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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Learning to Live Your New Life Now

CHANGE sweeps into our lives as a wind that comes. Nobody knew the wind was coming, and nobody cares much to speculate how it might change in speed, direction, or intensity. Change is like that; reality can change from one breath to the next.
We have become experts at expecting change. It makes us anxious when we shouldn’t be. Or we learn to plan for the best, whilst expecting the worst. Even the fact of the chance of change brings an uneasiness, especially when we are in the actual practice of doing something enjoyable.
Some changes in life are more horrendous than others.
These are the changes that totally redefine — against our hope and will — all of what life has now come to be. We are angry, confused, upset, pleading with God, in denial — and sometimes we are all these at once. It’s exhausting, debilitating, and what the irreligious might say is soul-destroying. Such seasons for these changes to happen — I’d predict, from experience as a pastor and counsellor — are usually in people’s 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, but some in their 20s and many in their more senior years are afflicted. We are apt to think that those afflicted early in life are unfortunate, but, as we will read later, that’s not always the case.
The change we discuss here is always against our will. Having our ‘old’ life ripped from under us, like a carpet on polished wooden floor, hurts a great deal. There is the initial feeling of having been stunned at the loss of footing, not to mention the stars in our eyes as we attempt to get up dazed and punch drunk, even concussed. Learning to stand on a hard floor is a shock, and when that precious carpet rug can no longer be found we feel we are totally comfortless.
The time taken to adjust to such significant life change can be months and several of them. I would seek not to discourage you in speaking in terms of a year or more, but that, too, is a fact for some. Was for me.
But the glorious hope in all this is this fact — a fact that always comes to pass: This, too, shall pass. If we are patient in our affliction, and hopeful enough never to ultimately give up on our mission and vision, this horrible iniquity, too, shall pass. And not just that! God will compensate us for our quietude in affliction. If we suffer this as Jesus suffered the cross — or as best as we can do — God will compensate us because of our faith. He will increase our faith by measures of multiplicity.
In the meantime, there is grace given to us as we learn to live our new life now. Grace and much acceptance.
Go gently.
Change will bring great unease,
To the way in which we live,
But when we only have God to please,
We simply commit to give.
If we don’t know what to do, then, to give and to keep giving is to keep receiving from God. Give your love away, for no one can take our love away.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Darkest Night, Strangest Sight, Blessed Delight

SILENCE. A tap dripping. A bath slipping in temperature; water’s cold; colder; colder than the bathroom air, though senses do not communicate. With silence, in submerged numbness, I lay there. Breathing, yet not alive. Seeing, yet semi-blind through torrential saline. Wanting to move, but unable to. Horrible thoughts invade. Swords pierce the mind. Knowing the need to move, yet not knowing how — or why. Not having the reason. Nothing happening cognitively. Time in freewheel. Not a caring care. Beyond comprehension, the pain. No desire. All efficaciousness gone. Only the discomfort of the water’s iciness arrests the dolour. Must move! Move!
I know I must move. And move I do. Out of sheer self-interest I move out of that Atlantic bath.
It was the darkest night.
I dressed myself in a blanket, without drying, head wet, on the pillow. Moonlit night. Strangest sight. No thought could I even conjure. Shivering, yet not caring. Shivering, wanting to feel safe. Shivering, yet an icy desiring. Far extremes of emotion, but without feeling. Great resolves for comfort… and self-harm… at the same time. A disintegrated integrity. An integrated brokenness. How can this be anything other than hell? Yet, so proudly there. “Nobody cares so neither do I.” Creating the muddiest murder in the mind, but it’s not spectacular enough. Then something shifts suddenly. The momentum cannot be stopped. Over the cusp into the abyss… what was dark is now darker still. On a whole new scale. But they say the night is darkest just before dawn. And though moonlit night, pitch black was my heart as God drew the curtains. Help!!
(Help always comes when we pray desperately enough.)
Blessed Delight? Could it be? Is it possible that the walls of the dam could be breaking; finally? A strength that was truly weakness breaks from there into a mind-bending series of yelps, a calamitous surrender; the worst of out-of-body experiences ushers a ‘therapy’ nobody volunteers to enter. But apparently God is in control. Apparently, the heaping, seeping, weeping was God’s plan. Sob, wail, moan. Pillow sodden through. Apparently I wouldn’t know until morning. I was so incapacitated in my spiritual fatigue I would have no recollection of any further moment until I woke early the next morning — to a beautiful day!
“What,” I said, “no sign, no encumbrance, no sadness left, O Lord?”
“Yes, my son, for though ‘weeping may last all night long, rejoicing comes in the morning’.” (Psalm 30:5)
And, yes, I had many of these experiences in that season of life. And blessed am I intermittently to enter such a darkest night, to experience the strangest sight, for blessed delight.
God always came to be Present. But only when I was ultimately gentle with myself.
One thing I learned in my darkest night,
Through the appearance of the strangest sight,
There, in my adherence, was God’s blessed delight.
I didn’t know how hard my soul would lament,
Yet I would grow simply in becoming content.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
There are two purposes of an article like this: 1) To encourage broken hearts. 2) To tuck away for an unprecedented future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bear No Grudges, Have No Regrets

