Archive for the ‘Voice’ Category


The Census and what really counts.

August 4, 2016


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?


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.


The Student’s Speech, the King’s Speech and Smoothing Speaking Spaces

November 9, 2013

There’s an Upworthy clip going around this week, that shows a young highschool student who addresses his year at school. He has been bullied in younger years, and speaks with a significantly disruptive stammer.

watch a teenager bring his class to tears by just saying a few words

The clip shows a teacher trying the ‘King’s Speech’ manouvre on him. He puts on headphones and listens to music while he speaks, and his speech becomes significantly smoother. This is not hard to understand. Our brains are so easily deceived. We know this.

It is, of course,  wonderful to see a young man at this pinnacle moment in his highschool journey being given a voice and listened to by his peers.

But I found myself in the strange position of watching this clip while another young man was finding his voice, not far from me. And the juxtaposition of these two students and speakers made for some interesting questions.

In the next room, my son was preparing a presentation for American History, assembling a slide show of powerful images from the Vietnam War, and recording a commentary of reflections on the impact these images had on the American population, and the civic and political discourse surrounding the war.

Every so often, as he was recording, his speech stumbled. It was late at night, and he was under time pressure. I could feel him rushing.  Everyone makes errors of speech in these situations.

But I also know that this young man not so many years ago, assessed by the speech pathologist, rated an average 7 stammers of speech per 10 words. That was a lot of bumpy talking.

I remember the long, painful (and expensive) process of going to our appointments every week for a year and a half, and the every day routines and exercises we did. It was emotionally expensive, trying to motivate him to go, and when I failed in motivating, having to just be that big bad momma and make him go. I remember the attentiveness it required of me as his primary support person in the therapeutic endeavor, to give him feedback on every phrase he uttered from morning to night. ‘That was really smooth…Good job…Great smooth sentence there…really smooth talking, mate…that was a bump…”.

I had to try to keep a ratio of 5 praises of smooth speech for every time I identified a ‘bump’. But I also had to try to call every bump I heard. We played therapy game after game, we made recordings of his speech, we kept a log book.

Those of you who know me personally know that I have a great capacity for intensity, which this required, but my appetite for record keeping and administrative detail is feeble, as are my skills. Nevertheless this is what we did, kept the log, did the routines, charted the stats, together. I think this process of re-learning, and transformation has shaped my understanding of human learning and change more deeply than any other pedagogy or educational philosophy. He barely remembers much of this process now, six years later, but his speech remains steady, confident, smooth.

When I saw ‘The Kings Speech’ I loved the scene with the phonograph. I loved the little colonial oasis of the Australian family in Harley Street, which stirred in me that slightly proud but mostly awkward awareness of how unmaskable my Australianism is when I am in the UK, and the complete betrayal my own speech is in that context.

But I also simply cried through the entire film, my heart most strongly connecting with Bertie’s wife (well, who doesn’t secretly wish she was Helena Bonham Carter?) and Lionel, the therapist.

It was the tensions of those who wished the King better, who tentatively, boldly and furtively acted to bring him resources for healing who were the chalk of my bone and salt of my tear. He resented, resisted and rejected them. I know how that feels in such a process.

The story of The King’s Speech’ and the story of my son who, after a year and half of intense work was charting 0 stammers for every 10 words consistently, and now records his own voice expecting a ‘journalist-perfect’ fluidity of speech, these are stories not of instant quick fixes but of committed, determined, painful, relationally demanding work, both for the individual and for their alongsiders.

Going back to the student in the Youtube clip. I wonder if he will one day have such a story. Not just this momentary window of being listened to, and wondered at, but which he cannot be fully present in, as he relies on the distraction and deception of the music in his headphones to enable it to happen.

What I wish him, is alongsiders. Not just those who will stop throwing rocks, but those who will toil with him to clear the rocks over which he stumbled. The role of the class in this student’s life, speech and capacity to find hisvoice is important. He certainly needed them not to bully him. But he also needed more than just to be left alone. He needed them, just as we all do, to be active participants in his healing and empowerment. To make a hospitable space for him.

And, to be fair and honest, others in this cohort, needed this too. The bullies needed active accountability for their speech-malfunction. The malfunction that caused hate and derision, mockery and put-downs to impede their communication of truth.

