Saturday, March 31, 2012

Taking Fresh Spiritual Inventory

How often do we take stock? Meaning many things to many people, the term ‘taking inventory’ can mean:
1.      Taking stock of our sins;
2.      Reconciling recollection of our blessings;
3.      Reviewing our lives; and,
4.      Taking stock of our future prospects.
1. Taking Stock Of Our Sins
Hardly a thing to cause us guilt, though many would fall into such a trap, taking stock of our sins is thanking our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ—for the grace magnified in him to save us.
Making an objective inventory is not intended to cause guilt-impounded grief, but each and every point of recognition calls us higher to God in a fresh revival of thankfulness. Every remembered sin reminds us of the grace that saves us from that sin.
2. Reconciling Recollection Of Our Blessings
Remembering our blessings by recollecting them gratifies our sense for the truths of goodness operating in our lives. There are far many more blessings within our lives than there are curses. Yet, our grossest of misfortunes have, many times, made us!
Reconciling the recollection of these blessings is a step further on.
It ponders the blessing and reflects over it, making some acute sense of the wonder in the gift that translates as these blessings. Perhaps none of us really reconciles the depth of blessing abounding to us; at least to the extent we could. But, we’re blessed all the more as we try.
3. Reviewing Our Lives
Just how often the lifespan is considered in our estimation is a good question. We certainly consider it at a superficial level, and most abundantly at births, weddings and funerals, but how often in our daily experience do we further our enquiry into things so spiritually laden?
Reviewing our lives without despoiling the causes for consequence that have stunted the growth of each of us is important. Why do we insist on being held back by things that can’t hurt us anymore? Why not, instead, learn from them? They were given to us for the expressed intention of learning.
4. Taking Stock Of Our Future Prospects
For the faithfulness of God to have carried us thus far without too great a tumult that we remain is no small mercy. That thought should catapult us into hope for a future of fortuitously resilient prospect. In short, if we’ve survived (spiritually) so far what’s to think we won’t continue?
Those who fight the good fight of faith will know the faithfulness of God. That’s a good future to take stock of.
Taking stock within our lives, of our sins and the grace of God, of our misfortunes and resulting blessings, and of our future prospects in the faith, is an opportunity at oneness with our Lord. Taking fresh inventory is about honouring the truth in the unfolding of one life: our life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Christolakis.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Connecting With Our Brokenness

If we were to partake in an activity of group therapy, sharing with one another our thoughts, impressions and experiences, we’d see and learn how broken we are. Indeed, many may already assume this having previously become aware. Brokenness, of this sense, is about coming face-to-face with our experienced ineptitude, acknowledging that in most situations of life we’ve come up short; not because we didn’t care, it was because we were incapable of an adequate response.
Life is a thing that undoes us, and so regularly we probably scarcely give it a thought.
Having Empathy With Ourselves
There are many people who don’t feel comfortable connecting with their brokenness, for the things such a state will reveal about them that would be better left. The rationale might be, ‘What I don’t know about can’t hurt me’. But being disconnected from their brokenness will require them to be perennial escape artists—having to live with themselves, but apart from their core selves, never truly home to themselves.
It may take some initial courage to be open to our brokenness within—a thing, again, no matter how well-adjusted our families-of-origin were, that exists within everyone, though maybe a little more or less in some than others. But the fact is we can balance the need for courage by being empathetic with ourselves. We do this by understanding that none of our caused brokenness is our fault and none of it, as far as we were concerned, happened because we wanted it or allowed it to happen.
Empathy is easy when our perceptions come home to the fact that brokenness is a human universal. Indeed, such a thing merely accentuates the need every human being has for a Saviour. Everybody needs God.
From Empathy To Connectedness
The essence of the process taking us from the denial of our brokenness to our unconditional acceptance of it is an ability to see things as they really are, more and more.
Travelling on this journey is a wonderfully freeing experience; the more we sojourn the more we realise the polar complexities of life and our miniscule control over them. Along with that revelation comes the revelation, also, that our parents and other authority figures in our lives were just as much victims of these polar complexities as we have been. Our empathy with ourselves morphs, hopefully, into a more universal feeling of compassion for all the actors in life.
About this point, as we begin touching our compassionate selves, having a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, and our individual and collective brokenness, we begin to see more truly as God sees.
Connecting with our brokenness is a journey to freedom. It takes us to a better understanding of ourselves, others in our pasts, and God. When we can touch our brokenness and not flee in fear we become connected with compassion and all of life blooms.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Containing the Messiness of Life

