Sunday Everyday

Help Me Understand Prayer

Help me understand prayer.  by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The last two decades for me has been a journey of unlearning.  A time of peeling back the layers of gnostic teaching and pentecostal rhetoric.  It has been an important time for me of sifting, testing and weighing up the things that I have been taught.  It has also been a time of growing up and of finding out what I believe and why.

My own mantra of cleaning around my home is: “if in doubt, throw it out”.    However, the danger with too many questions is that you may end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.  So my theological mantra has become: “if in doubt, look at the life of Christ”.  In all of the sifting and shaking one thing remains.  The life and teaching of Christ and His character.

One of the most confusing topics for me over the last three years has been prayer.  Why do we pray?  What is prayer?  How do you pray?  Does God answer prayer?  Once upon a time I could have easily answered these questions, quickly and confidently.  Now the older I get it seems the less I know.

Over my lifetime I have probably been taught just about every prayer style that there is.

  • Name it and claim it – including car parks
  • Believe it and recieve it
  • Spiritual warfare prayer
  • Renounce, relent, repent and cast it out
  • I have meditated, centred and been contemplative – still doing this
  • I have anointed oil all over the house and all over my children
    • even around my property
    • once even the dog
  • I have marched, yelled, sung and danced
  • I have gone into the enemy’s camp and took back what he stole from me.  Even though sometimes I wasn’t sure what it was I was taking back.
  • I have war-fared, interceded, anointed, made supplication, commanded, cut soul ties and spoke things into being
  • The laying on of hands and too many prayer meetings to count
  • I have cast out demons and had demons cast out of me.  Some of whom I had never heard of
  • I probably would have stood on my head if I was instructed too.  I wasn’t afraid of being a fool for Christ.  “I was a woman of faith”.  I only needed faith as small as a mustard seed (even though I have never seen a mustard seed).  But if I had faith I could move mountains.  Although I have never seen a mountain moved.  I must not have had enough faith.
    • I did have enough faith once to see my leg lengthened!

Forgive me for being a little tongue in cheek.  But what do you do when one day you begin to doubt what you have been told and begin to wonder; is all of this really necessary?  I’m sure you are saying yes to some of the things on that list and no to others.

Don’t get me wrong, prayer is a crucial part of being a follower of Christ.  We are told to pray for protection from the evil one, but have we gone a bit overboard?  What if depression is not a demon and is just a chemical imbalance?  What if not everything is a soul tie and that sometimes it’s just the process of heart-wrenching grief that cannot be short circuited?

If God lengthened my leg, why didn’t he heal my husband from cancer?

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So when it comes to prayer, I am a bit shaky.   For some reason, all the steps and instructions that I used to know so well just seem a little odd now.  Have I changed, have I gone backwards?  Or am I finding out that prayer is really not that complicated?  I really don’t know, which is why I opened this article by saying that I am on a journey of unlearning.

Richard Rohr says that there are two pathways to transformation.  Prayer and suffering.  This is something that I really resonate with.  Prayer may not change everything around me but it certainly changes me.

So this is what prayer looks like for me today.  

  • It is a conversation with God.
  • It is being sure of the character and nature of Jesus.
    • That he is good
    • That he is love
    • That he wants to be in relationship with me
    • He is a wise counsellor and friend that I can trust
  • It is being sure that I can trust the fruit of the Spirit whenever I see it and in whoever I see it.
    • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
  • It is about praying the way that Jesus taught.  I no longer trust formulas, or styles.  

Does God answer prayer? hmmmmmm…yes

Does God speak to me?  Yes

Do I believe that prayer changes the mind of God?  hmmmmmmm…

Do I believe that prayer changes me?  Absolutely.

Do I continue to pray for my family, friends and my community?  Yes of course.  But I pray according to the things above that I have listed.  I pray for peace, wisdom, joy, good counsel, forgiveness, protection from evil, mercy, grace etc….

I also continue to study what Jesus believed about prayer and how He taught us to pray

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Jesus believed that prayer works – so I will trust His word on this one.

Mark 7:7-11 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Jesus got alone to pray – he taught us to pray in private

Matthew 14:23 – “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.”

Jesus also advises us to go into our rooms and shut the door.  Jesus is demonstrating that prayer is meant to be intimate – only shared between the individual and the Father.  In order to ensure that prayer is genuine, it should not require the reinforcement of an audience.

Jesus prayed for His disciples and He prayed for protection (so I can do that)

John 17:11,15,24 – “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Jesus taught us to be persistent

And so it is with prayer—keep on asking and you will keep on getting; keep on looking and you will keep on finding; knock and the door will be opened. 10 Everyone who asks, receives; all who seek, find; and the door is opened to everyone who knocks.  Luke 11:9

Jesus told us to not babble on (Matthew 6)

I’m not sure about you but I have heard a lot of babble prayers especially corporate prayers.  “And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard. 8Do not be like them, for yourFather knows what you need before you ask Him. 

Jesus began a model prayer for us with these words:

“So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive those who trespass against us.   Don’t let us be tempted and deliver us from evil.  ” (Matthew 6:9-10).

Our Father

So who are we actually praying too? We are praying to God.  He is our Lord and King.  However, Jesus tells us that we can come to Him and call Him, “Father.”

Your Kingdom come your will be done.

I don’t think we have fully understood the dangerous and political context of this statement.  The Roman empire was arguably the most tyrannical, violent, cultish empire the world has ever known.  The whole empire was built on, and kept in line through violence.  If you defied the Empire/Caesar, you were destroyed.  Jesus is saying here that the Kingdom of God was and is above the kingdom or ruling empire of the day

“Your kingdom come” – as opposed to Caesar’s.

“Your will be done” – as opposed to Caesar’s.

This is a defiant prayer – an opposition to tyranny and oppression of the weak by the strong.  (source)

Give us our daily bread

This may not mean much to us who are considered the most wealthy of the world.  Jesus lived in a culture of inequality, where 80% of the population were impoverished.  This prayer indicated that God cared about your physical state.  God cares about your health and well-being.  To the poor – who struggled each day for their bread – this part of the prayer was comforting and affirming.  It was saying that everyone has a right to be fed and to be able to feed their family.

Forgive

Forgive Us as we Forgive Others

In the time of Jesus, debt and slavery were one and the same thing.   If I owed you a debt, then you owned me until that debt was paid off.  In modern times, debt can still be very much synonymous with slavery, but it is much more subtle.  Jesus is pointing out that every person owes debts, whether physical or spiritual.  He is challenging his audience to forgive the debts that people owe them.

If you want to experience forgiveness, you need to extend forgiveness.

