Author Archives: Philip Garside

“…poetry in motion. Freewheeling, anguished and inspirational…” Redemption Songs: Review in NZ Catholic , 12–25 March 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by

Kieran Fouhy, headmaster at St Paul’s College, Auckland in NZ Catholic 12–25 March 2017

“This 80 page book is poetry in motion. Freewheeling, anguished and inspirational.

I could imagine the words of these ‘new psalms’ being sung in some type of Leonard Cohen album. There is struggle, doubt, alienation, despair, gratitude and self-emptying built into each prayer. Themes which resonate today as they did 4000 years ago.

The author draws these universal lyrics from two sources; King David’s Psalms of the Old Testament and Jesus of Galilee. He places the lyrics in contemporary settings.

“I’ve wanted to be some sort of pop star
one of those heroes of the marketplace
but there is no blessing if I turn aside
wanting things you don’t want for me” (55)

“The mind craves understanding
this body longs to be healed from pain
my spirit needs to touch you
then I’ll be whole again” (42)

There is a hint of a reverse Hound Of Heaven theme running through this book … chasing God through life and seeking his forgiveness. Hence the title, Redemption Songs.

I found that I read this book over many days before going on my morning walk.  It spawned my own thinking about life and the pilgrimage we enjoy. It is a book for the moment … to be read slowly, flicked through and thought about.

The 71 psalms are numbered (no headings) giving an open-endedness to the lyrics, which invites further thought. I like the authenticity of the lyrics, such an antidote to the narcissism and self-importance shown in world politics at present.

Who is this book for? It’s for the reflective, meditative type personality. The retreatant.  It’s for the harassed, the time-poor and the spiritually barren person. It’s for the teacher giving a reflection at a staff briefing. It is, as the cover states, “for people like us.”

I like this book.”

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Redemption Songs — Reviewed in Touchstone April 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by John Thornley in Touchstone April 2017

 “This book contains 71 prayers as poems by Auckland-based singer/songwriter Mark Laurent.

Mark is a Christian musician, poet, writer and communicator, and over more than 30 years, he has recorded many albums and published three poetry books and a children’s storybook. With his wife, Brenda Liddiard, he has done many tours of house- and church-based music concerts, in New Zealand and overseas.

Mark and Brenda live in a high-rise apartment in central Auckland, close enough for Mark to do busking on Queen Street. As he writes: “It’s good to keep in touch with life where it happens – with people where they are.”

This collection contains seventy-one poems inspired by the Hebrew Psalms, which provide ‘good jump-off points’ for the poems that express Mark’s ‘love, hopes and fears to God’.

As the poet writes in his introduction, “The songs are numbered instead of having titles, in the hope that this leaves a degree of open-endedness, so that God can say to you what you need to hear. Dip into them at random. May there be a few holy surprises here for you.”

The language is everyday and unpolished, with imagery drawn from the poet’s life experiences:

God holds us, just as I hold this stone
sees our hardness and our beauty
feels our weight and rough edges
knows our history and potential
we’re all miracles, waiting to happen
we should feel loved.

There is a strong confessional and salvation note in the poems, reflecting similar emphases found in the Psalms and the parables of Jesus:

I’m like a child coming home from school
tasting my mum’s home made baking
life seems a bit like Heaven –
now and then.

As reflecting the lows and highs on life’s journey, the feelings embrace both anger and frustration, compassion and hope:

When I look around me
it’s dog eat dog out there
and if you’re vulnerable or broken
they stare like you’re some kind of freak.
There will never be too many God songs
let’s keep on singing about the good stuff
get out the guitar – warm up your voices
it’s time to compose another one
the best and loudest anthem yet!

There are prayers for the individual and prayers for community, and we need both. Redemption Songs complements well Mark Gibson’s The In-Between Land: Psalms Poems and Haiku (2015). While Gibson’s prayers/reflections find a place for collective worship in civic and church venues, Laurent’s poems offer resources for those working in pastoral and counselling roles with individuals and small groups in such places as hospitals and rest homes, prisons and shelter homes. They are also good for personal devotions.