I wonder what roles we understand ourselves to have in each other’s lives? I am a very shy person. I naturally do not want to comment on anyone’s speech. I would like to sit at the piano all day and make sounds, preferably that no one will listen to. I love words, and I would like to write poetry, but preferably that no one will ever hear. I like the people-less quiet, where I can sort out the many voices in my mind.

But I live in a world of people who struggle to find a smooth path for their voice – for their real voice.

As a mother you do lots of things that are out of your comfort zone. For my son, it was an easy decision to commit to being with him in this. But I am not a mother to everyone. I need a role model for rock clearing and path smoothing for the voices of others.

Of all the Biblical characters who have been my closest friends since childhood, John the Baptist is my favourite. Wild, uncouth, weird, lonely, misunderstood, yet intriguing, passionate, truth-telling, bible-busting, counter-cultural, and he jumps at the presence of Jesus as a foetus! He’s a prophet I can take as a mentor. Sure he’s probably autistic, but that makes him all the more loveable in my book.

And he is the one who repeats the call of Isaiah as the kingdom of God is on the verge of who knows?

“Make the crooked straight and the rough smooth”. (Luke Chapter 3)

And then he goes on to outline the practical stone-shifts his society needed to clear the path for justice and salvation. Soldiers, businessmen, the poor, the rich, all called to clear for each other.

Refraining from being throwers of rocks is not enough.

Let’s be clearers of rocks.

The process of making space, a smooth way, a hospitable territory – whether it be in actual space, or in thought space, or in our speech, it’s a challenge we can respond to as we alongside one another. We can clear the road of bumps for one another as we travel, we can make space for each other as we speak. I wonder also, how we can do this in community, collectively. What would a church, for example, look like that made this rock clearing and road smoothing it’s primary task? After all, John reminds us of the claim that ‘All flesh will see the salvation of God.’ Does that alter our plans at all?




Poems from the Cave III

September 3, 2013

Do not mistake my passion for courage

Nor my love for rightness

I cannot be right about the world, I cannot be sure at all,

But neither can I resist loving it anyway

– when i sense so deeply that it is originally and essentially of God.

Even if I am wrong about this,

which I cannot know, nor can you,

if i sense something is of God,

dare i not love it?

This passion stands not on confidence,

 nor even on conviction

And especially it does not make me brave,

though how i wish it did.

It leaves me

fragile but compelled to care

vulnerable but driven to love

broken but unflinching in devotion

It redeems and yet rends me

barely able to breathe

twitching my toes on the bridge of insanity

and with words and language left behind

several miles back

at the last stop.

Yet it calls and carries me

and is enough


to heal

to feed

to nourish

to reeconcile

to embrace

to sustain

to revive

to enchant

to delight

to inspire

to overflow

to fuel

faith without seeing

grace without guarding

love without knowing.

So don’t mistake

this passion for courage

or love for rightness


a new blade cuts through

September 2, 2013

What will become?

What becomes of this pain?

Will it twist and gnarl me

Will it bind and restrain

Constrict and contort

All my features and fronds

Will strangle the life

It contains in its bonds


What will become?

What becomes of this fear?

Will keep me in neutral

Or throw reverse gear?

Will it knock out my brains

and wipe out my thought?

Anaesthetized mind

 In paralysis caught?


What will become?

What becomes of these lies?

Are they filters between me

And everyone’s eyes

Will they take o’er the story

Writing pages ahead

Will they plot me

and edit my character dead?


What will become

What becomes of these seeds?

Some on the path, in the rocks

With the weeds,

Those wasted and barren are easily seen

But yet others fall where a ploughman has been

On soft open earth

So hidden from view

And in grace it is these that will yet grow anew


Look what’s become!

Of the pain, fear and lies

They’re dead and decaying

These are their last cries

And what sprouts the surface?

With passion and zeal

Sharp green blades – of life! –

Cut through to what’s real

To the manifest blue and the full solar force

And weather of wisdom.

Transformed at the source

well hidden below in the nurture of earth

Pain busted open giving powerful birth

Fear its hard casing dissolved in the loam

And Lies are found groundless and love is at home.


questions of hope, humans and the lunchtime philosopher

August 7, 2013

The building in which I study holds up a decent cultural life.

ImageThere is always a current exhibition of art in the foyer,  the main hall is a popular venue with chamber ensembles as a rehearsal and performance space and there’s a healthy series of lunchtime seminars by faculty and visiting scholars. 

