Family_Fathers_War

Royal Navy & A.I.F, 6th Lighthorse WW1, 6th A.B.G.R.O Coy WW1, 12th Reinforcements 4th Batt WW1. Papua New Guinea WW2, Royal Australian Airforce 1950’s & Army Reseve 1980’s. (Frederick Petrie not pictured).

I have a difficult relationship with Anzac day.

Firstly, I am fond of the practice of remembrance. It reminds the Australian people of their unique narrative, and place in the world. One that we can too easily take for granted, or pound into dust via political correctness.

For those of us with forefathers who were broken by war, it can be difficult to find a pathway beyond bitterness towards grateful ownership of our own narrative.

We find ourselves busy trying to repatriate ourselves into a family, in the shadow of those who found it difficult to be repatriated.

For example: ‘when the war ended, thousands of ex-servicemen, many disabled with physical or emotional wounds, had to be re-integrated into a society keen to consign the war to the past and resume normal life’. (AWM)

A personal example of this is my Great-Great grandfather, Frederick William Petrie. He was a locomotive fireman (stoker) and a volunteer, who enlisted in December 1916, at the age of 36.

From Australia he went to France, where he became a corporal in the ‘6th Australian broad gauge railroad company’ (6th A.B.G.R.O Coy). His war record shows that he served until July, 1918. Four months before the war was officially declared over.

Frederick’s reason for discharge was because he had ‘neurasthenia’. Neurasthenia is a general condition related to ‘shell shock’. That is, he suffered from ‘severe fatigue and emotional distress’. This was more than likely brought on by the trauma of spending eighteen months  shovelling coal into the belly of a steam train moving back and forth with supplies to ‘barren and bloodied battlefields’ (King).

Although Frederick was a non-combatant, as an engineer, his support role was crucial to the allied advance and it put him in harms way where he would surely have come under fire. Usually from artillery barrages, an enemy he could not see or even anticipate.

Lt. R.J Burchell in an interview for the ‘West Australian’ in 1919 illuminates the circumstances:

‘we were not fighting troops, but I may say that the whole of our sphere of operations was within range of the enemy’s artillery, and he paid particular attention to the railways, both with his heavy guns and aeroplane bombs. Even…the furthest back station of the 4th company was under fire from the 15in guns…With both planes and guns the enemy paid systematic attention to our main lines of rail, so you can realise that life in a railway unit was not altogether a picnic. The 5th Coy…had the worst of it…their section of line was continually exposed to bomb raids and gunfire, night and day, and their casualties were heavy…the amount of work behind a great army is tremendous. Despite the network of lines, I have seen 280 trains per day pass over a single section of line, and trains carry 1000-ton loads…the difficulties and odds against which they had to contend are seldom realised.’
(Lt. R.J Burchell 5th coy, The West Australian, June 1919)

F.W.P returned to Australia in 1918. Petrie had difficulty readjusting to a peacetime existence.

He helped raise my Grandfather, ‘Ted’, who had joined the Australian Airforce as an aircraft fitter in the 1950’s. ‘Ted’s testimony at a court-martial indicates the difficulty imposed on families by the ongoing effects of war:

Testimony_EdwardJHO

Adding to this the representative for his defence argued that:

assessmentbythedefendinglawyer_EdwardJHO

Although I have my reservations, I refuse to ‘howl with the wolves’ (Barth) and ridicule Anzac Day, deconstructing it, in an overexcited academic orgy that decries war, the evils of Patriarchy or the evils of Western civilisation.

I simply want to state that for me and my family, along with a large portion of Australians, Anzac day forces us to confront a ‘stubborn fact – the brutally elementary data’ (Arendt cited by Elshtain, 2000, p.135), that proves: causalities of war are not only the servicemen who were thrown into it’s abyss.

There is a ripple effect and it’s causalities also include the wives, children and the generations that followed these men.

Anzac day is not about a nations ideology. Anzac day is about a nations remembrance; its humanity and its theology. This is exhibited every April when a nation makes room for healing, gratitude and the acknowledgement that, those generations directly impacted by war are not forgotten.

Anzac day allows us the room to reflect and explain to others that we bear the burden of their scars, not just the benefit of their medals.

Anzac day should affect us. If the gravity of it doesn’t force us to reflect, we will end up in an ignorance which leads us to being only one misstep away from repeating history.

This also has theological relevance. For instance, we are reminded of  James’ call to look out for the widow and the orphan (Jm.1:27), and David’s reminder that ‘God is the father of the fatherless and protector of widows’ (Ps.68:5).

The benefit of Anzac day is that it allows a nation the room to grieve collectively.

According to my family history, we are the children of soldiers. We do not carry their wounds, but we do carry their scars.

Although we share different contexts, we still feel the effects of the price they paid.

Today, there are  serious interpersonal conflicts. These are largely caused by the hidden effects of a trauma still echoing through the generations. Because this goes unacknowledged, it is like watching ripples spread out from a point of impact in my family’s history. Anzac day helps me to frame that drama in a very real context. War, although now distant, is in large part the cause of that dysfunction.

Anzac day disturbs my complacency by confronting me with the story I am handed. It reminds us that we are given the gift of choice, and the chance to not make the same mistakes.

