Saturday, April 30, 2011

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, is the making of us.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 29, 2011

When Anger Fools Us and What To Do About It

We sense this after a long, frustrating day, cooped up on a ‘freeway’ that became a car-park, all the while knowing we were getting further behind on those things that are important to us.

Anger boils away silently within us, most often as we repress our childlike instinct to curl up and cry. Our worlds don’t expect us to act like children now, and we have a job to prove just how adult and ‘mature’ we really are.

But anger is the foil for fear.

Ignoring Fear – The Indirect Path

Fear presents for all-important reasons, but it’s what we do with fear that counts.

Rather than succumbing to it, we explore it, but that takes courage in itself.

Ignoring our fear seems like a more direct path in life, but it’s a shortcut to nowhere as we visit this halfway house — one in a perilous neighbourhood — when a more direct route to resolution could’ve been taken.

This more direct course is simply being honest and courageously relating with ourselves.

Relating With God Begins By Relating With Self

We’re fooled to not do something with these emotions — and the duping occurs at the level of our honesty.

Fool others maybe, but we will not fool ourselves. This viper called “Anger” will bite back in ways we will regret, and all because we gave it no hearing — we stopped listening to ourselves. Imagine that; we hate it when others ignore us! But we’re the worst culprits.

When we put the relationship we have with ourselves on hold, we suspend agreements for living, and begin to forfeit purpose and meaning to life. This is what happens in situations where what angers us isn’t being heeded.

It would be like being in a courtroom with ourselves as judge, but feeling the rank injustice of cross-examination; what betrayal! This relationship we have with ourselves is even more intimate than the marital relationship we share with an entirely different person. And how little do we invest?

What we’re effectively doing when we ignore ourselves is we’re ignoring what God is saying to us via the interaction of our circumstances with our personalities — both of which God has designed.

Beating Anger Is About Congruence

When all things align, harmony is not only possible, but probable.

But harmony never comes without a fight in the first place. But not conflict for the sake of it. Instead, we’re prepared to fight a good fight if there are critical gains to be won.

Winning the spirit is everything as we contend for peace, and let’s not kid ourselves; every day we’re in a spiritual war.

We cannot beat our anger in the moments of climbing frustration unless we’re honest with ourselves and accept, and validate, our emotions. There is no use resenting emotions; they come built-in.

Accept the emotion, and the reason for its existence; then you have commenced the journey to peace.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wonder – Divine Answer for Anger

Anger — the secondary and less authentic but highly dangerous emotion — is addressed in the purity and awe of wonder.

Small aircraft buzzing overhead has limited entertainment value for me, personally. Pity to live near enough to a light aircraft terminal. I can quickly find myself at inner anguish for the incessant droning of Cessna engines overhead as they bank on approach.

Yet, just as easily my boiling anger, at the uncontrollability of the noise, is quelled — in wonder. As I look skyward, noting the dual mysteriousness — the vacuum in my understanding as to why the noise of urbanisation frustrates me, and, the mystery of airflight — wonder replaces the fight to understand.

It illustrates a salient point.

Wonder is the perfect answer, and corrective, for anger.

Quickly wonder retrieves us back to that primary emotion — the authenticity of humility, for there are many things we don’t know, and will never know.

Wonder is too easily overlooked. It’s a childlike (not ‘childish’) state, but manifested in a mature adult wise to the effect of life quite irreconcilable.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Defeating the Self-Stereotype

Forget about others stereotyping us at our expense; drop it for one moment.

Think of the self-imposed limitations we place with no external help.

Self-stereotyping is a hidden alliance against our person.

Become aware of it. Challenge it. Change it. It’s very much open and pliable to our circumstances, and we’re more than our circumstances.

Allow the truth to bear itself — not ours; God’s. It’s a beautiful truth beyond any stereotype we can dream up. God’s into reality, truth; not dreams — inflated or poisonous.

The truth about us is always wondrous.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grappling with the Intimacy Gap

The resurrection power known to those saved — this power to live past hopeless life situations to overcome them, in Jesus’ name — is available for those times where the love-ducts of our intimacy are initially blocked, yet later freed.

