Author: Stephen Bevan

Old Fashioned

Sometimes in our race forward to the future we let go of things from the past. That can be a very good thing…can anyone say they really miss leeches at the doctor’s office? Other times we leave behind that which was perfectly good.

This week a read a book about watercolor from 1812. In it I found a technique which I have never heard, seen, or read about before. I tested the technique on a little sketch and I was surprised at how beautiful it was.

In high school I used a slide rule in physics class even though graphing calculators were prevalent in the classroom. And I still managed to get A’s.

Almost every morning I shave with a mug and a brush, which is most certainly cheaper, and more effective than modern electric razors.


I have yet to enjoy a loaf of bread in a grocery store that can beat a loaf of good old fashioned homemade bread. Don’t be too quick to cast aside something old fashioned just because something newer is here.

Mountain Tops

This weekend I took a scout troop camping. I am reminded of countless other camp outs and scouting adventures. My favorite hikes, and camp outs have been in the mountains. There is something wonderful and enjoyable about hiking up above the noise of society and seeing the world from the mountain tops. These wild places have brought me such peace and joy.

There is a chance to see the stars more clearly. A chance to be closer to nature and to God. There is something inherently powerful as you look at the world from the heights of mountains. I can’t help but sing and feel the old hymns, ” Nearer My God to Thee,” and “In the Garden.”

Next time you feel a little lost– find a small wilderness, at least a hill, but if you can a mountain. Climb up get away from the noise and pray. See how potent the answer is when nothing else is clattering for your attention.

Change

I once had the chance to live in an amazing town along the beach for about 13 months. At that time Busselton, Western Australia was a sleepy tourist town, featuring amazing beaches, a jetty that went a mile out into the ocean, and wonderful people. The fishing was awesome, and the weather was amazing. I felt blessed for every day I got to live there.



Yet one can never go back in time. Each new town, each new place, each new job, and each new beginning is a gift from God. Don’t squander new days and new adventures by living in the past. Feel free to walk down memory lane once in a while, but live today and for the future and enjoy the gifts God has placed right in front of you.

Sometimes we let the past hold us prisoner because we regret what we have done. Each new day is just that– new. You can let the past fall behind and make a change, you can repent and make the next step better than the last. Jesus, gave us that chance, use it.

Mastery

When an aspiring musician picks up an instrument for the first time, they are not yet ready to perform in a concert. As a matter of fact, this first attempt will probably sound pretty bad. That is okay, everyone starts this way. If we mock and belittle this aspiring musician they may quit; and if they do shame on us!

If on the other hand, we praise and encourage this aspiring musician, and they continue to practice- soon they will play some simple tunes that start to sound reasonably well. The student that keeps trying will improve. The hours of practice and countless failures slowly start to build. With every faltering note and every hour of practice this student will gain new skills. To become a true master of the instrument takes dedication and time.

As people we are often too quick to quit. We say to ourselves, “I am just not good at this,” “I have no talent.” Worse we may tell someone else that they lack talent. We might quit when we are trying to conquer a vice or sin. We try and fail once, twice, or even twenty times and then say to ourselves, “It is impossible, this is just the way I am.”

Of course we will fail! Of course we will stumble! We will fail thousands of times, or even millions– but we shouldn’t quit. Keep trying, keep practicing, keep going, keep encouraging others. We can master a skill or ourselves. If we include God daily in our attempts to improve, the process will be better. It may not always feel easier, but it will be better. And if we keep trying someday we will gain the mastery that we have long dreamed of achieving.

Don’t Quit

I remember spending a week with my Grandpa when I was in high school. While I was there he had to do some repairs to a car, an older Datsun Hatchback.

Image result for datsun hatchback


Like many car projects things weren’t going according to plan. After several attempts to get a part out he turned to me and said, ” If at first you don’t succeed…” I finished his sentence with, “Try again.” He turned, smiled, shook his head and said “Cheat!” He grabbed a long breaker bar he called a “cheater bar” and got the part out. Don’t just keep doing the same thing, find another option and don’t quit. Perhaps “cheat” wasn’t the best word to express his thought but I learned a great lesson.

I have often quoted my Grandpa when working on cars. This week I was working on replacing the door rollers for the sliding doors on my mini-van. Both rollers had been worn out and needed to be replaced. I got them both out. One was replaced in only about 15 minutes, while the other side took considerably more effort. Part of the bracket had rusted onto the pin. I just needed to get the pin out and I could replace the part and be done. After an hour I hadn’t been able to budge it. Penetrating oil hadn’t worked, heat and a hammer didn’t work, and every other attempt hadn’t worked. I called the local parts store and they didn’t have one to just replace it.

Image result for honda door roller

I was ready to give up and in the back of my mind I heard Grandpa, “If at first you don’t succeed, cheat!” I looked again at the part and realized that if I used a rotary tool with a cut-off wheel I could probably cut the pin free. Sure enough two minutes later the pin was out and into the new bracket and ready to be put back on the min-van.

So many times in life we are ready to call it quits. We are ready to throw in the towel and say, “it’s too much.” Don’t quit, look for another option, look for hope, look for a way to succeed. Maybe we shouldn’t say cheat, but we could say, “If at first you don’t succeed, look for a better option.”

Resolution Complete

My grandma was an artist.  She could draw, paint, and tell a fun story.  She painted pictures for friends on old tools, or old pieces of slate, she even did paintings for magazines and other places looking for art.  Grandma’s paintings were old cowboys, animals, fruit, people, etc.  She was amazing.  We lived about four hours away and didn’t visit very often.  When the grandchildren would come over she would sometimes let us sit at her big art desk with it’s nice light and let us draw with crayons etc.  She would hang the pictures on the fridge and praise our youthful attempts at art.

