Of Wisdom and Knowledge

The answers are here,

Though they may not come quick,

They won’t be found by scrolling

Or with one single click

It will take time and dedication

Long hours of hard graft

But the acquiring of wisdom

Is like any other craft

It’s repetition and practice

Until the skill you master

There’s no other way

To become wise faster

So find you a volume

A quiet place to read

And start the learning adventure

It’s all that you’ll need

 

Padre

Home Philosophy Kit

The Thinker, Rodin, Rodin Museum

Pixabay

I was trying to come up with a suitable gift for a truly amazing young woman.  I first met this lady over a decade ago when she was a struggling single mum with little or no support system.  My wife, Dianne took her under her wing and the friendship followed.  Far from being a stereotype, this young lady has not only entered and graduated from university, but is presently enrolled in a postgraduate course in philosophy, and is considering a career in education.  If this is not impressive enough on its own, I need to add that she has suffered from a chronic illness since she was about fourteen.  I am always impressed by her positive attitude, and willingness to go the step beyond to make her life, and that of her daughter better.

As I said, I was trying to come up with a suitable Christmas present and the idea of a novelty “Home Philosophy Kit,” struck me.

I spent a little bit of time constructing it, but it includes a 3D model of The Thinker (“The Philosopher’s Stone”), a small set of balancing scales (“The Balance of Probability”), a double headed coin (“The Ethical Dilemma Coin”), an inflatable set of antlers set up as a ring toss  (“The Horns of a Dilemma”), and a disposable razor (“Occam’s Razor”).  The set was boxed up and the following instruction sheet attached:

Home Philosophy Kit

Say welcome to your new home philosophy kit.  Once it is completed you will have everything you need to become the most profound thinker on your street.  So let’s begin.

 

Your kit contains:

  • Philosopher’s Stone (some assembly required)

 

  • Ethical Determinate Coin

 

  • Set of Horns of a Dilemma

 

  • Balance of Probability (with easy to follow Mandarin instructions)

 

and

 

  • Occam’s Razor

 

Step one is to assembly your Philosopher’s Stone.  If you have difficulty, weigh the possible pieces on your Balance of Probability.  If still uncertain go for the best two out of three with your Horns of a Dilemma.  If it all becomes too much for you, you can consider applying Occam’s Razor, but before you do you must get two tails flip results on your Ethical Determinant Coin.   Once assembled, use the items in the kit to solve all of life’s big questions, like “What are we going to have for dinner?” and “Is reality over-rated?”

I was pleased that she appreciated the gift, and I hope it gives her a little bit of a diversion from her studies. As a side note, this lady is not only the inspiration for this kit, but inspired the character Maya in my Dunes Wars novels.

 

Padre

Removing the Filters

As Jesus rode into the city, people rushed to find out what the commotion was about. ‘Who is this?’ they asked. – Slide 18

Free Bible Images

In Genesis 1 we are told that we are made in the image of God.  This is not a physical manifestation, but one of nature.  We like Him are creative, we have a moral aspect, we are to oversee the Earth.  “Male and female,” were this made God-like.

We can see as well in Genesis 3:8, that Adam and Eve walked in companionship and relationship with God.

Yet Eve was tempted.  The serpent challenged her to eat from the tree, and she at first objected.   She noted that it was forbidden.

But, Genesis 3: 6 tells us, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

Satan tempted her with the idea that if she ate from the tree she would be more God-like – gaining wisdom.  Eve failed to see she was already in God’s image.  She was already in relationship.  She looked at the situation with several filters.  The practical filter the need for  food, the aesthetic filter of its beauty, but most of all it would “improve” her.

What she actually got was a relationship that was broken.  Sin and corruption entered the world.

But God is a compassionate God,  He opened up a path of return.

Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus is above the angels, and His people are to be served by them as well:  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (vs 14).

Hebrews 2 goes on to say, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?  You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet (vs 2: 6-8).”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them (us).  And why?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8: 29).   We are once again in relationship, but even more so, we are again in the image of God.

