Bookmark

Merry Christmas!

Art:

THIS IS A ‘practice’ Monochrome Watercolor completed this week.  It is rendered in tints creating the illusion or impression of objects.  Watercolor tints are created by simply adding more water to the original color.  I’ll explain below why I chose it for our Thought—Bookmark.

I began writing and posting a weekly blog two years ago.  Each Thursday features a new original piece of ‘Art’ plus a ‘Thought’ that often relates to the Art.  If you are relatively new to this blog you may want to check the <Jim Thomason Fine Art> website. Scroll down the Gallery list on the left and choose any one of the five Galleries:  Pen & Ink, Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor & Pencil. There you will find most of the pieces that have been featured in the past 105 weeks.  You may also scroll down from today’s blog and find all previous posts below in descending order. 

Thought:

Birth of A Thought

HOW DO I ARRIVE at a ‘Thought’ for each Thursday?  Good question and one that I sometime ask myself.  My prayer is that I be guided by the Spirit to a ‘Thought’ of value, not only to me, but to you as well.  So, with that prayer request, how do I discern the answer?  They frequently come to my attention during my early morning ‘Quiet Time’ set aside for personal spiritual formation.  Some mornings there will be more than one thought, and other mornings none.

My normal pattern is: First, (with a cup of coffee) I read the next chapter in my journey through the Old Testament, (today, Judges 14—Sampson’s  Marriage).  Then, I Read the next chapter in my New Testament journey (today, Acts 12 –Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison). This is followed by reading from a contemporary author.  Today I am reading The Wounded Healer, by Henri J. M. Nouwen.  Next is my “Psalm 46:10 time—Be still and know that I am God.” I keep a yellow legal pad and pen by my reading chair in the Study/Studio to take notes.  Most often it’s during these mornings Quiet Times, or afternoon walks, that these ideas come clearly to mind. 

The ‘Thought’ for today—Bookmark—came to me as I placed a bookmark in The Wounded Healer. Once I wrote it down, ideas came into my consciousness about that very common word ‘bookmark’ and what it may say about my life and I believe yours as well.  Writing it on my yellow legal pad led to a number of questions:

 What is the ‘Bookmark’s ’Role? 

 “A BOOKMARK IS a thin marking tool, commonly made of card, leather, or fabric, used to keep track of a reader’s progress in a book and allow the reader to easily return to where the previous reading session ended.”  In life its like a pause button that separates the ‘already’ from the ‘not yet’.

  Does My Life Have ‘Bookmarks’? 

YES, EACH ONE separates what already ‘has been’ in your experience from what is ‘not yet’ or what is ahead. We have a ‘bookmark’ ending each day when we fall asleep.  We have a ‘bookmark’ at each birthday.  We have the ‘bookmark’ of a New Year—Just one week away!

  What can I Learn From this ‘Bookmark’?

LET MIDNIGHT, December 31, be the place where you place the bookmark separating 2020 ‘what has been’ with January 1, what is ‘yet to come’.  What can I identify that happened: To me? For me? Around me? and Through me? prior to December 31 in 2020?  I suggest setting aside 15 to 30 minutes daily. Dedicate this time to rummaging through your 2020 with pencil and pad (or equivalent technology). Make a list of answers to each of these four questions and then evaluate how you may grow during 2021—the New Year of what is ‘yet to be’.

Today’s Art Feature

I CHOSE THIS PIECE of Art for our Thought—Bookmark–because it’s the first new piece of Art that I expect to create weekly in 2021, to accompany the blogs. In these past 107 weeks, I have essentially featured all the pieces in my Gallery inventory.  So, above is a practice piece in Monochrome Watercolor.  It bookmarks the divide between ‘what was’—art featured in the past—from what ‘is to come’—art not yet completed! I hope you will enjoy the Art and Thoughts in 2021.  

Merry Christmas!

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

Exemplar

Art:

I DID THIS MIXED MEDIUM painting from a magazine cover nearly twenty years ago. I was drawn to the child’s facial expression and the season it suggests.  I used Watercolor, Acrylic and Ink.  We display it each Christmas season.

I chose it for this week’s Thought—Exemplar. It suggests a reflection on childhood and what, for a child, was an exciting time—Christmas! 

