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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Meditation on the Most Excellent Way

God gave the created world a most magnificent thing — a Most Excellent Way for living life. He called it “Love,” and made this unfathomable thing to be a possession within reach of all humanity and life.
This Most Excellent Way was to be possessed most by those who would possess nothing else. Those coveting nothing. In this, God showed Himself as utterly other-than the creations He created, those He created in His Very Image. They were made for this Most Excellent Way, but their way had been corrupted. Just as well, this Most Excellent Way was still accessible through the chief of God’s gifts: His Holy Spirit, given of the Father, the Giver of good and the best of all gifts, because of the Son, through His cross of redemption and resurrection of victory over the evil one.
Here is a meditation on the Most Excellent Way:
Oh Lord my God, Who created the universe most excellently through Love, and created nothing that wasn’t already “good” or “very good,” Your Most Excellent Way is Divine.
It is everything that, by nature, I am not, and yet You have gifted every lover of Good to partake in its access. And I choose for it, now. Make me ever to choose for it.
Bring it to be in my consciousness that I would conjure it, and in my conscience, that I would ever hunger and thirst for the righteousness of the Most Excellent Way.
Bring it to pass that I would be sufficiently curious to ever learn more about this Thing that You have made to be within my possession. Bring it about that I would want nothing other, because, in it, I would have every worthy thing.
Oh Love, Most Excellent Way, what if I desired You more? I’d have less fear to consume me, more peace to enjoy, less hate to resist, more kindness to offer, less envy to burden my heart, more joy to share, less pride to plunder life by savagery, more patience and contentment, less vitriol on bad days, et cetera.
You, Love, Most Excellent Way, are the wisdom of God eternal.
You make a way for all things to be made anew.
You are so far from overall reach, yet You remain accessible to the degree of our interest. As is life, You are tantalising and ever blossoming on the horizon.
Your interest is holiness, God of Love, and though we’re not holy, You love us to the extent that You believe we can become holier, which is loving, an entirely humble terminus of spirit.
What I would give to have more of You, for before You and after You and in You is life in abundance; dear, heavenly life.
So, to You, Most Excellent Way of Love, I give myself; for You I rejoice.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why I Cannot Tell You About My Mental Illness

Dear friend, thank you for your interest, but I cannot share with you, for I fear you won’t understand. You can’t possibly understand. And even if you would understand, me thinking you don’t or can’t won’t help me open up to you, nor does it ever help when I think you could be judging me without letting on.
You probably won’t understand that thinking, but there you go; you don’t understand. Even if you did understand, I couldn’t understand why you would, and I would struggle to believe you.
So you see, we have a real problem if you genuinely want me to or have an expectation that I share. And please don’t pressure me. Force makes me freeze, and I may never open up to you, if there was a chance I could, or, ever again.
You might think you’re able to help — if only I did share. As it is, in my present state, I cannot see how you could help, and even if I could see, and you were able to help, I would struggle to allow you to help me.
Please understand.
It feels impossible from in here. But, why am I seeking understanding when I don’t for one moment expect you to understand. If I think it’s absurd, how could I expect you to think otherwise. Yet, to help, you would need to convince me that you actually do understand. Good luck with that!
I cannot tell you what’s going on, because I’m so unsure where or how to start. I could just start, but then I would also find myself getting it wrong, and almost anything you’d say could be wrong. Even those who do help also say many unhelpful things. It’s great that they continue to try, though, but at best it’s wearying, and at worst it’s insulting. The good thing for them is they can’t tell how much some things they say hurt. But, that doesn’t help me.
I also cannot tell you where I’m at, because I doubt I have the energy. Breathing is the challenge of the minute right now. Breathing and simply holding my lamentable life together. See, it sounds like a full-blown pity party at happy hour. You don’t understand it! Well, how do you expect me to understand? I’d swap this for anything. And I know damn well there are so many who have it much worse than I; all that does is make me feel more guilty and ashamed, and deeper down the sinkhole I go.
Even if I did share it would be brief and I couldn’t give you my whole heart on the matter, because I don’t know where to find it. My identity and being seem to have become a mystery, and every effort to found myself on something true seems elusive.
So, please understand that you cannot understand, and accept where that leaves us… and suddenly you might begin to help.
The Person Struggling with Anxiety and Depression.
Being invited into the heart of a person struggling with mental illness is its own miracle. That heart is a sensitive place where listeners are welcome, but cannot ever feel at home.
Respect that.
Understand that you can’t understand, and suddenly, right there, understanding begins to emerge.
The guilt experienced by those with mental illness is part of the problem. Understand that guilt is a valid emotion, albeit unhealthy, based in the best of intentions to relate in love; to own one’s incapacity. Understand that the mind games they endure are unrelenting and exhausting.
Let this not be a discouragement to give up listening and reaching out. It serves as the opposite. Listeners, helpers and supporters much be more tenacious in their care than ever.
Don’t give up if someone says, ‘you can’t possibly understand’. You can’t, but that in itself is a helpful place to start.

