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Monday, October 16, 2017

A social truth that can set you socially free

Photo by Xavier Sotomayor on Unsplash

LOOKING into his eyes, I saw it. He is a confident, mature young man; a leader comfortable in himself. No real visible fear in him.
Yet, there was a glimpse into his very human heart that showed me we have the capacity to draw social confidence from this truth: every person, no matter how confident they appear, is vulnerable to rejection.
We know it as we understand ourselves. We all crave acceptance. We’ll all driven to comparison. We may falsely believe we’re alone in our disadvantage; that nobody else feels quite as vulnerable as we do. It’s a lie. Change anyone’s circumstances to the negative and their light darkens. They enter a turmoil any human being finds challenging. And it’s their character that determines their response.
As we encounter our fellow human being, male or female, old or young, advantaged or disadvantaged, we encounter someone like us. We’re more the same than we’re different.
As we look into another person’s eyes, curious to peer into the windows of their soul, inherently interested in them, we can gain confidence that we are in fact encountering a form of ourselves.
Because they’re human and we too, also, are human, we grasp how tenuous interaction is — we know we can upset them as they too might be able to upset us. See how all people are vulnerable? See how our fear for upsetting people is our acknowledgement that they’re vulnerable — that we’re not the only vulnerable ones.
We all have the capacity for fear because we all need to love and be loved. Understand this about the person we’re anxious with and suddenly we’re less anxious.
Social anxiety builds when we magnify our vulnerabilities and lessen another’s. But we are all vulnerable.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Loving my Somali neighbour

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash

SCHOOL is a learning place. We know that. But a place where parents learn? Yes, I say, from my own experience.
One of the great things about our son’s school is his class is so diverse in its ethnicity. Only a few other Caucasian kids. There’s a blend of different cultures, including a few of Muslim faith. Now, in terms of other faiths, I’m a little sheltered. I’ve not previously had much exposure to the people of Islam, though I’ve learned a lot more about Islam in the past year or so. I remain curious in order to know my neighbour better.
My son and I arrived at school early on a recent sunny day and I met Abram (not his real name) whose son is in my son’s class. Being in Kindergarten they’re friends, of course. Four and five-year-olds have not yet come across the diversities of divisiveness in schoolyard politicking.
Well, off our sons run into the playground leaving that awkwardness that exists between fathers who’ve never encountered each other in such proximity. It’s not unusual for me to make the move, so I did. And, so we chatted for a solid five minutes. We learned about each other — what we both do for work, family structures, and the philosophies we’ve developed over our years.
It was only having encountered Abram that God showed me some new things about him, and therefore about me. Firstly, as we spent time face-to-face, I got to look at his face and into his eyes long enough to notice he was not as old as I’d first imagined him. (Getting to know people is a perception shifter.) Secondly, in his Somali accent I was reminded of the language barrier that exists between us — I just didn’t hear or understand all he was talking about, although, for continuity purposes I made out that I did understand, trusting in the overall thrust of the conversation. This was a reminder to me of my disability — my lack of linguistic and listening ability. Thirdly, it was clear to me that this man before me had insight I did not have. Before we met I had been forced to make assumptions about what kind of person he was. That’s an admission of my humanness. God was reminding me of my propensity for judging everything I perceive, including those made in His image.
I have deduced the following:
Genuine community is always about embracing diversity between different ones, beginning at root in the ‘two of us’.
Judgments are challenged and often overturned when we encounter reality, and that is always a healthy thing.
To look into another human being’s face is a reminder of our innate sameness, no matter how cultures separate us.
Community makes us better, for it’s only when we come together that our different gifts can merge into a stronger force for good.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

