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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grudges Sour Forgiveness’ Flower

“Grudges allow my indignation and hurt to drown any whisper of self reproach.
Beautiful is the spirit of the person,
Bringing wonderful news,
They encapsulate God’s blessing,
Not one party stands to lose.
Not easy in this world,
Is it ever to procure,
A flag of peace unfurled:
God’s healing is ever pure.
Beyond the grudge held ‘securely’ within is the opportunity to be the bearer of good news in the lives of those we have hurt by simple yet courageous acts of repentance. In such a case we seek forgiveness, but not before we have owned all of our wrong (without reservation) in the offended party’s presence.
Mercy is begotten in humble recognition of the truth: we could have done better, and that is okay. There is no lasting recrimination for the repentant.
In truth is freedom.
The Risk and Return in, and of, Repentance
It seems a gospel imperative that is largely forgotten in this day: repentance. We soon forget that it was through repentance that we were brought to fellowship with our Father, through Christ; the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.
To turn back toward God, and operantly, turn toward Divine will, is power and mystery and faith: power because we have gone an unforeseen way, for the worldly person hardly expects it; mystery because of the vast unknown scarp in sowing in love; and, faith, for repentance is about acknowledging truth, whilst also casting fear into the wind on the hopes of a better result in accord with God’s repealing will.
Kindness today,
Forgiveness tonight,
Peace with which we lay,
Beauty in our Lord’s sight.
Sowing the gift of transformation at a relational level, we allow the Holy Spirit to break down any semblance of pride, and we are accountably vulnerable before those we are at odds with.
And as we offer the kindness of forgiveness, Lord help us to see our own need of forgiveness. For, none of us are immune to playing the victim; to being blinded to our transgression. Lord, help us.
Grudges do compromise and sour forgiveness’ flower – that vibrant perennial that blossoms, even when the sun sinks deeper on the horizon; when hope is low.
Grudges spoil that which could be, because we are more victim than villain.
Grudges – from whatever and every standpoint – prevent the passage of the otherwise prevailing will of God for the circumstance.
Bear a grudge and we should know we have departed the Presence of the Lord.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Integrity’s Challenge and Reward

Integrity’s challenge stands abreast with impartiality.
Impartiality is about applying every fair perspective.
Perspective is the gift of harmony with God.
Integrity’s about taking on every aspect of the reflective.
The goal of healing is a life healed enough that it may stand with integrity, be blessed by perspective, and be able to offer impartiality. With integrity, no side is taken; only the God-objective remains. That is the challenge for all of us ― to be humble enough to receive our healing such that integrity, perspective, and impartiality may become us more and more to the glory of God.
Great peace is enjoyed by the person who has done their work to cooperate with God – the work of repentance – in approaching healing for reconciling wrongs – who lives life obediently and humbly penitent. They recognise the power in repentance and that is the secret to their integrity. It is no more complex than that. They have kept a short account with God, and therefore have no need of keeping short account with another human being.
The Call of Integrity On All of Us
None of us escape this eternal call to honour God by being integral persons – one with God, as much as humanly possible, and one with ourselves, in order that we may be one with others.
When we can be trusted to speak the truth, because we speak in love, because to speak out of love is to hurt ourselves, not just the other, we have an innate integrity. This is pleasing to God. That would be an understatement, because much of the time human conflict is caused through a lack of integrity, where a courageous commitment to speak the truth would be of great overall benefit.
There is a great personal reward meted out to the person who is prepared to float graciously within the boundaries of integrity and not encroach beyond those boundaries. We could foreseeably call this, wisdom.
Such a person has a good grip on impartiality – due that close account with God – and they scarcely miss any vital perspective. There is no sign of a routine lack of judgment, though the person of integrity is the quickest to pick up a fault and repent of it.
Integrity means no side is taken; only the God-objective remains. There is no favouring one over another. Integrity is a gift to others as it is faithfulness before God. Integrity is its own reward.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Do I Do With This Pain?