When Disagreement Leads to Misunderstanding, Disappointment and Discouragement

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
― Acts 15:39 (NIV)
If there is anything that has gotten me down into the serious discouragement of depression it is the sharp sort of disagreement that occurred between Paul and Barnabas. It’s occurred to me more than once.
There is little doubt, personally, most growth can come from the area of disagreement, being misunderstood (and my misunderstanding of another), and the disappointment that leads to discouragement. And the spiral runs downward when bitter shards of contempt have urged me to disobey God’s command in the Lord’s prayer: “… as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12) So merciful is God not to look away from my sin, but to continue to ask me to reconsider. And I do, as He gives me strength. But it can be a battle.
If Paul and Barnabas, great servants of the Lord, disagreed sharply, then we, too, who love the Lord, also, will disagree sharply. Sometimes we won’t respond well. None of us like feeling like we don’t have control. We all like to be listened to and to be understood. Sometimes we have views that we cannot compromise — views we believe God put there. We tend to think we’re right, they’re wrong, they’re obstinate, and we’re the ones who make most sense. That God’s on our side. Couldn’t be on theirs.
If I’m honest, I have to consider that those I’ve had disagreements with will have felt misunderstood, disappointed, and discouraged. Because I was difficult to deal with. That they, too, have wrestled with forgiveness; of me. That they couldn’t reconcile how I thought or felt about an issue or issues. That I’m unreasonable.
I would say I’m ashamed of my actions of reaction at times. Anger has gotten the better of me on a few occasions. I’ve been a fool when there have been times in my earlier life when I would never have done that. It’s easy to think up some excuses, yet there are also times in my earlier life when I would not have done that, either. Yet, God is gracious.
Maybe it’s simply a case that we cannot work together. Disagreements can reveal this. Sometimes, but not most of the time, we can agree to disagree. Halcyon times, those.
I’m trying to learn all I can so I don’t repeat the same mistakes I’ve made. By the fear only God can put in me, I don’t want to betray a call I received over twelve years ago. How could I do that to the younger version of me who had faith enough to enter ministry with gifts to be shared for the benefit of the Body of Christ? There is this comfort, the fact I’ve made mistakes puts me in excellent biblical company, which is why the Bible is encouragement, not simply instructional, so long as learning is stowed. It’s no good to stay in the wrong.
I pray that, as Paul and Mark (who Barnabas and Paul disagreed over in the first place) reconciled, there would be sweet reconciliations ahead with those who I’ve had sharp disagreements with. God has this in hand.
The Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God is what the work of ministry is all about.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Language of Care Versus Language of Neglect

