Monday, May 31, 2010

Pressing Onward Using THE Secret (not ‘The Secret’)

“Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside out of my way... I want to know you more.”

~Andy Park, In the Secret.

“In the secret, in the quiet place, I want to know you more.” This is gospel way. But it’s the way of the gospel presented immediately above that clung fast to my heart-thought recently; isn’t it peculiar how a song we’ve sung many times hits us like new suddenly.

Let’s go further in.

There is a golden Christian imperative in the mix of the above lyrics. But it’s not simply for the one accepting Christ now, for its purpose is so urgently for everyone. It’s the best way to live a life that would continually crush and undermine us, conforming us cruelly and without hope much of the time.

This is how it works:

There are calamities we have that promise to sweep over us, sprinkled over our time they are.

These are situations and people in our midst that want their way with us, beyond any thought for us.

Our divine task, should we choose to accept it, is to press onward in faith, pushing every hindrance aside—in the fashion of Jesus—and in this to know him; to know what to do, and critically, how he would have us do it.

And when we conquer the first of these calamitous challenges, sometimes taking a year or more, we see for the first time that this is the way through. Whilst it was a huge struggle, it was perfectly the way as we look back now, God teaching situation by situation as we went.

“Yes,” we thought, this is faith.” He required us to do certain things at certain times and we did everything methodically, one after the other, learning to ‘know’ him more, time after minute-long time. We might’ve stumbled even, but we did not fall.

Using this method of listening to God’s Spirit speak in and through our situations we learned more about ourselves and fixing our once-interminable weaknesses than ever before.

Then, Reality Bites!

We derived confidence, but not only that, we suddenly noticed how many years of life we still had to run—pressing onward to the place he’s calling us to—and how many of these challenging situations and people we’ve yet to encounter.

For a moment we shrank. It was too much for us.

“Can I do it again, Lord?” was the doubting momentary sentiment deep in our spirits. Then we felt the warmth of God’s assuring smile heartening our spirits to hope again.

Like riding a bike is, we find this love so easy to live—joyously, courageously—as we rest in the heart of God. Obeying God is not a hard thing to do when we have a deep desire to know him.

God is the only way I know to be victorious the right way, every time. I’m really not sure anything can beat that.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

“Never Again, Never Ever” – A Solemn Pledge of Change

Sometimes in life we need to take hold of that solemn promise of our hearts and make it again before God. And it’s not before time—after all, we’ve lived under the curse of a lie for some time.

This occurs to everyone. None are spared of that acrid habit which must finally be attended to—and let go—once and for all.

We do this first for our survival and then for our growth, because we can’t grow until we attend to things that are holding us back.

No matter the amount of times of our previous visitations of habit renewal we take to this fresh challenge in a new way. The previous times we’ve buckled—perhaps one hundred times—but not now.

We chart our course and set sail—the standards of which are agreed on before embarkation. But, first, let us be warned...

The Folly of Willpower Alone

‘Willpower’ is a tremendously contentious thing.

We find out how pathetic it is many more times than we find its alluring power—the power of God indwelt within us to achieve ‘the impossible’—a.k.a. the previously-thought impossible. Many people do not see that a requirement of willpower is God’s blessing.

Many times willpower is unfairly maligned because we compromise any number of ways, handcuffing the power of the will to get us over the line during our time of temptation. What we truly need is that incomprehensible power of God—through our prayers to him—that will augment our willpower.

Willpower embellished with this indwelt Spiritual power of God, which any of us can tap into, of course, is the way through.

The Resolve – “Never Again, Never Ever”

It hasn’t mattered how much we’ve failed before. We’re set for success now!

When we bring to bear spiritual determination with a solid plan, one that attends to all the issues of practicability, and we infuse ourselves with the preparedness to conquer these things one-day-at-a-time, nothing really stands in our way, truly.

But we do need to refresh our approach every single day for a lot longer than we think. A few days, a week or three, and beyond; we do need to derive confidence with every successful day this new resolve is maintained.

No more compromising, we steadfastly maintain our resolve of discipline through one day. Then we tackle the second, being aware one-moment-at-a-time. Then the third and so on...

Every which way we say, Never again, never ever will I [fill in the blank].”

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Faith May Well Be Like...

è A warm cyclist on a freezing winter’s morning; they know it’s cold but the cold’s meaning on the senses is nullified. They have the ability to feel some of the pain but it’s no longer excruciating.

