Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Secret to the Happiest of Lives

False promises should never be the forte of a person who values the truth; as I do. So I have a far bit to follow through with in this article if I’m going to come close to achieving your satisfaction regarding the promise.
Central to the effectual delivery of this promise, first and foremost, is a vibrant relationship with God; the commitment to grow – as the fundamental premise for life – right through the lifespan, including bending into the many and various shapes of humility to make the choices required.
But the actual secret – that one solitary thing we need to do – to have the happiest of lives is we need to embrace hard work. Not just manual labour, though that helps. Not just waking early and finishing the day strong – interspersed with sensible recovery breaks. Not just working hard to get ahead. Not just being goal-focused. And not just slowing down enough to learn through it all.
This is centrally about the virtue of diligence. (Please don’t switch off yet. You’ve come this far; stay in this.)
The number one problem in most our lives is fear. The preparedness for hard work amends fear. If we have no fear for the work ahead of us – especially that work that has been chosen for us (that which we wouldn’t have chosen ourselves) – we have everything needed to experience the happiest of lives.
The reason people are unhappy is they allow fear to control them, whether they are conscious of the fear or not. Fear from procrastinating when it would be easier to knuckle down. Fear from envying what someone else has when it would be wiser to do the deep soul work of knowing the blessing it is to simply be us. Fear from what we are missing out on because of the responsibilities we need to attend to, instead of grasping the blessedness in being able to be relied upon. Fear from the grief we have been plunged into rather than holding fast to faith that will see us through into relative prosperity if we don’t give up. Fear from being appalled by how we look in the mirror when the not-so-easy sacrifice of being self-disciplined with our diet and exercise is just what we need. Fear from unmet comfort needs – for instance, when we comfort-eat – can be stayed in simply doing a little exercise.
The very thought of hard work produces fear. We can overcome this fear if we see the value in hard work. And when we work hard the results come. That produces happiness, which is far superior to settling for fear because we are not prepared to commit.
Thoughts of hard work produce fear.
But doing the hard work overcomes the fear.
Hard work produces positive outcomes.
Positive outcomes create happiness.
The Value to You and Others for Your Investment of Hard Work
Hard work in the holistic sense – which could be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – or, in fact, a combination of these – is motivated by trust. Nobody works hard without proper reason, right?
If we have sufficient trust to work now in the hope of an unseen reward later on, down the track, and we work diligently enough with the right attitude, our work will increase in divine value. More people than just us will be blessed as a result.
When we experience blessing, especially as we observe that others have also been blessed because of our work, the result is the kind of joy we can only call happiness.
When we are prepared to trust God and do the work that our lives require, in order for our lives to work, we become blessed. Others, too, are blessed. And upon blessing is the state of joy we call happiness.
Work hard, trusting God for the blessing to come, and you will have the happiest of lives.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Acknowledging the Grief Experience For What It Is

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.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Finding Yourself In the Pain of Grief

Opportunities for healing exist so very much in this life, but we rarely, if ever, partake. Life is too comfortable. What is not broken we daren’t fix, for fixing is a risk still too far to take. If there’s one thing that intuits fear in us it’s opening ourselves up to the vulnerability of the reality of pain – to feel it for what it is.
Ironies of paradoxes of mysteries of enigmas; a dramatic state of affairs is the fact that the ultimate of healing stands at our grasp in the midst of grief.
Facing Ourselves
Can you approach a mirror and look into it and accept that it’s you – a truly and wonderfully acceptable version of you – looking back?
Nobody in their right minds would reject themselves, for there is far too much of that that goes on by others.
But as we look back from the mirror there is the distinct possibility that we resist that one looking back at us. Is he or she a good person, a safe person, a trustworthy person, or, even for that matter, a person you actually know?
The mirror test is a key to the reality of our self-acceptance.
Where we need to get to – our goal – as we peer intently into the glass – is a place where there is nothing uncomfortable experienced as we see ourselves looking back. We could still think we are a little overweight or underweight or pimply (for just three instances) but there is nothing inhibiting our base felt experience of looking at ourselves.
‘Facing ourselves’ is the opportunity of a lifetime in grief. We must look there and approach it as if God were looking back at us from our reflection. Bear in mind as you do this that God will only love and accept you. So that person looking back at you is your partner, your guide, your best friend. He or she means no harm to you and desires everything you desire for good. They could never and would never betray you, because they are you!
Now we have learned to face ourselves, we are equipped to face the world.
Facing the World
Facing the world is made one hundred times easier when we have faced ourselves.
Having nothing more to fear other than the ever-present dangers in reality – those hazards we need to be aware of for our safety – we face the world simply aware.
Awareness is the greatest of tools for living the abundant life. With a mind to obey and heart committed to God, we are bound to take our awareness into the realm of action, and therefore growth.
The greatest opportunity for facing our true selves is through heart-rending grief. Grief is a journey through hell to the discovery of new lands of self-acceptance.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Compassion, Empathy and Patience for OCD