“... the secret to writing is to get your own pain – shout it out till it hurts your throat – weep it into your pillow – then write it down...”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
When the circumstances of a day smash us against the rocks of life, how are we to successfully wrestle with such an indignity of pain? When the state of play in our heads or hearts is entangled within confusion, and chaos reigns, what is a useful next step? It is likely we will want to just do something to address the pain. Finding the answer, however, is never as simple as that, is it? But expression must certainly help.
Getting at our own pain, to somehow understand it, as a mode of dealing with it, even being healed of it, is one useful ploy for considering the way out.
Getting at our own pain is about wrangling with it; expressing it by writing. This is why the great journallers of the past have tended to become enlightened. God worked as an instrument between their mind and their hand, medicating their hearts and healing their souls, as they scrawled indecipherable letters and words on a page. The odd sentence made sense, and certainly the heavy pressed indent of pen on paper communicated the powerful grip of one’s angst.
Finding Safe Expression
Journalling isn’t the only healthy form of expression in delving into the deeper fissures of pain in order to make sense of it, but it does work for many people, and it is worth a try.
Indeed, it is worth more than one try, as we find plumbing the depths of pain is slow and arduous work, with no instant result, and little immediate reward.
But finding safe expression – whatever it is – for the soul to speak in silences and then via utterances, before a fuller expression is facilitated; this has to be our goal. Reaching a healthy position of acceptance is what we need in deriving peace beyond the pain.
As we write, and better as we speak, the pain is released. Again, this is no instant fix. It is, however, and investment in the journey toward healing, as we pray forth our truth so it may be deciphered – and so our souls can be heard at long last.
As we express our pain, on a page via pen to paper, or via a trusted wise adviser, we gain steady yet slow access to relief for our souls. Our souls cry for the injustices that have slain our hopes. We are blessed to find safe space and courage to express the pain encamped deep within.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why Expecting To Be Hurt Helps

Expect to be hurt.
Yes, that’s the unfortunate reality of life – we’ll get hurt; physically, for sure, but also emotionally. Some of us are susceptible to being rejected; some of us to a lack of recognition; others, again, to a negligence of consideration that subjugates our existence.
We will get hurt.
So why do we act so surprised? Well, it still hurts, that’s why.
Although we understand the logic that we are feeling creatures, it doesn’t help much when we’re faced with the crushing heartache that comes from one (or a combination) of a million splinters of loss.
Coming to be Grounded in Our Hurt
It’s ours, our hurt.
Nobody else’s is it. It’s ours. Thinking, feeling persons, we’re born with the innate capacity to experience life along a seemingly infinite spectrum of emotion. Perception is ours, yet we embellish our perceptions with various nuances from our wounded child within.
Realising that to be hurt is a common human designation is a blessing, in that we can afford ourselves the grace we need in simply understanding that feeling hurt isn’t the other person’s fault. Neither is it our fault. Feeling hurt simply is. That’s all.
Whenever we come to a recognition of the things in life we cannot change, we are invited into the opportunity of acceptance – as raw and as hard as that might be.
Being grounded in our hurt is being consoled by God, by the matter of a prayerful solitude, whereby we allow ourselves to shrink within, to abide in our hurt, but in a way to allow God’s healing.
Therefore, we are not so much to chastise ourselves for the fact we feel hurt, but we are to unveil to ourselves the copious portions of God’s grace – because God understands we are hurt. We receive the compassion of God this way, and our hurts are healed by the practical reality of acceptance – which is most often a process.
Certainly a key to being healthily grounded in our hurt is to expect that, because we are a composite of healthy and wounded parts, we will feel hurt by our treatment and circumstances at least some time.
Life hurts. Not only that, but we’re easily hurt by our circumstances and by our treatment – even when we know, logically, it’s silly to be hurt. We’re better off to expect we’ll get hurt, and therefore prepare ourselves. Journeying with God into the healing of acceptance augments emotional health.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Reconciling a Relational Divorce

