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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Experience of Breakdown and Recovery of Hope

Loving friends restore flailing hope.
Something that occurs regularly enough for me is the experience of breakdown and the recovery of hope. Acute fatiguing attacks where my soul is spiritually weary precedes a resurrection, but it would be unfair to overlook the value of being emotionally decimated.
The experience, for me at least, takes anywhere from two hours to two days. As short as it is, it’s acute. And there’s typically a pattern to it. It takes place sometimes a couple of times a month. The busier I am the more often I succumb. I love being with people and helping them, which is my life purpose, but too much of it — and especially too much to do — and it becomes a task and a burden and I begin to burnout. Breakdown for me is the first sign of burnout. I cannot help but respond because my mind begins to slow to a stop, warning me of the time I need to take to reboot. When I take the time I need, including the time to completely discharge my emotional energies, I’m only hours or a night’s sleep from the recovery of my hope.
It’s different for others, but there are always similarities. The subconscious mind does not only have dreams through which to express itself — we bury the stresses of life and baggage of our uglier encounters only so far. We always have to deal with it eventually, and even if these things aren’t our problem, many of us are paid/called to bear others’ burdens, so these are the occupational hazards.
The theory converts nicely into practice: allow the experience of breakdown, and do not fear it, for breakdown precedes recovery and through redemption there’s hope.
There’s no shame in the depressions and breakdowns common to daily life. So long as we’re honest we recover.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Forgiveness and the Purpose of Life

My earliest experiences of profound forgiveness came easily, because I saw my fault, but some of my latter experiences have been harder. They haven’t been harder because I was less to blame than other parties were. They’ve been harder because that’s the purpose of life: sanctification increases in difficulty the more we surrender dutifully before God.
Yes, that’s right. The more obedient we are, the more we’re attentive to discerning and doing God’s will, the deeper we’re taken in our unique cross-ward journey. No matter what or how much we suffer, we’ll still fall far short of Jesus’ suffering for us on the cross.
“They who wrestle with us strengthen our nerve, and sharpen our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”
— Edmund Burke (1729–1797)
Now in swings the purpose; of forgiveness, as a process for learning. It’s operant engagement with humility, because we cannot learn if we’re not humble, and humility must come through subjugated pride — a very hard thing if we make a big thing of it, but an easy thing to do one decision of the will at a time.
The person we must forgive (get this: biblically, there is no option), or the situation we must reconcile (because it will drive our peace and joy away otherwise) is there to strengthen our nerve. For, without it we’ll go soft, and learn nothing. That’s not the Christian journey.
Those very things that are against us are the things God has allowed to be there. Only the difficult thing — like forgiveness — is sufficiently worthy of the purpose of life, because purpose must take us deep or it feels meaningless.
Here is my favourite quote on the topic; a truth that early church Father, John Chrysostom (347–407) propounded when exegeting Romans 8:37:
“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turns their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us!”
The more someone is against us, the more God is for us through the grace of His Presence when we’re meek. Accepting the harmful overture is something that an enemy cannot reconcile. Victory is in the humble acceptance that what is, is. This humble meekness throws everyone off guard because it vanquishes the evil power they’ve deployed. Having a genuine heart of forgiveness and acceptance makes all the difference.
When life is particularly difficult we have even more access to God’s all-sufficient grace as we accept the hardship. Forgiveness in this context is central to the purpose of life, which is to learn and develop and grow and mature.
Let’s consider it a privilege when we’re exposed to conflict that causes us to need to forgive. The need to forgive causes us to stretch and mature, giving us a grand purpose.
Only as we wrestle with what feels impossible, forgiveness, do we learn something invaluable about life. God gave us the impossible to overcome, by our faith and His power.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When Love Means Safety

