Archives For Spiritual Growth

Present Hearts Bow

September 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Fallout_1_

 

Selective outrage.
Careful words exhausted by decades of toxic hearing.
Father. Sister. Wounds.

 

Noiseless presence.
Breathtaking magnificence.
Present hearts bow.

 

Recollect light.
The Divine “Yes” kindled by Divine “No.”
Promise fulfilled, anticipates fulfilment.

Calvin quote John CommentaryBuilding a stronghold against our insecurities means being honest with ourselves about our strengths and limitations.

There is the issue of anxiety, of course, but once insecurity is pushed back, the natural response we feel when we experience anxiety can be used to fuel those strengths and improve any limitations.

As Brene Brown (2010) brilliantly highlights in her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’, any extreme uneasiness that we may feel is unmanageable becomes instead an energizing motif that motivates us to be free, but responsible, with our vulnerability.

Wholeheartedness requires ordinary courage…Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary’[i].

This doesn’t expel with reason and boundaries, in what and how we communicate. Brown’s conclusion involves discernment as much as it involves seeing that extraordinary courage is about being wholeheartedly courageous in the ordinary.

There have been times when I’ve ‘dropped the ball’. I struggle with the echoes of a broken past and I’ve encountered issues with insecurity in communication. These are times when I haven’t kept or been able to keep insecurity and anxiety in check. An example of this is the headline of a post a few weeks back where I misspelled the word ‘disposition’ (since corrected).

I’d like to think that those posts and mistakes are extremely rare, and only exist as an anomaly in an otherwise informative, (albeit eclectic?), sometimes deep but accessible, theological blog. It would be unrealistic and ultimately unhelpful to think that those flaws didn’t exist.

Those of you who are writers with dysfunctional upbringings, or those who are regular readers here will know what I mean.

My point is that we all in some way combat our own sense of inadequacy and no matter how hard we try, the stress caused by that battle, like scars, will sometimes show.

Think about how many times you may find yourself fighting off self-condemnation when we fail to nail that ever elusive ‘perfect’ blog post.

Insecurity can hinder our goals, which for me is seeking to make Karl Barth, et.al, more accessible. If I gave in, I’d post nothing, fearing rejection; that any contributions to theology that I might make is seen as superfluous because of where I come from. However, to give in to this would be a mistake because it means surrendering my strengths, by allowing myself to be overwhelmed by my limitations – some inherited, some conditioned and others of my own making.

{I don’t mean the careful editing process any writer needs to allow room for; I’m referring to the O.C.D tendency that is attached to excessive editing caused when a writer or artist compares their style of writing and content to others we may see as being ”better than” ourselves.}

In the end our writing and the publishing of that work is an act of faith.

In the end it belongs to God. It requires resting broken, fallible words into His infallible hands, for Him to mold and use as He wills.

There, in our nightmares, we who cry out almost breathlessly, ‘Jesus please help me’, will hear the words “Jesus is Victor” spoken back to us; and as the nightmare fades on our hearts realignment with this truth, God, through the Holy Spirit, will teach us how, even in the midst of our breathtaking-tears, we can still find life.

This is where one of Calvin’s statements in his commentary on John finds traction today:

Christ’s voice gives life; As Christ is the only mirror of the grace of God, we are taught…that we ought not to judge the love of God from the condition which we see before our eyes’[ii]

Once we neutralize our insecurity by telling ourselves the truth, by trusting in God’s claim on us that says we are capable, accepted, and loved, we begin our journey towards eliminating the obstacles that stop clear and effective communication.

This will, from the beginning, make us better people, more authentic Christians and better communicators.

Sources:

[i] Brown, B. 2010 The Gifts of Imperfection Hazelden Kindle Ed. (p.12-13)

[ii] Calvin, J: 1509-1564 Commentary of John Sourced from CCEL.org (p.364-365)

 

David French is veteran of the 2007 Surge in Iraq. As a guest to some graduating homeschoolers, he gives this reflection on the journey beyond graduation.

Lengthy, but worth a skim read if you have the time.

Highlight:

”Embracing our responsibilities means leading with our actions, not just our words. Your words do not make you good. Your words do not make you virtuous. Your words do not make you admirable.with a . . . hashtag. Yep, a hashtag. Or an Instagram post. Or a Facebook share.Don’t confuse speaking with doing.