Jesus tells us to link the two. “Father, forgive us to the same degree that we forgive others.” For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

To pray “your kingdom come” meant to align yourself with His kingdom.  It meant celebrating in the presence of God the fact that the kingdom was already breaking in.  The will of God is for His Kingdom to come to earth.  The fullness of this will be the redemption and restoration of all humanity and creation.

Why do I pray?

I pray because I love talking to God.  I love hearing His voice.  I love the comfort that I receive from Him. Like Mary, who chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, when I come to Him the cares of the world drop away for a moment.  So often we are like Martha, busy, frantic, so many things to do and worried about so many things.  As we sit at Jesus feet, the circumstances may not change, but we do.  We are more able to radiate peace and comfort in circumstances instead of fear and anxiety.

Maybe the fruit of the spirit operating through us is what dispels the darkness.   Love casts out fear.  Peace replaces anxiety.  Joy comforts us through times of mourning.  As we are transformed, maybe we are the answered prayer.  Maybe we are the answer to someone elses prayer.

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Prayer is about Resonance.

Let me finish on this thought.   This is what Richard Rohr says about prayer. He swaps the word prayer with “resonance” to help us understand how it works.

“Prayer is actually setting out a tuning fork.  All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always present message.  Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it has nothing to do with worthiness or the group you belong to, but only inner resonance and a capacity for mutuality. (Matthew 7:7-11)  The Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station”.

(Richard Rohr)

Do I understand everything about prayer.  No.

Am I on a learning curve, Yes.

I am not throwing everything out but I am holding it loosely.  In the meantime I trust in Christ and the life that He demonstrated.

 

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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Apartheid and the Ideas about God that Upheld It

by Nicole Conner:

Reposted with permission from Nicole’s blog:  Reflections of a Mugwump

 

This is a blog post from 2 years ago. As I travel Germany and am confronted by the many monuments that remember the holocaust and persecuted minorities, I am again aware of the fundamental role that dominant religions often play in oppressive regimes. May we never forget. 

I still remember the feeling of stifling hot air hitting my face as we disembarked from our long journey at Jan Smuts International Airport (now O.R. Tambo International Airport), in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was the early 70’s. State President J.J. Fouché, Prime Minister B.J. Forster, and the National Party were in power. We had started our arduous trek from Frankfurt, Germany, after many months of preparation to migrate to this southernmost African Republic.

For a tiny seven year old, the world had just become a whole lot bigger.IMG_1351

Mum and I – Durban, South Africa

Amidst the many new experiences, language gaps, huge learning curves and cultural differences, one phenomenon stood head and shoulders above all others: Apartheid. Apartheid was a political and social system that protected the dominant rule of the 20% white minority through racial segregation. The term literally means ‘apartness’.

Although racial discrimination has deep roots in South Africa, it was D.F. Malan and the National Party who formerly established the racist system when they swept into power in 1948.md1It was toppled in 1994, with the appointment of South Africa’s first democratically elected, black President, Nelson Mandela.

The injustice of a system that discriminated people by the colour of their skin felt like a cultural tsunami to freshly arrived, wide-eyed immigrants. Yet for many people who had lived in and under that system, especially those who benefitted from it, it seemed a ‘normal’ part of everyday life.

The memories of what I witnessed under apartheid do not diminish with time: the beating of a man until he was bloodied, bruised and motionless, by a neighbour who thought he should not be in the ‘white’ part of town; the anger directed at my friends of colour when they stepped too close to the drinking fountains that were designated ‘whites only’; and the squalid, overcrowded townships with their tiny ‘match box houses’.2A2AA6DB-FAAB-4D3A-B74D-D65CCC2D8583

South Africa came under the rule of the English and Dutch in the seventeenth century. Christianity played a major role in the shaping of colonised South Africa. But it was in the twentieth century that many churches started actively promoting racial division. The largest of the various denominations, the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk – NGK), became the ‘official religion’ of the National Party during the apartheid era. Fear ruled the day. A white minority began to increasingly feel that their own existence was threatened. Church doctrine and beliefs were fashioned to uphold a political ideology of segregation.

apartheid_sign

The Bible became the central tool for apartheid dogma. Genesis 11 was used to argue that God divided humanity into different races, with the white race being superior. Difficult Bible verses such as Galatians 3:28, where the Apostle Paul presents the Gospel as breaking down barriers of division, were adapted to claim that he was addressing spiritual, not physical, equality. This teaching became so entrenched that many believed that South Africa’s apartheid was God’s will, that races should be kept apart, that whites had better opportunities because they were ‘favoured’ by God, and that above all, God was the ‘Great Divider’.

One of the first laws to come into legislation under the apartheid regime was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, banning the marriage of a white person to a person of any other colour. It was believed that these relationships were sinful, an idea that had been fuelled by the passing of the 1927 Immorality Act, which prohibited sexual relations between white people and that of other races. During the late 1970’s and through the 1980’s, enthusiasm for apartheid theology began to wane amongst followers, yet many church leaders remained fervent adherers to the apartheid doctrine.

At this point, it is also important to mention that there were numerous churches and church leaders who stood in fierce opposition to apartheid.Gradually societal paradigms began to shift. The work and words of many anti-apartheid advocates was beginning to fall on more receptive ears. The effect of having black South Africans form the majority in all church denominations, except the Dutch Reformed Church, cannot be underestimated.

Slowly, and facing much criticism, more church leaders began to speak out against apartheid. The South African Council of Churches became one of the most effective anti-apartheid organisation. Pentecostal churches tended to be more conservative than the older, more established, churches. They expressed vague ideas about the racial dilemma, indicating that God was the only hope for the future.apartheid

The Conservative Right, concerned about the growing acceptance of anti-apartheid ideology and the effect of foreign investment boycotts, organised themselves into new groups, like the ‘Christian Forum’, to protest sanctions. The founder of ‘Open Door Ministry’, Brother Andrew, distributed comic tracts in English and Afrikaans to South African defence troops, claiming  that the anti-apartheid struggle was an invasion of ‘communism’ against ‘democracy’, and the final contest between Christ and the Anti-Christ.

His ideas, that South Africa had a mission to evangelise all of Africa, and that the international movement for economic sanctions was a ploy of Satan “to isolate South Africa to prevent it from fulfilling its divine commission”, resonated with many. Of course, it is important to remember that pro-apartheid support was also found amongst many high-profiled Christians in the USA, such as President Reagan, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart and Pat Robertson. To this day there are still pro-apartheid advocates who argue that the struggle against apartheid was sinful, and that people who were involved need to ‘repent or face the wrath of God’.

At the heart of it all, apartheid was a radical survival plan. It was the construction of a deeply nationalistic and religious Afrikaner minority group who were terrified of being subjugated by another people and culturally swamped by black Africans. It was this fear that gave apartheid its impetus. The renown Afrikaans poet, N.P. van Wyk Louw, supported apartheid because he, like many others, believed that integration meant Afrikaner National suicide. Fear propaganda reached fever pitch as the walls of segregation began to tumble rather quickly in the late 80’s. Pro-apartheid arguments became shrill and hysterical, a rather common occurrence when dominating powers begin to fall.