What language does love speak?
By what values is love defined?
Love’s values are found in being meek.
Love speaks a language that’s kind.
Self-sacrifice for others,
Is nothing about needing to be needed,
It’s about giving ourselves for our sisters and brothers,
That’s how God’s Word is heeded.
Men especially, but women too,
Lead their own by humility,
Giving the love that’s due,
Is about ending all hostility.
As a man, like so many men, I’ve so often failed the very standard I’m discussing here, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it. Our women — our wives, mothers and daughters — need our love to be spoken in the language of safety, of trustworthiness, of being meek enough to sacrifice ourselves.
Such safety is a refuge for the vulnerable; an exemplification of God’s safe love.
But it’s not only our women who need it — or us men needing something of it from our women, though we ought to outdo each other, men for women, women for men, in the doing of our love.
It’s our kids that need it, first and foremost.
If us men can love our women — our wives, mothers and daughters — then there’s a massive positive impact for our sons’ lives, too. Is there a more significant legacy to leave our sons than teaching them to respect girls and women?
Love must come first. Before rules. Before discipline. Before ‘parenting’. If love comes first the apt requisite for rules and discipline and parenting is set.
Safety means declaring a war by peace on all hostility. It’s a making of progress by the powers of love that overcome all fear and division because love never fails.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Live Like You’re Loved

Through the trials and snares and difficulties of life, when much of the time we might feel beaten down, there is an urgency in the heart, the soul desperate for God’s help, searching for a way to overcome the burden.
The heaviest burden is that of being unloved and, multitudes worse, unlovable.
Many would brashly say they never feel unloved or unlovable. Truth is we’ve felt those emotions; of abandonment; whether initiated in childhood or adulthood. Why is it that the Bible goes to great pains to say God never leaves us nor forsakes us? God knows how susceptible we are.
It’s okay. It has to be okay. It’s just the way it is.
Today is the day the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24). And today, each day, with great intention, we have the opportunity, afresh, to live like we’re loved. This is the choice to allow the truth to form up, move, and find its true home: within, dearly loved.
The truth of God’s inimitable love is known with assurance by faith; the strongest of knowledges. Nothing can rock an understanding of God bequeathing us life, in our unique bodies, replete with mind and soul and spirit, to be me and you, for the entirety of our days — and then, e t e r n i t y.
The fact of death is one proof of God’s love, that He would want us back, face-to-face with Himself, so we’re able to enjoy Him all the more; us, His beloved.
When we live like we’re loved, joy, peace, and hope are embodied within, and a humble confidence exudes our being, to live like a human being was always meant to.
When we live like we’re loved, because we’re not simply liked, God gives us love’s purpose to live that our souls ever crave.
When we live like we’re loved, God gives us love’s purpose to live, and finally our soul is content.
We will never be truly happy until we feel safe in our relationship with God. Then we live like we’re loved.
To live like we’re loved is today’s opportunity; to live in the truth like the best thing happened, because it has.
Living like we’re loved is agreeing with the narrative of God’s story. It’s not simply an opportunity, it becomes the only obligation instituted by grace, to trust and obey.
Acknowledgement to Hawk Nelson’s song by the same name.

Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Remarkable Differences Between Right and Privilege

When I first received my driver’s licence I loved to spin my wheels. Doing rollbacks and burnouts on a particular concrete pad in the industrial area of the town I lived in was a pet pastime for me and my friends. That was until the Police caught us. We were hauled off to the Station. In fear of being prosecuted, we responded well to the lecture given to us. What the policeman said that day has stuck with me ever since: “Having a driver’s licence is not a right, it’s a privilege.”
That concept has broad merit in every facet of life. There are far more privileges in life than there are rights.
Yet ‘privilege’ is a word that hasn’t had a good following of late. We hear it in the context of ‘white male privilege’ and we associate it with bad things. But there is a vast difference between the noun — ‘he belongs to a privileged class’ — and the verb — ‘she was given the privilege of partaking in…’
Here are five remarkable differences between a right and a privilege:
1.     Rights cannot reasonably be withheld, but privileges can. Many things we think of as a right are actually a privilege. And yet, rights are withheld from people when there is abuse. Rights can be abused, but privileges that are withheld are never an abuse. Perhaps that which can be withheld, but isn’t an abuse, is a privilege.
2.     Privilege cannot be earned. It can only be received or bestowed as a gift. We shouldn’t work for privileges based on earning them, as it’s the wrong motive. Rights, neither, are earned; it’s a bad and sad situation (abuse) where someone needs to earn a right. Being respected, for instance, is a right, not a privilege; we should never need to earn humane respect. When we make privilege into a right we end up in an entitlement culture. When we make a right into a privilege we end up acting inappropriately and propagate abuse.
3.     Rights are inclusive, whereas privilege is exclusive. But it’s inappropriate, and an abuse, when certain demographics of society are ascribed privilege and perquisites and other demographics are disadvantaged and dishonoured for who they are. Privileges ought to be universally attainable, and rights universally attributed.
4.     We live better when we consider every bit of life a privilege. Then gratitude is the output and joy is all ours, no matter what we don’t have. Life is not a right in the perfect sense of the word (i.e., we can’t demand to never die), but there is a right to life. If we treat life more as a privilege than as a right, we enjoy life more.
5.     Rights are about dignifying people, yet a special dignity is bestowed on the person receiving a privilege. But everyone is entitled to have their dignity respected, which is the cherished honour of being human, but privilege is some extra portion which, for the purposes of respect, should be accessible to everyone.
Privileges are discretionary and ought not to be enjoyed for who we are. Rights are non-discretionary and ought to be enjoyed by all.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Everyone’s Story Makes Them Validly Loveable

