What It's About

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

10 Spiritual Lessons In Moving Home

Moving home is a challenge, physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually – as we add those physical, mental, and emotional stresses and tests together we are ‘graced’ with outcomes that ravage our spirituality.
These, below, are ten spiritual lessons that come to mind as I reflect:
1.     Be mighty thankful for the diligence in your partner as you work as a team to bring about a successful move. She or he is doing what you probably don’t do quite so well. Appreciate them.
2.     Though the work ahead seems long, and arduous is the strain, with each step there are rewards of progress. Keep looking forward and you manage what would despair you at times.
3.     Plan, plan, plan, and then when you’ve finished planning, review those plans, which is another type of planning. But don’t just plan – execute those plans.
4.     Of all the people that help us, we have this responsibility: to make them aware that we care for them and that we foresee their needs even as they help.
5.     Changing homes can bring a great deal of uncertainty in our spirit. New surroundings can either liberate or confound. It’s fitting to prepare the mind for such an experience where the heart feels as only the heart can feel.
6.     Knowing the body is only so good. Sometimes, many times, we are able to exceed our body’s normal limits, but the optimistic mind – borne on the wings of faith – is the key. Stay positive and more can be achieved.
7.     Be patient when progress is slow. When unexpected obstacles arise, steady the teeming moment. Every significant project or task will test us in some way.
8.     Change is the opportunity for improvement; to set a new standard. Embark on what can be done, without thought for the limits of past.
9.     When the body is sore, and the temperament is fatigued, and thinking processes grind slowly, we may seem defeated. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can take comfort in those weary muscles, though they’re painful, and in a mind and soul that’s been taken to their limits.
10. Take time, after the dust of the move has settled, and review the learning. An earnest attempt at reflection with retrieve the wisdom of God, spoken in the words only we are able to understand.
Change is stretching and renewing, and it will make us better if we submit optimistically.
We can embrace change because of our unchanging God. Nothing we face is impossible to adapt to because God’s unchanging nature is utterly faithful.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Heart of Tolerant Hospitality in Reconciliation

“For God was pleased for all fullness to reside in him,
and through him to reconcile all things to himself...
— Colossians 19-20a (USC)
indigenous peoples of the world have an inherent commonality. Inevitably they have had their homelands pulled from under them, and our collective histories rarely do justice to the actual, and often abhorrent, facts that besmirch the memory of many of our forebears.
There are still so many peoples the world over who silently decry – as loud as they are able – these rampant injustices as they continue to unfold in this generation. Yet, it is in this generation that we may start, or tenaciously continue, the work of God in reconciling all things under Jesus Christ.
When we have seen localities and regions and the entire landmasses engage in that spirit of interracial co-operation we have known God’s hand has been intrinsically part of it.
Where people of power within the culture’s stronghold can go to the ‘weaker’ party (usually the indigenous) and seek, through de-powering the interactive dynamic, a common way forward – which is a new approach; new to both parties – that is when we can rightly know that Christ is reconciling all things unto himself alone.
This is when we know God is reconciling things to himself: when power is shared, cooperation is apparent, common needs are magnified, and peace is manifest.
We wonder why we have not yet seen God at work in the reconciliation process; possibly the Spirit is disturbed, having been long ago quenched. The Spirit of God is significantly more patient than we can ever imagine. He will allow us to exact our injustices, for he alone will have the final say at the Judgment.
But the very cause of reconciliation depends on two parties; one or both to initiate, and one or both to respond. If there is commonality of being, reconciliation has hope, for commonality of being is precisely the pretext where all things are being reconciled under Jesus Christ.
And what are our motives?
The most basic one is judgment; we will be called to account regarding how we used our time, resources, and gifts. But a less obvious motive is the blessing of having experienced the movement of God’s Spirit in the midst of our own lives because we had the courage to honour the truth: our indigenous deserve their justice. And they alone are the ones who can help define it.
So there is our opportunity. What courage will we ply to our day – this day; for we have no other – in starting or continuing the process for reconciliation?
The heart of tolerant hospitality sees the need for a commonality of justice. Reconciliation is God’s will in all corners of life, for the Father has decreed Jesus reconciles all things under himself. The heart of tolerant hospitality gets on with the Kingdom mandate. And no apology need be made for it.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Sacred Beauty of Timeless Grief

