Dignity

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Art:

This rough sketch is Ink with pen and brush.  I may do a final Ink in the future. The photo reference is an original photo taken by a friend in Michigan.  She takes great pictures in a nature setting near her home, and often posts them for others to enjoy.  I can’t say with any certainty that ducks actually deal with this week’s Thought — ‘dignity’. However, I think it would be a challenge to find anything to surpass them in their unique category of natural grace.

 Thought:

In my recent reading I came across this quote that arrested my attention:

“Dignity is worth that has no substitute.”

            It’s a definition. What exactly is the definition saying? After some thought, this is what I came up with: “Dignity is worth [or value] that has no substitute [it’s priceless].”  Dignity is something that, should a comparison be attempted, nothing can be substituted for it. Nothing would be equal to or better than it is.

To dignify is to exalt, distinguish, grace, glorify, venerate or honor.  The opposite of dignify is degrade.  In my thinking, only God fully meets this standard.  No person, place, thing or intangible can substitute, or be better by comparison, where dignity is concerned.

Who can consistently reflect this kind of dignity?  In my view, the only answer is Jesus who is God in human form.  Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” To insure we can actually learn dignity from the yoke experience with Jesus, God placed his Holy Spirit in us to empower and guide. We will not be perfect in our present humanity, but we can learn dignity from Jesus as we yoke with him aided by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

I listen to press reports, speeches and interviews with men and women, in and out of politics. I’m grieved with the degrading of fellow Americans. One may agree or disagree with ideas and programs, this is how we may all benefit. Do it with dignity. Don’t attack the person.  I grew up with this motto: “If you can’t say anything good about a person, don’t say anything.”   I hope what I may be seeing does not actually reflect the current spirit of the American people. If that be the case, we may be in more difficulty than we realize. I must pray more for everyone that dignity will be evident. I like what Dallas Willard says about the dignity.

“Dignity is worth that has no substitute.  If a thing has dignity, there is nothing you can substitute for it according to Immanuel Kant.  Most things have a price.  That means there’s a substitute. There’s a price on a cheeseburger.  That means if you give money to the seller, he will give you the cheeseburger.  One reason we still have the blessed law that you can’t sell human beings is because they have dignity.  This is what C. S. Lewis is driving at in the greater Weight of Glory, where he talks about that. Bonhoeffer deals with the same thing in Life Together.

“Every person has dignity, and when you see a person that doesn’t realize that or doesn’t associate it with their work in a society, where so often dignity is associated with work, you begin to understand why unemployment is such a terrible thing, and how it’s important to understand that employment is not a job, though it may be a job.  Employment is the creation of value. It’s work, but it can also be play.

“In the kingdom of God, we are set free to play—abandonment to God.  Madame Guyon was imprisoned for years because of her religious views. She wrote a little poem about how she sat and sang in her prison and how she was content that God had placed her there.  She retained her dignity because she retained her connection to God.  That’s what is crucial.  That’s what gives human beings the dignity they have lost, by and large, through alienation from God and through living in a way where others are attacked and they are attacked, and this process of evaluating goes on so ceaselessly.  What a relief it is to be able to meet people without evaluating them, without sizing them up in some way.  You can do that in the kingdom of God.” [1]

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—

2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

I Timothy 2:1-2

 Last week’s quote in the ‘Valentine Blog’ was from, Living in Christ’s Presence, Dallas Willard p. 104

[1] Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard, p. 88, 89

Valentine

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Art:

Several years ago Marj and I drove to Historic Williamsburg, Virginia.  On our first trip we had two young sons with us.  This time those sons, plus one more, are all married.  In fact it was the generosity of one of those sons that we were able to use his ‘time share’ for our lodging.  I took a lot of pictures. A few of them have become paintings in Acrylic or Watercolor and have appeared in previous Blogs.  Today’s Ink with pen and brush is based on one of those photos.  In Williamsburg everyone on staff is dressed in period costume. This scene is of live horses and carriage driving down the street.  In this Valentine Blog I sense the passenger to be a husband dashing home with his Valentine gift for a wife whom he loves very much.  His gift is a small object beautifully wrapped, but there is more.  He is renewing his love and care for her once again.  His gift is to ‘bring good’ into her life every day with more zeal than ever before.

 Thought:

 “Love is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved. Love is the disposition to bring good to the object that is loved.”

