Five Great American Paintings

In 2008 a series highlighting five great paintings by Norman Rockwell appeared on the ruleofreason.blogspot.com/ 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.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-next-gay-marriage-question/2015/06/29/03a54b8e-1e8c-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html

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.”

http://thecrossing.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/SCOTUS.pdf

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:

YesImA-ChristianNoI-AmNotConclusion

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

http://www.harvestministryteams.com/blog/2015/06/3-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.

Micah6.8lifeverse

What are we going to do about racism?

What are we going to do about racism?

Introduction

While we have made some progress in our country, will still have racism. We need to work to reduce it. (Realistically, we probably won’t be able to eliminate it in our lifetimes any more than our ability to eliminate ___; fill in the blank; pick a vice.  By ‘reduce racism’ I mean it in two ways.  Reduce the number of people who are racist and reduce the amount of racism in a person.  If we want to split hairs, it could be argued that a racist can not be fully converted to a non-racist. We can hope that that the level of racist feelings can be reduced to some epsilon level.)  One postulate here is that we are all a work-in-progress.  Very few of us have reached Mother Teresa levels when it comes to love.  I don’t believe racism is a have-it or not-have-it situation.  Again, we need to work to reduce the level of racism, in our country and in individuals.

It may be that messages by Jon Stewart, logic, information, or lectures by Sociology 110 professors will reduce racism, but I believe it may require more.  To convert (reform/transform?) racists, I believe requires a change in the heart — that is a change in the way people feel.

To effect a change of heart requires more than information, chiding, or logic.

The Claim I Wish to Posit

Here is my claim: One way we can get the requisite change of heart is the presence of Holy Spirit which comes with belief in God through faith.  (I’m certainly not claiming that all Christians are non-racist, far from it.)

Christians (believers) are a work-in-progress. Christians are growing, as Christians.  My claim is that the Holy Spirit can get us the change of heart we need (to do and not do appropriately, to love our neighbors, and reduce, in fact, racist feelings).  It can, and probably will, take time — a long time perhaps.  (I can think of many lessons that took numerous Bible studies and sermons for me to get and mathematical concepts which took me numerous lessons to learn.)

Some Ideas

 I’m far from being able to fully support this claim.  However, I do believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change people.  My job here is to support that belief.

For now, I will provide a (rather random, at this point) series of lines of thought.  Someday, I hope I can organize them into a better flow.

It begins with the first commandment – Love God

 Here’s an interesting article: Why the First Part of the Greatest Commandment Is Even More Important Than the Second. http://bit.ly/1K59KjR A few quotes from the article:

    • You Can’t Do the Right Thing Without Some Help – If you’re a Christian, you know how hard it is to do the right thing, even though you know what you ought to do….As a Christian, I often experience the “tug of war” between my own fallen nature and the God’s continuing work in my heart.
    • Acknowledging the existence of God is foundational.
    • [people] can treat people nicely without loving God, but he can’t really do the right thing unless [th]he embraces the existence, power and source of what’s true about right and wrong. Unless God exists, moral truth is little more than opinion, and without God’s power we are unlikely to do the right thing with any consistency.

The ‘strength of love’

washingtonpost.com – The power of forgiveness in Charleston By Michael Gerson (my highlighting)
When many relatives of those cruelly murdered in Charleston — by a man who talked and prayed with his victims for an hour before systematically gunning them down — publicly offered their forgiveness, it was stunning and admirable in many ways. Not least of which, it provided a contrast to our political culture. So many are engaged in a search for evidence of their victimization in order to justify their anger. Here, genuine victims of a horrible crime responded with mercy.

The killer chose a historic African American church for a reason. For centuries, black churches have been a place of refuge, a voice for social justice and a target of racist violence. The alleged gunman, Dylann Roof, drove two hours to Charleston, S.C., because he undoubtedly wanted a symbol — and he got one. Against all his intentions, it is now the symbol of a living faith. The killer set out to defile a sacred place and ended up showing why it is sacred.

At the heart of the Christian faith is an impossible demand: to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” This teaching was demonstrated by its author. The Christian novelist George MacDonald wrote: “ ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ said the Divine, making excuse for his murderers, not after it was all over, but at the very moment when he was dying by their hands.” When we see this type of extreme grace reenacted — as in Charleston — it has a tremendous power and appeal.

