Monday, September 26, 2016

Mental Fracture and Emotional Fragility in Depression

The pages of my journal in the latter half of 2007 are bare for the most part; quite uncharacteristic for me during that period of life.  There is a story to be told, which those pages allude to tellingly.
I was in a murky depression.  Embarking on my forties, in a crisis of vocation, having recently married, surprised how unanticipated my life had become.  Life deconstructed.
This depression came as a Fujita-5 tornado, rapid and sudden; its signs only clear from hindsight.  Those symptoms appeared, unwittingly and unfairly, on our honeymoon.
Here is one story of how depression involves fracture of the mind creating enormous emotional fragility and spiritual crisis:
On an innocent enough Saturday morning I changed the engine oil in my Hyundai.  I’d done it dozens of times.  The job done, I started the engine.  Checking everything was working as it should I was shattered to find oil running all over the driveway.  I shut the engine down and ran inside absolutely broken, sobbing tears like a baby.  I met Sarah in the kitchen and fell into her arms, before flopping to the floor.  She didn’t know what had occurred and it took her a little while to find out.  I was inconsolable.  Normally I might react angrily that the job went badly; but in my depression there was no agency for such fight.
The fracture in my mind had contributed to the spilt oil in the first place; with depression it’s so hard to keep the mind on task.  I had failed to remove the old O-ring.  With a clear mind I would never make such a fundamental error.  Yet, as I recall doing the task, my lack of self-confidence was poignant.  Neither the mind nor the emotions could hold me up.
As I reflect over that initial period of our marriage I quickly feel for the plight my new wife must have found herself in; her new husband completely insecure of identity, warred upon from within, defences down, a victim of a broken mind, that ran unchecked according to its own will, and a heart vulnerable to the cognitive chaos it sat under.
For a period of just over three months I had a daily battle.  I was in a paid ministry role and felt completely inadequate to discharge that duty most of the time.  Many times I had to put my depression to one side and pray that the Lord would uphold my mind and my emotions whenever I was ministering with the youth.  God was incredibly faithful.  My senior pastor, too, graciously allowed me to continue in the work.  To have to continue to show up helped.  But there were days, also, when I couldn’t function, and nobody could make me if I couldn’t make myself.
Coming Out of It
What ultimately drew me out of that depression was the Word of God — Proverbs to be exact.  I began reading a chapter of Proverbs per day, and remained on that plan, meditating on chapters of about twenty verses daily, for eighteen months.  That book of the Bible saved my mental, emotional, and spiritual life.  I read little else of the Bible during that time.  Proverbs was a book in season for me.
Focusing on Proverbs got my mind engaged and steadied my emotions as the Holy Spirit spoke encouragement’s life into me.  It showed me how important the steadiness of studying one book or section of God’s Word is.  Proverbs gave me the character of God as a structure for the wisdom I sought.
Through Scripture, God was able to steady me enough to heal the fracture in my mind, and that helped fortify the fragility of my emotions.
Thankfully I came out of this depression about as quickly as I entered it.
And, for the record, I took SSRI antidepressant medication.  They were important; about as important as recognising the signs and symptoms and admitting I was out of control.  As soon as I have recognised I’m out of control, quickly I’ve been able to address the confusion and start on getting well again.
May God truly bless you as you go gently with yourself,
Steve Wickham.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Between Hope and The Dream In the Land Between

There is a place we all hate to find ourselves.  In the land between.  Between one good situation and the next good situation.  Between a good period of life and the next good period of life.  We’re presently in that place, and it’s hauntingly familiar.  Still, we’re God’s people; we learn what we can whilst we’re here, and we don’t give up.
The land between good places is littered with bitter, humiliating, and despairing experience.  This is land between hope and the dream, never quite either, terrain tantalisingly alien to both.
The land between is where we learn to stay in the day whilst holding onto the vision hoped for, though not yet seen.
In the land between we learn not to focus on being in the land between.
It doesn’t mean that being in the land between is something we should avoid.  We cannot avoid it, so why try?  Though the land between is a wasteland, it piques growth opportunities, so we sit in the ugliness of those emotions, collect conscious memory of them, and, with Jesus there, we venture out of that wilderness, into the present moment, believing God has a plan to get us to our dream.  We get ready, and we stay ready.
The land between is a topography of complaint and exasperation, but it is also a vista replete with the provision of guidance for the humble of heart.
Jesus teaches us to trust when every scaffold of security is ripped from our grasp.
And then, as we finally envisage the dream emerge into reality, we find our newfound trust is indispensable equipment for what God has been preparing in advance for us to do.
The land between is preparation ground for the ultimate purposes of God through us.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Four Reasons You Inspire Me