The story below is from an author you will probably recognize, but I am not going to reveal the name until next week.  For this Valentine season…just read and consider.

“Several years ago, my wife, Nancy closed the door of our bedroom and said, “I want to talk to you.”  Then she got out a list.  Now she would not say it was a list.  She would say it was just notes but it had numbers on it, so I would say it was a list.  She said, “When our marriage is at its best’—that is, like the trinitarian fellowship—‘I feel like we serve one another equally.”  She reminded me of the early days of our marriage, especially when we had small children—a time when division-of-labor issues can be large in any family.  It was easy for me to say I gave at the office. She would remind me that community intimacy is built on serving.  It’s not just getting stuff done; it’s mutual servanthood.

“She would say, “When I see you serving around the house, I feel drawn to you.  When I see you vacuuming, I feel affectionate toward you.  When I see you empty the dishwasher, I feel romantic toward you.  When I see you bathing our children, I feel physical desire for you.  “I used to bath those children three or four times a day.  Come home late at night “Hey, come here kids.  Get in the tub.  Come on.”

“She said “When our marriage is right, I feel like we are mutually the same, and I feel like that’s kind of slipping. I feel like I serve, but our kids aren’t seeing you partner.  And I feel like when our marriage is at its best, we know each other equally.  You know the details about my day, and I know them about yours.  I know more about your work right now than you do mine.  When our marriage is working right, there is joy and a lightness to you.  I miss that guy.  I need that guy.”

“My initial response was “I get it.  I hear what you’re saying.  I miss that guy too.  I just have to tell you, I have so much to do. I have so many questions that I don’t know how to answer.  I have so many problems.  I feel like it’s right here before me.  So, I want to love that way.  I just need you to know I’m doing the best I can.”

“Normally when you say to somebody, “I’m doing the best I can.”  They’re supposed to say “Yeah, you got me there. I can’t argue with that.”  But Nancy’s immediate response was, “No you’re not doing the best you can at all.  You could talk with a spiritual director about some of this stuff.  You could hire an executive coach.  You could talk to a counselor.”  She listed several things. “No, you’re not doing the best you can.”

“And I realized she was right.  I didn’t tell her she was right for some time after that, but I realized she was. I was thinking, at some point I will get this problem solved and this question answered, and this deal done.

“But the kingdom is available now; I just have to want it more than I want anything else.  The Trinity is right here. I don’t have to have anything solved.  In fact, I could say to the world, “Go ahead bring it on, because nothing can separate me” I just have to want it more than I want anything else.  I just have to say, “With Gods help in this moment I will refuse to allow anything to sever that from me.”  

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.He who loves his wife loves himself….For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh…However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himselfand the wife must respect her husband.”

Ephesians 5:24-33

Conspiracy

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Art:

I painted this early morning scene in Acrylic on Masonite board several years ago.  I don’t recall the photo inspiration. In my mind it’s early morning in early spring when snow still blankets much of the ground.  I’m a morning person. I also like spring’s arrival, if only an embryonic stage. To me the church structure sits at a strategic entry to this waterway.  I see a natural and a supernatural kind of conspiracy.  Spring will conspiratorially overtake winter even as morning replaces darkness.  What about the church—body of Christ?

Thought:

 “Recently a pilot was practicing high-speed maneuvers in a jet fighter.  She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent—and flew straight into the ground.  She was unaware that she had been flying upside down.” [1]

More often than not, I see ‘conspiracy’ used in a negative context. Someone or group conspires to overthrow a government or assassinate a leader.  In reality conspiracy is a scheme or plan. In many ways we live in a world that is ‘flying upside down”, in desperate need of what author Dallas Willard calls a “Divine Conspiracy”.  He continues the above quote.

“This is a parable of human existence in our times—not exactly that everyone is crashing, though there is enough of that—but most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed, and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side-up.  Indeed, we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference—or at least that it is unknown or irrelevant.”

How did we get this way?  For a longer, insightful answer, I recommend getting a copy of the book below.  It’s at the top of my most favorite books in the last 20 years. I re-read it about every 2 years.  Here is my shorter explanation, best illustrated by excerpt from Derek Bok’s “President’s Report” for 1986-1987.  “He referred to some well-known moral failures in financial circles and the political life of the nation (sound familiar?). He wondered out loud what universities might do to strengthen moral character in their graduates.

