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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Exposing Cost of Secrets

We all have our secrets. These confidences we keep to ourselves, and perhaps with trusted others at times, are very often appropriate. Everyone needs a private world. But as per our human condition there is a blurring of the lines.
We are tempted to hold secrets in the justification of our attitudes and behaviours.
Some secrets are very costly, as it works out in the final analysis.
For instance, and some will cringe at this, there are the secrets of betrayal that sting others to the point of ending whole identities of life. When such secrets are exposed, and they can’t be hidden always, the shrapnel from that shell blast pierces the flesh of all those we care about around us. Indeed, many who we are only connected with as acquaintances also find out and our reputations are destroyed in an instant.
Then there is the situation when we are on the receiving end; when we are blindsided by somebody else’s secret—a spouse, a child, a parent, a best friend—that has been, or is, exposed.
I wonder, for a moment, if there is anything worse.
If the cost of betrayal is harsh on the betrayed we could imagine the true cost on the betrayer. Though they may deny it, and continue always to do so, God will wreak divine retribution on their unrepentant selves.
Watch their lives. The unrepentant betrayer is cursed, and unfortunately those connected with them tend to wear those consequences as well. The best idea is that the betrayer fends for themselves. But their lack of accountability often pulls others’ lives down, too.
The best advice that the betrayed could receive is to look away from the sin that hurts them and look high to God, knowing that it is better to be betrayed than to be the betrayer. Sure, we are hurt, but there is a worse condition; anybody who exposes themselves, without remorseful regret, foolishly for God’s judgment.
The exposing cost of secrets is about justification in the court of truth.
Because God is Justification, we can be assured that all secrets propounding sin will be exposed eventually. This is good news to anybody who rejects the temptation to hold such secrets, as they discern the secrets that God blesses over the secrets God curses.
The exposing cost of secrets is about justification in the court of truth. It is better to be the betrayed than to be the betrayer, for being hurt is better than willingly facing off against God. Ours is to reject the secrets of sin; to discern the secrets God blesses over those he curses. If we don’t tell on the sin, the sin will inevitably tell on us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Right Balance of Attention Paid

This is particularly relevant to consider in dealing with those who could be considered possessive—the anxiously attached. I find that sense of spiritual identity in me, to a certain extent, and so I’m therefore ‘qualified’ to write on this—about how others have successfully interacted with me, for example.
Sometimes it is appropriate (read, “helpful”) to give someone a lot of attention—to feed their gaping desire for love, but much of the time we do not love them best (or, we simply do not love them) by placating them. Placating, or appeasing, may be more about our own anxious needs than theirs.
Each person must be encouraged to sink or swim of their own accord; to take responsibility for their own lives.
We shouldn’t go on and on rescuing people, as we do them harm by creating a circumstance of reliance.
The foreseeable exceptions are these:
In Grief:
When someone’s been stricken by a loss of any kind we could expect them to cling to a safe mooring (in us) as they weather the storm of their grief.
They’ll need someone or a couple of people with whom to rest with and journey with.
Within the acuteness of grief’s pain there should be solace in connecting with people if that is the need. But equally, as carers, we need to discern when to leave people as they are to do their own processing. Again, we need to ask ourselves, “Who are we really trying to support when we desire to help people?” Sometimes people try and support others out of their own needs in order to feel good. But in this scenario, no one benefits.
In Growth:
When people intentionally put themselves in the path of growth and learning—because God has kindled their hunger—they may be safely attached to a mentor for specific guided activities.
Both parties of this mentoring arrangement are blessed. That’s the guide that all is working well. Whenever there is an encumbrance on one party, a burden so-to-speak, it’s no longer about growth; and an unhealthy dependence has formed.
But when growth is at the forefront, we can afford to pour our attention into people.
Balancing the giving of attention is the art of wisdom in relationships. We shouldn’t neglect people, nor should we rescue them. Each has to live their life without depending on other people too much. But when people are suffering and they need us, any positive attention we give them, at the time, is good attention.
We shouldn’t rescue people from situations they should be handling themselves, with two exceptions: in grief and in growth. The grieving need our support, and the growing need our encouragement. Balancing the attention we pay to people is a mark of discerned wisdom.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Beauty of Perpetual Kindness