When other people inspire us we know we’re close to God.  When we see little of what should frustrate us in life, yet we see life’s beauties, we’re blessed by a Presence that can only be God.  And, yet, when frustrations and judgment against others mount, we’re reminded what’s missing: God.
Let us see the God-infused goodness in each other.
You inspire me, because:
1.     You won the race.  You defeated all-comers to become you.  That was a competition of the millions.  If you ran the Boston Marathon, you’d probably not finish in the top 100, but the day you were conceived you won a marathon for life!  God made you possible and you agreed to be created… and you were.
2.     In spite of the trials you have or have had as an infant, a child, a teen, and young adult, you’ve still resolved it’s not too late to reconcile these matters.  In your deepest places, you’ve not given up on becoming better.  And you will have seen the fruit of such a resolve.
3.     Though you complain about life when it’s not going so well, you decide to keep going.  You persist.  Perseverance is something you’ve mastered and will continue to improve at.
4.     And finally, you will finish your race.  Don’t give up.  God isn’t done with journeying through you in this world.  When He says it’s over, then it’s over; not a moment beforehand.
So, in sum:
1.     God created you, and you agreed to be created.
2.     You endured the trials through your development into adulthood.
3.     You persevere the best you can.
4.     You will finish your race.
These are the four reasons you inspire me.
I am thankful for the cogent Presence of God, today.  Tomorrow is tomorrow’s matter.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

5 Reasons to Stop Expecting Life to Be Just and Fair

Having observed that transformational growth only occurs in us when one precondition is met with one response, I have learned not to expect life to be just or fair at all.
The precondition is 1) when life is tough, together with the response, 2) we submit in humility — a strength that can only be issued in weakness.
Life isn’t fair and it isn’t just.  Yet very often we’ve all been blessed with favour far beyond the fickleness that life has the potential to execute.  Not always, however, have we been thankful when things have rolled our way.
Gratitude ought to be our response at all timesEspecially when life is unfair and unjust.
Of course, it’s easy to say that; much harder to live it.  Thankfully grace forgives us for botching it so often.
Here are five reasons to expect less justice and fairness in life:
1.     It’s unsustainable: we cannot hope to live an emotionally balanced life with imperious expectations.  When we give up our expectations for justice and fairness, all of life suddenly becomes manageable.  Expecting life to be fair and just creates a lack of sustainability in life.
2.     It’s unrealistic: if all we had to do was expect justice and fairness to receive it, or to see it within the lives of the downtrodden, or within the lives of loved ones, we would all live fantasy lives.  Reality dictates that we win some and we lose some.  Expecting life to be fair and just is plain unrealistic.
3.     It’s irrational: courting virtuous disaster, all hope, joy and peace ekes out of us when we’ve had our expectations dashed.  We’re quickly found irrational when expectations run awry.  Expecting life to be fair and just makes us irrational.  Sometimes it’s our expectations that contribute to poor mental health.
4.     It’s unreliable: do you really think you can dictate any reliable percentage of the fairness and justice of life?  Expecting life to be fair and just banks on the shifting sands of fortune that bear alignment with reality just a fraction of the time.  We would never gamble on such odds.
5.     It’s irresponsible: people depend on us everywhere in life.  When we come to expect justice and fairness in life — ours, and for others we care about — we tend to let people down, and more often.  But responding in accepting the fact that we cannot control the fairness and justice in life builds empowerment in us as we speak it, and within others, too, as they endeavour to live in the same vein, because they see that if we can attempt it, surely they can too.
When life is tough,
even more important is it to submit in humility.
May God bless you as you press patiently into His graciousness in trials,

Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wandering the Golden Path of Healed Emotions

