Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Courage to Overturn Bitterness and Forgive

Many, many people can’t see,
They cannot possibly agree,
But the only way we can live,
Is to resolve what we need to forgive.
BITTERNESS will keep us from life and life will keep us from bitterness. If we can only see how life and bitterness are poles apart, God will do the rest for us by our faith to simply obey what he requires of us.
This is life: the fullest expression of what it means to exist. It is the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity to experience reality – in all its fullness. But life in this way is an ebbing, flowing process that none of us ever masters, but we can grow in it (and we should).
Forgiveness is always a decision – and to be fair, for those struggling, it’s a process. But once a decision has been made, there will be sufficient commitment to carry the struggle through – onward toward and to the goal.
And forgiveness is the cusp of recovery. Having decided, and having come to the precipice of the prices to be paid to forge a recovery from bitterness unto life, and having braced for the journey with courage, the cusp was seen, experienced and endured.
Journeying further than perhaps ever before, seeing the possibilities for life, even for the relatively small cost of pride surrendered, the bitterness is let go.
Bitterness is caused by perceptions of transgression, but bitterness, of itself, is a sin against God for having refused to relate. To forgive is to reconcile with a person, even if that reconciliation means to never need to converse with the person again. There is just no animosity there any more.
It is always wrong to allow bitterness its full extent of reign. Bitterness usurps the role of God to judge. Bitterness usually reveals the choice to side with only one part of the story – a choice against the fullness of reality. Yes, that’s life; being able to experience life in all its fullness without compromising emotionally.
To experience life is the halcyon of human experience; to tap into joy, peace, hope, and all varieties of virtue that flourish in our lives.
Bitterness will keep us from forgiveness and forgiveness will keep us from bitterness. Forgiveness guards our hearts, but bitterness is a nowhere road to a hell of our own making. Bitterness is never right, and the courage expended to forgive is always rewarded.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Men Need to Talk, Too

ADVERTISING has a lot to answer for. According to a recent Australian advertisement men don’t need to talk with words. As a person with a stake in the mental health of Christians, and even those yet to believe and looking to the church for help, I’m appalled. There seems to be this massive movement in secular life – and the Media is its champion – that is bent horribly in the direction of deceiving the hands that feed it.
Besides acceding to a rebellion – a revolution against the powers that be – a state of anarchy against the dogs of this silent, spiritual war – we have a role to make a noise; in this case, for men.
Men need to talk, too. Men need to talk with other men; about significant matters, and especially about matters of life and death. Here are some Australian statistics to ponder:
“Of all deaths classified as suicide in 2010, over three-quarters (77%) were males (1,814), making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for males. Male suicide occurs at a much higher rate than that for females.” [1]
Let these statistics sink in a little.
Much of the time men will suicide because they felt they had nobody to listen to them; they felt isolated and boxed in without options. Not many people will suicide easily. For most it’s the last resort. It comes after a long struggle in a foreign world.
But this isn’t just about suicide. Many men are sick of the silly macho stereotypes that label men a tough bunch without the need to connect meaningfully with other men. Whilst this is true, there will always be a great number of men prepared to believe the lie that they don’t need to ‘talk with words’.
If we have problems we can’t sort ourselves, and many are those in this twisted life, we need to talk with words – whether we are men or women or children; of all ages.
Our society faces a great crisis when it promotes that men don’t need to talk with words. Men do need to talk with words, especially to other men, about their irreconcilable problems – for we all have irreconcilable problems. How else are we to come to an efficient acceptance of those things we cannot change?
Men need to speak because they have something worthy to say. As everyone has something worthy to say, about the matters of truth occurring deeper within them, we must, as a society, open the space for such crucial dialogue.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Waiting, Anticipating, Hoping – In Darkness

