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

Friday, September 30, 2016

LBGTIQ, SSM, Christianity, and the Insoluble Divide

Is anyone else getting a little sick and tired of the arguments?
Just on the Christian side of the debate there is a wide range of views. Many Christians are incredulous that someone could be Christian and be pro-same-sex-marriage, or more poignant, that someone might be actively non-heterosexual and be a follower of Christ. The other side of the debate is similarly incredulous: “these are Christians? Who judge us. Who pontificate. Who are also sexually broken persons, yet pretend they’re perfect.” There is a lack of grace on both sides. Both Christian sides. Christians ripping each other apart, for the onlooking world to see, against the new command of Jesus, to “love one another.”[1] Many Christians, it has to be said, sit in the middle, seeing the folly in arguing without dignifying the other. Many are appalled at the behaviour of both sides.
The largest part of the issue is what glib Christians write, unchecked, in their social media comments. We all have the tendency to be glib when we live unchecked. Then many will say, “I wanted to say that.” If that’s the case — that something exclusivist was said — then it’s a case of intentional, stubborn disobedience. “Doesn’t God give us a mind and a mouth to express our thoughts and make our stand for Him?” God doesn’t need any of us to make a stand for Him. But if we’re glib, and we’re caught out in our glibness, there’s an opportunity for introspection. Glibness, no matter how right we think we are, will win nobody to Christ, and worse, it takes us farther from the Presence of God. See how deceived we can become?
A Look Within
Now, as I look inward, I see the materials of stubbornness and glibness right there; insoluble with God’s reckoning. Glibness, if I’m honest (and because I believe in Christ I need to be honest) is an abhorrent default. And stubbornness wills me to continue, insolently, along my prideful path. Glibness is a sign of something I cannot seem in my own strength to help, and how far short I fall of God’s glory; the enemy of God reminding me. Stubbornness is the same. I am stubborn on a daily basis, many times a day. Woefully inadequate am I in my awareness upon entering the intensity of my inner reflections.
Yet this is a great thing to know. It’s what makes me Christian. I’m a sinner. Knowing I’m a sinner means I understand the role of sin in others’ lives. I experience the grace of God in my own life, and, having been forgiven, He helps me to locate the log that is intermittently in my own eye. I accept I’ll never be anything close to being perfect in this life. And so I begin never to expect perfection in others. I begin to view others through God’s lens of grace. And then, peace.
Important Issues
These are no doubt important issues — to all parties. I would be glib and stubborn if I pretended that parties on all sides of the debate have no right to debate their argument.
As I watch from my vantage point in the middle, as someone wanting to have no view, and yet as someone who does have a view (for we all have a view, especially if we don’t), I have to remind myself that my frustration is a sign of my need of God, and not a sign of their fault; those who deal differently than I do.
There is no question, these are important issues for all sides of the debate. From my look within I establish that I must respect every different viewpoint, and particularly the person from which that different viewpoint has a viable worldview that backs it up.
What Is Making the Argument Insoluble
Now to what is irreconcilable. There is no relationship. All the sides can see is the difference and the ‘hating’ starts. I’ve seen hating language and behaviour from both sides. As far as east is to west, never the twain shall meet.[2] This is another thing we’re wise to accept. Until God reigns, truly in reality, there will never be a universal oneness of view. We’re made too different, together with our sinful natures, to achieve it. So we must accept that, as we’re passionate one way, others will be equally passionate the other way.
If there were relationship, and by relationship I mean functionally, then we might be able to argue respectfully. But even then we would not get agreement. It helps to accept this. It helps to commit beforehand to celebrate our vitalising diversity.
A Better Way to Fight – the Only Decent Way
Arguments aren’t the problem. In a free society we can argue, praise God; that all comers and all views have their rightful place — not at all regarding the material of respective arguments, but for the fact we’re equals. This is about upholding the decency of being human. Get that right, and keep it at the forefront, and only then do we gain entry into rightful debate.
The problem is twofold: arguing without a well-thought-out case and, underpinning fruitful arguing, playing the ball and not the man or woman, i.e. arguing responsibly by being a guardian of emotions — ours and theirs. If they lose emotional control, we need to modulate back. We’re called to love, not to victory. Love is the victory.
Entering an argument should mean that we’ve previously agreed we’ll not act hurt if what is said or done to us or our arguments runs awry. The licence to enter the arena should be contingent on being relationally resilient enough to hold ourselves well enough to respect the other. If we cannot do that we ought to get out of the debate, because we’ll fight badly and damage will ensue.
A good way to fight is also to accept there will always be a divide, and that God loves those on the opposite side of the argument just as much as He loves us. Our frustration should be a sign to us of our own incapacity to be God. It should drive us into the Godhead, but alas it doesn’t and we’ll often make ourselves and others pay for our spiritual incongruity that acts itself out in all sorts of criminal behaviours.
A New Solution
There is a new solution that is also an ancient one. It’s new because it’s new to us.  It’s new every day. It’s ancient because it’s eternal. Nothing new under the sun. Both new and ancient.
Knowing how far we fall short is fundamental. Yet I am new, and God looks at me as if I’m perfect already — when I’m am still so pathetically imperfect. Both things are true.
A new solution is this: stop. If we’re not called to be a lobbyist on either side, we need to stop. Get out of the argument. We could be getting in God’s way. We could be alienating people God has called us to love. Let us resolve to love in an inclusive way. Let us put away our differences, jettisoning our indifferences also, and commit again to living the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, … forbearance, kindness, goodness, … faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.[3]
Love will call us into a rigorously uncomfortable sphere. Let us endeavour to recommence the journey every moment of our lives.
May God truly bless us all as we endeavour to live in the community of humankind, giving to each other the kindness of being human in its original form,
Steve Wickham.

