Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blessings of God Right Where You Are

RIGHT where we are, there God is.
Right in our midst — in the struggles and the strains — there our Lord is. He is present. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. God is not in the practice of foreclosing on his promises. Where he has promised to be is filled with his goodness.
And it’s there we find our place of reality — in the liminal space — of our momentary situation. With all its problems.
Bringing two cosmoses together — the fact of God’s Presence, and the existential issue of our problematic realities — we have a dichotomy. Is God’s Presence so impotent to not regard our situations and not solve them?
When we think that God exists to bless us we come at God from the wrong direction.
Yet, it is true that if we are to be blessed it will occur right where we are.
Where God is present, where God has a role as witness and Lord over our circumstances, we can assume one thing with great assurance: it is God’s will that we wrestle with the truth of our circumstances so as to accept those truths in order to be set free. (Read John 8:31-32 in this way.)
What are we being set free from?
From the shock of how life is. From the anger that hijacks our peace. From the lies of bargaining a way out of our own life. From the lack of resilience against which depression would detain us in prevailing weakness.
We are only set free when we abide in Jesus (verse 31 of John 8) — which is to be a disciple of him and his teaching. Such an abiding is a wrestling with apparent dichotomies where there is no ‘pat’ answer that bears the name, “truth.”
Jesus sets us free when we accept the truth embedded in our current realities.
We are set free from anxiety, idealism, grief, and an external locus of control, not to name many others.
Only as we accept where God has us are we able to receive the good news: blessing is at hand.
Behold, God is in our midst! Look, through our eyes! Feel, breath enter our lungs!
Just three there are above in an infinite range of gifts that God rolls out to us every day.
Now we meet two present realities that collide every moment: God is present everywhere and his blessing is all around.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

15 Definitions of Contemplation

FREEDOM comes at a cost, but such a concept of freedom has its own benefit. It’s the space within that awkward place of our soul’s that are wrought as divided, called liminal space.
Freedom’s paradox is that it is found in the place we are apt to run from!
Freedom is available only as we stand apart from ourselves.
Freedom is the by-product of a greater contemplation that takes our lives from existing to transcending.
Now we enter true contemplation.
Here are some disconnected and autonomous thoughts on what contemplation is:
1.     Contemplation is stepping out of the world into eternity whilst in the backyard of your own mind.
2.     Contemplation is drawing aside the flurry of life, to look to the left or right, and there see Jesus.
3.     Contemplation is being, for a time, invisible and inaccessible, happily watching the world spin and toil.
4.     Contemplation is knowing nothing in a moment — direct from a state of knowledge, where knowledge has value, to unknowing through seeking to unknow everything.
5.     Contemplation is the inexplicable grace of God through the losing of everything transitory for the gaining of the things of eternality.
6.     Contemplation is rest that forsakes leisure, laziness and luridness, for the untold features of the Spirit known eternally now, beyond the world.
7.     Contemplation is craziness in the quiet, stillness in torment, and the opposite of our response to things that tend to anger us.
8.     Contemplation is everything we cannot do in and of ourselves, where a true contemplation is a gift of God; an absolute miracle.
9.     Contemplation is reading a book by reading ourselves into the fissures of the metadata of the story, and, in that, God speaking to us.
10. Contemplation is taking a walk in the park, a swim in a river, or a drive down a lonely highway.
11. Contemplation is where God speaks and we listen; it’s where we have nothing to give and we are in the position only to receive.
12. Contemplation is a long warm hug when our souls are empty, three deep breaths between gear changes, and a trip to the bathroom during the early hours.
13. Contemplation is the grace extended to humanity in order for a human to again become human.
14. Contemplation is feeling to complement faith, hope that comes to mean happiness, and contentment even in the midst of calumny.
15. Contemplation is everything our whole lives ever needed to know, communicated in one nanosecond.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We Are History Makers – Whether It’s Accepted Or Not

