Saturday, June 30, 2012

Talking Ourselves Out of Negativity

Waking up some days is a hazy and an avoided prospect because of the dark thoughts that come flooding to mind. Fear grips the heart. Unsavoury images fill the mind. And a general sense of loathing accompanies our psyche.
Negativity seems to save itself for seasons, not simply days, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative thinking becomes the pattern we spiral down into. We can simply forget there are broader prospects to be considered.
Talking ourselves out of negativity is easier than we think at the time. We just need to find ways of doing it consistently. And talking ourselves out of negativity is not denying our problems; it’s simply keeping them in proper perspective.
Compartmentalising The Problem(s) – Using the Logical Mind
Our negativity is framed by somewhat irreconcilable problems—or maybe simply one. Our unconscious minds are consumed by finding a solution. This fact weighs down our conscious thinking.
But, if we could compartmentalise our problems, and contain them safely, we could save space for more positive thinking. More space would be freed up to consider the things that are actually working in our lives.
More emotional freedom would be experienced because our thinking is, even for critical moments, a little more balanced.
What happens when we don’t do this is negativity may drive the position of our thinking, and the good things are put away and undervalued, whilst the bad things become a source of high focus. We do this unconsciously.
We have to stop the pervasiveness of our negative thinking. And the only way of doing that, with the best effect, is create a special compartment for our problems, by creating equally special compartments for the good things occurring in our lives.
With both compartments, then, we give each their due recognition, and we plan to spend time tending to both. Maybe our logical minds will advise that the positives, so far as hope is concerned for the future, outweigh the negatives that appear to be so pressing right now.
Experiencing Hope By Faith
When all we can see is negative, and we feel hopelessly helpless, it is difficult to conceive the process of faith, let alone apply faith consistently.
This is where we need plain reminders to live for faith.
Reading our Bibles, praying, and searching for, and reading, inspirational words and poems, etc, all help to shift our thinking from hopelessness to hopefulness. We could also try to spend some time around bright, empathetic people.
The plain reality for supporting our compartments of positivity is balance. We balance our negativity when we experience hope by faith. This means we choose to be positive; to see the positives in their truthful light. There are always positives. Indeed, there are many things that negative thinking shuns that could be raised in stature to provide us hope.
By faith we can navigate our way through any negativity, one moment at a time. By faith we experience hope. And by faith we balance our realities—all is not bad in anyone’s life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, June 29, 2012

3 Ways to Real Manhood

“Girls are beautiful and boys are handsome, silly!” she said, scolding him in a kindly jesting way. This conversation between a five-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy took place within earshot and is typical of our standard gender stereotypes.
But why can’t we appreciate beauty within men? Why shouldn’t we appreciate strength in women more? I would argue that whilst men tend to be more handsome than beautiful, their characters can be beautiful.
Recently I walked past a church and it promoted a series aimed at men called, “Ways to Manhood – learn how to be powerful, innocent, and free.” Sceptically, I wondered how biblical this program was. And then I felt God open my understanding. Men can be, by character, powerful, innocent, and free.
In this way their characters can become beautiful.
So, the following are some thoughts on how men can be appropriately and biblically powerful, innocent for God’s use, and free for themselves and their family.
1. A Man With An Appreciative Power At His Grasp
Whenever I ask my wife what are the important characteristics of a true man she remarks, with words to the effect, “He needs to be gentle and tender, especially with his wife.” (This immediately gets me to self-audit!)
The truth is a man cannot be powerful regarding manhood if he cannot harness his power in being gentle and tender when it is most needed.
A man with an appreciative sense of power at his grasp has been delimited, and he can do all things that God asks of him. This man’s power is adequate only under God. He knows his power is entirely contingent upon surrender before God—and, therefore, he is, as best as he can be, an authentic man. No truth-about-the-self is hidden from him, and as new self-revelations come to light they are met with genuine intrigue for learning and are, therefore, dealt with.
The powerful man is not by nature a denier. He has learned to love the truth, however painful it can be sometimes.
2. A Man Who Is Neither A Threat, Nor Can Be Threatened
It is difficult for Christians to contemplate being innocent. The concept of sin is a problem whenever we consider our innocence. Christ died for us because we are not innocent. But because Christ died for us we can now be rendered innocent under the terms of grace.
There is another take on innocence to be cognisant of, however.
Whenever a man, or any person for that matter, is no threat to others and cannot be threatened he is, or they are, from a pragmatic viewpoint, innocent—at least relationally.
When a man reaches this sense of equilibrium he can be a friend to anybody, in any situation. He both loves freely and is easy to love.
3. A Man Who Is, Therefore, Free
If we were to combine the above aspects of character—being appropriately and biblically powerful, with being a threat to nobody and not being threatened—we can begin to see the man who is free.
He is free to become, more and more, the man God purposed him to be.
A free man is free to obey God, free to love, and free within himself to do these things. Unrestricted, he wants to do these things because he is free to do these things. Doing these things brings him, and those that love him, great joy.
Above all, the free man is free to be perfectly imperfect.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: no man, or woman that matter, will ever be perfect. Our characters are what we are characterised by most of the time. We will all have lapses. The question for us men is, do we act powerfully, innocently, and free most of the time?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pray Move Grow Transform