è The dripping tap over a plugged sink. It will soon fill up and the drip that represented trouble converts to useable water; and when the sink is full, it’s capable and set ready to go.

è Five minutes to go in the football game. Fans cling to the edges of their seats. The footballers play for their lives. All hinges on time and fate. All anyone can do is play ‘til the end.

è Choosing one way that’s beyond the reason of the rational human being. The other way makes more worldly sense but God says, “No.” We don’t go there and faith knows it.

è Leaving a meal with family half finished to be with a lonely friend who needs us. Our hunger mightn’t be completely satisfied but we realise the importance of doing the right thing at such a time as this.

è Bending the rules when the rules don’t apply—knowing when it’s right to bend the rules. It’s taking a risk when the precedent hasn’t previously been thought of or considered. It’s breaking past legalism, and beyond, into the vista of the love and wisdom of God.

è Enlisting for some sort of service we know God might be calling us to, no matter the personal cost, for the issues of personal cost are inconsequential compared with the overall costs of not doing same.

è Renegotiating the release of a captive with the hijacker. It’s a tricky business requiring all our insight and pluck. Think of the spiritual hijacking. What might be required via intercessory prayer? We trust our faith and Spiritual insight.

è Having a fist fight where the oppressor leaves us no choice. Not only is brute strength needed, but timing and tactics as well. Faith is much more than the fight itself. It underwrites the fight.

è Acknowledging we’re the only ones who can change. It’s taking personal responsibility for all our intrapersonal and interpersonal situations. Here too is humility also exposed.

è Being alone with God. For the better part of life we are alone in any event whether we like it or not; alone beforehand; alone with God in our thoughts and feelings; alone after when the physical life passes for the next realm.

Faith is what life’s all about. Without faith we’re not even shadows of our former selves. It’s only through practiced faith that we can ever actualise ourselves unto potential and true freedom.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Training Peripheral Vision and Focussing Awareness

Just how would we keep eye contact in a nudist colony?

Allan and Barbara Pease pose this question in their book, The Definitive Book of Body Language. Before we read anything into the following quote about the remainder of this article, my purpose is to capture two great strengths of each gender and propose they be combined for all.

The Pease’s’ note:

“Women’s peripheral vision extends to at least 45 degrees to each side, above and below, which means she can appear to be looking at someone’s face while, at the same time, she is inspecting their goods and chattels.”[1]

Female Attribute – Peripheral Vision

Women might have a biological advantage over men in this way, but there’s no reason why a man can’t train himself to see a broader physical view.

This is not for reasons of ogling.

It’s done to maximise awareness of surroundings. There is any number of advantages in doing this from capitalising on half opportunities to foreseeing physical threats and responding appropriately to them.

I have found that when I focused on training my peripheral vision, through simply a heightened awareness, a strange but good thing happened. The moment I became aware of what I was focussing on peripherally, my mind immediately began filling in the blanks as to the blurriness of things at the ranges of my peripheral vision—hence I experienced a heightened general awareness.

The great thing about this is if we want to see with the skill of a hawk we can—well, as much as humanly possible, anyway.

Male Attribute – Focused Awareness

I’ve nothing formal to base this on but it’s generally accepted that men have higher levels of testosterone than women, and they’re therefore more naturally aggressively assertive.

Take this as a generalisation which fits most (though not all) the time then. Men are possibly better gifted at going after something—in this case, let’s consider specifically, conscious awareness.

They focus on an issue and solve it as much as they possibly can. Their focus sees them capitalise on the objective, to the exclusion of the emotions, as they so often distract us awkwardly.

Both Attributes equalling Focused, Broad Encompassing Vision

I believe it’s possible for both genders to grow the opposite gender’s attributes leading to greater powers of focused, broad encompassing vision, i.e. the fuller suite of practical vision capability.

Men can learn to focus more of their thought not simply on the direct thing in front of them, to the exclusion of the peripheral, but including the peripheral.

Women can learn to focus their thought on being more tenaciously focused and directive; more than they might otherwise.

Of course, a balance of the two is recommended for everyone.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Allan & Barbara Pease, The Definitive Book of Body Language – How to Read Others’ Thoughts by their Gestures (Buderim, Australia: Pease International Ltd., 2006), p. 176.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You Can Have More!

