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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Live Like You’re Loved

Through the trials and snares and difficulties of life, when much of the time we might feel beaten down, there is an urgency in the heart, the soul desperate for God’s help, searching for a way to overcome the burden.
The heaviest burden is that of being unloved and, multitudes worse, unlovable.
Many would brashly say they never feel unloved or unlovable. Truth is we’ve felt those emotions; of abandonment; whether initiated in childhood or adulthood. Why is it that the Bible goes to great pains to say God never leaves us nor forsakes us? God knows how susceptible we are.
It’s okay. It has to be okay. It’s just the way it is.
Today is the day the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24). And today, each day, with great intention, we have the opportunity, afresh, to live like we’re loved. This is the choice to allow the truth to form up, move, and find its true home: within, dearly loved.
The truth of God’s inimitable love is known with assurance by faith; the strongest of knowledges. Nothing can rock an understanding of God bequeathing us life, in our unique bodies, replete with mind and soul and spirit, to be me and you, for the entirety of our days — and then, e t e r n i t y.
The fact of death is one proof of God’s love, that He would want us back, face-to-face with Himself, so we’re able to enjoy Him all the more; us, His beloved.
When we live like we’re loved, joy, peace, and hope are embodied within, and a humble confidence exudes our being, to live like a human being was always meant to.
When we live like we’re loved, because we’re not simply liked, God gives us love’s purpose to live that our souls ever crave.
When we live like we’re loved, God gives us love’s purpose to live, and finally our soul is content.
We will never be truly happy until we feel safe in our relationship with God. Then we live like we’re loved.
To live like we’re loved is today’s opportunity; to live in the truth like the best thing happened, because it has.
Living like we’re loved is agreeing with the narrative of God’s story. It’s not simply an opportunity, it becomes the only obligation instituted by grace, to trust and obey.
Acknowledgement to Hawk Nelson’s song by the same name.

Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Remarkable Differences Between Right and Privilege

When I first received my driver’s licence I loved to spin my wheels. Doing rollbacks and burnouts on a particular concrete pad in the industrial area of the town I lived in was a pet pastime for me and my friends. That was until the Police caught us. We were hauled off to the Station. In fear of being prosecuted, we responded well to the lecture given to us. What the policeman said that day has stuck with me ever since: “Having a driver’s licence is not a right, it’s a privilege.”
That concept has broad merit in every facet of life. There are far more privileges in life than there are rights.
Yet ‘privilege’ is a word that hasn’t had a good following of late. We hear it in the context of ‘white male privilege’ and we associate it with bad things. But there is a vast difference between the noun — ‘he belongs to a privileged class’ — and the verb — ‘she was given the privilege of partaking in…’
Here are five remarkable differences between a right and a privilege:
1.     Rights cannot reasonably be withheld, but privileges can. Many things we think of as a right are actually a privilege. And yet, rights are withheld from people when there is abuse. Rights can be abused, but privileges that are withheld are never an abuse. Perhaps that which can be withheld, but isn’t an abuse, is a privilege.
2.     Privilege cannot be earned. It can only be received or bestowed as a gift. We shouldn’t work for privileges based on earning them, as it’s the wrong motive. Rights, neither, are earned; it’s a bad and sad situation (abuse) where someone needs to earn a right. Being respected, for instance, is a right, not a privilege; we should never need to earn humane respect. When we make privilege into a right we end up in an entitlement culture. When we make a right into a privilege we end up acting inappropriately and propagate abuse.
3.     Rights are inclusive, whereas privilege is exclusive. But it’s inappropriate, and an abuse, when certain demographics of society are ascribed privilege and perquisites and other demographics are disadvantaged and dishonoured for who they are. Privileges ought to be universally attainable, and rights universally attributed.
4.     We live better when we consider every bit of life a privilege. Then gratitude is the output and joy is all ours, no matter what we don’t have. Life is not a right in the perfect sense of the word (i.e., we can’t demand to never die), but there is a right to life. If we treat life more as a privilege than as a right, we enjoy life more.
5.     Rights are about dignifying people, yet a special dignity is bestowed on the person receiving a privilege. But everyone is entitled to have their dignity respected, which is the cherished honour of being human, but privilege is some extra portion which, for the purposes of respect, should be accessible to everyone.
Privileges are discretionary and ought not to be enjoyed for who we are. Rights are non-discretionary and ought to be enjoyed by all.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Everyone’s Story Makes Them Validly Loveable

