The Greater the Love, the Deeper the Grief

The most fundamental truth of grief is this: we grieve because we love. Love and grief are inextricably linked. If we did not love, our hearts would not be broken by death. The greater our love, the deeper and more profound our grief.

Grief is the most equal-opportunity experience in all of life. It is the great leveler of emotions, place, and time. For at some age, at some time, everyone will know the sorrow and pain of grief. Grief is indifferent to our race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We’re not emotionally insulated from grief because of where we live, how educated we are, or how much money we have or don’t have. Grief doesn’t care whether we’re dressed in a business suit, a blue uniform, a hoodie, a tee shirt or a clergy robe.

The love of grief is passionate — we cherish and memorialize the one lost to us in death. We remember, and will never forget. The love of grief is compassionate — it reaches out, reconciles, restores and builds up. This love is why we endure the suffering of loss and persevere in hope. Despite every evidence to the contrary, love never fails.

When the reality of senseless violence and tragedy overwhelm our individual and collective hearts, grief leaves us reeling, especially as we struggle with the “why?” We want to make sense of it all, yet there are no real answers. What we experience instead is grief, the intuitive response of our mind, our body and our spirit to the death of one we love. And often we find within the love of our grief the best response to life’s worst tragedies. Without fully understanding the “why,” we seek some redemptive value, so that death will not have been in vain. We harness our grief-born love first to change our own heart, then slowly the world. And if not the whole world all at once, we start where we are to influence for good, trusting that our small ripple of love shared with others will one day become an exponential sea change.

If we scrutinize the faces of survivors, friends, colleagues, and loved ones photographed at their moment of most intense grief, we see clearly the inestimable shock and sorrow of personal, individual grief. When we read beyond the headlines, we’re reminded that each life has its own unique story and that the lives of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people — neighbors, school friends, church communities — are unalterably affected by the untimely death of one they know and love.

We are forever changed by death. Our experience of grief may leave us disillusioned, fearful, and hate-filled. Or grief may leave us convinced of the goodness of life with a greater capacity for love despite the certainty that evil is present in the world.

In the face of intentional violence and death, those of us who are helpless bystanders are forced to stretch, to think and feel beyond ourselves. And so we join hands and hearts with reverence for life and spiritual respect for the mystery of death to grieve in unison each individual soul — the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands and all other relationships of spirit and bond that connect us to one another as divinely created human beings.

Julie Yarbrough is the author of Beyond the Broken Heart, a grief ministry program, Grief Light, and other grief resources. Website: www.beyondthebrokenheart.com 

“We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

If England Gets Beaten, So Will She

Last weekend in Australia we had three horrific murders of women at the hands of someone they knew.  Domestic Violence is so common now that it hardly makes the news.  One woman a week in Australia is still being killed by someone well known to them.

‘To say it’s been an awful week for women is an understatement. It’s been a horrific month and Saturday the 7th of July was diabolical’.  To date 34 women have been violently killed”.  (Womens Agenda)

According to the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint it takes the number of Australian women violently killed in 2018 to 34.

Thirty four women killed in 27 weeks.

That is eight innocent victims of violence in a single month. Eight people forever gone. Countless more lives forever marked by this brutality.

If eight Australians had been killed in other circumstances – terror or negligence – tell me we wouldn’t have a task-force formed by now?

It is about to get worse.

Did you know that the statistics of Domestic Violence escalate when the football is on.

Ahead of this year’s World Cup, studies showing a correlation between violence and football were widely shared – with these reports finding that domestic abuse increases when England wins or loses a match.

The largest of the studies, conducted by Lancaster University in 2013, found that abuse increased by 26 per cent when England played and 38 per cent when they lost (source).

The reactive campaign for the National Centre for Domestic Violence has been launched as the World Cup picks up pace. It features images of national flags imprinted onto women’s faces in blood.

