Motive

Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is a view of neighbors across the pond from our dining window that I drew last winter from my photos. Our Minnesota ‘Winter Wonderland’ is on the way!

What might you guess is my motive in using this particular Art for our Thought–Motive?  If your answer is something akin to “I don’t know” then, you’re close to my answer as well.  One of mine is to reflect on the relative ‘peacefulness’ of how things were in our world the first day of Fall in 2019 (aka the ‘Old Normal’)!  

Thought:

What Is A Motive?

MOTIVE IS A REASON for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious. Motive is something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc. Three other words come to mind: purpose, intent and goal.

“Fact Checking”

WE HEAR LOTS this pre-election season about ‘fact checking’: Is the alleged factual content of political ads, speeches and news coverage accurate?  I sometimes come away with a feeling that the ‘fact checking’ needs ‘checking’.   Why?  One reason has to do with our word motive.  I understand that each candidate’s motive is to win the election.   If that was not the case, why even bother?

Can Motives Be ‘Checked’?

HOW CAN ANYONE check a motive behind action or words? Is that possible?  It’s been suggested that if you wish to understand why (motive) someone is doing or saying something:  Look at the consequences of their words and actions.  If doing something that is making everyone around them suspicious, unsettled, miserable (and maybe even themselves):  One hypothesis is they are actually trying to make everyone around them suspicious, unsettled, miserable, etc. It’s hard for most to understand why people will do things like that.  But, it may actually be their goal. 

Where are Motives Born?

WHERE DO MOTIVES originate?  One’s motive may be influenced by environment—by other people or events.  A well-known comedian, when confronted with wrongdoing would say: “The Devil made me do it!” Not true! The ‘Devil’ may influence your motive but not make you say or do anything. That motive comes from a deeper place. Our motives, our intents, and our desires originate from our heart. …He [the Lord] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart…1 Corinthians 4:5.    All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Proverbs 16:2. Motives originate from the heart. 

What’s In My Heart?

WHAT RESOURCES ARE available in my heart? They will frame my motive and effect my use of words and actions. That’s what will be heard and seen by those around me. For the follower of Jesus, It begins with God.   When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our heart….”  Galatians 4:6.

The Holy Spirit in your heart produces… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22, 23a.  The key characteristic is love. Thomas Aquinas said, “…Love is born of earnest consideration of the object loved. It tends to generate that same love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in those who are observing and hearing your example. 

What Are We Modeling For The Future?

ARE WE GIVING the next generation a worthy reputation to live up to?  Are we modeling not only factually accurate information and respectfulness toward opponents?  It seems to me the contest in an election should be about what each candidate has in mind (motive) for the good of all citizens equally.   Sometimes it feels candidates are bent on seeing who can best destroy the character of their opponent with abusive, insulting, degrading language.  Is that a worthy model?

My hope is that better motives will change the rhetoric to a model any American can honorably point to as leadership examples everyone may look up to. 

Prayer

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,  

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Trouble

Art:

I painted this Oil twenty years ago from a photo I took while on a walk in our son’s St. Paul neighborhood. The date on the picture is about ten years later, when I photographed the painting.  

I chose the picture for our Thought—Trouble—for a couple reasons: First, people often turn to their faith when experiencing trouble. Second, we enjoy their Fall beauty, but leaves are actually experiencing a natural kind of trouble.  I believe God works in both.

Thought:

Do You Have Trouble?

DO YOU HAVE trouble [aka: worry, problem, strife, complaint, concern or bother]? You are not alone.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” John 16:33 [NIV/ Why?  If God really does love me, why do I have trouble?  This may sound contradictory, but I believe its actually God’s love for you that allows us to have trouble.  I didn’t say God causes us to have trouble. Although, in certain circumstances, I believe his love may.

What is trouble?  Someone said, “Trouble is negative feelings when bad things happen.”  Trouble is the feeling I have when things don’t go the way I expect them to.  I don’t like it. My first response is to control the situation to manipulate people, things or events to the outcome I want.  Do you see a potential flaw in this thinking? Where is God?

