None of Our Children Attended Harvard

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition.” Colossians 2:8

We successfully homeschooled four kids. They’re all decent adults, capable of thinking for themselves, independently minded, cognizant that nothing in life comes easy, and not easily fooled by the words of others.

Eyrie inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite facing sunrise by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at icanvas, framed canvas art, great big canvas,,, and

The spirit of independent thought is not something one acquires through a specific path. It may not make you a lot of money, but it will keep you free. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Great Big Canvas, amazon,,, Framed Canvas Art

Not one of them, however, graduated from Harvard. Nor did they attend the school. And when they did go on to higher education (not all of them did), they were decidedly older than 12.

Judging by the assorted pop-news articles I’ve been running into lately on Facebook, my children are — by contemporary homeschool standards — failures, because truly successful homeschooled kids

  1. attend Harvard,
  2. matriculate into Harvard, or some other acceptably elite post-secondary institution, well before the age of 15, and
  3. become doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs in the technology or engineering industry.

One article chronicled a family of 10, or maybe it was 8 or 11 or 15, that was “deeply Christian,” which was the unspoken explanation for why all their children past puberty attended Ivy League schools and entered into elite professions. The younger kids are presumably still stuck at home, working through calculus, intermediate Latin, and Keynesian economics for kids. My sincere sympathies extend to any outcast who has a leaning toward art, or music, or writing, and isn’t blessed with a last name like Warhol, Spielberg, or Cyrus.

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

Quite frankly, all children — and adults — have the capacity to be amazing, because all children — and adults — are unique individuals, with unique gifts. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art, iCanvas, and

As a homeschooling parent who made it through the gauntlet, I have read more than my share of articles about amazing families — most of whom gauge their amazingness by the number of children, at a very young age, that they have sent on to Harvard, and I’ve always wondered two things:

  1. How do they PAY for this? Harvard, or any private university — or public, for that matter — is not inexpensive, and even the best financial aid doesn’t fund the whole package. Private, elite schools are so named for a primary reason, most notably that many children from elite — read, rich — families attend there. Those without a significant amount of money face a major hurdle that the articles never address — and one would think that families of 8 or 10 or 12 — unless they have managed to secure a plushly lush reality show — would struggle to make it, especially upon the regular incomes that many ordinary families depend upon.
  2. For those who call themselves Christians — and theatrically point to God and their faith as the means of their affording elite options — why do they use the same standards as the corporate world to define success in the lives of their children?

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong about attending Harvard — but neither is attending there the pinnacle of everything right.

Being a doctor or a lawyer or a banker isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but neither are these professions the exclusive representation of all that is good, honorable, decent, or right. Many families, homeschooling or not, simply want the best for their children, and our standards are not too low if we desire that they make good choices, have enough to eat, find something to laugh about, and have people in their lives whom they love.

Within our anxiously frenetic, corporately controlled American society, however, the simple things in life not only are not enough, they are not a sign of a successful life. Being a decent, honest person is fine, we grudgingly admit, but only if the job title and yearly benefit package are concurrent. Sadly, to many Christians, the definition of success is the same as that of the world around us, only we toss the name Jesus in now and then.

True Christians, we aver, are happy and content and joyful and rich — with that last item in the list being the most significant, and truly successful homeschooling families produce children who attend Harvard.

So I guess we didn’t make it. We just raised kids who like to read, know how to milk goats, enjoy being around one another, can create something edible out of a can of tuna and a bag of noodles, and, most importantly, put a value upon their independence higher than the imagined status they receive from their job titles.

Independent thinkers: now those are a rarity.

But thankfully, attending Harvard is not the means to achieve them.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I integrate Christianity into real life, and seek to dispel the myths that attach themselves to a serious belief in God.


What Does a Good Boss Look Like?

“I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand.” 1 Samuel 12:2

What does the perfect boss look like?

Beachside Diversions inspirational original oil painting of mother and child on coastal beach by ocean by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art,,, Framed Canvas Art, and

True leaders are not masters; they are fellow human beings who are given the serious charge of looking out for the well being of those under their governance. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor available at Great Big Canvas,,, Framed Canvas Art, and

Take out 20 seconds, and think on this. (If you’re at work, do this with your eyes open so no one gets suspicious and suspects that you’re taking time to think about something other than work; being able to pray, or think, in public without anyone realizing it is a good skill to cultivate.)

