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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anger, Disappointment and Expectations

It seems as though we have all disappointed our parents. Whether it was in failing to achieve the goals they had for us, or something much more sinister, is beside the point. We failed to live up to their expectations.
Then it became our turn to be the parent. Try as we might we attempted not to load up our kids with expectations. And then we learned some of these expectations were natural, because we wanted the best for them. Only later did we find out how much pressure these expectations foisted upon them. We experienced guilt.
They, like we, did their reasonable best to meet these expectations.
But whoever fails to meet another’s expectations evokes anger and disappointment on the part of the other. Such a stain on the psyche can last years, and in some cases a lifetime.
When Is Anger or Disappointment Justified?
Besides the fact we are all human, and we are given to anger and disappointment, many times instinctually, it will be hard to repress such feelings when we feel these ways. Like when another fails to measure up.
When our children fail us, or we, as children, fail our parents, the emotions are involved. No one can deny it. We just need to manage the outworking of our anger and disappointment.
We, and only we, are accountable for our emotions.
And still it may well be, if we can live free of expectation, we might relieve all tension for expectation. Such an arrangement puts the relationship first above all other priorities. This may be a better way. But we will need to work on ourselves, first, putting our own ambitions to one side, before this better way is available to us.
The Cost of Anger and Disappointment
Many a human being has been scarred by a well-meaning parent with expectations. We may well have done the scarring.
When we put ourselves in the position of feeling for a person who has failed to meet expectations, as they deal with anger and/or disappointment against them, we can begin to understand the wounding that potentially takes place.
Perhaps an initial anger that is reconciled in a timely manner is preferable to disappointment.
When we disappoint someone we feel guilty and even ashamed. At least anger, so long as it isn’t abusive, has an excuse; extreme early disappointment that comes with an apology later for overstepping the mark is better than a simmering disappointment.
The weight of some disappointments on the part of others never really diminishes and they can plague a person indefinitely.
Considering a Better Way
We easily lose sight of the real priorities of life—it is very human to do this.
We forget who we are burning when we load up our children with the kindling of expectation—a fuel-load to last a lifetime—especially when we reward results and not effort. Surely they look to us to provide protection; to show them the way; to show them how to live condemnation-free.
If we consider the cost of anger and disappointment we might consider a better way; a more encouraging way.
Better than anger or disappointment when someone has failed to meet our expectations is the grace-filled extension of favour. Likewise, when we have failed we have the opportunity to feel the favour of God for another chance.
It takes a forgiving strength to encourage someone who has disappointed us. It takes a courageous wisdom to express disappointment in an encouraging way. And when we can, we inspire people to better performance and not bitterness, guilt or shame.
Expectations and disappointments work hand in glove. In relationships, the less we expect, the less disappointment we will experience.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Inviting Peace To Dwell Within

How correspondingly ironic it is that we look for that which we either don’t have, or we have but want more of; the scope of the present issue: peace; inner harmony.
Jesus promises us that peace and the sufficiency of the Spirit, if we will partake:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
~John 14:27a (NRSV)
An Attempt To Describe Peace
Peace is a gladdened nothingness where acceptance rides sway and conflict is ever lower in our interest than just being is. Just enjoying ‘being’ is salubrious.
Peace doesn’t try; indeed, it does not; it cannot. It just is. Why try and do something so apparently wrong? Instead, peace sits at rest with a more urgent and ever persuasive truth. It contends against nothing. Nothing matters more.
As it’s known throughout both modern and ancient worlds, this peace we seek is ever-present, abiding within the flourishing flow of life itself. And yet, how is it to be known, personally, deeply?
Peace is a state of mind and heart; and one can help the other there.
The Contributions Of Both Mind And Heart And Their Amalgamation
Where there’s thinking, there’s also feeling. Both are involved in perception. It beckons, then, that contributions for peace reside within cooperative investment at the level of both mind and heart.
The mind advises for peace, calming the heart by logic and knowledge: God is good. The mind thinks good, when it can.
The heart empathises with the mind, soothing its cognitive aches and pains, the dissensions from momentary congruence: a personal ease. The heart feels good, when it can.
To experience peace we make a home for it; a place where it might dwell, by sitting comfortably within stillness, facilitating longer and more frequent visits.
We tend to the inner environment much like a garden. We trim old growth, ridding callused memories. We blow them into the wind. As they disappear from our possession we lose, also, our warrant for them. We let them go. We allow them their disappearance. We focus on other, more life-giving things.
As we dig up the soil in our lives, day-by-day, we allow the regeneration within the matter that is our lives. These stagnating compartments feel outwardly for the presence of oxygen and they’re embellished with new growth.
For varying reasons peace is sought. This peace is ever-present; we tap into it now if we want. It doesn’t hide. All it requires is a coming home to truth. Both the mind and the heart can help.
To allow peace to dwell within we need to make room for it. We prioritise it. We raise its value in our personal estimation. Then, God blesses us with it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Love Is the Underbelly of Truth

