Desperately Trying to Fit in

I spent far too much time, as a child, desperately trying to fit in.

It’s understandable, given that our school system — like our corporate office culture — is designed to homogenize people, reducing everyone’s individuality to a standardization of “average” that really approaches mediocre. Basically, we want people to just be quiet and do what they’re told, and some of the best enforcers of this mandate are our peers, which is why we are all intimately acquainted with the term, “peer pressure.”

Lady in Waiting inspirational original oil painting of woman by lilac sea and Victorian home by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at, icanvas, and framed canvas art

We all undergo a time of waiting for somebody to join us; it’s worth making sure that the Somebody we’re waiting for is worth that wait. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at, icanvas, and framed canvas art

Naively, I thought that once I grew up everything would be different — but how could it be? When we are trained from toddlerhood to conform, at what point will we break away from this culture and finally follow the narrow, individual path set before each one of us? It’s so much easier, and far more accepted, to stay on the wide road with everyone else — keeping up so that we are not ridiculed for being behind, but not so far ahead that we are labeled “overachievers.”

When I discovered Christianity and slotted myself into a church, I thought, “NOW I will find complete acceptance,” but as many of you have learned as well, too many Christian groups are just that — groups — and the same issues that plague lonely children on the playground affect them as adults, in the pews.

This is why I love the words uttered by Ruth, the Moabitess, to her mother-in-law, Naomi, when the latter decides to return to her homeland, Bethlehem in Judah, after the death of Naomi’s husband and two sons, one of whom was Ruth’s husband.

Naomi, knowing that Ruth as a foreigner, outsider, and Moabitess to boot, will not be remotely welcomed in the land of Israel, urges her to stay in her own country, among her own people and within her own culture, where she will find as much acceptance as humans generally do find among one another. (As a side note, it would be interesting to know how well accepted Naomi had felt in Moab . . . I am reminded of many statements I have heard and read along the lines of, “I felt more welcome around ‘sinners’ than I did at church.”)

But Ruth answers:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth’s words, while they are brave, noble, and loyal, are backed not by the virtue of Ruth, but by the love of Naomi. It was because of Naomi’s love for her that Ruth made this overture, and that love must have been great indeed when it superseded the pull of Ruth’s own culture: consider this — she felt more comfortable in a setting where she was considered an outsider than she did in the country where she belonged.

It was Naomi’s love, her unconditional acceptance of her daughter-in-law, that drew Ruth forward, and this love was so strong that it supported Ruth through the ramifications of this decision.

From this, we can draw two important thoughts:

1) Naomi is an example to us of what it looks like to accept other people, regardless of their culture, the way they dress, the manner in which they dress, their lifestyle. Naomi saw Ruth not as a Moabitess, but as her daughter,


2) Naomi is a shadowy image of the real thing, Christ Himself, whose unconditional love for us, His children, enables us to live within a school system, an office, a workplace, a church, where we do not feel this acceptance because somehow, in some uncomfortable way, we’re just too “different.”

We’re all different, you know. That’s how He made us. And He loves us, each of His precious, beautiful creations — all foreigners, but all welcome in His household.

Please read more about this topic of fitting in, or not fitting in, at my Commonsense Christianity post at BeliefNet, “Foreigners” Are God’s Children, Too.

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


Christians: We Are Family, Not Employees

Once a month or so I pass by this church with a dreadful LED sign:


it blares in red,



Light in the Forest inspirational original oil painting of two women with candles in Celtic wood by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at iCanvas,, and Framed Canvas Art

Christianity is a relationship between human beings, and between children and our heavenly Father; so why do we talk like businessmen? Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Amazon.


For some reason, I’m never tempted. I feel as if I am being sold something, somehow, which isn’t surprising since signs like this often have messages like,



And while the LED sign is no doubt an improvement over something with Pepsi or Coca Cola on it, it is still a disturbing reminder that this is the modern world we live in, and this is what it looks like.

“We need to be part of this world,” I remember hearing in the days we attended church.

“When families come in and they don’t see the latest technology, they’ll leave, so we as Christians have to be on top of it all.”

