Archives For July 2013

These are not glamorous expressions,

And they are questionably worthy of their audience.

They constantly find themselves in a state of stasis, where the author finds his audience more worthy than his words.

The fluid movement of thought is wild, yet tame.

Its syntax and grammar clear, and ambiguous.

The writer’s object exists as transcendent. More than complex matter.

Yet flesh, bones, and Spirit – his subject is immanence

Gratia

Veritas

Lumen

After grace, law. After all… gratitude, truth and light

Tame, yet wild this thought moves like liquid

Ambiguous, yet clear, its grammar and syntax are deliberate – sometimes simply innocent.

By a fragment of thoughts

The writer stands,

the writer falls,

the writer’s words may even stall.

After grace, law. After all… gratitude, truth and light.

©R.L.2013

‘Send out your light and your truth;  let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill  and to your dwelling!’- (Ps.43:3 ESV)

We are inherently predisposed to create and find meaning, gratitude, contentment, joy, and purpose in that activity. The point of contact which occurs between the Creator, who has graciously invited and gifted us, as His creature, is grounded in the Christ who summons humanity to participate with Him. For the biblical text is clear: that although we may choose to abandon God, ‘He desires to be God with us and for us; He does not want to be God without us’ (Karl Barth).

‘Jesus asks nothing of us without  giving us the strength to perform it (1959:xxxiii)…Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which men and women must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives man and woman the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of his son, ‘you were brought at a great price’; and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us’ (Bonhoeffer ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ 1959:5)

‘Schools should not be boot camps for learning how to make a living. They should be places for learning how to make a life.’ (Elliot Eisner, ‘What do the Arts teach? 1998, Stanford University, 2003)

‘All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children…This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord’ (Is.54:13 & 17)

Apart from the comment in the video below, which falsely connects conservative thinking with fear, this summary is phenomenal.

Once a day I have been working on reading the ‘Moravian Daily Texts’, (2013 kindle ed.) alongside ‘My utmost for His highest’ (Oswald Chambers). Since aligning my life with Jesus the Christ, Chambers’ devotional has been, by far, the only daily devotional that has been able to keep me pinned down over the years.

Today’s readings seemed relevant to blogging, and the art of being both a reader and a writer.

 ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who publish peace, who bring news of happiness, who publish salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns” – (Is.52:7 ESV)

 ‘We proclaim Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ’ (Col.1:28 ESV)

httplectiodivinacamo.blogspot.com.au201306lectio-divina-martes18-de-junio-2013.html

Source: lectiodivinacamo.blogspot.com.au

Reflecting on these scripture verses earlier tonight reminded me of two things. Firstly,  as both writers and readers we have a responsibility in what and how we communicate. Secondly, I was reminded of the concept ‘Lectio Divina’ – which is about applying the discipline of  ‘spiritual reading’ when engaging with the biblical text. (A good book to read on this subject if you are interested is Eugene Peterson’s ‘Eat this Book’, 2006).

Oswald Chambers wrote that:

‘The teachings of Jesus hit us where we live. We cannot stand as imposters before Him for even a second. He instructs us down to the very last detail. The Spirit of God uncovers our spirit of self-justification and makes us sensitive to things we have never even thought of before…Examine the things you tend to simply shrug your shoulders about, and where you have refused to be obedient, and you will know why you are not growing spiritually’ (‘the way to knowledge)

There is a lot of depth to these few sentences, from which Chambers hints at the dichotomy between passive and active reading; going through the motions or really listening to the ‘form and content’ (Peterson, 2006) of the material which the author has placed before us. Here there is also a theological imperative, which says that somewhere in the midst of our obstinacy, we as Christians are graciously summoned by Father, Son and Spirit into participation as co-creators with Him. This is something which could be viewed as being part of an applied devotion in contradistinction to, well, an unapplied one, or service to an empty, (religious) lifeless routine/ritual.

This is something that has significant implications for moving the unmoved reader, and/or writer.

