lustful desire and its object, but of other desires and goods.  That is where choice comes in. Choice involves celebration between alternatives, with a view to what is best… Love is will-to-good.”[1]

What Can I (We) Do?

Desire without knowledge is not good—    how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

Proverbs 19:2

THINK ABOUT THE WORDS you just read.  We are bombarded with information 24/7.  Some  is good.  Some only distraction.  It distracts from the life we live in Christ.  We are subject to hasty feet often leading to ‘Desires’ launching us into activity and attitudes we may regret and wonder: How did that happen? How can it be prevented?  Choose to immerse your mind with knowledge [that] is (not) good.  Translated: It is the love of God working in and through my body for God’s glory.  Paul helps us:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5

So, I say, walk [live] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Galatians 5:16, 17

WE ARE BOMBARDED with media telling us by words and example what ‘everyone’ should think like, act like and be like.  Paul says that is a false kind of god.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Ephesians 3:5

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

1 Pet 1:14

THERE IS ANOTHER way for God’s obedient children.  We need not live in ignorance.  Jesus is the truth-in-love antidote for spiritual ignorance. 

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

Psalm 37:4


[1] Renewing the Christian Mind, Dallas Willard  p. 58-59

Grace

Art:

SAILING SHIPS were a favorite of our oldest son Jim. Several years ago, I painted this sailing ship for him. At the time I actually did two paintings of the same subject. One with white sails and this one. 

I’m using it for our Thought this week—Grace—because of the story behind the famous sea captain, John Newton, I’ll mention later. He sailed a hundred years before this Clipper Ship design became popular.

Thought:

WHEN DID YOU last use ‘Grace’ in a sentence? Did you mean: A girl’s name …prayer before a meal… description of a dance movement… a religious term…or something else?  My Thesaurus lists more than 30 words that may be substituted: some nouns some verbs. Let’s narrow today’s search to ‘Divine Grace’.  (1.) ‘Divine Grace’ Defined (2.) ‘Divine Grace’ Illustrated? (3.) ‘Divine Grace’ Experienced.

 ‘Divine Grace’ Defined

WHETHER I CURRENTLY understand the meaning of ‘Divine Grace’ or not, it’s from God and, on the surface, sounds like a good thing. I’m at least interested in knowing more. Right?

Definition #1: Some say, “Divine Grace” is ‘unmerited favor’. So, what does that mean?  ‘Favor’ suggests ‘an act of kindness’. That sounds promising. But ‘unmerited’ could mean something ‘unearned’ or even ‘undeserved’. So here “Divine Grace” is an act of God’s kindness toward me without me having done anything to earn it plus, I may be undeserving. While I see this in Scripture, to me, it seems we limit ‘Divine Grace’ application to one becoming a follower of Jesus —the process called ‘spiritual birth’ whenever that takes place.  What about the role of ‘Divine Grace’ in spiritual growth of the new follower?

Definition #2. The most complete definition I’ve found is: ‘God acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own’.  It applies at ‘spiritual birth’ and continues throughout our life toward Christlikeness. While well-intentioned human effort is indispensable, we cannot do this in our own strength alone.  Christlikeness of the inner being is not a merely human attainment nor is spiritual development in Christ a passive process.  It is, finally, a gift of ‘Divine Grace’ where God is acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own.  We seek to obey God’s instruction (emitting fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5).  God’s ‘Divine Grace’ provides his intended results via our faithfulness, even though we may not follow perfectly.

 ‘Divine Grace’ Illustrated

The Greek word translated ‘grace’ appears 114 timers in the New Testament.


JESUS;           And the child (Jesus) grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on himLuke 2:40

 PAUL:           But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10

FOLLOWERS:         For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

 ‘Divine Grace’ Experienced

HOW?  START BY asking God to open our physical and spiritual eyes so that we may see what God is doing in our sphere of influence. Spend time reading and meditating on God’s teachings like Psalm 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:8,9. Ask God to speak to us about how we may serve with him by means of his ‘Divine Grace’ in our sphere of influence. Trust what God says and serve.

READ THE STORY behind the life of [1]John Newton. Think through his Lyrics of

Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home
And Grace will lead us home

Go, and serve others by His ‘Divine Grace’!