As soft drink ran down the wall of the toilet cubicle onto my foot (I was in the adjacent cubicle) I was indignantly curious who was making this vandalising mess. A can was thrown into the cubicle I was in, and it was on. I made myself ‘decent’ and opened the door challenging the two fourteen-year-old boys responsible. I told the boy who had made the mess that he better get started in cleaning it up as I challenged their disrespectful behaviour, telling them that imagine being the cleaner cleaning their mess us if they didn’t clean it up themselves — that wouldn’t be fair.
But God laid something on my heart for these two. They seemed to respond to my chastising them, even if they did mock me a little, which I laughed at.
Later it came to pass that one of them had a story, so I asked him to share it with me. It was a sad family story of abandonment. It seemingly didn’t bother this boy that his father had abandoned him. He may have gotten used to the idea that his father had little interest in him, but I didn’t buy for one moment that he wasn’t identified by that rejection.
I then saw his earlier behaviour in context.
I saw something in this young man that lacks trust in an adult world that has betrayed him at his core. Nobody can create this distrust in a young man more than a father who abandoned him. So, he learned to take the law into own hands. If you cannot trust people you don’t allow them even a chance at being trusted.
Everyone has their story, and that story informs who they are.
People are not racist, rapist, violent, war-mongers for no reason. Paedophiles are what they are for a reason. There is always a reason.
When we see the cause-and-effect nature in people’s lives, empathy is hatched, compassion spreads it wings, and kindness soars.
When we see the inputs into people’s lives equal, more or less, their outcomes, that the inputs were outside their control, we’re suddenly much less judgmental.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Much Ado About a Name

Some of the names I have been called.
Names are important. They have the capacity to bless us or make us feel extremely vulnerable. There is great power in a name.
Think of the derogatory names you were called at school or as a child. Or, the nicknames that have stuck with you, though you despised them. Those names that stick — those names we hate — have the power to haunt us into anxious self-consciousness.
Think about the times when people have referred to you by name, or better, used your name in the sentences they use when talking with you; the use of your name conveyed interest and care for you.
I have found the following to be true: whenever I meet new people I find I can remember their name much better if I have an emotional engagement with the person. Like the girl that I met who, on the second occasion, seemed particularly devastated that I had forgotten her name. That was the last time I forgot her name. Or the boy who shared with me how he felt about being bullied. I adopted his name and his story from that day onward.
Names are the key to hearts. ‘Sticks ‘n’ stones’ was untrue. Sticks and stones may break bones, but names have the potential to break spirits. Equally, names, used appropriately, have the potential to validate the identity of and empower a person.
A person who cares for another person will take care to refer to them by name. But a person who does not care will resort to name-calling. Both usages of names have great power. Which power will we employ?

Will we commit to showing interest in and care for people by referring to them by their name?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Just Fix the Fence

