A Night With Dylan Alcott!

By Caz Morton

Meet Dylan Alcott. Aussie Sport’s Champion. At 26 years, old he holds three World Grand Slam titles and three Olympic gold medals in two different sports… and his list of achievements are only growing. Have you heard of him?

He is a world champion tennis player and you can’t find his players profile on the official Australian open website – but don’t worry, you can hear all about Rogers new ‘dad beard’.

In the lead-up to the Australian Open this year, I am in deep hope that Roger wins another Slam, Novak fails and Sami doesn’t choke. I also wish I could watch legends Nova and Alcott play.

Both Nova and Alcott have much in common. They have both maintained seeded rankings and championship titles at the same time. They were both recently featured together at the Australian open ‘#ANightWithNovak’ charity fundraiser, where Alcott taught the tennis legend a lesson or two in the sport. When Nova was 26, like Alcott, he had three Grand Slams, 100 impersonations, was worth millions and had sponsors pouring thousands of dollars per week into his physical health.

However, there is a big difference between the two champions. Alcott was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord, leaving him a paraplegic. But being a paraplegic shouldn’t change your perspective or change the game plan. These two men are equals, both athletes have had to be disciplined and work hard for their achievements. But, are both men treated alike?

Let’s take a step back! Do you recognise Alcott? Unless you are an avid tennis addict or keep up with para sports like myself, you probably haven’t come by him. At the same time, I do feel safe assuming already know who Novak is, without watching tennis or being a tennis superfan like me.

Why am I writing this? I would love to see the Australian tennis federation treat wheelchair tennis with the respect and the value it deserves. I’m not going to wave my pitchfork and expect things will change immediately. It was only last year Serena Williams kicked up a stink about equal prize money for women. It saddens me to compare the $3.7+ million the men & women’s Australian Open winner will receive to the amount allocated to the whole Wheelchair tournaments for 2017 – only $200 000. $200K is the kind of money an ATP or WTA player walks away with if they LOSE a quarter-final.

Is this fair? Sure, wheelchair matches are not as long as men’s ATP, but they still play up to 3 set matches, the same as women, and they use the same courts! However, change is not easy or simple. Alcott (and other wheelchair Quad athletes) deserve way more than media attention if the tennis federation is to make changes.

What needs to change? The consumer needs to care, so the media follows suit. I’m tired of hearing about Hewitt’s relationship issues! I’d want to see more exposure on wheelchair tournaments and to hear the player’s stories. I can’t believe we have a tennis legend sliding across global hard courts winning titles left, right and centre and we are going to miss it. I don’t want to miss it, so why would you?

When I was training at the AIS for gymnastics, I would run around to the display room and join in on the wheelchair basketball and failed every time. It was a good experience being physically limited as a child because it’s not something I’ve understood until recently. Even now, sitting in a neck brace, I have only experienced what he has for 10 days. I also know there is no nerve damage and I will walk again – praise God! I won’t compare my scenario to his, but my injury has given my “2017 Aus Open Superfan Experience” a whole new perspective. Of course, I will still enjoy yelling at the TV with my family and friends. I’ll keep tweeting random tennis facts and reciting stats about the players. But sadly, in my excitement that the Australian open has begun today (would do a dance but, meh, fatigued) is shadowed with the disappointment that I can’t watch Alcott slam it on the court because it’s not being broadcast mainstream.

As a Children’s Pastor, I would love my kids to watch Alcott´s journey on free-to-air TV too. They are missing on the opportunity to be exposed to a great Aussie hero. Do you watch tennis with your kids? Will you share Alcott’s journey this season and talk to your kids about athletes with similar stories? Maybe as you google for ‘trolls’ merchandise you could watch his TedX motivational talk on normalising disabilities to be found at https://youtu.be/tvNOzJ7x8qQt. This video has also made me wonder what we value as a society and how we teach our children about disabilities. Unless you live with one, or know people who do, you’re often not exposed to people with a disability – until you finally are. Do we have these conversations at youth group, are our churches accessible and pastoral towards this specialised area? I’m feeling another post coming on.

