Peter Volkofsky | Author & Life Coach

Peter Volkofsky is an author, spoken word poet and life coach. In 2017, Peter published his thriller Mia's Magic Wand. In 2015 he published Beautiful Quest as an Ark House imprint. Peter has been married to his wife Penelope for thirty-three years and together they have reared seven children.

Catalytic (cat•a•lyt•ic)

(adj.) a process that precipitates an event

The Vision

Individuals and teams reaching their goals.

PETE'S BLOG

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Dark Nights and Wonders Part V: Wesley

Dark Nights and Wonders

'Wesley was persuaded by George Whitefield—that field preaching (open air) was the best way to reach people, especially the working classes, who had almost nothing to do with the church. Consequently, the next day, a thirty-six year old Wesley stood by his father's grave and preached his first ever open air sermon. What is now knows as The Great Awakening was born ... ' but for the Wesleys and their friends it was going to be a baptism of fire.

'For the next three decades, magistrates, squires and clergy turned a blind eye to the drunken and brutal attacks by mobs and gangs on Wesley and his supporters ... Time after time, the Wesleys and Whitefield narrowly escaped death and several of their fellow preachers were attacked and their houses set on fire.'

'Thousands of times Wesley suffered both verbal and physical attack but never once did he lose his temper. If he was hit by a missile he would wipe the blood away and respectfully continue preaching. He was known for loving his enemies and try as they might they were unable to make him discourteous or angry.

'Hundreds of anti-revival publications appeared, as did regular, inaccurate and scurrilous newspaper reports and articles. But the most virulent attacks, not surprisingly, came from the priests, who referred to Wesley as “That Methodist,” “that enthusiast,” “that mystery of iniquity,” “a diabolical seducer, and an impostor and fanatic.”

'After a few years, wanting to set out his wares in plain, rational, and scriptural terms, Wesley wrote a pamphlet in which he declared, “It is the plain old Christianity that I teach.” His paramount purpose was to make men and women conscious of God.' And he was convinced that the library of sixty six book full of stories we call the bible was a major instrument in that process because it's main purpose was to show sinners that they could find their way back to God via the sacrifice and resurrection of Easter.

In his book The Book That Made Your World, Mangalwadi says 'Wesley understood that individual redemption leads to social regeneration.' Soon what Wesley called 'Societies' were formed but he did not see these as a substitute for the church. He remained an Anglican clergyman for most of his life until he began to ordain ministers of the Methodist Church.'

'It is no exaggeration to say that Wesley (along with his brother Charles and friend George Whitefield) instilled into the British people a new concept of heroism. His tranquil dignity, the absence of malice and anger, and above all, the evidence of God's spirit working in his life, eventually disarmed his enemies and won them for Christ.
Soldiers, sailors, miners, fishermen, smugglers, industrial workers, thieves,' and all kinds of men, women and children in their thousands would listen attentively, take off their hats and—overcome with emotion—surrender their lives to Jesus as Messiah. For more than fifty years Wesley fed the bible ... to drink-sodden, brutalised and neglected multitudes.'11

'Wesley travelled a quarter of a million miles on horseback, in all weather, night and day, up and down and across England ... During these travels he composed his commentary on the bible verse by verse, wrote hundreds of letters, kept a daily journal from 1735 to the year before his death in 1791, and wrote some of the 330 books that were published in his lifetime.'

'He composed English, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew grammars. He edited many books for the general education of his preachers and congregations, which became the fifty volumes of his famous Christian library: republished by the Wesley Centre online.'

'This cultured man, keen theologian, and esteemed intellectual warned his preachers that one could “never be a deep preacher without extensive reading, any more than a thorough Christian.” Every preacher was made a distributor and seller of books and was expected to have mastered the contents. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says of Wesley in this regard that “no man in the eighteenth century did so much to create a taste for good reading and to supply it with books, at the lowest prices.”
Wesley's book Rules for a Helper gives a sampling of the cultural influences he diffused in Britain ...

