Monday, April 30, 2012

World’s Big Enough for One Day

As we pack into our momentary experience unabridged smatterings of the past and imaginings of our potential futures we think our minds and hearts are capable of such range in height, depth, even uncertainty.
Past, present, and future are a mammoth load. The present is enough for us to think about. Sometimes the present doesn’t seem enough, though.
We grossly overestimate our conscious capacities. Yet, we’ll unconsciously fall into this trap numerous times daily—which is frustrating. We continue to remind ourselves, and continue to need to, but we won’t ever solve this.
The world as it is, in our experience, is big enough for one day.
The Complications Of Past And Future
Life is a complicated affair. But it is ever more complicated by our virulent desire, at times, to venture back into the past or explore the future in our thoughts. Sometimes it’s necessary.
But we incinerate many a moment’s peace by indiscreet departures from the present.
It’s certainly our habit to give up the present for thought of something more. But that ‘something more’ is a mirage. Sure, we’re free to think what we want, but to give up the present—which is something of a possession—for thoughts of the past or imaginings of the future is usually unwise. It’s the surrendering of the wrong sort of control. The best personal control is retaining conscious thought for the present.
The more we can learn, and quicker we can respond, to vacancies of awareness when we float off into the past or future in our thoughts, the better.
Training The Awareness
Whenever life is getting big on us we might reflect on whether thought for the past or future is impinging on the present.
Training our awareness to be more present-focused reconciles us to peace.
In this we need to necessarily shelve our materialistic focus and elevate our spiritual focus. Enjoying the present for what it is, not wanting any more or any less, is a sense of spiritual wellbeing difficult to beat.
Training our awareness to be attuned to the size of the world bigger than one day’s worth, so we can pick up departures of thought, is worth our while. When we do this we find we can cope with life, however hard it is, and, besides the worst of losses, no matter what life throws at us.
Our world is big enough for one day. When we pile on stressful thoughts of the past or anxious imaginings for the future, both involving things we cannot control, we give up the present, and we give up our peace. Our world is big enough for one day.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Conquering a Difficult Day

For some of the most inexplicable reasons, anxiety threatens to kidnap our day, perhaps because of a couple of residual concerns. What should be, at least in theory, a relaxing or manageable day turns out to start as a struggle. There are two ways a day like this will end: as a struggle we endured; or, a struggle we overcame.
This article is about that latter outcome. It’s about finding the specific way to think and act differently. Here, below, are three strategies to consider:
Finding Freedom From Within Ourselves
Upon every challenge, especially those that are self-imposed, there is an opportunity to think differently. Finding freedom from within ourselves is taking a moment’s psychological breath; experiencing the freedom of mind and heart devolved from the strains of the felt life.
This is about feeling safe, however that’s arranged, within our core; just being us.
Sometimes it’s a deliberate mental or emotional escape, even in the midst of grating life. At other times we picture everything we cannot see. Sometimes we can’t see past our anxiety and we need to be reminded how narrow our perspective has become.
The logic of finding freedom from within ourselves is noticing how faithful God has been right up until this point. We’ve endured these things before.
Understanding And Accepting Our Personal Anxiety Insignia
Everyone has anxiety. And the more self-aware we become, possibly the more anxious our dispositions. We become hypersensitive to our feeling and more honest about how and when we feel. On one level this is good; on another there’s more pain.
Understanding how anxiety enrols itself upon us—as dictated by our personalities and our experiential backgrounds—is critical in accepting it. It takes courage to accept that a certain anxiety will be ours all our lives.
Perhaps it’s only when we understand and accept our personal anxiety insignia—how anxiety translates for us, personally—that we’ll be more open to the thought of gently and patiently overcoming it.
Enrolling The Philosophy Of Privilege And The Method Of Patience
We could do with a mode of living that overcomes.
When we incorporate a philosophy of privilege—and that is what our lives are: privilege—thankfulness is the situational mandate. From such thankfulness the method of patience seems natural.
When we think thankfully, patience becomes more our manner. And life is happier.
Patience to suffer well any negative thinking as the philosophy of privilege re-enters our minds ensures panic doesn’t take a corrosive hold. And the temptation to panic is tempered by the truths of privilege we allow ourselves to know, afresh.
Patience is possible in any moment, and when our days are broken down to these moments it’s not difficult to be encouraged to believe in the philosophy of privilege—we’re overcoming. We have this difficult life, yet we can overcome the difficulty one step at a time.
From an outlook of anxiety, when all looks difficult, and within us is a flurry of panic, we can find the freedom that exists within ourselves. We understand and accept our anxiety, and we don’t fight it. And we work on the qualities of recalling our privilege and working in patience. We slow down. We smile. We sing, if it helps.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Controlling Uncertainties at Work