“I bear no grudges and have no regrets.”
— Michael Malthouse
CONTENTION is all I have for such a quote from a worldly man, but that is not to say he, the football coach, hasn’t worked to this very point: no grudges, no regrets. There would certainly be no regrets. There is a pride for which stubbornness is its own reward (yet not much of a reward on the scale of rewards). But grudges? Grudges were made for such unregenerate people, which is not to say that, in him, no grudge might be found. It is possible. But probably no grudge connected to no regret — as if to say, “These people who’ve done the dirty don’t deserve that extension of my vitriolic energy.”
We are not so ‘strong’ as to be disaffected.
The believer — it might be said — is the only one capable of understanding the motive, not to bear a grudge. It is central to the gospel with which they believe. Yet, there are still so many believers who refuse the learning of the initial lesson that the Lord is providing them. We cannot forge ahead on our spiritual journey — being capable of bearing no grudge — unless we allow the Spirit and our circumstance to speak to us in terms of “Let it go!”
We are not asked to forgive, we are commanded to.
Bear no grudge,
It does you no good,
Bear no grudge,
Even though you think you should.
Make nothing of enmity,
Relax those flexing arms.
Let go of all that enmity,
That makes waste of all your charms.
Bearing no grudges,
Is having no regrets,
Bearing no grudges,
Is how a person forgets.
It is easy to say we bear no grudge, yet it is supremely harder to manifest the promise of such ongoing benevolence.
God blesses by the softening of our heart the situations of surrender that caused us to harden our heart.
But to harden the heart is to cut ourselves off from the blessings that are planned to be ours.
God knows we can do better. Our families and friends know we can do better. It is all up to us. We must let go through prayer, through faith, through reminders, through seeking a way forward beyond the fear. We must allow God to be God.
We must do these things of a self’s surrender to give our souls the chance to heal.
Let us allow ourselves to be blessed of the Lord. The only way this happens is if we do what he has commanded us to do — to bear no grudge, which leads to bearing no regret.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

20 Little Helpers To Enjoy More Joy

1.          The best results don’t always come through decisive action. Joy contends, via acceptance, that tensions might need to be held.
2.          What makes joy unconquerable is the peace which enables it. There is nothing that can defeat joy because of the peace it is immersed in.
3.          Attacks are reactions to fear, grace is the response of faith. Joy underpins hope, making faith possible.
4.          Joy is continual experience in the present, unsullied by relational divisions, undeterred by worldly distractions, and unencumbered by dissension. A person with joy cannot be moved into frustration.
5.          Joy is the practice of living and breathing and not thinking too much. Thought, analysing thought, can only muddy precious waters.
6.          Choose joy.
Warrant peace.
Nurture hope.
Indwell faith.
Persevere in love.
Propagate goodness.
Personify what’s right.
7.          What joy would you wish on another? God wishes that very joy over you.
8.          Harness joy pregnant in possibility; an open mind is bliss as an open heart is a blessing.
9.          Joy for the day comes because of simplicity; days of simplicity come when we are without expectation.
10.       A day’s joy comes in a moment; the moment joy comes for the day.
11.       Sometimes the long way around gives the quickest results. The long way is replete with joys for simply slowing down.
12.       Joy is contentment; the exact anticipation of the moment devoid of any expectation.
13.       A smile in the heart is courage to face the day.
14.       Joy is what we get when we commit to enjoying the right life.
15.       Joy will be your eventual compensation for everything suffered with the Lord, if you do not give up now.
16.       Joy breaks through as rays of light even through the clouds of despair. Such joy is God’s reminder: “I am with you, even in this.”
17.       Attend to the joyous remembrances of yesteryear now while you still have them. They are gone when they are gone.
18.       Joy will make life wonderful because life is wonderful when it is a joy.
19.       Let’s not make too hard a thing of grief. It is bound to be hard enough. Make joy a touchable quality of every day.
20.       Don’t allow someone’s horrible day spoil our joy. Let us, instead, brighten theirs with the power of a smile, a good deed done with passion, or simply to get out of their way.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, May 25, 2015