As soft drink ran down the wall of the toilet cubicle onto my foot (I was in the adjacent cubicle) I was indignantly curious who was making this vandalising mess. A can was thrown into the cubicle I was in, and it was on. I made myself ‘decent’ and opened the door challenging the two fourteen-year-old boys responsible. I told the boy who had made the mess that he better get started in cleaning it up as I challenged their disrespectful behaviour, telling them that imagine being the cleaner cleaning their mess us if they didn’t clean it up themselves — that wouldn’t be fair.
But God laid something on my heart for these two. They seemed to respond to my chastising them, even if they did mock me a little, which I laughed at.
Later it came to pass that one of them had a story, so I asked him to share it with me. It was a sad family story of abandonment. It seemingly didn’t bother this boy that his father had abandoned him. He may have gotten used to the idea that his father had little interest in him, but I didn’t buy for one moment that he wasn’t identified by that rejection.
I then saw his earlier behaviour in context.
I saw something in this young man that lacks trust in an adult world that has betrayed him at his core. Nobody can create this distrust in a young man more than a father who abandoned him. So, he learned to take the law into own hands. If you cannot trust people you don’t allow them even a chance at being trusted.
Everyone has their story, and that story informs who they are.
People are not racist, rapist, violent, war-mongers for no reason. Paedophiles are what they are for a reason. There is always a reason.
When we see the cause-and-effect nature in people’s lives, empathy is hatched, compassion spreads it wings, and kindness soars.
When we see the inputs into people’s lives equal, more or less, their outcomes, that the inputs were outside their control, we’re suddenly much less judgmental.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Much Ado About a Name

Some of the names I have been called.
Names are important. They have the capacity to bless us or make us feel extremely vulnerable. There is great power in a name.
Think of the derogatory names you were called at school or as a child. Or, the nicknames that have stuck with you, though you despised them. Those names that stick — those names we hate — have the power to haunt us into anxious self-consciousness.
Think about the times when people have referred to you by name, or better, used your name in the sentences they use when talking with you; the use of your name conveyed interest and care for you.
I have found the following to be true: whenever I meet new people I find I can remember their name much better if I have an emotional engagement with the person. Like the girl that I met who, on the second occasion, seemed particularly devastated that I had forgotten her name. That was the last time I forgot her name. Or the boy who shared with me how he felt about being bullied. I adopted his name and his story from that day onward.
Names are the key to hearts. ‘Sticks ‘n’ stones’ was untrue. Sticks and stones may break bones, but names have the potential to break spirits. Equally, names, used appropriately, have the potential to validate the identity of and empower a person.
A person who cares for another person will take care to refer to them by name. But a person who does not care will resort to name-calling. Both usages of names have great power. Which power will we employ?

Will we commit to showing interest in and care for people by referring to them by their name?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Just Fix the Fence

