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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When The Road Darkens

'What do you fear, lady?' Aragorn asked.

'A cage,' Éowyn said. 'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.'1

Coming up-hill from the big town, I drive along a street towards our house and pray and wonder if that family will be out and about: the ones people talk about and wish were not there, but who's children come to our Kids Club. They don't seem to be, and I almost drive past—and then there they are—skeletal and hard-looking: the dad with his month's growth and eyes looking under siege, and the mum's face saying, 'I don't care what happens, I will survive. And by the way don't f— with me!'

I like it here. Just being here, listening to them on their front lawn as their their jokes and complaints and hopes and dreams flow freely. And I like the fact that this this lean-as-a-bean man with his stream of 'three adjectives adjectives on an endless loop' somehow make me think of what we have in common: a desire to fight for a home, children and happiness, even if it is muddied with pride and rage and hatred for the guy next door who has 'apparently?' bashed his wife. And there's even something in his face that reminds me of the men I grew-up around in the bush: the deep-set eyes, the unshaven face and the rake of a body—well, they would either be rakes or loaded up with great bloated bellies.

As we stand there and talk about that fact that Ford has taken out the big race (I avoid mentioning that Holden took the next five places), a little three-legged dog wanders across the lawn and I feel lucky: lucky to once again be in a place where the great Logos is present and is yet again bringing love, healing and grace. Yes, the little ones who had so loved coming to the club—the girl even showing up earlier than anyone—are nowhere to be seen, and have not been coming for months. But here we are, the mother telling the dad to mind his swearing and all of us feeling—however faintly—that this place where we we stand is somehow sacred by the very fact that it has a home and a family that came out of the heart of God.

On the way to my own home, just up the hill, I wonder what has become of those two little children. Have they been classified as 'in danger' and removed from their parents to be put 'somewhere safer'? Are they with a relative? Then I think about the kind of world they are growing up in and my mind drifts to a cracked-record voice that says, 'If it can't be measured it doesn't exist.'2 And another voice of the same kind, which asserts that evolution has endowed us with 'Genes that make us believe in concepts like the soul ... One day such irrational tendencies might be removed by adjusting the relevant brain circuitry.' In the meantime, the author offers us this encouragement, 'We will have to resign ourselves to the unpalatable fact that we are nothing more than machines.'3 Somehow I feel as if I'm hearing a voice I met long ago in high school, which admitted quite shamelessly to seeking a ‘special odour of corruption, which I hope floats over my stories.’4 As a sixteen year old boy at the time my thought was, 'What else have you got, we all know that one.'

Once again, I remember why I have laid aside so much else of what I could have given my time to, and instead, have poured years into reading and thinking and writing, and what sometimes seemed like 'wasted conversations' on footpaths, uncertain prayers in the middle of the night and even rage- filled arguments with God. Ironically, I have that fortunate feeling again, feeling lucky to have been led to this place where I can take the fight right down to the wire (even if I fail), for it has been truly said,“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”

1. Tolkien JRR. The Return of the King

2. A one word summary of the discredited philosophy—but still used by Dawkins et. al.—of Logical Postivism

3. Woolfson, An Intelligent Person's Guide To Genetics. Quoted by Pearcey N. in Saving Leonardo pp. 92, 93

4 James Joyce and The Revolution of the Word: Colin McCabe p.29 McMillan 1978

5. “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” Tolkien JRR. The Two Towers

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The Truck and The Bullet

 

Serona

It's late at night and the distant sound of a truck pushing along out there on the hill calls to mind a slow bullet cutting its way through hard molecules of air after an explosion inside a rifle has spat it out via a steel pipe to do whatever grim work it has been sent to do. The bullet and the truck live in separate universes when it comes to speed but being sent and doing work are two things they have in common and—interestingly—those were also two of Jesus' favourite self-describing words as recorded in the gospels.

We haven't lived for very long on this big ridge but you know you're no longer on the flat country when you can feel the breezes that come across the valley at night and see the lights of the 'city' down there with it's highways, railway lines and it's quiet old river hiding in the belly. And that city is not just 'down there', it's 'up here' too in our little cul-de-sac of bitumen, lawns, broken dreams, bits and pieces of happiness and—to be sure—many untold stories of sweet love and grace.