' “Never be unemployed for a moment; believe evil of no one; speak evil of no one; a preacher of the gospel is a servant of all; be ashamed of nothing but sin; be punctual; you will need all the (common) sense you have to have your wits about you.”
'Thirteen years before the Abolition Committee was formed to end the slave trade, he published his thoughts upon slavery: a graphic, vehement, and penetrating treatise denouncing this “horrid trade” as a national disgrace. He kept up his attack upon slavery until the end of his life. The last letter he wrote being to William Wilberforce, an evangelical member of parliament who led a lifelong campaign to abolish the slave trade.'

'By the same token, Wesley deplored the stupidity of war, especially Britain's war with the American colonies. He frequently wrote about the use and abuse of money and privilege. He wore inexpensive clothes and dined on the plainest fare, not spending more than thirty pounds a year on his personal needs. But his clothes were always spotless, his shoes were always shined, and he never wore a wig.'
'Wesley supported fair prices, a living wage, and honest and healthy employment for all. There is no question but that he was more familiar with the life of the poor than any other public figure of his age ... “Give none that asks relief an ill word or an ill look. Do not hurt them,” he would say.

'He strongly campaigned against bribery and corruption at election time ... fearlessly criticised aspects of the penal system and prisons. Thereby paving the way for reformers John Howard and Elizabeth Fry. He depicted prisons as “nurseries of all manner of wickedness.” He campaigned against the near-medieval methods of medicine and agitated for funeral reform.

'He worked for vocational training for the unemployed, raise money to clothe and feed prisoners, to buy food, medicine, fuel and tools for the helpless and aged; founded a Benevolent Loan Fund and Stranger's Friend Society.'

With the help of his brother Charles he “caused England to sing”. Charles wrote between eight and nine thousand poems, of which eight thousand became hymns, which were set to popular tunes of the day. 'And hundreds of thousands of those who sang his hymn, “My chains fell off, my heart was free,” were singing not only about their salvation but also about the chains of alcohol, abuse, hunger and poverty.'

'The Great Awakening gave to the entire English speaking world its richest ever heritage of poetical and sacred songs and an understanding of hymns as literature, as history, as theology. Other fine poets also emerged during this period and during the nineteenth century, including William Cowper, Isaac watts and John Newton ... '

'The bible, which during the early eighteenth century had been a closed book ... became the Book of Books. Britain was saved from lapsing into infidelity.' 'John Wesley died as he had lived ... no coach or hearse was needed for his funeral for he had given instructions that six poor men—in need of employment—might be given a pound each to carry his body to the grave.

'In the first decades of his service, his arrival and that of his followers in any town or village was the signal for a violent uprising. But for the last ten of his eighty eight years, it is no exaggeration to say that Wesley was the most respected and beloved figure in Britain.'12

11 Managalwadi V. The Book That Made Your World p:266 – Thomas Nelson 2011

12 Ibid pp: 270

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Restless Love Prayers

It is said that Jesus would often go out early to a lonely place. For the Scottish saints it was a freezing cold mountainside at night where they would wrap themselves in a woollen cloak, lie down and weep as they prayed for every single one of their flock. For St. Brendan it was an ocean beach where he would stand in the shallow water for hours with his hands lifted to the heavens.

But before you go any further it's important to understand that these actions were the outcome of a deep and restless love in the hearts of the pray-ers, an awareness of their own frailty, and a desperation to see God's grace move in human souls. So if you are in that place of deep concern, why not give it a try for at least month? Even get a mate to come with you. Many great men and women of faith have made a personal prayer covenant with a friend. But be sure to keep it a secret between the two of you. Nothing spoils these prayer adventures like 'talking it up'.

Perhaps you could try out some of the routines others have done or maybe you could invent your own ritual: get down on your knees and fast or go and stand in the ocean—plunge into what may feel like childish-arrogance. And remember that this is no Buddhist/ shamanist attempt to manipulate blind and dumb spirit beings with long winded gibberish, this is you—a human being in the flesh—joining in with the unspeakable groans of the Holy Spirit and the high priestly prayers of your resurrected King Jesus who already intercedes for us daily.

