Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Value of Sad Music

Tear-soaked eyes, or certainly a soul tending that way, usher a time for the spirit to bathe in the sublimely sorrowful pleasure of the saddest music one can find – to simply play and cry to. For in this we somehow know our souls are ministered to, healed; set free.

I had a grandfather who I’m told simply loved to listen to classical music—even the instruments like the violin—and just weep. I’m sure it was a deeply spiritual experience for him, beyond even simple emotion.

Music that drags us out of the sullenness of anger and just reveals us for who we are, hurting for whatever reason, has a fervent solemnity about it. It is forever cherished in our hearts. It augments surrender, which is what we need—to surrender to our sense of bullish though proudly foolish courage to resist the healing we could otherwise have.

Some songs and music that currently take me to the emotional edge, where I can enter a vitally-healing spirituality, are:

1. Love is Blindness – U2.

2. The Lonely Shepherd – Zamfir & Last.

3. Annie’s Song – John Denver.

4. Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits.

5. I’m With You – Avril Lavigne.

There are many gospel songs that take me there too.

The point is, when we feel askew of life and hope there’s usually some simple things right there in our grasp that will help us restore our emotional equilibrium. It’s what we want. We don’t like being angry, lonely, anxious or depressed. We want to feel better.

And music can take us there, but it’s not by listening to happy songs, for we require empathy regarding our struggle. If it’s not a trusted other we can or want to call upon, music can fill the void. Indeed, when we feel lonely we often want to wallow in our loneliness, and this is far from pitiable.

Then Healing Occurs... Somehow

As we listen and we weep our tears in congruence with the solemn mood of the music, something occurs very deeply inside of us.

Christians liken this to the healing power of God—our Eternal Father and Friend—who heals us of these tribulations inexplicably. We cannot understand how it occurs, but it is God, just for that reason—it can’t be explained. It reaches the realm of the miraculous.

When we’re in pain we have the distinct need to be identified with. Often times this is all we need at the time... for our music to ‘sit shivah’ with us, the sweetly silent ‘words’ making their way to our core, to make it all better for us.

The weird thing is we can’t explain this process when we’re feeling good about ourselves, everything and our entire world. But, dark and melancholic music does have its role.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Living Every Minute with Purpose

“Worry ducks when purpose flies overhead.”

~C. Astrid Weber.

A minute without purpose is one we contemplate fearfully. Another minute or so, or perhaps thirty, and we become embroiled, perhaps, in a trap to the dead area of the purposeless soul, and we begin to believe the lie that beckons over us. Worries over nothing—or at least, comparatively little—sweep through our consciousness.

Purpose is an alluring concept. There is probably not a more important thing to have before us as we contemplate life in the present and immediate future.

It is, therefore, most adroit of us to seek to live every minute we can with purpose, and even as we rest, we rest and rejuvenate with purpose in mind. It is a purposeful sojourn.

Avoiding Worry and Vexatious Concern

The very best way to fix a negative is to drown it out with a positive.

This works so well for those seeking to break a bad habit, like giving up smoking or losing weight, because they do something they can control to augment their overall purpose. They exercise or get more active, for instance.

Purpose is something positive in an overall way. It fills otherwise empty voids. It takes the place of the negative that would otherwise encroach. It shifts our focus.

Worries have a role in that they remind us that we’ve lost vision of our purpose; somehow we’ve wound up off track and we must, therefore, re-register our spiritual global positioning device to find our bearings again. Our purpose re-doubles for protection from worry and vexatious thought or concern.

Our purpose, hence, opposes our worries, and constructively at that.

What If No Purpose Can Be Found?

For some, just searching for a purpose is purpose enough.

For others, there is a vacancy of achievement to have a purpose. It seems to constantly elude. Really, almost anything meaningful will do. Everyone can find something meaningful, even if it might not seem that meaningful to others.

And for times there also comes the opportunity for us to seek out new purposes or confirmation of existing or old ones. Sometimes these are brave ventures as we take our leave-of-absence to take in the vistas of life in terms of their taking us into frontiers not yet known. A momentary cessation can, in fact, be the perfect purpose, but for a time.

