Sunday Everyday

Welcoming But Not Affirming: Getting to the Slippery Truth

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

This article is written by Nathan Despott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Rise of Rich Face

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

old lady guadalajjara 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem does not stop here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1400489662-StarsDeniedPlasticSurgery_i

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

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

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

The most common cosmetic procedures sought out by teens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red lights which I now have.

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

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

In 1970 – this was the face of cover girl.

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

2000 fresh skin is still looking good……..

59d93a9ee71d4334651b3b13a4296937--makeup-ads-angela-lindvall

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

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

What am I trying to say?  

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

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

old lady guadalajjara 2

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

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

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

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

Beauty truly is only skin deep.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Imagination and Creativity Can Change the World

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

In the Beginning ….. God.

Creation

‘Before the beginning there was silence.

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

But there was hope.

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

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

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

Created in His Image.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

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

thinking

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

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

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

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

we create

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

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

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Loneliness is Killing Us

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

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

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

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

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

images

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

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

Loneliness equals lack of emotional, spiritual and physical connection.

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

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

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

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

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Lonely by Secr3tDesign …

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

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

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

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

landscape-1499854070-humanchain

Prima – People hold hands to form a chain in water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love never fails.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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

 

Cup Of Courage

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

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

CUP OF COURAGE by Helena McNeill.

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

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

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

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

How did the book come about?

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

CUP OF COURAGE SONG

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

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

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

You can also find her on Facebook: @helenamcneillartist

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

Who Is the Jesus of Easter?

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

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

Empty grave

Who is this Jesus?

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

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

HE IS forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will love you forever.  My love NEVER fails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is rest…………..

Happy in the mountains

He fights for the oppressed.  He hates injustice.

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

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

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

My hope is in Jesus.

My trust is in Jesus

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

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

He is alive and He lives in me.

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

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

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

SELAH

love Lisa

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Recommended Reading:

Henri Nouwen:  The Inner Voice of Love

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

Where Are the Heroes?

Where Are the Heroes?

The last decade has seen a rapid de-escalation of the publics trust of religious leaders, politicians, educators  and community leaders.  The Royal Commission has exposed unprecedented sexual abuse of minors by the church and other institutions.  Politicians are argumentative, combative and come across as privileged and disconnected from every day life.  Most pastors/religious leaders are out of touch with the post modern world and the institution of the Church in general is no longer trusted, nor is it held in the place of honour it once was in the community.

Issues of safety, gender, equality, privilege, power and the abuse of these trusts has led to a time in society where ‘the persons in leadership’, who once held high the moral compass, are now held in disregard, suspicion and with much cynicism.   As my Nana used to say:  “Oh how the mighty have fallen”.

The community at large is frustrated by inequality, mismanagement and fraudulent behaviour.

Where are our heroes?  The ones we can trust to lead us.  The ones who put the nation and community above their own agendas.

I have compiled a small list of Aussie leaders and their signature quotes which express what they stood and fought for.  As John Howard famously said, “The things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us.”  We must remember this.

CHIFLEY, BEN 1885-1951

He strove to better the lot of ordinary people with a combination of public and private enterprise. He said: “We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind … If it were not for that, the labour movement would not be worth fighting for.”

BROWN, BOB 1944-

Born in Oberon, Robert Brown became a doctor and then a conservationist, leading the fight against the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania and spreading environmental consciousness as far as Germany and the Greens Party. Australian of the Year in 1982, he shared in 1990 the US Goldman Foundation’s environment prize, the world’s richest. “Wild places connect us to the universe,” he says. “There are no answers written on stone. But in the stones, the trees, the skies, is fulfilment for humanity.”

DUNLOP, WEARY 1907-1993

His tireless work made him a hero in World War II, along with other doctors, on the Burma-Thailand “death railway”, where he defied Japanese officers to save PoWs. He promoted friendship between Australia and Asian nations and was Australian of the Year in 1977. He said of the prisoners, 50 years after the war: “To this day I feel uplifted and borne up by their unquenchable spirit and patient endurance of suffering.”

MABO, EDDIE 1936-1992

Born on Mer, in the Torres Strait, Eddie Koiki Mabo made up for his lack of education with tenacity and a formidable intellect. Upholding his claim for native title to the Murray Islands, the High Court overturned the doctrine of terra nullius, the legal fiction that Australia was unoccupied before European settlement. Mabo, pronounced Ma’bo with emphasis on the second syllable, died a few months before the judgment. He had said: “My family has occupied the land for hundreds of years before Captain Cook was born.”

STREET, JESSIE 1889-1970

Born in India, Jessie Mary Grey Street graduated from Sydney University in 1910, joined the League of Nations Union and feminist organisations. She joined the Australian delegation to the conference that established the United Nations and successfully lobbied for a charter for women’s rights. She campaigned for the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights. She quoted Emerson: “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose … You can never have both.”

WRIGHT, JUDITH 1915-2000

Was one of Australia’s foremost poets. She wrote biography, short stories and children’s books and campaigned for conservation and the Aborigines. She said: “The mateship ingredient in Australian tradition was always and necessarily one-sided; it left out of account the whole relationship with women.”

It is 2019 and across all areas of society women are still under-represented. The Chinese say “they hold up half the sky”, but relatively few made their presence felt in the distribution of power and influence until the last three decades of the 20th century. But change is slowly coming.  So slow that if we continue at this present rate it will take 200 years for women to earn the same amount of wages as men doing the same job.

Where are the heroes?  They are out there I am sure of it.  They look a lot like you and me.  The ones who will stand up and make a difference.  Who are willing to wade upstream against the current and who are able to confront the status quo and make a change.  People do not like change.  They may acknowledge that it is needed but they rarely like it when it comes.

What makes a hero?

 “A hero is someone who can be looked up to for their actions. Bravery is usually the biggest trait of a hero. This person has usually overcome huge obstacles to survive or to rescue others. Heroes come in all sizes. Sick children, grown firefighters, doctors, missionaries, philanthropists are all examples of heroes.”

What makes a true leader?  Lets look at just three core values.

Humility

as demonstrated by a sense of humbleness, dignity and an awareness of one’s own limitations; open to perspectives different from one’s own.

Integrity

as demonstrated by moral courage, ethical strength, and trustworthiness; keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. It still takes honesty and integrity to breed trust and credibility – the cornerstone of strong relationships.

Respect

as demonstrated by self-respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.

If we had leaders demonstrating just these three values the world would be a better place.  Accompanying these of course is love, wisdom, courage, tenacity and endurance.

If you are a follower of Christ you have the greatest responsibility as a change agent.  Jesus said ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’.  This means that it is here now.  Not in 10 years or 1000 years but now.  The presence of God is within us.  The ability to love, bring peace, truth and justice is within us and is at hand.  It is not a distant reality.  The time that Jesus spoke of when the blind would see and the oppressed would be set free is now.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

images

This cartoon could say:  Get Love, Wear Love, Fly…………

Brian Mc Laren says it this way:

‘The time has come today to cancel debts, to forgive, to treat enemies as neighbours, to share your bread with the hungry and your clothes with the naked, to invite the outcasts over for dinner and to confront the oppressor. Not with sharp knives but with unarmed kindness’.

Imagine if followers of Christ actually did what they were supposed to do and followed the way that Jesus loved, freed, healed and included people.   The world would definitely be a better place.  It’s time for the Christian to come out from behind the walls of the church and actually practice the gospel of Jesus to a scared and anxious world.  Stop talking and teaching it and start doing it people.  Be the hero your neighbour and workmate is looking for.  Connect with your neighbours with unarmed kindness and NO AGENDA but love and friendship.

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