Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

What Mom REALLY Wants for Mother’s Day

posted by Carolyn Henderson

1 Corinthians 13 talks about love, and that’s what mothers do — they love. Madonna and Toddler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com.

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that sound good, but get so taken over by marketers and manufacturers that its true meaning gets lost. People are subtly, or not so subtly, nudged into buying the perfect gift, and celebration turns into obligation very quickly.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Any holiday can, and should, be customized to what works for us, and when you consider Mother’s Day an opportunity to express to some special women (and these moms will look different for each person, depending upon life’s circumstances) how much you love her, as opposed to flipping through ads and clicking pop-ups to buy what mass marketers tell you she wants, then you’re experiencing the true spirit of the day.

What Mom Wants

So what does Mom want? Well, for starters, you might ask her. Then listen to what she says. I did this for years with my own mother, but because I spent so much time ignoring her actual answer, it took awhile before I found some success.

Here are some of the things she said:

1) “Please don’t buy me anything. I know you don’t have much money, and I really don’t need anything.”

Mom said this from the time I was six-years old, and I never did believe her. When I was ten, I bought her an atrociously ugly pitcher that weighed 15 pounds, before you put anything into it. One of my tiny, five-foot-tall mom’s happiest days was when someone dropped the thing and it shattered.

If you do have more money than mom thinks, then feel free to ignore what she says, consider deeply what she would get pleasure or use from, and give thoughtfully to this difficult gift recipient. But don’t be surprised or offended if she scolds you.

In John 13: 1-17, Jesus washes His disciples feet. This is an image of what moms do in our lives until the end of our lives, or theirs. Through the humility of their love, they instruct us that “you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” One of the best gifts you can give to Mom is to learn the things she tried so hard to teach.

A Constant Reminder

2) “If you must buy me something, make it something simple that I use every day. That way, I am reminded of you regularly.”

It’s hard watching kids grow up and away, and even when you’re in the midst of the chaos of raising them, you know that they can’t live with you, always and forever, regardless of their plans as a three-year-old.

Romans 1: 20 tells us, “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.”

In the same way that we are comforted by seeing God’s presence in the beauty of the things He has created, Mom delights in a regular reminder of you.

Hand Made, from the Heart

3) “Make me something. Anything.”

I always felt that my childish, and even young adult efforts, to make my mother something were pathetic substitutions for “real” presents that are purchased in a store. Through the years, though, it is the cards, the notes, and the little projects that remain in my mother’s treasure trove.

No matter how old you get, or how old mom gets, you are always a child in her heart. Afternoon Tea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Amazon.com.

My own treasure trove contains jewelry, pillows, cards, and crafts made by my progeny, from the time they were old enough to hold a crayon.

Matthew 6: 21 tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You, my friend, are Mom’s treasure. Her heart is always with you.

Communicate

4) “Call me. Write me. Visit me. Connect with me all year round. I want to be a part of your life.”

I never realized how meaningful a phone call to my mother was until my own adult children called me and apologized for doing “nothing more” than that.

Are you kidding? I inhaled their voice, drank up their laughter, closed my eyes and just enjoyed being with this terrific person who in a unique, special, irreplaceable way, is mine.

In the noted vine and branches teaching of John 15, Jesus tells His disciples in verse 9,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” All relationships flourish when we invest time in them.

Keep Her up to Date

5) Last, but not least: “Feel free to tell me about your sadness, pain, and hurt. I want to be there for you. BUT — don’t forget to let me know how things work out. Don’t leave me hanging.”

Moms give, and give, and give, but it takes it out of them, and nothing empties the smile from a Mom’s heart more than to know that her child is hurting. Don’t avoid communicating with Mom when things are going badly (she’ll probably guess something is up, anyway), but don’t leave her in a state of worry.

This is why it’s important to communicate often, and regularly, so that every call isn’t one of panic, every text one of angst.

Whether they stay at home or work in an office, Mothers . . . love. That’s their primary job. And while they’re human, and mess up, they do their best to be patient and kind, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, always persevering (1 Corinthians 13: 4, 7).

Mother’s Day is an opportunity to say, “Thanks, Mom.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I am on a lifelong journey of reading the Bible and asking God, “What does this mean? How about that? Is this seriously true?”

All of us who seek truth are on this journey, and the only way we will find the answer is if we are walking on the path ourselves, and not allow ourselves to be carried along on the words, teachings, admonitions, directives, opinions, and beliefs of others.

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What’s So Bad about a Comfort Zone?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

In your comfort zone, you feel safe, secure, loved, and treasured. And what is wrong with that? Autumn Dance, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com.

If you haven’t heard the term “comfort zone,” then you must never attend church. Or work in a cubicle. Or listen to politicians.

Comfort zones — that area of life where we operate, well, comfortably because we understand our circumstances, surroundings, and parameters, are bad places, we are told, and our primary goal is supposed to get out of them.

Before you listen to, or follow, this regulative and directorial advice, let’s review the concept of comfort zones, and figure out what ours look like, and whether or not we need to make any changes.