When the whole world conspires against our day,
And all our hope has turned from sunlight to grey,
Decision time beckons,
So our sense for reason reckons.
There is only one good thing about a day that turns to mud. When all our hope has turned from sunlight to grey, apart from the default feeling of rancorous despair we struggle with, there is a golden cue; a goad; a cattle prod.
God is compelling us toward decision time. So our sense for reason can reckon.
When the day in a life becomes confounding, sometimes before it’s even begun, when hope is strangled for lack of sleep and the list of tasks seems endless, a shrieking complaint becomes us.
When a day has no hope, and we add to our hopelessness thoughts of panicked helplessness, we enter into a double hell.
God is compelling us toward decision time. So our sense for reason can reckon.
An important juncture has emerged. When we reckon it to be God’s will that we respond to this double hellishness we admit within our minds and hearts that God is for us, not against us; that God provides power in this very weakness.
Just the very fact we can get through—and positively, by God’s strength, even despite our fleeting negativity—means over the longer haul we have found our way.
Turning About-Face
One of the enduring memories I have of A.W. Tozer’s preaching is his way of illustrating the sort of hard about-face we put in when we turn back to God in repentance.
Struggling with the death of hope is our opportunity to turn back to God in repentance. Maybe the death of our hope, as it is portrayed in our moments, has nothing to do with our sin, but our response, via complaint, is the sin of pride lampooned on Broadway; a grotesque sin.
Turning about-face in our turning back to God in repentance is a momentary prayer, a commitment to move, along the path of growth, toward transformation. In a moment God came to rescue us—not out of the situation, but out of the situation of our thinking.
When our hope has plummeted, and fears abound, or our head is full of complaint, our best response is to pray—for knowledge of truth and reason—which compels us to move, to believe in our growth, which ignites transformation—even in that moment.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Strength Out of Weakness Helps

Gracious Lord:
Give me straight sight,
Ears only for You,
Set my heart right,
So I act on what’s true.
Having recently dealt with a day when numerous examples of other people’s irresponsibility impacted on me, directly, I lamented how other people’s concerns had become my responsibility. Yet other people’s obligations can only become our responsibility if we accept them. Part of the problem was mine. I felt weary, neglected, and somewhat angry.
It’s amazing what exercise does. A 30-minute sprint on the bike, up hills and into a headwind, and I was sorted. No longer did I feel weak; strength was mine in abundance, and peace.
I had no problems to solve. All I had were opportunities, as the strain-value of the past day’s woes vanished in significance. Then I was reminded of the strength we gain from God as we recover from our weaknesses.
Then I discovered, afresh, that not only does peace return with strength, but the ability to see right as well. Our perspective is fixed. The prayer above protects our strength. As strength provides peace and righteousness, both peace and righteousness support strength.
When Weakness Facilitates Strength
When I wrote, When Brokenness Is the Beginning, I was mindful of the paradox that avails itself upon us within our weakness. When we are weak we feel weak, but we may never be closer to strength. Weakness facilitates strength. It takes us down to an entirely unacceptable position and from there we have little choice, if we have a strong enough self-interest, but to claw our way out in our resilience.
Nietzsche coined the quote, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” and he highlighted a truth so compelling it works in every situation we apply it to.
The strange reality of weakness, which is something we don’t see in our weakness, and we can only see by faith, is the emergent strength coming, when we can begin to see the truth again, is of a stronger proof than the previous strength. This new strength comes with a punch about it. This new strength compels us to compete. It gives us fresh reason to try. And by this strength we can see the importance of rallying for the purpose at hand.
There is strength available with immediacy out of weakness. Strength out of weakness is stronger than normal strength. It is a recovered strength. It is a strength that is formidable because it knows no reason for fear of failure. This strength, like our salvation, is mighty to save.
Strength out of weakness is stronger strength than normal because there is peace and right sight. This strength inspires a fresh confidence because we overcame the weakness. If weakness cannot overcome us, what can?
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Beyond the Procrastination Problem

