Archives For June 2017

Atomic Skies

June 29, 2017 — Leave a comment

.

There’s a cloud of pink resting on the horizon,
mixing sunset throughout the sky.
Tinged by elegance,
.           the day signals its moving end;
.           its pending goodbye.

Yet, every atomic element;
.      every condensed vapour,
.                 smiles.

With the announcing of this new dusk,
in faith, by  trust, with hope,
comes the announcement of a new dawn.

Where God’s new mercies are met and friendships are forged.
.           Friendships renewed
.                  and life is endorsed.

All foreseen by this saturated sunset,
Layering its light through low rain clouds
Accompanied by the birds in flight.
Entertaining rest as the earth spins the sun towards the West.

Dazzled. Mushrooming clouds,
.              reflect an anchored light,
as it drags over countryside, city and human might;
.       the weighty blindfold;
.       this dark sheet of all consuming night.

There’s a cloud of pink resting on the horizon,
mixing sunset throughout the sky.
Tinged by elegance,
.           the day signals its moving end;
.           its pending goodbye.

Yet, every atomic element;
.         every condensed vapour,
.                    smiles.

With the announcing of this new dusk,
in faith, by trust, with hope,
comes the announcement of a new dawn.

Where God’s new mercies are met and friendships are forged.
.           Friendships renewed
.                  and life is endorsed.

.


(RL2017)

‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.’

– (Lamentations, 3:22-23, ESV)

A few years back I did an online retreat for a spiritual formations class I was taking. It was a core subject, with a large amount of flexibility in what classes you can choose from[1].

What was revealed to me during of one of these classes was the short but sweet statement, ‘aim to bless, rather than impress’. Recently, I found myself questioning it’s viability as a theological statement from which society can be critiqued.

I began wrestling with the question, is there ever an appropriate time to impress people? As a budding student theologian, I immediately started to critically work out a reasoned polemic.

The answer I came up with was no. There should never be a need to try to impress people, ever. If there is follow Paul’s advice and run, run far and run fast (2 Tim.2:22 ESV).

I’m a fairly confident guitar player, and I love a large variety of musical genres, so putting on a show is in my very westernized and socially engineered self-conscience. Throughout junior and senior high school, getting the latest riff right down to its semitone and crochet, determined a high level of social acceptance.

As a result I derived my sense of self-worth from how well I could play (i.e.: put on a show). In my pre-Christ alignment, this became an idol I obsessed over.

From hard learned experiences, for me appearance determined reputation and was therefore everything. The language of acceptance was, at least from my prespective, my musical ability.

The statement ‘aim to bless, rather than impress’ is counter-cultural. We know this because God’s standard is to ‘look upon the heart and not outward appearance..not as humans do’ (1.Sam.16:7).

This means that a statement like aim to bless rather than impress, is the ordained orientation for humanity, even if it is not always the reality. This statement appears on the ‘horizon of the possibility’s of grace’ (Leonard Ravenhill).

Father, Son and Spirit rushes towards us, not unlike the prodigal’s father running towards his son, undeterred by his “wasteful” public display of affection, joy, gratitude and forgiveness (Lk. 15:17) [2].

For now, I have concluded that humans are called to be bothered with how we bless people, as opposed to how we impress them. This does not mean I give up on performing, it means that I resist any area in my life where my performance, worth and acceptance is tempted to become about simply just ‘putting on a show’.

Today, I was reading my news feeds and stumbled across this relevant gem by Wendy Murray:

”Your worth, and mine, cannot–I dare say, must not — be reduced to “likes,” “retweets,” “shares,” and “mentions.” Your worth and, mine; your influence on others’ lives, and mine, have nothing to do with measureable algorythms. It is a lie…be who you are, before God. Do what God made you to do. Look people in the eye. Show up. That is enough’’

What that all means is this:

In order to express excellence we must only do our best! Outside simply giving our best, the contemporary ”virtue” of excellence and the quest for it can become an idol.