Thought:

SOMETIMES I THINK ‘time travel’ could be a handy tool.  We could take our ‘smart phones’ to interview people about their day-to-day lives. One of my interview questions, for followers of Jesus in the first and second century, would be: “In such a hostile environment, how did you carry out Jesus’ strategy in Matthew 28:18-20?” Rome and Judaism, for different reasons, dominated the culture where Christianity exploded, without resorting to their kind of power.  How did they actually implement ‘the great commission’ of Matthew 28—make disciples?

Our next best resource is written records they left behind. “The Letter to Diognetus, dating from approximately 125AD, is the earliest example we have of an “apology,” a document defending the Christian faith addressed to a non-Christian. Its author is anonymous and the “Diognetus” to whom it is addressed is also unknown. This brief but wonderful document is so close to the time of the Apostles that it is reckoned as falling within the category of the “Apostolic Fathers.”—Wickipedia.  I believe it answers the ‘How’ in my question.

The Letter to Diognetus

[1]“FOR THE CHRISTIANS are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evil doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.”

How Did They Do It?

A GOOD PHRASE to describe what this observer saw firsthand, comes from James D. Hunter— ‘faithful presence’. They were undeniably ‘present’ in their world, not normally hidden and out of site.   They were ‘faithful’: fully committed to living as disciples—followers of Jesus—at home, in assemblies, occupations, communities and world.  

Their power to transform was not like the Roman or Jewish leadership. I think yeast (a microscopic fungus consisting of single oval cells that reproduce by budding) illustrates what took place. It is the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit ‘budding’ through the followers of Jesus as they went about normal life that resulted in the explosion and spread of the ‘good news’ of God’s true love and peace in the first and second century. Political power would have failed.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”                Jeremiah 29:4-7


[1] CHAP. V.–THE MANNERS OF THE CHRISTIANS.  

Pluralism

Art:

THREE OF MY FAVORITE American artists are Thomas Kinkade, Terry Redlin and Gerald Harvey Jones (a.k.a. G. Harvey). That’s probably why I am repeating, for a second time, this Oil I did in 2019 inspired by ‘G. Harvey’.  You may recall it from my ‘Christmas’ blog December 26, 2019.   

I chose it for two reasons:  It still brings to my mind a picture of Christmas from a period, to my nostalgic thinking, of the last century.  It also calls to mind a time in our pluralistic American culture when Christianity was in a stronger place of cultural influence. The church steeple in the background is symbolic of this. I chose it for today’s Thought—Pluralism.  

Thought:                                            Pluralism

IN GRADE SCHOOL English, we learned the meaning of ‘singular’ and ‘plural’.  At the time, we were not aware that we live in a ‘pluralistic’ society.  What does that mean anyway?

[1]“Pluralism in its most basic expression is nothing more than the simultaneous presence of multiple cultures and those who inhabit those cultures.  For most of human history communities and societies existed in relative isolation and thus were insulated from exogenous social and cultural influences.”

Contemporary Pluralism

“PART OF WHAT MAKES contemporary pluralism interesting is the way it is presently configured.  In most times and places in human history, pluralism was the exception to the rule, where it existed, it operated within the framework of a strong dominant culture.  If one were a part of a minority community, one understood the governing assumptions, conventions and practices of social life, and learned how to operate in them.  Because of the relatively insular nature of social life, whether in the majority or minority, one could be convinced of the superiority of ones own beliefs and ways of life, and never have to seriously face up to the claims of others. Even through the modern period, diversity existed withing a dominant culture.   In nineteenth-century America, Catholics and Jews had to learn how to survive in an overpowering Protestant culture, and through most of the twentieth century, Jews, secularist, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims have had to learn how to survive in a predominantly Christian culture.”

But pluralism today—at least in America—exists without a dominant culture, at least not one with overwhelming credibility, or one that is beyond challenge.

What Happens When?

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN one segment in a pluralistic society is dominant?  They want to stay dominant!  They want to control power. They want to draw others to their position.  They do not want to lose control of the evidences in the day-to-day way of living and surroundings that support their particular view—art, statues, slogans, etc.  How this change came about in our country is a longer subject than we can tackle in a blog.  But here I think is the challenge facing American Christianity: In light of this loss of cultural dominance and the ongoing instruction of Jesus to His followers in Matthew 28:19, 20 “…make disciples” What must be done?

What Must Be Done?

