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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Finding Safe Expression to Think and Feel

“We have to find a way of cussing without cussing.”
— Eugene Peterson
In a conversation between Peterson and U2 front man, Bono, at Peterson’s house in rural Montana, both are absorbed in discussing the Psalms; the realness presented in the Psalter by the protagonist writers.  There’s an honesty presented in the Psalms that warms humanity to the realness of God who is really aware of the realness of our pain.  And the Psalms do one more thing; they give us agency, which is the licence to cuss without cussing.
We must find safe expression for the violence
that boils away within us.
God wants us to find our way to healing by our thinking, breathing, feeling and being.  He doesn’t want us to pretend all is well when it isn’t.  If all is not well, it’s up to us to find a way of expressing the violence we feel we need to communicate.
If we don’t find expression for our violence, we will exact violent retribution over others.  Not that they’ve been party to making us violent; but they will suffer our wrath if we’re not aware of what we need to do.
We ought to pray that we become aware
of our need to find safe expression.
To think is to reflect with time and space and freedom.
To breathe is every human being’s prerogative, but too many of us are too stressed to breathe anything close to well enough.  We must find stillness of soul to breathe.
To feel is to feel every not-so-good emotion in the core of our soul.  We must give ourselves license to sit in the excrement of discomfort, and give safe expression to our truth.
To be is so underrated.  Being is so incredibly sophisticated.
When we give ourselves permission to feel,
we find God has already blessed us to feel.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, April 25, 2016

We Will Remember Them… But, Will We?

Schindler’s List (1993) is a horribly real portrayal of the genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime.  If watched at a human level, one cannot come away from it untouched.  Yet it was humanity that was just so capable of procuring such atrocities.
Humanity is capable… capable of anything.  Great inspiring deeds and deeds much worse than words could ever describe.
So much blood was spilt over the two world wars.  Not much less than one-hundred million lives were lost… nearly 100,000,000 is the digital figure.  Each one of those lives was ended against God’s will, prematurely, as a great sacrifice in the hope for a better day.
Much earlier in the history of the world, Jesus died: the sacrifice of one for many unto the entire creation of the world, saving it all, every single one, to the very last person, who counts His sacrifice worthy of their saving.
The sacrifices that we remember on a solemn day of the year are worthy of our remembrance evermore.  But we cannot live in perpetual remembrance.  There are too many distractions.  More is the pity.  For, continual remembrance will gird us in our way.
We are made better for the humble practice of remembrance.  And to remain in that place — to be ever thankful for the sacrifices of those lost — to be ever thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus — is to fuel gratitude.
Gratitude will send us on in joy, purpose and hope.  Yet only with remembrance is there gratitude.
If we chose to start each day in remembrance, our lives would be much better than we could imagine.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Life’s Sweetest Victory Isn’t What We Think It Is

THE world has us believe that victory is in victory, but the world is wrong.  If we believe that we end up feeling like a failure every time something doesn’t work out.
Satan, himself, wants us to equate success with having success, but that attitude is a house of cards about to be blown down.  We need a foundation.
A firm foundation is the expectation of failure and the anticipation of needing to go back to the drawing board.  Such a foundation is not defeatist for an end, but it is realist as a means.  We will experience much discouragement along life’s journey.  We have experienced much discouragement.  Yet we go on… if we believe in Him who called us.
We go on in faith, believing failure is not fatal, but that it’s an important signpost we pass along the road that indicates the direction for success.
Life’s sweetest victory is not victory itself, but the attitude taken in defeat that believed and kept going.  Such an attitude was necessary to debunk the despair we naturally feel having experienced failure.  Sure, it happened, but we can’t stay there if we’re determined to do God’s work.
So, if you need encouragement, pray for God’s resilience, to replace that frown with a smile, to set your sail to catch the wind, and be ready to be resourced by life’s failures along life’s way.
It’s only when we look back from victory that we see how well we looked forward from all those times in defeat where we kept going.
The way of victory is in the way we take defeat.  It’s our attitude in loss that proves to Whom we are won.  Only in Christ are we the persons who emerge, as He did, resurrected out of the jaws of defeat into victory — because we kept going.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