Home 40 years ago.
There are ample opportunities to reflect in the work I’m presently doing.  One location my work takes me to is my place of residence in 1975—a bygone era that is patchy by memory.  As I drove into this area recently there was something incredibly emotional going on within me; a sort of giddy excitement because of the mysteries represented in the anticipated reuniting of me with my memories.  Never does this drive become banal.  It’s always filled with a mind in the eternality of the experienced past.
As I pulled up across the road, noting the house was for sale, I wondered if it was vacant.  It was.  Excitement built within me, because, to the onlooker, I had a reason to be there.  I peered through the lounge room window, and could see through the bare room into the kitchen.  The dimensions I could see made me wonder of the experiences I had with my brothers and parents in those spaces, a time that still seems vague amidst the clarity of certain things of that time—like the precious little box I had that I kept special things in, on my dresser.  I remember the army uniform I got for my eighth birthday.  I think of my youngest brother crawling around the house.  I sense my mother preparing the evening meal.  I recall the fright in me starting school mid-year in a foreign place, much colder and wetter than I was used to, having to make new friends.  And then, back in the present moment, I realise afresh that over forty years have passed us.
An experience like this is a gift.
God has gifted the aged to portions of joy in the everyday of times that have passed.
The older we get the more precious and eternally mysterious is the past.  We can no sooner travel back there than we can fast-forward time, or be in the heavenly realm with Jesus, until that is our time.  Whatever we cannot touch is eternally significant—a distance all too far that evokes within our awareness something piquing wonder.
These experiences can only be enjoyed—or more accurately, are best enjoyed—when we’ve succumbed to the healing of Jesus through sojourning with our truth, past and present.  Both dimensions of time perspective are crucial, for peace in the present is the indicator of the work we’ve done to reconcile the past in order that our future can be restored to us.
The older we get the less we may worry about the future; provisional on healing.
Healing tends toward us more power over fear, guilt, and shame.  Then nothing can defeat us in the moment.  The abundant life.
This abundant life is paradoxical.  The more we realise we depend on God daily for healing, the less we struggle in this life.  The more we understand that our identities depend on failure, the less failure worries us because we depend on God.  The weaker we seem, the stronger we actually are.  The more we realise we’re failures without Jesus, the realer He makes us, so fear, shame, and guilt no longer drive us.
Healed emotions beget healed emotions, and the best of this is the embracing of all emotion with courage, energised by faith.  The meeting of reality without contrivance.
That’s freedom.  The gospel promise of the abundant life.  It’s real.
Peace in the present indicates we’ve reconciled our past by faith so our future/hope may be restored to us for love.
Wander the golden path of healed emotions.  If that isn’t within your capacity right now, promise yourself to your journey with Jesus; through surrender, the sweet embracement of your vulnerability.  Jesus takes us there.  It’s what we were born for.
Wrestling with ugly emotions warrants healing that feels like gladness and gratitude for what we had earlier endured.
Until next time, yours in The Lord,

Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

When Sorrow Finds Adequate Expression in Words

In the age of computers, still nearly fifteen years ago now, I had a typewriter.
It’s okay.  I didn’t want the garish IBM laptop that my previous employer had supplied me, with phone and car (so they could have access to my entire life).  The typewriter did not come with obligations; it did what I wanted it to do.  With diligent obedience it struck ink onto a sheet of paper with the precise purpose that my emotional fingers conveyed.  So many times that typewriter subserviently acted as the mediator in my grief.
Yet it’s only as I look back now at those sheets of sorrow that I see just what I often overlooked back then.  I would so often be frustrated by my lack of ability to appease my grief — little did I realise I could not escape what I could not run from, for grief and love coalesce anachronistically in events we cannot control.  Such a realisation makes grief a hundred times worse in a moment.  And yet, out of these courses, stronger we somehow emerge.
In the bitter throes of lonely reflection, alone enough to come face-to-face with my inescapable lack before God, I would sob and type, type and sob.  Looking out the window I’d wonder what had become of life, which, until a short time earlier, had seemed so easy (but weren’t — though they were a thousand percent easier than this!).  Some of the newest minutes and seconds were utterly foreign and the hours weren’t a whole lot better.  One hour could undo a day.  And some days were straight from hell itself.  But I had to find a way of expressing how I felt.  And there were literally hundreds of heavy days, where my fullest expression seemed never to help, yet, by faith, I continued to engage in the truth of my losses.  I had no choice other than to do what I felt was the only thing that helped.
Then I found the truth in this: Immersed in adversity, faith paddles tenaciously, and, in the pool of ambiguity, faith swims upstream toward the unseen origin of hope.
Rarely, if ever, does sorrow find adequate expression in words, but on the papers I have kept, I see now how those journals did help.
Although sorrow is the hardest thing to capture in words, we must attempt to engage, to make meaning, to traverse the chasm between grief and healing.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Birth of Change in Grief as Compensation for Loss