“Have you got the right money?” versus, “Do you need any change?” A significant difference in language.
As I deliver meals to homes one day a week, some meals are paid for by cash, sometimes in a postal envelope, and, whilst many have the correct amount in them, some don’t, and those people require change on the spot.
On receiving one envelope recently, instead of saying, “Do you need any change?” I said, “Is the money right?” Immediately, I knew I’d phrased that in the wrong way.
Normally I ask if the person needs change, yet in making the mistake in how I phrased the question I saw the power in how a question is put — the power to show care in an interaction, versus the power to neglect the other person.
Through a slight lack of awareness, I made a chance at a good interaction less than it could have been.
Had I said, “Do you need any change?” the lady I served would have said, “No, the money is correct already.” I would have given her the benefit of the doubt, which fits the business model of the company I drive for. They’re more interested in keeping the customer happy than for the money to be exactly right.
Instead, when saying, “Is the money right?” I’ve communicated that I may not trust her. The lady took it well, but I knew straight away that I could have had a more blessed interaction had I been careful to serve her better.
Our choice of words has the power to communicate care or neglect. Communicating carefully communicates care.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Stepping In, Stepping Out, Stepping Up, In Step Family

Joined in marriage in mature life, they sought a new vision for family, for ministry, for life, never knowing how hard it would be.
He had daughters, three beautiful creations. She had never been married before. He felt called by God, after the grief of a failed first marriage, into a ‘second chance’. He had spent three long years as a single. After a brief courtship, they were engaged and then married.
Whilst the scenario is specific to this family, the phenomenon of conflict in step families is remarkably common.
They were in their first year of marriage when his eldest daughter moved in. It was a pivotal phase in her life. She was at a crossroads in her schooling, lacking purpose and vision, but subsequently found her path. She had also been brought up in a particular way, as we all are, and she was processing much of her own stuff, bravely and painfully, considering it was only five years before that that her father and mother had separated, less than four years since they divorced. Again, she was at a pivotal age when the separation occurred, and the period since had been littered with difficulty.
She had a special relationship with her father, and their relationship was to cause marital issues, because a marriage is the uniting of flesh and spirit. The relationship the father and daughter shared was how they survived the breakdown of their family. But, there are only two partners in marriage. The couple learned this in their marriage counselling sessions. They went regularly to their counsellor for two years. The father did not want to let go of the relationship he had with his daughter. He couldn’t see the problem initially. But he did eventually see. He began to see that marriage is a oneness that is vital for the family unit to function. Some change to the relationship was inevitable.
For two whole years, family life was difficult for all three in the home. But a transition was made based on the advice and encouragement of the counsellor and the changes the couple made. Conflict seemed to be a daily challenge and crises occurred at least weekly.
The couple realised that if the wife was to have her husband’s full support, that support for the daughter regarding family issues would need to come from another loved one. It was a system that worked, thankfully, because the daughter’s new support was from a dearly loved grandmother. It wasn’t uncommon for them both to talk for an hour or more when she needed support.
The father compensated for not being his daughter’s support during family tension by regularly dating her, where she could talk about anything. With his daughter knowing she had support for certain family matters she shared anything but that with her father.
After a couple of years, the family structure had settled down. The dynamic had changed. Yes, it took that long. And this is what was learned. When step family dynamics are at their destructive height, both partners to the marriage — the parents/stepparents — must unite, and in a proactive, serving way. Through working together, they provide leadership through serving each family member and the family as a whole.
In uniting, parents in a step family must have agreed values and boundaries, and they must communicate about everything, expecting conflict to be a normal feature of family life. Agreeing on a complex array of matters takes time, effort, and much trial and error. Ongoing forgiveness is a vital commitment each adult must make, as they help the family process change. Mature adults accept that children and teens need help. They know that expecting adult behaviours is a stretch too far, but they do strive to include conflict resolution as a family journey. Nothing as far as conflict is concerned is off limits in the family dialogue, as it’s accepted that all are learning, mistakes are normal, and nothing is final.
Stepping into step family life is easy, stepping out is a constant temptation in conflict, and stepping up is hard. But when adults persevere and are patient, persisting with their long-term vision together, with a commitment to work through conflict and endure inevitable pain, step families do survive, grow, and thrive.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