“Close enough to start a war...”
— ADELE (Turning Tables)
Myriad forms of divorce occur within the relational life.
Uncertainties are camped in each one. Various forms of fracture confound each of these relationships.
Marriage divorces are illustrative, but there are divorces also that occur in the arts, sport, in business... times when two parties must separate and because the relational premise with which they meet is no longer tenable.
Hurt gives way to resentment, anger, bitterness, rumour and innuendo, and a complete lack of trust. Respect is a long lost and forgotten memoir of times when two worked (and loved) as one.
One these are no longer. And that – many times – is okay. It is what it is.
Many ‘divorces’ are not hateful; perhaps most. Some are a separation of convenience. Others occur through one’s initiation, where the other cooperates – to the glory of God. Happy divorces are not what this is about.
This is about something very toxic and underlying it is a hatred of lost perspective on the part of one or possibly both parties – more usually one more than the other.
Helping the Foes; Loving the Hurt and Hateful
What can be done to reconcile such a situation?
Probably little so far as the interpersonal relationship is concerned.
But much can be done to reconcile individuals to the safe identity they need in getting on with their lives. With space fitted upon perspective, even bitter parties may see reason – and their own portion of fault – with time.
But in the interceding period, compassion is the key.
There is no use in thrusting ‘truth’ into the mix when there are no ears to hear it, or eyes to see it. Compassion is the answer to every question of resentment, betrayal, and bitterness.
Compassion intercedes and makes peace of the moment.
Reconciling a hateful set of relational circumstances is not about reconciling the embittered parties. It’s about helping them both to move on. We believe reconciliation is possible, but we’re realistic – where bitterness has ripped a gaping hole the only ones who can fix it is one, and usually both, of the aggrieved parties.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Your Greatest Gift to the World

Who are we if we’re not givers of ourselves? It’s all we have.
But there is an opportunity to not only give of ourselves, but to give ourselves to our world by a sustainable ardour of compassion.
Compassion sets itself apart as the king of kindnesses.
This king of kindnesses is so gift-worthy; giving itself away as the other-centred vehicle of blessing to the unveiling of an all-inclusive joy. It is clear that compassion is a blessing to both giver and receiver.
Compassion – the Blessing to Both Giver and Receiver
Compassion’s beyond ration,
In an irrational world,
It’s an other-centred interest,
A flag of beauty unfurled.
When compassion finds us,
In the giving or receiving,
Blessing’s what enshrines us,
Experience is believing.
There is no greater gift from one to another than compassion. Both the giver and the receiver are blessed. Compassion is love in action. And both the giver and receiver receive from God when compassion is part of the transaction between them. It is as if God fills the space between them. The experience of this transaction of compassion between two, initiated by one, generates belief in the power of compassion to transcend all other relational differences.
Valuing Others’ Perceptions
It seems like such a simple thing – to consider the importance of valuing others’ perceptions as a means of demonstrating compassion. When we think of this it makes so much sense: that we trust other people enough to acknowledge them as thinking, feeling people, capable of drawing accurate conclusions – whether their conclusions, in the moment, are accurate or not.
We don’t need to be people highlighting every glaring error. Most people who experience compassion then have the ability to reflect on what they have said – right, wrong, or indifferent. Most basically moral persons will conclude more of the truth having experienced a simple but generous mode of compassion.
It is not our role to the judge and jury. Our role is simply to love.
Compassion is our privilege in living this life; to pour God’s love into others’ lives. Love always seems unreasonable from the world’s viewpoint. But to love according to the quotient of God we must push the bounds of reasonability, and compassion is manifest of that ‘unreasonable’ material.
Life is an opportunity not only to give of ourselves, but to give ourselves to our world by a sustainable ardour of compassion. That is the abundant life we’re all striving for.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Psalm 88 – When God Doesn’t Answer