It’s been said that on the tranquil waters of surrender the reflections of clarity appear (Bryant McGill).
Myriads of people who’ve experienced gut-wrenching primal loss have wondered if such death in loss has mete out death itself — surely death can’t be any worse than such loss, it is thought!  Such a scarily normal pattern of thought we ought always to be forgiven for.
There’s a bridge required right there.
What takes us to that soul stillness of poise amid the grief in loss where we grapple seismic moments?
There is the need of hope.  And the Lord’s provision is found in the birth of change in and through us; change, albeit, we’d never wish ever to be forced to encounter and experience.
Change occurs, and that change is growth, if we don’t become bent out of shape in the process of our grief.
Change appearing as growth is the compensation we’re given for the fact we’ve borne loss.  Grief takes us on a journey to another land of being, always to a fresher, more valiant perspective, even if we still hate what we’ve been forced to experience.
So out of change comes the awareness of growth, and that is the viability of hope that stretches us out in faith enough to cover the journey.
We may find it is grief itself that sponsors that journey so we can transition to that new locale we never asked to travel to, but that which is interminably good for us.  We often cannot tell until we get there whether it’s beneficial or not.  Even if we’re not enamoured of the outcome there is a maturity with which we’ve come to personify.
In the death experienced in loss is the birth of change; growth in our person for what we’ve endured.
Hope is resident out of grief when we experience the compensation of growth.
When surrender meets the moment of acceptance, finally loss gives grief its meaning.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Failure’s Okay, If You’re Growing

“It’s your only excuse,” said my wife — “that you’re growing.”
A little context.  I’m a pastor and I’ve found there are notable things in me that still require honing.  We’re all on a journey, and none of us are perfect.  As a pastor, not unlike some other professions, there’s no place to hide, and nor should there be, when it comes to character and integrity.  The latest iteration of growth set by God for me involved how I saw others, and inevitably how I also saw me.  We can muse about the humility of our journey, but the circumstances of our lives are the final judge.
When my wife mentioned these words above, I was amazed at their wisdom.  Suddenly, I imagined God saying those very words — that any moral failure we make is okay, if we’re growing.  A very operative word there is “if.”
In other words, what’s past is past, but what’s ahead we can still influence.  Our pasts can be forgiven us, but in our present and future are opportunities to either continue along the wrong path, or to make a course correction — now.
I had had a massive course correction.  That’s okay.  What’s life if we are never significantly re-directed.  Of course, there are those who live wisely enough to only need the gentlest of nudges — not me.
Failure really is fine, provided there is impetus to improve, not that we’ll be anything close to being perfect.
God’s work of grace heals faulty vessels, broken by dysfunctional life, surrendered through injustice and humiliation.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Prayer of Praise for the Grace Having Endured Pain

My All-Sufficient Father
through Your Holy Spirit
Incarnate in Your Son
Perfect and eternally voluminous in the power of Your grace, by the love of Your provision, You made it possible for me to endure; and today, because of it, I exemplified Your gospel’s spirit, which is alive, as a testament to the risen reality of the Lord Jesus.
Praise is due Your name for the truth indwelt in the power of Your grace, which demolishes strongholds, setting up victory from the throes of defeat; on weakness is that victory borne.
The power of Your grace knew the pain I had to endure, which became a panoply of bedlam threatening to overthrow my spirit.  Yet, You came!  I sought You, and You came.  You came because You are real; alive and tangible in the experience of my life.
You said, “Calm down!” and such a loving rebuke, spoken with robust tenderness, reverberated within my soul, resonating before resting, reviving my hope, even in the tremulous seconds where the spirit enemy circled, enjoying what would’ve been without Your help the imminent demise of its prey.  In the moment You wrested from me the odious anxiousness that defeats me through a busied, bothered, and battered mind.  You healed me when You came into my heart, so my heart could rescue my mind by cogent awareness to take courage!
Praise is Yours for Your Teaching Spirit; that You teach a lesson, through the power of Your grace, that only needs to be experienced once.  Once!  Power!  A power indwelt with the persuasiveness of truth.  An experienced power.
Praise is Yours alone, God of my being, even for the grace You extend when I fail.  Especially when I fail!  Your rebuke is a tender rod of encouragement, for me to get up, to get hope, to get going, through the getting of faith.
Praise.  For, in You is true and genuine resilience — for me, for all — for You, through Jesus, are the Way, the Truth, the Life.  Alone, through You.
Experience comes to be irrefutable in the golden mean of the truth we cannot otherwise know.
One day of pain, patiently endured, through the surrender of one won to dying, teaches us, that to suffer well is to live right.  It isn’t for long.  Then eternity.  And, in this suffering well, patiently enduring, is the gospel power won for all those who trust their entire momentary lives to Jesus.
One day of pain is all we’re asked to endure.  Then another.  And again.  One day’s endurance secures us the confidence that we can do it again and again, to the glory of God.  But only by going against all reason and rationality, for the gospel is an upside down reality.
The gospel goes against all reason and rationality,
for the gospel is an upside down reality.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Healing’s About Being Real About How You Feel

