Human Suffering, and Wondering What God Is Doing about It

On one of the Christian Google communities I follow, a perfidious little troll regularly posts photos of starving children, highlighting his point with accompanying commentary like, “Where is the good and gracious God?”

Actually, he’s more verbally adroit than that — quite shrewd, actually — and to avoid confrontation or actual dialogue he sets up the post so that people cannot respond. They can only look at the pictures, ache for the child, and say, “Yeah, where IS God? Why does He let all this suffering abound?”

Lilac Festival inspirational original oil painting of toddler girl in garden picking flowers on bush by Steve Henderson

Every child should have enough to eat, and many concerned individuals do what they can to alleviate suffering. They take seriously the injunction to be God’s hands and feet. Lilac Festival, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Framed Canvas Art.

In other words, why doesn’t God DO something?

It’s a reasonable question, one that has baffled us through the ages, but before we get too caught up in it, we might also ask,

“Well, why don’t we?”

Given that we humans are the major cause behind why humanity suffers, we can — collectively and individually — look at viable ways to relieve whatever it is in our power to alleviate. Doesn’t seem like much? On an individual basis, no, but if one individual refuses to do something, anything, because it doesn’t seem like it will do any good, then that’s at least one other human being on the planet not getting some help that he could otherwise get.

Please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet and read Why Doesn’t God DO Something?

Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com

Use your resources wisely and well, and don’t throw them at big business, global corporate oligarchies.

 

I encourage you, also, to look at my book, Live Happily on Less, because one of the reasons the world experiences the suffering it does is because a small group of power- and money-hungry people don’t want to share with the rest of the kids on the playground.

By learning to spend our money wisely and well, we not only improve our own lifestyle, but we limit, just a bit, the funding that we send to these people.

Mindless, Meaningless Phrases We Repeat

Life in the world of men consists of partial statements, misinformation, disinformation, and 95 percent of the truth mixed in with 5 percent of the lie, and the winner of the game is the one who recognizes this and doesn’t get caught.

Seaside Story inspirational original oil painting of young woman and little girl on ocean beach reading book by Steve Henderson

Words are powerful, but actions are as much, or more so. Seaside Story, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, ICanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Light in the Box.

Unfortunately, many of the same techniques are used within the spiritual realm — knowingly and unknowingly — and among Christians, the equivalent statement to “We have the lowest prices in town!” is

“Jesus loves you!”

While it’s a true statement, when mindlessly sung out to somebody’s retreating back, it really doesn’t mean much, and instead of saying it all the time, we might consider living it by treating every person we meet — including and probably especially the grocery store clerk — with friendly conviviality.

Please read the rest of the story at “Jesus Loves You!” — Enough, Already at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity.

I have assembled a number of my essays into book form, The Misfit Christian, which I have self-published through Amazon (do you think that the publishers of establishment Christianity, which are owned by secular companies, want Christians to stop following human leaders and start thinking, loudly and outrageously, for themselves?)

I encourage you to look at and into the book if you’ve ever felt out of the loop, not quite part of the party, and dancing to a different song than  everyone else.

Megachurch Rock Star Pastors

In our younger years, the Norwegian Artist and I bicycled through small-town America, and for housing, we often asked a local church if we could camp in their basement. Encountering everything from open-armed hospitality to outright hostility, we ultimately found ourselves attending a lot of church services.

The Land of Chief Joseph inspirational original oil painting of mountain meadow and rocks by Steve Henderson

The rock we want to follow is Jesus. If not then, you’d be better off with a real rock than a Christian rock star. The Land of Chief Joseph, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

One that made permanent memories was a revival meeting, in a tent, complete with wood shavings (the woman in front of us jumped up with an “OH!” as if she had been stuck with a pin) in which the speaker discussed the Cedars of Lebanon.

According to the speaker, these huge trees, towering over all other life in the forest, were the pastors God ordained to lead the sheep, and when the trees fell — he didn’t particularly mention why — then dreadful things happened, because everything under the massive trunks was crushed under its weight.

You do know that you’re the sheep, don’t you? But it’s our choice to follow a particular shepherd, or not, and if more Christians would think twice before they make a human being their guru, then we’d have stronger, smarter sheep.

The Misfit Christian by Carolyn Henderson

Feeling out of the loop? This could be because you’re thinking for yourself, and the people in the group around you don’t like that. Paperback and digital at Amazon.com.

