Encourage

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Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is of Historic Mill Creek Sawmill about 2 miles south of Mackinac, Michigan. In early September, Marj and I revisited this area we used to visit annually, but had not returned in more than a decade. It represents ‘Encourage’ in a couple ways: First, it was an encouragement to the students of the High School teacher who took his class on a field trip to this area decades ago to explore the woods in search of historical clews. They found the site of this original sawmill. Second, the sawmill was an encouragement to the settlers of Mackinac Island and the fort located there as they developed and needed lumber from the mainland.

Thought:

For ‘courage’ the Thesaurus lists many synonyms: bravery, nerve, pluck, valor, daring, audacity, mettle, resolution, ‘guts’, gallantry, heroism, nerve, fearlessness, boldness. We need ‘courage’ every day!

‘Courage’ can be ‘doctored up’ to express opposite meanings.

Add the prefix ‘dis’ to the beginning and you get ‘discourage’—to take away or put a damper on courage.

Add ‘en’ at the beginning and it becomes ‘encourage’—to add to or embolden courage.

Which do you prefer? That’s what I thought! Me too!

When we arrived in 1983, in answer to God’s calling to become Senior Pastor for a congregation in Andover, Minnesota, it was the start of many new and mostly wonderful experiences. On the back of the oak pews was a little wooden holder for envelopes and cards. One card was titled ‘Encouragement Card’. I’d never before seen this in any church building. What was it for?

The card had a line for the name of someone you wished to send a note of encouragement. There were several lines—plus the whole backside—for the encouragement message you wished to send. You had the option of signing your name or leaving it anonymous. You dropped the completed card in the Offering Plate. The church office would see that your card got delivered in person or by mail.

Periodically, I got a card with a short encouraging message, signed ‘Barnabus”. The name actually means ‘encourager’. I never knew who that was but God used the note to add courage to Pastor Jim! Giving encouragement to someone you know is one of the greatest acts of love you can allow the Holy Spirit to demonstrate through your life. They were a great reminder to our congregation to ‘love one another’ through words of encouragement!

We are between a Thanks giving and Christmas giving season. Pastors and counselors will tell you from experience that we are entering a season where too many are dealing with discouragement in all flavors. It’s a perfect time for an encouragement note, text or phone call to someone the Lord brings to your mine. Ask God for a name.

Remind yourself and the person you wish to encourage of this truth—God loves you!

Earlier this week I was drawn to the Hymnal on my shelf and to an old hymn of prayer that has encouraged perhaps millions, based on Deuteronomy 31:6 “…The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Abide with me!

“Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flees, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

“Swift to its close ebbs our life’s little day. Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away. Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changes not, abide with me!

“I need Thy presence every passing hour. What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Thro’ clouds and sunshine, oh, abide with me!

“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; Shine thro’ the gloom and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee! In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me! A-men.”

“…The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress…”Be still and know that I am God:” Psalm 46

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41

I hope to be your “Barnabus” today.

 

 

Hospitality

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Art:

Several years ago Marj and I visited Historic Williamsburg, VA through the generosity of our son’s ‘Time Share’. From photos taken on the trip, I painted three buildings in Watercolor. I chose this one for our week’s theme—Hospitality. On our trip to Mackinaw, MI in September, we were able to host Marj’s sisters and gave this original Watercolor to the youngest, who has also visited Williamsburg. It reminds me of a time in the history of Williamsburg, and this nation, when hospitality was a valued cultural familiarity.

Thought:

Before you read further, take 30 seconds to…stop…close your eyes…and answer this question: What person comes to mind when you think, ‘hospitality’? Now close your eyes….

… O.K, 30 seconds is up! Of names that entered your mind, which one came to the top? I suspect you had to invest a few seconds thinking about the question itself. Exactly what is ‘hospitality’?   Let’s take a look.

Hospitality derives from the Latin hospes, meaning “host”, “guest”, or “stranger”. Hospes is formed from hostis, which means “stranger” or “enemy” (the latter being where terms like “hostile” derive). The Latin word ‘Hospital’ means a guest-chamber, guest’s lodging, an inn.  Hospes/hostis is the root for the English words host, hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel.

            In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia, when a god was involved, expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. In Greek society a person’s ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The Stoics regarded hospitality as a duty inspired by Zeus himself.

            In Judaism hospitality to strangers and guests is based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the book of Genesis 18:1-8 & 19:1-8.  In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or “welcoming guests”. Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.