The killer was welcomed by the ones he murdered, and then forgiven by the people he deeply harmed. These victims and their families have shown what it means to be followers of Christ. And many of us now feel awed and honored to share the same faith as these remarkable Christians.

The victims were the faithful among the faithful. They were the kind who do much of the praying and working in a church, and who lift the sights and standards of people around them. You can see their legacy in those who survived them, striving so hard to be worthy of their example. A pastor friend in Baltimore, Frank Reid, wrote me: “In the midst of all this talk about security, didn’t the Pastor of Emanuel and those eight people exemplify the real strength and security of the Gospel? In the words of one of Dr. King’s first books of sermons, they exemplified the ‘strength to love.’ ”

That is the right phrase to summarize what we have seen in Charleston: the strength to love. Forgiveness is not something soft or passive. It demonstrates spiritual maturity, strength of character, depth, discipline and steadiness. It is the sign of a determined faith, fighting against every natural human inclination. “I acknowledge that I am very angry,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, the sister of one of the victims. But “she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.”

A daughter of one victim told an interviewer that everyone, including the killer, deserves a “second chance.” She made her point confidently and without bitterness. Forgiveness is also a form of freedom — a refusal to be ruled by anger or resentment. It is like laying a burden down.

Public lessons will need to be drawn from the Charleston murders — though I cringe when the first response to tragedy is any pet policy project. It should, maybe, be the third response, made a few respectful days later.

The United States clearly has two problems. The first is a problem with racism. These Americans were killed because they were African Americans. How does a long history of hate jump to the next generation? Reflecting on that question should lead us to root out racism in our laws and lives, in the myths we perpetuate and the flags we fly. Second, the United States has a problem with angry young men, radicalized by the Internet. When these two problems are combined, the result is domestic terrorism. There is often no web of conspiracy to track, just signs of murderous intent, which our society must somehow be more alert to confront.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached over the coffins of the children killed in the Birmingham church bombing, he said, “History has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive.” That is already true in the examples of the lost; now it needs to be reflected in the conduct of the living.

Read more from Michael Gerson’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

My words/summary points: Gerson shows that the Christian faith offers hope on a number of fronts, including comfort for the victims, an example of how to love, moving forward, and love as a transformative power.

“Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.” ~ #CSLewis

Again, this is far from complete.  I hope to add to this posting.  It needs a lot of work. We have a lot of work to do to reduce racism.

I’m Working On The Building

This is a great gospel hymns.  Wikipedia says it is likely a negro spiritual.

It has been been recorded and performed by many, including B. B. King, Elvis Presley, the Oak Ridge Boys, and John Fogerty.

BB King’s lyrics:

I’m working on the building
It’s a true foundation
I’m lifting up a bloodstained
Banner for the Lord

I’ll have a good time
Working on the building
I’m going to heaven
To get my reward

When you see me praying
I’m working on the building
I’m lifting up a bloodstained
Banner for the Lord

Well I’ll never get tired
Working on the building
I’m going to heaven
To get my reward

When you hear me singing
I’m working on the building
I’m lifting up a bloodstained
Banner for the Lord

Well I’ll never get tired
Working on the building
I’m going to heaven
To get my reward

When you hear me crying
I’m working on the building
I’m lifting up a bloodstained
Banner for the Lord

Well I’ll never get tired
Working on the building
I’m going to heaven
To get my reward

I’m working on the building
It’s a true foundation
I’m lifting up a bloodstained
Banner for the Lord

Well I’ll never get tired
Working on the building
I’m going to heaven
To get my reward

Good Conscience and Sincere Faith in Timothy

1 Timothy 1:5 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:18-19 18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, 19 having faith and a good conscience.

1 Timothy 3:8-9 Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.

Within a week of each other – 50 Shades of Grey

Within a week of each other, in February 2015, the movie 50 Shades of Grey came out in theaters and 21 Christians we’re headed by terrorists.

It’s official*: All’s fair in love and war.  And people are choosing to do whatever they wish, including inhumanity acts.

(*We knew this already, but now we are really sure.)

People are exercising their God-given choice to have free will.

Larry Moore in SS said Christians need to do a better job of bringing people into the faith.

Carolyn Grove in the Learn-Grow-Serve meeting said Christians are too complacent.

Sadly, but accurately, the title, 50 Shades of Grey, describes how people see the world.  There is no black and white. No right and wrong. Everything is a shade of grey subject to situation ethics.