Sunday Everyday

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 by Tim Read .

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

figf

“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 Read 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 speak with him 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.

Tim Read facilitates Blur – Blur Support Group is a safe place for people suffering mind health issues, or for anyone who is currently having a hard time. It is a confidential peer led mind health support group that meets fortnightly at a cafe in Warrandyte.  You can find out more by contacting:

Now and Not Yet Cafe 148-150 Yarra St, Warrandyte VIC 3113
(03) 9844 0994

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

 

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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The Role of Men in Our Society

Lately, the role of men in society has been a topic that I am being asked about more and more.  Just today I had an interesting discussion with a male friend of mine at our local coffee shop about the new society we live in and men’s place in it. 

This is a little of how the conversation went:

“Lisa, I have a great topic for your blog.  “Men and where we fit’”.  

Where do we fit into this new society?  We can’t and don’t want to just be the arch-typical macho man.  We want to be more in touch with our feelings but society hasn’t changed enough that we feel heard or received when we share that we are struggling or not coping.  We get brushed off and told to toughen up.  

“Men don’t cry. Be a real man. What kind of freak are you for acting that way? Man up. Don’t be a girl. Stop being such a ##**x. Don’t get mad, get even.

It is a concerning trend that some men feel dispossessed and alone in society.  The rate of suicide in men is the highest it has ever been and remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.  Occurring at a rate of 3 times more for men than women.

The degree to which young men feel pressured to adopt traditional ideals of manhood has been revealed in a new study commissioned by Jesuit Social Services.  It was the first nationwide study of what Australians think about manhood, questioning 1,000 young men aged 18 to 30.

It found two-thirds of young men said they had been told a “real man” behaved in a certain way since they were a boy.

“This survey shows us traditional ideals of manhood in Australia are alive and well,” co-author Dr. Michael Flood said (The Men’s Project).

“Young men still see that they’re told by society that men must be tough, men must be stoic, men must respond to challenges with violence.”

My husband and I have six children ages 24 – 33 years old.  Five of our kids are adult men so this topic is very close to our heart. They are great young adults and I am very proud of each them.  

Before I continue let me say that there are many amazing men out there.  

Guys that are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Men that strive to be good fathers, husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world.

However, the question must be asked.  If some men feel out of sync with society, why?  Why is there so much loneliness and aggression among young men?  Why do some men seem to be immature and not connected to their emotions?  Why do some young men at 30 still act like they are 17-year-olds? 

As I began to dig into this topic a few thoughts began to bubble up.  These are my thoughts.

1:  As a society, we have lost the valuable social tool of initiation and ritual for our young guys which in the past help them navigate their place in the community as they pass from teenager to adult.

2:  Our society of winning and succeeding at all costs looks down on suffering, vulnerability and emotional work.  If emotional work is not done there is no change.  Men stay emotionally immature. 

3:  Institutions, media, mass communication and political correctness have dampened our ability to ask questions.  The 5 min sound bite has damaged our ability to converse, to question, to learn.

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The Role of Initiation

We are an uninitiated society.   Except for those who love deeply, pray deeply, or suffer deeply,  society has lost the historical role of initiation and we have forgotten the rites of passage.

In the ancient world the birth of a child, a youth’s coming of age, and the funeral of a respected elder are all events in which an individual undergoes a change of status.

Initiation, or the coming of age of a boy or girl, is a transition frequently marked by ceremony and celebration. The education of youths in preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood is often a long and arduous process sometimes taking  6 – 12 months. Initiation rites usually begin at the onset of puberty.

Boys, and to lesser extent girls, are separated from their families and taken to a secluded area on the outskirts of the community where they undergo a sustained period of instruction.  

 At the conclusion of this mentally and physically rigorous period, they are reintroduced to society as fully initiated adults and given the responsibilities and privileges that accompany their new status (By Dr. Christa Clarke, for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Most anthropologists, citing Arnold van Gennep’s major work, “The Rites of Passage,” will say that rites of passage exist in order to consolidate social ties, establish roles, and give members of a group a sense of purpose and placement.

Rites of passage are an important part of a person’s life because they mark the transition from one stage of life to the next. It was recognised that the future of the community depended upon having healthy men as opposed to overgrown boys.

If a young man between the ages of 13 – 18 is not presented with something that is big and challenging, he doesn’t think his life has any meaning.  On top of this, the fathers/leaders of our society have nothing more to add.  Today we have a lot of old men who really have nothing to say. Worse than that, many young men have no role models that are worth following.  Just look at the rise of aggression, domestic violence, alcoholism and apathy of some men in our society.  

Initiation Examples

The young native American teen sent off into the darkness with nothing but a bow and arrow and expected to return with a wolf pelt or two or three.

Apache trial of womanhood.  Apache girls take part in ancient tests of strength, endurance and character that will make them women and prepare them for the trials of womanhood.  It happens over a week of ceremonies where she moves through the stages of life, child, adolescent, and woman.  She has to live by strict rules and learn to set aside emotions.

In Australia the young aboriginal man goes walkabout – an initiation that induces a  deeply spiritual awakening and self-awareness that happens with solitude, aloneness, exercising survival and instincts, personal growth and other aspects that are fundamental to Walkabout (source).

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The Masaai warrior tasked with stalking and killing a lion in single combat.

The donning of a glove lined with stinging bullet ants to commemorate becoming a man in the Amazon.