            In Christianity hospitality for followers of Jesus is specified.

            Leaders: Instructions for leaders, in the local assembly of Jesus followers, included hospitality as a required credential: “Rather he [the overseer] must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Titus 1:8  Also see: 1 Timothy 3:2

            Widows (women): “…and [she] is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” 1 Tim 5:10

            Believers:Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Pet 4:9 “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.”    3 John 1:8 “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.” Rom 16:23

            Needy:Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Rom 12:13

            Strangers:Do not forget to entertain [show hospitality to] strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Heb. 13:2 “There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publis, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably.” Act 28:7

I began our ‘Thought’ today with a question. You came up with a person (possibly more than one) who, in your experience, models ‘hospitality’.

Here’s a second question: How about you and me? Have we mostly accepted ‘hospitality’ rather than offered it? Actually, I believe you may have demonstrated ‘hospitality’ more often than you realize. How did you spend Thanksgiving? When did you last treat someone at your favorite coffee shop? When did you see someone in need and meet that need the best you could?

I suspect ‘hospitality’ is first an attitude of the heart. It’s one of the ways love manifests through our lives. I see it in Galatians 5:22, 23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Hospitality may include offering a place for someone to stay, a meal or invitation to a great dinner and entertainment with others, but I think it can be something else, too. What do you think?   How about the next 364 days till Thanksgiving 2020?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

 

Freedom

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Art:

I chose this third Oil painting of eagles, completed this summer, to highlight ‘Freedom’. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress, was eventually given the task of recommending the national bird. Thomson chose the American bald eagle, and Congress adopted his design on June 20, 1782.

Thought:

This week I am indebted to author Os Guinness, and my notes from his speech: The Modern Global World.

St. Augustine said, “To understand a nation you look at its last thing held in common. What characterizes a nation is what it loves supremely in common.” One thing US citizens hold in common is ‘freedom’.

The goal of the founding fathers was to build a free republic that would stay free forever.

These three things the founding fathers did in setting up a free republic.

  1. WINNING Freedom by Revolution (the simplest to accomplish), The French did it. The Russians did it. China did it.
  2. ORDERING Freedom by Constitution. The French, Russians and Chinese did not do this. Their freedom came near to demonic and worse than before their revolution.
  3. SUSTAINING Freedom. Ben Franklin was asked by a woman, following the Philadelphia convention: “What did you accomplish?” His response: “We achieved a Republic madam…If you can keep it.”

At age 28 Abe Lincoln gave a speech in Springfield, Ill. Titled “The Perpetuation of our Institutions”.   Not many 28 year olds would do that today. Sustainable is a common word in conversation today but not so much in what Abe was talking about— ‘Institutions’ necessary for sustaining a republic.

The founders were Revolutionary but also Rooted. What they were about was to defy history.

Cicero gave these reasons why free nations failed.

  1. Freedom undermined by external nations. The US had two oceans to protect at the time of independence. Napoleon was not a real threat at the time. Today oceans are a small deterrent.
  2. Freedom undermined by corruption of custom. What is formed by a nation is a constitution of custom. But the moral standards put into the customs are key for the Republic to survive.
  3. Freedom undermined by passage of  timeNo free nation has ever lasted. Everything changes.

In a fallen world freedom would never last. But the framers tried to make one that would last. Most, when asked today what will sustain our nation as a free nation, will respond: Constitution…Law.   No. This idea was evident in the 1920s as America began to be secular. This is Not what the framers had in mind.

The Framers had a much better idea and closer to the gospel.   They pointed out three parallels between the Jews and the Puritans and what they were trying to do.

  1. What the Jews called Exodus the Puritans called Conversion and the framers called Revolution. Each was a founding, liberating event, which freed a people.
  2. What Jesus called Covenant the Puritans also called Covenant and the framers called Constitution.
  3. What the Jews called ReturnIf we return to the Lord the Lord will return to us and restore our fortunes’. The Puritans called Revival. The Framers understood that a free republic needs a frequent recurrent or Restoration’ of foundational first principles. Every generation is a new people. They need to buy into it or they are in trouble.

What’s the ‘take away’ ?