Okay, let’s list out five attributes:

The good boss is

  1. Physically attractive (this is THE Most Important Factor),
  2. Wealthy,
  3. Well known,
  4. Witty, with an especial gift for one-liners,
  5. Clever, cunning, self-assured, and crafty.

Do you disagree?

I sure hope so, and I’m guessing that your list may look more along the lines of,

The good boss is

  1. Competent at what he/she does,
  2. Confident enough to admit that he is wrong, or that your thoughts on the problem are better than hers (this is actually humility),
  3. Kind (considerate, courteous, thoughtful, understanding),
  4. Generous with well-earned praise and tactful with critique,
  5. Honest.

Because bosses are so intimately woven into the fabric of many people’s lives, we judge them by intelligent standards, factors that make a difference in how those bosses ultimately treat us. To this end, it is of little import if our boss looks like a movie star, but it very much matters whether that boss is honest, or not; or whether that boss is generous, or selfish; or whether that boss is actually competent (and isn’t just outwardly confident about being so) in the position for which he or she is hired.

Bold Innocence Inspirational original oil painting of little girl on coastal ocean beach by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at,,, Great Big Canvas, icanvas, and framed canvas art

Humility is an integral element of a good leader — the ability to recognize that they are human, and not demi-gods. Bold Innocence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed wall art home decor at,,, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Great Big Canvas

In short, our boss’s leadership qualities — his “success” as a leader — is not based upon looks, fame, cunning, or the ability to lob a riposte at an opponent or employee, thereby making that opponent look like a fool.

And yet, when it comes to our political, media, social, and religious “leaders,” the attributes in the first list, the one headed by physical appearances, are what we look for — the person feeding us the news needs to be attractive, the best president is the one who speaks well and eloquently, the national pastor is okay to be wealthy because this is a sign that he is blessed by God.

We persist in thinking that good looks, lots of money, and name recognition are signs of success and ability, and those “other things” — the intangible attributes that actually make up a man, or woman — naturally follow because it all goes together.

But do they? Is our good looking, wealthy, well-connected and upwardly mobile boss also kind, thoughtful, competent, generous, and respectful of those under his aegis?

In 1 Samuel 12, the namesake of the book, after leading the ancient nation of Israel for all the days of his life (7:15) — which some estimate to be in Samuel’s 90s — asked the people he had guided and shepherded,

“Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? 

“If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”

How many of our leaders — political, religious, medical, educational, bureaucratic, corporate — would ask a question like that?

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” the people of Israel replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

How many of our leaders — political, religious, medical, educational, bureaucratic, corporate — would get an answer like that?

In the U.S., the country in which I live, we are gearing up for the next presidential election, and the candidates are straightening their ties, airbrushing their make-up, and practicing their confident smiles.

Do any of them have what it takes — what it really takes — to be a good leader?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage ordinary people to stop depending upon self-imposed leaders for answers about spirituality, Christianity, and God.

I do not have a “ministry,” a radio talk show, or a mega-church; neither do I solicit funds in exchange for my “spreading the gospel” in your name. I simply ask people to think for themselves.

If what I write resonates with you, please pass me on.

Arizona Memories

The story of the painting, Arizona Memories, by Steve Henderson at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Childhood memories are ethereal, and while firmly and solidly entrenched in the mind of the person who lived them, they are difficult to communicate, visually, to others.

Arizona Memories inspirational original oil painting commissioned of horses and people on a ranch by Steve Henderson

Fine art paintings take memories and make them tangible, so that others can feel and enjoy them as well. Arizona Memories, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

So it was an intriguing challenge for Steve when a family group approached him to create a painting based upon collective memories that ranged from 50 years ago and beyond. Central to the memories was a place — a house and ranch that no longer existed — and the warm, engaging, and unique grandparents (or parents, depending upon the family member) around whom that Arizona home revolved.

There was little to go upon but a handful of black and white photographs, and vivid verbal descriptions of the time, the place, and the people.

And so the painting, Arizona Memories, was born — its nascence established long before canvas was stretched or paint set upon the palette, as Steve sketched out houses, horses, and a barn, moving them this way and that as those who saw so vividly in their mind what they wanted to see on canvas, elucidated their remembrances, “The driveway was dusty, remember? Wasn’t the house a bit more pinkish in tones? What kinds of flowers did Grandma grow? And remember Grandpa’s hat?”