Ritualistic tattooing, branding, or mutilation upon reaching a certain age or completing a certain task (source).

If you live your life without suffering anything or without any kind of effort, life will not be worth anything to you (Amazon Tribal Elder).

Every human being needs to feel like they belong to the group. Everyone needs a stake in a tribe, and rites of passage help provide that by establishing and formalizing this (source). 

Look at how initiation works.

  • Initiation is a universal recognised need
  • It is always done in nature
  • It is always done by older men to younger men.  
  • It is done by a same-gender leader who is respected.

We lost initiation in western society because we became successful and powerful in our own eyes and thought that we didn’t need it anymore.  

When the traditional pathways to adulthood broke down through the abandonment of these traditional practices and customs by the suppression of the church and or government authorities, adolescents did not learn how to become social adults (Biersack, 1998). Instead, they became ‘insurgents’(Honwana, 2006; Rosen, 2005) or village bikhets (Leavitt, 1998).

The Emotional Work 

‘Men are hard-wired to block suffering. “The male psyche is, by nature, defended; men have a difficult time allowing events, circumstances, or people to touch or hurt them. Such blocking may have allowed us to survive…the endless wars of history. But it has also restricted the male capacity to change” (Richard Rohr).

Whilst the path of suffering is the quickest path to transformation,  most men don’t change until they have to. Until economic disasters, moral or relationship failure, loss of job or health are forced upon them, the tendency is to project the incoming negative judgment somewhere else. 

“Struggling with our dark side is humiliating, men have been trained to compete and to win. When winning is the only goal, we can’t admit to anything that looks like failure, or even allow basic vulnerability. We have to project weakness and failure onto others, making them the losers. Such dualistic thinking and resistance to change only guarantee more war and conflict” (source). 

Asking the Questions

The word ‘quest originally’ came from the word question.  We have lost the community ritual of quest ‘to search’, along with the ability to ask good questions.  

If you haven’t been on a journey yourself you have nothing to say.  Most young men today have nothing to say because they have not embraced quest: journey, transformation, brokenness, pain.  Western society teaches us to hide our pain, to suck it up, to be a winner.  Not to share it, embrace it or express it.   

True initiation is when you experience who you are apart from everything you identify with.  Your class in society, your gifts, your nice house, your job, your nationality.  Initiation is when you experience who you are beyond all of those titles and categories and you question, what is it all for?  What is it all about? 

Signs of high intelligence include curiosity, openness, and adaptability. Neuro-biologists are now saying that the sign of a high IQ is not people who have answers, but people who ask good questions.

What is the real truth?

A young man does not know how to contribute to society, for him it is all about money, sex, and power.  He does not know how to be a team player, does not know about how to be inclusive, sensitive, compassionate and sacrificial.   An uninitiated young man is a loose cannon.  All ancient cultures understood this.  They understood that a hormonal young man was dangerous to the community.    

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In our society today you see many adults who have never grown up. Adults who remain selfish and self-centered most of their lives.  They still have the emotional IQ of a teenager.  We lost the bridge of initiation from children to adults and in doing so we have a lot of ill-formed adults.

The real truth is that there are stages in one’s life.  The young adult man thinks he is immortal, he is obsessed with the biggest and the fastest.  This macho attitude, however, is reserved for puberty, for challenges, for the quest.  

The real lesson for a man as he gets older is to bring his head down into his heart and to become tender, compassionate and kind.  As maturity comes, a man learns to live in peace and contentment.  He is not fighting for power, he is not fighting for supremacy.  

Psychologist Robert Moore took the concept of Jung’s archetypes and used it to create a framework that explained the development of mature and integral masculinity in men. Moore argued that the problems we see with men today–violence, shiftlessness, aloofness–are a result of modern men not adequately exploring or being in touch with the primal, masculine archetypes that reside within them. 

Like Jung, Moore believed that men and women possess both feminine and masculine archetypal patterns–this is the anima (feminine) and animus (masculine), (The Art of Manliness).  

You can read more about these four male archetypes in the book by Moore and Gillette called ‘King, Warrior, Magician, Lover’.   In this book, they explore the concept that mature, authentic, and revitalised masculinity is made up of four parts. 

Warrior, lover, wise man and king/father.  If you are only initiated into one of these areas,  you are not a whole man.  It takes your whole life to become a whole man. A journey,  a life long quest.  The father king holds together everything and you don’t make it to father king until over the age of 50.

So the question now becomes – how do we help young men today?

Here in the ‘civilized’ West, we expect our boys to change into men without any assistance and minimum disturbance for the rest of us.

Quite rightly our young people feel something is missing when they reach teenage-hood and beyond, but they don’t know how to fill the void. Unconsciously, blindly and without guidance, many teenagers are now creating ‘anti-social peer initiations’. Testosterone and alcohol-fuelled escapades which can cause pain and suffering for themselves and others.

Nick Clements From the Good Men Project explains his thoughts on the New Rites of Masculinity.  The Good Men Project was founded in 2009 in the United States by Tom Matlack and James Houghton.  This website examines the question, ‘What does it mean to be a good man in today’s society’?

The boy needs to find out what it is to be a man, what characteristics are needed, how he should behave. He needs to learn about humanity. As part of that process, challenge and bravery need to be built into any new rites, taught in ways that show the two different paths open for men:

  • ‘Warrior’: the path of competition, aggression and violence (the old way).
  • ‘Brave’: the path of bravery, courage, vulnerability, and the willingness to collaborate (the new way).

