Making Exceptions

Making Exceptions

I am a regular rule-keeper and a regular rule-breaker. I want society to run smoothly, and a good set of rules enables that. In my Christian college, I earned very few demerits (Do they still use demerits?), but was considered rebellious. I have no problem bending policy, and believe in the gray shades of compliance. Yet, I have an eye for detail, and can submit to the little letters of the law with ease.  It seems where I get into trouble with rules, policies, procedures, standards and guidelines is in the exceptions. And, don’t we all?

One of the most memorable occasions where I learned the value of giving allowance was when I was the one refusing to make the exception. In that case, I should have shown grace and bent to the individual, instead of sticking to the policy for the good of the organization …because the organization would have been just fine. Whereas the individual was broken and needed the privilege of reprieve.

When I am in a position of power, it is so easy to miss the need to bend the rules for some. If I had a nickel for every time I said, “If I make an exception for you, I’ll have to make an exception for everyone,” -well, you know. That saying is fiction in the Christian world. God is in the business of making exceptions. In a post I wrote on Rule-breaking Misfits years ago, I asked,

“Can we allow those who break our policies and rules to be blessed of God and in turn bring blessing to His people? Does it rub you the wrong way to “reward” rule breakers?  Is God’s Spirit the ultimate rebel?” –article on Numbers 11

I guess I’m still working through this issue, because here I am again struggling with the same feelings that sent me to type that article out four years ago. Only this time, I am the misfit, not the one in charge.

I have described myself as nearly impossible to offend, but there are a few hot buttons that trigger me. When I get worked up and hurt, my first instinct is to run my mouth. That is a hard response to control. This week, I’ve sat on an issue in silence for a few days, and let my thoughts stew. Why did I feel hurt and angry? Was it right to feel that way? What am I going to do about it?

Ultimately, my hurt and anger resulted because I thought I deserved an exception to a rule. And, I still think I do. But, I will not insist. I must work to not harbor ill will. In this particular case, I can get past it with grace. However, the underlying issue that drove me to my keyboard is a big problem in churches. The rigidity of organizational policy overlooks the individual and causes harm to the whole organism, which is the living church.

The rigidity of organizational policy overlooks the individual and causes harm to the whole organism, which is the living church.

Cogs in the Machine

Have you ever heard of the “cog in the works” metaphor? The is a favorite illustration of  Paul Metzger, a professor of mine. Metzger warns against reducing Christianity to a system that only values measurable effects and overlooking the “the unquantifiable mystery of love that is the ground of deep relationships. (Paul Louis Metzger, Interstellar: Beyond Scientific and Everyday Positivism.)” God does not view his people as replaceable parts in His big machine, but as vital parts of His Body deserving of honor because they are a member (1 Cor. 12:21-26). We are each unique and irreplaceable to God. When we view people as ‘cogs,’ we see them as generic bodies that make the machine run smoothly, or the body function properly. If the cog breaks down, or jams the works or consistently needs grease to function, we wonder if that cog is a good use of our time and effort? After all, its replaceable.  And oh boy, have I been guilty of that myself!

When we focus on policies with no room for exceptions, we make people feel like cogs: replaceable, generic, and undervalued.

When we focus on policies with no room for exceptions, we make people feel like cogs: replaceable, generic, and undervalued. Learning to value people not as workers or givers or attendance numbers is complex. Leading with sensitivity to this complex dynamic demands we evaluate policies and learn that “making exceptions” can be the new rule.

Feeling like a cog sucks. Sometimes my broken self just wants the machine to bend over backwards to help me out.

 

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A Psalm 

A Psalm 

I was tasked with composing a Psalm for a recent class. I really wasn’t in to it. Psalms has never been a favorite book of mine. Poetry, in general, bores me. Until I discovered Sappho a year ago, I had zero interest in ancient verse. Ancient poetry does not rhyme, but uses parallelism, a repetition of ideas or words. Once I understand how to read a psalm, I appreciated the craft more.

With this psalm, I wanted to bring feminine pronouns into what is an entirely male genre. I wanted to include the female imagery of God, and to correlate woman as the image of God  – as giver of life. God birthed Israel, and births again every Christian. Women have been abused at the hands of men just as Jesus was broken and battered by men. In the early church, martyrdom was the ultimate way to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, and I wanted to pay homage to this traditional view of suffering as an honored act. This is not to excuse or justify any abuse on women, but to recognize the universal and timeless truth that women have suffered, simply for bearing Her image. A woman who trusts in God has the promise of justice and reward.

Favored is she who relies on God.

She trusts without full understanding.

She expects His will to happen.

Confident is she who knows the Lord.

She is not deceived by man nor crowd.

She walks alone.

You have made her productive.

She brings forth life.

She births.

O God, who gives birth to nations,

Who births again life anew,

You have shared your likeness with her.

She bears your form.

Let those who would harm her form be shamed.

As her body is broken, let them be destroyed.

As her blood is loosed, take note and serve justice.

She who suffers is not without privilege.

Her faith is not finite.

Her reward is not shared.

Her hope is not awry.

In death, she does not die.

2017 Goals Weeks 23-33

2017 Goals Weeks 23-33

9) Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

This goal has gone by the wayside. Perhaps I can jump back on in September

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

I completed my 2-credit summer course, and that puts me at 8 credits completed this year. One of my fall courses begins in a few weeks.

7)   Connect with one person a week.

This has been going well!

I spent a few days concentrating on writing the last week. It was sheer discipline, but I ended up enjoying myself, like I always do. I have the bulk of four lessons completed and I feel encouraged by the direction its taking.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

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I had a small project on my list. I wanted to make a reading plank for the bathtub. I had an old piece of cedar from a stash we had from my childhood home in Georgia. I also completed the cover for our sofa. We picked up a free leather sectional off Buy Nothing, and we hated sitting on it because it was slippery. I made bottom seat covers that are way more cozy.