Bit by bit the reference solidified, as the people, the horses, the house, and the land emerged from memory into visual reality. And after many, many hours of sketching, drawing, interviewing, checking, re-checking, confirming, changing, adjusting, and asking questions, it was finally time to set the canvas on the easel, choose the pigments, and pick up the brush.

Stroke by stroke the painting emerged. Four people from the past — some still here, but older; others gone, but never forgotten — materialized into the present, and memories that danced within the mind, sometimes near, other times elusive, now find life in a painting.

See more of Steve’s original paintings and licensed wall art home decor at Steve Henderson Fine Art. Subscribe to Steve’s free email newsletter to keep up on what is going on at the studio, and to see new works as they are featured.

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

Sailboat Thoughts for Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day — make it more than a day.

Maybe you own a sailboat, and maybe you don’t.

But the beauty of the human imagination — and fine art — is that we are free in our minds to sail where we will, and throughout our lives, our dreams propel us forward.

Golden Opportunity inspirational original oil painting by of sunset journey on Puget Sound near Port Townsend by Steve Henderson

Golden Opportunity by Steve Henderson

Autumn Sail inspirational original oil painting of sailboat on columbia river gorge between washington and oregon

Autumn Sail by Steve Henderson

Al Fresco inspirational original oil painting of sailboat on ocean sea by steve henderson

Al Fresco by Steve Henderson

Love, from Paris

The story of the painting Love, from Paris by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

There’s something about Paris, France that is timeless in its sense of vogue.

Love from Paris inspirational original oil painting of vogue 1940s 1950s nostalgia woman by Eiffel Tower in France by Steve Henderson

Love, from Paris, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, also available as open edition prints.

And there’s something, as well, about the sophisticated classiness of the 1940s and 1950s. The combination of the two leads to a sense of adventure and excitement as the viewer, whether she has a little black dress or not, and whether she is she or he is he, stands with our modish model near one of the most iconic travel locations of all, the Eiffel Tower.

As one Facebook fan put it, “This reminds me of the style of the Cunard travel posters from the 40s and 50s.”

Good art takes people places.

Love, from Paris, is available as an original oil painting. We also have six open edition prints for sale through the website.

Complementing Love, from Paris is Hello New York, as both an original oil painting and prints.

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

Pretending to Be God

There is a fine line between trusting God for the future and getting out there and working to make it happen. I am reminded of a couple I knew whose constant prayer was,

“Oh, God — solve this problem!” and their only activity in participating in the solution was to anxiously wait, wring their hands, and hint to others around them that the problem (it generally involved money) existed.

Mountain Lake inspirational original oil painting of alpine wilderness by Steve Henderson

Considering that God made the mountains, He’s perfectly able to work with us on the mountains in our own lives. Mountain Lake, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold

After enough hints and enough time, someone was sure to produce a check, at which point the couple said, “Praise Jesus! He sent us the money!” And then they were fine until the next large bill arrived.

This attitude of victimized helplessness, which looks like it is dependent upon the strength and mercy of God, is self-deceptively damaging, not only to the couple — who are fooling themselves into thinking that they are relying upon God — but also to their testimony of God’s goodness to those around them. Depending upon God to meet our needs, it seems, is a crapshoot, and if He’s in the mood to help, He will, and if He is not, He won’t, and there’s not a thing we can do about it but fret.

(Which contradicts Christ’s encouragement to us in Matthew 6:31-32, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” )

On the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum are those who figure God has relatively nothing to do with life — theirs or anybody’s else’s — and if anything is going to get done, then they’re going to have to do it. In others words, God helps those who helps themselves, an unfeelingly harsh dictum that quite fortunately, is not in the Bible at all.

But you wouldn’t know this by listening to the advice you are given, ranging from watered-down platitudes,

“You need to work on your faith (did you notice the word, “work”?) or God won’t answer your prayers,”

to the siren call of prosperity preachers, whose message is indistinguishable from Get Rich Quick business seminar speakers,

“BELIEVE! Your thoughts are powerful, and when you focus them on your goal, you will RECEIVE whatever you are asking for.”

To be fair, the prospero-preachers incorporate God into their sermons and writings, but only so much as He falls into their plans and does what His children demand that He do. Apparently, it is our belief in what we want, as opposed to our belief in the Person who gives us life, that has the power. And God is good with that.

