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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art

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Art:

I painted this Fall morning in Acrylic based on a photo sent to Marj via her smartphone. I was drawn to the combination of color, time of day and season of the year—our favorite. I’m sorry that the glossy varnish finish I applied, created light flecks at the bottom in this photo. Nevertheless, I thought it a good choice for today’s ‘Thought’—Art.

Thought:

Typically, when we use the word Art, we have in mind what is actually ‘fine art’ or ‘graphic art’. Nothing is wrong with that perspective. But technically, ‘Art’ is really talking about creation of beautiful things observable through our senses—auditory, visual, tactile etc.. Limiting to just visual may cause too many to feel they simply are not artists. I think everyone is an artist—the ability, as a human being, to create. It may be creating a cake, a schedule, a mowed lawn, a lesson plan, a building design or snow removed. We used material things to create a condition that had not yet existed—we created! We were all created that way.

I sometimes (and I don’t mind) am accused of starting with Genesis—the beginning—when attempting to explain things. Well, that’s exactly the case with Art. Just listen to this:   “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… (the order of creation God used is then delineated by six days)…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:1 – 27

So far, in these words, we learn two things about God.

First: he has the power to create and he created. He created male and female in that same image of God—with the ability to create.

Second: the next two verses give specific instructions. “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

The greatest creative task God gave the minds of the first male and female was to create babies who would continue in that image—creation via procreation. And God also gave them a mind attuned to the will of the creator to learn how and to creatively care for the rest of all God’s creation—fish, birds and every living creature.

God himself is the first Artist. He passed that characteristic on to all mankind in an ever-expanding way.

In response to God’s instructions to Moses, to build the tabernacle, according to God’s instruction, this creativity was called into play in carrying out God’s will.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel sons of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you:”

Art, in almost any medium, has been used widely to communicate the love and power of God for, and through, his creation from the beginning. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made [created art], so that men are without excuse.”–Romans 1:20.

God allowed his own power and love to be seen in art—creation—observable by mankind. Tragically, Romans chapter one continues: “Although they [mankind] claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. God’s plan was that his artful creation would be a way to see beyond the art to the Creator himself!

Historically, throughout Western civilization, pictorial, musical and thespian Art was the predominant way to communicate God’s message of love to a primarily illiterate creation. Unfortunately, the temptation to worship the artistic representation continues.

I believe God’s intention is that we continue to create in whatever good way we are able for his glory and our pleasure.

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

 You are an Artist!

 

 

 

 

Encourage

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Art:

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abide with me!

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 31:6

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

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

I hope to be your “Barnabus” today.

 

 

Hospitality

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Art:

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

            In Christianity hospitality for followers of Jesus is specified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

 

Freedom

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Art:

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cicero gave these reasons why free nations failed.

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

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

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

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

What’s the ‘take away’ ?

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

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

            “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”   Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV

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

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

            Will this generation be decisive for America?  

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