What It's About

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

4 Ways to Mental Health

Mental health can be described as:
“... a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
—World Health Organization
Besides this rather succinct definition, we all have our times of madness—where our mental health runs astray. We don’t have to be neurotic or psychotic to have mental health challenges. This is good news as it makes us feel less isolated when parts of our lives don’t go according to the plans we have of them and we respond poorly.
These following are four areas of focus to promote our mental health.
1. Actualising Our Abilities
We all need to feel capable to do things. Having a good understanding of our abilities and our capacities is a true blessing, for through such a position we have a platform for continued growth.
Our abilities are connected with our dreams. We all want to reach for the sky in some areas of our lives. Having the opportunities to actualise our abilities is what we all richly desire.
Let us be courageous enough to chase those dreams.
2. Coping with the Stresses of Life
Stressors come in all shapes and forms, and there is a time for every one of them.
If good mental health is about coping with the normal stresses of life, we are allowed times when we do not cope—when there are stresses abnormal to life.
Our ordinary goal in this area should be to build resilience. The ability to bounce back upon setbacks will characterise us as able to cope with the normal stresses. But because stress is an abstract concept we shouldn’t get too hung up about coping and not coping, what we can endure and what we can’t.
Instead, we cope the best we can. We allow God’s grace to permeate our lives.
3. Achieving Purpose in Our Vocation
Many, many people in our world live for a purpose that pivots on their vocation. When we work and we gain meaning for our work and we can see we are productive, and our work bears fruit, we gain a great deal of satisfaction.
This proves that work—paid or unpaid—is a blessing.
Our identities are sewn into our vocations. When we are dissatisfied with our work it may have an eventual impact on our mental health. Vocational dissatisfaction will place our identities in crisis. The way to better mental health is to create alignment.
We need work that satisfies us.
4. Contributing to Our Community
Volunteering is a healthy trend in most areas of the world today. Contributing within our communities not only aids others, there is a personal payoff too.
But still too many people are isolated, safely cocooned in their own lives. Having no outlet of contribution within the community is one mode of mental health starvation. This is one reason why belonging within a church framework is good. Church more often than not facilitates work that might be done in the community.
Sound mental health is of prime concern to all of us. There are four things we can do to nurture our mental health: 1) utilise our abilities; 2) cope with stress; 3) gain meaning from our work; and, 4) make a contribution to our community.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Daily Commitment to Forgive

The commitment to forgive; once and for all.
This eight-worded statement is about the biggest challenge any human being could set themselves. In a world of relationships and transgressions we hurt and are hurt. On a daily basis, within our families, in our workplaces, on the roads, and anywhere we are conscious and interact with other people, we are instinctively tempted to react.
Within the total realm of conflict the highest test is forgiveness.
And it’s one thing to pass with a 50 percent grade—to eventually forgive. It’s entirely another thing to receive a High Distinction in forgiveness by determining grace in the moment of the transgression. When we pass with such distinction the commitment to forgive, once and for all, has found daily operant traction.
Is There Anything More Important in Relationships?
We are destined for misunderstanding. We are on a collision course for conflict. We have the habit of being selfish in our relationships with others. We will fail time and again. We say stupid things. And we don’t mean everything we say; but we say it anyway. In a world where our word is our bond and our deed there is no catering for the psychological frailties of human communication. We expect others to be perfect, yet we cannot remember the last time we were.
Forgiveness is the necessary reparation for these and many more.
The art of forgiveness is extending copious portions of faith-enfolded grace. When we separate the issue from the person we find we can forgive and we have the freedom to disagree. What they say and how they say it we resolve to forgive. They cannot know how it hurts us. Yet if they do know, we can feel sorry for them—that they are consumed by hate. Is there a worse curse?
Of course, there are very real and practical issues in forgiving people and trusting them again, even if that trust simply means looking them in the eye without issue.
Forgiveness must start from us. When we make the resolve, our daily commitment to forgive, we execute a fundamental relational faith-task. We don’t know how it will go. To forgive is to risk. It may very well backfire. But we know, eventually, in our obedience to God’s command, our risk to forgive will pay off.
Forgiveness must be a daily recommitment if it is to work at all. And because forgiveness pivots at the centre of our Gospel there is nothing more important than to forgive. Instantaneous forgiveness is the grandest of all loves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Spirituality of Primary and Secondary Emotions