[1] John Newton was born in London in 1725, the son of a Puritan mother and a stern ship commander father who took him to sea when he was 11.  By 1745, Newton was enlisted in the slave trade, running captured slaves from Africa to, ironically, Charleston, S.C. After he rode out a storm at sea in 1748, he found his faith. He was a slave himself for a period of time. He went on to fight against slavery. 

Inosculate

NOTE:  LAST WEEK SOME HAD DIFFICULTY OPENING THE BLOG ‘SYMBOLS’. I HOPE WE’VE SOLVED THE PROBLEM!  Thanks for your patience.

Art:

THIS16” x 20” Acrylic is my version of a painting I recently completed while following Ryan O’Rourke in a YouTube tutorial.

I chose it for its emphasis on the vibrance of Summer, soon to be upon us in the northern hemisphere!  I sense there are many ways our Thought—Inosculate—takes place around us in nature.   

Thought:

“Word Genius”

I DON’T RECALL when or how it began.  One morning I opened my computer to read daily emails and there it was: “Word Genius” complete with a word I didn’t recognize, along with the definition and more.  That’s not all.  Every day since, I’ve receive a new word. One I often don’t recognize.  I enjoy reading the definitions and etymologies. Inosculate [in-AHS-kə-layt] arrived recently. It reminded me of a gripping analogy from the words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  First, let’s define our word.

Inosculate Defined

IN SIMPLE TERMS, Inosculate may be defined as: ‘Join or Unite’; To join by intertwining or fitting closely together. Most popular between1800 – 1825 the word inosculate is first recorded in the early 1400s.  It comes from the Latin verb inoculare, meaning “to graft by budding, implant”. It developed from a combination of the words “into” and the Latin word “osculare,” which means “to provide with a mouth or outlet”.  The term is used in the medical field and others but it’s primarily associated with plants and trees.

Arborists & Inosculation

“INOSCULATION IS a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together. It is biologically similar to grafting and such trees are referred to in forestry as ‘gemels’, from the Latin word meaning ‘pair’.

It is most common for branches of two trees of the same species to grow together, though inosculation may be noted across related species. The branches first grow separately in proximity to each other until they touch. At this point, the bark on the touching surfaces is gradually abraded away as the trees move in the wind. Once the of two trees touch, they sometimes self-graft and grow together as they expand in diameter. Inosculation customarily results when tree limbs are braided…’ Wikipedia

Jesus & Inosculation

JOHN’S GOSPEL reminds us in 13:13 that Jesus is a teacher: You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Jesus is not just a teacher.  He is the master teacher of all time!  He constantly applied a teaching term I first learned in college: Apperceptionthe mental process by which a person makes sense of an idea by assimilating it to the body of ideas he or she already possesses.  In other words, when Jesus wanted to teach a new truth, he began with something familiar to his audience and proceeded to connect it to the new truth as a parallel word picture. Vines were a natural.

In John fifteen Jesus said:  I am the true vine, …Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine (inosculation). Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apostle Paul & Inosculation

THE APOSTLE PAUL was well educated and equipped to teach.  His greatest example was Jesus. Paul stated in 1 Timothy 2:7:  I was appointed a herald and an apostle…and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.  As a teacher of the Gentiles (and Jews) he picked up on Jesus teaching by incorporating apperception with the inosculation example found in agriculture.

After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!  Romans 11:24

Means to The Purpose

THE POINT BEING made by Jesus and Paul, by using these word pictures, is for God’s love to reach the world.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.Now remain in my love (inosculation)If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love… This is my command: Love each other. John 15:8, 17

Who Knew?

WHO KNEW that a “Word Genius” email would end up ‘working together’ with Jesus and Paul’s teaching for today?

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

Enjoy your gardening!

Symbols 2

Art:

I RECENTLY COMPLETED this 16” x 20” Acrylic from a reference photo by Peter Dranitsin.

The Moose is often a Symbol of independence, self-esteem and wisdom.  I thought it a good choice for today’s Thought— ‘Symbols’.

