Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hope Beyond Experienced Aloneness

Some frustrating days, at the end of them, have us verging on contemplations, dark and sinister. We seriously wonder how life could be worse or how it could get better. Forlornly, we realise we have nothing but God. Seriously, we hate it. We hate being so bereft of joy that we have no choice but to accept our aloneness. When there is nothing left there is only God, but God is always enough.
When there are no trinkets to comfort us all we have is the Spirit, but the Spirit is always enough.
God’s Comfort In Our Aloneness
Whilst we hate going to God when there is nothing left in the world for us, there can be only one thing that can help us in this state of need.
As we range from the burden of overload to the emptiness in feeling alone we are neither satisfied nor validated. Nothing of those experiences quite matches our expectations for life. We have come to expect more from life, though strangely it hasn’t been God who has sown those thoughts.
And as we resolve, afresh perhaps, that we have put our cart before the horse we begin to notice what, or more so, who, we have left out of our lives.
A strange reality burgeons upon our belief: in the starkness of this loneliness, a contemptible state, we are never closer to grasping God. We are never closer to the Presence. We are never closer to the comfort that only God can provide. But it took for us to become alone, separate from all the world, and all that the world could offer us, to come close. And we may be still so far away if our hearts are not open to prayer.
The Holy Matter Of Prayer When Alone
Our aloneness brought us to this place of sanctification before God, by pure position in being so close. But just as much we run ever harder back to the world. Just as much we resent the fact of our aloneness. Just as much we miss the point.
The point of our aloneness is where it is pointing us. When we have nothing else to distract us we are perfectly positioned to receive God. When we go in to Divine Presence by our prayer, being richly ever so ourselves, and brutally honest, we communicate, if not by words, by thoughts.
But just as important as our prayer is our receiving of God. This is not a complex process but it is elusive. Why would we pray, if, in doing so, we cut ourselves off from God? By praying selfish prayers of want we do so. But the authentic prayer of declaring feelings and being honest, pouring out our hearts, is a blessed prayer redeeming holy Presence. There is a subtle difference separating these prayers.
Being totally alone invites the Presence of God. Then we need to put ourselves in the position of receiving God. When we communicate the deepest of our feelings, sometimes those that are unutterable, we stand to receive what we need—the experience of peace despite our circumstances.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thank God for Emotions

What are we without our emotions—the faculties of the soul?
Certainly we’d be less than human. We are gravely to be forgiven for being emotional, for getting emotional—it’s the rawest ‘us’ there is; us, at our most authentic.
Emotions are the full spectrum of life, every colour of the spiritual rainbow, and the fullest expression of experience and existence. Emotions are the treasure of the privileged life; the bequest of God to the living being.
Reality And Emotion
Who can exist within reality and not become emotional?
We love our families and ours spouses and our children, and all these test our emotions, most often because of love. Even in our workplaces our emotions are tested.
And what reality reveals most of all is our weakness. Our emotions make us vulnerable yet, somehow, also reachable. Within the boiling pot of life there is the unpredictable nature. What we cannot predict we cannot organise responses to. Our plans are turned upside down in an instant. We plan, yes, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1). We do not control our incoming days, and even less our innate emotions, though we can learn to harness our emotions.
Reality tests us mostly regarding our conviction toward self-condemnation; if we are not careful our emotions condemn us. We languish in a filthy self-talk. We observe ourselves in a full emotional state and reason vanishes. Reality can be a cruel taskmaster.
But just as much, God holds the way open for us to notice the stability of our world within both emotional and unemotional spheres. At least with emotions we can feel.
The Blessedness Of Feeling
Nothing to be underestimated or be ungrateful for, the blessedness of feeling is the prize for humanity.
We may harness some of our emotion, whilst other emotion remains unkempt. Like a naked brumby certain situations continue to prove to be our emotional stumbling block as we kick and buck and hiss. But at least we are feeling. At least we are reminded we are human; fallible, unbrushed diamonds are we.
Being blessed in our feeling means we are not only weak, but we have the capacity to love, to be hurt, and to experience a loss. Not all this is good, but emotions are what make us human.
Rather than complain that we are emotional creatures, it would be better to thank God that we can feel. To feel is not only to perceive betrayal, loss, and fear, it’s also about the capacity to love, to remain loyal, and to face threats with courage.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why Such Strong Views?