Actually, in our days of attending church, the first thing we noticed upon entering a new congregation was whether or not we felt welcomed — and not just the initial greeting at the door when the bulletin was thrust into our hand, but from beginning to end.

We watched the people to see how, or if, they interacted with one another, and the more informal and relaxed the atmosphere, the better we liked it. We were looking for a church family, after all, not a corporate environment.

As time went on, however, the corporate environment, and the concern that the church run smoothly, efficiently, and more like a business, became more prominent, until the day came that we realized it was enough to work in an office and be treated like an unimportant employee five days a week, and we didn’t need an extra day added, on Sunday, to remind us how we were controlled, instructed, circumscribed, managed, and asked to do extra work, for the “family,” or the “community,” or the “team.”

The church — the true one that Christ is the bridegroom of — is supposed to look, and act, different from the world around it, but when the church — the one run by men and denominations and councils and religious celebrities and the mass media Christian sub-culture — looks and sounds like a business, then we have to ask ourselves what Christianity is coming to these days.

What is the real thing, and what is the cultural, corporate substitute?

Please read more on this subject at my Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet article, Contemporary Corporate Christianity.

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

The Lies We’re Told

Deception is fascinating.

At base, deception is simply lying, which doesn’t sound so mysterious and awesome, but truly good deception is done in such a way that the people accepting the lies, think that they are believing the truth.

Contemplation inspirational original oil painting of young woman in autumn looking at leaf by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art,,, and allposters

We need to take time, slow down, and review what we are being told. Is it true? Contemplation, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, Amazon,, and AllPosters.

Deception is at the base of pretty much everything we do in our culture. Years ago, a friend of ours in advertising told us that he was leaving the business and finding something else to do because, as he said,

“The whole purpose of my job is to convince people that they want something that they don’t need. A successful day for me is when I encourage someone, who was initially content with their life, to be dissatisfied about their car, or their phone, or the way they look.

“My purpose is to convince people that their life isn’t good enough.”

Many of us, when we watch a commercial, or encounter an ad in a magazine, are aware that we are being prodded to buy something. Often, we even realize that the impression we’re being given isn’t necessarily true — seriously, that movie star uses that particular brand of toothpaste?

But even though we recognize that what we’re being told is probably not true, too few of us actually act upon this thought, and instead, buy the toothpaste, or vote for the guy that says he’ll lower taxes, or truly believe that the bond money will be used to fix the city streets.

And then when it turns out to be not true, we act 1) surprised and 2) guilty because if someone tells us a lie and we believe it, it’s our fault somehow.

We accept deception as a normal part of human existence, which to some extent it is — deception has been with us since Eve fell for the serpent’s lie in the garden — but accepting and embracing are two things.

A wise person acknowledges that deception exists and men lie, and tends to not believe everything he is told in person, on the news, at the movies, or by politicians. Quite frankly, based upon this criteria, there aren’t a lot of wise people in the world.

Those who should be wise — Christians who turn to God for guidance and truth — are not as many as one would hope because, for some reason or another, too many people who call themselves Christians in this society place more importance upon the authority of man — their pastor, Christian leaders, government officials, anybody who wears a uniform, and talk show hosts who promote “family values” — than they do upon the actual words and teaching of God.

There is quite a difference between the two, you know.

To read more about this subject, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Deception Is Brilliant and . . . Wrong.

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

Inside, We’re All Beautiful

The story of The Girl in the Copper Dress (3), original oil painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

She is a dancer.

Girl in a Copper Dress 3 inspirational original painting of dancer woman by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at allposters,, Great Big Canvas and iCanvas

Mentally, we see ourselves differently than those do on the outside; but that mental image ultimately affects how we walk, stand, and behave. Girl in a Copper Dress 3, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at, AllPosters, iCanvas, and Great Big Canvas

Lithe, graceful, comely, The Girl in a Copper Dress turns every move into an expression of choreography, and while she is not performing for an audience, she is, in her imagination, dancing with a smooth lissomeness which brings beauty to every move.

A vague, yet visionary background tells the viewer that the girl is inside, no doubt at home, because though she is dressed for an evening out, her feet are bare, as if the time to leave has not yet come.

She is in a state of relaxed, dreamy calm — one in which we as viewers rest — because a state of relaxed, dreamy calm is a good one in which to be.