But… That’s Not How They Think

We think, as a default line of thinking, that we know what others think. But, if we cannot predict what God is thinking, and He is righteous and steady, how can we think we know how wayward people think?
A big part of the problem is we expect people to respond how we would respond. Or, we plan something thinking, “Oh, that’ll be okay — I’d be fine with it…” only to find they’re livid.
Then there are times when the shoe’s on the other foot, and something is done to us. We experience their incredulity for what they think is an overreaction on our part. And close friends are separated, until maturity in one or both says enough is enough — time to apologise and seek forgiveness.
Thinking we know what others think is a folly. We would shriek if we knew the odds against getting it right.
We would do better to tell ourselves, “They’re not thinking as I’m thinking they’re thinking.” Even if there were some crossover in the thinking between us and them we miss so much of their context, because we simply don’t have their experience, personality, vantage point, nor outlook, nor their life to live.
What they’re thinking is really no concern to us, unless it’s God who has said there’s some reconciling to be there. If that’s the case, we rein in our mind, and we plan and execute the reconciliation.
If we think we know what they think, the relationship will sink. If we respect their diversity, we’ll get through adversity.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

It’s Their Life (and Ours is Ours)

Having three adult daughters, I find watching their lives as a parent a wonderful pastime, but one not without its cares. Each is different to the other two. Each one looks for different things in their partners. And there are differences in their interests, too. As sisters they’re quite different, and that diversity is something to celebrate. As a parent those cares sometimes morph into concerns, but not because of who they are or for the decisions they make; it’s just the domain of the parent.
God has taught me something precious in my parenting over the past ten years or so, as they transitioned from girls into teens into young ladies.
Whilst the cares never abate, the joys I experience are lucid in simply letting them be.
The fact to accept is it’s their life. They’re different persons to me, with their own separate life experiences, together with life aspirations that I would always support but would not do, personally.
The point of parenting is not to bring up clones or to lead them in the way we, ourselves, would go, besides the values we’d like them to live by. But even with values, they’ll make their own choices. And it’s their choice whether they’ll depart from a value set they’ve been brought up with. It’s their prerogative to choose their own values. I certainly pray they make legal and moral decisions, but I accept that they won’t always make wise decisions. I haven’t.
These principles of leaving my daughters’ lives for them to live, but being there for whatever support they wish for from me, is equally applicable with all our relationships.
It’s not our life they’re living. It’s theirs. Aren’t we thankful that other people don’t get to lead our life and coerce us into the decisions only we can make?
Life is best when we make the decisions we wish to make. Being accountable for our decisions is the only wise way.
We live our life, they live theirs. Taking responsibility for our life, not others’, is the best way to live.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Do Some Men Find It Hard to Talk About Deep Stuff?

Responding to a request, this article hopes to answer the question. The answer is cultural as much as biological. I’ve also sought to connect with the issue personally. Those who know me well know I crave talking deep stuff, but I wasn’t always like that.
Until I lost my first marriage I had the capacity to go deep in discussion, but little interest. And it didn’t go well for me. It’s part of the reason my first marriage failed. As I look over my journals in that period of life I certainly was reflective. So why didn’t I open up with my then wife in the latter period of that marriage? I was busy, distracted, unstimulated at that point of my life, and really didn’t think there were any problems worthy of discussion. I’d become blind to my own circumstances.
Culturally, baby boomer men (born between 1945-1960) don’t reflect about deep stuff with themselves, let alone talk with others. There are exceptions. They grew up in a challenging and confusing time. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say they think a lot, especially as life’s transitions confront them. This can be frustrating for their wives, who see them shut in, who resist ‘help’. The more a wife may want to help, the worse the husband feels the pressure to give what he may feel incapable of giving. He may feel he can’t give her what she wants, and he may be right.
Gen-X men (born between 1961-1981) are probably a little more amenable to expressing their emotions, but don’t forget who their fathers are — baby boomers. They’ve had to learn how to do it, and some, like myself, have had to learn the hard way.
I read an article by Gail Sheehy, and she said that men don’t understand women, and they know it, yet women also don’t understand men, but they don’t know it. Hence, why women are trying to work their men out, and why men don’t tend to bother. Another issue that Sheehy mentions is men don’t seem to ask questions as much as women do. We’ve been trained by our culture to work things out for ourselves. Our biology, too, because we’re the ‘stronger’ gender, causes us to think we’ve got to work it out for ourselves. No wonder we’re telling ourselves to man up instead of open up. And little wonder men seem less inquisitive than women.
Interestingly, the cultural scales are sliding and more young women are working things out for themselves; young men can be the ones asking the questions.
Advice for women who feel they can’t reach their husbands. Back off. Don’t make it a sport. Ask better questions. Questions that do get him talking. Work into the discussion from there. Understand that he will engage if he knows how to. Time discussions appropriately when he’s not distracted by something he thinks is more important. And, accept his simple answers. Don’t get frustrated by them. And if he feels you’re satisfied with his answers, he’s more likely to keep going.
I find I open up when I’m stimulated, when there are no other distractions, and when I know I’ll be listened to, and most of all when I’ve got something to say.
Intimacy is central in all this, yet…
Intimacy is a vague concept in marriage. Clarity comes when both partners can agree what it means.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Commonest Cause of Marriage Conflict Today