            I think it was George Washington who said this nation can survive only as its people understand they are ultimately answerable to God, who is a higher power than human Constitutions and Laws. I believe followers of Jesus allegiance is first to their citizenship in the ‘Kingdom of heaven’ for now and for eternity. That allegiance provides ballast for a sustainable nation. Paul reminds us…

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”   Galatians 5:13-15 NIV

            “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 NIV

I suggest followers of Jesus serve under two avian symbols: American Eagle as citizens of the US and Dove as citizens of the ‘Kingdom of heaven’: “the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove.” Luke 3:22 NIV

A famous author once said: With a revolution and with a novel, the hardest part is how does it end.

            Will this generation be decisive for America?  

Suggested reading: A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and The American Future, by Os Guinness

Reflection

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Art:

In creating this Oil I wanted to use a simple, but somewhat stylized, composition from nature to draw attention to our ‘Thought’ for the week—Reflection. I imagine a thin sheet of ice has formed over the pond outside our window, before the approaching snow clouds make an evening delivery. Canada Geese are finalizing formations for their journey south and warmer winter climate.   Reflection.

Thought:

When I hear ‘Reflection” my first thought is a bathroom or full-length mirror attached to the closet or bedroom door. What comes to your mind? We use mirrors daily with little thought about what’s taking place. We simply see ‘us’. At least it’s the reflection of the physical ‘us’ perceivable at that moment.

Historians tell us the first ‘mirror’ was a simple pool of still water dating back to creation. Perhaps as early as 2,500 BC, obsidian and then polished metals became mirrors. The Romans first used glass with metal 300 BC but lost the art with the invasion of northern tribes. Around AD 1,300 silver with glass was first used. Thus began the mirror you observed this morning. Enough about how refracted light works in our environment.

This begs the question: Why do we use mirrors in the first place? Pure vanity may motivate some. For most, reflection in a mirror helps us see what ‘is’ and gives us hope that it can be transformed to what we ‘want to see’ and how we want to be seen.

Similarly, ‘Self reflection’ is defined as “the capacity of humans to exercise introspection—self-examination—and the willingness to learn about ones fundamental nature, purpose and essence.” Why? Why would a person be willing to learn about who they are inside, to see deeper than the glass reflection on the wall? In actuality, many are not willing. But to be willing assumes that person wants to assess where change may be necessary to reach the “nature, purpose or essence” they desire others, as well as themselves, to experience in and through them.

It seems to me two challenges block ‘self-reflection’: Purpose and Time.

Purpose is the vision or standard one desires to achieve when approaching the mirror, be it external/physical or internal/spiritual. There is a way you think your hair ‘should look’. There is a way you ‘should be’ on the inside and that others experience in your presence. The guide for how your hair ‘should look’ may be stimulated by a magazine ad. The guide for the internal/spiritual for the follower of Jesus is the “law of the Lord—Love”

Time is required in responding to the reflection seen in both kinds of mirrors. Time to work on my physical appearance that it may conform to my purpose, aim or goal. Likewise, time is required to work on my internal/spiritual purpose.

God made it simple. We complicated it. God said to set aside one day to experience Shabbat—rest or cessation. We say fill seven days to overflow with “living”.

Take away for this

We’re pretty clear about how to utilize the bathroom mirror in making desired physical/external changes in how we want to be seen by others. It’s ‘self-reflection’ that may present our greater challenge.

“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19

What is the purpose I desire to be true of my heart? It’s relatively easy for a follower of Jesus to declare the Word of God to be the standard or purpose which he or she wishes their life to reflect. Jesus condensed this purpose to three verses.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.   And the second is like it.

Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-39

How do I do that? Invest time to this purpose. How much time? That probably depends on you individually. God gives everyone 168 hours each week.

Question: What would happen if we set aside one day each week as our personal/family Sabbath or Shabbat—time to cease from the norm? On that day subtract from life: smart phones, computers, television, Internet, newsprint and the like. Replace them with family meals, conversation, listening to others, listening to God, journaling, reading for inspiration and enlightenment taking a walk, music and taking a nap.    See: Psalm 46:10

Answer: Insight, from ‘self-reflection’. Changes, conforming more to God in you.

Reflect on what I am saying for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”               

2 Timothy 2:7

 

 

 

 

Paradigm

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Art:

I chose this week’s painting to represent our ‘Thought’—Paradigm. To me, it illustrates the many ways we see and respond to art of any kind. We see art through a certain ‘Paradigm’ lens honed by the influence from our environment. Some will see this painting through the lens of : Huntsman, Ornithologist, Environmentalist, Fine Artist or others.

I completed this Oil in August. Through the paradigm of a Fine Artist hobbyist, I liked the season, composition and vivid colors. Jerry Yarnell’s Volume One, Painting Basics, inspired it.