“I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
― Psalm 69:3 (NRSV)
BONES ache with the very thought of a torment irreconcilable – the spiritual becoming physical as the mind makes the body groan. How long will this last? You can sense the psalmist is weary, broken, and about to give up, yet his relationship with God has caused him to shriek into the heavens – “Help me, O God.”
That is quintessential faith in the bucket. One, who had no cause to reckon that faith would win for him, chose faith anyway. At the depths of his cries he is found crying out to God. When he least felt the Presence of God he most sought God.
What a paradox of enigmas of ironies of mysteries is faith!
As we wait, anticipating that we will be granted an ‘affirmative’ to our prayers, and as we grow tired of waiting, but we still hope, because we cannot let go of our hope, God meets us there – and most of all through the valley of hindsight. And this waiting in torment, but which is paradoxically also a waiting in a hope that can’t be given up on, is the testimony of true faith. True light has enabled such an invisible hope.
Holding On When It’s Both Impossible AND You Can’t Let Go
There is such a destination of spirituality that seems to leave us high and dry. We can find ourselves in that despairing destination of attempting to hold on when we can’t, yet in the same way we have no release to give up entirely. We are held by the tension of things – and it is excruciating. But it is a hope.
This hoping in darkness is both hellish and our safety, for a true hope can’t be seen, but it is believed.
Waiting can be a hardship all its own, when day after day after day after day is the same; no outcome on the horizon, we have so many thoughts of giving up and diverting our attentions elsewhere. Yet we don’t give up. We keep stepping.
Hoping in God is possible in the most hopeless of situations. When we are tempted to give up on ourselves, but we can’t seem to allow ourselves to do that, we are graced with strength, seemingly from nowhere. Hope is only truly hope when we must stride by faith toward that which can’t be seen.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Perspective That Helps Refocus Anxiety

Something I learned again just now,
How my busyness engenders,
Anxiety somehow.
Then I begin to,
Get in a panic,
And then the world’s,
Against me,
And I become manic.
But when I put a stop,
To all that noise,
Even for a moment,
God gives me poise.
“Look at the world,”
He says, with a smile,
“Don’t forget I’ve overcome it,
So refocus on what’s worthwhile.”
People are not so much against us when we struggle to keep up. The mind plays tricks and anxiety in the body-and-soul’s response to the mind’s confusion. Be gentle with your heart. Get space. Divert your attention. Attend to what is good. Enjoy God.
But, what does all this mean?
We can see with all these measures, above, and then some, that the whole idea of life in the context of anxiety is to gain perspective and refocus on those logical things – as can be readily seen by an impartial observer.
The whole theory of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is based upon realigning our false perceptions that impact our behaviours with truthful information and techniques that might resolve our anxiety, among other mental ills. Almost one hundred percent of the time those things we are anxious about can be informed with logic and reason that would otherwise settle us. This is how God gives us a portion of momentary poise.
Anxiety tends to be a build-up of matters. As we circle around and around a particular worry, a relationship going wrong, or a matter out of our control, our mind is confused and overwhelmed with what seems irreconcilable. But if we analyse what we are thinking, and get enough room above or away from the problem, we will undoubtedly receive what we need in terms of perspective. Then we have a choice whether we refocus or not. To know a better perspective, and yet to not refocus would not seem wise.
If we can do better why don’t we do better?
So the challenge remains. Will we take what we know – especially the ugly bits – and will we put it all through the sieve of logic and reason; as anyone else might see it who isn’t so actively and emotionally engaged in this tussle?
Anxiety can be alleviated through the attaining of perspective and the activity of refocusing. It buys a moment’s peace. We refocus on something more worthwhile. When we comprehend that God has overcome the world – that we have the tools to experience peace – we are quickened to act.
One thing we must do to have this work, is make it a habit – to continually seek perspective and, through the confused pain of anxiety, even still, refocus on what is beautiful about the world.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: this is not to make light of the inherent problems interwoven in and through anxiety, where many people suffer despite every effort made to resolve it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Forgiveness, Transcending Your Hurt Humanity