HOW CAN FOLLOWERS of Jesus adhere to His strategy in Matthew 28 in our pluralistic and disturbingly unsettled country and world? The Apostle Paul, in Acts 13:36 refers to King David having “served God’s purposes in his own generation.”   This suggests, of course, that faithfulness works itself out in the context of complex social, political, economic, and cultural forces that prevail in a particular time and place.  Our time and our place are no exception. Understanding this is one thing, implementing it is quite another.

One Temptation

I BELIEVE ONE temptation followers of Jesus face is attempting to regain cultural dominance by political force. Two thousand years of history discredits the validity that notion.  I like the words of Richard Rohr: “If we ourselves try to “manage” God or manufacture our own worthiness by any performance principle whatsoever, we will never give birth to the Christ, but only more of ourselves.” It seems to me political control and power often serve as a ‘false god’, unable to fulfill the strategy of Jesus in Matthew 28.

Is There A Model?

WHAT WOULD a model for carrying out Jesus’ strategy look like in 2021?  I came across a description of how it was done in the beginning from a contemporaneous source. I plan to share it next week.  I find it quite revealing!

 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20


[1] To Change The World, James Davison Hunter,  page 200

Consider

Art:

I PAINTED THIS BARN in Acrylic this week from a photo reference by R. Bradford Johnson in the Walter Foster Artist Library Series on Acrylics.  I purchased the book years ago and previously painted this scene several times and gave them away.

I chose the painting this week to accompany our Thought—‘Consider’.  It reminds me of a television show I watched a few times where two owners of a well-known antique business travel remote country roads looking for old barns.  They stopped, introduce themselves and ask permission to look through the farmer’s barn.  They found old things, considered salvageable to purchase from the farmer, recondition and offer for sale in their store to begin a new life. 

Thought:

The 2020 Barn

I’M SEEING 2020 like my old barn. Lots has accumulated in the past twelve months: physical things, experiences (good, bad & mediocre), memories and relationships. December seems a good time to open my ‘2020 barn’ and ‘consider’ its contents. In other words, it’s a good time to examine, contemplate, ponder, study and think about what we’ve stored away. In a few days we launch a New Year.  It may be wise, before serious consideration of plans for a new year, to ‘consider’ what, from your 2020 barn, needs serious reflection.  There are good things I can build on and some, not so much.

“Happy New Year!”

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!” was heralded from thousands of Christian Pulpits last Sunday.  Why?  It was only November 29.  Last Sunday marked the beginning of the new Ecclesiastical Calendar year and the beginning of Advent, November 29, through December 24. Christmas is celebrated December 24 through January 6, 2021. The four Sundays of Advent in the Ecclesiastical Calendar are traditionally the time of waiting for the Christ Child.  Advent is a time of quietness. Christmas is a time of celebration.  I suggest Advent might also be a good time for followers of Jesus to not only reflect on the first and second coming of Jesus, but also to consider how Jesus may come into the world through our lives in 2021.

Either Way ‘Consider’

REGARDLES OF HOW you mark time, there isn’t much of it left before the 2020 ends and 2021 begins:

  • Gregorian Calendar:  January 1, 2021, New Year’s Day      [ 28 days left] 
  • Ecclesiastical Calendar: January 6, 2021, end if Christmas [ 33 days left]
  • Winter Solstice: December 21, 2020, returning of sunlight [ 17 days left]

We have only two to four weeks to ‘consider’ the contents of our 2020 barn!

Where To Start?

  • Inventory

WHAT CAN I identify that happened: To me? For me? Around me? and Through me in 2020?  My answers may provide the first steps to ‘consider’. I suggest setting aside 15 to 30 minutes six days each week for your 2020 barn search. Dedicate this time to rummaging through your 2020 barn with pencil and pad (or equivalent technology). Make a list of answers to each of the four questions.  The list may grow as you search your memory, calendars and journals.

  • Evaluate

‘Consider’ each list individually: (a.) Identify three entries from each list that you found most noteworthy or significant.  (b.) Prioritize these three.  (c.) Place a plus (+) or minus (-) sign in front of each entry, indicating how you feel it impacted your life at the time. You may have discovered that a minus (-) sign in front of an item, at that time, later, actually had a positive impact!  Joseph replied…you planned evil against me, but God used those same plans for my good, Genesis 50:20 [MWG]

‘Consider’ the top item on each of your four prioritized lists. These represent 2020 barn treasures ready for an expanded opportunity in 2021.  Consider writing a note to yourself with instructions about what and how to apply these as you move through the threshold into 2021: (a.)  What did I learn from this during 2020?  (b.) How can I apply what I learned in 2021? “With God’s help, I can do this in 2021.”