But even with all this on offer, so many of us (like Eve) start putting filters or blinders before us.  Lets look at what happened in Mark 11.  On Sunday:

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it,  some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.  When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve (vs. 4-11).

From a earthly point of view “Nothing happened.” Many people, the Zeolots in particular were disappointed.  They wanted an earthly king, someone to save them from the Romans.  But Jesus just departs.  They didn’t get what they wanted.  How many fell away, because they had a filter of political power on their agenda?

On Monday, Jesus returns,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city (vs 15 -19).

Jesus is acting in a righteous manner.  He is seeking to assure the purity of the outer court.  But rather than see their own error, they become angry.  Their own filter of self interest and profit leads Priests, Levites, and merchants fall away.

On Tuesday,

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”  Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things (vs 27 – 33).” 

The Temple authorities and High Priest challenge Him.  They seem to be more interested on “whose turf” it is, than on the Words of God being spoken.  This is an interesting follow up to what happened on one of Jesus’ previous visits in John 7.  Here again the leaders want to silence Him.  They send the guards to arrest Him.  But,

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied (vs. 45 – 46).

The authorities use the filter of privilege, and power.  They thus miss the truth.

Later that day or on Wednesday (the scripture is unclear), there are further confrontations.  The first is about paying the Imperial tax to Caesar.  The Pharisees and Herodians attempt to apply the filter of legalism to silence Jesus.  They fail miserably, and are made to look foolish.

So far Zealots, Merchants, Levites, Priests, Pharisees, and Herodians have cut themselves off from Christ.  Their filtered views of God and righteousness have failed them.

This is next mirrored by the Sadducees.  The use their theological dogmatism as a filter.  They challenge Jesus on the nature of heaven and of an afterlife.  The result of their narrow theological view alienates them from the truth as well.

Sadly even on Thursday Judas, driven by the filter of greed betrays Jesus.  Thirty pieces of silver are more meaningful than his relationship with God, or his own conforming to the image of Christ.

Even sadder is Friday morning.  Peter, his relationship filtered by fear denies he even knows Jesus.

If we look closely we can see that when Jesus spoke uncomfortable truths, people fell away.  The crowds that had praised Him Sunday by Friday were only a handful.  Even most of the Twelve were absent from the cross.

It is a bit like the Parable of Sower.  The Word of God fell on hard, stony. or weedy ground.  Those filters prevented the seed to grow, for true conformity to the image of Christ to manifest itself.  And in so doing relationship was lost.

So what are our personal uncomfortable truths? Is our prayer life what it should be? Is our service dedicated? Do we fall into the wealth and fame trap? Are we conformed to keeping up with  Kardashians rather than being conformed to the image of Christ?

Where are our filters?  Shouldn’t seek the fresh air of the Gospel over any type of filtered air?

Padre

Based on my sermon of 1 Sept 19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairground of Life

IMG_0213

The term, “The Roller Coaster of life,” has often been used to describe the ups and downs, sudden twists, and ever changing nature of life.  While it has some application to life as a whole, it fails to meet the reality of day to day existence.

For many of us life is a carousel of repetition.  We wake, groom, eat, commute, work, socialise, relax, eat, sleep, and start again.  Oh, there are those sudden milestones, of new love, marriage, birth, illness, and bereavement, but we return to the pattern.

And while this is true of us individually, as a society we too move from generation to generation.  Nations rise, and nations fall.   But we continue like the ever turning carousel.

For some this day to day is not a carousel, but a ferris wheel.  There is still the repetition of life, but it is marked by more regular highs and lows – the daily grind and the holidays,  loneliness and companionship.

I have known all three of these rides, and occasionally as with heart attack and cancer life has seemed like the bumper cars as well.  Travelling along blissfully just to be hit broadside.  When my stepdaughter was hit by a car while at a bus stop,  when my wife was diagnosed with cancer on the one month anniversary of our wedding – these unexpected bangs shake us.