“If truth is not undergirded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious and the truth repulsive.”
There are always three colours of relationship response. We can put these as submissive responses, aggressive responses, and bridging these both, assertive responses. We can also see these as responses of too much love with not enough emphasis on the truth, not enough love with too much focus on the truth, or the perfection of just the right blend of love and truth for the given situation.
Whilst an overbalance on love produces relationship outcomes of virulent acceptance, many of which can actually be bad, for instance, the acceptance of abuse or neglect, an overbalance on truth produces arrogance and propagates ignorance, which is distasteful.
‘Too Much Truth’ Is Not the Truth
There can be no such thing as too much truth, just truth lacking in love.
A truth without love is an inadequate truth, because truth must be undergirded by, and in relationship with, love. Such a loveless truth is deluded and cannot, therefore, any longer be called truth.
The trouble these days, and throughout time, is we determine our own truth without continually checking with God; without continually nurturing the awareness of what really ‘is’, in reality. Truth such as this, that isn’t checked, is ill-informed. Instead, we are cautioned to check the validity of our truth, as our truth is highly subjective. It always will be unless it is checked; unless we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the wrong in our truth.
This is a blessing for the Christian—who has taken possession of the Presence of the Holy Spirit within them. They are searched by that Spirit. And, if they are truly possessed by the Spirit of God, they will be blessed when they find the truth, but cursed when they deny or stop searching for the truth.
In relationships we must always be prepared to receive the truth that we may be wrong. We are often more wrong, or at least partially wrong, than we think we are.
We could go so far as to say that the person who values truth over love is no Christian at all, for they forget, or refuse to see, that the truth falls sharply away without love. The truth never favours one’s opinion; the truth is beyond opinion; the truth can only apply in universal ways.
If we submit to God, in genuinely seeking truth, we will find it nested in love.
A truth without love is an inadequate truth—and, therefore, no truth at all. We cannot blatantly upset people with our truth and claim to be transformed beings. God transforms us in love in order that we may see truth. Love always comes first. Then truth becomes the power behind our transformation.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Togetherness Beats Loneliness

A men’s event where men take turns in sharing their honest weaknesses is a reminder of the power of community to break the isolation of loneliness. Many men, as with many women also, face spiralling desperation in these matters without fellowship.
To hear of one man’s battle, that which once overwhelmed him, but of which now Jesus has helped him overcome, is a great encouragement to all men there.
There are many more advantages of community than correcting the isolation many of us feel, but how it attends to isolation is marvellous.
The Guilt and Shame In Sin – Crushed In Truth Through Community
Satan will try and make us believe we are worthless, and he will use our weaknesses against us. Our sin is his weapon for making us feel guilty and ashamed. None of us are beyond feeling condemned from time to time. We forget that, in Jesus, we have been freed. When we are saved we ought to never again feel irredeemably condemned.
This is where community comes in. It emasculates ideas for isolation. It has a better idea.
In community, whether that be one-on-one or a large group or all collections between, we are brought before the truth; usually as it manifests in others’ lives, when we hear them testify.
The truth: we are all weak, but we are strong in Christ—and never more so than when we are together.
Through others sharing their stories we find we are not alone in our struggles. We find our struggles are much more common than we recently thought. It is so easy to forget how much in common we have with our peers. We have more similarities than differences so far as our sinfulness and brokenness is concerned.
When we understand this truth, afresh, our loneliness tends to vanish.
Our sense for community breaks the bonds that our dangerously imaginative minds, when alone, have procured. In the community of a brotherhood or sisterhood we come to understand that the truth, arranged communally, sets us free.
No wonder that the best cultures through the history of humankind have a strong identity for affiliation. Where a culture values a significant sense for community, that culture will be strong for each other. Individuals are hence safer and stronger as a result.
A good solution for loneliness is the company of loving, accepting others. As we spend time with others in their weakness we don’t feel so alone in ours. The more honest we can be before others about truths in our lives the better we will feel.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Circular Effect of Emotions

