Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"I Like Your Christ. I Do Not Like Your Christians"

 "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
~Mahatma Ghandi

Ouch. Talk about a zinger. Kind of a gut-punch, isn't it?

One day a couple of weeks ago, I was driving my kids to school, lecturing talking to them about how important it is to remember to be more respectful toward each other and to be a blessing and not a burden to their teachers and fellow students at school. On this day, I was in a mood. Bogged down by what seemed like a thousand little loose ends and details I just couldn't seem to pull together. Sound familiar? So, anyway...I remember doing a lot of mental complaining and griping about how much I had to do, how I didn't have any help, how I wished I could just go back home, pull the covers over my head and go back to bed. You get the idea.

My husband (who is the sweetest man on the planet and who I'm still amazed picked me out of all of the women in the world he could have chosen) called me to check in and see how my day was going. Well, he unfortunately got an earful as I proceeded to download all of the stuff that was weighing on my mind and basically overloaded him with nonsense about how overwhelmed I was and didn't he feel sorry for me for being so over committed and under prepared which of course is ALL MY FAULT TO BEGIN WITH. (I am a self-confessed yes-aholic and chronic volunteer). As always, he listened patiently and calmly and said all the right things and told me it would all turn out okay and even complimented me by reminding me that I am always able to pull everything together and work it all out in the end. I hung up after the obligatory 'so...how is your day going?' which he answered by saying, "Me? Oh, I'm fine." Classic David. I love him so much.

I felt much better after that, of course. Cranked up the car radio just in time to hear someone on KSBJ talking about remembering to focus our attention on being more Christ-like in all of our interactions as Christians (he was referring to the contentious political climate) and then he shared the quote at the top of this post. And then...WHAM. My self-centered fog lifted and I realized in that instant that I was doing exactly what I had admonished my children NOT to do that very morning. I was being a burden, not a blessing. Fleshing it out, as it were. I was being burdened, period. I stopped and remembered what Jesus said:

Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~Matthew 11:28-30

This is what Jesus said about himself. 'Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.' In all honesty, I can see why Ghandi said what he did. As much as I hate to admit it, this is exactly what I have been seeing playing out all over social media and in conversations I've heard between friends and even in my own interactions with others. If this quote makes you feel convicted, that's probably a good thing. It certainly did make me stop and think. I hit the reset button that day and kept repeating that quote over and over in my mind and let it sink deep down into my spirit.

No wonder so many non-believers are turned off by some Christians. Why? Because self-righteousness and hypocrisy and a 'holier-than-thou' attitude are not attractive. Guilt and condemnation aren't, either. So much stone throwing and finger pointing going on in this world. Sounds more like the behavior of the Pharisees to me. If memory serves, Jesus had some serious issues with those guys. Seems to me that quite a few self proclaimed Christians are loudly blowing their horns about this sin and that sin and how bad everyone else (besides themselves, of course) is behaving. Being unapproachable, condescending and offensive. Passing out judgments and condemnation like Halloween candy. So unlike our Christ.

Are they well meaning? Probably. I would hope so. Am I perfect and without blame? Absolutely not. Am I condoning sin? No, of course not. Am I saying that he who is without sin, go ahead and cast that stone? Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.

While watching the recent violent uprisings in the middle east that coincided with the murderous attack on our US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, I was struck by the amount of passionate hatred in the eyes of all of those thousands and thousands of radical Islamic jihadists who banded together to make their presence known. It made me think. Why aren't we, as Christians committed to sharing that kind of passion when we seek to demonstrate the LOVE of Christ? I'm not talking about radical, fundamentalist anger and condemnation. In my opinion, that has NOTHING to do with the teachings of Christ. I'm talking about a committed, passionate, peaceful outpouring of love and forgiveness and charity and understanding that is news worthy! Why aren't we making news every day by showing how loving and compassionate and respectful of others we are? Why aren't we fired up to show the world the gentle and humble heart of Jesus and His salvation by living it out loud by example in our every day lives? How powerful and uplifting would that be?

Yes, I said it. Some Christians could learn a few things about expressing passion and dedication to their faith  from Muslims. You may not like that but I think it is true. Yes, even in my own life. Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

I have (what I think is) a great idea. I'm too busy with my crazy life and I can't afford to fund it but wouldn't it be really awesome to have a new cable news channel called GNN? The Good News Network. All good news all day and all night. Reporters traveling all over the world to cover stories of unsung heroes and people doing unselfish good works and people being healed miraculously? Highlighting kids for putting others before themselves? Outrageous athletic accomplishments? Compassionate humanitarian efforts? Videos of people all around the world doing humorous things?That kind of stuff. Doesn't need to be religious...just any good news will do. Hey, it would be great to see people trying to make the news by doing good things instead of being knuckleheads or criminals, dontcha think? Somebody get right on that, will ya?

And, hey...if you need any help getting it started, I'll be more than happy to volunteer to brainstorm ideas and search for stories or help design an ad campaign. Of course it would have to be after I tear down the decorations from Red Ribbon Week and then the big fellowship I'm planning and then of course Thanksgiving....then there's the Christmas parade and by then Christmas will be here but maybe after that..... ;0)

Blessings and Love


(I love this song 'Proof Of Your Love' by For King and Country...take a listen).

