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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Do I Fit in Here?

Of all the decisions that are made hard for us, the felt state of not fitting in makes decisions to leave a lot easier. There are churches and relationships, where, no matter our effort, we just don’t feel ourselves; they don’t feel right. We feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
These are simply reminders we haven’t found a place to land, yet. For, sometimes if we did settle, taking an awkward ease in our dependence, we wouldn’t do justice to what is right.
Fitting in and feeling at home is a very important thing.
Helping Others Feel At Home
If fitting in and feeling at home is a very important thing for us, personally, we can begin to appreciate how important it is for someone we notice who definitely doesn’t fit in.
Don’t we have a duty, in love, to help others feel at home—feel accepted, appreciated, loved?
Sometimes when we focus on others in such ways as to welcome them with our open arms our own problems and feelings of inadequacy diminish into the ether. And, of course, when we have fresh memories of not fitting in, our empathy for others who don’t fit in is ever poignant. Our sympathy for them is real.
Not Settling Until We’re ‘Home’
Everyone deserves to feel at home in a workplace, in a church, and in a relationship. Still, it’s never that easy.
So many of our workplaces are foreign to that homely feel; where we get on swimmingly with our co-workers and bosses. Churches, too, often have a very ‘clicky’ way about them. It can prove difficult to break into one of those church social circles. And if these former two were hard, finding a relationship we feel comfortably at home in, where there’s mutual respect and our partners have earned our trust, can seem impossible.
So often we put up with awkward circumstances. When we don’t feel fully accepted, we can’t feel fully appreciated. And everyone desires the recognition of appreciation.
Everyone deserves it.
Our choice, as we’re an advocate for ourselves, is to keep an open mind and a courageous heart flexible for finding our home in these relational settings.
Everyone deserves the opportunity of fitting in, feeling accepted and appreciated. Feeling that we fit in, that we feel at home, is never to be underestimated. If we don’t feel at home, yet, we shouldn’t give up. Love will find us if we keep seeking.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Choosing Friendship – Past and Future

Some friends, they say, come into our lives for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime. Far fewer are the latter, though. Rare it is to have a friend for a lifetime; from childhood to death’s door. So we’re often cast upon the seas of decision. Sometimes we must choose our friends from between the history we have with them in the past as opposed to the prospects we have with them for the future.
Such choices are never easy. We know what we had with those in the past, but that won’t always fit with our future plans. Likewise, we may anticipate something bold and exciting with a new friend, but our hopes have no basis apart from the strength of our desire or imagination.
The friend of the past has both credibility and lack, for the times they came through for us and the times they let us down. A friend of the future has no such credibility, yet they’ve not disappointed us, either.
So, if we’re pressed, who do we spend time with—the known quality of the friend of the past, or the unknown but exciting prospect within the friend for the future?
Assessing Friendships’ Value
Whether we like it or not we’re in friendship with people for what we can gain, even though we hope to add value to our friends’ lives. In friendship we have choice.
Whilst we want to earn their trust and respect, we need to feel we can trust and respect them. It’s no good for us to be risking flippantly with our trust and respect. We choose who we love by reciprocation. We want to love those who love us, by their actions. And by our actions we’ll love them.
We might, more or less, continually screed for signs of friendships of value.
We want to know that our investment in the rich and enigmatic game called ‘love’ will prove to be a good return. We never want to be wasting our time. We don’t want to spin our wheels with love.
And there are times, too, when our needs and our desires drive us to re-evaluate the present-tense value of our friends and acquaintances. We may be at an important juncture, and, because of that, our friendships serve the change to be instilled, or they don’t. Where friendships have been significant, yet their future potential is limited, we have a choice. Which way is our life headed?
Choosing between the friends of our pasts and the friends of our futures we need to understand that what’s gone is gone, but that which is still coming can be affected.
Loyalty is important, but perhaps integrity, overall, is more important. Loyalty for past deeds of love holds less value if that loyalty has less power or contribution to make to our futures. Love is both a choice and an action, and it should not be blackmailed by the history of loyalty in our pasts if it won’t serve our futures.
Sometimes choosing to remain loyal because of the past can reveal guilt—not a free choice. Choosing to invest in a better life direction is a bold and free choice, refusing to be ambushed by guilt.
If we choose loyalty for a friend in the past, because we want that friendship to endure, we’re making a choice for the future. Our decisions regarding friends are best tested through the lens of the future. If we decide because of the past, alone, guilt may be the motivating factor.
Friendship factors favour the future, because friendship should provide hope. Choosing with thought of the future will reveal, later, a better choice—one that’s possibly guilt-free.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 27, 2012

