Sunday Everyday

Does Prayer Really Work? The Power of a Mothers Prayer.

Does Prayer Really Work? The Power of a Mothers Prayer.  by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

I was born under an umbrella of matriarchy, steeped in prayer and giggles.

My Nanna was a woman who prayed constantly for her family.  She had each of their pictures in frames on shelves in her little room and every day she would pray for each of her children and grandchildren.  I knew that I was the luckiest little girl in the ‘whole world’ because when I was about 10 my Nanna came to live with us.  There was nothing better in the universe than being close to Nanna.  She was sweet and cheeky.  Even her name was like a cloud of Spring Sunshine –  ‘Violet’.

She loved a cup of tea but she detested dirty feet.  Oh ouch ouch !!!!!  My little sister and I would sit in two inches of lukewarm bath water at the end of the day with our feet in the air while Nanna scrubbed our feet clean with a flannel and we tried not to squirm or she would scrub harder.  “Dirty little heathens” she would mutter.  ‘These dirty little feet wont be getting into my clean sheets’.

My Nanna loved tea, ‘Lan Choo Tea’.   Lan Choo tea because The LAN-CHOO Bonus Plan offers you a choice from over 500 useful gifts in exchange for the Bonus Labels on the end of each LAN-CHOO packet.

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“Next time you are in town visit the LAN-CHOO ‘Bonus Showrooms’ and inspect the useful and interesting range of Bonus Presents awaiting LAN-CHOO customers”.

I’m not sure that we ever went to those magical  ‘Bonus Showrooms’ in Flinders Street Melbourne, but she was passionate about saving those labels.  She even had a special tin for them.

Often I would creep into her room and kneel with her by her bed and listen to her pray.  I remember her saying to me,  “Lisa, we don’t ever need to fear.  Sometimes things may go wrong in life, we may be haunted but we’ll never be daunted”.  She was a funny lady, full of mischief, a wicked sense of humour and a woman of prayer.

She smelled like lavender and washed my hair with curly pet.  ‘Curly Pet’ the wonder of wonders was ordered every month.  The label stated that it was “guaranteed to give your baby curls”. My head was liberally smothered with it which is hilarious because I actually have naturally curly hair which of course was attributed to the wonder working powers of ‘Curly Pet’ and not my DNA.

She used Curly Pet on my hair and the magnificent Dippity Do on hers.  I’m not sure what excactly dippty do did, but as a young child I loved nothing more than to get into all the magical pots and formulas on Nanas dressing table.  Dippity Do was also a great standby if you ran out of clagg.

Nanna taught me how to tap dance, how to play pranks, how to play scrabble and how to pray.

Nanna had three daughters and two sons.  The eldest child, my mother, and my two aunts Carol and Bev, have also inherited this mandate of prayer and my Nanna’s wicked sense of humour.  Although our families have been through some traumatic times, two thing stands firm in their lives:  prayer and an irreverent sense of humour.

Prayer and humour have helped us navigate some dark days.  Somehow we always bounced back because:

1:  The Lord is good and He answers prayer

2:  We were never allowed to be daunted

I didn’t really know what daunted meant as a child. Today I finally looked up what daunted means. It means to: “take aback, shake, throw, demoralise or dishearten.  AND if ever we were thinking about being a little tiny bit daunted, there was always a strong cup of tea with lots of sugar to knock that nonsense out of us.

I learned from my Nan that Prayer is simply a conversation with God.  The bible tells us that prayer brings peace, and wisdom and that it is effective and powerful.  ‘So we…petitioned our God about this and he answered our prayer’ (Ezra 8:23).

Today I have asked my mother Lauris and my two aunts Aunty Bev and Aunty Carol to answer some questions for me about prayer.  My Mother is 87 this year.  I can’t tell you how old my aunts are because I’m still scared of them and they could kill me for telling you.  Or ‘slap me over the wrist with a tram ticket’ as my Nana would say.

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Aren’t they beautiful they are so precious:  Aunty Bev on the left, Aunty Carol in the middle and Mum (Lauris) on the right.  Standing outside the home they grew up in Abbotsford.

To this day each of my siblings and 19 cousins know that at any time of the day or night,  they have an open line to either of these three women for prayer requests.  They pray regularly and often pray  together over the phone.  Many times I have joined these matriarchs in times of prayer.

In the movie ‘The Castle’, presents go straight to the pool room.  In our family prayer requests go straight to the ‘hot line’.

From: The Sisters about their mother

Mum used to get up very early in the morning to pray and then would return to her room several times during the day to pray some more.  She called her bedroom her ‘prayer closet’ or her ‘sanctuary’.  Prayer was very important part of mums life and she would receive prayer requests from friends and family daily.  You would often hear her on the phone praying with someone.  She was a warrior woman and would never give up.

As sisters we do a prayer reading everyday.  Prayer is a major part of our lives too.  We do a reading together every day so that we have read the whole bible through each year.  We pray in the morning and at night and there are many times when we are woken up in the middle of the night to pray – or have a burden of prayer.  When we are worried about one of our kids or grandchildren we say “Well there no use worrying about it,  Lets Pray!”

We have seen our prayers answered so many times that there are too many to mention.

Does prayer work?   Of course prayer works.  Bev could not have children and Mum got us together to pray.  Mum said to Bev “you are not barren” and we will pray believing.   A few months later Bev was pregnant.

We feel so happy and excited when we pray.  We feel really free in our spirit and Bev really gets revved up (don’t put that bit in cause she’ll get mad).  Sometimes we cry and laugh for joy at the goodness of God and how good he has been to our families.  We are truly blessed.

Even when there seems no way out or ‘no answer’, prayer bring us peace, joy and an assurance that we can rest knowing that God cares for our families and we can trust Him.  He has never failed us.  God is Good.

This testimony from Bev concerning her friend Kirsten and the power of prayer.

Kirsten’s husband Sam was destroying his life on ice and had become abusive to the family so he left her. Kirsten needed prayer as her two young sons were being hard to handle.  They did not want to go school, they were sleeping in her bed  and generally not coping with the situation.

One day Kristen came  to visit me with her two boys.   I could sense that they were very distraught so I asked the  boys if I could pray with them and they said yes.  I asked them ‘what would you like me to pray for?’   They asked if  we could pray for their dad to get better.  I said if I pray will you believe with me and they said yes.   So together we prayed for their father.   After texting the boys daily to encourage them and pray with them, we then heard  that Sam had come home and asked forgiveness for being so nasty.  He also asked if the boys would thank the ladies that had been praying for him.  He was so amazed that two ladies (Lauris and Bev) who didn’t even know him, were praying for him.

