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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Encouraging the Encourager

They are there for us at our lowest ebb. Times when we most need the light of Christ to beckon through the only opened slit in the blinds of the windows of our hearts. When our minds are deranged or confused or just numb, they are there. When our hearts are overwhelmed with feelings we can’t deal with, or are struggling with, they are there. They are the rock we can cling to when we are fatigued, having been strewn out at sea. They tell us not what to do, but simply listen, and find sense for us in all the senselessness. They seek no credit for themselves, because it is for our benefit that they are there. They may be the most selfless people we know.
Then it comes as a surprise to us to learn that those that encourage us may often feel very discouraged themselves – you see, those with the gift of encouragement often have a shadow of being susceptible to being acutely discouraged.
What good is the encourager if they are discouraged? They are rendered useless for the Kingdom. It may seem ironic, but we need to keep the encourager encouraged. We need to ensure that we empathise within their despondency.
We need to care for the carer.
This may seem easy, but it is not, because most people just don’t think of encouraging people. So it is likely that the encourager will need to be ministered to by another of their spiritual kin – a fellow encourager.
If we have benefited at all from being built up by somebody, we have an opportunity, not so much an onus, to reciprocate. God has opened the eyes of our hearts through the ministry of one who helped us in that time of need. We might be on the lookout to help that one at their time of need, with what might make a genuine difference.
The glory of building people up is all God’s, but God ensures we, ourselves, are built up as a result. Those that encourage are often built up this way; God ministers to their soul because of the gift they have given – that sweet word or deed done at a timely convenience.
But we cannot assume all is okay. We should be prepared to intercede in our moments, to call upon God to give us vision of the person struggling in our midst that we might reach out.
Where would we be without that timely word or deed done to support us? Thankful to our encourager, we ensure that they, too, are okay – that they are understood – that they are encouraged so they can continue giving their gift away.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Shadow and Spiritual Awareness

The shadow is not the bad self, but simply the denied or rejected self, which is totally operative but allowed to work in secret — and never called to accountability from that hidden place...
What you don’t transform, you will transmit.
Post-Jungian, without a doubt, we find this truth above both reveals and shatters the ego at once. The ego – that private place within which we give protection of our sin – has no place in a spiritual development initiative.
Now, the ego is a tricky thing. It hides itself under the unique protection of our strengths. If we are humble, the ego shelters under the shade and predisposes us to pride – when our territory is threatened we become susceptible to temptation to react in pride. If we are gifted with faith, the ego undermines that strength by making us fearful when the chips are really down. If encouragement is our forté, the ego will ensure we feel at our lowest ebb when encouragements aren’t returned.
The ego is our shadow; that which seeks to simultaneously protect and destroy us. It protects us by being our ally against any and every attack. It destroys us by protecting us. We see, it’s no good protecting those things about ourselves that need to be revealed and refined. They may as well be burned away.
But the ego will fight tooth and nail to retain its dignity; it’s owned by pride.
The ego clings desperately and it won’t be shaken easily. But where we don’t shake off the shackles we remain shackled; imprisoned to transmit these very weaknesses.
Transform or Transmit
The scary fact of life is we are set to destroy ourselves if we don’t uproot the reminiscences of our shadow; those ‘flesh’ weaknesses we have allowed to hang-on to us. It’s like a lack of patience or situations where we are harsh and not gentle enough or when we shrink away in cowardice from a conflict.
Where we allow these things a home – these reminiscences of our shadow – we become unconscious of their existence, and we transmit them in the daily flow of our lives without even being aware. What we do tends to destroy us.
There isn’t much of a choice really. We go forward in life by revealing our shadow and transforming it or we slide ever backwards by the denial and rejection of that part of ourselves that needs to be owned and transformed.
Weaknesses are destined to be strengthened, but we don’t often see the weakness in our strength. There is a shadow there, ready to undermine our gift.
We all have a shadow that undermines our authentic spirituality. The Spirit of God reveals the shadow and helps us transform ourselves in truth. If we are serious about our spirituality we will become aware of our shadow and transform it rather than transmit it unknowingly.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Whatever Happens, Love, Love, Love Some More