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
― Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744)
INCIDENT investigation is something I have become a past master at; to strip apart an event, ascertain and acknowledge with others all of the facts, and identify everything that didn’t go according to plan, including those things we didn’t foresee. Part of the whole process is to get away from a blame culture; to err is human. We err in so many ways.
In regards to the unsavoury things of life in – yes, relational things, where conflict abounds – we are granted our emotions. God gave us emotions for a very good reason; in order to discern intelligently. But too much emotion lacks intelligence due to our fallen nature; to err is human.
Whenever we propagate thought of being human, when it comes to the emotions, we inevitably arrive at fatigue. It is unsustainable. Human emotions will run us up upon the dry land of tiredness.
We reach the end of ourselves which is where God might finally begin.
Eventually the Lord is heard to say in that still, small voice: “Have you had enough yet? Do you want to try another, better way?”
Much of our humanity is sick of the limits of our humanity. We hate being flawed, and even if we thought we were not flawed we still have to bear thought for what others think about us.
Transcending our humanity we focus on thinking as God would think.
We are able to transcend our erring nature if we are prepared to surrender in order to align with the divine; the divine way. What have we to lose? Our independence? The truth is our independence has cost us so much already, when dependence on God may only cost us our independence, and gain for us the eternal peace of a sustainable way.
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
Within divinity is power in and through us in the name of God, for the glory of God. It is power in and through them also, for God could not abide in giving power partially. There is no partiality in God, and so if there is to be any blessing for us, there must be blessing for others, too.
To be in relationship with God is the perfect opportunity to transcend, even occasionally, our erring humanity; to trust God enough to be empowered to forgive. The key is, and always will be, surrender.
When we realise our independence of humanity takes us down dark roads, erring roads, we can sense another burgeoning opportunity: to go with full abandon toward the Lord our God; our Creator, who knows our broken beings better than anyone. We need God if life is to work.
To err is human,
To forgive, divine,
When we surrender,
With God we align.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Loving the Lonesome and Being Loved

Loneliness is a recurring theme for many people and for many people in their phase of life right now.
Loneliness, whilst it is real, needn’t conquer us.
Very recently God has pressed into my heart certain names and faces — some really dear friends.  And yet, due to this cyber-world we interact in, some of these people I’ve never physically met, and may never meet face-to-face, but they’re just as important to me as those I actually know physically.  You might not think God’s placed your name or face on my heart but there’s every possibility he has.  The fact is we never know who God’s caused to think of, and pray for, us.
A Presently-Held Lie
We forget this ravenous truth all too easily as our nemesis is apt at telling us to our souls an altogether equally ravenous lie: “No one is thinking of or praying for me.”
So, in believing same, we shut down relationally — although, ironically, our external ‘appearances’ are still radiant in the shop windows of our hearts.  Whilst the deeper we go into the store — into the heart itself — the more we find a forlorn mood and sense the smell of mothballs; a wholesome and resolute sadness attends. 
We then sink into patterns of thinking that reinforce how lonely we feel.
Other people, however, do care about us, and despite this anyway, God does too — and, of course, we know about the latter.  It just doesn’t make a lot of difference right now, does it?  We can’t feel it.
The Prayer of Intercession
I believe the gift of intercession — the Spirit’s placing of pertinent people and issues on a believer’s heart for their prayer — like all gifts — is part of God’s call for every single God-fearer, although many won’t even consciously think about it this way.  It’s simply a loving concern we have for others manifested in our common subliminal communication with God.
Whilst we feel lonely we’d do well to consider that God is so concerned about alleviating our loneliness that he’s placed us on people’s hearts — yes, right now as we read these words together.
Personally, I know there are people who need to hear this.  Why?  It’s because I need it myself, and more often than I’d like.
Loneliness comes in a million-and-one strains; but its effects and consequences are generally the same with us all.  We all need the same therapy — body therapy; even if some of that therapy these days comes through cyberspace.
One Practical Thing to Solve Loneliness in the Moment
This is really quite simple.  All it requires — and this shouldn’t be understated — is the courage to go out and interact with someone — anyone — with intent and conviction; to become part of their lives.
And we should always target someone we think might be even lonelier than we are.
We just simply reach out and love them.  God then warms both hearts as a result.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Forgiveness, Freedom, Power for Your Unique Path

