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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why Your Mental Illness Struggle is Inspiring

Dear Fred,
Your mental illness struggle is inspiring. I know you will disagree, but I hope you will read this and come to understand that you really are an inspiration.
I see the efforts you make just to function. I know the risks you have to take, the faith you must show, simply to do what many people take for granted. Daily things that seem easy to so many. The fact that you do these things when you’re feeling so empty, afraid, and de-energised is inspiring.
The strength you show in your weakness, to share so honestly when you can; I find that amazing. That you can be courageous enough to be vulnerable when you’ve possibly never felt so vulnerable. I want to encourage you. Keep it up. Keep being you!
The fact that you keep showing up the best you can, even on days when you’re unable to leave the house, and especially when some days you feel hopeless and barren, says to me that you’re a fighter and not a quitter. Even if you feel like a quitter.
You have told me you often have no vision for the future, and the present looks so murky. That you keep living each day the best you can, even if it’s harder than anything you thought you’d ever face, portrays a hope in you that displays a powerful faith.
The struggles you face are sometimes so enormous, and yet you keep living the best you can.
I know that in reading these words you still won’t believe me. That’s okay. It’s my truth. That you inspire me. It’s real to me. I’m not just trying to flatter you. You of all people appreciate the truth.
I want you to know that when I thank God for people in my life, I thank Him for you, because He has used you to teach me much about resilience, faith, courage, and a never-give-up and never-say-die attitude.
I don’t pity you, but I do ask God that you’d be rewarded with freedom for the faith you show.
Keep fighting the good fight!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Homeless Indigenous Man’s Compassion

He may well be the most compassionate person I’ve ever met, because an hour with Bradley (yes, that’s his real name) further clarified my perception of compassion.
He inspired me as he shared with me his past, having been a victim of the stolen generations. Yet, truly a litany of things were stolen from him, even to the present day, and reality dawns; that will last long into the foreseeable future. Rage would certainly be understandable, and the seeking of vengeance, too. But Bradley knew there was no point to such responses of pride. He even said that he must watch his pride, for in that is fuel for the wrong decision. Bitterness begets hatred is the understanding he claimed.
In the background of his person are his ancestors, the elders of his land, and his family members. He is not one person, but the fullest representation of his people. He spoke a lot about the warrior, an-eye-for-an-eye aboriginal justice, and the potency of his people, should they wish to fight an oppression that continues today. But he said, instead, the desire for multiculturalism burned within him — to see people of all backgrounds share in an equality of dignity.
And then God showed me something important about him. I could tell he saw into people and could feel others’ pain.
Bradley showed me that compassion given makes people bigger; received it makes people better. He regularly referred to his gift, and before we finished chatting I said his gift was compassion. He heartily agreed. His compassion, for all he had personally suffered, had made him a bigger person.
Using my own metaphors, this is what Bradley taught me about compassion:
Compassion sprouts out of soil fertile with suffering, where humble responses abide.
Compassion emerges when negative responses to suffering are futile, where despair is not an option. His suffering and the suffering of his people are constant, as much as it is real. The history will never simply go away. Unless it’s embraced, it will embitter him.
Neither anger nor despair are an option, for his entire person is a nation. He cannot afford to capitulate. So, what happens when we’re forced to hope in the context of suffering?
Compassion makes us see truth with clarity, as we experience grace aboundingly. Compassion helps us see more readily others in their suffering.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From Where You Are

We’re limitless within the design of our humanity, yet we go about pretending we have no power. So focused on what burdens our mind, our heart has such little vision for inspiration, never seeing we’re powerful beyond measure from where we are.
From where you are, you have unique insight to make an inimitable contribution within the setting God has placed you.
From where you are,
only you can see what you see,
hear what you hear,
feel what you feel,
think what you think,
and only you can act as you can act.
See what you can from where you are. From where you are, hear all you can. Experience all you can, then ask, “what is this experience for? What is the purpose for which I’ve seen and heard these things?”
From where you are.
Do what you can from where you are.
From where you are, open your heart and mind outbound of your inbound perceptions.
Make of what you see and hear something positive; a worthy, innovative response, a contribution, an investment. Leave a legacy in the moment. From where you are.
Believe in your power to make change occur. Not anything. But everything within your power and control.
Not everything is within the court of our influence, but there are many things that still are. Stay in that sphere of influence, discerning what is mere concern, and do what can be done, to build into the lives of those around you.
From where you are, you are an agent, for the purposes of God, for goodwill and peace and grace.
All that we can do we can still do. Enjoy the truth in this concept and we enjoy the sense of purpose and freedom.
This is the place where our spirit joins with God’s Spirit, where we join and extend the purposes of reality.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