I am not sure about you, but I tend to have to force myself to read things sometimes. I just run out of time, get impatient, or wrestle with my anxiety disorder (all three are interrelated). I also tend to get distracted and then gratefully lost in the amazing adventures of being a dad to a tribe of five. So finding the time to not only write but read as well can be understandably short.  Sure I have enough room to find all the excuses I can in order for me to keep ignoring, or procrastinating. Particularly when it comes to engaging with an authentic appreciation for the material that I need to properly hear, by devouring, unpacking and seeking to apply it to my life.

When I do make the effort to read whatever it is I find myself being unmoved to read, I discover that regretting having read it, is nearly always a rare occurrence.

Book_Carmen Berry

‘Who’s to Blame?’ addresses the concept of the victim trap. This is created when emotions such as guilt, shame, fear, anger and grief are mismanaged. Blame, accusation, distorted perspectives, the mismanagement of fear, setting boundaries and the wrongful denial of our own God-granted personal power are all at the heart of this text. Therefore this review will outline Carmen Berry and Mark Baker’s discussion on how important it is to keep (not make) perpetrators of abuse accountable by encouraging victims to set boundaries and redefine relationships, which are proven to be unhealthy (understood by the authors as being not mutually beneficial).

According to Berry and Baker, we know we have ‘fallen into the victim trap, when our identities are heavily influenced, if not defined, by past abuse’ (1996:216). Abuse equates to any situation where we have been ‘mistreated, i.e.: not given the respect, protection, and honour deserved’ (1996:165); ‘Self-esteem, a sense of self-worth, and even identity is undermined by abuse’ (1996:147 & 148). They assert that ‘our personalities are shaped by the way we perceive how others have treated us’ (1996:79). Symptoms of this could include a ‘power imbalance…where:

a) A person believes that the suffering of others is more important than their own pain

b) They falsely ‘believe that they are powerless’ (Berry & Baker 1996:12-13).

c) As a result of mistreatment ‘develop lifelong attitudes about ourselves based on how we were treated then’ (Baker & Berry 1996:11)

d) ‘When we are mistreated, especially if the violation occurs in childhood, it is common to feel damaged, defective and worthless’ (1996:146).

A key ontological imperative for Berry and Baker is that we all have personal power. They  explain that personal power is ‘not about being more than someone else, but about knowing who you are and who you are not…'(1996:213 & 214)

They believe in making the ‘unconscious conscious’ (1996:98). An important part of this is understanding that:

‘human pain doesn’t stay frozen in a moment of time but echoes far beyond instances of mistreatment. Unless we regain a sense of our personal power, we carry our pain in our minds, our bodies, and in the way we treat other people’ (1996:19).

A significant element to arriving at this understanding is acknowledging that behaviour, such as denial, ‘places us in the position of being unaware and even naïve. Neglecting to resolve painful and anxious feelings keep us tied to the abuse and the abuser’ (paraphrased 1996:24).Engaging in a quest for revenge only serves to tie the victim to the offender. The reason for this is that retaliation escalates the conflict by feeding the cycle of abuse. For Berry and Baker, blame and denial are false ‘shields of protection that create a prison of isolation’ (1996:73, paraphrased)

Another way in which people may find themselves caught in the victim trap is when they ‘feel responsible for another adult’s actions or emotional well-being’ (1996:10). Berry and Baker state:

 ‘it is often difficult to recognize that a relationship is ensnared in the victim trap. It is only with time that we can determine this. For example: a pattern of behaviour, such as mismanaged fear, will emerge that establishes whether we are in healthy relationships or not’ (paraphrased Berry & Baker 1996:10).

‘we fall into the victim trap by using guilt as a means of controlling others or by allowing ourselves to be controlled in an effort to please others…taking responsibility for their unhappiness and attempting to please to assuage a false sense of guilt’ (1996:105).

Berry and Baker suggest that one key area where we can ‘manage our emotions’ (1996:27) is by taking responsibility for our pain and ‘not taking responsibility for the actions of others’ (1996:58). To do this we need to examine the feeling behind the feeling and then establish and ‘enforce’ (1996:53) boundaries in order to help us ‘redefine relationships’ (1996:25 & 101) where necessary.

blame

Source: Creative commons

Putting boundaries in place will involve communicating consequences for those who violate our borders through violence; physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual abuse. If this does not happen then we fall into the victim trap by assigning blame either to ourselves or others. Consequently inaction creates a ‘false sense of security that limits our understanding of reality’ (1996:20 & 25). The result is mismanaged fear because it ‘assigns blame from a distance or fights a perceived enemy, using blame as a weapon’ (1996: 65).

