Friday, November 30, 2012

Allowing God to Free the Mind

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom.”
— Albert Einstein
There is a great and never more basic lesson in the endeavour of work. When we can love the work that has been set for us, principally by God, as we willingly forage, we exist in a beautifully balanced joy. And our joy is expanded at the wonder that we are enjoying work!
Something we may once have despised is now the very making of us.
Labouring in freedom is the essence of our purpose. We are called to labour. What, then, can go better for us than to gain freedom in doing what we must do?
In the activity of our work—our labouring in freedom—we gain fulfilment, which is the blessing of God of the abundant life. Our minds are literally flooded with beautiful thoughts, and this causes our hearts to feel that sense of exhilaration sometimes rarely experienced.
Creation and Inspiration Are the Products of Work
It’s a polar dichotomy that we are enthused by words like “creation” and “inspiration,” yet we abhor the idea of work. Somehow, when we create something or we are inspired to do something, or by something, we come alive. Life is never better.
Yet creation and inspiration are both products of work. When we can connect the two concepts we gain a secret to living the abundant life.
As we free our minds to enter the work that we have before us, whatever it is, we begin to see the meaning in what we create as we labour in freedom.
It inspires us when we connect these two concepts—when work is enjoyed it provides a sense of fulfilment that creates things we can see, as well as joy from within us.
Could it be that God’s vision for us within the corpus of joy is contained in enjoying all the activities in our lives? Seems basic, but it’s true. The activities that make up our lives are the work of our lives. When we can enjoy this work for what it is, in the moment—whether it’s busy-work, boring-work, or relaxing-work—we find that we understand God and we have allowed God to free our minds.
To truly rely on God is freeing for the mind. When the mind is free, we are able to labour in freedom. We enjoy our work. But only when we see the purpose God has for it and his purpose for us in this work. We come alive when we love our work.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Am Grief

I come without warning, in a darkness descending,
Placing you at the mercy of a death unrelenting,
I come in all manner of worldly circumstance,
I have the power to break your tender romance.
I wake you up numb in a vacuous thought,
Experiences like these bring us quickly to nought,
All you’ll want to do is climb straight back into bed,
To go to that place where we think it’s better to be dead.
I make you undone so your identity is rocked,
For months and months grieving beings are locked,
Throughout this grief neither one nor the other,
I am Grief and I have come here to smother.
There’s little wonder you have no appetite for food,
Your life’s turned upside down with no stability of mood,
Everything you once knew now makes little sense,
You can rightly ask, “Why such an offense?”
The hours drag much like a hellish or boring day,
And anxiety and depression will threaten to stay,
It’s states like this where we commonly despair,
And to hope beyond hope is to bravely dare.
I am Grief and in the grip of me,
No wonder there’s doubting of who you’re to be,
With a shaken identity, the target of deformation,
Bold and brash is the hope of reformation.
I am Grief and I’m here to remind you,
With me around life holds you true,
For, I might seem harsh, but really I help you gain,
Because without me in you God would not reign.
I am Grief and I’m a pilgrimage to travel,
Despite the threat I can cause your life to unravel,
It seems for a time it’s chaotic at best,
And times like these we have no access to rest.
Burying ourselves in a depth so low,
With faith, however, we can only but grow,
I tell you that I, Grief, come to advance,
Because I am taking you on a journey of chance.
I am Grief and if only you can know,
I hold nothing against you even though you are low,
Through each of the stages I gradually take you,
As the seasons change you gradually become new.
I am Grief and I’m normal to life,
A life that’s quite home to aberrant strife,
But when you are patient I will cause you to grow,
Everything within reason and it’s peace you will know.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Kindnesses in Times of Trouble