The Anzac pilgrimage each April is a paradox of thanksgiving grounded in the dialectic outcomes of war. War disinherits. Through the sacrifice of freedom it sets up an inheritance of freedom.

War costs families. It diminishes the potential for healthy and holistic relationships. Yet it opens the door for grace, forgiveness and gratitude.

Anzac day also brings us to find some deep sense of solidarity with Jesus Christ and the cross He was crucified on. It reminds us of His resurrection (Jn.15:13), and brings, by this fact, families to a place of hope, saying that through Him they can rise from the ashes of war.

Anzac day allows each generation to move forward in courage. It allows room for people to own their stories, leaving at the foot of the cross, the psychological, spiritual, emotional and financial dysfunction that war causes.

The hope of Anzac Day is Jesus Christ. It compels us to align ourselves with the table turning Messiah (Mt.21:12),  who, through His Spirit, is constantly at work in ordinary people, doing extraordinary things, even when we don’t see it.

It is here that we can catch our breath and find hope among the ashes.

#LestWeForget.


References (not otherwise linked):

Elshtain, J.B 2000 ‘Who are we?: Critical reflections and hopeful possibilities Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

 


 ‘The reason why was hazy in their minds[i]

After being summoned by General George C Marshall to meet with him on February the 11th, 1942, Frank Capra,  of ‘It’s a wonderful life’, and ‘You can’t take it with you’ fame, walked into the Pentagon .

Before Capra had received the invitation, he had been in the process of reviewing an offer of a partnership which, in his own words ‘would have made him part owner of “United Artists”. Easily placing him in the multi-millionaire class’[ii] and potentially exempting him from War time service.

In wrestling with the decision Capra wrote:

‘Why trade fame, glamour, and wealth for a number stamped on a dog tag?…I was bored with the applause. Furthermore, I had a guilty conscience. In my films I championed the cause of the gentle, the poor, the downtrodden, yet I began to live like the Aga Khan.[iii]

Responding to the invitation, Capra went from red carpet to khaki green.
Expecting to be assigned to the Signal Corps, he was surprised, and a little annoyed to find he had been reassigned to the newly created Morale Branch (Special Services)[iv].

Despite being uneasy, tense, and apprehensive[v]. His appointed meeting with Marshall on the 11th  of February went ahead better than he’d expected it to. Capra’s straight up honesty and his clear separation from being a typical “Hollywood type” – someone who ‘wouldn’t step on a carpet unless it was red’ [vi] – appeared to have justified Marshall’s choice.

Under his authority and at his request, Capra would produce a series of documentary movies that would serve as training videos for Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and Britain, to help counter Axis propaganda.

Marshall explains why:

‘The assumption of the Axis powers is that our boys will be too soft, too undisciplined to stand up against their highly trained, highly indoctrinated, highly motivated professional armies. They are sure the spirit and the morale of their individual soldier is superior to ours. He has something to fight and die for – victory for the superman; establishing the new age of the superstate. The spoils of such a victory are a heady incentive.
How can we counter their superman incentive? … Will young, freewheeling American boys take the iron discipline of wartime training; endure the killing cold of the Arctic, the hallucinating heat of the desert, or the smelly muck of the jungle? Can they shake off the psychological diseases indigenous to all armies – boredom and homesickness?
In my judgement the answer is ‘Yes’! Young Americans, and young men of all free countries, are used to doing and thinking for themselves. They will prove not only equal, but superior to totalitarian soldiers, if – and this is a large if, indeed – they are given answers as to why they are in uniform, and if the answers they get are worth fighting and dying for’
‘That Capra is our job – and your job. To win this war we must win the battle for men’s minds. I want you to nail down a plan to make a series of documented, factual-information films that will explain why we are fighting and the principle for which we are fighting’’[vi]

In response to Marshall, Capra said:

“I have never before made a single documentary film. In fact, I’ve never even been near anybody that’s made one”

Marshall countered back:

“Capra, I have never been a chief of staff before. Thousands of young Americans have never had their legs shot off before. Boys are commanding ships today, who a year ago had never seen the ocean before’’

To which Capra replied:

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make you the best damned documentary films ever made’’

He then turned to resolving the question of how? :

‘‘Shortly after General Marshall ordered me to make the ’Why we Fight’’ films for our servicemen, I saw Leni Riefenstahl’s terrifying motion picture, Triumph of the Will…it fired no guns, dropped no bombs. But as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal…
I sat alone and pondered. How could I mount a counterattack against Triumph of the Will; keep alive our will to resist the master race?’ [viii]
Capra is by far one of my favorite filmmakers from that era. In his own words he tells us that he wrestled hard with the issues, and in the end chose to fight propaganda with facts. Throughout this initial struggle he credits prayer and the Bible for having inspired his creative direction and determination to see the job done.
.
‘I needed a basic, powerful idea, an idea that would spread like a prairie fire; an idea from which all ideas flowed. I thought of the Bible.There was one sentence in it that always gave me goose  pimples: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Did this also mean that the truth would make you strong? Strong enough to stop the Axis powers? What was the truth about this World War?
Well, Fascists and Warlords were trying to stamp out human freedom and establish their own world dictatorships…But how could I know that statement was true? Who proved it to me? Why the enemy himself proved it to me, in his acts, his books, his speeches, his films. That was the key idea I was searching for – on my feet in Pentagon halls, on my back in bed, and on my knees in pews.
Let the enemy proveto our soldiersthe enormity of his causeand the justness of ours!’ [ix]

Why We Fight became the end product of this prayer filled decision. Seven documentaries – or information cinema – were produced. They were Frank Capra’s answer to Leni Rienfenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film, ‘Triumph of the Will‘; something Capra himself called, ‘a blood-chilling super-spectacle; the ominous prelude to Hitler’s holocaust of hate.’ (p.328).