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Admit it...You Were Wrong

Strange how even a simple squabble between siblings can become a teachable moment in the lives of everyone involved. Yes, even on a Monday morning. Before I elaborate on that, let me just say that I don't always go about imparting wisdom into the lives of my children with patience and perfection. Nope. Sometimes it's more along the lines of vexation and vocalization. Oh, well...whatever works. My motto? If it achieves the desired results then I get to call it a success.

As the kids were getting ready for school, I held up an old teddy bear which had been left on the floor and I said "Poor Buddy. Somebody just dropped him and left him here. I bet Buddy's not feelin' the love this morning." I was trying to make light of the fact that I couldn't walk through the family room without stepping on or around some random toy or article of clothing that had been thoughtlessly dropped and left behind for someone else to deal with. That someone being me, of course. This is a really annoying recurring theme in my household and I was irritated but wanted to take it a little easy because everyone was just sleepily rubbing their eyes, waking up and trying to come to terms with the fact that it was Monday morning again. No sense harping on them to add to that stark realization.

Because Mattie is female, and it is imprinted on her DNA, she can't seem to resist the urge to make some remark or to 'out' whomever she deems to be the guilty party in any given situation. Little girls seem to get a special tingle out of seeing other people get what they deserve. To put it nicely, Mattie has a very acute sense of justice. Or is it vengeance? I don't know...maybe a little of both. Anyway, the irony is that two thirds of the debris field in question belonged to her. Most likely the teddy bear was discarded by her since Patrick doesn't even play with it anymore. Of course, that didn't seem to register at all. It rarely does.

So Mattie says, "Buddy is Patrick's and he should do it because it belongs to him." And unfortunately something got lost in translation because  all Patrick heard her say were the words "Patrick" and "stupid." Aaand...cue drama. He called her out and insisted that she said he was stupid and demanded that she apologize. Michael, wisely trying to remain neutral up to this point, quietly piped in from under his blanket, "Dude, really...she didn't say that." Patrick wasn't having it. Then, he ordered me to make her apologize. Yeah, well...a ten year old making demands and ordering me around never goes over well with me but especially rubs me the wrong way first thing in the morning before my coffee. What followed was a ridiculous exchange worthy of two bickering toddlers. I said "Patrick, she did not call you stupid." He said "Yes, she did, I heard her!" and this deteriorated into "did not!"..."did too!" until I realized the absurdity of what I was doing and then ended it by telling him very firmly: "Patrick, you are wrong." He shook his head 'no.' "Yes" I said. You. Are. WRONG!"

Wrong. He hates to be wrong. He got up and declared he was going to the bathroom but we all knew he was retreating because he was unable and unwilling to admit his mistake. He was going to believe what he wanted to believe and refused to be persuaded otherwise. Pride is a pretty powerful thing, isn't it? I had to wonder why he wanted to believe the worst instead of acknowledging that he simply misheard her. There are so many insightful, psychological conclusions to draw from that but really it all just boils down to pride. Pride is a place where we all stumble and fall.

I know better than to push my kids when they are in this frame of mind. It only makes them more resentful and resistant. I tucked a note into Patrick's lunch kit that read "I hope you decide to make it a great day. Please remember that it takes a person of great courage to admit they are wrong. Be that person. Love, Mom." I urged Mattie to go to Patrick and tell him that even though she hadn't called him a name, she was sorry they had a disagreement, which she did. Patrick was still sullen and mumbled "okay, fine" or something to that effect. Still not budging.

When we finally got in the car, I spoke quietly to the kids on the way to school about the meaning of courage. I told them that being brave was not just about facing fear but also about letting people see them when they are not at their best. That being vulnerable and letting people hear them say "I made a mistake" was a great example to set for others and that in order to be a great person or an effective leader, we have to be tough enough to be willing to be wrong in front of everyone. Then, I turned to Patrick and said "there is no shame in being wrong, son. Everybody makes mistakes." His eyes filled with tears and he choked them back and finally said "Sorry, Mattie...I guess I didn't hear you right." Boom. And just like that: revelation and reconciliation. Everyone all smiles and giggles for the rest of the trip. Thank you, God...what a relief, as I can't stand unresolved conflict.

Don't we all hate to be wrong? As adults, pride and arrogance make us resistant to admitting any wrongdoing. I see it everywhere day in and day out from my little kids to the highest government officials. Denial, lies, cover-ups, corruption of every type imaginable. Guilt and shame and regret all because of an unwillingness to confess the simple fact that we have been wrong. Made a bad decision. Blamed the wrong person. Lost our temper. Forgot to do something important. Gossiped about someone without knowing all of the facts. Betrayed a loved one. The list could (and does) go on and on.

My challenge to myself and to anyone who may be reading this is to search ourselves and ask the question: Do we have what it takes (humility and honesty) to do what my ten year old son was eventually able to do? To suck it up and be willing to say, "My bad." To own our mistakes and to be accountable to those we have wronged? To atone for our transgressions?  I say yes... I'm up to the challenge. Are you in?

Here's Mom's lunch box wisdom for you, shared from my heart  to yours as it was for Patrick:

"I hope you decide to make it a great day. Please remember that it takes a person of great courage to admit they are wrong. Be that person." 



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