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

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The wisdom of forgiveness

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash
Having had some significant journeys and challenges in forgiveness, I have long come to realise, that like humility, truth, love, courage and faith, forgiveness is so complex we could fill a universe of libraries in the expounding of it.
That said, here is a gem the Spirit of God showed me during a recent counselling session I provided:
The mind is at rest or the mind is burdened,
and forgiveness is in one and not in the other.
The wisdom of forgiveness is such that where we bear a grudge our mind is busied occasionally or continually with thoughts that are unhelpful at best and inappropriate at worst.
The wisdom of forgiveness is the gift of a free mind.
Yet, in acknowledging the challenge of forgiveness in some cases, it is worth validating the burdens that bear themselves on some minds. Yes, there are states in the relational sphere where the burden is prolonged, even in many cases ever-present. Where reconciliation for a time appears or is impossible. Knowing this necessitates empathy for those who are such afflicted.
But when we consider the power in forgiveness to free the mind, so thoughts worthy of thinking are thought, we are compelled to agree with the truth: it is wise to forgive.
When forgiveness has been achieved the mind is not only free to think good thoughts, appropriate thoughts, thoughts that build other people up; the mind is also freed for other efficiencies of thought. Fuller psychological capacities are available, and worthy actions are behaved consequently.
The apex of life from a personal standpoint must be to be spiritually free and at peace.
This is achieved the moment that forgiveness lives as an identity of possession in our hearts.
As far as it depends on us, Romans says, we should live at peace with everyone.
If only we can agree that this is an ideal not only good for others and ourselves also, we will do all we can to commit to the gold standard of loving everyone and to behave in accordance with that standard.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Why our sorrow ends in tears

Photo by Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash

In most if not all households there are times where good sense flies out the window, and for a time conflict causes momentary chaos and estrangement. On a recent evening, with tired minds and frayed nerves, we weren’t communicating as we should have, and I didn’t communicate with grace and understanding.
I was about to walk out the door,
about to let a heart fall
and be shattered all over the floor.
Then I got a nudge — ‘go back inside’. With a calmness foreign to how I was actually feeling, I strode inside and picked up the heart before it fell. I just had to repent. I had to fix things that only I could fix. Not things another person didn’t want me to fix. A thing I needed to fix.
There was a moment of palpable honesty.
Only I could address what only I had caused.
I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. What I didn’t have to do I actually had to do.
Moments of honesty are transformational. It is like the moment of immense sorrow that is met honestly. It can produce only one thing: tears.
What we cannot hide, that we also choose to face, must inevitably break us, and the result is a physiological response where our eyes leak, and that leakage is healing. It is the body’s fabulous design.
There is a simple equation where we are met in the process of spiritual healing:
Sorrow + honesty = crying
In honesty we cannot hold back what we authentically feel, and it is far from the end when we cannot hold back the sorrow we are forced to face.
It takes us to the door; the other side of which Jesus knocks.
Jesus is not interested in religion, no matter what we have been told. All Jesus desires is that we open that door, and we open that door in tears of truth, as we venture honestly, hand-in-hand with him, in our weakness, in blubbering our way to healing.
Sorrow plus honesty equals tears.
It is an admirable thing to be honest. Indeed, there is nothing more admirable.
As we bear our weakness confident in the Presence of Jesus there with us, committed to be emotionally true, modelling integrity in our brokenness, the strangest transformation process takes place. Healing through expression and exhaustion.
We cannot explain the mystery,
but we can accept that healing occurs.
Tears are a beautiful thing. But they are not just beautiful. They are intensely practical. Crying with regularity, giving a voice to that feeling of being overwhelmed, honouring how we actually feel, reaps the blessing of emotional congruence, which supports mental integrity, underpinned by spiritual integrity, all procured for honesty.
Both men and women benefit, and yet especially men, because it is not only they themselves who benefit, but it’s also their women and children who are major beneficiaries.
And when men cry without shame they model for the rest of society the truth about our human condition:
We were built to cry, we are made to cry, so we ought to cry.
If we don’t, we get angry. We get frustrated and overwhelmed because we cannot control our environment, and then we get violent, and in many ways, with and without physicality.
So, let’s just be honest, sorrow is part of life, and it needs to be cried for.
Our sorrow ends in tears because we’re honest. And that vulnerability is a gorgeously powerful thing.
From my experience, in crying I think Jesus must be saying:
Don’t judge yourself,
or think of yourself as pathetic,
for which you’re tempted into.
See that I see beauty in your tears.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Love is like resistance training