“O LORD, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.”
Psalm 88:14-15 (NRSV)
What’s in range here is something that all people, and all Christians, know is a feature of life, but we so often pretend isn’t. No genuine Christian likes to consider that God doesn’t, occasionally, answer prayer. More importantly, the real world wants to learn that even the Bible—God’s Word—suggests that feeling estranged from God happens.
Of course it happens, and Psalm 88 attests to its happening. Additionally, the psalmist—Heman the Ezrahite—grapples with their own imminent death. This may be a depressing psalm for many, but it is an urgent voice speaking to those in the wilderness. It speaks to a world needing relevant and compassionate encouragement in the midst of silence from God.
The Purpose of ‘Dark’ Psalms
Psalms of the darkness, like this one, polarise the emotions.
We read them when life is swimmingly good and they really make no sense—the psalmist heaping bulbous nodules of self-pity, and blinded by same, all over themselves.
Then, life changes. Quickly we burrow into a hole centred upon our own oblivion. All around us is stark as fear entraps our hope. No one can empathise with us in the pit; truly, only God can help. And as we read God not helping, we are helped, because we don’t feel like we are be only ones left completely barren of response from God.
Psalm 88 is, perhaps, the darkest psalm; almost because it takes aim at God for not helping. The truth is, many journeys of matured faith involve such seasons where feelings of abandonment are normal. God never abandons us, but we genuinely feel that he has during these times. So wonderful it is that God’s Word speaks to us, here, in such darkness.
Relevant Nuances for the Spiritually Disenfranchised
Such dark psalms offer hope to the spiritually oppressed. The following are some nuances relevant to dark nights of the soul:
1.       Often we might feel like we are occupying hell. This psalm mentions “the Pit,” “Sheol,” and “Abaddon” in verses 4, 6, 3, and 11. Such nouns are, in effect, adjectives of a weary soul, desolate, and without a companion—even God. When we reside here—in the hellishness of life—we actually want to read that others have experienced the same isolation. An answer is less important than the empathy we receive (from God, ironically) to consider others have also suffered.
2.      Given a certain hypochondria, a matter for more of us than we would care to admit, we will often worry even despite biblical commands not to. We worry about death and disease; about an unpredictable and sudden demise; and not just from a health viewpoint; it occurs in the financial sense as well, among others.
3.      It will be clear to every human being—at varying stages—that God does not wait with his ear fixed to the door of our prayer closets anxiously seeking to break through our challenges. God does listen. But part of the process of maturity is resolving our challenges in our own way with God as a non-interfering heavenly Sponsor. Such prayer is the medium for the psalmist’s communication with God in verses 2 and 13. The psalmist is not answered, and oftentimes we will not feel answered, either.
4.      Loneliness comes for many reasons. Sometimes it is only circumstantial; not because of conflict or betrayal. We are just alone. At other times, however, loneliness comes because of our friendships. In verses 8 and 18 we get a glimpse of the psalmist in their shame. Again, this is an enormous encouragement. We, as a fact of being human, will all feel the king-hit of shame, as well as pangs of guilt for some of the things we’ve done. It’s important to be reminded, as we read a psalm like this one, that these are not unique emotions. Almost everyone has them.
There is a season for a psalm so dark. Its testimony enfolds over us in encouragement, for the darkness others too have experienced. God wants us to know, we are not alone in that darkness time. Others are there, and have been there. In this we are encouraged. God is with us, even in darkness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Craig C. Broyles, Psalms: New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1999), pp. 352-54.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thou Shalt Favour Everyone!

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?    
— JAMES 2:1 (NRSV)
When we do our acts of favouritism we demonstrate weakness in our characters. And where we favour one over another we lack love for the one we don’t favour, whilst we flatter the one we favour.
Favouritism is exclusivity, and with few exceptions – including an important one, for instance John 14:6 – exclusivity has no role in the kingdom of God. John 13:34 helps us; we are commanded to love one another. Besides Jesus targeting believers loving other believers, we have the opportunity to love one another to the extent of the whole world.
In other words, Thou shalt favour everyone!
So we should find no excuse in failing to love, for to favour everyone equally is to treat everyone with a special treatment, that to which they find special. They define it, not we.
Favouring Everyone by Love
Love comes in so many shapes and sizes,
It meets every need of a needy humankind,
Within each facet of love there rises,
A fascination of majesty that soothes the mind.
Love of myriad form there is that meets minds to the sparking of hope and joy. The gift of serving or the serving of a gift; these are kindnesses of love we are free to bestow. Love of common and uncommon kinds reminds us of the goodness of God demonstrable over the face of the Earth. We are always free to partake of love; to give and receive it.
It may seem a cliché to say that love is a choice. It is. It is a cliché when we make of it a magical something to do by talking about it and not doing it. But love is as simple as doing loving things as we’re led by the Holy Spirit, without any sense of partiality.
If we can only see that there are so many deeds of love, translated into kindness and compassion and practicalities of help, etc, that we ought to make no room for deeds that are devoid of love.
Because we can love, having been commanded to love, and being blessed to love as others are blessed to be loved, we should favour everyone. Such a love goes beyond the partiality of favouring a few. Love looks past such injustices as partiality and prejudice and personality. When we favour everyone, equally, we please God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Manning Up to Marriage Separation