All of life—the good life—rests on finding, exploring and hoping on, the purpose.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is God Opening a Window for You?

Empty time and empty space can be disconcerting, unless it is, of course, that these can be attributed to God’s hand of favour for change in your life.

And if not change, perhaps it’s a brief moratorium, in place to catch your breath, to prepare, to learn something, or simply to relax.

We are very apt in this busy life to think ourselves hard-done-by for being left without things to do, as if the whole world revolved around us and only us. When there’s an absence of activity, conversation or general interest, or less than we’re normally involved in, there can be the presence of that gnawingly vacant feeling inside.

As people, most of us want to be involved in life. This means relating with people and having fun in the company of others, if not learning from them.

But there might be a purpose in this brief ceasefire.

God might be saying to us, “Here’s a window; seek and you shall find what I’m leading you to.”

We have to be careful, of course, that we don’t accede to our own desire for withdrawal, i.e. into complacency or procrastination, but usually those of us questioning “Why the quiet time?” are not really after such sojourning.

Accounting for the Future

None of us truly knows what our futures are bringing us.

Therefore, it is a thing of high possibility that God will be opening up time and space, at times, for change. We can never quite grow comfortable with this concept, however, for the future is an unknown to us, and without bearing or datum we can feel somewhat lost to it all.

Careful Not To Close the Window Before the Bird’s Flown Out

Because of our tepid spirits we do have a struggle maintaining our opened windows; those to the possibilities of something new.

Like the image of the opened window that lets in a dove, which flies around quite chaotically in a strange environment, we and it are doomed if we close the window before it makes its retreat back outside.

Likewise, it’s the insightful wisdom of self-restraint to allow the window to be open in the presence of our discomfort.

The window might be open for a reason. It’s not until we enquire of God about that possibility that we’re likely to see or understand. We best leave it ‘as is’ then and seek to explore gently the meaning of it all.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Planning for Crises – A Key Life Competency

Disastrous times can sometimes be anticipated.

It is interesting what happened suddenly in the demise of ancient Egypt. Also, with the dinosaurs, sudden extinction became them. Crises throughout history have drastically altered life as it was known. At times crises sweep over us too, and without the faintest of warnings.

Getting ready for such crises—and living ready—is, therefore, a great skill of and for preparation.

This is not living in fear; it’s simply preparing ourselves for the worst so we can truly enjoy the best that life has to offer.

Foreseeing the Possibilities

It is such a wisdom activity to bravely consider ‘what might be’ or ‘become’.

Again, this is not so much morbidity, but realism, to know that whilst life is generally pretty static there are no guarantees that things will always remain as they are or as we would like them.

When we think one year ahead we might consider the growth changes in those around us, our children and grandchildren for instance. Going out further to the five-year-from-now mark and we see how things really are very different to how they are now. Twenty years from now our lives will have changed more, perhaps, than we’d believe in our pondering about them now.

And, yet, any time in between all this we can have something occur that we totally didn’t expect. Mostly these will be minor things; minor crises. At times, though, we’ll be swept away on a current of disbelief and anguish.

The Advantages of this Activity

If there weren’t some advantages in this sort of activity people wouldn’t be motivated to engage in it.

Simply the biggest advantage is we save ourselves some unnecessary heartache as we have the real opportunity at training ourselves in our future grief—to even a small extent—now.

This approach is ‘borrowing’ into the grief of tomorrow whilst the days are good today. It’s seen as a preparation, knowing that grief—as a living process—is something for which we all go through... indeed, we grieve even mini amounts every single day.

A New Approach

The way of life that thinks about the crisis as a daily possibility is one that is getting beyond the fear of it all—even beyond fear itself in some quarters—as we steel ourselves in the potential of reality.

This way we begin to see life as it actually is—a thing that’s never to be taken for granted.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Proverbs’ “Power-Proverbs” – Power for Life!

Some sayings have divergent or fleeting relevance. Others, however, command our attention all the way through life. The latter are “power proverbs”.