And even as I sit here and write, I find myself sighing and praying for a guy across the road who's yelling at a voice in his head and I think about the fact that, like the bullet and the truck, we have also been sent to this particular place to do the work of that mysterious Paraclete (the great Comforter and friend), which sometimes will be grim and sometimes a sheer joy and full of laughter. It actually says somewhere that the Paraclete 'prays even now with sighs too deep for words' and I'm sure he's praying along with me for my old mate over the road, for (according to Jesus) the Paraclete was also sent to do work.

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Men’s Night

Men's Night

The five of us sit on worn lounge chairs that have been upholstered with heavily textured cloth of the kind which catches on your clothes when you try to move. Overhead are three big neon lights and—as a kind of centre-piece between our lounges—is a coffee table, which is also serving as a tea-towel rack, a resting place for bare feet, and a bench for upturned books and dirty coffee cups.

Three of the guys are almost falling on top of each other with curiosity and laughter as they look at some new gadgetry on a phone. Another one's buried in cyberspace and I've just been informed that no one's made any plans. Excellent! And! to top it all off, we're about to enjoy a hearty feed of steak, which is not far away on the table—but we're politely waiting for the one laggart who's supposedly on his way to join us.

And here comes the late arrival! We say grace and the night begins: men's night that is, at the Orange Cornerstone team-house. Just what the doctor ordered.

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Borrowed Biographies

The other day a mate of mine asked me what I thought about the Machine Gun Preacher who was coming to town 'on tour'. Having watched the movie (and gathered some more reliable info) I explained that I remain deeply moved by this story of a hard man (and his family) finding God's love, helping kids in Africa and killing some baddies, but that I pretty much knew what was going to happen to him before I even heard he would be doing the rounds of a preaching circuit. And sure enough, when my friend went to the show it was a disturbing mix of a man confronting hypocrisy and cowardice but at the same time putting on an 'all about me' event.

It's what we—the bored Christianised westerners—do: we have to video, package and sell anyone who does something we consider 'great' in the hope that somehow their 'message' will make us feel better and fix everything up in our messed up world. But our hunger to 'borrow from other people's biographies' is delivering up these heroes and heroines to a kind of strip-tease act—on the soul-destroying altar of the microphone and the camera lens. Our motives, rather then being about learning and growing, are more to do with our desire to experience life through the imagination, feelings or actions of other people, to glean vicarious pleasure from their struggles.

This temptation to the vicarious (or even voyeuristic*) is inevitably rampant in societies, families and individuals that are breaking down and feeling impotent in the face of what they perceive as evil influences—but more often than not the 'evil' is largely due to the fact that their own pride is under assault and all this angst is so unnecessary if only they could get over their tragic 'violin-playing' about the way life ought to be or used to be and simply walk across the road to their neighbour and choose to 'mine compassion out of the pit of the world's woes'.

It's exactly this kind of thing that the Explorer's Prayer Part II speaks to when it says, 'This story is much greater than we know and to despair (even if it is romanticised and made pretty with clever words) is to sulk, to sit on the fence and to refuse the obvious: that life is 'a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.'7 So we choose to 'bet our lives upon one side in this great war'6 and to join with You in the sweet and patient work of grace, like the priest who—faced with the overwhelming burden of human suffering— refused to be intimidated by his own grief and by the scorn of those who demanded that he first answer their philosophical chess-plays about their conveniently manufactured idea of god: a straw god in fact. Instead, like Christ, he chose to turn his back on their contempt and to 'mine compassion'1a out of the pit of the world's woes. Amen.'

Walter Brueggemann has more to say about the wider context of this phenomenon in his essay, 'Conversations Among Exiles'**. He says, 'Our society is marked by a deep dislocation that touches every aspect of our lives. The old certitudes seem less certain; the old privileges are under powerful challenge; the old dominations are increasingly ineffective and fragile; the established governmental, educational, judicial and medical institutions seem less and less able to deliver what we need and have come to expect; the old social fabrics are fraying under the assault of selfishness, fear, anger and greed.

