Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Short Journey to Faith

Thank You, God, for new friendships,
Those that surround us in love,
Those who have gone before us,
Those You’ve blessed from above.
Thank You, God, for those far and wide,
Those who’ve transcended geography,
Those who’ve been there before us,
Those who’ve such special demography.
Thank You, God, for this special turn,
Those who share this journey have shown,
Those who’ve travelled before us,
Those You’ve undoubtedly grown.
Four weeks ago – yes, 28 days, at this very time – 11.30am – we learned something that was destined to change the path of our lives. We always think that someone else will receive news like, “You’ve got to be strong for each other... there’s a very long road ahead.” The doctor at the ultrasound clinic was straight with us as he was caring; he teared up as he also said, “Thank you for making this easy on me.” Yet, despite this wonderful doctor’s love, I left that clinic feeling we didn’t belong there – with all those pregnant women with their partners in the waiting room. It was neither their fault nor ours. Life had changed.
Four weeks is not a long time in some respects, but it feels like an eternity to us, in probably an entirely good way. We have noticed the fruit of our faith – despite the sorrow and grief, the ability to get on with life; to grow in our love for one another; to cherish the children we already have; and, to hope into this new little life with Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS).
Then again, we have been so blessed with so much love; unprecedented in both our experience. Having learned of our baby’s diagnosis late on July 18, within 24-hours we had made contact through email with a couple who have taken up the cudgel of leadership as a way of being advocates for PKS – love Google searches. Then a week later, we had the privilege of not only meeting them, but sharing a meal, and having some real quality conversation. Having something like PKS in common, I’m sure, melts some of the normal boundaries to intimacy. There was love shared there in that initial meeting.
Making contact with PKS-Kids was another Godsend. We have been embraced, and, with so many telling their stories, we find ourselves there, with them, knowing so many of these stories will be prophetic for us. I wonder into the future, knowing that life will never be the same, but being ever thankful for those who’ve blazed a trial for us to travel upon.
Now, the point of this article is this: There is a short journey to faith; the decision to take life as it is, and work it out. It is what it is. The short journey is the moment, the decision, and the action that follows. We can do everything through the strength of the One with unlimited strength.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Note: The flowers pictured are what I arrived home with to give to Sarah, having no idea that she had just received our baby’s diagnosis.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Treading By Faith Into Stark Uncertainty

Try not to be nervous
Regarding what you’re about to do.
Trust God, be straight and honest
And He will hold you true.
Many moments in life
Panic us into a flurry.
When all we need to do
Is resist every pressure to hurry.
So, slow down in the moment
Trust God in everything you are.
Don’t despise the holy pressure
Dealing with it will take you far.
Life issues prove so problematic at times we don’t know where we stand. Entering a new normal, and the flux storm such an unknown transition creates, there is a new task, a new objective, and a new state of reality and being. What the manifest newness of this future thing is can often be beyond us.
So many unknown things confound the immediate future before we realise we made too much of the unknown. Rarely does the unknown conjure thoughts of surprise and feelings of shock; occasionally, but not as much as we believe. Yet we experience the anxiety of intrepid dread every day because of these unknowns.
There is a great deal of uncertainty typical of life, and especially in the courses of loss, the cool ebb and flow of adjustment, and the intrigues of the grief that implicates the season.
Treading by faith into the stark uncertainty seems easier said than done, but it just needs to be done. As we decide to join our will with God’s will, we are granted a seamless courage that resembles a peace that so rapidly transcends our understanding.
As we step uncertainly into the grief that may fill our future, we try to be grateful for the present. But the past will always seem better when the new normal of a scary unknown makes its way into our consciousness. We will be grateful in retrospect and this may associate guilt.
But treading by faith into this stark uncertainty is the right thing to do, even at times mindlessly. There is no denial in this striding by faith; the old and new realities are ever before us. In the vagrant emotions, in conjunction with faith, comes the straightforward capacity to keep stepping, assuredly though humbly.
Entering a new normal is frightening, but ever possible, indeed liberating. Treading by faith into the stark uncertainty is done with the Presence of God, and never without. We go into that unknown knowing the grace that can never fail us. Strength, peace, and joy are then possibly ours.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mirror Therapy for Self-Acceptance and Esteem