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

~Philippians 3:13b-14 (NIV).

According to Paul, we shouldn’t just have more; we need more.

But my point is still valid. At any time we can have more of this salvation experience; a fuller measure of it I mean. Paul is merely saying—in the succeeding few verses—it’s not only a right and a privilege, it’s what the Lord requires of us as we mature more and more.

Maturity in Christian Terms

This is a journey we’re on and not a destination that any one of us ‘arrives’ at. We may know this notionally and nod our heads but I wonder, especially within myself at times, i.e. my experience of my own faith, how often we’ll nonchalantly disregard growth opportunities because, well, we’re ‘mature’ already—supposedly.

This, of course, is just pride, re-badged.

Maturity under Christ is so rampantly incomplete during this life—even for the sixty or seventy year old—it’s not funny. Indeed, the more mature we become the more humble we should increasingly grow to be, knowing beyond knowledge how vulnerable we really are and how much still we do not know.

We Can Still Have More

The foregoing is a somewhat negative look at something that was always designed to have us thrilled in God for what possibilities actually remain ahead of us—this terrific and ever increasingly awe-inspiring life!

To think that God is that interested in us that he’s designed the potential for growth exponentially leaves us gasping for joy. He places no barriers in our way as we grow with him even through the clouds into the stratosphere of our spirituality.

We can have still more. When we’re satisfied with our bliss-filled condition’s to the point of only clamouring for more—a sort of very healthy greediness for personal growth with God pervading—we find more and more is gained. This truly is an incredible reality.

Why is it really that we have this burgeoning vista; the life engorged with more? God disengages the brakes when we venture alongside him and he takes us further in our journey to him—contingent only on our end of things. He completely delimits us.

A Vitalising Reality

This is it; not to ‘re-vitalise’ but to vitalise. We have so much more to experience and so much more ahead of us. It’s the condition of unconditionality we enjoy. There is nothing diminishing here; nothing at all.

Should we not entirely go on with God?

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Peace Between the Ears

There was a time in my life where, like many, I had this constant war going on in my head.

Now, this war wasn’t always about negative stuff but it did involve a mind that continually spun at light speed on an axis of lightly greased bearing. Good thoughts but no peace!

My brain hurt. It was as simple as that. I recall talking about it with others, and some in my family, and envying those who had a ‘stilled’ mind. (The stilled mind, from what I can understand, is not always spiritually-exclusive.)

Mental activity these days is far different from the past I mention above—and to think, I cannot recall the exact time it all changed. But the new reality of the stilled mind—which is more or less a constant—has been real for me for what seems like years now.

So, What Happened?

The process can only really be tracked in a higher calling to faith, which mind you, has not been my design at all—God has led me to a place of increased confidence in my own life.

(Again, not everyone who’s achieved this stillness of the mind has anything like the same sort of testimony—but this is definitely one way that I’ve found that works for the person with the overly-analytical mind.)

God has led me to love myself more than I could’ve previously imagined possible. I think that’s a key to acceptance. Acceptance of the world and others is impossible without first having the acceptance of self, a.k.a. self love. Acceptance—at deeper cognitive levels—seems to be central to having a stilled mind.

God has also given me roles and work to do that are so salaciously ‘me’ and these are a joy to complete for him. I’m living a purpose-driven life, as Rick Warren would describe it.

Over all this is an abiding faith in Jesus—my personal friend and Saviour.

The Actual Answer

Establishing an abiding peace that works at the level of the harmony of the mind, for me, requires a spiritual competence founded in a practical confidence. This confidence can only come from a God-involved and a God-anointed self love.

This end cannot be achieved without faith at an everyday practiced level.

I don’t know how it works but to say when we search without giving up we’ll eventually find what we’re looking for, if we’re prepared to listen ruthlessly to God’s Spirit and calling.

Peace between the ears must have a connection with the heart that’s at rest—a soul attuned and accepting of where God’s placed us.

Stopping the war is not a case of running from it. It’s not either a case of fighting it. It’s running in the direction of faith unto confidence unto peace from hope.

It’s running in a way that most people do not ordinarily or easily see.

Run to God—he’ll show you.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Effort – the ‘Money Punch’ in Life

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.”

~Winston Churchill.

My initiation to the workplace—indeed my first two or three years—was horrendous.