If you’re saying sorry make sure your apology is THIS good

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
APOLOGY is one of the most powerful ways of reconciling a struggling relationship.
Saying sorry is about one person taking the low ground for the benefit of the relationship. That person takes responsibility to love the other, given that love gives. Saying sorry is the gift of a second chance for the relationship.
Apology is about saying, I want more intimacy, trust or comfort with you, and I’m prepared to work for it.
Putting two allied concepts together, this short article should equip you to say your very best apology. These two concepts are the five languages of apology,[1] and the seven A’s of confession.[2]
This is a good model apology:
I am sorry for what I did. I understand it hurt you in [insert reasons] this particular way. I want to make it up to you by doing [a particular restorative action]. I promise not to do it again. Can you please forgive me?
This apology has elements to satisfy everyone’s ‘language’ of apology. Some need to simply hear the words, I’m sorry. Others need to know we understand what we did wrong. Some want some sort of restitution — are you going to make it right? Others again need to know there won’t be a repeat of the offense. Finally, some want the opportunity to forgive. By making an apology covering every language, we ensure the apology has its best chance of effect.
The seven A’s of confession are a way of demonstrating sincerity and thoroughness; the heart of apology. We need to address everyone affected by our wrong actions. Avoiding the words if, but and maybe ensure the apology is potently unconditional; no excuses. Admitting the specifics of what was done wrong is so important to demonstrate we understand the issue(s), and we have the courage to name it. Acknowledging the hurt we caused allows us to express sorrow for having caused it. Accepting the consequences means we understand and agree with the justice required; no excuses. Promising to alter our behaviour in future helps them to consider trusting us again. Asking for forgiveness grants the other person power to acquit us should they choose to.
This apology by former Olympian, Marion Jones, is a great example of a confession covering the seven A’s. As you watch it, notice how you feel? Jones is convincing, isn’t she? There’s power in her presence because her heart is behind it. She really is repentant.



[1] Chapman, G. & Thomas, J. Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships. Chicago: Northfield, 2006.
[2] See peacewise.org.au and Peacemaker Ministries, from Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The impact she made on me with just four plain words

FOUR words my wife said when she thought I was being proactive in the housework: “Are you being amazing?”
She’s said it more than once. But recently I got to thinking there’s radical power in those words that always inspire me to do more housework. Now let’s get it straight. I’m no excellent-house-husband. As my wife will tell you, I am a ‘husband with potential.’ Big difference.
And, I am certainly a words-of-affirmation love-language guy, so I get it if you think, ‘what’s he on about?’
It’s the way she said what she said. The inflection, the humour in her mock surprise, the feeling in me (I’m winning), and her just being sweet. It was the way she used her eyes. All in four simple words that took mere seconds to communicate.
That’s what makes marriage isn’t it?
Such a moment of relational victory juxtaposes with the trying seasons where conflict reigns. It communicates the power of connection in intimacy.
Something one partner does to love the other without need of return. The other partner noticing something done for the right (loving) reason. The power of a simple, heartfelt complement, a hug, the giving of a meaningful gift, the spending of time, or simply a helping hand.
Four words as a soundbite; no matter how long it is till death parts us, we have moments like this to cherish. She got the thrill of having been funny, loving and inspiring at the same time. It inspired the day or two following for both of us. And it is immortalised in this short piece, for reflection in the future. It’s just part of what makes my wife the best wife for me!
Humour helps create intimacy in marriage when both partners are free to have fun together, especially within the mundane.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Human Encounters with Spiritual Beings

