Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

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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When You Can’t Take It Anymore

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Still, quiet, calm. That’s how I like to be, but when I’m agitated by a situation that won’t go away, that’s how I am not. Tea by the Sea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

I don’t know about you, but I have been in particular life situations that go on so long, with so little change, that I simply want to give up.

Only, I can’t.

I mean, what am I supposed to do: pack up all my things and go . . . where?

It’s not as if I haven’t tried, telling God,

“Listen: I have prayed and prayed and prayed about this, and YOU’RE Not Doing Anything. I’m done with you. Good-bye.”

Yeah. Right.

Chronic Problems, No Solution in Sight

If you are facing a long-term, chronic problem that just never seems to go away, be encouraged, because there is an answer. And although it doesn’t look like it, progress is being made despite your not being able to see it.

Because I’ve had plenty of opportunity to practice, I have found a few coping strategies to get through those times that I’m kicking around in the desert, waiting:

Yes, You Can

1) I know you’re convinced that you can’t take it anymore, but you seriously can. As tempting as it is to stay in bed, eat chips, and play games on your Kindle, get up. The very act of walking around does something. Putting on your socks is progress, setting the pot on for tea is more progress. By the time you eat breakfast and face the first morning’s task, you tell yourself, “I can do Step A. Then I’ll do Step B. And C. I’ll make it to Z.”

2 Peter 1: 3 assures us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Everything.

Think about it: the tasks you’re setting for yourself are doable — just maybe not the tasks you would like to do — but it’s not as if you’re facing the Grand Canyon with a rope and a hook and instructions to throw the rope, hook it to the other side, and walk across.

Standing here, looking down, is enough. You want me to walk across this thing on a tightrope? Only with God, my friend, only with God. Diaphanous, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Walking a Tightrope

2) Speaking of walking across the Grand Canyon, that’s what life feels like sometimes: you’re on a tightrope, halfway across (don’t ask me how — I don’t know how you or I managed it this far either) and your only options are to turn around and head back (are you nuts?), fall (not an option), or keep going forward. Both you and I know that we don’t know how to tightrope walk, so how is it that we’re here?

Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” He knows how to walk a tightrope; that’s all that matters.

God’s It, All of It

3) God’s all you’ve got, you know, and He really is enough. If you get tired of telling him about your problems, give it a rest. He won’t forget, and we certainly know that you won’t, but when God’s timing isn’t in alliance with yours and you keep running into a brick wall, why keep whacking your head?

Give yourself a precious 15 minutes today to totally escape from your thoughts about your situation. Focus, determinedly, on something else. Take a walk and absorb the sunshine and the breeze. Do a jigsaw puzzle and concentrate on finding just the right piece. Lean on the gate and watch the chickens.

Revelation 8:4 tells us that, ”The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Your prayers are precious, and they’re heard. Take a break.

Change Happens Fast

4) Don’t think that what you see, is what you have to get.

While it’s tempting to believe that your situation will go on, and on, and on until the day that you drag yourself into your death bed, think of God’s words to Moses in Exodus 6: 6:

“I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians . . . I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” God didn’t stop working in people’s lives 3,500 years ago, and He doesn’t limit his concern to specific people, with the exclusion of you.

God Is Good Indeed

5) Think about the goodness of God. This is a variation of Step 3, which encourages you to take a break from thinking about your situation all the time. Since you’re dependent upon God for your answers, think about who He is:

He’s perfect. (Psalm 18: 30)

He’s completely good. (1 John 1:5)

He’s powerful and in control. (Matthew 19: 26)

And most importantly, He is your Father, and He loves you very much. (1 John 3: 1)

Be encouraged, my friend. You are not — and are never — alone.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write about living the Christian life, as opposed to talking about it. Of course, this means that I’m stumbling and fumbling my way through the process, just like you, and I share what I learn as I learn it.

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Einstein Said That! Or Was It Jesus?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

We read to our kids. A lot. And all sorts of books. People who read a lot tend to think a lot. Seaside Story, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

You know, for a dead guy, Albert Einstein posts a lot of quotes on Facebook.

The latest on my wall is,

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

While this may be the explanation for my progeny’s  ability to think, ask questions, and not accept everything that they are told (sounds like a good definition of intelligence to me), I get tired of being told so many things by Einstein.

I mean, I know that he was smart and all, with the exception that he was unable to do anything, ever, with his hair, but so many quotes and witticisms are attributed to him that I’m asking myself, “Really? Einstein said that?” I’m waiting for his nuggets of wisdom on breastfeeding; I’m sure he knows more than I do.

The Norwegian’s Smart, Too

When I mentioned the Einstein quote to the Norwegian Artist on our walk this morning, he commented,

“Is there any particular reason that it means something when Einstein says it? We’ve been saying — and living — this for years.

“Does this mean, now that Einstein has said it, that we’re smart after all?”

It’s a good question, and one that Christians need to ask themselves:

Why do we believe what we do?

Years ago, when we attended a small church, we were the wild reprobates who read fairy tales to our kids and allowed them to trick or treat. This behavior, you see, was simply unacceptable, and later, when one of our children chose to explore a not particularly wise lifestyle, heads nodded sagely that this was the result of our parenting style. Some families thought it best to maintain a discrete distance to avoid “infection.”

We do it our way. Someone told me once that this isn’t a very “Christian” way of looking at things. Standing up for what’s right and walking alone when we have to — that sounds pretty Christian to me. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Acceptance, Finally!