Thought:

Symbols

WE’RE SURROUNDED by so many ‘Symbols’ I think we often ‘stop seeing them’ whether or not our brain translates what the Symbol represents: Target, Wall-Mart, Apple, Nike, Aflac.  Advertising firms are paid good money to develop these ‘Symbols’ (logos). Symbols are a mark or character used as a representation of an object, function, or process. Over time Symbols may lose meaning or even take on unintended meanings.

APRIL 4, we celebrated Easter Sunday.  A common Symbol for this celebration (and throughout the year) is the Crucifix.  Ever wonder when we started using this Symbol for Christianity?  Did Jesus teach this? Did New Testament writers?  No, on both counts.  Kenneth Clark in his book and television series Civilization offers an answer:

Kenneth Clark

“WE HAVE GROWN so used to the idea that the Crucifixion is the supreme symbol of Christianity that it is a shock to realize how late in the history of Christian art its power is recognized.  In the first art of Christianity, it hardly appears; and the earliest example, on the doors of Santa Sabina (built A.D. 430) in Rome, its stuck away in a corner almost out of sight. The simple fact is that the early church needed converts, and from this point of view the Crucifixion was not an encouraging subject. So early Christian art is concerned with miracles, healings, and with hopeful aspects of the faith like Ascension and Resurrection.”[1] 

In contrast to Kenneth Clark’s suggestion (why the early church was not keen on the Crucifix as the Christian symbol) listen to Tertullian 200 years earlier as he writes to his provincial governors under the Roman Empire

Tertullian’s Apology

“PROCEEDE IN YOUR career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hated sect [the Christians].  We are like the grass, which grown the more luxuriantly, the oftener it is mown.  The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity.  Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines.  For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of the faith which insures such supernatural courage?  Who can inquire into that faith and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same suffering in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fullness of divine favor?” –Tertullian’s (A.D. 160-230) In the conclusion to his Apology he seems to see the Christian Symbol as the Life example of the early believers.[2]

Life!

HAVING GIVEN thought to both Clark and Tertulian’s words, I have an observation:  Kenneth Clark’s suggestion as to why the early church was not keen on the Crucifix for the Christian symbol may be spot on. It seems to assume Jesus’ human death—crucifixion—was the central focus of his ‘good news’ message. It seems to me Jesus’ message was ‘Life’ in his kingdom now and for eternity. Yes, Jesus did die for us and demonstrated the end of death’s control over our living. By following him we experience a new kind of “Eternal Life”.  I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. [3]With this in mind, it seems best to at least use the empty Cross Symbol. But, is there a better possibility?

Ankh?

ACCORDING TO TERTULLIAN’S comments, the best Symbol of what Christianity is all about is the ‘Life’ of the individual follower of Jesus.  One such Symbol is the Ankh symbol—sometimes referred to as the key of Life or the key of the Nile—representative of eternal life in Ancient Egypt. Created by Africans long ago, the Ankh is said to be the first–or original–Cross. It is sometimes used by Coptic Christians along with the Coptic Cross. Physical inanimate Symbols may be helpful reminders, but whether it is the Crucifix, Cross or Ankh we must remember:

 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; Exodus 20:4


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8


[1] Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, p.34

[2] Ibid p. 35

[3] John 10:10 The Message

Symbols

Art:

I RECENTLY COMPLETED this 16” x 20” Acrylic from a reference photo by Peter Dranitsin.

The Moose is often a Symbol of independence, self-esteem and wisdom.  I thought it a good choice for today’s Thought— ‘Symbols’.

Thought:

WE’RE SURROUNDED by so many ‘Symbols’ I think we often ‘stop seeing them’ whether or not our brain translates what the Symbol represents: Target, Wall-Mart, Apple, Nike, Aflac.  Advertising firms are paid good money to develop these ‘Symbols’ (logos). Symbols are a mark or character used as a representation of an object, function, or process. Over time Symbols may lose meaning or even take on unintended meanings.

