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.

 

Advertisements

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.

wp-1491236956034.jpg

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.

Sabbath was equal rest.

Sabbath was equal rest.

We often think that Christianity ushered in a new era of equality for races, genders and cultural roles with Paul’s declaration that in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). But God emphasized equality of persons thousands of years earlier when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 NIV

Setting aside the seventh day each week was how God desired to be worshiped. God wanted people to connect with Him in rest. The Sabbath commandment leveled the social constructs that humans feel compelled to enforce around the worship of God. On the six days of work, society was split along gender, race, age lines and roles; but on Sabbath, all human distinctions ceased.

Children rested along with parents. Slaves had recess from all their duties. The immigrant must stop their work as well. Women and girls relaxed. Servants had the day off. Ox, horses and donkeys were set to graze.  It had to be rest for all. Sabbath was not for Jewish men only.

The holy day was a day of equality. Week after week, God emphasized His impartiality to gender, race, age, and even species! In this idle space of Sabbath, the One Creator God was worshiped in unity. In Christ and in Sabbath rest, we are all one.

2017 Goals Week 11

2017 Goals Week 11

Week 11 of 52

9)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

March is the month for prayer. In Mark 13:18, Jesus commands those who are listening to his signs that the end of the age is near to “Pray that it might not be in winter.” I find inspiration in his words.  Jesus taught that God knew the exact time of “the end” already (Matthew 24:36), yet he compels his listeners to pray for a specific time anyway. The verb Mark chooses to use when he writes Jesus’ words into Greek is a verb of uncertainty, of probability. “It might not happen” means that there is potential for the time to change. Our prayer influences the time that God has set.

Jesus was certain that our little old requests might persuade the mind of God. Isn’t that rather stimulating?

 

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

Working…

7)   Connect with one person a week.

My course load is taking a lot of my spare time, so that’s my excuse for not working on the study this week.

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

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

Accomplished! This is getting easier and easier. My favorite walk is to climb the hill behind our house. It gets my heart pumping and I can do it while reading, so double-tasking wins!

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Nothing new.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.

2017 Goals Week 10

2017 Goals Week 10

Week 10 of 52

9)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

“If it is coincidence, I sure have a lot more coincidences when I pray than when I don’t.” Unknown man quoted by Don Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p.96.

Bible reading, meditation and prayer are the “holy trinity” of a Christian’s life. They mark a person who believes there is more to life than 80 years on earth. I disciplined myself to pray this week as I disciplined myself to daily walk. I don’t get “feels” off prayer, usually. Prayer is simply a way I prove I believe to myself. I found it a relief to chat with God about daily annoyances and worries. And, there were little answers/”coincidences” as well.

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

wp-1489429406514.jpg

My second class this semester starts this week. It is Church History to the Modern Age – squeal!

7)   Connect with one person a week.

6)   Complete writing a 12-week Bible study.

I worked on Week 4.

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

The donkey is in progress, and I started on a Faun.

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

Accomplished!

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Nothing new.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.

2017 Goals Week 9

2017 Goals Week 9

Week 9 of 52

9)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

“I haven’t the foggiest idea what prayer does. I do know that I can’t get through my day without praying.” Frank Schaeffer p 33

This month is prayer. I recently read Why I am an Atheist who Believes in God by Frank Schaeffer. I highly recommend this book for someone who has grown up a Christian, but now struggles with apathy or doubt. Schaeffer prays every morning as he walks down his steps. Each step is for a different  person he loves. “The Lucy step” is for his granddaughter, and she asks him daily about his prayers for her as he came downstairs. He also prays for God to take care of his dead friends and parents. He doesn’t have an explanation, but in doing so, he feels a connection to those who have passed on through God’s care.  He wrote the quote at the head of the paragraph, which struck a cord with me. I don’t know what prayer does either, but sadly, I can get through my day without it. This month, I am intentionally praying every day with a journal, and my with my steps.

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

Working…

7)   Connect with one person a week.

6)   Complete writing a 12-week Bible study.

I haven’t worked on this in four weeks! Gah!

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

Hagar is coming along. Her hair and lips need work. Does she look pregnant? (She is supposed to.)

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

wp-1488816553394.jpg

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

I missed Wednesday and Thursday, but I was active both days.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Nothing new.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.

2017 Goals Week 8

2017 Goals Week 8

Week 8 of 52

9)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

This month’s spiritual discipline is Bible intake in the form of meditation on the Word.  I have been translating and exegeting the book of Galatians for my class this semester. This week, my meditation has been on Galatians 2-3. Specifically, on the purpose of morality for justification.

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

Working…

7)   Connect with one person a week.

6)   Complete writing a 12-week Bible study.

I haven’t worked on this in three weeks.

 

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

wp-1488148273478.jpg

Little sheepies. 8 of 25 done!

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

I walked every single day.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Nothing new.

January: Hike to Twin Falls.