Me squatting 300 pounds in 1992

500 pounds was my best squat and deadlift. I could once bench press 330 pounds. And such was my leg strength I could front squat 350 pounds for 15 repetitions.
Resistance training agreed with me. I loved it. And I loved bodybuilding.
Resistance training taught me that my body could cope with much more than I thought it could. I pushed my body hard, and my body always surprised me with what it was capable of.
Most of all, resistance training taught me that the body adapts, it overcomes the stress placed on it, and it grows when a wise balance of training regimen and protein-rich diet are combined.
But there is something else we can do with the resistance training metaphor. This was highlighted to me by a mentor.
Recently, the resistance training metaphor was applied to love, through a course in Christian mediation, where it was stressed that the mediator’s role is simply to love people through effective process.
Is love a challenge?
Is love hard to do?
Does love require hard choices from time to time?
Anybody who’s been married for any length of time will attest to the fact that love in marriage is no straightforward concept. Love in other relationships is not always easy either, but for the time being marriage is probably the best illustration of why love is resistance training.
Love requires us to push ourselves beyond what we would selfishly choose, not unlike the choice we make to train when we could say ‘I can’t be bothered’. In marriage, we must ‘show up’ continually.
Love stretches us and forces us to trust that we have the capacity for it, not unlike the way we push our body when we engage it in mechanical resistance training. In marriage, we often need to trust ourselves to the unknown.
Love frequently tests us in the field of conflict, not unlike doing a forced repetition in resistance training with a ‘spotter’. Some marital conflicts threaten to blur into the realm of the toxic. But like a forced repetition, love succeeds in some seemingly impossible circumstances if we can just get a little help.
Love necessitates going willingly into pain, and serious resistance training is the very definition of physical pain.
Resistance training becomes harder the heavier you go,
just like the most burdensome people are hardest to love.
Resistance training stretches our bodies and forces our bodies to grow, just like loving people who are hard to love grows us mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The fruit of resistance training is a tangible reward of a sturdy and strong body, and the fruit of love is an intangible reward of sturdy and strong relationships.
The love described herein is the form of agape love, which Thomas Aquinas said was “to will the good of another,” meaning that agape love is the love of goodwill in all circumstances.
Acknowledgement for this metaphor ‘love is resistance training’ to mentor Steve Frost.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Reverence where awe is deserved