Symbols

APRIL 4, we celebrated Easter Sunday.  A common Symbol for this celebration (and throughout the year) is the Crucifix.  Ever wonder when we started using this Symbol for Christianity?  Did Jesus teach this? Did New Testament writers?  No, on both counts.  Kenneth Clark in his book and television series Civilization offers an answer:

Kenneth Clark

“WE HAVE GROWN so used to the idea that the Crucifixion is the supreme symbol of Christianity that it is a shock to realize how late in the history of Christian art its power is recognized.  In the first art of Christianity, it hardly appears; and the earliest example, on the doors of Santa Sabina (built A.D. 430) in Rome, its stuck away in a corner almost out of sight. The simple fact is that the early church needed converts, and from this point of view the Crucifixion was not an encouraging subject. So early Christian art is concerned with miracles, healings, and with hopeful aspects of the faith like Ascension and Resurrection.”[1] 

In contrast to Kenneth Clark’s suggestion (why the early church was not keen on the Crucifix as the Christian symbol) listen to Tertullian 200 years earlier as he writes to his provincial governors under the Roman Empire

Tertullian’s Apology

“PROCEED IN YOUR career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hated sect [the Christians].  We are like the grass, which grown the more luxuriantly, the oftener it is mown.  The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity.  Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines.  For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of the faith which insures such supernatural courage?  Who can inquire into that faith and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same suffering in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fullness of divine favor?” –Tertullian’s (A.D. 160-230) In the conclusion to his Apology he seems to see the Christian Symbol as the Life example of the early believers.[2]

Life!

HAVING GIVEN thought to both Clark and Tertulian’s words, I have an observation:  Kenneth Clark’s suggestion as to why the early church was not keen on the Crucifix for the Christian symbol may be spot on. It seems to assume Jesus’ human death—crucifixion—was the central focus of his ‘good news’ message. It seems to me Jesus’ message was ‘Life’ in his kingdom now and for eternity. Yes, Jesus did die for us and demonstrated the end of death’s control over our living. By following him we experience a new kind of “Eternal Life”.  I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. [3]With this in mind, it seems best to at least use the empty Cross Symbol. But, is there a better possibility?

Ankh?

ACCORDING TO TERTULLIAN’S comments, the best Symbol of what Christianity is all about is the ‘Life’ of the individual follower of Jesus.  One such Symbol is the Ankh symbol—sometimes referred to as the key of Life or the key of the Nile—representative of eternal life in Ancient Egypt. Created by Africans long ago, the Ankh is said to be the first–or original–Cross. It is sometimes used by Coptic Christians along with the Coptic Cross. Physical inanimate Symbols may be helpful reminders, but whether it is the Crucifix, Cross or Ankh we must remember:

 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them;… Exodus 20:4


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8


[1] Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, p.34

[2] Ibid p. 35

[3] John 10:10 The Message

Pride

Art:

I COMPLETED this 14” x 18” Acrylic in March from a photo reference, taken more than 40 years ago, of our home on Altadena Street, in Royal Oak, Michigan.

I chose to use it in relation to today’s Thought—Pride. Built more than a 100 years ago, this was our Thomason family home before we moved to Minnesota in 1983.  I basically renovated nearly everything inside and out. During my college and early married years, I spent six years as a subcontractor installing aluminum siding and trim. My last renovation was to design and install everything you see here with aluminum siding and trim. I am proud (in a good sense!) of how it turned out. 

Thought:

Are You A Proud Person?

IF ASKED, “Are you a Proud person?” how would you respond? Answering accurately may present a challenge.  Allowed to think about your answer, you might actually say, “Yes, and No.”, it depends on what you mean by ‘Proud’.”  Therein lies the difficulty.  I’ve recently been thinking and reading about ‘Pride’ to gain a better understanding why we may struggle answering the question: “Are you a ‘Proud’ Person?”. Here, in short form, is what, seems to me, to connect the dots.

IN ENGLISH we may use the word ‘Pride’ as a brand name for furniture polish; to describe a public march for different demographics as ‘(blank) Pride’ or ‘Proud to be an American’.  Trying to define the word by the many ways we use it isn’t much help.

Good Pride…Bad Pride?

PRIDE IS ONE of those words difficult to define in simple English.  I suspect one might reach the same conclusion attempting to define its equivalent in any other language.  At the risk of oversimplifying, I suggest ‘Pride’ may be painted in either of two broad strokes: Good pride or Bad pride.