Thought:

The word ‘Paradigm’ comes from the Greek.   It was originally a scientific term, and is more commonly used today to mean a model, theory, perception, assumption, or frame of reference. In the more general use, it’s the way we ‘see’ the world—not in terms of our visual senses of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting.

When the way we ‘see’ our world experience changes, we call it a ‘Paradigm shift’. These are often dramatic and memorable. Stephen R. Covey shared this personal story in, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly—some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, and even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said,
“Sir your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

“Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.”

“Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world not as it is, but as we are—or as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms. When other people disagree with us we immediately think something is wrong with them. But sincere, clearheaded people see thing differently, each looking through the unique lens of experience.”

It appears to me, our culture too often squanders mental capital seeking ways to destroy an opponent’s character and/or point of view. When opponents employ this strategy, the end result may be expressed in the proverbial, ‘Throwing the baby out with the bath water.” We’ve stopped communicating. We attack. This is not a winnable paradigm. ‘My way or the highway’ mantra leads to dead ends. A worthy ideal, to benefit all, is aborted at the hands of hubris. Everyone looses. Valuable mental capital was poorly invested. Investing in communication can result in: Seeing, Thinking, Feeling and Behaving differently. It’s not too late!

“The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings.” –Stephen R. Covey

“And over all these virtues [see verses 8 -13] put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14

 

 

 

 

 

Habit

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Art:

I completed this painting a few years back. You may wonder how it relates to our thought today—Habit. For many years it was our annual habit to visit the apple orchard near White Bear Lake, Minnesota to see fall colors and, of course, to pick up some great apple pastries! I’m probably stretching it a bit to imagine that, when God created this planet, he purposely built in the habit of four seasons. Fall is especially colorful here in Minnesota—a.k.a. ‘Many-snows-da’! That’s another color…coming soon!

Thought:

Habit is automated behavior, we repeat over and over again, in our environment and that runs in our subconscious mind.

We spend 40 to 45% of daily behaviors performed out of habit. Everything from driving the car to taking a shower is performed out of habit. Think about it. You can do either without consciously thinking about what you’re doing. Your mind may be ‘miles away’ working on another thought. How is this possible?

We’re told our brain is about 2% of our body weight, but uses some 20% of our energy supply. Researchers say we work on a ‘habit loop’: Cue, Behavior and Reward. Your ‘Cue’ may be: drive to Costco for gas. Your ‘Behavior’ is getting into the car and driving to your local Costco pump. Your “Reward’ is your brain gets a shot of dopamine—good feeling—‘mission accomplished’. To illustrate…

Assume you recently moved, and this is your first trip to a new Costco. Your ‘Cue’ is: I need the gas tank filled. Your ‘Behavior’ is driving to the new location. Your brain is busy watching for street names and other signs (or following the GPS voice directions from your phone!) you carefully follow if you are to be ‘Rewarded’ with a full gas tank and receive your brain’s dopamine shot—‘mission accomplished’. Weeks pass by.

After you’ve made this journey every week for three months, the trip to your local Costco has become a habit. Whether it’s a one or ten mile trip, you may arrive at the pump and not recall anything about the drive. It’s now a habit. Your brain energy has now been somewhat ‘freed up’, during the drive, to deal with other things on your mental agenda. Why is this true with habits: whether driving the car or taking a shower?

On your first trip to the new Costco location your brain is using all 20% of its energy on the habit loop: Cue, Behavior and Reward. Once the loop has been repeated enough for this to become a habit, your brain doesn’t require as much available energy on this Behavior. As you drive, energy is now available to think about your friend’s Christmas gift, pray, listen to a book or podcast.

A Take Away from this observation

Coaches train individual players until desired Behavior becomes habit. When the Cue is triggered, new Behavior is spontaneous. Reward follows.

For one who desires to be a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit of Jesus is the resident coach. Scriptures become the training instruction. Here’s an illustration of how a spiritually formed habit may work:

Training instruction from the coach: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

CUE: You are in conversation with, or about, an inexperienced person new on the job.

BEHAVIOR: When your coach’s instruction is practiced until it becomes a habit, you automatically respond with helpful talk that benefits everyone.

REWARD: Physical and spiritual dopamine comes to your heart and brain as you have sincerely loved by serving another person.