The rise and fall of apartheid shows the social and political power of religious movements. God is often claimed and ordained by the various religious voices seeking to present their perspective as right and true. “God is on my side” is perhaps one of the most comforting and often deceptive notions of the religious faithful. Deceptive, especially when it propagates oppression, violence and discrimination against other people in the name of God, claiming their suffering is unavoidable and “for the greater good”.religion-is-like-a-knife-you-can-either-use-it-to-cut-bread-or-stick-it-in-someones-back-desmond-tutuApartheid, at one stage in earlier South African history, was just an idea. An idea to control a large people group. An idea that would have been difficult to embody without the assistance of religion. Religion provided the ‘divine mandate’ that the idea needed to become a force – a force that brought years of injustice. We need to consider that Christianity, or an ideology based on Christianity, played a central role in this oppressive regime. This is rather ironic considering that Christianity itself began not as a religion, but with a persecuted minority group desperately trying to follow the teaching of a lowly carpenter. A man who became such a threat to the dominant social and political order that he was executed.

It was not until Constantine that Christianity became acquainted with political power and a dramatic change occurred. Richard Rohr puts it this way:

Overnight the Church moved from the bottom to the top, literally from the catacombs to the basilicas.

Christianity became the religion of the empire and was no longer at the very bottom of society,  which is the best vantage point to “understand the liberating power of the Gospel for both the individual and society.” With power, wealth and nobility, Christianity began to deviate from the simple teaching of Christ, whose concern for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised, was evident in his ministry. Apartheid serves as an example of what happens when our ideas about God are driven by an agenda of control and dominion, conveniently hidden under religious robes of moral piety.P1120575This is a most chilling lesson indeed, that if we are not careful, our very notions about God can be misplaced, and instead of bringing life and freedom, become a tool in the hand of the oppressor. History is not short of examples.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

Is Love Enough?

Is love enough?  Lisa Hunt-Wotton

This week for me was a dark, but illuminating space if that makes sense.  We are in a disturbing season on planet earth in so many areas its enough to make you want to hide under the bed and never come out.  The world seems to have been turned topsy-turvy and all the absolutes that we used to count on are shifting.  People we used to trust seem to be on the other side of the fence and leaders that we could count on are… well… lets just say, less than worthy of being followed.

This week I had several uninvited and robust discussions with people about same-sex marriage.  I was clobbered with bible verses and thrown to the mat over what were obviously very important views for these people.   Several people threw the love word at me.  Yes, if you can throw love.  ‘Love does not come into the picture here,  we are talking about the preservation of marriage’ (bit ironic that one).  OR ‘I do love them,  I just don’t love what they do’.  ‘There is a lot more to consider in this issue than just love’.

I was a little shocked to be honest and began to question my own theology.

Have I got this all wrong?

Is there more to consider than love?

Am I watering everything down?

Is love too weak a position to have these days with ‘the world escalating to the New World Order (where all sorts of unspeakable things are going to happen) and we (Christians) are in danger of  being overthrown and jailed for what we believe.”  (Yes this was said to me)

Many sleepless nights ensued.  When finally I felt a whisper of hope.  Literally a whisper of hope which woke me up yesterday.

Love, faith and hope remain but the greatest of these is love. (I Cor 13)

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Where is the good news people?  We are supposed to be the people of good news.  Even I am scared of Christians at the moment.  Where is the faith, the hope and the love? No wonder people are abandoning religion at staggering rates.  Some of you are terrifying.

The greatest of these is love.  Love is not weak, it is not an alternative theology and Yes it pretty much is all that you need to consider.

GOD IS LOVE  – hello.  It is who He is.

“Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God … for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8).

Love is the greatest commandment (Mt. 22:36-40)

Love is the greatest thing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

Without love, nothing matters. (Gal. 5:6)

The fruit of the Spirit is love. (Gal. 5:22)

IF we are to throw the sacred texts like weapons at people then please get it right.

Jesus has to be the interpretative key to everything in the Bible.

Jesus was asked this:   “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment.  The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”  All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.

School of Love

How many years have  you spent studying love?  How many workshops, conferences, books, schools have you attended on love?  We were never called to be church goers, or even Christians.  We are called to be disciples.  Disciples are students and our teacher   Jesus, came to teach us about love.

I would like to see less doctrinal wrangling in the church and more love. Brian McLaren,

We are called to love

Jesus teaches us to love God and to love others.  Imagine how the statistics of rape and domestic violence would fade away if we truly learned to just love our families?  But He didn’t stop there.  He asks us to love the ‘other’.   The outsider, the outcast, the stranger, the alien, and even the enemy.  With the SAME love.  To treat EVERYONE the way that we want to be loved and the way that we want to be treated.   There is not longer US and THEM there is only US.

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How does this stack up with our behaviour, language, engagement and response toward the other?  To refugees,  muslims, LGBTI, homeless, other ethnicities.  Is it loving?  Jesus’ rather clear teaching on love of enemies has been consistently ignored by all the mainline churches.

Conversation of love.  “Tell me your story?  What has life been like for you?  Help me to understand.  How can I support you, sit with you, listen to you?   What breaks your heart?  What is hurting right now?

We should see all people as brothers, sisters, neighbours, loving them as ourselves, standing with them in unity.  Loving someone includes understanding them.  Walking alongside them through all of life’s ups and downs.

Think of your child, your grandchild, your partner, your best friend.  You don’t abandon them, or cut them off or turn your love off like a tap if they make a mistake or stumble.  True love is selfless, it is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.

John offers an insight that resolves the paradox: if you don’t love your neighbor whom you have seen, you can’t love God whom you have not seen (1 John 4:20). His words recall Jesus’s own words: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). (Source)

“Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. I am afraid we have for too long used the Bible merely to prove various church positions, which largely narrows their range and depth. Instead of transforming people, the Biblical texts became utilitarian and handy ammunition. Rohr.

Love for the other also extends to love for creation.  When God told Noah to make an ark, is was not just to save humanity.  It was to save all of creation.  All the differences, paradoxes and opposites shut up inside a boat with the door locked.  What a picture of the preservation and celebration of diversity and otherness.

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In conclusion, I would have to say that love IS the only thing to consider.  Love is enought.  If I am wrong, then I will gladly be wrong on the side of love.

 

“Jesus does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them”. (Saint Therese of Lisieux)

“All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself because God is love”. (St. Maria Teresa of the Cross [Edith Stein])

Featured image by Trunk Animation.

