Is Following Jesus Easy?

Following Jesus — while it is truly the only way to find peace and contentment on this contentious planet of ours — is not easy, and while many Christians try to convince themselves that they’re on the narrow road of following Jesus, a substantial number of them are on a smooth, wide highway.

Child of Eden inspirational original oil painting of little girl in garden with radishes by Steve Henderson

This is a beautiful face, because it is innocent, trusting, and reliant upon someone bigger and stronger. That’s a pretty good definition of a Christian. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Framed Canvas Art and iCanvasART.

Absorbed in busyness, obsessed by finding their “ministry,” satisfied with organized meetings, prone to reading the notes at the bottom of the Bible page as opposed to the verses above, fascinated by celebrity Christians who urge them to “listen to me; listen to me NOW,” they are fooled by Hollywood’s interpretation of a beautiful face. They hand out tracts in public places, and when people (understandably) tell them to blow off, they say, “Oh! I’m being persecuted for Christ!”

Following Jesus looks different than this, and while it’s far more difficult than the substitution many people who call themselves Christians are satisfied with, the real thing is worth pursuing, and living.

Please read the rest at Christian Misfits: “You Have a Beautiful Face” at my Commonsense Christianity column, BeliefNet.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

How Narrow Is Your Christian Road?

In our church days, when I sat in an interlocking chair, stared ahead at the big white screen, and sang words that flashed by, I used to wonder, vaguely, if God was calling me to do something, and I wasn’t hearing.

Catching the Breeze inspirational original oil painting of woman walking along ocean sea beach by Steve Henderson

Sometimes, God calls us to walk alone — away from the distractions of the group. Catching the Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

After all, the church had all sorts of ministry opportunities. Although many of them I was unqualified for because I hadn’t gone through the newly implemented Leadership Training Classes, there were many mundane options, like coordinating the Interlocking Chair Set Up and Take Down committee (which, for some reason, NOBODY wanted to be involved in).

But I wasn’t interested. Burnt out after years of a Wednesday night children’s program that never could figure out if it was teaching church kids or attracting unchurched ones, I continued to arrive, Sunday mornings, and sing the words in front of my face. I reminded myself that working hard, loving my family, and caring for the people strewn across my path were worthy things to do.

And then God forcefully and unmistakably called me.

I, and my family, were called out of the church. Now that’s not every Christian’s experience — although it is becoming an increasingly more frequent option — but whether you stay in or out of the church, when God calls you, you will generally find yourself out of the group.

That’s not an easy position to be in, but as far as growing as a Christian, it’s not a bad one. Please read the rest of the story at my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet, Is God Calling You?

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

Worshiping God, Outside of the Group

If you’re a Christian, and you’ve attended church, then you probably recognize the term: “Worship Service.”

Ocean Breeze inspirational original oil painting of woman lifting hands at sunset by ocean beach sea by Steve Henderson

I have absolutely no problem raising my hands to God — just, not in front of a crowd. Ocean Breeze, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

This is the time, just after the announcements and immediately before the sermon, when the congregation corporately sings — from the hymnal or off the PowerPoint words on a giant white screen. Generally, we’re helped along in the process by the “Worship Team.”

Years ago, my husband the Norwegian Artist and I were part of this team (I know, sometimes I’m surprised at myself, too): he played the guitar and I stood up with two other women in front of the microphone and sang, because otherwise, some of those songs — especially contemporary ones that need to be replicated exactly the way they are performed on the radio — are too difficult to get through.

Now every church and every congregation has its own way of doing things, but generally there is a “worship plan” as to what songs are chosen, how many, and in what order, so while the specifics vary, the concept of the Plan does not. At the time we were on the worship team, the Plan looked like this:

Please follow the link to read the rest at Is Singing in Church the Only Way to Worship at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity

Why does this matter? Because, in contemporary establishment Christianity, we are given the subtle — or not so subtle — that there are limited ways of doing things “properly,” and if you don’t do them right, then Jesus is displeased with you. This is the wrong message, but it is reaching — and affecting — far too many people.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

Golden Opportunity: The Story of This Painting

The story of the painting, Golden Opportunity, by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

It’s the perfect sunset — a golden end to the perfect day. The breeze has been just right to gently fill the sails, and the wooden vessel has taken its passengers and crew on a day’s journey through a paradise of water. Rarely do we have days like this, and rarely do we forget that we had them.