There are things to pique strong emotions in us all.
We care, or don’t care, for many reasons. It’s good to know why we are so strong in our views. Is such strength of view a good thing? Sometimes yes; sometimes no.
Why is it that our views are so strong? Why is it that others views are strong, and correspondingly stronger as we see them?
Stronger Our View – More Isolated We Become
The strength of our views, and what they are, represents the deeper person inside.
In what is commonly referred to as transference, we telegraph our inner pain and irreconcilable features, unsuspectingly and with full sincerity, hardly doubting both our ‘fact’ and intent.
But the facts are increasingly blurred the stronger our views become, and our intent, too, becomes self-righteously exposed. We all have our hobby-horse agendas that expose the fault-lines of our personalities.
Our strength of view is a good predictor of a special type of narcissism, with which we can all be prone. When we polarise into our truth—the truth only we are seeing—our views can only be strengthened; despite other vital information that would otherwise temper such strong views—and for good reason.
Strong views, therefore, are to be avoided. Governing them in logic and reasonability is always better, for truth is more abstract to the partial, judgmental human eye.
When we cling to our truth, especially in spite of resistance, the truth gets lost in our passion to retain or gain power. We become blinded by it. Truth is quickly swamped and silenced.
Holding To Broader Perspectives
It pleases God and wins us more respect when we are seen to hold to broader perspectives. It’s no irony that abiding with the truth serves us, and others, very well.
The mature person works on the strong views that emerge from within them and they search for a more pliable thought framework. Introspective challenge is their constant aim. And because they are not sold on one or two hobby-horse big ideas their minds are free to challenge their thinking.
We should routinely challenge our thinking. If we don’t, we tend to instead challenge other people’s thinking—and perhaps too much. More introspection equals more growth and learning and less judging of others.
Strong views do not serve us well. It would be better for us to challenge our thinking, not others’ thinking. If our views are valid, action proves far more convincing than words.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Walking Alone With Sorrow

“I walked a mile with Sorrow
And never a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.”
~Robert Browning Hamilton
Is there ever any meaning to our suffering; I mean, real, raw, rancorous suffering?
We might cheat ourselves into thinking some are spared the sorrow. But none are. Nobody in this life is spared the craziness and perfunctory nothingness found revelling in pain. But many of us bypass it, for a soothing drink or drug—and many varieties of ‘drug’ there are.
The poetic promise above is gorgeously surreal in a very confronting way. Who, really, would walk that mile with Sorrow unless they had to?
Who, really, would volunteer to walk so frightfully alone, with a companion so ambivalently recalcitrant in her way? The passage of sorrow is castigating, with tributaries down to numbness and strobes of real sight that are blinding.
Walking alone with sorrow is the bravest thing we could ever do.
Making A Fist Of The Impossible
Faith is a thing taking us each step along that mile. Faith keeps us open for the learning that sorrow has for us. Our faith meets with God’s sponsorship to ensure this journey is not wasted, and indeed, becomes the making of us.
Making a fist of the impossible—having faith enough to journey one step at a time—enduring the total mile, somehow—is the courage to go on when we are blinded for sight, stuck for breath, hankering for the food of joy, and leg weary.
None of the impossible is really impossible to an unconquerable spirit. And who knows who has an unconquerable spirit but the one who goes on? And how do we know if we have what it takes to go on?
We may give up, even for a time. These are just pauses along that lonely mile. To give up would be to turn back, and the blessing of sorrow doesn’t allow that. Sorrow commends us to the journey; to a journey we must continue; a journey that is slow and faltering and wearying and despairing. But it bends us forward.
Loving The Learning
One thing we can appreciate, even in the midst of sorrow, is that we are learning.
We are learning about ourselves, about life, about resilience, and about realities far-flung and altogether surreal, until now.
Loving the learning is a sadistic venture to the uninitiated observer. Our experience is different. We see the value in sorrow even if others think it’s weird. And when we see such value we appreciate we have become unconquerable. We are wedded to the gospel way.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Staring Fear in the Face and Conquering It