EACH of us is writing our own history book, a day per page. Whether we write truth or a lie today, history will record our stories faithfully. Do we want to be known as persons of integrity or charlatans? We make that choice each and every day by the decisions we make in our relationships. Nobody gets to write their version of history.
Such truth makes us account for our day, our actions, our carefree words, and our silly deeds of indifference and laxity.
Negligence has a lot to answer for. So does pride. Too many moments in too many days we fall for Satan’s lie that life is unimportant; that we can get away with blue murder as if nobody’s looking.
Well, the universe looks on. Sort of like a cosmic version of Big Brother, we can imagine the starry host knowing the intimacy of our word and deed if God knows the grains of the sand he put into their place.
We get away with nothing.
We are writing the page of our day even as we contemplate how to get into something or get out of another thing. Our human condition is reprehensible, yet we have the ability to rise out of our slumber.
The page that is written is history, and yes, tomorrow’s a mystery, just as much as the present is. We inform that mystery quite persuasively. We are not without influence. Indeed, as we decide how we will use the moment before us, not only are we writing it as we go, we are also making our day a living hell or a joy replete with bliss. It’s up to us and nobody else.
Who in their right mind allows the pages of history to write them as a greedy narcissist? The one who does not believe they will be called to account. How does a person with an integrity problem sleep at night? They don’t really believe in the nature of history — what is true in secret will become true before God one day.
We cannot hide and we are foolish if we think we can.
Yet some still take the risk.
We really do have the opportunity today to make the difference only we can, today. We are history makers. We are writing the page in live-time. We are on God’s time and we are supervised. It’s wise to imagine everything we do is seen.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Theological Grace of True Contemplation

“True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace.”
— Thomas Merton
GRACE pervades life in and through an obedient, surrendered soul.
It would be hard to believe the witness of a work of God’s grace through someone not surrendered and disobedient.
But the obedience we speak of is not simply obedience at the level of sin; it’s an obedience at the level of virtue.
The busy, cluttered soul probably has no problem with the initial graces — the reconciliation of hurts and the ability to go at depth with the soul. But they perhaps are at a loss to explain how to enter what they truly need — a true contemplation.
A true contemplation is a special kind of surrender in this day and age of busyness.
It is an obedience to throw it all away for just God alone.
Obedience that sees nothing ahead of it but God — not one distraction prevailing — is an obedience often required, especially regarding contemplation.
What are the practical graces of a truer contemplation?
We have discussed the actual need of drawing aside from the world, from people, from tasks, and from distractions, but the practice of grace of the inner life is even a negation of our very selves.
It’s not simply about making time, but aggressively pairing away from every care.
It’s not just about finding sources for direction and nourishment, but embodying these contemplations in every fissure of our being.
It’s about jettisoning the important things for a time. It’s about departing from our routine selves.
Practical graces of true contemplation are moments in time strung together in series. Such moments transcend the ordinary, and in such moments the true imperatives of life are seen unadorned but kingly as they are.
It is amazing how our losses and the depth of our grief — as moments of eternality — speak of the truer contemplations our souls are desperate for. See how those massive disappointments of life come back in our defence? See how those dark nights we endured come back as God speaking into us from eternity?
Our dark nights of endurance are our truer contemplations where God’s Presence is manifest.
Those very times of soul bitterness and contempt, worked through, become the very fuel for praise.
For the depths endured in sullen contemplation there are the heights scalable for spiritual contemplations of bliss.
For every abyss descended there is a spiritual peak to be ascended.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Joy That Seeks Us Through Pain

ONE beautiful couple, two families strained by loss, three times as much joy found.
Chance meetings are never really that in the Christian life; indeed, even in the lives of those who disdain God there is a remarkable flow of his Presence, yet they are blind for the seeing of it. We had a ‘chance’ meeting recently.
Two most dear people had been brought together, by God, into matrimony; two genuine disciples. In that tapestry, the weaving of two lives into one, there was an unknowable history — that only God could have engineered. Ordinary people linked extraordinarily by the design of God. Ordinary people used extraordinarily by God.
So two ordinary couples — who have extraordinary stories to share — came together. They were a mutual encouragement to each other. Their time went fast, and much ground was covered. Joy was the centrepiece of their song.
And that Joy became an anthem for one couple to shine into the lives of others.
The Joy that seeks us through pain is the Joy that lights our life alive.
That Joy is the Lord, himself. His Presence shining in, myriad refractions of light, not in any way defused, is so evidently pervasive we cannot help but be overcome by Joy, through joy, to joy.
The Joy that seeks us through pain takes us into himself. Joy not only seeks us with all that Love would do — a love that will not let go of us, ever — it takes us through pain into joy. Maybe it’s the only way to authentic joy — through the rites of pain.
How do we explain this surreal joy that takes over when we have otherwise been floored by a torrential storm? We ought to have been wrought to death, but somehow, through pain, we are brought to joy. It is only possible for the disciple, for they have lost their lives in order to gain their true self.
We ought to be convinced as to the role of pain. Joy seeks us through pain so we might become Joy as a direct outcome of our pain.
Jesus, himself, through the Holy Spirit, is Joy.
Joy emboldens translucent beings,
Those very people who have spiritual seeings.
Beaming through dawn, shining til dusk,
Joy’s light is what makes faith its must.
Irrepressible ever is Joy’s light it seems,
Through Joy it’s possible to realise dreams.
Three little letters of capacity engorged,
Oh what a destiny Joy has forged!
Power for bliss and the ease to thank,
Joy rises above the life that sank.
And this Captain of Grace is a prayer,
The virtue in struggle to dare beyond scare.
And still...
Joy through light gives hope,
Joy is the only strength to cope.
Joy is a virtuous laser beam that shines from within out into the lives of others.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Recognition to the grand hymn, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go by George Matteson.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Different Ways to Personal Revival Through Retreat