Golden Opportunity inspirational original oil painting of sailboat at sunset on sea by Steve Henderson

Golden Opportunities aren’t career moves; they are moments in life. Golden Opportunity, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

Perfect days, sometimes they are just perfect moments, are things unplanned — golden gifts that surprise us in the midst of their happening. We stop and think, “There are people here I love. The sun is warm on my face. I’ve finished eating a terrific sandwich, and there’s a cookie waiting for me in the cooler. I just heard a child laugh.”

Golden Opportunities are not one-shot chances to make a financial killing or career advance because we made the right, savvy decision at the right time. Golden Opportunities are moments available to all people, at  random times in their lives, to see goodness, hope, joy, peace, and truth — elements that we post on Christmas cards, but rarely take time to ponder, desire, be thankful for, or meditate upon.
Life, for many people, consists of hard work, worrying about taxes, and wondering if the money we have at our disposal will be enough to pay for all the obligations pressing upon us. To relieve this constant, nagging worry, we too often seek the corporate world’s Golden Opportunity, the means of making enough money and securing enough power so that we don’t have to worry (or so we imagine) about life’s circumstances.But in doing this, we miss the whole point of life, actually. Since our every breath is a gift, we would not be remiss to stop and take a few of these, quietly, and ask (ourselves, God for those who love and follow Him) — “What do I do with this precious gift of life I have been given? How do I use my talents, my resources, my desires to make the world, my corner of it, a better place — even in a small way — for some other person?”

Golden Sea inspirational original oil painting of sailboat on sunset sea by Steve Henderson

Golden Sea is a beautiful complementary painting to Golden Opportunity. Original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

Generally, when we ask that question, an answer is forthcoming. And that is another, and better, Golden Opportunity open and available to all.Please read the rest of the newsletter, and subscribe for free, at Start Your Week with Steve.Golden Opportunity is an original oil painting, 20 x 24, gallery wrapped and available for immediate hanging upon your wall. An optional companion piece is Golden Sea. You may purchase either or both original works directly from Steve Henderson Fine Art by using the Add to Cart button and completing your purchase, securely through PayPal.

Golden Opportunity is also available as a licensed, open edition print through Great Big CanvasiCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

As always, feel free to contact Steve Henderson Fine Art directly by e-mailing Carolyn@SteveHendersonFineArt.com with your questions and comments about Steve’s original oil and watercolor paintings or licensed open edition prints.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

Facebook Fear, Fueled by Christians

This last week on Facebook was one of general fear, anxiety, panic and despair, not so much because everyone was in and out of relationships, or because Lucky Slots wasn’t doing well, but because too many Christians are preparing for the imminent invasion of the United States by hostile forces.

Opalescent Sea inspirational original oil painting of oceans waves by Steve Henderson

The wind and waves of circumstances hit us all, but the object is to be not overwhelmed by, and drowned in, them. Opalescent Sea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; open edition print at Great Big Canvas, Framed Canvas Art, and iCanvasART.

The overall message was along the lines of, “We’re ready to die! Except . . . we don’t really want to die.

“But Jesus is coming soon and He’s going to end the world anyway, so . . . we’re all going to die!”

If it isn’t ISIS it’s the Russians, and if it isn’t the Russians, it’s the Muslim extremists, and if it isn’t the Muslim extremists, it’s the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, which somehow has an effect on us, but the overall tone is one of defeat, despair, discouragement and . . . fear.

Fear isn’t an emotion Christianity propounds, but it’s one that too many Christians feel, and pass on. Please read the rest of the story at “Why Are You So Afraid? Do You Still Have No Faith?” at my BeliefNet Blog, Commonsense Christianity.

