Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Sanctuary of the Cave

Comes times in all lives when to bunker down and batten the hatches is both wisdom and serene peace—a period for escaping the prying, temptuous world’s gaze.

The day comes without warning, just as the moment intercedes and worry confines the spirit, yes, beyond even light of hope. As the comforting darkness of that cavernous dwelling beckons, God’s Presence is felt—sanctuary is afforded as the gate pass is relinquished and ingress is made.

Importance is gleaned over the reality that God’s grace remits this time of retreat.

Always is it essential that God is pleased and it’s a funny sort of faith that allows this time. It’s about riding out the turbulence. For a moment or two, a day or a week even—and via a plethora of vehicles to it—the cave helps the retention of balance.

Timing’s everything, including when to enter into the period of rest, how and under what circumstances. Wisdom drives the right discerning taste. Flushed with right-sized humility, the tread of foot is perfect for the moment, even if things are tenuous.

The Idea of Peace

It’s more an introverted idea but for whatever reason there’s a close God-connection established when all’s home and nothing’s lost out at sea.

Hiding’s the feature of momentary self-interest, and God sponsors it. This is not something that’s to be repented from like occasions when the pity party’s rolled out for anyone to attend with a warming shoulder for us to cry on. It’s a mandatory time for recovery is this. It is God’s intended cool relief.

Peace is the place that’s extended to the heart wise enough to find the pleasantness of the cave without fear of retribution or condemnation. Then it’s just rest. What one single night can do to restore the spirit; reminds of Psalm 30:5:

“Weeping may linger for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.”

~Psalm 30:5b (NRSV).

Come unto the healing Presence of the Almighty. Many tears breeding exhaustion, and a solid night’s sleep, and wonders are performed at the stead of the Spirit. And the key to it: honesty before God—the pleading not of one’s circumstance, but of one’s lack without God.

Out of the Cave and Into the World

The whole idea of sanctuary is rejuvenation and revival. Not only is God raising up nations in revival, but the reviving of Spirits is the Lord’s specialty.

As cognisance is taken for a newfound confidence—the swaggering spirit—chance upon life is grasped and out into the sunshine we go!

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prayer Within the God-Conscious Life

“It is hardly possible to overstress the importance of unceasing inward prayer on the part of the one who would live the God-conscious life. Prayer at stated times is good and right; we will never outgrow the need of it while we remain on earth. But this kind of prayer must be supported and perfected by the habit of constant, unspoken prayer.” ~A.W. Tozer.

The Beatific Vision is one that few saints of God are gifted the genuine sight of as a spiritual experience. This is to be called up into heaven via the spirit’s mind’s eye; to be graced by the angels in the augury of God.

All this without leaving the body.

Yet many more will adhere to this Beatific Vision as a hoped-for personal experience. Why? It’s every believer’s heart-held dream to be found ‘in God’ such like.

Intimacy with God is held at a higher premium the closer we get to our Lord.

Practicing the Continual Presence of God

Not everyone is blessed so much to ‘enjoy’ fabulous visions of God.

Indeed, it’s hardly conceivable that God would favour one believer over another this way. Yet, each saint is blessed with entirely different gifts, and portions of gifts — it’s not for one to envy another over deployment of gifts.

Besides gifts, the Presence of God is practiced through intentionality.

This is beyond what God gives us — regarding our individual Spiritual ‘heredity’ — and it extends it by what we have of our own motives, so far as our desire prevails to experience God.

Whilst the Beatific Vision is beyond many of us, no matter how hard we try, this continual experience of God is possible for every believer via unspoken prayer.

From Spoken Prayer to Unspoken Prayer

Some may have no desire to develop an unspoken prayer life. But it’s not as if we can achieve true intimacy with God without it.

The more continuous our unspoken prayer life, the more inherent and meaningful our relationship with God will be.

To be essentially connected with God — in and through most of the things we do — requires us to be thinking and feeling in harmony with how God would think and feel regarding the situations of our lives. This is not a hard thing to do; it’s about focus, effort, patience and the tenacity of our will.

It’s clear that a spiritual life confined to only spoken prayer is one severely limited to the potential intimacy available in God and, more generally, knowledge of God’s will.

Unspoken prayer, however, is the language of God-consciousness. It’s our lifeline to procure obedience and receive blessing.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stations of Stillness

“Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s’.” ~2 Chronicles 20:15b (NRSV).

Each day we pass them; the stations of stillness.

Whether we comply with their helping demands is the question.

Stillness is not some Treasure Island experience; it’s here, amongst us, every moment of every day, even in the hustle and bustle.