Please follow the link to my BeliefNet article, When Mighty Church Leaders Fall, Do They Crush the People Underneath at Commonsense Christianity

Phonograph Days: The Story of This Painting

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

Music is an element of the human experience that transcends time and culture, and it is as important to the health of our souls as visual artwork.

Phonograph Days inspirational 1940s nostalgia oil painting of young woman listening to music in piano room wearing hat and based on Gladys Boldman by Steve Henderson

It was another time; it was another place — but its feelings transcend time and place. Phonograph Days, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

In Phonograph Days, a young woman loses herself in the swing of things — because given the hat, and the phonograph, and the dress – she has to be listening to jazz.

The slight smile playing across her lips betokens a wry sense of humor, and her hand on a swaying hip alerts us to a sensation of movement and sound. In the background, a beloved and well-played piano holds sheet music — lively as well in light of the dancing figures on the front cover. Atop the piano is a vintage photo of Gladys Boldman, the career woman of the 1940s upon whom this series of nostalgia paintings is based. The house, rooms, furniture and hats featured in these paintings are real, and they were an integral part of Gladys’ long and happy life.

Ending the Day on a Good Note inspirational 1940s nostalgia oil painting of woman listening to gramophone in Victorian living room by Steve Henderson

Simplicity is not an unachievable — it starts by kicking off the shoes, closing our eyes, and just resting. Ending the Day on a Good Note, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Home was a sanctuary for Gladys, as it is for many of us, a safe place to which to retreat after a long day — and a full week — of working. Behind closed doors, in the security of our middle-class castle, we listen to the music that pleases us, we sing along without worrying about people’s comments, we sashay and shimmy with a sense of freedom and aplomb that we never achieve in a room full of colleagues and fellow employees or students.

So always should home be — a place of acceptance, peace, happiness, and freedom where we can truly be ourselves. Then, as we practice being individuals and fully understand the depths of who we really are, we can head out into the big, hostile world and remain true to ourselves, thereby encouraging others to do so as well.

 

The New Hat inspirational 1940s nostalgia oil painting of young woman in dress and blue hat inf front of mirror and dressing table by Steve Henderson

We tease ourselves for taking pleasure in simple things, but why do we do this? Such an attitude is healthy and wise. The New Hat, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Phonograph Days, along with The New Hat and Ending the Day on a Good Note, is part of the growing collection of 1940s Nostalgia, a time when we dressed with a sense of classic fashion, and learned how to make do with resources that were much more limited. It was a simpler era with a sense of innocence and poignancy that we are afraid, somehow, that we have lost.

Innocence isn’t out of date. Poignancy isn’t extinct. When we find evidence of these attributes, we gravitate toward the source, because goodness feeds our hungry and thirsty souls.

Phonograph Days, the original 24 x 20 oil painting on panel, is available for direct purchase through Steve Henderson Fine Art. Simply click the Add to Cart button on this or any of Steve’s original works to buy the painting safely and securely through PayPal.

Read the rest at Start Your Week with Steve.

As always, please contact Carolyn@SteveHendersonFineArt to inquire about any of Steve’s original oil and watercolor paintings or licensed open edition prints.

Thoughtcrime: Are We Guilty?

Think about the term, Judeo-Christian values.

We bandy it about, especially we Christians, and the idea is that, because Jews and Christians share a common heritage (the Old Testament, and Abraham as our collective father), we should support one another, without question.

Enchanted inspirational oil painting of young woman girl in green dress in sunlight and garden by Steve Henderson

A healthy and varied populace is able to engage in lively, yet civilized, debate. When one thought rules all, we no longer have a healthy populace. Enchanted, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

How that “somehow” plays about these days is that Christians, unequivocally, are told to uphold everything the state of Israel does politically, because if we disagree, we’re not supporting God’s people. Frequently, we are bludgeoned with this verse from Genesis 12: 2-3 in which God makes His promise to Abraham:

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

The way this verse is interpreted often looks like this:

“You can’t disagree with anything Israel does, or God will curse you. The Jews are God’s people!”

Well, let’s think about this:

The Misfit Christian book and kindle by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com

We spend all our lives trying to fit in. Why? Paperback and digital at amazon.com.

Please click the link to Are We Being Bullied to Believe a Certain Way? at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity. This is an obviously sensitive topic, but so are a lot of other ones. In a free society (we are free, aren’t we?) people should be able to think aloud, ask questions, and hold divergent opinions. Let’s stay free.