Losses are so sacredly palpable we cannot reconcile the fuller extent of them.
Having lost our little boy – stillborn full-term on October 30, 2014 – we find it impossible to reconcile the earthly reality with an eternal reality we are still so far away from understanding.
Nathanael Marcus, afflicted majorly within, complicated by the challenges of his Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS), looked like a perfect little boy. We cherished that time with him in hospital before we said our short goodbye to him 179 hours after he was born lifeless.
Still so precious to us there are new things to reconcile that sneak up; we shift house and feel we are leaving a crucial piece of history behind. Nathanael was conceived in this house; this was the house he spent that thirty-something weeks with us; this house we wept many tears and had many a serious conversation.
The more we realise that time heals our wounds, the more we realise there are timeless components to grief that ought to be ever validated and sanctified.
Only as we tread the real and raw path are we able to more fully feel what God wanted us to experience, for it doesn’t kill us; it makes us resilient for the journey.
There is a sacred beauty in the matter of timeless grief that we must carry with us to our graves.
Only God can turn what would be worst into something akin to the best, but not because our Lord is sadistic. We ought not to save ourselves (or be saved) from anything we have experienced, because God is on the other side beyond the pain.
We must go into the pain to receive him who alone may help.
This sounds nonsensical, but, because we can know this by implementing biblical wisdom by faith, we find, again and again, that God turns the tables of common sense upside down.
As I consider the dualist truth that Nathanael is at once gone forever, but also complete in our memory, I reconcile only one viable truth: there is a thing as timeless grief that we cannot and ought not to ‘recover’ from.
God blesses us most richly in the containing of a sacred sense for pain. Quite appropriately, our Lord will not save us from that which will grow us.
We, ourselves, as we suffer, are earthen vessels designed to be filled-up souls (as a mentor recently put it). We can only be filled to the quota of our need.
If we have no need of healing we have no need or use of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot give what we have not yet received.
So, an irreconcilable grief is good; it connects us to eternity and it also necessitates our reliance on God.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Australia Day, Survival Day, Invasion Day

“There is no way Indigenous people can celebrate Australia Day. And if white people knew their own history they wouldn’t celebrate it either.”
— Senator John Woodley (in office 1993 – 2001)
Genocide is what many aboriginal people of Australia call it – and that, indeed, appears to be a truth that grieves our native peoples. Yet, there are also so many Australians who love Australia Day for what it means to be Australian. Being Australian is apparently about giving everyone a fair go, but there are many in our society who feel they are not fairly done by – and not just in our Indigenous number.
How are we to approach Australia Day? For the Indigenous of Australia, January 26 is a celebration either of their survival or a mourning for the invasion that took place in 1788.
Australians, we can be sure, can never feel adequately proud, nationalistically, until all Australians feel included, and reconciliation is the restitution necessary.
The Apology of 2008 was a significant little step, but actions need to match the words. We can be sure that the government is working hard, because an abused people will inevitably bring social problems. We should pray the government are engaging with the right people and doing what it can to set up whatever programs are created for success – the ultimate yardstick is our aboriginal folk are satisfied we are ‘fair dinkum’ (sincere, for non-Australians).
Before white ‘settlement’ in Australia, there were over 400 aboriginal people groups – each spoke different languages/dialects. There were also over 200 ‘nations’ or peoples or mobs within the continent. Imagine a culture several times bigger than Europe – that’s what Australia was before white people came. There is so much in Aboriginal culture we are carelessly and irreverently ignorant of – because we simply don’t know.
Our opportunity as Australians is to embrace what everyone feels on the national day. There is good reason why our Indigenous feel robbed and betrayed. Their affinity to their ancestors – given their communal culture – is even more important to them than ours is to us. Their ancestors were murdered, incarcerated, stolen, oppressed, and undignified at almost every turn.
There have been may whitefellas who have sought to work with, understand, and serve our Indigenous – but far too few.
If we are to be ‘Australian’ we will begin to listen to those who call Australia Day “Invasion Day.” We will listen with the intent of learning from those who can only reasonably mourn.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