Our emotions are strange beasts. They operate on a continuum—in grief, for instance, from denial to acceptance. They also operate in a circular fashion—as we come back to the same emotions, invoked by the same or similar circumstances, time and again throughout our lives. Just when we thought we had learned a vital lesson, again it comes back, albeit in a slightly different way. God is humbling us to learn of it still.
The circular effect of emotions carries us off into many varieties of wilderness. And through our emotions the Promised Land, if we attend correctly, is realised. It is important we experience emotional release, but just as important is acceptance of all our circumstances.
Emotional release may be crucial in reaching acceptance.
Acceptance of this Circular Effect
It is too easy to feel ashamed of falling for the same emotional traps. We feel guilty for having had our own private pity party—when apparently we knew better. The trouble is that the guilt that follows only makes us feel worse, not better.
It is better, by far, to accept the circular effect in our emotions. Many seasons of life we walk the wilderness trail; around and around and around we go, searching for an answer. Many times there is no answer, just perseverance.
It can be seen that, because we are who we are, we will feel the way we will feel.
If we feel anguish at being betrayed or rejected or we feel lonely because we are lonely, many future circumstances that are in a similar vein will test us in the same ways. Much of how we react is predictable.
We too easily get frustrated by coming back through the same passages of our emotions; a sense of déjà vu is implied. We might otherwise see that God is just reminding us we will never be totally in control of our circumstances which enliven the emotions. Our response is the key and we know it.
Whenever our circumstances lead us to enjoy life we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves emotionally. Likewise, whenever our circumstances become deplorable we shouldn’t be further anguished by our lack of capacity to bear these emotions. Better is the middle ground. It is better just to accept the circular effect of the emotions. It is better to allow the emotion take place, and then move on.
Emotions come with circumstances. As the circumstances of life are circular, so too are our emotions circular, also. Accepting this is one way we can learn in order to predict our emotional response in order to react better. Many circumstances are tests.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 23, 2012

When Death is Teacher

In the darkened room smells of death mingle with the light of life. Misty, the 60-something year old mother of two and grandmother of four, sat there solemnly, feeling totally helpless. “All of life comes down to this,” she thought, as she just sat there waiting for her mother to die. It was surely her mother’s last hours on earth. The daughter’s emotions went beyond simply sadness; an unplumbed and comingled depth of realness and numbness consumed that space. Sublimely, Misty had never felt as real in her own skin as she felt in that moment. Every heartbeat and every second was as a resonant gong in her personal history. Time was never more precious.
Fleeting images crossed her mind of what it would be like without the person that brought her up; the one that carried her every hour through gestation and across the uterine threshold into life. Quickly she would snap herself out of it, to again make the most of the moment. And however many of these thoughts she would have didn’t stop her from having them; it didn’t stop her from lamenting the loss of her mother before her mother had actually departed.
Her mother could no longer eat or drink, so bringing food or beverages was out of the question. She couldn’t focus enough to enjoy a good story or the gifts of reminiscences. Nothing could be given the dying great-grandmother but the cogent and unadulterated presence of a daughter.
Presence was all that mattered. Presence, though it was fleeting, was all that could be given. Still, presence was enough.
The Visible Pales into Insignificance
“We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
~2 Corinthians 4:18 (NRSV)
Nothing that we can touch and physically feel in this life, besides those things connected with our relationships, warrants much attention in grief-filled places.
But our attentions quickly wander to the visible, the material, at other times.
Why do we place all our stock in the fleeting and temporary pleasures of life that cause us to lose our way? Why does it take the death of a loved one to shock us back into appreciating the essences of life?
We can surmise that it is natural to prefer the visible. But the invisible, the things of the spirit, are not only supremely important, they are also incomprehensible. The best we can do in life is to simply enjoy the invisible, eternal things whilst we have them. Afterwards we, too, will be gone.
Our relationships with our parents and grandparents and children are a gift from God. Our wisdom is realised when we prefer these precious relationships over time, money, career, and every other possession.
On the balance of things, little else matters. Too many find out too late.
Vigils with the dying sort all our priorities. Very little that we typically value is of any value at all. Instead, there is the silent and untold value of our presence—of simply being there; not saying a thing, just being there. In times when nothing else can be done just being there helps.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Best Gift to Give a Man