The intimacy gap is felt in certain family situations, and at times with friends. These times we fail to truly connect.

It pains us when we’re distant with the people we love. Bridging the intimacy gap has to be our first goal.

The abovementioned resurrection power overcomes the intimacy gap whenever we confront it, usually later on, by courageously and truthfully interceding for the relationship.

It becomes the most important thing of our minute.

And once we’ve re-established the temporarily lost sense of closeness things are again okay.

It’s alright to feel distant awhile — how else is the tension forcing us to come back together again?

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Albert Einstein’s Three Rules of Work

“Three rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

~Albert Einstein.

In many parts of the world there are typhoons, cyclones or hurricanes registered.

Indeed, the region I grew up in was prone to them during a six-month season every year. It always amazed me that in the ‘eye’ of these storms was perfect, eerie stillness.

This illustrates Einstein’s rules of work: there is order within the middle of many calamities.

RULE 1: Achieve Beautiful ‘Elegant’ Simplicity

In my article, Elegant Simplicity - Achieving It, I describe the fact that simplicity is possible but we don’t get there without enduring some of the pain of complexity to get to the other side of it. There is a sense of tenacity and vision required before we enjoy the outcomes of simplifying things.

Work is most inspiring when we’ve simplified it. This is real improvement, and simplification should be the main objective in improving work.

No one really enjoys work, or many things for that matter, that are awkwardly clumsy and cluttered beyond sense.

RULE 2: Promote Harmony

Very rarely are people comfortable in conflict; and the ones that are will be the sort of people we don’t really want to interact with. Even as we meet these we limit our opportunities at conflict via the exercise of wisdom (diligence and prudence).

Harmony is always the gold of interaction; whether it’s people and relationships we’re talking about, or processes and systems showing how fluidly things are working.

The gold of harmony is peace. Everyone seeks peace (and still many don’t know how to achieve it). Work needs to reside in “peace” if it’s to be effective and efficient.

RULE 3: Search Out Opportunities

Oh how we know the theory, but we have our struggles with practice of it!

Opportunities always lie in the difficulty. It is the patient person, team, process or system that can extract maximum value from the difficulties so as to enjoy future opportunities, for the longsuffering way is adept at holding tensions in balance. It won’t skirt the pain.

Pain is seen as a necessary pathway to the real value that’s to be experienced later.

Of course, this is not only a spiritual principle it’s steeped in the biblical. When we hear the words, “Consider it pure joy when you suffer all kinds of trials...” (James 1:2-4) we know where it’s going. There is hardly a more powerfully paradoxical truth known to the whole of humankind.

Maturity — whether it is in people or systems — cannot truly occur without some (or even much) hardship.


One thing all these three rules have in common is difficulty in getting to their end points.

As mentioned earlier, it’s both tenacity and vision we need.

We need vision to have the hopeful foresight of something better and then we need the tenacity to get us all the way there without giving up. Of course, direction is also critical.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meeting Jesus – Better Than a Best Friend

Imagine meeting someone who knows us better than we do. This person is frank with us but never hurtful — always on-time with their insights and assistances.

They go with us everywhere; every nook and cranny of life we’ve been into they’ve also been — yes, the spectacular and the sordid alike!

Nothing’s hidden from God, but it doesn’t matter.

Truthful Contemplations

Contemplating that God might be present with us, and ever was, is a stark truth when we consider where we’ve been. Our Lord is no stranger to darkness. Perhaps it’s starker still to think where we might yet go, especially in our notional sin.

But God’s seen it all. Does the Spirit condemn such ‘demonic’ virulence for private showing?

The Holy Spirit is more patient than that. We might be asked to ‘go on’ with God, but this Lord knows we’ll gravitate back to squalor in a flash — it’s a plain rarefied reality.

A truthful contemplation is we’ll take God with us wherever we go. This alone is a great truth held in tension with accepting who we are, but fighting the flesh-bound pull to give into our temptations.