When life is no longer about them and us,
When we decide to get off resentment’s bus,
When God’s imperative takes full view,
That’s when freedom’s power is new!
Letting go of the ugliness of past,
Forgetting what held us fast,
Coming toward love in all its light,
God and his grace in the fullness of sight.
As the dawning future takes glorious form,
As we decide this is to be our new norm,
God graces us with his Presence and power,
God’s freedom is experienced this very hour!
PATHS are the definitiveness of our lives.
Let that thought sink in for a few seconds. The significance is this: not one single other person has the path set before them as we do. God has set before us our experiences, our biology, our personalities, and our situational contexts. We can only live our lives.
But we are inclined to envy, because we want the glories of someone else’s path. We feel we are missing out. And what makes this worse is the fact of someone’s transgressing of us; suddenly there’s a blockage to getting even the things that are on our path.
But sometimes the path is not what we originally expected.
We can spend so much time fighting for one manifestation of path that we negate the natural flow of a path even more suited to us.
The most direct route to the path that God has anointed us for is through the forgetting of every barrier to freedom and real power.
Letting go of the resentments, the ugliness of past, those things that held us fast; a new thing begins. We entreat the glorious passage of love’s light that purges every hint of darkness.
We will often find practical difficulties in navigating a new path. Habits and entrenched ways of doing things, as well as the presence of our undeniable histories, hamper our efforts.
This is why we need God so much; to throw caution to the wind and sow fully into a freshened journey with our only hope for freedom and power.
God has a unique path for each of us; a path special and significant. It’s for us to determine that path; to draw away from comparison and envy and draw toward freedom and power in making our way. Forgiveness removes barriers so our identities may be crystallized in Christ, freeing and empowering us.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From ‘Injustice’ to Kingdom-Mindedness

FIGHTING injustices in our lives can be both frustrating and tiring, but, we must know, this is not the Lord’s work of us. Advocating for ourselves is not really our role. We have been tasked with advocating for others; to serve others and not ourselves. No wonder we are miserable when we suddenly deduce the problem; persecution or the cold shoulder are both the devil’s playground when we are caught up in them to the dissuasion of our true Kingdom-minded agenda.
The Kingdom is not about you or me or anyone else.
The Kingdom is about God.
Be Kingdom-minded and all will work out according to God’s perfect will.
When we refuse to be deterred by the responses of broken people – whether for or ‘against’ us – and we keep the eyes of our hearts firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus, we find we have power to do and complete the work assigned by God’s will. As the Holy Spirit confirms the ways of love beyond hurt, disappointment, betrayal, small-mindedness, envy, and other unworthy thought structures, we clamour over these things hardly noticing they are even there.
I have to confess that I’m not very godly too much of the time. I judge and criticise people in the privacy of my own mind and with my wife. When my wife mirrors back to me my vitriolic attitude, then I’m able to see – a day or two later. God’s still at work in me. When I’m judgmental and critical it’s usually me I’m unhappy with, deeper down, and I’m feeling unsafe in my world, not trusting God when I should know better.
I should know, and at times I’ve asked – God simply wants me to do as I’m tasked.
The Lord whispered into my spirit,
“You’re not Kingdom-minded enough.”
What was I to do with this thought?
But to listen to this Divine rebuff.
“What must I do to make this right?”
Trembling as I asked,
He said in his inimitable way,
“Remain in what you’ve been tasked.”
“Don’t worry about people,
Or what they do,
Hold to what I’m doing,
And in that alone be true.”
So there I have it. So there you have it. The less we worry about people – their manipulating and cajoling ways – the better. God knows; God caters for it; he is making a way around and through it all. Trust God and obey and there will be no more pathetic worry to be concerned about.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Product of Fear is Unforgiveness

Faith is needed in order to forgive,
To help us survive the other’s lack of response,
Through enduring faith we are given to live,
So pray to God that in this way He’d ensconce.
ENSCONCE: to fix firmly.
We should want all the help we can get from the Spirit of God, to empower our faith, such that we would truly ensconce ourselves towards such capability. We need to have such faith that whatever discouragements come our way we will not let fear convince us to give up on forgiving the person who needs to be forgiven.
Fear is responsible for so much unforgiveness. When we allow the lie to propagate within us, that human beings have power – and something in order to rival God’s power – and are therefore to be feared, we find a blockage in our ability to advance to them the grace they deserve. We resist them because they are powerful in our eyes. But if we thought they had no special power, and felt God was in control over our circumstances, then forgiveness is within reach.
Let us be reminded of this point that God has forgiven us, and whoever God has given shall not be found condemned at all by anyone. Who are we, in our broken human form, to withhold forgiveness?
We know we ought to forgive, but the problem is we get tired of running around the same old mulberry bush; what we want to do we find we cannot do and that just frustrates us. Moreover, the other party does nothing to ‘warrant’ our love – in flesh held turns – so we have all sorts of difficulties extending grace in practical ways.
Still, we are charged under God to extend that grace to others that God has extended to us. There will be no excuse when we enter heaven, when we come face-to-face with the living God, when all truth is revealed, when we will have no place to hide. If we do not confess now, we will certainly confess later. The consequences for unforgiveness are eternal and dire, though this is not to suggest our eternal salvation in any way at risk.
When we have elevated a person to a position where they have influence over us then we have a problem in forgiving them. The answer in forgiveness is to elevate God, and put all his subjects where they belong. If we truly believe that God is all-powerful and in control then we will surrender our unforgiveness, on a day by day basis, as a sacrifice of praise for the only source of power for grace we have.
When a human being has no power over us to inflict fear we are able to forgive. If we believe that God is the only one to fear (rightly) then our human relationships have correct weight and forgiveness is easier. Isn’t it true that the person we struggle to forgive also has influence over us?
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Letter From the Sufferer of Anxiety and Depression

