Taking a Sabbatical from Church

Within many Christian circles, church attendance is synonymous with one’s belief in Jesus, and for those who don’t attend, at all, or even deliberately skip a Sunday or two, the validity and value of their spirituality is called seriously into question.

Ocean Breeze by Steve Henderson

There is a sense of liberation in taking control of our spirituality. Ocean Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art

Before I go on, let me get Hebrews 10:25, the standard verse used to bring recalcitrant believers into line, out of the way:

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.”

Or, more familiarly, even for those who assiduously avoid the King James Version:

Forsake not the assembling of one another.

Skipping church, or not attending all together, is an emotionally divisive issue, but increasingly, more and more Christians are not feeling comfortable in a corporate group setting, and yet they are made to feel like pariahs for questioning the status quo. If this describes you, please read the rest at my Christian Post blog article, Is It Time to Take a Break from Church?

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

Living in Limbo-Land

Dreams are great things. They push us, prod us, exhilarate us, give us hope for a brighter future.

Riverside Muse inspirational original watercolor painting of woman by river with shawl licensed prints at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art by Steve Henderson

Achieving a dream involves not only a lot of hard work, but much prayer, and waiting. Riverside Muse, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art.

They also frustrate us to no end, especially when we have a dream, a desire, a longing, an aching — for years and years and years — but despite how much we work toward it, pray about it, give it back to God in case we’re worshiping it too much — it doesn’t happen.

But it also doesn’t go away.

Does this strike something deep inside you?

Surprisingly, not all people understand the concept of a long-term, chronic desire, ache, dream, and when they don’t, they can be frustrating for people who possess one of these long-term desires. If you, however, are part of the club of people who live in limbo-land — adequately functioning in day to day life, but always with that dream you’re working toward and praying about — then please follow the link to Are Your Dreams — and Life — in Perpetual Limbo? 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

Little Angel Bright — The Story of This Painting

The story of the painting Little Angel Bright, by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

Christmas, like snowfall, prompts different responses in people: some roll their eyes, upset by commercialism; others insist that Santa has nothing to do with the spirit of the season; but many others — who think back to being a child and remember how agonizingly long it took for Christmas Day to arrive — see it as a magical, joyful, simple time of innocence.

Little Angel Bright inspirational original oil painting of Santa and little girl by Steve Henderson, licensed print at iCanvasART

Let’s approach Christmas as a magical time, one of wonderment and innocence. Little Angel Bright, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. Licensed print at iCanvasART.

“It was so difficult to go to bed the night before,” a young adult commented to us, “and it’s not so long ago that I experienced that.

“I think back to that excitement, that overwhelming sense of anticipation and happiness, and it puts into perspective adulthood. For so long, I wanted to grow up and stop being a child, but now that I’m here, I remember some of the simple, unpretentious aspects of that childhood, and I remind myself that life is more than work, bills, and worry.”

In Little Angel Bright, a young girl — who no doubt couldn’t sleep — lives the fantasy of childhood by not only seeing Santa, but being enlisted as his temporary helper in fulfilling the all-important task of placing the angel at the top of the tree. The child focuses her attention on the placement of the angel, and Santa focuses his attention on the child — and therein lies the very basis of the Spirit of Christmas: a focus on children, and childhood, and joy, and innocence.

All of us, at some point, were children, and remembering back to a time when we thought differently, and hoped for things that adulthood now tells us are impossible, enables us to put into perspective what we call reality, but wish that it weren’t: it doesn’t have to be all about work, and bills, and worry.

In contrast to the cool dark of the night outside, the warm light of the tree and the angel reflects on the faces of Santa and the little girl. For a moment in time, Santa and child celebrate light, and beauty, and hope.

Read the rest at Start Your Week with Steve.

Little Angel Bright is an original oil painting, 24 x 24, on canvas.  You can watch the process of it being painted at the YouTube Video.

Little Angel Bright is also available as a licensed, open edition print at iCanvasART.

Little Angel Bright is also available as a signed limited edition print and open edition poster at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

As always, feel free to contact Steve Henderson Fine Artdirectly 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

Is Christianity a Series of Laws?

In a recent conversation with a five-year-old, it came out that using a pen, in kindergarten, is a prohibited activity. Violation of this particular law results in the punishment of putting one’s head down on the desk.

Diaphanous inspirational original oil painting of young woman in lilac dress and fabric at Grand Canyon National Park by Steve Henderson

What does freedom look, and feel like? Why not ask God? Diaphanous, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Great Big Canvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries.

What strikes me most about this issue — other than that it still is an issue, because 46 years ago, when I was in kindergarten, using a pen at school was also disallowed for those under the age of 8 — is how petty, small, and unnecessary it is. While I’m sure that there are all sorts of reasons why young children should use chubby pencils and not ballpoint pens, many of this five year old’s (and incidentally, my) generation successfully employed pen technology at the age of 4, 3, or 2. The kids pick up, and use, the resources in their homes.