As I dropped my favourite spoon into the oily muck in the sink, lamenting the lapse as I did so, I began to wonder what spoon I’d use the next morning for breakfast. What an influence that lapse made on my thinking. Suddenly, without thought, my mind was grazing over the possibility of using another spoon—a less pleasurable one—because I couldn’t automatically see myself rescuing the spoon. But then, without thought, I plunged my hand into that mess, seizing the spoon, and, at the same time, I discovered that the oily muck in the sink was not that bad after all—it just looked bad. And I had my spoon!
What appears as a slow moment in my household illustrates a common phenomenon proving problematic in our lives.
So many times we refuse to challenge ourselves in the solving of simple problems, and this is because of fear; often an unconscious fear.
We all have our ‘spoon’ experiences. And these experiences come in the form of relationship, task, and asset problems—big, small, and in between. There is a problem with our problem-solving. We talk ourselves out of problem-solving before we even challenge the matter. Can this be a chief cause of much of our procrastination?
Fixing The Problem Is Easier Than Enduring It
Procrastination takes a lot of effort. It is fatiguing and wearisome on an already limited psychological budget. Fixing the problem is easier than enduring it.
When I made the choice to bear the pain of enduring the oily muck on the sink, which did not prove painful at all, I retrieved the spoon, and, after cleaning it, had it available for my later use. Some would say, “Just get another spoon!” Not when such a spoon offers, me, its sole owner, so much advantage for pleasure. And despite the joking, our problems are very personal.
For me it is a spoon; for the next person it is a plate; for another it is a mug.
Our problems, as personal as they are, may seem inconsequential to other people, but they are still problems to us. Because our problems are problematic to us we are always better fixing them.
One Most Empowering Concept
If we can quantify our problems, analyse and fix them we can remove many barriers that blind us to better opportunities. What we never see we can never take hold of. What we can never take hold of remains elusive to us. This can be a travesty.
And what of life are we missing out on when we don’t overcome our problems?
This seems the real issue.
When we address our problems, by fixing them, or by accepting them, we move on beyond the barriers that those problems present and we begin to realise more of our potential. Furthermore, we become bigger, better people.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fully Focused and Ready for Life

“Nothing can stand in the way of the person who focuses their entire self on a problem.”
~Norman Vincent Peale
Life presents us with many opportunities to become frustrated with our living off it.
We are living, but the way we are living life is not the best of life; not life to its fullest extent.
It’s not that we want more; we know we have been blessed. It’s that we want a purpose in life that compels us to destroy our bad habits so we have a new lease on life. We want our lives to have meaning. We want to stop wasting our lives.
It is a great thing, therefore, when we understand that nothing can stand in our way if we focus our entire self on the problem. Our progress is limited only to a lack of focus. Focus is our key.
Living life one day at a time is the only way to retain such a focus. And we get there not by focusing our minds on one thing, but by focusing our lives on one general flow. We remain open to that particular flow of things. We become more fully teachable. Our focus of enquiry in this direction becomes insatiable. Sooner or later the negative foci in life have less energy left behind them.
When we come to live fully focused and ready for life we can change anything we don’t like about ourselves—anything changeable—and particularly anything that doesn’t align with our concept of ourselves as believers in God’s holy way.
And the beauty of life is we can come fully focused and ready for life every single day. Even after a failure to live this way the day before, God gives us fresh opportunities today to live out, just for one day, of the ideals of truth.
Being fully focused and ready for life is being available for transformation. And being that we are broken, imperfect specimens of creation we will get more wrong than right, overall. But we have the key; that key is focus.
Focus helps us achieve anything achievable. Nothing stands in the way of the focused.
Focus prevents barriers of distraction. Focus facilitates flow. It creates movement, which generates inertia, which engenders momentum.
And the beauty of focus, if we are gracious to ourselves in losing focus, is we can rebuild our focus anytime. It may be the key goal of life; where we are supposed to direct our energy, our thought, our purpose.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