[1] John 13:34-35.
[2] Rudyard Kipling’s Ballad of East and West.
[3] Galatians 5:22-23.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Insult of Brokenness and the Ingress of Blessing

There have been times in my life when I would never stand for the things I know intuitively now are for my own suffering good.  Pride masquerading as advocacy, I would step in and insist upon my own defence.  On a worldly plane, of course, I was standing up for manipulations done against me or others.  But neither in God’s economy or the world’s does that method really work.  Yet it’s a common default to insist justice be served exactly how we see it.
Like a clock ticking in the presence of a thunderstorm, or the person unflustered bearing a tirade of abuse, there is a grand copse of wisdom in reacting via the inaction of the reflective higher mind that muses long before doing anything.
Brokenness is a state.  It’s the ability to bear an insult because humility for the pleasing of God is more important than a petty retort.  Brokenness is happy to endure the insult.  It trusts beyond the nonsensical nature of the injustices besmirched toward it.
Brokenness is a state of being, blessed from heaven exacted below, throbbing in pain, yet purposed for growth, as brokenness is from God.
Brokenness of being is a state of place in this world, of acceptance, here, so something abundantly better is being forged for later, and certainly in eternity.
Bear the insult of brokenness and bring about the ingress of blessing.
It really is how the gospel truly works in our lives.
May God truly bless you,
Steve Wickham.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Discouragement’s Importance In Every Person’s Journey