“The best thing you could ever give someone is your TIME, because you’re giving something that you’ll never get back.”
— Author Unknown
The amount of time couples give to each other must be inversely proportional to the amount of conflict experienced.
Time equals communication, and communication means information, and information breeds empowerment for both spouses, as partners have the time they both need for reflection and decision-making.
It suddenly occurred to me recently that couple satisfaction has to correlate with the amount of time and effort they put in with their communication. Take my wife and I as an example of this. Our communication is usually of a great standard, but at times we argue briefly on matters we disagree about, simply because we haven’t spoken about it, when suddenly there’s time pressure to make a decision. Neither of us is in a position of empowerment when a discussion goes awry.
In other words, there isn’t the time to devote to quality communication, so we tell each other what we think. Respect gets dropped for a moment because a thing just needs to be done. And we polarise, and it’s possible that some unlaundered issues can spring out of the closet that we’ve been unconsciously hiding away. Both of us can retreat to our corners, and there’s no resolving the issue from there. Instead of treating each other as cherished and sacred, pressure situations can be the catalyst for tersely conveyed words.
It’s the same in all marriages where there’s commitment and passion, amid pressure for a decision.
Time for communication, on the other hand, facilitates thought and reflection on matters of household business. My wife and I often talk shop on our Tuesday date nights. We both love to plan. Date night isn’t just romantic; it’s also pragmatic. Better to have the communication there, where thoughts on decisions can be broached, before time runs out. And issues always prove that there was a finite life for any one issue. We talk a fair bit daily about the processes of our lives together. But there will always be a matter or two that we didn’t discuss, and that’s generally where the conflict comes from — from what wasn’t discussed earlier.
And, no matter how much communication there is between a couple, there will always be the issue that catches one or both by surprise. We have to learn not to sweat over small issues, for all issues are small in the scheme of things.
Couples who spend time intentional in their communication endure less conflict and experience more contentedness.
Communication needs to be about investing time and the commitment of intention. Respect follows when we’ve prioritised time with our partner.
Good marriage can be as simple as removing unnecessary distractions, slowing down, and spending time with the one we love most.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And the LORD said, Don’t Prejudge a Thing

