Sunday, December 29, 2013

One Thing That Makes Your Life Worth It

PEOPLE have very human experiences of life, which includes experiencing the whole gamut of emotions. Sometimes, however, the level and depth of the emotions is so terrible we might barely expect to survive them. Sometimes we might ask ourselves is our life worth living. We know that the sensible answer is always yes, but sometimes every sinew in us declares that the opposite is true, but we cannot go there. There, for a whole range of reasons, is forbidden ground. This is not to disparage those that go there; for them, and for their loved ones, there is only the most ardent sympathy ever knowable.
One thing that makes our lives worth it is we get out of life what we put into it.
Sure, we may have suffered various ignominies and indignities, but we have been granted life past these things, and even if we aren’t past the present censure we can draw on our experience to get past previous ones – our faith to survive melded with God’s faithfulness to deliver us at a time. We draw on times we got through.
One thing that makes our lives worth it is the love of God, for we can reciprocate and know that loving God is to make our lives worth living.
If we don’t know this love of God’s, how can we reciprocate? We must know it. We must experience it. And how else can we know or experience it other than to throw ourselves at the Lord’s feet?
If we surrender before him, promising to search high and low until we find what it is we so sorely need, we will not be disappointed; not ultimately.
If we put into our lives what we never have before, which is such a full-on commitment to the lives we were destined to live, God will give us that life. We have to be willing to settle for what is in God’s plan for our lives and nothing else. Only we are able to discern what God is doing from what he’s not doing.
One thing that makes your life worth it is the love in your life – that love of God’s that sought you, created you, and predestined you as a son or daughter of the King of kings.
One thing that makes your life worth it is you were created for a reason. Our role is to discover that passion and live it. Our lives are what we make of them.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How God Uses the Wounded Healer

“For all ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their own hearts, and make to that recognition the starting point of their service.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932–1996)
In today’s world, where the successful are marked as materially prosperous and confident souls, the wounded healer stands eternally apart. They abide by an inherently successful but bizarrely paradoxical formula: their strength is in their weakness, for their own weaknesses have become very qualification of their ministry. Their very failures – those that have been overcome and healed – have become their sole strength of credibility. Yes, the exact thing that was destined to crush the wounded healer has become the very reason they exist in their ministry. In such a way God has converted comprehensive defeat into everlasting victory.
The world needs the wounded healer type as ministers to a suffering world, to a suffering generation, to suffering individuals, as the minister him or herself suffers.
As the biblical corpus is built upon and based in many paradoxes upon enigmas within mysteries, so also is the life of the effective minister of God. They have a story of brokenness that qualifies the way to wholeness. Their mode of ministry is humility through working in their weakness, in order to redeem the Spirit’s strength for others’ access. Their way forward is via the truth – to establish authentic relationships and communication – in order to dispel many lies that might otherwise shrink their effectiveness. They identify with others’ suffering because they are quick to identify with their own suffering. The wounded healer doesn’t wallow in suffering, but they do accept it as an obvious stimulus and condition of living in this world. They have learned to work within the parameters of suffering, and they consistently find their way through it and into a manifestation of God’s glory.
Ministry for the oppressed must reach them where they truly are at. Superficial means derive superficial ends, and we cannot be satisfied to work within what is superficial for too long. No, God has lives he wants touched, and, though there is room for many different ministry types, the wounded healer has a common place in the work of God.
The wounded healer is able to help people for the precise reason they themselves have been helped. They opened up a way forward to their own healing, by the Spirit’s help, and likewise they are able to show that way to those who require healing.
Their weakness is their strength and what used to defeat them was cause for their victory. The wounded healer has accessed their own healing in order to show others that way.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Nearness of God