One of the more uncertain environments we grapple with is at our workplaces—with the people, managers and customers we encounter, the tasks we’re given, even our tenure. If there are two things likely to cause us stress it’s our work/vocation or our relationships. Work involves both. And if bullying is something known to us, personally, it’s most certainly going to happen within the workplace.
Controlling uncertainties at work is likely to be a fundamental concern for everyone.
Understanding What We Can And Cannot Control
Control can be thought of as a two-way street. Some things we control, whether we like that fact or not, and other things we don’t. Courage is required if we have control, to be decisive, but acceptance is what we most need if we don’t have control—both per the Serenity Prayer.
Breaking control down in simple terms like this can help. So can just knowing we exist in the same world, all of us.
There are powers that bear themselves over us in our world—things we both must control or can’t control—and working toward a humble acceptance is a blessed activity. We redeem peace for our efforts.
Taking Control And Accepting Others’ Control At Work
So, this is both our challenge and our opportunity. Where we have control we take it. Where we don’t have control we gracefully accede to others who have charge.
Most workplace situations, however, present with blurred lines, indiscriminate as to who overtly or covertly has control. We may have partial control and people may look to us, thinking we are more or less in charge than we actually are. Likewise, we may hold the same views of others. Where lines of accountability are blurred conflict occurs. It’s unfair on everyone.
But the more we bear in mind the things we have control over versus the things we don’t, the more wellbeing and peace we can enjoy—if things can be broken down that simply.
The more we can live this way, accepting the blurred lines between the clear, and taking control when we have it and relinquishing our resistance when others have control, again the more tranquillity we will enjoy. And that’s not to be taken for granted in a workplace situation.
Controlling uncertainties at work is about accepting the things we cannot change, having the courage to change the things we can, and having the wisdom to know the difference (Serenity Prayer).
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Girding the Heart in Peace

“As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that greater peace is in your hearts.”  
~Francis of Assisi
(To his brothers before sending them out preach.)
How is peace to be nurtured within our hearts?
It’s such a fine question. It’s a question with no pat response. For the pat response is ignorance confounded by notions for peace never further from the truth. Let us never take peace for granted. Perhaps it’s not until we’ve lost our peace that we find how irreplaceably rare it can be in reclaiming it, let alone retaining it.
Fortifying our hearts in peace is the spiritual protection of God compelling us to work patiently in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.
Peace – The Product Of Wellbeing
Biblical peace, so far as the apostle Paul identified in Philippians 4:6-7, is quite different to the peace as the world imagines it. But it looks the same. The outworking of godly peace, like joy and love and all the other Fruit of the Spirit, is available any time.
Many people won’t believe that. Indeed, we all have doubts.
But this peace we speak about, a supernatural gift from God per our surrender, appears through us—in, at times, the direst of circumstances—to the glory of God, and before other people it’s remarkable. It’s also a peace that shows up in routine life; when life is totally unremarkable, because most of our time is just that.
Peace is the product of wellbeing.
Feeling safe in the Lord is our opportunity, despite our pasts or our prospects or the privileges that might dilute our reliance on God. And wellbeing is such a personal thing. We might say it’s feeling safe within ourselves. And how might we feel at peace much of the time without God’s grace-filled endorsement?
Feeling Peace From Our Hearts
Peace is a tricky business if we try and invent it. This is why many programs for peace that focus only on enlightenment or detachment miss the mark. Peace must honour our living truths—existing within the space created by our problems. We cannot pretend we’re at peace.
And besides, how do we truly know what peace is? We only know what it’s like not to have it. Though we may have a firm vision of it.
Our biggest challenge is to know how to feel peace from our hearts; the genuine feeling of wellbeing that produces peace—the more consolidated state.
Feeling peace from our hearts is stopping, accepting everything in the moment as it is, breathing in and out through the instant, and knowing that in God we’re safe. Practice it. From there, there’s more peace to come.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Archaeology of the Mind and the Ancient You