Statistics are the same in Australia for AFL Grand final and the Rugby League World Cup. While the State of Origin is playing, the  violence increases by 40 % (source). 

New data from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research spanning six years from 2012 to 2017 indicates a 40.7 per cent average increase in domestic violence, and 71.8 per cent in non-domestic assaults across the state on Origin game days.

So while many of you are looking forward to the World Cup, Many women and families are dreading it.

Experts say the “disturbing findings” suggest the Origin’s “particular celebration of heavy drinking, masculinity, tribalism, and the toxic level of aggressive alcohol promotion have collided to encourage drinking to excess and domestic violence” (source)

Domestic violence

Domestic violence – refers to acts of violence that occur in domestic settings between two people who are, or were, in an intimate relationship. It includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

 

Yes, men can be victims too, but the overwhelming accounts of violence are from male perpetrators.  Both women and men are more likely to experience violence at the hands of men, with around 95% of all victims of violence in Australia reporting a male perpetrator.

So while you crack open a beer and sit back to watch the game.  Think of the women who are dreading the results, in more ways than one.

 

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line — 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) — is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

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Love Lisa

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Reclaiming Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Finally – something that makes sense.

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

A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
  • Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
  • Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians
  • Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
  • Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
  • Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
  • Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church
  • Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network
  • Dr. John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association
  • Bishop Lawrence Reddick, CEO, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
  • Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
  • Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
  • Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
  • Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute
  • Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School
  • iStock-544452156.jpg

Domestic Violence in the Church

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

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

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

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

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

What is Complementarianism?

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

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

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

It can include:

  • physical violence

  • verbal, emotional, sexual or psychological abuse

  • controlling money (financial abuse)

  • stalking

  • harm to an animal or property

  • serious neglect where you depend on their care

  • restricting spiritual or cultural participation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted on Common Grace written by Erica Hamence.

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

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

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

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

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


Focusing on the key issues

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Loneliness is Killing Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loneliness equals lack of emotional, spiritual and physical connection.

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

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

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

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

lonely_by_secr3tdesign-d7d3s2j

Lonely by Secr3tDesign …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love never fails.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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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.

 

Us and Them!

I have been trying to write this post for about three weeks and I just can’t seem to order my thoughts.  I am still a little overwhelmed.   Recently my husband and I visited our son and daughter in law in Los Angeles.  We had an absolutely wonderful time.  However whilst there we exhibited some rather strange behaviour.

Usually when visiting a foreign culture you are aware that everything will be different and unusual.  The whole idea of travelling is to embrace the differences and to experience something new.  This is part of the wonder and the joy of travelling.

I am not sure what happened to us on this trip but we started playing the comparison game.  In Australia our coffee is better, our infrastructure is better, they don’t have pay pass, they don’t have kettles,  we can’t get a decent beer and on and on it went.  The roads were dirty, the homeless people were ‘more’ homeless, the fire engine sirens were louder and ‘more’ annoying, the beach was polluted etc…  I was flummoxed.  What in the world was happening?

As I began to research this phenomenon I realised that our ‘ethnocentrism’ was showing.  Don’t look now but we had become those unbearable tourists who spent the whole time whingeing.

What is Ethnocentrism?
“Ethnocentrism is the strongly held belief that there is only one correct way of doing things, of thinking, of seeing the world. Ethnocentrism is judging another culture based upon the values and standards set in one’s own culture. It is a form of bias, where we tend to immediately judge another culture as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ based upon their actions, if their values are not aligned with our own beliefs” (Buzzle).

I came across an article in Buzzle and read a paragraph that accurately described us – as in me and my husband.  It was like we were some Zoo Exhibit which read:

“Behold Lisa and Phil.  An example of ethnocentric behaviour.   Tourists who on a holiday judges the destination based upon his comparison with his native place. “Look how dirty this country is! They should just see MY country. No wonder this place is so underdeveloped and backward!” In this instance, the tourist developed a biased judgment of the destination based upon his opinion of his own country”.