9 Restorative Good Relationship Moments

If we don’t think life is all about our relationships, have a think about how miserable we are when they go poorly. I want to share with you what I think are nine restorative relationship moments.
1.      Intimacy – good relationships feature intimacy, which I define as vulnerability shared courageously in the closeness of trust. Our trust empowers another to trust, and that mutual permission grants access to freedom for both we call respect.
2.      Meeting – all good relationships require a meeting. But just the same there are times when we should continue to meet when the relationship faces trials, as Hebrews says, “not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another” (10:25). We all want to back out of moments when meeting takes courage — where meeting will involve confrontation.
3.      Confrontation – none of us enjoy being confronted, and not many of us enjoy confronting, but good confrontations — where both parties feel empowered because they’re safe — is so important for relationship happiness. Confrontations implicit of love show that caring is an extension of the truth, because love ensures that the confrontation is productive. Love does not give up nor give in.
4.      Listening – no list on good relationship moments would be complete without the word listening. We see it practiced so rarely, and we may hardly experience it. But, if we can be the ones who can start by listening well enough to understand, our relationships will be all better for it. Listening properly requires great faith to leave aside our needs to serve another person’s first.
5.      Apology – I’m a big fan of Dr Gary Chapman’s five Languages of Apology, for we all speak ‘sorry’ differently. Every great relationship requires every person to apologise. Apology precipitates forgiveness.
6.      Forgiveness – such a complex subject comprising a plethora of relationship moments. Forgiveness is God’s grace, redoubled in human form.
7.      Restoration – transactions of forgiveness are fundamental to restoration.  
8.      Triumph – such a moment is only known beyond the pain of a difficulty reconciled, where both parties add the significant effort of humility to overcome their differences. There can be no triumph moment where one person exudes all the humility, and the other encamps in pride.
9.      Exemplification – as two are exemplars of these great relationship moments, a moment is created where others learn.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

5 Things to Try When Your Grief Continues to Torment You

This is a daunting article to write, for the sheer fact I’m out of my depth.
I’ve suffered sufficient loss and grief to be in the ballpark, but I’m unsure I’ll slide a run all the way home. But seeing God has given me the thought, and shown me a need to wrestle, let me attempt its resolution. 
The reason I feel a little unqualified is, though I’ve suffered ambiguous loss and some complicated grief, I’ve never had raw tormenting grief that would never go away. Like deeply depressive grief that didn’t subside after six or twelve months (which is the focus of this article).
I’ve found through both my own experience and that of others that the rawness of grief tends to last, typically, between a few months and several, but usually less than a year.
This article is for those who are windswept by paralysing grief at least fifty percent of their days, and it’s been nearly a year or over a year since the loss event.
Firstly, my heart goes out to you! Not just for your pain, but also for your loneliness and sense of betrayed isolation. Very few people, perhaps nobody you’ve encountered yet, truly understand. But what you face is true and real. You know it! You cannot reconcile what you feel. So, be gentle with yourself, and know that you know that you know: God knows and feels your pain as acutely as you do. Go gently.
Secondly, even though it’s taking a little longer to come to terms with a new normal, consider your capacity for love to be higher than that of the average person.
Try this perspective out: the person who loves the most in life, gives more of themselves than most, and feels the deepest pain in loss. The more we love, the more we lose when loss comes.
The cost of your grief is the price you paid for your love when you experienced loss. Try and be thankful for what you had without being drawn back too much into that past. If you can’t quite be thankful, I understand and appreciate your effort.
Thirdly, take deliberate impetus. Make plans, especially on good days. On a good day, soon, be ready. On horrendous days, rest and recuperate, and try not to dream up problems. But when the day comes for doing something, be ready. Be prepared to do something you’ve planned for some time to do. Don’t be afraid of doing something new that feels right to do.
Fourthly, let yourself grieve in the faith that says there’s simply more grief to be endured. This understanding believes there’s a passage to travel in grief. Grief feels as if it should be done quite some time before it is. Take courage in the hope that the majority of your grief has been suffered. And whilst you may never feel like you did, take encouragement in the reality that you’re stronger now than ever, even if you don’t feel that way.
Fifthly, take heart that there’s something very special about your loss, and that God will show you this before you’re entirely done with it. He may even show you how your life is redefined by what/who you lost. Perhaps this gift of grief, that/their memory, you’ll carry with you, a part of them/what you had, until you yourself depart.
Love feels like gain until we encounter loss. To lose is to learn the value of love.
How fickle life is that the best causes the worst, but the worst redefines and clarifies what the best really is.
It is said that the butterfly is living proof that raw beauty can come from something pitch dark.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Meditation on the Most Excellent Way