God Has A Purpose

[1]“GOD HAS A PURPOSE behind every problem.  He uses circumstances to develop our character. The Apostle Paul says, ‘We know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character.”  Romans 5:3,4 [Msg.]  God uses problems to draw you closer to himself. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;  he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”[NLT] Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days—when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you are out of options, when the pain is great—and you turn to God alone. It is during suffering that we learn to pray our most authentic heartfelt honest-to-God prayers. When we are in pain, we don’t have the energy for superficial prayers.”

“Problems force us to look to God and depend on him instead of ourselves.  Paul testified to this benefit:  “We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us.” 2 Cor. 1:9  [LB]  You’ll never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.” 

God’s Good Plan For You

“BECAUSE GOD IS sovereignly in control, accidents are just incidents in God’s good plan for you. God knows about every day of your life since before you were born.  “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:16b [NIV] Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything!  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.” Romans 8:28, 29  [NLT]

“Regardless of the cause (poor choices, natural phenomena, other people…) none of your problems could happen without God’s permission.  I like the word picture Rick Warren uses to describe this: “Everything that happens to a child of God is Father-filtered, and he intends to use it for good even when Satan and others mean it for bad.” 

Character Building

“CHARACTER BUILDING is a slow process.  Whenever we try to avoid or escape the difficulties (problems) in life, we short-circuit the process, delay our growth, and actually end up with a worse kind of pain—the worthless type that accompanies denial and avoidance.  When you grasp the eternal consequences of your character development, you’ll pray fewer ‘comfort me” prayers (“Help me feel good”) and more “conform me” prayers (“Use this to make me more like you”). 

Our First Option

SO, DO YOU HAVE trouble in your life today?  As I mentioned with the Oil painting, when we do have trouble, there seem to be two options for followers of Jesus: we can turn to God or turn to our own powers.  The first option works…the second… not so much. God gives us the choice.

Leaves turning in the Fall are experiencing trouble, but God’s plan for the life of the tree, and their seasonal contribution to the tree’s maturation continues.

“You know you are maturing when you begin to see the hand of God in the random baffling, and seemingly pointless circumstances of life.’

Rick Warren

[1] The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren ch. 25

S.H.A.P.E.

59453B50-5F8A-49E7-B6FF-3DF7294C0854_1_101_a

Art:

THIS STILL LIFE fruit bowl from a few years back is my first (and last) attempt at such Still Life Oil painting.  It was a good exercise for me as a hobby painter, but I worked from a photograph.  That’s not the best way to do Still Life.  Actually, I rather work with landscapes, physical structures or animals. 

I CHOSE THIS Oil to accompany our Thought for the week—S.H.A.P.E.  In the fruit bowl each kind of fruit has a unique shape and each piece of each kind has unique shape.  Apples are different from oranges and no two apples or oranges are the same. Each has a shape.

Thought:

AS YOU MAY HAVE guessed from quotes in the last couple of blogs, I am finishing a book by Rick Warren I first read several years ago–The Purpose Driven Live published in 2002 and made the New York Times Bestseller status.  Today’s Thought is an acrostic taken from his book.  I’ll get to that.

Consider Some Statistics

FIRST CONSIDER some statistics I came across: 

80% of what you and I do essentially anyone can do—watch TV, eat a meal, sitting around or surfing the internet. Much of our lives are made up of pretty ordinary activities.

15% of what you do anyone with some level of training can do—your work or skill or hobby. 

5% only you can do. Husbands, only you can be the husband you are to your wife. No one else can do that for you.  Moms, only you can be the mom you are to your children. No one can be that for you. One might consider it nice if we could pay someone to exercise for us.  No. Only I can do that for myself.  And, no one else can be what God uniquely created me for.  I (We) need to discover our God given unique SHAPE.  It is given for a purpose, an assignment.

S.H.A.P.E.

[1]WHENEVER GOD GIVES us an assignment, he always equips us with what we need to accomplish it.  This custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:

SPRITUAL GIFTS:  You can’t earn your spiritual gifts or deserve them—that’s why they are called gifts! They are an expression of “God’s grace to you “Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us.” Ephesians 4:7 (CEV)…Neither do you get to choose which gifts you would like to have; God determines that.  Paul explained “It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts.  He alone decided which gifts each person should have.”  1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)…  Your Spiritual Gifts were not given for your own benefit but for the benefit of others, just as other people were given gifts for your benefit.