“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”  
— Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)
Such a truth we know through and through and it resonates through us to the core. The beauty in kindness is the richness of love manifest in situations where kindness is hardly called for. What is kindness if it is predictable, necessary, or obvious?
No, kindness is nobler than that.
Kindness does what anybody could do, but with it is that sense of innovative vision—an X-factor—that always looks obvious in hindsight. This is because kindness emerges as an act from a heart won completely to love in that moment.
It is, therefore, a fact, that anyone can be kind, because anyone can love from a heart sown in the goodness of God.
Kindness As An Eternal Quality
Much as all things of virtue have their eternal place, always working reliably for God and for God’s purposes, kindness never really fails, as love never fails.
True kindness (is there any other kind?) has this eternal quality. It wins hearts over. Sometimes not immediately, but ultimately, yes, it does. It’s reliable.
Our opportunity is sow more and more into this miracle of living that dispels fear. There is no better way to deal with our fear than to fall headlong in love with the love of kindness. Anyone can do that. It’s up to us.
Kindness As A Commitment
So kindness is a commitment; it is a perpetual journey, day after day, moment by moment, month by month. The more we focus on being kind, the more opportunities for kindness that come before us; the more kindness becomes our way of living.
Kindness is the genesis of forgiveness. It is full of grace and it agrees that anything can be lost but not love.
Kindness has to be a commitment, and when it is it brings life to everyone about us, and in that, we get life. God blesses us in a spiritual understanding of life we have never seen before. And there is no blessing like God’s.
Committing to kindness is like committing to God, because we do need to be surrendered in order to be kind.
In kindness is raw beauty. There is no better payback than being kind. Our kindnesses reap a multiplicity of blessing, and we’re blessed to be a blessing. And now, it’s even better, by far, to commit to kindness every moment for the rest of our lives.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Everyone Has Place, Everyone Belongs

Connection in life is such an important matter it’s truly the way God ordained our beings to exist. We want so much to be accepted and we know the excruciating power of rejection. When we are rejected for what we do or for who we are we are torn to the heart, and we feel we have no place in that place.
But God brought each of us into being.
If this were not so, how then do we explain our lives? Beyond our parents’ planning, God is the one that made it happen; God brought us into the miraculous state of life, and sustains us to this very day.
We belong here.
This is an incontrovertible fact. Earth is a place for everyone. Not one person is here by accident. And though this seems obvious, we only have to look through our own lives to come face-to-face with the people we have rejected or those who have rejected us.
Acceptance is not as straightforward an idea as we might think.
Indeed, just like God’s love seems so basic, the matter of acceptance is a difficult concept even for the most loving of people. For example, we don’t want to appear as racially divided, yet we still have barriers between us and people of other cultures; we are self-conscious, not wanting them to pick up that we feel uncomfortable. But this self-consciousness is driven by love, because we don’t want to offend them.
Still, there is a lack of authenticity and that is picked up, so often, as a rejection.
Faith in a Place
The challenge ahead of us, particularly where we see evidence of a lack of fit, is to have hope that there is a place for us; that we fit somewhere. Faith will energise our journey and take us all the way to the reception of it.
Faith in this way is not getting despondent and not giving up on the vision God has for our lives: 1) to be loved and 2) to love, and through these two the provision of hope for a good future.
Because we have life and we have a role in living this life, that we have this place, we have a license to bring meaning to that sense of place.
If we feel lonely, discouraged, or we are hurting, there is a lack of sense of place. It might be just for a season, but we know in our lack that our lack speaks more about the lack of place than anything else.
Our opportunity is to believe: 1) we do belong, and 2) there is a belonging place for us to be found, and then enjoyed.
On Earth there is a place for everyone and everyone has a place. God has ordained this by our existence. Finding our place can be problematic. We need faith to not give up. There is a place for each of us where we can love and be loved, and know hope.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

All We Need Is Love!