 

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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Travelling Tips for the Journey of Life

Travelling Tips for the Journey of Life by Helena McNeill

Helena is a dear friend of mine.  We worked together at CityLife Church and have been joined at the heart ever since.  Spending time with Helena is like being around pure joy.  She is a deeply creative, beautiful soul.  We laugh, we giggle, we cry, we mourn and we roar.  A woman rich in love and humility.  I am so proud of this endeavour of hers to write a book and pair it with her music.  As soon as you start reading TRAVELLING TIPS FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE, you start thinking of all of the people in your life who would love love love this book.  It is just simply a reflection of Helena, it is beautiful.

The Artist

Helena McNeill is a Melbourne based singer-speaker who loves gratitude, brave love, Jesus, seashells and coffee. She freelances as a singer and speaker at churches, events and house concerts. Her songs and stories explore the journey of life and faith with raw honesty and humour, inspiring us to see the beauty in our lives even in the difficult days.

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She first worked as a singer-worship leader and Creative Arts Director at Careforce Church in Melbourne, followed by 5 years working as singer-worship leader at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, U.S.A along with her musician-songwriter husband Jay McNeill.
Since returning to Melbourne where they now reside with their twin daughters, Helena has served as Worship Director at CityLife Church in 2014, and worked in Church Engagement at CBM Australia in 2015/16.

The Book

In 2017 Helena created her first project as an author, combining her songs and stories together, culmulating in the release of her first book TRAVELLING TIPS FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.  Songs and thoughts to guide you on your way.

front-cover

A collection of songs and thoughts to encourage women as they navigate this messy but stunning journey of life and faith.

THE BOOK LAUNCH

It is with great excitement and anticipation that we launch Helena’s new book.  TRAVELLING TIPS FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.

On the 15th of September 2017 you are all invited to attend the Book Launch of  TRAVELLING TIPS FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.

It will be held at Now and Not Yet Cafe at 146 Yarra Street Warrandyte @8.00pm.

Helena will share about her ideas behind writing the book and will sing to us.

Helena, finger food and wine –  what more could you want on a Melbourne Friday Night?

The Reviews

This little book and collection of songs is remarkable because of the heart of the author.  Helena Mc Neill has weathered more storms of life than most of us.  She writes and sings out of her authentic struggle to find God in the midst of her questions and pain.  I could listen to Helena sing all day long and I am still struggling to work out which of these songs is my favourite.

Nancy Beach

Leadership Coach with the Slingshot Group.  Author and Speaker.

I strongly encourage you to put Helenas book and music at the top of your “must read/must listen” list.  Your soul will thank you.

Corinne Ferguson

Artist and Leadership Coach, Former Executive Producer of The Global Leadership Summit.

The Illustrator

The illustrations in this book are captivating.  They sooth and move you and are partnered perfectly with Helena’s writing.  Kim Miatke is an artist whose hearts desire is that her art and the story that accompanies it will speak to your heart and will in some way bring healing and joy to your soul.  Kim loves the privilege of journeying with others and sharing the messy, scary, painful & fun moments of her own life with raw honesty. She believes that everyone has creative potential that just needs to be unlocked. To see more of Kim’s work visit Kim Miatke

To Contact Helena go to Helena Mc Neill

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What is Marriage? A Brief History of Marriage.

What is Marriage?

A Brief History of Marriage by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

One of the most contentious topics that we are facing in society today is about same-sex marriage.   It is headline news in Australia as we move toward a 12 million dollar plebiscite.  The issue is divisive, it is loaded and has become mean and nasty.  Whilst I think that this is an important issue, I don’t think that it is worth losing our minds over.   In other words, it is not the most important issue on the planet at the moment and we should certainly not be in fear of it.

Can I please admonish all of us.  Please do not think of any one who differs from us on the issue of homosexuality, as less than us in any way.  Less Christian, less Australian, less worthy of love, or less loveable.  Irrespective of your views ‘for or against’ marriage equality.  We should, in all maturity, be able to hold differing views with love and respect.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will conduct the plebiscite, which is a direct vote by all Australians on the issue of marriage equality.

However: this post is about marriage. Not about same-sex marriage.  Before we have an opinion on ‘marriage equality’, I think it is important that we know the history of marriage.  Where it comes from, how it has evolved and where it stands today in our post modern society.

What is Marriage?  As a Commonwealth Registered Celebrant this is a question that I write about every day.  When meeting with betrothed couples, one of the questions that I ask them is this.  What does marriage mean to you?  In legal terms, marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent.  Currently in Australia it is the ‘union of a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life to the exclusion of all others’.  (Marriage Act 1961).

When I ask couples this question I get many responses.  These are the most common.

Marriage is:

“Marriage is a lifetime relationship of honesty, trust and love.  It is a relationship full of laughter creating life moments to share together”.

“To us marriage is a mysterious life long adventure between two people who love each other”.

“Marriage is spending my life with my best friend and going through life’s crazy rollercoaster.   It’s being the best team we can be. Marriage  is commitment.  It is love and happiness with my best friend for the rest of my life”.

“Marriage is an official union in the eyes of God. It allows two people to become one and to begin their lives dedicated to one another and to God.  Marriage signifies to God that you are committing to one partner for a life-time.  That you are willing to allow God to walk with you and guide you throughout your life together”.

Christianity

The Christian version of marriage is this:  “By making the covenant of marriage, you make a covenant to love one another as God has loved you – that means to love one another unconditionally, freely, sacrificially.  In making the covenant of marriage, you promise to become servants of one another in love.  In making the covenant of marriage, you form a union that reflects the love of God and stands as a sign and vehicle of grace”(Richard B. Hays).

Most people think that marriage as we know it today originated from the bible or from Christianity.  This is not so.  There is actually nothing like marriage as we know it today in western society.  It is a totally modern construct.

The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia. In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power and lineage.  It is so important to realise that the bible as we know it today was written over a period of thousands of years.  Encompassing ancient societies, views and values whose norms for living are very different to how we view society today.

The Word Marriage

The word “marriage” derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300.  The related word “matrimony” derives from the Old French word matremoine, which appears around 1300 CE and ultimately derives from Latin mātrimōnium, which combines the two concepts: mater meaning “mother” and the suffix –moniumsignifying “action, state, or condition”.  This supports the understanding of ancient marriage which was to turn a virgin into a mother.  In other words to have children in order to protect the lineage of the male line.