MUCH of life we’re so wrapped up in our own world of problems and dreams we barely recognise the same reality’s going on in every other person we encounter.
Yet the range and style of our intrapersonal realities is as diverse as the stars are.
Although we’re all incredibly different, there’s something intrinsically the same about us all.
SPIRITUAL BEINGS
We’re all spiritual beings. We have all been created by a Spiritual Being — the Creator God. This means each one of us is majestically diverse in our spiritual makeup, with potential for deep discovery about ourselves, God and the world. All-the-while we’re also created with capacities that are human in range and human by characterisation, and therefore we’re limited to the realms humanity encounters. This reminds us we’re never neither too far ahead of other humans, nor are we ever too far behind.
We share an incontrovertible equality with every other human being. But we’re amazingly and masterfully created.
HUMAN ENCOUNTERS
As spiritual beings, relating with ourselves, God and our world, we also relate with other spiritual beings. We’re all having human encounters with spiritual beings. And there’s an incredible amount of dynamism in such a melting pot of experience.
All the time, we’re having shaky, fallen interactions with vulnerable persons, as they too have shaky, fallen interactions with us, also a vulnerable person. We have the capacity to reach the heights of bliss with each other or plummet to the depths, and such human encounters can easily overwhelm us in agony or ecstasy.
Human encounters are chock full of potential for disaster and delight. And then there are the majority of circumstances which are neither, when life is ho-hum; where life involves pain and pleasure within the realm of a plethora of existential varieties.
HUMAN ENCOUNTERS WITH SPIRITUAL BEINGS
We’re all having human encounters with spiritual beings. The range of situations that can go wrong is infinite, yet myriads of glorious things can occur, too.
As we encounter people in a very human way, we’re blessed to remember limitations — ours and theirs.
We’re blessed because our expectations are enriched with remembrances of reality. We’re blessed because we carry an inherent understanding of them which they may interpret as empathy, and humility, expressed as a well-intended interest in them. We’re blessed because we don’t expect unrealistic performance out of us or them. We allow ourselves to enjoy a blessed human encounter with a spiritual being, and they, by association, enjoy us being free to be us, as we allow them to be free to be them.
A blessed human encounter is one, therefore, where we enjoy being free to be us, as we allow them to be free to be them.
A blessed human encounter occurs when all people enjoy the freedom to be individual spiritual beings together.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The love-hate relationship we have with Truth

IMAGINE the spontaneous laughter, when Richard Rohr OFM says, “Before the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable.”
Humour makes us laugh because it sounds absurd, but it is, of course, at the same time, 100 percent true.
The truth about truth is we have a love-hate relationship with it. We love it ultimately, because it delivers on its promise; to set us free. But not before we suffer one or some varietal/s of indignity we never thought would feel so humiliating.
That’s the Christian journey into transformation we’re encouraged to continue to take.
God is love. Not only do we know that, but it’s in the Bible. How God loves us is another concept. One way God loves us is with the truth. Indeed, though we can say it’s biblical that God accepts us as we are, we should also say it’s biblical that God loves us too much to leave us as we are. Both realities are true. God is passionate equally about both. His love wants the best for us at every point of our lives over our lifespan. He requires us to wrestle with truth if we’re to love and be loved better.
We love truth because it transforms us, but not before it torments us through trial.
In the same way a romantic relationship proves its potential — that the partners’ commitment to each other remains strong through the harder going middle stages — love never ascends its potential unless both face truth. About the other person, most certainly. About the relationship, yes. But about themselves, too.
Truth has the power to license deeper manifestations of love. Truth transforms, because it entertains the ugly bits that a shallow love would want to remain covered up.
Truth requires courage to face what feels like an adversary, but it turns out to be an advocate.
If we will allow Jesus to continue to transform us, our spiritual task is simple: invite the discomfort of truth, so that His love would deepen in and mature us.
And now here’s a truth that ought to rock us to our core: God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
No matter how shocking our truths are, the living God knows and still loves us. And there’s nothing we could do that would separate us from His love. There is no truth that God doesn’t know, and He still loves each one of us!
So don’t be scared of the truth, and certainly don’t be ashamed of or feel guilty for it. Be honest about it.
See how love makes it easy to love truth? Hate it no longer.
Give yourself to the reception of truth and the powers of love will become you.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Couples who Climb Out of Conflict into Contentment

