When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test.

When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test. Part One by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

By the start of 2019, more than 26 million consumers had added their DNA to four leading commercial ancestry and health databases, according to our estimates. If the pace continues, the gene troves could hold data on the genetic makeup of more than 100 million people within 24 months (Technology Review).

The scientific landscape that was once reserved only for lab technicians, doctors and detectives is now an open market. Any one happy to dish out about $100.00 and spit into a test tube, can take the test and have the results back in about 6 weeks. People are lining up to find out their ancestoral heritage but many are finding out a lot more than they bargained for. Myself included. Along with finding out you may have descended from vikings, you may also be finding out about infidelities, health concerns, affairs, and bumping into relatives that you never knew existed.

In March this year 2019, I had the traumatic experience of finding out at 56 years of age, that my father was not my father.

This is My Story

My father Joe was born in 1928 in the inner suburbs of Melbourne at the beginning of the great depression. Times were tough. Both his parents were caught up in the gangland wars of Squizzy Taylor and the Fitzroy Gangs. His older half brother Edward was the son of Squizzy Taylor or so the family secret goes.

The story of Mona and Peter is one for another day. It is a sad and heartbreaking tale. In 1931 after the death of his 26 year old mother, my dad was abandoned at the race track with a note pinned to him. He was 3 years old.

Interestingly he was abandoned at a race track and eventually grew up to become a jockey himself.

The note said 25.7.31 (original note see below)

I P Murray the father of Josif Peter Murray is to stay with Mr and Mrs F G Cooper as long as he is 21 years of age and none of his parents can take him away from them, he is in a good home and I could not find any better in Melb. Peter Murray. Born on the 8th.12.28

My father was raised by the Cooper family and recalls a loving and wild upbringing. Pop Cooper was a Melbourne Policeman. who was on the take from the gangs and involved in all sorts of goings on in the 1920’s. I think this is how my grandfather met Pop Cooper in the first place. Again, that is a story for another day.

My father was raised knowing nothing of his birth family. At 21 when he met my mother and wanted to get married there was the difficult task of getting hold of a birth certificate. This was when the note was produced. At least they had a name and a date. It was at this moment in his life that he found out he was not a Cooper by birth but was in fact a Murray.

For all of my life this was the only narrative I had of my father. We knew nothing of his parents, siblings or their families, where they were from or where they were now. We knew from his birth certificate that his father came from South Africa. That was the only information that we had.

Over the last ten years I have spent hundreds of hours on Ancestry.com trying to piece together my fathers heritage and trying to find some of his relatives who may know more of his story. I have poured through police gazettes, news papers, books, sent letters of request for information to South Africa and followed up hundreds of leads on ancestry.com. The family tree now has over 1000 people on it and over 500 photos, but little to no information about my grandfather ‘Peter Murray’.

I do however have a description of him from a police gazette. A seemingly typical description of an inner city gang member in the 1920’s Melbourne. This is the last record I have of him.

2.11.31 Murray, Peter is charged, on warrant issued at the instance of Jane Mollross 14 Webb St Fitzroy, with deserting his child at Fitzroy. Description: – About 33 years, 5 ft 7 in. nuggety build, full face, clean shaven, black curly hair, gold front teeth: wore a blue twill suit.

Two front Gold teeth. Let me tell you, only gang members had gold teeth in the great depression.

After hitting some serious road blocks, I decided that maybe the next step was to get dad to do a DNA test. He was now 89 years old, frail and I was running out of time. Easter 2018 my husband and I went to visit dad and asked if he would humour me by spitting into this test tube. Dad looked at me like I had lost my mind.

“You want me to do what? You want me to spit into that tiny thing”. My step mother Maureen came to the rescue and encouraged him to do it reminding him of the DNA shows that they had watched together on TV.

Six weeks went by and nothing. 8 weeks, 10 weeks and still no results. I finally got correspondence from Ancestry to say that they tried 3 times to do the test but there just wasn’t enough spit.

By this stage my father was quite ill and soon after had a crippling fall which put him into hospital. He never came home. We buried him in the August.

Ancestry then sent me a replacement DNA kit as an apology for not being able to complete the test for my father. Of course it was too late now for my dad so I put it at the top of the cupboard and forgot about it.

