Archive for the ‘peace’ Category


On any given day…

January 25, 2017


On any given day

you just don’t know

which demons from history’s distant land

will walk in through the door

and say “I’ve come to shake your hand”


On any given day

you just don’t know

what strange log will fall

right in your way

diverting your steps a little

on that given day

and bending around

so as not to have faltered

you well may be saved

but your path ever altered


On any given day

you just don’t know

what new story you will hear

and so make lies of a truth

you had once held dear

or what your eyes

will yet perceive

making true what you dared not

before believe.


On any given day

you just don’t know

with what labour

the hour shall be tasked

that  yesterday you could not

have imagined being asked

On any given day.


Any given day is but

a gift  unknown unseen

any given day

these fraught and fragile futures

that have – as yet – never been

which on any given day

can unwrapped and opened be

for those who any given day would dare

and are given gifted free.


four o clock brain

September 28, 2015

the four o’clock brain
wrings itself out
all its putrid dishwater
the mopped up
thoughts and feelings
dripping down
the inside of my skull
befouling the backs of my eyeballs

twitches and sounds
disrupt my rest
but I am the source of the disturbance

I rise to act

to distract
boil the kettle
wash the day’s past dishes
[always wise to leave a task for such a purpose]
make coffee
escape into the garden

the moon was large
and beautiful
and too bright to look at directly
this morning at 4:30 am.
Just for about 20 minutes
before it sank below the city horizon
I sat and stared at it
through the filter of the dark branches
of the liquid amber
while a single magpie
sang over me
sang over the morning

what strange prayers
we humans pray
stuck in our moment
yet conversing with eternity

what strange faith
I have received
that I would whisper words to God
at four and five in the morning
and expect to be heard
when a magpie carol
much sweeter sounds can offer

other birds sang
in complex layered loops
far off
and the gently the hum of the freeway
below me
rose and rose
restoring to my awareness
the other humans
the world

the cool fresh on my cheek
the hot cup in my hand
the huff of my breath
visible warmth in the chill air before me
evidence that I am alive

I down my coffee
bringing familiar comfort
bringing the flavour of courage
to close my eyes
and take my crumpled mind,
now rinsed and flapped and flattened a bit
still a little damp
inside the house
and I sleep again.



June 16, 2014
Grief stricken american soldier; Haktong-ni area of Korea, 28 August 1950

Grief stricken american soldier; Haktong-ni area of Korea, 28 August 1950













will I ever be well again?

will I ever be whole?
If I grit my teeth
and stretch and strain
will I attain such a goal?

will I ever be strong again?
will I ever be brave?
If I set my face
and I raise my chin
will I dare to come out of the cave?

will I ever be useful again?
will I ever serve the cause I believe?
If I penitent crawl
and recant it all
will the powers yet grant a reprieve?

will I ever be normal again?
will I ever come close?
if I paint my face blank
and sing the same tune
will I strike a convincing pose?

will I ever belong again?
did I ever belong before?
we are born in the like
of the God spurned and killed
and our souls with each other still war

will I ever be real again?
no – not any more real than this
for I breathe in the atoms
of rocks and of waves
and the wind that stirred the abyss

oh, Christ of the whole
the ravaged, yet real
your used flesh and cast aside bones
your sick’ning death warns
of our terrible selves
and yet, reconciles all it owns

all you assumed
is somehow redeemed
in this murderous plot of deceit?
Can our streams of bitterly
acidly tears
no longer sting but pour sweet?

Yes – when shed for another’s pain
singing laments lacrymose –
of those locked out and locked up and locked in
those crushed and crunched in cathedrals of spin
those non-conforming non-compus non-grata
enigmatically ensconced in statistics and data
those not on the black and white-pink or blue end
those on the spectrum where the colours and categories blend
those invisible, vulnerable, valuable freaks
ignored or condemned when culture speaks –

If such sweet tears upon your cheeks stain
they be shed like Christ’s blood, for those.


Hear many voices; Be many times sorry

May 26, 2014

indigenous map

Multivocality, apart from being the name of my blog, really is one of my favourite things about reality
– Bach chorales
– good conversations
– my husband’s readings of A.A. Milne
– pentecostal worship before it went mainstream and marketable
– Robin Williams’ Genie in Aladin
– the way I think

and of course, the deepest truth-telling I know – the multivocality of the Bible.