The boy needs to experience both, and be able to decide which path he wants to take because he chooses to, not because he is being forced into being ‘good’. There is good and bad in both.

There needs to be a mentoring and support programmes built around such rites of passage. The boy needs to be helped in his transition from boy to man by older men who are wise and supportive. 

Examples of Modern Initiation

  1. A good example of this is the scheme in the UK which teaches young mechanics how to service and maintain large trucks. Once they are familiar and adept, the truck is filled with rations and provisions, and the young boys are part of a team that drives the trucks from Europe to Africa. Breakdowns, failures and hard times are encountered along the thousands of miles. Eventually, the trucks are delivered to needy communities, and it is the boy’s job to teach and train the villagers to maintain the trucks. That’s a good rite of passage. Those boys come back as men.
  2. Another project enables young people to use advanced film and other technologies on the proviso that they first shared it with older people. For every hour they teach an older person how to use computers they gain an hour on the equipment for themselves. A bi-product is the creation of meaningful relationships between teenagers and pensioners which has radically transformed the local community.
  3. The Pathways Foundation is a National harm prevention charity that
    assists young people to make the fundamental emotional shift from
    being a child to becoming a young adult.  PATHWAYS TO MANHOOD is a contemporary, community based Rite of Passage for boys to Manhood. A 5 day bush camp for boys aged 13-15 years and their fathers or a male mentor.

Since 1996, a group of men and women working with young people recognised they were underachieving, lacking in direction, self harming and initiating themselves into young adulthood through risk taking behaviour to ‘prove’ they were grown up. Understanding the need for young people to take part in conscious safe rites of passage and mark the shift from boy/girl psychology to healthy man/woman psychology was an essential ingredient Pathways developed their award winning contemporary rites of passage programmes.

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‘It would seem that initiation and ritual are not just about celebration, but a deeply spiritual time of life, a time of reflection, a time of gaining confidence in one’s own person and abilities, having a sense of their own spirituality, and realizing and experiencing their connection to the land and nature. It is a part of them as a person, a people — it connects them to the land, a higher purpose, and somehow to a higher plane of existence in some ways, and individually it is part of their identity as a man’ (source).

Prayer is Friendship

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a ” seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life”.  One of the major exercises in the book that Julia gets you to do is called “Morning Pages”.  This is where you wake up and write out three pages of your stream of consciousness.  Just get everything and anything out on paper.

It is a form of meditation.  The premise being that after you have emptied your mind of all the details that you are often distracted or consumed by, then you are free to begin to think creatively.  This discipline really helps to increase your creative output.

Recently I have been navigating a painful experience in my life.  Very dear friends of mine, who were concerned for my wellbeing, kindly made their home on the Gold Coast in Queensland available to me for a week.

Their exact words were, “Get out of here and work your head out”.  Lol.  So,  I tucked  myself away in silence and solitude, for a week and created space within the storm to  think, process, pray and reflect. A large part of that week was writing out my “Morning Pages”, my stream of consciousness and all of my negative feelings.  I recorded my nightmares in my journal, making notes, processing them and them releasing them to God.

By recognising and acknowledging my feelings, good, bad and painful, I was able to then communicate with greater intimacy with God.  By getting rid off all the white noise in my head I was able to be still.  I created a space to hear from Him and to listen to what He had to say to me. Prayer is simply friendship with God and friendship requires two-way communication.   Richard Rohr in his book ‘Simplicity’ says it this way:

“I don’t advise you trying to master your fears.  You can’t fix the soul…We have to ask, who is the ‘I” that has these feelings?

But most men and women in the west have never encountered it.  Instead they identify with their stream of consciousness, with their feelings… you should not suppress your feelings, you should name them  and observe them.  But don’t fight them and don’t identify with them.

Teaching this art is teaching contemplative prayer in its first stages”(P 45).

You may be wondering how this relates to prayer.  What Richard is suggesting is that prayer is firstly about getting ourselves out-of-the-way.  We don’t have to wait for God to come he is already present.  But our inner world is often full of worries, fears, ideas, plans, tasks, all clanging and bumping into each other.  We need to get these onto paper and out-of-the-way.

“All you can do is become quieter, smaller and less filled with your own self and its flurry of ideas and feelings.  Then God will be obvious in the very now of things.  It is so simple that it is actually hard to teach”(Rohr, R. 1991 p45).

You may feel that your experience is too personal or confidential to write down in a permanent place.  If so then write it out on a sheet of paper and then burn it.  Very cathartic.  I can’t stress how important it is to release these feelings that we often think are too big, too bad, too hard, too sad, too shameful.

Repress Repress Repress – It catches up with you.

If we continue to suppress and repress our feelings then sooner or later we will blow up.  It’s not a pretty sight.  When teaching on this I often use the analogy of a foam surfboard that I had as a child. In our backyard pool as kids we would practice standing up on this tiny foam surfboard.  It was incredibly buoyant.  This trick was to keep the surfboard submerged under the water and balance on top for as long as you could.  Obviously the winner was the one who could stay on the longest.

However, inevitably you would lose balance, tip off and the surfboard would rocket up into the air. Suppressed feelings are a lot like that.  We can keep them under the surface for so long but eventually we run out of energy and bam….. out it comes in an explosion.

Surf Wipeout Much better to put it on paper.  I have been doing this exercise for a couple of decades now.  It has helped me dramatically  with three things:

1:  My intimacy and relationship with God and others.