Given the current state of the world and the increasing examples of threats to religious freedom, free speech, freedom of association & freedom of conscience.

Threats posed by excessive political correctness, militant LGBT activism, the twisting and quest to “own” science, the placement of feelings over facts, Islamism and its sympathizers in the West; all pushing for the triumph of the will, the will-to-dominate; to satisfy the libido dominandi and it’s lust for power. All tell us that Capra’s work here is not something that should be easily mocked or dismissed.

We can hear the tone his work resound in our ears today reminding us that:

“[In the slave world] men insist that progress lay in killing freedom.” (Why We Fight, 1942)

Like Capra, we are confronted with Jesus’ historical and eternal reminder,

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

And we stand on this, determined to not let the reasons for why we must take a stand, become hazy in our minds or the mind of society. We do this with the same skill, grace and determination because it is:

‘for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’
(Paul to the Galatians 5:1, ESV)

 

References:

[i] General George C Marshall, 1942 cited by Frank Capra, 1971

[ii] Capra, F. 1971 The Name Above the Title Da Capo Press p.314

[iii] Ibid, p.314

[iv] Ibid, p.318

[v] Ibid, p.326

[vi] Ibid, p.325

[vii] Ibid, p.327

[viii] Ibid, p.330

[ix] Ibid, p.330

Pic credit: 

Poster for IAWL (Wikipedia)

Photo of Frank Capra receiving the Distinguished Service Medal from U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall (Wikipedia)

(©RL2017)

In a 2006 article written for the Stanford Journal of International Relations, called ‘Responding To Genocide In Sudan[i], Stephan M. Doane lays out reasoning for a much needed, tougher international stand on the issues plaguing Sudan.

The article is dated, but raises, on an academic level, awareness about the plight of many South Sudanese people, who are stuck in a cycle of constant violence. Many of whom are Christians.

Doane’s piece is well researched. He argues that the humanitarian crisis in Sudan is less acknowledged by international stakeholders. For example, the U.N and the international community appear ‘indifferent’ towards the aggression and socio-political maneuvering of the Islamist North.

Evidence for this is found in the fact that up until at least 2006, when foreign aid was delivered to Sudan for distribution in the South, the North controlled when, where and who received it. As a result, International aid became one more way in which the North could control the South.

‘Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), was restricted by the North from bringing aid to South Sudan. Many died because of UN acquiescence to Khartoum demands that dictate where to allow passage of UN-sponsored flights. To this day (2006) the UN still grants the northern government authority over its relief efforts’ (Doane, p.2)

Demographically, the North of Sudan is ‘primarily Arab and Arab-African’ (p.1). Most of the North are Muslim who desired Sudan to become Muslim. Doane, citing Madut Jot’s ‘War and Slavary in Sudan’, 2001 states that ‘the resolute will to make Sudan an Arab and Islamic nation originates from the belief that

“Arabism has a superior rank than Africanism, based on the way they view the racial hierarchy”[…]‘Southern leaders were treated as second class citizens.’ The intent of the North was to implement Islamic law (Shari’a) and set up and Islamic state; ‘”it’s chosen hegemony” (p.2)’.

According to Doane, Sudan’s troubles can be traced back to its independence. When independence was formed, under a British civil administration in 1947, ‘many of the southern representatives present were not ready to accept the unity of the Sudan – due in large part to prior deception from the North’ (those deceptions aren’t elaborated on).

In 1955, a civil war erupted between North and South that lasted until 1972. This was initiated by the South and was triggered primarily because ‘the Sudanese government [sought] to subjugate southerners to a cultural, ethnic, and religious heritage that is not their own – Islam.(p.2)’

In 1983, civil war broke out again. This time towns were

 ‘ravaged by government troops and government supported milita caused internal displacement of southerners in gigantic  proportions. The hijacking of food deliveries from international relief agencies resulted in more than 250,000 deaths by famine in 1988 alone, in addition to military casualties. Military victories by the Southern forces motivated a peace initiative which included the abolishment of Islamic Law (Shari’a) as the law of the land (p.2).’

Doane continues,

‘Displaced Southerners were often gathered in forced-labor camps as well as re-education camps where children are forced to learn Arabic, memorize the Qu’ran, convert to Islam, and are beaten or tortured if they do not comply. [Among other war crimes] Women are frequently raped; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment are common […] Government armies and government-supported Popular Defence Forces also sell southern women and children as slaves (p.2).’

