Archives For May 2013

I saw the photos of Oklahoma on the news feed this morning. It is a world away from Australia, yet social media seems to reach beyond the Pacific pond and pull us towards a sense of the grief, urgency, frustration and bewilderment that so many people in the stories and pictures seem to be experiencing. A lot like the images and reports that continue to emerge from within Syria. In some small way, we Aussie’s are enabled to connect and sympathise in real-time.

What made the Oklahoma tragedy so pertinent to me this morning, is that it intensified how I understood the words Paul spoke to the church in Ephesus (Eph. 4:11-15):

‘’we will no longer be immature like children…tossed and blown away by every wind of new teaching..Influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like truth. Instead, like Christ, we speak the truth in love’… (NLT)

As I try to comprehend the next step on from my undergraduate academic journey, I cannot help but wonder where we as Christians really are at. It seems too easy to be blown away and tossed about by every wind of new teaching. The magnitude of consequences associated with being blown away and tossed are evident, painful and real. All visually expressed in what we see in Oklahoma at the moment.

I recently read a comment on one of my posts last week that lead to me this conclusion. I don’t have ‘it’ all figured out and that is okay. This is okay because I can see the relevance in Paul’s use of words like ‘immature’ ‘tossed and blown about’. We are not called to uncertainty, we are called to hope in the midst our uncertainity.

Uncertainty brings with it a sense of crushing powerlessness. It can also remind each of us of a deeper sense of meaninglessness, hopelessness or a lack of clear direction. An image that might reflect this is that uncertainty is like a lingering mischievous fog, tempting us to rush ahead into a darkness that has settled down around us.

My response to uncertainty cannot be panic, anxiety or rash decisions. Instead my response must be

   ‘grateful obedience to the God of promise who summons humanity to place our hope in Him alone’ (Barth Church Dogmatics.IV3.2, paraphrased).

This is what vocation means.

It means ‘not grasping God, but allowing ourselves to be grasped by Him’ (David McGregor, Tabor Adelaide).

If we, ‘like Christ, speak the truth in love’, we are, like Christ, keeping in step with the Spirit.

This means authentic proclamation, bearing witness to the fact that because of the Holy Spirit, ‘Jesus Christ is within us’ (2 Cor.13.5). We can do this confidently, knowing that ‘we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God’ (1 Thess.2:4).

This is an act where ‘deep gladness meets the world’s deep need’ (Palmer ‘Let your life speak’, 2000). It involves the graciousness of God as we enter into participation with the Spirit (2 Pet.), who is always a sure compass, reliably pointing those with ears to hear and eyes to see towards true North; towards fulfilling our vocation.

The theological imperative is this, when I speak truth in love, I must first speak truth to myself in both word and deed.

Choose to seek maturity,  by being ‘gentle and patient’ (Paul) in my responses (e.g.: think-before-I-post). Choose to walk in gratitude and hope (humility – Paul).

How do we do this? By deliberately being vulnerable by being open when we disagree with someone. We do this by choosing not to retreat into the passive aggressive  reaction of posting memes all over facebook, or lobbing ambiguous tweets, out from under an evangelical bomb shelter, loaded with subtle put downs . We choose to be a truth-teller and truth-seeker.

Like Jesus the Christ, when we choose to work on ‘speaking truth in love’, we ‘live a life worthy of our calling’ (Eph. 4:1-2).

Related reading:

‘Things to do today’, (mrsmendiola.wordpress.com)
‘Wolves in Christian clothing’ (lifeofafemalebiblewarrior.wordpress.com)
‘Momentum’ (walterbright.org)
‘Catering Churches – fearing of offending’  (realityofchrist.me)

I’ve been praying through a recent challenge on 1 Cor.13. For me the high point  here was seeing how hope was an area that I needed to focus on. The low point was realising that if ‘love hopes all things’ then I am seriously lacking in the love department.

So I sat down (as you do), in order to unpack the relevance of this. I put my learning into practice and concluded that the next logical step was to move on to the part where Paul states that ‘love is patient’.

I was wrong.

As I currently understand it, hope only has a limited interconnectedness to patience. This is because hope is not passive.

