Archives For Year In Review

rl2016-karl-barth-cd-2_2-page-625Like Facebook, over the past two weeks, this blog fell into my list of last priorities.

I’ve met 2017 with mixed emotions.  I looked forward to resting, but as I am quickly learning each year, the end of school, Christmas, and New Year, have a completely different routine. It’s just as busy and very often a lot less comfortable.

Christmas is unpredictable. It is not tame, nor can it be tamed. It’s not tame because it disrupts all our routines, whether they be healthy, mundane or toxic. Christmas forces us to be with people we normally don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with.

It confronts us with memories that come to us as both great and sometimes painful. Christmas draws us together. It frees up time for us to be free for others. Through our participation or even non-participation, we are affronted with the reminder that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

That Christmas is not tame, is part of its spiritual reality; which is the free God at war against all pseudo-divine masters that seek our slavery. Every part of our world is impacted by Christmas.

Our physical, emotional, economic and relational world is disrupted by having to stop, go, sell, give, rest and follow. In this place we are met, not with an exhausting what, but a joyful Who.  It’s the encounter with the One, who is the Spirit of Christmas, that draws us out of an anesthetized insular bubble of self.

The spiritual reality of Christmas is the freedom of God. As such Christmas remains beyond our control. We can only respond to it.

If 2017 seems daunting, it’s helpful to step back and think on the things that God can do. Stop for a moment and look upon what God has already done. His will may not always meet in agreement with ours, but He is willing and able to hear us out. He gives us permission to call upon Him, as a father, as one would a Good Shepherd.

If we feel wounded by the events of 2016, it’s helpful to remember that God may say “no”, but He never does so without also raising to life those things in us, for us and around us, that are far better than the things we’ve resolved to create, follow or do for ourselves.

In His freedom, He is the author of peace, not confusion (1. Cor.14:33). It’s not a question of God meeting my will, but me seeking to align my will with His! Calling out once again, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”.

It’s from humility and gratitude that we see the pathway ahead. This is true obedience to the Who of Christmas and His loving gift of new mercies for a new year. Despite whatever fog might be enveloping us, perhaps, by grasping a glimpse of what God can do, through what He has already done, we may be able to see and allow ourselves to be grasped by what He is currently doing.

May 2017 be one of those years that justifies all kinds of Jesus-grounded joy and hope.

rl2016-karl-barth-cd-2_2-page-625


 

learning-in-progressAs the year draws to a close, I find myself thinking about the past twelve months of blogging. I’m fortunate to have had many new interactions with some great thinkers, and some edge dwelling doers, in the active academic field of theology and ministry.

This year, however, I’ve also met with a different, darker side of that field.

I’ve studied theology and have a double degree to show for it. I’ve Read the books. Ticked all the boxes, met the requirements; even made some lecturers smile. Yet, the more I read and learn; the more I seek to participate in the world of academia, the more I see that I don’t fit easily into some of its neatly stacked bubbles.

For starters, my current occupation involves me being a homeschool teacher to my five kids. I don’t say all the “right things” or do what others do to get noticed. I don’t pad agreement on top of agreement. I haven’t written a book yet, and I don’t write blog posts that give an overly appreciative applause to something I’ve read or someone I know.

I write to benefit the reader; share a discovery and hope to learn something in the process. I don’t write for the approval of any who might read my post. I don’t write for others to see how brilliant my academic ability is, and as a result offer me a position on their team. Neither do I seek to invite insult, just to paint myself as a victim.

My focus is on how the theology I read and study, critiques what we are being sold in by society through the media, Hollywood, the Universities and in politics.

I’m interested in working out how that theology translates into ministry; how the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to the world today in its obsession with escalating the hostility between Left and Right.

How that theology brings a critique against the conclusions of academics who, all too often, appear ready to shoot down conservatives, or those on the right with tired rhetoric, slogans and labels.

For sure, some of that criticism in the past has been justified, but when does that criticism, itself become a whip or chain used to oppress new victims?

For instance, I’ve come to learn that any post that seeks to draw theologians like Barth or Bonhoeffer ‘’outside of the box’’ won’t be met with encouragement, let alone a smile. I don’t read the works of Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer through the agreed upon traditional political filters; speak about them through a modern liberal theological lens.

For that I’ve been drawn into some heavy discussions with overly picky critics. I’ve even had someone go out of their way to politely warn me that if I want to move forward in my academic studies, I shouldn’t upset those in power on the Left, by rocking their boat [i].