Yet, even with these examples,

‘many international governments support the aggressor [the North] and its policy goals. In addition, the U.N has been reluctant to rebuke the Sudanese government for its human rights violations […] The international body most sympathetic to the northern government is the League of Arab States. Bulgaria, China, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and former Soviet Republics have all sold weapons to the northern government armies and state-sponsored militias (p.4).’

As Doane is right to point out, ‘what is most ironic,however, is Sudan’s membership on the UN Human Rights Commission.’ Furthermore, ‘the hypocrisy of selecting such an abusive government to judge human rights violaters reveals the extent to which the world has turned a blind eye to the [issue of slavery in Sudan] and the genocidal actions of the North.’

Sudan was a member of the UN Human Rights Commission from 1998-2000 and was assured a seat in the 2012[ii] election round for the Commission’s replacement, the UN Human Rights Council which replaced the Commission in 2006[iii]. The North’s candidacy was, however, vetoed when a ‘group of African nations petitioned against it’[iv], on the grounds of the human rights abuses carried out there by the North.

Doane also highlights how blind-eyed foreign investment in oil, helped the North exploit and torture the people of the South.

Citing Mindy Belz,

‘China’s petroleum firm (CNPC) reportedly purchased a high-tech radar system for the government last year. It was installed in summer, and since then the government bombing raids against southern targets (mostly churches and humanitarian relief organisations) have increased.’[v]

He then writes,

‘The windfall  of revenue allowed the North to purchase sufficient military firepower to permanently eradicate the South Sudanese opposition. This impending possibility correlates with the stated vision and previous action of the despotic Khartoum regime, and this threat must not be taken lightly’ (p.5)

In concluding, Doane links up the War on Terror with continued oppression in the South. While the North supported the West in its War on Terror, the North had leverage over any committed effort by the international community to push for peace and justice for the South Sudanese:

 ‘It would be sadly, ironic if the deaths of thousands of civilians on September 11 provide a pretext that the North Sudanese Government could use to kill many more thousands of civilians with international impunity’ (p.8)

In other words, Christians and people of South Sudan were fighting a war against terror in their own right, only to be overlooked by the West, because they lacked the resources, voice, support, and recognition that its Northern neighbour had and has.

Doane’s essay is eleven years old and shows its age. It doesn’t mention the 2013 ethnically motivated civil war in the South, nor does it mention diplomatic efforts in the way of sanctions, pushed for by the recent Obama administration, efforts designed to censure the North. Also missing is the important historical note that in 2011, South Sudan found its own independence[vi].

Although independence was won, and civil war continues to linger, turmoil created by the North also continues. In 2012, the UN Security Council issued a resolution calling for a cessation of ‘repeated incidents of cross-border violence between [North] Sudan and South Sudan, including seizure of territory, support to proxy forces and aerial bombing.’[vii]

The South is a nation trying to find its way towards reconciliation. It’s a new nation, that fought a great struggle against much of what the world seems to ignore: militant Islamist expansionism, non-white racism, modern slavery, and religious genocide. Given their fight against terror and oppression; the calamity, division and devastation brought onto the South by the North, it’s no surprise, that two years after independence, the South was thrown into a civil war.

The strength and benefit of ‘Responding To Genocide In Sudan’ is found in its clear ability to raise awareness of the situation in Sudan. With over 45 references, it issues us with a reliable resource that gives invaluable insight into the whole of Sudan. Both what it is, what it was and what it may perhaps still become. It’s age shouldn’t be a deterrent to reading it.

South Sudan is a war torn land. It’s a land torn apart by wars spreading out over eight decades. There can be no doubt that the South Sudanese are an ostracized, isolated and suffering people, stuck in a perpetual cycle of violence.

Stephan Doane highlights this tragedy and the need for its quick remedy. Through it he also reminds us about what occurs when, once again, the world stands by in its appeasement of real totalitarians, who under the guise of peace, blind the world to the oppression of their people; disguising the insidious nature of an ideology that forges a toxic hegemony, from which the totalitarian can hide his or her crimes behind.


Sources: (underlined and hyperlinked where appropriate)

[i]  Doane, S.M 2006 Responding to Genocide in Sudan: Barriers to Peace, International Indifference,  and The Need for Tough Diplomacy,  Stanford Journal of International Relations sourced 19th April 2017 from web.stanford.edu

[ii] Miller,J.R. 2012  Genocidal Sudanese regime’s appointment to UN human rights council all but certain, watchdog says” sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.foxnews.com

[iii] BBC, 2013 Concern Over New Human Rights Members sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.bbc.com

[iv]  Human Rights Watch, 2012 African Union: Don’t Endorse Sudan, Ethiopia for Rights Council, sourced 19th April 2017 from www.hrw.org

[v] Belz, M. 2001 Blood For Oil, World Magazine sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.world.wng.org

[vi] Gettleman, J. 2011 After Years of Struggle, South Sudan Becomes a New Nation sourced sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.nytimes.com

[vii] UN Security Council Meeting notes, 2012 Calls for an immediate halt to fighting sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.un.org.

Photo Credits: Gregg Carlstrom (Creative commons).

 (RL2017)

Inhaled Grace Ignites

.