“God is always ready, but we are very unready. God is near us, but we are far from Him. God is within, and we are without. God is friendly; we are estranged.”
— Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328)
The easiest thing in the world, we make the hardest. The closest thing to each of us, personally, might as well be eons away. There is a polar dissimilarity between the nearness of God and the distance we have with ourselves. Something so abundantly close evades our attention because we either look too deeply, too scientifically, or we don’t look at all.
Yet, even believing ones can, and often do, miss the point of God: the nearness of God.
Trusting What We Already Know
Somehow, deep within our spirits, nestles the secret fact of God, one we’ve been searching for.
Perhaps the questions of life have plagued us to such an extent, we’re riddled with doubt or frustration with God or fatigue has beset us—it seems too hard, too meaningless, or too tritely bemusing, to continue this search.
God seems never more distant. The more we look, the less we find.
Despite what we might think, these feelings have a viral commonness about them; many people, indeed most, have significant periods where God failed to show up. We are not alone. Our Lord
Could it be we’re making the search more onerous than it needs to be?
Our Lord hides in such a way so as to be found by those who earnestly seek him; he remains hidden to all others.
Trusting what we already know is nothing about the knowledge of God we’ve learned from books or sermons or speeches or the devotional life. As we read Meister Eckhart’s quote again we know God already; the Deep Mystery belongs within us. All the uncertainty, vacancy, hurts for betrayal, jealousies, and confusion (and suchlike) reveal our need of God, and the Lord is there to assuage all these things and more; to help us redeem our moments—those moments only the Creator can give.
All the things that are wrong about us, and life, lead us to God; simply the fact that we are frustrated by what is wrong is the intention of Divine allure. We’re being led by these difficulties toward the solution—a solution none without God can find.
‘Proving GOD’ Is Ridiculous
Anyone setting out on a journey to prove or disprove God is found in themselves a person running away from their very self. They are like a dog deluded by the threat or the game involved in chasing its tail.
We can suppose some will make a sport of proving God—some maliciously, like the atheist on mission, and some benevolently, in evangelistic pursuit of souls for God.
But the ordinary person has no role, unless they would waste their lives, chasing after proof, for or against. They would be better served getting to know their inner selves—for, in that, a most fruitful spiritual search, they will find God. The Lord will prove Divine existence.
No One Makes Life Easier Than GOD
When we ponder the vastness of life outcomes, those deliciously fine to those horrendously broken, and the infinite nuances between—within the mix spoken of above—we find God makes life easier for each one who believes.
There is nothing else known or unknown in this world that does this, and does it, with truthful veracity, with our best interests at heart. Whatever our circumstance, the Lord can make it easier, better, more meaningful and fulfilling.
God is near, always. Ready to help, to love, to forgive, to ease our burdens, making sense of life: these are found in a God ever so near as to be within us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It Can Only Get Better If We Keep On Trying

FINE LINES restrain the majesty of life and this one has a thread hanging between the right sort of trying and the wrong sort. We can try to honour God, being faithful to his Word, discerning of his will, and attentive to his Spirit, or we might try in our own strength, forcing our way through, dictating to God how it all might be. One way is the right way; the other, the wrong way.
Life has a way about it that it trips us up at inopportune times – and the superstitious call such cursed enigmas, “They always come in threes!” What about when numbers 5 and 6 come along? What then?
The premise of this article is, It can only get better if we keep on trying. I might insert the word ‘eventually’ after ‘better’. Let’s test it.
When we say, “This, too, shall pass,” we agree with a truth that has held millions through the darkness of whole lives. Although some never had a taste of what we might enjoy on this earth, they continued to believe that, this too shall pass. This is not said to guilt us, for many, many contemporaries have serious reason to give up, yet they never ultimately do. You, the reader, are probably one of them.
When God Gives Reason to Grin
At times of giving up and giving in, we need the knowledge of God that saves us afresh. It’s amazing how God can break into our lives and give us a reasonable hope, if only we are looking for it. And when we feel lost we are particularly desperate. We will cling to a veneer of joy and that will see us through the tremulous minute.
As soon as we see something worth challenging the soul darkness that subsumes us, we are prepared to run with it, and this causes us to grin from within, for the light relief experienced; which is its own hope.
Our human sight really is incredibly limited. God can change the circumstances of our perceptions quicker than he can change the circumstances, and this is how he answers prayer for the most part. Prayer changes us. It’s not us coercing God.
When we give to God our fullest selves in the midst of a chaotic season, the Lord will give us strength to get through it. Faith says, “It will get better,” without saying, “It better get better.” Faith believes and never ultimately gives up.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Building Others Up – A Gift That Gives Twice

