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friend

August 22, 2016
how is it that all

my jolts and quakes

don't scare you away -

though I fear you stay

only in duty


how is it you see

the cracks and breaks

where nothing fits

my bloodied bits

as if beholding a beauty?

 

how is it beyond

my stutters and shakes

your patience hears

the truth in tears

and resonance rolls
 
between souls, 

bared

 

i sense your stomach turns

and your heart near fails

at my gruesome tales

yet you do not flee

but peer in closer and see

a thing to be held and healed

to be longed for and loved

a life to be whole

if dared.

friend










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when you can’t

August 12, 2016

 

empty_room_by_mimose_stock

God of the room with no windows

God of the walls closing in

God of the doors that won’t let you out

With no handles to let life back in

God of the roof caving slowly

God of the cold stone floor

God of the echo of empty

God of the not anymore

 

When you can’t see

When you can’t feel

When everything you’ve ever known

Isn’t real

 

When you can’t think

When you can’t love

When the sky is falling in from above

 

When you can’t cry

When you can’t pray

When all that you think is fog of gray

 

When you can’t do

When you can’t try

When all that you’ve done leaves you just wondering why?

 

When you can’t trust

When you can’t care

When even the self that you knew isn’t there

 

God in the nothing

God in the black hole

God in the abyss

That you call your soul

 

God in the pit

God in the shame

God in the shit

that has no name

 

God in it all

In it all, God

No ending or answer

but here I am.

 

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The Census and what really counts.

August 4, 2016

Census

What’s with christian campaigns like this one to try and convince people who ‘hold christian values’ to tick the christian box on the Census instead of ‘no religion’? I know they are a counter to the campaign that is promoting ‘tick no religion’ – but there we go again, with the christian reaction to threat to power, rather than confidence in a whole other kingdom.

Surely the call of this campaign to boost affiliation is something that christians should abhor? Aren’t we asked to carefully consider the cost of following Jesus, to reject coercion, and refrain from surface affiliation “holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power”. Don’t we reject the diminishing interpretation of christianity as simply moral therapeutic deism?

The ‘why is it important?’ spiel on the OliveTree Media campaign blatantly advocates boosting census data on the rationale that this will ensure there are federal $$$ for ‘christian’ interests. Where is the moral credibility in that?
I’m frankly pretty embarrassed by this.

I’m a life-long follower of Jesus, I believe, like Bill Hybels, that the local church (the vulnerable, cruciform, servant body of Christ) is the hope of the world. I don’t think that protected public funding and political power and cultural majorities are the hope of the world.
Government $$$ are not what we need.
Stacking the numbers to appear more christian isn’t what we need.

Doesn’t this cause confusion about what the gospel actually is and says and calls us to?

Truth-telling. Integrity. Humility. Giving up our power.
Is this not the way of Jesus? Or am I in the wrong religion?

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Apollo and Sputnik

July 9, 2016

 

I was born in 1968 in the midst of the many moments of space-race frenzy.

Lovers of Toy Story know well the lament of the turning of the season as western frontier Cowboys and Outlaws are superseded by Astronauts and Spaceships in the playful imagination of the child.

apollo11newspaper2The year after I was born the Americans landed a human on the surface of the moon. This became, in the public imagination across the world, a crowning achievement of human brilliance, bravery, ingenuity and industry.

Like many other people, as I grew, the large cosmos of my imagination grappled with the possibilities and terrors of Space.

Throughout my childhood and well into my adult years I suffered a recurring nightmare: Bundled into a barrel I was flung far out into space where I spun and spun on interminably, cramped and cold in the dark of the barrel, nausea and giddiness defining my existence. It was apparent to me in the nightmare that I would spin on alone, contained, dark and cold forever – that there was no end to space. Even now, after four decades, I sometimes find myself orbiting the small hours in this same dread-filled dream.

So many parts of it are terrible – but the worst of it is the sense of complete isolation and aloneness.

The Americans named their space missions after the gods of Greek and Roman mythology.

apollo11_launchThe early programs of Gemini conjured the images of the sons of Leda, Castor and Pollux – one immortal, one mortal – but forever bound together when Castor shared his immortality to restore his brother to life, as together they became the Gemini, the guiding gods of sailors. Perhaps as humans we held aspirations that Space might bring to us an immortality.

Other programs were called Apollo and Mercury – suggesting the mythologies of bearing messages from the gods and the many power of the gods over human existence.

The Americans sure knew how to elevate their science experiments onto a grander scale of meaning making.

jl781_rMeanwhile, the Russians – no less intent on space mastery – and in indeed ahead of the Americans in terms of unmanned launches – famously gave their projects a characteristically Russian name – Sputnik.

I remember my mum talking about the Sputnik. It sounded quirky and cute. And she said it with a kind of eastern European mimicry.