In January this year I remembered the DNA test siting there and thought that I may as well go ahead and do the test myself. It was free and it might still open up some fresh leads. Boy was I in for a life changing moment.

Six weeks later I got an email to say that my test results were in and to activate the DNA results. I was so excited. Maybe I would find a cousin or aunt or uncle of my dads that could give some fresh light to his story.

I activated the test and watched in amazement as the results started filling the screen. I was pretty puzzled at first. The initial data I looked at was a pie chart which showed me my ethnicity estimate. It said that I was 46 % English and 46% Irish. The English was not suprising as my mothers family had all come from England. However the Irish? My research had shown that my grandfather was born in The Port of Saint John in South Africa.

hmmmm… okay well I thought I was Dutch South African but maybe they were Irish South African?

The next thing you see is DNA matches to people who share your DNA, and there were hundreds of them. It is so confronting. All these peoples names and photos and percentages load up on the page in order from the highest match to the lowest. The ones up the top said ‘Close Family’. How strange. I was expecting 2nd and 3rd cousins not close family.

I click on the first one which told me the name and showed me the photo of this beautiful woman. The results told me that we were 100% match.

Holy Moly Batman

100% – I wasnt expecting that ……..what the heck does that mean? There is a question mark icon at the side of the box which shows you the DNA relationship. This woman and I regisgtered as 100% either as a grandparent, grandchild, half sibling, aunt/uncle, niece or nephew.

Okay, so this is explainable. Holy Moly Batman, this must be my cousin. A child of one of my fathers siblings. Oh… no it doesn’t say cousin. Hmm Well its not a grandparent, she looks about 50 years or less. Can’t be an aunt or uncle because my dad is 90 and she is too young.

When I click on her profile there are contact details. So I decide to email her. Excited that finally some of the missing pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.

A couple of things to note: from here on in the names have been changed because this is a very fresh trauma and family are still processing this information. The other thing you should know is that sometimes people don’t check ancestry for many months. Imagine my surprise when I receive an immediate response.

This is how the connection went.

Hello Jade,

I have just done a DNA test with Ancestry and you came up as a close relative – so interesting. I was wondering where you live? I am in Melbourne Australia.

Lisa x

Hi Lisa,

Yes, we are very closely related. 

I am happy to have contact and share all that I know about our connection. I live in Melbourne. 

Take care, Jade

Hi Jade

Wow, this is crazy.

I would love to chat, email or catch up. Let me know what works for you.  
Lisa. 

Immediately the phone rang.

I am like Tigger bouncing around and so excited. It’s Jade. Ahhhhhh.

“Hey so great to hear from you. Wow this is amazing. I can’t believe it. Do you know how we are related”?

Jade: “Yes I do. How much of the story do you know”

Story… what story. No I don’t know anything.

I went on briefly to explain about why I had done the test and about my fathers recent death ect.. She was very lovely and very composed. She told me later that she was shocked to hear that I had absolutely no idea what she was about to say.

Then she drops the bomb.

“Lisa I do know how we are related. I am your half sister”

It’s at this point that I have my first anxiety attack. My mind is blank, I have gone hot and cold all over and I am feeling panicky. I am thinking: I don’t know this lovely lady, this could be a hoax, ancestry has made a mistake. This cannot be true. I have been hacked!

She goes on. Lisa is your mothers name Lauris. “Yes”

Did you grow up in Canterbury, did you attend Canterbury Girls High is your mother a florist? “Yes…. faint”

OMG….. how does this stranger know these things about me. I am now nearing full panic as she calmly and gently goes on to tell the story of what she knows.

‘Lisa, you have three half sisters. About ten years ago our father was dying from cancer and a friend came to talk to us to say. Girls, there is something that you need to know. You have another sister, a half sister and her name is Lisa Jane”. The girls go to talk to the dad on his death bed and he confirms the details of the other sister Lisa Jane (me).

It is at this stage that I start crying uncontrollably and start to shake. I think that Jade is crying too and she is apologising for having to give such explosive and devestating news to me. I explain that I need to hang up and try to process all of this and that I will call her back in a few days when I get my head together.

