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

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Truth of True Friendship

“True friendship is never serene.”
— Marquise de Sevigne
As we are rarely at unison with ourselves, and as we are often even slightly at odds with one another in marriage, true friendship is no bed of roses.
Proverbs speaks a lot about this rare ability for friendship to extract the best out of us. Iron sharpens iron (27:17); and, wounds from a friend can be trusted (27:6).
True friends are not bashful in telling us how it is; they do speak the truth in love. If we are safe within ourselves, beyond feeling vulnerable initially, we’ll appreciate the risks-of-intimacy they take; the candour of their care. They would not speak so candidly if they didn’t care.
True Friendship – A Relationship That Withstands the Years
As a weather-beaten fence attests to the quality of a decent whitewash, our friendships also attest to their ability to withstand conflict and move on beyond it.
A friendship that lasts and lasts, enduring decades, till death does it part, is not only a blessing to both, but also it’s a testimony to the maturity in both individuals; to their tenacity to get through conflict; to their commitment to follow-up; to their energy in investing in the relationship.
True friendship can withstand more than other more tenuous relationships. True friendships reward courage and they give good value for honesty. We can afford to sow in integrity, and when integrity is important to us, it’s fantastic to be free to be our authentic selves. Friendship like this is an extension of the comfort we can have in being with ourselves.
Being Patient Through the Tough Times
Friendships are a joy when they are going swimmingly, but when two are opposed, understanding fractures, and trust is at jeopardy. All the more important at those times is respect to not burn our bridges.
All friendships will be tested. And the test will be the test of the strength of the relationship. If the friendship is truly important we’ll find ways of making concessions or we’ll find ways to negotiate our way out of trouble. We won’t give up. Yet we won’t also sacrifice our sensible needs with a friend who won’t respect the mutuality of needs—what the relationship deserves. Friendship runs both ways in general equality.
A good friendship is God’s blessing. But true friendships test our maturity and resolve, because true friends are not afraid to speak the truth in love.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Alcohol and Pregnancy: A Toxic Combination

“[Drinking in pregnancy] is a lot of fate to play with for the sake of a moment’s relaxation.”
— Michael Dorris
About 50% of women drink alcohol at some point during their pregnancies. For some of these women, alcoholism will be the scourge that defines their baby’s lives in many and varied negative ways—their babies may develop some form of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); producing irreversible damage in the baby.
Yet, a pregnant mother needn’t be alcoholic to cause damage in her unborn baby—or even drink much during pregnancy. She may only drink a handful of times and only have a handful of drinks. Yes, even a 5 x 5 approach may be all it takes, perhaps less.
There’s still not enough known regarding the threshold amounts for ‘safe’ intake, or the stages of pregnancy the damage is caused, to mandate an allowable amount of alcohol.
But we are to be cautioned in discussing this topic so as to not entrap women in journeys toward guilt and condemnation for having consumed alcohol during pregnancy. My mother smoked through her pregnancies, for instance. We should not feel guilty for what we only now know.
Dealing with Practical Issues of Living
In Western culture it’s quite normal to drink. Some, indeed many, drink to cope with the strain of life. Many of us can identify—life is inherently stressful.
Alcohol is often deemed as the best choice, or preferred, coping medium when forms of resilience require hard work to develop. And given that, culturally, we are more estranged to resilience than we are to using alcohol we will battle to change our culture.
But we must promote a message of nil alcohol for pregnant women.
Now, that leaves us with a quandary; particularly for women who use alcohol or those predisposed toward depression and other mental illnesses.
It’s clear that our pregnant women need support, love, and outlets for expression during their pregnancies. Sometimes pregnancies are unwanted, and at many other times mothers-to-be may harbour much doubt regarding the future, notwithstanding how much they may want their babies. There are also social reasons to drink. There are a myriad of other issues, too extensive to mention here.
Pregnant women, therefore, need loving support such that baby’s gestation would be a positive alcohol-free experience, or as positive as possible. This is not a real-world reality, however, for many women. More is the pity, then, that some will be driven to drink.
Alcohol and pregnancy just do not mix; even moderate drinking has produced irreversible Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The community has a responsibility to support pregnant women in their choice to abstain from drinking during pregnancy, as we, too, have a personal responsibility.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Learning to Love Being Where You Hate Being