When our problems get to number more than three or four we get a strong inclination to walk out the door; most of us. And whether it’s physically departing or unconsciously disconnecting matters little. Too much messiness is difficult to contain.
But the skilled of all people, despite their messed up minds and lives, manage to somehow contain the overwhelming impossible. They don’t do this through endurance, but through honest acceptance. They know life is messed up at times, just as life seems surreally clean at others.
Holding A Ticking Bomb
It may be politically incorrect to use the ticking bomb analogy, but each of our lives might resemble something that might ‘go off’ at an appointed time. The humbling thing is we often cannot tell when; it ticks and ticks and ticks... then boom!
We may have planned a holiday or vacation, some lovely time off, but reality bites soon enough; soon we’re back into the filthy fray, within the heated demands of a life we, at times, just want to escape from. We recognise this if we’re honest. We have a happy day, thinking that life has never been more wonderful, and the very next day, WHACK, and we wonder what’s hit us. Maybe rather than a ticking bomb we’ve walked over a landmine. Times like these the previous day’s happiness appears overrated, indeed.
Getting Past Unrealistic Expectations
If only, within the broad expanse of life, we could satisfy our foolishness to never get ahead of ourselves; to rein in our expectations that seem to float and waft via our imaginations. But if we’re not capable of happiness and sadness, or celebration and disappointment it makes for a pretty boring life—not that we want much (or any) of the sadness and disappointment.
Containing the messiness within our lives appreciates the value of reasonable expectations, understanding that a perfect life, without messes, is unrealistic.
An approach toward those ends doesn’t get much simpler than a one-day-at-a-time outlook. But this approach becomes clichéd. Practically we have our contentedness for the moment, but the emotional status quo is bound to waver, ebb and flow.
Beyond a melancholy resignation we can accept the good with the not-so-good, but only if we can honestly accept it. And sometimes we cannot. Sometimes it’s too much. Nobody is perfect.
Sometimes life is a downward spiral, and this can’t always be explained. Messiness beyond our comprehension overwhelms, but not if we hold the moment in accepting we’re overwhelmed. There’s nothing wrong with being overwhelmed. Sometimes life’s like that.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Image Credit: ClizBiz.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Temptations to Panic to Calmly Resist

The mind is a powerful resource; it can mean the making of us or it can break us, all in one moment. Temptations to panic occur within the mind, having sensed something fearful in the heart, and without thought for checking, or perhaps with thought, we bow to the panic or we resist it.
Take procrastination. Sometimes we give into the mood of indecision. Of the few things we could do none gets priority. Nothing gets done. Our sense of inner panic climbs, but often in secret. Maybe we’re used to this emotion and we don’t read it. Perhaps we pretend it will go away. It won’t.
What is, so far as a problem’s concerned, remains, if we do nothing to stop it from remaining.
We’re the ones who have arms and legs, fingers and toes, a capable mind and a heart able to feel. These are capacities that, when tapped into, give us the simple disciplined ability to overcome procrastination. That panic is defeated one action at a time.
Then there is uncertainty. We all battle with uncertainties, some are common to all and some are unique to just us. The presence of uncertainty won’t change, but our response to it, to face it with an accepting calm hopeful courage, can transform our fear. But we need to make such thinking a habit.
The presence of uncertainty reinforces we’re alive. It makes our lives into a motion picture experience, though sometimes we’d prefer to be in the theatre than on set before the cameras of life.
Uncertainty is meant to be blessing. When we chase it with curiosity instead of fear all of life becomes revealed as an adventure.
When Under Attack
There are three responses we have in responding to an attack. We fight back and, therefore, have panicked. We submit and, again, have panicked. The third option is wise in both its innovation and unpredictability. The third option finds the middle ground between fight and flight, and it finds a way to surprise its attacker—but not in a bad way.
It’s normal, as a human being, to panic when we’re attacked. But so long as we can conceive the ability to transform the attack, removing its sting, disarming its negative power, we’re only one executed step from overcoming our fear. Once we’ve designed our response within our minds we can practice it with our hands.
There are many forms of panic, but many more forms of calm resistance. Knowing what panics us, understanding how it comes, predicting its presence, and being ready to respond; courage is required, yes, but planning and imagination also. Transforming and re-channelling the energy in panic is simpler, for most of us, than we think.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