“Torture: knowing something makes no sense, but doing it anyways.”
― Corey Ann Haydu
Many psychoses feature the inability to discern reality from fantasy, but with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferers generally know their compulsions aren’t logical, but they are unable to stop, often without a great deal of specialist help.
It can seem totally nonsensical to anyone who the world might consider ‘normal’, but the truth is fear doesn’t discriminate. Besides, we are all fearful of some things, and many people are able to conceal their phobias. Add to this the issues of our dreams and nightmares, where our unconscious fears awaken when we are in deep sleep.
There is only one productive and hope-filled approach in dealing with someone else’s OCD – it’s about compassion, empathy, and patience.
Compassion for the ailing – a mental issue gestating into the emotions where fears rage and safety is never the outcome felt. It’s not hard to feel compassion when we see the pain someone else is in and mutate into it, as if it were our own. Thinking of one of our children being afflicted, compassion has become us, but for someone who is an onlooker it mightn’t be so easy. Frankly, what people connected to the OCD world need is understanding. That drives compassion and empathy.
Compassion is the ability to actually feel into the situation of focus and feel in truth.
Empathy is driven out of compassion. It is the preparedness to get up out of our seat and serve the person afflicted with OCD or their family carer, or simply treat them as normal people. It’s being nice because they deserve it. Empathy is always action oriented.
Patience is a quality that the carer needs and it’s crucial also for the sufferer. It’s not an easy thing to acquire and developing patience requires patience.
Sometimes recovery is tantalisingly insane and there are frequent departures into despair. There are many times when we will feel we are getting worse than nowhere. Still, in all of it, it’s patience that we find is blessed. At times like this patience always feels totally unreasonable.
Those who suffer from OCD and their carers and loved ones need compassion and empathy. Compassion is feeling for them; empathy is taking caring steps. Patience on the road to recovery is paramount, especially during despairing moments. Patience can seem illogical and unreasonable, but patience is faith. Patience is never the wrong approach.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Forgiveness, Healing, Wholeness, Eternal Life

“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
— John 6:47 (NRSV)
Surely anyone alive, wanting the best of life, would strive to give this teaching of Jesus’, above, one fair run – one decent trial – as we Australians would say, a red-hot go or a good old crack. Surely the wisdom of Jesus compels a person to dearly want something as rich as eternal life.
But what is eternal life, and can we narrow it down so as to be tangible; explicable? It will be difficult to narrow it down, but the fact is there is a practical outworking of experienced eternal life as we venture through forgiveness, into healing, and finally into wholeness and restoration. Upon restoration, we find ourselves, as in a restored house or car, a fully usable vessel. Suddenly everything functions as it should, and we, there, are a picture of joy from the steady basis of peace.
The Components Leading to Eternal Life
If we were to add to our suite of experience the components of forgiveness, healing, and wholeness, life would well up within us and the outcome would be restoration. That would be salvation in and about us – a very tangible and palpable and felt experience continuing as we sow into it. As we engage with the components we make eternal life real in our journey. It has substance and meaning.
These components leading to eternal life are sponsored by the Father, and the Holy Spirit provides the impetus and the passionate energy to engage.
We have nothing to lose and everything to gain in engaging with forgiveness – of others, ourselves, and even with God in some cases – wherever we need to. Where we engage with forgiveness we pocket the profits of healing. And healing tends toward wholeness, and thereby restoration.
Where we withhold forgiveness and allow the bitterness of resentment it’s pathetic little reign, we break down all God’s restoration work and even make the structure of our lives vulnerable.
Forgiveness links us with eternal life as we experience it in this life. All we need to do is believe in the power of grace that transforms us. We must believe or we will perish. And only via belief can we be saved.
Eternal life is the free gift received for simple belief. When we believe we can forgive, suddenly God gives us the power to forgive. Believing we can forgive leads us to healing and wholeness and restoration, unto eternal life.
Forgive and pocket the profits of healing. Healing pays handsome dividends; it’s the windfall of wholeness. Restoration is a clean sweep of the lottery. The components – forgiveness, healing, wholeness, and restoration – lead to eternal life. And belief in the power of God is the thread throughout.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Image: jphilipson