With only a few exceptions it is possible to develop in our journey with God from the position we despise to a position of love and appreciation for the same situation.
The sceptic must be catered for, however. The sceptic will scoff. They will dismiss it out of hand. You may be the sceptic. But consider the advantages of doing something, quite impossible, through the power of God, to transform a seemingly impossible situation to your benefit.
What is there to lose in trying?
Only where we have been where we hate being can we appreciate the need for transformation, where our situations would encounter a metamorphosis so we could see them through.
Only where we have been somewhere intolerable, where anxiousness took its toll on the rest of our lives, and where we may have no other choice but to stay, will we begin to appreciate the need to make the situation better.
What Opportunities Is God Providing In the Hellish Situation?
With some breathing space for contemplation, where we may foresee the purposes of God out of what seems hellish, we are able to conjure some plans for adapting.
As we improvise within our present despicable circumstance, and consider all our options for adapting, we encourage the innovative juices of our creativity to get to work; to pave the way of the way out.
But the way out is not out. The way out is a paradox. The way out may not be to find a way out, but to find a way of loving a situation we have grown to hate. What sounds ridiculous is possible with God.
How are we to do this? Well, there must be some foundation for compassion, for empathy, for patience, and for growth. No matter how patronising or scurrilous people may be, they are loved by God, and God wants us to believe in them and to see beyond their manifest atrociousness. Or, maybe we feel we have a vacuum of purpose and our loathing of the situation is due to a complete lack of stimuli.
God never leaves us in situations like this without giving us opportunities to glorify his Kingdom. Our Lord never wastes our time. Neither is anything within our lives unintentional.
As Job experienced, the depth and length of our horrendous situations may resemble the abyss and a season so long we tire into a disfiguring fatigue. But God will see us through, if we don’t give up.
The victory out of all this is enduring the duration, one humbling opportunity at a time.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: an obvious exception regarding the target of this article is familial abuse or rampant neglect. These situations we should hate, and do what we can to make a better life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Not Waving But Drowning (In Depression)

“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought,
And not waving but drowning.”
— Stevie Smith, Not Waving But Drowning
The state of depression is a tantalisingly near but ever-so-stark disconnectedness from our world, where we grapple alone with the demons-of-mind within. We may be languishing in the deep, but the safety of shore is still possibly there to be seen. And from the beach there are people who see us, though rarely will they identify with our desperation. When we are depressed our perception of the world is that it’s uncaring. How could it possibly know how we are feeling? How could they possibly help when we don’t know how to help ourselves?
These are some of the dilemmas of the depressed.
Images and States of Disconnectedness
In depression so often the physical reality betrays the spiritual reality. What we see doesn’t align with what we feel. We notice the fun and merriment in life, but we can hardly experience it. Others’ experience betrays us. And this sense of disconnectedness estranges us ever more to those who might like to help, but feel patently useless because of our indifference.
They may often try to cheer us; their inner anxiety speaking about a situation they cannot control—they want to help, but cannot.
But then there are the people who have no empathy. Possibly they’ve never been scourged by the Black Dog. Possibly they have cares of their own to deal with. Possibly they have no capacity to care. Most probably we feel evermore disconnected.
When we feel as though we are drowning, where somehow the world sees us waving, this disconnectedness is profound. It makes the scenario of depression a whole lot worse. These are, many times, the activators of suicide.
Turning Home Toward a Hope of a Closer Shore
In a depression we just want the strength to swim, even slowly, towards the shore of hope. All we want is dry land and safe footing with which to rest and contemplate; to be at peace.
Turning home toward a hope of a closer shore is truly about connectedness—with our world and with the people in our world. When hope turns north, fear turns south, and we can begin to look forward again.
Depression is like struggling helplessly in the surf. We may look like we’re waving, but in fact we’re drowning. We’re desperate for connection—for the love in reconnection.
We should reach out to the depressed, understand them, and do whatever we can to help them to shore.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Human Beings Being Human