Eighteenth and nineteenth century composers, for example Mozart and Beethoven, used sonatas as a form of music that would introduce in the early part of their symphonies their later themes. In the same way our earliest relationships tend to set the pattern regarding how we construct and see all our future relationships:
“One might think of one’s first relationships as the themes of one’s interpersonal life and all subsequent relationships as the development and recapitulation of those themes.”  
~Michael Kahn (inspired by Sigmund Freud)
But it doesn’t need to end like this.
Not many of us want to be hemmed-in to relating with our worlds the way it was for us in our early development. We want more choice than that. Besides, learning about how we interact with people now—the positive and negative outcomes—is a great way of reconnecting with our subconscious selves—the Ancient You.
Power For Tomorrow
If we can see our dysfunctional patterns for what they are, and all of us have them, we are able to rethink those patterns and create new ones—custom-designed to our need.
This is power for tomorrow; our way out of the relational ruts we may find ourselves in. Even our interpretations of our relationships may have a pattern about them. When we recognise this pattern we can challenge it against the truth.
The truth sets us free (John 8:32).
Digging into our pasts, as if we’re intrigued archaeologists, and able to see our early lives unemotionally, we begin an inquiry that can lift vital intelligence out of the ancient dramas that played themselves out; us as the first-billed actors. All our formative relationships lay open for inspection through reruns.
For many at least, this may cause pain. But even delving into painful experiences can provide much respite for our futures, especially when we instruct ourselves that our pasts, especially the hurtful bits, are not our fault. Our formative pasts very much happened to us.
Consolidating Our Identities
What would we be without our identities?
All of our lives are about consolidating our identities, and any major loss or adjustment process shakes us to our core. Not many people go through life without having to rebuild their identity at least once.
If we can excavate into our pasts, digging up the precious historical dirt to reveal the artefacts that formed us, we can, as a process of understanding our base identity, consolidate the present identity and redirect it if necessary.
Better relationships occur when we have a good understanding of how and why we interact, and the way we do, with people in those relationships. Understanding how we think has a great bearing over how we see people. Being fair to others is first about understanding ourselves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Memories Past and Future Hope

Memories are more important the more we age,
We can suppose it’s an indicator of the stage,
Where nostalgia merits in putting to hand,
What we attest to God—our life’s stand.
The longer we live, the more we suppose,
The higher the gift, anticipating a close,
Life is limited more than it seemed,
Much more than we ever dared or dreamed.
Memories call us to regard our time,
In capsules and fissures that don’t quite rhyme,
Troubled but driven, resolute we strive,
This riddle of our time cannot be denied.
Significance of the moment, our existence laid bare,
When we think on it we’re caused to solemnly stare,
Finiteness to us may seem awkwardly true,
A fact we feel certain with which shortly to rue.
Finally the end beckons and we sense our chance,
Upon heaven’s glow we’re compelled to dance,
Our lives do not end here collapsed in our sins,
A life over yonder—that’s where it begins.
What Do We Think Of Our Lives?
Nostalgia has a way of compelling us to think about our past that’s relevant to both our present and future. It strengthens our existence.
Memories call us to recount our being. The further back our memories stretch, the harder it is to remember the detail, and the more mysterious our lives seem. Did we really experience what we experienced? We lament such relative amnesia. We would richly prefer to have instant recall of those memories we’ve come to long since cherish. And even if we didn’t cherish them, we still want access so we can learn, and therefore reconnect with our essential selves and touch important persons. We yearn for inner connection.
And memories speak powerfully into our perceptions of what our lives have been, what they are, and what they’re becoming.
This Life Is Limited – Eternity Is Limitless
The older we get the more we realise how relatively short life is. And in all of this reflection what’s reinforced over and again is how imperfect life is. But this life isn’t all there is.
Our limited lives, and the limitations within life, should simply remind us there is something more, and eternally perfect, waiting for us.
What is awkward and mysterious about life here, with all its anxieties and fumbling and occasioned misery, is being brought back under God in the eternal realm. There is peace. Totally unlike this world; there is peace.
Memories give us a sense of our lives, and they grow more significant the older we get. Memories are a gift, a down payment, for the wonder to behold in eternity.
Death is a touchstone giving meaning to life. She is the gateway into the eternal.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vitality of Surrender in Recovery