When Self-Belief Joins God-Belief

“Believe it is possible to solve your problems. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will.”
~Norman Vincent Peale
There is power in the power of suggestion. People see great things occur in their lives when their belief, unstinting, compels them ever forward beyond vision of despair. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It works for us, never against.
Much of the time, keeping faith with our dreams is keeping faith with what God has instilled within us to do. Sometimes these dreams are entirely realistic, and sometimes they appear unrealistic. Yet only we can believe.
And then they are the problems. Problems beset us with fear and loathing. We may begin to resent the fact that we even have this problem—“why me?”—and we begin to fixate on the problem rather than on the solution.
But the solution is also part of our problem. We fixate on that, too.
Rearranging Our Focus
The idea of faith is that we don’t submit to fear to the point of being immobilised.
Instead of being too problem-focused or too solution-focused, we have an opportunity to deploy our focus at a level that is ambient with our hope. In other words, faith gently allows the hope to reside within. The hope of a resolution to our problem sits, more or less, dormantly. In this way we are not panicking. There is an undercurrent of belief that our problem can, and will, be solved. It’s that we are willing whenever we become able. We are ready to do what we need to do.
Faith in God is like this. It is power to believe that our problems are winnable. It is the power of belief that, through God, we can get knowledge of, own, and enact, our solutions.
So our focus needs to shift from dwelling anxiously upon the problem or the solution to the point of distraction, and onto a broad underpinning belief that the answer will come, and when it does we can and will affect it.
Believing The Answer Will Come, Eventually
In all reality our solutions have always come. Either the problem changed and catered for our unfolding circumstances, or we came to be aware of how to fix it and did.
A tremendous amount of peace and, therefore, power is achieved when we have the faith to simply allow our fears to be. Believing the answer will come means we don’t have to fix the problem this very moment. That takes a lot of pressure off.
Having a hope that tomorrow will be okay is the key indicator that our faith is working. This shows us that God-belief is emergent upon self-belief. It shows that our belief in God is working at a personal level when confidence is drawn.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nurturing a Sound Self-Concept

Lately I have had significant doubts about my effectiveness in my call in life. Together with other purpose-oriented concerns, I have discovered, again, the erosive qualities of self-doubting.
But I also rediscovered that faith cannot grow unless it is tested in a seedbed of slightly salty soil. We clearly have a paradox here; one that God requires we live with.
We don’t seem to have problems with our self-concept when things run swimmingly. We are motivated and inspired. But a short season of doubting throws anyone off track, even slightly. But such a period of doubting compels us even more to nurture a sound self-concept.
Responding To Threats To The Self-Concept
When we are threatened we need to respond. Responding well, when we are most pressed, is shifting cross-grain and running into and through and against the flow of peak hour (‘doubting’) traffic. This traffic occurs in our minds. Our self-talk collaborates with destruction if we don’t head it off at the pass.
One of the most effective ways of responding to threats to the self-concept is by getting back to the basics of doing the simple things well.
Doing The Simple Things Well
When life gets dark, swampy and messy we need a mode of reaction that points us in the right direction whilst quelling our fear.
Doing the simple things well achieves for us both objectives.
By doing the simple things well we grasp the moment and consciously our confidence is buoyed. Not only that, but we contribute to our ongoing confidence, and it builds into inertia which becomes momentum. We get to accomplish some important things, however small, and we get to feel more effective and more efficient.
By thinking on the simple things, with the aim of doing well, we have disciplined our thinking. By exhibiting better self-control over our thinking we begin to feel better. By thinking better, and simpler, our doubts tend to evaporate.
Where Two Realities Meet!
When both thinking and feeling merge we have created peace, even for the moment.
Thinking well, despite doubting, is upward tending faith. Feeling well is a downward tending confident assurance that the inputs to life are appropriate and timely. Thinking well is the input to feeling well. In the business of key performance indicators, thinking leads where feeling lags. Our thinking is a lead indicator—our investment of faith. Our feeling is a lag indicator—the consequence of our faith.
Thinking well is what we do before the event of the sound self-concept, whilst feeling well is the assurance, which is felt later, that we have achieved a sound self-concept.
Where experience meets with hope (what we have hoped for about ourselves; that which is now realised) two awesome realities fuse for us toward unbridled joy. The great thing is even a moment of this is enough to convince us of the supreme qualities of nurturing a sound self-concept. Every effort made was worth it.
What a great investment to nurture a sound self-concept! When we think well we tend, later, to feel well. When good thinking leads to good feeling a sound self-concept is achieved.
Thinking well is our best friend in the quest for a sound self-concept.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Praying L.O.R.D. For Peace