Stillness is an inside job — to decide for it.

If we’re given to stress, then we need stillness — the countermeasure. Why, therefore, do we not obey our own compelling needs?

Physical Stations

Being Australian, I decided to overlay the stations of the Southern Cross over my city, as a means of marking my own sacred ground in the name of the Lord.

These positions were chosen to form a set of sanctuaries — my ‘stations of the cross’ — for which to regularly visit for God-revealing Sabbath rest.

These stations, where I can choose to be still, are mine and mine alone. Nobody in the whole world will have chosen these stations at the times in which I will occupy them.

This is the freedom that God gives all of us; to choose our own flavour of stillness by location in this physical world.

These physical stations are a reminder of the battle won by the Lord — to give us these places.

Metaphysical Stations

From the physical to the not-so-physical, we come. This is even more private, and more unique, to us. Theoretical stillness is designed in the mind’s eye as God reveals it to us.

This sort of stillness is an invention test for us. God gives us the divine mind — again, if we choose for it — and the tools of innovation; then it’s up to us.

This can seem awkward and abstract, but only as we limit ourselves to a knowledge apart from ourselves. In other words, confusion reigns only when we’re least in touch with what our truer self actually needs.

God has graced us, mostly, with minds able to align with divine purpose; in this case, stillness.

Spiritual Stations

These stations are stations of the mind and heart.

They are both, separately, manifest by either choice or by the status of our prevailing equilibrium — that is, the level of faith, hope and love that’s present within our monetary personas.

A spiritual station of stillness is the quieted soul, anywhere. Here we have the ability to feel still disregarding the physical place or situational circumstance we find ourselves in.


The relevance of the 2 Chronicles passage, abovementioned, is that stillness is possible even in battle, as we trust God within trauma. Whether by physical, metaphysical or spiritual circumstance, we have a station of stillness to ward away the fear of battle, and the impending din of distress, so we’ll actually achieve soul stillness.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Gini Grey.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Today, the Gift!

“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no person. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”

~Alice Morse Earle.

There is no more important a fact than the above.

The fact of the present sheds new light on the moment, which lands us still on the cusp of time as we’re creating history.

Yes, history-makers we all are. Today we’re writing another page in our personal and interpersonal history books. How that page is written, and what its content is, is almost entirely up to us. Nobody else will control it as much as we will.

Yesterday – Nice, But Not Where It’s ‘At’

Whether we enjoy looking back or loath it, it doesn’t matter. It’s also a gift, but it’s not the present, so it has a distinct disadvantage to us if we choose to remain there, or skip back there, unless for joy we go back with intention — that too is enjoying the present.

But, if we go back beyond our own volition, we’ll swap something we have possession of — the present moment — for something we no longer have possession of.

Tomorrow – It Probably Won’t Happen ‘That’ Way

Down-payments on worry for what ‘might’ happen are simply buying stock of low or even worthless value. The currency we use is our valuable attention and our psychological state. This is of much more value to us in the present moment.

Yet, we’re probably so apt to worry that we either won’t notice it or we’ll feel useless to stop it. We have the opportunity to re-train ourselves back — repetitively so — into the living moment.

Being Present – Living Linearly

Time is a linear thing. The present moment always is. When we step back into the regrets of the past or the worries of the future we forego the linear nature of time. We don’t flow with it.

Being present can be helped by focussing the senses. Actually seeing what we see, hearing what we hear and smelling what we smell will reinforce to us the beauty of life that stands apart from any of the other negativity we’re presently facing. It can only augment our outlook. Circumstances are not all there is.

Can there be a better thing than living boldly, with savvy — and now — enjoying the present moment?

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Denying Our Destructive Self-Talk

It’s the most fervent denial — one entrenched and drenched in truth. If we’re going to have any chance of personal success and lasting peace we’re best to learn to quickly deny outright the lies that come into our hearts and minds.

Philip just doesn’t know when one moment will turn from a relatively calm ease to an out-of-control reality where he finds himself tortured mentally for one single recollection. Jenifer has the same hellish problem to wrangle with. They both live fairly scared lives, which are never far from the disruption of internal circumstance.

They’re both held to their rampant self-talk and it presents at times as a jealous foe bent on self-destruction. But it doesn’t have to be like this...

Analysing Our Internal Chatter

Most people talk to themselves. Some do it more than others and these people are generally analytical thinkers.

The way we cope with difficulty usually depends on what we’re thinking — which is many times below our conscious awareness — which is also dependent to a high degree on what we’re feeling.