As I am interested in (ok, obsessed with) the ways in which theology is ‘taught’ or ‘presented’ or ‘communicated’ in every sphere of human community, but especially in the academy, I take every opportunity I can to observe a theologian or biblical scholar in a live setting, strutting their stuff.

Don’t get too excited: with a few notable exceptions, there is very little, if any actual strutting. We’re lucky if the average, or even exceptional, scholar is adventurous enough to try both standing and talking.

Sitting in the chair reading is the conventional posture, in case you were unaware and wondering.

This afternoon the Centre for Ministry and Theology, hosted a seminar by a guest Jesuit scholar – and Christian Philosopher from the US. He presented a beautiful exploration of the dimensions of Hope. I loved it.

For a number of decades now, I have pursued the practice of asking academic theologians this one same question: I will ask if, and how, the ideas they have explored speak to the whole of human life – in particular to those who are under 12 years of age. I generally hold back and let others ask questions first. If there’s no time for my question I let it go.

Because, I have discovered over years and years of asking this question, that the quality of answer is usually extremely disappointing, as it was today.

The common shape of the answer, as today, is

‘I haven’t thought about it, I leave that up to people who have more contact with children than I do.’

Today, as many times before, the speaker found themselves in unfamiliar territory – and he began to bumble around. The quality of his thought weakened. The room became a little bored. I’m used to this, but I don’t think it’s because others in the room necessarily had disdain for a question about children as such – simply, that he wasn’t saying anything clear or helpful in response. Even I got bored – and I’m quite invested int he topic!

And so today, I witnessed again the cycle that leaves our theologies anthropologically weak and flawed.

It is perfectly acceptable for a scholar to have a multi-decade career and never think of humans as other than adults.

When asked to address the wider (and fundamental) dimensions of human life scholars have little to offer.

Listeners experience the questions of younger-years anthropological implication as basically unfruitful, and so these questions are not pursued in the academy, the marginalisation of the first decades of life continues in our theological and philosophical constructs.

In theology and christian philosophy, childhood remains Socrates’ unworthy ‘unexamined life.’

I grounded my question in some of his own material on the ‘greater (eschatological) hope and  ‘lesser’ hopes – science and progress and freedom. In my mind there is lots of interesting content in the interconnection between human life as child and these ‘lessser’ hopes – particularly in dialogue with the Zeitgeist philosophers of the past 2 centuries who have not posited science, progress and freedom as ‘lesser’ but great hopes. And in so doing have impoverished our sense of humanity, especially among the least and the little.

The object of my inquisition today, after a few minutes of ramble – including ‘I don’t have any children, so I defer to those who do’ and some strange comments about the observation that children collect dinosaurs,  concluded that he had only given very woolly answers because he didn’t have anything much to say.

At least he was honest.

It is rare in other conditions for a scholar to invoke the pretext that lack of concrete experience of something disbars one from considering it’s philosophical content. Besides which every single scholar whom I have ever met or proposed this question to had for a good many years actually been a child. Not one of them could claim an exemption.

There is plenty of great writing and thinking being done specifically about children as children. “Bring it on!” I cheer. But this is not the same as those who think  they are thinking about the basic, normative humanness, and seeking to make philosophical or theological claims about humans, not thinking intentionally about children as the primary normative human. Statistically at least, we must admit that many more humans start and finish life as children than as adults.

Today’s seminar was on Hope.

I hope that one day, when I raise my hand and ask this question of a speaker, they will look me confidently in the eye and say –

“I have thought about this as a matter of anthropological priority – and I can assure, I stand by everything I have proposed today to be equally helpful – or challengeable in reference to children as to adults. Next question.”

Here’s hoping…


It’s ok. You’re alright.

June 23, 2013

Great Television Impact Moments – I guess we all have them. For those old enough –  the first moon landing, the dismissal of  a prime-minister or the death of a princess. For a more recent generation – the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 – a moment played over and over. For some of my dearest, it is the first televised sporting events – or those in which Australians have had their finest hour in the international sporting arena. I’m sure we all have the visual media moments that have left an imprint upon us.

I actually rarely enjoy watching television. It mostly makes me sad and angry.

But even I have some Great TV Impact Moments from my childhood: watching the Vietnam War was terrifying, but more warmly,  the closing song at the end of Adventure Island each week which was filled with friendly smiles and the opening credits theme music of the 70s series ‘Black Beauty’ in which I simultaneously developed a school-girl crush on a horse and the timpani. 

