Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

This Article Really Isn’t about Sex

posted by Carolyn Henderson

This is a nice, neutral image for an article that isn’t about sex. That is, until you start to wonder — where are the people in the boats? And what are they doing? Picnicking, my friend. Is sex all that you think about? Shore Leave, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print from Great Big Canvas

Let’s talk about sex!

Oh, don’t shudder, or salivate, depending upon how the word — and the concept — affect you. Sex is a gift God gave us, and we’ve obviously used it, given the 7 billion of us wandering around on the planet.

Like any good thing, sex can be, and is, misused. To say that all sex, any way we want it, is fine, just fine, and that the Apostle Paul, when he talks about sexual immorality, is really talking about something else, is denial.

You’ll notice that I successfully manage to avoid specifics: I don’t want a firestorm descending upon my head, not so much because I dislike confrontation (although I do dislike it, actually) but because this article really isn’t about sex.

Dang.

It’s about money.

Cool.

Slapping People around with 1 Corinthians 6:9

Through the week, I read a good many Christian blogs that span the gamut from truly excellent to the wretchedly atrocious, and I know that at least once in a week, I will run across this verse from 1 Corinthians 6:9:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

It’s a given that the verse will be aimed, straight at the heart, to people participating in numbers 1, 4, and 5 in the list of activities (out of 10, incidentally), and generally the tone is one of hostility and confrontation, which, as any highly paid business consultant instructs the crowded room of seminar participants, is not the best way to get people to listen to your message.

Number 7

But let’s drop numbers 1, 4, and 5 for now and look at number 7, which is easy to eclipse because it’s mixed in the muddle, and more importantly, because it’s something that many of us in highly materialistic countries like mine, the United States, don’t necessarily see as a problem, much less a sin:

In our short, brief life, we can bring beauty and joy to others, when we follow Christ and listen to His words. Purple Iris, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Greed. It’s right there, in the same list and the same room, with the big H-word, and that’s not the only place where the two snuggle up together. Ephesians 5:3 admonishes believers to exhibit not even a hint of “sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed,” and Colossians 3: 5 tells us to put to death “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

If you’re into classifying sins (which is a dreadful habit, really), you’d have to say that Greed is worse than Sexual Immorality because violates Exodus 20: 3-4 — and 17 — much longer passages than Exodus 20:14 (I’m using the New International Version).

Parsing Sin

Parsing sin, however, is a fruitless mental activity — with repercussions that lead to pointing the finger at others while we assiduously refrain from looking at our own activities. We can, and many of us do, say,

I don’t go into brothels,” but very, very few of us announce,

I don’t desire more than having my needs met. I don’t take more cake at the table than I could possibly eat. I don’t think about God far, far less than I do about a brand new car.”

It’s so much harder to see, which makes it more insidious, actually, because we can practice greed — idolatry — without anyone really seeing or noticing. And if they do, they’ll praise us for our acumen, cleverness, and cunning — words which imply deceit more than they do hard work and perseverance. This is not the way God wants us to be.

Something on the List for All of Us

Go back to 1  Corinthians 6: 9: it is a list of sins that God wants us to stop. For some of us, some of these will be easy to stop because we never started them in the first place: it’s pretty hard to call any woman a male prostitute.

But because there are 10 items, all of us can find at least one that applies — numbers 2, 7, and 9 look pretty universal — and before we use selective aspects as a whip on another person’s back, we might stop and be grateful that God works with us, patiently, when we push aside the person just in front of us so that we can grab the last loss-leader electronic device at the Black Friday sale.

“(God) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 9)

If that is God’s goal, we can make it ours as well.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I explore the challenges of living as a Christian — with grace, mercy, love, compassion, firmness, and righteousness — in a world that, rightly or wrongly, considers us a bunch of doofuses.

If we are going to be doofuses (or is it, “doofai”?), let it be for the right reasons — that we follow the wisdom of God which is foolishness to man — as opposed to being foolish ourselves, arrogant, proud, unyielding, and harsh.