The fact of being human means we’re so capable of forgetting what being human entails, as we’re just so capable of being errantly human within our human beings. There is nothing so common as human beings being human. What more reason do we need for the compassion of grace than that?
The key fact of life so far as ‘human beings being human’ is concerned is that the broken bring up the broken; the blind lead the blind; two wrongs don’t make one right.
The only hope that humanity has against the incomparable backdrop of despair—the broken state of human beings being human—is the grace of God, known relationally through the extension of forgiveness of one to another.
Only in forgiveness is there the abiding sense of commitment toward compassion.
The Compassion in Forgiveness
To understand the brokenness in human beings being human: this is our role as compassionate human beings under God.
In such an understanding we comprehend the colossal chasm between God—who is perfect in divinity—and our humanness—for our fundamental lack of all-inclusive moral reasonability, rationality, and logic.
We only have to know ourselves personally, as we detect our own falsity and fallibility, to know how the next person is situated. Our moral position is highly compromised, and always will be.
Given 1) our lack, and yet, 2) the sheer perfection of grace, we hold both truths in tension.
The certainty in us hurting others, and the certainty in God providing the way for healing, means that compassion toward forgiveness is the key.
As human beings we’re all different, yet strangely we’re all very much the same.
As we imagine how we recoil from hurt, by various forms of anger, we suddenly understand where other people are at when they are hurt. And yet there are many worse off; many who have not been graced by the privilege of a loving upbringing; those who are challenged all the more by grace, compassion, and forgiveness.
We are highly impressionable. We have become who we are according to how we have been brought up. We are objects of our experience. And so how can anybody truly empathise with another person other than God? Yet, we’re called to understand—to experience grace, to draw upon compassion, and to extend forgiveness.
Our only hope for understanding is to invest, via faith, in the compassion of forgiveness, because of our imperfections.
We draw benefit in the perfection of God’s healing when we submit to the truth: we need compassion and we need to be compassionate. In cases of human beings being human we need to forgive and be forgiven.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Firing Your Narcissistic Boss

Coffee shops are the melting pot for all sorts of clientele, and recently it was a bullying boss that attracted my attention—and everyone else’s that day.
Perched in a secluded corner, sipping her latté, was this mid-20s woman, delivering edicts from her phone. She spoke so authoritatively she could be heard anywhere in the shop, let alone from within 6 yards—our proximity to each other.
“I need sales up by end of month,” “My new stock has arrived and I need to push it through,” “You need to make sure that happens,” “Don’t let morale slip,” “I need you working more overtime hours,” “I’m sorry if it doesn’t work for you; it works for the business, and that’s what you’re paid for.”
It wasn’t just the words, but the tone of the conversation would have evoked stress and anxiety in just about anyone. Many who imagine this sort of encounter can identify with something very loathsome in this, whether it’s been a personal experience or one we’ve heard of.
What we really want to do is consider how we might see justice in these situations, noting, as Christians, that we leave vengeance with God—“It is mine to avenge,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).
What Are the Ways We Can Fire Our Narcissistic Bosses?
This is an intriguing concept, one that fires the imagination for the power in resistance—a God-ordained and God-supported resistance.
These are just some of the ways we can fire our narcissistic bosses:
1.      Make a covenant to get a better job: a better job is in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t need to pay more. Even the fact of freeing our minds to consider other work is a healthy allowance we give ourselves. Making a covenant to get a better job is simply about making the promise to ourselves to look at what else is on the market.
2.      Study for a new career: this is about being prepared to work toward something that improves our prospects for vocational happiness. If only we can connect with the things that really drive and inspire us; the things that have always brought us to life.
3.      Wait for the boss to fall on their sword: sometimes, particularly for the worst bosses, the organisation discovers the effect of their narcissism and moves them on, although many organisations are just as equally narcissistic.
4.      Switch off from work: we work quarter of our weekly lives. That means three quarters of our time should not be spent fretting about an enemy (though we are bound to be occasionally anxious—a suitable fix for which is prayer). There are ways we can all switch off from work; all it takes is the ingenuity to design and implement what works for us.
We may not see these things above as firing our bosses at all. Isn’t it just a case that we left or they left? But if we consider working for someone as a choice—the choice to put up with them or not—we are suddenly in the box seat of a more flexible perspective.
Who we work for can make working either a pleasure or a pain. The more choice we see, regarding the ability to move from unsatisfying work to more satisfying work, the better we are.
Firing the narcissistic boss is truly about mindset. Such a mindset affords us freedom, even if only within our minds, as we plan our lives forward. When we see choice we see options; and options are freedom.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