From Jimmy to Sally, In Loneliness, With Love

Oh, my darling love, I miss you... for a long time now I’ve missed you.
Sweetest of sweetnesses, my Sally, I miss you so awfully much. It tortures me to think on how long it’s been since I felt the nub of your nose against my cheek, felt your glistening hair against my chest, heard your gentle bedtime voice calm me, and tasted your honeyed kisses. I feel lonelier thinking about it, but I cannot help wanting to be there with you, and my memories are all I have... all I have!
I am jealous with rage sometimes to think there are those other men around you, free as birds, while I’m couped up in this cage... but my rage serves me no good, and I know how carefully shrewd you are regarding their crooked wiles. I just miss you so.
The other day one of the other men was talking about their missus. More reminders! I can’t get away from you, yet I never want to. I’m stuck, lonely... afraid with fear.
Please visit me, my darling. My heart grows more dark and fearful by the day. No one likes me and everyone looks at me funny. I know you visited me last week, but the weeks are like years around here. Five years, well that’s going to be a lifetime for me. I will never have my old life back.
I probably sound so sad and depressed that I shouldn’t blame you for turning away.
But I have nobody else, and then as I read those words again, I cover my mouth! You are not just ‘anybody’. You are all I want and need. But I don’t want to smother our love, if at all it can survive this craziness.
Okay, I have to ask... do you still love me? Oh, I hate it that I have to ask. I can just imagine how upsetting it is to have to answer such a question. Please forgive me... please?
I pray I don’t wallow like this forever, but all my hope is washed up on this strange and foreign shore devoid of love. The sand here is searing and abrasive, the days are blazing hot, and the water is unsalable and undrinkable. I’m so thirsty.
But, of course, I’m not on some deserted island. I am in prison. I am a criminal. Who could ever love me?
Please come and give me some hope.
Lots of love,
There are these unfortunates... perhaps even in the realm of your own life. How can we pour love into these people and give them hope?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
This article, a letter, was prompted by prison-inspired music played on Noongar Radio, Perth, Western Australia.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pondering Answers In Dealing With Extremism

Charlie Hebdo. If you were to ask me who he is at one time I would have told you he’s just a normal man, possibly with a normal, suburban life, with normal hopes and dreams; a normal job, wife and kids.
But, no, Charlie Hebdo is a movement. He is not a man, but a satirical movement.
Being spiritual and certainly religious, I have to err on their intent, but that’s possibly the beauty of religious liberty, though it rankles with many.
But there is a bigger agenda at stake, and it’s broader than terrorism.
Extremism comes in myriad shape and form in life, and there always seems a common denominator in the person with extremist tendencies. There is something extrinsic and blaming in their focus. There is something about their modus operandi that refuses to look inward and continues to bully others. The extremist loves to win at any cost.
They say they fight for all the good things, but they do not truly do good things.
And extremists are everywhere. There are Muslim extremists, Jewish extremists, Christian extremists, and even Atheist extremists (especially passionate Atheists!). But there are also people of all walks of life that are passionate about one and one thing only; or, passion is their mode, so, once they’re decided, it’s their way or the highway.
The only real answer to extremism is to become just as interested in advocating for the little guy as the extremist is interested in flushing them away.
What is most important in the discussion on extremism is the psychology of the extremist. Anyone who quickly polarises to the extremes on a regular basis could be considered dangerous.
What characterises the extremist most of all is their predictability. They simply must stand out. It would be fine if they took a controversial position every now and then, but they can’t and they don’t. They simply must stand out.
Such a person is not a good friend, either when we first get to know them, and we get that awkward feeling it could end badly, or when they come full-blown in their comparative mania.
It’s useful to think of people who are more middle of the road as people with sturdy prospects for friendship.
The world needs more balanced heads in controversial times.
Good heads make for reasonable relationships, reliable interactions, and respectful dialogue, but extremists are unruly, vexatious, unwelcoming, and unwelcome.
Those with extreme views are generally not lovers of anything other than themselves. They certainly don’t love others as much as they might say they do.
The real answer to extremism is not give it the attention it so desperately seeks.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Being Heard and Being Loved, Hearing and Loving

“Being heard is so close to being loved, that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”
— David Augsburger
Love is one of humankind’s greatest mysteries.
Just how do we love? – the unlovable, the one who has betrayed us, the person who returns ambivalence for our love, or the person we are paired to who suddenly or inexplicably changes... these and so many more scenarios are pitted against love.
It can seem impossible to love in some circumstances.
But it is always possible to love, as God is love, and our good Lord may make the seeming impossible possible anytime. But what is the key to love? How do divest the power of God and love, even against the odds?
Everyone wants to be heard; to be understood.
If someone gets alongside us and genuinely listens and hears us, they gain our trust and we respect them. That’s because they have respected us.
If we, likewise, are to gain the trust of others, we will need to respect them so much as to get inside them and understand them. Listening so we hear and more fully understand is not hard; it relies on mindfulness as we focus and concentrate on the person before us. We focus well enough that all other distractions to hear them are screened out as irrelevant.
Hearing well is a practiced skill, and the best of shepherds become masters of it.
If being heard is being loved, we have found possibly the most powerful instrument on earth as it is in heaven.
As we ‘hear’ we listen to the words spoken, their tone, inflection, pace, emotion, body language, and what is being said as well as on what is not being said.
To hear someone where they feel understood is a masterstroke of human relationship.
When we hear with all of our being we love. When we are heard with all of someone’s attention, that’s what it’s like to feel loved. To be able to bless someone by truly hearing and understanding them is to be God’s instrument of peace and joy.
1.     In the David Augsburger quote, what of it do you agree with and what of it do you disagree with?
2.     What barriers do you find are hardest to overcome in actively listening with mindfulness?
3.     How do you get over the ambivalence of others who seem uninterested in you, whilst committing to listening to them?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Just How Would I Suffer Well?