Jesus said:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine [training] and puts them into practice [habit] is like a wise man who built his house on the rock [Reward].                                           Matthew 7:24

The Apostle Paul said:

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me [training]put it into practice [habit]. And the God of peace will be with you [Reward].                                       1 Timothy 4:7

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

 

 

Selling

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Art:

I don’t know who took the photograph, but I loved it when I saw it. The colors, time of day, composition and mood it set in motion, I appreciate and applaud God who made it all, and the photographer who caught it with the perfect lens. I wanted to paint the scene in Oil as soon as possible. Weather is changing and time to paint with Oil is limited to my unheated garage. I chose this painting, not only because I loved the subject, but because it provides an example for our thought for this week—Selling.

Thought:

Welcome to the sales team—a.k.a. human race!

This greeting needs a bit of unpacking. I like definitions. The best one for ‘selling’ I’ve heard comes from last century’s motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale: “Selling is causing someone to want to do that which is in their own best interest.”

No matter what role(s) we currently hold, there’s probably not a day goes by when we are not in the position of suggesting, encouraging or requesting someone, in our sphere of influence, to take action we believe will be in their best interest. Parents with children, teachers with students, pastors with congregations, managers with employees, you get the idea.

So, how is that task going for you? Do you have lots of practice, but not much intended result. Why? It is often said: ‘practice makes permanent, not perfect’. If our approach is inadequate, no matter how many times we repeat the process, we’ll get less than intended results. It’s my conviction that we are simply not communicating—selling—effectively. We may ask: “Has anyone come up with simple proven steps that nearly guarantee anyone a better result?” Yes!

They are [1]The Five Great Rules of Selling’. ‘Selling’ in our culture, is not so palatable. We generally have (unless we are in sales) a more or less negative feeling about being ‘sold’ almost anything. That’s why I prefer Earl Nightingale’s definition for selling. With his words in mind, I altered the wording to ‘The Five Great Rules of Communicating”… with the addition …“to persuade one to take action that will be in their own best interest.” The five rules are: Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire and Close. What do they mean? Here’s a short explanation.

Attention: If you don’t have attention, you can pretty well forget the next four rules. There are many ways to gain favorable ‘Attention’. Knowledge of the person helps.

Interest: Once you have a person’s ‘Attention’, the next step is to gain their ‘Interest’ in what you are about to communicate. Illustrations may prove helpful.

Conviction: After ‘Interest’ comes ‘Conviction’ that what you are about to communicate is true or will actually work. Testimony from someone they trust can be powerful.

Desire: Having ‘Conviction’ that what you are saying is actually true and possible, helps create the desire for it to be true in their life. Based on testimony of someone trusted, the ‘Desire’ is often fueled: “I too, want that!”

Close: Here the person being communicated with takes action and begins enjoying the benefits of what was in his or her best interest from the beginning. This goes beyond the verbal ‘Desire’ to the actual ‘Close’. Lifestyle or environmental changes begin and continue as beneficial habits.

My personal example

Think back to today’s painting. I was ‘sold’—was effectively communicated with concerning the photograph when I first saw it. Here are the 5 steps:

My Attention was immediately gained when my eyes first landed on the photograph. Having an interest in art made getting my attention easy. Interest in the photograph wasn’t hard for me. I loved the colors, the mood, the crispness and the light—all of it! I had the Conviction that I could do a reasonable job in converting the photographic scene onto a canvas with Oil paint. Desire was a ‘no brainer’. I wanted to do it, right away! Close came within two weeks of seeing the photograph. I finished the Oil painting and believe it was in my best interest and desire to complete it. I was ‘sold’—effectively communicated with to the end that something was fulfilled in my best interest.

“The goal of this command [in the example above] is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

1 Timothy 1:5

 

[1] The Five Great Rules of Selling by Percy H. Whiting, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. Revised 1957. Available from Amazon with top ratings.

 

Resources

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Art:

I painted this twilight scene of Mackinaw Bridge based on our trip in early September. One evening we parked near the bridge in time to see the lights come on at twilight. I chose it for today’s thought—‘Resources’. It takes many resources to keep the 70+ year-old “Mighty Mac” safe and fully operational. Paint crews, metal inspectors, electricians, snow crews, designated drivers and much more. It takes lots of resources to maintain it’s goal—safe, reliable transportation across the Straits of Mackinaw. Perhaps the greatest resource is the one who coordinates or coaches all these resources toward that goal.