For years I have searched for a formula that would assist me with the living of my life. I have sought just one rule, or three, and the power to rest in those rules. Alas, as a mentor once advised, I have come to believe life in its entirety cannot be formularised.
But that hasn’t stopped me searching for the comprehensive suite of formulas. And they appear never-ending. Formulas for living life, and rules for actualising our prospects, are limited only by the lack of our imaginations.
The Acronym, L.O.R.D.
The following acronym, which is a composition of prayers, may help in our fight for peace:
Let go – Lord, help me to realise, afresh, I own nothing. Help me with my infernal quest for the grasping of things. Help me to let go of those things that I covet. Convince me, again and again, of the superficiality in worldly things.
Organise – sort me, Lord. Fix within me the desire to organise things as they are. Help me to see what I have and to enjoy those things. Assist me to structure my life around the important things and not just the urgent ones.
Rest: Lord, give me rest. Help me to build my capacity to achieve rest wherever and whenever I am. Help me to look forward to restful times in spite of the chaos that may confront me in the now.
Direct me, Lord. Direct my life into your perfect paths. Keep me on the straight road. Humble me when my pride overrides. My propensity is to wander, my Saviour, and yours is to redeem. Redeem me each moment I find myself foreign to your sense.
Lord, help me to let go,
Sort me out,
Give me rest,
And direct me on your path.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Walking the Tightrope of Priorities

Jeff is a 38-year-old father of two; a devoted husband. By day he works mobile, and by night he works hard to be there for his family. He is conflicted. Battling to earn enough to meet his family’s longer term needs he is tempted to work longer hours, but he knows, all too well, his focus needs to be just as much, if not more, with his young family. These diametrically opposed priorities confound him, and he is often pressed between skimping on sleep or exercise in order to meet the challenges; work and family.
Of course, Jeff’s story is a familiar one. Just how do we walk a tightrope of priorities?
For many problems in life there are no easy answers. And we can theorise about Jeff’s best chances of sustaining his life in the midst of his family life and work life. The sad reality is many people like Jeff would sooner run short on sustaining their lives than cut short the quality in their family life or cut short earning potential in their work life.
What are the best priorities? Are they placed first?
Even though each person will decide for themselves what the best priorities are, we can step back and visualise our lives from their centre. Surely all our efforts emanate from a core within ourselves. Such a core is the foundation of the person, as such a core is the foundation of a marriage, as such a core is also central to holding a career together.
But what is the core that needs most its own basic form of attention?
What is it about our lives that needs the most sustenance and care?
If we answer in anything external to our core selves we may be mistaken; we may miss the mark in finding a sustainable position with which to safely walk our tightrope to its end. It is not selfish to look deeply within and to understand, and respond to, the personal needs that need to be met in order to provide for others’ needs.
We cannot care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves. This has to be the first rule in the nurture of many diverse things. It is wisdom that allows the right sort and right level of self-care.
The answer to Jeff’s predicament is no simple one, and only Jeff can eventually work it out, even one day at a time. He has enough resource within himself to satisfy others’ needs of him, but only if he can spare himself enough resource to replenish himself.
Walking the tightrope of priorities can be a despairing burden. If we wish to walk safely, we need a wise level of self-care. We care best for others when we care best for ourselves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

10 Ways to Enjoy Life More

“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.”
~Colossians 4:2 (NRSV)
There are countless reasons to be thankful in life, but we, by instinct, forget.
What do we already have that we can be more thankful for, and therefore enjoy?
1.      We are alive. Our parents, by the miracle of God, conceived us. And no matter what relationship we have with our parents, we are alive.
2.      For those of us who know God, we know God. Think for a moment about the obvious blessings underlying such a fact. By prayer we can count our blessings.
3.      We have potential in all sorts of areas in life—this fact feeds our hope. Our hope establishes our vision, and by faith we get there. Given this, why do we not live more faithfully?
4.      There are the material possessions we own or have possession of. This is no petty detail. Everything we have received, we have received from God; no less are these things we can put our hands on.
5.      Besides our knowledge of God, we have our overall knowledge and what we can know of things. Without God there would be no knowledge, and, though knowledge is often painful, knowledge is a great blessing.
6.      Then comes our experience. Although there is much to lament about life, all of our experiences have a commonality about them representing the mystery of life. And it can be marvellous just what we can remember.
7.      Our skills shouldn’t miss recognition. Even if we are given to thinking we have few skills, we actually have hundreds of them. How marvellous that our minds and bodies can work in such elastic unison.
8.      The notion of family is a thing to be thankful for, for the vast majority of us. And if we have no blessed family of family origin we can have a blessed family elsewhere, for instance, the church. The fortunate have both. Just how often do we really appreciate our families?
9.      Most of us have a vocation—a purpose, whether we love it or not. The fact is we have this. And if we don’t have such a possession we have permission to hope. No one and nothing tells us we cannot hope.
10.  On such an endless list, what rounds it out? We look around and what can we see; that which we already have? There is so much, realistically. It’s time to fill in the blanks...
Thankfulness for what we already have is the urgency of gratitude that compels us toward joy. And such a joy will feed our hope, and faith to live life is then ours in abundance.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.