Good Pride

ACCORDING TO Wikipedia: “Pride is a positive emotional response or attitude to something with an intimate connection to oneself, due to its perceived value. This may be one’s own abilities or achievements, positive characteristics of friends or family, or one’s country.”  This sounds positive and may be illustrated in a number of ways:  The pleasure in being praised with “Well done!”. The pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you sincerely wanted to please.  Being ‘Proud of’ your son or daughter means one has a warm-hearted admiration for…

Bad Pride

C. S. LEWIS, writing in the 1940s, tackled Pride in its negative form. “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility…According to Christian teachers the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are merely fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil:  Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…”  [1]   

Pride & Harmful Competition


LEWIS CONTINUES: “…Pride is essentially competition by its very nature, while the other vices are competitive, so to speak, by accident… Once the element of competition is gone the Pride is gone… the Proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power… as long as there is one man in the whole world who is more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I am, he is my rival and my enemy… [This] Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

Pride’s Ultimate Consideration

GOOD PRIDE’S danger is to become self-centered to the extent that he or she takes credit for all things in one’s life and acts as ultimately in personal control—“I am God.” The warning in Ezekiel comes to mind: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.  Ezekiel 28:2

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  Proverbs 16:18

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.  Proverbs 29:33


[1] Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, 1943 page 94

Passing

Art:

I CREATED THIS 16” x 20” Oil painting from photo references several years ago. To me, it expresses Psalm 23  “The Lord is my shepherd…” 

I see this art piece for our Thought—Passing—reminding me of how God orchestrates our ‘passing’ through stages of life, much like the shepherd with his or her sheep.  At the appropriate time sheep are passed from one field through the gate to a fresh ‘green pasture’. Ultimately our Heavenly Father allows us to ‘pass’ from these bodies into His eternal presence.    

Thought:

Passing

I WONDERED WHAT word to best describe this week’s Thought. Death? Resurrection? Or any number a thesaurus might suggest? ‘Passing’ seemed to work best. It conveys a positive movement from one condition or circumstance to another. Think of it as a child, with excitement, looking forward to ‘passing’ from their present grade into the next. Progress! New experience! Excitement!  New friends!

A New Word

IT’S BEEN MORE than a year since we first began to hear ‘Coronavirus’ in the United States. Now it is on the minds of everyone as COVID-19.  First came a rush for testing, then overcrowded hospitals, followed by the hope for a vaccine and how to get to ‘herd immunity’ and some kind of ‘new normal’.  Everyone knows someone personally or through a friend who has been infected. Too often we’ve also known of someone who ‘passed’ away.    

2020  &  1918

THE U.S. POPULATION at the start of 2020 numbered just over 331 million people. We are the third largest country in the world, outnumbered only by China and India, at just over 1.4 billion and just under 1.4 billion, respectively. The numbers of Coronavirus deaths as of March 24, 2021: In the world, 2,740,000; In the U.S., 545,293; In MN, 6,892.  How do these compare with the 1918 pandemic?

IT IS ESTIMATED that in 1918 about 500 million people (one-third of the world’s population) became infected with the Influenza Pandemic. The number of deaths is estimated to be at least 20 to 50 million worldwide. The United States population in 1918 was 103.2 million with 675,000 deaths.  With modern day advantages (and yet with three times the population) today compared to 1918, the death numbers are currently lower than in 1918. 

Can This Be Death?

LAST WEEK A POEM surfaced that I had not before seen.  It was written 55 years ago by Marj’s sister Sharon.    When Sharon wrote the poem, she was in her early 20s. I want to share it with you today. 

“Can this be death?

Can this be the long awaited for and dreaded death?

The only pain I feel is for those I am leaving behind.

There is no fear in my heart.

My body has felt much pain during my illness,

but the last few days I have felt nothing.

I’m resting for the first time in months.

I see all the people dressed in white coming in and out

looking at me poking, punching, listening.

They do not smile, but they do not cry.

I see the faces of those I love.

Sometimes they cry.

But if they only knew the wonderfulness

of this departing never to cry again.

Never to feel pain again.

In a short time, I will leave this body and all of those

who have been so dear to me through the years.