Old testament women

Old Testament Marriage or Ancient Marriage

Old Testament marriage is full of Near Eastern polygamy.  Widows became wives to their   brother in-laws, a woman automatically became the bride of her rapist.  Male soldiers could take as many virgins as he liked for brides as booty of the spoils of war.   Marriages are dissoluble if she fails to please.  Abraham had more than one wife. Isaac is one of the very few patriarchs who, so far as we can tell, have only one.  Jacob has two, and then two concubines as well. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, which is not a problem with the biblical writers until he takes foreign wives.  Todays ideal of one man and one woman is a foreign concept.   Above all, women are seen as property, and you could divorce your wife for anything, for any reason at all.  (N.T.Wright)

Jesus

Jesus refused to involve himself in family disputes.  He taught that marriage was, technically, a secular matter.  Secular in the sense of ‘belonging to this world’ or to this ‘passing age’.  In the new heaven and new earth Jesus taught that there would be no marriage.  Jesus taught that there was perfect equality between all of Gods children.  A radical thought to a people who saw woman as property and breeders.  No one owned anyone through slavery or marriage.  He taught that family ties are irrelevant in the Kingdom to come.  Marriage is basically dictated by the present and passing age.

Ancient Greece

Marriage could bring a wife into the household following a proper marriage ritual, or merely involved the couple living under the same roof after the signature of a contract. The style of marriage was not really important. It’s function was quite simple; to change a woman’s status from that of a young maid, virgo, to that of a mother, mater.  From when she was married, two different fates could await the bride. If she was lucky enough to be fertile and gave birth to three children or more, she would be a respected mother, a wife to be envied and would gain acceptance in the community. If, however, she proved infertile, she would be threatened with repudiation (source).

In both the Roman and Greek cultures, the marriage itself was in fact not regarded as having been fully consummated until the first child was born in the house. Most girls were married at the onset of puberty.  Around the age of 12.

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Ancient Rome 

In Rome, life was all about sex.  Rome was drenched in sex.  Marriage was understood in the context of preserving the family line.  Wives were taken to breed children.  Sexual pleasure was acceptably found outside of marriage and married men were expected to have mistresses and married women were allowed to take lovers.  Sexual orientation did not matter, it was about power.  As long as the lover or mistress was inferior to them in social status.  Only a wife was considered of equal status and this was to preserve the family name.

At least two of the Roman Emperors were in same-sex unions; and in fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman Emperors held to be bisexual or exclusively homosexual. The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other men on different occasions.

Romans worshipped Pan,  there are statues of him having sex with goats.  Pan had sex with anyone that he wanted, therefore so could the Romans.  Paul was speaking into a world where sex was everywhere and where people without right were exploited by the powerful. Male slaves were purposely castrated for Roman high society women so that they could have as much sex as they wanted without fear of pregnancy.  Paul is writing into a world where the rich lived a life of pleasure and sexual abuse.

medieval woman

Mediaeval Marriage

Marriage was not based on love; most marriages were political arrangements. Husbands and wives were generally strangers until they first met. The arrangement of marriage was done by the bride and groom’s parents. In the middle ages, girls were typically in their early teens when they married, and boys were in their early twenties. The arrangement of the marriage was based on monetary worth. The family of the girl who was to be married would give a dowry, or donation, to the boy she was to marry. The dowry would be presented to the groom at the time of the marriage.

Gay ‘marriage’ in medieval Europe
Same-sex unions aren’t a recent invention. Until the 13th century, male-bonding ceremonies were common in churches across the Mediterranean. Apart from the couples’ gender, these events were almost indistinguishable from other marriages of the era. Twelfth-century liturgies for same-sex unions — also known as “spiritual brotherhoods” — included the recital of marriage prayers, the joining of hands at the altar, and a ceremonial kiss. Some historians believe these unions were merely a way to seal alliances and business deals.

The church did not get involved in marriage until the 5th century when church courts took over and elevated marriage to a holy union. As the church’s power grew through the Middle Ages, so did its influence over marriage. In 1215, marriage was declared one of the church’s seven sacraments, alongside rites like baptism and penance. But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that weddings be performed in public, by a priest, and before witnesses.

Romance

Love did not enter the picture until the 17th and 18th centuries.  In fact, up until then, love was seen as being incompatible with marriage.  Ancient societies saw marriage as a financial contract which protected lineage and breeding.  Love and erotic or sexual pleasure was to be found with a mistress, lovers or prostitutes.

 

20th Century

Up until the 20th century inter-racial marriages were forbidden.  In June 1967 it became legal in America for inter racial marriages.  Until recent decades interfaith marriages were also prohibited.   Many Christian denominations quoted the biblical passage 2 Corinthians 6:14 which forbids Christians from marrying outside of their faith.  I myself was forbidden to marry a man outside my faith in the year 2000.

Woman’s Rights

As the womens rights movement gained strength in the late 19th and 20th centuries, wives slowly began to insist on being regarded as their husbands’ equals, rather than their property.  The arrival of contraception in the late 1950’s  fundamentally transformed marriage.  Couples could choose how many children to have, and even to have no children at all. If they were unhappy with each other, they could divorce — and nearly half of all couples did. Marriage had become primarily a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability, and happiness.

Divorce

The 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act allowed ordinary people to divorce. Before then, divorce was largely open only to men, and had to be granted by an Act of Parliament, which was hugely expensive, and therefore was also open only to the rich. Under the new law, women divorcing on the grounds of adultery not only had to prove their husbands had been unfaithful but also had to prove additional faults, which included cruelty, rape and incest.

  • A private members’ bill in 1923 made it easier for women to petition for divorce for adultery, but it still had to be proved.
  • In 1937, the law was changed and divorce was allowed on other grounds including drunkenness, insanity and desertion.
  • The big change came in 1969, when the Divorce Reform Act was passed, allowing couples to divorce after they had been separated for two years (or five years if only one of them wanted a divorce). A marriage could be ended if it had irretrievably broken down, and neither partner no longer had to prove “fault”.

Conclusion

As you will have noted.  Marriage today is radically different from what it was in the past.

Marriage today:

  • Wives are not seen as breeders or property
  • Woman demand equal rights
  • Wives are not 12 years old, the average bride in Australia is 26
  • Sex outside of marriage is not socially acceptable
  • You can marry a person of another race or faith
  • Marriage is not considered a contract of power or finance
  • Most western woman would not consent to an arranged marriage
  • Women would not consent to being one of several wives or concubines.
  • Divorce is available to all social positions both male and female.
  • Rape in marriage.  In 1976, for the first time in the English-speaking world, rape in marriage became a criminal offence.  Hard to believe I know.

Could I dare suggest that marriage is not defined by the Church or the State but by the lives of the people who marry according to the social and personal beliefs of the time and place.  In other words, exactly as Jesus had said, marriage is fundamentally what it has always been – a matter of the present and passing age (Alan Wilson – More Perfect Union).

My Thoughts?