4 Ways to Listen with the Curiosity of Compassion

One seriously windy and ghostly day, a chaplain visited an elderly gentleman in his room within the aged-care facility the elderly gentleman called home.  It was not a routine visit.  The elderly gent, a dementia sufferer, had been driving his family away, and he hadn’t been too kind on the staff either.  It seemed impossible to get through to him.  But the chaplain found a way to help.  The chaplain knew a way to listen that works most if not all the time.
Yet we lament…
The world does not know how to listen, because it does not have the interest.  And those of us who are especially spiritual don’t do a great deal better a lot of the time.  Most of us are far too consumed in distraction to be any good at giving others the attention they really do deserve.  And where we aren’t distracted on other things we get distracted within our own inner world.  Listening seems difficult for us all.
To listen with effect is a challenge.  But it’s less of a challenge if we listen with the curiosity of compassion — to listen with genuine interest.  It’s quite an easy skill to learn, and better still it makes our hearts more reachable and teachable.
If you desire to be a better listener through the curiosity of compassion, consider these ideas:
1.     Consider every interaction, and especially your helping interactions, as eternal moments that you won’t get back.  You’re on mission, and your listening is an opportunity to be that person’s secret agent, to serve them in their momentary need, by scouring your own thought energies so everything they say is ‘recorded’.  When you listen that well you find it nourishes your interest and esteem for this other person.  And that helps generate questions that help you enter more deeply into their story.
2.     Ask one-worded questions for clarity.  In whatever they’re saying, there’s the opportunity of demonstrating you’re listening and gaining more clarity and not interrupting their flow when you ask a one-worded question in context.  If someone says to you, “… and they were nice enough, but I just found it was more or less all about them…” you can interject, “… them?” and that opens up the person you’re speaking with to talk more about what “all about them” means.
3.     Sit with the person in silence and don’t be awkward about it.  None of us knows the therapy that silence offers until we partake of it.  Sometimes people have nothing to say and we ought not to fill the void with an effusion of words, unless they want us to talk, to read to them, etc.  Silence permitted between two is the nexus of friendship, and any compassionate helping relationship has the best of friendship about it.  Silence is a dear and healing friend in therapy.
4.     Be prepared to pray for the person, and don’t be afraid to engage your emotions.  Through prayer with the right emotions engaged, the person who has been listened to hears you’ve listened, and they hear not only your heart, but they hear God’s heart too.  When we’re not afraid of being vulnerable and entering into another person’s pain, we are able to intercede through the eternal moment and bring God’s healing through the Holy Spirit.
The abovementioned chaplain did these things.  He listened for what the elderly man said, but also for what he didn’t say.  He prayed as he listened, for enhanced acuity.  And the more intently he listened, the more he entered the man’s story, the more interested he became.  In the silent moments, the chaplain showed how interested he was to not force his own agenda.  He demonstrated patience which was perceived as the kindness of love.  He offered to pray for the man, and was able to help by bringing their frustrations to bear in the prayer.  The chaplain had been vulnerable enough to understand how frustration is a common human emotion with which he, himself, struggles.
When we listen with real interest, our listening creates real curiosity, and our listening is full of compassion.
1.     Which of these four areas can you most improve at or develop?  What plan could you initiate to develop in this area?
2.     If you were to define listening with the curiosity of compassion, what would you add?

© 2016 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

10 Ways God Makes Loss Worth the Learning

LOSS, whilst it’s always unfair, is also a catapult to faith, provided it doesn’t crush us beyond care or make us cynical in the process.  Loss is supposed to be a catapult to faith, but that requires openness to God and to learning.
Here is a modest list of ten ways God makes loss worth it for the learning we receive:
1.      Loss floors us for an entire season.  Such an injury takes us to the bleachers of life where we’re forced to reflect, and become.
2.      Loss teaches us how to reorient ourselves for when future disorientations occur.
3.      Undone is what was.  To become is what is to be.  To be undone is to really learn who we are.  To become is to consolidate that understanding.
4.      In loss is the memorialising season.  Only afterwards do we realise how important memories and the valuing of oral tradition have become.
5.      Tenacity and resilience can only be mastered when practiced continually, day in, day out.  What better environment to learn?
6.      First loss forces us to look backward, but then, with time, we’re cast forward.  The pain of staying the same outstrips the pain of adapting.  Only when the past no longer causes us searing pain can we afford to press on forward.
7.      In the Lord Jesus, nothing can defeat us.  Yet it’s through loss that we discover the gospel truth is true; when we live it out personally.
8.      Only in a difficulty many times bigger than we can face will we admit our smallness.  What do we call this learning?  Wisdom… maturity… acceptance… humility… all the above.
9.      Loss compels us to imagine life beyond this life, and the hope of reconnecting with that lost loved one, or of connecting with God as to why this thing was lost.  All hope isn’t lost in loss if there’s a hope beyond the loss.
10. Finally, loss teaches us a lot about people.  We learn that most people are scared of loss, and that that fear affects how they interact with us.  For some, we receive their respect.  For others it’s a case that they avoid us, not knowing what to say.  Others are strangely envious for the character growth we show as a legacy.  One thing for sure, loss changes most, if not all, our relationships.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What I’m Learning About Life Through My Loving Wife