So, What’s It Like To Be You?

Imagine going to a social event and feeling like just a face in the crowd when someone comes up to greet you, introduces themselves, and invites you to share some information about yourself with them.
You begin to tell them about your work, your family, your interests, but then something unusual occurs; they don’t turn to begin to talk about themselves, they seek more information on you, because they appear genuinely interested—and there’s no hidden agenda. It’s not like they’re prying or anything—they sincerely want to know what it’s like to be you.
I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as a very odd situation, but it is something that has happened to me, and since it did, I have started to do it myself because I discovered something...
The point is this: when we throw ourselves into the practice of truly wanting to know what it’s like to be another person, God seems to do two things: 1) our anxieties, for the moment, become extinguished; and 2) we’re filled with a joy beyond our own construction.
There is also another set of social advantages: 1) we may truly get to know the other person much more intimately; 2) a bond may develop between them and us; and, 3) we prove God is real in the relational space between the two of us.
Engaging Genuinely in the Other Person
It takes a lot of joy-bounded love in our hearts to surrender our thoughts for ourselves long enough to dive into another person’s world. We would much prefer to talk about ourselves than listen to other people.
But hear this: a realm of relational blessing—a blessing of connectedness enjoyed for two—stands to be gained when we enter another person’s world. We might both gain.
Engaging genuinely in the other person is agreeing with ourselves that we are not the topic of discussion; they are.
Having made such an agreement with ourselves we are now totally consumed with interest in their world and God’s Spirit begins to show us many things we were not previously aware of. Our perceptions are sharpened. We notice things about them we wouldn’t normally have. And in all this we sense a connection probably very close to love. God blesses us with a cogent sense of wellbeing.
Entering into Relationship by Faith
This is what we are doing: we are entering into relationship by faith.
We are putting ourselves on the back-burner long enough to deal with the other person much like Jesus would. Jesus would be innately interested. If we are devoted to the idea of becoming more like Jesus, entering into relationship by faith enough to enter another person’s world will get us closer.
It’s an expression of faith.
How else are we to happily put ourselves on the back-burner, than to enquire lovingly of another? It takes faith to sow such threads of love, but in the right mind—our loving mind—we redeem joy, and the Presence of God, as well as seeing the loving bonds that are being created because the other person sees the authenticity of the Spirit through us.
God’s love is made real when we enter another person’s world with genuine interest; to understand who they are, from where they’ve come from, and why. Listening without retort or judgment is rare. But it’s even rarer when someone wants to listen, and wants to get to know us. God’s Presence is known when our love is shown.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Love – Fruit of All Spiritual Gifts