What a victory Elijah had had for the Lord in 1 Kings 18! He had singlehandedly conquered a whole swath of idolatrous prophets — those ascribing their worship to their impotent god, Baal. What Elijah didn’t count on, however, was how that victory would incite the ire of the King’s wife.  He had twenty-four hours to get out of town![1]
Out of victory, having experienced maximal favour of the Lord, comes the threat of death.
There are times in our lives, perhaps after a time of lucid encouragement, when we’re slapped down.  In a mix of emotion, shock bypasses all our veneers of emotional protection, and immediately we’re tossed down without defence, and thrust into a depression.  Depressed!  How did it so quickly assail us?
That is discouragement.     It’s an experience common to all humankind.     Yet, the absurdity is we feel all alone.     About as alien as we could.     We never realise the next person could be as discouraged as we are, or more!
We enter into the temptation to shrink back, to isolate, to avoid all difficulty.  Fear causes us to hide when the cause of help would be to share our burden and take a hiatus.
And for a time, we go into avoidance mode, into that fake place of ‘safety’. It’s understandable. We’re trying to reconcile just what happened, what we’re to do about it, and how to respond and recover the lost ground. We need privacy about now, or so we think.
Discouragement is both a temptation and a test. It depends on how we think about it.  It’s our thinking that has to be challenged. If we continue to think fearful thoughts, we’ll succumb and isolate. But if we acknowledge how we feel in our thinking, telling ourselves it’s okay — indeed, understandable — God can give us the strength to manage the thinking moment.  Panic can give way to peace; chaos to calmness. Even when we’re still flailing.
God has a role for discouragement.
Discouragement makes us depend on God which causes growth in humility and integrity. Journeying with God through discouragement takes us deeper in the experience of bearing reality. It’s His greatest wish for us, that we would love truth. And if we can love a reality that breaks us, we can love God no matter what. Could anything then defeat us? We would have nothing left to fear other than having a right fear of God, Himself.
See how important discouragement is as an activator for growth? It’s never nice, but it is necessary. And if that’s no encouragement for you in being discouraged, take heart and know semblances of confidence will return soon enough, especially if we allow ourselves the freedom to be vulnerable enough to share with our loved ones.
Discouragement reveals us as true disciples, reeling in a reality that redeems God’s strength if only we stay weak.
Discouragement’s purpose is to goad us to get on with our journey of dependence on God.  As soon as we’re truly dependent on God we quickly realise the importance of trusted others in sharing our burdens.
Stay strong in your weakness, and in that be blessed knowing He is with you and for you!
Steve Wickham.

[1] See 1 Kings 19:2.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When Loss Opens Eternity’s Doors Through Grief

Stories were the theme of my day recently.  Narratives of life… of family, distant and imminent, of the weariness of time, of pain and loss, through death and separation… but also of reconnection, of hope for a future beyond loss, of achievement underpinned by purpose.
We all have stories, and every story is interesting.  Ann Oakley (nee Hawke), a beautiful indigenous person, grew up completely separated from her family — from her mother and siblings — and was ‘loved’ by countless foster families, many of whom were well intentioned but woefully ill-equipped to love a child with a torn identity.  After two decades and more of running, fighting, and grieving a world of hurt, it was the elders within her indigenous community who took her as a broken human being and counselled her in forgiveness, in reconciling more loss than most of us could understand.
Then there’s the story of Ray Palmer.  He and his wife received a knock at the door by uniformed men in 2010 that shattered their lives.  Their son was serving in Afghanistan.  He’d been killed in a helicopter tragedy.  As Ray shared his story, his relived grief as fresh in some ways as the day he first heard the news, I realised afresh, their son will never return to them.  There is something irrefutably final in loss; it makes sure grief forces its ways through the barred doors of our emotional citadel.
I don’t want to over-spiritualise death, but I’m afraid I cannot help it.  Death is spiritual.  Death takes us into another world.
Of recent I’ve been playing the haunting 1999 track, Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? By Moby.  There is something utterly life-giving, in the eventualities of experience, in willingly going to the depths of agony.  Our soul hears the heartache in songs that repeal joy for a wailing sorrow.  We know life is like that.  Life crushes every one of us.  Within every one of our stories is an eternity of sorrow.  And yet that’s exactly what deepens us in life.  It’s precisely what makes us humans of substance.
Grief does something to me as I connect with it.  Being in relationship with it, having recovered from the unrivalled soul-lonely pain of loss, I have found is a gift — eternity’s door is then ever ajar for reminiscences that requite gratitude.
We’re enlarged by grief in the longer run, because that’s what eternity does to us when she touches us.
My grief is treasured in the loss of a once-cherished marriage and in the loss of a son who will never return to us.
It is only my faith in God that can explain how life-shattering sorrow is turned to a deep abiding joy.
Loss opens eternity’s doors to us in our grief.
It’s a gift we never realise at the time; a compensation
experienced later.
Photo: an enduring image of the moment, 11pm 30 October, 2014, I met my deceased son.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