Regardless of what a person looks like, how old they are, or whether or not they could or actually want to fit into that dress, all humans, in their minds, are different from the person those on the outside see. Mentally, people segue through life seamlessly, efficiently or gracefully, boldly or gently — but like a dancer, they move professionally through their space.

On the physical plain, people often don’t feel like this at all, stumbling through the day and hoping that they don’t cause too much damage before the end of it, but deep down, in every human, is the view that there is something about them that is graceful, that is mysterious, that is honorable and worthy and beautiful.

Like The Girl in the Copper Dress, people may indulge in this feeling privately, within their homes, when no one is watching, because it is such a vulnerable secret that they can’t entrust it to the world around them. But the very belief that something noble about them exists enables each human being to stand taller, walk straighter, and go through their day like a dancer.

The Girl in a Copper Dress 3 is one of a series of original paintings which may be purchased separately or as a unit of all three paintings, with a 20 percent discount. You may find The Girl in a Copper Dress 2 and The Girl in a Copper Dress 1 at the Steve Henderson Fine Art website.

The works are also available as licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art,,, and AllPosters.

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

Does It Matter, The Clothes We Wear?

There’s something about three-piece suits that seems so civilized. Think of the average James Bond movie, in which all sorts of people are shot and blown up — the bad guys, that is — and James remains unruffled, dignified, and full of aplomb. He performs so many physically grueling acts, outside of the bedroom, that is, while wearing a neatly pressed suit.

And while we know it’s “just a movie,” and doesn’t represent real life and all that, if we seriously look at the number of atrocious acts that assault us during the average 2-hour mass media flick, featuring an exciting anti-hero in a suit, we start to wonder just how inured we are to violence, and deceit, and treachery, and cruelty, and meanness.

The New Hat inspirational original oil painting of woman in victorian home before mirror by Steve Henderson

It’s not clothes that make the man, or woman — it’s who we are inside, and how we choose to behave, that makes us who we are. The New Hat, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

It’s all so well-hidden behind the facade of a three-piece suit, which is so very, very civilized.

From the standpoint of the person who has been hurt, however, it doesn’t really matter if the perpetrator is in a suit or animal skins — if we are robbed of $800 by a stereotypical thug in a sweatshirt brandishing a gun, or if the thief is behind a computer and hits a few keys, what is the difference, ultimately, to the person who used to have the $800?

And while facing a gun is scary, being violated in secret is kind of . . . creepy.

Evil stays the same, although it changes its face, or more likely its clothes, and the pervading evil of mankind is its refusal to acknowledge God and to depend, instead, upon its strength, cunning, intelligence, acumen, and ambitious greed.

Habakkuk 2:11 describes men such as this, men who,

” . . . sweep past like the wind and go on — guilty men, whose own strength is their god.”

The people referred to in this passage are the Babylonians, a major military, fiscal, corporate, and social phenomenon of their age, the 7th and 6th centuries, B.C. While we easily discount them, these days, because they wore robes and didn’t carry smart phones, the Babylonians were THE major power of their day, and their cunning, wit, acumen, and ruthlessness would match any nefarious power of 21st century, regardless of who is wearing a suit, robe, or t-shirt.

We fool ourselves when we think that today’s technology makes us smarter than men of old, and by thinking so, we lose the lessons that history has to teach us, which is this:

1) Mankind, from the beginning, has relied upon itself, and not God’s standards, to rule itself (which means that only a few rule, and the rest are ruled),


2) God’s standards, not man’s, are the only ones made with the safety and protection of God’s children in mind.

When we worship ourselves — relying upon our own strength as opposed to that of God’s — we create a world in which the weak, the defenseless, the poor, and the vulnerable are in a bad place, because it is not in the nature of humans, seeking power, to take on the cause of the weak.

But when we worship God — relying upon His strength as opposed to that of man’s — we ally ourselves with the One and Only Person who does take on the cause of the weak. When it comes to a showdown between two rival powers — and there is always a showdown — it’s a better idea to be on the side, and under the protection, of the One who, ultimately, holds ALL the power.

To read more on this subject, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet, When Our Strength Is Our God.