I’ve never been to an Aus Open Match. I’ve dreamed of seeing Feds or Serena in a finals match in Melb (oh, my first world problem seems minimal), but I’d prefer to hang out with mates. However, if an Aus Open opportunity came my way, I wouldn’t be passing up the opportunity to sit front row at Alcott’s match. After all, it is the only way I can see him play because mainstream TV minimises para-sport broadcasting!

Image borrowed: Victorian Institute of Sport, Athletes profile, Dylan Alcott.

16106174_10154127497870868_1400488620_o.jpgMeet The Writer: Caz Morton 

Adopted by Grace, adopted from Sri Lanka.
Past handstand queen & proud member of the fashion police.
Recovering spinal and sternum injuries.
Youth and children’s pastor in Wagga.
Follow@jeanellen on Instagram

Painting as I enter 2017

My prayer for 2017 is Jeremiah 17:7-8; that each day I will place my trust and confidence in the creator, like a tree planted by a stream. May I continue to grow and bear fruit, even in the metaphorical heat! Praise the Lord for 2016; a year of mercy, grace, blessings, mourning, sorrow, growth and transformation.

#2017 #2016 #newyear #art #arttherapy #jeremiah1778 #faith #personalgrowth #spirituality

Book Review: The Call to Personhood (A. I. McFadyen)

Book Review for my MA(Min) subject, Theological Anthropology.

McFadyen, A.I. The Call to Personhood: A Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationships. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

The Call to Personhood is an exploration into how the ‘personhood’ of persons is formed and transformed through personal relationships with one another. A personal relationship is when at least two, autonomous and independent partners engage with each other, freely and without coercion. McFayden proposes that we cannot understand what it truly means to be a person based only on our internal independence as our “personal identities are moulded through our relationships”[1]. Therefore, we can only understand our personhood in the context of our inter-personal relationships.

We find McFayden’s thesis in between individualism and collectivism. He does this by proposing a ‘third option’ that accounts for an individual’s the autonomy and personal freedom while acknowledging the influence of relationships and institutions have on a human being. McFayden builds his argument through exploring the theological and anthropological concepts of the image of God, human ontology, free will, gender, and how they contribution to a relational understanding of personhood.

Image of God

McFayden explains that humankind being ‘made in God’s image,’ (Gen. 1:26-27) refers to the relational nature humanity shares with the triune creator. He proposes that the Trinity is a unique community, characterised by unity-in-diversity and mutuality. Each person in the Godhead shares in their divinity, while unique in their distinct in their role, Father, Son and Spirit. He argues that Humans then mirror this unique community when we openly communicate and interact with one another in various relationships.

However, God’s priority in creation was not the horizontal relationship between persons, but the vertical one between humanity and himself. According to McFayden, God created humans to be his ‘dialogue-partners,’ and addresses us so. As language is the universal form of communication, dialogue is McFayden’s preferred method of relationship. Therefore, it is through being a dialogue-partner with God and other humans that one can be a person, made in the image of God, in the truest sense. And the only way to have an undistorted relationship with God and other is through a restored dialectical conversation with Christ.

Ironically, for a Christian thesis based on communication and relationship with God, there is little said of prayer. The Call To Personhood would have contributed more to the discussion by addressing individual and corporate prayer.

While McFayden adequately explains the relational side of both God and humanity, he neglects the ‘dominion’ aspect of God’s image. That is, that God created humanity, under His authority, to rule over and look after the rest of God’s creation. Addressing this would have strengthened McFayden’s contribution to the field of theological anthropology.

Human Ontology and Free Will

McFayden firmly states that being ‘made in God’s image’ is the primary ontological structure of a person. Therefore, in light of God’s ‘address’ to humanity, the primary ontological construct of humanity is relationship and responsibility. That is, persons have a responsibility in how they respond to God’s address.