“Religious institutions,” he continued, “No longer seem as able as they once were to impart basic values to the young.  In these circumstances, universities, including Harvard, need to think hard about what they can do in the face of what many perceive as a widespread decline in ethical standards.”

Bok points out that in other days “the instructors aim was…to foster a belief in commonly accepted moral values” (p. 10). Now all is changed: “Today’s course in applied ethics does not seek to convey a set of moral truths but tries to encourage the student to think carefully about complex moral issues.”  One senses that the governing assumption of his discussion is that these two objectives are mutually exclusive.”

“There is now not a single moral conclusion about behavior or character traits that a teacher could base a student’s grade on—not even those most dear to educators, concerning fairness and diversity….The teacher would be reminded that we are not here to impose our views on students, “however misguided the student might be.”  And if the administration of the university did not reach that decision, a court of law soon would.”

This week I re-read (I read lots of books more than one time!) Prayer Powerpoints, given to me by Dennis Carlson of Send International in 1996, and came across this:

“Let every student be plainly instructed

And earnestly pressed to consider well

The main end of his life and studies is

To know God and Jesus ‘Christ

Which is eternal life, and therefore to lay

Christ in the bottom as the only foundation

Of all sound knowledge and learning

And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let

Everyone seriously set himself to prayer

In secret to seek it of Him.”

Moto of Harvard university – 1636

Clearly, between 1636 and Bok’s “President’s Report” for 1986-1987 somethings gone very wrong—flying upside down!

The Devine Conspiracy – Overcome evil with Good

 “[Jesus] comes where we are, and he brings us the life we hunger for. An early report reads “Life was in him, life that made sense of human existence” John 1:4.  To be the light of life and to deliver God’s life to women and men where they are and as they are, is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus.  Suddenly they are flying right-side up in a world that makes sense.”

Jesus said, I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.John 10:10

 

[1] The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard p. 1-13

Tools

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Art:

In my recent blog about ‘Art’, I wrote that in various ways we are all artists. We use God-given gifts and talents to create.  In previous blogs, I’ve featured a fine art piece in either Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor, Pencil or Ink.  However, when asked about my hobbies and interests, I actually have four:  fine art, woodworking, flower gardening and study/writing.

Today’s picture represents both fine art and woodworking as they relate to tools.  I began painting with Oil Christmas of 1997.  In April 2010, I built this more adequate oak ‘H-frame’ easel in my garage woodworking shop. While we lived in Andover, MN, I used it in my lower level home studio.  Now that we are in a town-home, I only use the “H-frame’ easel in the garage while the weather is warm.  My tools and interest in woodworking allowed me to create this easel as a tool for another interest—creating fine art.

Thought:

 What is a tool?  One dictionary definition: “[tool] is a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.”  My definition: a tool may be a device, implement or system that assists human creativity beyond the limits of one’s unaided body.

In time, we all gather tools for any number of creative tasks.  Take a look at nearly any room in your home. Now, think about the creative activity that takes place there and the tools on hand to assist.  Kitchen is a prime example with its major and small appliances, not to mention cabinets and drawers overflowing with dozens of gadgets to help create all kind of good things.  Bath and bedrooms with mirrors, electric toothbrush, hair dryer and counter tops with drawers all loaded with tools to create the ‘you’ that will emerge into today’s world!

You may have a ‘bonus room’ or home office.  It too is equipped with a litany of tools designed to help create whatever is on your agenda.  The garage, plus any out-buildings you may have, are guaranteed to be filled with tools you use to create. Some people have the luxury of a separate space for tools needed in pursuit of their creative interests.

Before we moved, I had a large room in the lower level of our split-entry home. Half was for my study/writing and the other my fine art studio.  It was perfect.  I built a storage shed in the back yard for gardening tools and my garage contained all my woodworking tools.  When we moved into a one level town-home two years ago, things changed.  Gardening tools went to one son’s shed 10 minutes away.  Large woodworking tools went to another son’s 3-car garage 18 minutes away.  Now, my garage serves as ‘handyman shop’ and studio for Oil painting (in warm weather). I have a dedicated room inside for non-oil art and study/writing.  A place for everything and everything in its place, right?

So, where am I going with all this?

Good question!   Here’s another one: Ever thought of yourself as a ‘tool’?  I believe we are. We have both the privilege and honor of being ‘tools’ in The Master’s hands.