When That Day Finally Arrives

A wedding poem for the Bride, spoken in the first person:
How will I feel when that day finally arrives?
When all of life is a flux and my hope simply drives.
This day’s a day to wed—the day of fabulous dreams,
My hope, my God, my favour, for whom my groom esteems.
In numbness and happiness, overwhelmed and excited too,
These feelings I have, have never been quite so true,
All these years and my hope’s now come to be,
Right throughout this day my experience will be glee.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Anger Versus the Effort of Love

“Whatever good you think can be achieved with anger can be achieved better without it. Anger is the fuel of Christians too lazy to love.”
~Skye Jethani
There would be no person born of a woman that does not struggle with their anger. The most righteous people in the Bible did, apart from Jesus, that is. Anger seems to be part and parcel of the way we respond in many situations that don’t go according to plan. And, of course, there are the times we get angry and we don’t even know why.
Anger makes for a fascinating study, so long as you’re not on the receiving end of it.
Anger is also the elephant in any room when it comes to relationships and the hidden things; those things that occur in people’s lives that nobody but the closest know about. Does anything rival the embarrassment, guilt and shame we might feel in our uncontrolled anger?
Anger And Relationships – An Incompatible Mix
For all that can be said about anger, we can know this about it. It never benefits relationships unless such anger is expressed in moderation—where anger might motivate us to communicate the truth in love. But that’s not really the anger we have in frame here.
The anger that fills our minds is the anger that has betrayed us.
Such betrayals have occurred, and have perhaps only occurred, within our relationships. Anger and relationships, therefore, are incompatible. If anger is our response to a relationship issue it is the wrong response.
The Effort Of Love
Love, so far as relationships are concerned, and not the romantic kind, generally involves effort. To climb over our propensity to get angry we need to find a way to love. Indeed, perhaps this is how we manage our anger; by committing to love instead.
By going the extra mile in our patience with people, by agreeing beforehand to love them, especially when we don’t want to, we choose the holy accord of love.
This, against the backdrop that presents a thousand different ways of easier response, is a difficult thing to achieve. But when we do achieve it, mastering the effort to love, we are converted to the personal power of hope and faith in it. God commends us because our relationships are blessed; because we are trusted and respected as a result.
Anger and love are polar opposites. When we are tempted toward anger with people we are tempted to not love them. It’s better to commit our efforts to love; to have the situational wisdom just to love. Anger and relationships don’t mix.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: we should understand that never are we beyond God’s forgiveness for our anger. And if God forgives us, we can forgive ourselves.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where is the Love?

In the wide-open field we call life—that broad expanse of experience, time and space—there’s a thing so rare; such a rare thing... as love. In its most essential context it’s nothing about romance, or partiality, or the will to do well. All these pale crudely by comparison.
Love is rare as gold and it’s almost impossible to find in mineable quantities. For, this love we consider is the moral agency and urgency of the Lord our God. Those who can love, even for a moment, by their heartfelt sacrifice, have captured and epitomised an integral part of God’s character, even for that moment.
And they will know the blessing of the Lord.
Nurturing This Thing So Rare
If we would be given to the truth, and for many of us that’s critically important, we must agree with the biblical Word that paints us, humankind, as an entity that has so much capacity for love, yet falls in our failure to love so often.
We are sinners. Our sin prevents us from loving in any sustainable way, mainly for our self-protection. And still we try. God values our efforts, yet he blesses more, in abundant grace, the sort of weak surrender the world despises.
But weakness in the world’s eyes is strength in God’s. He notes the kindness and compassion and patience in our love and blesses our hearts. When we operate in love, never do we finish in complaint. Love and pride are incompatible.
The humblest of all people is the acknowledged sinner—a wonderful paradox puts them closest to God. Then, and only then, can God’s Spirit work in that sinner’s heart, and then the process of nurturing begins.
Where Our Focus Is Our Focus Becomes
It’s a self-defeating thing to not love. When we insist on our own way, on our complaints, one judging people, in being divisive, and in avoiding the truly good things of life in preference to the naughty things, we miss love and we miss happiness and peace. Not long after that our hope begins to sink. Hope must find a home, and when there’s no prepared place of virtuosity for it to reside, it runs.
But when we focus on love, that focus becomes our focus. When we go out of our way to understand our hearts, and why we feel the way we do, challenging ourselves to love, we do eventually love better—but never perfectly will we love.
If we’re sold to the good things in life, and can no longer be sold to the worthless things, love has become our focus, however inconsistent we still may be.
When our focus shifts to love we care more. Our own agendas scurry to the background. Others’ needs come into our scope of view. Then, for the first time, we begin to be happy.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Dray-sen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Out On the Periphery