Sunday, May 25, 2014

When Faith Grows; the Blessing of Obedience

“As faith grows, so comes the blessing of obedience.”
— Tim & Melanie Downes
Obedience in the Faith is a contentious issue for Christians, but not so much regarding the production of debates; it’s more the truth of the multiplicity of angles represented in the coherence between obedience and faith. The Downes’ quote smacks of this very multiplicity – a truth that works within so many tangents of wisdom. I love it.
Try these three, below, before we probe the awesome dynamic of wisdom in this truth:
1.      Faith, when invested in by trust, brings an innate blessing for simply being obedient.
2.      As faith is plied then there is sown the requirements of trust that equate to God’s particular and very specific blessing for that obedience.
3.      Faith is the ‘works’ of the Kingdom, though works and faith seem dichotomous. The works of faith sow righteousness through righteousness, as the righteous will live and be approved by faith.
Obedience in the Faith
Grasping wisdom is like mining for precious metals like gold or silver (Job 28). There is found more material for wealth the deeper we go. Perhaps the best of finds is made long into the night as perseverance plunges willingly notwithstanding the sweat, the dust, and the grime.
Faith comes into its own as we continue driving deeply into the shaft of exploration, which is the obedience of trust – to simply keep going, notwithstanding the sheer Brinell hardness of shale we are digging through. This is why faith grows in proportion to the immensity of the struggle. This is a hard word, for none of us wants to struggle.
But at least there is a divine compensation for those struggles that are met well. A blessing of obedience is seeing faith grow. Such obedience to observe faith growing, and to let such growth occur unimpeded, and, to encourage it by nurturing it, that has to be the wisdom of a salvation life that chooses salvation touch points every possible moment. That is the Christian’s goal.
Obedience in the faith is the equation of trust melded with time and patient tolerance to know God is in control. And when God shows through with the inevitable blessings, for which we can be humbly thankful, we attribute our works of trust as the righteousness that the Scriptures tell of – that righteousness of our Lord as we follow as his disciples.
To trust God is to repel fear, relinquish the flesh, refute the devil, and refuse the world. As faith grows, so comes the blessing of obedience.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Daring To Be the One God Calls You To Be

One thing we are not told in this world – a thing we must work out for ourselves – is, we are blessed most of all if we have the pluck to dare to be the one God has, from the beginning, called us to be, for:
The world is not ready for some people when they show up, but that shouldn’t stop anyone.”
— Ashly Lorenzana
Ms. Lorenzana is a case in point. She is a professional in one of the oldest professions in the world, but that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from following such wise and polished-for-use advice. Sometimes those who have been forced to observe the crudest of lives have wisdom we commoners of cotton wool status would know nothing about. It is good for us to take heed of what is said above. It encourages the eccentric in each of us; the one still in the closet and not able to come out for fear of what the world might think.
Do I advocate to come out under the banner of sin; never! But I do advocate ‘coming out’ under the banner of originality, courage, kindness, and for the esteem for others. There are so many things to come out for; to rise up out of the fear of rejection to deliver passionately for the Lord.
Search for the Hero Inside Yourself
M People sang the song Search for the Hero Inside Yourself, and I’m sure God is right behind that person who is low in their self-concept; their train arrives in the body but never leaves to bless the world.
You’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself
Search for the secrets you hide
Search for the hero inside yourself
Until you find the key to your life.”
— M People
This search for the hero inside yourself is the initial belief that we, at least to God, are heroes. And if we are heroes to God we ought to agree that we are special enough to be loved without condition. We all are.
As we search God for the hero he has made us to be, we hold out faith that his Holy Spirit will reveal the key to our life.
When we realise that life is a quest for originality and that showing up is integral to the joy of feeling alive, we are ready to do just that. God has made us for a mission. Blessed are those who search by knocking; who find because the door has been opened to them.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Taking a Bold Risk for the Encouragement of Another

