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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Love Paradox

The beautiful shape of my wife’s hands
LOSS taught me love in a paradoxical reversal of fortunes. What was loss was gain. And it could be learned no other way. Like Jesus said, I had to lose my life to save it.
I learned more about love from loss than I could ever learn about love otherwise. What we would never ever ask for has nested within it, God’s irrevocable gift; a most remarkable compensation. In this case, an eternality of learning, upon which is tantamount to irony.
A perfect thing — love — is to be expressed imperfectly. The more imperfect love is, the sincerer it is.
Can we progress far in the reality of (the spiritual) life without love?
Yet, love is a complete paradox. The way of perfection is best actuated imprecisely.
God is love. God is perfect. We are sinners. Yet, we are given to, and are able to, love.
It wasn’t until I accepted how flawed I was, recognising for the first time that the drive for perfectionism comes from fear, that I saw that even in imperfection, love is possible… and it’s enough.
So good is God that He made love, not for the perfect, but for the good. Anyone who’s intent on doing good can love. And the genius of love is it is especially expressed through imperfection, for it is a uniquely human thing to do.
That’s right. In an imperfect world, and though it is, of itself, perfect, love is exemplified best through imperfection.
God’s grace imputes itself all over the human expression of love. The more imperfectly we love, the sincerer we are perceived. God has made love for a common and possible purpose. Everyone may love. Because everyone who can choose, can choose for love.
Love is perfect, but, the choice and action of being loving allows much for fallibility.
Thank God that what He made perfect, love, may be best expressed imperfectly.

Monday, March 13, 2017

True Hope Enters Only As False Hopes Depart

HUMANITY is utterly dependant on hope. We all derive hope from somewhere. We all place our faith in something. Not all hope is healthy or productive.
It can be difficult to discern whether the hope we hope upon is a hope that will stack up at crunch time. One thing for sure, however, is once hope is gone — I’m talking all hope — a new never more vibrant hope may finally be allowed to make its long-awaited entrance. Requisite with surrender.
This can only be explained as the hope of God — hope that is stripped of every scaffold with which to attach false and failing hopes.
When we lose something uniquely valuable in life it feels we’ve lost everything. But there’s one thing we gain in losing it all. A fresh start. An unadulterated hope. Courage to begin again. To recommence life in a way that God designed us to live from the beginning. To hope in the only Source that can never disappoint.
Some, maybe many, of us will never truly believe in God until we’re desperate enough — when we need to hope, finally we hope with complete abandon.
Hope, when to hope is all we have left, because there is no other hope.
Back’s against the wall stuff. Nothing left to attach vain hopes to. Nothing else works. Only the true hope of Christ does. And it requires the fullest surrender, not to men, but to God’s leading Spirit. Then, and only then, do we realise that His Spirit is real, alive.
Hope, when to hope is all we have left, because there is no other hope. Think about it like this. We only grow beyond the gravitational pull of the forces that hold us in old and sick patterns when we have the courage to get past dated trajectories.
The Blessed Hope in Jesus Christ works. He heals and restores. But only if we let Him.
Hope works when we have no hope left but to hope. Then we find such a hope is the only true hope.
When we need to hope, we hope!
Only as we’re forced to relinquish a long list of false hopes do we then see the one True Hope, which is all we’ll ever need.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Rest from Work in Child’s Play

Blessedness is the business of those believing in Christ. Our pastime is faith, our proclivity is hope, our passion is love.
But how does that translate in common fatherhood? For me, it pivots around being present, which seems easier than it is in a world full of distractions. I’d love a blessing for every time I’ve failed to be present, but of course life (and God) doesn’t work that way. I’d love it if all those temptations into distraction proved of value, but of course they don’t.
The fact is we’re only rewarded with the sweet Presence of God as we slow down for sweet moments where we’re present in life, especially as we congregate with those we love.
On a common-enough Friday morning, my wife having left for work, which means it’s my day to manage household affairs and care for our son, I found myself in the backyard, absorbed by the imagination of our nearly four-year-old.
He stands atop a sawn-off tree stump and spies through a paper roll telescope at the land over yonder. You can see miles through this thing! He tucks his telescope into his shirt and he’s off. He climbs the ladder on the slide and spies over the fence into the neighbour’s yard, before I divert his attention to worthier pursuits.
Soon enough, he’s moved on to a game on the swing, where he runs up, having taken an on-your-mark-SET-GO approach, and flies through the air, his belly on the seat, nearly upending the swing more than once. (Dad decides to anchor it better!) He is, in fact, performing. Of course! What else?
The next activity takes place in the cubby house. 30-seconds of light relief, before the next idea springs from his mind. His Lightning McQueen (a Tonka truck) has to be refuelled and have its tyres pumped up. Then, he’s off, tearing through the backyard, taking tight turns, kicking up the dirt, just like the racing car reveller. Until Lightning McQueen is bogged in the dirt. We decide he’s to be winched out. I’m about to do it, when I hear, “I’ll do it, Dad.” The joy of seeing him take control of his play, watching him be responsible in discharging his cares.
***
Blessedness is achieved as quick as it takes to slow down. Darrell Bock says blessing rests on “one who is the object of grace and happy because of it.” Simply knowing we’re objects of grace, having received such undying favour, makes us bristle with joy.
Blessedness is close being a parent absorbed in our children’s lives.
Each moment in our children’s lives is an eternal glimpse into irretrievable memory. In years to come we will know we had these experiences, but our memory will betray us.
There is no time but the present.

Monday, March 6, 2017

What I’d Wish I’d Known at 19

At 25 years, in 1992.
Ever wished you’d known something before you stepped into it? Many times, I’m sure.
But there’s a problem with knowing things before we step into them. If we knew what we were about to step into we would never step.
Thirty years on from the time I was 19, there are some things I wish I’d known back then. The trouble is had I known now what I wish I’d known then, I would not have had the tenacity to do the ensuing thirty years.
God knows we need life to be a mystery, or we would never do what He is calling us, through our lives, to do. It’s like getting near the end of any journey; at precisely the same time we feel as if we’ve come too far to give up, yet we may feel we cannot take another step. Then we experience the exhilaration of having achieved something.
At 19 I wish I had have known:
1.      That life doesn’t ever get easier, and although there are easier seasons, life tends to get tougher the older we get. This is okay if we’re accepting of such a reality and are committed to growth — growth in many ways as a survival mechanism, where thriving is the only way to survive. God knows we can do it. Our hope is that one day we will find out it was perfectly worth it.
2.      Once we have children our susceptibility to vulnerability doubles overnight. They can be taken from us. They don’t enjoy it when we’re doing a good job of parenting. They are work, work, work, which wears us parents down. And they leave the nest. Finally, when most of the hard work is done, they cease needing us (which we recognise is bittersweet).
3.      Some of the most painful life tests occur in our twilight years. What compounds this is we can fall for the temptation, that, because we’re in our twilight years, we’ve got our stuff sorted. But we never do. Humiliation can seem fitted more to those of advanced years than those of youth. And that’s a hard truth to swallow. Humiliations as a youth were hard, and possibly traumatic, but I’m sure they didn’t shake me to my core as they do when I’m older.
4.      Despair is a real thing. It teaches us deeper truths about hope, but despair must still be endured. At nineteen I didn’t endure anything without escaping. And escaping seemed to work… until it no longer did. At least I know now that, in bearing reality, there is no need of escaping — a Christ highlight.
5.      Christ. I wish I’d known Christ like I do now. I would need to wait another four years to be converted, but it was to be another seventeen years before I would really receive His Spirit. Before I was 36 I was an escape artist. Though I had many fond experiences, it was a waste of time, and that life was ultimately taken from me.
6.      Human nature. I wished I had known about the reciprocal nature of humanity, that we get what we give. I wished I also had known the unpredictable nature of humanity, that we often don’t get what we deserve — both in good and bad ways. Justice is patchy in this life. That’s a wisdom I could have done with thirty years ago.
7.      Memories. Their importance. We don’t record what we really would wish to preserve. And we may preserve that which we need no record. The older I get, the more I wish I could time travel. I have less need of knowledge (in a knowledge age!), because I have experience, which I think is more. Precious experience loaded with precious memories that are hardly retrievable in the computer speed I would wish to have them.
8.      Soon my body and mind won’t work as well as they once did. What a shock this is! I cannot do that which I once took for granted. My body has the aches and pains of an athlete, yet athletic pursuits are largely a thing of the past. Since burnout in 2005, my brain is wired differently. I’m a linear thinker when life seems to demand I be a multi-tasker. The older I get, the less instantly pliable is my mind. I reflect well, but instinctive responses are a weakness. But at least my mind knows how to deliver what is on my heart. I know how to care for people. I had no need of caring for others when I was nineteen.
Maybe it’s good we don’t know what’s ahead of us.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I Get to Decide If You Care or Not

Humbling truths are the hardest to learn, and there’s only one way to learn this one: others decide if we care; they choose if we’re trustworthy. God’s Spirit will convince us if we’re genuinely concerned.
We may care a great deal, but if someone doesn’t trust us, they don’t think we care. More so, they don’t believe we care. There is still more to do in that relationship.
This truth is irrefutable as much as it’s indispensable. People are never convinced beyond their will, unless God convinces them to trust again. And our prayer is to make the most of that opportunity when it comes.
So, if someone clearly doesn’t trust us, for whatever reason that is real to them, there is no use in being frustrated, whoever we are to them. It’s best to take their side and begin to attempt to see the world from their exclusive perspective. There is no other way.
In fact, this is also the way forgiveness works — from the other person’s viewpoint we get to see a unique ‘truth’ that is as viable as our ‘truth’ is. It might seem that surrendering our standpoint for another person’s is debilitating, but the opposite occurs; to leave our polarised perception to join another’s outlook is liberating. We give ourselves to something bigger than us, which is beneficence for the relationship so everyone wins.
The blessing of shared perspectives is God shows us what others need regarding their care. We become convinced of something new; a knowledge about them and of the context of their lives we didn’t previously have. We’re always enriched in empathy.
Care provides for dignity, which is about respect, and trust cannot be given unless respect is earned.
Empathy enriches,
dignity is fair,
gaining a person’s trust,
is about showing that we care.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why Your Mental Illness Struggle is Inspiring

Dear Fred,
Your mental illness struggle is inspiring. I know you will disagree, but I hope you will read this and come to understand that you really are an inspiration.
I see the efforts you make just to function. I know the risks you have to take, the faith you must show, simply to do what many people take for granted. Daily things that seem easy to so many. The fact that you do these things when you’re feeling so empty, afraid, and de-energised is inspiring.
The strength you show in your weakness, to share so honestly when you can; I find that amazing. That you can be courageous enough to be vulnerable when you’ve possibly never felt so vulnerable. I want to encourage you. Keep it up. Keep being you!
The fact that you keep showing up the best you can, even on days when you’re unable to leave the house, and especially when some days you feel hopeless and barren, says to me that you’re a fighter and not a quitter. Even if you feel like a quitter.
You have told me you often have no vision for the future, and the present looks so murky. That you keep living each day the best you can, even if it’s harder than anything you thought you’d ever face, portrays a hope in you that displays a powerful faith.
The struggles you face are sometimes so enormous, and yet you keep living the best you can.
I know that in reading these words you still won’t believe me. That’s okay. It’s my truth. That you inspire me. It’s real to me. I’m not just trying to flatter you. You of all people appreciate the truth.
I want you to know that when I thank God for people in my life, I thank Him for you, because He has used you to teach me much about resilience, faith, courage, and a never-give-up and never-say-die attitude.
I don’t pity you, but I do ask God that you’d be rewarded with freedom for the faith you show.
Keep fighting the good fight!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Homeless Indigenous Man’s Compassion

He may well be the most compassionate person I’ve ever met, because an hour with Bradley (yes, that’s his real name) further clarified my perception of compassion.
He inspired me as he shared with me his past, having been a victim of the stolen generations. Yet, truly a litany of things were stolen from him, even to the present day, and reality dawns; that will last long into the foreseeable future. Rage would certainly be understandable, and the seeking of vengeance, too. But Bradley knew there was no point to such responses of pride. He even said that he must watch his pride, for in that is fuel for the wrong decision. Bitterness begets hatred is the understanding he claimed.
In the background of his person are his ancestors, the elders of his land, and his family members. He is not one person, but the fullest representation of his people. He spoke a lot about the warrior, an-eye-for-an-eye aboriginal justice, and the potency of his people, should they wish to fight an oppression that continues today. But he said, instead, the desire for multiculturalism burned within him — to see people of all backgrounds share in an equality of dignity.
And then God showed me something important about him. I could tell he saw into people and could feel others’ pain.
Bradley showed me that compassion given makes people bigger; received it makes people better. He regularly referred to his gift, and before we finished chatting I said his gift was compassion. He heartily agreed. His compassion, for all he had personally suffered, had made him a bigger person.
Using my own metaphors, this is what Bradley taught me about compassion:
Compassion sprouts out of soil fertile with suffering, where humble responses abide.
Compassion emerges when negative responses to suffering are futile, where despair is not an option. His suffering and the suffering of his people are constant, as much as it is real. The history will never simply go away. Unless it’s embraced, it will embitter him.
Neither anger nor despair are an option, for his entire person is a nation. He cannot afford to capitulate. So, what happens when we’re forced to hope in the context of suffering?
Compassion makes us see truth with clarity, as we experience grace aboundingly. Compassion helps us see more readily others in their suffering.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From Where You Are

We’re limitless within the design of our humanity, yet we go about pretending we have no power. So focused on what burdens our mind, our heart has such little vision for inspiration, never seeing we’re powerful beyond measure from where we are.
From where you are, you have unique insight to make an inimitable contribution within the setting God has placed you.
From where you are,
only you can see what you see,
hear what you hear,
feel what you feel,
think what you think,
and only you can act as you can act.
See what you can from where you are. From where you are, hear all you can. Experience all you can, then ask, “what is this experience for? What is the purpose for which I’ve seen and heard these things?”
From where you are.
Do what you can from where you are.
From where you are, open your heart and mind outbound of your inbound perceptions.
Make of what you see and hear something positive; a worthy, innovative response, a contribution, an investment. Leave a legacy in the moment. From where you are.
Believe in your power to make change occur. Not anything. But everything within your power and control.
Not everything is within the court of our influence, but there are many things that still are. Stay in that sphere of influence, discerning what is mere concern, and do what can be done, to build into the lives of those around you.
From where you are, you are an agent, for the purposes of God, for goodwill and peace and grace.
All that we can do we can still do. Enjoy the truth in this concept and we enjoy the sense of purpose and freedom.
This is the place where our spirit joins with God’s Spirit, where we join and extend the purposes of reality.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

9 Restorative Good Relationship Moments

If we don’t think life is all about our relationships, have a think about how miserable we are when they go poorly. I want to share with you what I think are nine restorative relationship moments.
1.      Intimacy – good relationships feature intimacy, which I define as vulnerability shared courageously in the closeness of trust. Our trust empowers another to trust, and that mutual permission grants access to freedom for both we call respect.
2.      Meeting – all good relationships require a meeting. But just the same there are times when we should continue to meet when the relationship faces trials, as Hebrews says, “not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another” (10:25). We all want to back out of moments when meeting takes courage — where meeting will involve confrontation.
3.      Confrontation – none of us enjoy being confronted, and not many of us enjoy confronting, but good confrontations — where both parties feel empowered because they’re safe — is so important for relationship happiness. Confrontations implicit of love show that caring is an extension of the truth, because love ensures that the confrontation is productive. Love does not give up nor give in.
4.      Listening – no list on good relationship moments would be complete without the word listening. We see it practiced so rarely, and we may hardly experience it. But, if we can be the ones who can start by listening well enough to understand, our relationships will be all better for it. Listening properly requires great faith to leave aside our needs to serve another person’s first.
5.      Apology – I’m a big fan of Dr Gary Chapman’s five Languages of Apology, for we all speak ‘sorry’ differently. Every great relationship requires every person to apologise. Apology precipitates forgiveness.
6.      Forgiveness – such a complex subject comprising a plethora of relationship moments. Forgiveness is God’s grace, redoubled in human form.
7.      Restoration – transactions of forgiveness are fundamental to restoration.  
8.      Triumph – such a moment is only known beyond the pain of a difficulty reconciled, where both parties add the significant effort of humility to overcome their differences. There can be no triumph moment where one person exudes all the humility, and the other encamps in pride.
9.      Exemplification – as two are exemplars of these great relationship moments, a moment is created where others learn.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

5 Things to Try When Your Grief Continues to Torment You

This is a daunting article to write, for the sheer fact I’m out of my depth.
I’ve suffered sufficient loss and grief to be in the ballpark, but I’m unsure I’ll slide a run all the way home. But seeing God has given me the thought, and shown me a need to wrestle, let me attempt its resolution. 
The reason I feel a little unqualified is, though I’ve suffered ambiguous loss and some complicated grief, I’ve never had raw tormenting grief that would never go away. Like deeply depressive grief that didn’t subside after six or twelve months (which is the focus of this article).
I’ve found through both my own experience and that of others that the rawness of grief tends to last, typically, between a few months and several, but usually less than a year.
This article is for those who are windswept by paralysing grief at least fifty percent of their days, and it’s been nearly a year or over a year since the loss event.
Firstly, my heart goes out to you! Not just for your pain, but also for your loneliness and sense of betrayed isolation. Very few people, perhaps nobody you’ve encountered yet, truly understand. But what you face is true and real. You know it! You cannot reconcile what you feel. So, be gentle with yourself, and know that you know that you know: God knows and feels your pain as acutely as you do. Go gently.
Secondly, even though it’s taking a little longer to come to terms with a new normal, consider your capacity for love to be higher than that of the average person.
Try this perspective out: the person who loves the most in life, gives more of themselves than most, and feels the deepest pain in loss. The more we love, the more we lose when loss comes.
The cost of your grief is the price you paid for your love when you experienced loss. Try and be thankful for what you had without being drawn back too much into that past. If you can’t quite be thankful, I understand and appreciate your effort.
Thirdly, take deliberate impetus. Make plans, especially on good days. On a good day, soon, be ready. On horrendous days, rest and recuperate, and try not to dream up problems. But when the day comes for doing something, be ready. Be prepared to do something you’ve planned for some time to do. Don’t be afraid of doing something new that feels right to do.
Fourthly, let yourself grieve in the faith that says there’s simply more grief to be endured. This understanding believes there’s a passage to travel in grief. Grief feels as if it should be done quite some time before it is. Take courage in the hope that the majority of your grief has been suffered. And whilst you may never feel like you did, take encouragement in the reality that you’re stronger now than ever, even if you don’t feel that way.
Fifthly, take heart that there’s something very special about your loss, and that God will show you this before you’re entirely done with it. He may even show you how your life is redefined by what/who you lost. Perhaps this gift of grief, that/their memory, you’ll carry with you, a part of them/what you had, until you yourself depart.
Love feels like gain until we encounter loss. To lose is to learn the value of love.
How fickle life is that the best causes the worst, but the worst redefines and clarifies what the best really is.
It is said that the butterfly is living proof that raw beauty can come from something pitch dark.