Sams recovery was a miracle.  He went and asked for professional help, he then attended every meeting needed to get well.  He ended up getting a  certificate to say he was free from drugs and is now home with his family.

The truth is that the faith and prayers of the boys was answered.  God answers prayer.

Final comment from Lauris

It is very important to pray.   The ‘big thing’ is that you pray with faith and believe God and you must believe in what you are asking for.  Speak to God as if you were speaking to your father who loves you and who wants to look after you.  Speak with an open heart like a little child because He cares about you with an everlasting love.  Get started on exercising your faith, people are always talking about how we need to exercise,  but forget to exercise their faith.  Exercise builds muscle and endurance.  It’s no different with faith and prayer.  Believe in God and you will see some mighty things begin to happen.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey into my family heritage.  I feel very blessed to have these precious women in my life.

 

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Reclaiming Jesus

In early March 2018, Christian leaders gathered together in New York to discuss the perilous and polarizing times that they are facing as a nation and the dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of  government and in the churches.

Believing that the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake they drafted a confession of faith to address their concerns.  

The meeting  took place with  Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Tony Campolo, Fr Richard Rohr, Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann and 20 other Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders.

They have launched a campaign to “reclaim Jesus” from those who they believe are using Christian theology for political gain. The signers agreed to the wording of the statement at an Ash Wednesday retreat that Curry hosted at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. Together they crafted this confession of what faith in times like these require.  Their prayer is that  we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.

This address gives me great hope that there are Christian men and women in leadership who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.  Who will go against the current tides of popularity and political insanity that is sweeping across the globe.

Finally – something that makes sense.

This full and unedited confession of faith has been reposted with permission from ReclaimingJesus.org

A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis

We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. We pray that our nation will see Jesus’ words in us. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

When politics undermines our theology, we must examine that politics. The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”

It is often the duty of Christian leaders, especially elders, to speak the truth in love to our churches and to name and warn against temptations, racial and cultural captivities, false doctrines, and political idolatries—and even our complicity in them. We do so here with humility, prayer, and a deep dependency on the grace and Holy Spirit of God.

This letter comes from a retreat on Ash Wednesday, 2018. In this season of Lent, we feel deep lamentations for the state of our nation, and our own hearts are filled with confession for the sins we feel called to address. The true meaning of the word repentance is to turn around. It is time to lament, confess, repent, and turn. In times of crisis, the church has historically learned to return to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession. It was central for the early church and needs to again become central to us. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar was not—nor any other political ruler since. If Jesus is Lord, no other authority is absolute. Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God he announced, is the Christian’s first loyalty, above all others. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Our faith is personal but never private, meant not only for heaven but for this earth.

The question we face is this: Who is Jesus Christ for us today? What does our loyalty to Christ, as disciples, require at this moment in our history? We believe it is time to renew our theology of public discipleship and witness. Applying what “Jesus is Lord” means today is the message we commend as elders to our churches.

What we believe leads us to what we must reject. Our “Yes” is the foundation for our “No.” What we confess as our faith leads to what we confront. Therefore, we offer the following six affirmations of what we believe, and the resulting rejections of practices and policies by political leaders which dangerously corrode the soul of the nation and deeply threaten the public integrity of our faith. We pray that we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.

I. WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). That image and likeness confers a divinely decreed dignity, worth, and God-given equality to all of us as children of the one God who is the Creator of all things. Racial bigotry is a brutal denial of the image of God (the imago dei) in some of the children of God. Our participation in the global community of Christ absolutely prevents any toleration of racial bigotry. Racial justice and healing are biblical and theological issues for us, and are central to the mission of the body of Christ in the world. We give thanks for the prophetic role of the historic black churches in America when they have called for a more faithful gospel.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity. In particular, we reject white supremacy and commit ourselves to help dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate white preference and advantage. Further, any doctrines or political strategies that use racist resentments, fears, or language must be named as public sin—one that goes back to the foundation of our nation and lingers on. Racial bigotry must be antithetical for those belonging to the body of Christ, because it denies the truth of the gospel we profess.

II. WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28). The body of Christ, where those great human divisions are to be overcome, is meant to be an example for the rest of society. When we fail to overcome these oppressive obstacles, and even perpetuate them, we have failed in our vocation to the world—to proclaim and live the reconciling gospel of Christ.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God. We lament when such practices seem publicly ignored, and thus privately condoned, by those in high positions of leadership. We stand for the respect, protection, and affirmation of women in our families, communities, workplaces, politics, and churches. We support the courageous truth-telling voices of women, who have helped the nation recognize these abuses. We confess sexism as a sin, requiring our repentance and resistance.

III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46) “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34). We won’t accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children, and we will resist repeated attempts to deny health care to those who most need it. We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programs for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich. Budgets are moral documents. We commit ourselves to opposing and reversing those policies and finding solutions that reflect the wisdom of people from different political parties and philosophies to seek the common good. Protecting the poor is a central commitment of Christian discipleship, to which 2,000 verses in the Bible attest.

IV. WE BELIEVE that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives. Truth-telling is central to the prophetic biblical tradition, whose vocation includes speaking the Word of God into their societies and speaking the truth to power. A commitment to speaking truth, the ninth commandment of the Decalogue, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), is foundational to shared trust in society. Falsehood can enslave us, but Jesus promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). The search and respect for truth is crucial to anyone who follows Christ.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. Politicians, like the rest of us, are human, fallible, sinful, and mortal. But when public lying becomes so persistent that it deliberately tries to change facts for ideological, political, or personal gain, the public accountability to truth is undermined. The regular purveying of falsehoods and consistent lying by the nation’s highest leaders can change the moral expectations within a culture, the accountability for a civil society, and even the behavior of families and children. The normalization of lying presents a profound moral danger to the fabric of society. In the face of lies that bring darkness, Jesus is our truth and our light.

V. WE BELIEVE that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. We support democracy, not because we believe in human perfection, but because we do not. The authority of government is instituted by God to order an unredeemed society for the sake of justice and peace, but ultimate authority belongs only to God.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it. Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.

VI. WE BELIEVE Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18). Our churches and our nations are part of an international community whose interests always surpass national boundaries. The most well-known verse in the New Testament starts with “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). We, in turn, should love and serve the world and all its inhabitants, rather than seek first narrow, nationalistic prerogatives.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. We reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth’s resources, toward genuine global development that brings human flourishing for all of God’s children. Serving our own communities is essential, but the global connections between us are undeniable. Global poverty, environmental damage, violent conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and deadly diseases in some places ultimately affect all places, and we need wise political leadership to deal with each of these.

