Month: April 2014

Rule Followers vs Rule Benders

I had an incident recently where I felt rejected by someone I love. I can’t say I understand what prompted it, but it was clear.

Now, my life over the past several years has certainly been an uncomfortable bed to lie in. And consequences for bad choices have cost me dearly. And my loss has made me needy.tencommandments

But over the past forty plus years, I’ve learned Christians basically fall into two groups – rule followers and rule benders.

Years ago I worked with a Christian man who was engaged to a beautiful young lady. In conversation, he ran off a list of “plans” they had for their future “good” marriage. He and his fiance were all set to follow Larry Burkett’s financial advice. They were diligently going to premarital counseling. And if and when they had children, they had all the books picked out to guide them in their quest for a great family.

I remember feeling jealous as he peeled off their relationship strategy. Where was all that help when Tim and I got married? I remember thinking, really God? Couldn’t you have guided us a little better.

But I’ve learned following Jesus isn’t as easy as obeying a set of rules. And consequences are painful, but so is empty obedience. Because most of our sin is buried deep within our souls, and rules will not flush them out. And if my real purpose in being good is to avoid the consequences, then I miss the whole point of grace.

Now I’m old enough to finally be done as a rule bender. And I welcome the peace that obedience can bring. But I also understand the danger in allowing myself to become prideful over my good behavior. That it’s easy to look on those mired in a pit, and feel superior.

I recently discussed this with a dear friend who’s been a rule follower all her life. And she wisely said to me,

“You know, lately I’ve wondered if I ever really loved Jesus like I should. I think I’ve always been good because I was afraid not to be.”

And therein lies the root of the problem. It’s all about our motivation.

I’ve noticed amongst some Christians a growing division between rule followers and rule benders. It’s even tearing families apart. Rule followers want more focus on obedience and benders want to point to everyone’s need for grace.

But somewhere, we’re all supposed to come together and represent Christ. And I struggle with either sides need to protect their position by alienating the other. After all, no matter what we do, we’re all filthy sinners.

Someone once said, the true opposite of love isn’t the passionate intensity of hate, but the emptiness of indifference. And how often, in our need to protect our position, do we build that wall of indifference around ourselves?

So today I pray, Lord, say it isn’t so in me.

Hey, Mr. Bloomberg, You’re Not Even Close

As Christians around the world prepare for Holy Week, former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, after telling a reporter about the millions he’s getting ready to donate to gun control, made this observation,

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.“I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

The quote was so bizarre I googled it just to make sure it was true. I found the reporters explanation from the original New York Times article,

“Mr. Bloomberg was introspective as he spoke, and seemed both restless and wistful. When he sat down for the interview, it was a few days before his 50th college reunion. His mortality has started dawning on him, at 72. And he admitted he was a bit taken aback by how many of his former classmates had been appearing in the “in memoriam” pages of his school newsletter. But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation.”

I don’t know how Bloomberg earned his money. And I’m certain he worked hard for it. And he apparently has given a lot of it away to the causes he feels are important.

Now, If I’d read this at any other time of the year, I would have shook my head and moved on. But I read it after listening over and over to the Leeland song Via Dolorosa. And these words were fresh on my heart,

He traded His crown for a crown of thorns
He picked up His cross and laid down His sword
He stumbled down the road, bruised and beaten for me
Jesus walked the way of grief, Hallelujah
On the Via Dolorosa
All my sin was carried away
And the power of Hell was broken
As He gave His life away

Jesus had it all. And He gave it all for me. I’m sorry Mr. Bloomberg, you’re not even close.

I’m so glad I don’t have to compete with the generosity of Mr. Bloomberg. And as I reflect on this most holy time of year, I’m once again humbled by how little Jesus asks of me. And by how much He gave to save me from my sin.

And I pray Mr. Bloomberg finds his way to the cross.


Photo Therapy

Going throughDaniel 3 years old an old box of photos, I ran across this picture of Daniel. There’s something about the ordinariness of this moment and the sleepiness in his eyes, that melts this mother’s heart. I want to reach right in there and rub that bare little back again.

I also found this picture of Kelly and suddenly, the memory of our morning ritual of combing and braiding her hair came flooding bacDaniel & Kelly 1979k. I can vividly remember the posture of her body as she leaned against me as I stroked her long brown hair. Our conversation was usually soft and gentle as we prepared for the day.

Picture after picture took me back years. Each one represented a moment in time. There were vacations to the beach and the mountains. Graduations, birthdays, and holidays. Through pictures I could relive my children’s entire childhood.

I have a vast collection of memories built up over the years. My mind has recorded them in brilliant detail. Unfortunately, it has hung onto the bad ones as well.

But, we can choose the thoughts that wander in and out of our minds. Even something as simple as the look in my son’s eyes, or the many mornings spent in gentle quiet conversation with my daughter, can have a powerful effect on me. Such uneventful moments that years later still have the ability to bless my life.

Kelly, Ellen, Daniel 1982I have been told when we relive a memory; our bodies physically experience that moment all over again. Just thinking about past episodes of anger, rage, or tragedy causes all the wear and tear on our bodies that we suffered the first time we lived through the event. Our bodies are unaware that we are not in the midst of the moment again.

Unfortunately, it seems more difficult to select the memories that will heal us as opposed to those that bring us more harm.

I suppose that is why the Bible urges us to bring every thought captive to the will of God. Daily, we have to choose our good memories over our bad.

Photographs are a great opportunity to trigger those moments. If you have them in boxes, take them out and put them in albums. If you have them in albums, take them out and explore their magic. Hang them on your walls. Relive them one by one until your heart is full. I promise you, it will be a great source of therapy.


Just Don’t Do It

MartinsEvery week it seems, a celebrity couple announces they are divorcing. The press releases all sound the same,

“We still love each other. And since we have children together, we’re still a family. But…we’ve chosen to live apart.”

The latest of course was the sage Gwyneth Paltrow. She classed it up a bit by using the fancy term uncoupling, but she’s nonetheless, getting a divorce.

Cocoa Beach

Tim and Me at Cocoa Beach

It’s hard to watch from the sidelines and not think these people have it all. That beauty, a delicious figure, and tons of money somehow makes life easier.

But, some things never change. And no matter how many statistics point to the devastation divorce causes our society, our nation continues to tear apart our families at an epic rate.

Back when Tim and I struggled to get along, divorce always seemed just around the corner. But every time I came to the brink, I looked at the couples we knew who were separating, and their lives didn’t look any easier. In fact, they seemed to have more problems after the divorce than Tim and I did staying married.

To me the reality was, nobody was ever going to love my kids as much as me, except Tim. The only person who would could possibly share the same passion I had for their futures, was Tim. The only person whose heart would break for them as deeply as mine, was Tim. And the only person who could ever be as excited as me over their successes, you guessed it, was Tim.

Kelly and Dan

Our daughter Kelly and her husband Dan

Now I know there are exceptions to that rule. That there are stepparents out there who love deeply, care passionately, and do an amazing job raising someone else’s kids. And they deserve a lot of credit. But frankly, they’re rare. Far too rare considering America’s divorce rate.

I also know there are some relationships that are dangerous. That you can’t make people treat you right. But those are rare as well.

Daniel and Heather

Our son Daniel and his wife Heather

Both my children know my standard – Stay married like your father and I did. That gives them a wide path to stumble on. Just persevere, hang in there and never give up. Fight for your family. Offer grace often. Keep on picking up the pieces and putting your relationship back together. Your children’s well-being depends upon it.

Marriage is hard. And clearly having it all doesn’t make it any easier. Otherwise, Gwyneth and Chris would not be…ummm…uncoupling.