Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thinking Like a Peer

Whilst many things in life are not equal, the fact is – for us – life still generally is. We are more alike than we’re dissimilar.

One of our biggest thinking problems­—both consciously and subconsciously—is we often compare too much. We constantly rate where we’re at with the next person or situation; the ‘pecking order’ has too much implicit priority in most of our lives.

We are significantly and personally blessed to be freed of this thinking, even per the moment.

All Are Equal

There is more similarity in life than there is difference. Sure, we can find endless fragmental arguments to overthrow that statement but the truth is we’re more one than we are divided.

The way we think and act is characteristically human. The time we spend on the things we love... the things we avoid... the things that get us into trouble; these are all basically the same ‘wherever,’ or for whoever, we are in life.

Socioeconomic standing or fame or talent splits the field but the basic living of life is done in the very same world and none can be separated from its reality.

It is beneficial to us—in all ways—to discover how similar we really are to the next person.

An Equalising Reality

Imagine thinking of our bosses or our managers-once-removed, or our children for that matter, as equals—although this is not at all referring to our respective roles and responsibilities.

We have different duties but essentially we’re the same—we’re human; no more, no less.

So why do we rate others better or worse than us? Why do we compare? Why do we treat people differently in accord with their ‘place’ in life? Why are we psyched out by the high-flyer or the rich and famous, and why do we look down upon a beggar?

These are all good questions worthy of our daily reflection and attention.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Praying at Midnight

The rhythm and blues of life hit unsuspectingly, yet still gorgeously. I fell completely in love with this form of loneliness a long time ago it seems... it’s perhaps always been there; isolation can be a friend sometimes; indeed, the very best of friends, for this isolation is set apart to God.

Communication at a soul level is the work of God in the presence of one person, fumbling with their take on reality.

Tapping into this is understanding the magic tricks woven into the tapestry of life itself.

Being Cosmically Alone

Being cosmically alone, knowing that one day I’ll return, ‘recalled’ to the state of my initial affairs... there’s absolutely nothing to fear. This is the eternal prayer, and just now I’m practicing that presence—that Presence of the Almighty swimming all over my soul.

“Naked I came... and naked I will depart,” said Job (1:21).

Naked Simplicity

Nakedness is the simplicity of knowing we’re forever with God as individual spiritual entities. We are cosmically alone with God—though we’re currently being transported through this continuum known possibly as ‘physical worldly life’.

We thank God for our loved ones, families, friends and peers—our world—but we also understand a world we cannot understand is forever beckoning.

Praying at midnight in the silence—as the world around us appears to sleep—reminds us of a reality we don’t often think about, though one that’s so very true and imminent. It is the destination we’re hurtling toward.

We are not afraid of this aloneness, for it is our destiny with God—an all-loving and all-encompassing God; one we trust with all our heart.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Living and Playing for the ‘Audience of One’

Anthony Tolliver, a new signing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, plays for an audience of one; whether on court, sleeping or driving a car it’s the same for him; the One above is the one who counts.

Being a player in the NBA affords any man privileges known to precious few; Tolliver uses his platform to be a role model for God.

This is amazing perspective for someone who’s reached the highest level in their field of passion.

For us, it’s no different.

Imagine being captivated, genuinely, by God in all we do, and not being so drawn by pleasing or placating people.

Imagine using the platform we have—and we’re all blessed with some sort of platform, albeit not usually one with the prestige of being part of the NBA—to ‘go’ for God; to be the role model of humility, compassion, grace and patience.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Acknowledgement: Anthony Palmieri of Lakeside Baptist Church who facilitated Mr. Tolliver’s visit and interviewed him on 29 August 2010.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Head – Heart – THEN Holy

To realise the holy conversion of any of us regarding a single issue we necessarily must reach the heart. Finding the mind is, beforehand, the precursor. Both journeys are inordinately harder than they at first seem.

In the earlier article, Understanding and Accepting Common Human Insanity, I proposed how stridently difficult it is to reach a person’s mind at times, to convince them on the matters of so-called ‘common sense’.

This is most particularly punctuated in the rebellious child, the drug addict, the nonchalant employee and, finally, the chronic God-searcher who never finds. Of course, there are others—we all feature as learners first at the head level before the heart’s involved.