WE ARE DEEPLY CONCERNED for the soul of our nation, but also for our churches and the integrity of our faith. The present crisis calls us to go deeper—deeper into our relationship to God; deeper into our relationships with each other, especially across racial, ethnic, and national lines; deeper into our relationships with the most vulnerable, who are at greatest risk.

The church is always subject to temptations to power, to cultural conformity, and to racial, class, and gender divides, as Galatians 3:28 teaches us. But our answer is to be “in Christ,” and to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The best response to our political, material, cultural, racial, or national idolatries is the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Jesus summarizes the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. This is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:38). As to loving our neighbors, we would add “no exceptions.”

We commend this letter to pastors, local churches, and young people who are watching and waiting to see what the churches will say and do at such a time as this.

Our urgent need, in a time of moral and political crisis, is to recover the power of confessing our faith. Lament, repent, and then repair. If Jesus is Lord, there is always space for grace. We believe it is time to speak and to act in faith and conscience, not because of politics, but because we are disciples of Jesus Christ—to whom be all authority, honor, and glory. It is time for a fresh confession of faith. Jesus is Lord. He is the light in our darkness.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

 

  • Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
  • Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
  • Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians
  • Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
  • Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
  • Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
  • Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church
  • Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network
  • Dr. John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association
  • Bishop Lawrence Reddick, CEO, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
  • Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
  • Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
  • Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
  • Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute
  • Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School
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An Anthology on Prayer: Part One

An Anthology on Prayer Part One

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

What is Prayer?

Does prayer work?

Over the next weeks you will hear from, poets, theologians, authors, musicians, pastors and leaders from Social Justice platforms.

These posts will be done in the form of an anthology, which is a collection of writings or poems.  In this post,  ‘An Anthology on Prayer Part One’ we will be hearing from:  Dr John Drane, Nicole Conner and Cameron Semmens.

The last two decades for me have been years of un-learning. I was raised in a pentecostal fundamentalist cult. When I left the cult in 2000 I attended the pentecostal Mega Church. During that time I studied Theology at Tabor College. One of the hardest and healthiest things I have done.

I say this because we all look at life through the prisms and perspectives.  The way we have been raised usually has a big influence upon us.  My perspective was, in the past, very myopic, narrow and mostly driven by fear. There were many rules and certainties around my faith.  I have now come out into a larger space and am certainly more reflective and open about God and His relationship with us in this world. I am less dogmatic and less certain. In fact the more I know the more I realise I don’t know.

In this season of sifting, one of the topics I have been re-visiting  is Prayer.

I am letting God out of His box now. I want to hear from a range of people who view life and faith from different angles.

Along with this season of unlearning has been a growing suspicion of leaders. I don’t think I am alone in this. I believe that generally as a society we have all felt let down by pastors, politicians, sporting heroes and civic leaders.

Who do we go to for answers when there is such a feeling of disconnection?  Who can we trust?

There are still several people on the planet that I hold in high regard and whom I trust to speak their hearts with integrity.  So I decided to enlist their help on this topic.  I contacted a dozen or so of my trusted friends, colleagues and mentors and asked them for their perspective on prayer.  They come from all walks of life.

Rev. Dr John Drane is a gift to me and I am very grateful for his input on this topic. John is a theologian who is probably best known for his two best-selling books on the Bible, Introducing the Old Testament and Introducing the New Testament.  Among many other things John is founder of the religious studies program at the University of Stirling, Scotland. He is also appointed to teach Practical Theology in the Divinity School at the University of Aberdeen. Currently a self-employed consultant working with churches of many different denominations throughout the United Kingdom as well as internationally.

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An adjunct professor in New Testament and Practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, California, a visiting scholar at Spurgeon’s College in London and a visiting Fellow of St John’s College, Durham. John is also an ordained minister and well-known throughout the UK and western world for his academic contributions.

If you wish to follow John you can do so on his YouTube channel John Drane

These are the two questions that I asked them all to consider: 

1:  What is Prayer?

2:  Does Prayer Work?

What is Prayer?

Prayer is an attitude or environment when we live in conscious awareness that we are surrounded by the presence of the divine in every moment of life.  Martin Luther didn’t say that prayer is work, but that work is prayer – and so is (or can be) everything else.

Sometimes that awareness of God comes unexpectedly out of the blue, at other times it’s about making space for it intentionally.  Prayer can be a sense of awe and wonder in the face of something or somebody beyond ourselves, at other times it can be words and actions.  Conversations, listening as well as speaking.

First and foremost though it’s an openness to ourselves, to others, and to God.  Jesus pretty much summed it up with talking about loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength, which is a pretty holistic vision.

Does it ‘work’?  

Depends what you mean by ‘work’.

Researchers have concluded that living in an attitude of prayerfulness can improve your health and help you live longer, and there’s evidence from the Harvard prayer project that suggests being prayed for by others can improve your chances of recovery from serious illness.

There’s a lot we don’t understand, and though prayer never seems to get us the parking spaces that others claim, we would say that yes, prayer does work – in all its many forms.

Nicole Conner

A bit from Nicole: Perhaps what you need to know about me is that I am a story-teller. I love stories. I always have. I have devoted my life to stories – as a writer and public speaker I believe stories can change the world.  Nicole brings three decades of experience in speaking and training about topics such us spirituality, liminality, social justice, volunteerism and theological perspectives.

Check out her blog:  Reflections of  a Mugwump 

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Nicole is one of my trusted and closest friends.

What is Prayer? 

My prayer journey has changed over the years – it has changed in accordance with my understanding of who God is. I can apply this to Richard Rohr’s thoughts about first and second half of life – in some way we frantically build structure and meaning in the first half – it is about ego, image and success.

As we enter the threshold or liminal space into what contains our second half we begin to deconstruct, hold paradox and mystery. God is mystery and God is love – my prayer life centres around this.

All that preamble to say that I no longer see prayer as earning some invisible brownie points with God – I believe in ritual but only because it ties into the rhythm of life. My prayer ritual is taking certain moments every day and breathing and recognising God who is all in all – it includes silence, contemplation, listening and spoken word. These rituals for me are enhanced in spaces of natural beauty – but that is not always possible depending on where I find myself throughout the day.

Does prayer work? 

It’s a great question and one that triggers me back to my frantic first half where I made all sorts of promises to people about prayer using my privilege of dominant platform voice. The question is what do we mean by ‘does prayer work’? Work what?

And let’s consider our answer as a global citizen … with thousands and thousands of desperate human prayers asking for safety, food, liberation from horrific acts of violence.