HEART:  The Bible uses the term heart to describe the bundle of desires, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have.  Your heart represents the source of all your motivations—what you love to do and what you care about most. Even today we still use the word in this way when we say, “I love you with all my heart.” … The Bible says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person.” Proverbs 27:19 (NLT)…Your heart reveals the real you—what you truly are, not what others think you are or what circumstances force you to be… How do you know when you are serving God from your heart?  The first telltale sign is enthusiasm when you do what you love to do.  The second characteristic of serving God from your heart is effectiveness.  You get good at it.

ABILITIES:  Your abilities are the natural talents you were born with.  Some people have a natural ability with words:  They came out of the womb talking! Other people have natural athletic abilities, excelling in physical coordination.  Still others are good at mathematics or music or mechanics.  All our abilities come from God…Even abilities used to sin are God-given; they are just being misused or abused… The Bible says, “God as given each of us the ability to do certain things well” Romans 12:6a (NLT)…What I am able to do, God wants me to do.

PERSONALITY:  We don’ realize how truly unique each of us is… DNA molecules can unite in an infinite number of ways. The number is 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power. That number is the likelihood you will ever find someone just like you…It is obvious God likes variety—just look around you. God made introverts and extroverts.  He made people who love routine and those who love variety. He made some people “thinkers” and other people “feelers”… The Bible says, “God works through different people and in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purpose through them all. 1 Corinthians 12:6 (PH). 

EXPERIENCES:  You have been shaped by your experiences in life, most of which were beyond your control. God allowed them for his purpose of molding you—Romans 8:28, 29…In determining your shape for serving God, you should examine at least six kinds of experiences from your past: 

  • Family experiences:  What did you learn growing up in your family?  
  • Educational experiences:  What were your favorite subjects in school? 
  • Vocational experiences: What jobs have you been most effective in and enjoyed most? 
  • Spiritual experiences: What have been your most meaningful times with God? 
  • Ministry experiences:  How have you served God in the past? 
  • Painful experiences:  What problems, hurts, thorns, and trials have you learned from?”

The Choice I Made

BECAUSE EVERYONE is busy, I try to keep this weekly blog under a limited number of words. This week I had to either go over my word limit or split the topic in two parts.  I chose to use the space necessary to summarize and give you the option of digging deeper as you like. The book is a good read.  Read one short chapter per day for 40 Days.  

ALSO, YOU MAY want to check out this free test and other related materials for determining your SHAPE!  You are worth it!  

www.freeshapetest.com


[1] The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, p. 236ff

Mentors

fullsizeoutput_12e

Art:

Neuschwanstein Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein, Southern Bavarian: Schloss Neischwanstoa) is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Fussen in southwest Bavaria, Germany.  The palace was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat, and in honor of Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds.

The castle was intended as a home for the King, until he died in 1886. It was open to the public shortly after his death. Since then, more than 61 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with as many as 6,000 per day in the summer. (These numbers are before COVID pandemic.)

I painted this Oil of the castle a few years ago.  I am drawn to historic architecture and this castle, though built not that long ago, caught my attention.  I am sharing it in connection with this week’s Thought—Mentors.  It served as a kind of mentor for me in producing this painting.

Thought:

Mentor(ship) is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.  I suspect it is next to impossible to name every ‘mentor’ in our lives.  For me, the most influential mentoring in my life has often been through their writing.  I recently developed a list of fifteen people who, in my life to this moment, have been mentors.  Someday I may share the list in this blog.  But not today.

It did come to me the other day, how important and impactful certain phrases and quotes, from a variety of sources, have made an impact on me.  So, I want to share a few with you this week.

Quotes from Mentors

“Love is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved.” / “Love follows knowledge.”                                                                                                                                             — Thomas Aquinas

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.”         — Charles R Swindoll

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”                                                             Earl Nightingale

“There are no shortcuts to maturity.” / “You’ll know you are maturing when you begin to see the hand of God in the random, baffling, and seemingly pointless circumstances of life.”                                                                                                                                                          Rick Warren

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”                                                                                                                                 Martin Luther

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed.  But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest!”                                                                                               Corrie ten Boom

“Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”                                                           V. Raymond Edman

“The greatness of a man’s [or woman’s] power is in the measure of his [her] surrender.”  William Booth

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves.  We’re still trying to give orders and interfering with God’s work within us.”                                                                                               A. W. Tozer

“There are two kinds of people:  those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right then, have it your way.’”                                                                                                      C. S. Lewis

[1]“In the film Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”  Later he says, “to give up running would be to hold him [God] in contempt.”  ‘there are no unspiritual abilities, just misused ones.  Start using yours for ‘God’s pleasure.”