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We’re Not All Extroverts — and Introverts Aren’t Abnormal

posted by Carolyn Henderson

She ran and jumped and played and yelled, and afterwards she did math, wrote essays, and read books. Wild Child, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

We live in a society fascinated by psychology, and every week there’s a new mental aberration to add to the list, buy medication for, and wonder if we have. And while actual diseases and issues exist, there are undeniably natural aspects of being a human being that for some reason — money always comes to mind — we are told are abnormal now, and we need to stop.

With four children running about the house, it’s a given that one of them would be more active than the others, and even as homeschoolers we didn’t live under a rock. Like all parents of active children, the Norwegian Artist and I had heard of — and been not so subtly urged to do something about it — ADHD, and what we chose to do after reviewing the information and carefully looking at our child, was to say no to drugs prescribed for behavior that 35 years ago was considered acceptable. (The more complete story is at my article, Learning Disabilities: Does My Child Have One?)

Ultimately, every person is responsible for making the decision best for them and the people in their charge, a little fact that tends to get overlooked in a society of bountifully paid experts.

Abnormally Active and Weirdly Quiet

Highly active behavior amongst people who sit too much isn’t the only thing considered abnormal these days. We were enjoying lunch with a group of dear, long-term friends when one of them commented,’

“I’m rather quiet in large groups of people. I’ve always been shy and introverted.”

Before we pull out the prescription bottles, I’d like to say three things:

1) It’s not abnormal to be quiet in large groups of people. Many individuals find it discomforting when everyone scrapes their chairs back, turns around, and stares; in the silence, we then speak. Other individuals find it challenging to converse, intimately and privately, with one person. Only the first behavior is considered “abnormal” in today’s society.

2) All people find some social situation, somewhere, discomforting. They do not need to label themselves shy, which, if you want to get specific, addresses such a reluctance to interact in social situations that it becomes debilitating.

Some people have a real problem with Quiet, and they solve this by labeling quiet people as weird. On the Horizon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

3) Introversion is not a mental disease. We are all a combination of introversion and extroversion, and no one way of being is the “right” way.

We Need More Normal People Like This One

(I’ll add a fourth observation that, after years of knowing my friend, I would describe her as sensitive, thoughtful, intellectual, intelligent, caring, and perceptive, one of those highly unusual human beings who actually listens to other people talk, and asks questions that confirm she has been paying attention. If this is abnormal, we need a whole lot more of it.)

For a complete, thoughtful presentation on the concept of introverts, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I discussed elements of this books years ago in a series of articles for artists, and was amazed at the sheer quantity of people who commented along the lines of:

“I’ve always been quiet, and I’ve always been afraid that I was abnormal.”

Since when did the ability to shut up and not feel compelled to commandeer the attention of everyone in the room become bad behavior?

Everyone Is Different

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we are all different — we’re constantly nagged to celebrate those differences and be free to be you and me and all that, but when it comes to actually doing so, we have a strong societal opinion about what it means to be truly normal, and most of us don’t fit it. And so we deal with this conundrum:

1) Unless you quietly sit at your desk and fill out workbook sheets, one after another with neat tidy writing, you are hyperactive and need medication

and

2) Unless you get up in front of the crowd and tell one funny story after another, you are abnormally shy and need therapy.

Yep, that’s simplistic, but it’s not inaccurate. Too many people — too many normal people — label themselves as psychological deviants because they’re quiet.

Mary, Martha — Peter, John

In the Bible, Mary was quiet; Martha was not. Jesus loved them both, and there is much to be learned from each of them.

The Apostle John was quieter than the Apostle Peter, but both have their place, their ministry, and their voice. While I’ve always admired Peter’s impetuosity and boldness, I find great wisdom in the deep thoughts of John. I know I am not the only one.

You are who you are — quiet, noisy, thoughtful, brash, reflective, exuberant — and you are not just one thing: you are a complex, complicated, intricately designed human being. Only you can do the tasks God has set out for you, because only you are . . . you.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. We get attacked a lot, in this world, for being who and what we are, and my writings encourage you to go directly to your Maker and ask Him for the usage and care instructions.

