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

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Gratitude – license to reframe everything

HERE is a test. Can everything be reframed — every negative thing converted to something positive? I wonder. The jury is still out, but the verdict isn’t far away.
For so long I have craved a spiritual renaissance. I sensed the need for it. I sought the Lord, and, because God speaks cogently and often, I never knew what it would look like.
At present I’m testing things. One thing I feel convinced of in my experience at present is the ability to reframe everything. It’s nothing new, it turns out. It’s biblical. It’s the gospel; the good news. Where reality is reframed, seen through a different lens, giving views from another world.
Reframing occurs in the mind and needs to happen quickly, for our thoughts influence our feelings and drive our behaviours. Like when overcoming a fleeting temptation to leer at another driver on the road for doing something incorrect when on a different day that would be me. Like recognising the therapy there is in work. Like speaking words of life instead of criticism when you look at your naked body in a mirror before showering. Like seeing the need of being patient to be grateful. Like being thankful for a gratitude project, because you don’t feel grateful. Like bodily pain as a reminder of the body’s ability to move. Like being delayed by a collision further ahead, and feeling grateful it wasn’t our accident.
I believe it’s a commitment to gratitude that challenges our perspective. It’s such a commitment that it challenges us to reframe everything. It forces us into a fresh understanding of what is possible.
Gratitude is a license to reframe everything, where such a reframing holds open possibilities that may be fitted in the place of despairing complaint.
God at the root of his heart seeks to challenge everything we think, say and do. The moment we see the truth in the power he gives us to do just that, we believe and walk by faith, not by sight.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

They retain your trust, as you retain their respect

“Pay attention when people react with anger and hostility to your boundaries. You have found the edge where their respect for you ends.” — Unknown
Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

CONDITIONAL love is the same as conditional respect. In response to safe boundaries some people respond by switching off their respect. Some people think that love and respect are dependent on how they feel. But effective relationships depend on love and respect if trust is to flow.
It’s important to have had some relationships where our boundaries have been treated with disdain. It teaches us the difference between relationships that work for both parties as opposed to those that work for just one person. It’s apparent straight away, that when relationships work for just one person, where there is respect just one way, the end of the relationship as it is needs to be nigh.
Those who disregard our boundaries tend then to get hostile when we enforce them.
There is another offender; one who oversteps the mark, continually forgetting where it was. Can we trust people who are repeat transgressors? Not beyond the realms of possibility, but there’s work to be done. It depends on the person’s heart.
It is good to have the courage to enforce boundaries and to reinforce them by removing trust when respect is denied. How else are they to learn? Why would we enable their bad behaviour? Why would we make that rod for our own back?
The biggest problem with people who will not respect our boundaries is the anxiety that increases in us as we interact with them. That is our heart telling us something: ‘I don’t feel safe here, with this person in this situation.’
So, pay attention when your wishes attract the ire of someone who wishes for you to trust them. Neither trust nor respect work one way. They are always reciprocal. Reasonable people respect boundaries.

None of this work of enforcing boundaries is easy, but if we are to have safe, loving relationships we will use trust and respect as the barometer.

Friday, January 19, 2018

3 Brilliant Ways to Bless your World

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

BEING Christian is simpler than we often make it, but the trouble is, so often life gets in the way; what with juggling all the competing priorities, the energy drain handling conflict, and negotiating the unpredictable.
Sometimes we need to be reminded how simple faith is. Here are three ways we can bless the world in Jesus’ name:
1.      LISTEN – the person the world needs most is the person who will listen. Such a person has the emotional space and range for others. One sure way to support others around us is to stop talking so much and start listening, and not simply listen to the words other people say, but to what they’re not saying, including discerning what people would like to say but can’t. When we resolve to listen more we use our brains differently. Instead of listening to answer someone, we listen to ask them clarifying questions, and that curiosity shows genuine interest and concern.
2.      TALK – the world also needs people prepared to talk to others, especially the lonely, the disenfranchised, the sick, and the outlier. Another sure way to encourage others within our orbit is to be on the lookout for people who would love for us to talk to them. Some people would be prepared to open up to us if only we would talk to them.
3.      GIVE – we might notionally think that this is about generosity of the hip-pocket kind. Sure, the world needs more people willing to give of their financial resources. But what about giving our time, our energy, our smiles, enthusiasm, vision? What happens when we give our talents to people who don’t have the skill we have? People are encouraged. Sometimes we don’t have the time or the energy, but we can still give some way. Ask God to lead you in what you could give.
When we listen we support, when we talk we encourage, when we give we care.
To listen, to talk, and to give are three simple and free ways we bless our world. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