God gave the created world a most magnificent thing — a Most Excellent Way for living life. He called it “Love,” and made this unfathomable thing to be a possession within reach of all humanity and life.
This Most Excellent Way was to be possessed most by those who would possess nothing else. Those coveting nothing. In this, God showed Himself as utterly other-than the creations He created, those He created in His Very Image. They were made for this Most Excellent Way, but their way had been corrupted. Just as well, this Most Excellent Way was still accessible through the chief of God’s gifts: His Holy Spirit, given of the Father, the Giver of good and the best of all gifts, because of the Son, through His cross of redemption and resurrection of victory over the evil one.
Here is a meditation on the Most Excellent Way:
Oh Lord my God, Who created the universe most excellently through Love, and created nothing that wasn’t already “good” or “very good,” Your Most Excellent Way is Divine.
It is everything that, by nature, I am not, and yet You have gifted every lover of Good to partake in its access. And I choose for it, now. Make me ever to choose for it.
Bring it to be in my consciousness that I would conjure it, and in my conscience, that I would ever hunger and thirst for the righteousness of the Most Excellent Way.
Bring it to pass that I would be sufficiently curious to ever learn more about this Thing that You have made to be within my possession. Bring it about that I would want nothing other, because, in it, I would have every worthy thing.
Oh Love, Most Excellent Way, what if I desired You more? I’d have less fear to consume me, more peace to enjoy, less hate to resist, more kindness to offer, less envy to burden my heart, more joy to share, less pride to plunder life by savagery, more patience and contentment, less vitriol on bad days, et cetera.
You, Love, Most Excellent Way, are the wisdom of God eternal.
You make a way for all things to be made anew.
You are so far from overall reach, yet You remain accessible to the degree of our interest. As is life, You are tantalising and ever blossoming on the horizon.
Your interest is holiness, God of Love, and though we’re not holy, You love us to the extent that You believe we can become holier, which is loving, an entirely humble terminus of spirit.
What I would give to have more of You, for before You and after You and in You is life in abundance; dear, heavenly life.
So, to You, Most Excellent Way of Love, I give myself; for You I rejoice.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why I Cannot Tell You About My Mental Illness