“People don’t care what we know until they know we care.” / “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” / “Doing the right thing daily, compounds over time.”                                                                                                   — John Maxwell

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”                           — Jim Elliot

 “Be proactive.” / “Put first things first.”/ “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” / “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.”                                                                                                            Stephen R. Covey

Final Thought

By sharing this short list of quotes from fourteen people, who have been ‘mentors’ to literally hundreds of thousands, without context and perhaps without a biographical understanding of the speaker, may have been unfair.  Nevertheless, I hope you will forgive me, and I pray you too may find some ‘mentoring’ from them for your life this week!

[1] The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, p. 75

Landmarks

3522F651-D65B-4A3F-ACD3-64011711F424_1_201_a

Art:

ST. PAUL’S HISTORIC Landmark Center at 75 West Fifth Street in Rice Park completed in 1902, was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke in Romanesque Rival architecture. It originally served as the United States Post Office, Courthouse, and Custom House for the state of Minnesota. In the 1970s, a citizens’ group saved the building from demolition and restored it to its previous grandeur. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and reopened to the public as Landmark Center in 1978 and serves as an arts and culture center.

I WAS DRAWN to the details in the Romanesque Rival style and completed this Ink with Pen and Brush two weeks ago. I thought it a fit companion to our Thought for this week—Landmarks

Thought:

LANDMARKS ARE A recognizable natural or artificial feature used for direction finding. The costal lighthouse is a prime example.  In a broader sense, I see ‘landmark’ appropriately applied to any sign or symbol designed to remember the past, enrich the present, or point to a future.

We live with our landmarks: Wedding rings, Kids inch marks on a door frame, National holidays, Flags and banners, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Photos, Mementoes, Compass, Tower transmissions, GPS, you get the idea. As landmarks, these point to past, present, or future destinations.

God provides His landmarks: Sun, Moon, Rainbows, Sabbath, Tabernacle, Temple, Cross, Communion and Baptism to name a few.  One example follows the defeat of the Malekites in Exodus 17, the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered, and make sure Joshua hears, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” The written scroll became the ‘landmark’ to recall what God did in the past.

  Landmarks toward God

IT SEEMS TO ME God sometimes uses a metaphor to help us better understand what is beyond our finite comprehension. For example, using light to describe himself: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5. He continues to use the metaphor of light as a landmark pointing to God himself:

  • First, in the Genesis record of Creation.

God always existed. He created light as a landmark to help us understand something of his character opposed to darkness.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  Genesis 1:3, 4 [NIV]

  • Second, in Jesus’ Incarnation.

In response to generations of promises through the prophets, God manifest himself in one single body as Immanuel—God with us—in Jesus. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

  • Also, in Jesus Followers.

Jesus ascended and gave the Holy Spirit of God to his followers.  Now the light of God and Jesus is in each Jesus follower and is the landmark of light pointing to God.  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:14 [NIV]  How does that work?

 Function of God’s Landmarks

 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heavenMatthew 5:15, 16 [NIV]  We “let (allow) the light to shinethrough us by allowing the Holy Spirit of God to do through us what he did through Jesus—good deeds:

 Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40ff  [Msg.]

 Jesus said, You are the light of the world.   Our individual world begins with those who live under the same roof, then to extended family members, neighbors, fellow employees and everyone you meet today.  You and I are ‘landmark lights’. What they see in us draws them to God the light source.

Landmark Lighthouses

But you (Jesus followers) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 [NIV]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tools

100_4142.JPG

Art:

HOPE YOU’RE NOT too bothered by a snow scene in August.  If Hallmark Channel can feature Christmas movies in August (which I enjoy!), I might be allowed just this one picture with snow?

I PAINTED THIS OIL eight years ago from a reference I don’t recall. I like the horses under the lights just before being secured for the night.  I chose it in connection with our Thought—Tools—for this week.  The shed to the left and in the background house the farmer’s tools. They are easily accessible when needed.  Each was created for a specific purpose. The two horses were possibly his most valuable tools.

