What It's About

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Prayer of Reflection – the Gift of a Heart of Forgiveness

HERE I come before You, my Father,
Heaven’s desire steeped in my heart,
But unless to You I submit,
No portion of Your Spirit will You impart.
So, with that I humble myself,
In order that You may do,
Everything of Your accord,
And my heart would abide in You.
Even in the deed of surrender,
In the holy work of submission,
Bowing before You alone,
I’m granted Divine permission.
Then Your Spirit enables,
Searching deep beneath,
in the nodules of my heart,
You see everything as it is,
And there let my confession start.
Experiencing Your incising Presence,
Your grace-filled, truth-lit hand,
Though I’m rendered weak,
In that weakness I can stand.
That moment of truth’s deep ministry,
Within grace’s unfathomable flow,
I know I’m in safe hands,
And out of bitterness I can grow.
Faith emerges from belief,
When I see the work You do,
Transforming me from within,
Renewing me in what is true.
The covenant we join when we submit to Him who is our only help is not simply a binding one, but one in which there is victory.
Forgiveness is a gift of the heart. A God-job done without any help from us but surrender, confession and repentance.
Whenever we forgive we pray, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven’ by our actions.
To forgive is to wrench calamity out of the enemy’s hands, to wrest control for truth and love.
Forgiveness is brokered in weakness but, in it, from God, we borrow strength.
Clemency is a gift enjoyed by all who prefer grace over condemnation.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What do you mean, my child’s not brilliant?

EXPECTATIONS are tricky things. When we expect bad news it never seems so bad, but, of course, we get it mostly when we least expect it.
(As I write this I smile at the fact that bad news is often cloaked in opportunity — when we give our judgments back to God and allow Him to launder them for us, He transforms us by the renewing of our minds.)
At the end of my son’s swimming lesson recently the teacher handed me a re-enrolment slip. He is to repeat the same level next term. Repeat? Suddenly, just for a moment, I caught myself thinking, “Well, this can’t be right…” Many other thoughts were then entertained, all of them false: he swims like a fish; he wasn’t assessed right; the standards are too high; maybe other people’s kids repeat, but mine? etc. All excuses or non-truths.
I’m afraid to say my thinking reveals the thinking of many parents of our age, wanting everything to run in favour of our kids. Not that that is bad in and of itself. But it potentially leads to some pretty onerous expectations that us parents place on anyone charged with teaching or leading our children. And, when acted out consistently, it potentially leads to entitled children.
The fact is our children will win some and they’ll lose some. Sometimes they advance beyond our expectations. At other times, our unconscious expectations aren’t met. Because we sometimes cannot bear to think that our child isn’t ‘special’. Again, a symptom of our age, if we’re honest. But perhaps that drive was always there — our children, the extension of one’s own ego.
After I dressed my son I queried the teacher just to clarify that he was to re-enrol in the present class (which may say more than what I wish to admit). She explained his areas of deficiency. I had seen these weaknesses. But even had I not I would have believed her, which is based in an overriding drive to have an effective relationship with an authority figure in my son’s life. But I could tell my query of clarification made her a little uneasy. And the fact that she was unsettled communicated to me that she was unsure if I could be trusted with the truth. I can certainly understand why she possibly felt that way.
Our kids experience triumph and disappointment, but us parents need to realise they’re defined by neither of them.
As parents we need to place less stock in our kids’ achievements and more stock in our commendation of their efforts.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Forgiveness and Freedom as we take Personal Responsibility

JESUS focused much of His teaching on the practice of forgiveness. But we could just as well say He was calling us to live responsible mature lives.
Think of those persons in your life that struggle massively with unforgiveness. Do they also seem unable to find the freedom that Christ went to the cross to give them? Do they also struggle to take their responsibility for mistakes made? Or, is it always someone else’s fault? Perhaps they find it impossible to attribute any causation to themselves. It could be that we, ourselves, resonate with these descriptions.
The thesis of this little piece is that forgiveness comes easier to people who readily take responsibility for their lives, and that those people are the mature, and free, ones.
Final frontiers of forgiveness occur when we encounter others who do not take responsibility. And, finding we cannot take all the responsibility, because relationships always feature contributions on both sides in conflicts, forgiveness is quickly thwarted where one party does not take their responsibility.
This is why we will never feel happy, safe or content in relationships with people who do not take personal responsibility for their lives. They, themselves, cannot be happy. They cannot be free. It’s as if they’re tormented. They have yet to experience the freedom that comes from being honest.
If you find yourself in an irresolvable situation with someone, where you’ve done all your apologising, and you’re still waiting on theirs, ask yourself, “Are they taking responsibility for their portion of the conflict?” Chances are they are not. Therein lies the problem.
Likewise, if you find yourself cornered by bitterness, ask, “Am I taking personal responsibility for my portion of what went wrong?” Perhaps you are not. Be sure that the double doors to forgiveness and freedom open up when we’re responsible for what we could’ve done better.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

