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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Greatest Thing About Pain

Pain there is in myriad amount and variety.  We cannot escape the fact that there is pain in this world, in each of our lives, circumstantially and existentially.  Pain is so inlaid within life it causes us to ask a question as to its role.
If pain is taken as a given — again, there are so many variations of pain, all of which are valid, even if some versions of pain are more compellingly valid than others — we have an option.  Wrestle with it or give into it?  But notice that it’s only by making the right choice (to wrestle) that we access the only compensation for pain — the greatest thing about pain is what’s coming.  Whatever is coming that instils joy is hope.
The greatest thing about pain is the hope that says, “this will soon be over.”  That hope inspires us to persevere.  And persevere we must.  No other viable option remains.  So, we are challenged to rest up, and not give up.  A great many decisions to persist were made out of a resolve that came out of a peace-lit reflection — where we took all the ligatures off ourselves, thought with clarity, and realised with boldness that our challenge is doable.
This is where the Christian hope sets free those in pain, to a future that transcends the pain.  Heaven, in a word; where there will be no more tears and pain (read Revelation 21-22).
This will soon be over, when God wills it over.  And compared with eternity, our lives are so correspondingly short.
Yet, there are many types of pain that are temporary, where the hope we may hold has viability in this life.  Whether it’s fatigue or physical pain or depression or grief or loneliness; there is hope in this life that such pain has an end in this life.  These are the foretastes of heaven in the manner of our very lives.
Such a hope has to captivate our attention, because it causes us to hope in the majestic lived reality of faith; the only logical way to live, which, paradoxically, would seem illogical.
Pain forces us to hope or it drives us into oblivion.  See how there’s only the one option?
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

When Tears Flow for Another’s Success

OVERCOME with emotion right now, difficult as it is to see these letters typed onto the screen of my Surface Pro.  I’m so very thankful.
Having just returned from taking a very special friend, basically an extension of my family, someone I’ve been a pastor to, and a person we’ve become connected with; his family and our own family — a kinship.  We’ve very much travelled a unique journey together over the past nearly two years.  We’ve had such significant losses to deal with; the centrepiece of such losses occurred on the same date — no coincidence; a God-incidence.  We’ve faced the worst together, and met the best side by side.
This very special young man goes to England, boarding his aircraft even as I type these words, to play professional basketball in the British Basketball League.  And yet to know his journey and the setbacks that he’s dealt with, he is a walking miracle of God’s grace — a fine young man in any guileless person’s standard.  A man of faith and character.
So, as I prayed in departures before we said goodbye I thought nothing of emotion, until I was walking away.  Then God showed me a vision!  Back to a time two months earlier when his doubts were more certain that this dream-come-true was actually happening.  And still, in the present moment, so thankful to God were we both, with his mother and father and all his dear friends, for the fact that this moment had finally arrived.
When you invest yourself in another person’s life it’s a labour of love and you never expect anything in return.  Serving is its own reward.  But then when they do succeed in ways you or they couldn’t anticipate you’re blessed in being overcome with gratitude for what you feel for the fact of their success.
Thank you, Lord!
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Why When Everything Matters, Nothing Matters

Everything matters in life when we care, but there comes a point where that sort of modus operandi no longer works.  It involves too many risks, it takes too much energy, and burns too many bridges.  And, like with busyness, caring too much about too many things runs us ragged, not just spiritually, but behaviourally, and in our compassion fatigue, we find ourselves on a slippery slope to emotional despair.
The encouragement in this is the opposite is also true.
The fewer things we actually care about, the more we can authentically care.  So in today’s world where there are so many things we can and should care about, we may feel guilty for not caring.  But wisdom decrees a choice still needs to be made.
Some things are worthy of our care,
other things we choose to care about are not.
I’ve found personally, a great awakening in this fact, that the more I don’t care, the better off I am for caring most about the things that really count.  The less scattered I am, the more solidified I’m able to be to care for the things that truly matter.  The less I’m bothered, the more I’m safe within myself for others.
This is about moving from caring about what people think of me to caring more attentively about what people think; from stressing too much about my anxieties and insecurities to trusting these, through acceptance, to God’s care; from worrying about the future to knowing God cares and, in letting go, trusting His plan, because I can do no other wiser thing than to accept His plan; from grieving about my circumstances to mourning for those suffering much more than I presently am.
This is not about caring less, per se, rather than it’s about caring about the right things in the right way, for the right reasons.
***
When care is undiluted,
attention is focused,
so care has good effect,
and intimacy is experienced.
The truth is when everything matters, nothing matters.  But when we can surrender that all-encompassing passion, honing it in the acceptance that says “I can’t control everything, nor even more than a few small but important things,” all that passion comes to be funnelled into something useful — a tempered passion enshrined in humility that knows there are always limits.  Limits for our good.
Those small yet important things that we have control over are our expectations and attitudes.  And although they’re small, they’re crucially important, for our attitudes and expectations will either reconcile or ruin us.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Turning Frustration Into Fun

