Archives For August 2013

Discovered the comments posted below in part of this mornings readings. Ones which, well, ended up turning into afternoon readings.

They certainly seemed relevant to the vibe I’ve been blogging about this week. This specific one caught me by surprise and looks a little deeper into the ‘soldier of Christ – Grateful Soldier’ metaphor.

Sometimes Father, Son and Spirit steps in and gently point things out to us. Particularly things that surprise, energize and refuel the fulfilment of promise that states: He wills to participate with us (i.e.: incarnation of Christ and invitation – 2 Pet.1:4-8). In this case, a conversation and a train of thought.

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

”You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.

But the word of God is not bound!

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself”.

–          Paul, 2 Tim.2:1-13, ESV

A Garden Rendezvous

August 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Hand raised. People stare.

Blood drips,

matted hair.

Limited movement, no one helps

Every inch

felt.

Nail enters,

sinew breached.

Vocals strain, expressed pain.

Tendon torn,

Chipped bone

Second. Pierce.

Feet manoeuvred, third place.

Breathing gasps,

”Finished” word.

Lost feeling,

hanging there,
side is pierced
silence follows

Dark day,

follows night

Third day,

looming light

a Garden Rendezvous (John.19-20).

©RL.2013

I had originally set out to write this the other night. My thoughts eventually turned into another article, which although different, has a somewhat related subject matter.

I did some research on the axiom, don’t shoot the messenger. What I found was this: it is linked to Shakespearian play Henry IV. Act 1. Sc.1 and can be sourced in various forms way back to Ancient Greece. I’ll spare you the history lesson and only point this out so as to establish historical context.

Here is the quote from said play.

 ‘’The first bringer of unwelcome news hath but a losing office; and his tongue sounds ever after as a sullen bell…thou shakest thy head and holds’t it as fear or sin to speak truth’’

Translation:

‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ because they are more than likely NOT as willing to share it, as you are in NOT wanting to hear it.

Another relevant aspect of the Shakespearian statement is uncovered in the final part of what could be a monument to his influence on the modern and post-modern zeitgeist or spirit of the age.

 ‘’…Thou shakest thy head and hold it as fear or sin to speak truth’’.

Has Western society really come to this?

For example: are our familial relationships, society and politics a loci for what may have become Fear or Sin. To. Speak. Truth?

In his book ‘’Let your life speak’’, Parker Palmer writes:

‘there is a great gulf between the way my ego wants to identify me, with its protective masks and self-serving fictions, and my true self…’ (2000:L.83 kindle ed.)

What Parker is saying here is qualified a little later by his suggestion that when we ‘refuse to embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of, we misread our own reality’ (2000:L.98 kindle ed.)

Suffice it to say, if we shoot the messenger we may fail to receive the message a messenger has the duty of delivering. Therefore we deal in the ignorance of what could be named a ‘happy silence’. The effort required to stay informed is too much so we avoid the details, context and historical points of impact which anticipated the current reality we find ourselves in. This smug ‘happy silence’ becomes indifference and is subsequently fed by conflict avoidance and complacency.

Jean Bethke Elshtain points out that this is exemplified by a ‘style of action…that repudiates the very existence of those with whom one disagrees’ (Public man Private woman 1981:365).

If we contrast this with the Judeo-Christian narrative of the Free God who frees us for others and Himself (Karl Barth & Ex.3:1-12), we end up with an interesting challenge to freely participate in seeking truth through respectful dialogue. This is counter to self-serving activities which seek to undermine that process.

…’God’s promises are rude and relentless. These promises do not honour our despair or our complacency. We are the people who believe that God’s future will cause a new-ness in the world, in which our old tired patterns of displacement and fear and hate cannot persist…. God has come to enlist people into these promises for the future of Israel and the future of the world’

(Walter Brueggemann, ‘Subversive Obedience’ 2011:25; Ex.3:1-12)

This enquiry raises two questions:

1. Might we actually mean what we say, say what we mean and choose to live by both?

2. Might we find the tension, ambiguity and imperfection found in the translations of these, as useful to our movement forward?

Take this gem of a thought from  American Mychal Massie, writer and Los Angeles talk show host:

 ‘I have a saying that ‘’the only reason a person hides things, is because they have something to hide’’ (Cited by Kevin Sorbo, Facebook August 26th 2013).

Perhaps we need to move beyond  assumption, by reassessing the impression management so closely linked to social media?