 

Grandma passed away when I was in the 10th grade, and although I have a lot of memories with her, I wish there were more and I wish I had learned how to draw and paint from her.  So last year I decided that even though she wasn’t here I could learn something of her skills.  I decided to stop wishing and start doing.  My goal was to spend 15 minutes a day learning how to draw/paint and then at least 15 minutes actually drawing or painting.  I chose watercolors since that seemed the easiest and most portable paint I could get.  I started the years with some cheap paper and a watercolor set from the dollar store.  Soon into the year after reading the first few books from the library I upgraded to a decent set of student watercolor paints I got for $15, and some better paper I got for $5 and cut into post card size pieces.

 

I read every day about drawing or painting.  When I had gone through every book at the local library.  I started watching videos on YouTube.  Some of my favorites were Peter Sheeler, Steve Mitchell, John Muir Laws, and James Gurney.  I think I learned the most from James Gurney and John Muir Laws.  Anyways I never missed a day in the whole year.  Even in my week at scout camp, living in the woods, I had a book, paints, and paper.  Some days it was simply a chore before I feel asleep, but I did it.

At first my attempts were…honestly ugly.  The trees and apples on the left are from day 1.  While the picture on the right is 10 months later!

Some days the painting just didn’t turn out but I tried to learn from each one.

Sometimes they were fun and large pictures that took a few days to complete.  And sometimes they were little sketches only 2 or 3 inches.

Sometimes I made cards for neighbors:

Sometimes I would take a week and slowly make a gift of someplace I had been or something I had seen.

In the end of the year I have to say there is no magic pencil, no fantastic brush, no awesome paint kit, or anything I could buy that made me improve.  What made the difference was “pencil miles.”  Simply put- it was drawing no matter how poorly at first and painting no matter how bad.  At least 15 minutes of trying everyday.  This is what took me from poor scribbles and paintings to ones I felt I could hang on the wall or even sell.

 

My challenge to you is not to look at something and say, “that guy or girl is talented I wish I had that talent.”  Instead say to yourself, “there is a skill I can get if I put in the miles, do I really want to?”  If the answer is yes,  then tuck in and DO!  If the goal is to be more fit, exercise for at least 20 minutes a day.  Give it at least a year.  If the goal is to learn to sing or play piano, set aside the time and do it…every day.  If the skill is to paint, then paint.  Set the goal, and DO it.  People are capable of doing just about anything if they will put in the work, that is a gift from God we can too easily take for granted.  Our Father in Heaven wants us to learn, grow, and become better.  There is nothing out of your reach with his help.  So my last bit of advice it to pray about your goal, even if the prayer is simply, “help me.”  With God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Working With Others

If you are anything like me –sometimes it is hard to live up to what Mom taught me…”If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Recently I heard a thought that struck with me:

Think about it, if we start with love, we aren’t saying things our mother’s would be sad to hear coming from our mouths.  If we end with hope that things can improve, we walk away from every interaction a better person.  I know I won’t get it right all the time, probably not even half the time, but I can try to be better.

Small Things

Big things start as little things.  I have often been amazed at how a small kernel of corn can become an 8 foot tall corn stalk; how a tiny apple seed can become a huge apple tree.  So many great things begin as something small.

On the other hand any great thing, if neglected, can become a weakness.  Take for example a castle built up and defended by a great army, but overtime the army becomes lackadaisical.  They no longer clear trees from the castle walls, they no longer keep a constant watch.  They let their skills and weapons get rusty, and when the enemy comes it is too late, what was once their greatest strength has now become their greatest weakness.  It all began with small choices.
Our lives are built upon the small choices, words, and actions we use each day.
Imagine this– that we all decide never to use words or actions to demean another person.  Imagine how this relatively small thing could grow into something so much bigger.  It doesn’t mean we always agree but it that means that if we disagree we do so without demeaning or demonizing others.  How different would our world be if we all lived this one small thing?
If we choose to neglect this idea and choose to demean others, imagine the damage that could be done.  You don’t have to imagine; you could simply look around and see the damage done by yourself and others when we choose to demean anyone.
Changing the world for good or ill only takes small things.  Choose a small change–to never demean others and you will be so much happier in this world.

Awesome Idea

Brittany, one cool mom, made these little church mice with her children after reading “Quiet as a Church Mouse” several times in a row.  These fuzzy friends are taken to church with the children as a reminder that they too need to be quiet and reverent.

What a great idea!  Way to go Brittany!

The Screwtape Letters and Hammocks

For a while I lived in Australia.   During the time I lived there I was bitten by a mosquito and I became infected with something called Ross River Virus, which left me very sick.  When I got back to the US I was still rather weak and trying to recover.  I bought a book by C.S. Lewis called, “The Screwtape Letters.”  I took my new book out to the backyard and strung up my hammock.  I was just about to get in when my baby niece started to cry.  My younger brother was watching her but I picked her up and brought her out to the hammock.

Rocking in the hammock over the next couple of days I read the entire book to my baby niece.  She seemed to enjoy laying there hearing me read and swinging back and forth.  I enjoyed the time with her and learning from one of the world’s great writers.

This week that baby niece graduated high school, and I am re-reading Mr. Lewis’ book, “The Screwtape Letters.”  If you have never read this particular book I recommend it.  Better yet, I recommend reading it in a hammock.  Or reading it to someone you love.  (Or both if you can swing it…sometimes I can’t resist a pun.)

Image result for the screwtape letters