Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Lessons from the Easter Bunny

posted by Carolyn Henderson

None of our adult children is confused about Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. The wonder and joy children find in the first, is a reflection of the reality that we find, throughout our lives, in the second. An Unforeseen Encounter, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; signed limited edition print and open edition poster.

Full disclosure: we do Easter egg hunts. But then again, we also do Halloween and Santa, and have been remarkably able to separate these particular family traditions from our theological viewpoints.

As Christians, it’s important to not only talk, and talk, and talk about our freedom in Christ, but to actually experiment with living it and see how it unfolds. For us, this means that we skip the Sunrise Service (actually, since we liberated ourselves from mandatory church attendance, we skip the whole day’s official religious activities altogether), and focus on the family.

And the big event we enjoy is the Easter Egg Hunt.

From Youngest to Oldest

Now nobody is exempt from the Easter Egg Hunt, from the youngest child to the oldest patriarch. One by one, the selected hunter stays inside while everyone else heads outside to hide the plastic eggs. (Egg filling is customized: the Son and Heir requests dried fruits; the females of the herd prefer high-end chocolate; the Norwegian Artist accepts a combination. Everyone would like gold coins, but that hasn’t happened yet.)

The difficulty of the hiding places depends upon the age of the hunter:

With a two-year-old, we limit the search arena and pretty much drop the eggs on the ground, in plain sight.

An eight-year-old works harder, peeking behind trees and under chairs.

An adult — especially if that adult is the Norwegian Artist or the Son and Heir — may have to climb a tree, or crawl under bushes, or look inside irrigation pipes. Nothing comes easy, but what adult expects to be treated like a two-year-old?

A Customized Challenge

And therein lies the lesson of the Easter Egg Hunt: the older you are, the wiser you are, the more mature you are, the more challenging it is to fill your basket. When you are very young, very small, very fragile, it’s not difficult at all to find the eggs, and if you have trouble, there are plenty of assistants to guide you. But regardless of your age, you have Easter eggs, just for you.

So it is, quite frequently, in our spiritual lives: when we are seekers or new Christians, unsure of God other than knowing that He loves us, answers to prayers frequently seem to come faster than they do later, when we have learned more about God (one hopes) and have a greater experience of His goodness to fall back on.

God Knows How Old We Are

I was struck by this recently when I prayed for a young believer, damaged by life and harsh memories of religious censure. God, to her, is so intertwined with rigidity, sternness, and a cold, astringent approach to piety, that she has difficulty separating the two: God isn’t love; He’s a series of rules.

Waiting is an inevitable aspect of every human being’s existence. While no one enjoys the experience, the more we do it, the better we get at it, and the more time we reflect upon the Person we are waiting for. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, my Norwegian Artist.

But she was desperate, distraught, discouraged, and despondent, and after listening to her hurt, I asked if I could pray. My thought on doing this, was this:

“God, You’d better follow through. Because she doesn’t really believe in or trust You.”

My second thought was,

“It shows the level of my disbelief and trust that I even said that. You can take care of Yourself, and I know that You’ll take care of her.”

He did. Within the week, two amazing, one unusual, and one challenging thing happened, but by golly, something happened, and the next time we spoke, my friend cautiously agreed that God didn’t hate her after all. She is depending upon Him to walk her through the challenging thing.

Wow. I Wish MY Prayer Were Answered That Fast!

Me? I’ve got a six-year-old prayer request that I keep bringing before God — in different ways as I learn more about Him — and little bits and pieces get answered here and there. It is no easy thing filling this particular basket, but each time I find an egg I learn more about finding the next.

Luke 2: 52 tells us that the boy Jesus,  “. . .  grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

So also, learning under Him and from Him, do we, and while we may wish that our prayers could be answered more quickly and readily (as they seem to be, when we make the mistake of looking around and comparing, with others), we learn patience. The very difficulty of it all is part of the growing process, and if we were still at the level of a two-year-old, then the eggs would be tossed at our feet.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child,” Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13: 11. “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

God meets us where we are, and takes us beyond where we think can go.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage you to walk the specific path that God has put you on: it won’t look like my path, and it won’t take you to the same place. But we’re walking with the same Guide, and when we meet sometime, at an intersection, we can share lunch and talk about what we’ve learned.