EVERYONE needs to retreat at one time or other.
Retreat is not about giving up on anything other than our insane pace, chronic drivenness, surface-level superficiality, and hardness of soul.
To retreat is to reinvent the self and reconnect with our soul.
We all desire, need, and deserve reconnection time. To retreat is to reconnect with ourselves, through reconnecting with God, so our relationships will have the feature of connection about them.
If you crave time alone to bush walk out in the lavish environs of nature, then a contemplative retreat is for you. When you don’t want people hassling you anymore and you hanker for silence, reflection, and space, you’re a contemplative.
If you feel emptied of depth at the level of your mind, and studying is your thing, an intellectual retreat recharges you. You are not so much an ‘intellectual’ as someone curious to go to the cognitive depths — to be challenged in your mind. An intense Bible study is your thing.
When you feel charged up to serve, and especially if mission work is your thing, a change is as good as a holiday. To go and serve connects us with our personal entreaties of social justice. Serving people may not deplete us, but actually invigorate us.
Some true extroverts only feel truly engaged with themselves in the company of others; particularly if depth of relationship can be achieved. A relational retreat is something akin to a conference. It mixes rest with rapport.
Some people respond to mysticism in the way of the charismata of worship. To reconnect with the Holy Spirit and have spiritual awakenings is the charismatic’s idea of a great retreat.
All retreats are about reflection, depth, renewal, and change.
The best retreats match our personalities for renewal, and may well combine elements of the contemplative, the intellectual, service, relational, and the charismatic.
We all desire, need, and deserve reconnection time.
To retreat is to do soul maintenance.
Our souls need probably the gentlest of care, and to respond to our personal needs is the greatest favour of self-care we can do for ourselves which enables our work with others for God.
Taking a monthly retreat of a day out, to complement our weekly Sabbath time, is wise. To add to these times of haven with an annual or even three-monthly getaway is also recuperative.
Retreat is the way we safely advance in life. It is beneficial for our physical, intellectual, social, emotional, relational, interpersonal, and spiritual health.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

You Will Get Justice, In Jesus’ Name

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
— Luke 18:6-8 (NIV)
JOURNEYING out of the pervasive cruelty of injustice into the vast sweeping plains of justice is the long sought after wish of the many — like those of Ancient Near East. And that justice, then, was like cool streams to sow hope into a barren soul; to quench the thirst of the faithful native. They had little to hope upon other than their Lord, Yahweh, who promised to never leave them nor forsake them.
Their Lord had promised that, by their faithfulness, their prayers would not be forlorn.
We have that self-same hope.
I have ventured through injustices that seemed hopeless at the time; I was defenceless, helpless, and by my own reckoning, pathetic. Yet, I come to recognise, now, this day afresh, that God was planning that actual redemption that I experienced years after from the Ancient of Days.
My experience of suffering, that went on far too long if you ask me, was eventually vindicated. My persistence in prayer was justified. Even an unjust judge accedes to a persistent person. How much more does God wish to rain petals of justice over us!
You who seek your justice for the royal desolation of your unique experience — yes, woefully, yours — will get your justice in Jesus’ name, if you persist.
It is easier to persist than you think.
To keep going in a straight line on your present path is easy, though everything about every step is unutterably arduous. Keep going. Keep stepping. Though you may not see where you are going for the water inhibiting your eyes, or have any energy left to fight, just keep doing what you have been doing.
Do not give up. When we do good things despite our spirit’s languor — an irreconcilable fatigue — we are most certainly reaping a harvest, if we do not give up.
You have one task in the season of injustice:
Stay alert to your relationship with your God who seems ever distant and even uncaring. Knowing externally that the nature of God is entirely other than distant and uncaring, we repel Satan’s soul-spearing darts. Stay faithful. Keep praying. Pray by day and by night. Make your life an anthem of prayer for your justice.
And keep obeying God, no matter how silly it feels!
Your justice will come.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Sheer Worthiness of Prayer for Life Contentment