As I listen to the Titanic soundtrack, memorials of loss are felt on the palate of my soul.  Music evokes something eternal within the deepest reaches of our psyche.  We enter a provocation of feeling; we’re drawn toward it, to enter it, and what we enter is a healing space, for we’re being real about how we feel.
Our soul must feel to be freed to heal; if it’s to be released of the baggage it’s asked to pick up and carry because of life’s tumults.  But if we negate our soul’s access to our feelings we force those feelings downward into the crevices of our innocence that were never designed to deal with such junk.
When I refer to ‘innocence’ I mean those parts of ourselves that can only operate under the premise of truth.
We were, from the beginning, designed that way.  Nothing’s changed.  We need to deal truthfully or we end up with a whole lot of healing to do.  The way life ‘happens’ to all of us, it’s inevitable.  Spend time in an abusive relationship where truth cannot be lived, for just one instance, and we end up conditioned by lies, and with much healing to procure.
When we endure loss and enter grief for a time, before we adjust to the new normal of an enduring sadness that is accepted, we’re not harmed by the grief if we’ve been real about how we feel.  Indeed, in the seedbed of loss, grief is the teacher of composed resilience that’s able to withstand greater pressure and pain than before.  Grief, when met the appropriate way, augments emotional maturity.
The right response to pain is to be real about how we feel.  It’s the application of courage, the expression of faith, and the commitment to persevere under trial.
Healing is about as simple as being real about how we feel.  That way God honours our honouring of the truth.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, August 8, 2016

6 Hard Life Events That Do Us No Harm

The lived Christian life shows us that some of the things we think are harmful are actually intended as good, to grow us up.
Here are six of those hard life events, that, though they’re hard situations that feel harmful, they end up doing us no harm at all:
1.     Loss — in all its myriad forms — the grief in losing a precious loved one does us no harm.  In fact, it’s inevitable.  Loss doesn’t have to define us, but it should refine us, bringing us to a knowledge of our own limitedness of capacity of control over this life.  Our griefs should facilitate memorials to our losses, for true healing only comes when we’ve memorialised what we’ve lost, and who we couldn’t love more and anymore.  See how, despite the pain of loss, it does us no harm, and actually does us some good?  Indeed, loss is the common experience of all.  A healed grief makes it possible to thank God for what we once had.  That’s a deeper learning in the destiny of every life under God.
2.     Change — involving its own varietals of loss, for what’s gone and what’s new, that must now be adjusted to — brings no harm in and of itself.  The more we change and adapt to, the more we realise we can do change, and such a knowledge is the epitome of empowerment.  If change can’t kill our courage, nothing can.  Adapting to change brings us no harm at all, even though it takes both faith and patience in the adjustment.  Change is actually healthy, long-term, because what’s embraced makes for joy; a well-earned reprieve from the monotony of life.
3.     Rejection — sooner or later, some massive rejection will come our way.  It rocks our world, and we experience myriad levels of grief.  But rejection does us no harm if we remember that, the most important person, God Incarnate Himself, is the only One, whilst we’re alive, who would never reject us.  To this we put all other rejections in context, and we find that human rejection can no longer decimate us like it did.  Rejection, in the light of Christ’s acceptance, only makes us stronger, and it does us no harm at all.
4.     Anxiety — never killed us.  Feeling anxious is the common lot of humanity, and, though some are afflicted with anxiety disorders, it is God’s opportunity for everyone to learn each individual’s coping.  We cannot learn resilience without being placed in that fire of anxiousness.  So, without anxiousness we couldn’t learn coping or how to overcome our weakness in His strength.  See how anxiety is good?
5.     Missing Out — this is something that often causes anxiety, for none of us want to miss out on a single thing.  But the fact is, we must miss out on some things, because we cannot do it all.  Every day we miss out, and in many ways.  And God’s design for such a state is we would see that covetousness is a sin that kills joy for greed.  It does us no harm to miss out.  Indeed, it does us good to miss out every single day of our lives.  In missing out is peace.
6.     Hard Work — there are seasons in life where we have to work especially hard just to stay afloat.  Then, if we’re really fortunate, we come to understand that a willingness to work hard is the virtue of diligence that will evermore protect us.  Diligence is a shelter.  Hard work does us no harm, and indeed it teaches us how to do life the supreme way! — to experience joy even in the midst of enduring difficulty.
The principle remains the same from birth to death: many situations we inwardly despise may actually be outwardly good for us.  We learn this as we merge endurance with hopefulness.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Resilience is the Answer to the Question of Change