I think prayer works when we begin to stop seeing prayer as a  spiritualised form of our Christmas wish list that we were privileged to construct in our often dominant, wealthy, insular culture and context. Prayer works perhaps when we recognise our responsibility in what it means to see the ‘kingdom come’ … and this often means letting go, living sustainably, saying no, and making a rich contribution in the issues of justice.

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Cameron Semmens

Cameron Semmens is a 2 times broken-hearted, award-winning performance poet, poetry educator and book designer. He’s got 21 books to his name and 4 spoken word albums. His most recent book, ‘Get Poor Quick through Poetry – 101 super easy steps to obscurity, disappointment and straight-up cashlessness’, luckily has only sold 82 copies, so it’s keeping well within his hopes and expectations.

Some call Cameron ‘a connoisseur of fine words’; others call him ‘dad’ (specifically his two little kids); and still others call him on the phone to chat about his writing workshops, or performing, or commissioning a poem, or just being arty.

He lives amidst the foggy ferny forests of The Dandenong Ranges, and can often be found in cafés head-down, fingers-a-blur dreaming up words to move, inform and discombobulate.

He’s been drawing a lot lately… with Indian ink and a falcon feather quill. This seems to be developing into a new artistic expression, but it’s still a bit too early to call.  Listen to his podcast ‘Shards – The 1 Poem Podcast of Cameron Semmens’ and check out www.webcameron.com

Cameron never fails to bring joy and hope to my life.  He is a rare human and his view on the world is one that I cherish.

Answer 1: Like a Wave Veiled With Spray Rushing to Her Groom

Presence

is the only true

prayer.

Move

to the bloody edge of your body,

where skin becomes see-through

and only membranes of thought hold you in

– there

you have a chance of seeing

‘the other’

beyond;

– there – 

you may see

how a hand may be perfectly placed

to worship.

Lean forward

to the very edge of this moment;

the closest you can get to the future

before you become

tomorrow

(or one hundred thousand years from now)

– here – 

pressing hard against potential

with hammering hope

and storm-front love;

– here – 

you might just see things

beyond any known horizon;

and you might just

be things

you thought

un-poetry-able

and impossibly connected.

Prayer

is the only true

presence.

Answer 2 :  How to Build a Permanent Sandcastle

Prayer doesn’t work;

it isn’t off makin’ a buck;

it is always at play;

toying with our oh-so-serious priorities;

it is a sly-eyed larrikin

in the poised and pretty shop-front display

of this-season’s fashionable importances.

Listen!

Listen to the bloodied lips of a heartbreak.

Listen the shag-pile rug

frayed and flattened with our living.

Keep listening!

Don’t stop listening to all the world around you –

it is all at play;

it is all in prayer.

Like the chubby hand of a toddler

patting firm the crumbling walls of a sandcastle

with waves surging at its oyster shell gates –

prayer

is every beautiful, bumbling attempt

to ‘build up’

in the face of certain oblivion.

Play for me.

Oh God, please,

play for me!

Summary

To be honest, reading and re-reading these thoughts makes me very teary.  “Wham right between the eyes”,  I am hit with the reality of answered prayer.  These amazing friends of mine who I love and who am privelaged to do life with are answered prayer to me.

I designed this series because I was struggling with prayer, what it was and was it real.  I now feel held, blessed and a little humbled.  Thank you dear hearts.

Stand outs for me:

Prayer can be a sense of awe and wonder in the face of something or somebody beyond ourselves – John.

As I just explained,  I have recieved answered prayer in the faces of my friends. Totally unexpected. Thank you.

Let’s consider our answer as a global citizen … with thousands and thousands of desperate human prayers asking for safety, food, liberation from horrific acts of violence. – Nicole

I constantly struggle with this.  I am praying that my son suceeds in a job interview whilst somewhere in the world a child is sold into sex slavery.  Prayer is not a Christmas wish list.  Prayer changes US.  Profound

Finally

Prayer doesn’t work; it isn’t off makin’ a buck;  it is always at play.

Seriously I have read this and laughed at least 12 times.  Ahh Cam you always make me laugh with the truth.  A rare gift.  Prayer isnt off making a buck.  Lol…….. It is always at play.  Let’s not forget to play and to live in moments of mirth and wonder.

What resonated with you?

I hope you are blessed by this as much as I have been.

Stay tuned for Part Two next week. 

xxxx Lisa.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Who Is the Jesus of Easter?

Who Is the Jesus of Easter? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

I hope that you have a beautiful Easter weekend however you chose to celebrate and remember it.   I love Easter Sunday.  I love the message. I love the man – Jesus.  I don’t mind the chocolate either.

Empty grave

Who is this Jesus?

Easter is the oldest and most important festival on the Church calendar.  It is the  remembrance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But most of all it is about the hope that Easter brings.  The fact that Jesus conquered death by love.

This is the message of Jesus, He is alive and He is alive in me.  He brings freedom and life and joy.  He is safe and He breathes forgiveness.  He doesn’t just forgive;

HE IS forgiveness.

There is nothing to be afraid of in the risen Jesus.

We have in him the perfect icon of a God who is safe and a universe that is safe. We have a God who does not blame, does not punish, does not threaten, does not dominate. We have a God who breathes forgiveness (Rohr).

The Resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is no victory through domination. There is no such thing as triumph by force. By his life, death and resurrection Jesus stops the cycle of violence and challenges the notion of dominating power.

This is a power that seeks to change things from the top down, from the outside in. Instead, Jesus invites us to relational or spiritual power, where we are not just changed but transformed. And not transformed from the top down but from the bottom up, not from the outside in but from the inside out. Transformed into God…. (R.Rohr).

“You have to trust that inner voice to show you the way…You know that inner voice.  Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to  a new life of freedom and joy”  (Henri Nouwen)

Meditate on these words.  Say them to yourself.  Say them out loud.

Jesus is the one who speaks lovingly ‘I will never leave you.  I am with you always’.

I will love you forever.  My love NEVER fails.

I am faithful, I am righteous.  I am just and I am truth.

Following Christ is both the safest and the most exhilarating thing that you will ever do.

He is: comfort, compassion, love, acceptance, forgiveness.

He is:  good, peace, hope joy, gentleness, freedom.

He does NOT:  reject, abuse, abandon, condemn, dominate or control.

HE IS:  gracious, kind, merciful, creative, wondrous, ingenious.

He is rest…………..

Happy in the mountains

He fights for the oppressed.  He hates injustice.

He came to set prisoners free from every trap that they have been caught in. Every addiction, every bondage, every fear and terror.  He has the power and He can free us.