Thought:

For two weeks we’ve considered ‘Thinking’ by first defining it: the mental activity of rummaging that recalls, organizes and arranges, and suggested two questions: (1.) What helpful resources are available? And, (2.) What have you learned from these resources that help toward the goal—‘To follow Jesus’?

Then, last week, we applied a critical thinking practice suggested by Brian Oshiro’s Ted Talk (Ted x Xiquan) last February in Guangzhou, China. Brian raised awareness of the importance of the questions we ask. He organized questions into three levels. Using a third level question requires synthesizing known information, and is an example of questions that require critical thinking toward goal attainment.

What’s the ‘take away’ from this review?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a coach to guide us toward our goal? Have someone helping us to formulate and answer questions, moving us forward? Well, we actually have that coach!

Whatever path led you to the desire to be a follower of Jesus, at that moment, the Spirit of Jesus was supernaturally actuated into your life for the expressed purpose of, not only identifying or sealing you as a spiritual child of God, but also to be coach in your life journey.

Last week you may have selected Paul as one example from the New Testament of someone who was a follower of Jesus. Hear what Paul said: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”–1 Corinthians 11:1.  So, what is the ‘example of Christ’ Paul followed?

Jesus answered in John’s Gospel 5:19b, 20. “I tell you the truth, the Son [Jesus] can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

Neither can we follow Jesus by ourselves. We need a coach to guide us into use of the available resources. The Spirit of Jesus, in us, has been given to us for that purpose. Jesus said…

“All this I have spoken while still with you, but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. John 14:25,26

You are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is now your guide in carrying out this assignment Jesus expressed in John 15:9, 12. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. …My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

A primary resource of the Spirit is the Old and New Testament. Through these the Sprit will train us into the life of a Jesus follower, demonstrating Jesus’ character—learning to love as God loves. It becomes a natural way of living and becomes evident to our sphere of influence.

Paul defines it as a fruit metaphor in his letter to the Galatian followers of Jesus (and us!) “…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 5:22,23a

A Place to Start

  1. Meet with your Coach every day. Set an amount of time that works for you. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…”
  2. Take into your meeting your Bible, pad of paper and pen. I suggest start by slowly reading through Colossians…many times. It may take weeks.
  3. Write down whatever you think may be applicable in your life each day.
  4. Through your day, ask God to help you see where what you wrote can be applied. Journal what happened or didn’t! Repeat tomorrow.

 

Review Psalm 1:1-3 and Philippians 4:8-9.

 

 

Thinking 2

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Art:

It’s been fourteen years since Marj and I last visited what was our favorite vacation spot for a decade–Mackinaw, Michigan. Marj’s two sisters from southern Michigan, joined us two days of our week stay in early September. It was fun to visit with them and to see Mackinaw, essentially unchanged. I took photos of the Mackinaw Bridge for reference to create future paintings and finished three last week.

I chose this one in keeping with our theme: ‘critical thinking’. I enjoy the construction documentary of the “Mighty Mac” from the mid 1950s. For half a century this 5-mile long bridge held the record for the longest suspension bridge in the world. It truly involved ‘critical thinking’ to become a reality.

Thought:

Last week we considered how ‘thinking’—this mental activity of rummaging that recalls, organizes and arranges—might apply to our goal: ‘To follow Jesus’. Today’s focus is critical thinking. By definition, critical thinking is criteria-based judgment, not criticism as a negative experience.

I was impressed with Brian Oshiro’s Ted Talk (Ted x Xiquan) last February in Guangzhou, China. He spoke on how teachers in China could further creative thinking in their students. They saw their students as mostly rote learners of facts.

What types of questions do teachers ask? Questions are a way to bring textbook to life and see if students are absorbing what they are supposed to be learning. Not all questions are crated equally. Oshiro places questions in three categories, or depths, and illustrates each with A, B and C below, dealing with climate change.

A. Do you know what climate change is? [Answerable from a rote memory definition: right or wrong answers]

B. What are three causes of climate change? [Requires a little more thinking to access more rote memory facts: right or wrong answers] Good for trivia quizzes, not much for practical living.

C. How can you help solve this problem? [Students must synthesize all their previous knowledge, and figure out how to make it their own, and be able to apply it: there may be different answers].

Asking higher order questions is the key to stimulate critical thinking. Give students questions likely to have more than one correct answer. This is what life is like. In real life, not often is there a simple straight-line answer telling us how to get from point A to B.   It is more like a squiggly line. There is no blueprint.