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt
Most of life, though we don’t suspect this, is a veneer. Most of life appears scarier than what it actually is. That is because most of life is affected so much by our over-active thinking.
As we talk to ourselves, talking ourselves into fear, we begin to unconsciously design our exit from the fearful situation. We develop such elegant skirting strategies, and many of these strategies are birthed and deployed below the level of conscious thought. We can do better.
Estimating Life According To Reality
Life seems harder than what it actually is, though it is often hard enough as it is.
Rather than taking our moments entirely by merit we tend to inflate our estimations of them. We build our moments up well before they arrive, and when they do arrive we tend to get psyched out. Anxiety, whether it’s conscious or unconscious or both, is every person’s nemesis, especially within sight of fear.
When we estimate life according to reality, holding out for thought until thinking must necessarily arrive, we dispel the need for anxiety. Anxious thoughts do us no good, unless they prompt us to remain alert.
Why, then, don’t we actively seek to understand our anxiety and do something productive with it?
Courage And What It Can Do For Us
Courage is a thing that takes the available truth, whatever it is, and works with it—with no complaints ventured.
Courage isn’t bothered by the sight of fear. It sees fear and proceeds in the face of it; chest to chest it looks fear in the eye and barks, “HAA!” It’s as if anything contestable sparks Courage into action.
And then there is another edge to Courage. It does take fear seriously. It doesn’t flout it in a prideful, arrogant way. It respects fear. And because of this, it mounts a worthy challenge every time.
As we enrol ourselves to Courage we find that we can do many of the things we previously thought were impossible. There is one thing for sure: fear stands in our way only if we let it.
Fear provides us with a choice. We submit to it and are willingly beaten, or we bat up. Fear is an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with Courage. If there were no fear there would be no need of courage. Doing the fearful thing provides meaning for life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

On the Other Side of Suffering

Somehow it happens, when the dirge for loss has drawn to a silence, and the profoundness of pain has ebbed away—even as it occurs as a brief respite, but certainly as an ultimatum for life now coming—there is more than relief that remains.
This is surreal.
On the other side of suffering is a bright new world just waiting to be uncovered.
The idea is this: there is more serene feel and wonder felt on the other side of suffering. Life without suffering has a way of soothing the nuances of pain that may be felt, for in life there is always pain. But we are typically resistant to feeling subliminal pain, until pain rises sufficiently to slap us across the face, breaking through in the most calamitous of ways.
This is why the most passionate philanthropists have been touched uniquely in their own experience of pain. They have been rocked by pain so deep, so personal.
Pain has a way of piquing at our ideas for life, challenging what we previously accepted as truth. Pain upends our priorities. It re-sorts our values.
Pain prompts reflection in the midst of our beliefs—both of faith and experience.
As a result of the pain deforming us and our beliefs, we are re-formed by broader systems of belief that accommodate our experiences of suffering.
These new beliefs begin to coerce us out of our narcissistic zones and our awareness opens to the pain in others’ worlds—and the world, generally. It’s as if our eyes had been opened—the eyes of our hearts, and the ventricles of our spiritual senses. And never should they close again.
Accepting An Excruciating Paradox
Life is a paradoxical phenomenon in many ways; certainly by the fact that loss opens the way to victory for the soul.
It’s like God gives us ourselves only after we have entered in and fought for our true selves. Yes, we cannot enjoy the fullness of experience with ourselves if there is darkness within that is left unexposed.
Suffering has its way—if we’ll submit to its lessons—of showing us more of our true selves with our self-protective blinkers off.
It’s a great challenge to our pride to accept this, for God never forces us to face up to our burdensome truths—that we have damage to deal with—if we will enter in.
Acquiring A Licence To Feel
Of course, the pleasant (or not-so-pleasant) reality is, we’ve been put in touch with our pain and now we can know it is ever to be part of us. We’ve been given licence to feel, and, with that, is the courage to subsist in an existential truth none of us can do anything about, but endure.
It is good to feel, having the courage to feel.
And what is birthed within is the true sense for humility—we no longer must try to be humble—it’s now more part of whom we are and are becoming.
There is a prize beyond suffering. Especially as we learn, our worlds for sight are opened, as are our hearts. Our perspectives are broadened and we begin to appreciate reality. God has gotten through to us and continues to do so.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, May 25, 2012