He knows the beginning from the end.  His love NEVER fails.  When we fail, he lifts us up.  By HIS power we can stand.

He knows us intimately, He knows we weep and grieve and that we are frail.

My hope is in Jesus.

My trust is in Jesus

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

He is alive and He lives in me.

We see in Jesus the divine being who is also the perfect human being. Jesus comes in a human body to show us the face of God, the One who is eternally compassionate and eternally joyous, who stands with us in our sufferings and our joys.

As Christians, our vocation is to unite with both Christ crucified and Christ risen. (Rohr)

When you think on these things you can feel hope rising in your heart.

SELAH

love Lisa

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Recommended Reading:

Henri Nouwen:  The Inner Voice of Love

This is Henri Nouwen’s “secret journal.” It was  written during the most difficult period of his life, when he suddenly lost his self-esteem,  his energy to live and work, his sense of being loved, even his hope in God. Although he experienced excruciating anguish and despair, he was still able to keep a journal in which he wrote a spiritual imperative to himself each day that emerged from his conversations with friends and supporters.

Domestic Violence in the Church

I hope and pray that this article about domestic violence will  spark a conversation with leaders in churches.

I found that DV was a topic that was rarely, if ever, discussed within the church context. As a ministry leader of a large Pentecostal church, I planned to hold a women’s event on the topic of domestic violence. I was shocked when one of our teaching team came to me and said “Lisa why are you holding a meeting on DV? Won’t this just be a waste of time?  No one in our church will be able to relate to this”.

Let me tell you first hand that domestic violence does not stop at the borders of the church.  In Australia two women a week are killed at the hands of their partner or close family member.  One out of 6 women have experienced family violence.

There is a very great need for greater education about gender inequality and DFV in the church.

“Amongst churchgoers, there is still a prevailing naïveté about the prevalence of violence within the church. Those in Christian leadership – male or female, complementarian or egalitarian – need to be much more informed about the signs and dynamics of abuse, and about practices which reinforce inequality within the church” (Erica Hamence).

What is Complementarianism?

Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islamthat men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. The word “complementary” and its cognates are currently used to denote this view. For some Christians whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the community. Though women may be precluded from certain roles and ministries they are held to be equal in moral value and of equal status. Complementarians assign primary headship roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages. One of the precepts of complementarianism is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.

If you believe in headship, at least realise that headship is not domination.  If a woman’s life is in danger or if she is being abused,  she should leave.  Even though that would mean ‘disobeying her husband’.  (insert swearing here).  I am sorry but I could fill a book with first hand accounts of women in these situations and the rubbish that has been said to them to make them stay.

The Australian Department of Human Services defines family and domestic violence as conduct that is violent, threatening, intimidating, controlling or intended to cause fear.

It can include:

  • physical violence

  • verbal, emotional, sexual or psychological abuse

  • controlling money (financial abuse)

  • stalking

  • harm to an animal or property

  • serious neglect where you depend on their care

  • restricting spiritual or cultural participation

Abuse and neglect share the same underlying relationship dynamic: one person holding a position of power and control over the other. Violence is often a pattern of subtle behaviours through which the victim is coerced, manipulated, or threatened into a position they would not choose for themselves. Victims are usually silenced, undermined and unsupported by their abusers.

Research shows that the most significant determinants of violence against women are “the unequal distribution of power and resources between men and women, and an adherence to rigidly defined gender roles.” (Kylie Maddox Pidgeon)

The unequal distribution of power is why Compelmentarianism and Patriarchy are such dangerous and fertile grounds for family violence.  At this stage I should add a disclaimer:  You do, of course, find abuse outside of these systems.  Also there are many  families who believe in complementarianism who have never lifted a finger or a voice to hurt anyone.

Satu Myers tells some of her story of family violence on the blog here: Satu Myers

This is an excerpt:  “Within the first year of marriage I had to leave home and go into a refuge just after my first child was born  I told my church friends what was happening.  I didn’t have a lot of close friends because I hadn’t been in the country for very long.  I went to the GP with a displaced jaw, but my husband was with me and I couldn’t say anything. I told my pastor that ‘I don’t know if I should press charges or not’.  He advised me that I must stay with my husband and pray for him because he was weaker mentally than I was”.

“My son was drugged and kidnapped when he was three. He would justify the abuse by using the bible, using terms like submission and he would repeat christian words that I would hear in the church.  During all of this time we were both attending church.  The church condoned his behaviour and what was going on. I told the church leaders and pastor what was going on but they would completely deny the reality by saying that ‘I was exaggerating and making it up’.  My staying in the marriage was more important to them than any abuse that happened to me.  They would tell me to pray for my husband and thank God for him”.

Common Grace’s Domestic & Family Violence Justice Team member and Anglican Minister Erica Hamence reflects on complementarianism and domestic violence.

Originally posted on Common Grace written by Erica Hamence.

I am a Sydney Anglican Associate Minister and, for the past year or so, I’ve led Common Grace’s Domestic and Family Violence Justice team.

And, if I’ve learned anything in that time, it’s that a lot of you who just read that sentence now want to ask me about complentarianism.I find the terms complementarian and egalitarian to be about as helpful as the terms left-wing and right-wing. They convey some of the broader convictions a person might hold, but unless it’s understood that that’s all that they do, we are prone to underestimating the many shades of difference within them.
My experience having worked in both an egalitarian and a complementarian church (as much as you can label any church in such a way), and having had many conversations on the topics with ministers of both ‘camps’ is that there is enormous breadth in what people mean when they talk about authority, and headship, and what implications those terms should have for relationships in churches and families.
I’ve experienced sexism in both contexts. I’ve been encouraged as a woman in ministry in both contexts. Sometimes by the same people. The patriarchy is everywhere – in and outside the church – and it’s worth us working hard to disentangle biblical Christianity from whatever patriarchal (and other) assumptions we may have smuggled in (whether deliberately or accidentally)…

I agree that there are many things in complementarian teaching that are open to misuse by abusers. In particular, complementarianism can act to peripheralise women within churches, and in those contexts it’s easy to see how abuse can flourish undetected. In complementarian contexts, women have as much room to speak as the male leaders allow. 
That’s a profoundly vulnerable position to be in, and one which I suspect some male ministers are not always able to empathise with. If a woman suffering abuse wasn’t completely confident that she would be believed, that the particular nature of the abuse would be understood, and that she would be supported by her church’s leader, she would most likely continue to suffer alone.

