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

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.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Is guilt impacting your relationships?

Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash
GUILT is a bounty for the addicted, yet guilt, if anything, is the common addiction. The question is, how do we cut it from our lives?
The real problem with guilt in our lives is that it causes us to act in ways that hinder our relationships.
Whether we know it’s guilt or not is another thing. We either don’t know how to get out of the cycle of dysfunction or we don’t seem to care. The way we usually deal with relational brokenness is to minimise responsibility for our actions and blame others for theirs. This only further distances us from others, decreasing the potential present to improve our relationships, which further contributes to our burden of guilt, when we finally do either face the truth or take the hostility to heart. Do you see a cycle there?
Just about everything about life that’s lived in the bad has a vicious cycle about it.
The challenge before us, therefore, is to be honest about the role guilt has in our lives, and submit it for expulsion. It is about identifying the areas we harbour guilt and eradicating it.
If we’re guilty for what we put our parents through, guilt will convict us to continue seeking their approval. The opposite reality is the parent who enables their entitled child, who never feels guilt, which is in fact the opposite problem. Indeed, that’s a question we all need to ask; if I act out of guilt in any particular relationship, how could this person be intentionally or unintentionally manipulating me? Of course, there may be, and usually is, no manipulation in reality; though, we may feel manipulated, and this is often more an issue for us than it is for them. See how guilt twists things? See how our guilt can make us see others in ways that are untrue? See how guilt can cause us to perpetuate untruth?
Guilt will always cause us to act in ways that seem unnatural, unbalanced and uncomfortable. But we tolerate those feelings because we feel it is necessary to bargain our way out of feeling we did wrong, or to make some recompense.
What we can do is a simple audit. Are there any people with whom I feel guilty to or for? Ask it another way. Is there anyone I feel I owe?
The irony here is the relationships worth nurturing are those we have with people who don’t hold us ransom to blackmail. We may owe them in real ways, but once the debt is paid we are free. There are no strings attached.

One sure way to reduce anxiety

EVER been whipped immediately by the mixing beaters of reaction into a caustic cream? Sure, we all have. We’ve all been caught off-guard. What can be done to guard against improper responses?
I have two stories to tell; one about falling over the precipice, the other about sidestepping the trap.
The first story. I was in what I would call a good place in early December 2017. Within two weeks I was suddenly vulnerable and anxious. What happened? Over a twelve-day period I was out or busy ten of those nights, on top of busy days with variegated demands. There were several pastoral issues in a clump; the types of things that I find it hard to say no to, simply because there are genuine needs of me. I’m spiritually aware that the weeks leading into Christmas are harder than other parts of the year for many people. As a by-product of such a demanding time, however, I did what I do when my poise goes awry; the overflow of stress spilled over and onto my family. Nothing too damaging, but enough for all of us to notice something was wrong. It is always unacceptable, and it had to be amended. I can pinpoint when my poise began to return — a few days before Christmas when I became less accessible (something I learned in my professional life ten years ago through a Stephen Covey course).
Becoming less accessible is one sure way to reduce anxiety.
The second story. This occurred more recently. Founded in a good place, two significant issues came within an hour over email. You know, those types of issues you are tempted to react to without the sensibility of a wise mind. I felt in my spirit no need to react. It was like I sensed an emergent panic and simply said to it, ‘Settle down, I cannot deal with these effectively right now.’ I simply admitted I had no control over either issue. On returning home, feeling tired, I decided to lie down, then immediately I did, I had the Holy Spirit usher the following words into my consciousness, which I posted to Facebook:
One sure way to reduce anxiety is to refuse
to be drawn into everyone else’s urgency.
It may not even be the case that another person’s urgency is their panic. There can be real issues they’re trying to alert us to. But we all have our limits. We cannot respond to several or even two emergencies at any one time. It is not only healthy to realise this, it is sustaining for our health and well-being.
It is a beautiful thing when we take so much responsibility for our own peace that we resist the overtures of others who have long surrendered theirs.

If we wish to serve others best, we must care for ourselves most. Otherwise we get burned out and are no good to anyone. Caring for ourselves most is best done when there’s no perceived detriment to others. It is a wisdom activity of taking ownership of and managing our anxiety.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What comes True after we say I Do

Photo by Shelby Deeter on Unsplash

TO HAVE and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; until death do us part… the marriage vows.
Never do we realise on our wedding day how our vows will be tested. Sure, we may assume that testing will come, but rarely do we realise what it will cost or require of us. Rarely do we say, ‘I know it will take every ounce of my strength and more to get through some tests’. We may even say, ‘I love my spouse so much that I will do whatever it takes’. With divorce rates ranging from 70 percent (Belgium) to 43 percent (Australia),[1] as indicative for the Western world, even accounting for legitimate divorce,[2] there are myriads of couples who find it impossible to keep their wedding vows.
For all of us, words are cheap. We inventively think them up and then speak them into creation. Then our vow stands for all eternity, somehow in future to be thwarted. Yet those marriage vows have, in theory, been long thought and prayed over, reflected upon, and taken seriously. It’s why we’re reminded when we make them, that we make them before God.
Few if any married couples would keep their vows with 100 percent purity over their lifetime. It’s the same principle why God had to come in Jesus to save us; we could not keep ‘the law’ — i.e. the Ten Commandments. We needed help, and today we still need help. We need to forgive and be forgiven if marriage (or any realistic relational endeavour) is to succeed.
Marriage vows certainly should be kept. There should never be unfaithfulness or infidelity in marriage. But the fact is there so often is — whether it be a little ‘white’ lie we tell or a full-blown affair.
One of the greatest blessings in marriage occurs when both partners arrive at a place where they can accept the unlovable traits of the other (because we all have them, and we promised to do just that); where both display the capacity to accept faults, errors and mistakes in the other. These certainly need to be apologised for. But, for the reasons of our human frailty, forgiveness is a necessity in marriage.
My solitary point is this: marriage vows are a commitment to strive toward one day at a time over a lifetime, never to give up on, not a standard of perfection to hold our partner or ourselves guilty to that nobody attains faultlessly.