In doing so we live out of a darkened sense of self-worth dictated to us by others, instead of God’s idea of who we are. When we aim to bless, rather than impress, we set our feet on the Christological reality that says,

‘it is only from God that men and women know who they are’ (Bonhoeffer 1966, p.31).

This is the only measuring stick, and from it we ‘intuitively recognize that we, ourselves are more than what has been defined for us’ (Cone paraphrased p.11, 1975).

Give thanks, for “we are found”… (David Crowder)


References:

Bonhoeffer, D. 1966 Christology William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London

Cone, J.H. 1975, God of the oppressed Orbis books, Maryknoll, N.Y

(Edited from an article originally posted in 2013)


[1] I plan to write on some of my experiences, if I get the time to formulate them into a coherent and linear framework.

[2] Luke 15:17 ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (ESV)

Photo by José Martín on Unsplash

 

‘Mate! what a bloody good thing,

Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His enemies.”

What a naïve scoundrel I once was!

Unknowingly

unbalanced

Scared,

lost,

scarred.

Bloody terrified!

What a bloody good thing that

Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His enemies!

All too aware of the past,

unaware of my ego

Confidently uncertain of my confidence,

transparent, I was see through

Such

was my existence.

Damaged,

broken and fallen….

Ruined, and in turn destined to ruin

….What a bloody good thing,

Jesus recruits amongst His enemies

Ignorant,

manipulated,

blind to aggressors, unkind to the carers

Invulnerable to vulnerability…..

”Mate! what a bloody good thing,

Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His enemies!”


(©RL2013)

Inspired by:

‘Bloody Darwin’ (circa 1941, Anon).

Cornelius (Acts 10, ESV).

‘Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His foes’ (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Military Orders, 12th Cent. In praise of the new Knighthood)

 

This is the closest I might come to writing an old-school, blues influenced, straight-up, Gospel song. It was written in 2013 and still holds an element of relevance.

“Everlasting Father[i], Son and Holy Spirit, divine
You are ‘I am’…Yahweh…pure breath…pure life.

Help me to hear your encouragement and receive
the whispers…that silence my pain

Help me to be set free
From the words that have hurt me
From the wounds and rage that won’t let me go
Help me to see your version of me, not the version I see reflected by others.

Striking healer; mighty God, accept my response

I confess that I have shown you contempt
I confess the pretence of my “worship”, and the self-absorbed pretence that enters my prayers.

Holy One of Israel you are great in our midst,

I acknowledge your complete presence.
“Show me how to kneel” …I surrender my brokenness.
I know you have not abandoned us
I know I need to be more vulnerable. Help me  speak precisely from your heart.

Father God; creator; redeemer; sanctifier
You ‘do not grow weary’ (Is 40:28)

Thank you for ‘good news’ (Is 61:1)
Thank you for ‘uniting the pieces of my broken-heart’ (Is 61:1)
Accept my brokenness and tears
For this, Lord, ‘you do not despise’ (Psalm 52:17, NLT)

Let your blessings that shine through provision bring us to say:

With you, I rise and speak to the calamity in Jesus name ‘peace, be still’ (Psalm 107:29)
With you, I rise and speak to the conflict in Jesus name ‘peace, be still’
With you, I rise and speak to the suffering caused by misunderstanding, in Jesus name ‘peace , be still’ (Matt.8:23/Mk. 4:39/Lk 8:24)

……worthy is the lamb….may the  lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering‘.

Amen.”

[Isaiah and the Gospels speak into our lives. They suggest that rescue  will only come from the ‘serenity that results from Jesus’ intervention’ (Green 1997, p. 331).

This is ‘Jesus acting as God acts’…it is Jesus looking for my ‘faith to show itself in those circumstances’ (ibid 1997, p. 333), by gifting me with the patience and ability to forgive.

A faith that looks to His resurrection, as a signal fire that points me to Isaiah’s Yahweh, as the ‘wounding healer’ (Baer 2010). The one who dynamically responds in grace to my inconsistent gratitude.