But anyone who reads the Bible as a whole, with the idea of learning more about God, rather than carefully selecting (and twisting) verses to encourage people to aggressively pursue one of the major elements — mammon — that Jesus identified as a potential problem when we worship it, will get a different idea of how our Father works.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21 tells us, an echo of 16:9 that says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

So while we can think and believe and declare and aver and dictate all we want, God does have some say in the final result. And His thoughts, when they’re different from our thoughts, do not bow down in deference to ours.

But let’s say that we’re not fooled by the prosperity preachers and, quite sensibly, keep the TV turned off most of our life and don’t listen to those particular voices. It is still easy to absorb the import of their message, which, specifically is,

“You’ve got to do this yourself. God doesn’t expect you to just sit back and eat snack chips while He fixes all your problems.”

And that’s sort of kind of true — like most lies, it has that element of truth in it — because as we saw with our couple at the beginning, throwing our hands up in consternation and then sitting on them while we do precisely nothing, is no more trusting God than is wrenching everything from His hands.

But the fruit of this lie — that we’d better get thinking, and scheming, and conniving, and designing — is bitter, setting a heavy weight upon our heart that nothing, absolutely NOTHING, will happen until we make it do so. It is at this point that we frequently describe ourselves as overwhelmed, and this is a good indication that we need to REST.

No, not to sit on our hands. But yes, to close our eyes and pray,

“This is too big for me, God. I’m standing in front of a brick wall that is so high I can’t climb it, so broad I can’t get around it, and so thick that I can’t get through it. I need a door, but I can’t see one.”

And herein we find the answer, again, in Proverbs:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (3:5-6)

We need to get off of our hands, but out of God’s way. Perhaps it’s not so much the fine line I mentioned at the beginning of this article as it is a perfect blend.

Our loving Father, and His trusting children.

For more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article, If I Were Taller, I’d Look Thinner — and Other Bible Truths.

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

Why It’s Important for Christians to READ

Our little library is literally just that — quite little — but it has a generous attitude toward ordering inter-library loan books for patrons, and our family must use up a good portion of their budget each year.

We read about nutrition, genetic modification of our food supply, the corporatization of our society, history, and a lot of theology — many of these being books that are not mainstream thought, but which (unlike many mainstream books) actually provoke the reader to thought.

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

Reading is a gift, and those of us fortunate enough to have received it sometimes forget how valuable it is. Provincial Afternoon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Most of it is not quick, easy reading, but then again, the asking of questions and seeking out thoughtful, intelligent answers is not necessarily quick fare. This is not to say that quick fare is bad; I love an Agatha Christie mystery and have spent the last few weeks absorbing myself in the Dame’s world.

But quick fare, like quick food, isn’t something to which we should limit ourselves, which, we unfortunately do. Our TV shows, even the “news” and “commentary,” are divergent from provoking the viewers to analysis, and any movie attentive to reflective contemplation that can make it out of a prominent film production company generally languishes, barely breathing, in the theaters.

We don’t want thought; we want action and snack chips. Like bread. And circuses.

It is for this reason that I am grateful to Jane Austen, an author whose command of the English language and ability to convey nuances of meaning in her prose is so at variance with the latest sado-masochistic, dystopian fairy tale of wizardry and and vampire romance simultaneously targeted at 15-year-old adolescents and 45-year-old women.

Austen’s complexity and depth is also disparate to much of what we call “Christian” fare, which as far as I can tell has the words Jesus in it somewhere, whether it’s an affectedly shallow romance knock-off (“He kissed her gently and murmured, ‘Praise the Lord how Jesus has brought us together,'”) or a one-sided political diatribe thinly veneered by Bible verses that not so subtly instructs its reader how to think (“Hate these people. Worship those.”)

Not so long ago, I was chastised by a reader for what he considered snobbery on my part about people’s reading abilities; my article had to do with poorly written, pretentious “Christian” fare that was sold more on the basis of the writer’s name than the content of his (and his obscurely unreknowned “co-author” whose name was much smaller but who was probably responsible for most of the actual work) book.

“Are you criticizing people because they don’t have a high enough reading ability?” he wanted to know.

No, I’m not.

I’m criticizing people who do have a high enough reading ability to pick up, now and then, literature written above the fifth grade level, but never do.

