I Have a Violin

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Dad’s Violin

I have a violin, which may seem strange, as I can’t play a note.  Next month I will have had it for 20 years and I still don’t play a note.

It is my father’s violin. I say “is” because even though he died 20 years ago it will never be mine.  It will always remind me of him – playing in the evening, in a group or even doing a duet with one of his granddaughters on keyboard or recorder.

The violin goes back as far as I can remember in my distant recollections – back to Holland. My dad had many musical instruments over the years: pianos, harmoniums, keyboards, recorders, pan pipes …   He tried all sorts, even a guitar but his fingers were too short for the neck which made the violin ideal.  He played by ear so it was not always enjoyable when he first got hold of a new instrument.

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Dad and his violin

But the violin is the oldest.  It is the one instrument that is always part of my memories of my father.  Yes there are many other memories like dad packing my mother’s vacuum cleaner into a soundproof box so it could push air into the harmonium with the result that he didn’t have to pedal – and mum didn’t have a vacuum cleaner.  Yet over all these moments the image of my father and his violin remains the most enduring.

It will be 20 years next month when my dad was promoted from being an earthly fiddler to a player in heaven’s orchestra with some of his favourite composers and musicians. I can imagine dad under the musical direction of J. S. Bach.

But even after 20 years I still miss his playing – the good and the bad.

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Good Books

Good booksDSC_0006
open worlds
reveal unexplored vistas
introduce wonder
delight
and … questions

 

Good books
unsettle
dig deep
and make us think
of others
the world
and possibilities

 

Good booksDSC_0811
grow us …
our minds and hearts
hopes and passions
and sense of now and eternity

 

Good books
are never the same
when you turn to
the same page
or chapter
but always morphing
and growing
as we
morph and grow

 

Good books IMG_1071
are friends
faithful companions
who are always
with us
even when the shelf
is empty

 

 

Posted in Poem, poetry, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Words Jesus Didn’t Say

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus replied, “Send the children around the corner to a children’s program that one of my lesser disciples is running. She will look after them.”

Posted in Child Theology, Children, christian | Tagged , | 7 Comments

The Budget Betrayal and Christians

The Word in Hand

Whom do we follow?

Some time has passed since the Federal budget. In that time I have been reflecting on the responses by fellow Christians and non – Christians alike. Why has there been such an outcry? Politicians have lied to us in the past. There is nothing new about that. Why are people so affronted now?

I think I have one reason.  After the confusion and lies of the previous Labor government, Australians were looking for something new and fresh, something different from the turmoil and back flipping that had been going on.  They were tired of it.  Tony Abbott, astutely, played to that confusion and promised certainty and no more lies.  We all knew that the “lie” bit was a lie but we hoped anyway.  This desire of the people to have politics played differently was strong. We have seen that in the move to independent members of parliament and minor parties.

So when the budget came out and promise after promise was broken at a scale never before seen in Australian politics, many people felt betrayed and, I believe, justifiably so.  Even worse, the most vulnerable were targeted with the budget decisions – here and overseas.  If promises had to be broken why wasn’t the Paid Parental Leave scheme, delayed?  Is it too cynical to suggest that most of these people who would benefit would vote Liberal?  Why wasn’t the abolition of the Mining Rent Tax shelved – just as money was starting to come in?  Is it that the miners are too powerful?  There are many more uncomfortable questions like this.  Do I believe that we have to live within our means? Certainly, but there are different ways to go about it.  Starting from the weak up is not it.

But personally, I feel betrayed at a different level as well.  As a child of the King, and many in the Government claim to be His, I cringe when I see fellow children of the King, in politics, obfuscate, justify and support policies that would make the King weep.  Christ directed his followers to support the needy, weak and vulnerable.  He modelled it for us.  He, in fact, has given power to these brothers and sisters in politics and claims their first allegiance – before all else and that includes the Party.

So what is my job now? Matt 18 reminds me that when a brother or sister sins or sins against me I need to go them and speak to them.  And yes, undermining the safety net we have for the vulnerable, I believe, falls into that category. That will have to be my first step.  A step I need to take in grace – even when I feel angry and betrayed.

Posted in Ethics, Obedience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

When they see among them their children …

20130425-165731.jpg22 Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob: ‘No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale. 23 When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. 24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.’

Isaiah 29 22-24

These verses come in the midst of God’s frightening judgement upon Jerusalem before Judah’s exile in Babylon.  In contrast to the prophecy of the horrors to come, the passage quoted looks beyond this time of exile to a future when there will be joy and genuine awe in the worship of God.

Many commentators when considering this passage jump on the word “children” and translate that as “future generations”.  There is no problem with that, except we lose the critical idea of being a child and the uniqueness of childhood. Too often commentators suggest that we are dealing with a generation of adults in the future. This, in my view, waters down the intent of the passage.

But why does Isaiah/God use the word “children”?

Which parent has not on occasions sat back and quietly mused on the joy of their children – their exploits, wonder, faith and accomplishments. Our hearts are warmed in the knowledge that they are products of our union! I know there are moments when the opposite occurs but let us stay with the positive for the moment. Children are a symbol of amazing potential and promise. In this passage they are reminders and metaphors for naïve and innocent wonder at the character and actions of God.

Children can remind jaded adults of the joy of the discovery of faith and the wonders of God and His creation and most important, the relief and exhilaration of salvation. They are God’s “sacrament” (symbol or image if you prefer) of new faith, new hope and new future – a crucial idea in the passage above.