Apollo 11 simply sounded awesome.

Just recently, doing the General Knowledge crossword in the Saturday paper, I learned that Sputnik means ‘fellow traveller’.

I don’t think one can infer too much about the theologies of the American or Russian people or even their scientific communities as a whole from the way they named their early space programs. And perhaps the political analysts might see these as inherent expressions of opposing philosophies – Russian socialism acclaimed in the fellow traveller or companion/comrade, and Western hierarchies of meritocratic power enshrined in the icons of super-humans and demi-gods.

But it does provoke the personal question – when I look up into the vast expanse of space and consider the nature of what kind of force or being might envelope or spark and fuel or give life to it all – do I imagine an Apollo or a Sputnik? A super-powered god or a fellow traveller?

What do I seek as I am hurtled spinning through this cold cosmos? A god or a fellow traveller?

These days, I confess I am far more drawn to the Sputnik than I am to the Apollo.

I blame my Bible reading of course.

In the ancient narratives of nomads, the protestations of the prophets, the grist of the gospels and the snippets of epistles I see the God who joins us as a fellow traveller. The Sputnik God. The God who ‘rolls out his swag’ and moves into the neighbourhood.

For some people, the Space programs ended their quest for God. If God were out there in space we would find him when we went there.

But perhaps for others, the Sputnik God was never out there, but always a fellow traveller here with us. Maybe better known as the Emmanuel God-with-us.

As I have come to know this Sputnik God. And I’ve realized that all around me are other God-given Sputniks. If you are one of them, you know who you are.

And most miraculously of all – the contained, frightened, isolated, nauseous little girl is a sputnik herself to others. Sometimes I even think I come into land, and a few of the barrel staves peel off and I crawl out a little…

Who we imagine God to be creates a template for who we will be for others. The image of a powerful Apollo has always played a part in authorizing humans to claim powerful, unchallengeable messages of dominance.

On the otherhand, the Sputnik, fellow traveller God – the incarnate, Jesus, Beloved of God, makes for us a way to be fellow travellers, companions on the way for each other…to infinity and beyond.

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If you’ve ever been dead

March 25, 2016

 

 

 

jesu-pada_384x292

If you’ve ever been dead

then you’ll know what I mean

in the dirt and the worms

how it’s hard to keep clean

 

If you’ve ever been killed

then you’ll know how the quiet

is hollow and dreadful

yet feels loud as a riot

 

If you’ve ever been slaughtered

you know it’s not pretty

face down in the dump

outside of the city

 

If you’ve ever been pierced

by a thorn or a sword

or the thousand small cuts

of the well meaning word

 

If you’ve ever been slain

by benevolent power

by the armies of time

by small turns of the hour…

 

Though, was it the state?

or the mob crying loud?

or the church? or the kiss

of your friend in the crowd?

or

was it your words?

or was it your deeds?

was it just that the grain

grows alongside the weeds?

 

was  it just the plain bloodlust

of men bent to kill?

or was it your faith?

or was it God’s will?

 

was is just wanton?

was it a waste?

was it a sacrifice?

was it  disgrace?

 

was it a debt ?

was it the doubt?

was it  inevitable

time would run out?

 

if you’ve ever been dead

you’ll have seen the mark

of blood where God lay

in the dead of the dark

You’ll know that he’s been there

laid out on slab stone

with faith all in shreds

and hope bare as a bone

 

If you’ve ever been dead

you’ll know this strange thing

in death there is neither

criminal or king

 

In death only God,

only love with such  strength

just love of such holy

depth height breadth and length

if you’ve ever been dead

then you’ll know theres a crack

in the cosmos

where God’s love breaks death

and comes back.

 

 

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Safe Schools Coalition:5 questions to ask yourself

March 18, 2016
 

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5 questions to ask yourself before weighing in with an opinion about the Safe Schools Coalition Resources for Teachers.
1) Have you read all of the lesson plans and viewed all of the videos. All of it. If not…go and do it.. If you don’t have time to do this, on what grounds do you think you have a place in the conversation?
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2) What do you understand about the culture and practice of the secondary school education system in your state? When was the last time you
a) were in a class of year 7s or 8s?
b) viewed any standard curriculum documents or resources used by teachers?
c) considered what processes you think are meant by the phrase ‘teach in school’?
.
3) Are you aware of what is currently already taught schools about gender and sexuality in the context of the social sciences; history; cultural studies; anthropology; health?
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4) Have you spent time listening to at least one young person you know under the age of 18 who identifies as gay, intersex, non binary or transgender about their experience in school?.
5) Have you spent time listening to at least on parent of a young person who identifies as gay, intersex, non binary or transgender about their parenting experience and school interactions?
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Schools are easily turned into ideological battlegrounds. From many sides. Perhaps there is already a feeling among some that the Safe Schools Coalition has launched the first mortar with its curriculum. Or perhaps others feel it is conservative groups that have come out all guns blazing without warning.
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Our children are not well served when we fight over the rights to influence them, as if they were blank slates upon which we can write our preferred version of humanity.
Often this aspiration for our young comes more from a sense of disappointment or disgust with ourselves as adults than a respectful regard for the agency and wellbeing of the young.
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Schools are notoriously neglected and misunderstood politically, but occasionally become a flash point for this or that hot-button issue. There is always much public swashbuckling ‘all play’ mayhem when school issues arise, as most of us went to school and so have a reservoir of personal experience and turbulent emotion to fuel plenty of rhetoric and grandstanding, mostly composed of broad generalisations from personal anecdotes. Schools, however are not a direct pipeline into the minds of young people. If we are concerned about the models of sexuality impressed upon the young (and it is well that we are) there are two places we also should engage critically: the images of the mass media, and the models of adult relationships in the lives of young people.