But for all of its rides, life still has attraction(s).  Life is never simple.  Life is a fairground.  Let’s enjoy it.

 

Padre

Tale Weaver – #235 – 8th August – Roller Coaster

What Are You Made Of?: A Review

Image result for russian doll traditional wiki

image: Wikipedia

I don’t usually make it a habit to read Christian devotional literature.  The scriptures?Yes.  Theological tomes? Those too.  But not much in the devotional genre.  I generally find them too formulaic and often shallow.

That said, I have recently read Amba Keeble’s What Are You Made Of?, which I found neither shallow nor formulaic.  This devotional work is based on Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, and provides both thoughtful commentary and sincere personal sentiment.

Keeble’s book is rich in analogy and metaphor, and it is written in a very approachable and conversational style.  Her focus question: What are we made of? is a great lens to examine Paul’s letter from.  She humanises this approach to the modern reader by drawing a parallel to reality TV competitions, and the same question as put forward to contestants when they are on the verge of giving up.  What a great Christian parallel!  What are we made of when life is about to “defeat” us?

Sister Amba uses other illustrations which are wonderfully picked as well, such as Russian Stacking Dolls.  She examines these, and how they are constructed from a solid core outwards.  This analogy of a Christ-centred life (a solid core) runs throughout the book.

Popular cultural references as diverse as How the Grinch  Stole Christmas and misaligned shopping trolley wheels engage the reader with familiar modern parables to illustrate the apostle’s timeless words.

Keeble draws her key question together wonderfully in challenging us to live boldly,  live freely,  and to shine forth that which is at our “Russian Doll” cores, in our Christian walk.  I may not be a great fan of devotionals, but this work is one worth reading.

Amba and her husband, Rich are associate pastors at The Abundant Life (AOG) Church in Suffolk.

Padre

 

 

Believe: A Cinquain

 

Related image

 

Believe!

Believe in what?

Believe in you today.

So, I will believe in myself

Today

 

Padre

 

Genre Writing Challenge: Cinquain

Inspired by tanka, the cinquain is comprised of 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in the second line, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth, and 2 in the fifth. Plus, poets have the freedom to add or subtract one syllable from each line.  (Writer’s Digest)

 

[I will make my usual Friday Foodie post tomorrow, sorry for the disruption of my usual blog schedule.]

Where I Stand

imageedit_6_8437876235 (1).jpg

Robin and John, Sherwood Forest

 

This is my place,

Where I’ll make my stand,

To hold my ground,

Defend my land.

 

This little place,

I call my own,

You shall not possess it,

It’s mine alone.

 

How many have stood,

At such a place of impasse,

Treating friends as foes,

Allowing none in – or to pass?

 

Like Robin and John,

Neither willing to retreat,

But an alliance was born,

When Rob admitted defeat.

 

Here now I then stand,

Better together than alone,

Stronger and firmer,

For the friendships I’ve sown.

 

Padre

OFMARIAANTONIA Photo Challenge: Where I Stand

Beyond The Comfort Zone

crossbible

Sister Cheryl brought us a challenging message this week on stepping beyond our comfort zones, and expanding our horizons in God’s service. For many of us the temptation is to stay with what is familiar to us, and to play it safe.  There are several scriptures that address this including the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). And while  the diligent servant in Luke 12:42-43, is rewarded for carrying out his master’s business,  there nonetheless remains a call for further growth.

Okay, growth sounds good.  But moving out of the comfort zone isn’t always easy.  We each have our own points of resistance.  It may be shyness.  It may be time constraints. It may be ego. But these require change to overcome.  Luke 22 gives an example of this,

“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom,just as my Father conferred one on me,  so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (vs 24-30).”

Here we see ego as a hindrance to growth.  Jesus quickly nips it in the bud by turning the idea of greatness of its head.  He says that if they are to be all they can be, they need to give up even the status they presently have.  They are to become like children, and humble themselves.