Relentless, I hear the sighs.
The “talentless” noticed by nothingness and its endless siren’s cry.
Sinking into the sands of insignificance,
.          head lowering with
.          a sun and its sinking glow;
.          heart being dragged under by the weight of its undertow.

Hear the black dog that snarls and rides with the incoming tide.
See the fight from within.
As the fire of creativity lights up embers,
.          and inhaled grace ignites.
For this battle belongs the beat of drums,
.          foot soldiers, metaphors, the Rock of offense;
.          the white horse, its rider and the march of the Second Adam.

Once more, embroiled in a stand-off with emptiness.

.        Once more, engulfed in battle against listlessness.

.                 Once more, pushing back echoes that drift through the mist of a toxic past.

This battle is fought in the shadows.
Where fists meet walls in nightmares,
and exhausted silence follows.
Each bit of shade.
Every movement.
One more potential mask.
Insincerity and plasticity,
.               hiding behind ersatz love, fabricated charity and a pristine facade.

Against which there is no retreat; no slide into the dark,
No giving in to the Black dog, its bite or grave digging bark.

Only complete surrender to the scarred rider on White horse;
The alpha, the omega; the finish and the start.


(©RL2017)

‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ (James 4:7. ESV)

If you are among the few readers of this blog, or perhaps among the one or two Facebook friends that are following what I create musically, you may be interested in this.

I’ve managed to pin a melody to some rhythm and bass that I put together a few weeks ago. Sometimes when I’m working on an idea, I’ll come up with multiple different avenues and if they’re good enough, I’ll record those and set them aside for another day.

This particular instrumental came out of some prayerful playing and is as it is. I used three different guitars for this piece and the free play (not pre-programmed) piano option on garage band. The title comes from a poem a wrote a few months back called Soliloquy & Symphony.

Both the poetry and music are original. I was faced with somewhat of a dilemma with the end result. My time spent mixing this split the song into separate versions. Each version is alike.The only real difference being the rhythm guitar section.

I had a hard time deciding on which tune to stick with so after much consideration I’ve decided on posting both.

I’ve also thrown in a poem for good measure, and in case you’re wondering, a bagatelle is a short piece of music written for piano.

Let me know which version you prefer. I’m partial to version 2, but also really like the more full, gritty sound the rhythm provides in version 1.

Pax Vobiscum.

Version 1: with rhythm.

Version 2: without rhythm.


(©RL2017)

.

Wings stretch and earth darkens.

From West to East, wrists to wood
From the river of bitter vinegar, to where it merges with blood from the north.

South past open flesh,
.                        before which mockery stood.

To where pierced feet meet;
.                        on branch intersecting branch;
.                        where branch kills the vine,
.                        and the vine is laid to rest.

All within the borders
.            of an empire, and an empire’s hornets’ nest.

To where silent spaces are professionally sealed
For fear of blind and impassioned zeal.

Before the scarlet X.
That marks the scarlet spot;

To the place where men and women,
.                  embalm the unforgettable
.                  with a burial cloth.

Look to the place forged by Light;
.       to the heart of where the darkened,
.       once received their sight.

To where the sudden presence of the messenger
disturbed the guards and the still of night.

There you’ll find that death
.         and boulder was no match for Light from Uncreated Light.

There the fire-born, who stands inside this broken enclave.
turns to humanity and sets its gaze.

“From God comes His own humiliation.
This; God’s self-limitation, now become your exaltation.

This unforgettable vertical collision,
lifts the now forgiven.

Therefore, rise as you are raised.

For I tell you the truth, He is Risen!”


(©RL2017)

‘In the person of Jesus Christ, in the death of the Son of God on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. God allowed this humiliation to come upon Himself and this exaltation to be the lot of the other, humanity […] God could not be more glorious as God than in this inconceivable humiliation of Himself to humanity, and the no less inconceivable exaltation of humanity to Himself.’ 

-(Karl Barth, CD. II:1 pp.662-664)

The read and discuss summer edition was something I aimed at putting together, it just never eventuated. So, I’m skipping right to an autumn post.

One of the chief reasons for this is that we’ve been carefully treading through Paul’s letter to the Romans. The letter itself represents the most significant theological outworking from the Apostle to the Gentiles, in the New Testament. As I recently heard said, Romans is the closest thing to a systematic theology from Paul.

Reading through Romans is something every Christian should take the time to do. For our journey we employed the services of John Calvin, Karl Barth and Charles Spurgeon.

Calvin for the direct reformed theological exegetical exchange, Spurgeon for a straight forward word about the text that comes directly from a Pastor’s heart and Barth for a closer to our times, look at how Marxist language, politics, psychology and Romans meet.

I should add that due to the intensity of its structure and content, my use of {Uncle} Barth’s, Der Römerbrief (Epistle to the Romans) was selective.

Our Autumn reading list for Homeschool:

1.‘Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference, 1988(hyperlinked) & ‘Post-IRA Assassination Attempt – Brighton Bombing Speech, 1984(hyperlinked) (Margaret Thatcher):

On one of our walls we have a number of photos of key historical figures surrounded by the words ‘Thinkers & Doers’. From this list, my youngest daughter chose to read up on and research conservative British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The material we found was so good, that I made the call to expand this into a unit for our read and discuss group activities.