If I, for one moment, have the gospel right,
We live by faith and not by sight,
But there’s another thing we can easily miss,
It’s to know that, in love, our life is bliss.
Yes, all to love, it’s the power for hope,
When we verily need the strength to cope,
Whatever happens, learn to look above,
Whatever happens, respond in love.
Whatever happens, love is the reason for a good response, love is to be the action, and love is the answer. In situations like these love never fails:
When life is just too hard and difficulties swarm overhead and we just want to scream – climb into compassion for the self and be drawn into the loving embrace of God. Somehow hope underpins us when we surrender and draw near to God. Life isn’t made easier, but our attitudes make it more palatable. Love commands us to get some perspective and to chew life one bite at a time.
When responses of betrayal confound our sensibilities for trust and respect – enjoy the knowledge that even Jesus was betrayed. Instances of betrayal prove to us that we all have the capacity to hurt people. But just because this is so doesn’t mean we should be content with such outcomes for ourselves.
People may hurt us, but our role is to reconcile the hurt with God – absorb it – so we would not be an instrument of hurt; so we would not act in the transference of our anger. Love commands us to ensure we don’t respond as hurt people who hurt people.
If people think we are wrong yet we know we are right – we pour contempt on our pride and find another way to influence the situation, without needing to resort to manipulation or coercion. Truth and grace are all-sufficient for life; our pride, on the other hand, is a dead-end road. Love commands us to elevate people above being pawns for our ends alone.
Sometimes we end up so fearful in life; to the point where we see either what doesn’t exist or we extrapolate what we ought to disregard. Again, we have lost perspective. Love commands us to combat our fear with faith. Love heals our fear; it rises above.
Whatever happens, love is the reason for a good response, love is to be the action, and love is the answer. Whatever happens. Love never fails. Let us test love, hence, in the way we respond, and we shall see for ourselves that love never fails when we never give up on love.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Call of God to Reconcile

“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
— MATTHEW 5:23-24 (NRSV)
Though someone may despise, dislike or not trust me,
Lord, help me to see past their perception of things,
Help me to push past my sense of hurt and love them,
Because I know that by doing this the blessing it brings.
The only way forward in reconciling work is to start and then keep persevering. The only way to start is to go forward and love despite the indifference, conflict, and lack of trust — to pour ourselves out as a libation — then to keep going.
We use their hurt as a platform to boldly love them, in faith, expecting only the need to continue just loving. Reconciliation is the instrument of healing in this relational life.
One point that Jesus could be making about reconciling with the one against us, is that reconciliatory activity should come before our offerings, financial or otherwise – including offerings of praise and worship. First things first; first love your neighbour, then worship God with a clean heart. (Of course, at times, the Lord will impress on us in our worship that we are to restore a relationship.) What good are our sacrifices of praise and worship if we betray the fundamental will and intent of God? We would be Pharisees.
Perhaps what Jesus is trying to point out in this difficult-to-achieve command is that there is no way we can love God and at the same time continue to hate another.
The Lord commands us to love each other because it is a fact that God places us in relationships as a test of our love. Love is not just a fair-weather activity; love comes into its own upon challenge, within conflict, when relationships are strained. Love has the power to trump all challenges to it.
How can we look God in the eye (figuratively speaking) if we haven’t first done everything we possibly can do to reconcile? And there is never a limit to trying.
Love is the character of our trying; of our persevering; of our never giving up. Love never fails in this regard as we commit to never giving up; to simply love beyond any hurt coming our way. This is not as hard as it seems, for the commitment, once made, stays us in the will of God.
The be-all and end-all of life is God, and the practical means and ends of life are relationships. Nothing may be more important than reconciling strained relationships. It’s not really about the results, but the intent; it’s the love of God that never gives up – that never fails – that sustains our reconciliatory effort.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 26, 2013

