Contemplation: The Story of This Painting

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

Autumn is an unusual season — one of joy and thankfulness, because we celebrate harvesting the hard work of summer and spring, yet also one of meditative thought, because everything is winding down, leaves are changing color, and winter is making plans to settle in.

Contemplation inspirational original oil painting of young woman with autumn leaf by orange and red tree by Steve Henderson

Autumn is a time and season of thought and contemplation. Contemplation, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

It is ironic that, in this time of closure, there is more and vibrant color than at any other time of the year.  Oranges, reds, scarlet, gold, burgundy, even pink are set against a sky so blue that the riot of color simply shouts . . . quietly.

Autumn is a thoughtful season, one of contemplation, and the young woman in this painting is doing just that. The delicate texture and design of a fallen leaf are easily overlooked, as are so many aspects of life unless we take time to stop, reflect, meditate, ponder, and wonder, and in the middle springtime of her life, this woman slows down and savors calm introspection. Behind her, the tree stands sentinel, its branches held high as it bursts forth the season’s last hurrah.

It’s almost trite to say that our lives are like the seasons, but they are. Every year is a reminder that life starts quickly and progresses even more so: from the first crocuses we advance to the daffodils and tulips, all of which end far too soon by the time the irises show up. There is sunshine and growth and noise and activity, and we haven’t had a chance to tire of a warm summer evening under the stars before we notice a quick chill in the air, a subtle change in the color of the leaves, and pumpkins in the garden.
All of the seasons — of the calendar year and of our own lives — are beautiful in their own way, and as we walk through the days of autumn, let us take time to enjoy, and be thankful for, the beauty that this time of year sets forth.Read the rest at Start Your Week with Steve.

Contemplation is an original oil painting, 24 x 20, that is sold.

Contemplation 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

The Incredible Importance of Individual Bible Study

“Why won’t you attend Bible study?” a man asked me once.

“Do you hate studying the Bible?”

Spirit Of The Canyon by Steve Henderson

There is an incredible sense of freedom in doing things yourself, and this includes studying the Bible. Spirit of the Canyon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

Seriously, when you get a question framed like that, it’s best to just talk about the weather. The person asking will never understand the answer, because their eyes are closed.

Bible study, which really means nothing more than reading the Bible, is another one of those activities that has been appropriated, and defined, by the establishment church, so that too many people, when they hear the words, think that they can only do it, successfully, in a group setting.

Bible study is incredibly important, which is why it’s so vital that individual Christians learn to do it on their own. If you must be in a group, so be it, but please do not let group study replace individual reading on your part. Given a choice between the two, it’s always better to forgo potential group think.

Please read the rest at my Belief Net blog, Commonsense, Christianity, in the article, Free Yourself from Bible Study Myths.

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

The Christian Obsession with “Ministry”

Many Christians, especially in church settings, focus — obsess — about finding their ministry, and they pore through 1 Corinthians 12 searching for suggestions:

Contemplation inspirational original oil painting of girl with autumn leaves orange and red next to tree by Steve Henderson

If we take time to think, and pray, we can frequently find answers to our questions without having to resort to the Celebrity Christian route. Contemplation, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

“Do I have faith? or a message of wisdom? I’m pretty sure I don’t have the ability to manifest miraculous powers. What, God, do you want me to DO?”

It’s a profound question, and one that we ourselves can answer without buying yet another how-to book from a Celebrity Christian. Rather, let’s look at Scripture, pray, and listen to God’s still small voice, a voice that is challenging to hear unless we’re being still ourselves. Consider this thought:

Our “ministry” consists not so much in what we do for God, but in who we are.

If you find yourself wondering, like we all do, how to best use your years on this planet, then please click through to read, Looking for Your Ministry? 5 Ways to Find It, at my blog, Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet. The answers are different than what you’ll find in a Celebrity Christian “how-to” book — and they’re free.

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

Too Much Study, Not Enough Learning

Christians come in all shapes, sizes, and maturity levels, and the more honest we are, the more fun we are to be with, even if what we’re saying or working through is painful. The other day, someone told me:

A stack of books and the Bible for the Purposeless Driven Life article

Too many Christians read too many books ABOUT the Bible, and not the Bible itself. It’s an easy error to correct. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art.

“I’m so afraid that Jesus is impatient with me. I don’t read the Bible much, and I don’t know what it says. I don’t think that Jesus can use someone like me.”

Sentences like that always make me ache inside.

It’s not that there’s a problem with the sentiment, it’s that the person mentioning it has been a Christian for many, many years, and attending church, and Bible studies, and small group meetings, for just about that long. If this stuff worked, I thought, then why isn’t it, well, working?

Please join me at my column, Commonsense Christianity at BeliefNet, for the rest of the story, The Purposeless Driven Life.

If you, like me, find yourself bored or dissatisfied with the many “study” materials out there that promise to lead you on to a stronger relationship with Christ, then please click the link, and leave me a comment at the end of the page, or this one.

We need to be strong, mature, knowledgeable and different, my Christian brothers and sisters. We will not get that way by reading book after book after book that talk ABOUT the Bible (and frequently don’t get what they’re talking about right) as opposed to reading the Bible itself.

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

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

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