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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Storage Pallets and a Spiritual Acceptance Opportunity

Saturday morning is a work morning, but a recent one was special. I had my buddy (three-year-old son) accompany me. We went to Bunnings Warehouse to pick up some used storage pallets.
I entered the Trade area, parked the car and trailer ensemble and took my buddy in to be directed. A helpful young man led me and my buddy out to the area they keep the pallets, showing me the ones I could have and the ones I couldn’t have.
Great. All clear. Time to get to work and load the trailer. I loaded six good ones on the trailer and tied the load down. On driving out of the Yard the older guy on the gate stopped me and inspected my load.
“Ah, we’ve got a problem here, mate. Let me check, but I think you can’t take the Swan Cement ones — that’s four of the six.”
I was inwardly seething as I was operating on instruction from the younger guy. Anticipating that I’d have to unload and reload I had to tell myself to regain my composure. The younger man was already walking up toward me when my pride arose, and, without saying much at all, let him know I was pretty unimpressed at the run around. I reversed the trailer back to the storage pallet area, and the younger guy was guiding me, which had a negative effect on my reversing, so I said I’d be okay. At this point, as I was still reversing, my buddy in the back said, “Stop being angry, Dad.” I thought I’d managed to keep a lid on my emotions, but in truth my buddy, the younger guy and older guy could all tell I was cheesed off.
I untied the pallets and dropped them back, then loaded the permissible ones up and tied them on. As I tied the pallets on the trailer, God reminded me that I was a Christian; that my fruit comes down to my behaviour. No recrimination for my reaction, just a reminder to reconcile the situation.
I repented. I decided to be grateful. I also decided to apologise to both the younger and older guys, and thank them for their help.
“Sorry I didn’t listen clearly enough, or seek clarification,” I said to the younger man, even if it wasn’t my fault. He said, “Can I get you a free hat and shirt for your inconvenience?” The older guy appreciated the apology and my thanking him for just enforcing the rules, and he offered me free timber boards.
I really felt I’d failed God, yet again, until the Lord spoke something so important into and through my spirit.
“You are not meant to be good apart from me, Steve.
You’re no good on your own.”
Sometimes, in not being a good Christian, I’m reminded that trying too hard to be a good Christian means I negate the fact that Christ is God’s goodness in me; that without Him I have no goodness in me, as the sum goodness in me is propelled by motives that are other than godly. But when I truly think like Christ, His goodness is imputed through me.
His grace offers us all a freeing reality. Because we cannot be good in and of ourselves, without Him, there’s no pressure from God to try. We’re not fooling Him when we do our good deeds before people who then think we’re good; where God gets no glory.
A better response is our situational surrender in allowing God’s power to work through us in difficult situations. That’s an extraordinary goodness that others sincerely notice; transcending any appearance of human goodness.
Being Christian is accepting we cannot be good without Christ being alive in us through our actions. Being Christian is not about how much we know; it’s about how much we accept grace alone has saved our sinning souls.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life’s Not the Same Unless We’re Different

From where does anxiety commonly emanate? From making comparisons with others; from a fear of failing to meet others’ standards; from failing to meet our own standards; from feeling unsafe in our world; from some unknown (or known) stimulus or trauma we survived in our development. The list would run on.
Anxiety emanates from thinking that expects what’s unreasonable.
It’s our underlying expectations that we cannot meet — where there’s a mismatch, whether it’s known or not. Even if we know in our logical mind that such expectation is unreasonable, we may still struggle to accept that our best is good enough.
Of course, our best is good enough. It has to be.
What if dealing with our expectations of ourselves was the thing that could free our minds of the burden of our anxiety?
What if challenging the comparisons we make with others was a key to feeling freer?
What if our chance to shine was truly based in us being different? And what if us being different isn’t what we think it is... what if we’re awesome just as we are? — different and all!
Life is short. Recently I was looking at a sporting final my favourite football team won. It was over twenty years ago! It was another age ago. But it didn’t feel that long ago.
We are who we are, and besides it being too much work to change personality and being, we are best accepting who God made us to be — annoying differences, mannerisms, habits, and all. This is not to say we shouldn’t work on our character, which is kindness, humility, patience, gentleness and compassion — love.
Feeling like we need to conform to some predetermined ideal creates such stress. Call it anxiety. Resolve to embrace our difference. Celebrate: you and me. We are different.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Experience of Breakdown and Recovery of Hope