Yep that was definitely us.  We had partitioned the social world we were encountering into us and them.

Interestingly another example of ethnocentric people was about America.

“The popular belief among American ethnocentric people is that their country, culture, values, development, and everything else is superior to every other nation in the world, and that every other nation is inferior to the United States. The present-day politics are a good example of the same. Here, the country as a whole can be considered as one group, or the in-group” (Source).

I began to ponder a few things:

1:  Had the recent tsunami of Trump and U.S. media news formed an unconscious bias in us? – Yes

2:  How did we shift so fast into a ‘us and them’ stance?  Something which goes against everything I believe.

IMG_0729

 

Obviously we are all born into a culture and grow up ‘absorbing the values and behaviors of that culture which then develops into a worldview that considers our culture to be the ‘norm’ (source).

 

Australians have a preference to Australians

Greeks have a preference to Greeks

Muslims have a preference to Muslims

Most people have a local identity.  In Australia we have also been raised in a democratic nation with principles and values of  equal dignity and respect which is now accepted as a minimum standard throughout mainstream Western culture. Our understanding of democracy is bound up with the concept of moral equality:
“the belief that all people are of equal worth and are entitled to equal respect”.  Beth Lord
What I found fascinating in this experience was that even though our base line is moral equality it had not increased our solidarity to outsiders.  Our expectations and bias  had left us wide open to discrimination.  Hollywood was not so bright and shiny, it was dirty and there were homeless people lying on the stars on Hollywood Boulevard.   We had believed the movie screen depictions and the political bravado.  We were disappointed.
homeless7
The homeless situation in Los Angeles was incredibly disturbing.  I struggled each day not to cry.  These are the statistics for December 2017.  “The yearly homeless count in Los Angeles County rose to 58,000 in 2017. Young people – aged 18-24 – are the fastest growing group of homeless people, up 64% (”  Tourists are shocked to find themselves stepping over people draped in filthy blankets and begging on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Shop owners routinely swill the pavements to wash away urine and the accompanying stench.
There was a powerful message on the building opposite our accommodation in down town L.A.  It was profoundly disturbing.  It was a beautiful art work of the Statue of Liberty and quoted the message that is written on the Statue of Liberty in New York.  It asked the question: Is there liberty for the homeless?
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
IMG_1376
Our own Advance Australia Fare states:

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross We’ll toil with hearts and hands; To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

Yet we as a Nation struggle to acknowledge; our own first nations, the cultural diversity from where we have all come and acceptance for others of differing ethnicity who need our support and embrace.

When we feel uncomfortable or out of our depth, we take sides.   Us and Them.  This is a natural human response to nearly every situation.  In the school ground, in the community and across the globe.  What we don’t understand we mistrust, we push back or cut off.
Is this why in this time on earth we are so ready to build walls, to keep the outsider out?  What are we trying to protect?  What are we afraid of when families of other ethnicities move into our neighbourhood?  Why do we fear losing our patch of earth, our cultural identity?
A democratic society is built upon the premise that everyone is equal.  It only works if we can all live together.  If we cannot live together we need to be able to at least live side by side.
There is no question that there is a huge bite back at the questions of moral equality across western nations.  The white majority do not want to become a white minority in their own countries.  But we cannot go backwards.  We must strive to build a better future together.  We only thrive when we lead with our embrace.
Gay marriage can not be rolled back
The equality or races cannot be rolled back
Equality of men and women cannot be rolled back
Michael Grant  Ignatieff
When we become fearful we chose the safety of our own segregated groups.  We must remember that we are global citizens.  We must elevate community over economic freedom.
When we elevate economic man over citizenship we lose connection to place and to each other.
Michael Grant Ignatieff
Basic fairness is what keeps the democracy going.  The things that make democracy work are fairness, virtue’s and citizenship.  Diversity is people living side by side but not together.
Christians who follow Christ must believe in the ‘together’.  Embracing diversity is not enough.  We should and must also believe in Shalom.  The premise that every human being belongs and has a right to flourish.
It is every-bodies job to keep the edifice of democracy going every single day by being virtuous.  Our trip to L.A. was an example to me of how quickly one can fall back into protectionism or ethnocentrism.
Michael Ignatieff in his book ‘Ordinary Virtues’ asks this question.  What moral values do human beings hold in common? He examines the role of ‘ordinary virtues’ such as trust, forgiveness, courage and reconciliation in local contexts and settings in different nations across the world.  He has found that despite diversity and  cultural differences,  we can find common ground in moral virtues.  In the goodwill of our neighbours.