Much to ‘Consider’

…consider what great things he [the Lord] has done for you.  1 Samuel 12:24

“Listen to this Job,   stop and consider God’s wonders.  Job 37:14

I remember the days of long ago;  I meditate on all your works    and consider what your hands have done.  Psalm 143:5

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Luke 12:24

“With God’s help, I can do this in 2021!”

Ethics

Art: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I PAINTED THIS Oil in the summer of 2019 from a captivating photo reference.  Moonlight shadows falling across deep snow, crowned with innumerable brilliant stars was irresistible.  That season will soon be upon Minnesotans!  A season of nature’s quietness. 

I chose this as the Art piece for this week’s Thought—Ethics—for a couple reasons:  First, to me Ethics, like this country road, is a way in the process of choosing a reliable path toward the end or destination you may have in mind.  It’s pretty clear in this painting. There are no off-ramps to distract or confuse the path toward your desired destination.   Secondly, after 100+ weeks of blogs and accompanying art, I’m running low on my art I’ve photographed!

Thought:  

ETHICAL OR UNETHICAL, which is it?  What should I do?  That’s a dilemma everyone faces daily in more decisions than most realize. What exactly is implied in the question itself?  This pleads for a definition. However, defining ‘ethics’ may not be as easy as checking an English dictionary or Google search.  You may discover various, and seemingly complicated, efforts at a definition.  As I see it, defining the word brings bewilderment over whether ‘ethics’ is an end in itself, or the means to an end: i.e., “good” over “bad” or “right” vs “wrong”. 

One Definition

“ALTHOUGH ETHICS has always been viewed as a branch of philosophy, its all-embracing practical nature links it with many other areas of study, including anthropology, biology, economics, history, politics, sociology, and theology. Yet, ethics remains distinct from such disciplines because it is not a matter of factual knowledge in the way that the sciences and other branches of inquiry are. Rather, it has to do with determining the nature of normative theories and applying these sets of principles to practical moral problems.” — Britannica

Artist Metaphor

I SEE ‘ETHICS’, not as an end in and of itself, but rather as a means to that end.  To use an artistic metaphor, ‘ethics’ is not synonymous with the artist’s finished painting.  I see ‘ethics’ as a word to describe the process an artist follows in combining the best mental image of what the final painting should be, with use of objective tools (paints, brushes, canvas etc.) in combination with the application of the artist’s learned skills.  One might declare the painting “ethical” or “unethical” based on how well the artist has been able to combine: the mental image, objective tools and learned skills to create the original best mental image.  It is declared “good” or “bad” relative to how well the artist (or art critic) judges, based on the outcome and this process.  

Work Environment

HOW DOES THIS look in a work environment?   You have been hired to a position with a ’Job Description’ including certain expected performance results.  You have been trained. You have been provided the necessary tools and protocol for obtaining the required results in your position.  Combining these toward producing the required result is what I see as ‘ethics’.  How well you utilize these elements: Job Description, training, tools and protocol will, more often than not, be categorized as ‘ethical’ or ‘unethical’ depending on how the process was followed and the result is evaluated—’good job’ or ‘less than good job’.  There are consequences based on results following every ‘ethical’ process.

Love Ethic

FOLLOWERS OF JESUS have an extra ingredient as simultaneously ‘ethical’ citizens of two ‘kingdoms’.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… [Colossians 3:23].  Follow the process required in every job or task unless it requires you to disobey what God has given you.  Accept consequences by faith. God is your master. The words all your heart is further clarified by Jesus in Mark 12:30,31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Mark 12:30, 31

“Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love—“care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge”—in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this only by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect, and indicate a willingness to learn. . . .”– Richard Rohr blog September 11, 2020

Ethical “Bottom Line”

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 Include love in your ethical means!

   

Orderliness

Art:

IN 2007 I DID a series of Michigan lighthouses in Ink with Pen and Brush.  I’ve always enjoyed nautical themes. I decorated my Andover studio/study accordingly. On vacations to Mackinaw, Michigan, I often added mementos to the theme. Some are displayed in my current (smaller) studio/study in Rosemount.  