‘Free will’ is understood as autonomy and the freedom to reject or accept the invitation to be God’s dialogue-partner. At Creation humanity was created with an autonomous and ‘primal letting-be,’ which became independent in the fall. McFayden’s definition of sin is then a person’s refusal to reciprocate God’s call into a relationship with Him and by extension, the closure of communication with other individuals. As being made in God’s image is humanity’s primary ontological structure, we did not completely lose that image due to sin. Humanity’s misuse of freedom that has merely distorted our response and responsibility and as a result, restoration is possible.

McFayden offers a Semipelagian understanding of Grace and salvation. God’s extended the offer of a redeemed relationship with humanity through Jesus, who was not just the messenger of God’s Word but also the Word himself. Human beings then have the ‘choice’ to accept God’s offer or not.

Gender

McFayden develops his idea of a man reflecting God’s image through gender. His most insightful thought on the topic is when he explains that Adam’s ‘helper’ (Gen. 2:18) Eve, being made from his rib, is not a sign that she is his ‘subordinate assistant.’ Rather, Eve enables Adam to understand their interdependence and that the completeness of personhood is in a community. Adam being asleep reveals that Eve’s creation was fully God’s work.

McFayden acknowledges the distinction between sexes and explores how the sexual and dialogical relationships between each mirror God. However, gender differences are not explored outside of biology.

McFayden never suggests that these communities are exclusive to man and woman. The primary focus is not on gender, rather a discussion on how all types of relationships influence identity and the need to mirror God’s invitation of Grace through the development of ideal relationships. These ideal relationships never grow through coercion but mutual, genuine and open communication.

Community

The Call To Personhood suggests that the more open and dialogical conversations an individual has, the closer bond they form to communities, and as a result increases their development as unique individuals. McFayden’s thesis encourages the contemporary church to consider the following implications

A church should find its identity in its patterns of communication; therefore, a church must be a community that reveals to the world a “genuine response [accepting a relationship with God] to a genuine call [God’s address to humanity through Jesus].”[2] Unfortunately, McFayden doesn’t offer practical suggestions, as to how a church community goes about considering and evaluating their ability to listen and respond to both divine and human words when they meet.

As sin manifests as the partial or full closure of communication with other persons, the church should be modelling the process of developing mutual, dialogical and open relationships. McFayden includes the importance of forgiveness for interpersonal relationships as well as responding to Jesus’ call to care for the vulnerable. He suggests we can do this by creating ways for those with diminished communicative capacities not to be objectified, but rather, engage with them as subjects of conversation to maintain their dignity.

Through the exploration of these ideas, McFayden challenges Christians to consider political and ethical issues regarding mutuality vs. coercion, the power and influence in asymmetrical relationships and promoting healthy relationships and community development.

Although The Call To Personhood is not an easy book to read and is very theoretical, it challenges people living in an individualistic society to rethink the way relationships affect the personhood of each individual. McFayden encourages us to understand our personhood truly by accepting God’s invitation to be His dialogue-partner and offering the same invitation to the others.

[1] A.I. McFadyen, The Call to Personhood: A Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationships (Cambridge University Press, 1990), 18.

[2] Ibid., 62.

‘Am I OK?’ today? Well, Life’s Slowed Down.

It is “R U OK? Day” today.

Am I okay? Yes. I think so. I will be.

Am I sad, overwhelmed, exhausted and ‘bleh’ with blood-shot eyes? Yes.

My Opa passed away today. It’s sad and I’m grieving. But I’m okay. The doctor assured us that his death was painless and peaceful.

He had a heart attack on Sunday (ironically, Fathers Day), which revealed he also had pneumonia and kidney failure. Opa could have had a few long, drawn out weeks where his body slowly shut down – but God was merciful. All his grandkids and children were able to see him the day before he passed. Then after only a couple of days in hospital, he fell asleep early this morning and never woke up. It wasn’t a sudden-shock, but was quick. In his words, yes, ‘he kicked the bucket’ (and one day we all will), but it was painless, peaceful, he knew he was loved and even got to have a beer on his last night. This is just the surface of how things seemed to ‘worked out for the best’ and I have witnessed and experienced God’s goodness, mercy and grace in a whole new way.