Introduction to Ethics was a seminary unit of study foundational for a theology for morality, proving how complex the wisdom of ethics is.
Recently I was given update training about the ethics of life in the only way life can teach us; through raw lived experience.
Something piqued my awareness that something suspicious was going on. Righteous anger welled up within me, and I decided to take matters further. I consulted with my wife. J Given the information I supplied, she was equally alarmed. We had to respond to this. Not an injustice done to us, but an injustice of systemic proportions where others affected, dozens of them, were potentially taken advantage of.
Ethics is about justice, and justice is about fairness, and fairness is about equity. Semantics, perhaps. But ethics is about people and a virtue ethic is about the fruit of the Spirit as it is shared in relationships. Obviously, the opposite is what I was concerned about — we were — the appetence of greed morphing into abuse. We were about to make a drastic decision.
Oh the folly of prejudging a situation!
How good is God to show us, me no less, within two hours, three separate and salient situations that would turn my perception, in gaining God’s perspective, on its head. From insidiousness to inspirational… in a matter of hours.
All because I had briefly misunderstood and misread a business model. That’s understandable. I wasn’t the author of it. I was just one of the stakeholders with my own skinny vantage point.
We see very little from a limited vantage point. And this is what ethics teaches us: we can only judge when we have the full picture. And rarely do we, ever, have that. Any response of judgment prior is a banking on folly. So many of us, so much of the time, have very little through which to see, and the moment we prejudge a situation we close our minds off to the truth that might otherwise break through the night experience that God wishes to turn into day for us. To look into a mirror with clarity when we would otherwise, without Him, look into that glass dimly.
The Author of the ethics of life is the Author of the wisdom of life, and these two are one and the same; they’re, like God, inscrutable, as life itself is enigmatic.
From the matter of understanding comes wisdom, and that because of one thing: right perspective. Upon which a true ethic can be gleaned.
Judge a thing prematurely and we can expect to get it wrong. Wait. Can you hear Him? He will speak when it’s time.
Ethics teaches us to wait on the truth, for the truth tarries, and the right remains behind the scenes for the proper time to be revealed.
Ethics in the Kingdom of God is wisdom for life for the discerning and doing of virtue.
Ethics is the provision of wisdom that saves us from the prejudging responses of folly.
I am so grateful to God, that, in this instance, He showed me what He had revealed for me to see. My prejudging of a situation was foolish. He came through with His wisdom, and everyone prospered, not least, me.
Only God can turn a person’s perspective so effectively.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Some of Life’s Little Ironies

It’s not about you, but, on the other hand, it’s all about you.
Life is about God, but life is all about how we, ourselves, interact with God.
Life is in the giving to others, but life is also about receiving from God so that we may be enabled to give to others.
We all have incredible gifts, but those same gifts, pushed too far, are a scourge and our downfall.
You are dark. I am dark. The darkness we notice about others highlights the secret darkness resident in ourselves. The more we bear and resolve our darkness, the more light shines upon us. You and I. We both need God.
We may become masters at what we do, but we never break clear of the schoolyard.
We get old and those whose bottoms we wiped become the wipers of our mouths.
It’s fine to get angry for the right reason, but we quickly find we’re in the wrong as we respond in that anger.
Innocence works well in life until that moment we’re wrongly accused and we’re castigated even more for protesting our innocence.
We eat what we want when we’re young, and get away with it. We watch what we eat when we’re older, yet struggle with our weight.
When we’re at the top of our game we are proudest of all, and what’s more, we get away with it. Arrogance has its place. But when we’re on the way down there’s no tolerance for the tiniest conceit.
Life is an enigma in the contrasts.

Friday, January 13, 2017

From Little Things, Big Things Grow

One recent working day, a full eight-hours to labour, I had a revelation — why do I ask God to hurry those few hours? The truth is we all have components of our lives we would rather hasten or skip. But a bigger, burgeoning truth: hasten or skip anything and we rush to our deaths.
It’s the same with our growth. Too often we’re quick to rush to an outcome like a goal. The problem is we take a short cut to the goal and we compromise our success.
It’s like the moneybox we bought our three-year-old son. We gave it to him with a few coins inside. The next day we let him help clean the car out and told him he could keep the coins he found. He put them inside his portable bank account and shook it. “It’s not full yet. Can I have some more money for my moneybox?” He wasn’t happy that it’s going to take a full year to fill it up.
We wish our lives away — the hard and bad bits, anyway — never realising that these precious seconds we never get back. Yet, God’s Presence is with us and can be experienced anytime. Whether we desire or detest what we do, it’s all fluff compared with reality that’s eternally true.
Good things take time to develop. From little things, big things inevitably grow.
Growth has about it this promise: as slow as it takes to secure, is as sure as it is to stick.
Our time is finite. It’s all we have.