There’s no telling the power of the kind word aptly timed.  More so the silent act of kindness ‘uttered’ powerfully far above the constraints of common reality.
Hardly conscionable is the fact of that time of deep distress — for whatever reason — that achieves with it the support that was needed ‘just in time’.      
And yet, we’ve all known times when such help came, and most times inexplicably so.  We put it down to the Lord (if we believe), sheer luck/fate or just to the sharp perception of another who knew us well and loved us in that moment with a selfless word or act — perhaps even for a whole season.
How this sense of being touched by another person — one who played that God-in-skin role for us — has made such a remarkable difference in and to our lives now.
‘Be’ That Person
This is a translucently simple message.
An open challenge to every one of us is to wake with the fresh, though intentional, thought every single day: “Whom shall I help today?”
And, “How shall I look for the opportunity?”
One deed of kindness at the appropriate time for one person — be it a smile, the issue of grace, a gentle encouraging word, an invitation to dinner — is a golden moment of celebration in the heavens as the angels unite in God at seeing the will of the Father made known in the world.
Thousands of opportunities lay before us.  Not even ninety percent of these opportunities, however, will even be perceptible.  But still, they beckon.
A Commanding Premise
Although the commandments of God are simply stated and are in one accord with the foregoing they still are never so natural for us.
We beat ourselves up too much in retrospect for missing golden opportunities when a commanding premise of God is nothing about condemnation for missed opportunities or ill-advised-at-the-time selfishness causing regret and remorse.
All we do then, instead, is look forward and ‘go’ again, God with us as we go.
The next opportunity to sow into the ever-appending flow of life and then the next... these are the issues of real consequence for us.
We don’t stop at failures to love.  We instead look forward to the approach of the downcast soul — and the myriad form these take — and do whatever the God-instilled moment requires. 
Then we go on, at harmony with the purposes of God.
Words or Actions
Words are not inferior to actions, for at times words are the action required.  Still, most often our actions speak volumes beyond our words and silence-with-hands-and-feet to act is often the best reply.
Even very small things are of eternal importance.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why Self-Condemnation Is Silly

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
— John Wooden (1910–2010)
Perhaps our role as self-critics is to become the consummate coach; to correct ourselves, or to allow correction, without causing resentment.
We all do, more or less, condemn ourselves for all manner of variety of mistakes, lapses, slips, errors, and violations. So, if self-condemnation is so obviously universal—that it’s such a human trait—where we berate ourselves in isolation—where self-condemnation is the universal response—why don’t we see the irony?
If everyone is capable of making similar mistakes, there’s no reason to cruel ourselves for making the sorts of mistakes we all make.
The Only Purpose in ‘Condemnation’
Berating the self has no good and worthy purpose beyond causing us to simply repent—then the grace of God, presuming we are saved, takes over. God forgives in an instant, and we can know this by our felt release from the grip of condemnation.
Self-condemnation, therefore, is felt either whenever we don’t repent, yet we feel guilty (even unconsciously), or when we do repent, yet we don’t take God at his Word; we don’t believe the blessings of God’s grace that see us forgiven and able to move on.
Is there a harsher reality, personally, then spurning the self?
Could it get any worse than being in receipt of a purposeless self-inflicted wrath?
Once we have dealt with the mistake, lapse, slips, error, or violation—once we have entered courage through repentance—to make the appropriate restitution—we are willed by God to move on. If we believe in the power of the gospel portent of grace we won’t allow the barbs of self-condemnation to stick into the flesh of our consciences, shredding our spiritual wellbeing. We will take God at his Word.
Sin Is Universal in the Realm of Humanity
When we understand the comprehensive nature of sin in our mortal beings, we see no sense or justification in feeling condemned. We understand that our humanity speaks for itself.
We understand God wants something better for us; the ability to live freely within the bounds of truth.
We understand that we are besmirched and vile by nature—that is all of us—and, in that, there is an enormous sense of relief that perfection can be put away. And when we have laughed in the face of perfection, knowing full well mistakes will be ours, we don’t get down on ourselves as we used to.
There’s no sense in self-condemnation. Humankind is perfectly imperfect. We all make mistakes. There’s no purpose, therefore, in self-condemnation beyond causing us to repent. Once God forgives there’s no role for condemnation; only freedom from it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Am Depression