Since the Garden of Eden, it’s been God’s plan that we be His beloved tools to care for, and co-create for His glory.  The Apostle Paul expressed:

“For we are God’s workmanship [poem or artwork], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”     Ephesians 2:10

As God’s ‘tools’, here are things to keep in mind:

  • Tools need to be appropriate for the task.
  • Tools need to be appointed to the task
  • Tools need to be readily available
  • Tools need to be in top working order

 Our ‘Master’ is in charge of the first two on this list.  We listen to Him as he selects us, according to the gifts He gave us. Then, He directs us to the—person, place or thing—so we can do the “good work He has “prepared in advance for us to do”.

 Being ‘available’ and in top ‘working order’ is for our attention. Being available to do His will comes first—”But seek first the Kingdom of God.” Matt. 6:33.” Then, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman (tool) who does not need to be ashamed—in top working order! 2 Tim. 2:15

As recipients of God’s blessing, our needs are being met and, through us—as His tool—,we carry out His plan of ‘good works through us, so that others may likewise be blessed.

We are indeed blessed tools to be tools of blessing! 

A-Men!

What a joy to be a part of Jesus, the carpenter’s sacred tool box!

People

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Art:

Living in the Minnesota Twin Cities area, you’ve guessed why I chose this Oil for today’s Thought—People.  Actually, I chose this painting today for two reasons. We just came through our worst storm (depending on your view of heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and wind) of the season.  Secondly, I think of warm people inside, sheltered from storms.  I painted this some time ago but didn’t date it.  My reference was probably a greeting card.

Thought:

When I served as a pastor—before retirement thirteen + years ago—from time to time Marj and I would be invited for a meal at someone’s home.  As often as our schedule permitted, we were happy to accept. Irene was an excellent cook. We’d been to her home for a meal on several occasions.  This time she also invited two missionary families, her adult son and the two of us, for a meal following the Sunday morning Worship Service.  I love to hear the stories of people’s lives and this was a great opportunity.

I’ll never forget, and have recounted the story many times, what one of the men shared. He was a jolly veteran missionary to Japan.  We had been talking about challenges one faces on the field.  His comment went something like this.  “Ministry as a missionary, or pastor, would be wonderful, if it wasn’t for ‘the peeeeople!’”  We all laughed! He was joking and fully understood it was for the sake of ‘the people’ God had called him, and all of us, into what is often called ‘full-time’ ministry. I believe all followers of Jesus are in ‘full-time’ ministry, but that’s another thought.

Certainly, when it comes to working with human beings, one size does not fit all.  Each person is unique and presents a new set of challenges.  I’ve been reading back over my many journal entrees in preparation for writing my Memoir.  Here is an entry from February 2, 1987 that reminded me of that meal and the comment made by the missionary from Japan.

In his book Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, Gordon MacDonald (a veteran pastor) outlined five categories of people that can affect your Spiritual Passion.  An overexposure to any one kind sets up imbalances.

Those Who Bring Joy

         1.  The Very Resourceful People (VRPs)

They Ignite our Passion. 

They are sometimes called ‘mentors’ or shaper of life. Christian VRPs ignite our passion for faith and Christlike performance. The fact that they always make a positive contribution to one’s world is an important distinction about VRPs, and it sets them apart from some of the others mentioned below.

         2.  The Very Important People (VIPs)

They Share our Passion.

Barnabas was a VIP to Paul as were Silas and Luke. They were yokefellows. They sense when we are hurting or when we are in need.  With VIPs we do not spend large amounts of time trying to get along, or debating over whose philosophy will prevail, or determining who is in charge. We are bound together to get a task done, and get it done we will.

  1. The Very Trainable People (VTPs)

They Catch our Passion. 

An example is Paul and his relationship to Timothy, a VTP.  Although they tax our strength, we are usually glad to cooperate because we sense the possibilities in them. The further we are along the passage through adulthood, the more important it becomes to have a small collection of very trainable people.  Jesus and Paul demonstrated this

The Happy and Hurting

  1. The Very Nice People (VNPs)

They Enjoy our Passion. 

VNPs clap and laugh and build our egos.  They make people in public Christian leadership very happy because they fill pews and rooms and programs.  They do not add to our passion; nor do they seriously diminish it.

  1. The Very Draining People (VDPs)

They Sap or Passion.