When and Where Leadership Really Adds Value

“A leader’s job is to add value, not get in the way, or preside or take credit. If things are working, people actually don’t need your help. Go find where they do need you. Sometimes, if things aren’t working, people can see there are problems, but they can’t identify the cause or, consequently, the solution. A leader’s job is to find and address the cause, just as a doctor’s job is to try to cure the disease rather than simply treat the symptoms.”
— Carly Fiorina
I HAVE been criticised for caring too much about ‘the needy people’, so the above quote fills me with affirmation that, the times I’ve chosen to follow God’s call to respond to the needs of care about me, I’ve been a faithful servant — an effective leader.
There is also something about the idea of being involved in the right activities with the right people at the right time in the right way.
I’m thankful for the times when God has said to me, “You have no value to provide in this situation,” even though to obey the Spirit’s leading to disengage has occasionally landed me in hot water.
We need to remember that good leaders and good pastors will be both admired and criticised. We have to deal with both infractions of truth. We are not as good as some people think. We are never what others think.
I recently spoke about the CEO who has had the greatest influence over me regarding leadership spunk and decorum; my state’s incumbent Governor. As a leader, she was both regal in demeanour and graceful in character. But it is one of her general managers — my ex-manager (incidentally, an atheist) — who demonstrated to me the power of servant leadership, a nuance of which I think Fiorina describes above. He was a mentor and I’ll never forget the time he revealed his basic philosophy for leadership: understand the needs of those above you and below you and meet those needs. Such a philosophy is nothing about leadership by getting in the way, presiding over, or taking credit. It’s a servant-natured model. The first senior pastor I worked for believed his sole role was to help and then empower each person at his church to find their gifting and then serve with joy. I thank God he did that with me!
I believe with everything in me that leadership is about needs identification, assessment, strategy, and execution — to attend to those needs efficiently, with care, which is effectiveness.
A leader’s job is to care for those who have the greatest need (unless situations call for a triage approach, which is exceptional); for needy situations leaders are most needed. Good people don’t suck leaders dry, and my experience is no functional person intentionally sucks the source dry when their needs are acknowledged. Needs acknowledgement is important for every single one of us. A good leader exercises a great deal of benefit of the doubt — call it grace.
Leaders are social engineers interested in function diagnostics. What makes them tick is the belief that the people they have are the right blend of people and with the gifts to accomplish anything. The leader is compelled to release each person to excel.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why the Best Marriages are Made of the Best Fighters

CELIBACY is not how most roll, but it truly is a gift — to happily live the single life. Again, it’s not a gift if it’s not intrinsically our thing. Gifts that God gives require no effort on our behalf to be added to them. And life could be purposed in the knowledge, acquisition and acceptance of the gifts we are given (and we all are given gifts from the Lord.)
Why so much talk of gifts in an article about marriage? Well, it’s actually the topic “celibacy” that’s important — to launch from. Biblically, God gave us marriage for one main reason; we are alone otherwise. If we have the gift of celibacy we are happily alone. But with marriage we have partnered with someone we can love, and together we meet each other’s loneliness needs — or that’s the theory; a less than perfect theory.
Researching same-sex marriage taught me one thing about marriage — it’s a troubled institution, and anyone who disagrees is either lying or they have been gifted (them and their partner) with something all married couples should know about.
What these people and couples have going for them is this:
1)    they are willing to fight for their marriage;
2)    they are willing to fight fairly with each other; and,
3)    they are willing to fight with a never-say-die attitude in the midst of horrible loss.
At times, couples are called to fight these three ways simultaneously!
And such a way of fighting — passionately, persuasively, but inherently together — there is a wonderful legacy: a couple suchlike will be a model couple.
We might argue that a couple who will not fight in these ways has no right to be married at all; that the single life is what calls them. But horrible it is when we are content with neither life.
Notwithstanding, the best marriages are made of fighters.
(This has nothing to do with those odious husbands who beat their wives — that’s not fighting, for fighting requires two evenly pitched protagonists.)
If we are married and we are passionate about our marriage — in our own way, for some passion is born in grounded and less felt ways — and we fight fairly, and we are prepared to fight through loss, our marriage has everything.
Again, marriage has everything when we fight for the marriage, when we fight fairly, and when we fight through loss into healing.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

