Sunday, July 03, 2022

the siege of kohima

"Oops!... I did it again."  

Yep — reading a book while pursuing every imaginable Wikipedia, Google Maps and YouTube distraction. 

Why is the story so compelling?

It's been called the 'Stalingrad of the East'. 'Britain's Thermopylae'. More significantly, 'in 2013, it was voted as Britain's greatest battle after a debate at the National Army Museum in London, a surprise winner over the likes of D-Day and Waterloo' (see here). 

That is a big call! D-Day? Waterloo? No — Kohima!

We are surprised because 'the great struggle at Kohima existed on the war's periphery' (281). D-Day was six weeks away and London was preoccupied. 'As for the British public, the extreme peril of the Kohima garrison and the scale of the Japanese threat were unknown' (283). As for the soldiers themselves, 'in those first weeks of April 1944 they were unaware of the marginal consideration being given in London to the fighting. The men saw no further than the corpse-littered ground in front of them...' (284).

1500 British and Indian troops took on 15,000 Japanese ones. It was thought that if Kohima fell, so would India. For 16 days they held their ground on the Kohima Ridge, in a battle that eventually centered around a tennis court behind the residence of the District Commissioner, Charles Pawsey. It was hand-to-hand, trench-'n-bayonet warfare akin to World War One. 

Kohima Ridge was about a mile long and roughly four hundred yards in width, a series of hills and gullies that ran alongside the road. With steep slopes along much of the road side of the perimeter, it presented a formidable obstacle for any attackers trying to scale their way up. But it was a narrow space from which to repel an enemy attacking in strength and the other side of the perimeter, away from the road, was overlooked by mountain slopes which offered enemy artillery any number of ideal firing positions (226).

The extended Kohima Ridge today, from a vantage point on the road to Dimapur. The key battles were back from that ridge just above the highpoint of the pine tree in the foreground (I think!).

The Naga Hills are gorgeous, with this photo taken near Zubza — a key place in the story.

The tennis court

The drama around the tennis court, writing as I am in the middle of the Wimbledon fortnight (!), is scarcely believable. About two hundred men 'were dug in around Pawsey's garden of rhododendrons and cannas' (306) ... facing the Japanese 'in trenches across a patch of ground no more than twenty yards wide' (306).  The two sides 'pitched grenades back and forth' (xvii) — or shall we say 'lobbed', in the hope that artillery and bayonet-battles did not result in too many 'passing shots'? 

It is astonishing. 

In one person's description, 'it was the nearest approach to a snowball fight that could be imagined' (Glancey, 134). 'At one stage a Japanese soldier was digging soil from a foxhole when the dirt landed in a British trench' (383). It is estimated that 55,000 Japanese lives were lost in the battles around Kohima and Imphal, with 7000 dying around the the tennis court (Glancey, 135).

The site is now a War Cemetery. Here is my photo on a suitably moody, monsoon day.

The significance of the tennis court is seen on the cover page!

The maps

Aren't you beginning to feel the need for a map?!  I sure am ... but then I always am 😀.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

together again

Over the years, I haven't written much about my work with Langham on this blog.

There are a couple of reasons.  One is that for the best part of a decade our lives were focused in South Asia and so issues like security and visas were on our minds.  The other is that since COVID began, my Langham life has been lived in a little office in front of a screen!

However all that changed earlier this month.  After 'three years and three months' the team for which I am responsible was able to meet in-person once again.  We gathered in a large house in Keswick (Lake District, UK) called Hazelwood.  It is such a beautiful part of the world and I enjoyed, as I tend to do, the 'panorama' setting on my phone...

Ullswater

Rydal Water

Derwentwater and Keswick, with the sun setting over Bassenthwaite

Buttermere (well, a slither of it on the left) — taken by Mark

Having not been together for such a long time, we decided to 'double the time and halve the business' in order to create space for just being together and re-filling our relational tanks.  People were invited to linger for up to 12 days and our 'business' was comprised of 10 open-ended, two hour conversations around matters of 'innovation and/or complication' on five of those days.  We also opened and closed each day with a time of prayer and meditation.