The “power-proverbs” within the biblical collection known as Proverbs stand classically through the ages, tall and content to admonish all who pass by. These tall cedars do not just tower so we would cower; they usher to us a gentle though persistent message for power in life.

Take for instance:

“A person who will not bend after many warnings will suddenly be broken beyond repair.”

~Proverbs 29:1 (GW).

We can now readily see that such a power-proverb leaves a resounding message within us and it affects how we subsequently interact with life. We’re not likely to be so keen to embrace our stubbornness as we continue reflecting on this one above.

Likewise, what could be considered a concluding quatrain in the initial chapter casts both bright and stark imagery before the reader:

“For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but those who listen to [Wisdom] will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

~Proverbs 1:32-33 (NRSV).

Other proverbs encompass powerful portions of truth, for instance:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

~Proverbs 4:23 (KJV).

This is an astoundingly comprehensive proverb—one that echoes through our eternal souls as we partake in the “issuing” of life. The fact that the heart is the “source,” or otherwise the “wellspring,” of our lives is as profound a truth as any of us will ever know, certainly as far as the exercise of practical living is concerned.

Perhaps we’re beginning to see here the resolute breadth of stead that the power-proverb commands in and through life.

The Imagery in Some Power-Proverbs

There is another great example of the proverbial power we’re framing up here. The sextet in verses 9-11 of chapter six talks about laziness against diligence. The power in this set thrusts an image into the forefront of our minds that should compel us to live our lives a certain way—to not sleep all our lives, but to get up early enough to prepare for our days, for instance.

Another example is Proverbs 16:1, a saying with many parallels speaking similarly of its wisdom. We have our plans, yet the reply of the tongue—i.e. the way life works out—comes from the Lord.

Overall Comments

Just about every proverb—or set of proverbs—from chapter ten onwards has power about it. The first nine chapters share an introductory or preparatory flow, as an overall imperative to the young student of Wisdom.

And, of course, it has to be acknowledged; one person’s power-proverb is not another’s and vice versa. The Lord has blessed us all with the ability to have our own perceptions and unique viewpoints on things—and different ones that are perfectly qualifiable.

Blessed are those who select their power-proverbs and allow that particular wisdom to permeate their lives.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Patience in Timing – A Holy Tonic

“You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.”

~James Matthew Barrie.

Impetuosity! Frankness and scourging delight that are impossible to contain; these are the death of us and our plans. If only we’d have waited...

Why we are so apt at chasing the fleeting wind is a mystery known only to God. We do so because we like to, I suppose. But with our 20/20 hindsight engaged we can readily see what we’re doing.

Forcing the pace is getting us worse than nowhere.

Acceding with Time

Being a friend of time makes a lot of sense because there is no use being its enemy. It will always win hands down—pardon the pun!

As we grow in our acceptance of time and the right timing of things, we’re blessed with the ability, more and more, to discern the actual needs of the time. Then, simply, it’s up to us whether we take its lead or not.

Golden Anti-Moments

There are such times when for moments to slip gracefully by would actually be a treat.

When we’re hurting deeply or life becomes much too chaotic for the reasonable person to bear, for instance, we’re reminded how coarse and haggard life can be. We are better to be anesthetised from these, if that’s at all possible. God is able to gird the way with great effect like this when we seek refuge.

Numbness, then, is seen later as a very good thing from our retrospect, as the mind and heart were able to catch their collective breaths, fresh for a new assault when life corrected itself.

Other times that place in time that appeared vacuous—we’ll call it ‘the anti-moment’—seemed inordinately welcome was when we had the inkling that all was not right, and delay might be the best approach.

At these times our God-revealed wisdom was invoked. And we waited and were thankful for this wisdom.

Faith for Times of Action to Return

Sometimes we feel as if the whole of our lives has changed for the worse, and that there is no hope of reconciling the times as they were.

These times call for patience as we claw away at ourselves, clamouring for reason and logic to become ‘us’ once again; to feel right and true and beyond the constant internal haranguing.