Today, on National Sorry Day, this map reminds me:
hear many voices…be many times sorry.


sometimes we break

July 1, 2013

sometimes we break
sometimes we can’t hold together

-the sinews strain
we inhabit the creative tension,
we adrenalise in the challenge:

the exercise of risk,
the leap o’er hurdle
and the pushed-on pace
make us stronger

but sometimes we break
sometimes we can’t hold together

sometimes the invisible grace holds us
the miracle manna appears
and the stricken rock pours forth and sustains
and the precariousness of existence
brings us precious gifts from God
and our faith thickens and glistens
healthy and full.

but sometimes we break
sometimes we can’t hold together

and the God of sustaining and and securing
the God of saving and strengthening
becomes for us the God of emptying
the God of reliquishment
the God of release
of a pouring out of a different kind
the God of the Spent, and Wasted
who is the God of the unencumbered,
the unburdened,
the free.

God of the broken hearted and the empty hearted
there is yet more room in our hearts for you
than in those who are filled and rich
sealed and secured.
we are for you the open hearted.

Boston, disability and apathy.

April 24, 2013

I subscribe to a news feed called ‘Disability Scoop’ which tracks the incidence of ‘disability’ related stories in the media.

Over the past decade as I have waded deeper into the theological discourse around  children and age and maturity, theology of (dis)ability has become a natural interest, provocateur and conversation partner. It seems that once we depart from the hegemonic mainstream of independent free-agent rationalist culpable anthropology, everyone gets lumped together as ‘the exception’.

So for example when orthodoxy speaks of  repentance and reconciliation with God,  the ‘norm’ assumes a rational, intentional, act of intellectual acquiescence of the will, or as our shorthands cast it, ‘making a decision for Christ’, ‘accepting the gospel’, ‘choosing to follow Jesus’.  Though they are framed in the regenerative initiative of the Spirit, the idea of ‘decision’ and especially in reformed theology, making one’s own decision (reverberating against historical practices of mediator priests) forms the key criterion of ‘conversion’ and ‘faith’. Where children, or those with (dis)abilities or mental illness are judged not to be of a constitution that might be held rationally accountable for their independent decisions, theology has typically shifted into exceptional or provisional mode.

The problem here is that the percentage of Australians who experience mental illness is between 40-50% depending on gender, 2% of the population have a diagnosed intellectual disability, children account for around 20% of the population and around 20% of Australians register in the bureau of statistics as having a disability. The ‘exceptional’ category here is bursting at the seams.

These categories do not all speak of impairment of judgement – far from it. But the theological fantasy of  a human able and accountable in intellect, body  and psyche to make free will decisions of eternal import leaves most of us out at least at some points in our chronology human existence.

Which is precisely the important contribution that (dis)ability theologies make. We are all both abled and disabled. The tiny embryo, the President of South Africa, the Octogenarian who is house-bound and the teenager with autism all have both great ability, as well as real limitations. Here we are offered the generous idea of humanness as intrinsically ‘ambiguous’, and  affirmation that the ambiguity is good. (If you are interested in pursuing this idea further, I recommend Deborah Beth Creamer, Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities. (2010). It’s in the Dalton McCaughey Library for the Melbournites.(dis)Ability theology challenges the normativity of the rationalist free-willed human and the primary task of faith as believing certain things, which then are verified and expressed through consequent behaviours. Rather, the diversity and ambiguity of humanity articulated, and given voice in (dis)ability (and child) theologies calls us to re-examine the breadth and depth and multiformity of the gospel.

Across the past decade, exploring disability and child theology, raising my own children, wrestling with my own mental tectonic rumbles and workshopping an autism diagnosis in the family with a thoroughness that only the survival instinct inspires, the profile of disability and the ‘non-normative’ has become, well, normative.

So it was with interest that I saw that Disability Scoop channeled an article about the Boston Marathon bombing.
They reported –

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two alleged bombers, spent time volunteering with an organization that promotes social and employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities while he was in high school.

In a statement, Best Buddies International acknowledged that Tsarnaev participated in their program — which pairs students in one-on-one relationships with peers who have intellectual disabilities — during the 2010 academic year through a chapter at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Mass.

Bombing suspect had tie to special needs community

The article goes on to make it clear that Tsarnaev had no further connection with the Best Buddies program and to maintain a safe distance from his current reputation, one of violence and public outrage. I wonder what we think the significance of his former role is?

Are we surprised that a bomber was a buddy? Do we think this is a conflict of ethos, or demonstrate consistency in personal integrity.

Are we shocked at the history of compassion in one who has been revealed to us only through an act of violence? Are we being encouraged to construct a narrative that moves from one with compassion for others to one of heartless destruction?

Or, do we see the thread of concern linking a student who cares and engages with peers whose inclusion required active advocacy and countercultural mechanisms to catalyse connection, and the young man who intentionally risks his own safety in order to express resistance to  something yet to be identified and articulated.

