Friday, July 6, 2007

Mysteries of Grace

One of the great mysteries of grace is found in the strange attraction Jesus had for the unattractive. Jesus had this desire for the undesirable and a strange love for the unlovely! Of course we realize Jesus is simply reflecting Abba’s love…Jesus loves the ones the Father loves!

One “…time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” Jesus steps up and pierces our thick-skinned hearts and calls “a child, had him stand among them, and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven! Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4, The NET Bible).

Cutting right through our prejudices He sets this child on His knee…this child with no self-consciousness and therefore incapable of any charades, shams, or pretenses. Brennan Manning (in The Ragamuffin Gospel, a must read for all!!) tells of little three year old John Dyer. Brennan heard the knocking on the door, opens the door and there is little John flanked by both parents. Brennan said, “Well, Hello John, it is good to see you…” And to use a phrase my Dad often used, with his face ‘set like a flint,’ John looked neither left nor right but straight at Brennan with fierce determination and boldly demanded, “Where’s the cookies?”

God’s Grace belongs to those with no self-consciousness…those who are not trying to look good or impress themselves or anyone else. God’s Grace falls on those who are not worried about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get any ‘kudos’ for ‘good behavior.’ No, God’s Grace belongs to the child. “Who is the greatest?” is still yammering for an answer here in 2007 and with swift barbed jabs of love, Jesus incisively penetrates through our narcissism (“oh I wonder if I am good enough?”), our boasting (“do you know how many came forward and were baptized last week?), and our fretting (“I guess I am just fundamentally flawed and nothing will ever change!”). You see a child does not have to struggle to get herself into a good position to have a Grace Relationship with God, she does not have to paint a pretty face for herself, nor possess any great intellectual understanding. All she has to do is accept the cookies! Oh the Grace of God!!

I think when Jesus encourages us to become as little children He is asking us to forget the past and realize it is only NOW that I am with God. You see, it matters not what good or ill I have in my past, it is irrelevant to the MAX, or as my son says it is “uber irrelevant!” It only NOW that I am with God…not yesterday (“oh for the good ole days?!?) nor tomorrow (“oh I had better be sure this is taken care of) but only today!!

Living in the now, living life to it’s fullest, being fully human and fully alive; this is what God’s Grace offers. One day a monk was running away from a hungry tiger and saw a rope dangling over a cliff. He quickly grabbed the rope and let himself down. “Whew,” he thought, “that was close.” 500 feet below he saw jagged rocks and glancing up he saw the saber-toothed tiger. About that time two mice began nibbling on the rope and the monk thought, “Oh my goodness, what am I to do?” Then he looked at the rock wall in front of him and saw the reddest and biggest strawberry ever. He reached out, took it, and promptly ate it. He said, “That was the best strawberry ever!”

I would have never seen the strawberry! I would have been so preoccupied with my future (the rocks below) or worried about my past (the tiger above) that I would have missed the “here and now” with God today! Children do not focus on the tigers of the past nor worry about the rocks of tomorrow. Oh to be as Paul who says “I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead…” (Philippians 3:13 The NET Bible).

John Mark

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Awesome Power of Words...

You and I need to tell our BRAIN what to think! If not it will run willy/nilly and PING from one thing to another...part of the BRAIN RETRAINING is grounded in my FAITH and my THEOLOGY. My faith (Philippians 4:8) must inform my brain what it will think and what it will not think.

So I have changed the words I use in my everyday interactions with my family, friends, and everyone else. Words have meanings and meanings have consequences and to change consequences I need to change my words...words are expressions of faith. The ultimate expression of faith (one's individual salvation with God) is connected to The Word..."faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God..." (Romans 10), and in a very similar way, what I say is an expression of my faith...so what follows is a list of words that I will not use because my faith says, there is a better way of expressing who I am...

Read the list and let me know what you think...