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Nasty, Biting — Unintentional — Things We Say

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Be there for people. Support them, encourage them, speak up for them when they are too defenseless to do it for themselves. Afternoon Tea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Want to make a positive change in your world, today?

It’s fast, it’s easy — okay, so it’s not necessarily socially convivial — but it involves nothing more than saying a simple sentence, along the lines of,

“Wow. That was an insensitive, hurtful comment. My mother always taught me not to make pointed statements about a person’s physical appearance, because that’s the way they’re born and there’s nothing they can do about it.”

I just finished a phone conversation with someone meaningful in my life who mentioned that, at work the other day, her manager blurted out,

“Your nose has a funny crook to it. It makes you look like an elf.”

And because this was the victim’s employer, the person meaningful to me couldn’t defend herself without, well, losing her job.

Straight Shooters, Shooting off Their Mouths

Through the years, I’ve encountered people like this, who pride themselves on being honest, open, straight-shooters who speak the truth without fear, but quite frankly, the only shooting involved has to do with their mouth, which, if you’ll pardon my making a personal observation, is far, far too big.

When they call themselves Christians, it’s worse, because not only do they put a spiritual spin on the uncontrolled outbursts of their tongue, they rarely get attacked back, because the people to whom they speak the truth in lack of love are often Christians themselves, who for the oddest reason feel it would be rude, insensitive, and un-Christian to speak out.

A little thought, prior to speaking, is never amiss. Thoughtful, licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson available at Amazon.com, Great Big Canvas. Art.com, and other online venues.

But my friends, when we don’t speak out, these people smash forward into other’s lives, causing collateral damage of the soul, and no matter how many times you invoke the name of Jesus, it doesn’t mitigate the harm done by saying,

“Someone with legs your size could be a runner — that is muscle, isn’t it? Or is it fat? I guess if it’s fat, you could lose weight and then you’d be in real shape.”

People Say Dumb Things

Don’t scoff — people say the dumbest things, and that they don’t mean to isn’t justification for not letting them know that they’ve been insensitive, insulting, boorish, and scurrilous — whether or not it’s against us, or someone else.

Indeed, when the insult is directed to another person, it would be kind, on our part, to stand up and for the afflicted party, who may be standing, tongue tied, and not quite knowing what to say. We could step in and comment,

“That statement sounds hurtful. Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way, but it’s unkind.” and see what the offending, and offensive, person, does.

“We all stumble in many ways,” James tells us in James 3: 2. “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”

We Don’t Mean to Be Hurtful, but . . .

I understand this. I’ve said dumb things, thoughtless things, cruel things, nasty things, impatient things — and sometimes I’ve been called out on it, and other times I’ve realized, to my horror hours later, what I had done. And undoubtedly there are too many times when somebody didn’t say something, but grieved, lacerated by my insensitivity. I would much prefer that they, or another, had confronted me, and my mouth.

Intentional or not, what we say affects how people feel, and in a society that degenerates into increasing discourtesy, it is time that we speak up. It is not counter to Christianity to point out to someone that what they just said is inappropriate.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3: 9-10)

James is discussing deliberately harmful language here, but I’m going to stretch the point and say three things:

1) If you have a tendency to speak without thinking, work on this. NEVER make personal comments about factors over which the listener has no control.

2) If someone says hurtful things to you, consider not letting them get away with it. It is not rude to stand up for yourself.

3) If someone says hurtful things to other people, Speak up. You may be defending one of the least of these.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write about living real life as a Christian.

More than anyone, Christians should be free to seek out, explore, and speak the truth. Ideally, wherever Christians gather, this should be a safe place for any person to walk into, and no one should feel obligated to don a mask so that they can fit in.

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High Anxiety: Conquer Your Fear

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Relaxed, graceful, elegant, calm — like a cat — that’s what I seek to be. Girl in a Copper Dress 3, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

To depict me as High Anxiety is like describing coffee as black. Yep, it is, and yes, I am.

But the beauty of coffee is that when you add milk, sugar, flavorings, whipped cream and sprinkles, these elements mitigate the acidity, turning the product into something palpable to drink, and the same can be said for anxiety.