I have been listening to a lot of Robert Bly’s work of late regarding the loss of manhood in society, and its wide-ranging effects in men’s lives, their marriages, and, most critically, in their children’s lives. He deduces that it is no longer natural for society to trust men; and an inactive, passive man struggles to achieve credibility in this world, and, perhaps most telling of all, also within his own psyche.
So, what is missing maybe most of all in a man’s armoury of experience is the credibility of trust. It is the greatest gift he could receive.
Trust Generates Grace
If we can trust a man, any person in fact, that gift goes far beyond respect—indeed, trust is the ultimate respect.
When we trust a person who is trying yet possibly failing, we are issuing grace. In that is freedom; not simply to fail more and more, but to enjoy the space of respect in knowing the relationship is cherished enough to risk selflessness.
Modern men seem to need this reassurance. Modern women probably need it too, but it is more an issue for men. They say that women need to be loved and men need to be respected. Well, respect comes most intuitively and affirmatively in the form of trust.
Trust is the agreement, beforehand, to forgive. Trust is also the agreement, beforehand, to honour decisions that are made.
And if we can trust, we should trust. Not all men can be trusted; most men can be trusted, however.
Weighing Capacities for Trust and Forgiveness
If we are committed to trust someone, forgiveness will be much easier.
If that someone does something against us, not only are we in a more protected situation, they are too. This implies that trusting a special someone is a type of fortification of spirit. The act of trusting someone is a brave act. It prepares us.
When we commit ourselves to trusting someone we grow our capacity for grace.
When a man knows he is trusted, whether by a special woman in his life, or by other women and men, he feels freer to be a man; to be the man the world needs him to be; to be the man he needs himself to be.
It probably goes in the reverse as well, for women. But the historical role of men is as leaders in society. And if we are to empower our leaders we must trust them. If a man is hardwired to lead, and this is relevant most of all in the family, yet he is not trusted, confused and frustrated will that man be.
The greatest gift we can give a man is to trust him. There is no better way to respect a man than trusting him. If a man is trusted he is much more likely to love from his inner being. If a man is trusted the whole family—his whole world—benefits.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Time to End Victim Violence

Victim Violence (definition): the phenomenon of both intentional and unintentional shaming, lack of support for, and silent denigration of, victims of abuse and neglect—after they have suffered episodes of victimisation. It is wherever functions for empathy and action for victims fail.
Still not enough is known of violence done to victims. Still not enough is being done. Still not enough outrage is borne out of this issue.
It will always be time to end victim violence. But it will never truly end in this life. But that is no excuse to not fight the good fight of everlasting advocacy. Indeed, victim violence only has advocacy as the igniter for systematic societal programs of change, even from a single encouraging act.
Education is massive. So many people are completely unaware of the victimisation that comprises the violence against victims, which is separate from the assaults on their person they suffer out of their actual episodes of abuse and neglect.
But action is equally massive. If acts of random kindness were done routinely most of the problem would not exist. But that is not the world we live in most of the time.
How can we, as individuals, do more?
The most important act regarding victim violence, which we all may have passively or actively engaged in from time to time, is to understand violence from the victim’s viewpoint.
Any neglect or abuse is violent.
We could say that any failure to love is also violent. And the violence against victims almost always runs well past a simple failure to love. These forces against the victim are destructive to the point of destroying whole lives. And even though God can redeem every soul to hope, far many more will find themselves incapable of escaping the devil’s clutches. So much depression, self-harm, and suicide (among other effects) takes place as a result.
We help them escape the devil’s snare by our plain understanding of their truth; the victim has no case to answer; they have been transgressed; they feel shame when they shouldn’t feel ashamed at all. Perhaps we feel ashamed because we are without the ability to adequately empathise. We should say it. We feel inadequate. That is okay.
Empathy is a meeting of the minds and hearts. A victim simply needs to be heard. And the process of healing is made easier, and, in fact, is perhaps started.
Most of all we should be available to the victim, and even look for the victim in each person we come across. We should be available to the victim inside us. The more we are open to think about these issues, the more we gain a grasp over a necessary empathy to help. The more we do this, the better quality of thought that takes place for helping, and the more functional our helping can be.
It will always be time to end victim violence. Never will a time come when a perfect end will come, until Jesus comes. But we love best when our hearts extend into the lives, hurts, abuses, and neglects of others.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Advocacy – The Purpose Beyond Pain

