Friday, August 30, 2013

When God Turns Our Waste Into Glory

Everything in life can be considered to have a purpose.
Nothing is a waste.
Even waste is not a waste.
Wait and see what God will do with it as we submit it to Him.
What was a waste can be converted into a crowning glory by the Father...
Because of Jesus Christ, Who is our Lord,
Through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s astoundingly encouraging for the many that have seemingly wasted significant portions of their lives to know that God has a plan to use those so-called wasted years. Indeed, what could have been considered in other terms, a waste, is actually considered fuel for the journey and the consummate reason for the call of God on our lives.
Seen this way, everything has a reason as everything has a purpose.
We are destined to make much of that which has caused us to become little. God can grow bigger what we have found has shrunk us.
Wasting 20 years as an alcoholic, or wasting the same length of time to pornography addiction; these can be transformed into a requiem of testimony as to the power of God to inflect a meaning that gives us hope and a future we can believe in.
Converting Waste into Glory for God
What an upside-down world we live in because of God. He turns what is lamentable into something that is beautiful – if we turn to him. From a wreck of a life there is created a walking story; an encouragement for everyone on a similar journey to destruction.
What can be considered a waste is no waste at all.
God converts that which might cause us to consider suicide into a hope-fuelled faith that understands a second chance reality; that victory is foreseeable out of the jaws of defeat. And what can be lived with meaning is no cliché. This is no joke.
When the reality of a converted life is experienced there is the direct apportionment of praise and glory to God without a single word having been spoken. Our lives are testimony of what God has done. Anyone with eyes, and a heart for truth, can see this.
Nothing of what we experience negatively is a waste so far as God is concerned. Everything that can be considered a waste of time, or a waste of life, can be turned into a requiem of beauty unto the praise and glory of God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Makes the Poorest, Rich?

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”
— A.W. TOZER (1897–1963)
It is a golden paradox of means to observe the clarity with which the poor and disadvantaged live. Most of these, given even the most simplistic of practical resources, are abundantly thankful. Shoes, a hat, a meal, a bed – things we, the comparatively rich, take for granted.
Clarity for life opens us up to gratitude, for we are able to see clearly how blessed we truly are. And as we see clearly, clarity opens up more, and we begin to understand the cherished gift is simply being grateful, even possibly in the midst of circumstances we find deplorable – as there is a silver lining to every cloud. It is up to us to find it.
As we turn up the heat on our candour for life, we may even find God requiring us to be grateful, and this is indicated in the fact that by gratitude we are blessed. We are made richer, not poorer, for our offerings of thankfulness as they ripple through the lives of those we touch.
Gratitude is a privilege; a requited opportunity of praise for the honour it is to live this life, notwithstanding the myriad pain we may deal with.
We thank God when we thank his people – our leaders and his servants. Whatever we do for them we do for him. It is like pleasing someone we don’t have to please, for in pleasing them we bless them volitionally. Love speaks vibrantly and vocally when we are not mandated to do something, yet we do it with joy by choice.
When we take advantage of the opportunity to be grateful something wonderful happens within us; God reminds us of his presence and there is no reality like it. To be grateful is to honour that person or process who or that deserves recognition.
The simpler we keep our gratitude, the more powerful it may be known. We are grateful because we can be, not because we are made to be.
God wants us to be grateful, and in our gratitude, besides pleasing the Lord, we are ourselves blessed. Pleasing God is pleasing ourselves by the plainest of paths.
Gratitude not only costs nothing, it repays us in kind; a graciousness that the world doesn’t understand, and may even be initially suspicious of.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Playoffs, Momentousness, and Soaking It Up

When a great group of people, all putting their individual talents and gifts together, directed by coaching staff and honed by plans, for a collective winning effort, reaches the grand finale it is a vast achievement, in and of itself. But it falls distinctly flat if they don’t score more points than the other team on Championship Day. It is a fickle reality – so close are two teams to the reality of being champions (in the official sense) but only one can lay claim to such a momentous fact.
But that momentous fact won’t despoil another fact; both teams, as they prepare, only days away, experience what perhaps they may only experience once – a championship reality in the making.
This is momentousness and it is not something that everybody experiences.
Certainly it’s not something that even a few people experience every day. All the hard work, not to mention the good fortune, which has gone into a whole regular season, stands either to be richly rewarded or to be assessed by some as a waste of time – if that can be seen as a fair assessment.
But that is not what this article is about.
Let us assess this issue of momentousness: the mode of soaking it up, such that it provides us positive drive toward the securing of The Prize: a Championship.
The Imagery of Soaking It up
There are so many thoughts and emotions that go into a preparation period. There are nights’ sleeps, for some, that will be interrupted, and certainly thought patterns will be driven, subconsciously, into preoccupation.
There is also the aspect of equilibrium, so far as performance management is concerned. It is one thing to get enough rest and get enough mental downtime; it is precisely another to keep a cap on the bottle, or to soak up the liquid of emotion as it might seep out, as the mind takes leave on a flight of fancy. Sure, we say it won’t happen to us, but stranger things have been known to happen.
Soaking up the momentousness of an upcoming occasion, where history will be written, is not an easy feat. It requires a certain humility to stay grounded in reality; an honouring of the truth of a given moment.
Such a soaking up process requires us to enjoy the moment as it comes, yet to store nothing of it that leaves us contemplating beyond a humble discipline – unless it is a team contemplation written, in effect, by the coaches.
A playoff is a momentous occasion, just like getting married or having a baby is. Every player has a responsibility to prepare mentally, not just physically. Preparation is a holistic affair. Employing the ability of soaking up the high and low moments in the preparation phase is a wise thing for each player to engage in. They remind themselves the job’s not done yet. And they have our prayers.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Purpose in Loneliness, Hope in Adversity

Darkness surrounds yet it’s strangely comforting,
What is beyond sight is the darkness sown,
It’s lucid and lonely yet it’s no threat at all,
That’s where God’s Presence is known.
We can be both lonely and comforted at the same time. The knowledge of God in the winding turns of life is a tangible consolation, freeing us from any thought of senselessness within our enduring pain. Such a soul loneliness can contrive a purpose, and hope is known in such an adversity.
Knowledge Beyond Sight; Peace Beyond Experience
There is a beauty to the mystery of life in this dimension – we are not alone and we get the full experience of what seems real to us.
Regarding the things of God, we know, but we cannot know beyond what is tangible. We can know by faith, yet not by sight. We can vouch for our belief, but we can attest to no others’ belief. What is ours is ours. What is theirs is theirs. The great thing in this is we can coerce nothing, yet we have freedom to own and invest in our knowledge.
There is great peace knowing there is a purpose in all things.
And even if there are things beyond our knowledge – and there are many of those – we can believe that there is a purpose of means and ends in it. Belief saves us when we believe in the midst of a perfect Saviour – the Subject of our faith, Jesus. The object of our faith is the good life – to live for the glory of God.
What the whole world needs to know is there is knowledge beyond sight; there is peace beyond experience.
There is a conquest to life when we suffer; something that sustains us, even when things are never tougher. Growth through affliction – as we may be witnesses – is proof of this. But we need to imagine God there, with us, as we hang on.
When we imagine the thought of there being a purpose in loneliness and hope in adversity we want to believe it. We need to. And there is. But not without God; for the Lord helps in ways that can only be invisible to the eye.
Our choice to believe or not believe is honoured by a God, who gave freewill before we contemplated thought.
When we believe in such things as purpose in loneliness and hope in adversity we are strengthened to endure when to endure is all we can productively do.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Abuse Survivors, Their Need of Compassion

Many, many people have had better lives than we have. All the same, many, many people have had it worse (much worse) than we have.
It is too easy to overly simplify matters of faith and healing. It’s not an irony that those who have little grasp on suffering contexts are also those who fly off into praise for clichés that not only don’t work, but actually damage lives that are reaching out for credible help – yet fail in getting it.
Not Limiting Our Compassion
Healing is of God so none can claim it as theirs,
Though we help by our dignifying compassion,
When we understand about these cares,
Our compassion is not limited to ration.
Compassion is limitless, and, with the leading of the Spirit, together with an imaginative creativity, we can bless people’s lives by being of use to God in augmenting their healing – that they may actualise themselves and live out more of God’s gorgeous plan for their lives.
The Survivor is an Inspiration
How is one to be healed having been abused,
The survivor of reprehensible trauma?
No easy answer exists for those who are confused,
No cliché is appropriate to contend with things former.
All we can do – and this is enough –
Is pour out our hearts of compassion,
Our intent is to smoothen that which is rough,
And make inspirations of the abused by our action.
Does ‘just believe in Jesus and be healed’ really work? Sometimes. Most of the time, however, we must enter a process for healing – so we may be healed ongoingly, progressively, eventually eternally.
Those who have been significantly traumatised need our compassion, not our well-intentioned clichés. Those who have endured travesties are inspirations – every single one – for what they have endured and for what they continue to endure. We can help them in their healing process with God when we attend to their sensitivities compassionately, ‘travelling with’ alongside them. They teach us about compassion as we travel with them practicing our compassion. By compassion we please our Lord.
What are we if we’re not compassionate toward those who need us? Those in our midst who’ve been dealt sharp blows in life deserve the compassion of God through us. If we can meet their needs somehow, we should. We can be situational mediators of the new covenant of grace – providores of healing through the power and provision of the Holy Spirit. We are blessed to play a role – any role.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Acknowledging the Grief Experience

Of all the experiences of life, the loneliness and fatigue involved in grief – in a vital period of life readjustment – is unparalleled in its pain.
Rarely, if ever, does one human being escape the grief experience over the lifespan. Everyone grieves. From losses of grand magnitude down to the simple losses of readjustment, life throws us into a tailspin in disordered ways at such unpredictable times. We are blindsided by the experience of life we never expected, and grief moves in, as if a permanent, yet unwelcome, guest. And when this occurs our tenant lives with us much longer, at times, than we wish him to.
All this guest requires of us, however, is the acknowledgement of his presence.
Grief is real and as soon as we take it seriously we are gifted the wherewithal to approach and travel with our pain.
Travelling with Our Pain
Nobody really enjoys the experience of pain, just as nobody really enjoys having their life interrupted by something incredibly sad – something totally unwanted. We rally in anger for the injustice of loss and attempt to bargain our way out of it. When we realise none of our interventions work we land in the valley of depression.
All of the typical responses to grief are characterised by denial. Yet the key to making the best of a woeful situation is to acknowledge it; it is our truth just now.
One method that works is to travel with our pain, acknowledging it as a seasonal guest; one we must accept is part of our lives now. When we accept such a thing, somehow the pain diminishes a little, and we can bear it because we know that God is with us.
Travelling with our pain is simply empathising with ourselves as if a caring friend would – and it is all the better for us if we can experience divine empathy – the empathy of God that we experience as a soul gentleness and compassion.
Acknowledgement of the grief experience is an important validation. It releases the brakes that life has placed on our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. It’s okay that we struggle for a time in adjusting to the new scenario of life. It’s okay because we don’t have a choice, so it needs to be okay.
Acknowledgement of the grief experience is the receipt of God’s grace. This is when we know God’s power within us in a very real way. In simply being honest we are gifted space and freedom in simply accepting our world as it now is. Our world as it now is won’t remain this way – for it will get better – but acceptance is all we need right now.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Broken Hearted and Blessed

“Heal my heart and make it clean,
Open up my eyes to the things unseen,
Show me how to love like You have loved me,
Break my heart for what breaks Yours,
Everything I have for Your Kingdom’s cause,
As I walk from Earth into eternity.”
— Hillsong United (Hosanna)
Like many, worship easily brings me to tears when I consider the awesome theological facts we sing from the bottom of our hearts. The bridge, above, is a fantastic portrayal of an attempt to experience our existence as God experiences it.
The idea is an utter Spirit-filled concern as God would be concerned.
But such fullness of commitment to live as God would have us live does not come easily. We cannot make ourselves think this way. Only when the Lord invades upon our lives, redeeming control over us, and blessing us all the same, do we stand a chance to have hearts transformed into the likeness of the Son.
The six lines of this bridge show, what I believe, to be a process by which God blesses us in our sincerely seeking him.
Despite the years of theological training anyone can amass, the heart closest to God is that which has desired God richly, uniquely, unswervingly, and beyond all doubt.
The Passage to Loving like God Loves
We cannot pretend to love, for we are found out. Of all things we cannot fake it is love that abounds most in truth. Love and truth coexist, informing each other.
When we desire that God would heal us and make us clean, when he does that, he will also open up our eyes to the things unseen. Then we will know how to love others as God, himself, has loved us. We cannot see unless we are healed. And we cannot be healed unless we make ourselves available to be healed. That’s humility.
We all need healing.
To desire that God would break our hearts for what breaks his is not only a bold prayer, but it is the prayer to be touched; by the very hand of God itself. And this is why we need to be healed first. When we have been healed there is no distraction impeding our approach to the throne room of God. We fear no one and nothing. And when we are healed our emotions belong to God and are a vessel for blessing.
When we can invest in life to the degree of the fullness of our emotions—having been summarily healed of any vast hurts—we become perfectly willing to throw ourselves down before God’s throne. Then, we can give everything we have—and not before time.
When everything we have and everything in us is for God, our hearts break for injustice and suffering. Yearning for such a broken heart is the pinnacle of Christian living we should strive for; hearts broken and convicted to help those in need.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Grace for Every Suffering Need

“Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
― Wm. Paul Young
We should know the blessing in the reality that in our weakness we come to the end of our power. This is the time when God’s power might intercede and help us. This power is called grace.
It is not until we have suffered – and have come to the end of our power – when we have become truly weak – that our eyes are opened regarding grace. It isn’t until we have been in this situation that we understand grace. Perhaps it can be said that we don’t truly understand God until we have come to the end of our power – until we have felt crippled against the situation that has brought us to our knees – and for then, to reach out to God because we truly needed him.
To benefit from the power inherent in God’s grace, therefore, two things must occur:
1.       We must suffer enough that we buckle under the pressure to the point of surrender, and (if)
2.      We don’t resist or resent such a weakening, but we respond by turning back to God in our weakness. In this we are pleasantly weak, and only in this can we be strengthened.
It is hard for anybody who hasn’t experienced this pleasant weakness to understand it, for what God offers through such a crushing experience. We cannot expect people to know what they haven’t yet come to experience. But just as much, those who have never taken both steps simultaneously (1 and 2 above) shouldn’t resent the person who has, by God’s abundant grace, been blessed suchlike.
Grace meets every suffering need, and it does so through our faith. As we experience the knowledge of God who flounders with us in our suffering, it is weakness through surrender that proffers us to strength. This is not the sort of strength that the world pictures. This is a better, more reliable strength, for it diffuses fear and helps us feel comfortable in our acceptance.
There is really no greater strength than accepting the given moment and situation we find ourselves in. In that is the meld of wisdom and courage and humility in abundance.
God’s grace can help appease our suffering need, because at the end of our power is the beginning of God’s power. When we no longer need to prove anything, or try too hard, or feel guilty or ashamed about our incapacity, God has proven the power of grace, and we accept life exactly how it is. That is strength in weakness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Contrasting Male and Female Depression

“Men are more likely to act out their inner turmoil while women are more likely to turn their feelings inward.”    
There is a great deal of life that can be explained if only we know what the problem is. So many times relationships are compromised because we don’t detect the presence of depression in one or both partners. Many times people of both genders do things that don’t help, but hinder, their progress in life, simply because they don’t deal with the causes of their problems. Very often we can be in a state of depression without knowing it. Acknowledgement is the important first step in grappling with an issue that can be resolved to a great extent.
Below I will explore some of the generalised patterns of male and female depression manifesting behaviourally or attitudinally.
The Character of Male Depression
When guys get depressed they externalise their feelings, but often in unsafe and unconsidered ways. Anger becomes primary and control becomes a tool to wield when he is threatened. He turns to sports, sex, alcohol, etc, in trying to feel manlier. But these are vacant escapes that prolong his unfulfilled state. He feels ashamed by his depression and terrified to confront his weakness, and he tries ever harder to be the man. He is trying to prove something. He finds attack the best form of defence. In reality, he is lonely inside and is rather desperate to find safe and effective ways of being heard. He needs to accept himself.
The Character of Female Depression
The woman who is depressed, on the other hand, cannot maintain control and she may always try to be nice. She attempts to ‘fix’ her depression by trying harder and she feels guilty for being depressed. She procrastinates and obsesses about her weaknesses, disintegrating at the slightest failure. When she is hurt she withdraws, becoming paralysed regarding the situation. Instead of blaming others for being depressed, like the man does, the woman blames herself and turns her feelings inward, destructively. In reality, she is fearful and is in need of plain, but truthful, understanding about what she is really dealing with.
Depression is such a relatively common illness; there is no shame in it. The challenge for many men is to find safe and healthy ways of acting out their inner turmoil. For women, simply expressing their inner turmoil in a safe environment, and finding validation, is often the key. Self-acceptance helps both men and women.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 12, 2013

From Insecurity to Security of Self

The secure person...
“Is at rest and he need not envy, covert, compete by comparing, to prove something to himself or others...”
How may we define the insecure person from the secure person? Well, fortunately, Sy Rogers has already done that above; or at least started us in that direction. We can know, in faith, that the secure person has the resources to draw on in order to make his or her life comparatively fulfilling, enjoyable, and capable of enduring – with joy – many difficulties.
Is it too hard for the secure person to find the uncomfortable life, comfortable? No, it is their role to accept life as it is.
No coveting, nor comparing, nor envying do they do,
But the secure person tries to hold to everything true,
Their identity in Christ is solemn and steadfast,
Upon to Him alone do their burdens get cast.
Being a secure person is the acceptable life, because tolerance comes easy to the person who tolerates life where many would find it unacceptable. The secure person has no need for power or influence or to manipulate. Hence they handle power and influence capably. They can serve others, because they want to.
Being Secure and Providing Security
It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to provide others with security when we, of ourselves, have not received that gift. How are we to do unto others as we would have them do to us when we haven’t first enjoyed the blessing of being secure inside our own skin?
We tend to simply expect that because we are Christian we have already gained this sense of inner security. But in all reality, for so many of us, we don’t achieve a healthy sense of self-confidence without having first done the work on ourselves that God’s Spirit wants us to do.
We have to come to terms with the fact that we have little to offer, security-wise, if we have no security to offer ourselves. We are unable to serve as God would have us serve – limited in both capacity and capability – if we haven’t worked on routinely surrendering to the point where coveting, competing, comparing, and envying are all dealt with.
God wants us to be secure people, both for ourselves and for others. Secure people – who are connected with, and not disconcerted by, their brokenness – can be effective within the Kingdom context. What we have ourselves we have to offer others – in this case, safety and security, which is trustworthiness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgment to Sy Rogers’ wisdom.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When to Trust Feelings

Trusting Our Feelings: when vulnerability finally becomes a strength – a positive virtue – we trust our feelings as they provide a wise guide as to how we perceive our realities.
Sure, it seems illogical,
But give feelings their due,
Because our feelings are biological,
And our personalities to them are true.
When we wholeheartedly,
Allow ourselves to feel,
We suddenly have the wherewithal,
To become incredibly real.
When the heart informs,
The mind of what’s truly felt,
The mind it is that adorns,
The skill to deal with what’s been dealt.
It is wise to trust our feelings enough to allow them to counsel us. The mind, still in control, is advised by the visceral feelings ― they shouldn’t be denied.
Wisdom is based in a vital integrity between the head and heart ― it’s an important oneness to establish and maintain.
Feelings As a Complement to Strength
Many of us have learned to repress our feelings as untrustworthy in a dangerous world. What was the correct instinct is, however, also a negation of the real us. Our feelings are integral to our experience, discernment, and responses of life. We get less of life when we feel less. But it takes faith to feel.
When we have learned to trust our feelings we have found a complement to our strength. And when I say we need to trust our feelings I don’t mean trusting feelings of resentment and anger and pride so much, but trusting the primary feeling that generates such negative responses, in order that we may empathise with ourselves – for, that is the felt experience of God’s grace.
So trusting our feelings is appropriate, indeed helpful, and builds our strength, when we discern the primary feeling – that queasiness in the gut, or the headache, or that giddy uneasiness – all that tell us something is wrong.
There are plenty of occasions when feelings will weaken us, and that is not what this is about.
When we add to our thought-strength the complement of feeling-strength we end up with an integrity between the head and heart. We are more aligned internally and less indecisive. We are naturally more confident. Having trusted our feelings – having given them their due – they help us sort our thinking processes. We make wise decisions as a result.
The integral person has learned to discern helpful feelings from those that are unhelpful. Primary feelings are an important guide for life. When we trust them we gain an inner integrity that facilitates peace and humble confidence.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.