Either way, though, we have little to actually fear if we’re respectful of God and truthful with ourselves.

Meeting Jesus is Meeting Ourselves

Why is it we either have trouble accepting ourselves or others? Accepting all things in life is a vast maturity, for we have no option but to accept or change.

Both outputs of choice are set, first, in acceptance.

Problems in our relationships — whether with the self or others, or both — stem from uncertainty with the self, apart from those that occur due to chasms in shared values. Uncertainty with the self is propagated in a lack of peace; a practical rejection of the Jesus that would liberate us.

Meeting Jesus is permission to be ourselves. It’s loving despicable me.

Meeting this Jesus fellow is better than a best-of-friends-meeting experience because it’s like meeting ourselves, but when we’re at our very best.

It’s the apropos of the soul — a meeting of minds, but within one mind (i.e. ours) at allegiance with the Spirit.

The Lord desires for us to be at peace, and this can only truly happen when we design life around the acceptance of our particular realities.

It’s being ruthlessly honest with ourselves, knowing that Jesus knows it all, and still accepts us. This reality — our Lord’s acceptance — can never be in dispute.

I say again, meeting Jesus is permission to be ourselves. It’s loving despicable me.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On the Side of God’s Speed

When we’re at harmony with God’s will, time — the perception of time — is sped up or slowed down in accord with the Lord’s precise purpose.

This is both bizarre and entrancingly reassuring, for the feeling of blessedness in keeping with knowing God’s favour is, at the same time, privilege and responsibility.

Whilst such proximity to God can be eerie and daunting, there’s no better place to be.

Time is the Lord’s — and we, with it, are at Divine disposal.

Then, we’re alive!

God’s speed to you, in all you do...

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Analytical Thinking – A Bane Become Blessing

What is generally considered by many a great gift and skill is a bane and a curse to many of those who have it. These are those who constantly analyse what they think and feel.

But surely there is a place where the personality surrenders to the analysing mind and lets it roam freely. Certainly, there is much to learn — this here is our tool.

These analytical thoughts should not hurt us if we’re not held in contempt by them.

It’s only when what we’re thinking about is or becomes of key importance to us that we have a problem.

Even, then, we can allow ourselves rest within contemplation.

The faith that doesn’t care what it gets and doesn’t get is a great supplementary gift to the analytical thinker. Seek it and we shall find.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For the Lonely, Restless and Weary

Maybe you’re tired... physically or spiritually. In your heart of hearts you’re ready to quit. This is something for where you’re at right now. You might’ve just arrived there, or perhaps you’ve been there for some time. No matter; this comes to you.

You somehow know you need something and despite your worse judgment, and the want to give into it, you just can’t; holding on in faith, hope (however dim that is) somehow holds sway.

Inner Circumstances

Sometimes we’re windswept from the chilly corridors deep within ourselves. The effect? — anxiety for one, or depression as another; peculiar, foreign and inexplicable.

The languor is shocking and everything we see right now is tinged with darkness.

The world sort of looks okay. It goes on despite us. At some level deeper, which is something we see dimly — but see we do, we pine to be back there, ‘in the mix,’ so to speak.

We long for normality.

Just to do the simple things again.

Outer Circumstances

Just as commonly we feel the blitzkrieg form about us due to a work situation or one within family or friends; these that appear irreconcilable. It is tormenting to us that this is occurring — people tearing emotional flesh off each other.

It’s the last thing we need.

The longer things have worn on the worse this situation’s become. Perhaps it’s blown up so suddenly we’re still reeling from its shockwaves. Whatever, we’re at a loss right now as to what to do.

At times both the inner and outer circumstances collude, one even bringing the other, and most likely the outer influences the inner, but the converse is just as true.

The Hope Beyond the Cloud that Hovers

Beyond where we’re at right now is a sunny field — a destination enriched in the fundament of hope. Whilst that appears a pipedream right now, we cling to it, and from it solace comes.

Time has come to respond what our heart of hearts is telling us.

