Saturday, July 28, 2007


Someone asked me "show us what you mean by taking responsibility for your own feelings and actions." So I will. Understand, my experience is mine and not yours. How this fits you, if it does at all, the Spirit will have to show you.

The other morning I had a great idea. I mulled it over in my mind for awhile---about two minutes actually---and started telling Mary, my wife of forty-eight years, about it. [It directly involved her since it was in reference to a "we" thing.] I began by saying,"let me finish the whole thing without interruption please." She responded by saying, "are you telling me to keep my mouth shut?" "No" I said, "I just want to get my idea totally on the table." She said, "it sounds like the other but I'll take your word on it." I could tell she was dubious and I tried to convince her with a multude of explanatory words that there was no reason to doubt my stated motive, which is always a clue there is something amiss in me. The whole conversation did not go well.

I went on my two-mile walk. Thinking time. My personality is like a Mack truck sometimes. I get a thought and I tend to run over people getting it across. My tendency is to think--- as I'm talking--- and woe to the one who interrupts my brilliant thought pattern going on inside my head and making a bee-line to my mouth. Add to that, an over emphasis on my being the one in charge of things like home, church, ministry, and a theological history of believing women are second rate citizens of the Kingdom, though I would have vehemently denied such a charge were it to have been made against me, and you have a controller waiting to happen. How would you have liked to have lived with that person for the first twenty years of a marriage?

Our old pattern [PG...pre-grace] as a married couple was one where I spoke and things happened. She listened and responded accordingly with much awe [my assessment of a correct response] at my wisdom. [Whether it was wise or not, I was the man after all.] That's what submissive women are supposed to do. The fact that all such concepts are inherently unbiblical was only discovered after those first twenty years of marriage. By His power and through His Grace, with the text of scripture as truly our only guide, we're changing. We both now listen, speak, serve, and take charge when it's our responsibility to do so, respecting the other when it's theirs to do so.

Add to this a peaceableness that the Spirit has brought to me of late that has starting replacing agitation when under pressure and you have a little light into some of the journey Mary and I are on.

That particular morning that journey seemed to not exist. I was right back [not as profound as before I'm trusting] I had been those many years ago. Seriously, as I type this, it occurs to me I have created MOPs. M--ack truck, O--ld patterns and P--eaceableness gone and I really did have a mess to MOP up.

I apologized at noon that day. Why? The problem was not her statement, her reaction, her anything, I'm my problem. Was she innocent? That's her business. No disagreement is EVER about who's right or wrong really, but who's willing to take responsibility for their own part of the mess and listen to what the other is saying, not for agreement but for understanding. She's honest enough to find out her part in it, but that's not my part of the equation. Yes, she admitted her filter of being "told to be quiet" and that she tends to hear some things through it. But that's her story. Mine is mine and it's my responsibility to admit it and change by His Power and in His Grace and continue to grow.

How she heard it, for the record, was what I was really saying and, with that old pattern coupled with my strong personality that has been used in the past for controlling purposes, to my own shame, I acted like I do not wish to act that morning.

She forgave. I thanked her. We talked about my idea. It had some value. We used a form of it at my Board meeting two days later and two really different people are still learning to live with those differences after many years of marriage and are both grateful for Grace we've received from God and each other.

The question could be asked--will it happen again? Knowing me, probably. Knowing her, probably. But knowing what we both know now---having a problem is no problem at all, but an unwillingness to each take responsibility for their part is a real problem--- we may make a marrige yet. Time will tell.


Mary has read and approved this since it involves her or it would not be posted.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


One of the things so refreshing and at the same time challenging about a relationship that can exist when the before mentioned boundaries [see previous post] are accepted is that neither involved in that kind of relationship can any longer play the "blame game." [Henceforth referred to as the BG.] You know what the BG is don't you? It's where what I feel or have chosen to do is your fault. One is playing this game as revealed by such language as "I did this [or said that] because you" or "if you hadn't done what you did, I wouldn't have done what I did" or "you make me feel so_____" or "if you had only done [whatever]I wouldn't feel the way I do."

I have to confess that this is being written by a master blamer. I learned it early and practiced it often until I got into a relationship with a real person for life [it's called marriage] and discovered that, when effectively called on such practice by her opting out of the game, life became just too miserable trying to play that game solo, so I stopped too. That opting out for both of us began about twenty-five years ago and is still the path we choose to walk together.

Now it is true that people are even different here. I was a blame giver and she was a blame taker. I used the BG to my advantage in the control issues I had and she, by her confession, used it for her image of submission. Both were wrong and unbiblical, as well as, unhealthy. But I digress.