2:  My creative outflow. Fountain pen

3:  My emotional health – peace of mind.

In my journal I write out pages and pages of my worries, prayers, thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams.  Sometimes I draw them, or doodle them.  I have been known to use black nail polish if I’m really upset, or even black texta.  Sometimes I will draw  a picture, write down a  feeling or make a list. Then I write down the things that I am thankful for.

“As you begin to befriend your inner silence,

one of the first things you will notice is the superficial chatter on the surface level of you mind.

Once you recognise this, the silence deepens.”

( John O’Donohue Anam Cara: P146 )

After I have got ‘ME’ out of the way I go very still and very quiet.  I wait.  Often a flow of writing just starts as I begin to hear the Spirit of God speaking to me.  If I am still distracted I begin to write again,  I often start with a letter.  Dear Lisa,  ……..  and then I just begin to write.   Let me tell you, if we make time to listen, God actually has a lot to say to us.

Remember, a friendship is two ways, talking and listening.  How often do we listen to God?

I have been journalling for about thirty years.  It’s faith building to look back over the years and see the progress that has been made. IMG_2593 This is a picture of one of my journal pages.  You can see that I’ve written out on my journal page,  “Looking for a chance to breathe”.  Only a week later  my girlfriend suggested that I go up the coast and take some time to ‘catch my breath’.   This is a simple example of what I have been describing.  You may just want to write out your thoughts in bullet points, or do a mind map.  Whatever works for you.

Peter says this “Throw all your cares, worries and anxieties on Jesus because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7

I would really encourage you to start a journal if you haven’t already.  If yours is a bit dusty and unused it’s never too late to pick up a pen or laptop and get started.  Take some time for yourself, to unburden, to release and let go of your cares. Give them to someone higher than yourself, He does care for you and He knows that we can’t function properly when we are so consumed with worry and cares.  Even 5 min a day will make all the difference.

Let me know how you go. xxx Love Lisa.

Recommended Reading: 

The Artist’s Way Starter Kit includes Cameron’s two most important Artist’s Way tools: The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal-bound together for a bargain price. This attractive package-shrink-wrapped and with a bellyband-will inspire anyone contemplating beginning the Artist’s Way program to plunge right into this life-changing twelve-week program!


The Artist’s Way Starter Kit
Anam Cara Discover the Celtic Circle of Belonging – this book will captivate you.  I can’t put it down. John O’Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for “soul friend,” the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:

  • Light is generous
  • The human heart is never completely born
  • Love as ancient recognition

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

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.  Every bit helps.

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Welcoming But Not Affirming: Getting to the Slippery Truth

“As a survivor of the gay conversion movement, it feels amazing to know that our experiences are being heard nationally and that there is finally research that confirms the prevalence and damage of the gay conversion movement in Australia… The messaging of the movement that told me that I was “broken” has caused long-term damage to me” – Chris Csabs, survivor.

This article is written by Nathan Despott.

As a gay person raised in a Catholic home, but who spent his late teens and 20s in Melbourne’s evangelical community, the image of a large church with arms open to welcome LGBTIQA+ people is familiar but foreboding. Most of my experience in the ex-gay or “conversion” movement was through long-term involvement in loving and warm local Christian communities that, rather than condemn my sexuality, lovingly intimated that I was “broken”. My ten-year quest for healing was all-consuming and overwhelming.

Since leaving the movement in 2010, it has been morbidly fascinating to watch most formal ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion programs shut their doors, often replaced by celibacy movements and a new wave of churches that call themselves “welcoming but not affirming”.

“Welcoming”, a paradoxical halfway between “condemning” and “affirming”, is the point whereby a church shifts from viewing LGBTIQA+ people as utterly intolerable, instead viewing them as “broken” and in need of gracious support. LGBTIQA+ members often experience close fellowship here, but cannot usually hold positions of leadership or, in some cases, work with young people and children. Researcher Mark Jennings found that most of the Pentecostal/charismatic religious leaders he spoke to held a “welcoming” position.

The recent Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice report (Human Rights Law Centre/La Trobe University, Melbourne) indicates that “while the ‘welcoming but not affirming’ posture appears less hostile than overt opposition to LGBT rights, when its ‘not affirming’ aspects are withheld or disguised… it can be deeply harmful.

“Welcoming” churches and the conversion movement share a view of sexual orientation and gender as being distinct from their expression (or “practice”). However, this distinction is relatively recent. It is certainly anachronistic to read scripture in this light. The word “homosexual” did not appear in bible translations until the mid-20th century. Modern “homosexuality” was demarcated by early psychoanalysts in late 19th century Europe, viewed as simultaneously intriguing and problematic for roughly a hundred years, then removed from the DSM in 1973.

The Preventing Harm report traces the development of the conversion movement and its ideology of “brokenness” from this point to the present day, where it has become virtually the mainstream lens through which evangelical communities – whether focused on orientation change or celibacy – engage LGBTIQA+ people.

The SOCE Survivor Statement, released by an Australian coalition of affirming organisations in September, outlined the core pseudo-scientific tenets of the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement. While prime minister Scott Morrison responded by declaring that “conversion therapy is not an issue for me”, so central to the faith of a small number of “purity” groups (read: celibacy for queer people) was the “brokenness” ideology that they saw the Statement as an attack on their religious freedom.