3 Places You Draw Your Needs From?

We draw our needs from three potential places: from others, from ourselves, and from God.  Only when we draw our needs from God are we in the lap of God’s will.
Drawing Our Needs From Others
Co-dependency is one example of where we need others to fulfil us.  Another is in the practice of serving others so that we would be fulfilled; that to please others is the only way we can be pleased.  When we draw our needs from others, we don’t rely on God or draw on the resources God has given us for our use for ourselves and others.
Drawing Our Needs From Ourselves
Working in our own strength is only sustainable for a while, then we tip into burnout, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, disappointment, and ultimately despair.  When we draw our needs from ourselves, we act as if we don’t need God or others.
Drawing Our Needs From God
Reliance on God is not a thing that can be taught to anyone, except by the Holy Spirit.  Only the Spirit of God can convict a person to understand the fact: life runs best when we dwell along the axis of God’s will.  When we draw our needs from God, we’re best for ourselves and others, which means we’re best for God.  God knows we need others and He gives us what we need for ourselves, but only when we draw our needs from God can we need others and ourselves appropriately.
May God truly bless you as you draw your needs from God,
Steve Wickham.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

What Begins When Love Ends

This is all just words.
Just words.
No story.  Nothing to tickle or titillate.  Nowhere is a story a help to some other than when it’s told and told so well as to be left there, as it is, to be experienced, to elicit unjudged feelings.
These words here are but an attempt to recapitulate the concept of loss and to postulate the idea that there is purpose in loss.  Further, that loss endured is life-giving, even if that’s your search yet you’ve not found it yet.  Still, by faith, you’re compelled forth into an impossibility that God has echoed, somehow; that which cannot be ignored, as real, though still unreal.
It’s coming, if it hasn’t come already.  It tarries for nobody.  It moves without warning and stuns us, bringing us to a depth of life we never thought quite hellishly possible.  Loss.  It comes.  Don’t be anxious.
Grief begins when love ends, yet in endurance emerges persistence, grit, honesty, and brokenness.  Faith, in one word.  All because something wonderful ended, such that something more wonderful could begin; a journey into the rawness of self without pretentious masquerade.
Grief introduces us to a journey we would never take of our own volition; a pilgrimage taken alone, no matter the company of friends; a sojourn where God calls life to a screeching halt.
And, all that said, traversing grief, true to your reality, dependent on God alone, unafraid of emotional meltdowns, learning to feel broken, accepting enervating despair that feels permanent, experiencing joy through a sepia filter of sorrow, qualifies the sojourner for a copious salvation, a great compensation of God, which is faith’s reward for trust.
One possession grief leaves us with is the gift of remembrance.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Friday, September 2, 2016

What God Taught Me at School Today

As I shovelled mulch into the wheelbarrow I had four young male students engage me in the finer points of the work.  One was Indian, another Caucasian, another African American, and the final boy was Asian.  I was captivated more by their unity of friendship than their curiosity for my work, even as I did explain the benefits of mulch for gardens and how to move the product.
Their unity shouldn’t have seemed strange.  It should make us enquire about it, and give us cause to celebrate it.  And though it would seem that these four boys would have their disagreements from time to time, as occurs in all walks of life when we share a common space with others, it appears that there’s more that connects them than separates them.
Yet, as we grow older, and certainly into adolescence and subsequent adulthood, we’re more often than not polarised by our world to be separatist in one way or other.  We’re expected to choose political and religious alliances, not to mention the fact we’re trained in life to have an opinion on almost everything.
As soon as we decide to have a view we prove ourselves as separatist, unless we hold in mature tension the idea that there is one thing more important than the view we’ve chosen.  That is that the next person’s right to choose in opposition is as sacred a right as ours is to choose as we have done.  If we’ve agreed beforehand that that will be our value, we have every right to hold a view.
We must always hold ourselves to the shortest account on our suspicion of others and of our excusing of ourselves.  We question the other’s motive, yet our motive is as pure as driven snow.  That’s default human nature; we have to contend with ourselves first and foremost.  The problem is in us, or begins with us, not so much the other person.  (Of course, the opposite is also true, if we look at things from their viewpoint.)
Four six-year-old boys, each of different ethnicity, yet best of friends, taught me that unity transcends difference.  What love puts together, indifference will not separate.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.