I was still very much in denial and unbelief. I had to talk to my mother. Until she confirmed it, it just wouldn’t be real.

Jade kindly asks me if I would like her to tell the other sisters that I am not ready to speak to them yet. “Yes please I reply through my tears, it’s going to take me a little while to process this shock”. We hang up.

Of course Jade and the other two sisters have been eagerly waiting for this moment. They decided 10 years ago that they would not try to find me, they didn’t want to ruin my life with this news. They believed that if we were meant to be together then the universe would make it happen. Well the universe and a simple DNA test certainly did make it happen. As soon as I activated my DNA results they were notified that I had connected on Ancestry so they went balistic. They were very excited that Lisa Jane had arrived on the scene as confronting and confusing as it had been for them.

My husband and I got NO sleep that night. At 7 am I called my mother and said, “Mum, I am coming over now. Cancel everything you have on this morning there is urgent news that I need to speak to you about”. I then called my aunt and my older sister asking that they meet me at mums house immediately. It was urgent and shocking news that I had to bring and I needed support. I needed my aunt there because I was worried that my mother would need support. Support that I couldn’t give her if my life was about to fall apart.

We arrived at my mothers within minutes of each other. Everyone pretty confused and distressed. I assured everyone that I and the kids were okay but that I had news that couldn’t wait. This is a little how it went.

“Mum. You and I have been through a lot together over the years and there have been many times when you have lied to me. Today is not going to be one of those days. Today I am going to ask you some questions and you are going to answer me with the truth.

Do you know a man called Kallan Callaway, did you have an affair with him before I was born”

My mother “Yes, yes I knew Kallan and yes we had an affair.”

Holy mother of pearl.

It would take a book to explain to you the next few hours. The questions, the confusion. My older sister sat quietly crying as it dawns on us that we are now half sisters not full blood sisters. I begin to hate that word half. My aunt is in shock and distressed for all of us. Later I have to work out how to tell my brother and younger sister and also to tell my children that their grandfather is not their grandfather.

I know that my dad is my dad and always will be. But this shocking news brings a tsunami of information with it. It reframes and changes all of my narratives. What about medical history, relatives, new nieces and nephews.

I share this difficult story to my kids through heartbreaking sobs. Hours later, once the shock begins to subside, they reach for their phones to check FB. Do we have new cousins? Are they our age? Did they grow up near us? What if I’ve dated one or kissed one? Do we have mutual friends on FB?

One of my sons says to me. “When poppy died, at the funeral everyone said how I had his legs and that I looked like him. Does this mean that I don’t have pops legs anymore”. I know this sounds funny but all of a sudden our family history and identity had been ripped out from underneath us.

It was trauma on a new level. I found myself kind of glad that my dad was not alive to go have to go through this. I was also confused about the ‘new Irish dad’ who was also dead and unable to talk or share his life with me and my children. What was his story? What does it now mean for me?

This ends Part One of this blog When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test. In the next post I will write how I go about meeting my new sisters and the next part of the journey that has just begun. There is good and wonderful news to come and I will explain that in part 2. (insert hand clapping)

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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When Suffering Comes from an Angle you Never Expected.

Have you been in a season of great darkness, of suffering? Have you lost all sense of hope and faith?

This year for me has been one of shock, great challenges, bleak darkness and overwhelming sorrow. In fact the four words that would use to describe the last four months would be: “I have no words”.

Today I started to consider the two words hope and faith. What do they even mean? Have I lost all hope? Have I lost my faith?

What is Hope?

This was to be the title of this post. As I stared at a blank page I searched my soul to remember what it was that I had hoped for or in? In the face of great suffering and chaos hope is difficult to grasp. I pulled out some of my comfort books. Richard Rohrs Hope against Darkness and The Naked Now and John O’ Donohues Eternal Echoes. As I did and I zeroed in on the word darkness and unexpectadly stumbled into an Ah Haaa moment.

John O’ Donohue wrote these words that helped to reset my compass in the darkness.

“There is no life that is not called at some time to walk through the bleak valley of suffering. This is a path without hope, without shelter and without light. When suffering comes into your life it brings great loneliness and isolation”

Of course…. when things are dark you cannot see. No wonder I could not see hope or light. I was siting with my old friend darkness.