In the Isaiah passage children are prophecies of awe filled worshippers (in the fullest sense), of God.

I believe this passage is pointing to Christ but also to his second coming when we will see, completely, how all things will be made new. In the meantime, while we wait for the return of the King. Our children are still heralds of faith and future. We jaded, cynical and worldly-wise adults need to make sure that we do not squash that vision in our children  – or our own hearts.

Posted in Bible, Child Theology, Children, christian, Christianity, Church, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

40 Years Today

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The two of us in front of the autumn vine (mentioned in the poem the other day) May 11 1974

In the last two posts my wife and I have reflected, in poetry, on our 40 years together. I wondered at how quickly the time had passed but she thought more about the significant events enclosed by our marriage.

It made me ponder more deeply. In this time I have seen friends divorce and others tragically lose a partner. So I must praise God for keeping these two unique and stubborn individuals together and safe throughout those 40 years. Then I dug a little deeper and thought about the person that I was 40 years ago. To be painfully honest Pieter Stok, 40 years ago, was a naive, self centred and arrogant person. I can hear some of my friends say, “What’s changed?”

wedding002

Signing our lives away.

I believe that I have mellowed and grown over those 40 years and this has all been due to a mystical combination of God using His Word, my wife, children, wider family and friends to grow me more like the person He wants me to be … and there is still a long, long way to go.

Now I know I wont get another 40 years of marriage this side of heaven but I am looking forward to what God still has in store for us. The journey to this point with its highs and lows, pains and joys has been amazing. I cannot imagine having gotten to this point with anyone else and I cannot express enough how thankful I am for the life partner He has given me.

 

So today we celebrate 40 years and anticipate a future.

Praise God!

wedding004

With parents …

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and siblings

Posted in Family, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

… I’m 18

My wife responded with her own poem after reading my effort yesterday. It connects our children and events in our lives with places we have lived in.

 

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Hip dude with chick and groovy chain circa 1972/3

When I see my husband, I’m 18
And his hands touch young flesh.
Collendina

When I look at Neti, our creative firstborn, I’m 20
And we’re playing “zoom, zoom” in the park.
When I think of our Kiki, I’m 22
And I am watching her sturdy little legs carry her along the track.
Kingston Beach

When I see Jac’s smile, I’m 27
And her friends are at the school gate, screaming:
“Hi, Jacqui’s Mum!”
Goodna

When I gaze at Alex’s face, so serene, I’m 29
And she is anything but peaceful, shouting the words of her reader at me.
When I see Caroline, I feel Caroline. I’m 29
And I’m holding my breath until I feel her move, the touch of her feet dancing.
Mt. Gravatt

When I look at Rosey, I’m 33
And we’re having a race to complete jigsaw puzzles.
Leongatha

There’s kindness in Paul’s eyes, I’m older now.
And we’re laughing in church at a Lego joke.
Geelong

There are hundreds of photos, 
A thousand memories,
Countless stories.
They add up to forty years.

Yet when I see my Pieter
I’m 18……

Posted in Family, Poem, poetry | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

40 Years

ph9Where have they gone,
those forty years?
Yesterday we were so young
and naïve.

I can hardly remember
the blur that was
our  wedding day when
nerves froze my memory
that afternoon
all those speedy years ago.

The multi coloured autumn vines
behind the church
are the backdrop to my
photo black and white memories.

My hair was darker then
and yours longer and curlier.
But because the years have gone so fast
we can’t be as old as the years
crossed off the calendar.

Let us continue in our
mature youth
and live each day with fresh visions
so next year again we can ask,
“Where have they gone,
those forty one years?”

Posted in Family, Poem, poetry, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A Dream for the Spiritual Health of Our Children

skate board ramp“We dream of a local church that is willing to radically rethink what it means to worship God together in ways that are meaningful across generations. This wouldn’t mean simply tweaking  our current elements of worship to make them more child friendly, and it wouldn’t involve the juvenilization of the church. Instead it would mean turning committed disciples of all ages to worship God together. As the contemporary world brings new ways of thinking about and doing church togther, we hope this is part of the agenda.

In her book Welcoming Children, Joyce Mercer asks, “what would happen if, instead of removing children for not conforming to the styles of worship comfortable to adults, we changed some of those styles to invite the fuller participation of children?” We imagine Jesus would answer  this question by taking a child into his arms and saying,”The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Will we follow our teacher?”

Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus, David M. Csinos and Ivy Beckwith, IVP Praxis 2013, p 125

 

 

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The Voice of Inspired Youth

A  few weeks ago I went to an evening church service where two of my students were going to preach for about 20 minutes each.  These likable lads are not always mature or wise in their decisions and behaviour – but they are great young people.

To be honest, even though they are talented young men I didn’t expect too much from them in their first sermon. I was wrong! These lads spoke/preached and delivered the word of God with a passion, zeal, maturity and sophistication. They wove Scripture upon Scripture to declare God’s word to the congregation. Like any good preacher should – they spoke for God.

I reflected later that I heard more of God’s word in these 40 minutes than I had in many so-called sermons in other churches in recent years. They did not delve into pop psychology, glib jokes and puerile anecdotes. Their aim was not to tickle ears but to speak a word that was on their hearts to the heart of the congregation.

I went home humbled. God spoke to me that evening though two of my students. God reminded me that young people have a place, purpose and word to speak in the lives of our congregations. He has gifted all of us, not just the “mature”.

Posted in Child Theology, Children, christian, Christianity, Church, Faith | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment