Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Flowing With the Changes of Life

Gauging the flow of the changes in life,
To cater for and to respond and to grow,
Is every bit the role of obedience,
So the blessings of God’s truth we’d know.
Life has a flow about it. It ebbs and flows, and there are plenty of seasons we will simply not predict. Wisdom is both humility and humiliation – acceptance in the mode of reason; that which is paradoxically a mystery.
What this year was about (good or challenging) won’t be what next year is about. For some, the year has been pure hard work, a misery, a season to escape from. For others, the year was the fulfilment of a wish or desire. For others, again, the year was profound in its insignificance. Most years are.
A key to life is discerning the changes in flow; to come to a quick acceptance by catering for the changes, responding the best we can, and growing. Not that we will enjoy all this growth – most growth we may actually despise.
Yet, growth is all about adherence to God’s truth. We grow (better) when we can embrace the truth.
For Better, For Worse...
Life can be seen as a marriage – we are wedded to life whilst we live. But it’s a marriage with a difference: divorce is death. There may be few voluntary divorces.
As a married couple do, there is the need for us to negotiate the seasons of life. When we take pleasure in our lives, when they hold a great interest for us (and why shouldn’t they?), we want to derive the most out of them.
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health: this statement caters as a job description of the hardiest of marriage partners.
When we are wedded to life – and all of us irrevocably are – we understand that reducing the ebb and flow of pain is not so much the goal as adjusting to the flow of change is. Keeping some sort of healthy equilibrium is about balance and it does more for our hopes than simply trying to reduce pain.
Flowing with the changes of life is a veritable wisdom. It’s about balance and perspective. What we cannot control we endure. When we find joy we enjoy the experience. We accept what comes, in a philosophy of life that commends us to hold all of life lightly.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Four Words To Change Your World

SOME things – eternal things – should be in plain view.
But, because they are not, it needs to be stated:
You Matter To God.
It may not seem to matter, and people may not recognize the small yet significant things you do, but they matter in eternity. The fact is: you matter to God.
What difference should this make to our entire lives? It should communicate this: every basis that gets you down may indeed be a lie, conjured simply to discourage you from stepping by faith through this life that was built to be lived, each moment, by faith.
We were always meant to stride each stride, and decide everything we decide, because of faith. Yes, is the answer. We have been given the key to life. It is faith; especially as it’s in the context of having no assurance that we are doing the right thing otherwise.
Another Truth:
T h e r e   a r e   m a n y   l i e s   a b o u t.
Too many things we take as truths in this life – cultural ‘truths’ – and these things sway our thinking away from eternal things. Even influential Christians are willing and enthusiastic parties to propagating a message of discouragement. They join the secular bandwagon, as if popularity was an important gift direct from the heart of God.
Popularity is not a gift from God.
Popularity is a gift from the world; a gift of no significance.
There is a thing called grace that is completely foreign in this world. It is so foreign that whenever it is manifest it reveals nothing but the glory of God. It is so other-worldly. Grace calls us to believe in her. She is the truth in a camp-setting of lies. Grace never calls us to the popular, but she calls us always to what is true.
Grace is calling you to believe: You Matter To God.
For the small yet significant things you do... you matter. For who you are... you matter.
There is a principle in Psalm 37 that aligns us to eternity: we needn’t worry about what people seem to get away with – or that we seem too often to be behind – because in eternity all things will be switched around. And eternity is right around the corner!
Don’t fret when evil has sway in this life.
Be encouraged when recognition fails to come your way.
For all evil is being swept away in the eternal place, and every true thing is to be recognised!
You may not be noticed for what you do, for what you bring, or for who you are – in your world – but God notices. God knows you matter. And whilst others get ahead and you slink further behind, keep doing what is right. God is blessing you for it. Yes, it is coming! Yes, he is coming!
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What’s the Right Way to Move On?

WHETHER IT’S moving on after divorce, or moving on into another job or career, or even if it’s about moving on from a hurt, habit or hang-up we are stuck in, moving on is the desire of all our hearts. But when is the right time and what is the right way?
Wisdom is the right action taken under the right circumstances for the right reasons.
And wisdom – in this way, to move on in the right way – is what we need. Yes, we need it, if we are to attract a sense of peace about our futures. Nobody really wants the stench of regret to cling over them, affecting significant parts of the journey ahead.
Let us sink our minds into the presence of wisdom so far as ‘moving on’ is concerned.
The ‘What’, the “When”, the “How” and the “Why” of Moving On
Having come to a precipice in the moment of our being – knowing from within ourselves – sensing, in fact – that now is the right time, we begin to explore options, believing we can move on in strength when we truly commit.
Not always will we feel free to move on, however. We remember the negative power of regret – nobody wants to go there for making finalising decisions prematurely and carrying them out.
Wisdom is in the what, the when, the how and the why of moving on.
All these matters need our attention and our diligence – to journey in truth with each matter. We cannot be blessed unless we truly pay homage to the truth. The consequences of life will manifest themselves around us, however we decide to go. We want the consequences of blessing, and no other consequence to adhere to us.
What? We may already have a good sense of that which God is drawing us to; though there may be too many options. Blessed are they who have one clear option; one cogent vision!
When? Only we can know when, but our trusted advisers will guide us and affirm us when it’s the right time.
How? This requires planning, and planning can be fun if we allow ourselves the spirit of exploration. We are creators of our own destinies to a point.
Why? The easiest of questions to answer. The general answer is: life has a flow about it; we need to commend ourselves to the discernment of that flow and to our cooperation in joining God’s will as we flow with the current of the river of life. There is also a specific answer for each of us: seek God for it!
Wisdom is the right action taken under the right circumstances for the right reasons. To travel wisely is to be inevitably blessed.
The most exciting thing about life is the opportunity to move on. Finding the right way to move on is wisdom.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why Was Life Not Meant to Be Easy?

The workload of life seems so hard,
Especially those hoops we’ve got to jump through,
But as soon as we realise everyone’s similarly marred,
We might as well jump right back into the queue!
It’s far too rational an idea to give up part the way through something, for instance, studying a degree. The moment we realise that the journey is as tough for the next person (and the next) we understand life is not as unfair as it seems. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
This is necessarily a hard and an obtuse word: one difficult to comprehend, let alone write. Life is hard. Achieving one thing that is worthwhile will require all our focus and attention, and potentially years of toil.
Whether it’s the role of parent or student or business owner or mortgagee... not to mention a plethora of other roles... life is designed to break us; spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically.
But when we are broken we find it’s not the end – not by a long shot.
Brokenness, in the conception of progress, is a yardstick for achievement. Those who are broken and broken and broken – again, over and over, and again – learn something about themselves and life.
The thing is this: nothing can defeat us in the moment of sustaining.
As we stand outside in the rain of defeat, having seriously pondered, again, whether or not, and how, to give up, we realise that there is nothing gained in giving up. Then we stride back into the queue. We get back on in the task we have set for ourselves.
When NOT to Give up – When NOT to Give In
Serious discouragement tends to wrestle with our sense of justice.
Sooner or later we will find ourselves justifying a poor logic. We may even know what it is we are giving up – and we may even want not to give up. We may feel we have little choice.
It is best to get some space – space for reconciling the right sort of impetus to continue the joust. Sometimes it’s about getting a week or two away – or a day even. Other times it’s about changing tack completely, but retaining that which we must not give up.
When there is a great and inevitable goal we are striving for, it’s not good to give up or give in – we sacrifice the exhilaration we would otherwise experience.
Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Everyone has the same challenges, give or take. Sustaining our vigour in serious discouragement is about revitalising our vision. If we will only continue as we started we will make it all the way!
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Great Body Language Revelation

IT SEEMS a great pity that we cannot narrow communication down to the words themselves; our hearts – the seat of our intent – betray us many times, and our body language gives us away, if the other person is perceptive enough to pick it up:
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
— Peter Drucker (1909–2005)
God has this way of compelling us to be honest. If we are not, our body language is detectable, and we will give ourselves away. We should want to honour God by our integrity, though realism suggests – in our fallen world – that we will need to feign some things.
There is a thing we need to know about integrity, however. If we, by our body language, are too incongruent, too often – our outer selves to our inner selves – we alone will suffer the consequences.
Integrity will be our best friend if we invest in it: by investing we reap more and more integrity – more and more oneness, our outer selves a mirror as to our inner selves.
Respecting the Role of Body Language
Gestures of all kinds are the expressions of our hearts – way deep below our consciousness – that will betray the lies that we speak by our words and actions that lack integrity.
When we become studiers of our mannerisms – looking away from people when we are talking, folding our arms in conversation, sitting back or sitting forward, etc – we can begin to understand what we are really communicating; what others are picking up whether consciously or not.
If we wish to be trustworthy, respectable, a good friend, someone safe, we ought to know the incongruence between our words and body language. It can teach us a lot about ourselves. In fact, we may be able to detect that God is using our body language as a way he talks to us; highlighting inconsistencies of morality – lies from truth.
Respecting our body language is also reason for understanding others’ body language – if we struggle with integrity we can forgive the other person who struggles in the selfsame way.
Perhaps we can see it as a blessing that God has given us our very own judge and jury – not to condemn us, but to teach us. Life is the learning ground.
We can learn a lot about ourselves through watching our body language. We can see that God has given us body language as a tool for learning integrity: our outer expression lining up with our inner expression.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Preserving the Health of the Mind

So many very worthy things to do,
But what is it now that holds me true?
To respond, establish, plan or prepare?
What creativity is there to spare?
Fitting the mind to the task,
Is all we really need to ask,
But sometimes we can put that in reverse,
Inviting the mind to choose what works.
A Journal Entry:
“I have four very worthy things to do, right now, that all need to be done. If I struggle for creativity there is something logical I can do. If I feel arty there are two things to explore. It is good for our mental health to allow our minds some say of what we think on (and do) when.”
Try it: invite your mind to choose.
In a Western culture that is spoilt by so much worldliness, we feel – ironically so – so far driven and out of control for determining what we will think and what we will do. It seems we have so much control over our lives until we realise our thinking is influenced, even determined, by many forces in our culture.
Preserving the health of the mind is about embracing that which we can control.
We have a semblance of control over a vast number of things; why not use it by feeling empowered? This is the sense of having what psychologists call an internal locus of control, i.e. “I cause things to happen; things don’t just happen to me.”
Preserving the health of the mind has to be about melding reality with empowerment. We don’t want to deny our realities as that would make us fools, but we also don’t want to be smacked down by our realities either. There are times when we can make the most of our moments and we feel empowered.
Feeling in control is, however, something we cannot have all the time. For the times when we are in situations that we cannot control, we have control over being patient enough to know that this, too, shall pass!
Preserving the health of our minds is a passion for those who may have experienced ill-health once, or times, before. We don’t wish to return to a such a compromised state of mind. Such a thing as preserving the health of our minds is, hence, wisdom. It’s the diligence and discipline to do what we can to prepare for a darker day by getting as healthy as we can now.
Preserving the health of our minds is one of our greatest investments. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to approach reality. It’s about feeling empowered because we can choose to wait out the time of struggle. Hope is coming. A healthy mind breathes on the vapour of hope.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Driven Into the Heart of God By Our Struggles

“To Keep Us From Excessive Pride” – the Poem
Praise God, praise God,
Regarding a thorn in the side,
It’s divinely-appointed purpose,
Is to keep us from pride.
Remember the purpose that God had for the Apostle Paul’s thorn (2 Corinthians 12). Part of it was to humble him and to keep him honest, reliant on God’s strength and not his own. A thorn in the side (a recurrent area of struggle) can have its purpose in keeping our pride in check.
Being as it is, an area of weakness and struggle, when it is at the forefront of our understanding – where we cannot, in all honesty, depart from it, unless to do so would be the vastest of all denials – it keeps us in God.
In such a state – in the region of spiritual presence – we can be driven into the very heart of God, for praise, instead of dwelling in our weakness; discouraged and disempowered by it.
If God has good purposes for our struggles we can know quickly what purposes Satan has for them; they are there to weaken us and to compel us to give up.
But God has given us this struggle – a dependence on something unhealthy, a physical ailment, a mental illness, a disability, etc (though God’s will is to heal us) – for the demonstration of his glory; as we praise him despite the issue. Overcoming an addiction is for God’s glory, because even if we’re clean we are never not an addict.
When we go the way of praise in our struggle instead of the way of pride for something we do well, God tips into us various lashings of joy and peace; the abundance of his Spiritual Presence.
 We are blessed, no longer seen personally as cursed.
God wants every recognition to go to us for the things we call praiseworthy and not pride-worthy. No sane sinner wants to wallow knowingly in their pride for a struggle; only the humblest servant of God will call it for what it is – the demonstration of God’s power when we praise God for something we would prefer we didn’t have.
God is with us in every area and facet of life; there is a theological reference point to the most inane of discouragements and disappointments. If only we would go there with our God.
When we go the way of praise in our struggle instead of the way of pride for something we do well, God tips into us various gifts of the fruit of the Spirit; the abundance of his Spiritual Presence. We are driven into the heart of God because of our struggles; our opportunity is to praise God for his purposes in them.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, October 18, 2013

When Grief Has Been Delayed

WHAT’S WITH delayed grief? It’s like when a decision has been taken to go a certain way in life – due to the wisdom of the day – particularly when most alternatives were to be avoided – and that way we chose has not worked out. It proved to be a bad decision.
But many bad decisions (as they work out to be) were made with the very best of intentions, with the information we had at hand at the time.
I know a woman who experienced delayed grief, and didn’t truly come to experience the sorrow and pain of an earlier life transition for about six years. That was some five years ago. She has since learned so much about herself.
She couldn’t open photo albums and never knew why. She would just deny that they even existed – no doubt as a mechanism of self-protection. But, as it has happened for her, in meeting her sweetheart – him having dealt with his own heartrending grief – he encouraged and challenged her to reconcile to the truth.
She had put off something very important.
Grief Won’t Take ‘No’ for An Answer
Grief will not negotiate beyond our denial to delay the whole process. Sure, we may be tempted to delay it all our lives, but there is a cost.
Perhaps there is no advantage in delaying grief, indeed there is probably a disadvantage. Saying ‘no’ to something that won’t take no for an answer is a variation of regretful folly, but at least grief honours us by beginning the journey when at last we enter the processes of truth.
In delaying grief, we betray our already shattered or tarnished identities. When our inner beings are screaming out for an overhaul, we are going against it, and going against it is doing not us or anyone else any good.
But delaying grief seems wise at the time. And Occasionally, just occasionally, it is actually wise to delay the grief – like, for instance, when we have to be there for others and we don’t have true scope to enter the sadness and be totally open to our vulnerabilities.
Notwithstanding, many people who undergo calamitous losses in life have no choice but to spiral into an abyss that takes no prisoners. There is no convenient delay.
Sometimes grief is delayed and sometimes it has to be delayed. Grief, however, is no flexible negotiator. It demands we feel its pain, though we may deny it for a time. Wisdom commends us to courage – to take the plunge and meet the truths of our realities.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reaching Out When Confined Within

REACHING OUT in the midst of the stifling ambience of a confined soul is a steep and grating challenge. Why is it that those of us who must step out of our comfort zones find it impossibly hard at times? And who has a comfort zone to break temporarily out of? Yes, that would be all of us!
Breaking out of our comfort zones is a life imperative – not many of us get away from life to such an extent that we can avoid it; not for too long anyway.
But it is a real challenge: to reach out when we feel most confined within. When we are most depressed, and we know getting out of ourselves might be the thing we most need, we are least likeliest to do such a thing; until it all just gets too much. We might hope (for ourselves) that we aren’t ‘too strong’ so we can reach out – in healthy ways – earlier rather than later.
Anxiety is another of these states where we might feel so rattled about our emotional environments we limit ourselves to the safest of extensions.
Many men find it impossible to be truthful about the things that concern them – there seems no outlet. There is too much ‘toughen up princess’ these days – too much rubbish macho fear-talk going on.
For women, there may not be the people to talk with – perhaps there isn’t the time in some who would listen, or the opportunity.
Either way, when we most need people we are likely to be flagging mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Taking a Step On the Way Over the Bridge of Faith
Imagining we are about to step from safe land onto a creaky medieval drawbridge over a boiling river of lava to get into the castle that is our spiritual integrity – our oneness with ourselves and God – we step tremulously.
There’s no getting past it; we must risk if we are to stand in the land of opportunity. Surely we are tackling our fear as well as our current state of dissatisfaction.
As we take one step and then, as if under autopilot, we take the next, not knowing what may come, we keep stepping – one after another.
Courage is girded by faith to step as faith is fortified by courage. Courage is the right foot; faith, the left foot. As we put one foot in front of the other, we step clearly and definitely into the destiny God has for us in surmounting our problems. Reaching out when we’re confined within is wisdom.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Magnifying the Experience of Hope

Hope’s to be explored,
And not to be ignored,
As is the human way,
Hope is a light,
When fading is our sight;
With God, “our Hope,” every day.
We experience hope as we experience God. Magnifying the experience of hope is, hence, simply the matter of spending time with God, in the Presence of Him who helps, under the Shelter of the Almighty.
If anyone wise wants anything in this life, it’s to feel at ease with themselves. They wish to magnify that which sets joy apart. They hope for hope. They want what only God can give, and wiser, still, are they when they sense this truth and go truth’s way.
Surely everyone wants hope; but the manifestation of one person’s hope is vastly different to another’s as they imagine it. That’s why it’s the wiser person who seeks the simplicity of hope – with the resplendence of its Power – in the Lord.
The fool hopes in that which cannot satisfy – every external thing. Our hopes – our true hopes – are borne under the breath of the Spirit of God: existing deep within us, through life itself, in others as they relate with us and we with them, and in what I will call “ritual space,” which is that rich layer of spiritual depth found in seeking God devotionally and meditatively.
Seeking God – Seeking Hope – Seeking It In Truth
If we wish to magnify whatever experiences we have of hope we are best seeking a more solemn and integral relationship with the Lord. That is, we toss the world as it is away; not to reject it, but to refute its importance in our lives. Hope – true hope – hope swelling with possibility to blow our minds regarding the goodness and greatness of God – cannot be found in the world’s system. But everything of God is ever present, so hope can be magnified everywhere – when we have sight for it!
Making the most of our lives is about magnifying the experience of hope. We find hope nestled in God, in the midst of life, away from the distractions of the world. We find hope magnified when we draw close to people and situations nestled in God. We find hope under the Shelter of the Almighty, always. It’s all about experience.
Go in hope. Surround your hopes in hope. God is hope, and every search for God is the assurance of hope to be found sometime soon, glittering for joy and full of goodness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, October 14, 2013