Talking recently with a 40-something mother of older teens—her near-adult children now off studying and living on-campus—and I detect the semblance of irony when she laughs at herself, “I’m out on the periphery, now!”
It’s something most parents will relate with; that stage in life where, as a parent, we’ve done our job of raising the child, and the child must go now and do what adults do. That’s what we raised them for. But it’s hard—it’s hard to let go and not be more an integral part of their life.
We only ever find ourselves out on the periphery—then we are faced with an unplanned-for adjustment. Only then do we realise how quickly the process of parenthood has passed before our eyes. We recoil, for a time, in disbelief.
How are we to redeem this situation?
Accepting The Phase – Working With It
As parents we’ll know the phase is a temporary one—lasting a few years at best. And we must simply adjust. But there are ways we can add value to our children’s lives—even from a relative distance.
Taking them out on a date of their choice is one example. How many late-teens would knock back coffee or a free meal? Especially if we work in with their schedules, we can meet informally, one-to-one, even for an hour, and stay involved. Servicing their cars or doing shopping with them are other options. Granted that family occasions, at least for a little while, will be more superficial in contact, making date-time a regular thing augurs well for this transient, self-finding phase in their lives.
The worst thing we can do is become demanding, trying to lay on guilt trips for a lack of contact with them. Why, as parents, would we ever gravitate to behave like children, by being demanding?
We brought them up to be independent and that’s what they’re now doing. So where is the logic in our complaint? Just the bare impression of maturity in our teens will have them bemused at our lack of consistency.
We must work with the situation and not against it.
Most of all, and now this is the key within our circumstance; we have the opportunity of modelling mature adult behaviour. Their first-class example of adult behaviour should be us, the parent.
Letting go when we find ourselves out on the periphery as parents of grown children can be the hardest of things. We grieve for the times when our children were younger. With the kids all grown, we wonder why life passes us so quickly. But this relative distance is just a phase. And maintaining a presence in their lives is possible with imagination. But we’ll need to reset our expectations.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Their Spirit Endures

Into the bowels of hell they went,
Intrepidly they trudged—their lives spent,
So we could enjoy freedom and peace,
And good life on which there’s a lease.
Going into battle as young men,
Far, far away from their home den,
Freedom for them was out of reach,
Whilst they fought upon that beach.
And when they flew those missions above,
Far from thought—a peaceful dove,
They all fought such a fearsome foe,
Not much certainty could they stow.
Over the seas they travelled to do,
What civilisation must hold true,
What they did for us we can’t repay,
Often their lives down they would lay.
And that leaves us with something to think,
Just how much for us they went to the brink,
Our task evermore is never to let,
Their sacrifice be barren—Lest We Forget.
What can we do, as a community of human beings on planet Earth, so many of us touched by war but ironically free, to maintain our grasp on the preciousness of civilisation?
That very question remains eternally at the forefront of the minds of veterans the world over. In Australia and New Zealand, the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) legend continues to be remembered solemnly. Our legacy of remembrance should never be forgotten. And so, against our human default to forget we go.
So many of our ancestors fought on foreign lands and never came home, and many also came home damaged from their experience. War has had a profound impact on our society and culture. And whether we believe in war or not is irrelevant.
The preservation of civilisation is the mandate. It always was and always will be.
But war is always more than a global concern; it’s inherently a personal story.
Lives are affected and the ripples of damage and loss flow outward and so many through the succeeding generations must deal with the shrapnel and fallout of a thing so far beyond everyone’s control.
And for the diggers and veterans throughout history, those surviving and those gone, we ought to salute them. For what they fight for and fought for, for our freedom, for civilisation, their spirit endures.
The moment we forget our rich legacy of loss—a thing we cannot ever hold in proper context—is the moment we are destined, as a people, to repeat such a catastrophe.
It bodes us well, as each year passes, to tip our hats and raise a glass...
Lest We Forget.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feeling Thanked in Advance