Eugene Peterson has died. For so many of us this frail man has been a paragon. His approach to ministry has called us back to the heart of pastoring; to jettison the role of administrator and to become true shepherds again. Yet, I am forced upon Peterson’s death to admit an allegiance that surpasses mere admiration.
If I had have met Peterson when he was alive I’m sure I would have been nervous. I’d have been tempted to take a selfie with him, and plaster the fact that I had met him all over my social media. In my heart of hearts I would want everyone to know. Yet, the kind of person Peterson was would dictate that he would have been abjectly uncomfortable with that kind of admiration.
This is why today is a good day to publish this post.
Today of all days is a good day to recommit to an idea that has long been lost: to cast all our reverence toward God, the Maker of great men and women, human beings whom ought to be admired and respected, yet not revered.
I’m repenting of the awe I’ve given to so many men and women over my life. I have inadvertently placed them in a position of authority above me, and it hasn’t been good for them or me. The praise of humanity can only do us harm. Even the humblest of human beings cannot stand the test the power of reverence accords.
We live at a time when idol worship is at its zenith so far as instant glorification is concerned. In our hearts are bent toward idols. We instinctively crave something with which to attach to and praise. And it is a bondage is that we are far too rarely aware of.
We all worship something. We all give our heart, our allegiance, our time to something/s or someone. One thing I want avoid though is giving my heart in any way to Christian celebrity/ies, locally or globally. Not a single person on this planet is due the glory that God alone should get. Respect is a quality to be given ubiquitously. We ought to love everyone with the same open handedness, and because we cannot is all the more reason to devote our lives to it.
Part of the problem we’re facing in the modern church is we’ve glorified our living deities that much we completely besmirched our own name (the church) in the sight of those who would be attracted. It is little wonder that many have no problem with God but are put off by his fan club (see photo above).
We need to stop drawing attention to ourselves. We need to stop worshipping those who are fallible and fallen like we are. Sure, we can admire their work, but why don’t we ascribe a true respect to every human being before us?
Let’s go back to Peter and to Paul, our pioneer heads of Christian state, and hear their words ring out: “Cornelius met him and fell at his feet to worship him. But Peter helped him up. ‘Stand up,’ he said. ‘I am only a man myself.’” (Acts 10:25-26) And Paul: “Men, why are you doing this [reverencing us]? We too are only men, human like you.” (Acts 14:15)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Family member, today is all we have

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Ministries of reconciliation are pretty much all that matters in life. Everything else is passing away.
Eternity has been set into our hearts, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. The proof of this is death. It always stops us in our tracks. And I’m not talking about the person who has died.
Death has a way of bringing us to our senses.
Death speaks of a point in time where reconciliation is too late. Regret ensues. And that causes pain. And grief won’t be released unless we bear the pain honestly, yet we often appease the pain through practices that cause even more pain.
Family member, today is all we have. There is no such thing as tomorrow, even if we know that tomorrow does come. We take each other far too much for granted. We will only know this when it is too late, even though we both had countless reminders.
As I drove down a forest highway recently, I came to acknowledge a truth we all must face: those trees beside the road will out survive us. The ornate statues, the roadways, the rivers, and the undulating earth… all these and more are fixtures in our environment. We are like blades of grass.
Yet, though we are so transitory as we step upon this earth, we are eternal beings unlike statues and roadways and rivers and undulations. We know that when a family member goes into death, or we lose them to dementia, they are gone. The extent of our sorrow is incalculable.
We never quite had enough time to plan for something so permanent.
This is a sobering topic, I know that. Some, maybe indeed many, do not like venturing into the temerity of reality. It is a harsh reminder that we are not in control. And yet wisdom beckons to us an eternal reminder to do what we can do today taking nothing for granted about tomorrow.
If there is anything that will motivate us
to forgive someone
who has wronged or harmed or betrayed us,
let it be that we recognise that
the hurt is temporary, but forgiveness is eternal.
As we give over our past and place it in the hands of God, we find our future is opened up and it is chock-full of possibility.
As we do what we can only do now, that is to reach out and into a loved one’s life, we risk our heart for nothing else but love, and that risk is worth it for the regret we reconcile, for the peace that pervades.
When we have agreed that we are no longer in the business of regret, we have everything in us that we need to forgive our past to move on in the present ready for our eternal future as it inevitably unfolds.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

From meeting to intimacy in 15 minutes

Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash
There are all sorts of drivers within each of us that motivate us. In getting to know someone, we are essentially saying what motivates you is important to me. In getting to know someone, we come to them with a presumed acceptance of whoever we will encounter. We don’t know who we will encounter, but we have faith that we will adapt to whoever they are, and we trust that the interaction will be a positive one for them.
So, our premise in meeting a person for the first time, in knowing nothing about them, but having faith that 15 minutes with them will give us some stable platform with which to continue the relationship, is to communicate acceptance.
Firstly, we want to learn enough about them to be able to explore more in subsequent meetings. Secondly, we want them to feel that we do actually care, and that is the wonderful thing about care. We cannot fake it. If we are genuinely interested, and we behave in a way that demonstrates such interest, the unknown person before us usually invites us into a better knowledge of themselves. That is always an honour and a privilege — to be trusted enough to be invited into knowing them deeper.
Why is this? Why do people invite us into themselves?
For the simple reason that it is so rare to be listened to these days. People always want to do the talking. Almost nobody listens. The truth is, we as people crave to be understood, we love to be listened to, and the thought that somebody would be genuinely curious enough to spend time with us, simply listening to us, is the unspoken prayer of our hearts. It’s not rocket science. But it is deeply effective and renewing.
The encounter begins with the meet and greet, where we get to know each other’s names, and special attention needs to be given to memorising their name. I so often forget the person’s name, and even though I never do it deliberately, in asking them their name again, I get the opportunity to communicate how important knowing their name is to me, and I get to model an important behaviour for our relationship; that of apology.
Nothing builds relational credibility better than sincere apology.
There is no set way of engaging them in discussion. We can start with family or with the work they do, or something they’re passionate about. It is as simple as saying within ourselves, ‘I do not know enough about this person.’ Our attitude toward them is ‘tell me more.’
All the time we are talking with someone we don’t know, they are subconsciously checking whether we are truly interested or not. We demonstrate that we are interested in proving that we are listening, in proving that we understand the actual thing that they said, and that we can ask clarifying and even specifying questions, which prove we are authentically curious about the specific thing they are sharing with us. This is how intimacy is formed in relationships. At this point we can see that intimacy can be described as into-ME-see. As they share with us they are saying to us into-ME-see? They are saying come on in, if you’re willing, and see me for who I am, because I trust you will accept and respect the real me.
Perhaps a point in the conversation comes when you misread them or misunderstand them, and perhaps the fear of them rejecting us becomes real. Oftentimes I find this is an opportunity. When we show resilience, and apologise, yet we hang in within the conversation, we invite them to school us in what we don’t know.
I almost pray that there are times of misunderstanding in our first 15 minutes together, so I can prove to you that I’m fiercely redemptive for our relationship.
What this means is I’m prepared to be wrong for the betterment of the relationship.
It also means that if we have conflict I can bear the discomfort of partial disconnection. This builds trust, and you begin to see me as a safe person. What I am communicating is that if there is partial disconnection I will seek to restore the relationship. Everybody wants this. Anybody who allows anybody else into their world wants to know that they are worth fighting for; that the relationship is important enough to endure the pain of conflict and work through the discomfort toward a bigger vision of restoration.
It is imperative to mention the obvious: that I must prove to actually be a safe person, because I acknowledge that this information can be weaponised by people who seek to manipulate people in relationships.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Where On Earth Have I Gone?

Photo by Tiago Bandeira on Unsplash
WAKING UP is always a horrid experience when you’re depressed. A sense of lostness from the get go. The identity has gone absent without approved leave. It’s gone without explanation.
The cause of the depression has its roots in relationships gone awry or a lack of purpose or a combination of the two. But the effect of the depression bears no relationship to the cause — helplessness gives us over to a dissociative pathway. We have lost part of ourselves — a vital part that we cannot do without.
Depression hits at the very heart of identity.
It strikes us at our vulnerability and targets our weakest place. The soul is bare and defenceless with identity askew.
The effect is a loss of hope and the incoming future that we call the present carries to us the mood of lament for simply being alive. Happiness seems a distant memory, too far away from our immediate future. We can tell depression has taken its grip on us when day after day we feel the same way — for weeks — and we cannot seem to shake it. We are at a loss to know what to do. All options seem a stretch too far.
Yet, depression can be masked by grief. It is grief that we feel?
Banking on the identity we have in our faith
is our way of coping in the moment.
Going to the Word of God, to the psalms, Paul’s writings, particularly 2 Corinthians, we have a way of identifying with the human experience of life when life is tough.
We find afresh, we are not alone. Many have been here where we are at before us. And if we are watchful our forebears will show us a way out. They will show us a way to stronger identity.
We are forgiven for asking “Where on earth have I gone… I long for me to return.”
Connecting with another human being about our depression is vital. Support gets us through the day. Speaking with someone who will listen to us often makes today’s difference. But resist people who think they know what’s best for you if you can help it.
Being told to pick yourself up is unhelpful
and can only make depression worse.
Having become lost to ourselves in depression there is hope we will find more of our true selves in the process of recovery.
Questions of identity expose, but they also offer an opportunity to create something new. On a good day, ponder the possibilities. Don’t think of the work ahead. Simply enjoy the possibilities.
You will find yourself again. Hope for an even better “me” prevails when we ponder possibilities.
People can say “I wish the old you would return” all they like, not realising it’s us who misses ourselves most.
You can’t pick your depression, the circumstance that triggers it, nor can you pick how long it will last, but you can pick how you’ll respond. Respond by learning, rest, and through counsel.

Monday, October 15, 2018

For the sake of Truth

Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

I’m a bit fussy with my food. I like it prepared with clean hands. Recently, I was a little shocked to have a cafe-bought hamburger prepared in my full view with bare hands that hadn’t been washed. When I requested the tongs be used, a voice came from the kitchen, “He washes his hands all the time.” Sorry, not good enough.
There didn’t seem to be respect for the truth. In this case, the truth is that there are practices and laws for food preparation that need to be adhered to. Otherwise, people get sick. Disease becomes rampant.
Here’s another scenario: imagine a mechanical engineer, a production supervisor, a fitter, a process engineer, and their manager in one room to investigate an incident. Each of them enter the room having their own story — their own form of the truth about what happened, and only their own vantage point that informs their ‘truth’. Through a facilitated process, they all leave that room four hours later with the same truth.
What was done was a process of truth collection, and through working together, finding which truths complemented understanding and which ‘truths’ didn’t, everyone walked out of the room with a reasoned understanding of what actually happened, and actions are taken to prevent such an incident from occurring again. That’s the power of truth. Truth prevents future loss. It helps and never hinders.
A third and final scenario: a conflict breaks out between two friends. He has his truth and she has hers. His truth seems right to him. Her truth seems right to her. And their individual truths are radically different. Their decade-long friendship is at a crossroad. They may soon find their friendship untenable.
What they desperately need is the truth; not his without hers, and not hers without his; they need a combined truth. They both need to work for the sake of the truth. It’s their only hope if they wish to deepen trust between them.
We either care about the truth or we don’t.
We either respect and uphold the truth,
or we deny it because of a lack of love.
Many people don’t care about the truth. I get that. Yet we all disrespect the truth at some point or other. We see this disrespect in anyone who disobeys the law. None of us obeys all laws all the time.
The aim of law is to uphold truth for love’s sake,
because law is designed to uphold everyone’s interest.
The power in truth is made manifest when two or more people agree that an individual truth is not enough. Wherever an individual does not settle only for their own version of events, and they seek another person’s perspective, they genuinely hope to understand the truth of what occurred. They desire a better and broader version of the truth. They do not rely only on their own understanding. And this is not only love, it’s wisdom too.
If anyone calls themselves a Christian and does not love, the Bible tells us, that they are a liar.
The way a person loves another person
is through their respect of truth.
They add to their own truth
the other person’s truth
to establish the truth
by refuting ‘truths’
that don’t match up.
If one person reveres the truth enough to care about another person’s truth, they have achieved the object of love.
If that cafe-bought burger was prepared according to the truth, and it was prepared hygienically, the hands that prepared that burger would have been loving hands.
Whenever someone does something that prevents us
suffering illness and disease, they practice love.
When a group gathers determined to find a collective truth that reflects a collective understanding, they establish the truth, and they love those who rely upon the finding of that truth. And the process they go through in seeing each other care for the truth proves to each of them that as individuals they’re trustworthy, because they’ve acted in a caring (loving) manner. In a situation of incident prevention, a future situation where a person may be injured does not occur, because the risk is mitigated. The person in the future situation is protected, because the truth has been sought, and the right findings have been found, and the right prevention measures have been taken, and they are thereby loved.
If the friends who are in conflict can be loving enough to desire to understand the other’s truth, they will find a broader version of truth, and they will have their individual opportunities to own responsibility for what they could have done better.
Vulnerability in one, secures the trust of another.
If each sees the other’s truth, understanding is achieved, and the situation of conflict converts into a situation of deepened trust.
We love people well when we respect their truth.
And we feel valued when our truth is important to others.
Truth, as it occurs in relationships, is a combined reality.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Yes, you can do Courage too

Photo by Linus Sandvide on Unsplash

“Mr Wickham,” a year five student asked recently, “isn’t it true that you can’t be brave without first being fearful?” Wow. I had never been asked that question before.
The question itself begged an answer of the rhetorical kind.
Well, of course, we know that in times of fear we need courage, but we hardly think of bravery sitting alongside fear; that in being brave we comprise fear. We desire our bravery to be more charismatic than that. We hardly want it cloistered in something so unfashionably ‘pathetic’ as fear.
If we accept our reality when we’re fearful,
but we don’t leave it there,
courage is how we may decide to respond,
and it leads us to take action.
This truth is greatly encouraging in a world that inflicts anxiety on just about every human being.
Whether it is the rough-and-tumble and hustle and bustle of life, scrambling just to keep up, or it is the trauma we are faced with, or the situations in our stories we cannot make any sense of, the weight of overwhelming concern for our world, conflict always in close proximity, or for other myriad valid reasons, we’re afflicted with this driving force of fear.
There is no sense in denying it. But there is absolute sense in embracing the narrative of fear in our stories, so much so that we inevitably come face-to-face with the choice to be brave or not.
Courage wrestles with realities
too problematic to leave as they are.
Courage, convicted to act,
sidles up to fear,
and it’s in all of us to act.
Suddenly, at some point, we find that we do have what it takes to wrestle with the realities we, in our life alone, are faced with. For a long time, we did not believe this. But now we do. We have seen the truth.
We can no longer deny that our strength comes
in being real about our weaknesses.
We have come to believe that fear is merely an activator for courage. We could not be courageous otherwise. There would be no need nor driving motivation.
Having accepted that we were fearful, we came to the precipice, and an answer to the age-old question of life was asked of us: will we fly, or will we fight?
Only then we looked behind us and saw the litany of flight that chequered our past. We could have been ashamed. But from that vantage point there is no reason to camp in disappointment or guilt. Opportunity was at our door. We decided that our past was telling us a story that up until now seemed meaningless. Added to the narrative, now, is the missing link of courage borne of faith, because now we accept the meaning of life, which is to press forward and make our lives count for everything that God intended of them and has intended for us.
We decided that the risk of courage was worth it, and we began to disregard the cost. We saw the enormous impact our courage could make, not only in our own lives, but especially to the lives reliant on ours. We came to believe in the urgency of legacy.
We came to believe in the reward beyond sacrifice;
that if we pressed past our fear into courage,
it would end better than it would have.
There is so much to fight for in this life, in fighting the good fight of faith. There are no casualties from this kind of fighting, because courage fights for love.

Courage fights believing in redemption. It believes that all things can be made new. It is willing to be creative and innovative, and to do the unexpected and the uncalculated, and especially to act on the leading of God, which is a faith discerned to do virtuous acts without thought of personal cost for the greater good of all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

When I held you

Image: Heartfelt

Oh my son
How you were the one
Who held my gaze
As I pondered your face.
Oh my son
How my thoughts still run
As I go back to that time
When you were mine.
Here I go
When there was no tomorrow
Even as I would hold
You ever so cold.
As I beheld your weight
And pondered your fate
Knowing you’d never grow old
Yet I wanted your story told.
With my senses I beheld
Even your body I smelled
Accepting your life was sold
As your witness was manifold.
Know matter what I did
I knew you’d stay a kid
And my voice was compelled
Even as “No!” I yelled.
And then the moment it comes
Remembering you numbs
Your presence upheld
That moment unparalleled.