Preventing Harm and the SOCE Survivor Statement present the conversion movement not merely as a type of therapy but as a broad movement that invests significant resources and energy in transmitting an ideology of “brokenness” through myriad channels and activities. Both reports recommend legislative interventions, tighter educational controls, regulatory measures for practice, improved media and broadcast standards, and support for survivors.

“Affirming” is distinct from welcoming. Responding to pastors who considered their churches to be “affirming” following a shift from condemnation to support, survivor support and advocacy group Brave Network Melbourne developed a model statement of affirmation. Could pastors and their leadership teams (and their online communications) readily state “We believe LGBTIQA+ people are a loved and essential part of God’s intended human diversity”? Many could not.

Do not misunderstand me. For some of these churches, their forward movement is honourable. Theologically and personally, their journey has been significant – particularly if their welcoming stance has led to rejection from conservative brethren. However, for LGBTIQA+ people of faith, the safety line lies between “welcoming” and “affirming”.

While welcoming churches may have opened their arms to LGBTIQA+ people or even actively shunned the conversion movement in favour of celibacy, only affirming churches have completely rejected the “brokenness” ideology and made the theological and pastoral shift to full equality – and therefore safety – for LGBTIQA+ people.

Cherished LGBTIQA+ allies such as leading evangelical ethicist Dr David Gushee, evangelical sociologist Dr Tony Campolo, mega-church leader Nicole Conner , and out-and-proud Christian pin-up Vicky Beeching have all paid a high price for their affirming stance.

Brave Network and similar organisations have openly called on churches to explicitly declare their theological stance regarding LGBTIQA+ people rather than engaging in ambiguities such as “welcoming but not affirming”, which is widely seen as code for “you’re broken but we still love you”.

This would prevent people of faith spending years ensconced in communities that slowly erode their mental health. This is because, as LGBT Christian blogger Kevin Garcia states, “welcoming but not affirming is not welcoming at all”.

To learn more about LGBTIQA+ affirmation and the church, check out Walking the Bridgeless Canyon by celebrated ally Kathy Baldock, Changing our Mind by Dr David Gushee, and Undivided by Vicky Beeching. If you are in need of safe affirming organisations, check out One Body One Faith, Affirm or Two:23 in the UK, Equal Voices or Brave Network in Australia, Q Christian Fellowship or the Reformation Project in the US.

There is a growing number of affirming churches – from progressive to evangelical and every denomination in between – across the world. LGBTIQA+ Christians visiting an “affirming” community for the first time can use a statement like the Brave Network statement of affirmation above as a litmus test.

(Nathan Despott is a co-leader of Brave Network Melbourne and works as a research and development manager in the intellectual disability sector in Australia. He thanks Australian LGBTIQA+ advocates and allies Chris Csabs, Nicole Conner and Michelle Eastwood for their contributions to this piece.)

 

The Rise of Rich Face

Have a look at this picture.  Have a good hard look.  What do you see?

old lady guadalajjara 2

I see a woman who has lived a full and rich life hiding behind a mask of youth.

Is this mask demanded of us?  Do we place it upon ourselves?  Are we so ashamed and afraid of getting older that we hide behind false youth and cosmetic procedures?

I took this photo recently whilst on a trip to Mexico.  It was hanging in the Cultural Institute of Cabanas in Guadalajara.  Undoubtedly the finest place for art in Jalisco.  Once a home for orphaned children, it is now home to several art galleries.   Unfortunately, I forgot to take down the name of the artist and I wish I knew the year that this was painted.

Once upon a time,  growing old was seen as honourable.  The elderly were revered and held positions of honour in the community.

Today Growing old gracefully is increasingly seen as a failure to make the best of yourself – and even shows a lack of respect for the self and or for others. Some might say that you have “let yourself go”.

One day when I was walking arm in arm with an Aunt, I would have been about 22.  I can clearly remember thinking, “I can’t wait to get old…. I will be wise… I will be able to help people… I will be respected and revered”.

Now getting old is seen as a fate worse than death.  For the first time in human history, 

“The young have become a model of emulation for the older population, rather than the other way around,” Richard Harrison

The problem does not stop here.

It is not enough anymore just to have youth on your side.  We don’t just worship youth,  we worship the youth of the medias imagination.   Now the pressure is on us to be a ‘perfect youth’.   One that hopefully looks a lot like Jenna Kardashian or Barbie.

Recent studies have revealed how much this is affecting people – particularly girls of a young age. The Girls’ Attitudes survey has shown how body image worries affect many aspects of young girls lives – stopping them wearing the clothes they like, having their pictures taken, taking part in sport and speaking up in class.

The survey reports that 47% of girls aged 11 to 21 say the way they look “holds them back”, while 69% of girls age seven to 11 feel like they are not good enough.

A recent pilot study has found girls as young as 11 are seeking cosmetic surgery for their genitals. What’s going on?  Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne

When I was 11 I was obsessed with wanting to be Heidi and living on a mountain with goats, eating cheese and hard bread.  I vaguely recall thinking I had two bottoms but that was the end of it.  I certainly would not have know what a labia was.  

This new pilot study is aimed at understanding why a growing number of Australian girls, as young as 11, are seeking cosmetic surgery on their otherwise normal genitals.

University of Melbourne health researcher Emma Barnard says: “Pictures in textbooks and magazines are stylised or airbrushed, and there is a real lack of understanding about the real range of genital diversity.”