On this earth, you’ll never run out of things to worry about, but when you adjust the way you worry, you don’t have to scrabble through life as a quaking, quavering, trembling, shuddering, pathetic lapdog — you know, like an over hybridized Chihuahua that barks itself into a heart attack.

Through the years, I’ve picked up some coping strategies, and while I’ll probably never slow down to the speed of a turtle, I can accept being a house cat: alert, playful when I want to be, cautious, but capable of spending 2/3 of the day snoozing in the master bedroom.

Go Easy on Yourself

1) Let’s start the list by eliminating pressure to perform: don’t call worry a sin. 

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6: 31-32)

Some people use this verse to condemn, saying, “See? Pagans worry. Christians shouldn’t.”

In the same way, however, that our heavenly Father knows that we need necessities of life, He also knows that we worry about them. Jesus is comforting us in this verse; if He’s not slapping us, then why do we do so?

First Things First

2) Pray.

We advise this to one another so much that the word becomes meaningless, but it’s only so if we don’t believe that prayer has any effect. Jesus’ response, first and foremost to anything, was to pray, and we can’t fail by following His example.

One way you know you’re hyperventilating with fear is when you keep blowing the candle flame out. Relax. Rest. Reflect. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5: 7)

You can’t solve your problems, my friend, no matter how self-sufficient you are. At some point, you will reach the end of your abilities, resources, and strengths, and if you recognize from the beginning that they are finite but your Father’s resources are not, you’ll move further, faster.

The faith you need to trust God’s love for you comes from God Himself, so when you pray, make this one of the things you ask for.

Get It out of the Way

3) Stop procrastinating.

If there’s an unpleasant job that needs to be done and it’s spiraling you into worry, get the task done and behind you. Usually, it’s not as bad as what you’re thinking it will be.

A friend told me about a financial undertaking she had been putting off: “Yesterday, I sat down and got it done, and I saw solutions that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been working on it. It was as if God told me, ‘I can’t show you answers when you won’t face the problem.'”

Some unpleasant tasks take a day to solve; others are long term — but none of them progress when we ignore them.

Find Relief

4) Escape

Don’t live your problems, all the time, and this includes praying about them. Pray for somebody else, which has the side effect of reminding us that others hurt, too.

After Jesus tells us not to worry in Matthew 6, He concludes:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Your mind is active and it has to be focused on something. When you read through the Bible, don’t just look for verses that apply to your situation; read the stories of the Gospel or the history in the Old Testament, and ruminate:

“What did it feel like, walking through the parted Red Sea?” (Exodus 13)

“What did the widow think as she poured an unending stream of oil from one container into jar after jar after jar, covering the floor of her home?” (2 Kings 4: 1-7)

“What did Stephen see, as he was dying?” (Acts 7: 59)

In reading and reflecting on what God has written, you are seeking His kingdom, even if it doesn’t feel like it, because you’re focusing your thoughts on Him. Trust Him enough to believe that you don’t have to be actively thinking on, talking about, or muddling over your concerns for God to be working on them.

The Hardest Thing to Do

5) Believe.

Either God is real, or He isn’t. Either His words are true, or they’re not. Either we can trust Him, or we can’t.

Ultimately, it comes down to this, and if we are to function as children of Our Father the King on this earth, we need to trust Him. This is a lifetime process. Rather than waste time castigating yourself that you’re not faithful enough, ask Him for faith. And rather than pursue hocus pocus techniques to force God’s hand (“Declare” “Claim” “Name” “Proclaim the Promises” — if it requires certain techniques to “work,” it won’t), ask Him for the patience, wisdom, trust, strength, and hope that you need to get through each day.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. The beauty of Christianity is that it is designed for ordinary, everyday people, and you don’t have to have a degree to follow Christ. My writing is designed to encourage you — that beautiful, everyday Christian — to talk to God, read what He has to say in the Bible, marvel at the world He has created, and stop depending upon “experts” to tell you what and how to believe.

In the end, we are all ordinary, everyday people. The ones who are blessed are the ones who realize this. The sad cases are those people who sashay through life convinced that they deserve the best because they are smarter, wiser, savvier, better, and more deserving than anyone else.

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