Do you ever find yourself feeling foolish for resisting what you feel you could have embraced? — as a product of hindsight. I had one of these experiences recently. I loathed the thought of doing a thing, and yet, in the doing of that thing, God spoke through it powerfully.
My youngest daughter had a car accident with a fence. She was upset that she had damaged her car, but there was this fence damage, and I’m better with fixing fences than her mother is.
We went to Bunnings and selected the materials we needed to complete the job, loaded the trailer, and gave ‘Reg’ a call on the way. Mentioning what materials we had just bought, Reg (who I’d not met before) promptly said, “There’s two rails that are damaged, too; they’ll need replacing.” There was silence on my end of the line. We would need to make another trip to Bunnings! I was not impressed, but I have learned to say nothing at times when my blood’s boiling. Reg responded in an unexpectedly kind way. It helped. We arrived and looked at what extra things we needed. As we left to go back to Bunnings for the extra items, Reg said to me, “Bless you.”
“Bless you.” This guy’s a believer I thought. So, I asked. He was. We spoke for a few more minutes, then I prayed, for him and I. I prayed a penitent prayer, that I had not seen this work as Kingdom work. It was obviously kingdom work. Reg needed a hand to do this job, because he doesn’t have the capacity to do a job like this. Reg, a community elder on The Crucible Project, was so thankful, yet we were there simply to reconcile matters through restitution.
God knew what Reg needed. He knew what I needed.
Fixing the fence was challenging work, but it was not without its reward. Reg and I enjoyed some godly fellowship. It was a difficult job that nearly defeated us both at one point, but we finished the repairs in less than a few hours.
Sometimes God wants us to get on with the work right in front of us. As we do that, in faith, He shows up in unexpected ways.
For me, I simply needed to get on with fixing the fence. I wasn’t until I engaged in the work that God in the work began to bless me.
All because He put Reg on my path.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nobody Has An Easy Life

It’s our human default to feel life should be easier than it is; we think we have a hard life. No matter how glitzy our social media looks, we all feel unfortunate, at least from time to time. But there are those who are genuinely unfortunate — those with a lot to lose and those with nothing left to lose.
Even the person who seems to have life easy has it hard. The unmotivated lazy person, for instance, isn’t doing life easy, no matter how hard we’re doing ours, even if they appear never to have to work hard. They have not only a tough present, where fear for the future controls them, their future really is laced with uncertainty.
The rich and ‘blessed’ person is no better off; their riches threaten to evaporate when fortunes change, and it’s a biblical principle rooted in the truth of history that riches typically last three generations at most. The rich cannot secure their wealth for those coming after them. It depends on factors outside the realm of performance.
Then there is Joe You-and-Me. We run the gauntlet of life and we’re blessed in the keeping up — but we must keep up, and that’s stressful. Many days and many times during such days we feel life is unfair. We commonly look past many blessings, and that’s because it’s only within the capacity of hard work that blessings are commonly realised. We have to manage our fatigue, and where burnout is a possibility, coping measures must be learned, and that’s an arduous trek!
Finally, there is the person who doesn’t feel they struggle much at all, though if we were living their life we might disagree. Some of these people appear to live fortunate lives, but the operative word is ‘appear’.
Everybody’s life is hard. Nobody gets it easy. It’s when we think some have it easy, we feel we have life especially hard. And that perception is fair on neither them nor us.
What helps us in our struggle is the knowledge that everyone has their struggle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pride Doesn’t Have to Precede the Fall

Everyone loves the humble, (apart from the envious)
They’ve learned to expose their pride,
Rather than inwardly grumble,
They’d prefer to be honest than hide.
That awkward moment when pride is exposed for what it is! That time when a true friend had the pluck to challenge us with the truth. When their courage flouted the relationship enough to pique growth rather than give in to the cowardice that resists conflict for fear of rejection.
That moment, these moments, are the moments of last chance; of reconciling the lie of pride with the truth of humility’s capacity to respectfully pour contempt on that pride.
There’s no need to suffer the fall (Proverbs 16:18) when someone’s brave enough to love us through a challenge.
Sure, not all challenges are couched lovingly, nor are they all complicit with the truth, but all challenges can be heard, as impetus for God to test our hearts (Ps. 139:23-24).

It’s all God requires of us; to peer into the glories of His truth. And as we direct our senses rightfully, God gives us the reasonability to rationalise what would otherwise be too hard for us to bear; in our pride.
But pride doesn’t have to have the final say, besmirching our character. At the very moment where pride rises, insecurity peaking, we still have the opportunity of awareness; the strength of surrender to give ourselves over to the truth, which is humility.
Honesty requires courage, and with bravery, undergirded by faith, a person is humble.
When pride rises, as it is about to make us look foolish, reason supplies the opportunity of choice; to prefer humility, which is honesty.
Before pride gets us into a world of trouble, we have the opportunity of choice, to take the humble approach.
Pray for perspective, to hear God’s Spirit in the silence of your soul, for the ability to respond well.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Allowing Our Children to Apply To Us, The Rules We Gave Them