Something that occurs regularly enough for me is the experience of breakdown and the recovery of hope. Acute fatiguing attacks where my soul is spiritually weary precedes a resurrection, but it would be unfair to overlook the value of being emotionally decimated.
The experience, for me at least, takes anywhere from two hours to two days. As short as it is, it’s acute. And there’s typically a pattern to it. It takes place sometimes a couple of times a month. The busier I am the more often I succumb. I love being with people and helping them, which is my life purpose, but too much of it — and especially too much to do — and it becomes a task and a burden and I begin to burnout. Breakdown for me is the first sign of burnout. I cannot help but respond because my mind begins to slow to a stop, warning me of the time I need to take to reboot. When I take the time I need, including the time to completely discharge my emotional energies, I’m only hours or a night’s sleep from the recovery of my hope.
It’s different for others, but there are always similarities. The subconscious mind does not only have dreams through which to express itself — we bury the stresses of life and baggage of our uglier encounters only so far. We always have to deal with it eventually, and even if these things aren’t our problem, many of us are paid/called to bear others’ burdens, so these are the occupational hazards.
The theory converts nicely into practice: allow the experience of breakdown, and do not fear it, for breakdown precedes recovery and through redemption there’s hope.

There’s no shame in the depressions and breakdowns common to daily life. So long as we’re honest we recover.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Forgiveness and the Purpose of Life

My earliest experiences of profound forgiveness came easily, because I saw my fault, but some of my latter experiences have been harder. They haven’t been harder because I was less to blame than other parties were. They’ve been harder because that’s the purpose of life: sanctification increases in difficulty the more we surrender dutifully before God.
Yes, that’s right. The more obedient we are, the more we’re attentive to discerning and doing God’s will, the deeper we’re taken in our unique cross-ward journey. No matter what or how much we suffer, we’ll still fall far short of Jesus’ suffering for us on the cross.
“They who wrestle with us strengthen our nerve, and sharpen our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”
— Edmund Burke (1729–1797)
Now in swings the purpose; of forgiveness, as a process for learning. It’s operant engagement with humility, because we cannot learn if we’re not humble, and humility must come through subjugated pride — a very hard thing if we make a big thing of it, but an easy thing to do one decision of the will at a time.
The person we must forgive (get this: biblically, there is no option), or the situation we must reconcile (because it will drive our peace and joy away otherwise) is there to strengthen our nerve. For, without it we’ll go soft, and learn nothing. That’s not the Christian journey.
Those very things that are against us are the things God has allowed to be there. Only the difficult thing — like forgiveness — is sufficiently worthy of the purpose of life, because purpose must take us deep or it feels meaningless.
Here is my favourite quote on the topic; a truth that early church Father, John Chrysostom (347–407) propounded when exegeting Romans 8:37:
“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turns their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us!”
The more someone is against us, the more God is for us through the grace of His Presence when we’re meek. Accepting the harmful overture is something that an enemy cannot reconcile. Victory is in the humble acceptance that what is, is. This humble meekness throws everyone off guard because it vanquishes the evil power they’ve deployed. Having a genuine heart of forgiveness and acceptance makes all the difference.
When life is particularly difficult we have even more access to God’s all-sufficient grace as we accept the hardship. Forgiveness in this context is central to the purpose of life, which is to learn and develop and grow and mature.
Let’s consider it a privilege when we’re exposed to conflict that causes us to need to forgive. The need to forgive causes us to stretch and mature, giving us a grand purpose.
Only as we wrestle with what feels impossible, forgiveness, do we learn something invaluable about life. God gave us the impossible to overcome, by our faith and His power.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When Love Means Safety

What language does love speak?
By what values is love defined?
Love’s values are found in being meek.
Love speaks a language that’s kind.
Self-sacrifice for others,
Is nothing about needing to be needed,
It’s about giving ourselves for our sisters and brothers,
That’s how God’s Word is heeded.
Men especially, but women too,
Lead their own by humility,
Giving the love that’s due,
Is about ending all hostility.
As a man, like so many men, I’ve so often failed the very standard I’m discussing here, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it. Our women — our wives, mothers and daughters — need our love to be spoken in the language of safety, of trustworthiness, of being meek enough to sacrifice ourselves.
Such safety is a refuge for the vulnerable; an exemplification of God’s safe love.
But it’s not only our women who need it — or us men needing something of it from our women, though we ought to outdo each other, men for women, women for men, in the doing of our love.
It’s our kids that need it, first and foremost.
If us men can love our women — our wives, mothers and daughters — then there’s a massive positive impact for our sons’ lives, too. Is there a more significant legacy to leave our sons than teaching them to respect girls and women?
Love must come first. Before rules. Before discipline. Before ‘parenting’. If love comes first the apt requisite for rules and discipline and parenting is set.
Safety means declaring a war by peace on all hostility. It’s a making of progress by the powers of love that overcome all fear and division because love never fails.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Live Like You’re Loved