When responses of grace are nurtured within,
Despite lack of recognition of worth,
We’ve found Divine basis to glory in,
And thanks has its birth.
Think of a relationship or interaction where, despite your constant grace and extension of favour, you receive no recognition, thanks, or reward. There is plenty of give on your part and only take on theirs—or so it seems.
These situations are a test.
If we can continue to act faithfully, without giving vent or even thought to resentment, then we can expose ourselves to the blessing God has for us in the extension of our Divinely-sponsored grace.
This blessing is the feeling of peace having obeyed the Lord. It’s the peace that transcends understanding. And this blessing is begotten us for our trust, that the Lord is doing something in all of this.
Grace Is Only Easy When God Sponsors It
When ours is the perfect surrender before God, and such surrender is easier than we often think, grace becomes easy. No longer are we much a part of the equation. No longer are our wants and needs really that important. No longer does what we want get in the way of the work of God in the relationship.
Grace is only easy when God sponsors it. When we genuinely obey God, forthrightly seeking what God wants us to seek, which is harmony to every part of our personal and interpersonal world, then grace is made easy. It’s easy because it’s no longer about us, but about God.
Imagine being impervious to resentment and bitterness. The Lord can gift us such grace to convert what we imagine and bring it to reality. But this can only be achieved if we forego our right to ourselves.
This is the Christian challenge: to choose what God wants, not what we want. The moment we do it is the moment the Spirit of God convicts us that this was the right thing to do.
What More Thanks Are Needed?
When we understand this principle, the one about to be presented, we’ll never need another human being’s thanks. Only when we forget this principle will we again need humanity’s thanks. This is the principle:
Every time we’re not recognised or thanked or rewarded as we should be, God recognises, thanks, and rewards us... in advance, we’re thanked.
We know this by the way we feel when we no longer insist on recognition, thanks, or reward. This is a mighty lesson for the parent, for the boss, for the worker, for children, for everyone.
Feeling thanked in advance is about knowing God’s appreciation, and the fact that human appreciation will come if we keep pressing valiantly forward in grace.
When responses of grace are nurtured within, despite lack of recognition of worth, we’ve found Divine basis to glory in, and thanks has its birth.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 23, 2012

When Love Becomes Villain

When the romance ends—when each of them stop falling over themselves in their giggling—and the real work begins—because real relationships mean real work—things won’t be so glam.
When that happens, love becomes a villain, stealing joy away.
But love’s done nothing wrong—it’s not love’s fault that romance can be so false.
When love becomes grounded it’s like an aircraft coming in to land. Some landings are smooth, perhaps having endured prior turbulence, whilst others are unpredictably volatile. Without warning the winds shift on the tarmac and that plane tries valiantly to ground itself safely. But often in the grounding, upon hard landings, damage occurs to the landing gear and the fuselage develops cracks; its passengers are panicked yet relieved. Love can be like this and more. Love can be damaged in the landing.
Love – As Protagonist And Observer
When the shine wears off a new thing, like when we scuff new shoes, the work of use-without-fuss begins. Love cannot be ornate, sitting pristinely on the mantelpiece. Love, as far as relationships are concerned, finds its feet in work. Love requires effort.
This is the first time within the relationship that the truth is valued enough to climb over the endorphin-bridled flattery of the romantic phase. Otherwise the romantic phase is found chock-full of impressive departures from love’s real aim.
Whether we’re in the midst of romantic love or merely an observer we can be easily misled regarding love’s real aim. In the heat of romance the last thing we want is for the excitement to end—but it soon must. If we’re an observer we’re quickly envious—especially if this is our ‘ex’.
Their Love’s No Better Than Ours Is
We exist within a competitive fishbowl—our world. Everyone observes and we’re all under observation. It’s easy to look at other couples—particularly those involving our ‘ex’—and contrast what’s going on.
The contrasts made a never neutral. Either we come out in a better light, and we’re thankful, or they do, and we become fearful and envious. The neutral location, however, is not only safest; overall it’s truest.
Their love is probably no better than ours—it’s also probably no worse.
Once the romance is over all relationships return to work—as life in its truest sense is work. When we can enjoy our work and the challenges and opportunities it presents, we gain the reciprocal blessings of love.
Love is blessed by the work, including our imagination and diligence, which we put in. And the more we do, the more we benefit, and the more we debunk the idea that love is the villain.
Love blesses the worker who works in truth. Both in the relationship will be happy.
Beyond romance love requires work. Commitment, passion, and intimacy are all expressed by the things we do. Love is never the villain; only our warped ideas are. If relationships are to blossom they require work. That’s how we extend the romance; through blissful, adoring work.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Overcoming Humiliation