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV)
For the converted Christian, in knowing God, there are these three things that abide in life—the spiritual life—which give abundance, strength, the wherewithal to live.
These three make the difference required for life to work.
With faith we have the ability to be patient, to endure great challenges of our times, and to apply courage to step forth into things God is calling us to. Hope underpins faith. Hope resides in the knowledge that God is with us, providing for us, giving us everything required to make that journey in faith.
But underpinning both faith and hope is love, for love is that sense of belonging that makes it all worth it. Love is the raw motive of and for life.
When We Have Love
When we are loved, and we feel we belong, and are valued for who we are, faith is easier and hope is almost a given.
When we are loved, we know a sense of peace of place, of time, and of opportunity in this life. There is the presence of joy within us.
When we have love, all of life seems to fit better together—the pain in with the pleasure, along with the drudgery, the challenges, the opportunities, and the celebrations. The whole kit and caboodle.
Love makes life worth it. Love is the reason we have hope and is the catalyst for our faith.
Love protects us from many mental ills, just as a lack of morality in a person can be blamed, almost entirely, on a lack of experienced love. Those given to crime, in a general sense, were never loved as they needed to be loved. For this we can understand and even pity them. Not that this is an excuse, just a fact of the power of love to make the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death in a person.
When We Feel We Have No Love Coming Our Way
This is our biggest challenge to life.
Where we feel we don’t belong, that were not accepted, that we have no place to belong, our hope shrivels to nothing and our faith is the capacity severely compromised. We cannot achieve much without faith. And life without hope is despairing.
But there is love.
There is hope.
There is the ability to draw on faith.
Hope in God. God loves us all... much more than any human being could. God’s love is unconditional, but to experience God’s love we must accept his Son. Then, we have hope. Then, we have the ability to achieve things in faith. Then, we understand life!
Love is the beginning of life. When we are loved, and we feel we belong, and are valued for who we are, faith is easier and hope is almost a given. Love makes life worth it. Love is the reason we have hope and is the catalyst for our faith. God is love.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
Photo Credit: Jeppe Madsen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Work Is Delight for the Love of God

“The pure, simple, and steadfast spirit is not distracted by many labours, for he does them all for the honour of God.”
— Thomas √† Kempis (1380–1471)
There is no advantage for the worker unless the worker works as if they are advantaged.
They have everything they need in Christ already, so, to work for the glory of God; that is regarded as honour, and, because God has put breath in our lungs and energy in our muscles and synapses in our mind and right throughout our organism, we are blessed in our work, already.
All in a Day’s Work
Perhaps the key to loving our service to/for others in the name of the Lord is this idea: that we may consider what we do, today, as just that which we can do.
Because we can do it, and because it can be done, we are blessed in the achievement of this thing; but never more blessed than when we do it for others under the fathomless strength of love.
Our toil is all part of one plain day’s work; one at a time.
Nobody ever asks us to do more than one day’s work at a time. And when we break that day down into doable chunks, we are blessed to know that the Lord provides the energy and wherewithal to do the things his will gives for us to do. Because we adhere to God so diligently, the Lord blesses us by miraculous spiritual contentment.
These things we do become a labour of love. We are just mightily blessed to be positioned to bless others.
When We Fear No Work – True Blessing for Service
There is the preponderance these days of people fearing their work; they fear losing work, gaining work, or simply floundering amongst too much work. Occasionally people are bored because there is not enough work, and we know the devil makes ‘work’ for idle hands.
When we go at our work with an honest devotion to obey God in the moment, smiling within our spirits, thanking God that we have this role to do, we find the Lord blesses us more with his Presence. There really is no better blessing.
When there is no fear for work, there is no fear for life. Our bodies, minds, and souls are God’s when we have surrendered to the point that we are the Lord’s in our work.
One of the secrets of the Christian life is to tackle our work with joy. When we do that, choosing to smile in the mode of serving someone, God gives us his shimmering Spiritual Presence. Then we truly know God. Work is a delight with the Lord.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Situational Mastery of the Emotions