THERE are five essential stages of love every couple must go through to ultimately experience a satisfying, productive and fun relationship. The first and second stages pass quickly, the third can seem to last an eternity — hell, not heaven — and the fourth and fifth stages come as the fruit of perseverance through stage three.
The five stages of love are what I call:
1.      Romance – this stage feels incredible but it doesn’t last long, although the irony is those couples who climb through conflict and ascend to stage five reclaim a more mature romance than any new couple could experience.
2.      Landing – this is what my wife Sarah calls it. She refused to get engaged to be married until we actually landed; no longer airborne in the fantasy land of romance.
3.      Disillusionment – believe it or not, when we reached this stage in married life, I used to think my wife was somehow broken… like, ‘what on earth did I get myself into?’ Only when we ascended out of disillusionment did she concede she often felt the very same way.
4.      Real love – ah the bliss of becoming realists together! Only a couple who endures the tenuous stage of disillusionment gets here. Some couples never get here, and divorce becomes almost inevitable, unless both partners can live in deep dissatisfaction. Then we must prevent backsliding into disillusionment. In real love is a skillset that the couple has learned to construct and deploy.
5.      Being a team – how sweet is a team of two? They combine with God to make a cord of three strands[1] which is not easily broken. Married life becomes more and more about the other person.
Every couple encounters the disillusionment stage. It’s where the untruths we believe about them and us come to be tested and seen as unviable, unsustainable.
To get to stage four, we need to take them and us off the pedestal. They’re on the pedestal because we have such high (read unrealistic) expectations of them. We’re on the pedestal because, in the relationship, we think we’re better than we are.
The moment we hit stage three, and it is usually in the first twelve months of serious relationships, the partnership appears destined for fracture.
Mature couples, however, convert conflict into opportunity. They learn through bitter trial that success comes on the other side of failure. It literally defines them. And maturity is only gleaned with time.
Tips for climbing through the disillusionment stage:
1.      Get to know and accept yourself and your partner; it is vital. I love The Enneagram.[2] It helps us appreciate the differences between us and our partner. I am a Type 2 and my wife is a Type 5. Before I appreciated how different she was compared with me, I naively thought she was simply being difficult and obtuse.
2.      Acknowledge the truth: conflict is an opportunity. Celebrate it, don’t lament it. Be open to creative solutions, and be willing often to surrender your own ideas.
3.      At disillusionment’s worst there simply seems no hope. But nothing is further from the truth. Commitment often isn’t tested until it pushes us to despair and beyond. Partners who don’t give up get through. When partners know how close they came to giving up, they see the stark reality of their partner’s unwavering commitment to them.
4.      Relationships can slip back into the disillusionment stage for a variety of reasons. The way of reclaiming your relationships’ vitality is to remain ever committed to the two of you!
5.      Discovering where we, as individuals, have made our contribution to the mess. It seems the opposite, but taking responsibility for our own contributions to conflict is empowering, and it is great for the relationship because it models something that can be reciprocated.


[1] See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
[2] Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Backsliding out of forgiveness?

POSSIBLY the most powerful thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is that it’s hard. By that I mean I learned very little about true forgiveness when it came easy.
Gold comes mined from a deep search. And a deep search is necessary when bitterness has confounded all previous attempts to reconcile the matter in our mind and heart. When feelings of resentment continue cropping up. When we’re frustrated because we’re frustrated.
Chances are it’s something the other side hasn’t done that leaves you adrift from peace, though you have vowed to forgive. Or, it could simply be the case you know it’s right to forgive, but you’ve struggled with a heart that can’t seem to let go.
The harder forgiveness is, the deeper the life lessons that are learned, the more present and future benefit we get. Be encouraged when it’s especially tough to forgive.
Now you know there’s a purpose to the difficulty of forgiving certain things, consider the following biblical promises of forgiveness[1] you can make that ensure it sticks as you recommit to the process:
1.      I will not dwell on this incident – when I find I am, I will refocus my thinking on something more productive.
2.      I will not bring this incident up and use it against you – once we make this promise vocally, the other person and ourselves can hold us to account. If we do bring it up again we will need to apologise and own our error.
3.      I will not talk to others about this incident – gossip erodes relationships. Period. It ends all hope of peace. It ends the hopes we have even for having peace with ourselves.
4.      I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship – putting the relationship first, no matter who it is we’re relating with, is advancing a person’s dignity so they may see how valuable our dignity is.
When we engage in the behaviour of forgiveness, our thinking changes and our attitudes begin to shift in a positive direction.
Owning our contribution to conflict makes forgiveness easier. This is why abuse victims require empathy — they didn’t contribute to the conflict that causes their grief. But even for abuse victims, the only hope we have of being free in life is to find a way to forgive our past.