We found ourselves taking lots of photos of ourselves 😂.  I think people were just so happy to be together once again.  In this first photo, from left to right, we have Igor (Bolivia), Slavko (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Paul (New Zealand), Jennifer (Canada), Mark (UK), Dwi (Indonesia), Ruth (UK) and Femi (Ghana).

Friars Crag, Derwentwater

On the circumnavigation of Buttermere

Carlisle


Stopping atop a hill above Rydal Water to share and pray through needs in our families.

With Ruth based in Carlisle, she was our host — just as she was back in 2014 when the first version of this team gathered in nearby Skelton.  Since then we have met in Lima, Peru (2015); Antalya, Turkey (2016); Bogor, Indonesia (2017); Barcelona, Spain (2018); and Nyanga, Zimbabwe (2019).  On this occasion it was good to go back to the place where we stayed in Skelton and give thanks to God (and take another photo of ourselves!) — 

He has brought us this far by his grace; He has led us by fire and by cloud...
He has sheltered us under his wings; He has planned every path that we've trod...

Blessed, O Blessed be God.  

Next year?  Vancouver...


nice chatting

Paul

Sunday, May 15, 2022

lyrics for living 22 (sing we the king)

A highlight through 2022 continues to be having breakfast on Wednesdays with my mother.  Others are offering all kinds of wonderful care and so, after a good chat together, we focus on a Bible reading, a prayer — and a hymn.  I wander through Wikipedia, finding background details to the hymn to read — and then it is off to YouTube to find a singalong version (hoping nobody drops by...).

This past week I selected this hymn.  Have a slow read through it.  And yes, try to get beyond the word 'empire' in verse 1 :( — by which I suspect he just means the kingdom of the King.

The hymn-writer, Sylvester Horne, died in the year that World War 1 started (1914), which itself was the beginning of an horrific 6-8 years for the peoples of the world (see here).  Imagine singing this hymn in congregational worship during those years — and our years now aren't so great either...

Sing we the King who is coming to reign,
Glory to Jesus, the Lamb that was slain.
Life and salvation his empire shall bring, 
Joy to the nations when Jesus is King.

Come let us sing: Praise to our King,
Jesus our King, Jesus our King:
This is our song, who to Jesus belong:
Glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.

All men shall dwell in his marvelous light,
Races long severed his love shall unite,
Justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring,
Wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King.

All shall be well in his kingdom of peace,
Freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase,
Foe shall be friend when his triumph we sing,
Sword shall be sickle when Jesus is King.

Souls shall be saved from the burden of sin,
Doubt shall not darken his witness within,
Hell hath no terrors and death has no sting.
Love is victorious when Jesus is King.

Knowledge and fear of the Lord then shall be
As the deep waters that cover the sea;
All things shall be in the splendour of spring
And all harmonious when Jesus is King.

Kingdom of Christ, for thy coming we pray,
Hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day
When this new song Thy creation shall sing,
Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King.

What is there to love about this hymn?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

beyond betrayal

Over the years I have enjoyed taking two pilgrimages...

One is to Rangihoua Bay, about 200km north of Auckland — and Marsden Cross, the site of the first preaching of the gospel here in Aotearoa New Zealand, in 1814.

On one occasion, as a way to celebrate my 50th birthday, 30 friends joined me in the pilgrimage.  We travelled in cars, stopped at different places along the way, bore witness to God's goodness — and sang a hymn each time!  The 2014 bicentenary, when the site was developed, was still five years away and so for most pilgrims it was their first visit.  I asked Ben Carswell to lead a devotional time, not realizing that he was from the same village in Yorkshire as Samuel Marsden!

Ben Carswell sharing a devotional back in 2009

The other pilgrimage is to Tokaanu, about 300km south of Auckland — and St Paul's Anglican Church.  It is the burial place of two young Māori missionaries, Te Manihera and Kereopa — martyred for their faith in 1847, as they expressed their commitment to forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. 