The long-term answer in any cluster of people is not to rid oneself of the draining people, but rather to understand important things about them and the groups of which they are a part.

First, VDPs will be drawn (like mosquitoes to blood) to any healthy group of people and they will remain until they become self-sustaining or until they are pushed away. Second, a healthy cluster of people will lose its vitality (its group passion) mysteriously and unpredictably because there are simply too many VDPs to sustain.  Third, VDPs who are permitted to relentlessly drain leaders of their passion will ultimately create a climate in which no one will want to serve in leadership capacities.

 

“Some folk bring joy wherever they go;                                                                                        others bring joy when they go.                                                                                                        –An old friend of Gordon MacDonald

 

 

 

 

 

Foundation

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Art:

I completed this Oil painting several years ago.  I don’t recall photo references I may have used.  I did like it so much that I completed the same scene in Ink with-pen-and-brush as well as Watercolor.  Each of these may be viewed on this Web Site by scrolling down on the Menu to the ‘Watercolor Gallery’ and “Ink Gallery”.  Move down in each gallery until you reach the scene.

I chose this painting today because of our ‘Thought’—Foundation.  One of the many things that impresses me about these old stone buildings, whether located in Europe or North America, is how they withstand time and the elements with solid foundations.

Thought:

In a previous Blog I mentioned Marj and I read from Scripture and a Devotional book mornings after breakfast.  I learned something from Our Daily Bread devotional Thursday—January 9, 2020—that I hadn’t known, but that triggered the ‘Thought’ for this week.  Here’s what I read:

“You’ve probably heard of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, but have you heard of the leaning tower of San Francisco?  It’s called the Millennium Tower.  Built in 2008, this fifty-eight-story skyscraper stands proudly—but slightly crookedly—in downtown San Francisco.

The problem?  Its engineers didn’t dig a deep enough foundation.  So now they’re being forced to retrofit the foundation with repairs that could cost more than the entire tower did when it was originally built—a fix that some believe is necessary to keep it from collapsing during an earthquake.”

One can’t help wondering if that ‘engineering flaw’ had to be revealed in contracts signed when office space was being leased.  Just wondering.  In earthquake prone California, some may not want the extra risk.  But, that’s not my ‘Thought’ for this week.

As we build our lives in yet another calendar year—2020—what’s our foundation? If we saw the deer in last week’s Acrylic painting, either looking back to 2019 or forward to 2020, what kind of foundation did she see on which to build for this new year’s adventure?  Where does one get competent engineering guidance for such a task?  The classic 104-word parable taught by Jesus in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 24-27, answers both questions:  What kind of foundation is needed? And where is competent engineering to be found?

  • What kind of foundation is required?  “foundation on the rock” (verse 24 & 25) is clearly the required kind of foundation for life in 2020 that’s able to withstand inevitable storms of “wind” and “flood”— figuratively speaking.

That rock is Christ: 1 Corinthians 10:4 “…they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

  • Where is competent engineering to be found? Twice in these verse (24 & 26) Jesus tells us that he is the engineer. “…these words of mine (Jesus speaking)”.   If references are required as to Jesus’ engineering competence, see Psalm 104:5 “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Certainly, Jesus can be trusted with your life and mine!

Now, for the competent engineer’s blueprint for constructing this required foundation, Jesus simply verbalized the blueprint and illustrated outcomes if the blueprint is followed or is not followed.

The blueprint: “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” Matthew 7:24.

When the blueprint is followed:  The storms come “and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock”.                                                                       When the blueprint is not followed: The storms came “…and it fell with a great crash.”        

‘Take away’ from today’s Blog?

Perhaps a life lesson from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Millennium Tower, entering 2020, is the imperative of a solid foundation.  Jesus’ blueprint includes:

  1. Hearing the words of Jesus: Consult the Blueprint (Scriptures) daily.
  2. Doing what we hear:  Listen and look (Pray) for ways to put it into practice.

Our designing engineer (God the Father), has given us a model (Jesus his Son) and a daily superintendent (the Holy Spirit) to empower.

