Remembering my Aunt Helen: Leave the Pear Alone

Aunt Helen was never happy with this painting. But my mom wisely told her to leave the pear alone.

This past Saturday (June 4, 2016), I was with my mother, my brother, and one of my sisters in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to bury my aunt. Helen Hartshorn Youngblood: artist, wife, mother, deacon, sister, aunt, friend. My Aunt Helen had a profound influence on me. This is the first of what may be several blog posts I write as I think about what I learned from her.

2016-06-05 12.57.49There is a painting hanging in my mom’s kitchen that Aunt Helen painted. For years, every time Helen would visit my mom, she would want to take the painting back to Parkersburg with her and work on it some more. She was never happy with it. Specifically, she wanted to re-do the pear. But my mom wouldn’t let her. “This represents who you were when you painted it, not the painter you wound up being,” she told her. “I like it just the way it is.”

If you’ve lived at all, you have a few regrets. You have a few pears you wish you could paint over. Nobody paints it right the first time. And artists can look at paintings they did early in life and say, “But I’ve learned so much since then!” Poets cringe at the sappiness and naivete of their poems from high school. People who journal can look at entries from a certain day (or even a certain season of days) and be tempted to rip those pages out. In those times, we can all do well to remember my mom’s advice to her sister. The artist we were is not the same as the artist we become. Leave the pear alone, and don’t think twice about signing your name to the work.

signature

Paul tells us, in his letter to the Philippians, that he is confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Consistently in Scripture, we are reminded to forget what lies behind, and to press on to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). That what we will be has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:2). And if there is a sermon you would have preached differently, or a poem you would have written differently, or a pear you would have painted differently, or a day you would have lived differently, then let them all stand as a testimony to where God has led you.

Jesus’ last words on the cross, according to John’s gospel, were “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the Greek, the word is τελέωIt carries the meaning of an action being fulfilled or accomplished according to a command. It’s the last act that completes a process. Significantly, τελέω is also the root of the word for “perfect” that is used in Philippians 1:6.

There will come a day when our work is accomplished, because there has already been a day when Jesus’ work was accomplished. When we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. My Aunt Helen had her work completed this weekend, and she heard her Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share in the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23).

pearUntil that day, we keep painting, composing, singing, dancing, building, sculpting, and journaling. We are artists, every one of us; contributing our stanzas and quatrains and couplets; our still lifes and studies and portraits and landscapes to God’s great masterpiece. The artists we were are not the artists we will become. But if we are gentle with ourselves, and if we leave the pear alone, we can see how far our God has brought us.

Today in Christian History: June 6

Original and current YMCA logos

On June 6, 1844, George Williams began the first Young Men’s Christian Association in London. Williams was concerned that young men, drawn to urban centers for work, were abandoning their religious upbringing when they met with the temptations of the big city. So the 23 year old Williams began meeting for Bible study and encouragement with eleven other men. Thus the YMCA was born. 
Initially, physical exercise was an afterthought at the “Y”. According to the Christian History Devotional:

At its founding, the group professed itself to be for “the spiritual improvement of young men.” The men engaged in Bible study and attended lectures and religious discussions, although physical exercise in time became part of the program.

What happens to an organization when it forgets the reason it was founded? When a secondary function of the program becomes the driving force of the program?

I’m not knocking the Y.  I’ve been a member for nearly two decades. But I’ve heard enough locker room conversations and walked past enough pickup basketball games to know that the C of YMCA is often forgotten. (For what it’s worth, so are the Y and the M). It is still a great organization, but like Harvard and Yale, which were both founded on Christian principles, or the RMS Titanic, which was built to deliver the mail (RMS= Royal Mail Steamer), it is easy for an organization to forget why it was founded. 

Any lessons for the church today?

Today in Christian History: June 4

On this date in 1820, hymn writer Elvina Hall was born. Her best known hymn came about as a result of being bored in church. Sitting up in the choir loft, thinking to herself how long-winded her pastor was that morning, she wrote these words on the fly leaf of her hymnal:

I hear the Savior say

Thy strength indeed is small

Child of weakness, watch and pray

Find in me thine all in all.