Holiness is a ‘Heart Thing’

We cannot be set apart to something, devoted to it, without it reaching our hearts. We can understand anything at the level of the mind, but we’ll be forever confused and overwhelmed by the steady and consistent practice of it until it reaches our hearts.

The addict often knows their addictive behavioural patterns are highly problematic and out of control—they accept that in their minds, but their heart lacks the bite of the commitment to go all the way, of real buy-in, to understand that change and recovery truly must happen for them to crawl out of their mire. (Of course, please forgive the simplification here—given that addiction features for much more complex issues that even experts struggle to truly understand.)

At times it feels like all the motivation in the world is there, but moves for sustained change just won’t or don’t stick.

Barriers to the ‘Felt’ Spirituality

As far as spiritual belief is concerned, there’s the same dynamic at play. We can so very easily accept things in our minds—they make intellectual sense to us—but there’s limited benefit in the stakes of belief if this intellectual acceptance doesn’t filter down into the grounded heart.

Some Christians battle for years to come to terms with this. I know I did. My first twelve years of faith was a head-level faith—I never wanted to truly follow God (not like now), though I was incredibly interested. Hence, I led a double life and it did me, and my spiritual progress, no good at all. I never quite knew how to connect all the dots. The real trouble was I hadn’t truly committed yet... I hadn’t realised how deep my need for God was.

Sometimes we need something to shake us so we will begin to take things much more seriously. Perhaps I only started to truly believe when I really had to... God was all I had left. And, still, many people never reach this desperate sense of a rock bottom to shove them into ‘heart central’.

Achieving Heart Acceptance

We know when we’ve reached the level of heart acceptance because those stronger and more intrinsic feelings about our faith are suddenly there—God’s got a hold of us and is not letting go. We don’t have to pretend anymore. We’re genuine.

I suppose the simplest way there is to develop a penitent heart—knowing our nature is to sin and, out of that, that we do need a Saviour to mediate for God, forgiving these sins of ours; perhaps those very struggles that are preventing a heart-response in us.

Perhaps on a most practical level our hearts can only really come to the party one day at a time; that the heart is engaged in the felt-spirituality via the continual re-commitment every morning for months and years—then suddenly we wake one day and just know the job’s done!

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, August 27, 2010

When Grief is GOOD

How can it be on a ho-hum day,

preparing for anything but ‘this,’

out of the blue comes it to stay,

ending notions of bliss.

Wasted of reason – life’s a mess,

beyond is the numbing hue,

based is the treason – a tightened chest,

out the window life flew.

Winding down the lonely lane,

Stark and oh so dead;

where’s it gone – the life aspired,

the journey now just fled?

It doesn’t end like this just now,

not whilst we’re sprung and reprised,

life as it was may have ended,

but that’s not our state demised.

There is a place in this called “grief,”

that warrants a sharp held jibe,

we’ve journeyed to ‘us’ inside at last,

the place God’s never denied.


Grief is the beginning of life. This is not just a sad and sick statement. It’s the place we enter, finally, that takes us to our rawest beginnings and most basic imaginings. It feels so bad because we’ve rarely, if ever, been there.

An Important ‘Raw’ Life Lesson – Something We Best Learn

There is this thing about real life to be learned; the earlier the better (though many never taste it). This is the fact of peace in grief—both shallow and transitory grief and that which blindsides us for months, encroaching on the years. Life may not ever be the same again, but what it is, it’s now irreplaceable.

We have ‘entered’ ourselves and the truest knowledge of God—a place we cannot now lose; a place of truth. And comfort is there; it’s to be found by us in the ever-extant God of the universe who seeks us as we seek the Spirit of life in our desolate desperation.

The Gold at the Centre of Life

The gold in this destination of self is primary to the purpose of life. We’re at one with ourselves as we’re at one with our God—in this—the journey normally of strong denial, but now etched in a bold truth.