See how nobody can be against us

Photo by Jeff Rodgers on Unsplash

JUDGMENTS happen against people all the time — against ourselves and others. Character assassination by stealth or active engagement. Every person alive has been hurt. Some hurts are easy to recover from; others, well… let’s just say we’re working on those. We find it hard not to judge those who transgressed us. Then there are the hurts we are supposed to have inflicted; the ones to provoke another’s judgment of us.
But here’s a fact to work our weary minds around.
Even though Jesus said, ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged’, we judge and are judged. We condemn and are condemned. We and they lose sight of the directness of Jesus’ words — ‘For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.’ We and they lose sight of the power and seriousness of the words spoken and the heart of bitterness behind them; they are not only spoken in vain, but they usher judgment against anyone who does what only God can legally do. And yet if we would have cause to judge and/or condemn and don’t, and give grace instead, then we have won grace for ourselves before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Why is it we have no real reason to fear another human being? God made them and us — both of us — as blades of grass. In a short time, we will be cut down. In a short time, we will return to Him. They may appear as an enemy for what they do or think or say against us, but they are really fighting against themselves; and, they pick a fight with God they cannot possibly win. Watch and see. We are in the same game. We use our words maliciously or practice dangerous thoughts and do bad by somebody all to our own peril.
So, if people’s judgments against us are always wrong, because God alone is Judge, then nobody can be against us in the only realm that ultimately matters: eternity.
Whenever you’re abused, bullied, neglected, scapegoated, gas-lit, whatever, know that that person’s words and actions echo in eternity. Everything said and done is counted. Imagine God witnessing this event, because the whole of heaven is watching. What appears to be done in secret never is. There is nothing to fear in doing the right thing; to submit under the barrage of assault. Perpetrators will all pay; for every unreconciled transgression.
This is why confession and repentance are the most important concepts for life — they are the way we hold ourselves to account before an Almighty God. Whatever He judges is right, is final, is just, and everlasting.

* Jesus quotes are taken from Matthew 7:1-2.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The gift to yourself in loving another

CHASING the dream of happiness, most of us have more than once come to the end of our tether. We try a thing, before trying something else, all the while getting further from that contented place we’re searching to find.
The fact is we’re looking and so many of us cannot stop searching until we find what we’re looking for. Yet we never seem to quite find what we’re looking for. Even in meeting Jesus our vision is impeded as we see through sin-stained eyes. We continue desiring what we cannot attain. We demand what we think we deserve. Pretty soon we’re judging and punishing others for the fact they cannot give us what we need. We seek from people what only God can give us.
We continue seeking different results (contentment) using the same selfish method.
Love one another. That was Jesus’ final command of the disciples. Okay, anyone who knows their Bible knows this from John 13.
Now imagine what happens the moment you think of another person and are kind toward them; suddenly you’re no longer thinking of your happiness, but theirs. You decide to continue loving them the way you can — no rocket science in it, even if it feels a little unnatural.
Something happens to our vision when we redirect our focus. When we join our mind with other people’s minds, and hearts become aligned, our problems seem to get smaller. They don’t change in size or significance, but we agonise less, and we trust God more.
Contentment comes when we divert our mental energy onto things bigger than us. It’s not forgetting that we, too, have our own issues we’re facing, but it’s putting our issues into their correct order.
We feel God’s love when we attempt to love others as God loves them.