You can read more about it here.  On his final visit to New Zealand for our Bethany's wedding in Rotorua and just months before he died, Barby's 96 year old father joined us for a pilgrimage.  Reading that verse from Revelation (12.11), written into the gravesite, with him is something I'll always remember.  The story of these two young men is another chapter in that long story...

Tokaanu

With Barby's Dad and brother, Jonny

I am indebted to Keith Newman for helping me appreciate the historical background to these pilgrimages.  In the months before we moved to India, back in 2013, I read his Bible & Treaty (see a post here) as well as his Ratana: the prophet (see a post here).  Soon after our return to New Zealand, I saw that he had written another book, Beyond Betrayal.  Keen to renew my journey with his writings, it was purchased straightaway, and I finished reading it this past weekend.  

The story he tells mingles the amazing with the awful...

The Amazing

I was not prepared for the number of good, even heroic, people in this story. 

Among Māori there is Wiremu Tamihana, who once responded to one of the wretched Govenors in a 'well reasoned, intelligent, persuasive, restrained and even poetic way' (80).  I'd liked to have been present!  What about Te Kooti Arikirangi, whose life is the stuff of movies, complete with exile and escape from the Chatham Islands?  It is hard to go past the 'Parihaka prophets', Tohu and Te Whiti (with his oratory being described by a journalist as having 'a graceful attitude, earnest expression and easy eloquence', 176). [NB: for readers overseas, a helpful doorway into this story is the Wikipedia entry on Parihaka, the site of a non-violent protest in the century before Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther-King and Nelson Mandela]. Then there is Rua Kenana and Mere Rikiriki, whose nephew is the aforementioned Wiremu Ratana, subject of one of Newman's earlier books.

Among the Europeans, or pākehā, there is also no shortage of heroes — much to my surprise.  People who go 'against the flow' and stand up for what is just and true.  Among the early missionaries, people like Octavius Hadfield and James Watkin.  Arthur Gordon, as a Governor-General — and Robert John Godley, overseeing the settlement in Cantebury, are others who stand out in the story.  However, the two that inspire me the most are Thomas Grace and Samuel Williams.  

Thomas Grace stayed living among Māori, refusing to be drawn into pastoral work in European settlements and forever advocating for the training of Māori teachers/pastors.  He 'campaigned long and loud for more Māori teachers to be trained to work among their own people, and for a Māori Anglican bishop' (211).  Yep, indigenous leadership!  [As I wandered through Wikipedia I discovered that his granddaughter, Bessie Te Wenerau Grace was the first Māori woman to earn a degree from a university].  Māori was Samuel Williams' first language and his perseverance, humility and generosity in founding Te Aute College for young Māori men is one of the many highlights in Newman's story. 

It is worth asking what all these people, Māori and pākehā, had in common.  To varying degrees they were all touched and transformed by the gospel of Jesus.  Going right back to the 1830s the determination in the Colonial Office in London, shaped as it was at the time by Clapham Sect-ites and Wilberforcians, was that 'Māori interests must be protected in an equal partnership' (33) — and that the purpose of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) was 'to avoid the horrors that colonisation had imposed on other cultures' (291), by establishing something of a covenant relationship between two peoples.

The responsiveness to the gospel by Māori in those early years is staggering — maybe as many as 80% were believers in the late 1840s, with the likelihood that there were more Māori believers than European ones.  In 1839, on one of his travels south, Henry Williams 'encountered Māori Christians who had never seen a white missionary' (38). As one who believes that a culture, any culture, becomes the best version of itself when touched by the gospel of Jesus, it was such a promising start.

But gradually, decisively, enduringly and tragically it turned to custard.

Standing between Māori and European.
[Used by Peter Lineham in his talk in the Eden Community Church's series on  The Story of God in New Zealand (link here), also featuring the likes of Jay Ruka and Val Animoa Goold].

The Awful

Sunday, April 17, 2022

images that teach (2): the ladder

There is so much to like about God.  Right near the top of my list is the way he works in anyone and everyone, helping shape them into all they are designed to be.  Then he invites, or calls, them to join him in making the world all it is designed to be.  He is into beauty and restoration.