Nautical technology changed drastically since these lighthouses were constructed.  Some now are more museums and tourist attractions than essentials for safe Great Lakes navigation.  In their day, they kept a kind of order on the lakes that protected lives and cargo.  That’s why I chose this Ink as the Art piece for today’s Thought: Orderliness

Thought:                                             

Orderliness vs Disorderliness Example

IF YOU HAVE, or have had, children living in your home with their own bedroom, you have a pretty good idea of what ‘orderliness’ is and is not.  Children addicted to bedroom orderliness are rare!  Mostly, its disorderliness!  Why is that?  Ask them: “Why don’t you keep your room ‘straightened up’—orderly?  Answer: “Why? Its just going to get messed up again. What’s the point?”  There you have it.  They don’t have a point or purpose for orderliness in their bedroom.  Mom and Dad can think of a dozen purposes ranging from ‘health’ to ‘hazard’ issues.  I speak with the voice of a father of three sons and one who has had additional boys and girls live in our home with us over the years.  Let’s take a closer look at Orderliness.

What is the meaning of orderliness?

  • Orderliness is to be arranged or organized in a neat manner or in a regular sequence: i.e. an orderly desk.
  • Orderliness is to be governed by a system or method, as persons or the mind: being observant of law, rule, or discipline; being well-behaved; law-abiding.
  • Orderliness is a condition in the society where things follow a laid down procedure. It is the skill or ability of doing things in a peaceful orderly fashion.

Inspired Examples

I BELIEVE NEARLY anything worth doing can be done better if it is organized…done in an orderly manner. Even for those naturally drawn to being organized, it’s often easier said than done.  In Genesis, creation is described for us in an orderly sequence. From chapter one and verse one, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth we see the beginning of orderliness in six periods of creation.   In the first two chapters it becomes clear God had a necessary, orderly sequence in the description of creation. Each was a necessary precursor to what was to come.  God had a purpose.

WHEN JESUS FED the 5,000, in Mark 6:39,40, he did it with order: Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Jesus had a purpose.

Contemporary Examples

SOMETIMES FOLLOWERS of Jesus forget they live simultaneously in two ‘kingdoms’— ‘earthly’ and ‘heavenly’.   They often experience unnecessary daily life challenges when attempting to meet needs, then Jesus reminds his followers that wisdom for receiving “all these things” needed in the ‘earthly’ kingdom begins with giving first priority to “His kingdom”. Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Jesus has a purpose.

Means to an End

IT SEEMS TO ME ‘order’ and ‘orderliness’ are actually the means to an end. If there is no desirable end in mind, or if one has become distorted, there is little or no incentive for order.  If the child sees no personally desirable end or reason in view that provides the necessity for an orderly bedroom (a weekly allowance for example) it probably won’t happen.   The same idea may carry over into adult life.  Without a desirable end (purpose) in mind, the adult mind is disorganized and spends time, energy and even money in non-productive ways, leading to any number of otherwise avoidable personal problems.  What is your purpose?

Avoid “Out Of Order”

IN MY MIND this gets back to the blog on “Unity”.  Peace and Unity in nearly every imaginable human relationship begins with arriving on a purpose nearly everyone can agree upon.  From that shared purpose (i.e. safety, health, justice, jobs, respect for differences, respect for the planet) comes the need for and the possibility for real orderliness in our homes, communities, organizations…world.  Without a worthy agreed upon purpose, I believe orderliness will be out of reach.  No purpose.  Out Of Order.  

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.  Proverbs 28:2

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.  1 Corinthians 14:40

Learning

Art:

A FEW YEARS AGO our oldest son and part of his family spent two years in China at a Christian School, first as Chaplin and later Director.  It was located within a more modern building in Hunan Province, shared with a Chinese Government school.  When they returned to the States, I presented them this Oil I painted from a photograph reference of a more primitive building to house a school in China.

I chose this Oil to represent our weekly Thought:  Learning

NOTE: This is my 100th weekly blog.  I accidentally posted #99 on Monday, November 2nd before final editing.  I reposted the corrected copy on Thursday, November 5. 

Thought:                                            Why Learning?