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Myths Christians Believe about Movies Like Noah

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Hollywood loves it when movies sail on a sea of controversy, but as Christians, let us make our entertainment choices based upon a serene, logical, wise mind. Golden Sea, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print available at Great Big Canvas.

The flood of media love for the Russell Crowe movie, Noah, awashes the brain. It reminds me of Mel Gibson’s 2004 Passion of the Christ, and people are saying the same things now, as they said back then.

Let’s look at some of these tedious pronouncements people are making about Noah that echo what they preached during Gibson’s moneymaking affair — because that’s what these movies do, my friend: they make somebody a lot of money. Before you determine whether some of that donation money will be yours, just make sure you’re not attending for any of these reasons:

Myth 1) It’s so wonderful that Hollywood is making family-friendly, and Biblically-based, fare! If we want more of the same, we need to attend.

You’ve got that right: as long as you put down the money, Hollywood will make more of the same, and in the case of Noah, look at the disclaimer:

This film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The Biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Christians are so desperate to be heard in Hollywood that we’ll take anything, even a production by an atheist director who describes his epic as “the least biblical film ever made.”

Yep, we’re getting more of the same all right.

Myth 2) You can’t expect a non-Christian to get it all right, but he did his best.

Director Darren Aronofsky isn’t stupid, and it can’t be much of a stretch to read four chapters out of Genesis and get the general import. He also can’t be unaware that his particular interpretation has a high chance of insulting many people who truly do believe in the “essence, value, and integrity” of what is not only a beloved story, but actual history, in their eyes.

Did Noah rise out of the sea? Was he a she? Did he tread water during the flood? We can get into all sorts of “interpretations,” if we choose. Aphrodite, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

How upset would Jane-ites be if Elizabeth Darcy slept with Mr. Bingley, in a “controversial” interpretation of Pride and Prejudice by someone who doesn’t like Jane Austen? Probably more upset than a lot of Christians will be about this movie.

Myth 3) An atheist is the best person to make a Christian film, because he has a more objective approach. Invite him to your next Bible study, and let him replace whoever’s been teaching you up to this time.

Too many Christians mentally genuflect at words of perceived wisdom by people who openly discredit God and His book. And yet these same Christians won’t interpret the words for themselves, because they might get it wrong. Of the two, atheists or Christians (even dithering ones), which group has the Holy Spirit as its guide?

Myth 4) What a super opportunity this is to witness!

Of what? That the Biblical account of Noah is no more than a fairy tale, and that anyone who believes it’s really true is an idiot?

You can’t witness about something that you’re unsure of yourself, and many Christians, struggling to reconcile the first 11 Chapters of Genesis with the pervasive, persuasive religious message of Darwinism and The Theory (Applied Like Law) of Evolution, don’t accept Noah’s account as literally true themselves.

Undoubtedly, the movie will do a great job of reinforcing this in their minds, and in the minds of many others.

Myth 5) We need to stop being so judgmental and narrow.

We must be open to different interpretations and ways of looking at this story.

All stories are open to different perspectives, but when we listen to those perspectives, we keep in mind the intent of the person giving them. If that person is hostile to the story, then his interpretation of it is justifiably questionable.

Should you go, or shouldn’t you?

The decision is yours, my friend, and whether or not “high profile religious leaders” approve or not, make up your own mind. It’s your mind; it’s your money; and it’s your judgment that decides how they will both be used.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, I really enjoy a thoughtful, thought-provoking, well-made movie, which is why I critically look at any new interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre!

Wise movie directors know that they owe their viewers a sense of consideration, deference, and respect when they present a new telling of a beloved story, and the lovers of those stories know that they have a right to hold an opinion, based upon their knowledge of and passion for that story. May our knowledge and passion for the Word of God be great indeed.