This is true for any church, whether complementarian or egalitarian, but within complementarian churches the capacity for women to shape teaching and policies is almost entirely dependent on the senior minister’s amenity.

That makes it crucial that the senior minister seek out and really listen to the women of the church. They must also be clear-eyed about how they are received by the women of the church – are they regarded as trustworthy, knowledgeable about the issues which affect women, do they demonstrate a humble willingness to learn? If not, women will not disclose abuse to them.


Focusing on the key issues

Firstly, anything – any culture, doctrine, community – can be a weapon in the hands of an abuser.

As I’ve said, complementarianism certainly seems to be especially vulnerable to this.

Ministers and churchgoers on both ‘sides’ of this issue need to recognise that even if they believe their beliefs are well-grounded in scripture, and even when they are taught well, they can (and will) be used by abusers. Even if we were able to prove definitively that one side had the right take on gender, marriage and ministry, that would not be a panacea against this evil. Abuse is more insidious than we imagine.


Secondly, doctrines which are more central to the Christian faith are just as prone to misuse in the hands of abusers. I have heard the stories of many women who have been abused by church-going husbands whose abuse has been legitimated, dismissed or perpetuated because of poor teaching about forgiveness and reconciliation, marriage and divorce (in general), and because our cultures lead us to work hard to promote and protect leaders.
What I’m saying here is that this battle needs to be fought on multiple grounds, and we’ll need to be willing to be both undefensive about our own positions and understanding of others, in order to really make progress.
Thirdly, there is a very great need for greater education about gender inequality and DFV in the church. Amongst churchgoers, there is still a prevailing naïveté about the prevalence of violence within the church.

Those in Christian leadership – male or female, complementarian or egalitarian – need to be much more informed about the signs and dynamics of abuse, and about practices which reinforce inequality within the church.

After several years in ministry, I have come to expect that the women I meet with have had significant experiences of abuse, whether direct or indirect. The women who have not been abused (or have not yet disclosed abuse to me) are a minority. Most of the time, these women have told few people. They have learned to accommodate quietly. They swallow their pain. They turn up to church despite the fact that they know they will see their abuser there.


They lose the capacity to pray because they don’t know how to include God in what happened to them, but they come to prayer meetings anyway. They teach Bible studies about God’s concern for the poor and mistreated, ministering the truth to others, with few people to do the same for them.
They are beaten at home, and then their abuser is lauded by their community on Sunday. They join ministry teams led by people who look like the partner who raped and beat them, and they do their best to sit under their leadership, all the while trying to avoid ever looking squarely at them.
They are raped by their partner, and then stood down for ‘sexual immorality’ when they disclose it. They are diagnosed with PTSD, and then sit silently in church meetings where ‘victimhood culture’ is mocked, and ‘triggering’ is a punchline. They go to church every week, riding the bus with the man who groped them. They walk along the streets of the neighbourhood, despite the fact that various spots are marked with an x for them – this was where those men tried to abduct my friend as she walked home from university, this was where the man ran after me, telling me what he would do to my vagina, this was where my friend was raped, this was where my friend was drugged and left unconscious.
I haven’t made any of these examples up; they have all happened to me or women I know.

Male leaders of both complementarian and egalitarian churches – are you confident that you are doing what is necessary to care for the women in your churches who are experiencing such things?

And more importantly, would the women of your church agree with you?
Erica Hamence is a valued part of Common Grace’s team that is working towards justice for people facing domestic and family violence. She’s also the Associate Minister at Barneys Anglican Church in Ultimo, Sydney, where she oversees discipleship and campus ministries. 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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God Is Us

In the  beginning God said let US make man and woman in OUR image (Gen 1:26).

God is Us

God is communion

God is relationship

If you are trying to understand Christianity you need to understand Jesus.  The one who began it all.  Jesus thought about everything through the lens of relationship, through the lens of multiple, through the lens of inclusion and equality.  He lived and exemplified non-duality.  Non-dual means, not two, not separate.

“In spirituality, nondualism, also called non-duality, means “not two” or “one undivided without a second”. Nondualism primarily refers to a mature state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is ‘transcended’, and awareness is described as ‘centerless’ and ‘without division'” (Wiki).

We however, live with dualistic thinking. We think in division.  We always fall into the trap of Us and Them.  We naturally exclude, compare, segregate.  We like to put things into black and white.  We are constantly and naturally dividing without even thinking about it.

The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum (Rohr).

“The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love; this is exactly why most people stumble over these very issues” (Rohr).

Jesus, the Spirit and the father are one and different.  NOT two.  As soon as you have two you have oppositional thinking.  You have to chose sides.  Three flows,  three is relationship, it is the flow of life.  “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance of love. And God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself” (Source).

An infinite flow and rhythm of love.  Flowing ceaselessly and eternally. God is the life force and energy that flows through everything in the universe.  God is with us and in us and flows through us.

I would suggest that today we have been stuck with a small God.  A dualistic version of God. God the threatener, God the watcher, God the punisher.  A black and white, small God.  The God of division, the God of them and us and the God that is preoccupied with exclusion.  This is not the God of Jesus and it is not the God that I know.

I would go further to even suggest that true salvation is not so much about sin, (black and white),  a transformation from dualistic thinking to non-dualistic thinking.  Where we think about inclusion, acceptance, life and love. Where God is involved in everything that we do, all of the time.  God is life and His/Her life is a flowing, moving force all of the time whether see it or not.

We only exist in relationship.  Outside of love and relationship we die very quickly.  Thats why loneliness, which is living in a state of exclusion, is a Global  epidemic that is killing us.  (See Loneliness is Killing Us).  The Trinity, or the Godhead, invites us to participate in the living, loving relationship with them, here and now.

Happy group of diverse people, friends, family, team together

All relationship happens through mirroring.  In the reflection of each other.  All of the references to the Holy Spirit are dynamic words: elusive wind, descending dove, falling fire, flame and flowing water.  God is trying to help us to see, with the eyes of our understanding, who God is.  HE is dynamic, multiple, reflecting, moving, flowing.  Either God is moving in and through you or He is not moving at all.   It is a process of loving and being loved.   As soon as you lock down, take sides,  stand back, isolate.  God is not moving through you.  As soon as you start thinking dualistically, you have stepped outside of the flow of God.

People admire strength and individuality, God it seems loves vulnerability and mutuality.   While we accept and gather those who look like us and think like us, God gathers anyone and everyone who believes.  We like boxes and boundaries, God dissolves boundaries and cannot be contained.