“When you are disturbed [angry], do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.”
~Psalm 4:4 (NRSV)
Ever lost complete control of the moment and not known why?  If you answered yes you’re just admitting being human.  This is the expression of secondary emotions.  In this case, anger was experienced because the truer emotion was denied somehow.
Spirituality and Emotion
Spirituality is the matter of integrity between ourselves and God.
We can consider that without spirituality there is nothing pertinent to life, for it gives all of life its meaning.  The spirituality of the emotions, then, is about facing the fact that at times we’re honest about how we feel and other times we’re dishonest—perhaps out of fear, embarrassment or discomfort.
Emotions, and how they’re dealt with, say a lot about how vibrant our spirituality is.  Therefore, there’s a salient connection between emotional intelligence and spirituality.  Both surround honesty—with ourselves, others and God.
Then Comes Life
Situations in life have their way of mussing our emotions.  Even the most emotionally intelligent of people grapple.
Life presents stimuli which we see as threats.  These are realities that bear unwanted consequences.  No matter how much we rationalise these things in our higher minds, our hearts feel a certain way about them—it’s innate.  Little can be done to change how we feel deep at heart.
But, we are not defenceless. This is the point.
Responding to the Challenging Situation
So, we have a time in mind when a challenge to our emotions was experienced; one we desperately wanted to respond well about.  The mind quelled the heart, but the heart still felt anxious.
The primary emotion is to do what the psalmist said: ponder and be silent.
We don’t try and fix something that, for our hearts, cannot be fixed.  It is what it is.  The primary emotion, therefore, has us feeling the full force of the emotion and being up for it.  In courage is truth—there is nothing to be feared, because this is just us facing ourselves.  It’s God placing a mirror before our faces.  This is Divine revelation—a miraculous gift.
The secondary emotion comes through when we deny our basic truth—when we deny the mirror.  Life is made tricky because our default is to bypass the clean and effective primary emotion for the secondary, fake emotion—the devil’s tool since the fall of humanity.
Anger is the classic secondary response; hardly ever is anger a primary (good/true) emotion. It can be, say in grief or in indignation, but most times it’s not.
The spirituality of this issue again rebounds in truth.
God gives us ways of properly meeting every life situation.  Nothing is beyond us if we deal in primary emotions.  This is part of the essence of our spirituality, a key to our relationships with others, and central to how we relate with the Spirit of God.
We can face anything.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Faith In Forgiveness

I’m not sure if any of us doubt that sometimes it takes a great deal of emotional strength to forgive, besides times when God miraculously graces us with that power.
I would suggest that that strength is faith.
Faith, as an action-oriented word, requires us to go forward on our vision, on a hope which remains invisible, in this case to forgive someone for something they have done against us or someone or something we love. Such a task as faith, in the gracious realm of forgiveness, seems a big risk.
But if we don’t take that risk we can’t please God, for God is pleased when the act in faith (Hebrews 11:6). When we make the leap toward reconciliation, even if that doesn’t transpire, we know we have done our bit. We have extended our grace. And reconciliation is not cut off because of us.
This is the faith in forgiveness—to go ahead in seeking a settlement without needing the other person to make a move. This takes the magnificence of sacrificial courage.
The Basis of Our Faith
Faith seems hard at this point. It seems action-oriented against the backdrop of an invisible hope. It’s not an attractive option given that most of the faithless seem to get their own way.
But we forget the basis of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t envisage our action being done for anyone but Jesus. When we obey God, by acting for the audience of One in this way, we find that the faith to forgive is much easier.
It’s no good that we make life harder for ourselves than it needs to be.
We too easily forget to run our forgiveness through the filter of grace, so the bitter dregs will be left behind. We can only do this through a conscious submission before God.
Faith and God go hand in hand. We cannot show true faith—that which is ‘good’ and etched in truth—unless we draw upon God’s power and that requires us to surrender our power.
When we remember the basis of our faith, our faith is easier to practice. It is impossible otherwise. Faith cannot work without God.
The secret to a good life is faith. Faith and God go hand in hand. Therefore, if we wish to have the good life, a forgiving life, we need faith and we need God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Forgiveness Beyond Bitter Betrayal