I am sorry, I must live under a rock, but how are tween girls getting access to stylised or airbrushed pictures of their genitals?  

The desire to look picture perfect in today’s camera culture fuels this over-the-top approach to grooming and has extended to our genitals.  The rise in pornography has also given rise to the desire for highly sexualised body shapes and images.

1400489662-StarsDeniedPlasticSurgery_i

 “The selfie has turned an extreme aesthetic that wouldn’t normally be acceptable; into something people want on a daily basis,” explains Melissa Gibson, a senior artist for M.A.C Cosmetics. “It doesn’t appear very natural outside of a photograph, but for some women, that synthetic look is now part of the appeal.” Some choose to make their exaggerated features more permanent with the help of injectables.

A recent study by the University of Macquarie has linked the time women spend on Instagram per day with the level of body dissatisfaction they experience. Women are also likely to experience more body image issues when they use social media to compare themselves to celebrity.

These cosmetic procedures have produced the term Rich Face.  This is where women and girls are proud to wear their over exaggerated features as a badge of wealth.  Much like wearing or showing off $500.00 bag or shoes.  It is now a status symbol.

The most common cosmetic procedures sought out by teens:

If teens are facing this pressure,  imagine the pressure on the ancient 30 plus-year-olds.  

Did you know that Australia has leaped ahead of America regarding cosmetic surgery?  Australians love plastic surgery. That’s $1bn-worth of love.

Roughly 500,000 cosmetic procedures were carried out last year. That includes 20,000 boob jobs, 8000 breast argumentations, 30,000 liposuction procedures and $350m dollars’ worth of Botox injections. (Reference)

The fastest growing area of cosmetic work is in non-surgical enhancements. In Australia, we know that procedures like dermal fillers for cheeks and lips, or anti-wrinkle injections such as Botox, are fast becoming the most popular choice for people looking to enhance their appearance.

In 2015, Australians spent over $1billion on non-surgical cosmetic procedures  – up from $773 million in 2012. (Reference)

The top five most popular procedures are an anti-wrinkle injection, fillers, laser and IPL, breast augmentation and reduction and liposuction.  At the same time, the cosmetic surgery industry is booming, eating disorders are the number one killer of any mental health disease in Australia. (Reference)

I am exhausted just writing this article.  The pressure to keep up, look better, look younger is horrific.

Don’t get me wrong,  I indulge in beauty procedures.  I have my eyebrows tinted, my hair dyed, my body and facial hair plucked and waxed.   I spend money on cosmetics and moisturizer.  But how far is too far?  When are we able to feel happy and safe in our own spotty, wrinkled skin.

What happened to the days when wrinkles and flabby skin were a sign of wisdom and respect.  Why are we repulsed by the road map of life etched upon the faces of our elderly? I used to love sitting on my nanas knee and playing with her flappy skin and looking for the red lights on her arms.

Red lights which I now have.

Red lights called cherry angiomas or senile angiomas.  Senile... that is a very strong word.  I will continue to call them red lights.

What happened to the love of fresh faces and clean skin?

In 1970 – this was the face of cover girl.

15302009095_d24c779f76_b

Move into the 1980’s and 1990’s – clean and fresh becoming replaced by sophisticated party looks.

2000 fresh skin is still looking good……..

59d93a9ee71d4334651b3b13a4296937--makeup-ads-angela-lindvall

Fast Forward to 2016 and Cover Girl has its first guy as a spokesperson and we also begin to see the shift to contouring and shape changing in makeup.

2018 and Cover Girl is now fully into face shaping, contouring and full features.

What am I trying to say?  

Fashion always comes, goes and turns around.  However, what was once used to enhance the features you were born with, is now being used to distort and stylise your features into those that resemble cosmetic procedures.  Actually into those that resemble a mask.  None of this is bad in itself, as long as you have a good grasp of who you are and actually like who you are.

Returning the original photo.  What happens to the woman under the mask?

old lady guadalajjara 2

What happens to her at the end of the day when the makeup comes off and when the procedures expire.  Is she happy with the person underneath?

Thus comes the saying. BE happy in your own skin.  

I have become a person obsessed with being happy in my own skin.  I am not sad about getting old.  I have worked bloody hard to get old and have the stripes and scars inside and out to prove it.  I feel like a warrior.

I also at times feel insecure and flabby and bumpy.  But I want to enjoy my later years and find joy in who I am within and without.  I want my daughters and my granddaughters to feel safe and happy in their own skins.  To know that they are beautiful because of the light that shines out of them and the brains and the thoughts in their heads, not the makeup on their faces.  I want them to know that kindness, grace and mercy are worth more than youth and good looks.

Beauty truly is only skin deep.

Like a flower, the beauty of our youth will fade.  But it will be replaced with many stunning sunsets,  reflected in our wisdom, humor and grace.  The joy of being perfectly at peace and safe in our own skin.  Of rocking grandbabies and holding family close and being able to say,  “It’s okay,  this will pass.  I know for I have been there”.  You are safe and you are beautiful.

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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Imagination and Creativity Can Change the World

Imagination and Creativity Can Change the World by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

In the Beginning ….. God.

Creation

‘Before the beginning there was silence.

There was no song. No whisper. There were no hues of blues and greens, no blends of color, no child’s laughter and no aromas, no yellow flowers, no buzzing black bumble bees, not even red sky at dawn. There was no fire and there were no rhythms. There was no work, no ice cold drink on a hot day, no flow to the center, no far and no near, for there was nothing to be measured. There was no structure, no system, no birth and no moonlight dancing on the evening tide. There was no bitter and no sweet and there was no breeze on the face. There was no texture, no form and no early morning fog. The darkness was not black for there was no color.