“... you never know when you put your arm around a broken, hurting, damaged believer what you might do for the future of the kingdom of God.”
— Dr. Bob Utley
Restoring the Broken Through the Encouragement of Trust is an article that inspires this one.
If there is one vitalising thing we can do for the one who is at low ebb, the one crushed by the weight of their world, or pulverised by the hailing rain of grotesque situations unending, or cut down by the uncertainties of life, it is to encourage them, which is love, which is a very practical thing done.
The person who is so down on life – down on luck, or fortune, or worse, down on identity, because they have never known a good life – needs that helping hand, not simply a kind word; though we may be in a position to only provide that kind word, which is a humbling case for us. When we can, by the limitation of our circumstances, only do so much for them, when we would want to do much more. They need more. We should pray they get more help.
When we can – and more often than we think, we can – we should give sacrificially to these unfortunates, not out of pity or such loathing, but out of sense of justice. They deserve a second chance; a 62nd chance. Their intent is real before our eyes and all they need is someone to believe in them to the point of doing what the Good Samaritan did – to put ourselves in their position.
That’s all we need to do. That’s all that the Spirit of God is asking us to do.
“What would I want a person blessing me with encouragement to do?”
“What would I not only want them to do, but how could they woo me and wow me with God’s love – to knock me clean off my feet with his love?”
It’s about this time that the Holy Spirit blesses us with that anointing – those goose bumps – to know, for once, we are right in the lap of God’s will, doing God’s actual bidding for this person. Yet, it’s not about us at all. We need to become much less so they can become much more. The more they praise us and glorify us in their attempt to reconcile such generosity of practical encouragement the more we divert it to God for the Kingdom.
“As I have done for you, you also go and do to another. And give the glory to God to be blessed,” we say, with a smile.
We never know what encouragement for God we can be until we hold out a hand to the person down on life. We simply ask, “God, what would I want a person blessing me with encouragement to do?” It always becomes practical.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Shadow Side of Spiritual Gifts

SHADOW SIDES are there in all good things – the spiritual gifts are no exception. The spiritual gifts are Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leadership, Mercy (these contained within Romans 12:6-8); Words of wisdom, Words of knowledge, Faith, Gifts of healings, Miracles, Prophecy, Distinguishing between spirits, Tongues, Interpretation of tongues (these contained within 1 Corinthians 12:8-10); Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Miracles, Kinds of healings, Helps, Administration, Tongues (these contained within 1 Corinthians 12:28); Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher (these contained within Ephesians 4:11); and, Whoever speaks, and Whoever renders service (these contained within 1 Peter 4:11).
To each of these gifts is a shadow side, where the flesh within, the world without, and Satan, might attract to the use of these gifts a perversion that we need simply to be aware of.
Such a perversion is the tainting of anything good to make it less (or more) than it should be, typically because we have pushed it to the extremes of either laziness or ambition; ambivalence or exploitation for selfish gain.
My personal gifting is in Mercy, Pastor, Teaching, Administration, and Prophet. The shadow side to my gifting is doing acts of mercy to build my own low self-esteem; to shepherd people primarily out of my own brokenness needs; to teach that which is truth, but not the full truth; to under or over administer; and to read what God gives me wrong or, worse, read and heed the enemy.
The difference between the use of our spiritual gifts for the Kingdom and the shadow use of our spiritual gifts is the input, obedience, and glory of the Holy Spirit. If I serve focused on God and his purposes, the gifting is used obediently and for God’s glory. If, however, I use my gifting devoid of God, there is a tainting to the gift, and the gift can become a curse.
Spiritual gifts rely upon our reliance on the Holy Spirit to steer and guide our gifting.
If we serve focused on our own gain, timing, and desires, we forfeit what could be gained for the glory of the Lord.
If we surrender ourselves, on the other hand, we become powerful tools in the hand of God.
It is up to us and our conditional reliance on the Spirit that first transforms our lives before he can transform another’s life we are ministering to.
Spiritual gifts rely upon our reliance on the Holy Spirit to steer and guide our gifting. The shadow side is the use of our spiritual gifts inappropriately, for which we are to become aware and avoid.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.