Tag Archives: Social Justice

Sabbath – Wayne Muller

I finally got around to reading this amazing book – a must read for leaders, those who seek the spiritual, the busy people…let’s go with everyone!

A “successful” life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their  limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully
protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous, we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.

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When the Mass begins in a cathedral, the space is transformed the instant the first prayer is offered. The space is not different, but the time has been transformed. When monks enter an ashram or monastery and sit in silence, only when the bell is rung does the meditation begin. The space may be the same, but the time is consecrated by the mindfulness that arises in the striking of the bell. When Muslims are called to prayer five times each day, all work ceases, and all the ancient words, spoken aloud for centuries, rise like fragrance to the skies. Just so, during Sabbath the Jews, by keeping sacred rest, could maintain their spiritual ground wherever they were, even in protracted exile from their own country. It was not Israel that kept the Sabbath, it is said, but the Sabbath kept Israel.
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If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: Please, don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a lifestyle suggestion, but a commandment—as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying. Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

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All Jesus’ teaching seems to hinge on this singular truth concerning the nature of life: It is all right. Do not worry about tomorrow. I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid. Over and over, in parable, story and example, he insists that regardless how it goes for us, we are cared for, we are safe, we are all right. There is a light of the world, a kingdom of heaven inside us that will bear us up, regardless of our sorrow, fear, or loss. Do not wait to enjoy the harvest of your life; you are already blessed. The kingdom of God is already here. It is within you and among you.

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Our reluctance to rest—our belief that our joy and delight may somehow steal from the poor, or add to the sorrows of those who suffer—is a dangerous and corrosive myth, because it creates the illusion that service to others is a painful and dreary thing. Jesus says there will always be opportunities to be kind and generous. Just as there is a time for everything under heaven, so is there a time for nourishment and joy, especially among those who would serve.

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? What if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? What if our life, roughhewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear—and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is
heaven? Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.
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When we move too fast we shield ourselves from the actual experience of suffering; we see only its outward manifestations and appearances. In our frantic craving for relief, we try to make the appearance of suffering go away. But we risk eradicating the symptoms without ever understanding the disease.

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According to Henri Nouwen, Jesus’ three temptations were these:
To be useful. To be important. And to be powerful. Useful, important, and powerful—are not these the attributes that still tempt every one of us who seek to do good in the world?

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The word humility, like the word human, comes from ‘humus’, or ‘earth’. We are most human when we do no great things. We are not so important; we are simply dust and spirit—at best, loving midwives, participants in a process much larger than we. If we are quiet and listen and feel how things move., perhaps we will be wise enough to put our hands on what waits to be born and bless it with kindness and care. But in the end, we are granted the tremendous blessing of knowing that we do very little at all by ourselves.

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What is the typical Lutheran school?

An article I wrote back in May about my wonderful school here in Melbourne.

What is the typical Lutheran school?

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Advance Australia Fair? What to do about growing inequality in Australia

The wealthiest 20 per cent of households in Australia now account for 61 per cent of total household net worth, whereas the poorest 20 per cent account for just 1 per cent of the total. In recent decades the income share of the top 1 per cent has doubled, and the wealth share of the top 0.001 per cent has more than tripled. At the same time, poverty is increasing and many of those dependent upon government benefits, including the unemployment benefit, have fallen well below the poverty line. If we do not pay attention to the problem of financial inequality, current economic circumstances are likely to make it worse.

I may have missed it but it seems this report coming from a 2014 federal government round table has flown under the radar. I’ve had a read and it presents some challenges for us as a nation indeed. In the words of the report itself:

In 21st century Australia, do we still care about equality of opportunity, ‘a fair go for all’? If so, what are we prepared to do to make it happen?

The full report is quite readable and presents much for further reflection.

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A history of lost happiness

“Who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behavior,” said media scholar George Gerbner. “It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it’s a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell, but a great deal to sell.”

The conversation about sources of fulfillment and joy has been colonized by the advertisers that manufacture the mindset of the consumer culture.

– Sarah van Gelder

A topic I have returned often to is the pervasive nature of the consumer culture. Van Gelder’s article looking at the loss of American happiness brings forth the argument for what she calls ‘sustainable happiness’ –  “…a happiness built on a healthy natural world and a vibrant and fair society. It is a form of happiness that endures, through good and bad times…You can’t obtain it with a quick fix; [it] cannot be achieved at the expense of others.”

It reminded me of the words of Kristin van Ogtrop:

“Don’t race to the top. Never race to the top. If you want to aim for the top, good for you. But try to get there slowly, deliberately, without knocking everyone else out of the way. Or missing the beautiful view.”

You can find van Gelder’s article here.