Thinking is connected to feeling in so many ways. We can think our way into feeling better or, worse, the other way around is also true; many times how we feel dictates directly how we think. Little wonder that our thoughts, at times, privately condemn.

Conforming the Self-Talk

Awareness of our problems is always reaching first base, intact and alive for the next ball at play.

Whenever either Philip or Jenifer has the awareness — which is in this case, wisdom — to put their thoughts and feelings on the stand, before the inner ‘court’ of truth, they can quickly find their false and unfounded thoughts and feelings, and shrink them into nothingness. The fear vanishes.

Evidence is a powerful ally.

In the presentation of thin-at-best evidence it is easier for them both to simply laugh at the devil in this detail and move onto the next, more productive thought. Freedom is found. There is escape for fresh air, for the truth always prevails in such circumstances. The truth always brings the ultimate in freedom — certainly once the reality of the truth is accepted.

Conforming our negative self-talk is subjecting it to the truth on this stand. We put it to the trial. We’re not in fear of it. It’s simply a matter of awareness. It’s then a matter of habit. We train ourselves to be disciplined thinkers and this way our feelings don’t lord it over us so much.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thanking God for Shut Doors

Some things we’d not be tempted to do in a blue fit. We’ve been bitten once (or many times) already, or we’ve seen others bitten. Either way we’re not falling for that trick of the enemy’s, anymore!

But, we can too easily skip along in our minds to the next thing without giving due and regular thanks to God for having been released from, or never having been smitten by, this thing.

Miracles of God’s grace, these very things are.

With our loads lightened, though we may be susceptible to other enticements, we’re free to go on with our lives as we are. Spiritual progress may be ours; grace has provided again!

Shut doors, barred and locked to our once, or potentially, out-of-control desires; that’s the present scope as we bellow our sincere praises to the Lord our God.

Shut doors are heaven. Even better — shut off to would-be torment — they usher the open-thrown door; light from within which God beckons in.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Faith – Just the Next Step

Even with faith how do we actually find our way through this maze called life?

It’s easy for faith plaudits to exhort the claims of faith — somehow ‘dispelling’ the mysteries of pain — but how does that work in a life where there are endless snares that lie in wait for us to fail anyway?

Faith — is it really the be all and end all?

Faith is More Than ‘Faith’

The reason why faith sounds more like an insensitive cliché when we’re really struggling to comprehend our way is we’ve separated out the individual acts of placing faith each step of the way — the positive act, one after another, in the midst of darkness — from the general, more cliché, issue of having faith over the journey.

The length of the journey hence swamps us!

Our focus has become the outcome, not the process to get us there.

Without the answers, or confidence to raise the answers, whilst we’re on the process of getting to where we need to get to, we’re stumped.

We’ve simplified faith too much. Faith is not just a by-word.

Re-Defining Faith

Journey-defining faith is the very thing to get us through right now, and every succeeding ‘right now’ we’ll have on our way out of the present chaos. Faith is tangible and practical.

We can lay our hands on it.

It’s the positive act when every sinew in us is saying “give up,” and in this way it’s the reticence to feel the darkness. And this driving Light behind it is even ever so dim, yet we feel it better through initiation — through making the move, without basis, without reason; just in the ability to make it.

Faith is goodness in the presence only of darkness.

The journey seems dark right the way through. Little do we know we have to bring the torchlight. God will reveal our faith to have good basis when we initiate without need of hand-holding. Faith would not be faith otherwise. Trust is the torchlight ‘on’ button.

When Blinded, Choose Faith

Faith is blindness that is eventually miraculously healed. Hindsight sees to it that the faith placed was both sensible and logical as we look back.

Getting worried about the actual steps of the journey is looking too far for faith. This faith is simply taking each coming moment on its presented merits and acting in accord. Nothing else.

When we’re blinded by life’s mysteries, and this is common happenstance, disregarding the really significant losses we may have to deal with, we’re left with no choice really other than to have faith just for the next step. Sight as an aid beyond it has been removed.

It’s time to tread warily but just boldly enough to make the next step! That’s faith. It sorts the need for worry. Why worry when it’s just the next step that’s the focus of our view.

This simple view of life — where we’re blinded to unnecessary fear-engendering distraction — is the foundation of working faith.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Overall, Taking Kindly the Years

“Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.” ~Ecclesiastes 11:10 (NRSV).

We are younger than we think we are. But, even when we’re old we’re young to the Lord. Even better, for us, is it to recognise the light of the spirit grows never dimly beyond our wills.