 “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

“…Whatever he does prospers.”  Psalm 1:3b

 

 

 

 

Blessed

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Art:

I painted this 24” x 36” Acrylic last summer. It currently hangs on our living room wall surrounded by eleven other Ink-with-pen-and-brush pieces of various sizes. I think it works well with this week’s ‘Thought’—Blessing.  Why?   How I answer depends on the deer in the forest.  Is she looking from the picture back to you and me, or is she looking away from us toward the light on the horizon?   Is she looking back to 2019 or forward to 2020?  Either way I see ‘blessing’ recalled from the past or anticipated for the future!  How do you interpret the scene?

Thought:

How often have you used the word ‘blessing’ in its various forms during the past week or two?  I don’t recall either!

Let me ask the question another way: Were you ‘blessed’?  Think a moment before you answer.  What makes you say, ‘Yes, I was blessed’ or ‘No, I wasn’t blessed’?  Was it something someone said, or didn’t say, to you?   Was it something that happened, or didn’t happen, to you?  Was it a feeling…a fact?

What is a ‘blessing’?  I suspect most associate the six forms of ‘bless’ with religion and spirituality.  The New International Bible translates certain Hebrew and Greek words with one form of ‘bless’ or another, a total of 428 times. The English word ‘happy’ is sometimes used in translating these Greek and Hebrew words.  Might that suggest that when we say we are ‘blessed’, we are also meaning we are made happy?  I think so.  If not right away, more often than not, followers of Jesus will in time be happy and truly feel ‘blessed’ even if the event did not feel good at the moment.  Romans 8:28 helps put this into perspective.

In last week’s Blog I shared I’ve started writing my ‘Memoir’.  One story I share is how fifty-four years ago, Psalm 1:1-3 became my life verses and have appeared under my signature thousands of times in the last half century.  I may share that story in a future Blog. The first word in Psalm 1:1 is “Blessed…”.   At this point, my working title is simply Blessed!  For my family and interested friends the ‘Memoir’ will be a way to chronicle many of the blessings I’ve experienced and give thanks!

One insight from Psalm 1:1-3, that came to me in 1965, is that the key to being ‘Blessed’ is not based on geography, titles or things material.  But, on one’s relationship with God.  I like the metaphor Bradley Hanson used in his book A Graceful Life.

“To live… by faith is to have a certain kind of relationship with God.  It’s a relationship similar in some respects to that between you and a very close friend.  Your friend knows you well, knows the significant events of your life, knows your good and bad points.  But in addition to knowing you very well, your close friend also accepts you.  Although aspects of your character are less than desirable and sometimes you act in hurtful ways, your friend forgives you.  Another side of the relationship is that your friend will help you become a better person.  Your friend will then encourage and help you do good, but will also challenge you when you hurt others.  More and more, your friend and you will come to share certain values.  You also do good things for your friend and present a gift from time to time.  The reason you do these things is not to gain a friend.  It’s because you are already such good friends and care for one another that you do nice thing and bring gifts.”

In John 15:15 Jesus said, “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.

Verses 12-14 give the context.  “My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.”

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 day  and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams  of water,

     which yields its fruit in season 

and whose leaf does not wither.

     Whatever he does prospers. “

          Psalm 1:1-3

My relationship with God through Jesus is to be Blessed!

 

Memoir

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Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is based on a photograph sent to me in December. I like the dark and light winter scene contrasts as well as it featuring an old waterwheel mill. I think of winter as a time between, ideal for contemplation of our past and what might lie ahead. For these reasons, and more, it seemed a good piece to feature with this new year Thought—Memoir.

Thought:

I struggled with how to title this week’s ‘Thought’—Memoir. First, I must explain how the topic came about. From an early age our sons then grandchildren began asking questions about my life growing up. They’d heard a few things that aroused their curiosity: My young mother died at my birth, I grew up living with five separate families and then there’s the fact that I’m old! As years passed, I’ve tried to answer their questions. They suggested, “Dad, why don’t you write down your story for us and for the grandchildren?” I listened, even invested thought and prayer around the idea of writing my story. What would one call such a thing?

(Trust me! I have a purpose in sharing all this with you. I’ll share it at the end.)

I did a little research and discovered two possibilities: ‘autobiography’ and ‘memoir’. Autobiography is a chronological story of events of one’s life. I understand that. What’s different about a ‘memoir’? Here’s what I learned from writing consultant Adair Lara.

QUICK ANSWER

“The most basic principle of writing a memoir is that the writer must tell a story. The driving force behind excellent memoir is the desire to share a personal story of growth, discovery or change. This story must be told in a way that is unique, interesting and relatable. A well-written memoir appeals to the reader through the empathy of shared experience.