So, what does this have to do with Christianity, one asks? Well, one could argue that the pencil versus pen issue is a bit . . . picky. Unnecessary. Silly?

So it is with many of the rules we establish for ourselves within Christianity, with the major difference being that the pencil issue is at least straightforward and easy to identify. Not so with the rules we find imposing themselves upon us in our spiritual lives. If you would like to find that freedom in Christianity that people keep talking about, but it doesn’t seem to be happening for you, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Silly Little Rules.

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

Christians: Bold for Jesus?

I became a Christian at 19. For the first 25 years, I diligently attended church services, which means that I came into regular contact with Christians comfortable in that setting, and for the last eight years, I have been transitioning into a more independent state, finding fellowship with seekers and believers in alternative formats.

Reflection inspirational original oil painting of little girl jumping in puddle on ocean beach by Steve Henderson

One doesn’t have to be big and strong to do great things; one only has to be associated with Someone who is big and strong. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Great Big Canvas, Framed Canvas Art, iCanvasART, and Vision Art Galleries.

What I’ve encountered, in those 33 years, are far too many Christians who feel insecure, ineffective, inferior, timorous, and apprehensive. If there is any possible spiritual fault they could have, they’ve got it — they don’t have enough faith (Fault Number One), they don’t read the Bible enough (actually, this one is easily solved — just read the Bible more), or this one, which sounds like a Bible verse but isn’t:

“I am not bold enough for Christ.”

If you’ve said this, and put yourself down for it, please read the rest of the story at my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, What If You’re Too Timid to Be “Bold for Christ”?

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

Spirit of the Canyon: The Story of This Painting

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

The human spirit is an indomitable one, and within all of us is the desire to create, to search, to explore, to be something and someone greater than the world around us says that we are.

Spirit of the Canyon inspirational original oil painting of woman on rock at Grand Canyon National Park by Steve Henderson

Our dreams and goal are an integral part of who we are, and they shape the person we strive to be. Spirit of the Canyon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. Licensed print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries.

And because no other human is privy to the inner workings and desires of our souls, our secret — of who we want to be, and who we think we really are — is safe with us. When the day’s work is done, and our obligations are set aside for the moment, we are free to pursue our dreams and aspirations, to mull over what it is that we would prefer to be doing, and to take the necessary steps to get there.

Spirit of the Canyon captures the sense of abandon and freedom that our souls yearn for, and the Canyon Sprite, hopped atop the rock, faces the sun, which plays across and warms her face. A breeze rises from the depths below and grasps the cloth in her hands, giving a sense of movement and flight.

There is a reason why no one can see the inner workings of our soul — those thoughts, those dreams, those desires are fragile, and they need to be nurtured in a safe place until they are strong enough to be brought out in the open and allowed to stand on their feet. The Canyon Sprite in Spirit of the Canyon is an embodiment of those dreams and desires, and she stands strong and straight and free and joyful.

Whatever your dream, your aspiration, your desire — nurture it, protect it, give it strength, and believe in it until one day, it hops up to a high, solid place and raises its arms in the air with exultation and joy.Read the rest at Start Your Week with Steve.

Spirit of the Canyon is an original oil painting, 30 x 36, on canvas, gallery wrapped and ready to hang immediately on your wall.Spirit of the Canyon is also available as a licensed, open edition print at Great Big CanvasiCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

As always, feel free to contact Steve Henderson Fine Artdirectly 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

Christians: The Extraordinary Voice of the Ordinary Person

Within Christianity, there are many many voices telling us all sorts of things: how to pray, how to not pray, how to read the Bible and with what study resource, how we should vote, whom we should hate or be afraid of, what qualifications it takes to be a “leader,” and how important it is to follow those leaders. Mega-pastors and celebrity Christians meet with political principals, visit the pope, and purport to speak for all believers when they push domestic and international policy issues.

Beachside Diversions inspirational original oil painting of young woman with hat and shawl and young child on ocean beach by Steve Henderson

Real life consists of moment after moment of ordinary things — who better to understand this than ordinary people? Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Great Big Canvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries.

There is a strong message, aimed at the sheep, to render obeisance to these leaders: buy their books, listen to their radio programs, be one of the thousands in the football stadium at their event, follow their teaching because they, somehow, have greater wisdom and learning than others. No part of our lives is too private or intimate for their not to have an opinion on it; we look to them for advice on how to use our faith to raise our children, interact with our boss, manage our finances, and lose weight the Christ-sanctioned way.

But when we focus on the celebrity voices of the self-styled leaders of the Christian movement and lifestyle, we forgo much wisdom from real people, living real lives — you, me, our neighbor. Maybe we’re not as articulate; we’re certainly not as aggressively promoted; but we ordinary, regular Christians have a voice, and there comes a time when God asks us to use it.