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  1. Exterior siding in progress…
  2. Upstairs patio in progress…
  3. Bathtub reading plank Complete
  4. Sofa seat covers Complete

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

Easy peasy to make this happen every day.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

I dragged the kids out to Franklin Falls, but I’m not sure we actually got to the end? The pictures I’ve seen of the place don’t look like what we saw. We climbed around the hills and went off the trail trying to figure out where we were supposed to end up. We saw little falls, but not the “picture perfect” end.

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Henry and I climbed Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia. I climbed it as a teenager. It is an impressive sight. Henry wasn’t thrilled, but he did it.DSC_0953

January: Twin Falls.

May: Little Si.

June: Snoqualmie Tunnel

July: Franklin Falls & Stone Mountain, GA

2017 Goals Weeks 20-22

2017 Goals Weeks 20-22

9) Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

June’s discipline is service. This is a perfect discipline for me coming off of May. I tend to hibernate in May since Awana is complete for the year, its between seminary classes and the kids are still in school. I do a lot of reading and gardening, but not much else. I start to feel the isolation in June, and am ready to get back into service.

“Serving typically looks as unspectacular as the practical needs it seeks to meet. That’s why serving must become a Spiritual Discipline.” (Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 143.)

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

Starting my summer class this week: Theology of Cultural Engagement.

7)   Connect with one person a week.

Complete!

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

I missed two days in the last 3 weeks, but I have been very active…which is the point.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Stephen and I biked the Snoqualmie Tunnel this weekend. We also went 2 miles down the hill and biked back up. The tunnel is an abandoned railroad tunnel that goes under Snoqualmie Pass. Its 2 miles long and completely dark. I thought it would be creepy, but it wasn’t because there were a lot of hikers and bikers inside to keep us company.

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January: Hike to Twin Falls.

May: Climb Little Si.

June: Snoqualmie Tunnel

2017 Goals Week 19

2017 Goals Week 19

9) Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

For the rest of May, I will be translating and meditating on the book of Matthew.

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

Half-way done.

7)   Connect with one person a week.

I’m hibernating.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

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From the waist upwards he was like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goat’s (the hair on them was glossy black) and instead of feet he had a goat’s hoofs. He also had a tail, but Lucy did not notice this at first because it was neatly caught up over the arm that held the umbrella so as to keep it from trailing in the snow. He had a red woollen muffler round his neck…he was a faun. – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Mr. Tumnus is almost complete. I ordered white-white wool to make snow for his base, and I have to figure out how to make an umbrella for him. I also started on the armature for a Mary, Joseph and Jesus trio. I have 10 sculptures complete so far.

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

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Chinook Bend Natural Area was a short 20 minute walk in Carnation. I needed on excuse to visit Carnation’s Tolt Yarn and Wool, and I had spotted this the week prior on an jaunt to a local farm. I consider this a walk, not a hike.

Twice last week I walked up a gravel road to the top of the hill behind our house. The view is so pretty of our valley from there. I was surprised the first time by a flock of sheep with half-a-dozen lambs “mbaa-ing” at me. They followed me a ways down the road from behind their fence. I’ve been back to visit them 2 times since!

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.

May: Climb Little Si.

2017 Goals Week 18

2017 Goals Week 18

April was a draw.

DSC_0569April was crammed with fun stuff and responsibilities. I accomplished many things, but most of those things were not goal related, so the updated list looks sparse for April. I organized the carnival for the Egg Hunt at church.

DSC_0523Train season also started this month which means I was training new docents most Saturdays or giving tours at the Northwest Railway Museum.

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Spring break took us to the coast for camping and exploring!
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Easter brings a lot of activities to prep, plan and enjoy as well!

9) Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

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The majority of my spare time has gone toward this goal. I wrapped Greek Syntax with a massive translation exam on Galatians, and read 5 books on women’s history in the church which will culminate in a paper this week. I’m registered for a 2 credit course in June with my favorite Prof. 6 credits completed!

7)   Connect with one person a week.

This happened, but not intentionally.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

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No, I didn’t needle felt this guy, but she did donate wool toward my stash!

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

Every. single. day.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

PANO_20170504_102734We finally had a few sunny days last week, so I renewed my Discovery Pass and climbed Little Si early Thursday morning. There are a lot of single women with tiny dogs on the trail early in the morning! There was also a lot of loud talkers. I spent a lot of leisure time on the trial letting them pass by or get farther ahead of me when I heard them.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.

May: Climb Little Si.

2017 Goals Week 12-13

2017 Goals Week 12-13

Week 12-13 of 52

9)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

 

The last two weeks of March saw less and less of prayer. I have some big requests that I keep banging on the door with, but I struggled to make prayer a disciplined effort. Lack of faith is the problem.

April is the month for worship. This is going to be tough one. Worship as defined by Don Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is focusing on and responding to God. If focusing on God is a discipline, it is an easy one for me. I am preoccupied with God. Response is the problem. How can you respond to something you don’t experience? Whitney recognizes that the discipline of worship is both an end and a means. Since, responding is not something I can discipline, this month’s focus will be on the means: listening to Christian worship songs, reading Scripture and continuing in prayer.

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

April has a lot planned, so my schoolwork has to be planned and organized. This is where the majority of my time is going. I have a lot of reading and translation work.

7)   Connect with one person a week.

Nothing. Guilt. Shame. 🙂

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

Nothing. I’m not feeling inspired on this faun. I don’t have the wool in the right colors, so I need to dye a batch, and that’s not my favorite part of the process. I will start on more sheep this week.

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

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Every day except a Thursday a week back! Even in the rain. The skunk cabbage is out and stinky!

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Nothing new.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.