And yes, 'anyone and everyone'...  

Such is the nature of God's gracious way that no one need be excluded.  The things that tend to define us, even divide us, are of little consequence — age, education, gender, family, income, class/caste etc.  Neither do our charisma level, or our celebrity ranking, have any significance.  

What is of primary importance is the matter of our character.  In this God delights.  So it is no surprise that those involved in training ministries are always on the look-out for ways to deepen character.

Instinctively, my mind travels to the title of Richard Foster's book — Money, Sex and Power.  But, quickly,  let me start by saying that these can be such good words.  Money can be the root of so much blessing.  Sex is one of God's great creations.  Power can be used so constructively.

But Foster's book highlights the way they can become stained words, even dirty and abused words.  Sadly, failure in character often does come back to this trinity — and this is when my imagination, forever imperfect, creates a ladder.  Well, three different ladders, one for each word in that book title.

 

With money... 

The habit of the heart tends to be to fix our gaze on those above us on the ladder, to those who have more than we do.  Our hearts easily become cluttered with greed and covetousness and our emotions become strained by fear and anxiety.  A first step to winning the character issues related to money is a shifting of our gaze away from those above us to those below us on this ladder — to those who have less than we do, be it at home or abroad.

 

Although those most familiar with John Stott cannot recall this comment in any of his written/oral work, I do have a memory of him speaking of an "embarassment test": “If the poorest of the poor were to enter my home and leave me feeling embarassed; or, if I was to enter their home and feel embarassed — something is wrong. Changes need to be made."  Regardless of whether the quip is authentically Stottian, or not, his teaching and his example of being generous and content with what he had, as well as of shaping a life of simplicity, points the way towards killing greed and thereby deepening character in this area.
  

OK — let's hop onto the next ladder and climb a few rungs...


With sex..

For the imperfect ladder imagery to work here, I need to tamper with this heading.  While avoiding sexual sin is part of the pursuit of holiness, we must take care not to reduce holiness just to matters of sexual sin.  Also, holiness deepens by addition, not just subtraction.  With the Spirit's help, we separate from certain things so that we can be set apart for other things.  


So, yes, this ladder is about holiness.  How does it work?  I suspect there is a little bit of pharisee in all of us.  The habit of the heart tends to be to fix our gaze on those below us on this ladder, those whom we deem to be less holy (or righteous!) than we are.  A smugness and satisfaction about our own niceness and goodness easily takes over.  A first step to winning the character issues related to holiness is a shifting of our gaze from those below us on the ladder to those above us. 


Like the Apostle expressed it, "Follow me, as I follow Christ".  Let aspiration go to work in our lives.  We identify the people — alive or dead, nearby or faraway — who have a 'separate/setapart' thing going on in their lives and we ask God to help us be like them, as they are like Jesus.  We lean into the stories of consecrated people — like the person who said "live to be forgotten that Christ may be remembered".  What an aspiration that one is, on a rung above me, made harder not just because of the pharisee in me, but also the narcissist!


I've only ever taught a course on spirituality once, but one day in it I cut out a bunch of quotations from Amy Carmichael's If, with its reflections on 'Calvary love' — and gave one to each student, randomly.  We sat in stillness for a few minutes.  Then one-by-one, in no specific order, I invited students to stand and read their "If" aloud.  There is a reason why I remember the experience so vividly, all these years later.  A life above me on the ladder was being described.  

For example:
"If I am afraid to speak the truth lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, 'You do not understand', or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

There is one more ladder to go.

Monday, April 11, 2022

five books from africa

Not so long ago I failed an online Intercultural Competency quiz.

Yikes.  That does not sound so good for someone in my line of work.  It is embarassing.  I resolved to broaden my reading and have set a summer goal of reading books originating from different continents.  This past summer it was Africa.  I made my way to the buffet, otherwise known as the Langham Publishing catalogue (link here), and loaded up my plate...