I realise this is wordy, but bear with me and maybe go back over those two questions above in order to really process them. There is a real need, in my view, to resist the Machiavellian ideological perspective which allows for a covert aggressive nominalism. A kind of manipulated-artificial  existence, where people are given permission to covertly tear others down and yet make themselves look innocent and victimized, because they have been enabled by others to do so. Historically speaking this is reflected in the abhorrent potentiality located within the ‘logic of deconstructionism, which reverses a claim like “the Nazis oppressed the Jews,” showing instead that the defenceless Jew’s oppressed the Nazis’ (Cited by Gene Veith, 1993:2615-2617, ‘Modern Fascism’ Kindle Ed. paraphrased)

In short: this could also apply to the practice of being something in public and then being the absolute opposite in private.

Abuse thrives when assumptions are fuelled by what we are led to believe about a person. Whether this be through appearances, gossip or lies-through-omission.

A protest against this is found in Swedish Musician, Ulf Christiansson’s contrasts outlined in the song ‘Entertainers and Soldiers’. Although here I acknowledge an argument could be made that Entertainers are ”messengers”, therefore the use of this song makes my overall point redundant and confusing. My response to this is to say that the phrase ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ points to a paradox of appearance, intention and purpose. For me, this is only reinforced by the lyrics not limited by them. Therefore this is an adequate example of the conversation between art and theology regarding nominalism.

Entertainers and soldiers

Sources:

Brueggemann, W. 2011 Subversive Obedience
Elshtain, J.B 1981 Public man Private woman
Jerusalem, ‘Entertainers and Soldiers’ available @ iTunes and amazon.
Parker, P. 2000 Let your life speak Kindle Ed.
Shakespeare. Henry IV
Veith,G. 1993 Modern Fascism Kindle Ed.

Musings on 103

August 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Having continued my exegetical encounter with Psalm 103 this morning, I happened to notice something I seem to have taken for granted.Insofar as Psalm 103 helps us to reflect on our own parenting and relationship skills, not just those of our parents.

Could the entire Psalm suggest a blueprint for fatherhood, even if it is informed by patriarchy?

For instance David writes:

As a father shows compassion to his Children so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear (read this as trust, honour and respect) him, for he knows – He remembers from where we came (read as knows our limitations and strengths).

Take also these observations from 103:

1. The Lord works righteousness and justice.

2. He makes known. (empowers?)

3. He acts. (passionate and dynamically involved)

4. Is merciful and gracious.

5. Slow to anger.

6. Abounding in steadfast love.

7. He will not always chide (censure) nor will he keep his anger forever.

8. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

9. Great is his steadfast love toward those who fear (read trust, honour and respect) him.

Is it likely that God is inspiring a blueprint for fatherhood through David’s words here?

I don’t consider myself a great success at being a father. I have had the honour of being one for thirteen years. I find myself to be an improving improvement, an imperfect man stumbling and fumbling every breath-taking and joyful moment along the way. My best is excellence, only as far as my best serves beyond pride and the social pressure to put on a show or keep up appearances.

Like my father, I was not handed a complete blueprint for being a dad. His inheritance was lost in a whirlwind of neglect, youth-filled anxiety, survival mechanisms, moderate poverty and instability. Consequently as such cycles between fathers and sons go, so was mine.

Instead of nostalgic what ifs filled with self-pity, my constantly evolving perspective here has helped me to resolve any resentment towards my dad, even though firm boundaries still remain. Here time has been an ally, yet I am aware that time’s extended hand is also one of limitation. For example: what is lost has been lost forever.

Still, the shredded remnants which desperately clad the surviving remains of our relationship are valuable. No matter how unsalvageable the blueprint for fatherhood seems every thread of faded colour contains hope. A few weeks back he was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. He is now undergoing chemotherapy after having a tumour removed. From the tone of our recent conversation, he is hopeful of recovery.

Thankfully my father’s own, albeit slow movement towards Christ, is bringing us both into an alignment of understanding. This comes with the FULL possibility of God’s power to gain ‘’what ought to be’’, minus the emotional baggage attached to stubbornly holding on to ”what should have been”.

As I indicated above, I have little time for showmanship, self-pity or the arrogance and deceit that go with it. Although the temptation not to do so is great I would rather deal in truth and honest performance, than in smiles, lies and hi-fives; smoke and mirrors, impression management and veiled smugness.

Even though I don’t consider myself a great success at being a father, I make every attempt to use the shredded remnants of the shattered blueprint I inherited, to work with God in restoring what is left behind into an article that is evident of His grace.