Other times, we’re just blessed to wait a minute, an hour or a day or few, for our efforts will be spoiled if we commit and deploy too early. Sometimes it’s just better at times to slow down:

“Slow down, you move too fast; you’ve got to make the morning last...”

~Simon & Garfunkel, 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), 1966.

It is a great skill in life to be able to patiently stare at a blank page for a while, not getting bored, especially when the time is appropriate for a moratorium.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

True Greatness – Become Smaller

John the Baptist said at the immanence of God in Jesus,

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

~John 3:30 (NRSV).

John’s rejection of greatness was at the same time an attraction of greatness.

One of my little anthems relates to greatness—personal and interpersonal greatness—and that, for everyone around me who wants it. It’s a beautiful concept.

‘Greatness’ is a buzzword in coaching and self-development circles, and usually for the wrong reasons. People generally want greatness out of selfish desires. No amount of telling some will get through, however; that’s never getting anyone ‘greatness’.

Then I thought, “What’s the quickest, surest way to true greatness?”

Immediately thrust into the nearest reaches of my mind, as if the invitation to answer that question had become raggedly overdue, the Spirit caused me to think: humility.

It’s a sharply cogent paradox.

The way to real success in life is the fight to become less. The way we truly get glory beyond ourselves is by convulsively giving God the glory—as if to staunchly reject the praises that might readily come.

John the Baptist did it and so did Jesus.

The Underpinning Glow of John the Baptist’s Message

This has such spiritual relevance to every human being for all people desire some form of greatness.

The Spirit comes from above and we come from the earth. When the Spirit comes alive in us—despite it being housed within us in any event—we cannot help but draw on, and find our meaning in, the glory of the Lord, in as much as we are.

Becoming smaller so God can be bigger (he is bigger in any event!) is recognising the laws of life and it’s cooperating with the Spirit to a point where due credit is given and glory comes to us whether we like it or not... and we’re never really in a position to reject the glory that genuinely comes from godly things. They naturally effuse themselves to us.

Overwhelming Joy

We can’t know joy, not truly, until we place God at absolute first place in our coming in and going out.

For John the Baptist, his joy had been fulfilled (John 3:29). He understood his role as the forerunner; the one people would naturally assume was the Messiah, assimilating honour to him that wasn’t truly his. He was most probably relieved—other than being awed—at Jesus’ eventual arrival.

Paradoxically, though John is deflecting all the kudos and fame from himself onto the “One coming” he is found to be rather famous in God’s court—the eternal riches of glory were genuinely his in humility to have known his place.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Innocence and Power of Enthusiasm

“Enthusiasm is the leaping lightning, not to be measured by the horse-power of the understanding.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Not unlike curiosity in the breadth of its power and majesty of its mystery, enthusiasm is given to the holy quality of another realm, other than founded here, on earth.

It has an infectious allure and power beyond bases as it is stricken never beyond hope, and always powerfully optimistic.

Never to be Undermined

The sheer weight of our enthusiasm carries us over many cusps and chasms, ones which even seem impossible and untenable to the naked human eye.

Never to be undermined is this thing that predisposes us to success and the holiness of a totalitarian joy able to quash a troubled spirit.

More than this even, it enraptures a certain capacity for more, despite the discontentment and disenchantment of the fatigued voices it somehow hears in background.

Wandering alone with the Divine it saves note of counsel for this interaction alone, other than simply to enlighten others as to the vision it sees; a wonderful escarpment known beyond the limits of the human mind, into the revelation of the Divine.

Not that it is beyond the reaching; we’re discussing the character of Enthusiasm—which is a mood, an attitude, and a moral competency.

Dissuaded to Hopelessness and Helplessness

Enthusiasm, then, is not given to mirages of despair, though she knows cousins who are. These are frightened by opposite realities that are all too visible.

This quality of zealously innocent passion is choosing for the brightness of joy, the colour of wonder, the contrast of health, and the luminosity of splendour. It cannot be beaten.

Taking Hold of Enthusiasm’s Hand

It is a thing to do and a thing to see. When darkness is seen it is somehow disbelieved for light somewhere over the shoulder. It continues searching until brilliance is found.