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


The Lies We’re Told

It’s no surprise that we’re lied to all the time. Anyone who follows politics in any manner at all readily acknowledges that politicians lie.

And businessmen lie.

And mass media magnates lie.

And iconic religious celebrities lie.

Field of Dreams inspirational original oil painting of flowers in rural country meadow by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art

The interesting thing about evil-minded people is that their dominion does not last forever, and their lives are as brief as that of the flowers of the field. Thank God. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Framed Canvas Art.

All sorts of people lie, and this, again, is no surprise to us.

What is a surprise, or a shame, actually, is that we so readily accept lying as a reality of our culture that we don’t get disturbed by it, and indeed, phrases like caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware”) speak volumes about our attitude regarding deceit, deception, misinformation, disinformation, and lying:

“Oh well,” we shrug. “If you’re dumb enough to believe what you’re told, then it’s your own fault if you get cheated.”

It’s no accident that this Latin phrase comes to us from the Romans, upon which we base our governmental system which we call a democracy, but is no more of a democracy than the republic, and later empire, of Rome. This latter is the place, after all, that worked seamlessly with the Jewish leaders to bring about the crucifixion of Christ.

“But we are a Christian nation!” people insist upon saying, although where they get this is a bit of a mystery. No doubt from the history they were taught which . . . they accept as gospel truth because it was given to them in a high school textbook.

But back to lying, which we haven’t really left:

We are lied to all the time, and rather than roll our eyes and cynically accept that this is the way life is, and savvy people recognize, embrace, and work with this system, maybe we should nod our heads, yes, and fully understand that we live in a world of lies and need to be aware of their existence.

And then, rather than play with the system, because that’s the way you get ahead in the world of men, maybe we as Christians should go a step further, be smart about it all, and stop believing the lies.

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him,” Proverbs 6:16-19 says:

“Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

Offhand, this list sounds like it encompasses our political system, educational establishments, corporations, the industrial military complex, financial institutions, the religious arena, mass media, agribusiness, the entertainment industry, insurance companies, slick advertising campaigns, and the legal system — in short, any and every area in which man asserts his dominion.

And while not every person, in each of these areas, is lying, it’s a given that the central message, from the top voices, might need to be looked into carefully before any sense of credence is given to it.

We’re called to be wise as serpents, innocent as doves.

Not the other way around.

Please read more about this topic in my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Does It Bother You, That People Lie to Us?

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

Blind Obedience

Years ago, a woman proudly described to me what her husband had said about her:

“He said I was very strong-willed,” she commented, “and that I needed to be more obedient.”

After figuring out that she wasn’t referring to the family dog, I commented,

“But aren’t you partners in life?”

Beachside Diversions inspirational original oil painting of woman on seaside ocean beach with child by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at,,, Framed Canvas Art, and Great Big Canvas

Children are expected to obey lots of people, but the idea is that they are gently and wisely treated, not abused, and most certainly not fleeced. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas,,, framed canvas art, and allposters

“Oh, no,” she replied. “He’s the man of the house and the leader. It’s my job to obey him.”

Now this essay is less about the Proverbs 31 woman, or the Titus 2:3-5 woman, or the Ephesians 5:22 woman, all passages misguidedly used to keep half the world population quiet and complaisant, as it is the extension of this attitude to anyone who calls himself (or herself) a Christian, yet is not a Leader.

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority,” Hebrews 13:17 is used to bring to submission anyone who asks too many questions, is reluctant to do what they’re told, or wonders about the direction that their church, and church leadership, is taking.

But the Apostle Paul had a few things to say about leadership, and in Acts 20:29-30 he called together the elders of the church in Ephesus and warned them,

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

One of the keynote elements of this passage is the, “even from your own number,” part, which strongly implies — explicitly states, actually — that the central danger to Christian teaching and the sheep who seek protection from those who are supposed to be leading them, comes not from the government, not from a greedy corporate society that cripples families with usury, not from educational and entertainment industries that tear down any belief in or respect for morality, goodness, honesty, and God, but from the very people who say they are the shepherds.