Good? or Bad?

1) There are two types of comfort zones, bad ones and good ones. For an example of the latter, think of your bedroom (years ago it would have been your boudoir), a favorite chair in the living room, your special table at a chosen restaurant — wherever this place is, you feel relaxed, secure, and happy there. You’re free to be who and what you are, and there are no inhibitions about expressing your thoughts or opinions.

What on earth is wrong with this?

Nothing. God Himself invites us into a comfort zone in Proverbs 18: 10:

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Safety, security, shelter, comfort, being cherished – if these are bad things, God wouldn’t describe Himself as the source of them.

Wrong Motivation

2) Most of the time, when people tell you to get out of your comfort zone, it’s because they want you to do something for them.

“You’re too shy! Get out of that comfort zone and teach a Sunday School class!”

“God will give you the money for this short-term mission trip. Get out of your comfort zone and ask people for it!”

Being young, small, insignificant, unimportant, weak, or defenseless — these aren’t sins; they’re realities. Child of Eden, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com

“Anybody can identify a weed. Get out of that comfort zone and volunteer for Community Service Clean-up Day!”

The Apostle Paul recognized some people’s controlling tendencies over others when he encouraged Timothy:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4: 12)

You may not be young, but if you are not considered a “leader” in your church or office, you may be emotionally susceptible to manipulation by others  – don’t let your perceived unimportance pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do.

You’re Never Alone

3) God, through circumstances, will take you into, through, and out of areas you would never choose on your own.

Cancer, job loss, relationship break-ups — God doesn’t impose these on you to “get you out of your comfort zone.” Life happens to all of us – “(God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5: 45) Anyone telling you that God is messing up your life because He loves you has a messed up view of God. Don’t add to your pain by trying to embrace perversity.

Instead, when everything you’ve held as secure is crumbling at your feet, find your true comfort zone in “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.” (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4)

Denying Reality

4) Remember that bad comfort zone I mentioned in Point #1? A bad comfort zone is a denial of reality, which is something too many people are doing today, when it comes to the world we live in.

“We can trust our leaders.”

“The economy will pick up.”

“Bad things happen to other people because they deserve it. If you obey the law and are a good citizen, government will take care of you.”

Don’t believe everything you hear, or trust everything you read. Jeremiah 6: 13 warns us,

“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.”

It has been this way from the beginning, and it will be this way to the end: guard your own heart that you don’t practice deceit, and question the motives of others:

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118: 8-9)

Or the promises of politicians. Or “news” from the networks. Or endorsements from celebrities. Or the teachings of motivational speakers — pseudo-Christian or not. Spend time reading your Bible and praying — NOT because God will get you if you don’t, but because you can’t recognize a lie until you are steeped in the truth.

Comfort Zone: you won’t find the term in the Bible, it’s not a sin, and it’s not something you allow others to hem you into, or push you out of. Free yourself from being told how to live, think, act, hope, understand, and believe.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I question what we’re being told and taught, by whom, and why. This is something within the grasp, and responsibility, of all of us.

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If You’re Not Jewish, Why Do You Act as if You Are?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

The narrow path we walk as Christians is challenging enough without throwing stones and rocks and logs and pitfalls in the way. Blue Ribbon, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Because someone, somewhere will be quick to take offense, let’s waste the first paragraph of this article by stating that I have nothing against Jewish people, and if you are Jewish, I’m glad for you. I’m not out to convert you, change you, admonish you, or put you down.

However, this is a Christian blog. It’s not unreasonable for me to assume that people reading it are Christians, many of whom are Gentiles, like me. And what we’re talking about today is an increasing number of Christian Gentiles who adopt Jewish customs: the women cover their hair and the men grow beards; pork’s out of the house year round, as is yeast, during Passover, which is celebrated in conjunction with, or instead of, Easter; Jesus is Yeshua, God is Yahweh; Sunday is Saturday.

Many, Many Rules

The list can go on for the 1400 or so pages of my Old Testament, because the Gentile Christian who embraces an adopted Jewish heritage picks and chooses from all sorts of laws, customs, traditions, and obligations in an effort to express . . . what? about his Christianity.

One man told me, “The New Testament isn’t enough. To be a complete Christian, you have to follow the Old Testament.”

To which I replied, mentally because saying it aloud would have provoked an unnecessary argument: “If you’re going to play Jesus-Plus and follow the law, then you need to follow it all,” or as James, strongly purported to be the Lord’s brother and a Christian convert from Judaism, put it:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2: 10)

This means, fellow women still of childbearing age, that you need to remove yourself from society, and do a whole lot of laundry, for seven days out of the month (Leviticus 15: 19 -23).

The Gospel Means “Good News”

The good news is, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Galatians 3: 29). So the Old Testament, my friend, is as much a part of our spiritual heritage as the New Testament, and we can read it, meditate upon it, and learn from its wisdom and teaching. There’s a lot of great stuff in there.

We are His precious, precious children, guided by love, grace, mercy, compassion, and righteousness. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and iCanvasART.