But there was hope.

‘Hovering there in the silence was the One’ (Source).

Hovering there in the silence was ‘the one’, Elohim. The Hebrew word Elohim is plural and it is the Hebrew word for God. The first recorded activity in the ancient texts is ‘creativity’. In the beginning, God CREATED. Genesis chapter one. He created something out of nothing. He is God the omnipotent one. Omnipotent is Latin meaning, all potent or full of potential. It means, having unlimited or universal power, authority and force.

‘I am the one who made the earth and created the people to live on it. With my hands stretched out heavens. All the stars are at my command’. Is 45:12
You can sense God’s creativity in this verse. He describes how He created the heavens with His own hands. The universe was His canvas, and His love for creation is his passion. He is the Lord of all creation. He is the one who placed the stars in the sky; who commands the morning to appear, who has storehouses full of hail and snow and who knows where the gates of death are located.

Created in His Image.

God said in Genesis 1:26 ‘let us make man in our image’.

This means we too are ‘full of potential’. Our ability to create is a direct reflection of the one who gives us life. We are Gods’ masterpiece. He created us so we could do all the amazing things He has planned for us (Eph 2:10). Of the entire world and all things in it, we are His greatest work of art ever.

In her book ‘Mind of the Maker’, Dorothy Sayers asks:

‘How then can we be said to resemble God? What is it about us that looks like God?.. The characteristic common to God and humans is apparently… the desire and ability to make things’.

James Romaine calls our creativity ‘a ringing echo of his image within us’. American author Joseph Chilton Pearce says, ‘We must accept that this creative pulse within us is Gods creative pulse itself’.

We are all created in His image, therefore, we are all creative. We may not be artists: a person who has applied decades of patience, discipline and practice into their craft. Yet we are all creative. Creativity is the capacity to take a new idea and make it come to pass.

In the book ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’, writer and artist Gordon Mac Kenzie describe his frequent visits to schools to speak to children. He would usually begin these sessions by asking, “How many of you are artists?”. In kindergarten and early primary school, every single hand shot up in the air. The percentage declined to half when he addressed children in middle schools. When he met with fifth and sixth graders only a couple of children tentatively raised their hands.

‘To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong ‘- Joseph Chilton Pearce.

kids art
The fear of being wrong is what consumes us as adults. We are afraid of being shot down or made to look silly. Children don’t think like that, they are happy in their own thought bubble. They are generally encouraged and applauded. How many times have we looked at a piece of indecipherable art and declared, “Oh that is so beautiful’. Kids just think it and do it. We could all learn from that. They are outrageously confident. How sad that we start out knowing we are creative but somehow along the way it is knocked out of us. Many of us believe only the genuinely gifted are creative but this is a myth.

Alex Osbourne, the author of Your Creative Power, says.

“An analysis of almost all the psychological tests ever made, points to the conclusion that creative talent is normally distributed. That is, that all of us possess this talent. The difference is only in the degree; and that degree is largely influenced by effort”.
Imagination

Albert Einstein claimed that ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imagination is the ability to form mental images. It helps provide meaning to experience and to understand knowledge. It is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world.

Your imagination is like a canvas. You can paint on it any kind of picture you chose through your thoughts attitudes and what you decide to focus on. If I say the words ‘small white cat’, you don’t simply hear the words, your mind shows you an image of that animal. We are visual beings with incredible imaginations.

God told Abraham that he was going to be the father of many nations. In the natural that was absurd. He was old, his wife was barren. God gave Abraham some unusual directions.

“Go outside and look up at the stars, for as many stars as you can see, that is how many descendants you will have. (Gen 15:5)
God had already told Abraham what was going to happen, but he also needed visual reinforcement. Every night that Abe went outside to look up at the sky he was reminded of Gods promise to him. Even though he did not have a child until 20 years later, Abraham saw himself as the father of many nations. He heard it, he saw it and it happened.

God has said that He is able to do above and beyond all that we can hope or imagine. God knows all about the power of imagination. In the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 he says ‘and now that they have imagined, nothing that they plan to do will be impossible for them’.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“That which dominates our imagination and our thoughts will determine our lives and out character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming”.

thinking

That which dominates our imagination and thoughts is what we will become. What is the constant movie real going through your mind? Is it healthy? Is it creative? Is it positive? Is it building something, creating life, creating a positive change? We have the power to create change for good and also for bad.

Some of us can imagine a world at peace where everyone has enough to eat, but few of us will do anything about it. We can imagine a world where there is no injustice, but how do our actions and our words match that vision. We can imagine a community where everyone is loved and accepted but what are we doing to build that community?

Imagination must partner with creativity to make ideas happen.
Does our thought life and our character match up with what we are creating? We will create something, there is no doubt about that. It is in our DNA. We can create life, hope, joy, beauty and wonder. We can also create darkness, indifference and discord. In our families, in our communities and in our Nations.

We are full of potential. We are creative beings. Whatever we plan or imagine we can create. The real question then becomes what is it that we will create and what impact will it have on those around us?

we create

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 online 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.

images

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.

landscape-1499854070-humanchain

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 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.  Today’s sprawling metropolis’ makes 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 cause 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 online 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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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.