Here is the destination of the recovering drug addict or alcoholic, the divorcee, widow/er, prisoner, orphan and bankrupt business person. They’ve short-cut the road to heaven in this life. They’re catered for in as much as God avails to them principal access to the true kingdom that’s so often sought after—by the non-afflicted, yet not often at all found by them (until grief strikes hard—then comes their opportunity).

A life removed, or one altered beyond recognition, is now a life with perfect access to God.

Grief is good in this: we have direct access to the very open heart of God. To grieve, truly, is to be close to God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Five Aspects of Forgiveness – Part 3 – Forgiving Oneself

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret – it only leads to evil.”

~Psalm 37:8 (NIV).

Anger in grief is a sign of possibly many different things. Ironically, however, anger that doesn’t morph with time, not being resolved, can often be a sign that the person is angry deeper down and unforgiving toward themselves.

“I think you can forgive a little, you can forgive all the way or you cannot forgive at all.”

~Lynn McGuinn.

Forgiving a little is no answer to us personally. It’s a sick joke where pretence holds sway and we ‘think’ we’ve done something which we clearly haven’t.

Forgiveness is clearly an all-or-nothing type of thing; we have to keep going through to the achievement of the completeness of it. Literally, we don’t know where it might end.

God’s forgiveness is hamstrung if we cannot forgive ourselves. Indeed, we cannot actually receive the full weight of God’s eternally-intended forgiveness—that lightness of soul and joy of spirit—if we cannot resolve within ourselves the things we’re angry toward ourselves over.

Moving On

Most of us are highly moral people. We don’t pull the wool over our own eyes. Our inner sense of integrity shields us from the ‘easy way’ when so often to go the easy way—so far as self-forgiveness is concerned—would be a far wiser thing to do.

Just how does a person ‘move on’ when there are things they did, things that cannot now ever be changed, that were personally despicable?

It begins here. We all make these sorts of mistakes. We make thousands of them. Despite this we need to find a way of moving on through, not being burdened by the facts of our sheer human nature.

In the Head...

If we’re really serious about moving on we will need to understand within our minds—taking intellectual stock—that everyone makes mistakes and everyone betrays other people. Our personal value-set might despise that about humanity; but we’re best accepting we’re fallible creatures. God does not hold us to a standard we can’t attain.

As human beings we cannot help but make mistakes and occasionally hurt people. This is precisely why we need God’s forgiveness. Through God’s forgiveness we’re able to find within ourselves the tools and means of ‘repairing’ our transgressions.

In the heart...

Once we’ve acknowledged the fact of forgiveness in our mind we can then begin to work on ‘feeling’ such forgiveness... this is the experience of peace and balance returning (or entering for the first time in living memory for some).

This experience is received—we can’t make it happen. It happens when it happens, but our efforts to receive must be there.

Neither of these ‘head’ and ‘heart’ journeys is easy; they will generally both take more time than we might be comfortable with. It’s a process.

Moving on in life, as a process, is a healthy life-skill for us all to learn and master.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Acknowledgement: A paper from www.journeyfilms.com from the motion picture, The Power of Forgiveness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Thinking – Does ‘Size’ Really Matter?

The premise to begin with:

Big thinking doesn’t shirk the small things; it grapples with them, resolves them and moves on.

We cannot escape thinking in our world. Whilst some are plagued by their thoughts and others are at peace with their thoughts, no one is devoid of thought. The great difference, however, is the use and direction of thought. Some are characteristically ‘Big Thinkers’ and they receive their natural plaudits. What is it that separates them from small thinkers?

Defining Big and Small Thinking

We cannot explore this issue around what I call ‘Big Thinking’ and ‘Small Thinking’ until we know what we’re dealing with.

Big thinking I would define as: a pattern of thought that provides the motive and the ability to appreciate a balanced ‘big picture’ worldview whilst remaining firmly and maturely in the present, individual – and thus self-empowered and self-motivated – context.

Small thinking I would define as: the patterns of thought that allow, and even promote, a general state of undisciplined and irresponsible (lazy) thinking pertaining to the actual application of life.

We all get to ‘dabble’ in each of the above. It is our choice, however, which will become our default way; the way we’ll be characterised by.

Comparing Big and Small Thinking

Let’s secondly construct some imagery around both types of thinking.