What kind of sexual formation can we expect for a generation of children whose adults behave sexually as this generation does? Whose media will use sex to sell anything? Who have made the young body an insanity inducing fixation of power, inadequacy, perfection and maleability?

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A brewing question for faith communities is: how could we provide a ‘safe churches’ resource that addressed the gender and sexuality issues of the ‘safe schools’ coalition project?
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Current ‘Safe Churches’ material focuses on the protection of children from adult abuse and the protection of adults in leadership and the institutions that employ them from opportunities, appearances and accusations of impropriety.
This is undeniably important and necessary.
But there are surely other ways in which churches may be threatening or damaging to emerging and diverging identities of young people. A very simple example arose this week as a local church advertised a youth event called ‘The Sex Factor’ for years 7 -12, with no indication that female voices would give a lead alongside the two males who are in charge. Does this not seem fraught?
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If nothing else, the Safe Schools Coalition draws our attention to the difficulties that young people face in communities that lack the language, culture, courage or skills to recognise and embrace the diversity of human identities through sex and gender.
It is, I think, especially important for churches who hold a theology of heterosexual normativity to do robust and detailed work on how this theology can positively account for the phenomenon of non-binary gender and sexuality. ‘Normativity’ has been harnessed to ‘legislative limitation’ and ‘theological imperative’ and ‘exclusivity’ by less than logical or healthy means. It is bewildering to see conservative responses focus on re-asserting blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls models: we can do better. Scripture (totally devoid of blue and pink categorisations) holds better than this.
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Whether we think same sex attraction is an abomination or fabulous, whether we approve of surgical responses to  gender dysphoria or reject the oppression of women through the normalisation of cosmetic surgery, there is more to this conversation than asserting the moral dimensions of gender and sex.
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In a recent QandA episode Lyle Shelton commented on the influence of ‘gender theory’ in the safe schools material, questioning this ‘theory’ as an appropriate basis for the formation of our children.
I have spent a lot of time studying gender theory, particularly in relation to children – ancient and contemporary. I find it more useful than Lyle does. But one thing I agree with him on: theory is not enough.
We must, in the end, respond to the real, actual, living, breathing people in our community. Not just theoretical sexuality, or ideological genders.
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Arguments about whether our sexuality and gender is genetic or cultural is fruitless – because a genetic condition is neither more nor less defining than culture or nurture.  When theological appeals turn to ‘scientific’ naturalistic determinism  for validation, we know we are floundering.
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All kinds of factors shape our identities. Some factors are deeply imbedded beyond the reach of our conscious choice, and others ebb and flow responding to nurture, opportunity, modelling and decision. What a beautiful, mysterious, sacred thing it is to be human, each of us in a way that no other human ever is or was.
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So we must truck with those who we share with in life, and take time to hear each story in order to understand better.
This task will require much more listening than speaking.
But when it does come to speaking, whatever we want to say about the safe schools curriculum, it must be said looking one another straight in the eye, from an informed and considered perspective that understands what is already being taught, and how it is being taught in schools, and how young people are being shaped by the larger narratives of society around them.
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Ash Wednesday

February 10, 2016
Dollarphotoclub_67588616.jpg
I am but dust and ash
pasted together
given for a time
the breath of God
in several million
sniffs and puffs
each day I flake off
tiny fragments
of worn out
used up me
dust that falls to the ground
and I ooze fluid
up through my pores
to become vapor
misting off into the breeze
 
I am but dust and ash
rocky bits of carbon
given for a time
a throbbing pulse
of several billion
tiny tides
out and in
 
one day
ash and dust
shall unglue
and the tide go
in endless ebb
and the life on loan
shall return to the giver
whose life it always was
and is and ever will be
the only Life
the only Source
the only God
 
totally undone
yet become whole
 
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