When I think of this model of relationship I think of a picture of the basic building block of the universe.  The Atom.  

stock-photo-illustration-of-atom-which-is-basic-building-blocks-of-all-matter-of-the-universe-in-d-with-105396998
Everything in the universe is created in the divine image.  In the Atom you have the electron, neutron and proton all circling around each other.  Flowing and holding the life of the atom together.  This is perfect picture of  mutual relationship.
Ezekiel saw it this way when he was given a vision of the divine: Ezekiel 1:16-21

“I saw something that looked like a wheel on the ground beside each of the four-faced creatures. This is what the wheels looked like: They were identical wheels, sparkling like diamonds in the sun. It looked like they were wheels within wheels, like a gyroscope.

They went in any one of the four directions they faced, but straight, not veering off. The rims were immense, circled with eyes. When the living creatures went, the wheels went; when the living creatures lifted off, the wheels lifted off. Wherever the spirit went, they went, the wheels sticking right with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures went, the wheels went; when the creatures stopped, the wheels stopped; when the creatures lifted off, the wheels lifted off, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels”.

I believe this is perfect example of relationship.  Us the many, wheels within wheels.  Moving constantly and being led by the Spirit of God.  Wherever the spirit went, they went. The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.  What a beautiful picture of the atom.  The building block of life.  Wheels within wheels.

If you take the metaphor of a wheel and apply it to community it is a beautiful picture of balance and sharing.  Only a part of the wheel is connected to the earth at any one time.  The wheel moves and in doing so the load is shared.  The load is carried by all.  Every part belongs and every part of the wheel has a part to play.

In Ezekiels vision the wheels sparkled – they were reflective.  What a beautiful picture of vulnerability and transparency.  Each wheel reflecting back to the other and seeing each other.

In contrast, humanity’s  picture of structural  relationship is the pyramid.  A couple of power controllers live at the top with the load building and getting heavier the further down the pyramid you go.

power-pyramid

Its not a stretch to say that all of our industries and governments are run with money at the top of the pyramid.  All of our institutions and global enterprises are run like this and so are a lot of families.  How many times have you heard the term, “I am the head of this house?”.  Totally opposite to the dynamic and moving flow of the Spirit of God where everyone and everything belongs.  Where people and relationship is the primary focus not money or power.

When men and women feel threatened they always pull out the power card.  Dualistic thinking by its nature is one that controls and pulls rank.  In relationship breakdowns it is always: “What about me”.  It is about the ego and how to protect our patch.  You said this and I said that.    A truly holy person will always protect relationship at all costs.

They know that Gods highest priority is relationship.

 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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An Age of Darkness and Anxiety

An Age of Darkness and Anxiety by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

I believe that this age will be known as the age of anxiety.  The world seems very big, very out of control and we seem very small and we don’t know what to do about it.  The sign posts have all changed.  The world is no longer a simple place.  We don’t even know who our enemies are any more.  It is no longer black and white.

One reason that people have lost heart today is that we feel both confused and powerless.  The forces against us are overwhelming: consumerism, racism, militarism, individualism, patriarchy…these powers and principalities seem to be fully in control (Richard Rohr).

We don’t know what to do with our fear.  365 time in the bible instruct us: ‘do not be afraid’ but we are not sure how to not be afraid when every morning we wake up to a new level of terror and pain.  Fear is a very real enemy that we need to recognise and learn how to deal with.   Fear is negative energy and if we don’t know how to hold it, to transform it, we expel it.  We breath it over our lives and it consumes everything in it’s path.  We expel it in anxiety, rejection, hatred and by shrinking the world around us into manageable bite size pieces that we can control.  Unfortunately this suffocates relationships and is the exact opposite of love.

People with anxiety perceive the world differently—their brain lumps both safe and unsafe things together and labels them all unsafe.
The very definition of spirituality is to be able to sit with pain.  To hold it, to embrace it, to understand it and to allow it to transform us.  It is the opposite to expelling.  Richard Rohr says that ‘Spirituality at its best is what you do with your pain’.   We are bombarded, literally daily with global pain and we are overwhelmed.  We have no idea what to do with our pain and this is causing a global crisis of anxiety.

Talk to any psychologist and they will tell you that the fear response works two ways.  Fight or flight.   We use these responses to avoid pain.  It is an natural inbuilt response to avoid danger, to avoid the predator.  Think of a animal being hunted, its first reaction is to flee from danger,  if it can’t, it will stop and fight.  How does this look in our daily life.

Fight

You hear and see the fighters.  They are loud and aggressive.  Their opinions override you.  They are the zealots.  They are the ones condemning, controlling.  They are always look for the evil person so that they can hate, reject, expel.  They do it for all the right reasons and in self righteous rage.   They get energised by having an enemy.  You don’t have to look far – look at the American Presidential race and see the hatred and vitriol, or bring up the topic of refugees, the American gun lobby, ISIS or LGBTIQ.

Flight

These respond out of ignorance.  They are often ill-informed and very conservative.  They hold to their moral ground at all costs.  Everything is black and white.  We are right and you are wrong.  There are good people and bad people and they have nothing to do with the bad people.  They are the bubble people who surround themselves with other bubble people who safely hold the same opinion.  The world is a bad place and we need to keep all the bad people away from us.  Secure our boarders,  send back the boats, get rid of the Muslims, don’t allow LGBTIQ people into the church. Why?  Because its wrong and that’s enough for me.  They are in denial and live in naivety and they like it that way.

Third Way

There is a third way, Rohr calls this the way of wisdom.

The other day I took my kids and their partners out for dinner.  The topic came up about the recent QandA which hosted Pauline Hanson and then the following media storm around the comments made by Sonia Kruger.  My kids are all pretty vocal,  so the partners sat quietly for a while and let the lions roar.  They were enraged at the ignorance of comments made against Muslims.  They were furious at the racism, the fear and the stupidity.  I was trying to say what was on my heart but had to let the roar continue for a while.  When a quiet voice piped up,  can you three quiet down, I would really like to hear your mothers opinion.

My concern was that although I didn’t agree with Pauline and Sonia I could hear and see their pain.  My question to my kids was this.  Instead of just slamming them, who is helping them with their pain?  Watching Sonia on the Today Show you could see she was visibly shaken and frightened.  No one is addressing the fear or the pain.  We are just getting fight of flight responses.

The third way to look at these issues is through the eyes of wisdom.  Wisdom teaches us to see the pain and to learn how to process it but more than that, allows us to transform the pain.  Transformation is always a process, it is confusing, dark, disorientating.  The end game of transformation is that takes you to a place where you can comfortably hold paradox, where you can weigh up both flight and fight responses but see something more.

If we don’t transform the pain we will transmit it.