Through the trials and snares and difficulties of life, when much of the time we might feel beaten down, there is an urgency in the heart, the soul desperate for God’s help, searching for a way to overcome the burden.
The heaviest burden is that of being unloved and, multitudes worse, unlovable.
Many would brashly say they never feel unloved or unlovable. Truth is we’ve felt those emotions; of abandonment; whether initiated in childhood or adulthood. Why is it that the Bible goes to great pains to say God never leaves us nor forsakes us? God knows how susceptible we are.
It’s okay. It has to be okay. It’s just the way it is.
Today is the day the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24). And today, each day, with great intention, we have the opportunity, afresh, to live like we’re loved. This is the choice to allow the truth to form up, move, and find its true home: within, dearly loved.
The truth of God’s inimitable love is known with assurance by faith; the strongest of knowledges. Nothing can rock an understanding of God bequeathing us life, in our unique bodies, replete with mind and soul and spirit, to be me and you, for the entirety of our days — and then, e t e r n i t y.
The fact of death is one proof of God’s love, that He would want us back, face-to-face with Himself, so we’re able to enjoy Him all the more; us, His beloved.
When we live like we’re loved, joy, peace, and hope are embodied within, and a humble confidence exudes our being, to live like a human being was always meant to.
When we live like we’re loved, because we’re not simply liked, God gives us love’s purpose to live that our souls ever crave.
When we live like we’re loved, God gives us love’s purpose to live, and finally our soul is content.
We will never be truly happy until we feel safe in our relationship with God. Then we live like we’re loved.
To live like we’re loved is today’s opportunity; to live in the truth like the best thing happened, because it has.
Living like we’re loved is agreeing with the narrative of God’s story. It’s not simply an opportunity, it becomes the only obligation instituted by grace, to trust and obey.
Acknowledgement to Hawk Nelson’s song by the same name.

Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Remarkable Differences Between Right and Privilege

When I first received my driver’s licence I loved to spin my wheels. Doing rollbacks and burnouts on a particular concrete pad in the industrial area of the town I lived in was a pet pastime for me and my friends. That was until the Police caught us. We were hauled off to the Station. In fear of being prosecuted, we responded well to the lecture given to us. What the policeman said that day has stuck with me ever since: “Having a driver’s licence is not a right, it’s a privilege.”
That concept has broad merit in every facet of life. There are far more privileges in life than there are rights.
Yet ‘privilege’ is a word that hasn’t had a good following of late. We hear it in the context of ‘white male privilege’ and we associate it with bad things. But there is a vast difference between the noun — ‘he belongs to a privileged class’ — and the verb — ‘she was given the privilege of partaking in…’
Here are five remarkable differences between a right and a privilege:
1.     Rights cannot reasonably be withheld, but privileges can. Many things we think of as a right are actually a privilege. And yet, rights are withheld from people when there is abuse. Rights can be abused, but privileges that are withheld are never an abuse. Perhaps that which can be withheld, but isn’t an abuse, is a privilege.
2.     Privilege cannot be earned. It can only be received or bestowed as a gift. We shouldn’t work for privileges based on earning them, as it’s the wrong motive. Rights, neither, are earned; it’s a bad and sad situation (abuse) where someone needs to earn a right. Being respected, for instance, is a right, not a privilege; we should never need to earn humane respect. When we make privilege into a right we end up in an entitlement culture. When we make a right into a privilege we end up acting inappropriately and propagate abuse.
3.     Rights are inclusive, whereas privilege is exclusive. But it’s inappropriate, and an abuse, when certain demographics of society are ascribed privilege and perquisites and other demographics are disadvantaged and dishonoured for who they are. Privileges ought to be universally attainable, and rights universally attributed.
4.     We live better when we consider every bit of life a privilege. Then gratitude is the output and joy is all ours, no matter what we don’t have. Life is not a right in the perfect sense of the word (i.e., we can’t demand to never die), but there is a right to life. If we treat life more as a privilege than as a right, we enjoy life more.
5.     Rights are about dignifying people, yet a special dignity is bestowed on the person receiving a privilege. But everyone is entitled to have their dignity respected, which is the cherished honour of being human, but privilege is some extra portion which, for the purposes of respect, should be accessible to everyone.
Privileges are discretionary and ought not to be enjoyed for who we are. Rights are non-discretionary and ought to be enjoyed by all.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Everyone’s Story Makes Them Validly Loveable