As we persons—each with our minds and hearts to enjoy or despair—take with our lives the qualities of enthusiasm, we find the darkness lighted up. It does not contend well with such spiritual work; darkness has no answer to it.

In life we take hold of hands. We must do so to live. However, we do so as a choice, take the hand of darkness or light and myriad fortune of each dialect of reality.

The basic choice rests with us. Will it be enthusiasm beyond the discouraged moment, or will the discouragements that presently weigh heavily cast their shadow ever more over our weary souls?

Just a little over the horizon rests a splendour not recognised from here. Yet, as God is alive, it is surely there!

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Laughing at the Temptation

Being a sinful person is one step from victory. Noticing the temptation we laugh at it. The heart usually follows.

Not to make light of an incredibly serious and life-threatening thing for all of us, but dealing with the temptations that lead to sin is often made easier than we think when we develop the habit of defiantly laughing at its pathetic power rather than give into it.

We’ll obviously need to know that we have to develop a habit for this if it’s going to work effectively over the longer term. And we need know that these laughing bouts are ours alone, so it doesn’t appear that to others that we’re laughing for no apparent reason.

The Interconnectedness of the Mind and Heart

Here we appreciate that both the mind and heart influence and impact on each other. In temptation it works both ways. The heart feels something as a desire and colludes with the mind to ‘act on’ thoughts that are then produced in the mind, perhaps a plan, and this to bring about more of that feeling the heart likes. Likewise, the mind can influence the heart.

So, if we’re able to control our minds—which is easier, actually, than controlling our hearts—we will be able to guard against much troubling sin. At the end of the day, however, training our hearts also is a key character-building exercise for growth for us.


The entrenchment of certain behaviours happens because neural pathways have been developed in the mind. This means the brain finds it easier to think certain ways, for the habit was designed in the first place to make it easier for us to not think manually so much. Habits, therefore, are mechanising thought to make life easier for us.

Where we get into trouble is when the bad habit is installed. Take pornography or overeating, for instance. An acted-on impulse—the temptation—has seen us engage in and then repeat the sin, enough perhaps that we have created for ourselves a hard-to-break habit.

It is not impossible, nonetheless, to break this habit, but we will need to set about re-training our minds, so we think differently, creating new neural pathways. Like any road construction project, however, it’s going to take a little time before the highway’s built and can be used with good effect. We need to be patient, especially regarding relapse.

This is not as hard as it sounds. But it does require a tenacious desire and a preparedness to not give up.

Breaking the Bad Habit

Simplistically, then, we can see that where there is a strong desire to do what is required—whatever it takes—including very much so “telling on” the sin in the company of trusted others—and we include the tenacity to not give up, besides relapses—which are not the end of our world—we can and will eventually restore ourselves beyond this sin.

But not without God’s grace. Grace is what allows this process to occur in the first place.

Eventually, perhaps, we can see a time when we simply have a little chuckle with ourselves as we see the enemy’s deceit in full flight and then we simply sidestep it as if it’s a distraction.

Even better when it becomes routine to us. And it will with persistence.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two Great Spiritual Problems

Disjointedness with God and life occurs when we either run behind or ahead. We neither keep pace with God nor go on beyond ourselves. Hence, the track of life is being missed.

The biggest challenge many of us will face is either living on a ‘milk only’ spiritual diet where no growth occurs, or we introduce ‘meat’ too early and we get spiritual indigestion. Crises of faith arise for the latter problem, often bringing about cases of acute backsliding, and for the former, the key issue is we’ll never grow in a static seed-bed.

Both of these above are missing the marked path God has for them.

Enjoying the ‘Right Meal’

Progressing with the analogy we’ve commenced with, we can readily see some ‘eating disorders’ coming out of the imbalances in our spiritual diets. Milk only and no solids is not only bland, it does very little for the growth of our spiritual gut, a part of the anatomy that must be lined for more challenging spiritual food.