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Gandhi’s 7 things that will destroy us and Covey’s question

In the introduction to Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, Stephen Covey writes the following

Gandhi taught that there are seven things that will us. As we study them slowly and carefully, we see in a powerful way how each represents an end being accomplished through an unprincipled or unworthy means:

  • Wealth without work.
  • Pleasure without conscience.
  • Knowledge without character.
  • Commerce without morality.
  • Science without humanity.
  • Worship without sacrifice.
  • Politics without principle.

Isn’t it interesting how each one of these admirable ends can be falsely attained?

If I were to pick one as the most dangerous, I would go with ‘knowledge without character’ – “Knowledge is power” after all.

Thoughts to share? Enagage with me on twitter.

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Love people, not things

…the path to better living is not found in turning our back on those who need us the most. The path to better living is found in developing the compassion and the space to love even those who don’t deserve it.

In another well put piece on priorities and service, Joshua Becker shares about how his life is made richer by serving others. His piece reminded me of Matthew 9:36 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”.

Becker’s piece can be found here.

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Of course I’m happy – I’ve got hundreds of pictures to prove it

I have admired Peter Rollin’s work for some time having come across it during my time in Cairo. His critique of what passes for ‘Christianity’ and ‘Religion’ is both challenging and engaging. I particularly recommend his book The Orthodox Heretic for those who have grown weary of an institutionalised Christianity that seems to have lost a commitment to Jesus’ social teachings (a taste of the book can be found here).

In this post on his website he talks about the importance of self-critique in the context of community. Honesty with ourselves and our community is sadly often lacking in the modern church.

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Class act: ending the education wars – Maxine McKew

I’ve given a voice to the many teachers in schools who are experts at what they do and every day find ways to challenge and stretch young Australian minds

Maxine McKew

9780522866575McKew’s book contains nothing new. That is not so much a criticism of the book but of governments of both stripes who have not heeded the recommendations coming from leading Australian researchers in education. Suggestions that the Gonski ‘needs based’ funding be adopted, that Hattie’s Visible Learning precepts be integrated into all schools and equipping school leaders to direct resources for best student outcomes, have been written about at length elsewhere. Her writing style makes the material very accessible and her public profile will perhaps attract some readers who are not well versed in the topic.

The book is available through Melbourne University Press.

A few quotes that I will be reflecting further upon are reproduced below. They are not my own work – please attribute them to the original author.

[E]xperts possess knowledge that is more integrated, in that they combine the introduction of new subject knowledge with students’ prior knowledge; they can relate current lesson content to other subjects in the curriculum; and they make lessons uniquely their own by changing, combining, and adding to the lessons according to their students’ needs and their own teaching goals.

John Hattie quoted on 3

But Australia’s scores in international literacy tests aren’t dropping because the students who sit those tests don’t know their sounds. They are performing poorly because they cannot comprehend what they are reading. They have poor vocabularies and cannot follow sentences that employ more complex language structures. They cannot read between the lines.

Our low-achieving students – both on international measures and the home grown National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests – share one, very telling, common characteristic. They don’t speak “school English”, or Standard Australian English, at home. They may speak a language other than English, or Aboriginal English, or a creole, or “bogan” English – the kind where words like “youse” feature.

Misty Adoniou quoted on 20-21 (read the original piece online here)

Nowadays, families just like [the many migrant families before them], in search of a more settled life and their own piece of Australian magic arrive from across the globe—from the Subcontinent, from north and south Asia, and from Africa. But the children of these new migrant groups are entering a vastly different Australian schooling system. Long gone is the suburban public high school that once brought together the sons and daughters of just about everyone—where the kids of doctors and dentists rubbed up against the offspring of tradesmen and shopkeepers. There is a remnant of this social diversity left in the primary sector, but by high school the divide is acute. The best and brightest (and those who max out on private tutoring) head for the country’s selective high schools. The professional classes opt for high-fee independent schools or the more prestigious of the Catholic schools while trade- and commerce-based families increasingly enrol
in the newer, low-fee, faith-based schools.

That leaves [public] schools…to cater for the rest: the children of low-income or public housing dependant families, urban Indigenous people, and newly arrived refugees.

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What to do?

1. Invest in the training and capabilities of school leaders so that they are operationally proficient and know how to motivate and direct resources towards teachers who are constantly improving their knowledge and skills.
2. Adopt as a standard across the system, and especially in teacher education academies, the key elements of John
Hattie’s Visible Learning approach. Know thy impact should be on the wall of every staffroom in every school across the country.
3. Go for quality…[get] rid of dumbed-down electives. Show students you care enough to make the material intellectually demanding and watch them take off.
4. Listen to the voices of students. They know when they are being short-changed by teachers who are ill-prepared or by schools that are cruising.
5. Create an environment that enables more government schools to develop strategic partnerships with business groups and philanthropic organisations.
6. [Fully adopt] the Gonski funding model [and direct] resources to where the need is greatest.

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