As soft drink ran down the wall of the toilet cubicle onto my foot (I was in the adjacent cubicle) I was indignantly curious who was making this vandalising mess. A can was thrown into the cubicle I was in, and it was on. I made myself ‘decent’ and opened the door challenging the two fourteen-year-old boys responsible. I told the boy who had made the mess that he better get started in cleaning it up as I challenged their disrespectful behaviour, telling them that imagine being the cleaner cleaning their mess us if they didn’t clean it up themselves — that wouldn’t be fair.
But God laid something on my heart for these two. They seemed to respond to my chastising them, even if they did mock me a little, which I laughed at.
Later it came to pass that one of them had a story, so I asked him to share it with me. It was a sad family story of abandonment. It seemingly didn’t bother this boy that his father had abandoned him. He may have gotten used to the idea that his father had little interest in him, but I didn’t buy for one moment that he wasn’t identified by that rejection.
I then saw his earlier behaviour in context.
I saw something in this young man that lacks trust in an adult world that has betrayed him at his core. Nobody can create this distrust in a young man more than a father who abandoned him. So, he learned to take the law into own hands. If you cannot trust people you don’t allow them even a chance at being trusted.
Everyone has their story, and that story informs who they are.
People are not racist, rapist, violent, war-mongers for no reason. Paedophiles are what they are for a reason. There is always a reason.
When we see the cause-and-effect nature in people’s lives, empathy is hatched, compassion spreads it wings, and kindness soars.
When we see the inputs into people’s lives equal, more or less, their outcomes, that the inputs were outside their control, we’re suddenly much less judgmental.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Much Ado About a Name

Some of the names I have been called.
Names are important. They have the capacity to bless us or make us feel extremely vulnerable. There is great power in a name.
Think of the derogatory names you were called at school or as a child. Or, the nicknames that have stuck with you, though you despised them. Those names that stick — those names we hate — have the power to haunt us into anxious self-consciousness.
Think about the times when people have referred to you by name, or better, used your name in the sentences they use when talking with you; the use of your name conveyed interest and care for you.
I have found the following to be true: whenever I meet new people I find I can remember their name much better if I have an emotional engagement with the person. Like the girl that I met who, on the second occasion, seemed particularly devastated that I had forgotten her name. That was the last time I forgot her name. Or the boy who shared with me how he felt about being bullied. I adopted his name and his story from that day onward.
Names are the key to hearts. ‘Sticks ‘n’ stones’ was untrue. Sticks and stones may break bones, but names have the potential to break spirits. Equally, names, used appropriately, have the potential to validate the identity of and empower a person.
A person who cares for another person will take care to refer to them by name. But a person who does not care will resort to name-calling. Both usages of names have great power. Which power will we employ?

Will we commit to showing interest in and care for people by referring to them by their name?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Just Fix the Fence

Do you ever find yourself feeling foolish for resisting what you feel you could have embraced? — as a product of hindsight. I had one of these experiences recently. I loathed the thought of doing a thing, and yet, in the doing of that thing, God spoke through it powerfully.
My youngest daughter had a car accident with a fence. She was upset that she had damaged her car, but there was this fence damage, and I’m better with fixing fences than her mother is.
We went to Bunnings and selected the materials we needed to complete the job, loaded the trailer, and gave ‘Reg’ a call on the way. Mentioning what materials we had just bought, Reg (who I’d not met before) promptly said, “There’s two rails that are damaged, too; they’ll need replacing.” There was silence on my end of the line. We would need to make another trip to Bunnings! I was not impressed, but I have learned to say nothing at times when my blood’s boiling. Reg responded in an unexpectedly kind way. It helped. We arrived and looked at what extra things we needed. As we left to go back to Bunnings for the extra items, Reg said to me, “Bless you.”
“Bless you.” This guy’s a believer I thought. So, I asked. He was. We spoke for a few more minutes, then I prayed, for him and I. I prayed a penitent prayer, that I had not seen this work as Kingdom work. It was obviously kingdom work. Reg needed a hand to do this job, because he doesn’t have the capacity to do a job like this. Reg, a community elder on The Crucible Project, was so thankful, yet we were there simply to reconcile matters through restitution.
God knew what Reg needed. He knew what I needed.
Fixing the fence was challenging work, but it was not without its reward. Reg and I enjoyed some godly fellowship. It was a difficult job that nearly defeated us both at one point, but we finished the repairs in less than a few hours.
Sometimes God wants us to get on with the work right in front of us. As we do that, in faith, He shows up in unexpected ways.
For me, I simply needed to get on with fixing the fence. I wasn’t until I engaged in the work that God in the work began to bless me.
All because He put Reg on my path.