These two collections of poetry are published by Philip Garside Publishing, which is to be commended for making it possible for Christian poets in Aotearoa to be widely read.

Those wanting more information, including how to arrange a local concert from Mark and Brenda, can email him at mark@marklaurent.co.nz

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“…vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.” Review by Mary Caygill of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions:
Faith Seeks Understanding

By Anne Stephenson 2016, Garside Publishing, 86 pages
Reviewer: Mary Caygill

in Methodist newspaper Touchstone March 2017

In this book’s opening pages the author states clearly her intent in writing this resource, which is nothing less than naming what she calls the elephant in the room no one wants to name, and especially no one within religious institutions.

The naming of this ongoing reality is exactly what this author does. She claims quite rightly that no religious institution is devoid of the need to deal justly and compassionately with both ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ when incidences of adult sexual abuse are brought to light and faced up to.

I deliberately choose to juxtapose these two words – ‘justly’ and ‘compassionately’ – as this is the approach the author takes in this valuable resource written out of personal experience.

The subtitle of the book – Faith Seeks Understanding – captures accurately what this book sets out to accomplish and I believe achieves in a most succinct, readable, and informative manner. As such, this book will be a valuable resource for all manner of people both inside and outside of religious institutions.

The author conveys well the complex issues that frame instances of sexual abuse. She helpfully identifies some of the key warning indicators along with some of the key psychological frames of reference that we need to understand to grasp the full extent of adult sexual abuse and particularly how and why it occurs within the context of religious institutions.

It is fair to say that all religious institutions have needed an urgent wake-up call to become aware of the realities of adult sexual abuse by its spiritual leaders. This crisis and the way it has been addressed have proven to be very impetuous.

In many cases there is a need to both address and  establish far more robust procedures that work towards ensuring the pastoral and ethical accountability of those in key positions of trust and influence.

The language used by the author of ‘offender’ and ‘victim’ are rightfully used throughout the book to clearly identify and then address what is at heart an abuse of power which breaches the all-important ethical principle of ‘fiduciary duty’.

As the author establishes, within religious institutions this amounts to breaking the sacred trust between the leader (the one with power) and the congregant who has deemed the leader to be trustworthy.

Because of this sacred trust the consequences are life- changing and the healing required is immense and of a specialised nature both for the victim and offender. The author conveys well the full extent of both the abuse and the healing journey required.

I commend this book as a valuable pastoral resource. It is vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.”

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Like a Dove – Review in Touchstone Feb 2017

Like a Dove – A memoir and biography in honour of Sione Tavo Manukia

By Rubinstine Manukia 2016, Philip Garside Publishing, 98 pages

Reviewer: Motekiai Fakatou in Touchstone February 2017

“Sione Tavo Manukia was a grandson of Arthur Frances Tindall, a missionary and trader to Tonga. Sione migrated to New Zealand in the 1970s. He was a man full of hopes and dreams with humble faith and a deep conviction about his purpose in life.

After he landed on the shore of Aotearoa, his balanced life grew immensely and started to unfold in new ways as he was nurtured by his parents.

His parents Sione senior and Sela Soakai Manukia were staunch Methodists and a local business couple. Sione Sr was a lay preacher and a steward for many years.

Sione’s inner most character was expressed through his ordinary life in extraordinary ways. He lived out his faith practically which explains why so many people, including those who have written in this book, pay tribute to him.

He was a man of tenacious courage coupled with an   enduring faith and a sincere compassion.

Sione’s strong characters have helped him and his family along with many other families. Through his tremendous efforts over the years they have realised their hopes and turned their dreams in to reality.

Throughout the years Sione faced many challenges but this book, written by his daughter, shows how a person can sustain him or herself through the pressures of life and still reach out to assist others so that they can reach their goals and reach their dreams.

The three main elements mentioned above – courage, faith  and compassion – are the three strands that weave together as a strong cord that strengthened Sione over the years.

This solid cord stems out of his great family heritage from both his paternal and maternal family.

His entrepreneurial sense of life came from his grandfather for whom he was a trader in Tonga and around the South Pacific during the early 1900s.