Remember too that not every 'voice' you hear quoting bible verses is from God. The devil quoted scripture to Jesus. So be sure to take with you the sober knowledge of prayer disaster stories; the cold steel of good theology and common sense; the watchfulness of a sentry, the humour of a Chesterton and the honest questions of a community of sensible brothers and sisters.36

One last word. The faith that grows out of a strong life of private prayer is invariably unfettered by pessimism and characterised by an irrepressible (but not naïve) attitude of expectancy because—like an experienced musician—it has acquired an ear for the music of the voice of the Good Shepherd and knows the feel and the mood of an approaching crest in a wave, when, if a thing is to be done, you must be ready for the 'now or never moment' when power is able to be unleashed through a will that chooses to trust. Then it is finished, and your 'Yes!' and 'Thank you!' reverberate throughout the realms of the spiritual battle.

Such moments of opportunity often occur while we are in the place of wrestling prayer, but they also float past us in ordinary every day life and and may occur during a cup of tea with a friend in the morning; during a job interview at lunch; while we are laying concrete in the afternoon; or after we go to bed at night. The likelihood of you noticing them will be much higher if you are living out this habit of personal prayer.

 

36 Incorporating thoughts from the New Testament, George MacDonald, St. Ignatius Loyola & CS Lewis

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The Spooky Little Door

Tonight I'm in the midst of what is becoming a long and interesting conversation with a mate about ultimate reality, faith and meaning. We have agreed that we will be happy to allow for robust argumentation and that we will not be 'arguing for a win' but for truth. Below is a small excerpt from the conversation ...

'This is probably not what you are saying, but we need to be clear that it's inappropriate for a person to attempt to 'go and get faith' so that they can then have meaning. Better to remain honest and without faith and meaning than to have a faith that's what has been called a 'noble lie'. For example, the person who says, ‘I wish I could have faith’ is totally misunderstanding how it works—and I have heard Christians talk about it this way, which to me seems rather oxymoronic.

The fact is that—contrary to what some educated believers might suggest—faith is not normally the outcome of reading a series of good books and then reaching some tidy logical conclusions, it's something that normally happens after an extended time of shy information-gathering via pain at home, love affairs and arguments, book-readings, tragedies and/or joys, and maybe a war or two thrown in along with a stunning concert, and then—at some moment of curiosity, desperation or mischief when no one’s looking (along with a dash of courage and/or stupidity)—we quietly open a spooky little door and get an interesting surprise!

It’s not always a happy surprise, but at that moment we are in no doubt that there is such a thing as the mystery of a personal being called God, and if we wish for anything after that it’s likely to be either that we had never opened that little door (cause you now have this inconvenient problem of being convinced and are stuck with this dreadful and captivating presence who you can't get enough of, but who also kind of frightens you and at the same time seems to demand and expect things of you. And weirdly—seems to be the one who has found you. On the other hand, it might be that you wish desperately for more and more of this amazing being of grace and life and joy—but either way you suspect that from here on your life is going to be more dangerous, more interesting and definitely much less under your control—damn it!/bless it!

As far as what happens after that: some believers seem to reach this place and never move away from it, others move away and never come back, and others seem to have to come back to it again and again. Some have a clear memory of the first time this happened and others say that they have always been there as long as they can remember.'

[these thoughts owe much to my own personal experience, the New testament, GK Chesterton, George MacDonald and CS Lewis]

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Good Prayers Using Bad Language

The following post on 'good prayers using bad language' came out of a situation where I had just written a letter to the mother of an old mate of mine. He and his entire family (including the mum) are from solid Aussie-Battler stock and—as the saying goes—'Don't put up with bullshit and take no prisoners'. You could walk into their home any time of day or night and the air would be hazed blue and purple with a small number of R-rated adjectives that are always used in conversation in order to give moral support to exclamation marks just to so that everyone gets the point. On the richter scale of colourful-language-families, they would be about 9.

Anyway, here I was about to post this letter to her in which I had expressed my concern and good wishes 'cause she had just had half her lungs cut out due to cancer, and then I thought I might include some written prayers with the letter. I printed out the prayers, folded up the sheet of paper, put it in the envelope and then thought, 'You've got to be joking! Talk about putting distance between a hurting woman and God! If she's going to be allowed to speak in her dialect to God, they need colour.' Someone once put it well when they said, 'Pray as you can, not as you cannot.'

Good Prayers in Bad Language