Suffering, when it comes, unhinges and dislocates us. Disorientated it takes a while to realise what is happening. “Suffering is the arrival of darkness from an angle you never expected” (O Donohue Eternal Echoes). It is a great shock that numbs us for many weeks and months. Gradually our poor soul begins to awaken from the shock to try and make sense of what is happening and when it does it looks around and can’t figure out why it cannot see. Why is everything so dark and bleak? Because the light has gone and we are sitting alone again with our friend darkness.

“When suffering comes the darkness has arrived. The light is out. Even your faith falls away. When you are at the heart of great pain, you enter a land of sheer desolation” (O’Donohue Eternal Echoes).

I call darkness our friend because it is one of our closest companions. Darkness is part of the natural order of life and soul. Just as the sun, moon and stars have their part to play in the cosmos, so does light and darkness have its part to play in bearing life and transformation both in the natural and in the spiritual.

Although we live and work in the light, we were conceived and shaped in darkness. You cannot grow unless you return to darkness.

Imagine the shock of seeds, born and raised in the sun to be suddenly plunged into utter darkness and smothered by clay and damp soil. “The seed has no defence, it must give way, abandoning itself to the new weave of life that will thread forth from its own dissolving” (O’Donohue Eternal Echoes).

New life and growth will eventually burst through the soil. Transformed into a new plant or tree. Its roots plunging down deep into the darkness, its branches reaching up to the light. This is the cycle of life and growth and transformation.

It is here that I find my hope.

What is it that I hope in?

I have hope in the fact that out of the darkest of nights and in the deepest of valleys, light and life eventually come. I cannot see at the moment but that is as it should be. The darkness does not last forever but it is necessary. The darkness may have come as a shock and from an angle that I never expected, but it has come to weave the magic of life and transformation in me so that what once would have been seen as incomprehensible suffering, will one day be seen as new life. A tree that will one day bring shelter and fruit to others who are suffering.

While you are cowering in a dark valley it is impossible to understand what is happening to you. You have to trust the darkness and wait. Light is a gift that suffering leaves behind. Out of the cold hard winter ground a new springtime of possibilities begin to arise.

All great spirituality comes through letting go. All transformation comes through the pathways of love and suffering. The most amazing thing about Jesus is that he taught us that God and change are to be found in mess, darkness, weakness, imperfection and disorder.

Today I feel joy begin to emerge as I realise that I still have faith in wisdom, truth, mystery and paradox. I have hope in darkness, transformation and life. I can hope in the mysteries of the seasons. That there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Some of us it seems are more familiar with the darkness. It is not my job to wonder and worry about this. It is my job to be patient and to trust that the darkness is part of the process of life and that it never lasts forever.

When we are called to stand in places of pain may we be blessed by seasons of light.

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 2018, 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.

Fiona Patten a Victorian Politician has argued that we need to appoint a minister for loneliness in Australia. Patten’s proposal to follow the UK’s example points to a Harvard study that showed that social isolation is more deadly than obesity and had the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

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 the 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.

 

Easter Saturday. The In-between Day

It’s Easter Saturday.  The in-between day.

For many of us Easter is about  extra holidays, easter eggs, hot cross buns, camping, and maybe the obligatory trip to Church to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We don’t really talk much about Easter Saturday.  I know he died for me yesterday and that he’s coming back tomorrow but what about today.

Holy Saturday, is where we are suspended between loss and hope, death and resurrection, mourning and new life.

Jesus died so that we may be like him, that we may be with him in eternity.  He rose from the grave to show us his resurrection power of life over death and give us hope that one day he will return for us.  In between these two events is the space where we live.  The complex and mundane events that life brings our way.

In-between means between two extremes, two contrasting conditions.

Easter Saturday is about our life here on earth.  The space of Easter Saturday is the in bumpy, messy  in-between space.  The ancients would call it liminal space. 

What is Liminal Space?

The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing (source).

Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.

Author and theologian Richard Rohr describes this space as: “Where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor”.

When I think of Easter I think of the disciples, the ones that have been left behind.  Imagine their distress.  They didn’t know the end of the story.  They had no idea that Christ would return from the dead.  All they knew was the man that they had lived with, done life with, hoped in and trusted in was gone.  They were traumatised.  They had watched him brutalised, tortured and killed.  Then he died.