Jesus then turns the focus onto the process of change. He notes that it is like a threshing,  as He tells Peter what the future holds, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (vs 31-32).” This is a loaded statement.  It notes that Peter will fail (expanded on in verses 33-34), but that he will in turn, be returned, and in the process of sifting, become a strength to others.  Threshing and sifting (beating and being tossed about) are not pleasant propositions, but in prevailing through such tests and trials, growth is achieved.

As we grow, we find new comfort zones. Our horizons are expanded.  And do we rest then? No, we grow again! It may not be easy, but it is rewarding. Paul writes,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us . . . . In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8: 18-30).

Our testings will lead to growth.  Growth in turn will lead to glory.  And what is the point we seek?  To be conformed to the image of Christ.  Now there is a comfort zone to rest in!

Padre

 

Here and Now (2014): A Review

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Wrapt Films

I have done a few film reviews in the past on movies with basically Christian themes. This film is not religious in nature, but presents a wide range of themes which bear considering. This is an incredibly under rated British movie, but one that addresses the very idea of what it means to be British, and sub-themes of bullying, death, and love.

A inner city girl, Grace (Lauren Johns) is taken on holiday by her parents to the rural west country, where she encounters culture shock, a lack of phone signal, and the emotional ride of her parents failing marriage. She discovers SAY, Sidney Arthur Young (Andy Rush) a local boy with country interests, and a very different outlook than her East Ham lifestyle.

This movie develops very slowly, but I don’t think there is a single wasted scene. Everything builds to the climax, and a reveal.  The sub-themes create a tapestry which is completed in the final scenes. There is also some wonderful camera work accenting the majestic landscapes of late summer.

This can be seen as a coming of age film, but not strictly so.  Grace develops and the changes in her are more a matter of quality than of maturing.  There is a fair amount of word play with her name throughout the film, all centering upon the hymn Amazing Grace, it is subtle and has much sub-text as well.

The developing romance of the two central characters is also in contrast with Graces’ previous West Ham boyfriend, which is based on sex and a lack of commitment.  Even the opening scene hints to the shallowness of modern relationship.  This is wonderfully contrasted with the simple sharing of Say’s experiences, interests, and controlled affection.

This is a great film, and one to make us take stock of modern life, our values, and our relationships.  It brings “what really matters” into focus.

Padre

Speaker in Focus – Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

cesar-chavez--mini-biography

Cesar Chavez from Biography.com

It has been some time since I made a public speaking post. Some of my past ones focused on great speakers (such as Lincoln and Churchill) and how their oratory could help aspiring speakers, teachers, and ministers to become more effective.  Today I will bring our focus onto the trade unionist and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

Cesar Chavez was born to a labouring family in the Southwest of the United States. His family faced racism, and economic exploitation and lost their farm to unscrupulous businessmen.  He left school after the eighth grade, and joined his mother as a migrant farm worker.  Despite this harsh start to life he became a union organiser, political activist, and powerful orator.

Chavez’s speeches were direct, and in the language of the people.  This latter point is important.  It was not only that he spoke in Spanish and English as his audience dictated, but that he used the idioms and images which his hearers understood. He was once asked why his audiences admired him so much.  Smiling he responded, “because the feeling is mutual.”

In his speeches and leadership style more generally, he promoted education and self-improvement, but not as ends in themselves. Rather, he called on people to be better human beings and connected with them in aspiration.

He said “Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?”  And, “Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves – and be free.”

The words he used had power.  He called on others to use their words powerfully as well. “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”  Your identity is in your words!  Whether English, Spanish, in the end it is the choice of your words that reflect your nature.

So what can we learn from Chavez? First speak to your audience, adjust and mould to their needs and expectations. Speak not just to make “your” point, but to help your hearers to find their voice as well.  Thirdly, let your words be true reflections of who you are.

Padre