Through one ten-hour day on the road delivering meals all over the metropolitan area I counted up about seventy-three frustrations — from being cognitively overwhelmed, to fleeting confusion about my routes, to delays in traffic, to non-obliging customers, to responses from other road users, to shifting loads and other surprises, to the excessive noise distracting concentration in packing those parcels in an industrial kitchen, even to my own responses to my own fallible decisions on the road, etc.  A litany of hindrance.  In one working day.
It was as if I was being exposed to every possible frustration within the myriad array.
But the frustrations, themselves, it became apparent, weren’t the central point.
Quickly, God was revealing something deeper in the fabric of possibility.
Frustrations reveal the hidden dimension, behind which is manifest the spiritual realm of character testing.
Within testing, frustrations have their unique and God-appointed-and-shaped purpose.
Only as I let each of these seventy-odd frustrations wash up hard against me did they erode my anger from within me.  Even as I tensed up, as if to give way to the anger, I felt a Presence within me reminding me, “It’s a test, so just give your tension to Me.”  God showed me, with every ascending temptation to frustration, that each one was a test; and that each one I was able to easily overcome if only I was aware it was a test!
If we go the opposite way, letting frustration mount up on the wings of anger, stock-piling it, then rage threatens with unparalleled and frightening immediacy.
Rage catches up with everyone who must hide their honesty.  Frustration is quickly turned to anger in the form of rage for the person who cannot live the sort of reality for which their deepest soul craves.
The task is clear.  Let us ensure frustration becomes something useful, not something violent.  If only we could turn the frustration into something useful, and we can.  If only we could turn it into something akin to its polar opposite: fun.
***
When frustrations are taken mindfully, and that mindfulness of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, makes us aware of the testing, we’re able to see it, overcome the frustration, then to enjoy a spiritual strength we perhaps had never before seen.  That joy makes us laugh; for spiritual capacities in torment, for potentialities of distance in tumult, for perspective in the trial.
Suddenly we’re having fun in our frustration, and we might say in our response to the frustration, as Jesus did, “Get behind me, Satan.”
With every frustration won over, and not a temptation lost to rage, we’ve endured patiently, through surrender.
The awareness that sees frustration as temptation to anger is the same awareness empowering us to endure patiently.
When we know how to deal with frustrations in the moment, we’re then able to find the fun in what comes next.
The feeling of victory when we overcome our frustration is tantamount to joy.  And that’s the best sort of fun!
What is the use of frustration other than as impetus to overcome it?
***
As I reflected over the day that could’ve been from hell, both in those very moments, and especially later, I was given cause to thank God for the situational awareness only He could give me.  To manage those moments, with courage, patience, and the wisdom to know, “This, too, shall pass.”  And, to experience victory over those frustrations.
It’s in these times of shrieking defeat that we still have the choice, smile, breathe, be still, and start all over again.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Wise Maxim for Marriage, Ministry, Life

Talking the important issues of life about five minutes before bed one night, and my wife says, “It’s a tension.  A Master of Divinity taught me it’s all about the tension — work your heart out whilst learning to relax.”
My wife has uttered some gems in her time in my life, but none better are they than this.
It applies just as much to marriage as it does to ministry as it does to life.
Work hard, resisting resenting anything along the way, and let go of everything that would hold you back.
Acknowledge that everything worthwhile is worthy of hardship while we work: marriage, ministry, life.  All of what we’d call worthy is cheapened when we expect it to be easier than the hardest thing we’d ever do.  And at the very same time, everything that we experience is either to be inculcated within or cast aside.
In marriage we’ve learned that married life is hard work.  It was never meant to be anything else.  Only when we approach marriage with a hard work ethic, then do we experience the joys that only God, in our diligence, could give us.
Joys come as a consequence of knowing expectation is the temptress of the foolish.
I’m sure it’s the unromantic couples that have the happiest of marriages.  They don’t allow the folly of fairy tales to script their relationship.  Instead, they take control of the manageable things, leaving the unmanageable things to a trustworthy God.
It’s the same with ministry.  It’s about service, humility, other people, and discipline.  Only when we enjoy doing the work of ministry, for what that work is alone, are we treated to the joys replete with the Holy Spirit’s Presence.
Why do we allow ourselves to get deluded in the romanticism of the world, when, in terms of ministry, our Bibles are full of the only applicable guidance?
Life holds us to the same measure of wisdom.  Work hard.  Enjoy the work.  Let go of anything unworthy.  Enjoy the joys that come as a result.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Day Like None Other, Ever