Sure, we will face God, and indeed we face this reality every day of our lives. But, still, we’re destined for peace — if we should choose for it. This is a peace beyond our circumstances and tempt for ‘nowadays’ fretting.

Things Don’t Change As Much As We Imagine Them To

The overall message of life should not be lost on us. We subsist here for a reason. Wrinkles and grey hair shouldn’t squabble with our spirits. We bring them the welcome mat.

Our lives are more than age. In fact, our lives are a golden testimony of our relationships through the months, years and decades. If not for other people, and for God, who are we? Besides these we’re nothing.

So, we celebrate the fact of life; that we share such a blessed existence.

Let us also celebrate the dear cognisance of eternity — as much as it relates to our personal and interpersonal lives. Our lives are the same the day we were born as compared with that last gasping moment.

Rejoice In Them All

Every year and every birthday and every Easter and every Christmas — every opportunity — rejoice in this life.

For every gleaming light and for every darkish moment, we know that God is with us through the eternal Holy Spirit that’s placed deep within the force of life itself.

Every single waking second: Enjoy it, even in pain and within tribulation. Age and stage and daunting and pity and paralysis... nothing can affect it beyond our own wills in the Lord our God.

Banish the evil. Rest in good.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Common Everyday Timesaving Wisdoms

Wisdom’s in the little thing done well now, to mitigate a bigger messier thing later.

There are many things we do routinely that a pinch of wisdom can help with. Try these:

1. Strive to be early. Leaving home five minutes earlier saves the thirty minutes of stress all the way there thinking we’ll be late. Lose five minutes or the quality of thirty? That’s a no-brainer.

2. Put things away. Spend the few seconds putting that dish away in anticipating the loss and the time taken to clean up the mess if it’s bumped onto the tiled floor and shatters everywhere.

3. Engage in real life more. Logging into, or checking, our social media twenty times a day, whilst neglecting more relevant relationships in our presence and tasks we’re responsible for, is costing us time, stress and decreasing intimacy. Besides, endless re-checking for email and ‘likes’ and comments reveals something lacking deeper within us; something social media will never satisfy — only God can. Better to ‘ration’ ourselves to a couple of short sessions per day as reward for jobs well done.

4. Focus with attention on hazardous tasks. That ‘little distraction’ costs eventually, especially in the context of crossing the street or driving our cars. Take our eyes off the road, when our mind’s already astray, and we’re suddenly driving a one ton bullet at speed to kill — with ‘nobody’ in control at the wheel.

5. Do the requested task straight away where possible. As we declare a ‘fast’ on harping-on about things not done for weeks, temptations at exasperation are reduced to almost zip. Conversely, power is known in the alleviation of pressure that we’d not be hassled either by the burden hanging over us or by the people who need us to do this thing. This power is ours when we do the thing now whilst we have the chance.

6. Proactively address situations of conflict. Agreeing with ourselves to mend a conflict now, getting what we can collectively get out of it, means the fight gets no messier; there’s less spilt blood to clean up. In reality, we just don’t know how pear-shaped situations like these could become.

7. Stay on the front foot. Whatever role(s) we play in life we either go forwards or backwards in them. There’s no between place. If we’re not acting positively, and with diligent intent, we’ll soon lose previously hard fought ascendency.

There’s a wisdom flipside to all these. Wisdom is a fine balance; a knife’s edge; a balance between dual ancient virtue, diligence and prudence.

Can it be better seen as effectiveness and simplification in life?

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One ‘No’ At a Time

It’s popular in present times to eradicate a bad habit with a good or better one. That’s certainly the spin popular psychology puts on it. But this viewpoint is not exactly biblical, or at least it’s biblically true that the sacrifice of self control — the ability to hold to a negative without a replacement positive — is available to the Spirit-filled individual.

Self control cannot be helped much by replacement positives. This is why the ‘one day at a time’ approach works. Negation works that way; via self discipline.

But it does help to have some forward focus.

Living in a Time with So Much to Say ‘No’ To

These are extravagant times, what with the mod cons and the typical Western resources available to us. There’s so much we’re tempted to say ‘yes’ to, including bulging credit.

It’s the battle against the competing noise of life, when such noise always promises much appeal, yet actually delivers only frustration, disconsolation and eventual fatigue.

We know it’s best to ‘be still’ and more tranquil in life, but how is that achieved when there are so many necessary and optional distractions about us?

These are tests of our desires on the one hand and of our diligence on the other.

The desires, ideally, we control and are able to say ‘no’ to. But there are things we shouldn’t say ‘no’ to — like packing school lunches for the kids or befriending a struggling neighbour. Knowing the difference between the necessary and the optional — and, importantly, acting congruently — is wisdom.

