Five Great American Paintings

In 2008 a series highlighting five great paintings by Norman Rockwell appeared on the site.

Author, Nicholas Provenzo, begins with the words, “The American painter Norman Rockwell ranks among my favorite artists.”  I whole-heartedly agree!

Provenzo describes, in nice detail, five great Rockwell paintings.  They are:

Part I: The Scoutmaster
Part II: The Homecoming Marine
Part III: Lincoln the Railsplitter
Part IV: The Problem We All Live With

Part V:
Freedom of Speech

Provenzo’s descriptions are on many levels and well-written and thought-provoking–and still relevant in 2015.

While all five are excellent.  I’ll highlight two.

“Part IV” is noteworthy because it is of an actual six-year-old child, Ruby Nell Bridges, on November 14, 1960.  It is the first day black children in New Orleans would go to school with white children. There is a photo, similar to Rockwell’s painting — but the painting is better, more meaningful.

ROCKWELL_Norman_The_Problem_We_All_live_with_1964This was a major historical day in my lifetime. It rates up there with the Berlin Wall coming down.

As an educator, I appreciate Rockwell’s piece and the history — and am well-aware that we have much work to do to give all children the quality education they need to be successful.


The second one I’ll highlight is “Part III” Lincoln the Railsplitter.  Again Provenzo’s description is excellent. LincolRockwell_Norman_Lincoln_the_Railsplitter_1965n’s work ethic is clear. He’s a hard worker physically and as a scholar–with a plumb bob over his shoulder. While I have no desire to be in politics, I can learn much from Lincoln as a railsplitter, scholar, and thinker. (I also chose this one because, for me, it is a lesser-known Normal Rockwell work.)

The painting also reminds me of one of my favorite Lincoln quotes:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

 More: the NY Times had a nice article ‘Norman Rockwell, the Storyteller’ here


A Principled Pluralism

A few comments following the Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS decision handed down 6/26/15.

I’m intentionally not commenting here on the decision itself.  My concerns are the bigger picture.

The decision handed down is contrary to the beliefs of many Christians and it is also consistent with the beliefs of many Christians.

I’m concerned that Christians could be limited in what they can, and can not believe.

I’m concerned that loving Christians will be unfairly and incorrectly labeled for what they believe.

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson wrote a nice opinion piece in the Washington Post.

He is calling for “a principled pluralism in which gay people can enjoy the institution of marriage and religious institutions can organize, educate and serve according to their beliefs. In a post-Obergefell world, this is an outcome many of us could welcome.”

I Hope Churches Can Choose

The Crossing Church (of Quincy, Macomb, and elsewhere) has posted a statement on their website stating their opposition to redefining marriage.  A couple quotes:

“We will reach as far as possible with the grace and love of Jesus without losing a firm stance on the foundation of God’s unshakeable truth.”

“The Church thrives counter to culture. It is the refiner’s fire where the Church is purified.”

See also a statement here.

There are many Christians and Christian churches who favor same-sex marriages.

I’ve heard that there have been gay marriages already performed in a (at least one) church in Macomb (prior to the SCOTUS ruling).

I think it is a good thing that gays will have the opportunity to marry in a church, as per the new SCOTUS ruling and that there are churches that have decided that they do not support gay marriages and will not perform them.

Kennedy’s Words for Believers

Here‘s an article that begins with words from Justice Kennedy’s majority decision:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.

I like the sound of this.  It supports my main premise in this posting and  Michael Gerson’s call for a “principled pluralism.”

The author of the article goes on to claim that, over time, Christians will not be allowed to practice their beliefs against same-sex marriages (or if they do, they’ll be punished or persecuted).  I hope that this will not be the case.  Some will say I’m naive. I do see the possibility that this is a slippery slope. I hope that First Amendment rights will be maintained.

I like to take Kennedy’s words at face value.

This is a Legal Definition of Marriage

The SCOTUS decision makes a new legal definition of marriage. This legal definition does not have to be accepted as the Christian definition of marriage.

No the Name-Calling from Either Side

People are entitled to their decisions. Name calling should be avoided.  It does not accomplish anything, but is divisive. Here’s something that was posted on Facebook that is rather crude (OK, it’s Facebook), but puts it quite succinctly:


To repeat, I am neither supporting or disagreeing with the SCOTUS decision itself. My main concern is that I hope individual churches can continue to practice what they believe and not be persecuted for it.  In fact, churches on both sides of the issue need to be respected.

I’m happy for my friends who are gay because they can experience the fulfillment of marriage.

Connecting and Community

Yesterday the Pekin community lost a high school boy to an apparent suicide.  Pastor Jim McClarey and youth from his church will be joining us on a mission trip in a couple weeks.  The boy was not in his youth group, but many of the youth going, were friends with the boy they lost and he asked for our prayers.

Pastor Jim sent another email following a candlelight “observance” held in Pekin.  Jim reports that they did light candles and had a moment of silence, but he left disappointed.  He discussed disconnectedness–which lead to tragedies and which seemed to be present at the “observance.”

Here was my reply:

Thank you Jim for articulating that.  I appreciate your words and thinking it through.
I understand what you are saying.
We (our culture) is losing the ability to connect and build community (and leverage the things it provides).  I’m using these words ‘connect’ and ‘community’ in the full sense.  The full sense includes the soul.
Unfortunately, our culture thinks they are connecting and forming communities via electronic technology.  Texting and posting on Facebook does not connect people or create community in the full sense.
Going on a mission trip, elbowing up to a table together for a meal, sleeping in the same room with a snoring comrade, sharing a pick-ax, and worshiping God together has potential for connecting people and building community. Hey, let’s do that.
Yours in Christ,
Jim O

3 Reasons For A Life Verse

Here are three things a life verse helps you do:

1. Speak of your faith more clearly.

A life verse allows you to articulate your faith to those around you.  Your family, friends, coworkers and church benefit from the clarity in your life that comes with a life verse.  It may seem overwhelming to bring up lots of scripture in a conversation, but a simple life verse opens the door.  Your faith becomes more clear as you share your life (and life verse) with others.

2. Speak of your faith more often.

A life verse comes to mind on a regular basis.  What is your mission?  What is your goal?  Why is your hope in the Lord?  When trials come, you have something to lean on – God’s Word, not only tucked away in your heart, but right on the tip of your tongue and the forefront of your mind.

3. Speak of your faith more confidently.

A life verse gives confidence to live out your call.  Your life is being shaped by the story your tell yourself. Too often, with far too many folks, the story in our hearts and heads is one of low confidence.  Allow powerful scripture to become your story – let it shape your confidence.

———–A Few Examples————-

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?  (New American Standard Bible)

Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 8: 38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.