It is now April — the summer has past, the air is autumnal — but I got there in the end.

One of my enduring questions is "What does exposition sound like among oral preference learners?"  In Expository Preaching in Africa (link here), Ezekiel A. Ajibade argues that 'an understanding and utilization of oral elements from African tradition and culture will entrench and enrich expository preaching' (195).  He devotes an entire chapter to those 'oral elements' (125-156: songs, drama, poetry, proverbs, folklore, stories) and includes sample sermons (171-187) to demonstrate how it can work in practice.  These pages demonstrate how the title and sub-title of the book need not be seen as contradictory.

But the chapter which caught my eye is the more theoretical one: "Orality and Gospel Communication (71-124).  Orality is explained, the 'pro-' and 'anti-' stances are engaged, before he concludes with six implications for expository preaching in Africa — and elsewhere, I suspect, because the striking feature of the book is the ease with which it will cross borders and continents.

With Samuel Waje Kunhiyop's African Christian Theology (link here), it is the combination of simplicity and sanity that impacts me.  It is still every bit a systematic theology, but along the way he lingers with issues from his African context.

So, for example, take The Spirit World (53-63), Blessings and Curses (108-124) and Reverence for Ancestors (135-139).  He holds on to Scripture, as a lens through which to look but also to critique, with wisdom and clarity.  It is a model.  Every culture needs this treatment.  Syncretism is a challenge everywhere, but we are better at seeing the problem in others than in ourselves!

This wisdom also gathers, or systematizes, truth to create (almost) little biblical-topical sermons on a host of fascinating matters, like the Anointing of the Spirit (97-103); the Name of Jesus (130-134); Spiritual Gifts (171-179); Church Discipline (179-188) — and even the Remuneration of Church Workers (203-207).

Tim Hartman's Kwame Bediako (link here) was the shortest of the books, but the slowest to read.  It was worth it.  Maybe I was seduced, initially, by the exquisitely articulated chapter titles!  In what is 'a theological introduction rather than a biography' (xvi), the author takes us into the mind of one of Africa's seminal theologians, with plenty of 'ouch' in its pages for Western readers. 

Essentially, 'Bediako built an identity for African Christianity as a product of precolonial African spirituality and pre-Christendom Christianity' (26).  It was his conviction that 'missionaries did not bring Christ to Africa; Christ brought them' (Bediako, on 41).  

How about this idea for an essay question?  'The gospel, not our human cultures, defines humanity' (63).  In affirming its significance, Bediako required his students 'to write an abstract for their theses in their mother tongue' (70-71).

A bit like Abijade's book on preaching, I was keen to discover what might be distinctively African in Elizabeth Mburu's African Hermeneutics (link here).  Remembering that 'what is behind the eyes (ie our worldview) can be more significant than what is before the eyes', the opening discussion on features of the "African Worldview" (21-64) provokes readers from other cultures to do something similar as they commence.

Building a model for interpreting the Bible around a contextual image — 'the four-legged stool' — will linger in the memory: the Historical, Literary, Theological contexts — but 'we must always begin with the African context because that is what we know ... (enabling) us to move from the known to the unknown' (66).  Then for the rest of the book, this is what she does with biblical genre.  Stories, Wisdom, Songs and Letters — starting with their presence in Africa and freeing this to assist with interpretation.

Samuel Waje Kunhiyop's African Christian Ethics (link here) was first published in 2008 and can be seen as a companion volume to John Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today (2006 edition).  Stott's headings are Global, Social and Personal — while Kunhiyop's are Political, Financial, Sexual, Medical and Religious.  It is interesting to observe the issues which Kunhiyop includes, but which Stott excludes (in targeting a more Western readership): like Church and State, Corruption, Fund-raising, Polygamy, Widows and Orphans, Sex-Trafficking, Female Circumcision, Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, Witchcraft...

Obviously, we need to take care here.  No one is saying, least of all Stott and Kunhiyop, that because an issue doesn't appear in their Table of Contents it doesn't appear in their societies.  No. No.  The way forward is to express our solidarity across a Global Church, by creating one Table of Contents out of the two — ready to engage each issue with head, heart and hand, wherever it appears.