‘God gives himself to sinners and sinners cannot escape that gracious decision…the sinner who refuses this election of grace resists that grace and is resisted by it…Humanity is not sheltered from God but exposed to him and bound to him as never before in a bond of forgiveness and reconciliation’
(Torrance, ‘Incarnation’ 2008 pp.110 &113)

References:

[i] ‘He predestined us for adoption as sons & daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph.1:5-7 ESV)

[ii] Green, Joel 1997 NICNT: The Gospel of Luke Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan

[iii]  Baer David, ‘Praying through Isaiah’ lecture notes October 2010, Tabor Adelaide

Knight The Wounded

June 22, 2017 — 2 Comments

Rose At Night

.

Find this level of emptiness.
Forgive my heart’s forgetfulness.

Engulf my worship of sadness.
Embrace this prayer, despite my often awkward reach.

Tear these broken words apart.
Reorder each, so that I may hear,
.             You, my adopted Father speak.

Then accept these groans as prayers without speech.
Grip grace like a vice around our fears
.              and take these shivering hands,

.               that for so many years,
.               were so often drenched in tears.
Enter our darkness, breach the brokenness,
Holy Spirit, teach.

Be the fight, deploy Your word
With one firm sound, crack the violence;
that each stand may be under Your standard.

That all focus will be brought to hear
.               the noise of battle cease.

Seize upon the ashes.
Rejoice at the sight of
minds drawn to fellowship from desolate lands;

.                hearts of substance,
.                because every broken ounce and splinter
.                has been gathered,
.                       and placed gently into Your hands.

Walk through the garden of faithlessness,
.                that Your light will pierce the dark, choices and the consequence.

Then mend the overgrown path,
.        tend to the request for forgiveness.

And as all actions of wounding significance
.        are humbly brought before Your grace.

Knight the wounded,
Raise up the contrite,

Breathe Your life into this place.


(RL2017)

‘Where the grace of God encounters us, where we are led, pulled and made to grow, there, the Bible becomes clear […] He is the redeemer of that sighing creature within us.’

– (Karl Barth, 1917. The New World In The Bible)

#inhaledgraceignites

 

Australia receives snow in its Alpine regions and on its higher inland plateaus. For those areas that’s freezing.

For everywhere else, it’s freezing if the temperature gets to anything below 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit).

For us, this means that homeschooling gets a little easier. Winter and reading go hand in hand. We don’t have to navigate the Australian heat. We just have to aim at keeping warm.

It doesn’t appear to matter which culture you come from. Short, cold days, and the inner warmth of houses, incubate tranquillity.

Creating an environment which encourages us to slow down, sit, zone out and learn from the stillness that surrounds us.

Picking up a book and reading it isn’t just easy, it’s tempting and looked forward to.

Our dedicated reading list this winter is fairly straight forward.

1. Trends in Food Technology: Food Processing (Anne Barnett)

I was apprehensive about taking this on. It appeared to be full of jargon, almost unusable. Since working through the 43 pages, however, I haven’t regretted the decision. Barnett’s approach is conversational. She also provides a glossary in the back for bold text words featured throughout the book.

Food Technology fits in perfectly with our PD.H.PE curriculum needs, discussing a range of areas including food processes, preservation, flavorings, fats, oils, and key distinctions. One I’m seriously considering adding permanently to our library.

2. The Reason & The Mystery (Lacey Sturm)

If you’re tagging along with me on the internet somewhere, you’ll be no stranger to the fact that we like Lacey Sturm. I read Lacey’s book, ‘The Reason’ in 2015 and wrote some thoughts on it, which can be found here [Review: The Reason].

Whilst the idea did occur to me, at that time I had no plans on using it for homeschool. However, believing the subjects discussed and the overall way Lacey handles those subjects, I decided to include ‘The Reason’ in our core texts for both Junior and Senior High School. Attached to this decision was the intention to follow this up with ‘The Mystery’.

As per our goal, we’ve completed ‘The Reason’ and are now moving through ‘The Mystery.’

These books were also chosen because of similarities between my own journey and that of Lacey’s. I think most people who’ve walked through darkness and pick this book up would find some form of consolation.