After introducing Thatcher via YouTube, I asked each of our homeschool high schoolers to tell me, based on the footage, what kind of person they think Margaret Thatcher was. Following on from that we jumped into reading through both speeches. Like every speech, we looked at applying Aristotle’s modes of persuasion; hunting down: pathos, ethos and logos.

Once we reached the end of the speech given in 1988, I asked each of our homeschoolers to pick out a quote which stood out to them. Each quote was passionately chosen and reasons for why it was chosen were discussed among the small group.  Each quote chosen reflected the personality of each one of our kids who participated.

I was surprised by how relevant some of the content of Thatcher’s speeches are, and I was encouraged by how passionately our daughters worked to complete this homemade unit. Be sure to check out the amazing, Margaret Thatcher.org

2. Settlement & Convict history

Second on our list are two books. The first is from Karin Cox, the second from Nicolas Brasch. Each book provides a balanced retelling about the discovery and later arrival of Europeans in Australia. These books also helped pad our Latin vocabulary.  For example: Terra Australis (land south – South Land).  Both Cox and Brasch were a welcome addition to our Australian history studies.

3. A Confession (Tolstoy)

I read Tolstoy’s, ‘A Confession’ a few years back and will be forever thankful for having done so. I picked this up again to help buttress our eldest daughter’s year 11 study material with a primary document for her history work, which is focusing on 19th Century Russia. This work includes reading up on the ‘’intelligentsia’’, which was something Tolstoy was swept up in. ‘A Confession’  is a testimony from someone who is raised in Christian culture, only later to reject Christianity. This leads Tolstoy to an epic existential crisis, from which he describes his long journey back to the cross. I’m pretty excited to have this added to our list.

4. Esio Trot (Roald Dahl)

For our youngest, we’ve once more embarked on the journey through this quaint story. This will be last ever study we do on Dahl’s small tale of Mr. Hoppy and his scheme to woo Mrs. Silver. Every chapter has a worksheet and we’ll add some open discussion in there for good measure.

5. I Am David (Ann Holm)

One of the most cherished books we own is Ann Holm’s 1963 novel, I am David. The story follows a young boy as he escapes from a concentration camp, runs from Nazis, is befriended by a dog and meets people along the way.  With permission, our 5th grade homeschooler has decided to pick this up early. Given the content we’ll open this up for discussion. It also allows for us to begin our units on World War Two, beginning with a focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer & Corrie Ten Boom.

What I’m currently reading:

African-American civil rights activist, John M. Perkins’ 2017 book, ‘Dream With Me’, Eric Mason’s 2014, ‘Beat God to The Punch’ & ‘Manhood Restored:How The Gospel Makes Men Whole’; along with Karl Barth’s III/1, Ebherhard’s Biography of Bonhoeffer and Hollywood & Hitler. In addition to this, I’m also prepping for next term’s journey through the Book of Numbers.

The plan over the next few months will be a re-read through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. My hope is to integrate this into topics from our Wednesday news and presentations taken from The Australian.

‘Children need to be taught traditional moral values and to understand our religious [Judeo-Christian] heritage. We can’t leave them to discover for themselves what is right and wrong.’
(Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference, Margaret Thatcher, 1988.)

Homeschooling is an ever evolving journey, not an ever revolving journey.

There are some areas that might fall into the latter description such as, ROTE learning of music theory, chemistry, Latin, Koine Greek and mathematics. For example: formulas, elements, phrases, alphabet, and rapid recall multiplication, addition, subtraction and division.

I wouldn’t be so quick to place Bible memory verses into a revolving journey category simply because they apply to both a revolving and an evolving journey; more so the evolving than revolving, because as we grow and face new life experiences the Bible speaks for itself to us in different ways.

The Bible confronts us. Although God remains the same and His Word remains unchanged, when we are met by this Word, we do not remain as we once were.

Maturity in the faith isn’t being able to rattle off a bunch of scripture verses. Nor is it based on my church attendance record, Instagram followers, vanity metrics, “friends” or high hitting blog stats. Maturity in the faith is recognising how scripture verses rattle us in our sin, out of our sin; out of complacency, apathy, negative stubborn patterns of behaviour and selfishness.

An evolving journey is about character development, whereas a revolving one implies that we’re stuck, immovable. Like Sisyphus forever pushing the boulder.

An evolving journey is still forged by routine. The difference is that in an evolving journey new routines break old ones. This is one of the reasons we observe Lent.

Lent provides an opportunity to reconsider routine; to act against unhealthy habits. It’s a small part of a global commitment from Christians to observe, review and let go of the certain things in our lives that slowly consume us, the more we consume it. Within that comes the humility to recognise that no matter how successful or privileged we may be; we are all still sinners in need of a Saviour.

Participation in Lent doesn’t have to be complicated, overly planned or structured. It just requires commitment. I won’t say simple commitment, for the reason that I know even the smallest of fasts can sometimes be the hardest.