FULL ANSWER

“The easiest way to determine the arc of a memoir is writing one sentence that describes the start and end of the story… This will create a bare-bones plot and will provide guidance for the process of incorporating all of the smaller details of the story.

“When it comes to the smaller details, make a list of the things that were done to achieve this goal. Describe how they worked or how they didn’t work. Express what was felt with each success or failure in the process. Be candid and honest. Think about how these feelings could be shared with a reader, and detail the lesson or insight that needs to be shared. Those things make a memoir worth reading.”

O.K., that helped me see that I’m about to write a ‘memoir’. Next question: who is my audience?   Primarily, my sons, grandchildren, family members and friends who may be interested. Now, with a pretty good idea of what a ‘memoir’ is, and having defined my target audience, where do I begin?

What are my major resources for investigation that will help outline and eventually write the ‘memoir’? Four resources come to mind: memories, photographs, and journals I’ve kept–spasmodically since my first year of college in1957–plus the Internet. I have a near foot high stack of ‘journals’ since that first one in college. Everything up through high school is from memories and camera photos before cell phones. Here are a few journal entries:

  • “Thursday, August 13, 2009   [Today I am 71 years and 4 months old/young!]
  • “Tuesday, October 16, 2012   [I have been working on this a week. I am 74 now.]
  • “Friday, November 30, 2012 [I have been away from working on this for a time.]
  •            “December 07, 2012   Back again.
  •            “December 11, 2012   Back.
  • “Monday, November 18, 2019   Back [Today I am 81 years and 7 months old/young. I      have a goal of serious work on this during 2020]”

You may have noticed a ten-year span between my start in 2009 and December 2019!

To assist in this project I considered using Microsoft Word, Evernote and Scrivener (a program created to help writers of all kinds). Scrivener became my choice. December was spent learning Scrivener, scanning and copying what I have into the program. Now, for 2020, it’s a matter of personal discipline!

Why did I share all of this with you?

I want to encourage you to start (or continue) keeping a journal in 2020! It will prove invaluable to you personally and to your family and friends as a legacy of the way God has worked in and through your life with its ups and downs toward maturity.

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV

 

 

 

Christmas

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Art:

My three favorite American artists are Thomas Kinkade, Terry Redlin and Gerald Harvey Jones (G. Harvey). Why are they favorites? The era they capture and use of light both resonate with me. In their unique way, each takes the viewer back decades to what Kinkade reflects on as “A simpler time.” I like that. Call me an ‘idealist’ or ‘romantic’ if you wish, but I like that era. One key to great art is the use of light and dark to create mood, depth and emotion. To me, all three men were masters.

The art piece I feature in this Christmas blog is based on a favorite G. Harvey painting. I painted it about three years ago in oil on a 11 x 14 inch canvas. For me it captures an era when simple love, faith, family and civility seemed more alive in daily culture.

Thought:

If you ask me, “What is your favorite holiday?,” can you guess my answer? If you know me at all, without hesitation, it would be ‘Christmas’! You would be correct. A simple follow-up question might be, “Why?” Good question.

My answer is reflective of the comments about Art for this week.   My thoughts about Christmas are in three tenses: Past, Present and Future:

  • Past Christmases, with memories that flood my heart with Thanks
  • Present Christmas brings Joy to my heart when I see my wonderful wife and others in my life whom I love.
  • Future Christmases and Hope for anticipated blessings yet to be experienced.

Now, as a great-grandfather, there are lots of ‘Past Christmases’ to be thankful for! I’ll recall one in particular. Our three sons, Jim, Dan and Steve ranged from preschool to elementary. Marj injured her back just before Christmas shopping began. She simply was not able to ‘go Christmas shopping’ for the boys. Remember, this is before ‘smart phones’ and ‘online shopping’. You either went to the store in person; ordered from a five-pound catalogue and waited, who knows how long, or you did without.

In our case, there was yet another option—daddy, Jim, would do the shopping! O.K.! Off I went into this wonderful sea of aggressive moms searching for that hard-to-find, most popular—every child must have this season!—gift. I gained a whole new perspective on the serenity of motherhood?