This BG started in the garden of Eden. After the fall, upon being confronted about what went wrong by the One that really matters, Adam said, "It's this woman you gave me." Thus the door was opened in his mind for a shifting of responsibility for his thoughts, feelings and actions that might have been inappropriate or unhealthy, not to mention sinful. That mind-set prevails today. [Be aware that while Adam said it's this "woman" the emphasis ultimately was on "that YOU gave me." So if it wasn't her fault he's was in the pickle he was in, it must be God's fault.] Boy that's classic. Been there done that... myself.

A principle I've learned [from reading Larry Crabb] is that A never causes C...[Read that again..slowly.] A is the event, situation, person or happening and C is my feeling or choice made after the happening. [Read that again slowly also.] I always tried to believe and convince others that A CAUSED MY C. ["Because you...I."] The more lousy my feelings or actions the more obvious, at least to me, that the A was even lousier and the A is YOU. [Certainly someone/something other than me caused what's wrong in me.]

One day I discovered that A doesn't cause C at all. B --causes--C. B is my thinking ABOUT the event, person, situation or happening. C is my feeling or action and it is actually the result of my B. It is my B that is the culprit when faced with the lousiness of my C. Get that down. [Could it be this is what is meant by "as a man thinketh?"]

This is the ABCs of opting out of the blame game. How you think about a situation or event or person is the cause of what you feel or do. An illustration might help. I use this with permission granted from my daughter with whom, along with her husband and daughter, Mary and I celebrated my 67th birthday lunch today.

Years ago, as this was fleshing out to reality in me, I apologized to our older three kids for the sorry parenting I had done with them. The caboose [4th] born nine years after the third got the benefit of the Grace life I was learning. Some of my parenting was good but a lot was bad. [I speak only for myself and Mary can speak for herself, as she does extremely well in these matters, hence the first person singular.] For example, I tried to make them trophies of my ministry early on instead of trophies of His Grace. That's BAD...really BAD. They forgave me but the process was not too pleasant. They were and are that kind of gracious adult children.

I digress here with cause-----The family dynamic that went into working through the baggage we all carried as a family was as painful as any process I can imagine. It took MANY family times that often went into the wee hours of the morning long after the little kids, our grandchildren, were in bed. Those times were worth the price but I must never minimize the depth of pain and difficulty involved for all of us. Mary and I were surprised when one day a friend who is a medical doctor said to us, after we were merely sharing with him one of our sessions of brokenness, "oh, you guys are part of that rare 2% [he could have said 5% I don't remember the exact small number he used] of families that are willing to say I'm sorry." I don't know where he got his facts or figures but I think he's right about the rarity of it. It hurts too much for some families to go there.------Now back to the illustration.

Late one evening, after a family time much as just described, Cherri, our oldest, was talking to me and made a comment to the effect that my admission helped her see the reason for some of her behavior that had been reactionary to me as a parent. I said to her "Wait babe, I did you wrong and thank you for forgiving me, but your behavior is the consequence of what you've thought about what was done to you. I won't take responsibility for your behavior...that's yours." She tells people today it was that exchange that set her free to genuinely be on the road of Grace living. From my perspective her change came about because of a girl who was courageous enough to take responsibility for her thoughts and actions instead of blaming an obviously faulty father or any other faulty family member.

It has to be obvious that if I do not take responsibility for the bad choices she made I can not, with legitimacy, take credit for the good ones either. She is the heroine here. She is not a victim but a victor in life because of refusing to play the blame game. Her mind became ultimately occupied with who the REAL Father is and what He's like and that mind-set empowered her choices and actions and set her free to make good choices and have good feelings instead of the negative ones she had been having. [The B of this ABC stuff. It's called living by faith.] When this becomes the environment of an entire family it truly CAN become a family where Grace is in place. That's the journey the our family is on. Haven't arrived yet, but traveling down that road.

Remember we are ultimately speaking here of relationship skills that we need to learn that grow out of the truth we know about who we are in Him and to Him all because of the person and work of Christ and what He's done on our behalf. We forgive BECAUSE we are already forgiven ourselves. We love BECAUSE we are already loved ourselves. We extend mercy BECAUSE we already have mercy extended to us. We are FREE to act, choose, do BECAUSE we are accepted.

So...when I feel terrible, or choose badly or act like a jerk, I can honestly see it, not blame any one else, and deal with my responsibility for it. My personhood is NOT dependent on my performance but His and He has accomplished it all. I now live in the Grace of it and extend that Grace to others on the journey with me.