This advice comes with the caveat which is that ‘our efforts to set boundaries is not to change others’ (1996:54). This is because the motivation which drives setting boundaries is personal responsibility for change because ‘confronting someone with our feelings and expecting them to change is unrealistic’ (1996:60).

In explaining how to set boundaries effectively Berry and Baker make a distinction between vulnerability and openness (1996:79 & 80). For example: “vulnerability” requires wholehearted contribution: it is truthful and prone to attack, whereas “openness” can be a form of self-protection; a shield (that becomes a prison) which is often expressed as a ‘façade making us look like something we are not… contra to vulnerability, openness creates the illusion of intimacy with others’ (1996:80).

When we recognise that we truly have the power to change ourselves and our situation we can engage in positive action on behalf of ourselves and others. By doing this we learn to deal with  difficult people, ‘gaining the confidence to manage whatever emotions we have in order to hold others accountable and resolve unfinished business from the past’ (1996:28).

Baker and Berry’s advice reinforces the concepts advocated in ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’. They encourage replacing lies and misbeliefs, with the truth. 2 Cor. 10:4-5 comes to mind.

Blame is indicative of ‘an overwhelming hopelessness, despair and regret’ (1996:71)…’blaming is an ineffective way to protect ourselves from harm because it draws attention away from the genuine problem and the reality of our power in the situation’ (1996:72).

blame3

Source: creative commons

This pertains to mismanaged power which is evidenced when someone attacks us from a place of ‘self-righteous’ (1996:71) indignation – a superior sense of morality (seen in both left and right socio-political polemics which are often infused with emotionalism), a false sense of entitlement and hyperbole (‘’I did this for you and you’ve never done anything for me’’). For example: we moralize the issue; flawed arguments based on ‘opinion’ (1996:51) utilising ad hominem (elitist overgeneralization e.g.: one bad/all bad), tu quo que (hypocrisy) and reductio ad absurdum (ridicule by exaggeration), rather than on faith or fact.

Communicating our pain requires the right approach. For Berry and Baker this means ‘having the courage (knowledge of self-worth, freedom and ability grounded in God) to participate in the difficult conversations’ (1996:89, emphasis mine). According to Berry and Baker in order ‘to manage power effectively, we must develop a healthy view of failure’ (1996:41-50) which moves towards a ‘centred self’ (1996:50).This is significant because ’healthy power is assertive rather than aggressive, healing rather than hurtful…the point of power is not to look strong to others but to become stronger with them’ (1996:47 & 49).

In Conclusion ‘Who’s to blame?’ is a useful guide to helping the individual take responsible action for the potential outcomes of their circumstances, emotions and relationships. The essence of this review has been to outline why Berry and Baker believe we all have power to redefine unhealthy relationships. In order to do this I primarily focused on what the victim trap is, what the authors consider the causes to be and how it can be avoided. Reading victimization through the lens of Berry and Baker’s work has made a significant contribution to my journey towards healing. Blame, accusation, distorted perspectives, the mismanagement of fear, setting boundaries and the wrongful denial of our own God-granted personal power are al at the heart of this text.

For the authors, holding others accountable by redefining relationships involves taking responsibility for both our actions and our pain. This is the antithesis to engaging in blame, revenge (1996:147) and feeling as though we are responsible for the responses of others. Under the surface this text challenges the popular notion of ‘just ignore them’, as well as the overly simplistic ‘’given’’ – ‘forgive and forget’.As such the material within ‘Who’s to blame?’ challenges the false belief that assumes victims of abuse are powerless to change or influence change themselves. ‘Who’s to blame?’ can be summarised by the statement ‘seek accountability not revenge’ (1996:167). One way we can apply this to our lives is by starting to develop a better understanding of the differences between discipline and abuse.