I had one of those old-fashioned apprenticeships—where the apprentice was the butt of very many cruel pranks. I endured it for the better part of three years before the ‘gods of favour’ smiled upon me in my fourth year.

As I look back now I’m both surprised I didn’t buckle ultimately under it, and not surprised that I did. I was quickly swallowed up in the trade of substance use and abuse—typical actually for many those of my age, stage and time; especially where I grew up. It seemed at the time everyone was doing roughly the same thing.

As I cast my mind back now I often wonder, however, how I came to be resilient through this tough period as a teenager to see me through to now; there was my sound upbringing—perhaps it was my parents to some degree; perhaps a couple of friends played a key role back then and since too. Certainly God was there with me, before I even knew him as my Saviour.

Tumults, skirmishes, hassles and road blocks come for a reason.

Then there was without doubt my biggest life test; when I was informed my first marriage was over. That came as quite a shock I can tell you. There was no one more ‘married’ than I was—divorce was never an option for me... well, until I was left with no other option.

As we track back through the life events that have come to define us we can readily see the Churchill quote resplendent with truth—soaked and lavished abundantly in it.

Our failures do not define us; our responses to those failures do.

We’re loath to give up. We know we must continue with our efforts—beyond the stinking thinking and the parched drought. It reminds me of the Robin Hood (2010) quote on the ‘Loxley Sword,’

“Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.”

The only consistent way through all our problems is a continual and unstinting focus.

We may feel that we’re in a sadistic and pointless Groundhog Day event that is our lives, but we can’t afford to stop there for too long. And sure, a day or two’s sojourn in the demise of our self pity—everyone’s had them... but these are still not what defines us.

We’re defined by the longer term efforts that we consistently produce—those by which we’re characterised by—for our little stumbling and errors of choice are forgiven for the most part, such is the grace of God known in life.

Effort, today, is all we’re left with. It’s distilled down to that as we look forward to our next few hours of breathing life on this spinning planet we call home.

Go on.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exposures of Transformation – the Key to Learning and Life

Everything we’re exposed to is potentially transforming us. This occurs sometimes without us even being aware. And this merely demonstrates our capacities for learning, implicit deeper even of our intent to learn.

A lot of people will think that it’s only children who are ‘sponges’ for learning, but the truth is we’re all learning, all the time.

Knowing this means we’re wise to heed a warning.

Negative Input is Like a Cancer to Personal Growth

The watch point here is, “what exactly am I ‘taking in’ that is damaging?”

This is an issue for us on a number of fronts. We watch the News and engage in office gossip about current affairs and we invest in many unnecessary lies—at many numbers of levels.

When we associate with friends or acquaintances who have scant, or worse vice-based, wisdom we not only learn next to nothing of benefit, we begin to adopt some of their folly—a form of learning osmosis occurs. We learn in ‘backwards’ terms. We get trapped into their uniquely-negative style of thinking.

We might even be involved in spiritual activities or a church etc that gets into false doctrine, leading us forward in blind faith; we’d know this fundamentally in the way they treat people.

Being sensual creatures we’re designed to be programmed, but not all the programming is healthy. Indeed, the vast majority is junk. What are we subjecting our eyes, ears and feelings to?

What are we not filtering out?

Life – the Learning Ground

Life is the learning ground. Our sole purpose is to learn and apply; to sow and then reap and then sow again. When we view life from this angle everything we’re ever conscious of potentially affects us and our futures.

We cannot really afford to ignore this knowledge because we will often do so to our own peril.

Many people seem, however, to not care about it. We choose our actions despite the consequences. In fact, we, by our decisions, plan for the consequences we’re getting, although much of the time we don’t even think that far ahead.

Life and Transformation

Whether we like it or not we’ve been designed to be transformed.

This transformation occurs either positively or negatively, forwards or backwards. In some areas of life we’re growing and in some others we’re receding in growth—at the same time.

What we use we develop; what we don’t use dies. You know the principle.

The key is the areas of growth and recession. We can only hope to grow our hope, faith, wisdom and love whilst ensuring our helplessness, fear and folly recedes.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two Divine Tasks

To genuinely undertake the very best of life it is incumbent on us to think differently (than our default thinking) and to investigate two divine tasks—one as a precursor and director of focus or effort, and the other how we will need to operate day to day.

These divine tasks are, 1) to design ‘policies’ for living, and 2) to choose to be led by the Holy Spirit in all we do.