Now...on a motorcycle trip, two different people, at times cranky, short-fused, tired, as well as hungry and thirsty, how do you do it? Well you don't blame the other one so there is no "taking it out on the other one." Neither will permit that. Too much respect to permit that. We don't have our personhood tied to our performance. We can be honest about the lousy conditions without blame and laugh about the good conditions with joy and enjoy really living life to it's fullest.

By the way, marriage is something of a forever motorcycle trip without the motorcycle. Just two people on a journey together and it sure helps to have leaned some of this stuff....together.

Life is good...difficult on occasion...but that's all her fault....if she would just.... :)


Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Two friends totally different in personalities, preferences, and patterns of behavior [see previous post] yet enjoying several days together on a long motorcycle trip. How is that possible? This is the first of several posts examining that possibility and consequently examining some guiding principles for healthy relationships. I do not claim training in the realm of psychology, though I've studied to some degree, and I certainly am not advocating behaviorism as a proper way to build relationships. I'm not promoting or debunking anyone's worldview. I'm simply sharing some things generally learned the hard way and tested against a lifetime of family and ministry relationships with some research along the way both biblically and otherwise.

This is not a research paper so I'm not interested in detailing footnotes of where information was gleaned. I just want to talk about some important things I've learned about getting along with people and learning to change so that can happen. I will say at the outset that His power and wisdom are the necessary foundation not to mention sharing in His very life and Word. That's a given.

That said...two friends totally different enjoying several days together on a long motorcycle trip and being good friends when it is is that possible?

It takes... a recognition. To recognize there is no good verses bad in personalities and preferences is essential. This would certainly imply no right or wrong either since good is right and bad is wrong by definition...any sane definition. When two people each choose to see the other as just different with no moral judgement as to good or bad you pave the way for amiable times together. I'm not speaking here of biblical statements about certain behaviors that are stated to be good or bad. But I'm speaking of relationship skills that learn to establish guiding principles for actions or behaviors not addressed in scripture that are present in any relationship. How much time you take to gas a bike. Whether you laugh loudly, softly, or not at all. Where you put your things when done with them could be examples. To recognize each as free to be how and who they are without determining one is right and the other is wrong is foundational.

It takes...restriction. Boundaries are necessary for good relationships. Every front door of a home establishes a boundary that must not be crossed without invitation for there to exist a wholesomeness between people. You come into my home upon my invitation only. Such boundaries can become weapons to control people and can lead to isolationism if one desires, but when desiring a a legitimate relationship be it friend, spouse, church member, or whatever, boundaries are needed.

To illustrate, on my motorcycle trip my brother-in-law and I established, as we always do, a boundary...that in conversations we would NOT shame, condemn or try to fix each other in any fashion. Statements like..."I can't believe you said/did that," [shame] "I don't believe you should think that way," [condemn] "It would be better if you would think/say it this way" [Fixing] are all out of bounds. You will notice they all involve the second person pronoun "you" directed at the other ones actions, words, or thoughts in some manner. This is generally heard for what is is by all except the one saying it.

An aside. In my Pastors and Wives seminars we add the cannot speak FOR the other person in conversation. You wouldn't believe how hard it is for preachers to talk in company of their wives without saying "my wife and I think...", "my wife and I feel...". Letting her speak for herself is almost unheard of in ministerial circles.If you think either of these examples is easy try it for one day between you and your spouse. No shaming, no condemning, no fixing make up this first boundary. {You can add no speaking for the other person and it's healthier.]

Two things happen, among a lot of other things, when this boundary is in place in a relationship by mutual agreement. One is that each is incredibly free to express opinions without fear of winding up low man or woman on the intelligence pole. For that matter it creates an equality that education, experience or training, or lack thereof, cannot/does not take away. Being in the ministry doesn't give automatic credibility nor does being a man as opposed to being a woman give credibility were we to be speaking of healthy marriage relationships. Even when talking theology this guiding principle truly guides to healthy relationships.

The other thing that happens is when one says something that might be silly or baseless or even false, given time to reflect, with no one pointing out a supposed error in it, one can learn to challenge their own ideas/thoughts and change can take place. It's called "personal growth" for a reason.

The above does not negate one in the relationship asking for assessment or input. That isn't fixing. That's stepping into another's home by invitation. You can even request to share a thought that might help, but if the offer is declined...don't. Even here it is just an opinion of the one who is asked for suggestions. This is because the purpose is information not fixing the problem.

It becomes...respect. When there is genuine respect the relationship can flourish. It will not be with out failures and apologies and work, but both are agreed to the boundary being present and it guides the relationship along.