As a teenager, I watched a close family friend pass away and had a church brother pass away after a motorbike accident – but this is the first time I’ve experienced the death of a family member and it’s surreal. It has shocked me that as his world stopped, mine (and my family’s) slowed down while the world continues on, as it was yesterday and as it will tomorrow.

As my family I sat down with a cuppa (just after we said our final good-bye) and we were mincing our words – a fly on the wall would think we were talking jibberish. We kept dropping things and walking down the hallway, forgetting that we just needed to use the bathroom. Then mum and I finished our evening with a quick trip to coles to pick up some (much needed) cheese and milk. We came home with $30 worth of groceries, some cider, 2 parcels from the pharmacy, no cheese and the wrong kind of milk. Grief distracts you, tires you and takes up so much of your brain. Time feels like it’s gone so quickly and dragged on at the same time.

Mr Google told me that approximately 151,600 people have their world just ‘stop’ every day. If you estimate each individual has 4 people who love them, 606, 400 people have their lives slow down every single day – and grief can be overwhelming for days, weeks and months. At least 4.24 million people a week have their lives slow down because (approx.) 1 million lives stop. That’s a lot of grieving people, walking through the day, a little bit slower than the rest of the world, very distracted with a blend of apathy and sorrow.

And death isn’t the only cause of grief – people lose jobs, pets, marriages, their health and loved ones in other ways, every day. People can have their lives turn over and slowed down due to ill health, mental illness, medications, infertility, waiting for test results or simply receiving some bad, life changing news.

You never know what someone is feeling, experiencing, processing and suffering with as you encounter them. You don’t know what is going on for the ‘rude person’ who hardly notices knocking you off your feet in the street, for the friend who didn’t reply to your text, for the shop attendant who gives you the wrong change, or the driver who cuts you off on the highway.

Can I encourage you to show compassion, empathy and understanding to those you encounter? Give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe, their world has just slowed down. You just don’t know and the only way you will is if you ask.

So, you know how I am going today. What about you? R U OK?

Conversations With Healthy People #1: The Amusing, ‘Really?’

It’s days like today when I’m struggling to summon the energy to be a ‘functioning human being’ that I remember an honest and genuine conversation I had with one of my teenagers during Bible study a few months ago.

I recall this conversation to remind myself of God’s grace, strength and sustaining power that gets me through each day. It’s an encouragement to continue being honest about life, even when it’s painful and sucky. I must confess, it amuses me (greatly) and makes me giggle a little on the inside.

I also find comfort knowing that I can come back and read it whenever I need to.

We were discussing how God uses suffering to deepen our relationship with Him, better understand faith, build His Kingdom and bring Jesus glory. For the sake of application, I briefly mentioned that these truths give me hope, even though I am in pain every day…

…another interruption (but a welcomed one)…

“So, you’re really in pain?”
“Yes.”

“All the time?”
“Uh, huh.”

“You don’t look like you’re in pain.”
“I know.”

“Wait! You were in pain on Friday night?”
“Correct.”

“Are you saying that you’re actually in pain, right now?”
“You’ve got it.”

“…Like, now-now? Standing there?”
“Yup…”

and then he slumped back into his chair with a sympathetic bewilderment written on his face. I think he started to understand, which I am grateful for, even if it was just a little.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation, and it probably won’t be the last. So, I’ll continue to embrace the small opportunities to encourage open and honest dialogue. Conversations that develop empathy and grace to spur one another on to rely on God and persevere in suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NLT) “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”

 

Speak Up

As long as we remain silent, society remains ignorant. We can empower others and ourselves by sharing truth in love! #speakup #behonest #endsilence #breakingstigma

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#speaktruth #love #mentalhealth #depression #chronicpain #endometriosis #endthesilence #chronicillness #awareness #jesus #truth #endthesilence

Six Reasons Why I May Be Happiest Depressed Person You’ve Ever Met

When I start getting to know new people, and we move from acquaintance to friend, I’m pretty open about my life. The chronic pain is hard to hide as it is, but I also mention that I have depression, and if they ask, I don’t hesitate to say it’s been around for a loooooooooong time.