WHY ‘LEARNING’ for this week’s blog?  I was prompted in three ways:

First: A few weeks ago, I began receiving a daily email from ‘word genius.com’ featuring a new word for each day, along with its definition, background, and example of its use in a sentence.  One day last week the word was ‘andragogy’.   (I’ll explain later)

Second: I began rereading the classic Practicing His Presence in which Gene Edwards taps into the writing and lives of two great examples of how to live in the presence of God on a daily, hourly and minute by minute basis: Nicholas Herman, best known as Brother Lawrence (16ll – 1691) and Frank Laubach (1884 – 1970).

Third: The lack of peace and confidence I sense in our world today with the COVID19 pandemic, economic uncertainties, civil unrest, family disruptions and general lack of unity in how to deal with all of it.  

Andragogy

ANDRAGOGY APPEARED in my daily email from ‘word genius.com’. “Andragogy refers to methods and principles used in adult education. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρ-, meaning “man”, and ἀγωγός, meaning “leader of”. Therefore, andragogy literally means “leading man” (leading into learning.), whereas “pedagogy” literally means “leading children’”. 

While seeing information and then writing it down (note taking) is important, actually putting new knowledge and skills into practice can be one of the best ways to improve learning. … If you are learning a new language, practice speaking with another person and surround yourself with language-immersion experiences.

The Connection

SO, HOW DOES ‘andragogy’ and rereading Practicing His Presence connect in producing our blog title— ‘learning’?  I like Frank Laubach’s words at the beginning of the chapter titled ‘Practical Help’.  “We shall not become like Christ until we give Him more time.  A teacher’s college requires students to attend classes for twenty-five hours a week for three years.  Could it prepare competent teachers, or a law school prepare competent lawyers if they studied only ten minutes a week?  Neither can Christ, and He never presented that he could.  To His disciples He said: ‘Come with me, walk with me, eat and sleep with me, twenty-four hours a day for three years.’  That was their college course.”  What about us?

To gain victory over the lack of peace and confidence I sense in our world today, I believe, requires learning how to follow what Jesus said in Matthew 11:29.  Take my yoke upon you [24/7] and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The Practice

HOW CAN I FIND rest and peace in my world?  It will be a learning process. As with Jesus’ disciples, this will take place as I acknowledge the fact that, as a follower of Jesus, he is constantly with me.  Too often I only consciously acknowledge this truth a few times a day or week when I practice certain spiritual disciplines.  Disciplines can be helpful, but what about the rest of the minutes in my day.   

Practice acknowledging in your mind as often as possible that the Spirit of Jesus is constantly with you every minute of every 24-hour day. Talk with Him about all that you are doing, no matter how mundane it may seem. He is a great listener. Listen to Him! The natural result, or ‘fruit of the Spirit’, includes “peace” that will bring rest in these turbulent times.  You can rely on Him to guide you.   Try to memorize Psalm 23!

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9

It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.   John 6:45

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.  2 Timothy 3:14

Unity

Art:

I completed this Ink with Pen and Brush of ‘Rothenburg ob der Tauber’ last week.  I was drawn to this medieval town’s cobbled streets lined with impeccably preserved timbered houses and towered walls. From the 16th century tower gate one can see over the city walls down to the Tauber River.  I enjoy the detail and history associated with this German gem.

I imagine dozens of families (perhaps representing many ethnic backgrounds in addition to German) along with their small businesses, unified within the scope of this scene. I chose it for this week’s Thought—Unity.

Thought:                                              What is ‘Unity’?                               

TO OBSERVE OUR recent national landscape, it seems we may have lost the meaning and power of ‘unity’. What is ‘unity’? A good one-word definition: ‘harmony’. Harmony is produced with a quartet when four individuals sing or play together.  The four may be very different in many ways. They have different vocal or instrumental abilities.  So, ‘unity’ or harmony does not mean being the same. So, where is the ‘unity’? The ‘unity’ is in their purpose. The quartet’s purpose is a harmonic performance for the benefit of an audience. Each performer is of equal value in attaining ‘unity’ for that purpose.

National Example

E Pluribus Unum” is Latin for “out of manyone,” (first proposed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson in 1776) was adopted by the Founding Fathers in 1782 as part of the Great Seal of the United States, intended to represent the federal nature of the nation—out of many states, one country. In many ways, states remain independent. In many other ways there is also ‘unity’ of purpose: i.e. National security.  Many early leaders saw another essential dimension to our “unity” as a nation on the world stage.