Jesus paid it all

All to Him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow

Maybe it was the feeling of not having the strength for such a long sermon. Maybe it was the understanding that if Jesus paid it all, our allegiance, our focus, our attention, and our devotion are owed to him. 

Maybe through a long sermon. Or maybe, just maybe, instead of one. 

Parents, next time you see your children scribbling away on the back of an offering envelope, go easy on them. It could be they are writing the next great hymn of the church is going to be written. 

However, if it’s the inside cover of a hymnal, they had better be. 

Information for this post came from Christianity.com

Who Is Jesus? Session 10: Handling the Questions

977235These are the notes for our final session of Focus on the Family’s Who Is Jesus? study. Click on the links below for the other posts in this series.

 

Who Is Jesus S10.1

Answers to “Quote/Unquote” on page 94

  1. We need to draw near to Him.
  2. All truth flows from the very character and nature  of God.
  3. “Look! You’re not listening to me. I saw Him!”
  4. They didn’t just believe that Jesus rose from the dead…; they were there.
  5. To be effective in persuading people today, we have to do it in a relationship.
  6. Sometimes you can get yourselves into a no-win situation.
  7. Admit what you don’t know.
  8. Pray before, pray during, pray after.
  9. We are increasingly a culture of skeptics.
  10. People are afraid of the real Jesus.

We are talking about “handling” the questions; not “answering” the questions. It may be easier to just give someone an answer, but chances are they will just move on to another question, another objection.

Our quest: To know Him, and to be His faithful, effective witnesses (Acts 1:8)

Prepare: 

15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

1 Peter 3:15-16

Practice:

Who Is Jesus S10.2

The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.

Proximity:

“How can you be salt and light if you’re never around meat or darkness?”

Lecrae

Persuade: 

 

Keys to effective persuasion:

  1. Develop relationships with lost people.
  2. Choose your battles carefully. Remember, you aren’t trying to win an argument; you are trying to win a person. Our ultimate quest is to know Jesus, not to know answers! (John 17:3)
  3. Admit when you don’t know the answers. You will never get someone to admit they are wrong or don’t know something if you never admit you are wrong.
  4. Always gentle, always respectful
  5. Pray! Pray before, pray during, pray after! If we hope that God will grant them repentance (verse 25), then we should be asking for that.

Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6)

23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:23-26)

“We should not see unbelievers as enemy combatants, but as prisoners of war.”

What we can expect when we engage unbelievers:

  1. Skepticism
  2. Apathy
  3. Fear: People don’t reject Christ because they’re afraid of not having enough knowledge. They reject Jesus because they are afraid of not having enough control.
  4. Persecution:

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:10-12

The most important question you will ever face is the one Jesus asked Peter: ‘Who do you say I am?’

Today in Christian History: June 1


On this date in 165 AD, Justin Martyr was scourged and then beheaded after he refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Justin was born in the biblical city of Shechem, and early in his life followed the philosophy of Plato. But his life was changed when he realized God was pursuing a relationship with him through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In his first Apology, he took parts of the Bible that the pagans found hard to believe and observed that the pagan myths were much harder to accept and often contradicted each other. According to Lang’s Christian History Devotional:

Perhaps the most appealing statement in the Apology is “never was the crucifixion imitated in any of the so-called sons of Zeus.” Justin had hit upon the core of the gospel: a son of a god—rather, the one Son of the only God—gave himself up, the innocent suffering in place of the guilty.

Today in Christian History: May 30


In 1972, Née Shu-Tsu, better known as Watchman Nee, died in a Chinese prison. As the founder of over 400 local churches, Watchman Nee was a threat to the new Communist regime, and so spent the last twenty years of his life in prison, allowed no visitors except his wife. 

When the authorities cleaned out his cell, they found this scrap of paper:

“Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee.”

Information taken from J Stephen Lang’s The Christian History Devotional

Today in Christian History: May 29


G.K. Chesterton was born on this day in 1874.  Chesterton was a larger-than-life personality (literally–6’4 and over 300 pounds). He was a great influence on CS Lewis. His best known work, Orthodoxy, is the source for some of my favorite quotes:

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,

G.K. Chesterton

For more words of wisdom, check out this article from Relevant: 15 Chesterton Quotes That Will Shape Your Faith