Big thinking invests in gratitude; small thinking ends up in despair. Big thinking maintains our sanity, whereas small thinking promotes insanity. Big thinking is God-blessed; small thinking is Satan-cursed. The former is wisdom, the latter is folly. The big worldview is known to growth and abundance; the small worldview is known to spiritual shrinkage and emotional dysfunction. The former is characteristically adult; the latter is fundamentally stuck in the child-state.

Which is preferable? That would seem obvious. We can only truly enjoy life, the way we were meant to, by engaging in more and more Big Thinking.

Consolidating the Imagery of ‘Big Thinking’

There are traps everywhere to derail our Big Thinking.

Getting into Big Thinking, however, is skilfully side-stepping, like a champion footballer, any number of prattling and noisy little things that bear their pressure, contending for our bigger picture, against us. Certainly, we deal with them maturely and proactively.

There is always a bigger picture. This is what we’re always hoping to get back to, and continually so.

Size (of thought) really does matter. The bigger it is the better (given the ‘groundedness’ of the definition offered earlier).

What About the Necessary ‘Little Things?’

The golden paradox about little things is this. Only in Big Thinking is there a way through the little things that madden us, and through the little things of dire necessity that we must all contend with in living a responsible adult life.

Small Thinkers combine their frenzied frustrations, ‘enjoying’ a chaotic worldview, and the little things are so often missed or mishandled due to their inefficiencies and incompetence to actually live bigger. They’re stuck in a false instant—like a rat up a drain-pipe—all too often. It’s their thinking that gets them there and keeps them there.

Big Thinkers, on the other hand, are most adept at diving quickly and effectively into the little things of life, both because they’re free to invest that cognitive energy and heart-space, and they know when enough’s enough. They’re ‘done’ and gone before we know it!

This is why they’re inspirational to us. They’re ‘no fuss’ people who are easy to live with, because they lighten our burden, never adding to it.

A Challenge for Us All

Our challenge is to dramatically expand our perspectives. That is to open our eyes, hearts, ears and minds to God’s real truth as it manifests itself in this Big Life.

This is a continual ‘calling’.

We know there will always be much stimuli to take us back in a moment, back to the dungeon existence of Small Thinking; but we, in God’s wisdom, can evade that and we can become skilful at it—tackling the small things as a way of getting back to the bigger things.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Will I Be Good Enough?

At the heart of every human being is the echo, pre-performance, “Will I be good enough?” It doesn’t matter who we are or where we’re from, we’re all susceptible.

As the speaker nervously waits their turn at the podium, lectern or pulpit—no matter how many times they’ve done it before—in comes occasionally or often, “Will I be good enough?”

In other terms, the enquiring thought is, “Will I reach the standards I’ve set for myself and those set for me by the audience in front of me?” Or perhaps it’s a more positive fear that all the opportunities mightn’t be grasped.

It doesn’t matter if we’re presenting before five people or five-thousand people, or simply performing in front of one person... the same internal dialogue is going on in people all the time, many times below even our conscious awareness.

A Thousand and More Variations – Positive and Negative

The peculiar thing about being human is we’re all unique. We all do the same things, yet originally, i.e. in ways only we would do them.

Some ask, “By how much could I fail here?” Others ask, “How much can I make out of this—will it be enough?”

And the latter has it. The former is shrivelling death; the latter is abundant life.

Due to the fact that we’ll all ask the same questions—even subliminally within ourselves, perhaps at levels well below what we’re conscious in knowing—why would we not grasp at the opportunity to take the positive slant on such a question?

We can very well, over time, train ourselves to think differently.

Nothing else quite the same will impact our actual performance than what’s occurring deep within our minds as we do our thing.

Re-training our minds is one affirmative way we can wrest control over thoughts of failure.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Life – Okay, Is This It?

One thing we need to necessarily accept, when we’ve reached a pure form of contentedness, is life won’t realistically get much better. Life will just be.

This is both okay and a disappointment to dwell upon. It now depends on our focus.

We cannot do anything better than accept life on life’s straightest terms. At some point, serially perhaps, we will get to that place of, “Is this all there is?”