10 Things To Remember When Life Turns Bad

CANCER, miscarriages, divorce, betrayal, abuse, trauma, addiction, sleep deprivation, unemployment, flood, theft, fire, and a million other nuances of loss; some of these might be underwritten, but beyond protecting our money we cannot guarantee anything.
There is nothing we can do when truth smacks us right between the eyes; it leaves us punch drunk with stars to boot.
There are probably hundreds of things to remember when life turns bad, but here are ten:
1.     To be a believer in Jesus Christ is to have an eternal hope. Even if we don’t have a terminal condition, there is a rest beyond our present comprehension.
2.     What has happened could have happened to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The potential is ever present. Yet only now we have thought about it because it’s happening now.
3.     If we are not in touch with compassion at the suffering in the world we sure will be now. One of the great outcomes of life, for God, is to get us compassionate enough to be reached.
4.     Our real friends will stick around. This is the true test of our friends. New friends will come to replace those superficial kinds who cannot be there for us.
5.     Time will have a special significance. When crises occur, the plastic thing always becomes time. We don’t waste time when it’s the most precious commodity, ever.
6.     We may never have before experienced what it’s like to see life through the eyes of another person. When life turns bad seeing life through another person’s eyes can prove both a relief and an education.
7.     We are stronger that we ever know. I learned this when I was younger and an athlete. I could push my body far past the limits I’d imposed. Experience has shown me it’s no different mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
8.     Just as life has worked out insanely — as it is right now — life has a way of working out for the good. The problem we have is being patient in the meantime.
9.     The most important things in life can’t be taken away: the person we are and always have been, God, love, and the irrefutable fact that our destinies are assured.
10. We really don’t know much at all; about life, about fate, about the reasons for suffering. But we can choose to accept what we cannot ever hope to change.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Common Beauty in Friends and ‘Enemies’ Alike

PEOPLE are who they are; with us and with others.
Although people can change slowly over time — though not everyone does — nobody can change, between people, how they interact. What this means is people who offend us interact with others in similar ways, yet others haven’t always taken it the way we have. Likewise, those we have no problem with may rub others up the wrong way; we may wonder what they are complaining about. This explains the phenomenon of hurt in the sensitive person, as we are all sensitive people.
Of course, those likely to be propagators of hurt — who decry the sensitive person — are probably the hardened; the narcissists, who lack empathy, exploit others as sport, and feel entitled to do so. But even this latter person, who has no qualms in collateral damage, is encountered in similar ways by different persons. They do not single people out for ‘special’ treatment unique to their capacities. Their capacities are underlying. Their capacities have similar effects as they play out.
When Hurts Are Less Than Personal
Hurts absorbed and taken within — those that cause us internal stress — can feel as if they are an attack construed against our very person. It’s like they saw us coming and thought, “Here’s something I prepared earlier, for you!”
We are best informed not to think that the attacks against us are personal.
Given another person in a similar position, the attack may be similarly deployed. It’s much less than personal, though it does feel personal.
The attack on our person is the blight of life. Such a thing takes us quickly into a pathology of thinking for feelings we want just to run away from. Life has become hellish.
But to think that we are not so personally in the firing line gives us strength; the attack is not as malicious as we thought. This helps us recoil in ways, hopefully, of poise, and neither of counterattack nor complicity.
What helps most of all — as we take the opportunity of reflection — is the person who has attacked us has their own problems. We are not nearly the centre of their world — for hate and scorn — that we think we might be.
The opportunity extant of this knowledge is our mind will imagine many dark things that never existed. And in our mind of minds we have the opportunity to see the rationale — we have a fresh opportunity to grace ourselves with a liberating truth:
God made us free in our minds; who would we be to imprison ourselves to fear?
People are people, capable of virtue and vice, won to darkness and light, able to change at any point, but are usually unchanging.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Else Can “No” Mean, But “No”?