When Dreading that Ending Feeling

Finishing a semester of study had us all contemplating the future. The group was being disbanded, and some would flow on into the next semester, but some would inevitably drop out or leave town. One member of the group had had a spark of inspiration to bring along some muffins and chocolates to share. Some of the group were saddened by thought of the end, but most were quite cheery, and some even took risks in communicating their love and fondness for the group and their experiences.
Endings can be difficult things. Certainly, endings to marriages and certain outcomes relating to appointments can end badly. Death is the worst end of all.
But some endings are welcome. For some, the end paves the way for an important beginning. New things are allowed to emerge. New possibilities lie available.
Endings bring both death and life. Most of all they bring change.
What Kind Of Ending Person Am I?
Perhaps the best opportunity we have in approaching an important end is our observation of how we feel about such a thing.
Some endings, where our lives are literally blown open to the exposure of harsh winds and driving rain, cannot be reflected upon, just simply endured. The process of grief, through the paralysis of an ending, takes us to stark places of the spirit that may even be unbearable. No analysis is required in such a situation. We must just be.
But there are many more endings that we can learn from, and that may give us an appreciation for what things have meant to us. Sometimes we haven’t reflected enough to understand. The ending, therefore, might facilitate an important revelation.
The ending might compel us to communicate something special or significant. The ending might cause us to risk just enough to tell someone how we really feel. The ending, strictly from hindsight, might be seen as a crucial step in our lives.
Endings, furthermore, can be seen as a necessary function in the development of skills in the letting go so we may acquire the new thing.
The problem comes when a good thing has ended and it is to be replaced by a not-so-good thing. Then we struggle with a sense of hopelessness. Sometimes we cannot see the good beyond the thing we must let go of. But it’s surprising how often our pessimism might betray the reality.
As one door slams closed new doors are destined to open. This is when faith is necessary. To hope for something yet not visible. Endings, therefore, help to enliven our faith, by giving us the opportunity to practice hope.
Endings can be dreadfully hard. At the end we struggle to find sight for hope. Yet, the end is an opportunity for a new beginning. When we are ready a new path may be paved.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Building a Better Thought World

Peace between the ears is a premium state-of-mind that we learn not to take for granted. Indeed, some of us have thought of ourselves as analytical thinkers, because our thinking has tormented us.
Those that cannot switch off their thinking, though, have a distinct advantage over a meditative world if they will hone peace between their ears.
This meditative world is a practice that does not only provide a better quality of life, there is the enhancement of years—a longer life, potentially, to be had. All because we harnessed the mind’s power for thought and extracted the available tranquillity.
Developing A Plan And Patience
Two things we need in building a better thought world is 1) a plan to adapt our thinking toward use of the meditative principle, and 2) patience enough to get there.
The analytical thinker in us understands the tremendous mental powers that are disposed from the mind to our thoughts. Such powers have scared us. We seek to tame them, even to utilise them in a positive way.
Developing a plan is doing our research. We think about and explore concepts like thoughtless awareness and mental silence. We think about quieting our minds, and enjoying the serenity of just being. We think more in terms of acceptance.
We are also aware of the many charlatans out there willing to make a quick buck at our expense. Developing a plan will require the deployment of work, not money. The sort of knowledge we need is free if we are prepared to patiently seek it. For, what we seek is the process of coming to know and accept ourselves, first and foremost. And such a process is a lifetime initiative.
Nurturing a meditative world is growing the mental powers of chosen silence as we walk through life. Building a better thought world is not just about when we meditate, for we learn to meditate as if that were the way we thought all the time.
Patience has us arriving at this thought world perhaps sooner than expected.
We are learning to reflect in our moments, saving some of the thought we’d have later on for deployment in the moment. We are learning wise consideration. We are learning to grasp our moments. We are learning that regret doesn’t have to be our default way. We are learning more about patience.
The meditative mindset is the ability to reflect calmly, and act, in the moment. It is peace then, and peace later, for there’s no regret when our thinking works in the moment. Planning and patience are the keys to building a better thought world.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