Thought:

WHEN WE MOVED from Andover to Rosemount, Minnesota in 2018, one goal was to downsize.  For me that meant four important parts of my life would undergo big changes.  I enjoy all of them and have tools for each, plus a place set aside for each:

  • Study & Writing: I had a large well-lit space for my library, computer and all that goes with study and writing.
  • Fine Art Creation: I had a good size studio space for my drawing board and H-frame easel,with workspace and storage for art supplies.
  • Woodworking: A section of our two-car garage was dedicated to workbench, table saws and the other smaller power tools and materials.
  • Gardening: I had an 8’ x 12’ utility shed in the back yard for all the gardening and landscape supplies.

NOW LIVING IN a townhouse, gardening is limited to one or two potted plants on the patio.  All those tools went to our son in Apple Valley. Woodworking was limited to a few hand powered tools when all the big equipment went to our son in Hastings.  I have maintained an adequate space for Study & Writing as well as Fine Art Creation. But this is not what I want to talk about.

Unique Tools!

YOU AND I were born into God’s purpose and for God’s purpose.   Everyone was created with the same mutually beneficial common purpose of growing in our experience and representation of God our creator in his world.  But we are not identical.  Each is a unique ‘tool’ for our Master’s use as he continues to create through the instrumentality of our gifts, talents and diverse experiences.

Each person [tool] is given something to do that shows who God is: everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.  All kinds of things [tool purposes] are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people [tools]. The variety is wonderful…wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12: 4ff [Msg.]

How it Works

All these gifts [‘tool’ functions] have common origin but are handed out one by one by the Spirit of God.  He decides who [which ‘tool’] gets what, and when.  1 Corinthians 12:11 [Msg.]

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

…he [Jesus follower] will be an instrument [tool] for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  2 Timothy 2:21b [NIV]

Servants (Slaves)…Instruments (Tools)

 EACH OF US is a unique ‘tool’ for our Master’s use as he continues to create through the instrumentality of who we are and of who we are becoming.  The word Paul uses is ‘slave’ from the Greek douleuo.  This is a slave or tool by choice out of gratitude. We are all invited to join!  I’m reminded of the chorus we used to sing… “How can I do less that give Him my best, after all he has done for me?”

Unique and Identical

EACH FOLLOWER of Jesus is a uniquely created and gifted child of God born into a culture, time, set of opportunities and environments.  Nevertheless, each has two things that are identical through the indwelling Holy Spirit: His Presence (Psalm 23) and  His Love (Galatians 5:22). The assignment in His Kingdom work may change during a lifetime, but his presence and love never changes.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. Ephesians 4:11ff [Msg]

My ‘Tool’ Prayer

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” May the tool of art and writing in my life be used by the Master for blessing in His church—the body of Christ—and beyond.  Amen!

Purpose

B813ECB7-8200-4D61-B6DB-3D9E5AC2A7E0_1_201_a

Art:

I admire architecture with artistic details.  Last week I completed this Ink with Pen and Brush of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. It has an interesting history.

Swan J. Turnblad (October 7, 1860 – May 17, 1933) was an American (Swedish) newspaper publisher in Minneapolis. In 1903, Turnblad commissioned the building of this mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. The Chateauesque-style 33-room mansion was built at a cost of $1.5 million ($42.7 million in 2019) and took four years to complete. After Turnblad’s wife died in 1929, he and his daughter (only child) moved into their apartment across the street full-time and turned their former home into a museum, later renamed American Swedish Institute for the purpose of preserving Swedish customs and culture. I thought it a good Art piece for our Thought—Purpose.

Thought:

You probably have a set of keys, either in your pocket, or purse if not hanging on a hook by the door:  One key for your car and one for your home. Each key has a purpose.  Each has a specific and unique purpose.  I see three things true of each key:

  • It did not choose its own purpose: That was determined by someone to meet a specific need.
  • It did not design or create itself: Its design and creation was by a source outside itself.
  • It cannot change its purpose: It may be misused, but its purpose will not change.