PRAYER is a basic thing. It is the thing that stands as the single barrier to and, therefore, opportunity toward change in our lives.
And, we all want something to shift, to change, to transform us; and for God’s grace to envelope us to that end.
If we wish to lose weight, we should pray that God would free us of the desire to overeat. If we would want a closer relationship with Jesus, we ought to pray to be free of the desire to be distracted by less important things. If we want what we do not yet have, shouldn’t we first pray for a desire to enjoy those things God has already given to us?
If we wish to control the desires, surely it is via prayer — a consistent, dripping-tap type of prayer — that we will, through God’s inordinate grace, achieve it.
If we wish it that our wills be joined to his — whatever God’s will is as we can truthfully discern it — we will put what is important to God, first; and foremost.
If we wish it that God’s will join ours, we are mistaken. It can’t end well. But if we pray that his will might subterfuge our own, over time, then we will surely be blessed.
God’s will — on a certain subject — will, by prayer, be-come to us.
This is God’s will in sum: that ours is transformed into his!
When our wills are joined to his — by prayer, which filters gradually from our conscious being to our unconscious being — we will eventually come to be blessed by a miracle.
A miracle is a thing experienced, we prayed for, that we could not do for ourselves.
If we should wish for others to be freed of their bonds of slavery, to become bond servants of the only true King, we will pray to that end. We will not coerce people by our actions and inactions, but we will rely faithfully on prayer, and we will even step out of the way in order that God would show us his glory — that he doesn’t need us!
We are not necessary for God to procure his miracles of grace. God’s only necessity is that we move out of the way.
Prayer works when we step out of God’s way.
It can only work by faith; otherwise, we are becoming God and that is the biggest fallacy of the devil, ever.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Holy Spirit’s Power for Healing Through the Laying On of Hands

The Holy Spirit ‘shows up’ very unexpectantly sometimes...
BATTLING a prideful, ambivalent spirit at a pastoral retreat, we were asked if we needed prayer. (“I don’t want to do this, Lord,” was my heart.) Then it was asked of others who had not opted to be prayed for, if they would gather around and pray for those who needed prayer. I said, “Okay, Lord, I’ll do it.” I prayed for a pastor who’d been in pastoral work twenty years — double my time; someone I also look up to in the blogosphere.
The moment I placed my hands on his shoulders something happened in my spirit!
I prayed, and I prayed words that were not mine. Immediately the hardness inhibiting my soul was replaced with a spirit of peace, if not, levity. Soon it was a case of euphoric laughter at the funny things the speaker was saying. I felt like I was even laughing like I’d taken laughing gas. I didn’t even care if I was silly so long as I wasn’t laughing inappropriately, because normally I’d laugh in some sort of reserve.
The Holy Spirit worked to heal me even though it was my pride that predicated my willingness to pray for this man of God. Isn’t God good?
The next day, in a better frame of mind, I had the privilege to pray for a pastor who I have enormous respect for. God has been working powerfully in his soul for what seems a millennium of months. His life has been tropical. Again, my words were not my own, praise God. Prayer works.
The Holy Spirit can do anything He wants, despite us at times.
These two examples of simple, ordinary obedience, even in the mode of sinful pride in the first case, illustrate that God is never far away from healing us if we’ll let him.
The Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands — mine on another person — healed me! It is most usually the other way around. Rarely, if ever, have I encountered such a transaction of God’s power coming through a person to me as I prayed for them.
Even in the case of aiding in another person’s healing through prayer, the Holy Spirit can heal us, who are praying for them.
The power of prayer is such that the laying on of hands becomes the conduit for God’s healing power.
God’s Spirit is doing the unexpected. There is power for healing through prayer.
Power comes through and lands,
Healing by the laying on of hands,
The simple faith of prayer,
God’s power through rarefied air.
Awesome experience of wonder,
Splits all of hell asunder,
Prayer breaks Satan’s yoke,
God makes Satan a joke.
But there is no need here for pride,
Just let the Spirit by prayer to ride,
No fear that Satan will steal,
When the Spirit gives power to heal.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.