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  
~Step 3, Twelve Steps Program  
Recovery: the realness of it.
Emotional turmoil got us here, into our present pain, and there is to be more emotional turmoil as we scratch at and wrangle with this very pain. This is a battle.
Nothing will be harder; nothing.
Yet, nothing harder is made easier, astoundingly so, by the grace of God availed to us by our surrender.
This availability needs to be believed. Surrender makes it sure. We can reconcile all possible things if we can achieve surrender—a thing so easy, yet paradoxically so very hard—and recovery, a day at a time, even a moment, is made easier. It’s made possible.
Regarding something that feels impossible to so many, it is now seen through different eyes. The experience is new. Freshness breathes life into this possibility—through surrender is freedom.
Freedom Only Through Surrender
Surrender is the only way we can manage, with good effect, these boiling emotions.
It’s the only way we can stand in the presence of the impossible. But the trick is it needs to become habitual, practiced to the point of clean availability, for the sneaky times of weakness enrol us to temptation at the least expected moment.
These sneaky times of weakness, for which were built for our surrender, are held at bay by the admission of our incapacity. Only when we can admit we have no answer do we climb upon the scaffolding of God to get us through.
God has given us weakness in order to remind us of a power that beats it all—by being true in it. This is the vitality of surrender—that we give up our false pretences and thought that we can manage without God. We can’t.
The Centre And Very Purpose Of Surrender
The moment in life when we fall upon a revelation—that we control hardly anything, and there is One who has ultimate control—is the moment, with never more irony, that we sniff the pleasing aroma of freedom. And this is the centre and very purpose of surrender.
To admit our powerlessness; to acknowledge God’s all-encompassing power; to draw upon that Gap.
That Gap, which we sensed beforehand as insurmountable, God fills. He fills it with divine grace which is accessed, as a gift from God, by our surrender.
The Performance Of Surrender
Surrender doesn’t have to be happiness, contented with its lot. No, it’s realer than that. It takes what ‘is’ as it is and has a mood about it that asks no more in that moment.
In that moment is the knowledge of God.
The biggest paradox known to life is power—how ours is so limited, yet God’s is so infinite. When we learn that surrender is the key to tapping into the power of God our problems, and our recovery, are made easier; even possible when they seemed so impossible.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Mastering the Art of Recovery

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.”  
~Anne Lamott  
There are many thoughts that come to people’s minds at the notion of ‘recovery’. There’s the day-to-day recovery of fatigue completed by sleep, recovery from injury, and even recovery for fatigue of the mind, heart, soul, and spirit.
But what’s in the frame is perhaps the most obvious form of recovery. We all have things we need to recover from: an addiction, a dependency, our grief; any bad land of the soul that, with resilience, we can push truthfully past, and enter new life.
Everyone who’s successfully recovered from anything, or, perhaps more aptly put, are successfully in recovery from, know that from within them there is mastery for having successfully endured the pain required of recovery. New life they’ve tasted.
That Necessary Pain
Nothing worthwhile in this life is enjoyed without the pain implicit of the work needed to be done. Whilst that might be a sad fact for so many, it proves inspirational to any who push on past their present difficulty and find eventual new life.
There is no new life that is not significant.
But to get through to that significance, the vestiges of life we have a vision for, for we may often feel ‘life must be better than this’, the necessary pain of early recovery, of getting used to how things need to be, is the work to be done. Nobody likes this work. Nobody wants to be shackled to an agenda not their own. Nobody enjoys having to relinquish their control; surrendering it to their Higher Power.
The most poignant of all our pain is the characterisation of the emotions. Early recovery is the emotional turmoil of hell on earth. But this emotional turmoil is an important touchstone if we can have a steadiness within us to just hold it. That doesn’t seem much, but holding our emotions, and being real within them, is a tremendous achievement for anyone.
The Significance In New Life
There is no new life that is not significant. Having endured the relative torture in doing the work of recovery, especially in the early going, as we trudge in faith, holding our emotion world together as much as possible, owning it, we enjoy later highlights of confidence. We are doing this thing!
That is the new life; doing this new thing.
In leading a life beyond the entrapment of the former thing, we redeem a vast quantity of personal control. We feel God’s blessing resting upon us. We feel literally reborn.
To master the art of recovery we necessarily need to continually practice it; to work toward becoming recovered, which in some cases may never actually occur. Sometimes there is just more work. But that is okay, for recovery is a million times better than the old life.
We cannot truly be said to have recovered unless we stay recovered.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Becoming the Fully Functioning Person