Wind rushing through leaves,
exciting sensory perception,
soothing waves in the distance,
definitely no resistance,
fresh cast each one as if a new idea,
clouds on the horizon —
a soul-bracing landscape.
Nothing else piercing my consciousness,
the land and the air barren for nothing,
beauty in everything God made,
antipathy for everything man made,
oh Lord, why don’t I get out more?
you replenish my spirit and satisfy my soul,
and all the artificial world can do is cuss at me.
Even as I gaze across the water and view such splendour, for me God’s grace manifest and manifold in the witness of Himself, and of His Presence — everywhere, in every creature, in every facet of nature, and at all times — I am awestruck, that His creation continues to move and have its being and have dominion over the whole earth notwithstanding human interaction and interruption.
God’s grace hovers over the earth, empowering even His smallest creature, and we are but witnesses if we will only slow down enough to see what is patent before our eyes.

Why do we rush and hurry and concern ourselves with such busyness, and, for what seems to us to be the contempt of humanity against us, when we could otherwise see what is eternally there?
The ghost of all creation is in this mirage that we are blind to otherwise see.
Nature goes absolutely ignored if we’re too busy to see God’s glory manifest in it.
Why do we miss what is eternally there, through all our days, to be seen?  We’re fools to miss what we’d otherwise never fail to see, if only we slowed down and opened agape our eyes.
Stop the chaos.  Watch what can be missed.  Feed upon the richness of His variegated creation.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Look Up and Within and Live Life Through Eternity’s Eyes

Drawing close to my Jubilee year has made me reflect more than ever on my mortality.
Reflecting on my own mortality has had the effect that I’m focusing on the mortality of those special others in my life — parents, children, siblings, etc.  There’s something very sobering in thinking about death on a daily basis.  And in this Jubilee year I will be thinking intentionally about death every moment I can.  It’s like I want to be touched spiritually every moment of the rest of my life, having known something irrepressibly serious and deeply significant that is all too easily missed in this superficial life.
If I look at those photographs above, where I’m held by my parents, who this day are still alive, it causes me to feel sad, teary even; that all those years have gone by; that they were so young, and so was I; that we cannot reclaim that day, to visit it, as it was, even for five minutes.  The time is gone!  Yet, we have our day, fifty years on, spare one.
These reflections have caused the sort of consternation that decrees the need:
1.     Death to self, that others might live a little more, so Jesus comes alive in me.
2.     Death to self, that, in minimising my own cravings, I’ll see God.
3.     Death to self, so that I will finally live something approaching a truly godly life.
4.     Death to self, where my remaining years with precious family would count.
5.     Death to self, so there’d be fewer regrets through the days and decades ahead.
6.     Death to self, in order that, in my remaining years, I would taste something of heaven’s life for me.
7.     Death to self, so I would no longer be my own impediment.
Life runs better when there’s more death to self.
Sometimes I think that we Christians make complex the simple.  God’s Word tells us to die to self, yet we opt for a secularised, quality-endorsed character reformation package.  We lose sight of Jesus in this.  We lose touch with the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  And the Father, well He just fades into the background in our lives.
What better reason have we to be compelled to die to self more than to make the most of our loved ones?  To be Jesus with them and for them.  That’s reason compelling enough.
The truth is, any moment now, an end could come.  Any end, and certainly an end that will leave us horribly disfigured in sorrow.  All our moments are rich historically, and we never sense the enormity of history until eternal dimensions impress themselves on our lives.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