There’s no shortage of Christians who wring their hands declaring, for example, that the church doesn’t do enough for widows and orphans, for the least of these. Wringing one’s hands about the church’s deficiencies — even apologizing for them to your secular friends (something that does nothing for the church but everything for you) — doesn’t put food in a single mouth.Think the church doesn’t do enough for widows and orphans? Then care for widows and orphans.

Think your generation doesn’t do enough to serve your fellow man? Then serve your fellow man.”

(David French)

Read on..{here}

 

Twitter and wisdom are sometimes viewed as polar opposites.

Yet there are  times when you come across healthy reminders like this:

 

Cloud_Tweet_Patterns

Since summer the idea of reclaiming a small landscape in our backyard, not only to rejuvenate it, but also to plant some food to help my family eat better, has been of huge interest to me.

So for the past three and half months we have been carefully planning the better use of our space.

There are limitations to this that have been beyond our control. So, we’ve walked alongside them to the best of our ability in order to achieve something of value, sustainability and usability. Part of doing this has included implementing ideas which helped to identify and then redefine the use of areas that seemed too small, or were just under organised.

wheel barrow

In truth in a lot of ways it has matured into a homeschool science project. For example: the outcomes of this project, not only directly assists our approach to homeschooling. It also provides an environment where our homeschoolers can study and experience nature, the importance of horticulture and experiment with some of the basic elements within agriculture.

Yesterday we arrived at the final part of that work. Accompanying this was the realisation that, now, it is going to be a matter of letting it grow.

Unfortunately, like most well programmed retail managers I inherited the struggle between active and passive participation i.e: I sometimes wrestle with patience and people pleasing, particularly when positive results are slow to materialise even if an objective has been achieved.

Thankfully, this kind of internal conflict  finds a resolution when I acknowledge the value of stepping back and ‘standing firm’ (Eph.6:13).

Stepping back does not mean losing ground or “letting go” or “taking a back-seat”.

To “let it go” implies “abdicating responsibility” or worse, it suggests dropping any duty of care assigned to me.

Nor does stepping back mean that I “release the garden”, or find some woefully poor excuse “under grace” to ignore my commitment to it.

After all, the garden still needs watering, weeding and pruning.

By taking a step back, I am re-evaluating and observing. This prudently precedes firmly standing on a pre-emptive movement towards, not away from further engagement.

Like transforming a garden and small, apparently unusable areas around our house, transforming space becomes a witness to the process of transformative grace.

If I take a perfectionist stand, the process is compromised; the foundation is weak. If I retain my right to do what I want at the insane pace at which I demand, or am pushed to go, the process is sabotaged; the foundation is weakened further. If I deny grace by refusing to recognise God’s role here then the attempt to reach for the objective ends in utter failure; the foundation is abandoned.

Instead, if I exercise an already present grace by inhaling God’s costly claim on my life, I find myself summoned to ‘stand firm’, only after I have done the best I can with what I have already received.

Out of this flows a response to grace. In other words an actualising of gratitude, and in due course joy, contentment and peace.

A  garden of abundance, tended, loved, redefined, reconciled, redeemed –  life deemed worthy of life, by the giver of life.

‘He knows he must deny himself for the man he needs to be…the burden here is sweet compared to Calvary’

–  (Marie Bellet, via Mrs C )

blog post header Kierkegaard quote

I am constantly amazed at how much I learn from participating in my share of the home schooling. In a lot of ways I am a student as much as I am the teacher for three days a week.

In my reflecting on the week, I once again was reminded of something Soren Kierkegaard  wrote:

to be a teacher is to truly be a learner: if one is truly to succeed in leading a person to a specific place, one must first and foremost take care to find that person where he or she is and begin there’[i]

As an example of the journey I’m talking about, here are some photos of a small field trip we embarked upon last week.

Field Trip_LandformFuanaFlora excursion Collage

My plan for the morning was to expand our focus on geography by having a closer look at ecosystems, the local environment and landforms.

As part of this we looked for evidence of animals and noted the variety of trees and plants, most of which we found were native to the Eastern Australian coastal habitat. We explored a little further and located significant erosion, building rubble and even part of old metal track used for railways. There was some degree of surprise at the level of waste left from what appeared to have been an industrial use of the area.

This gave up an opportunity for discussion on the negative and positive aspects of human interaction with the environment.