By Choice is Freedom

You can do anything you want. Though we often feel controlled by others and our circumstances, the reality is we are the ones who choose. It’s us and us alone. This can be easily tested.
We do this thing before us or we don’t—though there seems no choice, what we do is our choice. We choose it; we always have and we always will. We can refuse but there are often consequences.
Reframing Our Vision
By taking the time to notice the reality in the concept of our freedom, that which is actualised by choice, life takes on a fresh meaning. Sure, we have people relying upon us, and we even rely upon ourselves to do things toward the achievement of our goals, but we have control.
Now, there’s a great paradox to this control; we actually fear freedom—which gives us the ability to be responsible for our decisions, our actions, the things we’re accountable for; the things that history will note us liable for. We cringe under such responsibility at times.
Where we can conceive the knife-edge reality, that we both crave and fear our freedom, we stand with the possibility of reframing our vision. On the one hand what we crave we actually have, though it’s more natural to think we don’t have it. On the other hand we don’t imagine it consciously at all, but we fear our freedom; not linking the immense responsibility we have in being free.
As we reframe our vision, noting what we crave we actually have and not fearing our responsibilities because achieving them is routine, we have instant access to a meaningful freedom. Freedom works for us on both hands.
Symbolising Our Freedom
What we need is a daily reminder, even moment by moment, as we remember within our conscious thinking how free we are.
Some people carry an Ebenezer stone on them in remembrance of God’s faithfulness as Samuel did (1 Samuel 7:12). Other people carry upon their hearts an image or a liberating quote in their minds—they meditate on these. Others again have freeing routines that remind them their time is sacrosanct. Others, further, have discreet places where they become themselves to themselves.
By choice is freedom. By choice, and the use our imaginations, we decree what we will do. And beyond feeling controlled, we can feel in control just in the way we think. Even when, by our responsibilities, we must choose a certain way, we’re free to be responsible.
It’s enormously liberating to know how much personal control we have; to decide in congruence with what a mature person would decide. There’s much pleasure in that as only we’d feel it.
Freedom isn’t as abstract a concept as we think. Within the boundaries that make up our lives we have indefinite freedom; freedom to love, to succeed, to fail, to have our opinions. There’s enough freedom in life to feel free, yet not too much to feel out of control. It is this way if we believe it to be this way.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, March 26, 2012

When Problems Are Good

Beyond positive psychology there’s eternal truth within the fact that problems are good. Problems generate stimulus for change; to provoke responses against paralysis. If it weren’t for problems we would barely live. Problems only become problematic when they exhaust our resources to cope. And overcoming our troubles builds those resources.

Problems reveal, very much, issues of our state- and position-of-mind. How we tackle our problems, and whether we do or not, depends again on those resources we have for resiliency. The resilient person doesn’t quite know how to give up. They recognise their problems, but they feel compelled to improvise, adapt and overcome them.

Troubles become impetus for their meaning for life. Their lives are made richer because of them. Everyone can develop in this resiliency.