It’s no matter, for there’s an equally powerful opposite side to that coin. It’s just as visible—the “Wow, what a life!” attitude. Both are plainly observable.

And just the same—there we will be—occasionally truly questioning if this is all there is. That’s life, if we’re honest, no matter how much we believe in God.

And, still, there’s God!

The Need of God

This position of, “Is this all there is?” now requires God.

How strange it is here that God is more needed when we’ve reached the so-called summit of spiritual satisfaction with life. The need is most punctuated via the very fact of despair that people often (and ironically) enter into when they suddenly discover, “This is all there is!”

It saps completely the life purpose of some—some even who’ve been the high flyers of faith, wisdom and leadership—and sends others spiralling into doubt and all manner of identity crises.

This sense of “the end of life as we know it” needs God to make further sense of a reality that bears literally no sense for the person in question at that time.

Then Comes God...

When we’ve reached the end of our ‘version of sense,’ then comes God. And God always appears just in time—always seemingly from the aspect of retrospect.

We gain the sense here that God is right for any moment, position, situation and time in life.

So, then comes God... always according to our need, according commensurately to our drawing near to the Spirit (James 4:8).

When we’ve reached our end... then comes God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

The Golden Third

We control one third of life – our reactions to it. This is enough control for us to make a success of it. The bad news, however, to both understand and mitigate, is two thirds of life we do not control and we must, therefore, be wary of it.

The Colossal Power of a Dream

The creative energy behind this article came from a dream—well, actually, it was more like a pretty good contender for my worst nightmare.

In this dream I was doing so well with my familial relationships most of the time; then without the faintest of warnings I would flare up at a family occasion and insult or assault a family member.

I kept recalling to myself in the dream... thinking, “This is not me... why am I doing this?” It was very scary for me; these sorts of situations would dismay any of us. But the truth is, the reaction of abuse and assault is something we’re all capable of; we all have anger to mitigate and re-direct.

The Chiding Two Thirds

Let’s deal with the ugly bits first.

The chiding two thirds represent more or less an equal share of one half other people—who we cannot control, ever—as well as the other half, which is our life situations—another thing we cannot control, ever.

We could argue that both these above—other people and life situations—we have moderate amounts of indirect control over. (But that defeats the point of the article and doesn’t suit our purpose right now.)

Sure, we have our influence, but influence has a way of humbling us in embarrassment when we rely upon it; when we think we most need it. Best then to not rely upon such a thing as influence—good whilst it’s there, admittedly—it’s shocking, however, when it’s not.

The Golden Third

The locus is with us here. We’re entirely responsible and capable. We can do anything we choose.

Sound good? Well, of course it is. And this is the point of the article.

Where we can maintain any semblance of control is over our thoughts, our feelings and our reactions to things. Why would we give this level of control away by getting emotional about things when it’s all we have? It would be like cutting the arm off of a one-armed person, though this theory pretends that the one-armed person had three to begin with.

Pressing home the advantage in life is about making the very most of what we have and not worrying about what we don’t have, or what we don’t have control over.

Let’s live in the Golden Third—‘in the zone’ of control and what psychologists call, ‘self-efficacy’.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Being in Graceland

“And my traveling companions,

are ghosts and empty sockets,

I’m looking at ghosts and empties,

but I’ve reason to believe,

we all will be received

in Graceland.”

~Paul Simon, Graceland (1986).

It seems to me to be the hardest thing known to life in this cantankerous world—to respond gracefully or winsomely in any number of typically offensive situations.

And the maddening thing is, when we cooperate with God through a full surrender to the Spirit’s way, we will know how paradoxically easy is the issuing of grace, and how amazingly silly—from an embarrassed and reconciled retrospect—is the offensive response.

Still we can smile. We got it finally!

Both responses are at opposite sides of the spiritual universe—one carnal, the other divine.

Rather than going by Paul Simon’s song, where he’s going to Graceland—the journey to grace—we can be in Graceland any time we want by being in the Spirit. It becomes us in an instant.

It’s truly about giving our wills away... not always, because many times our wills might actually match God’s will... just the times when we’re not thinking God’s thoughts at all.

Give it away... the God-estranged will. It’s a loser every time.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.