TIMES and seasons there are for all situations. Sometimes there is a time to be told, “Yes, proceed,” just as there are times when we are told, “No, back off!” It takes strength and maturity to accept “No” when it comes, especially in important matters.
But, notwithstanding, no means “no.”
No means “No!”
In the clearest of all terms,
Decisiveness makes us grow,
As their decision affirms.
Their decision is made,
We can’t do anything else it seems,
They will not be swayed,
So we must give up on our schemes.
We have the very real responsibility to care for everyone in our orbit, so far as it depends on us. We cannot go about our way hurting people. And when it comes to our interactions we have to honour people’s wishes the best we can. Sometimes we cannot proceed the way we would wish to. Sometimes we are told there is a boundary and we need to respect it. Sometimes somebody very important to us will have a view that is counter to our own. We have the role of praying how we will reach a position of acceptance, which is the love of respect — what they wish for we will honour, in spite of what it costs us, personally. Sometimes there is a clash of ideals, and what was previously unknown — that we each had strong feelings in opposed directions — come out and into play.
Only when we come to accept what we have no choice to accept will there be any chance of being heard. Not that being heard is in any way our proviso; it cannot be, because our acceptance then becomes a condition and what power we might have for the relationship in acceptance is quickly diluted to nothing.
There is a relational principle here built on the bricks of love; a mortar of respect.
We cannot force anyone or coerce anyone to do what we would have them to do.
Acceptance is the land of peace and coexistence. It is the geography of mature understanding. It is the provision of an acceptable outcome, and, in many cases, it’s a provision of God’s provident promise — the securement of capacity.
Relational power is a paradoxical concept. It is a power that runs for others. It is a power that is the surrendering of our power for the betterment of others.
When someone says “No” they mean, “No!”
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Will I Ever Be the Same Again?… a Complete Person?

AUSTRALIAN television star, Ada Nicodemou, lost her third child, Harrison, on August 7, 2014. Little Harrison was stillborn. It was about the same day we found out that our baby, Nathanael, would not survive outside his mother’s womb. (We lost Nathanael on October 30, 2014.) We immediately resonated with Nicodemou’s story. Even in her family’s pain was something of an encouragement to us that we weren’t the only ones to be stricken by such incomprehensible loss.
As I read a recent tabloid report, I couldn’t help but wonder at this type of pain that leaves us forever disembodied from life past:
“It’s not that I will never be a complete person again, but I just wonder... How can I say? I just feel I can never be completely happy again because this has happened.”
— Ada Nicodemou
To read those words, I just feel I can never be completely happy again because this has happened,” leaves me shaken to my core for a human being so lost in the present to a coming, yet strangely distant, eternity. There is such helplessness in that statement; such resignation.
From our Christian worldview, we don’t quite see it that way. If anything we are more interested in heaven than ever — the hope of reconnecting with all our children.
There is fodder for generalised learning regarding loss in this.
What has changed us, irrevocably, has, for a time, redefined life. It has taken us into an unexpected and much unanticipated direction, without return to what was. We will be forgiven for doubting God’s sincerity in providently caring for us — even in this. No wonder we cannot see any hope at all. This is the dire outcome for not only those who lose loved ones, but those who lose other things; marriages, careers, dreams stolen away.
What we never had any say over now taunts us and haunts us. We want life back the way it was. But that can never be. We have to accept a new future without the precious thing we have lost. That is so hard to comprehend, let alone live out.
And we are left toying with the idea: I just feel I can never be completely happy again because this has happened.”
We understand that there are powers that contain us there, inextricably, in a dark milieu. Those self-same powers should compel us into the light…
… of hope!
This is where the invisible invincibility of hope comes in. We are to hope for good things, because remaining anchored in a hope that is hopeless is sickening for the soul.
The invisible invincible hope insists compellingly on believing in the good. Good will happen. And such a hope — no matter how fanciful it seems to hope for something good — will not disappoint us, for we will live more joyfully in the meantime, which is nothing about being fake or being won to denial.
We pray to God that he would infuse us with this hope; that our negative hopes would be jettisoned.
There is nothing to lose in hoping positively. Always. There is plenty to gain in believing upon a good future. Always.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.