Monday, January 9, 2017

In Contemplation of Spiritual Presence

I first came across the idea of thinking interrupting presence only recently, in reading Alan Watts’ work, The Wisdom of Insecurity.
Here is the idea:
Whenever we’re engaged in thinking we cannot be present — i.e. we lose touch with being present in our senses when we’re engaged in thought. Contemplation is the mid-ground — part thinking, part presence. Anytime we’re busy thinking, or doing for that matter, which is also beyond contemplation, we lose presence.
God is deeply part of each experience as we allow.
And each process — thinking, contemplation and presence — is of equal value. Each has a vital part in our contemplative experience. And of reality, each of these three melds with the others into our felt experience of reality, being that one cannot be separated out from the others with any firm distinction.
It could be deduced, then, that in doing and doing and doing, we’re also thinking too much. Not that it’s bad to think. No, it’s good to think. But to think too much makes the mind weary and dissuades the heart from its passion.
Presence is healing, and if presence is being without thought, then we need to simply sit and be, without thought, more often.
Could it be that nothing would add to our lives unless we were prepared to have some  things taken away?
Could it be that less is more, and that more is disillusioned by the lies it’s been told?
Imagine if minimalist living really was the secret to experiencing healing, that presence, through the abandoning of thought, held the key to our contentment.
The idea of presence, which underpins rest, peace, and shalom, pivots around not thinking, but the absence of thought.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Acts of Kindness and the Propulsion of Love

I watched I AM by Tom Shadyac with some good friends and was inspired by the thrust of its message — love is in our DNA. Incredibly, as one of my friends was opening his car door to leave we had a random guy ride up my driveway on his bike and, nose-to-nose with my friend and I, picked a fight, to which we both said at the same time, words to the effect, “No, man, we won’t fight with you. We’re only interested in love.” As if in complete rewind, he immediately backed off, said he was lost, and then asked for directions to Leach Highway, which we promptly gave him! Off he went…
Non-violence is the thesis of victory over the disease of materialism, because materialism is the basis of all aggression, and aggression will certainly be the end of humankind. But, astoundingly, as we refuse to engage violence with violence, becoming the pacifier, people join our collective strength, for our strength is not in our solitude, but in our solidarity.
Acts of kindness may be small, but there is a sure cumulative effect, as each kindness is done it is added to the movement of kindnesses bestowed and school of such kindnesses are the body of the propulsion of love.
Kindnesses joined with kindnesses are propelled in some seemingly random pattern, but they all coalesce in love. No kindness is wasted, ever.
If you and me and soon almost everyone else committed one or two kindnesses a day, a movement of love could sweep the world. The propulsion of love is about believing in the power of miniscule acts of kindness to create such a movement.
We’re interconnected more than we know, which is why every random kindness makes more than its share of difference.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Man, His Fears and Tears

From the ManUp videos. Link below article.

I look forward to the day when it will be socially unacceptable, everywhere, to decry a man his emotions.
Where four people suicide, three are men. Why is this?
Men are told to ‘harden up’, to ‘grow a pair’ (of testicles), to be a man, because apparently, men don’t cry. Isn’t it funny that anatomically (the parts of the body) and physiologically (the way the body works) men are no different from women in the regions of the mind and emotions? There may be biochemical differences, but as men and women we’re more similar than we’re different.
It’s hard enough for men to cry, because there’s already a biological default to deny his feelings, so it’s even worse that culture reinforces the lie that men can’t cry.
I can tell you there are several times I’ve broken down in tears in places I would rather not have. I knew each time that it wasn’t so much weakness that compelled me to cry, rather it was the urge to be me; the courage to maintain emotional integrity. Often it was because of genuine suffering, sometimes it was in response to reality’s sadness, and at times it was because I simply felt overwhelmed.
If suffering’s our lot, or our reality is nothing but sad, or we feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to be tipped over the edge into tears; infinitely better than bottling it up or harming ourselves. Indeed, the wisdom of tears are they relieve pressure and augment healing.
The Bible records the phrase “do not fear/be afraid” 365 times—one for each day of the year. The Bible isn’t just speaking to women. Men experience fear, too. And it’s not simply about being ‘scared’. Fear is manifest through a myriad series of activators including, but not limited to, not measuring up to the world’s, someone else’s or our own expectations.
We need to wrestle with the shame we feel when we cry and really ask why we feel it.
We have to start giving men permission to cry when they need to. And it starts in every home and in every workplace. The shedding of tears shouldn’t ever be public spectacles; indeed, they should be private and dignifying. We need to begin to feel very privileged that a man has trusted us sufficiently to open up enough to cry.