Perhaps that’s to withdraw to re-load, to relinquish the reigns of the uncontrollable, to learn to accept. It might be to rest and ponder the next move, to get better again.

Perhaps it’s time to get active, as we’ve heard from Wisdom, and we know the right move to make. We go about finding the last bastions of courage deep within our mental and spiritual sinew. We construct a healthy response.

Whatever we do, we draw solace from the One that’s been there; the One that’s there with us right now in where we’re at.

God’s there, silent perhaps, but ever-empathetic. We get encouragement from the Old Book:

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”

~Galatians 6:9 (NRSV).

Harvest time... it beckons. It’s just over the horizon. We may not yet see it; yet it’s there alright.

Refresh, revive, survive. It will not always be like this.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Everything’s Going to Be Okay

The weirdest things are retained in my mind as I awaken from dreams. I’m sure you relate. This was a protest chant:

You’re alright,

This is to say,


Going to be okay.


A message for today and eternity, it speaks against worrying.

It assures each us that basically we’re alright as we are — if we really can’t change — and everything will be fine anyway.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Post Script: many Christians may find it offensive that God’s left out of this short piece. Let’s grant it, God’s implied throughout. Sometimes, non-Christians, who wish to follow the faith quietly — just to learn more before committing — don’t want to be bombarded with the things that make Christians feel comfortable. Let there be a place where the words of God go out without specifically mentioning God. Be assured, the Lord blesses it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where’s the Gap?

It’s our role. It’s our goal. If we wish to succeed.

Rather than resting on the laurels of our current successes (or languishing in our corresponding failures) we need to be asking, “What next?”

This is an imperative to be looking forward, not back.

What’s the gap — what’s missing?

Blessed are those who hunger for this sort of truth.

What’s found is the will of God.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Time Magazine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hope Beyond the Daily Struggle

Many, many people deal with tremendous difficulty each and every day. These are people we know; they might even be those who are reading these words. If we don’t identify now, chances are we’ve been there; or in time we might return.

Difficulties are known, inherently, to life.

Financial concerns are probably greatest, or those relating to health. Both of these will impact on our primal human need — the compromise of our safety and security.

What helps (or hinders, depending on your viewpoint) most, when we’re struggling continually, is to know that there is myriad suffering in the world. We’re not alone.

It helps to know this if we have the resources of empathy for others stowed, but it hinders if we can’t see past our depressed circumstances.

Hope Required

When we’re in the midst of the daily struggle, somehow we need to attach ourselves to visible, tangible hope.

Winston Churchill was famed to say, “When you’re going through hell, keep going!”

Making it through has to be priority one, but that’s not getting us through the quavering minute. We need something to help now; something that’ll bring us a sense of peace and calm.

Searching for the required hope is a skill; one that builds with confidence upon actual success.

Hope is an ever-present thing. We just need to know how to find it. It begins with a search, or the commitment to search.

Just knowing life will not always be like this, or this hard, helps. If our hope extends to eternity, so be it. Our remaining years are a blip compared with what we have to look forward to.

Most people, however, will not have to wait that long. The key is to enjoy what can be enjoyed. There is enjoyment to be had anywhere. Look for it. When we find it, it’ll make difficult life bearable.

The Power of Vision

Hope is a vision. Far off or near, it’s something far enough away it motivates us to get there. And we’re never more purposefully headed in that direction.

This is how we know resilience.

Struggles without depression, because they’re pungent with meaning, are getting us over the line.

That’s realistically all we need to do — get over the line.

Vision helps us, also, to fly off into the land of imagination — a brief sense of relief where we can join our dreams and become for a moment what the light promises.

Surviving comes down to hope.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Competence – The Worship Factor

By pure virtue of the life we have, we’re abundantly rich — richer (from a living context) than the dead or those still yet to live. When someone’s died who I’d had cause to envy, I generally feel most vindicated in no longer having the faintest shred of envy — I am, of course, blessed to be still alive (as I write this!).

Equally so, there are ways all of us are inappropriately precious against this “living” fact; for example, taking things for granted.