I'm in a marriage that can only be described by what I've just written. Not fully accomplished yet, but by all means, well on the journey. [If I tried to say it's accomplished she would just tell you the truth about it.] I'm in relationship with four grown children and their spouses with whom this style of relating is coming to fruition. I have a few friendships where this is experienced with commitment. I've been in a few [very few] churches where this is being learned. But be learned it must for real relationships to grow between people who are really different from one another. More to come on this topic.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

PROMISED PICTURES [See previous post]


I've just concluded a 3200 mile motorcycle trip with my brother-in-law. It was only the two of us and our love for touring the country on our Iron Horses. I'm reminded of a tee-shirt whose caption read "If you have to ask why, you wouldn't understand if I told you." Truer words could not be spoken.

But my thoughts on this magnificent trip are many and varied. If you're interested in such personal stuff read on. If not, now is the time to click off and focus in on another blog somewhere. You would be subject to abject boredom and life is too short for that wouldn't you agree?

The trip was made in incredibly beautiful territory. We toured the Blue Ridge Parkway from the southern entrance at Cherokee North Carolina to the northern entrance near Waynesboro Virginia a total of 469.1 miles. Add to that the Skyline Ridge beginning at Waynesboro and ending at Royal Front Virginia some 200 miles long and you have nearly 700 miles of Parkway riding. The pictures that I hope to eventually post will give some sense of what it was about.

The weather was excellent including the two hour downpour [you gotta understand riding] we rode through going into Washington DC to rest a day or so at the home of friends. Rest we did and ate and slept. A welcome respite it was for two guys who, by this time, were genuine members of the IB Club. [Iron Butt Club] Those before mentioned pictures will testify to the sheer delight in being so close to the handiwork of a Great God who is so personal His presense was enjoyed and praised every step of the way. It really is true that the heavens declare, as does every other part of creation, His Glory.

One of the amazing things that I'm reminded of each trip my brother-in-law and I take is how two people so different can enjoy a trip where we are genuinely forced to practice "close communion." We are different. Really different. I am spontaneous. I am lacking in respect for details. I am an act first and think later kind of guy. I am a push forward to settle a difficult situation like being in the wrong lane to make a needed right turn. My answer to the problem is to gun it and get in front of the guy who is in the lane to my right [who hasn't a clue as to my need or intentions] and make my needed right turn...on time and with my way of thinking. Sounds reasonable to me. I stop for gas, punch the "no" to the impending receipt for the purchase, and I'm good to go, gassed, and gone within... say....three minutes of arriving at the pump. No use being slow about it all.

My brother-in-law is different. Really different. He is methodical. He is not one to pass up a single detail. He is a ponder first and choose an appropriate action kind of guy. He is a pull back to settle a difficult situation like being in a wrong lane to make a needed right turn. His answer to the problem is to fall back behind the guy who is in the lane to his right [who hasn't a clue as to his need or intentions] and make the needed right turn...on time and with his way of thinking. Sounds reasonable to him. He stops for gas, punches the "yes" to the impending receipt for the purchase, and he's good to go... after he writes down the amount of gas, mileage and money in a little book he carries just for that purpose. Then he's really good to go, gassed and gone within...say...ten minutes of arriving at the pump. No use not taking care of important details.

Well, it looks like we're two guys who would need to go our own way or at least get with our own kind for a trip of this nature to be enjoyable, productive, not to mention possible with two different personalities and patterns of behavior that are housed in the two of us. Friends..yes...but different. The proverbial pepper and salt, ice and fire, night and day and who is which is up for grabs within itself. It won't work for a trip like this. Will it? Well it did. For that matter, it has worked for seven years and multiple trips covering thousands of miles to Canada, Mexico, Southern California, over thirty states and thousands of miles and now the east coast as well.

How? How is it possible? Is there a secret? What's going on here? I believe, notwithstanding it being two brothers-in-law for crying out loud, it is possible. It can work and, in fact, has several times. What makes it work will be the subject of my further musings on the next post or two. You would expect a preacher of over fifty years of ministry to find something to say and teach from it all wouldn't you? Well, rather than discovering something new, it is that I've seen confirmed something I've been learning and been teaching about people in relationships for several years now. You won't be surprised to hear me make application of it all to other human relationships like marriage, parenting, church membership or even denominational leadership will you? Don't be. Relationship principles have a universal quality them for good reason. You'll see. Next time.

Suffice it to say now, Fred, [my brother-in-law] you and I high-fived it again didn't we. Next year maybe Glacier National Park...again....or somewhere else...maybe Alaska where we've never been...what do you say?