26 Virtues to Nurture Within

Acrostics are useful in that they present us with an order for thinking. The following acrostic is alphabetical and it helps us to think of the virtuous way:
Authenticity – is the feature of being completely ourselves. What seems easy on the surface may require a lifetime’s work in developing our self-acceptance.
Bearing – life requires us to bear many things; stresses, pressures, abuse and neglect, the worries of others, our health, our family, etc are all very real existential concerns. We ought to aim to bear these well, but alas, many times we won’t.
Courage – maybe it’s the king of virtues, but where would be without its Queen, Love? Does anything help us as much, in practical terms, as courage?
Diligence – God helps those who help themselves. A wholesome self-discipline is such a trait to be cherished.
Empathy – when relationships come into frame, very few virtues are more important than empathy.
Forgiveness – such a vital skill for living that is nurtured in the muscles of the heart.
Gratitude – many, for instance Chesterton and Cicero, place this one, with thankfulness, as the chief virtue. It is a joy kick-starter.
Humility – according to Augustine this is the major virtue for growth in the Christian faith. Nothing quenches our sinful pride better.
Insight – or, otherwise, discernment. With its cousin, Understanding, these feed directly into Wisdom. Insight is a gift and it can be developed. It’s an eye for the truth.
Justice – truth, again, is the major point of life in community. Justice beseeches all who would listen to seek and to listen for the truth.
Kindness – the fundamental instrument of compassion. Where is Love, in the practical setting, without kindness?
Love – it can be argued, very persuasively, that this is the Summum Bonum. The mystery of love is such that a whole life’s study of it would hardly scratch the surface.
Mateship – what is an Australian word for comradeship is a binding virtuous fact. There is no better love than one where a friend lays down their life for another (John 15:13).
Nobility – beyond royalty, this virtue rises to the holy realm, but it has a fantastically humble feel about it. The best royals are the humblest of people.
Openness – one who is open, and very clearly Authentic, values the truth above their comfort. With Courage they are open, particularly in the face of fear.
Patience – another competing strongly for the top of virtues. Cyprian referred to Jesus as Perfect Patience. Many of the world’s ills, and ours personally, could be rectified with adherence to patience.
Query – added to Insight is the holy matter of curiosity. It shares no selfish burden as it patiently works for the truth. Query is the commencement of learning; the burgeoning of new life.
Realism – the virtue of the spiritually and psychologically mature. Expectations are tamed when the person becomes a realist.
Sacrifice – this is so critically important to the survival of humanity and to development at a personal level. Nothing good is gained without sacrifice.
Trust – to trust is to find safety from somewhere; notionally, God. Trust is so often reciprocated in respect, as it is the other way around, too. Trust and respect make the relational wheels go around.
Understanding – the most vital component of Wisdom. It must know the will of God. Having such Insight is the key to the Kingdom.
Vivacity – we need energy and enthusiasm and an encouraged gait to achieve the challenging and the magnificent. Otherwise we fall short. It’s a secret of success.
Wisdom – there is no better companion for the living of life. It is not knowledge, per se, but it is deciding best each moment (as best as that can be achieved).
Excellence – this is not perfection. It is merely the fullness of commitment required for getting better and better. Continuous improvement is no wasted byword.
Yielding – the virtuous life isn’t complete without the skills of negotiation and renegotiation, and particularly, knowing when and how to yield.
Zeal – with Vivacity, this is such a necessary component; a joy-fuelled exuberance that carries us over the line, even in the most trying circumstances.
The virtuous life is the key to joy and peace, and to the acquisition of the entire Fruit of the Spirit.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Being Realistic Vs Being Optimistic

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
~William Arthur Ward
In the struggle for identity, which is a unique battle for each one of us, we inevitably wrangle with the ideas of optimism versus pessimism. We might see ourselves as one more than the other, depending on the self-image we wish to portray.
If we are given to positive thinking, and strive to be appreciative, optimism will win the day in our demeanour. If, on the other hand, we are given to negative thinking, which is being critical for good reason, pessimism has won the day.
Both optimism and pessimism may have their appropriate times, but what is far more useful is realism. To be realistic in every situation is the wisdom, a gift, of seeking the truth, first and foremost.
Being realistic has no room for the emotional nuance that is pandered to by our felt needs. To be neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but to hold out for reality, is the adult mindset of the one who is realistic and, therefore, spiritually balanced and mature.
Seeing Down The Middle – Straight Between The Two
It’s true that to be realistic we are neither overly liberal nor overly conservative in our approach to life. Beyond politics, for we see ourselves perhaps as more Liberal or more Conservative, there is a time for both—liberalism and conservatism.
But living life at an accord consistent with realism is our best favour.
When we are realistic we see with correct sight, we discern with a considered heart, and we think with a mind for truth.
Being realistic is seeing down the middle, straight between the nemesis on each side—positivity and negativity. Being realistic is the right mood for all occasions. Being realistic is adjusting the sails of life to cater for the winds, the problems and opportunities, which beat upon us.
When we have the ability to see beyond optimism or pessimism, for we see life as far too complex to be pigeonholed, we invite further inspection of many things for realism. The realistic is the gold of truth, gilt-edged with the silver of integrity.
When neither optimism nor pessimism convinces us as to its way, we have found a way to control our emotions. Realism holds no threat for the person seeking the truth.
In a world that fights to be either optimistic or pessimistic, we can choose to be realistic. Being realistic is superior to being optimistic or being pessimistic. Being realistic opts for the truth as it is, and doesn’t compromise by accepting a lesser, more partial, version of truth. Being realistic values the truth first, and insists on processing the emotions, so that they might eventually conform to the truth.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.