K.I.N.D. (kindness is not difficult)

WHEN we take a step back from matters that irritate or infuriate us kindness as a response seems so far away. But when emotions are checked kindness is not difficult.
Consider carefully the following words by Jesus (in Luke) and Paul (in Romans):
35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
— Luke 6:35-36 (NIV, highlighted for emphasis)
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
— Romans 2:1-4 (NIV, highlighted for emphasis)
Notice the following as far as kindness is concerned:
ü We expect nothing in return when we’re being kind. It is a loving grace that we do simply because we can. Expect nothing and the paradox occurs; we’re rewarded in the ultimate way.
ü God the Father is the model of kindness. Of the 56 times kindness comes up throughout the Bible, overwhelmingly our Father is referred as the one gifting such kindness.
ü If God can be kind to those who are ‘ungrateful’ (ever been ungrateful?) and ‘wicked’ toward Him, we can too, as we follow Jesus.
ü We have no excuse for the judgments we utter. And any view that is expressed in an unkind way is a judgment. We ought to know that judgments are what gets us into hot water with God.
ü God’s kindness to save us through Christ is intentioned to draw us to Him via repentance, so we can love others as God intended. We cannot be close to God other than via the disposition of repentance, whether that is through sin or simply seeking Him. To repent is to turn back to God. What use is it to ‘love’ people by setting them straight only to miss the mark of kindness? Only as we repent and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us back into communion with God (a daily, moment-by-moment practice of a disciple bearing their cross) are we positioned to love as He would have us love. And that love is kindness.
Tips for making the reality of kindness-is-not-difficult in our lives:
ü Watch what you say/do on social media. The far majority of times it’s best simply to not like, comment or share, especially on divisive issues. A comment or a share is a ‘say’, whereas a like/reaction is a ‘do’. They both communicate much. Do you realise that any little interaction on social media can be reported on your connections’ pages? It’s part of the sacrifice to make sure kindness-is-not-difficult. Advocates of one position or another need to be especially careful. We should always ask ourselves, “Is what I’m about to say/do, kind? — to everyone I can think of and, especially, those I cannot think of?”)
ü Look for opportunities to be kind, and God will quickly busy you with all sorts of prayers, thoughts, feelings and actions if you genuinely seek His will to this end.
ü Watch how your energy of kindness proliferates throughout the orbit of your life. It’s could also be an effective way counteract our mental illness — to throw ourselves into a life of kindness.
Kindness is not difficult. It’s harder to stay angry, cynical, judgmental and indifferent. Kindness is our gift to our world.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Peace for the past, hope for the future, joy for the present

AS far as east is to west such is the victorious love of God to achieve what we ever hope for in this lifetime. But, there’s a catch. It is meant to feel impossible. And that is certainly the case with forgiveness.
The famous first line in Rudyard Kipling’s Ballad of East and West goes: “OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…”
We haven’t been exposed to all of what forgiveness has to teach us until we’ve found it impossible to forgive. Until such a time as we are but one of two ‘powerful’ (and polarised) sides, and locked into that position… and never the twain shall meet. As far as reality is concerned, they may never apologise!
For at least one side (let’s presume that’s present company) such a position leaves us vulnerable to ongoing bitterness. Past holds present captive. Past holds future to ransom.
The paradox of forgiveness is bitterness is the last thing we want or wish to admit. We don’t want to be the unforgiving kind. But that’s where we find ourselves, before, that is, we move on beyond bitterness into God’s inevitable triumph for our holistic lives. Again, we had to find it impossible before God could first cure us of being blind to our own conceit. We have the capacity for bitterness like everyone else.
Now to truth that has incredible power in it:
Forgiveness heals the past and it frees us to invest in the future. It makes of the present a state of sweet shalom.
It’s easier to let go of something dear — what we feel embittered by — when we envisage something dearer. And is there anything dearer than the thought of reconciling the dimensions of our time?
When peace is made with the past, hopes for future build and blossom, and joy for the present is possible.
This truth known, bitterness can fall away, as we stride away from that which no longer holds any interest.
The baggage we’ve strained to hold for too long now is unworthy of carrying anymore.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Meeting of Minds in Marriage