[1] Credit to PeaceWise for these principles. Peacewise.org.au

Friday, September 15, 2017

Forgiveness facilitates freedom into functionality

RANDOM things are said in deeper conversations. Invariably wisdom goes unnoticed. The following sentence I heard piqued me: forgiveness facilitates functionality.
In simplest terms, forgiveness makes being functional easier. Being a functional human is equated with partaking in the abundant life, which is from the wellspring of Jesus.
Everybody ought to want to be more functional, because that’s where love, joy, peace, empowerment and hope — the fullness of life — come from — from being functional.
But forgiveness is not easy. We must continue to guard our hearts through the process. We must acknowledge the truth that buoys our faith. That is, the choice to forgive breeds life, even though it feels like death in the sacrifice of ourselves for possibly no gain. It warrants all our surrender and promises nothing but for the faith that compels it to begin and sustain its work; the hope of reconciliation that obliges us to not give up. And if we can let go with unconditionality, then we have power through the Holy Spirit to facilitate freedom into a fuller functionality.
There can only be unconditional forgiveness like there can only be unconditional love. Conditionality make both forgiveness and love counterfeit. They cease being what they say they are.
Forgiveness facilitates intrapersonal functionality. Personal wellness is gained when we lose something (by letting it go) that can only condemn us. It is a commitment to go a new, albeit uncomfortable-for-a-time way. The commitment to grow and not to rescind can only be a blessing.
Forgiveness facilitates functionality in relationships — within families, communities. As we let others go and refuse to any longer judge and punish them we let ourselves go. The irony of unforgiveness is this: when we judge and punish others we only end up judging and punishing ourselves and hurting those we love. When we’ve finally stopped judging and punishing God opens our minds to the endlessly creative possibilities in life.
Forgiveness facilitates functionality in our reception of the Divine. We only truly receive the fullness of the Lord when our hearts are wide open. And what happens when our hearts are wide open? We forgive. It makes no sense not to.
But it’s only by faith that we choose to forgive. Faith fuels the forgiveness that facilitates the freedom that converts to functionality.
By faith we choose,
To let go of blame,
For the bravery to lose,
Is the vehicle of gain.
Forgiveness is going backwards to go forwards. In owning our own stuff, and in letting go of theirs, we allow each of them and us the freedom to be, without judgment and toll.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Four basic steps to biblical reconciliation

RECONCILING moments, situations, conflicts and relationships is the major life task. None of us is immune to the hurts that come so frequently with ferocity in life. Yet, when we show we can overcome these hurts using a tried-and-tested method that is easily learned, and practiced with persistence, we find we have overcome our world in Jesus’ name (see John 16:33).
Here is a biblical four-step process of movements, an established wisdom, for the reconciliation of relationships:
1.                  UPWARD
Looking upward in conflict is learning that the first step is the goal of glorifying God.
As we started to look up, finding ourselves appropriately positioned to do the next three steps, we committed to continuing to look up. God’s Holy Spirit works miracles from this position of our heart.
2.                 INWARD
Looking inward is about making our best self-assessment regarding what my contribution to the conflict is. We get the log out of our own eye, to use Jesus’ own words (Matthew 7:3-5). We establish a desire to work out what our unmet demands were. Before we approach the other person. Because if we’ve got something to apologise for, we go to the other person in the conflict in a state of sustainable humility.
The other person won’t listen to us unless we’ve owned our part of the conflict.
3.                 OUTWARD
Having readied ourselves to apologise for what we did wrong or failed to do, we go outward to the other person, who generally reciprocates — if they see we’re sincere in simply owning our fault. If they still don’t own their part of the conflict we do not yet have reconciliation. They may need time or they may never reciprocate. All in God’s timing, which we’re blessed to accept. Whatever they do, we have glorified God all-the-more in being honest about our contribution, being prepared to leave it at that, in faith. And yet if there is reciprocation, we have the last step in view.
4.                 ONWARD
Looking onward to a future bulging with hope, reconciliation as a vision is achieved when both parties have reckoned the results of conflict and have redeemed their contributions. Parties can indeed then look onward as trust between them is enhanced.
AN OVERVIEW
Reconciliation first looks upward (GOD),
then inward (MY sin),
then outward (YOUR sin),
then onward (US loved).
Acknowledgement to the PeaceWise process and The Peacemaker book by Ken Sande.