My 'tender' bear given to me by my wife at a time in our marriage when I needed to be tenderer.
I’m a person with good capacity for thought, but if I’m honest, I have a fine thermostat that’s sensitive to the temperature of my emotions. These emotions are almost always well checked in professional life, but where I can’t seem to help myself at times is in the home. This comes to bear when I have the perception of time pressure. Perception is the key word. Enough about one of my emotional frailties.
Recently there was a situation where I became frustrated in the presence of my wife and son — not at them, but with them around. I didn’t hear it at first, but I heard my son about the third time saying calmly, “Take one step back.” Sensing my reason returning, and probably somewhat because of his intervention, I quickly recognised he was implementing his own emotional regulating system (that his mother has taught him, and we both reinforce); this time with me. And I had the poise to do as he said. I stepped back. Then he said, in his calmest supportive voice, “Now have a think about it.”
I did. I thought about it. I glanced at my wife, and that one look created a connection. We both thought, “Wow.”
This was not simply an opportunity to regulate my emotion. It was not only an opportunity to reinforce his procedure, to show him how it works for others, too. But it was also an opportunity to build him up by allowing him to care for someone. Imagine if I reacted angrily and said, “Quiet, child! I’m the parent; don’t tell me what to do!” not only would the opportunities vanish, he would be unjustly scolded when he had detected my mood correctly, was operating out of the only system he knows, and he was doing it in a caring way.
Now it may run against every parenting fibre in you to entertain letting a child ‘parent’ you, but think about it: responsible, logical, reasonable, rational, and reliable behaviour is paramount; to model, no matter who it is, that adult behaviours trump childish behaviours. Remember childish behaviours are not the solemn domain of children. Adults have the capacity to behave childishly, too.
Our children need to learn justice from us, through us, their parents.
For me, I’m thankful that I had the composure to respond as I did. Instead of crushing my child’s spirit by chiding him through unchecked pride, I simply showed him how his method of regulating emotion works for me; as it would work for everyone.

A minute after the exchange took place, I took him in my arms and thanked him for helping me; what I saw in his reaction filled my heart with the things of God. Appreciating justice, as we all do, he loved being thanked and simply said, “You’re welcome.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What a Child Can’t Teach, A Parent Can’t Learn

Watching Australian Test cricketer, David Warner, bat at the WACA, Perth.
It had been a busy day for all of us in our separate endeavours when anger struck. Not a parent, but a child. Time was slipping away and there was cleaning up to do and a bath to be had, and all this before pre-bedtime reading. Dad was a bit stressed, trying to give Mum some relief after her exhausting day. A Dad picked this moment to stand firm on his ground! The result? The child goes ballistic.
What is wrong with this picture? The father has no control over his child. The child is being horribly disobedient. Nothing is being accomplished. Well, perhaps it’s only the latter that was true.
At one crucial point, the three-year-old child, insisting he needs his own time out (something he’s been taught to do to regulate his emotions), which Dad felt he had had enough of, goes against his own judgment and comes calmly to press his body against Dad’s. An angry, exasperated child gives a hug! At that very moment, Mum watching on, says to her son, “Have you missed us today?” Son, looking at neither parent, gives a little nod. “I think he’s not had enough time with us today, Dad,” Mum says.
“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.
— Ephesians 6:4 (The Message)
This paraphrase of a verse out of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians sums it all up. Because of the time pressure, and my need to get on with the many tasks that still needed doing, I was taking control. And exasperating my child was a by-product. I had forgotten his age, his routine, his need for process to control his emotions, and I was standing firm. All I did was make the situation worse. Far from anything at all resembling permissive parenting, in running things by my own agenda I was not leading him in the way of the Master, Jesus.
And what was the catalyst that shifted the mood of an exasperated child? The child’s calm and deliberate move toward his father and to press his body against mine. Seconds earlier we were fighting and he was scratching and pinching my face. But now calmness. It was something Mum said. Something she said resonated with, and importantly, softened, his passionate, precious little heart.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
— Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
The following interaction on the floor between the three of us was beautiful. All the anger had ebbed away, and there was only room now for empathy. Our son had had very little time with his parents. We had missed him, and he, us. So, we spent that time; just a few minutes. Then it was onto the evening’s activities, like bath time.
Not only can we expect too much of our children when we expect them to sync with our timeframes, we often don’t make a way for their developing emotions. How are our children to behave exemplarily when we fall so far from that hallowed mark? In this situation, our son was doing what he had been taught to do; spend time reflecting to improve his behaviour. I was punishing him for doing the right thing! That’s a rough justice in anyone’s terms, but sometimes, as parents, we justify our methods and actions to the detriment of our children (at least I have).
As adults, too, we must remember how easily we, like our children, feel out of control and at the whim of others, especially those with power, like us as parents.
In this episode of family life, I learned a dear lesson. God used my son to teach me what I could not otherwise learn: we must slow down and respect everyone if we expect to make good progress.