CORRESPONDENCE bias explains why, in conflict, we judge the intention of our partner as bad, while we see our own intentions as right.
It’s fine to submit to such bias if we’re happy to remain conflicted within our covenant relationship, but the covenant itself intends to function beyond such bias.
When we promise to be ‘true to you in good times and in bad’ we make a commitment to truth, acknowledging truth and love are interdependent.
All relationship counsellors know that there’s ‘his truth, her truth and the truth’. Such an aphorism is a truism that fits within the bounds of all our marital lives. No partner in conflict is beyond reproach, ever. Freedom is afforded partners who embrace this humbling truth, for unless we see it operating in us our marriages are destined to be plagued with conflict and unmet needs.
None of us can be right all the time, just as none of us are wrong all the time. And with conflict it’s a case that both could have done some things differently.
And for both there are apologies to be made in the resolution of conflict.
Blessed are those who assume good motives of their partner when the marriage is contorted in knots of conflict. We certainly need to make some assumptions in marriage; because we never have all the information we need. Making assumptions of correspondence bias, which is our default way, only lands us and our marital communications in hot water. But when we choose to see our marriage partner has a good intent (and who ever intends to do damage in marriage?[1] — it must be comparatively rare) we begin to offer them the grace we give liberally to ourselves.
Assume the best in conflict and the skirmish is halfway resolved.

[1] If you feel your partner does intend bad, then perhaps there are deeper trust and sincerity issues to deal with. At times, there are such issues to resolve first. If not, it could signal that there is work to be done in your own heart.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Let love do what love does best; let it encourage

EVERYDAY actions of love, of giving yourself to others because you can, have the effect of encouragement; a gift freely given that is always deserved, for love is God’s will.
The effect of love is encouragement whether it’s a word, an action or a prayer.
Let love do what love does best — it encourages, by giving, pouring itself out, spending itself for the betterment of others. It lifts spirits in times where consolation is needed. It builds poignancy to inspired moments adding largeness to them. It acts to augment unity between souls. It makes everything better.
Love is healing through encouragement.
Let us not question the motive of love. Some might say it comes from insecurity in you, and certainly that can be true. But as Jesus said, those who are not against Him are for Him (Mark 9:40), and there is never any harm done in love done as encouragement. So let grace abound! Why on earth would we interrogate the love that gives life? If it is given genuinely, and it will be discerned with shrewdness, it will be received, if the person receiving isn’t given to looking the gift horse in the mouth.
Love is genuine. It esteems itself as majesty and the intimacy it achieves always lifts souls within its touch. Love is its own gift, for the one who chooses to give what anyone can will receive even in the manner of their giving.
The love of encouragement is henceforth an obvious wisdom. Anyone who follows the Light of Life will light up lives.
True communities garner love. They nurture a culture of encouragement, one interaction at a time.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Subtlety is Beauty in the Compromise