One thing most of us find is the biggest challenge in life, particularly within our families and in our workplace settings, is the regulation of our emotions.
We each have our buttons, that when pressed elicit the sort of emotional response we long try to repress. Anger is the classic example. Another is tears—controlling ourselves in a public environment. Other people struggle with going to water when faced with a bully. Rarely do we ever complain about the happy emotions, however.
Each of us has an opportunity to develop situational mastery of our emotions.
This is about progressing along the emotional continuum toward maturity.
As we identify our ‘sore spots’, and those emotional situations that get us in a pickle, we have the opportunity to work with the Spirit of God in praying for the resources to meet those situations better next time.
We pray for awareness of those situations and for the courage to respond better.
We want to be able to express our emotions, in a positive way, when it is appropriate to be emotional—in genuine sadness or joy, within myriad other emotion.
We also want to be able to control our emotions in those situations where an emotional response will do no good, or even perhaps harm.
Two Halves Make a Whole
As we plot our emotional course throughout our days and situations, we foresee threats before they arrive. Half of a better emotional response is in the planning. The other half is in the execution—deciding to maintain control in the moment.
Deciding has resolution about it.
In deciding—making the decision—we commit to that decision. And then we see it out; all the way through to the logical end point.
We want to know ourselves.
Emotional regulation is about knowing ourselves in our situations.
Knowing ourselves is the key.
Only in knowing God can we truly know ourselves.
When we approach the place where we truly know ourselves—and never is there the perfect destination we arrive at—we are home to truth, and the truth can threaten us no more.
A great indication that we are home to truth is how well we regulate our emotions; how liberated we are to enjoy emotional freedom.
Situational mastery of the emotions is perhaps the greatest gift of God we could develop and, hence, enjoy. This gift is a gift to others, not only to ourselves. This gift works for us and for anything within our sphere of influence.
We want to know ourselves.
Emotional regulation is about knowing ourselves in our situations.
Knowing ourselves is the key.
Only in knowing God can we truly know ourselves.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Challenging Bouts of Social Isolation

“If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
— Jodi Picoult
Anyone who has dealt with the felt sense of an overriding betrayal of a friend or group, akin to any sort of community, knows, by bitter experience, the truth in the above statement.
There are times when we have all sought our solitude, because it was the only safe place to run. People may say they love their alone-time, and that is occasionally the case, because there is the need physical, mental, or emotional renewal, but when people actively seek prolonged seclusion there is usually the presence of hurt within.
The fact is, as humans we have the preponderance for affinity; for connection.
We need to connect, and anyone challenging this idea could ask themselves, “Am I hurt by people (or hurting because of people) in any way?”
In my own life, I recall times in my late teens where I would routinely shut myself out from my social world for days at a time because I was sick of the way my peers treated me. There seemed to be some inner satisfaction in doing this; though I was not a believer at this stage, I perhaps felt the reassuring Presence of God, somehow. But, realistically, this reassuring presence—known to exacerbate and justify the isolation—was probably more reassurance from the devil, for Satan loves to get us isolated and get into our heads that way. But I certainly drew strength from having the power to segregate myself and to dream up goals in the manner of: “I’ll show them!”
The Source of Church and Family Hurts
Because churches, individual bodies’ of Christ, exist around social bounds under God, there will always be friction to the point of people feeling out of touch, misunderstood, not listened to, unloved—rejected. If only we could understand this as an ever present threat. These dynamics affect any ‘family’ set-up in the crisis of felt betrayal.
Particularly for the person who is prone to feelings of abandonment—those who have some union to an anxious attachment—this is a real threat. They will, from time to time, feel rejected by anyone who may not concur with their line of thinking; who resists closeness of heart and mind to them. These feelings of rejection, if we were wise, would be challenged in truth, so we could see the role fear is playing to disturb our sense for connection—pressuring our sense of connectedness.
If we would honour the truth, and see these feelings as they are, we may avoid the need to isolate ourselves.
We may rise above the felt pettiness of others in order to glorify God in our hurt.
Never Giving Up On Finding a Place to Belong
All of us belong somewhere. If truth were known, we actually belong in any good place, but we need to feel like we belong.
Many are the experiences of people against that flow, however.
They may never have felt that; a sense of true belonging. But our passionate commitment to find a place where we truly belong is rewarded when we resolve to never give up. But in order to find such a place we need to do our own inner work of preparation.
The fact we must come against is, we will be hurt.
People hurt people, but it is our role to utilise the wisdom and power of God to reconcile that hurt, rising above it. It is hurt people who hurt people. When we see this, we see a fearful individual (or individuals) who has/have hurt us, and we can have compassion for them. And sometimes it is us who are plain wrong, and in those cases we need to have the humility to admit we’re wrong. Many, many schisms come about because of sinful pride. Let’s be honest; being honest and swallowing our pride is a far better personal result.
If we are to get on we must aim to get on. Doing that is about compromise; a meeting of the minds and hearts, or at least agreeing to disagree without caging resentment.
Because, as humans, we were made to connect, isolation may be one of the worst kinds of life there is. We cannot know love, and be blessed by love, in isolation. And neither can we grow in isolation. The best of life exists where we feel we belong. Upon bouts of feeling isolated we need to, again, expand out into our world in courage to reconnect.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Meaning Learned In Loss

