Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The skeleton woman:

this story was heard by me the 1st time at a men's retreat "wild at heart." It is about how men treat women, and how they should. It is a cautionary and redemptive tale...

an eskimo legend:

Once upon a time --- She had done something of which her father disapproved, although no one any longer remembered what it was. But her father had dragged her to the cliffs and threw her over and into the sea. There, the fish ate her flesh away and plucked out her eyes. As she lay under the sea, her skeleton turned over and over in the currents.

One day a fisherman came fishing, well in truth, many came to thisbay once. But this fisherman had drifted far from his home place,and did not know that the local fisherman stayed away, saying this inlet was haunted. The fisherman's hook drifted down through the water and caught, of all places, in the bones of Skeleton Woman's rib cage. The fishermanthought, "Oh, now I've really got a big one! Now I really have one!" In his mind, he was thinking of how many people this great fish would feed, how long it would last, how long he might be free from the chore of hunting. And as he struggled with this great weight on the end of the hook, the sea was stirred to a thrashing froth, and his kayak bucked and shook, for she who was beneath struggled to disentangle herself. And the more she struggled, the more she tangled in the line. No matter what she did, she was inexorably dragged upward, tugged up by the bones of her own ribs. The hunter had turned to scoop up his net, so he did not see her bald head rise above the waves, he did not see the little coral creatures glinting in the orbs of her skull, he did not see the crustaceans on her old ivory teeth. When he turned back with his net, her entire body, such as it was, had come to the surface and was hanging from the tip of his kayak by her long front teeth. "Agh!" cried the man, and his heart fell into his knees, his eyes hid in terror on the back of his head, and his ears blazed bright red. "Agh!" he screamed, and knocked her off the prow with his oar and began paddling like a demon toward the shoreline. And not realizing she was tangled in his line, he was frightened all the more for she appeared to stand upon her toes while chasing him all the way to to shore. No matter which way he zigged his kayak, she stayed right behind, and her breath rolled over the water in clouds of steam, and her arms flailed out as though to snatch him down into the depths. "Aggggggghhhh!" he wailed as he ran aground. In one leap he was out of his kayak, clutching his fishing stick and running, and the coral-white corpse of Skeleton Woman, still snagged in the fishingline, bumpety-bumped behind right after him. Over the rocks he ran,and she followed. Over the frozen tundra he ran and she kept right up. Over the meat laid out to dry he ran, cracking it to pieces as his mukluks bore down. Throughout it all she kept right up, in fact grabbed some of the frozen fish as she was dragged behind. This she began to eat, for she had not eaten in a long, long time.

Finally, the man reached his snowhouse and dove right into the tunnel, and on hands and knees scrambled his way into the interior. Panting and sobbing he lay there in the dark, his heart, a drum, a mighty drum. Safe at last, oh so safe, yes safe, thank the Gods, Raven, yes thank Raven, yes and all-bountiful Sedna, safe ... at ... last. Imagine when he lit his whale oil lamp, there she/it lay in a tumble upon his snow floor, one heel over her shoulder, one knee inside her rib cage, one foot over her elbow. He could not say later what it was, perhaps the firelight softened her features, or the fact that he was a lonely man. But a feeling of some kindness came into his breathing, and slowly he reached out his grimy hands and using words softly like mother to child, he began to untangle her from thefishing line. "Oh, na, na, na." First he untangled the toes, then the ankles. "Oh,na, na, na." On and on he worked into the night, until dressing her in furs to keep her warm, Skelton Woman's bones were all in the proper order that a human's bones should be. He felt into his leather cuffs for his flint, and used some of his hair to light a little more fire. He gazed at her from time to time as he oiled the precious wood of his fishing stick and rewound the gut line. And she in the furs uttered not a word- she did not dare-lest this hunter take her out and throw her down to the rocks and break her bones to pieces completely.

The man became drowsy, slid under his sleeping skins, and soon was dreaming. And sometimes as humans sleep, you know, a tear escapes from the dreamer's eye; we never know what sort of dream causes this, but we know it is either a dream of sadness or longing. And this is what happened to the man. The Skeleton Woman saw the tear glisten in the firelight, and she became suddenly soooo thirsty. She tinkled and clanked and crawled over to the sleeping man and put her mouth to his tear. The single tear was like a river and she drank and drank and drank until her many-years-long thirst was satisfied. While lying beside him, she reached inside the sleeping man and took out his heart, the mighty drum. She sat and banged on both sides of it: *Bom, Bomm! ... Bom, Bomm!* As she drummed, she began to sing out "Flesh, flesh, flesh! Flesh,flesh, flesh!" And the more she sang, the more her body filled out with flesh. She sang for hair and good eyes and nice hands. She sang the divide between her legs, and breasts long enough to wrap for warmth, and all the things a woman needs. And when she was all done, she also sang the sleeping man's clothes off and crept into his bed with him, skin against skin. She returned the great drum, his heart, to his body, and that is how they awakened, wrapped one around the other, tangled from their night, in another way now, a good and lasting way. The people who cannot remember how she came to her first ill-fortune say she and the fisherman went away and were consistently well-fed by the creatures she had known in her life under the water. The people say that it is true and that is all they know.