I see a similarity between those keys and your life.  Whether you (and all people) realize it or not, we each have a purpose.  We did not choose our purpose. We did not design or create it and we cannot change our purpose. Actually, we all have the same purpose.

The Purpose Driven Life

Not long before my retirement as Pastor, where I served for more than two decades, I brought a series of Sunday Sermons titled The Purpose Driven Life, partly inspired by Rick Warren’s 2002 New York Times Bestsellers List book, The Purpose Driven Life, What on Earth am I Here For?

I purchased ten copies of the book, wrote a letter of explanation and invitation to a series of discussion group meetings we would be hosting in our home on the subject of purpose in our lives. I took the book and invitation letter to the ten homes in our cul-de-sac. The next day, one neighbor responded to the invitation by email to say that she was driving home from work that afternoon, wondering about the purpose of her own life.  There, in her front door, was a free book with an invitation!  She, along with her mother and another neighbor, participated in the meetings. Rick Warren began the first chapter with words we hear often today…

“It’s not about you.

“The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.  It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions.  If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God.  You were born into his purpose and for his purpose.”

His Purpose

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible…everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him...  Colossians 1:16 (Msg.)

God’s wisdom…goes deep into the interior of his purposes…It’s not the latest message but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us.                 1 Corinthians 2:7 (Msg.)

You, and every other human being, are unique in many ways: looks, talents, gifts, ethnicity, and the list goes on.  However, everyone was created with the same mutually beneficial common purpose of growing in our experience and representation of God our creator in his world.  Those words to describe our uniqueness are important avenues by which we are blessed individually to serve our common purpose as God’s ambassadors to his creation. They are not our purpose.  They are means to the end—fulfilling our common purpose.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.  Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.  Ephesians 1:11 (Msg.)

“Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”                                    — Bertrand Russel, atheist

The Bible says, It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.  Romans 12:2 (NLT)

You are special with a special Purpose.

Go, in Peace, and serve the Lord!

 

 

Character

34B40B99-0DE8-41BF-8FF7-40BCAFBD45F5_1_101_a

Art:

I painted this Oil from a photo reference more than five years ago.  I like the simplicity of the composition with its antiquated barn; and especially the contrast of the rolling grain fields ready for harvest, with moisture laden clouds promising a shower.

I imagine the family who lived on, and diligently worked, this land through good times and the not-so-good times.  To me, a confessed romantic at heart, this represents a lifestyle close to God and His creation with all its promises and challenges.  It reminds me of a place where great ‘character’ may be formed.

Thought:

What is ‘character’? The way we use the word today can seem confusing.  Character can be a person in a film script or novel; a letter in the alphabet; someone who annoys us, and more.

I was drawn to the word ‘character’ (sometimes translated ‘experience’) for today’s Thought while meditating on Romans 5:1-5.   In verse 4 Paul uses it twice: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Paul and ‘character’

The Greek word Paul used for ‘character’ is dokime based on another Greek word dokimos, meaning something ‘tested’ or ‘approved’.

To understand the full meaning of what Paul is saying, we must to go back to the word suffering in verse 3.  Paul says suffering brings two benefits: perseverance and character.

Paul and ‘perseverance’

Suffering (sometimes translated “patience” or “endurance’) is from the Greek word thlipsis  which has the idea of ‘pressing something down’ as in crushing the grain to separate chaff, or crushing olives to extract their oil, or grapes to press out wine.

The next word, perseverance, comes from the Greek hypomone. The first part of the word means “under’ or “below” and the second part means ‘abode’ or ‘living place’.  Together it means “live under something”. The full depth of meaning is to live under difficult circumstances without trying, as we might say, to squirm out from under them. Paul says ‘Character’ (v. 4) is what emerges from our perseverance under suffering.

‘Table of Contents’

I think of character like the ‘Table of Contents’ on products we purchase. The table provides the list of ingredients inside. Followers of Jesus are indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus. That ‘character’ —table of contents—is itemized in Galatians 5:22, 23a “But the fruit [table of contents] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

‘Art’ Illustration

As one interested in creating graphic art, I am once again looking into Watercolor.  It has been a while. In reviewing my copy of Gordon MacKenzie’s The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, I was drawn to the sub-section under ‘color’ titled “Check the Label”.  What Gordon said here reminded me of our word ‘character’ for today. He says:

“We must start looking at the ingredients or pigments used to make our paints and not just their trade names….Flow depends on the type of pigment used (organic, mineral, chemical or dye) how finely it is ground (manufacturing process) and whether or not the paint has  fillers or neutrals…”

In other words, the beautiful colors you are looking for in painting, as well as their workability and non-fading qualities, depend on ‘pressing something down as in crushing’ the minerals and sources of oils to get the high ‘character’ quality desired.  Thus, we look carefully at the tube of paint’s Table of Contents.