As Ignatieff notes: ‘the whole point of a liberal society is to create laws and institutions that make virtue ordinary. In a decent society, love should not require anyone to be a hero’ (195).

 

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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What is Faith and Doubt?

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when He seemed indifferent to my suffering, He was watching and when I was beyond all hope of saving…

He gave me rest and gave me a sign to continue my journey”…

Life of Pi

What is Faith and Doubt?

Adult Pi Patel: Faith is a house with many rooms.

Writer: But no room for doubt?

Adult Pi Patel: Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.

life of pi4

If you have read or watched the movie ‘The Life of Pi’ you will agree that this is an incredible statement considering the suffering and loss that Pi endured.  How could he, after all that he endured, come out with a statement like this?  Many of us would have thrown it all in and become dark, bitter and cynical.

Many of us have suffered, many of us have lost loved ones.  Many of us are in the dark night of the soul right now.  Many of us struggle with doubt.

Doubt.  That spiritual drought.  Brass heavens.  Dry and dark difficult times.  Pain so acute that sometimes you physically feel like you are having a heart attack.  Anxiety, fear distress and WHY.  We’ve been hit for a six, we didn’t see it coming.  Why me?

Why is it that we think that because we believe in God that we will be immune to suffering when we follow the Christ who was a man of suffering and acquainted with grief and we as Christians wish to be transformed to be like him?  Hello?

I remember the exact time when this dawned on me.  I was about 20 and going through a personal crises.  I had always thought of Jesus as Superman.  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  This day it dawned on me that I want to be like Jesus, to follow in his footsteps, and he was an outcast, a lover of the weak the marginalised.  He was tortured and put to death.  Hmmmm……  What was I thinking!

6161923461_f9ab246401_zDoubt is normal, doubt is healthy, it makes us think.  Doubt condenses and percolates our belief systems and doctrines.

Doubt is the ‘ants in our pants of faith.  It keeps us awake and moving”. Fredrick Buechner.

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when He seemed indifferent to my suffering, He was watching and when I was beyond all hope of saving…

He gave me rest and gave me a sign to continue my journey”…

I love this statement so much because for me this is a statement of my faith.  “He was watching”  I was not alone.  He gave me a sign.  In my experiences of grief and suffering, of which there have been many,  I have had an enduring and unshakeable faith that I was not alone and that He would, eventually, give me a sign for the next stage of my journey.

Did that take away the pain, the heartache?  Not really, but it gave me the courage and strength to continue.

We often think that the opposite to faith is doubt.  Richard Rohr says this:

“The opposite of faith is not intellectual doubt, because faith is not localized primarily in the mind.

The opposite of faith, according to a number of Jesus’ statements is anxiety. If you are fear-based and “worried about many things,” as he says in Luke 10:41, you don’t have faith in a Biblical sense.

Faith is to be able to trust that God is good, involved, and on your side. 

‘When you cannot rely upon an Infinite Source, you yourself become your primary reference point in terms of all preferences, needs, results, and controls'”. That would make anybody both anxious and insecure.

Adapted from Jesus Plan for a New World p. 118 (Richard Rohr)

When the proverbial cow manure hits that wall and when you are slammed with big life questions that you cannot answer you “You basically have to learn not to be afraid’ (N.T.Wright) 1.    It’s okay to doubt there is a place for that but we need to guard against fear which I believe dominates our society.