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
― Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
PEOPLE have a default way about them. They desire to be built up by others, never realising that they have the selfsame role of building others up. This is a crazy rationale. Why would we not understand the simple role of reciprocity in playing our part, whilst having faith that someone will build us up. But that is life – we tend to notice it all the more when we are on the receiving end.
Turning the tables, we get to see the opportunity of giving up on complaints regarding recognition and encouragement we miss out on, whilst simultaneously investing in kindnesses toward others. When discouragement cannot beat us, we can always encourage others, and do it all the more to the glory of God, really.
The greatest privilege to be enjoyed,
Is to ensure others are buoyed,
For what is life if we don’t build up?
With the Spirit’s help, we are to overflow their cup.
There is no greater role, nor purpose, nor privilege than building others up. This is not about worthless generalisations or charmless flattery. This is about considered thoughts that have become acts of kindness, for their building up – to help them soar. Many times it’s not about what we say, but what we don’t say.
Giving Ourselves Away
This is the golden opportunity of a lifetime; try it for a day, a week, a month. Resolve not to be discouraged at others’ clinginess for praise, but give it to them with an authentic heart, quietly repelling the craving for such recognition if at all possible.
Sometimes we are worn down, and we do complain – there isn’t the recognition we certainly deserve. When we give up and give in, we have a duty to forgive ourselves – to receive God’s forgiveness – because we have taken to the sin of working in our own strength.
As we give ourselves away, we find it works simply because God has honoured our will to love for the sake of it. God so loves a cheerful giver, he blesses their heart of hearts. This is not the reason we give ourselves away in building another up, but it is confirmation that in giving ourselves away we are never closer to his will.
Building others up is holy work – to put them up; to build into them. There may be no better gift. It’s a gift, also, that gives back in a multiplicity of ways.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Encourage the Weary

SATISFYING had my day been, when, as I boarded the train to go home, I noticed a mid-40s woman sit down in front of me (I stood only a few metres away [I sit so much elsewhere, I find it’s nice to stand on public transport.]). Suddenly she dove into her handbag and retrieved her phone. Frantically, she dialled a number and waited. She had left something on at her workplace and it needed to be turned off. When she finished her call, she was visibly drained, and indeed, a moment of despair appeared to be her realisation.
I prayed for her.
Then I felt God’s Spirit goad me to tell the woman, so, without any thought I dove into my pocket and retrieved my wallet and a business card from within it. On the back of the card I wrote:
“You look tired and stressed. I just prayed for you. I hope you have a terrific weekend.”
When I noticed it was getting close to her stop, I reached out and gave her the card. She simply said, “Thank you.” I had to fight off being embarrassed, and to simply offer a heartfelt smile. I continued praying for her as she hobbled away with her bags at each side.
I’ve known those moments of soul fright, where a thousand temptations of fear swarm, biting at the heels of whatever blessing there might be in life. And the plain truth is sometimes there is no sight of blessing. Sometimes there are just too many sharks circling to see any reality of joy that might otherwise be seen.
We need to encourage the weary.
Encourage the Weary – the Poem
Encourage the weary
If you have time
Encourage the weary
Don’t say, “They’ll be fine.”
Encourage the weary
Tell them you care
Encourage the weary
Now, come on, I dare!
Encourage the weary
You don’t know what it might mean
Encourage the weary
Love’s communicated when they are seen.
Encourage the weary
Give reason for hope
Encourage the weary
So they’ll have help to cope.
There are people everywhere, every day, who are weary enough to need and accept any encouragement we can give. In a slightly stronger place they wouldn’t need any help, but just now, in a moment of need, it’s a blessing to be there.
We may never know how much a gentle encouragement has meant to someone we reached out to. So we should always consider our efforts to encourage others are worthy investments. Doubting these things is not from God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
Note: the business card in the photo is a mock-up of what the real one looked like.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Freedom From Bitterness and Guilt From Forgiveness

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
― Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)
BITTERNESS and guilt are opposite sides of the same coin. Where we experience one in one situation, we will experience the other in another circumstance. What bitterness and guilt share is the partiality of a history of hurt – bitterness for what was done to us, and guilt for what we may have done, and both of these are regretful situations; things we’d neither do again nor allow to happen to us.
(I mention the word ‘partiality’ because it indicates imbalance; a vacillating between two unhealthy poles of emotion.)
Forgiveness is that process that harnesses the truth and energy behind both bitterness and guilt. When we believe forgiveness can help us, it’s surprising how very close we are to the answer.
We have to believe that forgiveness is the right process for healing all hurts.
The Wisdom of Leaving the Past Behind
We are best to deal with our past wounds – to honour them in truth – but we are also best to leave behind what can never be perfected. We consider it a learning experience. It has that definitive purpose.
We each have separate lives within one life – partitions if you like. When we have the perspective to draw the shades on the old thing, God, through our faith to let go, will provide the new thing, a new purpose. It makes no sense to languish in old clothes when there is new fashion afoot.
Leaving the past behind is agreeing that what could have been better is now ‘tied off’ and of no harm to anyone. We may visit it now, or at anytime, almost from the aspect of a third party. The experience can no longer harm us. Indeed, it edifies.
Leaving the past behind is finding that respectful space that sees the old thing, from today’s viewpoint, as a learning opportunity. There is always what seems as waste in the learning ground, but anything learned is never a waste.
Leaving the past behind is about acknowledging that bitterness and guilt were always destined to teach us something – if we would accept their lessons. Where we do accept their lessons we have undoubtedly grown in wisdom.
Freedom from guilt from forgiveness is finding balance between the raucous voices of bitterness and guilt. Both bitterness and guilt have their points, but we can’t stay there. Forgiveness straddles both bitterness and guilt and provides a way through to healing. We could have all done better.
Forgiveness acknowledges the old thing, but then chooses to do the new thing.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Willpower, the Desires of the Heart, and Other Transformations