I come without warning, in a darkness descending,
Placing you at risk, toward a despair unending,
Battled and fatigued I joust you about,
And fill you with all kinds of tremulous doubt.
I make you wake up with horrendous thoughts,
A season like this I make you all out of sorts,
All you’ll want to do is go straight back to sleep,
To go to that place where unconscious is deep.
When it’s time to go out, I make you horribly aware,
At times like this you’ll have little confidence to spare,
And within the crowd you may feel desperately alone,
I am Depression and I cause you to groan.
You wonder why you have no appetite for food,
A life turned upside down and no stability of mood,
Weight loss or weight gain beyond your will,
I have come in to make you anything but still.
Some of the hours seem like a whole day,
The clock ticks so slowly, the hands seem to stay,
One day like this and you’ll know me so well,
One day like this and you’ll be desperate for a spell.
I am Depression and in the grip of me,
There’s every reason for you to doubt what is to be,
With the present, as it is, so incredibly unsure,
No wonder you’re in the mood to despondently deplore.
I am Depression and I’m nothing to dismiss,
Anybody who would, would be horribly remiss,
I’m a serious problem, you better be sure,
Don’t take me lightly, or you’ll get more.
The earlier you get to me and shake me loose,
The better the chance you have of coming to a truce,
I’m to be respected—don’t take your chances with me,
Leave me unattended and I’ll have a spree.
Lucky these days mental illness’s more than ever okay,
You’ll need all the support you can get, so don’t delay,
Go see your doctor, a friend, and a counsellor too,
‘Meds’ and prayer help so much when we are blue.
I am Depression and if only you can know,
I hold nothing against you even though you are low,
Later you will see there’s no reason to self-condemn,
Later you will see you have always been a gem.
I am Depression and once you’ve known me,
You may have more compassion to simply agree,
That many in this life are scourged beyond reason,
Then we hope they, too, can get through such a season.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

The ABC of Mastering Life

1.      Attitude.
2.      Balance.
3.      Competence.
These three above combine to help us achieve a sense of mastery in life, which is always a situational proposition.
The overall goal of life, though it cannot ever be perfectly sustained, is to master it to the point of adaptability regarding each situation’s wisdom. This acknowledges that there is a God-blessed answer of response for every given situation.
Let’s take these three in cumulative fashion:
1. Life Begins with Attitude
Our mental approach to life—our frame for understanding—is tested by our circumstances. These occur and we feel a certain way. Our feelings influence our thoughts. Additionally, whatever happens we think intensely about. Perceptions are formed even without effort.
If we are to rise above our difficult circumstances by a stoic mental approach we have a way of seeing life in a much more balanced manner. A good attitude of approach steadies us, and we have the platform for balance—an absolute necessity in profiting us toward the abundant life.
2. Life Gets Better with Balance
There are salons to help with both hair loss and too much hair, just as there are eating disorders of both eating too much and not enough. The abundant life is the balanced life—where we are informed by the correctness and suitability of our attitude and we decide upon the correct approach for the situation.
As is mentioned through Ecclesiastes chapter 3, in verses 1-9, there is a time and a place for every mood, action and response.
Balance is important because it is informed and empowered by our attitude, and it provides opportunities for revealing our competence. If we had a bad attitude our balance would be off. Balance ensures that our attitude is adept for the situation and harnessed, such that our world could see how situationally competent we can be.
3. Life Is Mastered with Competence
With the right platform—attitude—and the right level of choice and perspective—balance—our final challenge in mastering a situation is to deploy ourselves competently through attitude and balance.
Attitude (good thought) + Balance (right action) = Competence (fruitful life)
Competence is the final indicator of ultimate success. It is the right thought and the right behaviour for the given situation. That situation is hence mastered.
Life begins with attitude, gets better with balance, and is mastered with competence. When all three are activated—a sound attitude, the right balance for the occasion, and the resulting competence for our situations—we have what we need to live the abundant life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to Abandon Anxious Worry