George Washington said: “It is impossible rightly to govern the world without God and the Bible”. Daniel Webster stated: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper, but if we or our posterity neglect it’s instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”   

THINK CAREFULLY on their words. How are we doing?  How can we change?

Catalyst for Change

THESE MEN REALIZED, from personal observation, that at every level it was the influence of Jesus followers in society that was providing the catalyst of ‘salt’ and ‘light’ that kept “unity” of purpose possible in this nation. 

According to Wikipedia: “In 2019, Christians represent 65% of the total adult population, 43% identifying as Protestants, 20% as Catholics, and 2% as Mormons …”  Understandably, not all who claim Christianity actively seek to follow Jesus in practice.  Therefore, those who do seek to actually be followers of Jesus are the catalyst of his love that enables “unity” of purpose. 

It is the evident ‘fruit’ of the Spirit of God, working through Jesus followers, that becomes the catalyst for true “unity”.  But the fruit of the Spirit is lovejoy, peacepatience, kindness, goodness, faithfulnessgentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22 (NIV)

These nine characteristic qualities are produced wherever the Spirit of God is operative.   In Jesus’ high priestly prayer he said: I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  John 17:23  

The Essence

IN ESSENCE, I believe Washington and Webster were saying—whether realizing the magnitude of their words or not—that only God’s power of love working by means of His Spirit through followers of Jesus produces a climate for the kind of “unity” this nation needs in order to continue.  First, it begins with the power of God’s love working “unity” within the follower of Jesus.  Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34, 35

The ’Bottom Line’

IT IS MY BELIEF that “unifying” this nation begins with the common purpose to accept the gift of God’s love and allow it to be overtly manifest in practical ways to everyone.  That begins with Jesus followers in their homes, their Churches, their neighborhoods, nation and the world.

How good and pleasant it is    when God’s people live together in unity.  Psalm 133:1

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:3

Home

Art:

I DON’T RECALL when I completed this Oil painting. My inspiration was a Christmas card. I took this photo of the painting eight years ago. The red barn and nearby farmhouse lures my attention and sets my imagination visualizing what might be happening within those cozy walls nestled in deep snow.

Minnesota has experienced a record-breaking October total snowfall. It brings to mind the 1991 Halloween blizzard as a powerful storm that set off a period of heavy snowfall and ice accumulation blanketing the Upper Midwest from October 31 to November 3. It was cold!

This painting of a warm farmhouse set in a heavy snowfall seemed a good painting for today’s Thought—Home.

Thought:                                            Home.  What is It?

HOME.  WHAT IS IT?  If you have access to a thesaurus, look up ‘home’.  The word list is long.  It begs the question: What comes to mind when you think ‘home’?  The more thought I’ve given, the more I realize defining ‘home’ is a pretty subjective task.   It may include different things for different folks.

One resource said: The English word “home” is from the Old English word hām (not the pig) which actually refers to a village or estate where many “souls” are gathered. It implies there’s a physical dwelling involved, but the main idea is that it’s a gathering of people. Another resource said home is “the abiding place of the affections.” To me, that sums it up like nothing else. It’s not just a building or a room, but a place where your love dwells.

Where is Home?

IS ‘HOME’ a location?  Is it a building? Is it family? Is it memories?  Is it a feeling?  My guess is you may say (like me): “All of the above…and perhaps more!”  We’ve probably all heard someone say they would like to visit the ‘old home-place’ one more time.  But, to make that journey is more than a road trip to a specific location and building…it’s a mind trip of emotions and memories of times, people and celebrations now past, but forever having contributed to making you the person you are becoming. 

A realtor friend gives a unique gift to her seller clients at closing.  She saw examples of my Ink with Pen and Brush exhibited at a church art show last year.  I did one for her new home. She asked if she could commission me to do work to present her clients at closing. I agreed.  She provides photographs and I provide a matted and framed original Ink of the seller’s home.  I’ve completed many over the months.  Often her clients have lived in the home they are selling for decades. It represents lots of treasured memories. She shared that her gift to them has produced ‘good tears’.

“Where the Heart Lives”

NATHAN IS A 5th GRADE student in Victoria, British Columbia. I love this poem he wrote: “Where the Heart Lives”

“I watch my home being built

Its frame, the skeleton
Its siding, the skin
Its electricity, the brain
Its ventilation, the lungs
Its plumbing, the blood

But where is its heart?