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
—William Blake (1757–1857)
Trust; to trust or not trust; to believe someone we’ve trusted who has betrayed us—our confidence, our mutual understanding, our relationship.
These are some of the worst moments of our lives.
Human relationships are synonymous for miscommunication, yet it takes a moral miscommunication to cause the true upsets. It’s when it seems people deliberately transgress us that we are thrown into convolutions of bitterness because of the betrayal.
“How could so-and-so do such a thing?”
Not many of us will leap to logical explanations in the bristling moment. But with an hour or two or a day we have better perspective. Or we don’t—sometimes we replay the betrayal over and over again. And bitterness kindles and builds, as it begins to burn inside of us.
If there is sustaining mutual respect within our closest relationships a quick meeting of the hearts and minds ensues and trust and intimacy are actually grown through the conflict. But this takes two people in mature mindsets, and with similar high desires of the relationship, to achieve it.
The Implications of Forgiveness and Non-Forgiveness
When we forgive we afford our relationships the opportunity of a fresh start and even heightened trust, respect, and intimacy. We are 50% of the solution. Most academic examinations have 50% as the pass mark. 50% is not a bad start. Furthermore, we have absolute control over that 50% of the relational input. It’s a big say over the output.
But when we refuse to forgive—because we are also 50% of the problem—not only is the relationship destined to sputter and stall, we hurt ourselves. God has made love in a way that when we refuse to love we hurt most ourselves. This is why it’s by far better to forgive even if the other party won’t. By forgiving we have relieved ourselves, to most extents, of the inner turmoil that bitterness produces.
We find God doing wonderful things in our hearts regarding this relational situation as the days unfold. And we may find their bitterness consuming them. God will ask us to pray for them, and as we pray we find ourselves praying truly for their release—for their release, not ours.
The implications of forgiveness are vast. We are blessed spiritually as our minds are freed and our hearts are healed. And though forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean trust, we begin to be more open to trust, if it’s deserved, because our hearts have been mended, and we feel strong enough to love again.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Consultation, Communication, Compromise

Relatedness is something we cannot get away from in our world. Those who successfully relate with people, situations, and their environments have the most success in life. Much of this success relies upon these three C’s: consultation, communication, and compromise.
When we effectively consult, our communication is enhanced and relational compromise is therefore possible. Where we forget or choose not to consult our communication is fraught with active failure, because the vital relational compromises are not known or made.
I was reminded of this recently. Having drafted an eloquent bulk e-mail, without consulting my wife where she would have helped, I sent it in good faith—but the action was ill-advised. It wasn’t the right time or medium to use. I wasn’t in the right place to send it. And the message could have been tidied up with consultation. Most importantly, consultation would have been a good check on the overall appropriateness of the message.
One of the eternal lessons of life is the necessity to consult as a precursor to effective communication, which will then allow important relational compromises to be made, because we are aware of needs.
The Actual Science and Benefits of Consultation
Effectual consultation is perhaps the crown jewel of relationships. It is the golden ring for the maintenance of trust; it’s the clarity, cut, carat, and colour of respect; the glittering solitaire making up rapport.
Consultation is always about the other party; about understanding them and establishing their needs, which provides for the overall success of ventures. It’s no good getting what we want it doesn’t fit with others’ sight for things, expectations and needs.
When we know others’ needs, and we have their insight and wisdom, we make better decisions. Our decisions are more inclusive and much more workable.
Consultation may not be much more than an inquisitive desire to discover what lies unknown to us underneath. We cannot see everything. When we consult we think less arrogantly and ignorantly. Consultation is proof of relational humility. It’s a sign of wisdom that we don’t know all of the steps we need to take, how to take them, and when to take them.
Wherever we implement the curiosity of consultation we have better results in life—in our relationships, environments, and living situations.
With less conflict in our lives we live happier and more content. Peace becomes us because our world is in harmony. We know where we stand and so do the people we relate with.
Consultation is the masterstroke of communication because it achieves important compromises. When we consult, trust, respect, and rapport are victors. Everyone is happier when consideration finds its legs in consultation.
When we have a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ we have a desire to consult because his love motivates us. We see a bigger world and we want better outcomes for all.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, August 24, 2012