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Desperately Need a Place of Rest? You’ve Got One

posted by Carolyn Henderson

My visions of a peaceful, relaxed weekends were slightly, significantly really, different from reality. Autumnal Reflections, original watercolor by Steve Henderson. Click on the image to see it at Steve’s website, Steve Henderson Fine Art.

One recent weekend, I made mental plans the eve before for gentle recreation: a little quilting, time in the sun with the strawberry plants and their weeds, a game or two of cribbage with whoever in the family isn’t afraid of my prowess (and hubris).

Conspicuously missing from the list was

1) Get violently ill with some sort of gastrointestinal stealth bug.

I’m sure that the term “gastrointestinal” gives you all the mental images you need. You’ll notice that I itemized the activity as number one because it was the first, and only thing I did over the weekend. At least the weeds in the strawberry patch aren’t too big.

Well, that was my weekend. How was yours?

In Good Hands

The big event happened from 1 to 4 Saturday morning, while everyone was asleep. In between micro-events I read and shivered on the couch, and my first feeble request, upon my husband the Norwegian Artist discovering my state, was for a little water.

From that point on, I was in a good place, not because I was feeling chipper and perky (and certainly not because I looked chipper and perky; our daughter, Tired of Being Youngest, laughed at the state of my hair while she created exquisite chicken soup perfect for the recovering invalid), but because the familia set up a net of protection and safety around me, ensuring that what I needed, I got.

Silence reigned, enabling me to sleep. When I awoke, my favorite cat was on the bed (not even the Norwegian can get her to actually like me, or any human, but her queenly presence was enough), the shades discreetly pulled, a cup of tea attentively placed, and punctiliously replenished, within easy reach.

And in a Safe Place

I was sick, you bet. But at a time of extreme vulnerability, I was also in a safe place, a secure place, surrounded by people who kept a quiet, perceptive eye on me while I slept and always knew if I needed anything. I didn’t have to be strong, or even awake, because they were, for me.

Scripture makes numerous references to God being our rock, our deliverer, and our fortress — a protective refuge where we can hide, rest, or sleep – and be safe from outside forces we can’t handle right now, on top of everything else.

God is our rock — a simply enormous rock that is beyond our capability to comprehend. Dream Catcher by Steve Henderson, original sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation,” David says in Psalm 22: 1-2.

“He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior — from violent men you save me.”

Now you don’t need a shield unless you’re being attacked, and you don’t need a refuge unless you’re under duress somehow. This is important to realize, in a day in which too many Christians are told that God solves all our problems, and the testament to our faith in Him is how seamlessly smooth our life is going.

Life Happens

Life isn’t smooth, friend. In my progeny’s vernacular, it sucks, often, but in the midst of the fight, in the midst of the challenges, in the midst of the gastrointestinal bouts, you are in the refuge of God’s arms and protection. Though you may not see it — because you have a pounding headache and aren’t in a condition to move right now — He is replenishing the tea, preparing soup, tracking down the cat and gently positioning her on the bed.

You know h0w, when things are going bad, you indulge your inner macabre and joke,

“Well, it could always be worse”?

It could. It really could. And sometimes it seems to get that way, with the refrigerator dying on the same day that your toddler bangs into the coffee table with his forehead and your employer announces that he’s downsizing. But somehow, you always come out alive — weak, tired, and trying to keep down a half of a banana — but alive.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told His disciples in John 16: 33. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

You know, believe, and take refuge in the arms of the Person who has overcome the world. Close your eyes, and rest in His refuge, knowing that — despite the forces that are attacking you — you are safe.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where no life experience is worth letting go without finding some wisdom, or learning, from it.

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Your Learning Curve, as a Christian

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Children see the world differently than we do, and if we paid attention to their words now and then, instead of discounting them as nonsense, we would grow in wisdom. Wild Child, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

“When God dies, does He fall down from the sky?”