If we are people of faith we need to make the love of God visible.  No one has ever seen God.  “But if we love one another, God dwells among us, and His love is perfected among us”. 1 john 4:12.  Love acted out within community makes God known to the world.  The love of God continues to be visible, not only through the telling the story of the gospel, but also through the ongoing life of the community of faith that lives by that story.    By our acts of love toward one another God is made visible.  He is clearly seen.   If we want to bring our beliefs of God into the arena of marriage we can only do so through the lens of our love for each other.

By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another.

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

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Love Lisa

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The Justice Conference 2017

What is “The Justice Conference 2017?”

The Justice Conference: ‘not just good, but necessary’

Now in its third year, the Justice Conference in 2017 will explore Jesus’ command to LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR.

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We believe that within this short commandment exists the power to transform communities through sacrificial love and the practice of authentic justice. Join us in October as we explore what it really means to love thy neighbour in today’s context.

Melbourne, Australia – Thousands of Australian’s will descend on Melbourne for one of the country’s largest gatherings focused on social justice for a third year from 27 – 28 October 2017.

The Justice Conference, birthed in 2010 by a group of like-minded friends in Bend, Oregon (USA) is an international conference that in 2017 will explore what it really means to ‘love thy neighbour’ in today’s global context.

The Justice Conference was birthed out of a simple idea and a compelling paradox – true life is found when we give our lives away on behalf of others.

What if Christians truly lived out the message of Jesus and transformed their communities through their love and the practice of authentic justice?

Internationally-renowned speakers, thinkers and leaders Lisa Sharon Harper (US), Evert-Jan Ouweneel (Ned), Melinda Tankard-Reist (Aust), Patricia Ho (HK), Ken Wytsma (US) and CB Samuel (IND) amongst other Australian and international contributors will bring their message of justice and facilitate broad-reaching conversations covering a multitude of topics.

Bought to Australia by international aid agency, TEAR Australia, The Justice Conference has international expressions in Hong Kong, Chicago, Auckland, São Paulo, Amsterdam and Cape Town, with many more to follow in the coming year.

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Conference Director, Paul Flavel said The Justice Conference is fast gaining a reputation as a key destination on all aspects of social justice for Australian Christians.

“Now in our third year, we’re delighted to showcase some of Australia’s best voices on social justice alongside a host of renowned communicators from overseas,” said Mr Flavel.

“Through thoughtful, meaningful and courageous conversations we want to stimulate people to act, inspired by God’s powerful movement of justice.

“This year’s theme: love thy neighbour is a commandment that gives the power to transform communities through sacrificial love and the practice of authentic justice. Our hope is this expression pours out in many forms throughout the two days in October and beyond.”

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”….. Luke 10:25-29

WHAT TO EXPECT

As well as considering the overarching theme of ‘Love thy neighbour’, in 2017, the Justice Conference will continue to underscore the importance of developing a theology of justice – that God’s love should compel love for others and engagement in justice. Join thousands of Christians from diverse backgrounds from across Australia worshipping the Lord and exploring important themes such as:

  • The relationship between justice and mission
  • Gender justice
  • Justice and the Earth
  • Justice in a globalised world
  • Loving our Indigenous neighbours
  • Justice as vocation.

The Justice Conference is presented by TEAR Australia in conjunction with 32 partner organisations and partner churches. To see who we partner with, visit this website:

The conference commences on Friday 27 October at the Melbourne Town Hall and will conclude on Saturday 28 October. Tickets can be purchased from The Justice Conference website: 

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Pay Per View Torture: Why Are Australian Telcos and ISPs Enabling a Child Sexual Abuse Pandemic?

Warning:  This article has trigger warnings.

Pay Per View Torture: Why Are Australian Telcos and ISPs Enabling a Child Sexual Abuse Pandemic?

Melinda Tankard Reist abcreligion

ABC Religion and Ethics 6 Jul 2017

Internet Service Providers and Telcos, which provide the infrastructure for live-streaming abuse of children to be possible, need to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

“There are examples where people have been wanting to see the violent rape of children five, six, seven years old; and other, very violent acts carried out against very young children.”

– Chief Judge John Pascoe

To all the piteous horrors inflicted on the youngest members of the human family around the world, a new atrocity has been added: “Live Distant Child Abuse.” There is a growing pandemic of this practice of paid-per-view torture.

This practice involves the real-time rape and torture of babies, infants and pre-pubescent children. According to a report from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, “59.72% of the abuse acts against babies and toddlers involved explicit sexual activity/assaults and extreme sexual assaults.” These are acts that are at the highest levels of the Copine scale – a rating system used to categorise the severity of images of child sex abuse.

The more violent the act, the more the user pays. The International Justice Mission(IJM) estimates that men pay between US$20 and $150 for a “sex show” broadcast online. “The cost of such a show will increase with the level of abusiveness requested,” the IJM wrote in a submission to the Federal Inquiry into Human Trafficking, arguing that these practices need to be considered in our provisions against sexual servitude and slavery.

More than half the victims of cybersex abuse trafficking rescued by IJM are aged 12 years old or younger. A three-month-old was removed from the scene of violation in a Philippine den last year. In the Philippines alone, the child abuse market is a one billion-dollar a year industry.

Child sexual abuse online is described as a “global pandemic” in Behind the Screen: Online Child Exploitation in Australia, a new report on Australia’s response to online child exploitation by Anti-Slavery Australia at the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney. Revealing the alarming scope of online child exploitation, the report, along with IJM’s testimony to a current Federal inquiry into human trafficking, and shocking examples of this child torture highlighted in the Senate last month, will hopefully give this issue the attention it warrants.

It is estimated by the FBI that there are 750,000 child predators online. Increasing numbers of them are using – and, in turn, driving – a growing industry of transnational cyber trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, which is streamed live into the homes of users. There are currently more than 150 million images and videos documenting child exploitation available online.

INHOPE, a network of 46 hotlines in 40 countries to assist in the fight against child sexual abuse, has confirmed 83,644 unique URLs as containing materials from 45 countries. INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation image database records an average of seven unique child sexual exploitation victims made per day. That is more than 10,000 victims as of January this year.

Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found that reports of child sexual abuse imagery rose by 417% between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, 68,092 reports were confirmed as illegal images or video, an increase of 417%, since 2013. It then looked at trends emerging from the 2015 data, finding that:

  • 69% of victims were assessed as aged 10 or under;
  • 1,788 of the victims were assessed as aged 2 or under;
  • 34% of images were category A, involving the rape or sexual torture of children

Those working in the field say infants are increasingly attractive to abusers, because they can’t speak or defend themselves.

Meet Australia’s Sadistic Abusers

Australian offenders have a significant role in this sadistic trade. As at 1 June 2016, 194 Australian children have been identified as victims of online exploitation material. 102 Australian perpetrators have been identified, but this is only a tiny proportion of the 11,000 referrals made to Australian Federal Police in 2015.