The answer to the question of Christian character is resilience of holy accord.  Mix with the ability to endure, to persist, to persevere, the moral desire to become holy.  Both attitudinal imperatives set us a sail for an intrepid voyage over the contemptible lifespan where tougher seasons make us better, and don’t rip us apart, sinew of shame from sinew of fatigue, even though shame and fatigue are inherently part of it.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the day; that’s where we’re most tempted to fold.  Let’s remember:
The day cannot defeat us
If we know in the week we can recover.
And the week is no enemy
If we know the month holds us tight overall.
And the month won’t get the better of us
If we know that seasons come and seasons go.
Where we are right now isn’t how life will be soon… even in six months.  Two years into the future and things will be different.  We’ll be challenged by different challenges.  That’s sweet relief.  Think about your present challenge.  You’d take almost anything else rather than the present humiliating task.  But it’s all relative.
The reason there is change in life is that God’s impassioned to make us resilient; of mind and heart and character.  He wants us perfected in holiness, which is perseverance.  Sure, we’ll never get close to perfection, but we can progress in resilience, which is humility.  We can adapt to change in such a way as to deal with it all as if we know life’s about difficulty.  The answer to difficulty is resilience.  We must expect difficulty, and then, paradoxically, life gets easy.
In the midst of change we may feel fearful and unhappy, even broken and unable to sustain any hope.  Depressed and anxious to the point of questioning your purpose, ability to endure, even your very life.  It’s understandable.  Nothing to feel guilty or ashamed for.  But an invitation to wrestle, to resist the spiral, to ever push quietly and hopefully forward.
The answer to the questions of such a life is resilience, which is a hope-fuelled way of stepping faithfully forward, even when we feel terrible.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

God’s Season of Stretch Growth and Reward of Hope

I move leaves from one place to another, and from that place to yet another.  I move leaves.  It seems like pretty senseless and meaningless work.  Something akin to the mood of the writer, Qoheleth, of Ecclesiastes — “work is utterly meaningless!”
Yes, and no.  Yes, because on the surface my labours are in vain.  I don’t get anywhere.  My work should make me despondent.  I was certainly tempted to view such work as a waste of time.  But no, also.  And this may well be one of the meanings of life; a kernel of God’s wisdom He’s just shown me.  A truth for all to see.  Yet we can only see it if we meet our meaningless work with the candour of openness to wander with abandon into the wonder of His mystery.
Here’s the no.  The outcome of the work — blowing leaves from one place to another — is not the point.
The actual point is this: in doing the work, God works me into a reflective state, and then He speaks!  As I work, He teaches.  As I allow myself to be absorbed in the work, He guides, He satisfies, and He fulfils a promise.  As I work, He gives me revelation of hope.  Honestly, He flourishes in my mind and swells my heart with purpose.
In a season that has stretched me more than any other season, when I’ve been removed from my beloved vocation, I’ve approached work I would otherwise loath with a positive attitude — because I felt I had no choice but to honour God the best I could.  As a groundsman and handyman.  And because of that, He has rewarded me, because in stretching me, thus far I’ve not resisted His stretching.  Sure, I’ve complained bitterly at times.  Ask my wife.  At times I’ve been a pain to live with.  But the outcome of complaint is exhaustion, and in that weakness is surrender, and in surrender is fresh faith, which is resurrection.  Grace (let me call God, ‘Grace’) has continually brought me through from complaint, and, having forgiven my disobedience, has blessed my eventual obedience with His faith perspective.
I have come to fully believe this: God gives us something intensely salient when we surrender ourselves to go into a stretch season of growth with Him.
Such is God’s faithfulness He always gives us a reward of hope when we press in with Him into the pain of growth.
Such is the blessing of weakness, when we cannot resist His will to grow us, He avails to us strength in the dialect of hope.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