I wish I could tell them one last goodbye.

I wish I could tell them of my joy.

When I try to speak the words are silent.

But they will know when they see the smile

on my face, when I see heaven open and Jesus with

his arms outstretched waiting to greet me.

My family will miss me, and I them but I

have not been with them for some time now.

I will see them again when it is their time to

meet the Savior.

Death need not be a weeping event.

It can be met with a smile.

Come to me death that I may forever smile.

May I go to sleep only to wake up in

the arms of Jesus.”  [1]

Sharon Luther (Street) 5/30/1966

Psalm 23 begins with, “The Lord is my shepherd. but it ends with… “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.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. The Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21

We are unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” Dallas Willard


[1] Thank you, Sharon Luther (Street), for sharing your poem Can This Be Death

Soul?

Art:

I completed this Acrylic in February.  Like last week, this week’s Art is an interpretation of Jerry Yarnell’s Project Eight, Volume One: Painting Basics, titled ‘Desert Glory’. 

I picked it because of the colors from the desert as a new day begins.  I imagine an ancient time when water possibly covered the lower parts in this landscape. Even now there might be an underground stream somewhere.  Either one may call to mind our Thought—Soul?.

Thought:

What happened to Soul?

WHEN DID YOU last use the word ‘Soul’ in conversation?  In written form?  Probably not too recent, right? It’s been around a long time. Perhaps due to that, it has been affected by cultures so much that its root meaning takes digging to uncover.

Today one may find it in the cultural consciousness and pride among people of African heritage: Soul music, Soul food or Soul brother.  Walt Disney and Pixar’s 2020 animated movie ‘Soul’ expresses another cultural adaptation of the word. But in contemporary context you may hear very little about the soul in Christian groups of whatever kind in the Western world. Some conservative and evangelical churches sometimes talk about saving the soul. But this language is used much less than used to be the case. And once the soul is “safe” it is usually treated as needing no further attention.

What does ‘Soul’ mean?

WHERE MIGHT one go to define ‘Soul’? Two thoughts come to mind: the English dictionary and the Bible.  The Hebrew word transliterated nepse and the Greek word transliterated psyche appear in their original texts a total of 859 times.  Notice the different ways the same words are translated[1] in the English Bible (NIV):

Hebrew  nepse: (total of 757 times in O.T.),  life (129 times), soul (105 times), lives (36 times)

Greek  psyche: (total of 102 times in N.T.),  life (32 times), soul (19 times) souls (6 times), lives (5 times), heart (4 times)   

It is easy to see a strong correlation between the 202 times these are translated into a form of English ‘life’ and 129 times as ‘soul’.  What might we make of this?

An English dictionary definition of soul is “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.

Soul = Person (Life)?

“WHILE THE BRAIN has its role in emotions, intellect, and will, and while people’s bodies are essential, we must always remember that the person is the ultimate unit of analysis:  you  and me. Thought, feeling, action (involving the ego, as well as relations to others) are ultimately dimensions of the person.  And it is the soul that combines all the dimensions of the person to form one life. It is like a computer system, which runs an entire commercial operation.

“When it is broken you have to attend to it—and in fact only God can repair it: He restoreth my soul [Psalm 23:3].  Law and disciplines can also help heal the soul, but grace—God doing in my life what I cannot do for myself—is the first and last word.  And yet law and disciplines are inseparable from grace as they do their part.” [2]

Soul = Life-center?

“THE SOUL IS that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self.  It is the life-center of the human being.   It regulates whatever is occurring in each of those dimensions and how they intersect with each other and respond to surrounding events in the overall governance of your life. The soul is “deep” in the sense of being basic or foundational and also in the sense that it lies almost totally beyond conscious awareness.” [3]

Soul Care = Spirit (life) Care?

“GOD MADE US: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else.  Now, God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits [souls] were designed to burn, or the food our spirits [souls] were designed to feed on. There is no other.”[4]

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29


[1] I have only shown the primary ways each word is translated.  Each is also translated by other English words many times, generally less than 4 times.