We are perhaps trying to second guess what that resistance might be, and certainly early media insinuations solicit our imaginations to recreate a religious and politically fuelled motivation. We do well though to exercise our own little bit of (non-violent) resistance to these, as-yet, unsubstantiated hypotheses. The jury is not only, still out, it not yet in.

One thing stands though. The two vignettes I have of Tsarnaev’s life show me a man who cared about things beyond himself. This is a rare thing. I am not sanctifying or justifying his actions. But I note that for a person to live a life of both compassion and non-apathy, to take seriously the things that confront us is a difficult and probably disruptive life.

I admire and align myself with the anabaptist traditions of non-violence as a strategy for conflict resolution and as a way of living and being in the world. I can’t say I support the actions of Tsarnaev. But I recognise in him a person who cares, and acknowledge that his actions, though bloody and tragic both for him and others are perhaps not senseless, compassionless cold-heartedness. If we are stirred with grief on behalf of those who are mourning, or if we experience anger at the injustice of the damage, it seems we may share more with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev than we might first imagine.

Life on the fringes of the prophetic has taught me that to care deeply takes courage and will injure me – it is not a safe path. To disallow the tides of apathy to carry us out to drift on the ocean of overwhelmed impossibility, is to be disruptive in some way or another. If there was one thing that would entirely upset our world today- it would be an explosion of justice and peace. I tender that we would so barely survive, that we would need to be made wholly new, but let us pray and pursue it anyway.


the Prophetic voice

October 19, 2012

I hear the objections to extreme language (eg. ‘parasites’) that Vinoth uses.

While not acquainted personally with Vinoth, those I know who are assure me of his respectfulness, graciousness and humility. This is not to enter into a debate about Vinoth’s character (so completely inappropriate as that would be), but rather to help highlight that I think a post like ‘Not the economy, Stupid’ exercises a particular ‘voice’ which some of the commentators here seem to have missed.

Vinoth’s post, more than a self-indulgent venting of personal opinion (to which we are all entitled), stands firmly in the prophetic tradition. Here are a set of conventions of communication. Restrained, detatched clinicality, is rightly set aside in favour of the impassioned, extreme advocacy for the poor and vehement criticism of the rich, according to the rhythms and rhetorics of the prophets, with quite a bit of name calling; Amos who called rich women ‘cows’ and Jeremiah who called the people of God ‘dung’ – though here in Australia, we’d parse that with a bit more frankness. In my view, by Hebrew Bible prophetic standards, ‘Not the economy, stupid’ is only in third gear – it could be more extreme.

The idea of eschewing ‘bias’ in political discussion seems to have eluded the prophets. An out and out bias for the poor, in unbalanced, almost unbearably emotionally honest, searing expressions from the Biblical Prophets makes the standard ‘leftist’ talking points seem middle of the road and respectable. And this is not what is required.

The invocation of the prophetic voice is not to abandon reason, but to express truth which is stronger than mechanical rationalism or polite intellectualisma. ‘Constructive Dialogue’ is important, but debate that is perceived as ‘even’ can actually be contrived, or even worse, neutered. Life is far from ‘fair’ for most of the world, so the notion of a ‘fair exchange’, in terms of removing bias, is somewhat ill-fitting for such a topic.

This is no to say Vinoth’s post doesn’t make sense, or engage us intellectually – there is no shortage of strong argument here – but it is not tempered with hedged emotion, or disinterest.

I have minimal interest in the roadshow of American politics, but I have a great interest in the ways we speak about humans. Classic ‘red vs blue’ or Oxford style debates which pretend a ‘level playing field’ and proceed ostensibly in pitting reason against reason, perpetuate the myth that appeals to rationality are more reliable than righteousness, that justice is subject to individual judgement, and detached argumentation is morally superior to impassioned objection.

The God of the Hebrew Prophets knew no such restraint. Appropriately in this forum – a public blog – Ramachandra also relinquishes the faux voice of restrained niceties, in favour of the full- throttled hyperbole of prophetic calling names and calling to account.

The voice of reason is one of the ‘Gods that fail’.

Vinoth Ramachandra

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” was Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign slogan in 1992.

Economics began as the science of political economy, but now most conventional economists regard the economy as a quasi-autonomous area of human interactions, shaped by trade and technology far more than politics. How refreshing, then, to discover two recent books by Nobel Prize-winning economists- Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz- who emphasize the role that politics has played in bringing the American economy to where it is today. (In the interests of transparency, let me say that I have not read either book, only browsed them in bookstores and read some reviews.)

We all know that the biggest transformation in the American economy since the 1980s has been the stagnation of the middle classes and the dramatic rise of the “1%”- the “super-rich” to which men like Mitt Romney belong. In the five years to 2007, the top…

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