Behind the Screens researchers state that, “More Australian based offenders are regularly accessing, downloading from, or even administering vast international networks that encourage the distribution of materials.” Australian-based offenders were “procurers, groomers and administrators of vast online child exploitation networks” and were driving abuse locally and in countries like the Philippines and parts of Eastern Europe.

Chief Judge John Pascoe has noted this disturbing trend in the Federal Circuit Court. He told the ABC’s 7:30, “There are examples where people have been wanting to see the violent rape of children five, six, seven years old; and other, very violent acts carried out against very young children.”

So, who are the Australian men involved in ”Live Distant Child Abuse”? Here are five examples. These weren’t just individuals operating alone – they were operating highly organized businesses, business gangs essentially, with many ties to each other operating in a global system of pornography. This is a collective practice, not the idiosyncratic crimes of a few perverted individuals. Men like these are not just watching pre-made images on a screen – which is, of course, bad enough – but are actually manufacturing the abuse. It is not possible to dissociate their watching from afar from the manufacture of live porn as cruelty and abuse.

Infamous online and contact offender, Peter Scully, was arrested in the Philippines for crimes including child trafficking, child sexual abuse, torture and murder. Scully filmed his crimes for internet clients for $10,000. Police and lawyers describe his crimes as “the most shocking cases of child murder, torture and abuse they have ever seen in the Philippines.” Senior police officers and prosecutors wept when they viewed one video called “Daisy’s Destruction”. Daisy was 18 months old.

In 2016, young Melbourne man Matthew Graham (known as “Lux”) was sentenced to 15 years jail for distributing hundreds of thousands of items of child exploitation material. Beginning as a schoolboy operating out of his parent’s basement, he became one of the biggest child pornography and “hurtcore” distributors in the world, with his websites attracting 3 million hits in three years. His crimes included videoing the torture and rape of a young child in the Philippines, and encouraging the rape and murder of a child in Russia.

Bryan Beattie paid as little as $12 to watch through his Skype account 17 children aged between 8 and 15 being sexually assaulted in the Philippines between 2012 and 2014. Beattie procured a local abuser and instructed him on the kinds of abuses he wanted to see. At sentencing, Beattie said he thought the children being raped appeared “happy.” Beattie is the first NSW man to be charged with a “pay per view” offence. He was sentenced in March 2017 to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment but is eligible for parole in February 2021.

Queenslander Stephen James Sheriff paid a Filipino mother of two girls, including a 10-year-old, for live sex acts. Despite being convicted of soliciting and accessing child exploitative material, he was released with a $500 fine. While his original sentence was 3 years, the lifetime of suffering he has brought upon these children was apparently worth almost nothing.

Kyle Dawson paid about $60 to watch by Skype the abuse of children in the Philippines. His victims were girls aged about 6, 10 and 12, and a boy of about 8 was also abused in a Manila slum. Captured in a sting operation, Dawson was sentenced in the Brisbane District Court on 26 July last year to 5 years in prison with a two-year non-parole period.

In 2015, Shannon McCoole was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for charges relating to his role as head administrator of a global online network with 45,000 members.

Lower Sentences for Pay-Per-View Torture

On average, fewer than half of all convicted offenders are given prison terms, according to Anti-Slavery Australia in Behind the Screen. This pay-per-view torture, commissioned and directed by Australians, has received lower sentences than direct hands-on offending. According to Anti-Slavery Australia:

“Our findings, based on a review of recent case law, indicate that on average, defendants charged and convicted under Commonwealth provisions receive at most 2 to 3 years imprisonment, and where multiple charges are involved, these sentences are served concurrently … Even in cases where offenders have vast collections of child exploitation material, and have used internet services to groom and procure more than one child for the purposes of contact offending, the case law indicates that such aggravating elements increase the overall sentence only marginally.”

While the recent passage of a law to cancel passports of child sex offenders overseas is to be welcomed – more than 770 Australian registered child sex offenders travelled overseas in 2016 – the act does not deal with the fact that a growing proportion of offending happens without the offender stepping outside the door of his home.

In the Senate on 20 June, NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore said the Criminal Code was designed to address perpetrators travelling to abuse a victim, and failed to target those staying home while commissioning, directing and paying for the abuse in real time. Kakoschke-Moore proposes amending laws to crack down on Australian offenders who access the live online abuse of children overseas. She told the Senate, “Committing the offence virtually should make them no less culpable.”

Speaking later to the ABC’s PM program, Senator Kakoschke-Moore said: “We have jurisdiction over offenders here. Where those offenders are using the internet to commission the real time abuse of children to direct that abuse against the child over the internet they must be found guilty of an offence.”

Enabling Abuse: It’s Time to Hold ISPs to Account

There is also a push to hold ISPs to account. Internet Service Providers and Telcos – Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG – which provide the infrastructure for live-streaming abuse of children to be possible, need to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. Telcos are profiting from the global crime of child sexual abuse of the kind that happened to the children I’ve described.

Last week, the ABC’s 7:30 revealed that, in the first 5 months of this year, there were 79 cases where telecommunications companies did not provide the online information such as subscriber records, IP addresses or mobile data required to make an arrest. This equated to a fifth of cases being pursued. That’s 79 cases that cannot be investigated and prosecuted because ISPs consider the “privacy” of their (paying) customers to take precedence over the well-being of tortured children.

It is no wonder police tasked with building a case against suspected perpetrators – and who have to view material on a daily basis that would destroy most of us – are frustrated. One investigating officer interviewed for Anti-Slavery’s report lamented the lack of compliance by Telcos, which appear reluctant to assist with investigations of online child exploitation. The officer gave as an example investigating the abuse of a four-month-old baby and being told “can’t help” 4 times. After he called the E Safety Commissioner, the information was provided within 40 minutes.

Asked by reporter Alex McDonald what happens when there is insufficient information, AFP Commander Lesa Gale responded: “It stops. It ceases. It means we can’t do anything more. It means, if there is a child that’s been exploited, that nothing further can be done.” A child won’t be rescued and an abuser can keep abusing.

Anti-Slavery Australia says there is a lack of clarity relating to the legal obligations of internet service providers – which form “part of a chain which contributes to the distribution of child pornography on the internet” – to report child exploitation material hosted on their networks. Provisions in the Criminal Code and Telecommunications Act are “vague and ineffective.”

Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has flagged amendments to require ISPs to comply. She told the Senate that cyber sexual abusers were “utilizing the infrastructure of telcos to commit their crimes.” Telcos have a “social duty” to “ensure they do everything in their power to assist the AFP” in tracking people using their service to offend. Senator Kakoschke-Moore’s amendments will require ISPs and content hosts to provide specific information to the AFP such as IP addresses or personal details of the subscriber. The amendments would also increase penalties for non-compliance with an AFP request.