As people of ‘faith’ we love the idea of faith yet we don’t understand it that much.  Faith embraces the unknowable, the unseen.  Faith loves to draw outside the lines in big broad colourful strokes and yet most Christians love to put faith in a box.  They love to proclaim that they know the truth and that it is black and white.

I love this quote from theologian Richard Rohr:

“My scientist friends have come up with things like ‘principles of uncertainty’ and dark holes. They’re willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true.

We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of ‘faith’! How strange that the very word ‘faith’ has come to mean its exact opposite.”

Fifty years on I am still very much on my spiritual journey and each new bump in the road makes me feel like a beginner  again.  My most recent head banging experience with pain has left me reeling and feeling naive and like a novice.

How could I have been so stupid?

Yet I am also finding joy in simple things like community, laughter,  creativity, art, and nature which are all essential to my faith life.

I’m learning that faith isn’t separate from my belief in justice and inclusivity and that its right to fight for these things.

I’m understanding that God lives inside me, He is present, He is with me.

My faith is becoming a natural extension of my life in every area and is not enclosed inside a box.

Love Lisa

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

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

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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

Recommended Reading:

Jesus Plan for a New World – Richard Rohr

Surprised by Hope – N.T.Wright

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

1. http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/11/n-t-wright-to-unc-doubt-is-okay

Are You Living on the Edge?

Recently a good friend of mine asked me to write a blog post on how to manage time and navigate the complexities of life and mental wellness.   Just a small topic lol….  It has been percolating away in my spirit.  The answer has a lot to do with knowing who we are and what we need.  I could do a blog post on organisation and time management but I think that our daily exhaustion goes much deeper than this.

1:  Who are you?

One of the main objectives of spiritual awareness or spiritual awakening is to get to know yourself.  The spiritual life is a journey to the centre.  I would suggest that the majority of people today do not know who they are.  I am a celebrant and as I meet with couples to craft their wedding ceremonies I ask them.  What are your values?  What are the non negotiable areas in your life?  What does marriage mean to you?  What is love?  What do you need in a relationship to thrive? Most find it very difficult to answer because they simply don’t know.  Most think that getting married is about the reception, the dress and the rings.

Let me ask you?  What are your values?  What do you build your life on?  What values are you intentionally instilling into your children, your family?  What energizes you? What depletes you?  Are you an introvert?  Are you an extrovert?  Are you motivated by beauty, by logic, by knowledge?  Are you dealing with your trauma your relationship issues? If I scratch the surface what do you bleed?  Love or anger? Could you answer those questions.  If I asked the people around you what would they say about you?

2:  The two sides of us.

All of us has a dark side and a light side.  We are all two sides of the same coin.  We cannot ignore this dark side of us.  In the book of Matthew, a young man asks Jesus about the wheat and the weeds.  “Should I pull out the weeds?” he asks.  Jesus tells him to let them grow up side by side until the harvest.   We have both growing inside of us.   We are a mixture of weed and wheat and the trick is knowing which is which.

A Cherokee parable talks about having two wolves and the fight within us.

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”

Note: At Calvary we see a picture of Jesus hanging between two thieves.  The good thief who accepted Jesus and the bad thief who did not.  Jesus forgave both and so should we.

How does this fit into the balance of life?

If you do not know yourself or acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses then how can you properly balance your life or know what you need?

For example:  April is a bad month for me.  I am aware of this and take the time to remind family and friends.   It is full of grief memories and heartache.  It triggers trauma incidents that happened in this month.  Easter and particularly the weather can make some days very difficult.  It is also my birthday and the birthday of my deceased husband. Those of you who have suffered death or loss will know that birthdays are particularly difficult.