“... if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:2b (NRSV)
Fruit of the Spirit unpeels Divine Love,
Joy and peace and goodness from above,
Willingness to obey every good thing,
Joy’s in God with which to bring.
Father of Lights redeems us to bestow,
Power to envelop—insight to know,
These Spiritual gifts given from above,
Are undersigned and ignited in a thing called ‘Love’.
This is the thing. Such a great fuss is made about ‘the gifts’—the Corinthian mistake—which is outplayed in myriad order in every generation—and the point is missed. The point will always be missed when we mistake skill for love.
God’s First And Final Test
The test of God is, God saying this, ‘Can you be like Me?’
This means, are we able to, in the discharge of our gifts—faith, prophecy, wisdom, tongues, sacrifice, preaching, pastoring, teaching, etc—master the portion of love required to the correct agree. Is the gift indwelt with love? Truth, alone, is not enough.
It’s a test because it’s the most difficult thing to do. To be able to exercise our skill in a way that honours the Giver of our spiritual gifts is the requirement of this Divine order. But we are more apt to forget Divine attribution—even, sometimes, in the midst of church.
And then there are times when we do get it right. God shows us. We feel blessed. It is confirmed in the way we think and feel, both in authentic alignment, and the touch of God has been felt. We achieved love within the expression of our gift.
Remembering To Never Forget
If the aforementioned was the test of God, the test from our persons is our memory. Can we remember love is the way? Can we recall, in the moment’s need, that love is to sprinkle its anointing over the gifts of our works? Better, still, to be indebted to love; to study and to fall in love with it through compassion, patience, kindness, and its delighting in the truth.
Remembering to never forget is a poisoned chalice. We will forget. We’ll issue our spiritual gifts without the perfection of love and they won’t feel right—yet, God will allow them to rest in love—for we ‘speak’ our gifts in Divine name; the Lord will sponsor it in love making up for our deficiency. Ours is the opportunity to become reminded.
We are simply reminded when we forget, God is love, and, whilst we might pretend, we so often aren’t. This calls forth our need of God all the more.
The praise for every gift falls silent without love.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Adult Kids Not Following God?

There is a lot of guilt about, within parents’ minds and hearts, for adult children who are not presently following God. It’s almost as if many parents feel inadequate and possibly even judged within the Church community for having ‘failed’.
When I hear those parents try and justify where their kids are at, and tell me “He/she is thinking of coming back to church” I worry that the parent may have gotten the cart before the horse. They may see that getting their kids to church is more important than their relationship with them. What I want to say is, “Relax and just work on loving your kids; let them see Christ through you, which is nothing to do with quoting Bible passages, or pressuring them to go to church.”
My personal belief about adult kids not going to church is simple.
I believe we are all, individually, cosmically alone with God. What this means is, at the end of life, it is down to us as individuals with our God. We can take nothing and no one into eternity with us. And whether our children, our spouses, our mothers and fathers, our friends, etc, make it or not is not for us to get overly concerned about. Again, this is my personal view, and many will disagree. But the way I see it, my philosophy helps me to not bother about where people are at on their journey towards salvation and within the bounds of sanctification. It’s between them and God.
The last thing most people want is to be pressured to follow God.
It’s of More Worth to Work on the Relationship
As God is relational with us, we are to be relational with those who rely upon us as examples of love and truth. It’s far more important for us to be real within our relationships with our adult children than it is to spout Christian jargon and manipulate the way to get them to church.
When we are not worried about whether they will attend church or not we are freed up to just be with them, listen in to their lives, quietly encourage them, and actually become their friend; one who can coach (but remember coaches are not advisers; coaches encourage and quietly challenge when it is appropriate). If our adult kids feel genuinely loved, by being respected, they may well want to come to church, eventually.
What a legacy we have the opportunity to leave. When we, as parents and grandparents, leave this life, what will our children and grandchildren say about us; what impact will we have made as supporters and encouragers of them?
It’s more important as a parent to focus on being supporters and encouragers of our adult children than it is for us to coerce them to go to church.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Battling and Overcoming Situational Depression