IMG_20130519_134742_20130519195829628

Image Credit: RL2013

Patience on the other hand can be antithesis of hope. Patience, it could be argued,  requires passivity, i.e.: “waiting on the Lord”. It can also fuel complacency, thereby deferring hope. (Pr.13:12 ESV).

This led me to ask whether or not, hope waits in same way that patience does?

My answer so far is no it doesn’t, here’s why:

Hope is more of an active ingredient. It is an important part of a love that rejoices in the truth and not wrongdoing.  Joy and truth are correlated elements that flow on from hope. For example: a love that hopes seeks truth. By utilising the tension between anticipation and uncertainty we are submerged into a deeper understanding, which views faith as a hope-filled paradox. Or as Kierkegaard put it: true faith is the ‘virtue of the absurd, an infinite resignation – a hope that those who give all will be given all’ (‘Essential’ 1997:95).

It is true that hope can be let down by truth, and therefore be disconnected from joy. For example: the clash between impossibility and possibility witnessed in that crushing blow, when a job application is unsuccessful. Or the point of impact that is felt for years after the dissolution of a key relationship in our lives. However, even when truth seems to dispossess hope, it can never be defined as hopelessness.This is because even despair ‘presupposes hope’, or so Jurgen Moltmann asserts. He writes that ‘faith is called to life by promise and is therefore essentially hope, confidence, trust in the God who will not lie but remain faithful to His promise’ (‘Theology of Hope’, 2002:29-30).

It is a big call to ask someone who sees themselves as being without hope to be patient. Those experiencing the heart-in-your-throat agony, that no matter what you do, you are left feeling like you are grasping for air and rescue. The kind of anxiety where each individual piece of your broken heart seems to painfully amplify your heartbeat, magnified by the battering you may have just received.

No where is the disconnection between waiting in hope and waiting as patience exemplified more, than in the false belief that “time heals all wounds”. Words like, sort it out, get yourself together, surely you should be over that by now. These passive aggressive statements all infer that patience is the source of healing.

This time of reflection has shown me that hope is an unreasonable necessity that leads to joy. Although patience is important, hope aligns us towards joy in a way that patience cannot.

PDVD_007_20130429174414483

Image credit:DM.

Being told and treated for a portion of my own life, as though I was unworthy and not deserving, tended to negatively reinforce a frustrated and chaotic mixture of possibility and impossibility. This produced a paradox that is best described as a morbid hope. No life can come from such a distorted, oxymoronic view of hope. Just as Chesterton pointed out in ‘Orthodoxy’: moonlight is a morbid light, it does not produce life because it provides ‘light without heat’ (RB, 2006:18), so a morbid hope cannot not produce faith.

Hope is rebellious. It defies. It motivates and surprises us. It awakens us from the complacent acceptance of the status quo, setting us in motion towards a joyful anticipation of what comes next. Hope allows us the room to view a sigh as confession, a breath as prayer and faith as obedience. It tells us not to give up when everybody says we should.

Perhaps having hope should be likened to having a curious obedience. An act that moves us towards a place of interest in what God might do. As we process our lives theologically in the midst of uncertainty, we are lead to pray in solidarity with King David: ‘when I’m afraid I will put my trust in you, In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust’ (Ps.56:4).

IMG_20130517_100702_20130519202232974

Image credit: RL2013

Patience may be a practical product of hope that rightly teaches us to wait on the Lord. However patience seldom aligns us towards Father, Son and Spirit in the same way that hope does. Here we are directly steered into participation with the Divine Other, in whose joy we find our strength (Neh.8:10, Jn.15:11, 2 Pet. 1:4-9 ESV).

Because hope gives faith legs, joy and truth empower the powerless.