He was their great hope.

He was the one who would save them from the oppression of the religious leaders and the enslavement of the Roman Empire.

How could this possibly happen now?

He was dead?

Imagine the disillusion, the disappointment, the  pain.   Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night would have felt like forever.

In the ‘in-between’ space.  The now and not yet.  We live with the paradox of life and death.  The promise of a new way to live and a new life within the parameters of a broken, frightened and hurting world.

Where is God?

He is here, He is right here in the muck, in the mess, in the pain, in the anger.  Quietly sitting beside us, comforting us, holding us.

Unknown

There’s No Hatred in Christ

Don’t let hatred be among you
Hatred always will divide you
There’s no hatred in Christ

Don’t let jealousy be among you
It will, always will divide you
There’s no jealousy in Christ

Oh no
There’s no hatred in Christ
Oh on
There’s no hatred in Christ

Let the same spirit, in Christ Jesus, be in you

If there’s confusion with your brother, show him love before the sun goes down

It will glorify the father as you spread his love around

I don’t often do a blog post on song lyrics but this song has been on repeat in my mind for the last three weeks.  This is an Andre Crouch song called  “Love Medley”.  The words of this song speak the truth of the gospel.  ‘Don’t let hatred be among you, don’t let jealousy by among you’.  IF the same spirit that lives in Christ Jesus be in you and me then we need to act and live accordingly.  Yet so many of us are disconnected from the spirit of Jesus.  So many of us hate others and other groups.  Trump’s wall is a monument to hate,  Nauru and Manus Island also monuments to hate.  Pornography and domestic violence, products of hate and jealousy. White supremacy – doctrine fear and hate.  Homophobia – fear and hate.

Slowly coming to terms with inconsistencies of modern Christianity I have been asking myself more and more where do I fit in this modern theological landscape.

I have come to understand quite clearly what I don’t believe, but have drawn a few blanks on where I fit now. What I have discovered recently is the meaning of feral. This is the definition that I identify with most at the moment.

The idea came from the title of George Monbiot’s book about the re-wilding of moorland areas – ‘Feral’, Monbiot’s definition of ‘feral’ being “in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.” A feral priest is one called by God to escape the captivity of the institutional Church (Colin Coward).

I have escaped the captivity of the institutional Church, twice.

Henri Nouwen says it this way:

“The invitation of Christ is the invitation to move out of the house of fear and into the house of love: to move out of that place of imprisonment and into that place of freedom: “Come to me, come into my house, the house of love.”

The house of God ‘should’ be the house of love.  But for many, it is a place of fear, control, oppression and rejection.  Not all are loved, not all are accepted, not all are acknowledged and not all are free.  This will always be a contrary system to the love of God. The apostle John tells us that “because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love”.

The institutional church is still a patriarchal organisation that lives by rules and rigid doctrines.  There is little freedom, little equality and little acceptance of ‘the other’.

As I’ve stayed on the journey to know God as revealed in Jesus Christ I’ve discovered that…

God is bigger

Grace is wider

Love is deeper

Mercy is greater

…than I ever imagined.

Which is to say, the good news keeps getting better.

The message of Christ is supposed to be good news.  The word gospel means ‘good news’.

What is the good news?

The good news is that all are loved, all are worthy, all are accepted. There is a place at the table for all of us.   Christ is not motivated by punishment, he is motivated by love. Richard Rohr tells us that: ‘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).

How we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. “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” (Matthew 25:40). 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 (Richard Rohr).

How we treat ‘the other’, those different to us is the litmus test of our relationship with  Christ.  Jesus came to bring freedom as He himself says in my favourite bible verse Luke 4.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”

This is Good News.  Freedom, love, vision, relief, favour, release,  acceptance and joy.  Oppression means this:  misery, injustice, control, hardship.  The opposite of oppression is:  delight, help, blessing, kindness.

I was a prisoner and Jesus set me free.  I was a prisoner of fundamental Christianity and the institutional church.  I am a feral disciple of radical love discovering Jesus more and more in everything around me. Was once blind but now I see.  It truly is an amazing grace.

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
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