As I’ve settled in a new city, with a new job and meeting new people, I’ve been told multiple times that I’m the ‘happiest depressed person’ they’ve ever met, which amuses me, greatly. I don’t really understand what ‘happiness’ feels like, yet I seem to project it. After some reflection, I think I’ve worked out why.

  1. When you’ve had an illness for 16 years and have received consistent treated for most of that time, you learn how to manage it. I can CBT myself like no one’s business. I never miss a dose of medication and every couple of years get reviewed by a psychiatrist. I regularly see my psychologist and check in with my GP monthly. I’ve taught myself how to get out of bed, even when I don’t have the energy. I’ve learnt how to smile when joy has faded.  Listening to other people is a welcomed distraction, and I can listen to my body by making healthy choices, even when I don’t feel like it.
  2. Some days are better than others, but the practice of gratitude and acceptance helps me make the most of the good days which makes the bad days a little bit easier.
  3. I have built an incredible support network – a team made up of family, friends, work colleagues and professionals. When the depression overwhelms me with loneliness, I’m rarely actually isolated. When the depression has me hating on myself, people are quick to show me their love.
  4. I’ve found healing and acceptance in sharing my story, bringing awareness and supporting others in their mental illness. It gives a sense of purpose, a weapon to fight against overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness. Being open and honest also demonstrates that there is no shame in having a Mental Illness.
  5. I grew up in a family where depression was understood. I have never felt the stigma society holds around mental illness which makes acceptance and openness easier.
  6. I trust in a faithful Creator and have the perfect Counsellor living inside of me. I have hope in a new, perfect creation and faith in a God who is loving, holy and just. These truths bring me joy that stops an often futile ‘pursuit of happiness’ and enables me to rest in spiritual peace (sometimes my emotions are just a little slow to catch up with spiritual truths).

But please don’t be mistaken…

I still battle with depression. I still have days where I cry all morning. I still have mornings where it takes all my energy reserves just to get out of bed. I still experience overwhelming with sadness. I still need patience, empathy, love, support, to take medication and participate in psychotherapy.

Accepting that I have a chronic mental illness doesn’t mean I have a defeatest attitude. I eagerly await the day I no longer have to deal with depression, acknowledging it may not happen in this lifetime.

You can’t compare me to other people you know with depression as everyone is on their own journey. Let’s be real, most people haven’t spent (approximately) 64% of their life learning the skills needed to be a high functioning. Instead, encourage them to seek appropriate, professional treatment; help them find mutual support; show them love through compassionate empathy and remind them that hope and healing from depression is possible.

Winterfest 2016

Winterfest is over, God in His goodness sustained me through the week in a way far greater than I could have ever imagined.

As Winterfest approached at the end of term two, I confess, I started to freak out. I know the physical drain/impact a Holiday Kids Program can have on my body – this wasn’t my first rodeo… but last Thursday God gave me what I call a gentle ‘slap’ from the Holy Spirit. How self centred I was to think that a week of telling kids about Jesus had anything to do with me. How arrogant I was to feel like my health could hinder God’s work. How faithless it is to enter a week of mission, relying on my own strength (or lack thereof). My prayer quickly changed – if I was going to get through this week and if God wanted to use me, it was up to Him to sustain me.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” My response? Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God is faithful. I may be in agony now, but I made it through the week because of His faithfulness. I am grateful for the reminder that every step I make is based on God’s sovereign power and for His glory!

Now to rest my weary and achey body with all things pink, Annie, tea, my onesie, fluffy dressing gown, Netflix, a massive sleep in, “everyday I’m shuffling” on repeat in my head every time I walk (or more accurately, my attempt to walk that resembles a slow hobble), and the joy and peace that comes from knowing I was able to be part of the proclamation of the gospel this week.