You will find this talk in detail on YouTube: ‘Encourage critical thinking with 3 questions’ | Brian Oshiro | TEDxXiguan

What is the ‘take away’ from this information?

Last week we asked: How might ‘thinking’—this mental activity that recalls, organizes and arranges–apply to following Jesus? It starts with clarifying the goal. In this case we said: ‘To follow Jesus’.   Where do I start? We applied two questions.   Today let’s attempt applying three levels of critical thinking to our goal.

A.  What is a ‘follower of Jesus’?

B.  Name two persons from the New Testament and two from more modern days you see as ‘followers of Jesus’.

C.  Choose one from each category. Why did you to identify them as ‘followers of Jesus’? What specifically did you observe, and how can your observations be implemented this week in pursuit of the goal to be a ‘follower of Jesus’?

You may replace ‘C’ above, with one of two scriptures found at the end of last week’s ‘Though’, and apply critical thinking in pursuit of your goal.

“ How can a young (or older!) person keep his/her way pure? By living according to your word…I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9, 11 NIV

“Finally, brothers, 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 things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice.  Philippians 4:8, 9 NIV

It took extraordinary critical thinking on the part of many to conceive, design, finance and build the Mackinaw Bridge. I see need for this same critical thinking application in the spiritual formation or building ‘followers of Jesus’.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple (building) of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 NIV

Next Week: Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking

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Art:

This is the second of three eagle paintings completed this summer in Oil. I chose it to represent our subject—Thinking. I can’t claim to understand eagle thinking, but when I see one of these striking birds in flight, I imagine. My imagination suggests the eagle is processing a collection of past experiences and skills, as well as the current landscape (thinking), to formulate a plan for capturing the next meal from somewhere in the field below!

Thought:

What is thinking? I see thinking as a mental activity that recalls, organizes and arranges.

Thinking is like rummaging through the attic, or garage, looking for something that will meet my current need.

Thinking is like rummaging through the refrigerator or pantry in search of what will be on the dinner table tonight.

In either case you may start with an idea, then search for what will be needed to fulfill the idea or start rummaging through what you have on hand and create something you hadn’t planned—surprise! Either case, your rummaging (thinking) is limited to the contents of your attic/garage or refrigerator/pantry. In that moment, you’re confined to the inventory on hand.

We actually have an abundance of information stored in our minds, gleaned from personal or vicarious experiences of others through reading and listening. Simultaneously, it’s recallable but it’s also limited. The product of my thinking is only as extensive as my current inventory. Granted: I may Google to access a piece of information I don’t have in my memory bank, but the notion–to Google—is itself a current deposit.

The less information in my memory bank the fewer resources I have to meet the challenges life sets before me. It’s been said: ‘To the carpenter, all life’s challenges can be solved with a hammer!’ Get the idea?

Other words associated with thinking include: meditate, contemplate, cognition, idea and mind.

What is the ‘take away’ from this information?

While I believe this might apply in all walks of life, I want to apply it to the life of one who has decided to become a follower of Jesus. How might thinking—this mental activity that recalls, organizes and arranges apply to following Jesus? It starts with clarifying the goal. In this case: ‘To follow Jesus’.   Where do I start?

  • What helpful resources are available?   Rummage your brain (think) and recall what you think might help reach this goal.
  • What have you learned from these resources that help toward the goal? Rummage your brain to recall what you have already learned and, perhaps, are applying.

We could continue suggesting questions, but my guess is that your rummaging (thinking) has already included: Scripture, Holy Spirit, prayer, church, small group, devotional books and perhaps more.

Remember:

  1. The more we have in our mental deposit, the more our thinking may recall that will prove helpful in reaching our goal—‘To follow Jesus.’
  2. We can only recall what is there. A low inventory may encourage adding deposits!

Here are two scriptures advocating thinking:

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates (thinks) day and night. [Psalm 1:1-2]

He/she rummages through Hebrew Scriptures recalling and thinking on practical truth that has been stored in memory.

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. [2 Peter 3:1-2]

Peter asks the followers of Jesus to rummage (think) through Peter’s letters, the words of Jesus and apostles, to see how what they recall relates to the life of a Jesus follower.

Next week we’ll move to another part of our subject: Critical Thinking.

 

“ How can a young (or older!) person keep his/her way pure? By living according to your word…I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9, 11 NIV

“Finally, brothers, 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 things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice.                                                                 Philippians 4:8, 9 NIV