Those who haven’t receive an open window into a world of brokenness they may not fully understand or know little about. I ran an open discussion per chapter, which inspired productive and passionate dialogue between, and with my two older homeschoolers. Key learning areas include music appreciation and PD.H.PE. Each book raises topics that provide for a holistic lesson on physical development, mental health, boundaries and relationships.

3. Explore the World of Man-Made Wonders (Text by Simon Adams &  Illustrations by Stephen Biesty)

The journey we took together here wasn’t dull. We even managed to link in Matt Damon’s movie, ‘The Great Wall.’ Simon Adams and Stephen Biesty have created an illustrative tour which moves from the leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Pyramids onto St. Basil’s Cathedral, in Russia.

Add in a tablet and Google Earth, this activity became a whirl wind tour of some pretty cool sites. I think the only sour note for our homeschoolers, was having to the book work after it.

4. The Rime of The Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Similar to the previous book, I linked in a movie. This to me was a natural progression. The content of the poem can be seen reflected in The Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl. This might be news to some, but I guarantee you, there’s got to be a link somewhere.

Coleridge’s poem is big enough to be a small book. A very small book, of course, but a book none the less. If you have never read it, or are looking for an easier way to teach it, I used a PDF version – which can be sourced [here]. The length isn’t big enough to be a problem. I used three copies and lead from my treasured Penguin book of Coleridge Poems.

Finally, I added the book of Numbers to the schedule for this term. We’ve pulled through it and loved every second of it; made even more insightful thanks to John Calvin’s Commentary, a bit of Sun Tzu and some material from Charles Spurgeon.

All of which, while dated, still find traction in the connection between relevance, rubber and road.  Some of which I discussed in a somewhat well received (for me and my stats anyway) post called, Orderly Disorder: The Book of Numbers & Sun Tzu’s Five Pitfalls of a General.


Related reading:

Our Current Read & Discuss List (The 2017 Autumn Edition)
Our Current Read & Discuss Lists (The 2016 [Fashionably Late] Spring Edition)
Our Current Read & Discuss Lists (The 2016 Fashionable Winter Edition)
Tandem Reading & Technology

IMG_20130627_191543I have long been a subscriber to the idea that hate is not a sin. However, I need to qualify this statement by firstly saying that: a) my alignment with this theory is a work in progress and b) my current theological understanding is that unless hatred is answered through confession with reconciliation as its goal, it will lead to sin.

For example: 1 Jn.3:15 in context would read ‘wherever hatred is, there is an inclination to do mischief’ (John Calvin, Institutes VIII:347).

Reconciliation and forgiveness are the primary spheres in which transformation is achieved, and it begins with the process of confession.

Ambrose of Milan stated that: ‘if you have confessed at the call of Christ the bars will be broken, and every chain loosed’ (Ambrose of Milan).

In a similar theological vein Karl Barth viewed confession as a referral and submission ‘to a higher tribunal confronting both partners with concrete authority’ (‘Church Dogmatics a selection’, Helmut Gollwitzer); to ‘lay our weapons down’ (John Mayer ‘Heartbreak warfare’, 2009 )

Unconfessed hatred is counter-productive. It leaves us like a ship lost at sea, left with only the stars to navigate by. Only then to find frustration with clouds that are constantly obscuring our efforts.

The outcomes of unresolved and concealed hate are inevitably confusion, anxiety, fear and rage – dysfunctional relationships – as such ‘no one really ever wins’ (John Mayer ‘Heartbreak Warfare’, 2009)

Consequently we become desperate for direction as our judgement increasingly becomes shrouded in fog.

We then abdicate our responsibility to speak the truth. We compromise on our Christian commitment to hope because our moral compass is exchanged for self-preservation, and we abandon the north star finding ourselves drifting deeper into a sea of brokenness and despair.

The counter to this is entering into a confession-that-seeks-truth. This is like choosing to drop the eggs instead of walking over them gently. Working on ways to help those around us ‘understand our pain’ (John Mayer, 2009).

If I say or act in love towards you, yet harbor hatred in my heart I conceal the truth. I am forced to lie in order to keep-the-peace. The problem with this approach is that appeasement tends to only ever benefit those who are appeased [1].