PLENTY of these types of articles have been written, and probably more than a dozen by me, but the world should know something about what my wife is teaching me about being a Christian, a father, a man, a person.
She is gentle, even when she’s cross.  In this she teaches me that while I’m not above correction, I’m also not under her thumb.  Such fairness cannot be taken for granted.  Such poise is the grace that I want to extend out to others.  She makes me want to be gentle when I’m feeling angry.
She is pleasant, even when her inner world is fragile.  In not closing me out of her world I’m learning to appreciate that I’m welcome in her space without feeling like I own her space.  Her space is hers.  When I don’t force myself in, she doesn’t hold me out.
She talks with me, and she lets me talk.  Being more introverted than I am, my wife is ready to listen, and she can absorb so much.  Not that this is license to abuse such privilege.  Her wisdom comes out at the appropriate times, having listened, and it never ceases to amaze me the wisdom uttered from her lips, and from such comparatively few words.  Her speaking with me teaches me patience.  Am I interested enough to wait?  What a great way to learn how to love!  Waiting always accompanies wisdom.
She interacts with people in a quiet, unforced, assured way, and there’s no pretentiousness in her.  I watch and learn.  And grow in appreciation of her unambitious steadiness.
She even teaches me something about life when I miss her.  I know that when I arrive home, no matter how her day’s been, I’ll be greeted with love.  In this she teaches me grace.  Even if I’m tempted to walk in tentatively, she gives me license to walk in boldly, in the confidence of loving intimacy.
These are just some of the things I’m learning about love through loving my wife.
When we’re especially fortunate, God uses our spouse to usher the glories of His truth into us through the vestment of His love.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

If I Should Die Before I Live

LATE at night, well past tiredness, and wired in the reality of experience, I held him, bathed him, and shared him with family, before we all had to rest.
He was already at peace.
I’ve often wondered whether losing a child I’d known and experienced is harder than losing a child who never lived.  I think it must be.  That is my solace for having lost our baby son.
And still, there are the myriad unknowns and the copious unknowables about his life, having died before he saw light, or having seen the light before any of us still living.
He is gone, but only from present grasp.  He is gone, but he’s closer to me now than he was yesterday.
I wonder often if he had have lived the operations he would have had to right his congenital diaphragmatic hernia in order to reposition his organs — to make sustained life viable.  But we were told his was the worst case scenario.
No chance at life.  We prayed.  We believed.  We hoped.  And we did experience miracles; just not that kind that could keep him alive.
We strode a journey over those 122 days, and not one of those days was a waste.  God filled them up with experience, real and true.
Many times we would ponder what he might say to us if only he could speak.
We might imagine him starting to say, as if to recognise the possibility that what could happen would, he might say, “If I should die before I live…”
But we cannot know the answer, but to imagine him saying, “I will be waiting for you in heaven.”
And that’s good enough for me!
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

4 Reasons Our Food Is Killing Us

DIABETES Type 2 is a disease sweeping the developed world.  We are slowly being killed by the food we eat.  And in this, food is like the final frontier for the majority of people.  Unlike with most addictions, we cannot quit food.  We cannot stop eating.
But we can begin to eat the right foods, in the right quantities, at the right times, for our health.
The main problem with our food is fourfold: high calorie food is available at low cost, everywhere, all the time.
1.      High calorie food – the only way to make fast food appeal for value is to give it the illusion of taste, and to give the consumer more for their buck.
2.      Fast food, in comparison with safely prepared natural foods, is low cost.  And even though it’s affordable, fast food companies still make huge profits, meaning they have the capacity to ‘pass on’ what seem to be incredible benefits and up-sizes for their clientele.
3.      Low cost, high calorie food is accessible… most places in the developed world, certainly wherever there are people.
4.      This food is generally available 24/7, or most daily hours, most days, if not every day.
Is there any wonder in our sedentary lifestyles that we stack weight on?
We have a spiritual dilemma.  Our relationship with food is spiritual.  If we acknowledge that what we’re trying to get from food we can only get from God, we’re on the right track to becoming still before Him in prayer rather than eat a burger, pizza, ice cream, or fries.
There is no better medication for what in truth is a soul craving, than prayer.
When it comes to medication for life, food comes in a long second-best to prayer.  By prayer we’ll be led to quality, nutritious food of adequate portion.
Good news!  I’ve never known anyone ever before to put weight on because they prayed too much.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Trillion Images of Heaven In the Reality of Earth