'There seems no going back to our former world, since the circumstances making that world sustainable have changed. Because the church has been intimately connected with the old patterns of certitude, privilege and domination, it shares a common jeopardy with other old institutions. Church members are confused about authority, bewildered about mission, worried about finances, contentious about norms and ethics, and anxious about the church’s survival.

'Our numbed and bewildered society lacks ways of thinking and speaking that can help us find remedies—that can enable us to go deep into the crisis and so avoid denial, and to imagine a better future and so avoid despair. But when the church is faithful to its own past life with God, it has ways of speaking, knowing and imagining that can successfully address our cultural malaise. When it remembers its ancient miracles, has the courage to speak in its own cadences, and re-engages old seasons of hurt, the church possesses the rhetorical and testimonial antidotes to denial and despair.

'When thinking about dislocation, an Old Testament teacher moves by "dynamic analogy" to the exile, the determining and defining event of the Hebrew scriptures. By its stubbornness, its refusal to heed the purposes of Yahweh and its resolve to act against neighbourliness, Israel brought upon itself the great crisis of 587 B.C.E. In that year Jerusalem was burned and its temple destroyed, the king was exiled, the leading citizens were deported and public life ended. For ancient Israel, it was the end of privilege, certitude, domination, viable public institutions and a sustaining social fabric. It was the end of life with God, which Israel had taken for granted. In that wrenching time, ancient Israel faced the temptation of denial—the pretence that there had been no loss—and it faced the temptation of despair—the inability to see any way out.

'The Old Testament stories of exile might be a resource, perhaps the only resource, to move us from denial and despair to possibility. Ancient Israel understood that unless loss is examined and understood, newness will not come. The traditions of exile suggest four ways of speech and of faithful imagination that the church can practice and offer as antidotes to denial and despair.

'The ancient community of exiles learned, first of all, to express sadness, rage, anger and loss honestly. The Israelites lost nearly everything when they lost Jerusalem. Similarly, the current loss of old patterns of hegemony that gave privilege to whites and males and their various entourages seems immense. The enormous rage that accompanies such a loss shows up in family abuse, in absurd armament programs and budgets, in abusive prison policies, in a passion for capital punishment and in assaults upon the poor in the name of "reform."

'From Israel the church can learn a better way to deal with grief and rage. It can learn to address these emotions to God, for it is God who is terminating our unjust privilege and deceptive certitude. Ancient Israel broke the pattern of denial by engaging in speeches of complaint and lamentation that dared to say how overwhelming was the loss, how great the anxiety, how deep the consequent fear. Lamentations expresses the sadness of this experience by describing a bereft Jerusalem: "She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her" (1:2).'

 

* a person who gains sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity ... a person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others.

7. Deborah Smith Douglas

6 Studdert Kennedy's poem 'Faith'

1a Les Miserable

** Walter Brueggermann is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. This article appeared in The Christian Century, July 2-9, 1997, pp. 630-632. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This article prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

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‘Imaginative Mission’ Session #2: Taming The Terror and Eliminating the Darkness

From the 23rd Sept - 27th, I will be hosting a five-days Imaginative Mission intensive at Burrabadine, Dubbo NSW. If you can't afford to come for even a day, you're very welcome to come for just one session. Below is an outline of session #2 Taming the Terror and Eliminating The Darkness.

This session is a reflective look at the wilting of the proud secular dream, which Walter Brueggemann speaks to when he says, ‘It is worth considering a “sociology of wonder,” and asking who is open to abiding astonishment,” and who might be compelled to overcome, banish, or deny such astonishment? I submit that “abiding astonishment,” the celebration of enduring miracle, tends not to occur among those who manage writing, who control the state, who create and transmit proper “facts,” who monopolise control, and who explain by cause and effect ... '

The author suggests that our society (and even at times our 'Christianity') has a vested interest in this elimination of wonder and “abiding astonishment,” because ‘In our modern experience but probably also in every affluent culture it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the terror and eliminate the darkness *... The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life is rooted nowhere else.’

Rob Bell has a perceptive insight on this when he says, 'A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.'

We will also be looking at Vishal Mangalwadi's perspective in 'The Book That Made Your World.'