“I promise I’m not trying to make your life harder,
Or return to where we were...”
― Dido, White Flag (2003)
There was a time, nearly 10 years ago now, when my world was thrust into darkness, and I had to reach out to the light. Though I was a tacit believer, I now found myself so vulnerable I simply had to commit to God; for my survival.
I quickly found, in the land of marital separation beyond one’s will, that, in chasing my beloved, I skirted narrowly between the two poles of making life harder for her by chasing too hard and conveying disinterest by not chasing hard enough. And by chasing, I mean in a dignified way where a man’s integrity remains as the cornerstone unto blessing for her. There is no sense of chasing by aggression, here. No ‘man’ chases aggressively.
I have seen this in other men’s lives also.
Caught betwixt and between the call of God on their lives to chase a love that was real but for her has passed, what is the man to do? How are they to honour God and honour her at the same time? And how are they to regale back and forth on the feedback of their peers? These, of course, are unanswerable questions.
But blessed is the man who is prepared to ‘man up’ to the challenges that have beset him. Only he can tell if he has something truly to offer her, and he better hope he is hearing right from God, but in my experience he most often is. How noble it is for a man to spend himself on changing and improving so he may be an acceptable husband; not for his own good, only for hers.
In dealing with the unanswerable questions, the man is guided by wisdom, for wisdom makes us her own when we step by faith into unanswerable space.
There is nothing wrong with staying awhile in the confounding reality. This is how we are grown. This is how God takes us and expands our lives within the concepts of acceptance, grace, maturity, humility, patience, and fortitude.
From weakness the man is granted strength because he goes about the work that God has made opportune for him. If he can spend his life for her, no matter the outcome, she will be blessed, and the kids also.
When a man faces the torture of marital separation beyond his will, all he can do is choose to bless her life in every way that God nurtures his mind to do. All the while he does this he should bear in mind the beauty that God is forming within his character. God wastes not one single hurt, and, in blessing her, he himself will be blessed.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

LORD, Give Me a Soft Heart and Thick Skin

“A thick skin is a gift from God.”
― Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967)
Recently, as I strode into my workplace – how wonderful; a church – I did detect the presence of fear (from where does it come from, I often ask?). Suddenly, I was thinking thoughts I shouldn’t have been – “What do people around here think of me?” and “What insurmountable challenges will this moment bring?” etc.
When we have thick skin we are more or less impervious to the unintended (or intended) hurts thrust against us by others; we resist fear with aplomb.
But, when we regale against the negative things we experience – by either aggression or submission – we find ourselves compromised, vulnerable, and dangerous even. When we find ourselves compromised we tend to think the worst. When we find ourselves vulnerable, fear takes over. Sometimes when an inner compromise and vulnerability combine we find ourselves unconsciously attacking or defending because we feel attacked or defenceless.
Our opportunity is to revert into a thinking pattern that reminds us that a thicker skin response is possible by perceiving threats differently.
When we would insist upon responding well, regardless of how we feel, we have the ability to superintend ourselves. This means we would go beyond our feelings when we are compromised, vulnerable, and liable to damage people in response to the damage they have foisted upon us.
Responding well is a very simple thing. All it requires is awareness of the fear and then an obedient action to choose for faith. We can respond despite ourselves and still be in agreement with ourselves, because God quickly shows us the blessing in a good response. Of course, beyond awareness is the modality of faith. We must show faith, which is a risk. But, with no risk there is no return.
It is true to say that two wrongs don’t make it right.
We cannot please God by responding to others in the hurt that they have propelled towards us. God does not empower us to respond in harmful ways, but we are empowered to respond obediently – to get above and beyond the hurt.
It is up to us to go against ourselves and enough that we might see the truth, and abide by God in following by truth, and therefore be freed by the truth.
Having a thick skin requires a soft heart toward others, where we would not hurt people just because we have been hurt. When we go forward in trust – giving people grace through the benefit of any doubt – we will often find people reciprocating. Simply put, a thick skin is a wiser and more joyous way of living life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.