When Problems Become The Source Of Opportunities

Depending on our personalities we may or may not see the veracity of this argument. But it pays handsomely to respect the logic that overcomes in life; if we didn’t, it might leave us defeated for an effective response, because we all have problems; they’re daily occurrences.

Converting situations we deem as problematic into opportunities to be overcome isn’t just the belief in and employment of pop psychology.

Actually identifying our problems, and creating opportunities to overcome them, those that wouldn’t otherwise present, is a lot more complex than the naysayers understand. Those not buying into the ‘rubbish’ of resiliency live stoically foolish lives, when they could just as easily employ such efforts for faith in tackling the truth—problems are there to be overcome.

The reason some relish problems as opportunities is they have faith in a simple fact. They believe in the goodness of life. They view life in simple, non-insidious terms, where smoke and mirrors are irrelevant and metaphors for life are productive. They insist on keeping their perspective. And they refuse to believe everything their imaginations can create. They learn to test everything.

Taking Life On

Notwithstanding the myriad nature of problems, their source, magnitude, and complexity, there’s very little sense in not taking life on. Even when life appears impossible, a miniature mustard seed of faith is all that’s required to test the overcoming way and find its truth appealing.

And though there’s the risk of courage required to engage the current nemesis, any lack of courage is taken as an instant admission of defeat. In a life where courage becomes simply a tool we choose to use or not, acknowledging that risk is present whether we use courage and not, and there’s little reason or logic not to be courageous, we may stand convinced. And better for us if we do.


Problems define all our lives—from beginning to end and all between. Overcoming our problems requires little more effort than pretending they’re not there. When procrastination makes way for a plan, and resources and time are committed, we can overcome any problem.

When we understand the purpose of life—that we’re destined to grow—we see that problems are the fertiliser fortifying our growth.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Red Letter Day

Red letter days, by definition, are very important days. Beyond broad definitions, though, my red letter days are days of Sabbath rest, where I get to be a hermit, but within communal surroundings. I am refreshed by visiting places of my past.

Red letter days, as you are concerned, are any day of significant conception that happens periodically—for rejuvenation. They happen often enough that we look forward to them and ponder them in reflection with warmth of heart afterwards.

One Such Red Letter Day

A short rail trip on a high-speed train got me far enough away from home to be on holiday—even for a day. Within 30 minutes I found myself walking through the outskirts of another city—an old hometown. The sense of déjà vu and freedom was palpable, as I praised God vocally and from within my being, walking briskly another 30 minutes to my destination.

Carrying very little but some reading and writing material I felt free and unencumbered. My chief aim was to get far from familiarity and just ‘be’. Being in nature helps. Being close to water, near trees and a breeze, with a coffee shop close by, is my idea of heaven on earth.

One skinny cappuccino and an orange and poppy seed muffin and a casual read of the newspaper may sound basic enough, but it’s luxury of historic convenience to me. Many times several years ago I would do just this thing, at this place, and to come back and relive those times was bliss.

I find that my red letter day experiences centre on coffee and food.

There’s a small traffic bridge close by where fishermen go for their daily catch; it’s quiet and serene and vision of the calm waters before me are therapy for my soul. Suddenly another vision captures my vague attention; without thought I’m scribbling away in my little notepad, and after several pages I draw spiritual breath, satisfied that I’ve taken down what God brought me under this bridge to give me.

With the sense of engaging relief, I ponder a meal—pizza, vegetarian. Sandwiched between ordering and pick up is 10 quiet minutes in a park setting under a tree observing birds. One seagull and one crow captivate my imagination; these birds have talked to me.

What better after a meal than to enjoy a sweet siesta under trees in a popular park with shoes off? A 15 minute nap is enjoyed, and the alertness thereafter evermore.

Time, now, for ice cream—3-scoop Sundae (flavours of chocolate and hot fudge) watching the activity on the water. Then time to walk for the train home—good exercise.

How Does Yours Go?