God’s Glory in Our Non-Christian Past

THIRTEEN years as a born-again Christian, born-again — born finally from above having been born into some resident belief, unbequeathed of action, some thirteen years previous.  Thirteen years ago, having had my Saul-on-Damascus-Road conversion, the Father pulled the plug on that old life, blinding me from return, convicting me to walking blindly ahead by faith — which is the only true vision.  Thirteen years, like Saul, I thought I knew God.  I didn’t.
Thirteen years of living a wrong life above God, have been followed by thirteen years of living a right life under God.  I sense there is a Jubilee coming; timely, as my fiftieth year approaches.
Jubilee is a sabbatical vision of liberty and justice for all.
A rule of seven sevens, Jubilee, in this context, is one of release.
As I step back from 49 to 36 to 23 I cannot help but seek to step back even further.  As I seek to reconcile with those bits of my past where I betrayed God’s grace in my lifestyle daily for those thirteen years — never really understanding how to live the Christian life, not desiring to learn, not ‘getting it’ — I cannot help but step back into the further reaches of my life in the eighties.
As I drove my delivery van today, I listened to secular radio.  Doing a secular job avails such exploration.  It was playing nineties music.  Billy Idol’s Flesh for Fantasy, OMD, and INX — bands and songs you might only recognise if you were a twenty-something two decades ago.  When Mike and the Mechanics’ The Living Years came on, I was approaching Fremantle, and instantly I felt the tears flow.  Not really of sadness unless there is a catharsis that occurs.  It was the initial part in a Jubilee of release.  Actually enjoying this work for the first time, because I can do it, and because it’s my own private cave, my tears spoke of the truth of what I’m experiencing; God having, over that thirteen-year period, softened me and strengthened me.  Being soft and strong means I can enjoy being teary.  Being taken deeper and deeper into valleys of heartache has only served to make me softer and stronger, for the glory of God.
This Jubilee of release means I no longer need to covet tomorrow,
for I have today, and I’m released into it.
When I was a non-Christian, and especially when I was Christian but living like a non-Christian, I did some shameful things.  And yet all I feel for all those things I did is a great sense of God’s grace, to enjoy the memory of them as part of the making of me today; they’re part of my history that God neither wants me to deny nor repress.  I’m released to enjoy what those things taught me.
Our non-Christian story speaks powerfully for the work God’s done in our Christian story.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Surviving the Worst Day of Your Life

SOONER or later we all have one of these: what qualifies as the worst day of our life.
You’ve already had one, perhaps several, but, and I hate to be the bearer of such a fact, there is another one coming.  If I could be allowed to extend the truth further, I could say there will be more than one.
Life does not get easier.  It gets harder.  It gets harder because we are more and more sown into life the longer we live.  From only being worried for ourselves, then we have families, and then our children have their own kids.  The older we get, the more our own mortality’s positioned front and centre.  That’s just two examples.  We have, typically, more to lose the longer we live.  This is not so much a depressing truth, but a truth that will undergird us if we’ll configure life around such a truth.
The longer we live, the wiser we should become, and that wisdom is underscored most when we accept we do not control life.  God does.
Age provides us the wisdom that compels us to believe we cannot trust in our own strength.  Sooner or later life smashes us sufficiently that we learn, once and for all, that weakness is best, so that His strength might embody us.  Embodying us, this strength first becomes ours in the secrecy of our consciousness alone.  And here’s an indelible irony!  Even in weakness, we have praise for what God’s showing us; we’re frustrated that we cannot shout about it from the rooftops.  But ultimately people do catch on; there’s something irretrievably inimitable about us.  Such weakness, in God, is the greatest of all gifts in this broken life, if His love weren’t already the supreme gift.
And it’s in this state of being sufficiently weak in His strength we’re best situated, in meeting the worst day of our lives; so it’s not so hard!
One thing that ‘worst days’ are designed to teach us is that attitude trumps circumstance.
But we won’t know the importance of our attitude until we try the futility of railing against life when life’s at its worst.
Surviving the worst day of our lives is as simple as knowing our perception is our biggest barrier to overcome.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.