FAMILY celebrations don’t always work out as we plan.  Many end up with loved ones warring with each other.  New wounds are inflicted or old ones are reopened.  So much senseless grief and pain.  There is hardly a more salient love than familial love — hurts more than it should, and we forgive more than we should.  Rightly or wrongly, all this came to me in a single moment’s vision.
Then another vision: a family photograph of someone else’s family.  Like all photographs, a moment is captured as if to fix that image as a solid reminder of history.  The picture tells a thousand stories.  But, simply this…
We’re all passing away.  The day comes soon when we’ll be gone, in deed.
Death.  Do you think about it much?  Not in a morbid sense.  In a historical sense.  In a factual sense.  It will occur you know.  It’s only a matter of time.  But what about now… what about the time between now and death, where you have choice in how to act and respond?  Through this lens, what changes can you now commit to making?
Those family factions that occur, where birds of the same feather flock together… these, too, are times that are passing away.  Soon they’ll be gone, and history will be written, forever, like the photograph, etched in fact.  The moment for writing will be gone.  It is thereby written.  Done.
Why do we not instead choose to love?  And where love is unrequited, as we should expect rejection to come, however callous it feels to us, why do we react?  It’s not the rejection that matters.  All that matters is having little to regret.  All that matters is having a firm grasp on the facts of history as they’ll one day be told telling of how free we were to love and hate.  Do we ever stand apart from ourselves, as if to judge ourselves from a third party’s viewpoint?  We would do well to.  What would we honestly say about ourselves?
I want you to think; to think as God has made me think… of the regrets of family and friendship relationships that went awry.  Where hurts were ushered harshly and responded to with disdain.  Oh, what a horrible state of affairs!
We were made for more.  Bearers of the Creator’s image, we were made for more… to stop violence in its tracks; to beget restraint for compulsion, sagacity for selfishness, peace for violence.
A trillion images.  That’s one life.  A life in the reality of history written on earth.  These trillion images are indelibly written.  They’re eternal.  What will we be satisfied to write?
We write our history of life through indelible images historically factual.  Don’t regret later what you can reconcile now.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

When the Best of Family Makes Us Sad

TWENTY-FIRST birthday parties are as poignant as ever, as was my daughter’s recently.  I look at my four living children, especially my three-year-old son, and note, with sadness, that they all grow up.  The other three have proven that.
That makes me sad — that I can’t snap-freeze these kids in their development and enjoy them more.  The purpose of life is that it evolves.  It has to.  But the by-product of life is that we do grow older and more irrelevant to our children with our years… and still, perhaps when our children relied on us most we felt we were too relevant!
I can remember being a father who wasn’t as intrinsically motivated as I am now.  Being intrinsically motivated for the past dozen years doesn’t make parenting any easier.  It makes it harder in that I feel what I miss.  The best of family makes me sad.  There was a time when family wasn’t so central and I felt less… it was easier.  But I missed so much more without even realising it.
The closer we are to God, the more propensity we have to be honest, the more we wish to live for others and not ourselves, the more grief we’ll experience.  It’s because being vulnerable creates intimacy, and that intimacy creates pain when the dynamics of intimacy change.
The best of family from a parent’s viewpoint involves sadness because progress in children’s lives means they inevitably move on.
It’s only when it’s too late — when our children have flown the nest — that we come to understand.  It’s a hard lesson, but it helps us understand it’s love that causes the feelings of loss.
The more we love, the more we feel we lose.  But we have done our job to love and that should satisfy.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weaponry of Faith in the Battlefield of Life

BATTLERS, in Australian terms, are those who struggle.  They always seem to be battling.  They may seem cursed, but their attitudes are often inspiring.  They make nothing of their ‘lack of favour’.
It’s something akin to what a true believer is called to: to be a battler.  But a true believer also stands on the right side of the resurrection — theirs is the victory in Jesus’ name.
Those of us in the Faith endure a spiritual conquest of the enemy.  We’re highly regarded as targets for attack.  But we have God on our side and the enemy knows he’s defeated!  But we need to be reminded — by faith there’s the assurance of victory.  Nothing surer.
Faith was made as a break-glass solution for times of ethereal war, even as we battle our inner selves, because we’re in that revelation of conflict.  Faith meets anguish.  When the battlefield reigns in our mind and owns the territory of our heart, faith journeys peacefully with and can reconcile that sorrowful, and sometimes unchanging truth.
It’s great for the Kingdom to be aware of the time we’re in — real warfare — and yet to not be so immobilised by fear: the battle’s won!  We only have to claim the victory in our own lives.  It’s done.  It is finished!  By faith God raises us spiritually even if by the moment — the ability to smile in the mess of it all, and to believe in the bigness of life.
And the truly good news is:
Faith seems irrelevant unless war ensues, hence its fundamental relevance in life. By faith there is peace in the battle, hope for victory, and staying power by purpose.  Only by faith is there meaning for life.  Life has no purpose without faith.
There is no hope without living by faith.
Faith is cogent weaponry in the battlefield of life.  Hope admonishes despair.  Joy’s chosen over sullenness.  Peace pervades.  But not despite the battle; in spite of it.
Faith is the corrective to life that seems unconscionable.  It moderates and resolves confusion.  It makes something of the lonely hopelessness in silence as it coalesces with the truth.
Faith is a friend no matter the battle.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.