I am concerned about those literate Christians — who belong to our Father and are charged with the joyous message of telling others about Him — who consider the Bible itself beyond their ability to analyze, comprehend, study, and read, and thereby rely upon pap fare — the kind with the author’s name larger than the title — to interpret deep, significant truths that they will never discover for themselves because they’re not looking to do so.

I agonize, and pray for, people who cannot read, or read well, because I know that those in power use this as a weapon against them — it’s hard to argue against someone when you can’t find, understand, and use resources to counter their claims.

And for this reason I call out to those who do have the ability to read, and read things much more difficult than what they generally do, but refuse to do so. The dumbing down of our society has not happened, and does not continue to happen, without the complicity of many of its members who should know better.

The ability of prominent voices — in the “sciences” especially, and the atheist camp — to make sweeping announcements of what constitutes truth, and how society should bend itself to it, is able to assert itself so strongly because Christians — who are to seek and follow truth — lack the confidence, or the knowledge, to counter speak — because they don’t read.

Reading is a precious gift, my friends, and unlike watching television, it does not involve the glazing over of one’s eyes, the drastic reduction of one’s metabolism, the apathetic propensity to just absorb what we are seeing and hearing. (If this sounds like hypnosis, well, maybe it is. Natural News has an interesting article on the subject.)

As with any gift, reading is meant to be used — with joy, anticipation, wisdom, and regularity — as a means of saying thanks to the Giver.

“Fix these words of minds in your hearts and minds,” God says in Deuteronomy 11:18. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

We don’t have to do a small-group Bible study on sticking verses on Post-It notes throughout our household; we just have to pick up the book and read.

And from there, as we realize that the Bible really isn’t beyond the ability of a reasonably competent reader (which, one assumes, should be the status of those who have made it through our public school system, and certainly those with post-secondary degrees), we can keep reading — other books, on different topics, by various authors whether we agree with them or not — gaining knowledge and wisdom and discernment, so that we can counteract, with confidence and ability, the voices of non-reason that rule our world.

Please read more on this topic at my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Christian Sheep: We Can Learn from Goats.

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

What Richard Dawkins Teaches Us about God

Many Christians get angry at prominent atheist Richard Dawkins because he speaks out so forcibly against Christianity, God, and the Bible.

It’s silly, really, to get angry at such an angry man, one whose bias against God is so strong, and his business of decrying Him so fruitful, that he has little worldly to gain by even contemplating the changing of his mind.

Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains inspirational original oil painting of deer eating grass in meadow by Steve Henderson

We can learn about God from many resources — His created world, for example — and even from the words of those who disbelieve Him. Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Atheists don’t believe in God. Why should that surprise us?

One of my favorite quotes by Dawkins, from his book The God Delusion, is ironically vitriolic:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

One can’t help but admire the sheer opulent fulsomeness of written elocution, and the point is most definitely made. This man really loathes the God he doesn’t believe in.

But there is something to be learned in Dawkins’ diatribe, and that it is embedded in a book entitled The God Delusion is especially apt:

We Christians, who know, believe in, follow, read about, seek, and say that we love God, don’t necessarily disagree with Dawkins’ assessment, although we tend to phrase it more mildly:

“I don’t like reading the Old Testament. God seems so angry somehow,”


“The Old Testament tells about God’s law, but the New Testament tells of His love,” as if the two were mutually exclusive.

Many Christians spend so little time in the Old Testament — because they’re afraid of it and what people like Dawkins say about it (we really need to read it more than he does, which shouldn’t be too difficult) — that they’re pretty clueless as to what it says at all.

In other words, we have a deluded idea about God, much like Dawkins does.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1:5 tells us, but do we believe it?

Before you automatically answer “Yes,” because you’re supposed to, stop for a moment and reflect:

Have you ever felt that God is far from you, and not attendant to your prayers?

The Psalmist did when in 44:24 he cried out, “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?”

And in 88:14: “Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”

And 10:1: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

And yet when we venture to express concern that God isn’t listening to us, because we have prayed so long and so hard and nothing is happening, we tend to get scolded for our lack of faith. This is generally enough to shut us up, but what is most unfortunate is that it shuts us up from telling our feelings and hurts and anxieties and doubts to the one person who really wants to hear them — and help us do something about them:


“Having loved his own who were in the world, (Jesus) now showed them the full extent of his love,” John 13:1 introduces a long section in which Jesus washes His disciples feet, assures them that He won’t leave them (and us) orphans, and reiterates the Father’s love for His children.