Greedy, liar, cheap, hateful, jealous, vindictive, controlling, nasty, possessive, whiney, wimp, evil, geek, prudish, womanizer, angry, secretive, codependent, alcoholic, predator, drug addict, gambler, sick, fat, disgusting, stupid, idiot, fearful, unconscious, masochistic, bulimic, anorexic, unimportant, shyster, compulsive, frigid, rigid, abuser, manipulative, victim, victimizer, egocentric, better than, foolish, emotional, pompous, ugly, sloppy, loud mouth, big mouth, passive-aggressive, smelly, lame, coward, jerk, inauthentic, offensive, inappropriate, wild, dead, zombie, late, irresponsible, incompetent, lazy, opportunistic, lush, stingy, unfair, dumb, traitor, weasel, immature, gossip, snippy, desperate, childish, floozy, shrew, pansy, golddigger, hormonal, cruel, insensitive, scary, dangerous, explosive, perverted, psychotic, needy, energy sucker, mean, defensive, man-hater, sad, frail, impotent, insipid, castrated, mama’s boy, nervous, arrogant, miser, spinster, slut, deceitful, judgmental, imposter, superficial, violent, thoughtless, martyr, hypocrite, sneak, grudge carrier, condescending, competitive, power hungry, sinister, bigot, anxious, stuck, hot shot, goofy, woman-hater, sadistic, loser, whore, shameful, dirty, bitter, shameless, bossy, inflexible, cagey, resentful, racist, snob, dominating, sleazy, overbearing, ignorant, thief, cheater, trashy, devious, conniving, insecure, depressed, hopeless, not good enough, frugal, unlovable, delinquent, scared, hyper, intrusive, malicious, resentful, righteous, useless, destructive, resistant, thick-headed, betrayer, confrontational, self-destructive, pigheaded, oversensitive, empty, ridiculous, wretched.

See, none of them tell me anything about you...nor do they say anything about me...why would I use them??

John Mark

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Family Ties That Bind....

Once upon a time, a storm-tossed ship gave up one of its passengers. He clung to debris that had gone over the side with him and floated for a few hours. Finally, he could hold on no longer, and he let go. When he came to, he found himself on an un­charted island. The island was perfect. Tall palms, ver­dant brush, sparkling hills. Hardly believing it was real, he tried to wake himself from his dream, though with some fear that if he succeeded, he would find himself dead. It appeared, however, that he was very much alive. Curiosity and hunger moved him to explore. As he invaded the jungle's depths, he was struck by the calm. There were no loud cries of birds or beasts, and there seemed to be, if anything, a certain order everywhere.

He spent most of that first day feasting with his eyes and mouth. Many delicious fruits and nuts were easily available to his reach, and his stomach was soon satisfied. But so wondrous were the colors, the more his eyes took in, the more he wanted to devour. As the first evening came on, and he prepared for sleep, he found that the climate, while cool, was in no way chilling. Wearily he lay down to bed upon a mattress of soft leaves, thankful to be still alive, yet a little scared at being so alone.

When he woke the next morning, he was no longer by himself. Sitting all about him in a circle were men, women, and children. Some of the most beautiful men, women, and children he had ever seen. They had taken care not to awaken him, and they had brought gifts. Did they think he was a god? As he bestirred himself, they came over, offering food and drink. One who seemed to be a leader appeared to be asking if he were ill or hurt. He did not speak their language, but they easily under­stood his gestures. He quickly discovered that theirs, too, were easily understandable.

Indeed, he found that everything about these peo­ple was simple and graceful. They accepted him imme­diately and made him one of them. He learned their ways of communication.
But there was one idea he was totally unable to convey, that at times he wanted to be by himself. On this island, no one was ever left alone. When a baby was born, the people did not sever the umbilical cord. The child thus remained extremely close to its mother throughout its infancy. If the mother wanted to have an­other child, the umbilical cord was severed, but only from the mother, and her end was then reattached by a simple surgical procedure to one of the older women, who-con­tinued to care for the child until it was ready to mate. As part of the wedding ceremony, the future partners' cords were severed, but again, only the ends that were con­nected to the parent surrogates, and, as each loose end was attached to the intended spouse, the bride and groom were thus united. In those cases where a mother had had only one child, the cord was reattached directly from natural mother to spouse.