So for this reason, it is wise for anyone who chooses to follow a human leader to 1) make sure that this leader is worthy of being followed and 2) if the answer to number 1 is yes, then to watch just how far and how obediently he chooses to follow that person. It’s not bad to keep in mind that, the more money the person makes and the more power he wields, the greater number of people he needs to support his infrastructure. While this doesn’t completely exonerate the simple country parson, it does divert suspicion to the more likely of the two to be misusing his position.

Blind obedience is not an option, and indeed, in its very description — Blind. Obedience. — highlights the problem: people who obey without thinking become a member of the masses, a malleable, easily controlled unit of humanity which enable evildoers — whether they are in religious or secular arenas — to inflict a whole lot of damage on the planet.

So they have done, through history, and so they continue to do, and when Christians, under the belief that they are required to obey whoever is set over them, do not stand up, do not speak out, do not ask for an accounting of rectitude from those who say they are deserving of other people’s submission, then we walk away from the poor, the defenseless, and the weak — the very people we as Christians are to love, protect, and serve.

Please read more on this topic at my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Why Do We Follow These Leaders?

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

Looking for Things That Are Worth Finding

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

We live in a world that little appreciates the value and worth of solitude.

Our days consist of the busyness of commerce, and while one must work to eat, too many people work too much, for too long, and are satisfied with too little. After a long day in a cubicle, performing the work of three at the wages of less than one, the average person settles in the chair, in front of the TV, and listens to the mindless drone of a news announcer interpreting our world for us.

Eyrie inspirational original oil painting of grand canyon sprite in sunlight by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at,,, Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries

Life simply must consist of more than work, worry, and an endless ambition to achieve the world’s definition of success. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas,,,, Framed Canvas Art, iCanvasART, and Vision Art Galleries


Eyrie finds us in the Grand Canyon, an intricately formed cathedral of rocks and space, where a young woman — the Canyon Sprite — turns her face to the sun and absorbs its warmth and light and grace. She is alone, and yet not alone, because she is conscious of, and connecting to, the One who made her, and the canyon, and the universe, and the only sound is that of the wind gently whispering.

She has no cell phone upon her.

This moment cannot be broken, interrupted, and destroyed by an employer calling, demanding that she come in on her day off; or by a random friend whose first question is, “Where are you?”

This moment is sacred because it is hers, precious time devoted to nothing more than feeling the sun on her face, the breeze through her shawl, and the nearly imperceptible sound of a pebble dislodging and tumbling down the sheer rock face.

This moment is precious because it is hers, taken by choice and kept — free and away from intrusion by others who don’t care that the sun is shining on a perfect, perfect day.

Eyrie is an inspirational reminder that these moments of solitude which strengthen our spirit and renew our mind are within our grasp, and they require only a choice: to put away the toys of modern life, walk to a place where no one knows that we are, and experience — if only for a short time — the miraculous gift of solitude.

This may be in our back yard. It may be at a chair in our bedroom. It may be behind a locked bathroom door — but it is someplace, somewhere, where we consciously choose to disassociate ourselves from the constant, relentless, and thankless demands of the corporate world that has hijacked the real one.

Turn off the phone. Close your eyes. And let the sunlight dance across your face.

Eyrie is an original painting by Steve Henderson, 30 inches high by 36 inches wide, gallery wrapped so that it can be hung without a frame.

Eyrie is also available as a licensed print at Great Big CanvasiCanvasARTFramed Canvas, and AllPosters. It is also available as a limited edition print to cover your large, flat screen TV when not in use, at Vision Art Galleries.

Read the rest, including Steve’s art, Ocean Breeze and Bold Innocence, at Joss and Main’s Wall Art: The Masters event through February 6, 2015, at Start Your Week with Steve.

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

“I’m Not Sick; I’m Righteous”

Years ago, I was at a church family camp function when a person new to the congregation sidled gently to my side and began chit chatting.

Abruptly, she then said,

“I don’t find this church particularly friendly. Do you?”

Ruby by Steve Henderson

It’s easy to dress ourselves up emotionally and convince ourselves that we are being someone that we are not. Ruby, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Initially I was nonplussed, because, well . . . our family had been going there for years and we managed to fit ourselves into a particular slot and were presently convinced that it was a jolly sort of place. After all, we didn’t feel rejected.