But I’m not the kind of person who goes around stroking egos, my own or those of the people around me. I aim to proclaim the truth and do that in a loving way. Will it be a flawed communication sometimes? Yes. Do I do my best to take into consideration the blind sides and their inevitable limitations? Absolutely. With every fiber of my ability to do so.

The more I venture into this post-grad world, the more I see; the more I begin to understand that if you’re not politically aligned with what is considered to be the collectives authorised narrative, you’re more likely to just end up speaking to yourself.

The warning signs are clear, if you’re not ‘’on board enough,’’ you won’t succeed beyond what you may have already accomplished. For some, it doesn’t matter how well you write, draw, paint, sing, create or communicate. If you say something different that opposes the consensus of those in box, you’re viewed as a threat to the thrones of those in power within the box.

Even though I’ve worked hard all my life, am a certified four year college graduate; parchment-on-the-wall qualified theologian. The past twelve months have shown me that in the field of theology, I’m an insider forced to live on the outside.

And that’s okay. Here I stand. Introspectively speaking, I’m freed from having to perform to the same oppressive modern liberal tune I suspect many others feel they have to dance to.

I have questions about the appearances, sums and conclusions, so widely assumed watertight, honest and reliable. I’m not looking to rise to the top of the echo chamber. Not looking to outdo, or compete for a position in it. I’m seeking to make an honest contribution. Share what I’ve found and work on refining that as God’s Grace allows.

The past twelve months have opened my eyes to the fact that if I’m relegated to the sidelines because of this, than perhaps the problem has less to do with me, and more to do with those who pushing me, and others like me, there.


Notes:

[i] Yes this did happen. No I’m not prepared to reveal who.

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.

Top Twenty Posts 2015

Last year was huge. Part turmoil. Part grief. Part adventure.

It was my third year in the blogging world and my second year as a full-time homeschool dad; directing, teaching and ministering to my kids, leading them to where God has led me. Helping them to see their own call. Enabling them to step up and out, to encounter the One who chooses to walk with us and longs for us to respond in kind.

The year also brought grief. The death of my father, not long after the death of another valued family member, meant that the long-held hope of a healthier relationship, an apology or acknowledgement of wrongs, was no longer a possibility. This said, the eight-hour road trip to visit him, his coherence and words on that day are things to be thankful for.

Still, the subtle sadness lingers. C.S Lewis wrote, ‘grief is a process, not a state of mind. We all experience it differently.’ (A Grief Observed)  I’m learning to agree with him. My own grief comes in waves. It overshadows the day, like skies that are drenched in clouds, but the land remains untouched by rain. The promise of it lingers, but disappears before it can deliver.

I don’t write this blog for a living, so I have no real need to “obsess” over stats. However, the retailer manager in me does find them interesting and encouraging to note. In all, there were 42 articles less than 2014 and 77 less than 2013. This had no overall significant impact on visits or views.

The top twenty posts for 2015 are:

1. Of Relative Importance: C.S Lewis, David Low, Cartoons & Blimpophobia

2. Review: Prayer, Karl Barth

3. The Light In My Darkness

4. Bonhoeffer’s Discourse On Pride, Identity, Lust & Christian Discipleship

5. The Rise of The Technocrat & The Growing Impossibility of Persuasion

6. Review: ‘The Reason’, Lacey Sturm

7. Karl Barth: God Is The One Who Loves In Freedom

8. Five Two

9. You Don’t Have To Be A Progressive, To Be For Progress

10. Viewing Christianity As An Ethic Of Universal Niceness Misses The Point

11. Lifeschooling

12. Review: Peter Harrison’s, The Territories of Science & Religion

13. Directing Light Under The Shadow Of Real Hate

14. Navigating Hostility: Homeschooling In The Face Of Direct Opposition

15. The Young Messiah & Risen, 2016

16. George Orwell & Karl Barth: On The Irruption Of a Third Reich Of Madness

17. Homeschooling In High Definition

18. The Denial of Christ Is More About Prejudiced Conclusions, Than Facts

19. With Fallen, Stryper Continue To Raise The Standard

20. Elshtain’s Criticism Of “The Left’s” Totalitarian Claim On Thought & The Academy.

Looking back over my posts for this year, I’m content with the work.I’m particularly excited about sharing my journey through Barth’s Dogmatics, homeschooling, theology, politics, and creating some of my art, and music.

From the music category, two works I’m grateful to have had the time to create this year are God, Do you speak morse? and Sagacity:

My hope is that this project, now entering its fourth year, will continue to be a blessing, challenge and uplift.

Thanks for reading in 2015. All the best to you and yours for 2016.

May it be to the glory of God.

– Rod.


 

Related post:

Year in Review: Top Twenty Posts of 2014