When Suffering Comes, Endure and Wait

“Quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)
Many, many of us still don’t know how to struggle well – to suffer well – to be broken by God enough to buckle at the knees, because of the wearying of our circumstances. Sure, the circumstance may attend, but we resist what we could otherwise learn – to quietly endure it; to suffer in relative silence; to wait patiently.
Yet, these three – to quietly endure it; to suffer in relative silence; to wait patiently – are overrated so far as our ability to do them without utterance.
But that is the beauty in God folding us at our knees. Battered from within and broken – not physically, but spiritually – we take to God what is our humblest of offerings. Taken to the dearth of human experience, we find what was always missing; we never quite knew God until we came to be vanquished for this sudden experience of loss, adjustment, or pain.
There are quite many unregenerate Christians. It’s not all their fault. They haven’t suffered, and suffered so much that they got used to meeting the tests of life with monotonous regularity. This is no proud view, for it is biblical. It’s a pity there have been so many learned persons in the faith – modern Pharisees – who know Bible and theology back to front – who’ve jumped through all the hoops (but the life-transforming ones) – who don’t know how to suffer well.
This is not about suffering perfectly – for nobody can do that. All we can do is practice patience and a relative quietude and silence in the midst of the test. We will slip. We will fail. Imperfect is the passage through the struggle. But we respond as God would have us respond.
Endurance and waiting are our opportunities – to practice death to our desires such that we come close to a life that no one on earth can reconcile. If this set of calamities cannot kill us, nothing can. This is what I’m sure Jesus meant when he said that to gain our lives we would need to, first, lose them.
Nobody truly gets it, but it’s true: suffering – suffering well – is the gateway to the abundant life. Such a life is a treasure trove of gems of character and precious metals of virtue. Transformed into a life that gives and cannot but, this life that has suffered has seen truth in all its resolute glory – the glory of God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

God’s Help in the Season of Sorrow

“The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
‘O LORD, I prayed, save my life!’”
PSALM 116:3-4 (NRSV)
As night gives wind to the desolation of sorrow, and our pillows are made sodden with the processes of overflow, there is an important sharing — these tears go to God.
One lesson in life that we don’t learn until we do: our sorrows are destined to be sent to the Almighty, the living God. To no other place-of-being do tears belong.
Praying Our Sorrows
There are many misconceptions about prayer.
For starters, prayer in lament is not some pious speech to God telling him what he already knows in eloquent words. Rather, it’s the barely intelligible, faintly or raucous soul-scream of a desperate person who knows no other way; the one who cannot, in their present moment, reconcile their life.
Praying our sorrows is simply acknowledging that God is there, in our midst, listening to the somewhat hollow echoes that emit from our spirits. We may not even think of it as prayer at all. God knows better. This, indeed, is prayer in the most powerful form: the prayer of need.
God’s Consistent Response
Psalm 116:8-9 says:
“For you [God] have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.”
The agency of God’s response is prayer, and the product is peace for the morning (Psalm 30:5).
The consistent response of the Almighty God, as we practice the Presence of his enduring Spirit, knowing our Lord is there as he has promised, is he hears us.
We know this. Deeper within it is known.
The fact of God’s Presence doesn’t change our situations; our sorrows are not lifted in an instant. Instead, we are joining our honest authenticity in sharing our deepest hearts, with faith to know the experience of sorrow will be lifted. This situation will not be changed, but our feelings toward it will.
Honesty and Faith Promote Healing
A miraculous thing occurs when we are completely honest, laid bare, before the Lord. Our God uses such courageous portrayals of sincere feeling to help us heal ourselves in the name of the Almighty.
The second component is faith: to believe that God can, and will, heal us in the methods and timing of the Divine. Faith says, “This will occur.” It believes; even better if faith recalls past vindication.
When we will join our honest humility with the faith to express this before God, knowing we can be healed of our disconsolation, we have the precious ingredients and the method to enjoy a miracle.
Sorrow compels us to pray, and, by convening with God in confused silence, God does hear, God does feel for us, and God does help.  Honest admission of our weakness and real need of God is a blessed approach.  Honesty and faith, with God’s help, promote peace for the moment and the hope for healing.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.