The strength in confession is when we confess our hatred, we can immediately be released from the burden the precarious nature of hatred brings, one which hangs around our neck like a rotting albatross. Confessing hate allows us to process and communicate reasons for such a response.

Only then can the movement towards resolution be enacted. Of course any confession requires being wise in how and who we express that confession to. Confrontation, context, tone and timing are also important considerations.

Sadly, Western society is increasingly being pressured from within to tolerate everything in order to appease post-modern politically correct sensitivities. How can falsehoods be confronted if it is not permissible to do so?

It is true that hate is a strong word that is loaded with emotion. Hate is defined by thesage as being an ’emotion of intense dislike so strong that it demands action’. Goodrick & Kohlenberger write that the Hebrew word for hate is:  שׂנא ‘sane’ which means to be unloved, shunned, disliked, an adversary.

That is why it has become a whip statement, a term utilised to shame and ridicule dissenters into silence with overly generalised terms such as Christians are ‘ignorant, anti-science, haters and bigots’. Such emerging social conventions should not be allowed to bind us into maintaining false appearances via restrictions on the freedom to confront falsehoods, be it society, science, left, right, church or state.

For the biblical authors the existence of falsehoods demand action.

Ps.119: 104 ‘Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Pr. 26:24-26 ‘People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public’ (NLT)
Pr.8:13 ‘The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate’.
Pr.13:5 ‘The righteous hates falsehood’
Eccl.3:8 ‘a time to love, and a time to hate’
Eph.4:26-27 ‘Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil’.

A few years back an estranged relative asked me the question ‘how can you be a minister with so much hate?’ Since then my response has been: “please don’t confuse telling-the-truth with hatred, tolerance with silence and silence with love.”

The act of confession is a compassionate and humble act towards others in grateful response to Father, Son and Spirit. Through ‘open confession’ (Ambrose) and humility, truth speaks through the community. For example Barth writes that `theology is impossible without humility because the truth at issue is a person who says : ”I am the truth” (Jn. 14); (Church Dogmatics, a selection).

Jean Bethke Elshtain puts it this way:

‘Our ideas have to meet the test of being engaged by others, far better than having people retreat into themselves and nurture a sense of grievance, rage and helplessness…thoughts must be tested in the public square where you have to meet certain standards…we must be careful not to confuse tolerance with complete and total embrace…total acceptance does not mean universal love’ (Maxwell School Lecture, State of Democracy 2013).

Therefore confess hate, speak truth and drop the eggs, watch the lies disintegrate. It may hurt, you may lose, but lose boldly with the hope that those who reject truth return to truth refined, renewed and rescued. Refuse to walk on egg shells, and instead clean up the pieces left behind, lovingly inviting others to do the same.

The truth is much more precious and valuable than any sugar-coated version of it we can create. There are never two sides to a story. There is only ever one story which evidently has multiple perspectives.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: ‘there is but one reality and that is the reality of God, which has become manifest in Christ in the reality of the world’ (Ethics, 195)

To love is not only to understand that Christians are called to speak truth-in-love but to also understand that love-speaks-truthfully. As the words attributed to Solomon so wisely put it:

 ‘Open rebuke is better than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6 ESV)

Loving ourselves is hard, loving our enemies? Even harder. (Lk.6:20-45)


Sources:

Ambrose of Milan, Concerning Repentance Kindle Edition.

Barth, K. Church Dogmatics: A Selection With Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer (Kindle Locations 1050-1051). Kindle Edition.

Bonhoeffer, D. Ethics Kindle edition.

Calvin, J Institutes of the Christian Religion Eerdmans

Goodrick, E.W & Kohlenberger, J.R 1991 NIVAC: Strongest NIV exhaustive concordance Zondervan

Meier, P. & Wise R. 2003 Crazy Makers: getting along with the difficult people in your life (particularly chapter twelve) Thomas Nelson Publishers Nashville

[1] Historically speaking, nowhere is this more evident than in British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s ‘’gift’’ of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in the 1938 Munich agreement.

(RL2013)