Monday, January 15, 2018

If both are right, both are surely wrong

YOU may have heard it said: there are three forms of truth in couple counselling — his truth, her truth, and the truth. And that’s the truth.
Until one is genuinely open to their own fault they’ll never let go of their view of the other’s fault.
The divergence to the polarising formula of his truth, her truth and the truth is when the blame is all one way — which unfortunately happens too much — where one person in the relationship accepts all the responsibility and the other accepts none. There’s a fault when there’s only one person at fault — because, this isn’t the truth! When there’s apparently only one person at fault there’s potentially abuse and co-dependency afoot. It’s like when both parties are saying, ‘I know I’m not perfect, but just look at how much worse they are!’ It is madness. Nothing can be done until that person works solely on the first part of the sentence.
Conflict turns ugly when two warring people or parties become possessed by a spirit that elevates or declines in unison. Mirroring occurs. One is enraged, and the other predictably responds in rage. Yet, one submits to a spirit of peace, and the other responds in the same spirit. Until one of the pair arcs up. Still, conflict takes the predictable contours of aggression and submission, withdrawal and escape.
Couples who are actively at odds in their relationship can sling hooks and arrows at each other as much as they want. It can only be destructive; not simply to the relationship, but to their very persons. Some of the barbs flung are heinous and devastating, not only for their self-perceptions, but also for their reputations.
If both can be right, and both do have a portion of the truth, both can also be wrong, for both also cannot see their own portion of fault.
Blessed is anyone who takes, and continues to take, responsibility for their wrongs. Doubly blessed are two who engage in such wisdom. Their relationship succeeds.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Loss is love in all its fullness

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

GRIEF at a loved one’s passing or the loss of anything significant is the full payment for the love we had for that person or the hopes we had for that dream.
That might feel like a slap across the face, but when loss comes it throws us so far we realise just how much we must have loved, because what we cannot stop loving or needing is irretrievably gone.
We could not experience the fullness of the love we had for them, or the fullness of the hopes we had, for say the marriage we lost, or the fullness of the security we had before we lost our job, until the loss occurred, but grief is about experiencing the fullness of what is left behind. It must be reconciled.
Grief feels like exile and it demands reconciliation of the pain before we can experience restoration.
“Sometimes you don’t value what is real
until it becomes a memory.”
(Iman on David Bowie’s death, January 2016)
Why is it loss is so hard? Because love or need of what was lost is so deep. Unfathomably cavernous. So incredibly profound are those depths of love or need in what we lost that we only feel them fully in their completion when the end has come.
We cannot fully value who and what we love in our humanity within the constraints of time and consciousness; we are too human. But love comes full circle when the dream has died and reality morphs into never-coming-back eternity. We can be racked with guilt and regret. It is normal. The guilt may never seem to leave us. It is normal. We replay over and over and over again in our minds that which can never be reconciled how we’d like. And we come back to the same thing again and again and again. It is final. It is finished. And we pray that we can accept it with time. Thank God for the acceptance if and when it comes!
Experience loss and we do something amazingly brave — face the full force of our love, our need, our everything, to hold on knowing it won’t ebb, to hold on because it won’t let go. Sheer valour, because we have no choice but to go on.
Loss consummates love in an instant, and yet we go on experiencing that consummation day after painful day, with reprieves only for unconsciousness or fleeting realities of hope for that day when restorative works are accomplished.

Know in your loss that you are fully brave in your realness, fully devoted in your love, fully won to who/what was lost.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Marriage, Ministry, Life, all cost more than we bargain for

THIS sounds like it feels to me right now — a dark piece, this. But real. And I know many will ignore it. You should. You would not make the decisions you need to make if you didn’t.
Marriage, in the majority of cases, requires more from us than we expect it will. We make our promises flippantly, thinking they’ll be easy to keep, because there’s just so much love between us. Then over time the rub of life sands off our enthusiasm. We come to rue our idealism. But there is a purpose in it. God wants us to face up to the reality of love. It’s a choice.
Ministry, likewise, in most circumstances, feels a very romantic endeavour. We fall in love with the thought of leading and serving others — the magnanimity of it all (and not that many would admit it, but the power attracts us, too). Those who have gone before us try to warn us of the perils, but we’re too infused in our egos to see them. Over the years we get burned. Not just once. In different ways that highlight our weaknesses. It’s inevitable. Iron sharpening iron, and the processes of our maturing through the rough and tumble of raw humanity pretending to be pious. Again, we come to deplore our naivety. But there is a purpose in it, God making something out of the ordure. God wants us to understand that if it cost His Son His life, it will cost us ours (metaphorically), too. Finally, having endured hell, having learned many cruel and harsh lessons, we’re brought before the choice, afresh. And for the first time ever, we make our choice empowered and informed.
Life is no different. All through our formative years we fall for the lie that when we’re grown up we will finally have control of our lives; we’ll be able to do what we want. Isn’t it an unforgiving lesson when we find out the responsibilities we bear? Suddenly all we had secretly believed our whole lives until that point unravels, a dishevelled mess on the floor. In all reality it takes us years to finally accept this; to understand we have to take responsibility for our lives if they are to work. By this stage we’re into our thirties, and certainly by thirty-five we reckon it was a lie — life is no longer something we believe we can master. But this is good. So good. God can do nothing with us or for us if we’re in a state of thinking we’re in control.
Marriage, ministry, life, and any significant endeavour, will cost us more than we think. If we ever knew what it would cost us we wouldn’t commit in the first place. Thankfully, in our naïve drive to forge our own path, we don’t trust the advice of those who know better. It is this way generation after generation.