God’s ‘Artwork‘ 

According to Ephesians 2:10, God desires to paint through the instrumentality of your life and mine. “For we are God’s workmanship [artistic creation], created in Christ Jesus to do good works [continue artistic creation], which God prepared in advance for us to do [according to His will.].

Our Prayer 

May our Heavenly Father find in our character, as Jesus followers, the three primary colors of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, plus endless combination possibilities of color through our [table of contents] which includes “ .. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” May His perfect will be painted through the instrumentality of our lives!

               “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”                                               1 Corinthians 15:33

 “A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.”          Proverbs 31:11

 

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 boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

 

Rest

8C45C326-7110-41EB-9CCF-D173CD718472_1_101_a

Art:

I looked though my Art Gallery to find a piece for this week’s Thought—Rest.  I settled on this Ink (pen without brush). I drew it thirteen years ago for the owners of Ticknor Hill Bed and Breakfast in Anoka, Minnesota.  In retrospect, I wish I had used the brush for shading to give it more depth.

Individuals or couples sometimes choose a Bed & Breakfast, like Ticknor Hill,  to ‘get away’ from everyday schedules, to actually ‘Rest’.   Do you need a ‘Rest’ from the restlessness of your Coronavirus life?

Thought:

Here’s a little back-story as to how I arrived at  ‘Rest’ for our Thought: Beginning early this year, Marj and I joined with three other retired couples—one other being a retired Pastor–for a Small Group Bible study.

We decided on: Life Without Lack, Living in the Fullness of PSALM 23 by Dallas Willard.  The paperback includes a Study Guide for the nine sessions. Our first meeting was March 2nd.  Then came Coronavirus and social distancing.  Our next six sessions were from home using Zoom technology. Last week, we met in person, outside, at nearby Thomas Lake Park in Egan. It was perfect!  Today we meet at the same park for our final session. End of back story.

I’m trying to use my improving ‘listening aid’ (from last week’s Blog’) to arriving at weekly ‘Thoughts’: “Lord, where are we going this week?” As the idea emerges, I jot it down on my yellow legal pad beside the studio reading chair, and we start to work!  I like what our book’s author said about Rest:

“Rest is an act of faith, especially today…

Few people get the rest God intends for their wellbeing.  Remember that the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, an entire day to be set aside for rest.  But how often do you keep the Sabbath?  Spiritual practices such as Sabbath, rest, solitude, and silence are essentially “casting all your care upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7).  When you’ve done this enough to convince yourself that the world will be able to function without you, you will find true rest.  This is fundamental to our lives, yet because of the way this world is set up, one of the primary temptations is to not get enough rest. This is one reason we have so much addiction and abuse today…

“You are not meant to live in a constant state of fatigue…

Tiredness is a spiritual problem, not because it is a sin, but because being tired creates difficulties for your spiritual life:  Robbing you of the energy needed to pursue God.  You may not be getting enough restful and refreshing sleep.  You might even empathize with David when he wasn’t sleeping because he had people chasing after him in an effort to kill him.  In Psalm 3, David declared that his situation was so bad that people were saying that even God couldn’t help him.  But he cried out to God and was heard (.4), and then he could sleep.  In verse 5 we read, “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.”  David went on to say that he would not be afraid; salvation belongs to the lord.  As you see here, our ability to sleep is a sign of our faith.

“Our confidence in God can lead us to “lie down in green pastures

… and rest in God, putting our minds at ease because our hearts are at peace, so that we wake the next morning refreshed and thankful.  If this is a problem for you, make it a spiritual priority to find out why you are not sleeping and how to solve it  ‘this many involve  not watching late night television… or maybe you are overeating or doing something else that keeps you from getting to sleep,  Whatever it may be, it must be identified and dealt with because you need to rest.”

