Torn

I can feel the stress echo off his body as his hand cradles the phone. The knot grows in his stomach. Honestly, he doesn’t care either way. He just desperately wants both women to be happy. He will be lucky if he gets through this with both at least mostly placated. He knows he has it easier than some men. The thousands of miles that separate him from his parents keep these occurrences to a minimum. But, on the other hand, the occurrences are of hurricane proportion when they do occur.

Honestly, they are both great women. It would be so much easier if he didn’t like one of them. His heart is torn in two. On one hand is his precious Mama who gave him life. And not just the physical life – she gave him a great childhood. While she was a no-nonsense kind of mom – he never doubted her love for him. She served him and his three brothers selflessly – always putting others needs before her own. Often to the determent of her emotional strength. Then Dad would have to step in and rope the boys into giving her some much needed relief – for a few hours – until the testostronians were again back to doing what they did best and Mom was left holding the bag.

Then there was his wife. His precious wife. His life was so tightly intertwined into hers, he could never imagine life without her. He knew she loved him to the core. He loved having a best friend he could confide in – still loving to spend time with her after a quarter of a century.

Both women were strong women. Which in and of itself is usually a good thing. Strong women get things done. Strong women are great homekeepers and moms. Strong women also like things done their way. And..as long as both women were on the same page -or on separate continents – life was good. But, those rare occasions when they both had ideas and the ideas were polar opposites – well, this was one of those moments.

There was only one other in over 25 years and that was 5 years ago when his mom wanted a 40 year anniversary party thrown for her and dad at the children’s expense. It required a weeks vacation and travel to Tennessee. His wife was a nightmare throughout the whole ordeal. He gets chest pains even rethinking the event and the weeks proceeding up to it. His wife didn’t want to go and she was very vocal about it. His mom wanted it to happen and she was very vocal about it. Why, why couldn’t one of them compromise? In the end he had to put on a smile for the family and try and console his wife behind the closed doors. It was so stressful. All he wanted was for everyone to get along. Why couldn’t one of them put aside their wishes for one week?

Now it’s the 45th anniversary for his parents. And they want the family to fly to Germany. His wife is trying to be more patient and flexible. His mom – not so much. She has certain things that are important to her and she isn’t taking into account the effort or sacrifice they will cause. The one that is causing the tight grip on the phone at the moment is the revelation that she wants them to stay at the house while they are in Germany. He has already told her the family is planning to stay for a couple of days and then travel around Europe and then return for a few days before they leave. She is also insisting the whole family come at the same time – which may or may not be possible. She isn’t happy with anything less -and waiting until Christmas isn’t an option either.

Now – he is forced with the decision of telling his mom is isn’t going to work the way she wants – or going back to the drawing board with his wife. Which, may or may not be a good idea. Sometimes she is so hard to figure out. If only she had a flashing light above her head – green means go and red means stop. It would be most helpful. He can only hope this is a pre-menopausal thing and once she gets through it life will be easier. Where can he get one of those lights? If it were green, she would listen to his concerns about his mom’s wishes and possibly come up with a compromise or solution. However, if it is red she will either cry or yell and ramble on and on about how awful life is. He will have to distance himself from her rantings enough to stay calm and try and calm her down.

He gets her point. He really does. But, in the end – this is his mom. Doesn’t she see that? For no one else would he make or ask her to make these sacrifices. His mom is talking about not being on this earth much longer – which may or may not be true. Does he really want to not make the memories special for her? Will she have a 50th anniversary? She might. Or, she might not. Carpe diem.

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Love God. Love Others.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This was the text for the sermon our pastor preached on this weekend. Isn’t it funny how you can read a passage over and over – even memorize it, and then one day it jumps off the page like you have never read it before? That’s what happened last night when I read these verses.  As children we sing, “Jesus Love Me” and are taught to follow the golden rule. Love is the premise of the Christian walk. Unfortunately, I think it becomes like the picture you hang on the wall. When you first purchase it, it’s all new and you notice it every time you walk past it.  Fast forward a few months or years, you still love the picture, but you rarely notice it. It’s just become a comfortable part of your life.  I just love those light bulb moments when you see something fresh and new, as if you are seeing it for the first time.

Pastor began his sermon sharing a story of Green Bay Packer’s football coach, Vince Lombardi who delivered a powerful speech. He walked in with a pigskin in hand and one the group quieted down said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He went on to describe the fundamentals of football. You take this football and get it across the opponent’s line. You keep the ball from crossing our line. You tackle and block to accomplish this.  Pastor then when on to say John 13:34 is a lot like the speech Vince Lombardi gave his team so many years ago.

The Christian life can be summed up in two things.  Love God. Love others.

What a great reminder! Life can get so busy – How refreshing to stop and focus on what really matters. But, Pastor didn’t stop there. He made it practical. What does love mean? It means doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. Ouch. Now that’s making it personal. I thought about the times in my heart when I just couldn’t get there – when I just wanted my way so badly. I wanted to love, but I wanted my way so much more!  I knew at that moment God was asking me to go deeper with Him. He was asking me to make a commitment to love others and love Him, so the next time I was faced with a choice, the decision would already be made. I would remember this commitment and regardless of my feelings, I would choose love. As I’m mulling over what this commitment would look like, Pastor shared a story from Corrie Ten Boom on forgiveness.  If you know anything about Corrie, you know she was a prisoner in the concentration camps and suffered greatly. She spoke about forgiveness of a guard who mistreated her.  This video shares her story in her own words. It’s just a few minutes and so moving – it’s well worth your time to watch it.

As I’m listening to the suffering Corrie faced and processing all the suffering Jesus faced, my own seems so small.  Yet, I know when the going gets tough, I will be tempted to turn back to my selfishness and choose to love myself over God and others. I pray and ask God to show me clearly, beyond a certainty that I am to love, whatever the cost to me.  Wouldn’t you know it, Pastor concludes with a series of verses on love. One right after another.  After the first two, I told God I understood.  But Pastor kept reading verses and reading verses.  It became almost comical as I’m thinking, “God, I got it….really, I got it.”  But, I think He knows me and knows I will quickly turn from obedience and love to my own self-centered choices.

It’s so clear. The whole Christian life is summed up on loving God and loving others.  It seems so easy – but in reality it is impossible without God’s help. Love is a choice. Make a commitment before emotions get involved.  Then, follow through on that commitment regardless of how you might feel in the moment.  Trust God to meet you where you are and help you when you don’t think you can do it.

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

James 2:8   If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well

1 Cor. 14:4-7 “ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Eph. 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Rom. 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”