[The story is from _Women Who Run With the Wolves_ by Clarissa Estes,a most remarkable book and a most remarkable storyteller.]

ultimately it is a story of salvation. And as we go into John 5 this week and think about a man broken for 38 long years, somehow this old story came to my mind.

i use the story to teach men about loving [and saving] thier wives. But i'll save that for another day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

is seeing believing?

Eyesight, corrective lenses, glaucoma…

We can trust what we can see, right? After all we rely on sight to drive, read, eat, etc. It is completely trustworthy… never fails…pure scientific fact

Unless we are watching a magician, or looking at a retouched photo, or the CGI in a movie, or we are near-sighted; farsighted; have a stigmatism; colorblind; we have taken some illegal drugs…commercials…info-mercials

But most of life isn’t like those extremes. I really can USUALLY trust what I see. But can we trust what we don’t see. What do we “take on faith” or believe because of experience. We turn on a light and we don’t see the electricity running up the wall, but we trust it is there; we throw a football and trust that gravity is part of how to throw it; we push the brakes even though we can’t see the brake fluid or the brake pads. The internet etc.

In point of fact we have “faith or trust” is all sorts of things we can’t see, don’t understand, and couldn’t prove to other people to save our lives. Love; Pheromones; Brain waves; Wind currents; Electrons; Light waves and particles; DNA; black holes…

Yet all these “miracles” of modern science and technology are simply taking our discoveries of reality and placing them in convenient useful packaging. Cellphones, iPods, Wi-Fi, hard-drives, gene therapy…

What then are miracles? Does Jesus just know more about reality and uses what he knows…or is he so far removed from reality that he can shape it any way he so desires? We don’t know. We can’t see him do miracles, and we can’t see how he does them even if we experience one. A lot of people stop asking because they started asking with expectations that it would always happen, and when it didn’t they just gave up.

But do we believe, without seeing, that he can do them? And do we ask him to do them? And do we give him time to do them? And do we let him say no, if he thinks it is best to not do one?

It’s interesting, the Bible says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the word of God.” And yet most people pursue faith by looking instead of hearing. People say “I would believe if I saw…” And yet the Israelites in Egypt saw incredible things, but didn’t always believe. Maybe our faith would grow more if we spent more time listening to Jesus, instead of watching for him to do some big carnival miracle. Maybe we should pray instead of trying to see.

Just a thought…

Friday, January 2, 2009

resolution practicum

New Years resolutions [practical help]

1. Be un-realistic. The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make your goal attainable in your own strength. You should make a habit of anticipating and attaining the impossible ONLY through the help of God and His strength. Any resolution that is done without deep dependance on God is an investment in pride and vanity. A resolution is not a one time choice but the choice of repitition and habit, and the 1st habit is always to be closer to God in all things we do.

2. Plan ahead. Don't make your resolution on New Year's Eve, but let the whole month of January be a time for reflection and adjustment. If you wait until the last minute or do it suddenly or reactively, it will be based on your mindset, guilty feelings, or passions of that particular day. Instead, it should be an ongoing process bathed in prayer and with the input of those around you that love you. Put everything into a calendar like google-calendar and then ruthlessly and relentlessly aim in that direction.

3. Outline your plan. Decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip that exercise class or have one more cigarette. This could include calling on a friend for help, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your bad habit affects yourself, others, and God. Try to replace vices with corresponding virtues. Aiming at NOT doing something is not as effective as aiming TO do something.

4. Make a "vision" and "consequences" list. It helps to visualize what life would be like 3 months, or a year down the line with these changes firmly in place. Also look at the consequences of not doing this and allow those negatives to be part of your motivation.

5. Talk about it. Don't keep your resolution a secret. Tell friends, your spiritual family and others who will be there to support your resolve to change yourself for the better or improve your health. The best case scenario is to find yourself a buddy who shares your New Year's resolution and motivate each other.

6. Reward yourself. This doesn't mean that you can eat an entire box of chocolates if your resolution is to diet. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something that you enjoy that does not contradict your resolution. If you've been sticking to your promise to eat better, for example, perhaps your reward could be going to a movie with a friend.
Track your progressKeep track of each small success you make toward reaching your larger goal. Short-term goals are easier to keep, and small accomplishments will help keep you motivated. Instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, say, focus on losing that first 5.

7. Don't beat yourself up. Obsessing over the occasional slip won't help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day, and take each day one at a time. Let the Holy Spirit coach you. His desire is not to just point out faults, but to be a friend who comes alongside with encouragement, wisdom, and strength for the journey of life.

8. Stick to it. Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity, such as exercising, to become a habit, and 6 months for it to become part of your personality. Your new healthful habits will become second-nature in no time.

9. Keep trying. If your resolution has totally run out of steam by mid-February, don't despair. Start over again! There's no reason you can't make a "New Year's resolution" any time of year.