A sixth book from Africa arrived just this past week...

Sunday, March 27, 2022

83

I rest my case before I even commence.  

While I watched this movie not just once, but twice, in the theatres, Barby was just as keen to do so as I was — and it is a film about cricket!  What's more, when I watched it a third time on Netflix yesterday — strictly for research purposes she was willingly there alongside me, enjoying the scenes again.

What greater recommendation could there be?


Here are five things I enjoyed about the movie:

The Viv soundtrack

I have to start here, simply because this is the place to which I will return, again and again.  No one will ever be able to swipe the smile off my face at the scene when the West Indies team sweeps through Heathrow, with Viv at the front.  In a great touch from the director, the same soundtrack reappears when Viv goes out to bat.  Today it is hard to convey the aura, the magical aura, of the West Indies cricket team back then, with Viv as its leading personality.  The film re-captures it so well.

The story

All I can say, is "What took them so long?".  It is one of the great underdog sports stories.  The West Indies won the first two World Cups in a canter and were expected to waltz to victory in this one as well.  Ironically, it is the one cricket World Cup about which I have no memory at all.  We were living in a cricket-free zone (ie the USA!) at the time and I was being led astray into the world of baseball and the Chicago Cubs.  I have since repented of such sporting prodigality.

There is a raucous effervescence in the story-telling, with all the (melo)drama and emotion one expects from Bollywood.  And in the hands of the maestro himself, Arjit Singh, the music swells and soars.  

Here, let's allow the trailer to do its work...

The fabric of India

Bollywood has this capacity to weave together the threads of real life in India, often highlighting its social issues, and amidst the melodrama and music to convey a serious message along the way.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

emotionally healthy spirituality

When Langham Preaching's Global Leadership Team meets, Lord-willing, in the UK in June it will be 1163 days since we've been in-person together.  During this covidian season we've gathered on Zoom for two hours a week, three weeks out of four.  We've grown closer together, while apart, for various reasons — most notably God's gracious care for us which has helped keep us resilient.

But we've also read different books together...

Julyan Lidstone's Giving Up the Purple: A Call for Servant Leadership in Hierarchial Cultures was one — and another one, which we've just finished, is Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Scazzero's thesis is there on the front cover, below the title: 'it's impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature'.  At the heart of this journey is the embrace of a contemplative spirituality.  'The pathway to unleashing the transformative power of Jesus to heal our spiritual lives is found in the joining of emotional health and contemplative spirituality' (37).  This is his point.

If you are like me, often needing the answers 'in the back' when it comes to word puzzles (although part of Wordle's allure must be the way we need to persist because there are no answers 'in the back'!), then let me direct you to 'Appendix B — Defining Emotional Health and Contemplative Spirituality' (212-213).  Very helpful.

Then coming back to the front and trawling the Table of Contents, we see just how probing the book is. For example:
  • Going Back in Order to Go Forward (on breaking the power of the past, especially family)
  • Journey through the Wall (referring to 'the dark night of the soul')
  • Enlarge Your Soul through Grief and Loss (on dealing with pain)
  • Discover the Rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath (on developing life-giving routines)
  • Growing into an Emotionally Mature Adult (on making peace and resolving conflict)
  • Go the Next Step to Develop a 'Rule of Life' (on bringing it all together in a plan)
There are a lot of issues in that list, aren't there?  Scazzero's easy writing style, filled with stories and vulnerability and wisdom, helps the reader negotiate the bumps and bruises, the falls and failures about which such trawling reminds us — and points us in the direction of health and maturity.