LENGTHY days are the norm in family life, whether partners work in the home or elsewhere. The end of some days, with pressures ambulating, is a consuming fire, a single moment boils over, a harsh tone is uttered, and then… emotional distance clogs the air.
Such is the case in most families’ lives on occasion.
But redemption is the opportunity for reconciliation to rise in modes of surrender.
When a partner recognises the cause of the dilemma — that it’s tiredness, nothing more — then humility has its shot. Courage to fold. Honesty to concede. Love then extends.
You’re washing the dishes, and something small is done, something so subtle, but which doesn’t elude your attention — a few dirty dishes are moved to within reach, and a bench is wiped clean. No words. Just, I notice that!
Sure, these are the things that might normally happen as partners simply assist one another, but tonight it’s different. A small though concerted-and-very-significant effort has been made to reach toward the other, and the beauty in that moment has been noticed and received. A heart softens in response.
A small, subtle gift is pivotal when a partner is ready to receive it, and maybe the magic in relationships is being attuned to one another enough to notice.
What followed was a hug; a tired, resigned hug where we fell into each other’s arms in the resolute mood of defeat. But in unity. Compromise, the beauty of subtlety in mutual submission.
Anger has enough of any marriage’s moments. How sweet the surrender of conceding to the fact of exhaustion. How good to notice a partner’s efforts however small. There is bliss in marital communication that has effect beyond words, which recognises and redounds in groans.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My reaction when my wife told me she’d been lying for months

Image by Ray Brown

SOME things in life you see happen to others, but you may never contemplate they’ll happen to you. Many of these things are predictable from hindsight, and some sneak up on you. Some of these things can be painful, and a world of anguish ensues, just as some are pleasurable, where you’re blessed more than you can anticipate. Such is life.
This is about the latter. An unexpected blessing. A big surprise. Involving deceit.
In counselling couples about their relationships, you would never advise them to lie to one another, would you? But there is a kind of lie that is a gift. It can be packaged as a once-in-a-lifetime surprise party.
I sound very naïve to say that I never suspected it, but it would be more accurate to say I was confused. My wife’s alibi to get me to the party seemed plausible, even if it was a stretch. And you go with it when you promised two months previously to leave it with her.
What caught me by surprise was what I felt as I approached the church where the party was being held. Confusion of mind led to feelings that could only be described as surreal — and not in an entirely good way; that feeling that what you’re stepping into is an enormous gift, but at the same time you have no idea really what to expect. Part of me didn’t want to enter for fear of the unknown.
And then you see the faces. So many familiar faces in the same place at the very same time. Familiar faces but in a foreign place for them. Faces of people you know well, but that aren’t connected with each other as much as they’re connected with you.
Then comes the concept of my wife ‘lying’ to me for months!
There’s the matter of over a hundred people being complicit (as I had had encounters with many of them over previous weeks) in the same ‘deceit’, if you can call it that. Perhaps one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in life was being the last one to discover a horrible truth that impacted me the most.
So where does this rate? Probably the only challenge you face is that of false humility… my wife and family, and all the others, by extension, did this for me? How do you reconcile being loved in the nicest of ways through deceit? Can it even be deceit? It would be the biggest blessing anyone could experience, if they could reconcile the self-consciousness that many of us struggle with, and when you’re in a moment like that grace simply takes over.
One thing that is easy to resolve is the love displayed when you look at the dozens of hours invested by several family members, not least my wife who invested some hours every day for a month or more previously.
Love is prepared to invest significant time and effort to make of an experience a gift.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Where’s all the Deep Connection Christ cares so much about?

“LOVE one another.” It was Christ’s final imperative that has ongoing effect. His command to all believers. Just as He loved His disciples, with perfection of unction, He said we should love each other.
Jesus wants us to love each other with such a passion that it transforms us from the inside out. And it would. If only we would do it. If we would only throw ourselves into our real-life relationships. And make of these the very substance of our lives, spurning those other things we spend all our time doing which ultimately are a waste.
Where we fall is in our indifference… our ambivalence… our guardedness.
We would prefer to look good, to feel stroked, to be comforted, to curate image.
All that ever matters is deep connection — with God, with others. That’s it. Finito.
If our church relationships lack passion it’s because they lack connection. If our evangelistic ventures fall short time and again it’s because our connection hasn’t met with their crisis and their need of the gospel. If deep bonds of connection are not felt it’s because we haven’t risked ourselves enough. If our growth in God is stifled it’s because we’ve decided to limit what God can do in us through our relationships.
And what is this deep connection I speak of? It’s reaching into the humanity we interact with and encountering it.
When courage melds with vulnerability we achieve connection.
When our desire to know another transcends our desire to be known we get connection.
When the other becomes central and we, ourselves, form the periphery, we have connection.
When they talk and we listen and we query with questions, there, in that dialogue, we have connection.
When all’s said and done
life is won through
loving each other
and God’s own Son.