Grief-induced depression, added to times of fatiguing overload to the extent of burnout, and any number of other everyday losses, ignite the source of situational depression, mimicking clinical depression.
Clinical depression is usually categorised as that having extended for at least six months, but those who have battled on and off with depression over their lives tend more to have clinical depression.
What we have here, however, is something quite different; the acquisition of situational depression comes about due to circumstances of loss via either relationships or life purpose (and in some cases both).
Exploring Situational Depression
When relationship breakdowns, burnout, job losses and other unexpected disappointments occur it’s normal to become depressed. We get pushed beyond our capacity to cope. Along with the depression comes anxiousness, even, in some cases, panic attacks. All this is normal, even for the 50-year-old who has never had any signs of mental illness before.
This black dog can ravage anyone, anytime; no one is sacrosanct. The further we think we are from depression, the easier it strikes—like pride comes before the fall.
When untenable situations occur, those we cannot reconcile, those that shift sideways suddenly, bring sharp and heinous degrees of dissonance in the heart and mind. This inner conflict becomes so perplexing we have no answer. It seems useless. And even though we are overwhelmed by our emotions and lack of capability at times, we do strive to break out of this mode. We can’t quite accept the sinkhole reality; the futility. Despite the lowness of our mental, emotional, and spiritual symmetry we find we are indebted to fight. We cannot accept that life will remain this way—it cannot and will not! But we are advised not to get too resistant.
We will still need help. We will probably need medications, some goals, and psychotherapy as part of a broad mental health plan. When we react diligently, not letting the depression get too bad, we brighten our prospects for a quicker recovery.
But alas, recovery will take longer than we think.
Overhauling the Self-Identity
Situational depression is both the highlight and stimulus for changes to the self-structure. When a significant part of us is no more we must rebuild life in order to compensate for that missing part. Our invitation is to deconstruct and then reconstruct our identities to provide for the changes that have now to come.
Overhauling the self-identity is a time-consuming process requiring patience from us. We are loath to rush things. We are best to identify the dreams hidden deep in our psyches; those things we couldn’t do before; those things we may now be better placed to do.
Instances of situational depression happen commonly due to major conflict, significant life adjustment, and via grief through losses.
Situational depressions are an opportunity to learn about our deeper selves, at times when we feel strong enough. Otherwise the opportunity is to rest, to think logically more and more, and to deal with our issues and plan for the future. Such depression is so common everyone can be expected to be affected at some point in their lives.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Joy and Blessing to Serve

If there’s one thing God is continually reminding me of it’s my pride—the self-serving willingness to pick fault in my circumstances, other people, and basically anything that can be observed. Pride is a heinous trick, blinding us to many realities of truth that are perfectly visible with a pinch of humility’s perspective.
Upon the prideful life we forget the following truth that will, every single time, liberate us to live at joy through service:
“The challenge of our day is not to rise to the top but to live faithfully among the least, because of who He is.”
— Mark Wilson
What truly qualifies us to serve?
Is it really a theological degree? Is it skills and competencies? Is it the sponsorship of a referee? Is it a calling? Perhaps it’s all these, a combination, or maybe even none.
The parental root of service, that which empowers all our capabilities, is a virtue so often spoken about, yet so rarely lived. I know this in my own life. Even small inconsequential conflicts have their way, at times, of swinging my focus off the tremendous good and onto the fleeting bad. I fixate. From this bad state, I decide a course of action. Then, suddenly, and it so often happens, God’s Spirit works miraculously within my heart to make me see the truth of matters—I’m in the wrong!
Again... again, I’m relearning about these parts of myself. When I think I’m right I’m usually wrong.
When a salient sense of humble recognition arrives, and I begin seeing the world less threateningly, all is well again, and then I’m fit to serve once more. How amazing it is that God allows us to serve, to discharge our special ministries, when we’re in scattered spiritual states. We may not be effective, but we’re still allowed.
The kingdom that is within the heart of one believer, one humble enough in his or her moment to recognise where Jesus would be, compels that one believer to do cheerfully the least of all. No complaint is thought or heard. They are pleased just to be involved. There are no bold dreams of leading and having followers. They have no glued aspirations to be the next Rob Bell or John Piper or Rick Warren.
Yet, there is the humble recognition, from within myself, as I muse upon the humility of believers who, every day with barely an exception, do such simple tasks, receive no thanks, and are pleased to do what they can despite their challenges. These are better than I; a person so dependent on recognition; a person so sometimes very critical.
But the facts of my reflections are not the end; they solemnly reflect the grace in God to allow complaint before the Holy Spirit’s gentle facilitation of humility through the revelatory agency of truth.
God is kind in revealing our pride gently to us.
Called to serve—the feeling of youth,
But feelings surmount and threaten the truth,
At this the Spirit takes us aside,
All in order to quash our pride.
Humility speaks as a primal dirge,
Dealing with pride’s flesh-felt urge,
Promising to work gently within,
The Holy Spirit deals with our sin.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.