BRINGING two worlds together in the one being is seen as the fruition of God’s will – heaven brought to earth.
When we bring our desires into relationship with the desires of God, then we will employ diligence and resolve to make changes that the Lord knows are in his divine will. We will ensure we do everything we can to make the change. And even if we should fail, we won’t stop trying to make the change God knows we need to make.
Bringing two worlds together – which is the will of God and our will – these both being ‘worlds of desire’ – we can achieve anything of the broader will of God. Reading this, we will probably agree that God desires only the best for us.
Imagine joining your will to God’s, and what might be achieved: the blessings purposed for us, lived out and enjoyed.
We might all laud the inspirational qualities of those who have ‘willpower’, always limiting ourselves from that sense of providence in our lives. No more!
We, too, can have this thing called willpower. Our wills have power when we align ourselves, and our desires, to the will of God, and divine desire.
Investing in the Cooperative Desires
God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but he can only accede to our requests if our desires match his.
Taking a leap into the future – with desires joined – we can see vision of these cooperative desires in their outworking. This is strength to get to where we desire to go, and to sustain it for the long haul.
One very practical way of investing in the cooperative desires (ours with God’s) is the 30 Day/90 Day change phenomenon. Simply put, it takes 30 full days of consistent behaviour change to break a habit, and 90 full days of consistent behaviour change to create a new habit.
We can see that anything can be beaten if we have the resolve to last the 30 Day/90Day period. That’s how transformations are achieved. We may even call them miracles, for without the institution of the ability to reprogram our minds, a capacity God designed into us, we would not be able to sustain these transformations.
Change should be easy,
But so often it’s hard,
Simply, very simply,
You have to remain on guard.
Step one day at a time,
Keep simplicity as your friend,
And when you match your desires with God’s,
The desires of your heart will be yours in the end.
If our desire for change is higher than the desire to stay the same as we are, God will give us the power we need to make the change and to sustain it.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The #1 Reason to Learn to Live a Godly Life

TO BE READY. That is the number one reason to live a godly life in advance. If we would choose otherwise, and many people do, and most ashamedly some Christians do, we would compromise on our preparedness to think, say, and do what must be done. Let us make no mistake; Jesus requires us to be in a state of readiness. This is what being Christian is all about.
And this fact is not more practically known than by the need to think the right thing, to say the right thing, and to do the right thing, in the moment. Since none of us is perfect, we will get the occasional thing wrong. We are not characterised by the odd slip, but by the responses we normally make.
When we have trained ourselves in the Lord’s ways, by the obedience of diligent discipline, receiving God’s chastising when we have needed it, we are readier than we would have been if we hadn’t worked so hard on character refinement.
Let us understand this: we must get onto the front foot; now is the time; we have no time to waste. The opportunities of discipleship are clear and clarified for all of us.
The Final Test of our Godliness
It all boils down to what we think, say, and do – everything.
What may seem an oversimplification is a polarising fact of life. If we know we will think, say, and do the wrong things why don’t we right them now whilst we can? Nobody needs to be ashamed. If we know, beforehand, that we will be expected to deliver the right thoughts, words, and actions, we have now to prepare.
The final test of our godliness is how we respond in the moment.
We have now and now is all we have. We need nothing else and we should settle for nothing else. If we don’t use such a poignant moment to prepare, we will fail the tests more consistently as they come.
When we think of all those who would be relying on us, we must draw motivation to do what can only be done beforehand.
All of life comes down to what we think, say, and do. If, by our thoughts, words, and actions, we can rise above temptation we will know that we have placed godly integrity at the pinnacle. That’s discipleship. Preparedness is the only thing we can do now to be ready for the unknown future.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Respecting the Recurrent Nature of Grief