Christian Politics — What’s This?

The World Traveler inspirational oil painting of Santa at North Pole with world globe by Steve Henderson

The world is in much better shape in Santa’s hands, than it is in the hands of politicians. The World Traveler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

We have two sets of friends that we have always wanted to put together in the same room:

Set A is classic U.S.A. Republican party, and they worship George W. Bush. The world ended on the day he left the White House, and if they believed in saints, George would be greater than Peter.

Set B is pure Democrat. They don’t need to believe in saints, because Barack Obama is equivalent to, or greater than, Christ.

Ironically, we think they would get along famously together, as long as one didn’t mention the name of their respective human Messiah. So focused is each set on the marriage of political beliefs with God’s way of doing things, that they can’t separate the two.

While the tenets of Christianity transcend politics, too many people are caught up in the sniping and snapping at one another to realize that, in reality, we’re being played off of one another. Whether it’s Larry King or Bill O’Reilly talking, their primary goal is to agitate listeners and increase traffic  – and we’re falling for it.

The Misfit Christian by Carolyn Henderson

The Misfit Christian is written for seekers and believers who are tired of being told what they should believe or how they should act.

Please read the rest at my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet, Christianity Is Not a Political Party.

Our Obsession with Success

If you want people to read an article you write, or watch a video you post, just make sure that the title has the word, “Success” in it. (I know. I just did that. Did it work?)

Fortunately, I am not attracted by these headlines that really reel the readers in, (preferring, instead, articles with photos of celebrities without make-up), but Success Articles abound:

Shore Leave inspirational oil painting of rowboats on Columbia River by Steve Henderson

Prosperity preachers — secular and religious — promise us a yacht, which may cause us to overlook the rowboat that God has put at our disposal. Shore Leave, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

The Bill Gates Plan: Five key attributes of the Successful Person.

Superstar Managers: How They Achieve Success and Become CEOs

It’s not hard to find these — just pop onto Linked In and look at the top 5 stories, most of which have a minimum of 50,000 views. One time, I wandered over just to see what the writers were actually saying, which is, predictably, not much.

A lack of valid and intelligent content, however, is no guarantee that people will click away. Sometimes, when I look at the YouTube videos with the million-plus viewers and compare them to the ones with a few thousand or so, I wonder, “Cats running into windows are always funny, but don’t people want to know about alternative news information contrary to what they’re fed from corporate news stations?”

Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com

If you’re worried about money, focus less on making more as you do on spending less. Paperback and digital at Amazon.com.

Speaking of clicking, I would appreciate it if you would follow the link for the rest of the story, Longing for Success, at my BeliefNet blog, Commonsense Christianity. Regular readers know that I am only able to post a teaser, and am most grateful for the readers who ingest the entire article.

If you are a Christian, you are being subtly — or not so subtly — manipulated into thinking that a love of God and a desire for a lot of money can go hand in hand. Don’t think so? If you’ve ever attended a business seminar and found yourself nodding in agreement, you might question whether or not you were being manipulated.

Into the Surf: The Story of This Painting

The story of Into the Surf, the original oil painting by Steve Henderson at Start Your Week with Steve:

Children are the world’s best imitators. Naturally observant (until we drive it out of them), they learn by watching, reflecting and doing, and one reason they pick up languages so quickly is that they’re willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

Into the Surf inspirational oil painting of girl woman and child at beach with fabric in surf by Steve Henderson

Learning is something we can joyfully do throughout our lives, and our best teachers at how to do this are young children. Into the Surf, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and ICanvasART

While an adult will mentally agonize over sentence structure before daring to utter anything aloud, a child will pipe up,

“Want cookie!” Whether or not he gets it, he at least has made the request known, while the adult is murmuring, “I . . . a cookie . . . please . . . like would.”

Sadly, children grow out of this, as they become aware of their surroundings and the gentle, deprecating chuckles that others are making at their expense. The more groups they enter — school, sports, church, 4-H — the more they adjust to conform to avoid this censure, and at the same time their intellect is growing and enabling them to learn even more and more, their desire to not be made fun of precludes this very learning.

Perhaps it is for this reason that conventional expertise makes the unsupported statement that, “The greatest learning takes place before the age of 5, so if you want a person to learn a second language, they’d better do it by then.”

(As a person who learned Spanish — quite competently — at the age of 23 by being completely immersed in it, I always knew this statement was false.)