And therein, in that last aspect, is where we ought to differ from Dawkins: we must (not because God will get mad at us if we don’t, but because we’ll never truly know and trust Him until we do) seek to make the knowledge and confidence of His unconditional love for us, our priority.

In other words, we approach God, and life, with the attitude that our Father is all loving, merciful, gracious, and kind, and when issues arise that make us wonder, we give Him the benefit of the doubt and say,

“I don’t know why God did or said this, but I’ll ask Him. And I’ll research and read about it, and gain more understanding of both the Old and New Testaments, so that I’m not so easily knocked off my feet.”

Now Dawkins, and those who admire and emulate him, do scoff at the attitude of embracing the goodness of God, but in the end, it’s all a matter of world view:

One can choose, like Dawkins does, to see God (in whom he doesn’t believe) as all bad and the belief in Him as the source of all human problems. One can then look to mankind, with its sterling history of generosity, grace, and goodness to all, as the means to human happiness and welfare.

Or one can choose to not mimic — in a watered down fashion — those who distrust God. This involves, first, allowing ourselves to freely admit that, as humans, we have a propensity toward this attitude (think Eve, and her readiness to believe the serpent’s misinterpretation of God). Second, we take that admission to God — without fear or quaking — and let Him direct us, because that’s what He promises to do.

To read more on this matter, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, It’s a Secret, but Many Christians Do Distrust God. And an excellent book on the God of the Old Testament is Iain Provan’s Seriously Dangerous Religion.

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

“Why Do You Keep Doing Things That Hurt You?”

It’s amazing how often we don’t listen to our friends and family who have some fairly intelligent things to say.

(The inverse of this is that we pay undue attention to others who frequently don’t care about us at all or actively dislike us. We embrace their barbs, close to the heart where they scratch, and define ourselves by the opinions of disinterested strangers or active enemies. Don’t believe me? Talk to someone from middle school for ten minutes and see whose opinions have the most effect upon their self-worth.)

White on White inspirational original oil painting of flowers in a vase in neutral setting by Steve Henderson

Our inner self is like a flower — beautiful, resilient, yet vulnerable to being bruised. Human beings need to be treated with gentleness. White on White, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

I’ll never forget the conversation we had with a family friend, who was visiting as a house guest for a few days. We were regaling her with what we thought at the time were amusing stories about the church we were then attending — or, not attending, because its actions were irritating us to the point that we enjoyed our time away far more than we did our penance in the pews.

“Why do you keep going? What are you getting out of it?” she asked. “This sounds like an abusive situation.”

That word “abusive” stopped us short, and we exerted ourselves to explain that while, yes, the leadership was controlling and distant, and no, we really didn’t feel of any value in the congregation, it wasn’t abusive, really. Actually, it was probably our lack of charitable thought that made us overreact. We should be more patient.

“Maybe so,” she replied with a smile, “but going there doesn’t seem to make you very happy.”

Her words stayed with us long after the visit, encompassing an increasing number of Sundays when we found something else to do with our time, but still interspersed with sporadic church attendance because, you see, we Christians define our spirituality by that church attendance.

(This is not untoward. The Barna Group, which describes itself as “the leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture,” defined a practicing Christian, for poll purposes, as one who attends church at least once a month and says that his or her religion is very important in their lives.)

“If you really love God,” we’re told, “you’ll want to be with God’s people.

“And no church is perfect.

“We show the world that we love God by being patient with the things we don’t like, and not hyperfocusing on them. It’s not all about you, you know. We are a community.

“You need to give more in your spirit — flex and obey!”

There. Did I cover it all?

As time went by, and the little irritating quirks — increasingly introduced by a leadership team focused upon corporate growth philosophy and methods — kept piling on, we heard our friend’s question over and over:

“Why do you keep going? What are you getting out of it?”

And the answers that made the most sense were,

“We don’t know,”


“Very little.”

And increasingly we stayed away.

Our leisurely Sunday morning breakfasts replaced the hurried fellowship before the song worship service; random evenings with friends fulfilled our aching need to laugh and love and interact; long walks and discussion stimulated intellectual and spiritual thought; reading Scripture for ourselves — and debating it over the dinner table — sharpened our swords.

We found, to our surprise and quite without any intention, that we had replaced a bad situation for a good, and we were happy with what we were doing.