Author, activist, Pastor and urban theologian, Eric Mason wrote:

‘In rabbinic culture, disciples walked behind those whom they followed as teacher. They would literally follow their master around imitating him […] Following Jesus always means abandoning something else that preoccupied our lives prior to grace passing us by and being preoccupied by Him. To follow Jesus is the follow the grace of God. The Christian life is filled with things that will seek to deter us from following Jesus. There must be a point in our lives where we decide we are committing our lives fully to the master.’
(Mason, 2014)[i]

It may not seem Holy, and it may seem too simplistic, but this year my wife and I committed to ditch our after dinner snacks. We like to celebrate our only alone time together throughout the week and this is one way we express that.

Our kids made their own decision. They were asked to come up with their own joint fast. After much discussion, they presented us with their agreed upon proposal. The consensus among them was to fast from streaming movies, including YouTube kids, Netflix etc[ii].

This is what being part of the Church; or as Karl Barth would state it, the Commonwealth of Christ, means to us. Being part of the Church is an evolving journey that sometimes, though not always, involves the revolving door of routine. Lent comes in many different colours, applications and ethnicities. What unites all those in their diversity is Jesus Christ, the absence of Pride.

For Lent to be what Lent is, humility must win. It is a time for a more active participation in the life of God; a time where minds, deeds, hearts and attitudes are directed towards focusing more intensely and intentionally, on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Homeschooling isn’t always filled with routine. It involves random group activities or popcorn and movie marathons like watching Ben Hur. Like lent, stopping to look and listen for lessons as they present themselves requires humility.

As I’ve pointed out few times here in the past, pride is not compatible with love, self-denial and grace go hand-in-hand.

It requires stopping, breathing in grace and exhaling the dust accumulated over the past year. We are set free by God to do so, if only we would ‘submit to God, and resist the devil’ (James 4:7)  and ‘put on (not put out) the armour of light’ (Romans 13:12). Like Bible memory verses the evolving journey involves new routine that breaks unhealthy routines that have long ago over-stayed their welcome.

We are broken by the Word of God, pulled out of mindless routines, soul sucking environments and away from merciless task masters. Called to remember that by, in and through Him; His faith, His journey, His-story, we are made new and called out to live as one who is adopted by a Father who reached for us, so that we may be free, and therefore permitted, to reach out for Him.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5, ESV)


[i]  Mason, E. 2014 Beat God To The Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life,  B & H Publishing

[ii] Lent is 40 days and doesn’t include Sundays due to it being a traditional day of celebration.

Some songs come together. Others morph into new things with new beginnings. I tried a few different paths with this tune and ended up siding with simplicity. After my last few songs this year, I’ve worked hard to improve the mixing aspect and keep to the basics where possible. Using the same equipment and software, I’m aiming to the best with what I’ve got.

Let me know your thoughts 🙂

At the beginning of this term, I sat down and assigned a few songs for my youngest daughter to learn on the guitar. One of those songs was a tune we do in the mornings called Open the Eyes of My Heart.

It took her a few weeks to pull together the chords, and her skill level was where I expected it to be. My daughter did okay for a beginner, but then she blew me away with something completely unexpected.

With gusto, she started singing. I decided to record the “proud dad” moment and accompanied her. Here is that moment: (Bare in mind that this is the first time I’d actually heard her sing. Also, my daughter hasn’t had any formal vocal training and the song is recorded using a smartphone).

 


I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…’

(Ephesians 1:16-18, ESV)

Song credit: Paul Baloche,  Integrity Music, 1997.

.

.

How many white pages remain blank?

Ink, less applied,

.  an empty space.

Quiet and inkless.

Wisdom left aside.

Abandoned as worthless?

This divorce between mind and matter.

No longer weaving together;

.    leaving what was woven

.     to yesterday’s empty praise.

Worthiness splattered over the blue and white walls of false applause.

Oppressed by the easy choice of scroll, repeat and ignore.

Condolences distributed for dignity,

.     shattered, then gathered up, then strapped to the service

.     of insincerity.

Pinned, posted, paraded;

.     contributions constantly measured against sterilized pixels.

Beauty soaked and shivering;

.     beauty left drifting;

.         beauty become hostage;

.            lost, gagged and beaten.

It’s pain become high-priced entertainment footage.

Beauty longing for its pain to be known,

When from ashes, beauty rises with new strength to carry its own

Deep within, the Word moves and lifts the injured,

now flightless,

beyond its cage,

Beauty freed, breathes life onto the page.

No longer vacant, this paper wraps itself around wounded words

Under God, clear vision.

In Jesus Christ, one commission.

Through His Spirit, the death of oblivion.


(RL2017)

‘…I will not leave you as orphans’ 

(John 14:18)

Here is a ‘note to self’ recently rediscovered. I wrote this back in 2011. Long before I’d even considered blogging as a means to connect, share, process, and improve on conclusions and thoughts I’d come to through my undergraduate days.

I’ll never know the privilege of having pride in my father; having a father’s loving advice, or an extended family, on my side, that through mutual reciprocity, enriches my own.

What was broken, is broken and the residue of the struggle to move beyond that remains. This has hindered me having confidence in myself, others, even in having hope for a future.

But through it, I have come to know and acknowledge that God, who in Jesus Christ, redeems even the chiefest of sinners, is greater than all this. Greater than words spoken in order to shame and therefore control.