Into the Surf, Steve’s oil painting of a young woman and a child, at the coast with the sun and the breeze and beautiful fabric, captures the wonder and sense of adventure that young children live with such exuberance. The young woman, graceful and serene, meditates upon the horizon while the young child, in her mind as tall and willowy as her elder, pantomimes the movement.

Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD art workshop at Amazon.com by Steve Henderson

Autumn is the perfect time to pick up and practice a new skill — like watercolor painting. Step by Step Watercolor Success DVD by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

The painting is an encouragement to us to stand tall and graceful, like an adult, while at the same time we throw ourselves into learning and joy, like a child.

We don’t have to lose the exuberant willingness of a child — we just have to be aware that we’ve tucked it away somewhere, deep within, and it’s time to look for it and bring it out.

Into the Surf, the original 30 x 40 oil painting, is sold. It is available as a licensed, open edition print at Great Big Canvas and iCanvasART.Please read the rest of the newsletter (subscribing is free) at Start Your Week with Steve.

Please contact Carolyn@SteveHendersonFineArt to inquire about any of Steve’s original oil and watercolor paintings or licensed open edition prints.

Alone Does Not Mean Lonely; and Lonely Does Not Mean Loser

I live in a society that is desperately afraid of being alone. So alarmed are we of solitude that we define normalcy by how many groups we belong to:

“I go to church, Sunday School, and small groups.”

Spirit of the Canyon inspirational oil painting girl on rock in Grand Canyon Colorado by Steve Henderson

Some people are afraid of being alone. Others are comfortable with the concept. Extroverts versus introverts? Spirit of the Canyon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

“I volunteer through our Give-Back-to-Others program at work.”

“I belong to many civic organizations, and we do good things for the community. I am even a leader in some of these groups.”

“I have a lot of friends, and I get together with people all the time.”

And the crowning achievement:

“I am a people person.”

Our most signature sign of failure as a human being is the diner in the cafeteria or restaurant — be it a school child or professional adult — eating alone, and I will never forget a friend in college describing his reaction to the situation this way:

“I want to stand up and shout, ‘I have friends! I’m not a loser!’”

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com

People who think for themselves, and are comfortable not having to be in a group, are frequently labeled Misfits. Go ahead, wear the label proudly. Paperback and digital from Amazon.com.

I really detest the word “loser,” and cannot see its appropriate use, especially in jest. If you are a person who not only is not afraid of being alone, but actually enjoys times of solitude, you are normal and well-balanced, regardless of what the seminar speakers say (if more of us left those people alone, they wouldn’t bother us so much — they need lots of bodies sitting in chairs to keep their program going).

Please join me at my BeliefNet column, Commonsense Christianity, to read the rest of this article, Alone But Not Lonely.

Did That Christian Just Call Your Child a DOG?

Those of you who have lived with, or through, a fifteen-year-old girl know that adolescents of this age generally fight self-esteem issues. Call it hormones, peer pressure, society, or fat days, 15-year-old girls need a lot of love and reassurance that they are beautiful, beloved people.

Ruby inspirational oil painting of Chihuahua with crown on pillow by Steve Henderson

This is a dog. And as cute as some people think it is, it should never be used as a word to describe a human being. Ruby, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

When one of our progeny was 15, in the midst of this exact stage, she was called a dog by a speaker brought in by our church. The speaker, who earned a generous living by organizing church mission trips through an International Church Mission Trip Organization Agency, gave a group of young people the Gary Smalley Personality Assessment Tool Test. (The young people were part of a church-induced “mission trip” to a Christian camp that was looking for free counselors for the season.)

Based upon this one-page sheet, in which participants score themselves from 0-3 points on whether or not they are a “problem solver,” “optimistic,” “adaptable,” “analytical,” and 72 other attributes, human beings — in this case, insecure, emotionally fragile adolescents — are labeled Lions, Beavers, Otters, or Golden Retrievers.

Guess what my child was? How about yours? Or you? I mean, after all that orthodontia, do you want your son identified as a Beaver? Please follow the link to the full article at my BeliefNet Column, Commonsense ChristianityHow Long Will We Let Other Christians Call Us Dogs?

As regular readers know, I am only able to post a teaser to the full story — and if you have sat through any form of “Christian” personality test through your church, please follow through. This kind of abuse only continues because we allow it to.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com

Don’t fit in? Stop trying — perhaps what you’re trying to fit into, isn’t worth the effort. Paperback and digital at Amazon.com

 

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