Dear John,
I wanted to reach out to you as a friend. I cannot grasp how I feel just now. All is just sorrow, but in an anti-feeling kind of way. Not that I’m ‘sad’ all the time. I just don’t know how to describe this kind of spiritual wasteland I’m in. I cannot operate with any emotional confidence, and waking, that’s just the most horrible thought, from the only serenity I have at present, which is sleep.
I had hoped to visit you, but alas, I cannot hope to leave home today. Today it’s just all too hard. I find myself sunken into a lounge chair or lying on my bed – for hours. I feel immobilized and the very thought of venturing out today polarizes me into the beginnings of what I’m told is a panic attack.
Not all my days at present are like today, though. Some days I feel capable of doing a few hours work, but not a full day. That would be exhausting. My mind wants to tell me off; to criticize me for being lazy. Some of my family thinks I’m lazy. They don’t understand, yet, in a harsh moment, I too find myself coming down hard, and then I really berate myself. Then it’s tears of despair! When will I ever claw my way out of this dark abyss?
I would ask you to visit with me, but I don’t even think I’d have the energy for that. I certainly couldn’t ‘entertain’ you.
I fashioned this little poem:
Energy and passion,
Where O where are you,
Without you both around,
I cannot know what’s true!
You can see I’m really struggling, John. But I don’t want your sympathy. I do want to express myself, though. I find I cannot hold it back – the want to be understood. I hope you can understand. But can I expect you to understand? Not sure on that front. You can see what my mind’s doing. My mind has lost all its confidence and my heart is very weak.
Anyway, I’ve taken up enough space in your life right now. Thanks for reading.
How Can A Friend Respond?
Friends of the depressed and anxious are a God-send. They bring tidings of space, the capacity to listen, they quietly affirm, and they allow themselves to be consumed for their ailing friend while they are there. In this way they lend some of their own strength, which is love.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Healing In the Motif of Hospitality

“... hospitality asks for the creation of an empty space, where the guests may find their own souls.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932 – 1996)
It isn’t surety that heals,
Nor the giving of an answer,
What we have to do is allow,
A soul to be its own dancer.
As space is given in spades,
Healing comes into its own being,
It comes at the right time,
And the soul is left there, seeing.
HOSPITALITY is centrally a beautiful thing in the mode of ministry; the ministry of a soul’s healing. In the mode of host we have issued an invitation that all may come and find a home with us. Finding such a home necessarily means that the host is ready not so much to share their own burdens and therefore add to another’s burden, but that the host is ready to provide space for them in their struggle; to give meaning to the struggle because space is made for it to exist as it truly is.
This space is actually against providing an answer, because it acknowledges that it is space that people require to enter into their own suffering in order to find their own healing. Space is the great enabler.
Healing cannot abide in pat answers, as if a standard remedy would apply. The host with the answer, therefore, is disqualified, for they are closed off to the necessary allowance of space the person being ministered to needs. There is a sharp degree of nonsense in the very thought that one person’s answer might align with another’s.
The host is able to open their home – which is spiritual home and not a house – in order that the person who desires to be healed might find rest, respite, and cooperation in their pain.
There may be no such thing as an instant faculty for healing. Of course, this makes much sense to anyone who struggles to believe in miracles, not to say that miracles don’t occur. It just means that healing, whilst it is mysterious, isn’t in the order of the ridiculously sublime. There is an explainable process and outcome, even if the outcome is still somewhat mysterious.
There are no instant answers or experts in healing, but healing can come through the open space of hospitality. A host doesn’t have the answer, but they do provide space, to listen and to enquire with the person who is struggling, and to allow another soul to find his or her own healing.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.