Facile Friday

May 17, 2013 — 5 Comments

Ah…Facile Friday. How welcome you are… For those new to GVL: the general idea here is to give others a voice by presenting a summary of the things that I stopped to wonder at this week. Here goes…

IMG_20130329_143237_20130516184202372

Image credit: RL2013 – Autumn

1. “First cab off the rank” is Theinkslinger with an impressive book review of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’. His analysis is real and his argument is convincing. Here, my friend takes on the long held presumption that Rand, who is also co-author of ‘The virtue of selfishness’, is somehow a benevolent, guiding force for conservative convictions….hmmm?…

2. An Alan Noble article, which blogger Sis linked on Twitter, caught my attention. It is a response to Eric Metaxas’ new book,  ‘Seven Men’. If you are a gamer Noble’s article is worth a read. Also the reference he makes about Mark Driscoll relates to a sermon he gave on ”video games” and real men. My take on this is as follows: I agree with Noble about being careful to not overgeneralise. However I agree with the warning found within Metaxas’ message, which is that video games, such as “massively multi-player online role-play gaming” (MMORGs), present a danger to men who find their identity in the game and communities they form or join.

Speaking as an EVE online veteran of six years, I know that MMORGs can provide a false sense of achievement and also a false sense of self worth. Having said this, by not finding room for balance between a game becoming an extension of ourselves, and a game being something that we do in order to just have fun, I think that Driscoll and Metaxas overstate their case . My question here is: Are they overlooking the fact that the online video-gaming-community is a mission field? (hmm…your thoughts?)

3. Clive James is releasing a translation of Dante’s Inferno (and Divine comedy). It turns out that his release ends up being in competition with Dan Brown’s new release of the same name. In a recent interview author/critic Clive James made some interesting quip’s about Dan Brown, this one in particular caught my attention :

“Dan Brown has spent his lifetime learning to write the kind of prose that has earned him nothing except millions of dollars. I pity him deeply.” read more…

4. Like so many Christian bloggers I have encountered on my pilgrimage through the blogosphere’s shadowlands. I think Ex religious Christian has written some important reflections for Christians on a relevant issue. This particular blog post is poignant and has a lot of depth to it. Kudos to the author, it takes courage to write about ‘what we learn from Church Sabbaticals’.

5. I forget how I stumbled across this one. It is a positive article written for the BBC on child sponsorship. I am a fan of Compassion Australia so to read such a glowing report, backed up by research was to say the least, encouraging. Stand out comment:

“Compassion has often been criticised for proselytising, with its sponsored children being selected by local churches and given an evangelical Christian education. But Dr Wydick found the spiritual aspect of sponsorship might be intrinsic to transforming children’s lives” (Emily Buchanan)..read more.

6.  A few days back I posted a prayer from Thomas Merton. I was directed towards this because of a discussion on uncertainty, vocation and calling. Katie Kiesler’s recent blog post was directly related to these themes. One of the high points that came out of reading this was how Katie related her subject material (Exodus 13:21-22) to the song by JJ Heller called ‘Who You Are’. For example: Katie points to Psalm 23:3 bringing emphasis to Heller’s lyric, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who You are’. Katie concludes with: ‘I pray that we would let God take us through the desert – not just so that we can arrive in the Promised Land, but so that we can talk, or simply listen, to Him along the way‘ (and everybody said…..Amen).

Katie has also written a book called ‘My problem with Grace’.  This is an insightful book that just falls within the genre of ‘macro theological reflection’. One comment which substantiates this is Katie’s assertion : ‘I have never been more convinced that I am a product of a fierce God’s fierce grace’ (Loc.115). Overall the content covers a range of issues most of us struggle with from season to season. Her work is conversational and insightful. Both my wife and I recommend checking it out.

7. Scrounging highlight of the week: this really needs no words added to it other than @Crowdermusic #JOY

That’s all folks…have a great weekend.

I have been reading through Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics IV.4, easily, the smallest of his famous theological treatise.  CD IV.4 is the last in the series and discusses baptism in the light of the doctrine of reconciliation. A lot of his discussion here reflects his treatment of honour late in CD III.4. From what I have read so far he certainly does bring home the message that ‘only the existence of God constitutes the honour of humanity’ (CD III.4.56, p.651).

Humans may appear to be godless however, because God is both creator and Lord, ‘humans are never without God’. (CD III.4.56, p.652). I.E.: ‘Man can be godless, but God can never be manless’ (ibid p.652).

This raises the question, if God is the sole source of human provision and honour, how is it Western society seems to look for this “supply” solely from its elected Governments?

For Barth:

‘Christian ethics is the free and active answer of humanity to the divine work and word of Grace’ (CD. IV.4: ix).