Out of the blue,
Comes a harrowing loss,
And what couldn’t have been predicted,
Now becomes boss!
Some days are a struggle,
To fight our way out,
Repeating and recurring,
These experiences of doubt.
But the test isn’t about fighting though,
It’s just about getting through this spell,
So the opportunity we have today,
Is simply to discover how to struggle well!
Think about the present hour,
And forget about the coming days,
When life’s reduced to an hour at a time,
We can struggle well through the maze.
GRIEF events always occur by force. We never ask for these experiences and we never want them to endure for as long as they do. Of course, that only leaves the depth of what we experience – the encounter of loss involves us in a fuller range of emotions than we ever thought were available. This, too, is unwelcome, at least initially.
Now, given the fact that grief can break into our lives at any time – if we love we will ultimately grieve as we lose these loves – God must have made a way for us to grieve well. Indeed, it’s my belief that grief can take us through into a deeper sense of ourselves than we previously experienced. But this can only happen if we allow grief to soften us and not harden us.
Added to this core competency for life is this: once grief has started its journey with us, we may never truly be who we were again. We need to embrace the concept that we are transcending who we were. In fact, we need to grieve for that old identity in letting it go in order that we can embrace what is new.
Perhaps the hardest thing of grief is wrapped up inside the issue of that long cherished once-were identity. Grief-work will call us back continually, then occasionally, to it.
The Recurrent Nature of Grief-Work
When we lose someone, or something very significant, we are so profoundly impacted it will take the rest of our lives to honour their/that memory.
Grief-work is that thing we will do recurrently, but the beautiful thing is what grief looks like years on. It becomes a requiem for the ages – our bellowing and untouchable sadness morphs into something that is shown to blossom our very lives.
God adds to our depth for the depths we have experienced with him.
So, even though there is a recurrent nature to grief – that it rears its ugly head every now and then – there is great character reward the further we traverse the journey.
The recurrent nature of grief is so true it commands our respect. If we are to let the pain of grief become a rich memorial of the Lord’s healing, with time, we will need to be patient and gentle with ourselves. Grief repeats and recurs, until the pain is all done. The more we have loved the more pain we may feel.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Consistency – the Secret to Lasting Change

“For changes to be of any true value, they’ve got to be lasting and consistent.”
— The Bipolar Project
It may seem obvious, but there is nothing more important when we are trying to create the impetus for change: lasting change is what we need, and consistency is the key to all.
There could hardly be anything more obvious in the minds of those who have tried to change, whether they have failed and failed and ultimately succeeded or whether they simply failed and failed and ultimately gave up.
But consistency is the key to any great thing; consistency is the secret to lasting change. Again, what couldn’t be more obvious is, however, never more vital to understand. If we can establish consistency we will create the change we so hungrily desire and need.
Steps Toward Consistency
One of the best things I have learned about consistency is the benefit of taking life, or any part of life, one day at a time.
The one day at a time method, as pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, does not assume change is easy; indeed, it assumes the change is hard, and it is hard. Perhaps nothing (besides God himself) commands our respect more than what is required for change.
What we need most of all regarding consistency, initially at least, is confidence, which is faith in ourselves that we are able to succeed. We need to be able to believe we can sustain the change, even if for just one more day, or even for the day itself. We need to believe within ourselves that the white knuckle ride will be worth it.
What comes next, having mastered sufficient confidence that we are on the right track, is avoiding complacency.
Complacency is the nemesis of anything good as it tries to establish itself permanently. It is that attitude that creeps up and threatens what ground has already been gained. So we need to stay on a guard, not forgetting where we have come from, and how much energy it’s taken to have the capability for sustained change.
The ultimate endpoint as far as change is concerned is credibility. With credibility we have a platform for anything that will be required of us. With credibility we no longer need to defend ourselves against attacks to revert back to the old way. Credibility is a fully matured confidence to know that it's not just us that sees us having changed for the good; it is apparent to others as well.
Consistency is the secret to lasting change. Steps to consistency include developing confidence that we can live a new way, guarding against complacency, and finally the establishment of credibility, that others see our resolve and respect us for what we have achieved.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.