I survived! In fact I enjoyed it and gained a new indebtedness to the mother of ‘My Three Sons’. (That TV show may predate your memory!) I shopped and wrapped all the gifts. On purpose, I wrapped the boy’s gifts in paper from the same large roll of Christmas wrapping and did not put names on them. So, under the tree is this stack of randomly shaped gift wrapped boxes…with no names. I was having fun! Even Marj didn’t know which gift was for which son. Unbeknown to them, I had put a small code on each package to remind what went to which son. Christmas Morning was awesome fun, not only for the kids, but for dad too. Marj recovered, but was especially careful to remain injury free in future Decembers, or dad might do the shopping again!

That’s possibly more than you wanted to know about my Thanks for a fun Christmas Past. And it was not focused on the true spiritual meaning of Christmas, when God came into His creation in the person of Jesus to demonstrate His love for us! Nor did I focus on my Hope for future Christmases. That might come at another time.

This is Blog #54!

This is my 54th weekly blog accompanied by a piece of my original art. If you’ve been along for the ride in 2019, my hope and prayer is that something you may have seen or read was used by the Holy Spirit to aid in your spiritual journey for His glory.

If you have a friend, you think might also enjoy this weekly blog, I encourage you to show them how to become a follower. If you missed some of the last 53 issues they are all on line and you may scroll back and see the Art as well as all the Thoughts.

Have a Merry Christmas, with Love!

“Love seeks one thing only, the good of the one loved.”     Thomas Merton

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depression

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Art:

I painted this fall scene in Acrylic early this fall. I liked the colors although they are somewhat exaggerated in contrasts. Technically, we still have a few days of fall remaining in 2019 (in spite of four inches of snow on the ground!) so I still felt safe in using it. Actually, by using this painting, my intent was to give what I hoped would be an ‘uplifting’ experience in a season that can be difficult for some who may feel ‘loneliness’ or even a bit ‘depressed’ at the moment.

Thought:

Earlier this week three possible ideas for today’s ‘Thought’ were in my mind. Which one to use was the challenge. Monday morning I made this specific prayer request: ‘Lord, what would be the best choice for this week’s Blog?’ The answer came at breakfast.

I’m an early riser—the first one up at our house. This gives me time, before Marj is up and we have breakfast together, for me to begin my day with what I like to call my “be still” time from Psalm 46:10. That’s when I made the prayer request.

For decades, at the breakfast table, Marj and I read Scripture and the related devotional from “Christ In Our Home” or “The Daily Bread”. One of the three ideas on my mind was ‘loneliness’ which may often lead to ‘depression’. Monday’s reading was ‘right on’ with one of my three thoughts. I saw it as the answer to prayer. So, I’m sharing with you what we read.

“Now an accomplished writer, Caitlin describes the depression she battled after fighting off an assault. The emotional violence cut deeper than her physical struggle, for she felt it proved “how undesirable I was. I was not the kind of girl you wanted to get to know.” She felt unworthy of love, the kind of person others use and toss aside.

“God understands. He lovingly shepherded Israel but when He asked them what He was worth “they paid me thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12). This was the price of a slave; what masters must be reimbursed should their slave be accidentally killed (Exodus 21:32). God was insulted to be offered the lowest possible value—look at “the handsome price at which they valued me!” He said sarcastically (Zechariah 11:13). And He had Zechariah throw the money away.

“Jesus understands. He wasn’t merely betrayed by His friend; He was betrayed with contempt “The Jewish leaders despised Christ, so they offered Judas thirty pieces of silver— the lowest price you could put on a person—and he took it (Matthew 26:14-15; 27:9). Judas thought so little of Jesus he sold Him for nearly nothing.

“If people undervalued Jesus, don’t be surprised when they undervalue you. Your value isn’t what others say. It’s not even what you say. It’s entirely and only what God says. He thinks you are worth dying for.”

In the northern hemisphere we’re approaching the darkest day of our calendar year. When you throw in overcast days it just complicates matters. However, both the length of our winter day and bleakness of an overcast sky are not permanent! I like to quote a phrase from Scripture, “And it came to pass…”. Yes, I’m taking it a little out of context, but it is true! The days will not stay short and the clouds will go away. Our confidence is in the fact that the sun was there all the time! So is the Son of God there all the time.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from ‘loneliness’ or ‘depression’ I suggest strongly you consider reading aloud and perhaps even memorizing Romans 5:1-5.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.”

How would you describe your value?

Who can you help to grasp true value?

I’m grateful that I’m valued by You, God!