We live in frightening times, and there is a lot of bad stuff going on — but freaking out and passing on the panic isn’t part of the solution.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

Christian Meditation

Meditation is one of those words with multiple meanings, and some Christians are frightened by the concept because they think that meditating involves emptying their minds completely and allowing outside spiritual forces to fill the vacuum.

Queen Anne's Lace inspirational original oil painting of girl with shawl in flower meadow meditating by Steve Henderson

Two people are involved when we meditate — ourselves, and God. Queen Anne’s Lace, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

(Interestingly, this is a good description of what happens when we sit in front of the TV, chips in hand, but for some reason we keep doing it.)

Emptying one’s mind, however, is not the only option (and indeed, not a valid one for Christians), and meditation upon Scripture involves actively using that mind as we contemplate, muse, ponder, and deliberate over what we are reading.

Please follow the link to Improving Your Meditation Skills at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity. You may, or may not, like my suggestions (feel free, always, to comment! I answer to the best of my ability), but it can’t hurt for any of us to increase our ability to read, understand, and grapple with Scripture. (Because if we don’t, there are far too many well paid propaganda artists out there quite willing to do it for us.)

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

Left Behind: Is It Obligatory to Attend This Movie?

Well, here we go again.

Bold Innocence original oil painting inspirational view of little girl on ocean beach by steve henderson

How many Christian children have come home from school, alone to an empty house, and wondered if they had been left behind? Bold Innocence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Framed Canvas Art, iCanvasART, and Great Big Canvas.

It’s not that long ago that Christians were urged to see the movie Noah, starring Russell Crowe and produced by atheist director Darren Aronofsky, who described his cinematic efforts in a March 24, 2014, Washington Times article as “the least biblical biblical film ever made.”

Despite the (deliberate) inattention to spiritual, historical, and literary accuracy, too many Christians agonized,

“Should we go? Should we support this movie — even though it’s not precisely Biblically accurate (that’s an understatement) because we want to encourage the movie industry to make more of these films?”

Well, the movie industry is making more of these films —  and the chitter chatter for Left Behind, starring Nicholas Cage and directed by Vic Armstrong, is on high volume.

Willie Robertson Speaks

Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, who reminds me of some relatives I’ve got living deep in hillside crevices and cracks, is on board to urge Christians to “bring some friends and family to see this movie — people who need to see to believe.”

So powerful is this “action packed thriller that will take viewers on a wild ride to the day of Rapture,” that it’s our obligation, really, to go, because according to Robertson:

“I believe people are gonna make that life-changing decision to follow Christ on the way home from the theater.”

Good heavens. With an encomium like that, how could we possibly keep ourselves, and our unsaved friends and family away?

Well, there is concern regarding Nicholas Cage, about whose spiritual beliefs some speculate, although it really shouldn’t be that difficult:

Are you a Christian, Nick? Or not? It’s really a yes/no matter: Yes, I am or No, I’m not.

Yes, or No

Three words, easy to say. Most of us manage to articulate one sentence or the other.

And the director, Vic Armstrong, whose hand rocks the cradle on this project — is he a Christian, or not? Look up, “Is Vic Armstrong a Christian?” and see all the information about his spiritual beliefs that you don’t get. (The FAQ’s on the Left Behind website describe him as “a veteran filmmaker in the action genre.”)

For those who don’t think it matters, when one makes a movie explicitly designed for Christians (and the money they provide by buying tickets, t-shirts, beverage tumblers, baseball caps, wrist bracelets and the ubiquitously obligatory — and financially lucrative — “ministry study resources”), only a fool would say that it doesn’t matter.

When the movie is hyped, tweeted, and pushed as bringing “Biblical prophecy to life in modern times,” and when the people pushing the production announce, “Here’s how you can use Left Behind in Your Church,” then isn’t a determination to be spiritually accurate — and indeed, spiritually sensitive to the point the somebody in this media circus is openly, loudly, and definitively a follower of Jesus Christ — important?

