What It's About

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Meeting of Minds in Marriage

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Let love do what love does best; let it encourage

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Subtlety is Beauty in the Compromise

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

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

Image by Ray Brown

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

When ‘tough love’ ends in a hug

ESCALATION is never territory a parent wants to traverse when they sense they’re losing control. I had one of those situations recently.
My son was exasperated, and even as I write these words I hear God’s voice through Ephesians 6:4 — “Fathers, do not be provoking your children to anger, but be nourishing them in the training and admonition of the Lord.”[1]
I had provoked him to anger. He did not understand my logic. He is only four, after all. My error was imputing to him a sense of logic that is beyond his present understanding. Little wonder he began to charge at me. This is where I’ve found sons and daughters are different. A daughter might become distraught and withdrawn, which potentially affects them psychologically. Or, they might respond in a passively aggressive way. Without generalising or specifying too much, there are gender differences, but angering my children has clearly had different and yet always negative effects.
It’s humbling as a parent when you finally realise, in trying to do the right thing, you’re actually dead wrong. It’s a real trap. Later reflection has often revealed I was duped by my ignorant understanding.
The moment I realised he was out of control, and that so was I, something clicked within me; something that melted my pride.
It was the realisation of the power of a hug to diffuse the powder keg of emotion and bring space for reflection within the safety of affection.
Even as I embraced my son, I felt he was getting something he did not deserve — a hug instead of tough love. I thought it was grace. But by his response God taught me an important lesson. It wasn’t grace at all; it was simple justice. I was saying sorry for riling him to anger for mismanaging the corrective moment.
Finally I had become open enough to begin to understand. My son’s response was simply to receive that hug. And within a minute I could begin to reason with him. His response spoke powerfully for the justice he now felt had been restored. And he was then able to emotionally handle the consequences that were now his — the right time for tough love.
What I’m saying here will make implicit sense to the majority of mothers.
No wonder, at least in my case, it is to fathers that the apostle Paul writes, “do not be provoking your children to anger…”
Perhaps the chief lesson in all this, as father, is what am I learning about my own anger?

[1] Disciples’ Literal New Testament version.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Forgiveness when it seems impossible

YOU’VE tried myriad times and ways to forgive a person, so now you’re open to anything God might use. Finally, when we’ve tried seemingly everything we come to be ready to face what God has led us to.
Jesus uses the Good Samaritans in our life to reveal the Pharisee within us. What Jesus is getting to, as a central tenet of the Good Samaritan parable, is the hardest thing for our flesh to accept:
… that God is for the person who has hurt us deeply.
God is not just for us!
God is not a side-taker.
If Jesus were telling us the parable we might expect Him to identify our Samaritan — that person we have a bias against or cannot or will not forgive — and make them the hero of the story. Wow, imagine in our resentment that Jesus is putting the acid on us. That’s not the Jesus of our ego, is it? But He is the real Jesus. Such a good friend, He will trust us enough to challenge us with what we don’t want to hear.
Can we be thankful before God
when an ‘enemy’ does a good work in His name?
That’s hard, isn’t it? Anyone who thinks that’s easy has perhaps never been bitterly hurt. If we don’t believe an enemy is capable of such good works as the Samaritan did then we are the ones with the problem. When they do that good work, God will render our bitterness as shame. And we will either be polarised further into our futile corner, or we will be convicted to repent. The latter is always a miracle of God’s grace; a conviction of the Holy Spirit surrendered to.
When we’re given the grace to forgive someone who has been a thorn in our side, the road to reconciliation is immediately halfway paved. But because they don’t feel the same compassion, from grace to bitterness we can sometimes slide. We need to acknowledge that our hearts are ever vulnerable.
Bizarre as it is, the Good Samaritan looks far beyond their own prejudice. They look at the half dead person and see not an enemy, but the person’s humanity. They see the person as God sees them. The Good Samaritan is convicted by the Royal Law implicit within him. The Golden Rule stands as its own testimony of his actions.
Forgiveness is easier when we understand God’s justice. He is for both us and them.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Human Beings Being Human

We can well understand others when they fail, for we ourselves have failed, and we will continue to fail, as will they. They may fail us, but one day we may fail them, if we haven’t already. When we have just failed someone, we may thank God that we may be more compassionate with those who are about to fail us, especially if we experienced compassion; and if we didn’t, compassion is thereby our opportunity. Nobody learns anything when they’re cruelled for having failed. So, in terms of failure, we can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand people who hurt people, for we too have hurt people, and continue to do so. They may have hurt us today, but perhaps we will hurt someone tomorrow. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand those who live with anxiety, for we too have been anxious. Their anxiety may impact us negatively, but our anxiety has impacted others to their detriment. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand those who judge us, for we too have judged people. Their judgments may have affected our reputation, but we have damaged others’ reputations. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand what it feels like to be criticised, because we have dealt with criticism. What we hate to have to bear we know all too well. And yet it won’t be long before we are again berating a person, if not verbally, under our breath or in our heart. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We do the same things that we hate being done to us. We can well understand. Human beings being human. That’s a big cause of stress. It needn’t be. We are all the same. Forgiveness is about perspective. We forgive if we feel we warrant forgiveness.
Compassion is its own blessing because the compassionate understand the universal need of empathy. It begins with us. And we are never more blessed to partake without expectation of its return. God has His way of blessing us even if our compassion is not returned.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Do As I Do, Not Just As I Say

AFTER getting a little frustrated attempting to hang some twisted jeans on a clothes airer, my son said to me (as we do, him) “take a step back, Dad.” (He had our attention, because we knew what was happening.) After modelling what we require him to do when he gets frustrated — take a moment’s reflection — he comes up to me and, as I crouched down to his level, he says, “So what happened?” A discussion about what happened took place. Then he said, “Okay, I forgive you.” A few seconds later he told me he was proud of me.
It was a moment in my family’s time where we had to have the presence of mind to allow our young son to model what we model as a way of us impressing upon him the importance of example and of justice. He modelled respectful communication as we try to. He modelled care for me as he noticed me losing control. He modelled a heart for peace and reconciliation and the management of emotions. And it possibly is a powerful reinforcer of this method when we need to apply it next with him. (As it turned out, less than two hours later he was sent to bed early for not doing what he was told.)
Doesn’t parenting require much humility?
Humility and presence of awareness. I/we could have missed the opportunity had I overruled him. (And in our home those opportunities are often missed.) Had we missed it, he would have learned nothing. It’s not like I’m trying to promote him in his maturity or elevate us in our parenting wisdom. (We’re as ‘normal’ a family as yours is.) The win here is simply about capturing a moment and being aware enough of the potential positive coaching moment. In the moment, we caught ourselves observing what it was that our son actually knew, giving him the opportunity to show us; to be the teacher. Had he done it in a disrespectful way he would have been immediately chastised. We gave him the chance. On this occasion, it paid off.

We need to give people a chance to fail for them to experience what it’s like to succeed.