The better news is, the promised Messiah that Abraham’s children searched for in that Old Testament, and eagerly awaited to come, has already arrived, and because Jesus was the perfect Jew, fulfilling ever jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets, you and I don’t have to (Luke 24: 44). If the Old Testament shows us anything, it predicates that we can’t fulfill the law, ever.

For Gentiles who are Christians, it’s not the Law and the Prophets we need to follow, it is Christ, and following Christ looks like this:

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6: 29) It’s harder than it sounds, but “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6: 45)

So, how do we listen to the Father?

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.” (1 John 5: 3)

And what are those commands? Jesus tells us in Matthew 22: 37-39 that all of the Law and Prophets hang on these two:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

The Things You Don’t Need to Do

You don’t need to sacrifice a ram on the alter, assuming you could find either (“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1: 29). There is no need to distinguish clean from unclean food (“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean,’” Matthew 15: 11). If you have to work on Sunday, or Saturday, you don’t stand condemned (“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath,” Mark 2: 27).

It’s not what you do that saves you — it’s Who saves you:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8)

Grace. Grace. Grace. It’s so big that it covers us even when we heap on the rules.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage people to think seriously about what “freedom in Christ” means. No, it’s not the freedom to do anything we want or desire, because although “everything is permissible for me,” not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6: 12).

It does mean, however, that we do not allow others — including ourselves — to place burdens upon us that Christ did not put there.

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God: What Do You Want Me to Do Today?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Let’s define the term, “great things.” How about laughing when things are getting out of control? Brimming Over, original oil painting, by Steve Henderson sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

We all want to do great things.

For some people, it’s a matter of making a success of themselves, via money, power, fame, and name, and the ultimate goal is to be rich, well-known, secure, and powerful. King Solomon of old managed this, with a significant amount of help from above, and the ultimate result of achieving what all of us think we want was this:

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 10-11).

Well that’s a happy way to begin the week. Most of us, who are ordinary, with ordinary means and ordinary lives, would enjoy the opportunity to work with a fraction of what Solomon had at his disposal, but wait . . .

We Have Something to Offer

Maybe most of us do have a fraction — albeit a small one — of what Solomon had at his disposal. Okay, so ordinary people don’t tend to have kingdoms, storehouses of treasure, corporate media under their control, pesky paparazzi following them about as they shop, or magazines created to extol their every thought, but proportionally, the people who have the most seem to make the least impact — financially or compassionately — on the lives of ordinary people.

Jesus Himself noted this when he commented on the widow’s offering versus the grander ones of others in Luke 21: 3 – “This poor widow has put in more than all the others,” or observed the pitfalls of extreme wealth in Matthew 19: 24 – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Money Is a Resource

While money buys many things — pleasures for ourselves as well as desperately needed items for others — there’s no guarantee that, when any of us has any amount of funds, that we focus as much on item number 2 as we do on item number 1. And within the world of men — which has infiltrated the religious arena where we mistakenly expect to find the kingdom of God — the pressure is on to give to this program or that, the more the better, and if you can give only $75 (personally, I advocate not putting the word “only” in front of any monetary value; it’s insensitive and offensive), well, I guess that’s better than nothing.

We all say it: do we mean it? “The greatest things in life don’t cost money.” Seaside Story, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Light in the Box

The result of this attitude is that ordinary people feel that they can’t do anything for God, because they have so little to give. Leave it to the rich people, we shrug, which is a shame, because the most generous givers, proportionally, have never been rich people.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much,” Jesus tells us in Luke 16: 10, “and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

Use What You’ve Got

Do you have very little? That’s okay, someone else has less, and the $5 that you discount as worthless will buy food for a hungry brother or sister. If you don’t have $5 but you do have 20 minutes and a rudimentary knowledge of cars, the oil change you do for the person who knows nothing about her 23-year-old beater but that it’s falling apart, makes a difference. A card, a phone call, an e-mail sent to someone who is longing to be heard by another human being, any human being, at all, makes bigger ripples on the pond than you imagine.

If you can do “nothing more than pray,” then PRAY, because when God gives you a peek into the needs of another, He’s asking you to do a big thing. Focus on that person, commune with God, ask for wisdom as to what to say — and when you’re all done, if it’s possible and seems appropriate, let the person you prayed for know that you prayed for them, and will continue to do so for as long as God instructs.

Ask, Then Listen

It’s not a matter of how much you do or how much you give, it’s that you’re listening to God and following the prompts and prods we all receive each day, but frequently miss because we think that nothing we do really matters.

Everything we do for God matters.

Do you want to do great things? It starts today, with one simple question:

“God: What do You want me to do today?”

And then the exciting part comes, as you await His answer — always different, always unexpected, always just the right thing at just the right time.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I truly believe in the beauty, grace, and power of the regular, ordinary human being who loves and follows our mighty, compassionate, creative, and loving God. We don’t have to worry about being amazing, because He is.

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posted 7:13:07pm Apr. 21, 2014 | read full post »

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