As King David implies, God is our father, the one who teaches men and women to be greater than the great mess we are sometimes handed. He has battled not only on my behalf, but also on behalf of my father. God has swept in with thankless hands to achieve something we could not do alone.

For that I am deeply grateful.

Grateful Soldier

August 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

My constant movement through Karl Barth’s emphasis on gratitude, freedom/command/obedience, and my continuing encounters with the thoughts of feminist (reconstructionist)/political theorist, Jean Bethke Elshtain, are leading me to a deeper understanding about the theological weight in a term such as ‘Grateful Soldier’.

With my impromptu stay-over this week in Ephesians 6:13-20 and its ever-present, sometimes controversial implications for Christians and mission in an online environment, this live performance from Stryper seemed to be an appropriate fit for today…It is no big secret that I am more inclined to listen to metal, grunge, melodic rock, blues and jazz than other genres of music.

Once again

August 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Theological thoughts and some exegetical notes from this morning’s timeout.

Psalm 103:1-6

Bless my soul

1. Forget not all
2. His benefits

B1: forgives all iniquity
B2: Redeems life
B3: Heals all
B4: redeems life – from the pit (of despair?, hades?, overt uneasiness?, uncertainty?, hopelessness?, the seduction of cynicism?)
B5:  heals all
B6: satisfies (purpose) with good (instrument of possibility)
B7: youth renewed (cause & effect)
B8: Lord works

3. righteousness and justice
4. for all who are oppressed.

Conclusion:

We have His permission to fly like an eagle, what may be pinning us to the ground is our resistance, our cynicism and our despair.

What might be helpful is if we allowed God His freedom. If we could only just sit in that moment of time where we allow God to realize in us our true freedom. A freedom that exists in limitation (Karl Barth) but rests on the tension between His words ”yes you can and no you must not”.

It is here that humanity may finally be able to see that a life rested in Father, Son and Spirit proves to be one that has so much more to it than could ever have imagined.

The quest for absolute certainty, as Jean Bethke Elshtain puts it (1981, Public man Private woman), is only a quest to satisfy our ego. This is a journey towards absolute arrogance, one absent of faith and gratitude. A pathway that is inevitability self-defeating because it is drains us of that hoped for encounter with truth and light.

As it turns out this road, in truth, is paved with oppression as our own pride brings us to a counter-to-Christ point of impact, where the seduction of ignorance, spite, resentment and hate are all too easily consumed and reproduced. Consequently our wings are clipped – our creativity stifled – our energy, and passion for others, for life – becomes almost non-existent.

Father, may we fly as you have decreed it. May we see what you see, as you see fit to show us. May we rest in the knowledge that hope is within our grasp because by your Spirit and through your son, you are its anchor, its author and once again, we, I,  acknowledge your gift of life. 

May it be so.

I’ll file this one under contemplation and popular culture.

For one of our devotions this week, I decided to work outside the box. This deviation from our usual morning reflection, which is often guided by the Psalms or an encounter with the illustrious writings of Corrie Ten Boom, proved to be one of my better ideas.

I happened to stumble upon the Pluggedin, Movie Nights website from Focus on the Family. When there you can run a search for a variety 934786_589939031037058_258311857_nof worksheets that make for some seriously interesting theological discussions.

For example: a few weeks back we rented the movie ‘How to train your dragon’. Pluggedin ‘Movie Nights’ had this free high quality PDF worksheet, which as I was to discover, not only fit GVL’s criteria for art and theology, but also made for an engaging devotional time with my kids. We talked about how education helps us understand and at times correct our own misunderstandings (not too much unlike what happens in the movie).

This then lead to a deeper look at Paul’s understanding of the Armour of God in Ephesians 6:13-18. Which in turn was followed by an impromptu  imagination-fuelled crafting session (or should I say “weapon smithing” session?) using gaff tape, cardboard, masking tape, paint, laminated print outs and a whole lotta grace.

Here are the outcomes of our journey…

IMG_20130822_170724

 A solid-looking weapons cache.

IMG_20130822_102347

‘therefore put on the WHOLE armour of God, that you may withstand in the evil day, and having done all stand firm…fastening on the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace…In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take up the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God…praying at all times’ (Paul, Eph.6:13-18)

IMG_20130822_101822

I get these moments of inspiration  and even though I am inclined to take all the credit, I need to acknowledge that  Father, Son and Spirit is our partner of possibilities, who with us,  works out this wonderful journey we term home-schooling.

This experience has reminded me of the important place and relevance art has in our devotional/contemplative life as Christians.