10. Cynicism is pessimistic cowardice. Being a victim [of yourself, others, or circumstances] is the quickest way to negativity, passivity, and self-destruction. People who remain vigilant, laughing, crying, and fully engaged in a responsible resolution move forward and see change. Be tough minded and strong hearted! Your enemy [Satan] prowls around seeking to devour us into his pessimism and pride.

Fast Facts About New Year's Resolutions
63% of people say they are keeping their resolutions after two months
67% of people make three or more resolutions

Top four resolutions:
Increase exercise
Be more conscientious about work or school
Develop better eating habits
Stop smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including caffeine)
People make more resolutions to start a new habit than to break an old one.

Johnathan Edwards wrote these at the age of 23. I think they are worth looking at as we start the new year. I have modernized and changed a few to reflect a more contemporary cultural and spiritual sense of our times.

The thing that is so amazing to me about these is that Edwards did a good job of staying focused on them through the years. I think in many ways he used this as a missions-statement before the term was coined.

I resolve: [written over a 2 year period 1722-23]

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my life, without any consideration of the time, right now! Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever. I will gladly suffer to bring others joy as my Lord has done.
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things. I will evolve in studying and learning how to better be a son of God through all means necissary.
3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again. I will wake up, get up, and charge forward again!
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it. My life will shine as a blazing star pointing to Christ in all i say, think, feel, and do!
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can. All time is sacred and has been measured and given to me as a precious gift. I will not waste it with the distractions of the world but will take every moment and live fully alive in Christ.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live. Carpe Diem!
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. I will not live a life that is stockpiling regrets i will eventually be ashamed of and bogged down with.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. I will assume i am the worst sinner who has ever lived and thus be compassionate and gracious to all others that are above me.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. I will remember that death is the great door to love and life above; but while here that door reminds me that i have work to do for and with Him whom i eventually will go home to.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell. My sufferings will be mitigated by remembering the sufferings of the persecuted church throughout the world.
11. Resolved, when I think of any theory in theology to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder. I will ask the big questions and hunt for the big answers in Gods words.
12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by. I will remember that pride and autonomy are the poisons of Satan in all things. My ego is not addicted to self, but to my place of adoption in hrist.
13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality. I will look hard for where i can love people in practical ways here and throughout the world.
14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge. Vengeance is Christ's alone, and I have NO rights in these matters.
15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings or animals.
16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good. I will rarely speak of 3rd parties who are not in the room to defend and explain themselves.
17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frame-of-mind, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world. When confused and angry and off-line with God i will make no major decisions of consequence to myself and others. I will wait as patiently as i can, upon the Lord.
19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trumpet call me home.
20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance and moderation, in eating and drinking. I will filter whatever is about to go into my body through any of my senses and make sure it is worthy of being placed in the temple of the Lord.
21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. I will not become that which i despise.
22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of. I want to make my Father in heaven proud of me in all that I do.
23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; I will do as much secret good as I can.
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it. I will relentlessly hunt down my motivations, my flesh, and the root of my temptations and failures.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do damage to my assurance of Gods love for me and my safe place of security in his hands.
27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions. What i don't say or do will reflect wisdom and not a covering of my failures.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. His words shall be as alive on my lips, in my heart, through my thoughts, and in my hands as is possible.
29. Resolved, never to count a prayer worthy that is double minded, selfish, half-hearted, and empty of faith.
30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in Christ-likeness, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution. "I will not throw anybody under the bus." through gossip or slander.
32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Proverbs 20:6, A faithful man who can find? may not be partly fulfilled in me.
33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without compromising Christ.
34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple truth of what God is saying and has said.
35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. I will not be dominated by guilt, but by peace.
36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it in a prophetic sense that is necissary for the good of the Church or the Kingdom. And to do so carefully and humbly...very close to God in all things after much prayer and fasting and gleaning of wisdom from others.
37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. I will journal about such things and seek to understand them.
38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord' s day. Sabbath will be enjoyed as sacred space and time. I will laugh and cry and feel alive in him and not in the things of this world.
39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission. I have freedom, but that freedom must not be ensnared in the foollishness of the world.
40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to what i have let come inside of me that day.
41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. I will own my mistakes: make restitution; apologize; and do penance in an appropriate manner towards killing these vices and planting the virtues of God.
42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church.
43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's; i am not my own i was purchased with a price.
44. Resolved, that no other end but christian spirituality, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it.
45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps me become more like Jesus.
46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
47. Resolved, to endeavor, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have done so.
48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.
49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.
50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world.
51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.
54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it.
55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.
56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin.
58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity.
59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times.
60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.
61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. I will not be lazy or passive about keeping a firm focus on God in and through all things.
62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.
63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time.
64. Resolved, when I find those ‹groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those breakings of soul for the longing it hath, of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness.
65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long with the greatest openness and transparency, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance.
66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.
68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help.
69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.


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