When Forgiveness Is Foreign

“True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience’.”
Experiences define us – we know that’s right,
We react and respond – freeze, flight or fight,
Whether it’s betrayal or hardship or being stirred,
Best we get to thankfulness for all that’s occurred.
Forgiveness is an elusive concept. Some tend to get it easily, having been gifted the sense for compassion – they are peacemakers by personality. Others are the opposite. They are competitive by character. It’s not a case of right or wrong when it comes to personality and character – as if the peacemaker pleases God inherently and the competitor doesn’t. God has made us differently for a reason. The peacemaker may be blessed by a mode of forgiveness more than the competitor, but they cannot achieve some things that the competitor finds easy. Sometimes we need a competitive mindset, but it doesn’t help in terms of forgiveness.
What the competitor can learn from the peacemaker, so far as forgiveness is concerned, is that in some things there is no such thing as a competition.
When we can foresee that God has designed life as a series of experiences – that are not to be judged in order to be found wanting – we start to see life from an end of life perspective. Imagine being in eternity and looking back over our lives, noticing true importance over the facts of our lives that weren’t as important as we thought they were.
Experiences will no doubt involve us had an emotional level, but the intent of experiences is to teach us about life – experiences are not intended to be judged. There will be ecstasy and there will be pain, and all manner of experience between.
Something that sweeps all concept of competition away, so far as forgiveness and relationships are concerned, is if we can be thankful for what happened, or even for something about what happened; we give ourselves space and room; so the perspective of grace might fill that space.
Forgiveness cannot be understood by the worldly person because they think there is no justice in it. But, of course, forgiveness is not truly about justice; it’s about reconciliation. And if we are not reconciled with the person we ought to forgive we can reconcile to ourselves as we forgive. We have the fuller sense of integrity about us when we can forgive, because we don’t have to try so hard to maintain a split personality.
Forgiveness is not truly about justice; it’s about reconciliation. If we are not reconciled with the person we ought to forgive we can reconcile to ourselves as we forgive. Integrity is abundantly better than resentment.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Value of Integrity in Grief

The level to which we grieve our wounds is the level to which we show compassion to others.
— HENRI NOUWEN (1932–1996)
The true value of integrity in grief – to match one’s reality with one’s related experience, and not holding any of the pain back – is made manifest by the compassion we have for others as a direct result.
Somehow as we enter the fullness of our pain we come to rely on God, because it is too much for us otherwise, and as we rely on God, he heals us in the moment, and because we are healed – or know the way to healing – we are capable of extracting from ourselves the empathy to pour into others’ lives.
Others will be benefactors of the healing we ourselves have experienced, because we had the courage and humility to abide to the truth as the reality of our circumstance has enfolded to us.
The more pain we are able to bear in tapping into our grief-laden reality, the more compassion we have the capacity for – a sure blessing for others, to the glory of God.
The more pain we open ourselves up to, the more we need God, and the more we are convinced that God is the only answer if we wish to be healed. And this healing is not a once-for-all-time deal. The key is in understanding how we enter into that healing, and make ourselves capable to entreat God’s eternally-available grace.
In healing there is always a blessing for other people, for us in having done our work; to come before God, and make ourselves available, to be delivered and restored and revitalised for what is to be experienced now and for what is to come in the future.
God blesses us always, ultimately, for others and the communal result; for what we might establish for his Kingdom, in fashioning praises for the glory of God.
To be healed, then, is to obey God, so that we might become of use to God in proclaiming the gospel that saves! There are dead people, spiritually speaking, strewn all through life – all needing the message of grace as it is available for the healing.
We are saved that we who were once dead people, spiritually speaking, might proclaim the One who has made us alive; he has raised us from our veritable hell.
We are healed of our grief when we are at one with ourselves regarding our reality. We have dealt with our denial, our anger, and our depression, and in being healed, we show others – through our compassion – that healing is possible and the way to the abundant life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Celebrating the Return of the Smoodge Factor