Do you ever find yourself feeling foolish for resisting what you feel you could have embraced? — as a product of hindsight. I had one of these experiences recently. I loathed the thought of doing a thing, and yet, in the doing of that thing, God spoke through it powerfully.
My youngest daughter had a car accident with a fence. She was upset that she had damaged her car, but there was this fence damage, and I’m better with fixing fences than her mother is.
We went to Bunnings and selected the materials we needed to complete the job, loaded the trailer, and gave ‘Reg’ a call on the way. Mentioning what materials we had just bought, Reg (who I’d not met before) promptly said, “There’s two rails that are damaged, too; they’ll need replacing.” There was silence on my end of the line. We would need to make another trip to Bunnings! I was not impressed, but I have learned to say nothing at times when my blood’s boiling. Reg responded in an unexpectedly kind way. It helped. We arrived and looked at what extra things we needed. As we left to go back to Bunnings for the extra items, Reg said to me, “Bless you.”
“Bless you.” This guy’s a believer I thought. So, I asked. He was. We spoke for a few more minutes, then I prayed, for him and I. I prayed a penitent prayer, that I had not seen this work as Kingdom work. It was obviously kingdom work. Reg needed a hand to do this job, because he doesn’t have the capacity to do a job like this. Reg, a community elder on The Crucible Project, was so thankful, yet we were there simply to reconcile matters through restitution.
God knew what Reg needed. He knew what I needed.
Fixing the fence was challenging work, but it was not without its reward. Reg and I enjoyed some godly fellowship. It was a difficult job that nearly defeated us both at one point, but we finished the repairs in less than a few hours.
Sometimes God wants us to get on with the work right in front of us. As we do that, in faith, He shows up in unexpected ways.
For me, I simply needed to get on with fixing the fence. I wasn’t until I engaged in the work that God in the work began to bless me.
All because He put Reg on my path.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nobody Has An Easy Life

It’s our human default to feel life should be easier than it is; we think we have a hard life. No matter how glitzy our social media looks, we all feel unfortunate, at least from time to time. But there are those who are genuinely unfortunate — those with a lot to lose and those with nothing left to lose.
Even the person who seems to have life easy has it hard. The unmotivated lazy person, for instance, isn’t doing life easy, no matter how hard we’re doing ours, even if they appear never to have to work hard. They have not only a tough present, where fear for the future controls them, their future really is laced with uncertainty.
The rich and ‘blessed’ person is no better off; their riches threaten to evaporate when fortunes change, and it’s a biblical principle rooted in the truth of history that riches typically last three generations at most. The rich cannot secure their wealth for those coming after them. It depends on factors outside the realm of performance.
Then there is Joe You-and-Me. We run the gauntlet of life and we’re blessed in the keeping up — but we must keep up, and that’s stressful. Many days and many times during such days we feel life is unfair. We commonly look past many blessings, and that’s because it’s only within the capacity of hard work that blessings are commonly realised. We have to manage our fatigue, and where burnout is a possibility, coping measures must be learned, and that’s an arduous trek!
Finally, there is the person who doesn’t feel they struggle much at all, though if we were living their life we might disagree. Some of these people appear to live fortunate lives, but the operative word is ‘appear’.
Everybody’s life is hard. Nobody gets it easy. It’s when we think some have it easy, we feel we have life especially hard. And that perception is fair on neither them nor us.
What helps us in our struggle is the knowledge that everyone has their struggle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pride Doesn’t Have to Precede the Fall

Everyone loves the humble, (apart from the envious)
They’ve learned to expose their pride,
Rather than inwardly grumble,
They’d prefer to be honest than hide.
That awkward moment when pride is exposed for what it is! That time when a true friend had the pluck to challenge us with the truth. When their courage flouted the relationship enough to pique growth rather than give in to the cowardice that resists conflict for fear of rejection.
That moment, these moments, are the moments of last chance; of reconciling the lie of pride with the truth of humility’s capacity to respectfully pour contempt on that pride.
There’s no need to suffer the fall (Proverbs 16:18) when someone’s brave enough to love us through a challenge.
Sure, not all challenges are couched lovingly, nor are they all complicit with the truth, but all challenges can be heard, as impetus for God to test our hearts (Ps. 139:23-24).

It’s all God requires of us; to peer into the glories of His truth. And as we direct our senses rightfully, God gives us the reasonability to rationalise what would otherwise be too hard for us to bear; in our pride.
But pride doesn’t have to have the final say, besmirching our character. At the very moment where pride rises, insecurity peaking, we still have the opportunity of awareness; the strength of surrender to give ourselves over to the truth, which is humility.
Honesty requires courage, and with bravery, undergirded by faith, a person is humble.
When pride rises, as it is about to make us look foolish, reason supplies the opportunity of choice; to prefer humility, which is honesty.
Before pride gets us into a world of trouble, we have the opportunity of choice, to take the humble approach.
Pray for perspective, to hear God’s Spirit in the silence of your soul, for the ability to respond well.