And, yet, there is little good putting those complex meats into our systems too early. The foundation of shifting sand does nothing for the torrent of spiritual anxiety to come (see Matthew 7:24-27) which is readily seen producing an acid-overburden with gastric abnormalities expected. We must therefore do our homework and proper preparation before we think of chewing such arduous material.

The ‘right meal’ is that which is right for us at the right time—God’s time.

This is about finding the right God-destined track—a customised and balanced diet—that fits with our current groove, and it’s walking humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8) from then on.

Addressing These Two Great Problems

If we’re given to backsliding or we feel we haven’t grown in years—which is characterised by a lacking in Christian or character maturity for our time since re-birth into the faith—there might be a good reason to take the questions deeper to God.

Indeed, all of us are probably destined to lean toward one of these great problems or the other, as is our personal predilection; the bold ones given to backsliding and the timid ones to stagnancy.

Knowing the particular issue that may’ve actually clung to us from our pasts is good self-knowledge to have, particularly for our futures.

God’s agenda is getting us onto his track. This is not an easy place to find at times, and it’s bound to shift dynamically, so learning to stay in this groove that God has for us as persons is a key spiritual competency.

Blessed are those who master it, keeping to God’s ancient path for their lives.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Feeling Good In Our Own Skin

Whether it’s working our bodies, the food we eat, satisfaction or vindication, many are the inputs to feeling good in our own skin.

The older we get the more important it truly is to feel good on the inside. This has both physical and spiritual connotations—and all between, to the mental and emotional.

Lasting peace is that frank surprise of this prepared nature; to have ‘gone on in’ toward the search for contentment in the Lord, to listen and to feel our way there—to our essence.

Better to feel good in the body than to look good in the mirror. The former is wisdom; the latter vanity, which is sweeping itself away on a tide to nowhere. Forgotten before long is that which perhaps might ordinarily consume us if we’re not careful.

Feeling and learning to feel: great things are these. This is life and hope for us, yes, today!

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

That Fabulous Art of Withdrawal

“One is not obliged to belong so much to all as not to belong at all to oneself.”

~Balthasar Gracian.

Many times we feel tied to people and to situations, drawn in perhaps beyond our personal control. This is a horrible reality.

It’s great to just be that fly on a wall at times, hiding—though not fearfully—from a ravenous world.

There are a great many advantages in balancing the volume of our interactions. People do not tire of us and we remain fresh in their sight. Time, also, is won back to us, as so much time can be wasted on things that really are of no valid concern to us.

This is, however, not against sincere and life-tending friendship—for which we all have need.

But it is about excess.

We should never doubt the peace that exists on the other side of the noise of life. Suddenly we can find ourselves in this place where nothingness is bliss as fears no longer attach themselves to us, only joy at what life has for us in the present as we bask in a seamless medley consisting the past, present and future—and those pleasant thoughts etched in freedom.

Finally, I guess, there is the rather obvious reality of our sacredness to God in being apart from people and life, at least at selected times.

Withdrawal – the Art

For some, withdrawing for peace, silence and solitude is difficult or even impossible, given living situations in the ‘right now’. Still, the hope remains. And whilst this hope pervades, we plan. We enjoy the vision of times to come, alone with God to enjoy the existence of our being.

It occurs firstly in little things; the trip to the toilet or in the shower, for good instance. The amount of time is not the issue. It’s the ‘space’ that’s important, for we generally have more than enough space when we’re thinking creatively.

Entire days are taken—if that’s achievable—where we can simply vanish from the prying eyes of the world, to learn how the world would exist without us, for it will.

Then we realise how small we are. But this is not a bad thing at all. We actually feel safer in this world when we realise how big it is, the universe and God. We are safe.

Cosmically Alone with God – All of Us

Alone we have come into this world and alone we will leave it (Job 1:21). Alone we are many times between those vast poles.

This is not really a scary reality—though many are given to avoid time alone, fearful of boredom or baggage.

Eternal living is very much a ‘now’ reality, in the fact that being blissfully alone is about as good as life can actually be, for here we are with God.

Withdrawal from the rush and worry of life: occasionally done, and enjoyed, it is the making of us.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.