But then again, we didn’t feel as if we could be completely ourselves, either, which seems to be an essential part of being accepted.

So, thankfully, I managed to articulate myself with some sense of intelligence, and replied,

“I guess I’ve never thought of that before, but it’s not unreasonable if you’re feeling it. Is there anything specific you can point to?”

No, there wasn’t, and the conversation dropped. Not many weeks later the woman and her family left, and in my somnambulent state at the time — which didn’t last much longer because life circumstances shortly thereafter woke me up and drove me to look, quite seriously, for God’s acceptance, love, mercy, and compassion —  I reflected upon the woman’s words and tried to see things from her perspective.

She was one of those odd, loud, vaguely embarrassing people who make most of us feel awkward when they come too close. I mean, it’s not like we want to reject them or anything, but at the same point we don’t want other people — more normal people — to associate us too intimately to one another or they’ll think we’re odd, too.

So we’re friendly to them in social situations, but not overly so — just enough to convince ourselves that we have shown the minimum amount of love required to fulfill Jesus’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The only problem is that there is no minimum standard to this kind of love: there is only love, and it is unconditional, without limit, and decidedly not circumscribed by how embarrassed we feel about being around a particular person.

As Christians, loving people puts us in the very real social position of looking uncool and awkward, and most of us, outside of Christ, do not have the confidence necessary to love embarrassing, awkward, wrongly dressed, overly loud, possibly unwashed people.

They may swear (church people do, too, you know — only not in public), drink, dress in tight things, or have a disconcerting tendency to blurt out what we’re all thinking, but certainly have too much tact to say. And when they come to church, they don’t act the way church people are supposed to act, and this is most distressing.

Jesus ate with these kind of people all the time:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” (Matthew 9:12) Jesus told the Pharisees who disapproved of his eating companions, and the unspoken barb attached to this verse is, who are the sick people to whom Jesus is referring: the “sinners,” or the Pharisees?

Please read more on this topic in my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.

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


There are certain things one simply does not discuss in church circles, and I really don’t mean sex, alcohol, the f-word, or thong underwear.

As in most marriages, money is a topic that causes a lot of angst and disagreement, and within esoteric church community, tithing — loosely defined as giving 10 percent of one’s income (gross or net?) to the church building one attends on a weekly basis — is not up for discussion.

You just do it, friend.

Child of Eden inspirational original oil painting of little girl with green hat and radishes in garden, by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at icanvas,, and Framed Canvas Art

We are called to care for the least of these, and contemporary society does that by expecting government programs to take physical and financial care of people, while churches run weekly meetings. Is this the wisest way to spend our money? Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas,, and iCanvas.

For those who have doubts on the matter, the annual and semi-annual sermon on tithing, which emphasizes strongly that one is obligated to support the place where one receives the primary spiritual instruction, is a reminder to quiet any potential dissent.

Increasingly, however,  there are believers who receive their primary spiritual instruction outside of a conventional weekly church establishment, and they are looking quite seriously at the apostle Paul’s encouragement to give as much as they are able, for the privilege of sharing in “this service to the saints.” (2 Corinthians 8:3, 4) What does this mean, they ask?

And this brings us to the issue of giving: why do we do it?

Those of us trained in church attendance answer that it is our obligation to support God’s ministry by funding our local congregation, which then takes the money and does the “work of God,” but in reading 2 Corinthians 8, does it come across that the Macedonian Christians gave “even beyond their ability” so that other churches, elsewhere, could pay the utilities, buy Sunday School materials, and operate church ministries?

Or was this “service to the saints” just that — money given to the hurting, oppressed, and persecuted brothers and sisters in other areas who, because of their belief in Christ, weren’t doing so well?

God has given us resources — money and time — and plenty of neighbors whom to love, and if we look to the early church for inspiration on how to live, and give, then Acts 4:32, 34-35 are great verses to ponder:

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had . . . There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them brought the moneys from the sales, and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

It’s time for individual Christians to assess the resources they have been given and ask God just where He wants those resources used.

To read more on this topic, please follow the link to Where Does All the Tithe Money Go? at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity.

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

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