3 Models of Christian Mentoring

For those interested in growth over the lifespan there can be no better aid, notwithstanding a relationship with Jesus Christ, than mentoring. When we consider that we either grow or regress in life, it pays to plan for growth. Growth is true success. But growth is such an abstract concept.
Because it is impossible to chart our progress, mentoring helps simply chart the journey. It makes nothing of measuring the immeasurable. It works on the observable, on opportunities for strengthening our strengths, and on honing what is identified by the person being mentored as problematic.
Mentoring combines the assistance of a discipler, spiritual guide, coach, counsellor, teacher, sponsor, and hero. And these roles can be combined into three modes of mentoring: intensive, occasional, and passive.
1. Intensive Mentoring
This concentrated variety of mentoring encompasses the roles of discipler, spiritual guide, and coach. This intensive process involves equipping those being mentored with the basics for following Christ, engaging them for accountability and for the provision of direction and insight, and for motivation and skill development.
The style of mentoring is likely to be frequent, targeted, and possibly directive. This is the most deliberate style of mentoring. We can imagine those involved in this mentoring meeting fortnightly.
2. Occasional Mentoring
With less directive mentoring the roles of counsellor, teacher, and sponsor come into effect. What is less directive is less deliberate. The mentor under this regime is more of a wise friend than an accountability partner, though wise friends will always step into the breach.
The counsellor provides the subtleties of timely advice and correct perspectives on views of self and others, circumstances, and ministry. The teacher will help with knowledge and understanding in a particular subject. The sponsor provides career guidance and protection as the person being mentored moves through organisational strata.
Being less directive and less deliberate, those engaged in this mentoring would meet 4-6 weekly. It is intentionally a hands-off process and it’s typically driven by the person being mentored.
3. Passive Mentoring
Role models or heroes best suit the idea of the mentor in passive mentoring.
This usually involves no relationship at all, as the ‘mentor’ is a contemporary or historical figure we simply admire, observe, and try to be like. We emulate what they do and teach by reading what they wrote or listening to what they say or said. This sort of mentoring has influenced every single one of us. Every one of us has had a hero we looked up to.
Growth is our opportunity to advance in the faith, enabling us to love and serve others better, to live more hopefully, and to worship God more fully. Mentoring is central to growth. It is a very wise and godly thing to come under the charge of good mentoring.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Paul D. Stanley & J. Robert Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1992). The three models proposed above are sourced from this text.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Grasping the 2 Biggest Realities of Life

“Sin’s not a minor moral problem to be dealt with. It is the unmitigated disaster of our lives and for it there’s God’s amazing grace.”
—Paul David Tripp
Whenever we take a good look at ourselves in the mirror, going beyond superficiality in an attempt to relate with ourselves, we detect the shadow looking back at us.
Are they really my eyes? Is that really me looking back at me?
For what seems to be a strange pastime, looking into a mirror intently, we can quickly prove to ourselves we have a lot to learn about something as basic as our very self.
The incongruence between us and ourselves is a reality we can do nothing about—not with lasting effect, at least. This incongruence points us to a problem; one we all have.
We cannot relate well with ourselves unless we understand ourselves in the light of the two biggest realities of life. These are represented in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One reality has us grounded in the boggy mire, connecting with our brokenness. The other reality, once our groundedness has taken root and been established, is ascending on the back of God’s amazing grace.
One reality connects us with our shame—which we all have; which we should never forget—whilst the other liberates us from that selfsame shame.
One reality suggests that we are sinners who need saving, whilst the other reality is that very saving act.
One reality is home to the messiness of life in all its putrid glory, and the other is about knowing true life beyond the muckiness, but in the mix of the muckiness.
The reality of the Cross is an insult to the majority—an inconvenient truth—and a beautiful symphony of love to the minority. The reality of the Resurrection—an equally inconvenient truth—is life for some, when it should be life for all.
As vast as the east is to the west, as heaven is to hell, as night is to day, and as black is to white, there is the sin of humankind and the grace of God.
The more we focus on the Cross, understanding the full significance of our need of God because of our sinful natures, the more the Resurrection opens up to us in the full light of power for an abundant life.
The more we understand the vast divide between our sin and God’s righteousness, the reason for the Cross and the Resurrection, the more we will be awestruck at the mere conception of God in our minds; the more our hearts will expand and grow into the Godhead.
The two biggest realities of life are death and life. Only in dying now to the selfish life can we claim the regenerate life for what’s best ahead. Only when we are renewed, living true life, are we ready to die.
Our most important object: to be ready to die.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Depersonalising Our Private Wounds