That we live this life in precociousness is a blight on our competence otherwise — that for which we’re blessed and, via the thankfulness of service, we can also bless.

When we enter into a disrespecting sense of extravagance — the abuse of God’s wealthy provision — we undermine this competence.

Adding to our competence, alternatively, is a fundamental act of worship.

Competence – Our Greatest Living Defence

The useful matter of life itself is competence. It’s the ability to serve; to make of some real worth our living efforts — those for which, one day, we’ll be judged.

Judgment motivates us to grow our competence — the skills to live life — as does our thrill of just engaging in them.

But decadence spends what it has without thought, bankrolling credit, spending more than it can repay. It’s complicates our lives because it wastes when it could invest. We do not know when the Lord will call, “Pay up!”

Against Decadence We Pit Competence

Decadence can only get in the way of our love — that is, the acts of grace we sow into the lives around us.

Decadence is selfishness. But it’s beyond that. Selfishness can remain dormant in anyone. It doesn’t have to feature against love, though it often does.

Competence is an act against decadent thinking, if we’ll be aware of it in humility. Somehow it needs to be the objective.

Sowing into a Purpose We Can Believe In

This really is where life begins — again, or for the first time.

The chief question is, do we feel competent?

The test of such a question is the product of our focus; purpose driven or aimlessness and all variants between. Are there any excuses, really, for wasting time? Is it better to consider our time best always utilised, whether we work, rest or play? Each of these three must be purposed.


Belief in God is verily tested by manifestation of what we do.

Purpose, then, is the sponsor of competence, and Doing is the servant engendering competence and repaying Purpose.

Existence, and what we do with it, is a matter of life and death; foolish are we when we don’t see this. God has an expectation of us that we’ll search for, and find, our purposes — no matter how little or large — and live at truth with them.

Finding our purpose or not, and sowing faithfully or not, is our basic act of worship (or idolatry). There’s a lot to be said for competence in the frame of worship.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dying for Life

Suffering is a motif for life because it takes us to death — beyond worship of ourselves or other things besides God — and forces us to accept the untenable life. This is a complete loss of living control. Anyone subsumed in this form of deathly life is, paradoxically, and ultimately, blessed.

Yes, it is, therefore, blessed to suffer unequivocally.

To have some such period — or the whole journey, via some way — with God as emissary — is the deprival of individualistic sense; accompaniment to heaven.

By Process – Periods of Suffering

Dying for life is the hope of God in the pit of despair, if God is reached out for.

Suffering has intense spiritual and theological meaning, but only if we respond the way God knows we can. This is to submit the calamity of our suffering to our Lord.

The process is one of not running from the pain but drawing close to it with God.

Yes, this way we can glory in our suffering as we jettison the self-concept devoid of the pain.

How long this process takes is up to the Lord, and our task, should we choose to accept and grow through it, is to continue patiently submitting our prayers to God. These prayers are always heard.

There is good biblical precedent for lengthy (Psalm 13:1-2) and lifetime suffering (2 Corinthians 12:8), so we’re in fine company!

By Outcome – Having Suffered but Overcome

Much suffering — for example, grief — is confined to periods. When we consider that all of us will one day, soon, ‘fly away’ we’ll also know that the rest of non-periodic suffering is temporal, though these are ‘life sentences’.

Lifetime conditions may seem tragic, but our time will be up sooner than most of us wish.

The promise of receipt on the other side of suffering is a new definition of life — indeed, a new identity — a better ‘us’.

To overcome is meaning for life.

Embracing Times of ‘Death’

The best thing about such totalitarian suffering is we don’t get a choice about it. A less forthright suffering we can escape — our sin will allow it. Inappropriate coping measures are employed.

But not so with suffering that blindsides us.

When life is swept away, and we can’t believe how bad things are, we go to God without question; we just can’t do it under our own steam. This is a form of embracing, for we’re accepting something we cannot change, by strange virtue of choicelessness.

Dying, by adverse possession, is the ironical process taking us to a life we’d not know otherwise.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Why Pain and Suffering?