Acknowledgement: manup.org.au

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Understanding the Discipline of Gratitude

Anyone who has ever resolved to be inwardly happy has entertained gratitude within the court of their heart. But, like happiness itself, gratitude, as a process, is foreign as a concept of habit. We knew to be happy we had to be grateful, but how does one become instinctually grateful, even when we know we ought always to be?
Gratitude does not come naturally upon the human condition. Our default is opposite. We’re much rather given to complaint. We’re prone to comparison and to compromise.
Really Engaging With Gratitude
Some years ago, I had a friend from a distant land who resolved herself to the practice of giving thanks daily. Her practice was a great journey with a community behind it. It made of gratitude an expedition to a serene destination that one could visit any day of choice. It illustrated how to put gratitude into the daily arena of many who followed or contributed to that blog.
Like almost anything good in life, gratitude costs us a great deal in terms of commitment. We cannot just pick and choose to be grateful and hope that it will stick. We need to wed ourselves to it.
We need a covenant relationship with gratitude. We cannot just be occasional lovers. We need to truly esteem her, and give her all our attention, and resolve to be grateful especially when we aren’t, for, in that, we’ll finally learn what God is sure to teach us.
Understanding that acquiring gratitude is a discipline is to understand discipline is central to gratitude’s acquisition.
But it isn’t discipline in any direction that secures us the acquisition of gratitude.
Gratitude – of Gifts Given in Love to be Celebrated with Joy
This is the nexus of the quote at top. Those words again:
The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
I have attempted to emphasise the important phrases.
The discipline of gratitude is an explicit effort. It’s overt. Something very intentional. The effort is put in to acknowledge something first and foremost; a thing that takes precedence over all other devotional activities. What is acknowledged is everything that is part of me and you. Everything. The good and the not-so-good. Every bit. Appreciating everything we’ve been given — the things we want as well as the things we don’t want — is appreciating the Giver. True thankfulness is gratitude. And the output of gratitude is joy.
We can be grateful when we recognise what we’ve been given as a gift of love. Knowing we’ve been so richly loved breeds joy in us.

Monday, January 2, 2017

He Wants Peace, She Wants to Be Heard

It’s a theme I’ve noticed in the couples I’ve counselled that aligns also with my own experience as a husband. Married life pairs partners who were initially alike, but are worlds different. And one key variance is what they want during conflict.
He wants peace. She wants to be heard.
Yes, of course, this is a massive generalisation as there are certainly exceptions.
There is a reason he wants peace. The relationship needs peace, but not at the expense of the truth. He knows she needs to be loved, and conflict, for him, is an interruption to the love he wants her to feel. If only there is peace there’s room to love her — as he wants. But what he wants isn’t always the right way. Truth also told, he wants a peaceful life as free as possible from family frustrations. His desire that everyone get on is good, but his way of securing peace is not always the right way. (I concede that she wants peace, too.)
There is a reason she wants to be heard. Simply, she needs to be heard. And the truth is the relationship needs it. If only he will hear her at this crisis point, he will show her he’s as serious about the issue, and the marriage, as she is. At root, it’s about love showing itself as respect. If he listens — with genuine intent — he will prove not only respectful, but trustworthy. The bigger truth is both he and she need to be heard. Every marriage prospers when, as James says, partners are “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”[1]
Good relationships find peace through effective conflict resolution. So both he and she want what the relationship needs. Both simply need to value what the other wants.

[1] See James 1:19-21.