The first (Money Money Money) and last (MacArthur Park) performances of Tina Arena on Young Talent Time are recorded in slo-mo detail in my memory. After young Talent Time was axed and I went to university, had a brief dalliance with the early D-Gen, Good News Week, a few episodes of Blackaddder and Red Dwarf and then lost interest altogether.

But in the last decade, there is one piece of television that has stayed with me, haunting and yet with striking clarity.

In 2008 Andrew Denton did a piece called Angels and Demons in which he  subjected himself to the simulated common experience of many sufferers of unsteady mental health. He wore an mp3 player for several hours of the day which simulated aural disturbances, voices, expletives, sounds and ringing, whilst he tried to go about his normal day.

He found it – well, maddening.

His own immersion journalism was placed in dialogue with interviews with several people who have suffered various forms of mental health challenges. These were all so painfully honest, desperate, vulnerable and yet commanding and  awe-inspiring at the same time. The richness as well as the ruined-ness of humanity was evident in each person each interaction.

But one interview impacted me more powerfully than any – you could say that it took possession of me or that I owned it – it’s hard to know sometimes which way it is when we identify with something so strongly.

A young woman called Heidi described one distressing episode in which she lost the plot in a public space.

In her own words here:

HEIDI EVERETT: Yeah. Well, there was this time right, there was an ant and it was just walking around and I totally went into its world, and I was walking around with the ant in the pavement. And then um this person walked past and she said something to me and that’s when I realised I was in the ant’s world and I wasn’t in the person’s world. And I couldn’t get back into my body so I watched my body get up um and it started screaming and just going completely primeval. It was just, just screaming and rrraaaahh…down the road and I ran into the traffic and people were going get her out of the traffic and everything, and I’m like aahh … and I was over here watching it all happen from outside, and eh it was a terrifying, terrifying moment and um I eventually came back into my body and I was able to control it and bring it back under control and they just left me on the side of the road um in the gutter and I just sat in the gutter trying to compose myself and um started crying and everything cos I’d never been like that experience before and nobody helped me; everyone just left..

ANDREW DENTON: Why do you reckon no one helped you? That’s amazing.

HEIDI EVERETT: People were terrified. They were terrified; cos I was I looked like a banshee. I was just going aahh…down the road and people were just frightened. They didn’t know what was happening to me and I didn’t know what was happening to me.

And then Denton asks the best question in the world:

             ANDREW DENTON: What would you have liked someone to have done?

What a great question – it recognises both the  real need for help, the incapacity, but also the still active functioning and present person of will and feeling and preference. The ambiguous human.

It was a great question, but it was Heidi’s answer that was the moment of truth.

HEIDI EVERETT: I would have liked somebody to come up to me and say right, Heidi, just relax. Just relax. It’s OK. It’s OK, you know. That would have been good if somebody just said it’s OK, you’re all right. 

Someone to say “It’s Ok, You’re all right”. 

What kind of words are these? Such a simple sentence – not the kind you think you’d need a psych degree for, or training in pastoral care.

“It’s Ok, You’re all right”. 

Reassurance. Acceptance. Hope. Presence. Recognition. 

I don’t know how you hear her answer. Whether you believe her, or whether you are sceptical about that making a difference.

But I certainly am willing to take her word for it.

I have been there.

On both sides. I have been the one in such disorder and distress, suchdamage and derangement. And have had the steady voice speak over me: ‘It’s ok, you’re all right. I am here and you are here. We are here in this place. It is now. It is all right.’

– the voice of reassurance, acceptance, hope, presence, recognition.

And it’s been a very long time since I have been there, because those living words are words that are in themselves moments of great impact. Whether as incantation of prayer or as neruo-reprogramming or as re-telling the story – whatever you think – they have brought hope and healing.

But I have been on the other side too – I have been the voice for others, that says that simple sentence. “It’s Ok, you’re all right” – when they could not speak it or see it of feel it or know it for themselves. Such a simple sentence. I don’t have a psych degree and I got through my whole theology Masters without taking a single pastoral care subject. There is a time for all of that. But in the midst of the terror…

Reassurance, acceptance, hope, presence, recognition.

Something that anyone can do.

This Great Impact Moment came to the surface this week as I read Simon Carey Holt’s beautiful poetic story of such an encounter on Melbourne tram.

Read this moving poem/blog  in which simple, naive, even ‘ignorant’ words somehow made a difference a moment of impact in grief or distress: