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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Understanding Why Forgiveness is So Misunderstood

Biology and physiology, experience, culture, and beliefs, in the way that they differ from one person to another, produce within each person unique perspectives, such that even brothers and sisters, parents and children, very often do not and cannot see eye to eye.
We all see things differently.
The reason we find it so hard to forgive people is we misunderstand, by underestimation, how much people see differently to us. They saw the events that took place differently, i.e. from their own perspective, and they now see the relationship differently. They see us as the problem, just as we see them being the problem.
No wonder we wrestle
for months or years,
never seeming to get
anywhere in reconciliation.
If we can acknowledge those we’re in conflict with see differently, and trust God enough to know that what they see is their truth, we can understand how the conflict developed and ensues — for them. Then, as our understanding develops, not only are we able to forgive, our sense of understanding can translate into peaceable love, which permeates the relationship, and our forgiveness can influence theirs — in time.
Seeing is understanding.
Understanding that they see differently helps us understand we see differently. Different viewpoints create misunderstanding, and it is likely that both of us see ‘truths’ the other cannot see. It can help a great deal to know they could be just as, if not more, frustrated as we are.
So, whilst we may try to forgive, we may fail because of what we misunderstand: they see differently compared with how we do, which explains the impasse and how the impasse developed in the first place.
Understanding misunderstanding is going back
and investigating the cause — from both viewpoints.
Where we cannot see, there’s scant empathy, intimacy’s scarce, and commitment dries up. And when commitment fails, so does the relationship, because forgiveness depends on commitment. If we challenge our vision to see differently, then empathy, intimacy, and commitment are restored, and forgiveness is possible.
May God truly bless you as you open the eyes of your heart to see differently,
Steve Wickham.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Looking Forward From the Past

The whole of life is meant to be lived from a whole-of-life perspective; all facets of life — including all the broken bits — considered as unifying in the oneness of us as persons.
This, surely, is what Jesus had in mind as He delivered the Abundant Life edict, as recorded in John’s Gospel. Jesus invited us into a worship which is by the Spirit, in the truth. That worship is the Abundant Life.
The Abundant Life takes all a life, inclusive especially of the ugly events, and gives us the capacity to build meaning for the present so we can experience hope for the future.
We’re neither our pasts, nor are we one of many fabrications of the future. The Abundant Life is neither the lies of past, nor is it one of many dreamy vanities of the future.
We’re only what we possess in the present; acceptance of which is the goal of the Abundant Life. And if the past informs us to accept what’s gone, for the resilience to endure that we’ve shown, matched with God’s faithfulness in carrying us, then we have hope indeed.
An irrepressible hope is the Abundant Life. Such a presence may exist despite all outward appearances. It’s all a matter of the heart. And only God matters, there.
The murky past reconciled is a proof-text for a hopeful future, and the present experience is the Abundant Life. It doesn’t matter how murky the past was.
Looking forward from the past allows sight for a reliable present where future endeavours are focused through a lens of truth.
Looking forward from the past is not about being stuck in the past. It’s much more the acceptance of those seasons of life as part of the foundations of our overall life. Our past has informed us of what we wish to live for. Only when we’ve reconciled those seasons past can we step forward into the present experience of the Abundant Life. History will prove us blessed as we look back, a whole life lived.
So, the past is our ally; it is something with which to face and ponder and accept, even celebrate; especially victories, which are borne on the wings of defeats. Besides trauma that complicates reconciling the past, all reconciliation is achievable. And reconciliation — all of it — too, is the Abundant Life.
May God truly bless you as you plumb the accessible depths and ascend the climbable heights of the Abundant Life God has for you!
Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Friend We Need When Forgiveness Is Foreign

NATURAL to our instincts… forgiveness certainly is not. In a recent survey of over five-thousand, more people said it was easier to hold a grudge than forgive. That speaks to much of our experience.
None of us finds forgiveness easy for the pure fact that the stakes are irretrievably high.
Wherever there’s the challenge to forgive there’s loss.
Grieving loss is about reconciliation.
Forgiveness gets us along the way to reconciliation, and faith is the friend we need.
So, faith helps us forgive, forgiveness helps reconciliation, which helps us grieve loss.
Losses take us into a foreign land far from the central knowledge we have of ourselves. Loss affects us at the level of our core values. None of us expects life to be so harsh as to land us in a place of no return. Our core values involve the assumption that we’ll always be safe. And loss takes us distally out atop the choppy wash far from the shore which is safe land.
To forgive is to lose. But we cannot win unless we forgive. Wisdom decrees we must endure loss to experience victory.
Loss is that place of no return where a new normal we never wanted to begin with must be engineered and procured.
So, if we accept that forgiveness is an inherent part of reconciling loss — and there are possibly many threads to reconcile — and we accept that forgiveness is foreign — we have a head start in at least acknowledging how hard things actually are.
Forgiveness, it has to be said, is interminably hard.
It’s a miracle to actually achieve forgiveness; an outcome of God’s grace bestowed. But, when it’s achieved, forgiveness is a vital command post for reconciliation. We have an important vantage point for reconciling our inner discord, then the relationship, and for forging a new way of life.
Reconciliation starts when we have forgiven.
And faith is no substitute as a friend who helps when forgiveness is foreign.
Faith is no generalised concept. It’s a real action-oriented vestibule of hope and love. Faith blends hope for a better future with love that compels a present action.
When life’s hard and seemingly impossible at times, for the gravity of loss is starker than we ever thought pain could be, faith is the risk we have to take. Faith generates hope, but faith also sows in hope. And hope fuels faith. Love is an output of faith.
We take such a risk of faith only on a stronger day.
A weaker day in loss makes grief insurmountable. Days like this we’re gentle with ourselves.
But stronger days are days to advance the vision for what could be — a future we might hope for, but probably cannot yet see.
Wisdom is in picking the right day.
Knowing forgiveness is hard helps us not force the pace beyond God’s will. God will heal us, but forgiveness is a process, and sometimes it can take years. We learn to praise God when forgiveness comes easier, which is always a miracle of God’s grace; a thing we can no easier explain than simply experience.
Safety in forgiveness is not fighting our feelings, but being gently inquisitive of our struggles, whilst being willing to push ahead when it comes easier.
What a wonderful thing to be inspired to forgive. We need to make the most of those God-indwelled moments. Suddenly there’s the moment of humility to call things for what they are; those things we can take some direct responsibility for. Taking responsibility is receiving blessing.
Forgiveness is foreign to our nature, but, when we adopt God’s nature, forgiveness becomes natural and healing.
Progress is about reconciliation, as forgiveness, which requires humility, which is honesty.
Faith is the friend we need when forgiveness is foreign.
Faith will get us to forgive when every other ‘friend’ makes forgiveness foreign.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Way You Might Live If You Had Just ONE Day

Imagine it was your final day alive. Only you knew it. You knew also that where you were going was worth departing for. You also knew that feeling overwhelming sadness would be a waste of your final twenty-four hours. So what would you do?
Perhaps you would not be bothered about politics, fashion, television, the News. These would fade from your mind’s sight, as you thought more about things at home.
Maybe you might not care so much about that degree or that PB or the career you tirelessly pander after. Or possibly you see the need to take time out to just breathe — as you breathe your last seventeen thousand breaths.
Think on this. We assume we’ll be here for ages, even lamenting many aspects of our lives, even as we take for granted the many moments we’re given to love those we love.
Life is enriched to an abundance of purpose when we comprehend The Day (to-day) which the Lord has made.
The cycle of the cosmos seems to endure as clockwork. But our lives, though they seem to mirror life, are not like that.
None of us knows what is coming, just as none of us can predict what is coming.
All we can do is live lives that exemplify the art of goodness in time. To take the breaths we do have, and make of that oxygen fuel for thoughts and actions that make a difference in the sphere of our influence. Nothing else matters.
May God truly bless you as you ponder more days as your last here on God’s earth,
Steve Wickham.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Waves of Light as Memories of Babies Lost

Nathanael’s Butterfly
“In denying my pain, I’d be denying my love.”
— Malory
For Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
As I pondered thoughts of time two years ago, in going through Nathanael’s few possessions, including the cards of condolence we received at his funeral, the Lord indicated — this one. One particular card. Then, on opening it, out sprung some words from Psalm 31. Parts of the psalm speak of a time when God saw us in our pain, gave us room to breathe, and in our anguish, per the people’s prayers, He showered us with kindness. Oh the depths of pain that we’re called to endure — in cultivating healing, by tenuously avoiding denial and cynicism.
In surrender for healing is the experience of His Presence through the grace felt of kindness.
Grief is the child of love, and love, like any dutiful parent, bears what grief brings. It has no choice. Love can and would do nothing else. So love is torn. Love is costly. But, above all, love is strong for the task of faith, and faith gets love through grief.
Loss is what all parents must interminably prepare for, and I don’t simply mean parent by definition, but by function — anything we have custodianship for. Life is about loss. We don’t notice the good things we receive, but when they’re taken from us, then we’re cataclysmically forlorn.
Waves of light are what any bereaved parent can give in remembrance for the infant they lost.
Waves of light, as in a candle flickering in the waft, as it responds to the physicality of its environment; as visible now, but only as energy for the sustained moment, where fuel is available for combustion to keep that light bright.
The fragrance of bottlebrush is pungent in springtime right now. Today. They permeate our residence. They remind us that he is still here with us; alive in our memory and in our eternal hope.
If only as we embrace the aroma of flowers, we recognise the goodness in a memory.
Memories are the gift given to love to compensate for the grief of loss.
May God truly bless you by the unfathomable peace of His Presence in the experience of the reality of loss,
Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Want Some Spirituality with Your Potatoes and Carrots?

I love my work for the fact that whilst I’m on the road, delivering meals to very vulnerable people, listening to some didactic radio, God speaks. He always speaks. And He gives me some wonderful opportunities in the interactions I have with the fifty or so clients I deliver to. I have the privilege of serving all these people, and my few minutes of ‘pastoral care’ makes much of a difference to some.
With one particular person I’ve developed a rapport. This person is in their late eighties, has had many health and medical issues and trials to contend with, and happens to have a very strict diet. And I could tell straight away that this person values their spirituality.
Over the fifteen (or so) occasions I’ve delivered to this person, every interaction’s been different, and every contact has been remarkable. Some occasions we’ve talked about the weather, other times I’ve listened to a passionate complaint about our service, once I prayed a blessing over the home, and another time I listened for a few minutes more than normal because there were tears. Pain is something that this person bears constantly. We have both had cause to apologise, and still I have cause to thank this person for their grace — for what they can muster, in their interactions with me, given the challenges they face. What we have had is real spiritual contact through perhaps little more than one hour overall together.
I praise God that I have found myself in work that has had more than its share of spiritual blessing; that I’ve been surprised by it. It’s hard work, no doubt. There are many tests and frustrations being out on the road, managing the shifting sands of details and customers and meal orders that change, and the like. And sometimes I’ve given in to those frustrations and cussed like a demon. Yet God knows these tests have been good for me. I’ve been pushed to a place where my resilience has been defeated many times, and, in that, my resilience has improved.
The person I discuss serving here is the epitome of the diversity of the work. I’m very thankful that I can offer some welcome spirituality with their potatoes and carrots. I never thought that the spirituality of caring concern could be vital in this work. The truth is that the spirituality of caring concern is vital everywhere, even when the core work is meals delivered with potatoes and carrots.
With God, watch for the wonder in the banal. God ‘shows up’ in the everyday more than anywhere else in life. The Lord works best in the boring.
May God truly bless you as you see the wonders of God working in the mundane,
Steve Wickham.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

You May Care, But Do You Care Enough to Be Kind?

“If you wish to know the mind of a person, listen to their words.
If you want to know their heart, watch their actions.”
— Lisa Prosen
Recently, a person I’ve mentored sent me a note on an anniversary of a particularly painful event in their life. Their times have now equalised, and it is apt to praise God. Suffering endured, resilience shown, support received. And it was to this support that was connected kindness — care. I shared the note with my wife because it was addressed to her, too. Immediately what came out of her mouth struck me: “Support isn’t support unless it comes with kindness.”
It was nice to know on this occasion that support had been received because of the kindness felt.
I’ve had people in my life say they cared, but never showed it in any tangible way. Apparently their few words were enough. Their ambivalence, sufficient? Their coolness, care? Their lack of kindness, my problem. Now, I know why people say they care but don’t. They don’t live the other person’s reality. They cannot, for whatever reason, extend past themselves. They don’t care because they’re not tangibly kind.
Those enduring adversity need support: the care of kindness, which is inevitably action-oriented, which can be words, but more often than not is more.
Support isn’t support unless it comes with kindness.
Care is felt through the action of kindness.
Nobody cares what we know until they know that we care, and nobody can tell if we care or not unless they feel kindness.
May God truly bless you as you support people by caring through your kindness,
Steve Wickham.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Love Spelt by the Letters C.A.R.E.

What is love? In a love-is-love world, the whole world wonders about love, yet we may be further from the concept of love than ever. But love has always been definitive. Love is not about a selfish concern. It is all about the other.
Love is spelt in the letters, C.A.R.E.
Care is briefed in the press room of compassion. There is nothing more tangible about care than compassion. The words care and compassion might easily be interchanged. If we love by the way of compassion, we think of others to the loss of ourselves, and in that we’ve cared.
Underpinning everything of care is awareness. If we miss awareness we miss care, and if we miss care we miss love. Awareness causes us to reflect, to redeem meaning, and to respond.
What else can responsiveness allude to other than responding to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit? Care is the manifest grace of love to the extent of a response. Love is about seeing a need and responding in the provision of care.
Another salient love is the gift given of encouragement. Care encourages. It misses no opportunity to encourage by the building up of frail members, and we all bear vulnerability. Love cares through encouragement, and I’d suggest love cannot be genuine fully-fledged love without it being an encouragement. Indeed, the very best tough love of challenge bears features of encouragement.
Compassion bred from Awareness Responds in the giving of Encouragement. This is the C.A.R.E. of love. Love is compassionate awareness responding through encouragement.
May God truly bless you as you love through compassionate awareness that responds by encouraging others,
Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

When Community and Connectedness Mean Spirituality

It happened in the central business district of my home city. About as secular an environment as you could imagine. Hustle and bustle, traffic signals, tall structures, lots of noise, people everywhere, busy going their own ways.
Beep! (A long sounding of a van’s horn.)
My instant reaction was one of incredulity that this unknown driver had interrupted my peace; that he ‘stood’ there in his delivery van right on the corner; in the way of the turning traffic. Incredulity turned momentarily to indignation. Then my reaction changed again when I observed what was happening. I saw the taxi cab in front parked in the delivery van’s area — a loading zone. The cab driver responded and kindly crept forward, indicated out, and drove off down the road a little further before parking. The delivery driver inched forward and parked in his zone.
Getting out of his van, my eyes met his, and we had a moment of spiritual connection.
It was like a second’s meeting of the delivery drivers’ fraternity. One smile requited another. That moment, this stranger and I, a person of different cultural heritage to me, we connected. We found mutual encouragement in each other; through the identification of a frustration alleviated that both of us could relate with.
God encouraged me that moment. He said, “See how important like-minded others are?”
Our spirituality is interwoven in the lattice of community. The more the vine grows, the more connectedness felt, the more spiritual joy we embody.
Community is not always hours spent with people. Sometimes it’s given or received in a moment’s connection with an absolute stranger.
A truthful experience of spirituality is the best life can offer, because it’s how God meets us in our innate need.
Community breeds connectedness, connectedness enhances spirituality, spirituality takes us into God, and in that God brings meaning to life.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Circumambulation and the Acceptance of Life’s Perplexity

As many ways as there are of living life, there are also in the viewing of things. Everything is circular. From this viewpoint, we’re designed to come back to the same place. Never do we get ahead of life (God).
‘Progress’ is not really the point of life. Indeed, spiritual progress is not about movement but motivation. Those of us who expect movement could be quickly and cataclysmically disappointed.  But those who see that life is about growth in motivation — in character — are quickly able to thwart the enemy.
Our motivation is tested in what happens to us.
But what happens to us is not what God has in mind, as an end in itself. Whatever happens to us — assuming that it’s a negative thing — doesn’t really matter. It’s a test. That’s all it is; whatever happens. What really matters is our response.
Whatever happens to us can be viewed through the angles of 360 degrees. We’re wise to step around the object of our situation — and genuinely inflect all those varying angles of perspective and response. This is circumambulation.
Another circumambulation is the phenomenon that occurs when God continues to bring us back, again and again, to a certain problem, in order to prove to us that we cannot solve it. We can only endeavour to learn whatever lesson God has for us. Learning is the solution.
The solution rests in our motivation — how we approach our problems, not the solving of those problems. Solutions are immaterial. The solution is our attitude.
Explaining the ‘Wheels within Wheels’ Model
There are two circles in life; the life circle and the problem circle. The life circle depicts how we continue to go through circumambulation, coming back to the same problems. The problem circle depicted is a particular problem, unique to our person, based on our personality, and peculiar to our weaknesses.
As we revolve around the axis scribing our life circle, we meet a problem and then swing into the smaller problem circle, where life is piqued. This is a hard season where the pressure points are particularly poignant. Each pressure point brings a different view of pain to bear. This is why grief is so variegated. In each problem, there’s so much to encounter and learn.
There are good and bad angles of approach in both circles, and we experience the whole gamut, which explains our good days and our bad days. When we’re in a problem circle season of life, the good and the bad are more pronounced. More joy, but more pain, too.
A Present Example from My Own Life
Some of these principles won’t be clear unless we ground them in a life.
A new problem I’ve entered into in the present season represents an old learning in a different way. Circumambulation around my life circle brings me back to the same point. This pressure point is one of having to achieve significance.
It is a weakness that God has identified that I need to continue to overcome. As I’ve come around the life circle to this particular problem circle, again, I’ve found myself stuck in the problem circle, which inevitably happens. It’s frustrating and saddening, and the pressure points bring me through a range of emotion — from joy right through to rage. At times I’m painful to live with.
God is simply reminding me that I’m a being, not a doing, and that I must gain my achievement of significance from being. I’m a husband and a father first, not a pastor and counsellor. Being out of the latter (in a paid capacity) at present has magnified the problem — it’s a problem that’s salient and never goes away. But the opportunity presents daily; to take courage in walking into many undesirable situations that God, in His wisdom, has commended for me to enter. He is faithful when I take His courage.
Within the problem, I face many different emotional responses, which are dependent on my cognitions. Given the theory, and presuming the problem circle will be something I’ll continue to come back to, again and again, I just have to learn everything I can, including how to accept this quest for significance as a thorn in my side (to use a Paulism). This thorn in my side is something that prevents me from being conceited.
None of us is very happy that life is like this — that it’s a process of learning — but that is what life in reality is.
If you ever thought life were a cycle of coming back and revisiting situations, you’re right.
Life is less about mastering skills and making achievements and much more about mastery of our attitudinal response.
The key to life is how we live it, not so much how much we achieve.
Life is a wheel, and there are wheels within that wheel of life. What we see we’re likely to see again. If God can’t teach us one way, He will patiently bring us back to a similar situation soon. Life is circular. It’s not about getting ahead. Life is more about learning to master ourselves in community. Life is not about movement as much as it’s about motivation.
Where this matters most is in the area of purpose and meaning.
I genuinely pray that this article has helped you. It certainly has helped me in explaining it to myself.