Dear friend, thank you for your interest, but I cannot share with you, for I fear you won’t understand. You can’t possibly understand. And even if you would understand, me thinking you don’t or can’t won’t help me open up to you, nor does it ever help when I think you could be judging me without letting on.
You probably won’t understand that thinking, but there you go; you don’t understand. Even if you did understand, I couldn’t understand why you would, and I would struggle to believe you.
So you see, we have a real problem if you genuinely want me to or have an expectation that I share. And please don’t pressure me. Force makes me freeze, and I may never open up to you, if there was a chance I could, or, ever again.
You might think you’re able to help — if only I did share. As it is, in my present state, I cannot see how you could help, and even if I could see, and you were able to help, I would struggle to allow you to help me.
Please understand.
It feels impossible from in here. But, why am I seeking understanding when I don’t for one moment expect you to understand. If I think it’s absurd, how could I expect you to think otherwise. Yet, to help, you would need to convince me that you actually do understand. Good luck with that!
I cannot tell you what’s going on, because I’m so unsure where or how to start. I could just start, but then I would also find myself getting it wrong, and almost anything you’d say could be wrong. Even those who do help also say many unhelpful things. It’s great that they continue to try, though, but at best it’s wearying, and at worst it’s insulting. The good thing for them is they can’t tell how much some things they say hurt. But, that doesn’t help me.
I also cannot tell you where I’m at, because I doubt I have the energy. Breathing is the challenge of the minute right now. Breathing and simply holding my lamentable life together. See, it sounds like a full-blown pity party at happy hour. You don’t understand it! Well, how do you expect me to understand? I’d swap this for anything. And I know damn well there are so many who have it much worse than I; all that does is make me feel more guilty and ashamed, and deeper down the sinkhole I go.
Even if I did share it would be brief and I couldn’t give you my whole heart on the matter, because I don’t know where to find it. My identity and being seem to have become a mystery, and every effort to found myself on something true seems elusive.
So, please understand that you cannot understand, and accept where that leaves us… and suddenly you might begin to help.
The Person Struggling with Anxiety and Depression.
Being invited into the heart of a person struggling with mental illness is its own miracle. That heart is a sensitive place where listeners are welcome, but cannot ever feel at home.
Respect that.
Understand that you can’t understand, and suddenly, right there, understanding begins to emerge.
The guilt experienced by those with mental illness is part of the problem. Understand that guilt is a valid emotion, albeit unhealthy, based in the best of intentions to relate in love; to own one’s incapacity. Understand that the mind games they endure are unrelenting and exhausting.
Let this not be a discouragement to give up listening and reaching out. It serves as the opposite. Listeners, helpers and supporters much be more tenacious in their care than ever.
Don’t give up if someone says, ‘you can’t possibly understand’. You can’t, but that in itself is a helpful place to start.

When Disagreement Leads to Misunderstanding, Disappointment and Discouragement

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
― Acts 15:39 (NIV)
If there is anything that has gotten me down into the serious discouragement of depression it is the sharp sort of disagreement that occurred between Paul and Barnabas. It’s occurred to me more than once.
There is little doubt, personally, most growth can come from the area of disagreement, being misunderstood (and my misunderstanding of another), and the disappointment that leads to discouragement. And the spiral runs downward when bitter shards of contempt have urged me to disobey God’s command in the Lord’s prayer: “… as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12) So merciful is God not to look away from my sin, but to continue to ask me to reconsider. And I do, as He gives me strength. But it can be a battle.
If Paul and Barnabas, great servants of the Lord, disagreed sharply, then we, too, who love the Lord, also, will disagree sharply. Sometimes we won’t respond well. None of us like feeling like we don’t have control. We all like to be listened to and to be understood. Sometimes we have views that we cannot compromise — views we believe God put there. We tend to think we’re right, they’re wrong, they’re obstinate, and we’re the ones who make most sense. That God’s on our side. Couldn’t be on theirs.
If I’m honest, I have to consider that those I’ve had disagreements with will have felt misunderstood, disappointed, and discouraged. Because I was difficult to deal with. That they, too, have wrestled with forgiveness; of me. That they couldn’t reconcile how I thought or felt about an issue or issues. That I’m unreasonable.
I would say I’m ashamed of my actions of reaction at times. Anger has gotten the better of me on a few occasions. I’ve been a fool when there have been times in my earlier life when I would never have done that. It’s easy to think up some excuses, yet there are also times in my earlier life when I would not have done that, either. Yet, God is gracious.
Maybe it’s simply a case that we cannot work together. Disagreements can reveal this. Sometimes, but not most of the time, we can agree to disagree. Halcyon times, those.
I’m trying to learn all I can so I don’t repeat the same mistakes I’ve made. By the fear only God can put in me, I don’t want to betray a call I received over twelve years ago. How could I do that to the younger version of me who had faith enough to enter ministry with gifts to be shared for the benefit of the Body of Christ? There is this comfort, the fact I’ve made mistakes puts me in excellent biblical company, which is why the Bible is encouragement, not simply instructional, so long as learning is stowed. It’s no good to stay in the wrong.
I pray that, as Paul and Mark (who Barnabas and Paul disagreed over in the first place) reconciled, there would be sweet reconciliations ahead with those who I’ve had sharp disagreements with. God has this in hand.
The Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God is what the work of ministry is all about.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Language of Care Versus Language of Neglect