 

Cup Of Courage

Cup of Courage
I am so excited to introduce you to my friend Helena’s new book ‘Cup of Courage’.  Helena McNeill is a gift to everyone she meets.    A creative and innovator, Helena walks with grace, kindness and humility.  She wears courage with a smile and wields gratitude as a weapon against despair.
You will love her new book – AND make sure you have a listen to her moving new song at the end of the article.
I have never known someone who displays such gratitude and hope in seasons that seem so overwhelming.  Her joy is contagious and her ability to kick ass with a big fat grin is a powerful reminder that shit (stuff) happens but we get up, dust ourselves off and keep going.  The Helena’s of this world give oxygen and light to those of us lucky enough to do life with them.  Her indomitable spirit is infused into every page of this book which will uplift, encourage and inspire you.

Hey remember that time when everything sucked and you thought your whole world was going to end and then it didn’t? Or when you thought the worst possible thing would happen and it did but you kept right on living and kicking ass? I just wanted to remind you of that – Helena Mc Neill

CUP OF COURAGE by Helena McNeill.

I am a creative soul, a singer and musician, who has always expressed my story through music and writing. I’m also a wife, mother, friend and Danish pastry addict. My life may be similar to yours – a crazy mixture of love, laundry, joy, hard stuff, mess, stress and Netflix therapy. Oh, and there is a dog, just to add to the chaos. I also have a child with a severe disability. This part of my story often plunges my heart into unexpected adventures. Somewhere in that busy life, I try to steal a moment to myself. This usually comprises of me huddled over a sacred cup of coffee. There’s something so comforting and familiar about it. I pause and exhale, and somehow mysteriously feel better equipped to get on with my day. It’s like I received a dose of courage to keep going. 

I think our souls need that too sometimes – a shot of inspiration, just enough to keep us going. Maybe it’s a word, a thought, a story or song that resonates with us, giving us exactly what we need at that moment. It may be small, but there’s power in the right word at the right time. It speaks to us and we are encouraged. It lifts us, infusing hope. Sometimes that’s all we need – for our soul to be lifted up, enough to get through the day.

The book CUP OF COURAGE is a collection of one-minute thoughts and reflections from my everyday life. The words are simple, honest and raw. It’s written by someone on the same journey as you, wading through the same stuff we all live with. It’s a book that can be slowly sipped or quickly gulped down, whatever you prefer. It’s my hope that as you read, courage rises in your own soul, drawing out a stronger and braver you. Maybe you’ll feel the joy trickle in through the cracks as you realise you are not alone and discover there is still so much hope in your story. There is a beauty to be found in the middle of our messy, challenging lives. We just need the courage to see it. 

This book is the perfect gift for a friend going through a challenging season, or someone you know who just needs some encouragement in their life.

How did the book come about?

After sharing my own story in my first book TRAVELLING TIPS FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE, I created an online community on FaceBook@helenamcneillartist that gave permission to authentically express our faith, love and struggles in the glorious mess of our lives. My goal was to help others see beauty, even in the difficult days, to explore gratitude and what it means to live with brave love. CUP OF COURAGE started online as a weekly FaceBook Post. I wanted to pour a drop of encouragement into someone’s cup each week. Turns out a drop can go a long way, so I poured all those drops into one cup and created a book! While brainstorming ideas for the book’s design, I happened to glance at all the artwork of my thirteen-year-old girls scattered around our house. I realised my artists were right under my nose! Jaz started sketching cups and they were the exact quirky delight I envisioned. Lucky for me, she works for chocolate. I needed colour to enhance the words on the pages so Sunny created some original paintings at home with me. Voila! My husband Jay guided my jumbled words into an easier read and fired up our studio to record and produce my new songs. I know, he’s wonderful. Did I mention he cooks too? This book became a family affair, and rightly so, because they inspire the courage in me every day.

CUP OF COURAGE SONG

I wanted to write a song that could encourage people as they face their tough stuff. Life can be damn hard sometimes, and I wanted the song to be honest and truthful in acknowledging that fact because it’s important to not pretend everything is ok when it’s not. We’ve gotta deal with our stuff. My own story requires me to find courage daily and I have heartbroken moments of feeling the raw grief and frustration too. It hurts. But life is bittersweet, and the beautiful stuff is slam bam right next to the sorrow. I am learning every day that I can choose to fill my cup with hope and joy in the midst of whatever I am facing. The song CUP OF COURAGE gives us words to sing out over our lives every day – words of courage, hope and strength. You can sing it with tears in your eyes (I have) or just let it wash over you and fill your cup as you listen. The song reminds us of the one unchanging powerful truth that I hold on to with all my might these days. This truth is the rich, strong brew I fill my cup with every morning – the truth that we are never alone, that God is with us, helping us find our way through the mess. And this truth is enough for me. It lifts my soul. It whispers comfort and strength to me at night, and courage as I face a new day each morning. And hey, of course, I fill my cup with a good brew of coffee too, let’s not underestimate the uplifting role of a hit of caffeine.

Helena McNeill is a singer-songwriter-speaker-author. She has worked in numerous churches as a singer, worship leader and creative arts director.  She performs at churches, events and house concerts. Helena and her husband Jay reside in Melbourne, Australia, with their twin daughters Sunshine and Jaz. 

To contact Helena or purchase her books and music, go to www.helenamcneill.com

You can also find her on Facebook: @helenamcneillartist

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