Australian ISPs and telcos are commercially mediating the abuse of children. The Australian government needs to take action urgently to make them act ethically. A peak body is needed to give the issue the serious, multilevel cooperation it needs. As Judge Pascoe told 7:30, “I think the public does have a right to expect that they will be part of the social contract; that they will be aware of Australia’s international obligations; and that they will do their part to protect children.”

Without urgent government intervention to address these human rights atrocities against children, the social contract is breached. We all become complicit in these crimes.

Reprinted with permission

Understanding Mental Health

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (WHO)

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Most of us at some time in our life will experience a mental health issue.  In fact one out of  four of us will experience  psychological distress at some stage.

Mental health or mental illness are interchangeable terms.   Mental health is as varied and individual as people themselves.  Some people fully recover after one episode and others can have recurring episodes or long standing mental health issues.  People from any background can experience mental health issues, although those who have experienced trauma or social dislocation are more vulnerable.

If we were to look at a ‘wellbeing’ scale: with 1 being good and 10 being awful, over the course of our lives we will move up and down that scale depending on what we are experiencing.  There is an ebb and flow depending on what is happening in our life.

1: ______________________________________________ 10

If we are in a season where we are struggling it is important that we get a diagnosis because it helps Doctors and Psychologists work out how to help you.

Many people feel that they don’t want to be labelled or defined by their illness.  A way to help you think about diagnosis is the jam jar analogy which my friend Tim Reed describes.

“When you look at the nutrition facts on a jar of jam many ingredients will be listed”

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“Diagnosis can be looked at as just one of the ingredients on the list.  The diagnosis is important but is does not represent the whole jar of jam.  It is just one part of it”.

Causes of mental health problems

A number of overlapping factors may increase your risk of developing a mental health problem. These can include:

  • Early life experiences: abuse, neglect, or the loss of someone close to you
  • Individual factors: level of self-esteem, coping skills and thinking styles
  • Current circumstances: stress at school or work, money problems, difficult personal relationships, or problems within your family
  • Biological factors: family history of mental health problems (Headspace)

mind artist

 

Step One:

The first port of call is your local doctor.  Preferably you will make a relationship with a family doctor who knows you and has some understanding of who you are.  A general practitioner will be able to put you onto a mental health plan.  This means that your visits to a psychologist will be substantially subsidised.  When you call to make an appointment please make a double appointment so that you have the time that you need to talk through your issues.

Step Two: Psychologist – Psychiatrist 

Talking therapy  is very valuable to your recovery.  This is a term used when visiting a psychologist.  A psychologist works directly with those experiencing difficulties, such as mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. They help people to overcome relationship problems, eating disorders, learning problems, substance abuse, parenting issues, or to manage the effects of a chronic illness.

A Psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has obtained additional qualifications to become a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and can prescribe medications.

First Hand Experience

I had a chat with my friend Tim Reed who has experienced ongoing mental health issues and who also runs peer led support groups for mental health and wellness.  Tim explains that for his journey the turning point came when he read a book called “Back from the Brink”by Graeme Cowan

Back from the Brink is a brave book that offers practical advice:

“Centred on interviews with several people from of all walks of life, …Back from the Brink offers people with depression and bipolar disorder real hope and real advice, as well as practical tools for putting what they’ve learned into practice in recovering from their symptoms”(Source).

Tim goes on to say that he needed to restructure the way that he was thinking.  Instead of constantly looking for a cure or a fix,  he needed to look at how to manage his mental illness.  This was the first time that he felt in control and able to manage.

Therapies

There are many therapies that help with mental illness and your psychologist will talk to you about these.

One of them is Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a treatment based on the idea that how you think and act affects how you feel.

In CBT, you work with a therapist to recognise the patterns of thinking that cause you problems (Mind Health).

  1. First you will work with your therapist to understand what are the most troubling problems for you
  2. Then you work out what your thoughts, emotions and beliefs are about these situations.
  3. You will identify which of these thoughts, emotions and beliefs are negative or inaccurate.
  4. Working with your therapist, you find ways to challenge them. You might ask yourself: is that true? Or you might ask yourself: so what?
  5. Then you can find ways to think and act that are less harmful to you.

Dr Russ Harris, author of the international best-selling self-help book ‘The Happiness Trap’, is an world-renowned trainer of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). Russ’s background is in medicine. As a GP he became increasingly interested in the psychological aspects of health and wellbeing, and increasingly disenchanted with writing prescriptions.

woman meditating

ACT uses Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, focus and openness – which allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings have much less impact and influence over you – so it is hugely useful for everything from full-blown psychiatric illness to enhancing athletic or business performance (Act Mindfully).

The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. ‘ACT’ is a good abbreviation, because this therapy is about taking effective action guided by our deepest values and in which we are fully present and engaged. It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life.

Moving Forward

There is a lot of progress happening in the arena of mental illness.  Clinicians are increasingly looking at mental health from a holistic perspective.

Dr James Courtney is a Clinical Psychologist, lecturer and Placement Coordinator at the Monash Psychological Centre.  I had a chance to hear him speak on this topic recently.  There is a huge push to look into the impact of genetics and DNA on a patient.  They have found for instance that panic attacks are 7 times more likely to have been inherited in your DNA.

‘Following a Biopsychosocial model of treatment, we try to look at a whole lot of influences including genetics and the influences that you had on you as a child.  We try to understand the whole journey”.

It is now possible to have a DNA test and have your medication personally fitted to your specific DNA.  A genetic test will reveal how you will respond to a drug, what suits you and what suits your profile.   This level of accuracy takes away all the pain and frustration of trying many different medications until you find the right one.  Through DNA testing they can custom fit your medication.

Resources and Organisation that can HELP you.

PHAMS:  PHAMS is the Personal Helpers and Mentors Service.  This is a federally funded program which works in an outreach capacity.  They meet with people and look at the issues that they are struggling with and help them to move through them.  They work closely with clinical services.  Its about sitting down with a person and mapping out a plan with them and supplying the services that they need.

PHaMs provides increased opportunities for recovery for people aged 16 years and over whose lives are severely affected by mental illness, by helping them to overcome social isolation and increase their connections to the community.  People are supported through a recovery‑focused and strengths‑based approach that recognises recovery as a personal journey driven by the participant.

White Wreath is a non-denominational, non-profit charitable organisation providing 24-hour, seven days a week help, assistance for those suffering mental trauma or considering suicide.

P: 1300 766 177 or
M: 0410 526 562

You will speak immediately to a human voice.

You can Text via Mobilie 0410 526 562

You can Emailwhite.wreath@bigpond.com

Headspace:  headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.   You can access headspace HERE.

Beyond Blue:   beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.  You can access beyond blue HERE

 

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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.

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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