Is it any coincidence that the Holy Spirit is The Advocate?
That humbled are we when called to such a grounded office,
All it takes is a willingness to serve, to honour, to validate,
Disregarding every sense that we might feel as a novice.
The Purpose Beyond Pain
Every now and then we are reminded of the urgency in the pain of one person that compels them to act, later, for a much broader group. Victims of abuse and neglect are the common genotype. Experiences of gross pain have their outlet in such a call of advocacy. Heaven knows how much advocacy is needed.
Advocacy is the perfect response to the wrongs of the world.
It takes the injustices, those that are hardly comprehensible, and certainly unconscionable in reasonable people’s eyes, and it bends them back valiantly to justice. And justice can only work where justice is left to the Lord. Advocacy respects such justice even in the midst of personal injustice. It can do so because advocacy is its own outlet.
Pain is a common predictor for purpose.
Where anyone has been wronged, yet they have love on their side, and have not given up on reconciliation to justice, they are ripe for advocacy. God blesses the ones who will later come into contact with the advocate. The advocate acts as a guide; a helper; a trusted friend.
Modelling Our Advocacy On ‘The Advocate’
When we consider that advocacy works off a model that has its genesis in the divine realm, we understand the significance, history, and primacy of the role.
Advocacy is the role, first, of The Advocate.
Is there any coincidence, perhaps, in the idea that The Advocate—the Holy Spirit given from the Father, sent through the Son—comes after much suffering? The Son suffers and dies, and, when he is ready, he ascends. Then comes The Advocate.
Likewise, the human advocate has already suffered. Their suffering qualifies them for their advocacy. They may need no further qualification other than the passion to defend the oppressed in a godly way.
And as the advocate operates in a representative manner, as if hedging in and protecting its chicks, so The Advocate intercedes for us, the believers. It is a great responsibility to be an advocate, but even more so it is an esteemed privilege. People lesser off are benefited by our support and intervention. God uses advocates powerfully to do Divine will.
Advocacy is the role of the Holy Spirit, which represents us and came after Jesus’ suffering. It is also our role to be as advocates for those that suffer after us in the ways we suffered. Rather than avengers, the world needs more advocates.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Safe Defence of Boundaries