What a child is not allowed to teach, a parent cannot possibly learn.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Vulnerability/Self-Protection Response Paradigm

I’ve become more aware recently of the child sensitivities within, which are common to us all.  It’s easy to see these sensitivities within children — I’ve certainly seen them in my pre-school-aged son, and within the students I work with. But we don’t see the dynamics of sensitivity within ourselves, or perhaps we’re aware we’re oversensitive.
It was when my son fell and injured his arm suddenly that I was reminded of his sensitivity — and of mine. Not only was his sensitivity piqued more than normal, as an experienced father (I’ve been doing it now for quarter of a century!) I still felt all at sea, even if I had the composure to do what needed doing in getting him to hospital. Immediately, I was in a mode of wanting to protect him, and that instinctive drive was, if anything, an overreaction. Call it love in fear for the worst. The more sensitive he is, the more sensitive I am. And that corresponds with the sensitivities-of-response I share with my daughters when they’re vulnerable.
This interaction with our sensitivities sparked the following thought:
There is a continuum of sensitivity based on vulnerability-and-self-protection in the world. The sensitive person who is uncomfortably vulnerable, because they haven’t yet harnessed the protective behaviours they need to offset their vulnerabilities, is especially vulnerable to bullies, who overcapitalise on inappropriate self-protection. Then there’s the response of the person who is well on their way within the journey of integrating appropriate self-protection with their vulnerability. The mature person’s response is a balance between appropriate self-protection with their vulnerability.
Sensitive people become targets of bullies because bullies are uncomfortable with the vulnerability shared. Bullies exist within a bubble of inappropriate self-protection; a façade of veneer-thin strength (really, a house of cards). So, they have less emotional health than a sensitive person with a lack of self-protection through inappropriate levels of self-disclosure. A bully has neither vulnerability nor appropriate self-protection to draw on.
Sensitive people can grow through mastery of appropriate protection, which is knowing when and how to be appropriately vulnerable.
We’re all sensitive. For some it’s obvious, for others a lack of sensitivity is a façade, and for others, again, it’s a journey to appropriately self-protect.
God desires we would all relate appropriately with that which He’s made us sensitive. It’s a journey, however, in becoming appropriately self-aware and socially-aware so we employ appropriate self-protection.
We can think of the true sensitivities within us all as the child growing up and being allowed to be the child again. Adulthood should bear all the advantages of childhood without having to bear with the disadvantages.