Several months ago I ran into an inmate, er, attendee of this establishment when she mentioned that this young girl was pregnant, and that young man had an issue with drugs, and several families were trick or treating now, because this new, cool, hip family — they drank wine! — did it. The tone was all very understanding and accepting — for which I was glad, actually — but I couldn’t help thinking,

“It would have been nice to have received a bit of that acceptance when we needed it.”

What happened?

Well, Einstein said it, so suddenly, what was wrong was right.

We read fairy tales whether Einstein thinks it’s a great idea or not, and we trick or treated because we, independently of other people’s opinions, decided that this was good for our family. We base our decisions, not upon Einstein’s words or the actions of the new, cool, and hip family, but upon our own wisdom, discernment, and judgment, which we cultivate by reading the Bible for ourselves, meditating upon what it says, and depending upon Christ — not the pastor, not the elder board, not the leadership community, and not the new, cool, hip family — for elucidation.

Fooling the Elect — a Scary Thought

Do you know why so many people in the world consider Christians stupid? It’s not necessarily because we follow Jesus’ message, which would be an honorable reason for being called stupid — it’s because we obsequiously follow the voices and instructions of men: whether they are well known authors, seminar speakers who give explicit instructions on how to manage money or time, Christian “celebrities,” politicians who say the right words, and dissemblers of disinformation who purport to speak for the little people, on news stations and talk shows that assure the listeners how very, very unbiased they are.

We are told (by whom? have you ever asked yourself?) to be accountable to our leaders and obey those in authority, and we do. Unquestioningly.

Mark 13 is an interesting chapter, in which Jesus describes to the disciples the signs of the end of the age:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” (Mark 13: 5-6)

and

“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect — if that were possible.” (Mark 13: 22)

Is it possible to deceive the elect? Unfortunately, apparently so — if the elect are asleep, tranquilized, somnambulantly accepting what they are told because Einstein, or someone new, cool, and hip said it.

It’s fun to read Einstein quotes, but don’t run your life by them. Run your life by what Jesus said — and in order to do this, read, study, meditate upon, research, pray about, and discern what He says, without Einstein, or anyone else, looking over your shoulder and telling you how or what to think.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, I love fairy tales, and all sorts of well written fiction — because there’s a different, deeper truth to be found in fiction than in non-fiction, but you have to be willing to see it.

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“We Have Worms!”

posted by Carolyn Henderson

It’s easy to be like a fish, swimming along until our attention is caught by something dangling in front of our face. Black Walnut Fish, handcarved wood sculpture by Jordan Henderson, at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

I was on the last hour of a boring, four-hour drive when I passed one of those stores that sell everything: gas, Chinese food, Pepto Bismo, tax preparation services, and on the reader board they proudly announced:

“We have worms for fishing!”

Unusual for an establishment like this, they weren’t missing any letters, so it didn’t look like,

“W hav wrms 4 fing!”

or worse, just,

“We have worms!” although the top sentence, “We have worms” caught one’s eye before the bottom two words, “for fishing,” and given the reading speed of many people these days, it would be understandable if they chose to give the Chinese food a pass this time.

Information Underload

You need all five words to make sense of the sentence.

In other words, when you only have access to three of the words, but Someone else has all five, it’s a good idea to depend upon that Someone’s wisdom more than your own: walk by faith, not by sight.

You’re not God, and you don’t know, or control, everything. Now most people — outside of certain politicians, media moguls, global financiers, and movie stars — are vaguely aware of this, but this doesn’t stop us from taking the information that we do have — much of which is deliberately misleading  (especially if you rely upon corporate media news or government press releases), frequently wrong, and always incomplete — and using it to predict the immediate, and distant, future.

Our future is broader and bigger than we think, because the God we follow is not limited by anything, including a lack of information. The Pataha, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

The Future Looks Bleak

We hate our job, we’ve put out resumes, but all we can see is that, for the next 25 years, we’ll be slogging away in our despicable cubicle. Unless, of course, we get downsized, which we probably will.

So we’ll go bankrupt. And hungry. And be bereft of all goodness and joy until we die, slowly, in the streets on a cold January day. God doesn’t come into the picture because He’s obviously busy running other people’s lives — more productively, it looks like, than ours.

All we know is that We Have Worms, and it’s not good.

God, however, is never missing any letters for the reader board, and He is fully aware, although we are not, that these are earthworms, not parasites.

Temporary versus Eternal

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day,” the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Like you, I caught that “light and momentary troubles” part and thought, “Are you KIDDING? What I’m going through is no JOKE!”

No, my friend, it isn’t. What you are going through is difficult and agonizing, but it is 1) not eternal and 2) not the whole picture. You are operating with only three words of a five-word sentence, and the missing two words change everything.

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29: 11:

Hope, and a Future — non Political-Style

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

It’s a beautiful promise, but it doesn’t end there:

“‘Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’”

Life is more than our struggles and problems, although some days it doesn’t feel that way, and though our focus is understandably the answer to our pressing dilemma, God doesn’t limit Himself, or us, to that perspective.

“. . . call upon me in the day of trouble,” he invites us in Psalm 50: 15, “I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

We can honor Him because He is worthy of being honored: because He knows everything, possesses every letter for the reader board, and is the light we need to walk through the darkness. As smart as we are, we can’t operate efficiently on insufficient knowledge, but when we are a child of God, we don’t have to — we just need to follow, by faith, the Person who has all the answers.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage all of us who are believers and seekers to approach Christ directly and ask Him to teach us, gently and patiently, the way He taught His disciples.

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