Identifying sources of shame, whether it is others shaming us or us shaming others, is vital in becoming aware of barriers to relationship potency. In the simplest terms, our relationships, and we as individuals, are rendered impotent to love whenever shame is evoked. But love runs freely, and is potent, in the presence of respected boundaries.
The safe defence of boundaries requires that we circumvent shame.
It requires that we refuse to shame others and that we don’t absorb anyone else’s shame. This is a key idea in establishing real intimacy and growth in relationships. It is a key, also, in being whole persons.
A Bit of Theory on Shame
Many times as a child we suffered shame. These were times when we felt perfectly inadequate in the world; in other words, we felt simply not good enough. Our parents evoked these emotions; as well as our siblings and extended family, our friends, teachers at school, and just about every other person we came into contact with. Shame came immediately in times when we were crushed.
We learned there were times when we couldn’t look people in the eye. Our sense for failure, our burgeoning weakness, marked our identities. These issues are now wrapped up in, and drive, our critical flaws. We all have them.
Many people think that guilt plays more of a part in Western culture than shame. But realistically shame is as much a part of the human psyche as guilt would ever be.
The human psyche, and all its frail idiosyncrasies, transcends culture. We are more the same than we are different. This is because we are all made to love in the image of a loving God.
Where we fail for love, negative emotional effects like guilt and shame play a heavy-handed role.
There are practical issues regarding shame in relationships that bear consideration.
Identifying and Dealing with Putdowns
Whenever we put someone down or others do it, somehow making people feel less of a full person than they ought to feel, the person thought less of experiences a primordial type of shame. Rare is the individual impervious to such a putdown. Putdowns affect us all in many different ways.
Sometimes people don’t realise they are putting us down. They may be unconsciously shaming us; it is almost always due to their own unreconciled shame. Their failure to love us is due to blockers within them. But sometimes people do intentionally put us down. But, they do this consciously because of unconscious reasons of shame within them. Our hope should always be that we engage in neither of these unconscious or conscious putting down practices.
To love people and to resist hurtful barbs requires us to not engage in shaming and to not let shaming barbs stick into us.
This is how we maintain boundaries. We respect others to the point of ensuring we don’t shame them. And we also insist that others respect us, not vocally, but by ensuring anything they inflict doesn’t evoke shame from within us—that we can hold our heads high. We need to firmly advocate safe boundaries, for our and others’ benefit.
The safe defence of relationship boundaries requires us to respect love by not venturing into shame. We don’t allow others to trample us and we don’t trample them. We respect the unspoken boundaries of hurt we all carry.
When we get boundaries right our relationships are potent in love. And everyone feels safe.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Greatest Life of All

This is not an article the ambitious will want to read. It sets out to dispel the myth behind the world’s perspective of success. We put success through the mincer to see what it is truly worth. Then we contrast a figment for success with the only true success.
The greatest life of all is closer than any of us really believe. And the weird thing is we need to be constantly reminded; we more typically deplore our lives rather than appreciating the fact we have this one life.
The greatest life of all is lived within our minds and hearts, and in our skin; through what we perceive through our senses; through the fact we live on the cusp of time, as if riding the Golden Age.
We do what we can do. We learn what we can learn. We enjoy what we can enjoy. We enjoy life. We take every hurt, every shame, every barrier, and we conform them as testimonies of God’s power to change a life.
There is Only One Life
Why do we waste our time—to the extent of significant portions of our entire lives—trying to be ‘successful’? It seems hardwired into us; to want to be a success.
But even if we achieve success, however we define it, we need to understand that ‘that’ form of success is fickle. We may not even achieve it. And even if we do achieve it, such success chooses us with a great degree of partiality and dumps us just as seamlessly. One day we are the flavour of the month; six months later, or worse six years later, our world is sick of the flavour we bring. The truly successful in this world are those souls who are both imaginative and resilient; they continually reinvent themselves and never give up. But they are first themselves.
It is blessed to become the only person we can become: we, us, I.
What better success could there be than truly becoming oneself—discovering that person and living their way to the best of our ability? We do this and we achieve obedience in accord to God’s will.
Our strategy is to achieve the living of our life with no replication for replication’s sake of anyone else’s life; this is to be deployed daily. We need active reminders of how close success is. And success is always relative, in relation with our life stage and situation. Only we can determine if we are a success. And there is no point in not feeling a success, unless it propels us toward some positive change. The boundaries are endless on that pursuit.
It may not be healthy to say, “Stop the comparisons!”
We may not be able to stop comparing ourselves with other people. But we can admire them, determining precisely what it is about them we would like to adopt. It may usually help. Adopting these minute things can help hone our identities.
But ‘the package’ is unique. Our identities are central toward our success. We must honour our lives by living them as personally as possible; to be ‘us’ as much as we are able.
The greatest life of all is closer than any of us really believe. The greatest life of all is ours. This life; our life; unto eternity... our lives—they are a gift from God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.