“Have you got the right money?” versus, “Do you need any change?” A significant difference in language.
As I deliver meals to homes one day a week, some meals are paid for by cash, sometimes in a postal envelope, and, whilst many have the correct amount in them, some don’t, and those people require change on the spot.
On receiving one envelope recently, instead of saying, “Do you need any change?” I said, “Is the money right?” Immediately, I knew I’d phrased that in the wrong way.
Normally I ask if the person needs change, yet in making the mistake in how I phrased the question I saw the power in how a question is put — the power to show care in an interaction, versus the power to neglect the other person.
Through a slight lack of awareness, I made a chance at a good interaction less than it could have been.
Had I said, “Do you need any change?” the lady I served would have said, “No, the money is correct already.” I would have given her the benefit of the doubt, which fits the business model of the company I drive for. They’re more interested in keeping the customer happy than for the money to be exactly right.
Instead, when saying, “Is the money right?” I’ve communicated that I may not trust her. The lady took it well, but I knew straight away that I could have had a more blessed interaction had I been careful to serve her better.
Our choice of words has the power to communicate care or neglect. Communicating carefully communicates care.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Stepping In, Stepping Out, Stepping Up, In Step Family

Joined in marriage in mature life, they sought a new vision for family, for ministry, for life, never knowing how hard it would be.
He had daughters, three beautiful creations. She had never been married before. He felt called by God, after the grief of a failed first marriage, into a ‘second chance’. He had spent three long years as a single. After a brief courtship, they were engaged and then married.
Whilst the scenario is specific to this family, the phenomenon of conflict in step families is remarkably common.
They were in their first year of marriage when his eldest daughter moved in. It was a pivotal phase in her life. She was at a crossroads in her schooling, lacking purpose and vision, but subsequently found her path. She had also been brought up in a particular way, as we all are, and she was processing much of her own stuff, bravely and painfully, considering it was only five years before that that her father and mother had separated, less than four years since they divorced. Again, she was at a pivotal age when the separation occurred, and the period since had been littered with difficulty.
She had a special relationship with her father, and their relationship was to cause marital issues, because a marriage is the uniting of flesh and spirit. The relationship the father and daughter shared was how they survived the breakdown of their family. But, there are only two partners in marriage. The couple learned this in their marriage counselling sessions. They went regularly to their counsellor for two years. The father did not want to let go of the relationship he had with his daughter. He couldn’t see the problem initially. But he did eventually see. He began to see that marriage is a oneness that is vital for the family unit to function. Some change to the relationship was inevitable.
For two whole years, family life was difficult for all three in the home. But a transition was made based on the advice and encouragement of the counsellor and the changes the couple made. Conflict seemed to be a daily challenge and crises occurred at least weekly.
The couple realised that if the wife was to have her husband’s full support, that support for the daughter regarding family issues would need to come from another loved one. It was a system that worked, thankfully, because the daughter’s new support was from a dearly loved grandmother. It wasn’t uncommon for them both to talk for an hour or more when she needed support.
The father compensated for not being his daughter’s support during family tension by regularly dating her, where she could talk about anything. With his daughter knowing she had support for certain family matters she shared anything but that with her father.
After a couple of years, the family structure had settled down. The dynamic had changed. Yes, it took that long. And this is what was learned. When step family dynamics are at their destructive height, both partners to the marriage — the parents/stepparents — must unite, and in a proactive, serving way. Through working together, they provide leadership through serving each family member and the family as a whole.
In uniting, parents in a step family must have agreed values and boundaries, and they must communicate about everything, expecting conflict to be a normal feature of family life. Agreeing on a complex array of matters takes time, effort, and much trial and error. Ongoing forgiveness is a vital commitment each adult must make, as they help the family process change. Mature adults accept that children and teens need help. They know that expecting adult behaviours is a stretch too far, but they do strive to include conflict resolution as a family journey. Nothing as far as conflict is concerned is off limits in the family dialogue, as it’s accepted that all are learning, mistakes are normal, and nothing is final.
Stepping into step family life is easy, stepping out is a constant temptation in conflict, and stepping up is hard. But when adults persevere and are patient, persisting with their long-term vision together, with a commitment to work through conflict and endure inevitable pain, step families do survive, grow, and thrive.