“Cast all your anxiety on God, because he cares for you.”
— 1 Peter 5:7 (NRSV)
Some doctors got together once and analysed their patients’ medical and health fears. They determined that 40% of them worried of things that simply never happened. 30% worried about past events outside their control. 12% were unduly anxious about their health; though their only illness seemed to be a swollen imagination. 10% were concerned for family members. Only 8% of these doctors’ cases were treatable conditions—of course, we all believe we fit into the 8%!
We often worry more than we need to.
And God knows we worry, but we are reminded by Jesus (Matthew 6:25-34) that we need not be worried about things of the past or the future, what clothes we will wear, or what food we will eat or drink; because God provides. The apostle Paul tells the Philippians, also, to cast their burdens toward God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. When we do this, being obedient in prayer, God comes to us to alleviate our anxiety.
Promoting God Above the Anxiety
When we worry we have placed the worry above faith, and even above the place God has in our lives. The worry becomes a source of idolatry. The worry has replaced acts of faith; the installation of thought that has us worshipping God in praise and thankfulness, despite our fears.
Upon worry our task is to promote God above the anxiety.
There is no better adviser than Jesus: he tells us in Matthew 6:33 that, the way through anxiousness is to keep putting God—his kingdom and his righteousness—first. Despite the worry and the temerity of our doubt we are to cast our fears upon the One who can help; the One that cares for us.
When we promote God above the anxiety, we place things in their correct pecking order. God is above all things. Our worries and concerns, though they are real, are fleeting and transitory, as well as small in the true scale of things. Even the huge issues of life—cancer, loss of loved ones, job losses, relationship breakdowns, etc—are relatively small compared to matters of eternal life. Because we care at a human level we often engage in skewed sight for what things actually mean. God is quickly demoted in our view of things.
But we are wise when we understand the way through anxiousness is to keep putting God first; to cast upon him all our worries and concerns, because he is the only one who can help—who cares.
The way through anxiousness is to keep putting God first. Faith in God helps us one moment at a time. This is the way we get through. Our faith and confidence build. And in our faith, God is glorified.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Finding Hope’s Light Again

In the still of night,
When everything’s far from right,
Where life’s toughness and roughness bite,
We’ve lost sight of hope’s light.
In such a state,
How do we relate,
How will we contemplate,
A more hope-filled fate?
When nervousness is unending,
And depression seems unrelenting,
When there’s no way of venting,
What will we do?
Where will we go,
When all’s turned low,
And our strengths to persist close,
And deep waters rise to meet our nose?
God comes calling at these times,
When hearts are rent and despicability climbs,
And because we’re left with no resistance,
God breaks through in his persistence.
Then the hope of light ensues,
A state in which our soul imbues,
Reaching a golden resplendent height,
In comes the strange bright of light.
It’s hard to imagine when our hope has evaporated, as if it never existed, just how we will re-rail our lives. This is no exaggeration or underestimation of the power of helplessness and hopelessness. Millions upon millions attest to the vacuum of despair met with daily. Some have known hope, whilst others never have.
This poem is about those that have glimpsed some sort of divine hope; but in having lost the way, due to some unrelenting issue, we are desperate to find hope’s light again. Somehow we believe it can be found, and upon that very belief is founded both the source of our enquiry and the eventual acquisition of such spiritual blessing it could only be called hope.
The Despair of Night’s Dark
Night time is a good image, I think, of the darkness we experience in our souls at times, whether it’s issues of circumstance or issues, inexplicable. Darkness comes to all human beings, because we are home to darkness. Because of this we have such need is God.
The despair of night’s dark seems uncompromising. We have no sight for light. It seems as if we are drowning in our sorrows of soul.
The key interruption to this night darkness is when God comes calling at our surrender of resistance. In weakness comes strength. God’s persistence begins to work in our weakness toward our recovery and eventual blessing.
The Hope of Day’s Light
When the hope of day’s light comes, we meet it with the same surreal peaceful joy we experience in any victory. We feel like saying, “So this is what faithfulness feels like—to be blessed because of our faithfulness in this situation?”
When the hope of day’s light comes in such a way we cannot help but be humbled. Even in our faithfulness we doubted, but God knew better. Now he showers us with the blessings of victory: peace and joy.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.