Shortly before a wife was to give birth, the hus­band and wife had their cords unjoined and the husband could then become attached to another female ready to leave her mother or mother surrogate. He also had the option of rejoining with his own mother, if she had not rejoined with her husband, or he could join again with some mother surrogate, perhaps his original one.
While to our modern sense, this way of bonding might seem primitive, even uncivilized, the effects of this constant attachment on society were astounding. Anger was unknown, depression was easily cured, crime was unheard of, envy and jealousy never spawned, and com­petition and rivalry were totally absent. There was no such thing as embarrassment, nor any of those behavior patterns that we have come to call neuroses. If there was fear or anxiety, it was experienced only during that pe­riod of time when someone accidentally "lost" a partner. Such loss was always replaced as soon as possible, how­ever, and the anxiety would quickly subside. Indeed, it was probably only because the islanders remembered these instances of loss that some sense of aloneness was known at all. Despite this, the expected death of a family mem­ber never increased anxiety greatly, because everyone had the assurance that the family would quickly make a re­placement available. Such back-up also may have meant that individuals were freer to die.

The man spent many years on the island, at one point becoming attached to a woman with whom he found mutual attraction. But he soon realized that he could not suffer her omnipresence, and rather than introduce the spoilation of bickering to these lovely people, he asked for a "separation." There was perhaps one time when he thought he had found a woman who might have tried his way of life, but she changed her mind at the last minute and soon tied the knot with another. As he retold it later, her change of mind seemed to have less to do with any failure of nerve on her part than with a concern to calm her own family. They seemed to be becoming increas­ingly upset over the prospect of their daughter's living unattached.

After several years, the proverbial ship appeared and he left these wonderful people sadly. As always, he was astounded by their reaction, this time to his depar­ture. For as kind and close as they had seemed, they now appeared to take his loss with perfect equanimity. In fact, he found himself wondering if they had ever cared at all. Whereas he, though he had been unable to be totally a part of their life, now found himself almost totally unable to separate.

When he returned home, his family was over­joyed to see him again, though his wife, thinking he had died, had soon remarried. He himself remarried shortly thereafter, and the pain of the loss subsided. He tried to publish an account of his experience in several scholarly journals, but they all said it was too fantastic. He finally sold it as a fantasy. One reviewer thought his style too realistic.

Many years later, a ship traveling in the same waters happened upon a gloriously beautiful, uncharted island. A crew went forth to explore. They were met by a patrol who ushered them firmly to headquarters. When it was seen that the men meant no harm, they were freed, and their ship was allowed to come into the port of the island's bustling metropolis. The men were quite sur­prised to see such an advanced society so far removed from the rest of civilization. Newspapers contained all the sections of any modern daily: current events, crime, economic issues, sports fashions, the usual range of ad­vertisement.

"You know," said one of the crew, "as a child, I once heard a story about a beautiful island just like this. A man claimed to have lived there for several years. He described it as one of the loveliest places he had ever seen, with the kindest and warmest people. In many ways he could have been describing this very place. Except that he said it was very primitive, and there was one other thing also. he said, "If you could feature this, everyone went around constantly tied to someone else by their umbilical cords."

"Oh, I remember him," the tour guide said, as he ushered them all into a waiting hovercraft. "That's just the way it used to be here," he continued, straining above the noise of the motors as they exploded into full throt­tle. "But after he left," the pilot shouted back through the spray, "we all cut them off."

From the library of: John Mark Trent, PhD

Excerpted from: (1990) Friedman, Edwin H., Friedman’s Fables, Guilford Press

Thoughts that were prompted as you read this fable?? Don't you like stories?

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