Sione’s steadfast faith was nurtured by his parents, and they encourage him to participate in the life of the church early on. This is where he deepened his faith and displayed it by hard work in dedicating his time and effort to honour God, support his country, and care for his family.

Sione Tavo Manukia is a compassionate father, committed preacher, successful entrepreneur, effective community worker and faithful man of God.”

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Free Sample – Forty – from Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent

Here’s another sample poem from Mark Laurent’s Redemption Songs.

The book is available in print and in 3 eBook formats – see below for ordering links.

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Forty

I’m not good at being patient
but God always hears me when I call

Lifts me up when the time is right
steadies my stumbling feet – I’m still walking

I was pretty depressed there for a while
but now I’ve got a fresh song in my heart

People have been noticing – they seem impressed
some have even started asking about Jesus

There’s not much joy in the idols of culture
but great reward in simply having faith

If I think about my life, it’s full of miracles
things that can’t be explained any other way

God isn’t demanding payment for this blessing
that matter’s already been taken care of
Jesus came, just as predicted in the stories
did everything God said was necessary

Jesus delighted to do what God wanted
heal us – forgive the sad things we’ve done

This is so important we should tell everyone about it
it’s heartless to keep such good news to ourselves

God’s love and constancy anchors our hope
we’d be adrift and lost without mercy like this

When I look at the world – so many problems –
my confidence shrinks and life feels hopeless

Without Heaven’s grace I’m certainly a wreck
my many faults keep catching up with me

But God gets me through – no, more than that
I’m overcoming things that used to bring me down

Let’s pray everyone finds this joy, this help
the poor and weak who need to know they’re loved

Come quick Lord – please don’t wait too long.

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Free Sample – Thirty – from Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent

Here’s another sample poem from Mark Laurent’s Redemption Songs.

The book is available in print and in 3 eBook formats – see below for ordering links.

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Thirty

Lord I want to say thanks
I’ve got a passionate song in my heart
your love fills me with joy
I’m throwing off the drab colours I used to wear
I’ve a mind to dance in the street

My life was a real disaster
I was self-destructive, depressed
it was all about me, and I knew that was
    a loser’s game

When I yelled out to you for mercy
I was afraid you wouldn’t notice
but you came over and lifted me up
out of that hole I’d dug myself into

I’m standing on solid ground again
it was a long and lonely night
but morning’s come, and I’m wide awake

Sing to the Lord everybody
tell the world how good God is
there might be anger, but it never lasts
this love, however, goes on and on.

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Sample – Seventy One – from Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent

Here’s another sample poem from Mark Laurent’s Redemption Songs.

The book is available in print and in 3 eBook formats – see below for links.

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Seventy-one

Create a quiet place in me, Lord
hush the babble of my mind
the racing of my pulse
then my heart will begin to hear
    your ‘gentle, murmuring voice’

Slow me down, Jesus
I need to take time
to see the beauty of creation
the exquisite intensity of your care
that way I’ll come to appreciate
    and be thankful

Teach me to listen, Abba
to the cries of those in need
the questions of the confused
    so I can learn compassion

In this unquiet world
help me to find a quiet place
    and a quiet time

Lord, I need to hear
the counsel of your spirit
the poetry of your love
then I’ll have something to share
    with those who cannot hear you.

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Click here for Print or here for eBooks

Sample – Forty Five – from Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent

Here’s a sample poem from Mark Laurent’s Redemption Songs.

The book is available in print and in 3 eBook formats – see below for links.