Some questions have the most perplexing answers as to be hardly answerable.
There are some questions to which there are many answers (some right, some wrong) and there are other questions that seem to have no expressible answer.
How to suffer well?
Surely if we are to ‘suffer’ it will be a matter of despising the experience, no? This is one possible deduction.
Another explanation may be that one person’s suffering is for another a completely different experience. That’s the angle I’d like to attend to, here.
Resilience is the mastery of situations perplexing. They are what they are – horrid and reviled – but there is a peace that transcends the understanding that this is actually a bout of suffering.
Faith is the answer to the question, “How?” Hope is the answer to the question, “Why?” Now is the answer to the question, “When?” Hope is, again, the answer to the question, “What?”
And hope is the answer to the question of “Just how would I suffer well?”
If we have no hope we will suffer poorly. But if we have hope we suffer better than most people would believe possible.
As we suffer, when we suffer, we, therefore, go on committed to hope.
We find it in the paradoxical, this answer to our question – what we most need (hope) we are most likely to struggle with. Grief is the temporal absence of hope.
So, if we suffer we might as well suffer less by suffering well.
As we draw deeper into the fissures of the Divine in our relying on God, we tap into hope by the inspirational things we read, by the positive truth-lovers we associate with socially, and by the good thoughts we choose.
As we refocus, every moment if necessary, we anchor ourselves to the reef of hope.
Against the tide of fascist indignity, we claw our way, with gritty fingernails, back to that place called hope.
We make hope the obsession. It helps, ultimately. It’s only by faith that we fight for our sanity these ways – to implore God of the gift of hope; enough to get through.
Hope is the grace of sufficiency enough to survive the hollow moment.
With hope we have everything else.
For hope we ought to fight.
Give everything for it.
Pray for the insight of hope for when it’s needed.
There will come a time.
Hope is emergent when we enter suffering with some sort of unworldly joy.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Prayer for the Mentally Ill In Our Midst

Many of us have struggled with mental illness, whether it’s a periodic bout of grief-laden depression, anxiety, trauma-related conditions, or clinical depression. And, if there’s one thing we ever learned, it was that we could not just snap out of it.
Our biochemical structure was misshapen and needed remediation. Our spirituality had suffered a cataclysmic rout. Possibly our thinking was severely compromised. Our past was informing the future too much. Or, we struggled with the conditions of life re-adjustment.
Whatever we experienced, we knew the ferocity and veracity of our foe.
Perhaps we are controlled by the nemesis today. It could be these words that are all too familiar.
If we are in that place of feeling so out of control it’s scary, we don’t wish it upon our worst enemy. We really, really do not like what we have to face each and every hour of each day – some horribly worse!
But, maybe our task is to pray for the one who is afflicted before us – a friend, a family member, a son, a daughter, a husband or wife, a mother or father.
Our Father,
Covenant carer of us all. We beseech You in Your Son’s name. We implore You... that You might extend Your hand of favour to the ones we are worried about today, Lord.
Grace the person I pray for with the strength to endure the day. Give them a flicker of hope; a little portion of joy... to get them through.
For that person I’m unaware of who is holding onto life by a thread – the person who is considering giving up – the person who has given up – call them by Your name. Give them a reason, or enough reason, they cannot ignore; reason for life.
For him who is racked with anxious horror, who is encamped by panic, give sufficient wherewithal that he can regulate his own relief – give peace in that moment of torment. For her who is depressed beyond measure, enervated and purposeless, and possibly suffocated of hope, give the grace to afford one moment’s perspective – and then another (and another). For him or her overcome by sorrowful memories, make the past less painful by the hour and day.
Give all sufferers good sleep, Lord.
For the family members who try so terribly hard to bring relief and to provide the basic needs; give them respite, an hour or a day off – and sufficient support. Give them a joyous strength in the midst of their personal, ambiguous suffering.
For those in the medical fraternity and in the health sectors, grant them wisdom and understanding, and a real heart to help. Give them protection from their own incapacities, and protect them from attack.
And for the health care systems that must support our mentally ill, my prayer is that more and more funding and expertise would be available for treating sufferers and for educating our society so prejudices are much less prevalent.
Last of all, I pray against the generational factors that continue to propel people toward mental illness. I pray that the generational forces would be seen and attended to, one parent at a time – with courage, honesty, humility, and great faith.
I pray all this under the covering of Jesus’ name, AMEN.

© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Five Reasons Facebook ‘Stalking’ Isn’t a Good Idea

Never before have we supposedly known more about our neighbour – whether our neighbour’s literally in our street or on the other side of the planet.
Social media has made it possible to publicise even the drabbest details about our lives, but people are apt at promoting a better life than they actually enjoy. (Though there are some who go the opposite way and play the ‘woe is me’ game for their world to see.)
It’s so easy nowadays to check out a friend’s page, even though we would hardly say hello to some of these friends if we passed them in the shopping centre – we just don’t know some of them that well.
Friendship has never been cheaper than in this social media age.
But, then again, this social media friendship phenomenon has facilitated many good things.
Given that we conduct our Facebook time on our own the majority of the time, here are five negative factors we should all be aware of:
1.     ‘Stalking’ causes envy or pride or both. The practice of secretly looking at other people’s pages will generate a false impression of what their lives are really about. We might expect to feel worse or feel too much better as a result, and this is all seated in the mode of comparison.
2.     ‘Stalking’ betrays our soul and compromises our relationship with God. Secrets kept for secret’s sake because of guilt or shame are damaging. Such secrets kept will degrade our confidence, not build it, because our consciences know very well when we lack integrity.
3.     People often only place their best stuff on Facebook. It’s a real pity that we’ve generally all become a little more narcissistic since the social media age began. We likely only post what will make us look good, different or special. As we stalk people on social media we begin to not be able to differentiate between a healthy interest and our envy and/or pride.
4.     We cannot ‘unknow’ what we learn. This is such an important fact. We ought to be very careful what we learn. Some things we learn we learn to regret learning. They make our lives harder, not easier.
5.     We may actually give our game away. If we are careless in our stalking we can leave some sign that we did what we did. That may well be justice.
For all social media’s benefits it can also be a temptation into an unhealthy and inappropriate interest in others.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Forgiveness and Shaking the Hand of Jesus

The heart to forgive my ‘enemies’ has often eluded me. I am no stranger to feeling bitter, resentful, and bent out of shape because of the ‘injustices’ meted out to me. Yet, I have also been blessed with this insight: if I’m to overcome my bitterness, I must take responsibility for my sin:
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
— Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
Taking my own responsibility for my contribution to the conflict is God’s chance to convince me I’m far from perfect myself.
When I understand I’m far from God’s holiness in my own behaviour, I’m much readier to understand sufficiently the extent and power of grace that forgives me.
A lack of willingness to forgive is a lack of understanding about the magnificence of grace. When we withhold our grace we prove we don’t know or respect God’s grace.
Shaking the hand of Jesus is about this vision: seeing the person I am bitter towards as not only a person who Christ has stood for – and plead for – before the Father, but seeing them also as my barrier to be overcome in order that I may be forgiven.
When we understand that our bitterness sets us apart from the purposes of the Kingdom of God we are quickly motivated to forgive. And we cannot do that unless we are able to see how broken and sinful we, ourselves, are.
If you believe the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 and yet you still intend on retaining your right to withhold forgiveness, you are stuck in the mire of indecision – a massive sense of cognitive dissonance, which is a kingdom divided against itself; one that cannot stand.
When we recognise that holding onto bitterness is a self-defeating strategy, we are inspired to do whatever is necessary to bring the impasse to a close.
Imagine going to your nemesis, looking them in the eye, friendly in your body language, and shaking their hand. We are verily shaking the hand of Christ. The person that we don’t forgive stands in the way of God forgiving us.
It’s much better to make peace with those we are bitter with than to continue to defy God.
How much more should we forgive than insist on remaining unforgiven?
Should we risk being judged harshly by withholding our mercy? We should rather be full of grace.
Forgive and live.

© 2015 S. J. Wickham.