[2] Legitimate divorce for reasons of e.g. domestic violence, desertion, unreconciled unfaithfulness.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Guys, one Bible verse that can transform your marriage

Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

COMPELLED by the Holy Spirit, very imperfect as a human, very indicative of a man, I report this for husbands, for their reflection; for wives too, for their hope. The only thing that makes me worthy to write this is I have failed so much, and still do; but I have had enough success to see it work.
The one Bible verse undoubtedly designed to guide husbands most in their relationships with their wives is as follows, from the pen of the apostle Paul:
Husbands, love your wives,
just as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her…

— Ephesians 5:25 (NRSV)
This is a biblical present imperative, which is interesting. The Greek verb agapāte for ‘love’ in “Husbands, love your wives” is in the present tense, active voice, imperative mood; meaning it is a command for Christian husbands to love their wives, and with continual and ongoing effect, meaning it is never complete, and, with the following part of the verse above, means their love rises to the standard of Christ.
A husband’s love is to be visible and sustained, and not so much of Christlike standard in the realm of holiness, but of Christlike standard in the realm of sacrifice. Sacrifice is achievable.
Here is my own raw experience, even as it stands as two incidents on the very same day. Both incidents I was, as husbands can be, harsh of word and demeanour, through a lack of discernment based in a lack of care. At least I was initially. Within seconds, however, I could feel God convicting me. I know this feeling well and it is always awful, because my mindset is so prideful in these moments. But there was sufficient humility on these two occasions to pour contempt on that pride.
I approached my wife, but not in a noisy, authoritarian sort of way. I was careful to be silent, ready to accept her resistance and do nothing threatening nor distancing in response. My attitude took responsibility for the conflicts we had had, and I let my actions speak from this attitude. This attitude completely disregarded any of what could be termed ‘her fault’ as if it were irrelevant — because it was. Even as I trusted the Holy Spirit, not knowing what I would do or say, or commit to, I found myself saying sorry, endeavouring to convey understanding, offering and making restitution, repenting of my actions, and seeking forgiveness, whilst at the same time forgiving her.
As husbands, and this is just the same as wives, we expect our partner to change — we make demands, then judge and punish them if our demands are not met — when our prerogative as a husband is to lead in the marriage. Now, biblical leading is upside down, or the other way around, compared to how the world sees what leading is. Biblically, leading is serving. It is taking the lower place; bottom if possible. It is washing feet as an example of what ought to be done. Biblical leadership is pure example, never taking the high ground, trusting the Holy Spirit for change in others much as we trust the Holy Spirit to exhort change into us.
Husbands are to desist from requiring change from their wives. But more. They are to become the change their wives seek for. What seems logical — a ‘worldly wisdom’ — is utter madness. It never works. It only causes marital derision. Only the upside down, other-worldly truth works — to give our lives away that we might save another’s life, much like as Jesus saved us. That way, through the change wrought through the Holy Spirit’s power in husbands, they save their marriages, not least their wives, who, because they’re not tested to frustration, can be ‘holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5:27) on his account. Husbands are not to exasperate their wives. They are not to be the cause of her distress.
The practical outworking in a husband’s working on himself is something transformative in what the wife sees.
No longer does she feel unworthy and unsafe, not to mention frustrated and alone and without hope. She begins to feel the freedom to observe and quietly celebrate change in her marriage. She is empowered even as she sees that change unfold within her family. She is encouraged, because this change came seemingly out of nowhere, as all things of God seem to do. She is comforted, because finally her husband is equipping the family.
Here is an encouraging truth for husbands. Wives, often being spiritually and emotionally deeper than their husbands, watch for and notice nuances of change. Small changes are not lost on most wives when they have an appreciative mindset. The little things are the big things for them. And while she watches her husband lose his life to save hers — making the kind of sacrifices for her that Christ would make for His church — the Holy Spirit begins doing wonderful things in her. The Spirit has her implicit permission. The only blocker, ever before, was her husband. He, alone, stood in the way. Now that he no longer does, she is free to become that impossible version of herself both she and he wish to experience. His heart has been changed, and this has produced a brand-new mindset. Praise the Lord, the husband cannot return to who he once was. The husband has truly let go to let God change her, according solely to His will and timeframe. Both husband, as he leads, and wife, as she reciprocates, cease to have demands on the other.
The husband now has no claim on her to change; his change of mindset is so sweepingly vast he wishes her to stay exactly as she is. From this relational locale, both husband and wife can only be further blessed. They have learned to appreciate and accept each other.
When a husband accepts his wife for who she is, suddenly she accepts he is who God anointed for her.
I usually hate reading these types of articles, by some guy who thinks he’s the ‘guy of all guys’ with such a sweet marriage, who has life all worked out. Well, thankfully, I have none of those qualities, because I’d be conceited if I did. Just take this for what it’s worth — words on a screen or piece of paper — for that’s all this is… until the concept is taken, buried deep in the heart, a seed germinating into a transformed husband, who is not one iota better than the momentary second allows.
The final comment is for wives. If your husband is genuinely trying to love you as Christ loved the church — trying and failingadmire his intent. When we stand away a distance to really see what’s going on, there is nothing sweeter in marriage than a husband with potential. Your instinct for grace will inspire within him the confidence to succeed more often.
In the marriage context, when husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church, men are being men in allowing women to be women.