Archives For Vulnerability

Thanks Word Art 16th April 2016It’s three years since I started this blogging adventure, or so WordPress has just reminded me. The main aim for this blog was to have it serve as a resource for notes, material and other items related to my field of study and interests. My goal was to have it function as a searchable index for my own academic pursuits and as an index for other students on a similar road.

Since then, it’s morphed into what it now is, a mosaic of Christian theology, politics, poetry, art, homeschool reflections and music.

I had originally anticipated connecting with like-minded and not-so like minded people in the blogging community;networking with those who are networked, reading those who’ve read more, hearing from those who’ve advanced beyond my own academic situation. I won’t say that this hasn’t happened, but it’s interesting to reflect on the interaction on other blogs and wonder where, and what, I might need to improve in order to better achieve my original goal.

Like most anniversaries it’s prompted me to think about whether this studious effort on my part has been worthwhile. I’m left with thinking about how much of this blog actually serves to inform and glorify God, and how much is just mere noise? How much of it is just me giving in to the temptation of competing with far better blogs for an audience. Blogs that are the product of people with more time, more resources, more support and lesser responsibilities.

Blogs are not everything for writers and musicians. Although, I concede that writing and maintaining one helps. Which is why I’ve continued to maintain the high standard I set for myself with this blog’s content and referencing.

So, it’s in the spirit of “review, review, review”, with its questions and doubts, that I leave you with this thank you and a tentative farewell.

For those fellow bloggers who read this blog without expectation of quid pro quo; for those who’ve taken the time to interact, even intermittently, with me over the past three years, and to those who have put up with my own [sometimes essay length] comments on their own blogs, and who have also made the effort to comment and encourage me on a regular basis here, I THANK YOU!

For this guitar playing, part-time student/full-time homeschool dad/theologian, your encouragement is like gold.

All the best.

Rod.

Words That Can Heal

February 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

God cares about the details.

When we find ourselves in a constant state of consternation. Emotional, spiritual and psychological exhaustion is bound to follow.

Consternation def drop shadow

Sometimes simply just finding a word that correctly names exactly how things are can be the key that God hands us to unlock the way  towards release and healing.

‘So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth with set you free.
And they said to him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved by anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered:
” Truly,  truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever the son does.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.
I speak what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from yours…If God were your father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”
– Jesus, (The Gospel of John 8:31 – 42, ESV)

Source:

Image: Merriam-Webster.com

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)

 

ID-100221200 (1)I’ve been working on the planned posts which form a trilogy-in-sum brief on the closing part of Barth’s C.D I.II.

The problem is that finding the time to do it well has been more of a challenge than I anticipated – given that, and the serious issues in the news at the moment, I’m kind of avoiding finishing it.

So instead, today I’m posting some weekend G.K Chesterton lite.

For an academic, he appears free of the quest to be liked, shared or even celebrated.  Not being one to take himself too seriously, Chesterton is a reminder that serious reflection in life involves laughter, not just clinical-objective observation. More than this, he understood that the space and time we allow for laughter in our relationships is often way too small. Often, it is something temporary, lost to the impact of distraction; a casualty of circumstance.

He wasn’t fond of what he calls ’intellectual fog’[i]. (A term of his that I’m fond of, and one that pretty much describes the dangers of academic arrogance[ii]. This means anything that sucks the beauty and benefit out of reading, involving the form, content and unreasonable criticisms/suspicions applied to a text – e.g.: ad hominem, reductio ad absurdum et.al).

Most of us would agree on this point: that copious amounts of data (images) being fed through our technologically intertwined lives can weigh us down.

When this happens we should be careful to not let the intellectual fog ‘creep up the street; and put out lamp after lamp.’[iii]

In order to do this, when the time comes, we might aim at being more generous with our laughter. With the full understanding that just as the tears and sighs of broken hearts can move grief up through our lungs right towards the ears of God. Tears can also be the result of our hearts being reoriented towards joy.

In the light of Chesterton’s ability to see past his own ego and that of his peers and by employing such things as humour to do so, he, in my view, avoids being neatly packaged into any box of anti-intellectualism.

Perhaps when critics of Chesterton talk about him in this context, they might actually be missing the dry humour in some of Chesterton’s criticism of unnecessary over-sophistication.

For example:

‘I was sharply reminded that I had entered Babylon, and left England behind. The waiter brought me cheese, indeed, but cheese cut up into contemptibly small pieces; and it is the awful fact that, instead of Christian bread, he brought me biscuits.
Biscuits–to one who had eaten the cheese of four great countrysides! Biscuits–to one who had proved anew for himself the sanctity of the ancient wedding between cheese and bread! I addressed the waiter in warm and moving terms.
I asked him who he was that he should put asunder those whom Humanity had joined. I asked him if he did not feel, as an artist, that a solid but yielding substance like cheese went naturally with a solid, yielding substance like bread; to eat it off biscuits is like eating it off slates.
I asked him if, when he said his prayers, he was so supercilious as to pray for his daily biscuits. He gave me generally to understand that he was only obeying a custom of Modern Society. I have therefore resolved to raise my voice, not against the waiter, but against Modern Society, for this huge and unparalleled modern wrong.[iv]

This weekend why not take a deep breath, exhale gently, and with me, consider the reasons why the world needs to constantly be reminded of Barth’s admonition that:

‘Those who cannot sigh with others and laugh a little about themselves are warmongers[v]

Sources:

[i] Chesterton, G.K 1910, Alarms and Discussions: ‘Cheese’ Kindle Ed.441-448(‘Alarms and Discursions’ 1910, Kindle Ed. 441-448)
[ii] Chesterton, G. K. The Essential G. K. Chesterton Collection (400+ works) (Illustrated) (Kindle Ed. 2009 Loc. 7613-7614)
[iii] Ibid, ‘Science and art without morality are not dangerous in the sense commonly supposed. They are not dangerous like a fire, but dangerous like a fog. A fire is dangerous in its brightness; a fog in its dullness’
[iv] Chesterton, G. K. What I saw in America. Prohibition in Fact and Fancy: The Essential G. K. Chesterton Collection (400+ works) (Illustrated) (Kindle Ed. 2009. Locations 68335-68336)
[v] Barth, K. 1961 der götze wackelt (The Idol Wobbles – exact translation T.B.C)  Insights, (Selected by Ebherhard Busch, 2009) Westminster John Knox Press p.12
(h/t to Ben @ Faith & Theology, where I first read about Chesterton’s ‘Alarms and Discursions’)

Image credit: ‘Lighting Decor’, Courtesy of FeelArt

The first time I heard this song was on a tape, mid-nineties, during high school. I studied music for my senior year and rested on influences like Tommy Emmanuel, to broaden my awareness of how musical scales can be utilised outside of the five pattern blues pentatonic. I wanted to move on from the things that got me through the lunch time “impression management” sessions. In my quest for musical maturity (and putting some pride issues aside, which have been purged out of me since then) I turned to Jazz.

As a result I ended up with a more rounded knowledge and deeper appreciation for musical styles that exist around 8 notes bouncing around a fret board, tweaking out sounds from a variety of octaves.

It is not difficult for a musician to see absolute constructs behind theological truths. In particular, how things might be ordered by The Creator, His Word and His Spirit from what is otherwise 8 notes of discordancy. Order comes by command (see Karl Barth’s  ideas of ‘the graciously commanded order’ in his Church Dogmatics).

I’ve shied away from music since my early twenties because of pride, the indifference of an apathetic/abusive family and the absence of real relationships that inspire creativity. Since finding myself being grasped by God, (and as I see it, from this alignment I’ve found healing and real relationships) I’ve moved closer towards a healthier perspective of ability, talent and gifting. I’ve learnt from this down-time that pride can blind us and stifle the talents God grants us. I still wonder whether or not it is right to suggest that this means we are called to own what God gives, and are then encouraged by God to share (or gift) others with that gift? I.e: What is the difference between being the gift and giving the gift?

Sometimes spending time reflecting on our personal agendas, the jealousy exhibited by put-downs, discounting, covert-manipulation and back-stabbing from others, and how they meet with the will of the God, who gives of Himself freely and sacrificially for us. Can outline a pathway towards the ‘Lord of complete humanity’ (Barth, 1938 CD.1.2:128) and creativity.

The ‘bringer of life is the reconciler of (human) being’ (ibid,p.128). As such He becomes the Creator, who in Christ redefined, and by His Spirit redefines relationship with His creation. In a sense God becomes the difference between being and doing (John Calvin).

When we align with this, we see outlines of a pathway we never imagined, but have secretly always prayed for.

Tommy Emmanuel is one of the more well-known of Australia’s solo guitarists.

Source:

Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics, I.II The Doctrine of The Word of God Hendrickson Publishers

Wisdom by Prose

October 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

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GVL has been underway since April. So six months on I have decided to consolidate what I have learnt from participating in the blogosphere. I also want to say that this is not a definitive list and that I appreciate the encouragement/feedback I have had so far. Among others, a BIG shout out also to Sara, Patrick, Walt, and Sis.

Number one: Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint…

Number two: Embedded Youtube videos really jazz up a post, just limit what you use and be careful about copyright by linking content directly connected to it’s author.

Number three: Anonymity has it’s place, but tends to work against vulnerability. Create an internet handle that reflects the theme of your blog.

Number four: Surprise readers. Pace out the Facebook shares and let a couple of posts pass through WordPress reader without promoting them.

Number  five:  Resist measuring the success of your blog or writing ability by the amount of ”likes” you get – ‘Aim to Bless rather than Impress’.

Number six: Pay attention to unwritten blogging conventions and standards. Such as: source material, link to other bloggers in a ”related reading” section below your post if your current idea was prompted by something someone else wrote.

Number seven: In order to remain an interesting and reliable sanctuary in the midst of the clang and clamour of the blogosphere, be consistent but flexible.In other words: be teachable and creative.

Number eight: Resist the temptation to expect comments from readers, even if you ask for them. Lack of response might not be a bad thing. It could be that people are simply just too busy or it might indicate a need to review and repost the article.

Number nine: Stick to a 200-1000 word limit, spacing out sentences when appropriate to do so.

Number ten: like an Artist – ‘find something to wonder at and invite others to wonder about it with you’ (‘fund imagination‘).

…(unofficial: number elevenwhich is up for debate and could end up being in the number ten spot next time around: try to steer clear of clichés like Top Ten lists as fill in posts when you have had a limited amount of time in your day to finish a more in depth post)…

Feel free to comment and let me know if I have overlooked, overstated or perhaps under-stated anything?