“The way of wisdom is beyond flight and beyond fight, and yet is a certain sense including both of them.  It’s fighting in a new way from within and fleeing from the quick egocentric response.  Only God can hold such an act together within us.  The small self is always too small” (Richard Rohr)

bridge_over_water_by_vanity_alchemist-d5761uz

I believe that the true Christ followers of our age will be bridge builders.  They will be the ones to walk with grace, and peace and light to show the way.  These will be the ones who are able to see both sides, hold the tension, build the bridge and allow both sides to not only meet in the middle but to transverse to the other side.  To engage in empathy and to walk a mile in the ‘others’ shoes.  Bridge builders are more concerned for the other, they see pain and they embrace it, they walk alongside it.  This is the message of the gospel.  The gospel that loves the enemy and embraces the marginalised.

Bridge builders operate out of love and love is the opposite of fear.  Fear burns the bridges, fear build walls, fear isolates.   Love dispels fear.  Love is a healing balm in this rageous and enflamed society in which we live.  Love pulls down the middle walls of division and extends the olive branch of peace.  Love looks at darkness and chaos and sees creativity and possibility.  Life is birthed in the dark womb.  Life was breathed over the darkness and chaos of a world which was void of life.  Life comes to a seed which is planted deep in the darkness of the womb earth.

Love sees possibility, life and creativity where fear only has the ability to expel, reject, hate and kill.

Featured Image by Matt Lawson

Richard Rohr Quotes taken from his book Hope against Darkness.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Loneliness is Killing Us

“The world is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. If we cannot rebuild strong, authentic social connections, we will continue to splinter apart…. Instead of coming together to take on the great challenges before us, we will retreat to our corners, angry, sick, and alone. We must take action now to build the connections that are the foundation of … strong communities. (Vivek H. Murthy)”.

Loneliness or social isolation is a sad reality of modern life. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s. Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher.(source)

Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, from 2014 to 2017. As Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy commanded the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service of 6,600 public health offices serving vulnerable populations in 800 locations domestically and abroad.

During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.

Loneliness is a greater predictor of early death than drinking smoking and excessive eating. “Loneliness can kill. It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” says Mark Robinson, chief officer of the non-profit Age UK Barnet.

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In early January this year the parliament in Great Britain appointed a ‘Minister for Loneliness’ because loneliness is at epidemic levels.  After conducting a 12 month survey they released a report which  found that around 14 million Brits suffer from loneliness.

This report was published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Jo Cox was the member of Parliament who was brutally murdered in the streets of her Yorkshire constituency in June, 2016, two weeks before the Brexit vote.   Britain appointed Tracey Crouch as the  minister for loneliness in order to continue work of murdered politician Jo Cox.

Loneliness equals lack of emotional, spiritual and physical connection.

We feel lonely because we do not have adequate social connections.  Loneliness also causes stress:  “Over thousands of years, the value of social connection has become baked into our nervous system such that the absence of such a protective force creates a stress state in the body” (source).

Long term stress elevates cortisol levels which in term has been linked to inflammation in the body.  Causing:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment
  • Heart disease,
  • Diabetes,
  • Joint disease

If we are to prioritise our health we need to create connections that build quality relationships.

lonely_by_secr3tdesign-d7d3s2j

Lonely by Secr3tDesign …

“Unfortunately we are also  in a  crisis of spiritual connection.  We have forgotten that we are all inextricably connected to each other through love” (Dr Brene Brown).   Whether we understand it or not we all have a deep desire to belong and to be needed.   Village living, community living has diminished with the majority of us living in isolation and isolated soulless suburbs.

Christ says that we will be known by our love.  Love and acceptance are the anecdotes to loneliness. We need to be known by our love and in doing so our loneliness will be diminished.   To come together in community.  To grieve with one another, to laugh together and to support each other.

We are called to find the face of God in every single person we meet not just the faces that look like ours.

It is really important for our health that we embrace diversity.  We need to hold hands with strangers.

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Prima – People hold hands to form a chain in water

Look around the world right now and people are fearful of diversity.  They are fearful of the each other.  People  want to build walls and stop those seeking asylum so they can protect their own identities.  We want everything neat and reconciled.  We don’t like mess, we don’t like things unresolved. We don’t like challenge or conflict.  Yet these are the very things that bring  growth and transformation.

We have become a society of us and them.  In our division, in our fear, we have lost sight of love.  We have lost sight of community.

The story of Noah teaches us some amazing things.  God tells Noah to bring into the ark all the opposites: the wild and the domestic, the crawling and the flying, the clean and the unclean, the male and the female of each animal (Genesis 7:2-15).

Then God does a most amazing thing. God locks them together inside the ark (Genesis 7:16).

“God puts all the natural animosities, all the opposites together, and holds them in one place. I used to think it was about balancing all the opposites within me, but slowly I have learned that it is actually “holding” things in their seemingly unreconciled state that widens and deepens the soul. We must allow things to be only partly resolved, without perfect closure or explanation. Christians have not been taught how to live in hope. The ego always wants to settle the dust quickly and have answers right now. 

God’s gathering of contraries is, in fact, the very school of salvation, the school of love. That’s where growth happens: in honest community and committed relationships. Love is learned in the encounter with “otherness” as both Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas taught. (Reference).

The story of Noah is about how we are to live with diversity and with opposites within community.  Everyone in the Ark was  ‘locked up’ in community.  In a village you were ‘locked up’ in community.  There was little escape.  In a small town you are locked up in community.  Todays sprawling metropolis’ make this very difficult.  It is easy to escape the pain that relationships and diversity inevitably bring.

To live within healthy connected communities we  MUST learn how to love and how to forgive.  If we do not forgive we live with the pain of dislocated relationships and we retreat, put up walls, become isolated. ‘We retreat to our corners, angry, sick, and alone” (Murthy).

  • Discrimination and dislocation causes intimidation and isolation.
  • Intolerance causes anger and resentment.
  • Hostility towards others eventually leaves us cold and bitter.
  • Love is learned in our encounters with others.
  • Love is learned when we embrace diversity
  • Love is learned when we offer forgiveness

When we love diversity and differences, we create spaces where everyone belongs.  Love builds communities where everyone is accepted and valued.  That is why Jesus said that we will be known by our love.  People are drawn to love.  Love is inclusive, it embraces, it enfolds, it heals, it gathers.  Love dispels darkness and loneliness.

Love never fails.

If you would like to read more on this subject,  my husband Philip has a post he has written from his experience with loneliness called Only the Lonely.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,166 other followers

Reference— Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 36-37; and with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2001), 141.

 

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