Do You Practice?

Brushes are versatile and solve many of our needs. We can brush our hair, clothes, clean electronics, or paint with a brush.

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Cleaning and painting are important activities. Despite the functionality, I wonder how many people today actually have brushes? I have noticed in stores a tendency to see paint rollers over brushes. Clothing brushes are rare to see today. We seem more likely to take garments to dry cleaners and shoes to the shoe-shine. Hair brushes are often made with plastic bristles so that they can be used on wet hair.

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My favorite brushes are used for painting, but not walls. I confess that not being an experienced wall painter I used a paint roller. Painting watercolors has made me aware of brushes in a way that I never was before. The variety is astounding. Varying the construction slightly creates an inviting array of results.

Effective use of all brushes requires practice.

In our modern culture we do not often allow ourselves the time to master the use of brushes. Practice is becoming something of a lost art. In most areas we expect to become functional almost immediately.

  • How much time do we spend practicing?
  • Do you practice? If so, what do you practice? Is it a sport or a musical instrument?
  • Or did you give up practice time when you left school?

The demand to be instantly competent has crept into our culture with stealth. It can be difficult to find a time when church choirs can practice. People want choirs. They even want to be in choirs, but they have no time to practice.

  • Why has practice become less important than actual performance?
  • Do you think God only hears you during worship?
  • Or is it that we unconsciously feel like practice is unimportant since the congregation will no long hear?
  • Have we been acclimated to value only performance and not practice?

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In some ways I wonder if this has even crept into our attitudes toward children?

  • Have you not heard of parents who search high and low for something their child has natural talent for?

If the child believes he/she must be “great” at an activity in order to participate they will never learn the value of hard work, or the sense of accomplishment when they finally master a skill that challenged them.

Where I worry most about this is in the area of our faith.

  • Who has mastered faith?

No one! We practice our faith. If we feel that we are really weak in one area, that is the place where we need to practice most. When we remove the time to practice and believe that we need only perform, how will any of us retain our integrity and be able to worship?

  • Why would worship be a performance?
  • Who are we trying to impress?

We are created to worship simply because we are made to stop and tell God how wonderful He is. It is not about what we get out of it. It exists to give God glory.

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I think that we leave the doing of faith, like the singing and teaching in church, to the professionals out of the same place that causes us to take the suit to the cleaners rather than brush it ourselves. We don’t have skills to brush mud off wool. We aren’t skilled musicians. We are not trained theologians. Someone might ask us a question that we cannot answer about the Bible.

We need to relearn the art of practice in our culture. There are plenty of skills that we can learn if we practice. It is good for us to learn how to hold a paintbrush even if we are not planning on becoming professional painters. Most of all we need to let the children around us learn that we do not need to perform every minute. There is time to learn all our lives. We can try, and fail and try again. We can worship God as imperfect creatures. Making time to practice is a productive use of time.

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Schedule some time this week to practice something. Perhaps some use of a brush that you have never mastered would be your choice. This might be the time you clean out your electric shaver, or paint a door, a picture, or brush your cat.

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  • What about one-hundred strokes with your Grandmother’s beautiful hairbrush that you inherited and never used?

The biggest challenge of all is not to tell anyone what you practiced. Let it be an offering between you and God. Tell Him that you will try to be more patient in practicing your faith. What is seen is temporal what is not seen is eternal. We need to allow ourselves time for the eternal.

Clouds

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I live in a valley on the leading edge of a mountain range. Clouds are ubiquitous in my world. We learned the basic types in school and I never gave them much thought again. Clouds are so common as to pass my notice.

This summer my apathy began to change. The first alteration occurred when I began to learn to paint watercolors. I discovered that there is not really white paint. White is the absence of color in watercolor. I stopped and looked up one day and pondered. How would you paint a cloud if you cannot paint white? I admit my prior ignorance here. I did not realize until that moment that clouds are not simply white or grey. Each one is an array of delicate and complex coloration. Even the typical clouds are far more than white.

I must have been looking up in awe. It attracted the attention of all those who were standing beside me. They couldn’t understand what was surprising about the sky. I had to explain about the white being an absence of color. Soon we were all projecting ideas about the clouds. That was the second revelation to me about clouds. Everyone has ideas about clouds. They are universally intriguing.

I used to view clouds as a negative. Clouds were a hinderance to sunlight. Clouds were the reason that my area experiences only a couple dozen sunny days a year. It takes my breath away when I hear about locales that have three-hundred sunny days a year!

Along with the clouds I regarded traffic as a nuisance. The clouds and traffic came together for me one day. It was a “mostly sunny” day for my area. The only clouds were cumulus and decidedly pretty. Not that I was looking up. I was driving around town on errands, running late. Red lights were not desirable, when every traffic light turned red, tension mounted in the car. In a spark of Divine inspiration, I turned my eyes off the red light during the wait for green. I looked up through the windshield so I would not need to stare at the annoying red. All that I could see was blue sky and a pretty cloud. I was momentarily arrested by the beauty of the cloud. My eyes darted back to the light several times in the course of that red light. I saw beauty and remembered God’s grace and providence. The fact that California is enduring a much publicized drought caused me to recognize how the unfailing clouds provide plenty of rain to my location. It was the first time I consciously remember thanking God for clouds.image

I began a new tradition that busy afternoon. Whenever I hit a red light I take time to admire the clouds while I wait for the light to change. Since the clouds are plentiful I simply look up through the windshield of my car on the lights and inevitably see at least one cloud. These momentary pauses are a welcome relief from the pressure of daily life. I am amazed by how many colors are present in even a cursory glance at a cloud. I am discovering that clouds are full of color. They are not basically white! No one has honked a car horn at me for dawdling over the clouds. It doesn’t take any time to notice beauty. What it requires is an intentionality. Clouds are no longer a negative fact. They are becoming welcome friends. They are friends with an infinite gallimaufry of colorful clothing.