This is a dark month for me.  I can grow quiet, remote, snappy, tired, depressed and teary.  Knowing this helps me to navigate my month.  I won’t book too many engagements into my diary so that I don’t over extend myself.  I will take time out to rest over Easter.  If I’m tired and need to have solitude, I will give myself permission to do so.  I am aware that my mental health will test my physical strength and emotional capacity.

The alternative is to pretend that everything is fine while I quietly die inside or to punish all those around me as they fail to measure up to my crazy expectations.  They cannot fix the pain, I must embrace it, and navigate it with wisdom and patience knowing that I will come out the other side and that every year gets a little easier.

3:  Living on the edge

In our society, most of us are like rats in the wheel.  We run busily around on our tread mills, spinning out day after day.  Running from the past, running from pain and often doing all we can just to survive.

person-run-treadmill-rat-cage-gets-nowhere-running-hamster-mouse-wheel-31675956

We are not meant to live like this.

The Hebrew meaning for Shalom is to flourish.  Shalom is a beautiful word that means to have peace and to flourish in every  area of your life.

Shalom

Shalom is: contentment, community, health, reconciliation, peace, well-being, justice, wholeness, integrity.  Shalom is the way that things should be or ought to be.  If we are living in Shalom then we are living as we ought to live in order to flourish.

Anthony Bradley says:  “An emphasis on human flourishing, ours and others’, becomes important because it is characterized by a holistic concern for the spiritual, moral, physical, economic, material, political, psychological, and social context necessary for human beings to live according to their design.”

We all desire Shalom.  Shalom is the perfect balance of life.

The Wheel

The wheel is a great example.  There is an edge –  the circumference, there are the spokes – life tasks or pieces of the pie that we dish out to everyone in our life, and there is the essence – the centre.   In my experience we are mostly  a circumference people.  We live on the edge of our life.  We run round the outside trying to do everything and to be everything to all people.  It is obvious that there are tasks in our lives that need to be achieved.  Work, relationships, school, health, education, etc, etc,…….

wheel

The best way to navigate the demands of life in a healthy way, is to live in the centre.  If you are into physics then you will know that the centre is the best place to bear the load.  However, we can only be centred if we know where the centre is and how to get there.

 “We are a circumstance people, with little access to the centre.  We live on the boundaries of our own lives”(Rohr).

No wonder we sometimes feel like the centre is collapsing, or that we are running out of steam.  Most of us are literally on the edge. If we stay on the circumference of our lives we will never get to know ourselves and we will never get to know God.  It will also become difficult for us to know or to love others.

Jesus asked us to love others the same way that we love ourselves.  If we don’t know ourselves how can we love ourself.  If we don’t love ourself how can we love others.  Compassion and grace toward others comes from the realisation that we all have these two wars going on inside of us.  We all struggle with the weaknesses of our characters.  We have all failed, we have all fallen.  Coming from the centre, from humility enables us to love others and to be inclusive and accepting of who they are instead of repelling others because we see them as unlovely or unloveable.

There are two main pathways to the centre.  Prayer and pain.  Both of these are pathways of transformation.  It is through the pain, heat and death, that life and transformation occurs.  Richard Rohr says that:  Suffering gets our attention and prayer gets our hearts.  We need to be in touch with both the essence and the edges of our lives.  Only then can we safely navigate and balance our days and weeks.

In summary:

1:  We must get to know the core and essence of who we are

2:  We must acknowledge our dark side and our light side

3:  We must not stay too long on the circumferences where the doing overtakes the work of being.

4:  Once we understand who we are and what we need,  then we can plan our life around that.  Cutting out the things and people who unnecessarily deplete or disempower us.  There are only so many pieces of the pie.  This is the part where we take stock and look at what to keep and what to cut.

This one is for you Tim.  Tim supports me on Patreon.com and sent in this topic that he hoped that I would cover.  It was a challenge accepted gratefully. xxx Lisa – Shalom

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Love Lisa

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