This article discusses everyday humiliation everyone faces. Humiliation caused by abuse and neglect is another matter entirely; this latter humiliation cannot be attended to by this article.
Of all human experience, humiliation is one we perhaps most avoid. It has pangs of pungent shame about it, contorting us toward destruction. When we think about humiliation we easily connect it with Jesus’ last hours, when he was betrayed, tried unjustly, scourged, insulted, and finally crucified.
Fortunately our humiliations are not as bad as Jesus’ were, but they affect us most profoundly. But could it be that humiliation is a test?
“Accept whatever befalls you,
and in times of humiliation be patient.
For gold is tested in the fire,
and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.”  
~Sirach 2:4-5 (NRSV)  
This wisdom of Ecclesiasticus, like proverbs, was given to a child—probably a son. It aligns biblically with James 1:2-4, 12-16. These are hard words. And they go against the grain and the flow of the reptilian brain, which wants to react submissively or aggressively in the case of threat.
Rethinking Humiliation
If we believe that God is behind all things, and this is a theology many struggle with, and rightly so, we can entertain the fact that humiliation isn’t the end of matters. That it may have a purpose.
Rethinking things is about keeping an open mind and an open heart on the things that God may be doing.
Rethinking humiliation might be about understanding Job. He blessed the name of the Lord for the fact that God both gives and takes away (Job 1:21); this is a shrill reality. Our challenge is, can we bless the Lord, like Job did, disregarding whatever happens in our lives? That is a tall order for anyone. And, of course, Job stumbled in accepting his humiliations—as we all will.
Believing In Humiliation’s Purpose
It’s important we believe that humiliation has a purpose, because it’s a fact we will be humiliated. More appropriately, we will feel humiliated. Life has a way of putting us in furnace situations. Besides, some days are doomed before they start; we wake up in an anxious disposition and these days don’t improve. When both situations collide—a furnace circumstance and our weakness—we can easily experience humiliation.
Perhaps the only solution for times of humiliation is the wisdom to remain humble and to draw whatever learning can be drawn. To believe God has a purpose in these things means we don’t resent God (or others) for circumstances that will most certainly occur to us at some time or other.
But there is a more important purpose, and it comes down to this overcoming life that Jesus talks about in John 16:33. If we believe that the Lord has overcome the world already, courage is accessible, and we can be people who overcome our humiliations.
Bearing a humiliating experience in humility, like Jesus did, brings glory to God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Problems – Relationships’ Quality Enhancer

The way we handle our problems, especially the small ones, can prove to be the maker or separator of relationships. This is probably not good news for those of us who despise or deny our personal and interpersonal problems.
Difficulties have a way of delving deeply into the truth of matters. They reveal us for who we truly are. Just about anyone can be nice and loving when the relational seas are calm. It’s when the tests arrive; that’s when we know what we’ve got as far as our essential persons and our partners are concerned.
Problems throw us into the cauldron of our unsteady selves and we’re faced with anxiety, anger, and a plethora of other felt responses. They cause us to be unreasonable when the only way through them is to be reasonable.
The following four areas are good to use in troubleshooting and determining methods of resolving difficulties and conflicts:
1. How A Couple Thinks About Their Problems
Thinking is so underrated. Even though we’re thinking human beings, often unable to turn off our minds, we rarely analyse our thinking processes.
How do we think? And importantly, how do two different people that make up one couple think differently?
It’s a fact we all think differently. So why would we criticise our partners for seeing the world and facing problems differently? Gaining an appreciation of our thinking differences goes a long way toward sorting our problems.
2. How A Couple Manages Their Feelings
Managing our feelings is a tricky business. We can’t help but feel. And again, we feel differently. Managing emotions like fear, loneliness and anger are difficult. We may find it easier to deny them some way. But that doesn’t help.
If, as couples, we can maintain some code of respect for each others’ feelings, making space for them, whilst taking personal responsibility for our feelings, which are our own and nobody else’s, we will avoid disastrous consequences in negotiating conflict.
3. Where A Couple Focuses Their Attention
Rather than the word focus, we could utilise the word refocus, instead.
Many distractions grab at our attention and subsume our focus. The point of refocusing is to somehow become reminded when we’re wandering off track.
So much conflict occurs because we’re incorrectly focused.
4. How A Couple Acts And Communicates Under Stress
Stressful situations, as pointed out above, bring out our worst. This is a human universal. As our thinking tends more negatively, and we imagine where problems are taking us, it’s natural we’ll become stressed.
Yet, if, as a couple, we can notice the stresses that come into our marital lives and remind ourselves to be especially loving toward each other, we can negotiate the stress much better.
Difficulties are the relationship quality enhancer. Problems prove our love. How we think about our problems, manage our feelings, refocus our attention, and act and communicate in stressful situations determines the quality of our relationships.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.