Field Trip_LandformFuanaFlora excursion Collage 4

The list of items we discovered included, Gum, Wattle (Acacia), Iron-Bark, and Bottle Brush. We also encountered some bromeliads, a large spider and  a couple of kangaroos which appeared in a paddock not too far off.

Field Trip_LandformFuanaFlora excursion Collage 3_

Maybe it’s the aspiring academic in me that looks to contemplate how all this fits together, and how I fit into the journey with our home schoolers as a whole. I’m not totally sure.

I do know that it can leave me with a healthy dose of good-exhaustion and humility at the end of the day. I have come to understand in recent days that learning and seeing my children learn, energizes me in a way I never truly expected it would.

Perhaps this is a reflection of the process of grace enacted by the Holy Spirit. The life-giving breath that raises us up and assists us in putting on, and putting down. The witness we come to see in God’s journey with us, towards us and for us. We are never empty-handed, never without a teacher; we are shown in order to see, and told in order to hear..

‘…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you….Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid’.

–  John 14:26-27

Source:

[i] Kiekegaard, S On my work as an author, the point of view in Hong,H. & Hong,E. 1978   Princeton University Press pp.460-461

True Freedom

February 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

Freedom Barth Free decision

We don’t always hit the ground running with Home-school scripture (devotions).

Today we did.

The message led us to review and discuss the final greeting in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Our run through chapter five gave up a solid outline from Paul on how to ‘encourage and build up one another’, which is in itself a suitable title for chapter five, since the content flows in the general direction of most of Paul’s teaching on relationships.

Paul’s list (ESV & NLT):

Respect
Esteem
Love
Be at peace
Warn the idle
Encourage the anxious and insecure
Help the weak
Be patient
Assert justice (5:15)
Always seek:

Joy (rejoice) [Note: Joy is not to be misunderstood as happiness]

Prayer

Thanksgiving (gratitude)

Don’t stifle the Holy Spirit
Don’t despise prophecies
Test everything
Hold fast to good
Abstain from evil.

It is surprising that so much is packed into the final section of this letter.An area of focus for us today was exploring this list and its connection between what Paul also says in Ephesians and Corinthians about patient rebuke and patient correction[i], something we discussed last week.

After finishing devotions, I took some time to contemplate some of the deeper themes addressed by Paul through the text. For me the real point of today’s message rested in the themes of relationship and the free agency of the Holy Spirit.

When we read Paul’s command ‘do not stifle the Holy Spirit’ it is possible to hear depravity; a loss of freedom and relationship. Since ‘the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom’ (2 Cor.3:17), we deprive ourselves of true freedom and relationship when we cut ourselves away from the free God who stands in true freedom for us.

Such independence is false and unsafely grounded on the appearance of possessing ‘peace and security’ (5:3), not on any actual ownership of them.

God keeps us (read helps – empowers) as God destines us to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. It could be said that the God who is free[ii], destines us to obtain true freedom.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep might live with him” (1 Thess.5:9-10)

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely sanctity and keep you blameless” (5:23-24)

I like how Eberhard Busch explains it in his review of Karl Barth’s understanding of election, divine and human freedom:

‘God’s grace sets us free from sin…such freedom is given to us. We owe our freedom to our inclusion into the covenant of grace and to the fact that such freedom is carried out in accordance with the covenant. Our freedom, therefore, is autonomy within the conditions created by God. In these conditions, we choose that which God chose for himself and for us: existence within the covenant of God to which we belong by God’s determination prior to our own self-determination (II/ 2, 192f. = 175f.). Human freedom then is obedience in that it conforms to the use that God makes of his own freedom. Prayer is for Barth the characteristic act by which one participates as a member of the covenant. As the unequal partner of God, the human partner turns to God, petitioning him and responding to his mercy. But as God’s partner, a person does so in his own maturity[iii].

’our passivity is not in accord with his grace, but our active response is. And so Barth writes that the love of God “does not want to rule over puppets and slaves (or a mechanical force) but rather to triumph faithful servants and friends in their own free decision for Him” (II/ 2, 1942:178)[iv].


[i] ‘Speaking truth in love’ Eph.4:11-15
[ii] Primarily found in Karl Barth’s teaching on the Trinity.
[iii] Busch, E 2008 Barth (Abingdon Pillars of Theology) Kindle Ed. Abingdon Press (Kindle Loc. 1145-1150).
[iv] Ibid, (Loc 199-201) also see Barth,K. 1942, C.D. 2.2:178 Hendrickson Publishers