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Forty-five

I never had a song worth singing
until I wrote a song for Jesus

No-one is finer than you, Jesus
you set my voice free, like ink on paper

Your words are grace and power
richness and inspiration spill in your footsteps

I’m in awe of such strength and wisdom
overwhelmed by how impressive you are

Everything you do is amazing
each word rings with the chime of truth
your meekness shows us what justice looks like

The world’s power-brokers are pathetic by contrast
nothing on this planet can stand up to you

When the dust of Armageddon settles
you’ll be the only one left standing
Earth will be as it should be at last

You’re the champion of all that’s good
we, your companions, are bathed in joy

Beauty and romance will return to Earth
songs of celebration ring out after all these years

Women love you, men revere you
some gladly leave all else to follow

You see the best in us, Lord
inspire us to be more than we are

Though all we have is rags and dust
we bring it to you, and you spin it to gold

We’ll be beautiful, as you said we would
our anxiety and shame all washed in joy

At last we’ll truly be Children of God
it’s what we’d hoped for, but never thought we’d see

We’ll keep on telling this story, Jesus
everywhere, every day, we’ll remember you.

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Sample – Eighteen – from Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent

Here’s a sample poem from Mark Laurent’s Redemption Songs.

The book is available in print and in 3 eBook formats – see below for links.

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Eighteen
Your love, Lord, makes me strong
I’ve needed safety and you’ve been my shelter
when I’ve had to fight you’ve stood beside me
In the past I’ve played some deadly games
got mixed up in all sorts of unhealthy schemes
I was my own worst enemy much of the time
I finally cried out for help and you heard me
and your answer shook my tree to its roots
everything I held dear was consumed
by the fire that accompanies you wherever you go
You covered me with darkness – a cloud of unknowing
restless winds howled through every crack
till I was broken, defenceless, and couldn’t even pray
naked and exposed, and ready to be saved
When at last I stared into the dry-bottomed pit of myself
and the enemy within could no longer hide his face
that’s when you reached me
that’s when you showed me your love
Lord, you’ve scrubbed me clean – made me well
I’ll not turn my back as I did before
you lit a fire in me that eats away darkness
Now I’m ready to take on the night
run up the hilltop and stand there
meet that old enemy of mine out in the open
blow him away with the words you gave me
sing out your name – ‘Save! Save!’
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Who is my enemy? A reflection by Philip Garside – 11 Sept. 2016

This sermon reflection explores two visual concepts to help us think about choosing to name others as enemies or as neighbours.

I preached it at Wesley Church in Wellington, New Zealand on 11 Sept. 2016, the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

I welcome your feedback to me at: books@pgpl.co.nz

The full text of the reflection is shown below after the video.

Reflection: Who is my enemy?

Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O God, Amen.

Jesus parables were always challenging and in that style I have titled this reflection: “Who is my Enemy?”

The ideal of loving God and loving your neighbour was not new in Jesus’ time. In Leviticus 19:18 we are told “Don’t seek revenge or carry a grudge against any of your people. Love your neighbour as yourself.” The ten commandments given to Moses are rules about living harmoniously in community with our neighbours. So these ideas had been part of the Jewish tradition for many centuries before Jesus.

In Matthew chapter 5 we find Jesus sharpening, making more provocative and demanding, the commandments in the Old Testament. There are a series of teachings in the pattern: “You have heard that it was said…But I say…” For instance:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement;”

And…

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

And…

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Jesus adds to the commandments to love God and neighbour, the challenge to also love your enemies.

Here is a paradox: If you can learn to love your enemy, can they still be your enemy?

Two things have brought this question into focus for me.

I have been reading Jewish academic Amy-Jill Levine’s book “Short Stories by Jesus: The enigmatic Parables of a controversial Rabbi.” She has lots of stimulating ideas about how to interpret Jesus’ parables, as they have come down to us in the Gospels, in modern translations of the Bible. In her comments on the Good Samaritan story, in which the lawyer asks, Who is my neighbour, Levine says something remarkable.

It relates to how Hebrew is written down. In the formal written Hebrew used in handwritten scrolls of scripture, only the consonants are printed. The person reading the text has to mentally add in the appropriate vowels, based on the context of the rest of the sentence.

Let me demonstrate in English with the consonants T L L.

We can form many words by adding vowels to these letters. The context will help us, for example:

“A child is short, but an adult is…. TALL.”

“Ask me no questions, TELL me no lies”

“The shopkeeper put the money in the TILL

“She paid a TOLL to cross the bridge.”

“And for fans of early 1970s folk rock, we have the band Jethro TULL.”