What this means is that our free and active answer, not only invites God to participate in our decisions, such an act makes room for God.  We acknowledge that we belong to God and we recognise that He mercifully makes himself available to us. Considering this within a socio-political context leads to a list of questions: such as, when I vote, does God exist in my decision or am I rewarding a particular party, simply because they were the ones offering me the “shiniest carrot”?

Last night in Australia our Treasurer handed the Australian people his national budget. He rolled back some things and initiated others. Most could be considered beneficial, some a political play to gain re-election.

I concede that Government is an essential part of God’s provision for His people. We see this in the Joseph narrative within Genesis (46).

However, my enquiry doesn’t necessarily lie at the feet of Government. It resides at the feet of those who stand before Governments, those of us who look to them as the only source of provision. How much should we expect our Governments to provide in a budget that is made up of other people’s money, our taxes? Who benefits and who is burdened? How entrenched is the ideology which feeds a sense of entitlement, that it blindsides us into forgetting the theological imperative which states that God is the true source of our help?

Surely Psalm 121:1-2 and Philippians 4:19 provide the necessary corrective, if not the antidote, to my countries overtly misplaced trust and the subsequent slavery to fear that always attaches itself to our lives when we trust humans before God for our needs.

Barth wrote that:

‘the freedom of God is grounded in man’s becoming free to be faithful to God, as God is faithful to him’ (CD.IV.4:13)

Simply put, there is room for God in everything we do, not Governments. Right now, all I have are questions. The first of which is, does God truly exist in my decisions today?

Phil4_19_20130515102926315

Image credit: RL2013

I was directed towards this prayer by Thomas Merton today. Since a large portion of the content is deeply relevant at the moment, it seemed appropriate to share.

TM_Prayer

Image Credit: RL2013 Words: T.Merton #1Cor13 #Hope Via Bruce Hulme

Kardia…

May 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

before and audience of three-in-one

THE BEAT…?

THE BREATH…?

1956 Christmas Time Nanny and Grand Nanny_20130512161830017

My Grandmother with my mother 1956

My grandmother passed away forty years ago, this year.

I never met her.

My mother tells me that my Grandmother was an independent, “modern woman” who lived a fast and confusing life, somewhere between the ideal housewife of the 1950’s and the free spirited, liberated woman of the 1960’s. She died alone in the early 1970’s .

Somehow the build up to mothers day this year has jolted me into considering how painful every mothers day has been for my mother.

How did she cope, not having the love, support and warm words with which she generously lavishes upon us?

How blind, selfish and foolish I feel not having been able to see that every year, every mothers day, behind my own mother’s smiles, lay…years of longing, resentment and pain-filled what ifs. Questions that morph into subtle tears. silence. sighs. grief.

Mum1

This Mothers day has been one of disorientation and reorientation.

Firstly, this strange disturbance disorientated me. Call it a further step into maturity?…and perhaps it is. I just know that this is the first Mothers Day in close to 36 years, where I have  acknowledged how difficult every Mothers day has been for her.

Secondly,  this disturbance reorientates me. I welcome this because it leads me to a better understanding and appreciation  of my mother’s story. For instance my grandmother of whom I have no memory, a stranger, has an unspoken and immediate impact on who my mother is.

Mum2

I can relate this to Mary, the cross, the blood, her tears and the blessing of her own gratitude and obedience. Mary’s quiet, grateful-obedience is  a crucial part of the good news story!

I have witnessed this same quiet, grateful-obedience displayed in my own mother’s life time and time again. In spite of her painful losses in life, she stands with Father, Son and Spirit, giving of herself out of things she was never given, and being blessed with gifts she never dreamed she would have. She knows that it is only in Christ that we find strength in the midst of weakness.

What makes this short story even more amazing is that my mother has done this without ever complaining or living as a victim, something she could easily have done.

Instead my mum chose to get up and persevere. Even though it cost her, we have been shown a better way because of it. My mother is the embodiment of Paul’s statement to the Corinthians that ‘love hopes all things’. It is for this I that I am grateful, and it is from this that I take this moment in time to thank her.

IMG_20130511_201218

Source: Image – Passion of the Christ, word art and colouring – R.L2013