It would be a gross underestimation to imagine any of us making light of our deepest spiritual wounds. Whether we are patently aware, lost in denial or any position between, our woundedness—our shame—clings deeply, personally. It stings when scratched.
The problem is, for healing to take place—and we all need it—these wounds of ours need to be exposed and expanded upon. This is best done by lifting them beyond our personal experience.
Our vulnerability is the problem. Not many of us embrace such vulnerability. Lavishing embarrassment upon ourselves is nobody’s desired pastime.
Yet our core wounding has weight about it; it’s significant, it’s in our life, but finally, it is also woven into the narrative of life. Our wounding is more connected to others’ wounding than we realise. Our shame, our guilt, our anxieties, our embarrassments; they are more common than we contemplate.
Contemplating Our Shadows
Underlying much of our wounding is shame. When we dig down and beneath many of our presenting psychological pathologies—beneath guilt, for instance—there it is: shame.
We take an intrusive look into the mirror, to gain a glimpse of who we really are, and we wonder who is looking back at us. Do we know this person? Is this person looking back at me safe to be around? Can I trust him/her?
Our incongruity with ourselves, as seen through our psyche when we attempt to connect with that person looking back at us from the mirror, is clear. This is a common phenomenon.
As the Jungians have it, we could see our reflection from the mirror as symbolic of a shadow; a part of ourselves we are yet to fully understand. As nobody truly knows God, in and out, nobody truly knows themselves to the point of complete congruence.
This is part of the mystery of life: self-discovery. Yet we discover much more of ourselves as we observe others.
Depersonalising the Shame
When we can see life as limited through another person’s eyes, we understand that limitations are inclusive of life. Limitations, brokenness, and woundedness are common to the human experience.
When we understand there is nothing new under the sun—as the Teacher of Ecclesiastes puts it—we come around to the fact that our wounds are not a lot different—and indeed may even be the same—as others’ wounds.
This is liberating, for the shame we experience has been depersonalised. We may then contemplate glorying in such shame. From there is made a short leap to healing. And from there is our licence to be an operative for God: from out of our wound!
Embracing our wounds is central to our healing.
When we depersonalise our wounding, seeing how common our wounding is, we have access to healing truth. We are all wounded. This achieved, our wounds liberate us and power our passion toward service for God. We serve best out of our woundedness.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Encouragement From the God of Ages

We all need a spark of encouragement from time to time. And the truth is life, no matter how big it is, cannot deliver the type of encouragement we often need. There are not always the encouragers about, ready and willing to pick us up in our heap.
But encouragement from the God of Ages comes in this knowledge:
In comparison with the size of all things, and the significance in all things, and the state of all things, God is incomparable. In comparison to happiness and sadness, abuse and neglect, anxiety and loss, celebration and humiliation, there is no comparison when we compare God with all things. The Lord of glory, the King of Kings, the Saviour of the world, is incomparably mightier than our biggest of problems, challenges, and losses.
The trouble is we forget. We have bad memories.
Taking a Look at the Stars and Quarks
If we were to take 2 minutes and 34 seconds to contemplate the size of things, we would get a better gauge for the size of our problems. Our challenges, whilst they may be seen in proportion, are just as important to God as they are to us.
When we take a look at the stars, imagining the concept of size, and we recognise that God made all this, yet he stoops to remain interested in our losses, we understand a little more just how amazing God is.
The stars remind us how precious we are, that we, bodies no less significant than the greatest of heavenly stars, were created by a loving God.
Now imagine size at the opposite end of the scale; one of the smallest particles of matter is the quark. Our bodies are made of trillions of quarks—on a similar (almost-ballpark) scale to the number of stars in the universe.
God, the greatest engineer of all, the God of Ages who has strung creation from eternity to eternity, has all things in his hands—and, he loves us.
Our Problems in Perspective
God never underestimates the size of our problems. All of them are serious issues to the Lord. But put into perspective our problems transform in a moment. And whilst we might not be able to maintain this perspective we can draw encouragement from God anytime we wish. He cares!—even when others don’t.
This encouragement comes from the knowledge that we, along with every other created thing, have unique relevance and significance to the God of Ages.
Then we read our Bibles, hearing God’s Spirit say,
“Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you...”
—Isaiah 43:4a,b (NRSV)
God loves us. The Grand Designer and Engineer of the Universe has each of our lives safely in his hands. Despite our problems, pressures and pains we are loved. There is no better encouragement.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.