If you are a writer, a speaker, a blogger, a teacher who has something to say, but you feel discouraged because you’re too ordinary and there aren’t enough people out there listening to you, please read the rest of the article at my Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet blog, Why Ordinary Christians Can — and Should — Speak up.

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

Fear God — Don’t Be Frightened by Him

Discipline is an ambiguous word, easily misunderstood because its two major applications are so at variance with one another.

Athletes are disciplined — so also, should we be as children of God. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t have to be harsh. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art.

In a good sense, discipline is what athletes do — training their bodies to achieve top performance through practice, hard work, persistence, attention to diet and daily living habits — in short, they demand much of themselves without approaching punishment. Anyone who chooses to do something well — fine art painting, knitting, gardening, cooking — disciplines themselves in such a way to achieve top performance.

In a bad sense, discipline involves hitting, striking, slapping, whipping, beating — something we associate wicked masters doing to slaves, or creepy reprobates inflicting upon dogs — and the ultimate goal is punishment as opposed to growth. This is not a diatribe upon spanking versus not spanking, so much as it is an observance that discipline — when its primary goal is punishment and/or humiliation — doesn’t work.

Please follow the link to read, The Discipline of God – something we dread because we tend to think that God thinks, and acts, the way we too frequently do. Quite mercifully, He is . . . merciful. I write regularly on Christianity at my BeliefNet column, Commonsense Christianity, and I would be delighted if you joined me there.

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

It’s Easy to Doubt That God Hears Our Prayers

We’ve all had days when we wish that we were back in bed, before we even climb out of it. Not long ago, I faced a situation — not a major one, but not so minor that it wouldn’t add its weight of stress — that looked like it would be either A) very bad or B) not particularly good.

Ocean Breeze inspirational original oil painting of woman in white dress and with fabric on beach at sunset by Steve Henderson

We pray in all ways, at all times, for all things, and our Father always hears us — even when we’re afraid that He doesn’t. Ocean Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

As I sat in the car, I prayed: “God. Get me through the next several hours. I’m tired; I have no strength, energy, wisdom, or creativity, and I really can’t add much more to my plate right now.”

And then it was time to enter the lion’s den.

Hours later, I emerged, not necessarily whistling — because I can’t whistle — but relieved, grateful, and even cheerful. Earlier in the car, when I was faced with the options of A or B, I had forgotten that God usually has an Option C. It’s the one that unfolds when we can’t see beyond this or that, and it happens so consistently, I wonder why I persist in seeing life as either/or.

It’s easy to doubt that God hears our prayers, but the faith we need to do so is one He is willing to give us. Please follow the link to Yes or No: Does God Hear Our Prayers? at Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet to find an odd, but effective, encouragement God opened my eyes to quite recently.

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 Pataha: The Story of this Painting

The Story of the Painting The Pataha, by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

We have friends, transplants from the Northwest, who live in the Southwest. And while the desert is beautiful, they say — filled with color and form and light striking dramatically against the landscape — it also does not compare to the Pacific Northwest.

The Pataha inspirational original oil painting of southeastern Washington Pacific Northwest canyon by Steve Henderson

The Pacific Northwest landscape encompasses everything from canyons to meadows, from mountains to rivers. The Pataha, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed print at Framed Canvas Art.

“Ultimately, there are no leaves,” our friends observe, “or greenery. The desert is beautiful, but plants tend to be filled with sharp, thorny things, and you don’t brush your hands against the foliage when you take a hike.”

The Pacific Northwest, even on the dryer side of the Cascade Mountains, is a riot of trees and bushes and flowers and grasses and leaves and flowers. It is every bit as beautiful as the Southwest, but in a far lusher way.
Yes, the Pacific Northwest is beautiful, and it is time that it be recognized as being so, especially in the world of art and appreciating beauty.In The Pataha, the viewer is given a glimpse of a hidden Pacific Northwest canyon, tucked away in an eastern Washington enclave — not necessarily in full sight, but well within reach of the person who stops, gets out of the car, and takes a two-minute walk off to the side.

A wending, winding road hugs close to the hillside and lazily makes its way back into the countryside, eventually bringing the traveler to the small town of Starbuck — which enjoyed the name long before the coffee company appropriated it — where 150 people raise cattle, grow gardens, and support a close knit community of people who care about one another, and yet give each other space. The rural school of 30 children, one fifth the population of the town, is largely made up of students who bus in from distant, larger towns, because they want that small-school experience.

So is life in the rural Pacific Northwest — one of physical beauty of trees and greenery, amidst which live people who seek to live as independently as they can, because that’s the tradition of this area.

Read the rest, and subscribe to our free newsletter, at Start Your Week with Steve.
The Pataha is an original oil painting, 30 x 40, on canvas, with the frame included in its purchase.The Pataha is also available as a licensed, open edition print at Framed Canvas Art. It is also available as a three-piece, vertical print set at Framed Canvas Art.

As always, feel free to contact Steve Henderson Fine Artdirectly 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

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