I’m sure it doesn’t take long to identify a few theological misconceptions in this question, but when you consider that the inquirer was a four-year-old, you have to admit a certain profundity of thought.

(That’s my granddaughter. She’s amazing. Thank you for agreeing.)

My first impulse, on hearing this question pipe up from the back of the car, was to discount it as childish prattle, something we adults do entirely too much. My second predilection was to correct the obvious spiritual fallaciousness by asserting,

“God doesn’t die. He has always been and always will be. And He’s here with us in the car, right now.”

And then it occurred to me how alarming that might sound to someone small, sitting alone (or so she thought) in the back seat.

He Who Has Ears, Let Him Hear

Redemption came with my third action — three time’s a charm — when I actually listened to the child, looking at the issue from her perspective, and laughed with joy at such simplicity, acceptance of truth, and interpretation of that truth. She took the information she had and extrapolated from it, and because her facts, and the ability to analyze those facts, are limited, so then is her interpretation.

(When I mentioned the comment to the Norwegian Artist, his observation was, “Why do we always look ‘up’ when we talk about God? Isn’t He supposed to be everywhere, and most significantly, with us?”)

As individual Christians, we deal with two ages and levels of maturity in our lives: our actual age, whether we are 4 or 40 or 104, and our spiritual age, which doesn’t necessarily correspond to the number of years that we have been a Christian. There are Christians of 50 years who operate on pretty much the same level they did upon first believing, there are firebrands who sizzle up and sizzle out within a few short years, and — as with everything in life — there’s an aggregate encompassing the two extremes.

Santa knows a lot about trains; God knows a lot about life. When you’re a student, choose your teachers well, and listen to them. Boys and Their Trains by Steve Henderson, original oil painting and prints.

God Teaches Us about God

Generally, where we are in our level of wisdom, understanding, discernment and acumen is a blend of our life experiences, intellectual pursuit, and time spent with God in prayer, meditation, and the reading of Scripture. We learn about God from God Himself, who tells us in Psalm 32: 8:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Many people, who are seeking acceptance and love in their lives (that’s pretty much all of us) rejoice when they find this in Jesus, who sacrificed Himself for us long before we heard about, knew, or cared anything about Him (Romans 5: 8).

“We know and rely on the love God has for us,” 1 John 4: 7 tells us. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”

Doubting God’s Love

But frequently, it’s not much later that we begin to doubt God, fearing that our least little transgression — skipping church, or going to bed early instead of reading the Bible, or swearing at the dog — will result in, at best, His punishing us, and at worst, His tossing out our salvation altogether.

Through imperfect knowledge blended with immaturity, we are misinterpreting God.

There’s a reason we so frequently refer to our Christian lives as a journey, a day by day progressing toward the final destination — eternal life, after death — and we “walk in his ways,” (Psalm 119: 3), with his word lighting our path (verse 105). Anyone who has traveled anywhere knows that, unless you are Captain Kirk in the transporter, you won’t get there instantaneously, but as Christians, we expect fast results, telling ourselves that if only we studied more, or thought better thoughts, or Had —  More —  Faith (we mentally scourge ourselves for this one all the time), then we would truly Know God, and we’d never get anything wrong.

Honestly, no matter how hard you study, you won’t learn Mandarin Chinese in a day.

God is huge. Job Chapters 38 – 41 is God’s own account of Who and What He is: He gives orders to the morning, and walks the depths of the sea; He watches when the mountain goats give birth, and sends lightning bolts on their way. We cannot possibly understand the full depth and width and height and length of God, but we can start by grasping that His love for us is beyond what we can imagine (Ephesians 3: 18).

We’ll mess up. We’ll get things wrong. We may look for God’s body on the ground after He expires, but we have a patient Teacher. As we listen to His words and rest in His arms, we grow up.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I’m serious about wanting the joy, peace, hope, and love we all talk about in Christian circles, but often don’t expect to find. It’s there — and you see it more clearly when you stop listening to all the noise in the room.

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