And we also found, not at all to our surprise, that many people who were not our friends and had no personal interest in our lives or family, were irritated by this, and called into question our Christianity because we no longer participated in what, for us, didn’t work.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth,” 1 John 3:18 tells us, and for the first time in a long time, this was making sense, because we were interacting with humans — those who called Christ their brother as well as those who didn’t — and had time to love and laugh and argue and listen.

I think it’s called fellowship.

“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.”

No longer did we accept the subtle, and not so subtle, condemnation of a narrow way of looking at things, a way that begins and ends its definition of a person’s spirituality by easily defined outward actions.

We answered two questions, ones that we were asking within our hearts for a long time, but never admitted, outwardly, to having until a family friend — who DID care about us as people — asked them:

“Why do you keep going? What do you get out of it?”

To read more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Abusive 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

Just How Equal Are We in Our Society?

I live in a theoretically egalitarian society.

I say theoretically because, although the Declaration of Independence which we, in my country, purport to honor, accept, and abide by (along with the Constitution of the United States) avers that “all men are created equal,” there’s difficulty in the very wording at the beginning:

Evening Waltz inspirational original oil painting of young couple dancing on ocean beach by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and

Life is a dance, and we do it most gracefully when we honor all those who dance it with us. Evening Waltz, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.

Even Thomas Jefferson, in his forthright way, didn’t accept that women, or people of color, or non-land-owners fit into this “equal status.” Nowadays, of course, we hem and haw and say how things have changed and congratulate ourselves on being so much more advanced in a societally evolutionary state, but we, too, operate under our own set of peculiar standards and filter people through a sieve of our own making.

Every day, no matter how culturally sensitive we assure ourselves of being, we look at others and make judgments on how hard they work, by what kind of car they drive; or how intelligent they are, by the title of their job; or how worthy they are of existing at all, by whether or not they happen to reside inside a woman’s womb.

One way or another, we have a lamentable tendency of categorizing other human beings, assigning a mental value number to their lives, and justifying, all to frequently, a subtly different way of treating them based upon their income, education, appearance, or groups to which they belong.

“Well of course the President of the United States, or a Congressman, deserves our respect!” we are told.

Of course they do — and so does the woman who waitresses their table, or the man who mows their lawn, but for some reason we’re not expected to snap to attention when either one of those people walk into the room.

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism,” James says in the book by his name, 2:1. He goes on to explain:

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there” or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

You bet we have, and we do it all the time. But such is the way of the world, and that is the point: in the world of men, the value of a man — or a woman, or a child, born or unborn — is significantly related to how much money he makes, how much power she holds, and how readily one recognizes his or her name, and for those who score high in these three areas, there is much glory and honor to be received from other men.

“But you are not to be like that,” Christ tells his disciples — us — in Luke 22:26. “Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

Our value, as humans, is not what we do, how much we make doing it, or whom we know, but rather, in who we are. And who we are, when we are Christians, are sons and daughters of God. There is no higher title than this.

God, unlike man, shows no favoritism, something Christians really need to get through our heads because there is a pervasive, and perverse, tendency to believe that we quite reasonably have what we have because we are so righteous, and thereby blessed by God. (Have you ever heard that tiresome dictum, “The U.S. has been blessed by God because it is a Christian nation?”)

While it is true that there are many promises blessing the man or woman who fears the Lord, and prosperity advocates point loudly to verses like Psalm 112:3 — “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever,”

we would do well to remember that truth is three-dimensional, and as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount addresses in Matthew 5, God’s ideas of blessings do not incontrovertibly include money. Jesus singles out the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, those who seek God, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and the persecuted and He calls them blessed.

Quite frankly, these blessed people do not resemble  the smug, self-satisfied, opulently “successful” people who attribute their lifestyle to their superior sense of Christianity. Some of these people have had the effrontery to look down upon their brothers and sisters of more humble station, and attribute that poverty to laziness, sleeping in too late, watching the wrong movies, and just a general sense of being “wrong.”

“If they were truly following God,” they sniff, “they would be where I am.”

I’m not sure that’s such a good place to be.

Where we are, and where we find our value as human beings, is in our position as God’s children, no longer slaves (or undervalued employees), but sons or daughters; and within that position, heirs with our Eldest Brother, Jesus Christ. (Galatians 4:7)

To read more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Are You Ashamed of Your Job Title?

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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