Friday, November 4, 2016

God’s Presence, His Gift Given When Souls Have Departed

All Souls’ Day (November 2) coincides with an annual period of remembrance for our family — the time between October 30 and November 7, when we lost our son to stillbirth and were allowed 179 hallowed hours with him before we said our final goodbye. It’s a time that will never be insignificant. Each year we get away to a quiet place to appropriately solemnify this precious period. And yet this is only the second time we’ve done it. His life, from conception to completion, took place within the year 2014.
Our hearts still ask heaven, why? A mystery contends with our understanding, and until we go to be with him we shall not know.
For all souls departed there is that mystery; but we can pray for them, thanking God for them, and how they graced our lives, however short (or cut short) their lives were. And we may also thank God for the paradoxical emotions in grief — God has visited us by His Presence in the very matters of the depths He has spoken into our souls. We have been graced sufficiently to know God at a deeper level because of our loss of Nathanael. This knowledge is His sacred trust to us that makes our trust in Him both a sacred and a trustworthy knowledge. Faith, from this aspect, is more amenable after grief.
So many of us have lost loved ones. Grief is a spiritual calamity that nobody is spared.
Death is a mystery, and for the souls of all those departed, we hold them lightly in the heart and on the mind; much more and it is too great a burden to bear. God touches us through our vulnerability; we cannot see beyond the curtain separating us from eternity.
We’re reminded:
Moments come and moments go,
yet all moments echo eternally.
We don’t realise until some moments are gone,
how indelibly precious they were.
Each moment with loved and dear ones is a precious gift from God, Himself. Each moment with each person in every situation. With everything available to us in life we must, with it, choose to live.
And for those who are gone, indeed for those we dearly miss, we can pray; we have a definitive connection with God in eternity because of them!
May God truly bless you with His Presence in your grief,
May He shine upon you His showers of goodness,
That, in His sacred trust, you’ll know Him more,
Until you too are called forth to join the souls departed.
Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Because You’re Mine, I Walk the Line

Ever find God speaking to you through seemingly unconnected worldly things?
One recent morning, having had a woeful day previously, where frustrations wore me so thin I flew into more than one flight of rage (not with others, but in my own private torment) I was resurrected.
Do you ever get that feeling? Having been stood within the acid of the world’s acridity, having faced the infamy of my own failure, having tasted the censure of my own despair, God confronted me with His newness. Isaiah 43:18-19, again, came into my lived experience. From one day where I sorely felt the desire to give up, resurrection came the day following.
Because of this new thing.
Because. Ever thought about the etymology of the word? It BE for the CAUSE. The CAUSE is something that BE. The cause is ever there.
BE CAUSE of what’s mine, I walk the line — I do whatever God requires of me, to live, to work, to prosper, to support; anything and everything He requires.
Who are they who are mine? My family, of course.
The Lord shared with me the vision of my death, the death of my wife, my son, each of my daughters. It was a precious compendium of images. Looking back from several possibilities of death, God could show me just how prized life is. Any of our deaths change things, forever, in the realm of this existence.
Without a concept of death in mind, we take life too much for granted. God reminds us how real He is in the concept of our deaths. If life doesn’t get our attention, then death just must. In death, life becomes ethereal. In death, life has its maximum meaning.
Because my son is mine, I walk the line. I work a job (of three presently) that tries my patience to the point of despair occasionally. I walk that line, and pray that I might ever live, for him; for his wellbeing. Because my son is mine, I do not give up. I cannot just give up a job I find hard. I must provide. And I must keep going. But I sympathise with anyone who didn’t make it, because (that word again) that could so easily have been me. It almost was.
Because my wife is mine, I walk the line. I spend my time with her, because much earlier in our history I chose to. Even if I got bored, I’m not going back on that choice. The fact is I fall ever more in love with her with each day that passes, and it’s not just a cliché. I get less of my own way than ever, but in my marriage I’ve never been happier. The sound of her voice, her visual presence, the thought of her in other people’s lives when I’m not around, the way she listens, and her wisdom and faithfulness; all these things and more bring me uncontainable joy.
Because my daughters are mine, I walk the line. I’m there for them, and ensure, even when I don’t agree with what they do, that they have my love, which is the support of my joy at their sheer presence and my practical presence in their lives. And the joys God has given me in watching them grow, overcoming the occasional temptation of being a critical-spirited father, I simply enjoy, because they’re mine. So, I walk the line.
The CAUSE of my NEED
is they’re MINE.
Because life is dear and precious and to be cherished, I walk the line, because of what’s mine; what God’s given to me. Life ought to teach us to value everything that God has given us.
Thank you, Lord, for Johnny Cash!