You get the idea.

Back to Amy-Jill Levine.

In Hebrew, the words “neighbour” and “evil” share the same consonants (Resh ר Ayin ע); they differ only in the vowels. Both words are written identically. ע ר

So on the page these two consonants can stand for two opposite ideas.

Combined with Hebrew vowels this way, the resulting word means

רֵעַ שֵם

friend, comrade, buddy, colleague ; neighbour, another

Or combined with vowels this way, the resulting word means

רַע שֵם ז’

bad, evil ; villain ; trouble, ill

(Sorry I can’t pronounce the Hebrew words.) But can you see the challenge here?

You or I reading the text have to decide whether it means enemy or neighbour based on the context. The meaning is not fixed, but flexible.

Taking this idea one step further, if we can choose to interpret the same text two different ways, can we also choose whether to consider another person as a neighbour or an enemy? I think we can.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the event that Americans call 9/11. After the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York were destroyed, people in the United States flew flags from their houses and many started going back to church again. In the face of an identifiable enemy and threat, they united behind traditional symbols of meaning and togetherness.

The government response was to seek revenge by going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Horrifying wars, which have led directly to many of the conflicts we see today in the Middle East. The prophesy from Jeremiah we heard this morning brings to mind the devastation to people, and to the land itself, that war causes. It is a warning to follow the ideals of loving God and neighbour, or face catastrophe.

Many odd things happened on 9/11. There is a lot of speculation about what really happened and why?

What is clear is that people in the United States identified themselves as us the good guys under attack from them, the enemy.

That’s where the trouble starts, by identifying and naming someone else as different, as other, rather than looking for the things we have in common.

How can we discover what we have in common with another person?

I find social occasions with lots of people making small talk very difficult. What works for me is to find one person to talk to and by listening carefully to what they are saying, find a topic that is important to them to talk about. Then I can contribute my ideas and experiences and we get to know each other a little.

The second thing I want to share with you is a visual idea I have been mulling over since February.

Religious beliefs can divide or unite people.

slide31 Imagine for a moment that this segment represents Methodists. The darker shades at the top of the segment are where we find the sacred texts, rituals and traditions that we hold onto most firmly. John Wesley’s sermons, Charles Wesley’s hymns, an open communion table and a concern for social justice. These are things which Methodists identify with.

slide32Lets say that the next segment represents Catholics. The darker shades at the top of the segment represent devotion to the Pope, rosary beads, regular confession – the things that Catholics hold dear.

 

 

slide33Lets say the next segment represents Islamic faith. The darker shades towards the outside of the segment represent a belief in the prophet Mohammed, the Koran, pilgrimage to Mecca and the other things that Moslems hold dear.

 

 

slide34Now lets complete the circle with other faiths.

Note the black lines separating the segments. They symbolise the divisions between people of faith. These divisions can lead to intolerance and conflict. Taken to extremes they can lead to violence and war. I imagine this as a journey into the darkness, which swallows up all the good things about faith and leads to oblivion.

[Show slides of circle receding into blackness]

slide40What if instead we look inwards to the centre of the wheel, towards those things which we have in common with other people and other faiths. And let’s remove the borders between us. Now as we journey towards the light at the centre, we are free to sample the ideas and ideals of other faiths and discover the things we have in common.

Loving God (or Gods) and loving neighbour are universal ideas, shared by people of faith.

[Show video of turning circle]

And what if the Holy Spirit blows and the circle rotates, pivoting around the light in the centre and blurring the distinctions between us?

Is world peace really that easy? No, but Jesus pointed us in the right direction.

In the Good Samaritan story the lawyer wants an easy, tick the box answer to eternal life. Instead Jesus tells him to love his neighbour, a lifelong commitment. So the lawyer asks, OK who is my neighbour? and gets an unpalatable answer. Your enemy, the Samaritan, is your neighbour too.

Jesus’ wisdom that we should love our enemy still challenges us profoundly today.

If you can learn to love your enemy, can they still be your enemy?

No, because of your change of heart, they are now your neighbour.

Amen.