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860)
We live in an upside-down world, where too much pleasure often delivers pain, and pain, when it’s handled well, often delivers blessing—eventually. It’s difficult for us to accept that we cannot be in pleasure all the time. And it’s just as difficult to accept that experiences of loss involve a journey before we redeem any hope of blessing.
It’s little wonder that we struggle in understanding the meaning of life, including the meaning of our lives in the context of life.
But we are too easily swayed away from the blessings we ought to eventually behold if we get despondent; if we give up before we start; if we see life as just too hard, too painful. We must continue to hold on.
Enjoying Thoughts for Growth
If there is one thing we can look forward to in the midst of loss it’s what God is showing us; what we are learning.
It may seem a bitter lesson, but life the way we see it right now is not the way we will see it in two years time. We tend to think about our future lives from the present viewpoint, not considering we’ll be changed somewhat by the events of our lives. Never are we fixed in one spot.
When we are faced with a heartrending loss we might well ask ourselves, “What possible hope do I have?” Indeed, there are times when all we want to do is cling to that hope, if we have access to it.
That hope may be closer than we think.
That hope may begin with the things we are learning, even today; even from within the midst of numbness, anger, denial, or just plain sorrow; or, even the fleeting pleasures.
With one of our metaphorical eyes on the pain, and the other open wide enough to consider the learning, we are given access to understand some of life’s most cherished mysteries. We may never be in this position for sight ever again. Maybe God is trying to show us something in such a quivering engagement. Perhaps this is the healthy distraction from the pain we need.
Being Made Stronger and Better
Learning comes for one reason: to make us stronger, broaden our capacities and make us more flexible and amenable to life.
What better objective could there be from learning than to make us better?
There will come a time in life, much later than now or now as we look back, when we will see such strength of character as a necessity for dealing with the present day’s challenges.
There is ultimately great meaning in loss. Indeed, losses reveal a richness of meaning, but we may only see it with the benefit of hindsight. In the midst of grief we must hold on to the hope that there will be meaning made known to us; that our lives will prosper as a result.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When Loss Is Gain For Love

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
We can often be left wondering as to the flippancy of plastic platitudes, and this quote, above, can easily qualify for misapplication, losing the strength of its redoubtable truth. We don’t want to go there—where those who may be genuinely aggrieved are disposed for even further discouragement because of a clich√©.
No, we can do better than that.
To Have Never Loved
To have never loved would surely require the state of having never been loved, for how could a person who has experienced the receipt of love not return it?
Then there are those who may have chosen the safe route in life; to not couple-up or invest in significantly deep relationships, because of the surpassing risk of hurt. Fear is the motivation. Such a ‘safe’ life is really no life at all.
Real life is known to run the gauntlet of love. It has to, because life would be a waste otherwise.
So we may see the detriment within the person who has not risked for love. To have never loved is almost synonymous with a state of having never lived.
To Have Loved and Lost
It was Queen Elizabeth II who said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” I think that quote could be improved—grief is the price we pay for having loved.
God gives us a life that requires risk in order to gain, but in gaining we inevitably lose—not the idea of life itself, but we experience loss, and we could ponder the purpose of such experiences. All good things have their purpose. And love is good.
The purpose of love, or of risking life toward the ends of love, is growth; mainly emotional and spiritual growth. But such growth doesn’t finish there; it ramps up in the measure of loss—when the love we have so keenly invested is transformed in a flash from reality to a memory.
Grief is on a higher plane for growth than simply love is. There is a requirement of true strength of character to negotiate its hilly terrain.
Grief is a mountaineer guide of the highest order.
Grief takes us from the base camp of Love to the summit of Maturity.
It’s better to have loved and lost because of the experiences and tremendous life lessons afforded in God through, and because of, the journey. We are bigger, more compassionate people for having loved and lost.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.