Designing Policies for Living

We all need standards or values with which to live our lives by—many of these are chosen for us via our upbringings. But, many we also choose. These are all previously agreed rules of engagement in life and they’re simply backed up in self discipline—making them operant. Being previously agreed we can be held accountable to them, personally and interpersonally.

The task for us is simply to take the necessary time out to explore what ‘policies’ we’ll need particularly (that will suit our needs presently and for growth into the future) and set up living strategies and actions for engagement so we can actually achieve these policies.

Practically, it relates to our diet disciplines, how much exercise we’ll get and how, our devotional life and how that takes place, our learning disciplines etc. Of course, as our lives progress these policies morph with our changing needs. It is hence a very vital thing that solid values always underpin this process.

Be Led by the Holy Spirit

This alone is a great thing to do, but without the pre-defined rules of engagement established, i.e. our policies for living, there’s the risk of falling short and burning people, including ourselves.

We must seek the continual Presence of the living God in us to achieve this i.e. to know, and be aware, of his Presence and momentary calling. This ‘connection’ is developed and maintained over time.

This is about abiding in God’s will, as it is known, in the situation—however it presents. It’s the Spiritual intuition and alignment with God beyond the pull of our own desires.

Putting the Two Together

If we value our role as agents of God highly enough we’ll consider both these tasks critical in our overall success. They’ll drive how we’ll engage with the world, both in the way we prepare and in the way we’ll act.

Both these tasks together will ensure that as much of the pre-thought has taken place freeing up the conscious mind for ‘listening’ to the Spirit of God.

It is especially good that we fix the processes involved in the first task so we’re self disciplined and self controlled. Where we struggle to achieve these two ends we’ll always struggle to live a fervent, effective and functional spirituality.

Yet, if we achieve the first task but don’t develop the Spiritual acuity necessary to be led by the Holy Spirit, i.e. the ability to listen to God and heed him, we’ll never go onto maturity with the Lord.

This way we can see that the first task is foundational—and a prerequisite—for the second. But the second is what takes us onward in our journey through life with God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Unfolding Our Time

Each of us has spare hours in every week—about thirty of them to be exact. This includes all the time we have discretionary choice over. And though we may trick ourselves into believing we have no time left, the truth is rather revealing, even compelling.

Come. Let’s unfold some time together.

What are we going to do with this notional thirty hours per week (if we’re not otherwise committed to other discretionary tasks already)? I’m implying choice here.

These discretionary hours are considered after our non-discretionary time is spent: most of us need to include eight hours for sleep; ten hours, five days a week for work and travel to and from; and, then say three hours per day for meals and catching up with loved ones and friends.

Using what’s left responsibly is up to each one of us as individuals to decide.

Spare Time – What’s That?

And this itself is the key. With so many potentially gorgeous things to get our teeth into, chances are we’ve already become swallowed to a passion or two—but are these things you? Without trying to dissuade you, there is only one person who can decide. It does, of course, take reflection, insight and courage to change—if change is considered necessary.

It’s your life. Nobody can really complain for having insufficient time. It’s ironic that many of the busiest and most productive people don’t ever complain about not having enough time.

That complaint is a nonsense much of the time—an excuse we shouldn’t buy into.

Optimising Each Hour

We can optimise every hour of the day and not be rushed one little bit. We’ll simply be making our life work more productively and we’ll experience more joy and fulfilment as a result of stoking the furnace of our hearts with joy and optimism.

But we do need to break down our hours and begin to plan. This means starting out manually, making lists and breaking down and analysing our days—if we’re serious.

Ten Minutes

What if we disassembled each hour into six segments? We’d all of a sudden have up to 180 discreet blocks of time to do many good things well. This is what explains the productivity of some; they use this incredibly vast resource of time really well.

(That’s 1,800 minutes per week. That’s a lot of minutes. Every week.)

We can achieve an immense amount in ten solitary minutes if we’re focused and motivated, splitting even the minutes and seconds. This isn’t about us rushing about all in a fluster. It’s simply being as efficient and diligent as possible.

A Final Word on Rest

We need to be diligent—even to the point of diligently getting the necessary rest we need. Rest this way, too, is time used productively. In fact, we’ll never get close to our potential productiveness if we don’t first get our rest. Rest comes first. It’s our platform. Our rest defines the quality of our productivity.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.