Licensed Products

Let’s go back to Willie Robertson, although 1:28 minutes of him on a propaganda video clip is 87 seconds more than I can handle, and his statement that we need to bring people “who need to see to believe,” to this production because “opening the door to unbelievers has never been this much fun.”

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe,” Jesus says in John 4: 48.

He also observed: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

While it’s tempting to think that all we have to do is buy a ticket (and a t-shirt, and a beverage tumbler), sit on our tushies, eat popcorn, drink pop, and answer our unsaved loved ones’ breathless questions, after the movie, about, “What must I do to be saved?” this is akin to dragging people to the church potluck, dumping them in front of the pastor, and saying, “He’ll tell you everything you need to know about Jesus.”

The major difference between the two is that, in most cases, the pastor makes a point of unashamedly affiliating himself to Christianity and Jesus Christ, while the movie’s promotional sites and FAQs, dance around the subject.

“Movie and licensed products are a way to share the subject of the rapture and the end times with friends, family, and strangers alike.” This is from the Left Behind Merchandise page, where the film is described as being, “based upon the New York Times Best Seller.”

Despite the Bible being the best selling book of all time, that’s not the book we’re talking about here, nor the book of Revelation within that book, but rather, a fictional novel based upon the book of Revelation.

Fictional. Novel.

Nothing wrong with that. Just wanted a clarification.

So, how are you feeling? Do you  feel pushed, prodded, manipulated, coerced, and pressured into supporting this movie, because it’s purported to be “Christian”?

If you do, well, as Nancy Reagan admonished — about a different product — “Just Say No.”

Stay behind. Read a book — maybe Revelation, which most of us avoid because it’s extremely complex, highly controversial as to its interpretation, and quite incredibly difficult to understand.

Ah, but mass media’s got it — and us — all figured out.

Thank You

Thank you for reading me. Normally, I post a link to articles on another site, on this site, but this time I am printing the entire article here.

If you’d like to read me in book form, you may enjoy –

The Misfit Christian (my book designed for truth seekers who feel left out and ostracized from church culture, because they ask too many questions)

 

 

 

Midday Tea: The Story of This Painting

The story of the painting, Midday Tea, by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

The answer to the question, “How are you?” used to be, “Fine.” In the modern world, however, the answer has morphed to, “Oh, I’m so busy!” to which the initial questioner replies,
“Oh, I know! Life is really busy!”
MIdday Tea inspirational original oil painting of woman in 1940s nostalgia with tea cups in Victorian dining room by Steve Henderson

Life has to consist of more than getting one task done after another. Midday Tea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Being busy is a good thing, we understand, and when a person is so busy, too busy to read a book, or enjoy a cup of tea, because there’s just so much stuff to do — well this person is successful, we reason.

But are we reasoning aright? Midday Tea captures a young woman who is capturing a moment of her own, pouring, and delighting in a cup of tea when a sound from the kitchen catches her attention. Perhaps a neighbor has stopped by, or maybe the postal deliverer dropped some letters through the mail slot.
Momentarily distracted, the young woman is not, however, stressed, and though she looks over her shoulder toward the sound, she is relaxed, calm, and ready to return to her cup of tea. It is important to embrace times of quietness, thought, solitude, and meditation, so that we are able to go out and do whatever it is that needs to be done, with the energy and sharp thinking that we need.
The 1940s is an era of nostalgia that continues to fascinate us — not only because of its truly amazing attention to style and fashion — but also because it was a simpler time, when people dealt with the stress under which they lived (World War II comes to mind) by not abandoning the aspects of life that they could control. Food, family, working hard but resting after that work — these elements were important to people, and they didn’t feel guilty because they didn’t multi-task (the term wasn’t even invented then), and they saw no advantage to living life at a constant, frenetic, frantic pace.
Regardless of when we live or where, there are 24 hours in the day, and when we get to the point that we cannot take a break for Midday Tea, simply because we are so consistently, unremittingly busy, then we have to take at least a small moment and ask,