[2] Renewing the Christian Mind, Dallas Willard, p. 159

[3] Renovation of the Heart , Dallas Willard,  p. 199

[4] Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 39  [words in italics added]

Vaccine

Art:

I COMPLETED this Acrylic painting last week.  It’s my interpretation of Jerry Yarnell’s Project Eight, Volume One: Painting Basics, titled ‘Evening Shade’. If you are interested in Acrylic painting, Jerry may be a good place to start. 

I used this particular piece of Art for two reasons: First, I’m partial to rural scenes featuring buildings and landscape. Secondly, this one includes cows.  My reason for using cows will surface as we consider the Thought—Vaccine.   

Thought:

Vaccine Defined

VACCINE: SUSPENSION of microorganisms that induces antibody production to protect against disease…Induces immunity.  The Latin word for cow is vacca, so the scientific name for cowpox is variola vaccina because vaccina means “of the cow.” Edward Jenner, a British physician, coined the word vaccine in 1796, using it to describe the technique of injecting people with cowpox to confer smallpox immunity. – Google

COVID-19

HAVING PASSED ONE year since the first confirmed U.S. case of COVID-19, Minnesota has vaccinated nearly 25% of its most-at-risk population. It has been, and continues to be, a long and difficult journey into a ‘new normal’. There does seem to be a growing sense of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel! Marj and I received our one-shot Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations March 8.

For weeks the idea of a blog on the Thought—Vaccines—has been in my morning thoughts as an allegory or metaphor mirroring what I see as an important national spiritual need. It brings me back to a sermon illustration I heard half a century ago. 

Story of Two Fathers

TWO FARMING FAMILIES learned of a terrible illness spreading into their community as a deadly threat to their children. How would they prepare? The first father decided to isolate his children.  He boarded up the windows and restricted children from leaving the house. The second father decided to inoculate his children with a vaccine, and with proper instruction, his children were allowed to safely leave the house.

Soon, the Illness was upon them. Children in the first household were curious as to what was taking place outside. They secretly broke through the boarded widows. Completely vulnerable to the virus, they became ill with disastrous consequences. Children in the second home were protected by the inoculation.  Two options. Two outcomes.   

A Metaphorical Concern 

IT SEEMS TO ME; humankind is increasingly being immersed in a pandemic that ultimately threatens all life on this planet. It’s not a biological ‘test-tube’ virus.  I’m thinking of it as a ‘communal’ virus.  What do I mean?  The all too frequent default spirit manifest, in too many communities, often feels like ‘hostility’ (i.e., anger, opposition, resentment, intimidation, fights and crime) for example.  We see it from the White House to backyard playhouse via public and private media.  Interestingly, the antinomy for hostility is ‘friendliness’ and kindness!  These still exist, but I sense they are being eroded by the ‘hostility’ virus.

Outside Observer

“THE ENGLISH JOURNALIST G. K. Chesterton, after his tour of the United States in 1921, said he was “no futurist”, but there were certain things about America’s future that anyone who thought carefully could see with little or no clairvoyance.  American democracy has been grounded in convictions that were essentially religious so those convictions could not decay or be rejected with impunity. American democracy would either keep its basis and remain democratic, or it would lose its basis and become “wildly and wickedly undemocratic.” Whichever way history went, he concludes some “ultimate test will come.’” [1] 

‘Communal’ Vaccine!

WHERE IS THE VACCINE to protect humankind from escalating disastrous effects of ‘Hostility’? Thankfully, the vaccine has been with us from the beginning!  So, what’s the problem?  Is it ineffective?  No. The vaccine continues with supernatural effectiveness.  I sense the growing signs of ‘hostility’ is not lack of a vaccine but an ineffective delivery system. Vaccination for the Coronavirus is taking place at increasing numbers of specially designated locations where one can make an appointment, show up and be vaccinated.  Where does one go for the vaccine protecting against ‘hostility’? 

WITH THE BEST of intentions, I’m afraid our church gatherings often lose sight of their main gathering purpose: To equip [inoculate] his [God’s] people [one another] for works of service [in congregation and in community!] with the antinomy of ‘hostility’—’friendliness’ and kindness that springs from practiced love.   

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Ephesians 4:23

… so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-13


[1] A Free People’s Suicide, Os Ginness, IVP Books  2012  p, 134