As you work on getting eight hours of ‘shut eye’ per day, consider taking a look at the book our group will complete this afternoon: Life Without Lack, Living in the Fullness of PSALM 23 by Dallas Willard.

Also, consider inviting a few friends to join you in a small group study to read and discuss the 23rd Psalm using the study guide.  I believe everyone will be enriched.  Contact me if you have questions.

“He [She] who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.                                                                                                                                        Psalm 91:1

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

  Matthew 11:28

 

Listen

F946FC13-0D71-47BA-AF00-C6FA060B946E

Art:

Last year a neighbor, who had seen some of my artwork, asked if she could commission me to do an Ink with Pen and Brush of her grandchild’s dog ‘Molly’.  I agreed. This Art piece is a copy of my original.

I chose this for our Thought—Listen—because, considering her pose, I imagine Molly is listening.  For many animals, listening can be a matter of life or death.

Thought:

I make a distinction between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’.  For nearly three years I’ve worn ‘hearing aids’.  They do a great job overcoming damage done to my hearing when, as a young man,  I worked with certain power tools. My ‘hearing aids’ are nearly undetectable to those around me, but clearly amplify their voices. That’s a blessing for both of us!

So now, where can I purchase ‘listening aids’?  As a piece of hardware (like the hearing aids) ‘listening aids’ simply don’t exist.  If they did, I would be tempted to make a purchase for myself and raise funds for their purchase as a gift to all elected public officials!  With this Coronavirus, systemic racial injustice and a 2020 major election year, we are ‘hearing’ a lot of talking. Unfortunately, in my opinion, too much of it is diminished to finger pointing and name calling.

I must look in the proverbial mirror and ask myself: Now that I am ‘hearing’ quite well, how about my ‘listening’ capability’?  Am I really ‘listening’ to what I’m ‘hearing’?  How would I know?  I did a little research to help me understand my ‘listening’ challenge.

Why do we listen in the first place?

  • To gain an understanding of a problematic situation that needs solving.
  • To strike up a productive conversation.
  • To connect with one another.

It seems to me we have to start with connecting, then we may have a productive conversation about what might be a problematic situation that needs solving.  How do we do that?  I came across three basic listening models:

  1. Competitive or combative listening: This is the type of listening done when people want to push their own type of view or opinion rather than listen to someone else’s. “My way or the highway” seems to be their only agenda. We see lots of that.
  2. Passive, attentive listening: In this type of listening, we are genuinely interested. We may agree with what is being said, but we are doing so in a passive manner, rather than in a reflective one.
  3. Active, reflective listening: We actively listen and wait to understand what the other person is saying before we try to interject what we would like to share. In this model, you first restate or share back information with the speaker, showing that you are paying attention and are actively involved.

Bottom Line:  If we are truly ‘listening to gain an understanding of a problematic situation that needs solving’, “Active, reflective listening” is imperative.  Also, it seems to me, two key questions must be addressed:

Question #1:

What is the ‘problematic situation’ from the point of view of each participant in the conversation?  Listen until it is clear you are talking about the same problem.  There may be more than one: Listen and reflect until there is understanding. Record the findings both can agree upon.

Question #2:

What is the solution (or solutions) to the agreed upon  ‘problematic situation that needs solving’?  Most problems in the human arena did not come about overnight. Solutions start with a mutual commitment to proceed down a path in the direction of what an agreed upon resolution may look like. Continue meeting together for evaluation and adjustments. Patience!

Hope: In view of our current (pandemic—racial injustice—political) climate, last week I saw a new political candidate interviewed, during a local newscast, that gave me hope!  I know nothing about the young attorney from the Twin Cities other than this interview and his TV ads.  He said, “I will listen.” That was refreshing and perhaps even rare.

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening, when you’d have preferred to talk.”Doug Larson

“…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.       Proverbs 1:5

                     “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.”                   Matthew 15:10

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,  slow to speak and slow to become angry.”                                                                      James 1:19

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for help with my ‘hearing aids’.  Now, I need ‘listening aid’! Can I learn something from ‘Molly’?

Want a good laugh?  Go to ‘Google’ or ‘YouTube’ and type in ‘Listen Linda’, click on the short video of a 3-year old in a debate about ‘listening’.