Evident through Word & impossible changes becoming possible, I’ve seen God choose to step in and move me beyond it; to not let my past define my future.

Don’t let the world, friends, enemies or the past define you. God lives & speaks the same different word every time.

As the Apostle to the Gentile;the foreigner; the alien says, God in His freedom sets us up for freedom and empowers us to cry out ‘Abba Father’ (Romans 8 & 12); recognizing that God delivers on His promise to be the Father of the fatherless.

As the infamous African-American theologian, James Cone once said, ‘we are more than what has been defined for us by broken homes, sin and fatherlessness’ (Cone, p.11) [i]

Posting items and words like this on the internet can be treacherous. I recall Jesus’ wisdom when he talks about “giving to the dogs what is sacred and casting pearls before swine” (Mathew 7:6). Even with the context explained, it’s possibly to misuse my words here. As I’ve mentioned plenty of times in the past, social media, when it comes to community, isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. It’s an ongoing conversation, that can bolster community, but it can never truly replace community; and in it’s current form, will only ever remain so.

[For more of my thoughts on this check out: Fake News Sells: Unfriending Ersatz Community ]

I say these things with confidence because community is best displayed by Christianity, or at least it should be. This is because Christianity is incarnational – where Word meets flesh; where Word meets both deed and attitude. It’s something, or rather, someone, who comes to us; not just pointing to the way, but making a way. God sets this standard and empowers it in Jesus Christ.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read these words from African-American, civil rights campaigner, John M. Perkins’ in his new book, ‘Dream With Me‘:

“I believe the human dimension of God;s work is very important. It’s not that He couldn’t accomplish anything He wanted to do without us, He chooses to [work] with human vessels.We are not the main force at work, yet we are involved. We are present. God uses us in one another’s lives.’ (Perkins, p.96)[ii]

Perkins follows this up with,

‘At a recent conference some of the young people I had met tried to convince me that they didn’t really need a preacher. They’re frustrated with traditional church leadership, [then they appealed to] the priesthood of all believers, which is all well and good. That they prefer a virtual church over a traditional one. I told them, “That’s going to be weak, because it’s going to miss the incarnation [the embodiment of Christ; Word made flesh]. It will not have a human touch (Hebrews 10:24-25).The active presence of other believers contributes to God’s work within us. Again, it’s that God needs us to complete what He is doing – but He allows that human dimension to be a part of His redemptive work.’ (Perkins, p.97)[iii]

Perkins is right. If we don’t speak for fear of the swine or throwing what is sacred to the dogs, then our silence may be motivated by fear, not wisdom.

I’m all for responsible vulnerability; the need to refine what we’re going to say, and then saying that with precision, so as to both guard our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). However, we also put on the ‘Armor of Light (Jesus Christ), casting off the works of darkness’ (Romans 13:12); ‘building up and encouraging one another, through endurance and the scriptures, so that we might have hope’ (Romans 15:2).

Posts like these display vulnerability, which is why some, such as Brene Brown, might consider it also an act of extraordinary courage.

Whether or not these are unwise or an act of extraordinary courage, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the raw truth contained it, and the Good News I wish to proclaim through it.

 


Sources:

[i] Cone, J. 1975 God Of the Oppressed, Orbis Books (1997 ed.) p.11

[ii] Perkins, J.M. 2017 Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, Baker Publishing Group

[iii] Ibid, 2017

.

God paints with nature.

Though He isn’t a picture,
He’s involved in it.

Though behind this art,
He chooses to remain hidden;

choosing when and where to make Himself known
to His creation.

Revelation incarnate.
Spoken and unspoken.

Word made flesh,
via covenant, grasp and gracious breath

The knowledge of God begins with acknowledgement,
by way of The Presupposition;
the rock of Truth,
by which all truth is measured with precision.

Still this knowledge is limited.
God exists in freedom
and by this has chosen to voice His own self-limitation.

For the God of hope,
of Christ, joy, love, justice and peace
knows the deceptive heart of His once innocent,
now sin-ravaged beast.

Thus our struggle for an adequate human explanation.

For if we had gained His comprehensive capacity
It would intoxicate all of our faculties;
senses driven mad with lust for divine equality,
like a Nazi, I.S.,
or Bolshevik socialist.
God to become another power utility
conquered, killed; dissected in a laboratory.

We know because God speaks,
this is where He has chosen to meet.

This:

The wonder of God’s intention for creation;
God dies for our salvation – resurrection is vindication.
His master plan,
the centerpiece of His revelation
His beaten, torn and crucified Son,
the apocalypse of the anointed One.

Though darkness; Nothingness seeks to devour
to this Conqueror it has had to submit all it’s power.

This, the cross and the end of the abyss.

The final curtain call, where it will no longer exist.

So it is, with horror and jubilation,
creation groans in anticipation.
For rising through darkness is the proclamation

“On the third day God forged
our emancipation!”

Now reason states
that where He speaks, He exists;
therefore, then,
where He has spoken,
we ought to respond with both ears open.

So in faith, we join this decorated Victor
and the never ending chorus
of His decorous vista.


(RL2017)

‘Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ 

– (Isaiah 52:5; Romans 15:21)