The Fight Between Human Psychology and the Truth of the Flesh

Our humanity always has us trying to put a positive slant on things.

Whilst there’s the positive virtue — the fruit of the Spirit, for instance — with which to attach over the realm of flesh-ridden vice that clings, this doesn’t help as much for matters of bad habit, dependence or addiction.

Food is a very common example.

Sticking to a ‘healthy diet’ is a significant and ongoing conquest for many; it’s a serious battle for many, many people. Without the will to say ‘no’ — or to otherwise eat better food, albeit in smaller portions — we’re forlorn.

Another example is control over speech. The base extravert may battle with their tongue. They face internal recriminations for a loose tongue, wanting desperately to be more introverted in nature.

The only way to deal with the above two problems of desire is to pray about, and focus upon, limiting excursions from God’s ordered will as it’s discerned personally.

Focus will do it; one consciously focused moment at a time.

Making resolutions and keeping them by saying one ‘no’ at a time to ourselves is a sound basis for self control. It’s not helped any better than via the honesty of accountability for the self. Indeed, only after a few strong ‘no’s’ will we derive the power of cogent resolve. Then we’re on our way; it’s easier from there.

We can achieve greater self control one ‘no’ at a time.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Aligning Expectations with Experience

“Experience does not err; only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power.”

~Leonardo da Vinci.

A mentor of mine once lauded the power of experience, which is the sort of wisdom that no one can acquire but for hard work and the advancing of the years as they unfold, minute by continuous sewn-together minute.

Experience is memory as we retrieve those long lost fragments of the mind’s recorded data and use them to brace us in our need right now to grace the issues of today.

Getting Beyond Our Capabilities

We do this quite routinely in our hurry to ‘get places’ in life. We strive to be more experienced than we are. Or in other words, we try things for which our experience hasn’t prepared us. At times, however, we must do these things — life requires them of us.

But, most often we can get ourselves into trouble by just expecting too much from ourselves; that which our limited experience hasn’t prepared us for.

The Philosophy of Experience

Experience when analysed, is an incredibly latent thing. It lags slowly behind and we’re continually hurrying it up... well, until we do become ‘experienced’; then we’re not in so much of a hurry, and we may even lament being so ‘experienced’.

As a philosophy, then, experience is the establishment of things learned. Given that many of the things we learn had to be practiced time and again to master, experience is slow to acquire. We forget about it for a while and then all of sudden we reflect gleefully over our acquisition of it.

The Gap Between Experience and Expectation

We see things in life, things that tempt us, and we’re naturally given to covetousness. We want them now. Hidden deep between the crevices of truth, in this, is the fact of our comparisons with others; at root this is the sin of envy making itself persuasive.

None of us are immune from envy. We all battle with it.

Envy drives our expectations beyond what our experience can deliver.

If it weren’t for envy — which is again manifest in all manner of dwelt-upon comparison — we would not ask too much of our experience by setting our expectations too high.

Contentedness with Current Levels of Experience

There is a difference between asking too much of our experience by going too boldly about life, expecting opportunities that today are beyond us, and striving to learn and gain more experience at an acceptable rate. The latter is admirable and wise, whilst the former is bending to the world and the envy of the desires. There’s no peace there.

Peace is only available in the acceptance of our present levels of experience, but in the gentle though persistent hope of increasing our levels of experience over time.

Why hurry?

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Validation in This Sad, Mad World

“And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”

~Roland Orzabal/ Tears for Fears/Gary Jules, Mad World.

Whichever way we find this world nowadays is a reflection of our experience of it.

Roland Orzabal’s words to Mad World, strangely as it might seem, give validation to the Gospel message. Our true experience of existence corresponds, inherently, with God.

And the darkness time; what of it and the Creator?

God intervenes to love us in this stark darkness. Indeed, many have only found God due their most railing of hellish excursions.

This Lord will invade our gloomy being at our merest openness. Love cannot hide when there’s the possibility of reception; but it never foists itself over anyone. Love must be invited.

This dark time seems numbing, hopeless, deluding, maddening, pointless, and too long! And yet, God’s known most personally during such a time. There will be better times in the future where we won’t know God quite so closely. Trust in this Gospel paradox. We bay in that truth now. God is friend, mostly, in our sad, mad world reality.

How? We open our hearts, showering the heavens with our tears of torment; healing for the moment is the inevitable coming. Trust it.

In the deepest of darkness the Lord is closest. Ours is validation when we most need it. This is Good News.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.