The New Hat inspirational original oil painting of woman in Victorian 1940s nostalgia dressing room by Steve Henderson

The simple things of life — like a fetching new hat — are the ones that bring joy and beauty. The New Hat, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“Why am I so busy? Is this the purpose of my life? And given that I only have one life on this earth, is this how I want to spend it?”Midday Tea is an original oil painting on panel, 24 x 30. With the frame (included with purchase) the painting measures 30 x 36. The painting is available for direct purchase through the Steve Henderson Fine Art website by simply clicking on the Add to Cart button for secure processing through PayPal.If you are drawn to the sense of simplicity and peace in Midday Tea, you may also enjoy the additional works in the growing 1940s Nostalgia Collection: The New HatEnding the Day on a Good Note, and Phonograph Days.Read the rest, and keep up with Steve’s art news, at his free newsletter, Start Your Week with Steve, delivered to your e-mail inbox.Please contact Carolyn@SteveHendersonFineArt.com to inquire about any of Steve’s original oil and watercolor paintings or licensed open edition prints.

The Dumbing Down of America Marches on

I have a friend who worked for the medical publication industry — which creates articles and circulars that enjoin:

“Get your flu shot and eat those veggies!”

Provincial Afternoon inspirational original oil painting of two girls reading in meadow by Steve Henderson

Reading is a critical activity in which to engage to keep our minds from atrophying. Provincial Afternoon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Years ago, she explained, this written material was created at various reading levels, with the premiere offerings targeted to grade 14 or 15 (a sophomore or junior at college), designed for consumers who were truly curious about healthcare issues and wanted sufficient information to make intelligent choices. That was years ago. Now, most of the material is aimed at the 6th grade level, with the information designed for public aid recipients targeted to the 3rd and 4th grade reading level, or below:

“Flu shots! Veggies!”

While this says something disconcerting about the attitude of the medical and corporate publication establishments toward people they consider poor, it also maligns our entire reading populace.

I don’t know about you, but library runs aren’t as fun these days, because the shelves are filled with “series” books — the Knitting Shop Mystery Adventures, or The Amazing Sexy Man Who Does Impossible Things and Solves Crime series — and the formulaic writing, in addition to the simple syntactic fare, drives me into the Classic Novels section, every time.

If you’re cranky like me, please follow the link to the rest of the story at Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet – Are We Dumbing Ourselves Down?

By the way, if you’d like to read more of my writing, I have authored three books:

The Misfit Christian – for the believer who always feels left out of the church group, somehow

Live Happily on Less – Sensible, realistic ideas on how to stretch the money you have, further, as opposed to working more and longer hours

Grammar Despair – Quick, simple solutions to common writing and speaking issues

And my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson, has published a DVD for people who want to learn art:

Step by Step Watercolor Success

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

Why Are Christians Panicking?

Like various government, corporate, and financial agencies, I scroll through Facebook to get an idea of how the populace is thinking, and the other day someone posted a video clip of Air Force Lt. General McInerney — somber, serious, and very authoritative looking — warning Fox News acolytes, er, viewers about the imminent Isis threat to the (non-existent) U.S. borders.

Chicken Little cartoon by Steve Henderson

What are we frightened of? And who is chasing us?

Reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s cheesey Hollywood line in the movie Signs (“It’s happening . . . “), McInerney read from his teleprompter, “Beware America: They are coming for us.” It’s difficult to tell which of the two — Gibson or McInerney — managed the better monotone.

The response, to the sleeping Christian community on Facebook, was predictable:

“Blessed Savior,” one woman wrote. “Come for us!”

“I’m so afraid!” another posted. “Sweet Jesus, save us now!”

And while Jesus is on His way, whatever the government forces are wanting to do, do it, now, please, with Jesus’ blessing.

Is this the solution, and do we need to be this afraid? Please follow the link to my BeliefNet article, Frightened, Freaked out Christians at my blog, Commonsense Christianity. As regular readers know, I am only able to post a teaser on this site, but if you’re heading into the day afraid because you watched the news this morning, then please click through and view life from another perspective.

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