Wisdom

I appreciated the morsels of wisdom left here and there.  On dealing with the past, 'family history lives inside all of us' (75).  On measuring our level of brokenness, consider how freed we are from 'judging others and how 'offendable' we are (109).  'Good grieving is not just letting go, but also letting it bless us' (135).  On using the four principles of sabbath (stop, rest, delight, contemplate) 'to structure our vacations' (161) — and, I might add, maybe the younger New Zealander's rite of passage, the OE ('overseas experience') which so often becomes a prodigal time.  'Jesus' profound, contemplative prayer life with his Father resulted in a contemplative presence with people' (170, emphasis mine).  In the midst of conflict, 'every time I make an assumption about someone who has hurt or disappointed me without confirming it, I believe a lie about this person in my head' (181).  The "rule" in 'A Rule of Life' ('that intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything', 190) is more like a trellis, helping us 'get off the ground and grow upward' (190).  Yippee.  A gardening metaphor — they always work well.   'Most people live off other people's spirituality' (191).  I've noticed this one before as well.  It is a kind of vicarious spirituality which easily becomes vestigial, when what is needed is something more embryonic.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

images that teach (1): the playground

They don’t make them like they used to do.  

It is not just that gravel and mud have given way to rubber and chips.  Nor is it just that Occupational Safety & Health seems intent on ridding the world of every hint of dangerous play.  What catches my eye are these playground monstrosities.  They are like shrunken theme parks deposited into suburbia.  Creativity conspires with short attention spans to create all kinds of possibilities for play.
 

Whatever happened to the simple pleasures of the swing and the seesaw?  
 
Surely the adrenalin of feet thrusting-forward and then kicking-back, penduluming that swing higher and wider is not lost forever?  What about the child-startling push from behind, then running through and under and out — only to tease and dare a toe-tickle to the face from that swinging child?  Surely that giggle on that face is irreplaceable?
 
What about that plank on a pivot we call a seesaw?  Surely the laughs accompanying the undignified plonking on one side cannot be phased out?  Nor can the realisation that there is no joy in being alone at the seesaw.  It takes two and not just any two.  They can be small or large, but when they are evenly-weighted and seated as far from the middle as possible, the play is always fun. 
 
Of course, the pleasing thing is that the swing and the seesaw are still with us, often living in the margins of the playground, a bit like an old road near the modern highway.  They grab my gaze.  They feed my imagination.  I believe in the simplicity of a training which swings and seesaws.  
 
Take the swing.  Early in such training there comes an appreciation for history and the way it swings.  Things come and go — slowly, very slowly.  There is nothing new under the sun.  The objective is for students to have the 'chronological snobbery' flushed out of them.  The newest is not necessarily closer to the best.  It is not always advisable to be up-to-date.  'Get relevant or die' is overstated.  Students discover that "remember" is one of the enduring worship imperatives in the Bible.  And so an openness to the past enters in and with it, a humility.  The fascination with trends loosens.  It sinks in that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat its mistakes, simply because history swings.
 

Sunday, March 06, 2022

daniela's art

New Zealanders who return from living overseas often comment on how insular we are.  The first place where this is noticed is with the media, which tends to set the agenda for conversation and empathy.  During these covidian times we've tended to be wrapped up so much in ourselves.

My hunch is that the peoples of Latin America are the ones about which we hear the least.  I don't remember them ever emerging in our news media.  And yet, according to the official data, they have suffered the most — along with the old 'Eastern European' countries.  If you take "deaths per million", Peru has suffered more than any other country in the world, with a figure of 6000.  New Zealand, by contrast, sits at 13.  Within the evangelical community in Latin America alone, 5000 pastors have died from COVID-19.  When I put that statistic on Facebook, someone fact-checked me — presumably because they, like me, thought the number to be un-believable. 

This seems an appropriate time to search for meaningful ways to bring the peoples and cultures of Latin America into my life and into the life of my home and family.  Having Esteban help me add songs to my Christian Music playlist on Spotify was a beginning.  Then I remembered the artwork of his sister, Daniela, in which she gives an Andean and Bolivian flavour to the liturgical year.

This is a single, summary piece.  Each of Daniela's eight individual pieces — on Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time — can be glimpsed within this one piece.  The art design is known as 'Pallay', an indigenous way of weaving with textiles. 

For example, here is Advent...


... and Lent...

... and Easter ...