God Loves You and That's Your Task Too

Here’s a secret not many know or recognise to be true: it’s natural that we either don’t like ourselves or we don’t like bits of ourselves; important bits.
Don’t believe me?  Talk to yourself about your lack of confidence in some situations; your anxiety; how you hate it when you don’t meet with others’ acceptance or approval.  It’s not other situations or other people we’re really upset with when bad things happen; we turn those horrid things that happen to us inwardly.  After all, a child blames him or herself for the fact his or her parents are divorcing.  And why is that we can forgive others much easier than we can forgive ourselves.
Our biggest issue in our spirituality is our self-concept, and only God can heal of us of our own berating pressure on ourselves.  We’d approve of ourselves if only we were a bit further along the road in our growth.  But God loves us right now, even with all the sin we struggle with.
God wants us to know ourselves, and yet we can only know ourselves if we:
1.     don’t run from ourselves
2.     learn to depend on God enough to journey with Him
3.     commit ourselves to a life of learning.
The invitation to the Christian life is not centrally about biblical or theological or ethical knowledge.  It’s not about degrees or ministries or who we know or rub shoulders with.  It’s not about what we can do or how much we can do or how well we can do it.  It’s not about how long we’ve been Christian.
The invitation to the Christian life is a horrible journey none of us genuinely want to take, if we had a choice.  It’s the character reformation that makes a disciple, not how well they pray.  Christian character has nothing to do with spiritual gifts; indeed, it’s the spiritual gifts we glory in, in our pride.  Christian character tests dash pride.
The reason we agree with God to endure the reformation of our character is we find ourselves in a place where we have no choice.  Life brings us to this place; no place to run or hide.
The invitation to the Christian life is God’s summons to wrestle with life in a way that only works when we accept ourselves, because, if He loves us, who are we not to?
God knows this, and we should know it too.  Life is about learning, and the type of learning life’s about is a learning we have to learn not to resent, because to resent it is what should be accepted.  This character learning is the hardest learning, ever.
And when we know God knows us, and we know and accept ourselves, we notice that others know us well and accept us.  We’re deeply sown into the midst of life in others’ lives.
We can accept ourselves we can love others, and only when we can love others are we truly Christian.
God loves you more than you do because you are lovable.  Believe that and begin to live as He wills for you to live.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cultivating Genuine Freedom in a Global Culture of Fear

Seems every other day there’s a mass shooting, an international terror attack, or some other act of terrorism with which our minds must contend.
Depending where you live in the world the issues themselves have varying veracity in terms of threat level.  And although any area or facility could be a target, it’s clear that the risk remains higher in certain regions and situations.
But there’s a new crazy getting around.  It’s that person who’s thrown their caution to the wind.  They’re capable of anything, with access to weapons and the initiative to make a plan.  Crazy can happen anywhere, anytime.  And if that’s today’s thing, what will be tomorrow’s?
We exist in a culture of fear, particularly if you invest your time in the News Press, spend any significant time on social media, or have a life that takes you into the community.  We can’t escape it.
So how do we cultivate freedom
to oppose this culture of fear?
We must learn to switch our conscious thoughts to those in our midst again; to our wives, children, husbands, parents, siblings, and our friends and work colleagues.  We must learn and relearn the value of entering the land of the living, and to resist spending inordinate amounts of time in the fake world of curated crime reports and social media hype.  We must return again and again to the state of living life.  We must learn, too, that all of this life is not yet revealed to us, so we must learn to trust our loving God.
Cultivating the personal and interpersonal freedoms of acceptance in community is the only way to resist the culture of fear sweeping the globe.
The more we refocus on people in real life situations, the less we’ll fear what could or might happen in the worlds of our imaginations.
Resisting the culture of fear in our world is as simple as insisting on cultivating freedom through being present with those around us.
Freedom is a choice of response when fear abounds.
Make it your possession.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dear Jesus, Now, About Submission

DEAR JESUS,
May I proffer a prayer?  Of course, You’ll say, “Okay!”
Lord, I struggle to submit; in my pride and in my fear, and these in combination, with misunderstanding, and an oft-skewed perception, together with a spoonful of gracelessness, I struggle.  It lands me in hot water every time.  And I know it’s Your will that I not only submit, to the remittance of Your power, but it’s also Your will that I suffer the consequences of my sin, for that’s how I’m destined to learn or to languish, which is my choice after all.  You are, after all, a wholly just and a solely righteous God.
Why is submission so hard, Lord?  Why do I get it right some of the time, yet at other times I don’t?  Why is it that I must suffer this pride that hates being prideful?  How is it that I’m encumbered by this overweening need to be humbler than I am?
Thank You that in the times I do submit, that You give me Your power and favour and rest.  My heart is richer for the peace You give that says “Enough!” knowing that enough is not only okay, but perfect on earth in Your estimation.
You, who submitted perfectly when You strode the earth, which was a submission You were frequently criticised for, and a submission that saw You given peaceably, though in torment, to death; that submission is what I seek for You to teach me.
About submission, Jesus.  Make it meaningful in my life and time.  Make it manifest through every fissure of my life.  Make it multiply in effect for Your glory’s sake.  AMEN.
***
To submit to the Lord is to surrender in such a way as to trust Him, who is Peace, Hope and Joy, for peace, hope and joy.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.