My home is not alive
Until the day my family moves in
We are my home’s heart
Beating life and love into our new home

Beating fast with excitement
Racing up the stairs
Down the halls
To see our new rooms

Beating slow as we eat our first meal together
Feeling so fortunate that we have
These walls around us
This roof over our heads

Home truly is where the heart lives”

A Season for Home

ENTERNING THANKSGIVING and Christmas season brings to mind ‘home’ memories from years past.  I lived in ten locations before Marj and I were married. Together we’ve added fourteen more.  From these twenty-four, one most represents ‘home’ for me—Altadena Street, Royal Oak, Michigan.  You probably have a favorite ‘home’ memory as well.  Think about why that is true for you.

The Best is Yet to Come!

FOR FOLLOWERS of Jesus, our best ‘home’ is yet to come! 

Jesus said: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”   John 14:2 

The Apostle Paul said: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”    2 Corinthians. 5:8

And, It Has Already Begun!

Jesus replied, ‘“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”’   John 14:23

Work

Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is from a photo taken on our trip to Historic Williamsburg, VA in October 2006.  It’s one of dozens I took of various structures in the village.  Many, like this one, represent ‘cottage industries’ typical of early American culture.

I chose it because it represented a ‘cottage industry’. I don’t recall what ‘industry’ was involved.  It required a separate large structure in which a fire was kept at a high temperature.   I chose it to represent our Thought—Work.   

Thought:

A FRIEND OF MINE, in business for himself and with several employees, once asked me: “Jim, when does a person stop looking for work?”  Before I could answer he responded. “When he gets a job!” You may have to think about that for a moment.  I’ll give you this hint…lazy.

EVER WONDER where this whole idea of ‘work’ started in the first place?  Some think ‘work’ is some kind of curse that came as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. Not so.  Work actually predates their ‘fall’ and has a wonderful eternal purpose for our lives.  It begins now and continues into Eternal Heaven.

Work in Heaven?

[1]“THE IDEA OF WORKING in Heaven is foreign to many people.  Yet Scripture clearly teaches it.  When God created Adam, he “took the man and put him [first couple] in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  Work was part of the original Eden.  It was part of a perfect human life on Earth. Work wasn’t part of the Curse.  The Curse, rather, made work menial, tedious and frustrating: “Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19).

“HOWEVER, ON THE New Earth [Eternal Heaven], work will be redeemed and transferred into what God intended: No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).  Serve is a verb.  Servants are people who are active and occupied, carrying out tasks.

GOD HIMSELF is a Worker

He didn’t create the world and then retire.  Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).  Jesus found great satisfaction in his work.  “My food, Jesus said, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). We’ll all have work to do, satisfying and enriching work that we can’t wait to get back to, work that’ll never be drudgery.  God is the primary worker, and as his image-bearers, we’re made to work.  We create, accomplish, set goals and fulfill them -to God’s glory. Consider Christ’s activities: working in a carpenter shop, walking the countryside, healing, fishing, sailing, meeting people, talking, teaching, eating—doing his life’s work.  Even after his resurrection he moved from place to place, connecting with his disciples and continuing his work. (A preview of life after our resurrection).”

[2]“ON THE NEW EARTH, God will give us renewed minds and marvelously constructed bodies.  We’ll be whole people full of energy and vision.  James C. Campbell says, “the work on the other side, whatever be its character, will be adapted to one’s special aptitude and powers.  It will be the work he [or she] can do best; the work that will give the fullest play to all that is within him [or her].

“EVEN UNDER THE Curse, we catch glimpses of how work can be enriching, how it can build relationships, and how it can help us to improve. Work stretches us in ways that make us smarter, wiser, and more fulfilled.  The God who created us to do good works (For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10) will not cancel this purpose when he resurrects us to inhabit the new universe.  The Bible’s picture of resurrected people at work in a vibrant society on a resurrected Earth couldn’t be more compelling.  We’re told that we will serve God in Heaven (Revelation 7:15; 22:3).”

WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.                                        Colossians 3:23, 24


[1] HEAVEN, by Randy Alcorn, 2004, page 319

[2] HEAVEN, by Randy Alcorn, 2006,  395-396