A season of arguments interspersed with busyness and overall discontentedness – that was the reality for my wife and I. I was discontented and resentful because of the busyness. She was unhappy with an unhappy husband; feeling generally unloved. Me, I felt unrespected. But, how can a pitiful man be respected? Yes, I was pitiful as I decried her lack of empathy at my ‘plight’. We were both confounded. Neither could we satisfy the other, nor could the other understand what was needed to turn the corner. But a corner was desperately needed.
And a corner came.
It came through the process of exasperated frustration – a better situation of intimacy had to be possible. It seemed the only civil working-together conversations we had were to cooperate either for our son, or for the ministry we are called into.
When we are cornered and we desperately need to take a new corner out of the mess of exasperation, we will take whatever corner that’s available.
Well, this was a corner! She said, “I miss your smoodginess.” She had missed the normal me; the person who loves to spoil his wife with massage and other unconditional love offerings.
The simple fact about exasperated relationships is this: there is the matter of stubbornness borne of pride that pushes both partners against each other to clash by passion where sparks fly or away from each other in silent contempt for each other – and worse if it’s both!
The smoodge factor was something I had completely forgotten, as a predominant winner for my marriage – a thing that makes all the difference to my wife.
As husbands, we need to determine what will please our wives and do those things to woo them and win them. Once love is known, respect is a fait accompli because all well-adjusted women just want to be loved.
The simple thing of awareness, and combine that with the momentary humility to entertain one’s seasonal foolishness, and we find what the answer is; there is a light that flickers on, then burns with an eternal luminosity – until it begins to flicker and sputter for lack of fuel (lack of intimacy or passion) again.
The smoodge factor was and is crucial for us. There is a winning ingredient for every relationship; the spark that ignites the passion and intimacy once more. Awareness is the initial need, then the humility to accept we’ve gone astray, before courage accepts the journey forward out of the mess.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Prayer Talk and a Prayerful Walk

Comes the time for a difficult chat,
When there are tough things that need to be said,
Prayer talk practiced gives the tact,
To wisely consider matters with both heart and head.
How important to have the difficult conversation first with ourselves in the courts of God before controversial matters are raised, creating conflicts of misunderstanding. Prayer talk is wisdom for a happily prudent life.
It is amazing how well in tune we can be with God when we have deliberately stalled on action that could be devoid of his will. How well God acts at times when we avert our own action in favour that he might speak, through, and into our circumstances.
Comes the time when faith must rise,
Which is best underpinned by prayer talk,
Where the request of God: “Open my eyes,
So I might, in you and with you, walk.”
Faith and prayer talk go hand in hand, and we are seriously mistaken when we separate the two. The simplest of prayers – to commence them this way – is to ask the Lord to open our eyes so we would walk in keeping with him.
Talking seems to precede walking, this way. But this is prayer talk we talk about – not the officious sense of pride that makes us speak without thinking.
Comes the time when I’m flat on my back,
When my troubles cause me to spill,
Where all the attention’s on my lack,
And everything seems such a bitter pill.
Prayer talk is crucial when a prayerful walk is impossible. Sometimes we feel so backwashed in the midst of life – when we are flummoxed and floored for a response – that a numbed and non-vocal prayer is all we have. That’s okay. We allow the ministry of God’s healing to speak and revive our weary bones, so again we can walk.
Comes the time for the moment to hustle,
When panic is the order of the day,
Where by prayer talk I need to resist the bustle,
And ensure my resilience holds sway.
Prayer talk, as these times, is that shot of awareness that soothes the heart and quietens the mind when fear rages. Prayer talk calms our walk.
Comes the time when I’m all at peace,
When I’m cogently Holy Spirit led,
Prayer talk makes the distractive noise cease,
And my head and heart are entwined and wed.
This is the state of serenity we all dream of; where peace plays beautifully on the track of the mind to a harmony sweet to the heart.
Prayer talk – solemn and constant communion with God in our thoughts – is the means by which we prayerfully walk.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stirred, Shaken, Tested; Yet Strengthened