Bibliography

Berry, C.R & Baker, M.W who’s to Blame? Escape the victim trap and Gain personal power in your relationships 1996 Pinion Press Colorado Springs, CO, U.S.A

Available on kindle.

Related reading:

Setting personal boundaries – Passionate Christian Marriage


I am intrigued by two things about this production of Leonard Ravenhill’s sermon ‘Judgement seat of Christ’ (below). Firstly is the eschatological theology behind Ravenhill’s statement that ‘entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy’ – something I am cautiously in agreement with Ravenhill about, which means that I am still processing it theologically. Secondly, that the music from Hans Zimmer’s song ‘All of them’, which featured Moya Brennan, in a piece from the 2004 film ‘King Arthur’, has been used as a sound bed for the dialogue.

There is a keen sense of irony in the use of a film score for a sermon that carries the statement: ‘entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy’. However, my purpose here is not to unpack this fully, as I would also have to cover the messy copyright concerns about how some Christians loosely respect the intellectual property of others in ways which may not honour God. (Disclaimer: I am not implying that the author of the video below does not have permission to reproduce the material, they may have. What my uncertainty here proves, is just how difficult – ambiguous and grey – this topic really is. Hence my reluctance to discuss it at length here).

Therefore, my point is to only suggest that even in our best efforts we may end up contradicting ourselves; inadvertently crossing a line, consequently handing our opponents unnecessary ammunition (those who are more than happy to misquote and misappropriate what we may say or write).

The phrase Australians use for this activity is ”nit-picking” – it is an ugly metaphor – but it does illustrate a point of order which suggests that, when it comes to what we write or say (co-create with God), some people will dig for little things which may or may not be there, only in order to shame and ridicule. The academic realm where this can happen a lot is decontextualization, and the even more precarious – proof-texting. The urban term is ”trolling”.

That said. I enjoy Hans Zimmer’s work. I have even gone to the trouble of ordering the Compact Disc of certain film scores even though I’ve purchased the song on iTunes (I know, it is a curious habit  – but hey I’d be surprised if I was the only one who did this) I also really like what Leonard Ravenhill has to say, his message is relevant, timely and therefore worth the seven minutes of your time.

All that said – both the  music and the material, certainly has the potential to bring together our hearts and God’s, in a point of impact which majestically climaxes in the following short prayer:

…”Master forgive, and inspire us anew”… (Leonard Ravenhill)

Three articles which drew my attention away from blog writing over the past few days.

1. Leon Kass, 1997 ‘The wisdom of repugnance’ via the Catholic resource centre. This is long but worth a skim read – Jean Bethke Elshtain pointed to this article in her book ‘Who are we?’. In an agreement which reads like a lament, she writes: ‘once the barrier of repugnance is breached, anything is possible and most things become likely’ (2000:107)

2. Luftwaffe veteran Franz Stigler guided a heavily damaged Allied bomber over hostile airspace during World War Two – this type of seemingly anomalous Christ-like action during that period in history,  backs up a lot of the assessments Metaxas makes in his 2010 biography of Bonhoeffer (which I have recently finished and highly recommend). Both this article and Metaxas’ research gives further evidence that shows German compassion and honour did exist, even in the darkest of times. This article is well written and awe inspiring. Read more here..

 
article-2370933-1ADC0D47000005DC-49_634x367

Source: Dailymail.co.uk, John D Shaw’s painting A Higher Call

3. Speaking of Eric Metaxas, he recently posted a (2009?) article entitled ‘communion on the moon’ – I had heard of this prior to reading the piece last night. It appears that Metaxas has had the event confirmed by Buzz Aldrin. I had some trouble with the link earlier – so it may or may not work read more here.. (if this link does not work please try the archives at www.ericmetaxas.com)

God’s got this…

Just keep breathing.

The palms of his hand may be nail scarred but they are outstretched, strong and reliable.

Those holes are Holy, his hands a living reminder of His commitment to life, to you and to me.

God has got this…

‘Fear not … stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks’ (Lk.12:32, 35-36, ESV)

God. has. got. this…