“This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.”
~Carl Rogers (1961)
The process of living the full life, where total functionality becomes us, is no place for shrinking; where we will, as a matter of course, shrink from time to time.
But from shrinking, upon the courage to be, we will grow.
Depending on how self-actualising we are, and in broad terms we all wish to actualise ourselves, we will engage with this subject to a greater or lesser extent.
It’s clear, if we subscribe to Rogers, that the courage to be is the nexus of the fully functioning life.
Living A Life That Enrols Us To Choice
The marvellous reality of life is each individual chooses what their lives are to be.
Nobody is forced to respond to life’s challenges in a faint-hearted sort of way. Likewise, nobody is forced to live courageously. It’s a fact, though, that we’ll skate between the two.
When we consider each of our moments enrols us to choice, and that each choice, however small, creates its own little niche of history in our lives, we begin to understand the consequences of courage or cowardice. Courage is aligned to truth; a willingness to abide by it, disregarding cost. When we don’t meet the standard of courage in our choices we deny or cannot handle the truth. These facts we surely all can relate to.
Between the two—the courage to be or the cowardice to shrink—is the level of mediocrity; to be lukewarm. There is no advantage in being lukewarm.
Addressing Our Propensity For Mediocrity
Possibly the only way we can become the fully functioning person, which is only ever a temporary arrangement, subject to our ability to be courageous, is by dispelling mediocrity. In this we attempt to perfect our courage, without being a perfectionist about it.
Instead of perfectionism, we necessarily learn to become learners.
One way of becoming more open is searching for quotes, a Word from God, some sort of life mantra or vision or purpose statement, together with finding role models or mentors for courage, and even a vision of what our courageous selves looks like. There are so many ideas, but we need concepts that fit with our personal requirements.
The key indicator is we would experience less and less fear in our living life more fearlessly. Furthermore, evidence of courage is acting especially in the presence of fear.
The secret in becoming a fully functioning person appears to be the ability to act consistently courageous; to launch ourselves fully into the stream of life, being open to growth. When we live with the courage to become ourselves we enjoy more peace, joy, love... the Fruit of the Spirit.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 20, 2012

When It’s Time for Courage

“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”
~Deuteronomy 31:6 (NRSV)
Every single person experiences anxious times, and there are many who suffer for their anxiety. Inexplicable fear joins with the known fears that threaten the quality of our lives, all because of what our pasts and personalities say about the future, and thought for the anticipated consequences. Pessimism plays its part too. But enough of the past and the future; there is a more important enduring phenomenon... the present.
Courage is a tool for the present.
It comes into its own at a time when all things happen and when all things matter. It dispels almost uncaringly with all manner of fear and anxiety—if only we can hold all of the fumbling components of the moment with stilled steadiness. He helps if we can stare truth in the face.
Courage That Refuses To See The Size Of The Conquest
We’re often daunted by the size of the conquests before us. Whether they are many or varied, or just simply looming large, matters little. As Moses instructed Joshua, in taking the reins of Israel into the Promised Land, a conquest almost impossibly futile, we can be similarly encouraged. The Lord goes with us. And as Israel battled against the odds, proving incredibly effective, we can too—if we have courage.
Courage has about it the way of forging forward despite the known difficulties, fears, anxieties, and rampaging panic—for the knowledge of dread.
Courage is a decision. It casts forth, with happy abandon, refusing to compromise any of the promise of hope that is contingent upon compromise. It’s prepared to risk all for good to be done. It takes pride in only one thing; the doing of the one thing it must do. And despite opportunities to buckle it continues forth, steadily and stoically.
“Be strong and courageous,” booms our Lord,
“Put away all fear and state of dread,”
God in whom our safety’s assured,
Is always making sure we’re led.
The Holy Spirit makes power known,
Indwelling us with the power to obey,
In order that we might be fully sown,
In the fabric of God every day.
When it’s time for courage, we stand up to be counted—times when only we and God know. Courage is between us and our Lord. Both the requirement for courage and the power to obey, and therefore succeed, come via transformational transactions from God to us.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.