“The girl in the mirror wasn’t who I wanted her to be and her life wasn’t the one I wanted to have.”
— Francesca Lia Block
Mirrors reveal who we are to ourselves in many more ways than we think. Nothing about narcissism, indeed the opposite, when we look into a mirror, who do we see looking back at us? Do we know that person? Does this person like and accept us as we are? Are we able to relate (be sad with, laugh with, stand with) this person looking back at us?
This can be a useful exercise as we work on building our self-acceptance.
Of course, such an exercise can initially produce stress as we venture into the land of the unknown. Standing before a mirror without make-up on, or having just woken up, we may quickly want to redress the situation. But that is the point. Our opportunity is to sit with what is.
Mirror therapy can seem to be an exercise in narcissistic delight, but for those who are far from narcissism, indeed too far, they really could do with a healthy relationship with themselves.
It may seem very basic to some people to accept the person who looks back at them from the mirror. But most people don’t even know that person. Most people have never taken the time to get to know that person; to look into their eyes; to ask into this person’s history; to wonder about the broken dreams of this person that looks back at them. To wonder where the opportunities have gone and to wonder what opportunities lay ahead. These are in many cases golden opportunities, perhaps lost.
Our role in becoming ourselves – which is a lifelong process – is to take responsibility for the stewardship of the self. This is nothing about selfishness. It is everything about getting to first base with God, so God can use us to the extension of the building of his Kingdom.
Coming into acceptance – to land in the territory of self-acceptance – is very much a pre-requisite for the minister of God. This is a domain where narcissists clearly don’t belong, though many are attracted to ministry for obvious reasons. Coming into acceptance is probably the most important thing we will ever learn.
From accepting the self – just as God accepts us as we are – we have a platform for humility. Suddenly we have achieved a sense of inner peace that we cannot otherwise explain. There is an absence of fretting for the many things that are still outside our control, because we have controlled what we can; that is, what we truly think and feel about ourselves.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What It Means to Be Moved

Emotions get a bad rap too much in this life. If we are criticised for not controlling them enough, we are self-berating and condemnatory. The weakness value in our manifest emotions always seems to get top billing when the strength value is undeniably what we live life for.
Not everyone is a feeler, per se, but every living being can be touched emotionally.
When we are moved from the soles of our feet, through sensory extensions to every epithelial nerve ending, God touches us, and we tingle radiantly all over. We are emotional. Our chins quiver involuntarily. Tears well up and seep over the dams of our lower eye lids. We begin to look away – the inspiration of self-protection and shame for having become vulnerable. But, in the safety of bold vulnerability, we are encouraged to stay there – in these emotions that have moved us.
When music moves us we are connected by the lyric or the melody or the beat – or their combination – and such art takes us places in our mind, heart, and soul.
It means a great deal to be moved. We should never shun the experience.
The paradox of having been moved is that we surrender control over ourselves for the moment just so we may experience some height or depth unusual to our experience.
Life is poor when we are somewhat cut off to the height or depth of emotional experience, but with maturity of faith we are graced with less and less of those experiences that throw us about. God is weening us from the need to crave being touched. But there will always be experiences of life that will move us.
To be moved is the height of human experience – a pleasure far too high to ever be contrived; but it never stops many of us from trying.
One thing I have found to be true is the more I find time to reflect, the more God touches me in my senses. Experiences of life can easily be swept over, but as we reflect we enhance the felt experience and God can be heard to speak through insight.
We live to be moved. Harnessing the inspiring emotions, especially those that rock us from the soles of our feet, is the height we love to experience, even though it might implicate pain.
The value of being moved emotionally cannot be understated as we seek to connect profound truth to our feelings.
If we can let go and trust God at our depth, our Lord can use our emotional experiences to lift us to the heights.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Photo Credit: 8past8

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Revelation of Grace in the Pastoral, Therapy, Healing Process

“My job is not to solve people’s problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives.”
— Eugene H. Peterson
Therapy and the pastoral process can seem to be purposed in healing people through addressing their issues, but that is both the right and wrong motive and outcome. It’s right if that’s the goal. But it’s wrong if that’s the method.
If we acknowledge that God’s Spirit is the healer, and the person who receives healing is simply a vessel for which God’s grace is to be poured, we will get out of the way. Yes, the pastoral therapist is nimble enough to get out of the way of God’s Spirit.
We will step gently with the person in the exploration of their issues with them, asking poignant questions at the right times to highlight their life as a mirror before them.
Because we have no idea what the Holy Spirit is doing, we have to develop such a respectful acuity for how to hold the moment. Such a process is contingent on trust. Every step and moment requires constant patient trust – it’s about being continually mindful, which can severely stretch the resources of our concentration.
The process of mindful concentration is helped if we see each moment as eternal.
As a person isn’t ‘fixed’ and as we refuse to mollify them – to not make them happy as if they even know what they want (most people have no idea what therapy can do for them) – we have the opportunity to take people deeper into their experience of being and their concept of themselves.
When a person can see grace operating in their life, they see God’s perfect fingerprints all over the work of art that is their life.
Such a revelation makes anyone feel special, unique, honoured, and privileged. Why would a person settle for being ‘fixed’ – to walk out with “Do A, B, C, then D” – when they could walk out with the key to their own soul?
Pastors and therapists can give the people they help so much more than good advice. They offer a unique relationship where God’s safe grace invites vulnerability; where courage can emerge, trust is implicit, and healing truths can be pondered and held in the mind’s eye.
The pastoral heart has a warmer, bolder, truer vision for the person receiving ministry than that person presently has for themselves. Therapy is a gift of God’s revelation, personally discovered and meaningful, facilitated by the pastoral therapist. And revelation is all about grace.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.