Faith in grief, at best victorious, at worst an aspiration

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash
THROUGH it all, through it all, my eyes are on you (Jesus), and it is well. The adapted strains of Horatio Spafford’s classic hymn communicate, as he did, the scandalous reality of an overcoming hope in the deepest grief, a psychological phenomenon setting faith apart as priceless in our darkest hour.
Grief, like other dispositions of state along the continuum of life, has its own range of emotional experiences varying day by day. Sometimes we’re strong and capable and forward-visioning. Other times, sometimes with a jarring suddenness, our hope is severed and even to think and breathe is pain.
At any degree along the journey, in any vacillation, we are able to tap into a God connection that seriously makes no sense to the world. The more our backs are against the wall, the more a song like It Is Well is sown into us for later; so we feel victorious, even invincible in the faith, at best, or aspirational, at worst, as we cling to a hope we don’t at that time possess, but know that we will have again.
This is when we know our faith has caught us sufficiently that we’ll never backslide into unbelief again; when we have consistently sought God, and won our peace when our backs are against the wall.
What is good news is this: whether we are at our best or at our worst matters little. Our grief has created a craving for genuine fellowship with the Lord. We are happy resting in the presence of victory, but we’re just as content somehow to reach for the clouds when we can’t get off the ground.
Fortunately, even as we determine that we have the freedom of belief within torment, even as we live only to be reminded of what we lost, our faith compels us to make the most of this time of repair. In grief we are attracted to God and God knows what we need; the rest is humble submission. We know whichever way we go we have safe harbour from where to launch on our daily voyage with and for God.
*Acknowledgement to Kristene DiMarco’s song It Is Well from the Album Mighty.

Monday, January 8, 2018

When will this desert drudgery end? Will I ever reach the Promised Land?

Photo by Raechel Romero on Unsplash
EVER had a conversation with a person trying to encourage you and left more discouraged than ever? I’ve been on both sides of that kind of interaction.
It’s infuriating on the one hand, and it’s a discouragement that our positive words would have negative effect on the other. But at least when you’re the one trying to encourage you’re not living the ‘hell’ the other person is. I write this from the perspective of having fallen short in the helping.
A two-worded question emanates from our mouths when we consider the little benefit we’ve received from walking faithfully through the desert season: how long? We’re not alone. The psalmists ask that question a dozen times.[1]
How long do we continue a path that feels at times to make no sense, but we know God chose it for us? How long do we wait for the promised land to come into view? How long before we finally rest from the turmoil of continually travelling a well-worn path to nowhere? How long until this circuitous route straightens from frustration into progress?
The flesh is weak, but in the Spirit we are able. There are always at least two ways of looking at things.
The way of the flesh is to see things simplistically, dreamily, yet with a dash of over-realism. We want what we’ve always wanted, and we want it now. Yesterday would have been good. But in the Spirit, we continue to trust when in the flesh we are ready to bail out.
Trusting holds the burden at bay simply by acting faithfully as led. The burden is still there, and we know it, and it pains us. The ‘how long’ question continues to linger, and we continue to move forward only when we hold our hope aloft at the same time as bearing our ongoing disappointment honestly.
What can be done? Keep trusting. Keep stepping forward in faith. Look forward as much as possible.
The irony of faith is it is proven in the ground of trial when we feel weakest.

[1] See Psalms 6:3; 13:1-2; 35:17; 62:3; 74:10; 79:5; 82:2; 89:46; 90:13; 94:3; 119:84.