The sternest tests awaken unknown strengths when faith comes enduringly matched to the trial.
Two realities come enjoined, as if stars aligning, when challenges, conflicts, and controversies combine with the inner patience of grace to remain unbuckled under the weight of the burden.
The only way we can prove we have any strength of character is when we are tested. No one ever enjoys being tested, not if they’re being both honest and humble, but there is a pleasant irony in being tested.
There is a crown to be earned in being tested where we are found worthy of the test. During such times we require composure; the courage to sustain an even-keel attitude, with the situational wisdom to show restraint against an emotional response.
Being stirred up by people who wish to upset us, or being shaken by a disturbing, grief-laden event, or being tested by an unrelenting season of life; these are as predictable in coming as they are in their ferocity.
We need courage. We need several forms of courage. We need wisdom of the sort that reflects courage. We need to apply faith which is truly the application of courage together with the discernment and decisiveness of wisdom in remaining steadfast.
Courage is required in the instant. If we are prepared to enter the fray courageously, that step of faith will be rewarded. Courage is the momentary application of trust – in God, in the moment to redeem itself upon our understanding, and in the willingness to delay judgment.
We cannot be strengthened if we haven’t been previously weakened. There is a necessary testing that must come as a precursor to strengthening. Being strengthened occurs as a product of a testing time in combination with an insightfully wise response.
Being stirred, shaken, and tested are opportunities and not just challenges. If it wasn’t for such things there would be no impetus for strengthening; for the sort of growth our characters need to mature. Again, we don’t thrive on being stirred, shaken, or tested, but there is a crown of blessing for having endured it.
Endurance is our key. And anything that will help that end should be considered, but only the things that support virtues like patience, wisdom, faith, and courage should be applied.
If we are prepared to enter the fray courageously, our step of faith will be rewarded. Courage is the momentary application of trust. Trusting God is a worthy response. Courage, faith, and trust: these three reflect wisdom and they ensure we are strengthened.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hope Because There Is God

“Even when I walk in the darkest canyon,
I do not fear disaster.
Because you are with me; your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.”
— PSALM 23:4
Canyons of pain and those of despair,
Taken with courage just enough to dare,
To acknowledge God’s present, yes even in this,
And somehow there’s the note of relative bliss.
God may not take the situation away,
But the blessing of comfort — somehow, each day,
God wills it that we take our trials to Him,
So He can encourage us when things are grim.
Psalm 23:4 does not just talk in the context of physical death, but in every form of death there is – the darkest canyons of life, including death.
We may ask ourselves why we fear death so much when there is still so much to fear about life. And without God we really can wonder how we can make it even one day. So we are thankful we have God. Because there is God we have comfort in pain and in despair.
Pain and despair are somewhat ‘givens’ in life – no matter who we are we will experience some of these. As people are blessed with measures of faith, hope and comfort, people are also tested by measures of fear, despair and pain.
The difference it makes to know there is the ‘because there is God’ clause in life is probably never more significant.
Many people will not want to admit that they deal with fear. But fear is everybody’s nemesis; a calamity of soul that overtakes us in anxieties overwhelming. And if it isn’t fear, it will be pain because of hurts unreconciled, or despairing because of hopes yet unrealised and fading.
These are all the dark canyons of life – and the king of these, grief.
God and Awareness
As we take God about with us on our daily meandering – as God is there anyway – we are aware as we meet these dark canyons of life.
We need God in these dark canyons, yet there is the stark irony that we often forget God is there in moments of dire need. So, awareness is the key. When we know God is there, we may still be fearful, but we do know an awareness of comfort.
The more aware we are of God’s Presence, the more we are able to respond in courage to dare beyond the fear by faith, to endure pain by comfort, and find hope in despair.
When we need God we tell ourselves he is there. He is. We abide to the truth. And he reveals himself to us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When Good Character Needs No Defence

“Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree. The shadow is what we think of it and the tree is the real thing.”
— ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809–1865)
Times come and times go when we find ourselves either popular or maligned. Quick, it seems, our names may be dragged through the mud. Sometimes there is a basis for this, but most of the time people may be acting on misinformation or assumption or worse.
The reputation is quickly tarnished, but with faith our characters remain strong through testing ordeals.
When we are being attacked it is too easy to attack back, but the person of good character waits patiently and rebuilds their damaged reputation by the works of their hands and not by crafty works of the tongue.
Our characters are what are really real about us. If we become upset by the slings and arrows of those against us, and we cannot control our response, our character will be defined by the precise method of our response. That’s fair enough.
What good is it to respond in a way that we malign ourselves?
Why would we respond unwisely, when we want to build a good reputation based on what we think is our good character?
Defending ourselves a lot of the time is seen for what it is – usually concern more for reputation than for character. To be of true good character we must necessarily rely on God by faith. We must be patient. And being slow to anger, we build the reputation of sound character by those who directly know us.
Those who do not know us may believe what they are told. Apart from not being able to effect what people believe who don’t know us, what we don’t know shouldn’t hurt us anyway. We try to be more concerned with what we can easily control. What is beyond our control we need to accept is beyond our control.
Our focus should be on building a sound character by the inputs of our lives, not worrying so much about the results. If we invest in our relationships, and we learn to put others first, there is no doubt a good character is something we are developing.
But the best character test of all is when we are tested. In many ways we don’t know what our characters are truly like until we are in the pressure cooker of life.
It shouldn’t matter what others say about us, but oftentimes we get angry and respond unwisely. It’s better to trust God when people say negative things about us. If we keep responding well, by loving others, no matter what, we will become known by our deeds of goodness. And nobody can wrest that away.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Putting the Pieces Back Together

Comes a time when things are wrecked,
Times when harsh words are spoken,
Then there’s the awareness to simply reflect,
Then the courage to correct what’s broken.
The marriage relationship is a special institution, but it’s not devoid of the strains of life where coupledom extends into the realm of the extraneous. Sometimes we just cannot live with our partners – yet we have the covenant relationship. We cannot leave. And we cannot give up in seeking a reconciliation of unity.
But most of the time emotions run high and our spirits flag when exasperation becomes the theme in the marital dynamic.
Times like these both partners are readily forgiven for feeling insane, where the logical thought is blown away in the midst of a cloud of feeling in rebuttal after rebuttal.
Picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together, to remake that beautiful vase so it will contain water again for the flowers of life, is easy as reflecting quietly in the moment. One person can do this. Both can do this. But words must cease.
There is a great deal to be said for humility in the strained moment – the sense of true bearing by the ability to look above the situation and to notice what is happening.
What is maddening by nature needs not to be extrapolated and given fuel. When we fuel our marital fires we are being really unwise. No matter the importance of the issue, fighting with guns ablaze or pouring copious volatiles over the mess, will not solving anything.
When we are given to arguing and there appears to be many irresolvables, it’s best that we accept the things we can’t change. It might be easier said than done, but considering that most of the things we argue about are relatively minor (in the overall scheme of life) can we find within our minds to conceive how life might look like without such a resolute grip over the issue(s) we cannot let go of?
Some issues are critically important. We need to have the poise and the patience to communicate well. Prayer helps.
But putting the pieces back together having had a ‘barney’ of monumental proportions has to be a marital couple’s top priority.
There is a blessing for every marital couple that reflects on harsh words spoken, where there is the combination of humility and courage to correct what’s broken.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.