Whatever activities we choose to partake in on our red letter days might be beside the point; the desired material is a feeling of space and freedom and, perhaps like me, a sense of déjà vu. Whether it’s time alone or time with others is individual choice. Whatever brings us a feeling of engagement with ourselves helps us to feel refreshed.

Somehow we know, deep within or very consciously, what our particular red letter day consists of. Better still to employ the imagination upon planning. We’re the boss!

Red letter days are cool, stimulating and sufficient, seasoned with charm, and resplendently peaceful. In them we redeem bliss. That’s the only rule—they must be enjoyable. Wise are we to intersperse them within our busy lives. To be available for others we need to be available within ourselves—connected to the heart of God.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Making Sense of Time

Time waits for no person and sits momentarily yet ceaselessly, at its set apportioned place, in the midst of our circumstance-of-state, in the present. The present cannot be grasped, either by possession or understanding.

The moment comes to us by thought or experience or deed or opportunity, missed or taken, and then goes, as it gives way to the next moment in the chain of events which, when strung together, are the corpus of our lives.

Times In Terms Of The Past

And if only we could, by capacity and will and planning, possess each moment, by the material of memory, what a possession we would have!

But far from being given everything, we’ve the potential to take whatever we can recall and possess it in a moment, for a moment. It pays to build the capacity of memory.

Over the entirety of our lives this library of available memory exists—and it’s more than we could ever handle.

So much for the past—what’s gone—what can never ‘be’ again, unless by re-creation (a thing having at least two meanings).

Times In Terms Of The Present

Time, in terms of the present, is where time truly exists. It cannot, by truth, exist elsewhere.

Beyond memories of past and plans for the future, both borrowing from history and the imagination, sits a translucent commodity—one, again, we cannot have the whole of.

But, in some contexts, we do.

We’re sown fully into life by the fact we’re every bit here, alive, functioning in this world. Our moments have a pungent reality about them nobody can deny.

We do, in fact, possess each moment, but the possession is deeply conditional—at terms we also cannot deny. We stand, by fact of our presents, in the unparalleled position of possessing nothing but, at the same time, possessing all things.

I mean, how would we describe life to an onlooker who’s never lived? We couldn’t find the words or image or any narrative to convey the limited fullness of it. Many understandings in this life conspire against us, but the understanding of the limited fullness of time is one motivating many a correct thought and deed in dealing with an existential enigma. The limited fullness of time communicates a paradox, and if we can understand it much better are our lives.

Time In Terms Of The Future

This brings us to paradigms of the future: the only place borne of true hope, for the present hope is always dogged, to some degree, by anxiety for the lived condition.

Our futures fuel our presents. If not, we couldn’t go on. If we’ve never been loved, we live for the day, still coming, when we will be. The future holds faithful to our hope. Only when we despair of the future, completely, do we lose all sense of meaning. But, realistically, there’s always hope, because the future is so uncertain.


The past gives us our meaning and the future gives us our hope, in a world where the present is all we have. Making sense of time is utilising the productive past and hoping, effervescently, for a good future, whilst retaining control over what we have: the present.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Written on a train.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Times When We’re NOT Okay

How often are we misrepresented? To be remembered a certain way, as being categorically ‘us’, is a transgression against many of us—but those who’d remember us incorrectly ought to be forgiven for not knowing.

The truth is, whilst we are, at any given time, in our bodies, we may be, at any time, out of our comparative minds, broken-hearted, or dispirited. This is an incomprehensible lack, the likes of which we have no answer for.

And just as well, for if even one had the answer where would that leave the rest of us, backwashed against the harrowing business of living vanquished of desire. Not only would that be unacceptable, but reprehensible to boot.

Fortunately the human condition is home to lack; times, fleeting and lasting, in which we’re not okay. But... it should also be said...

Depression’s Okay

Despite the pain involved, the state of depression, though ghastly to the extremes, is a fundamentally acceptable condition for anyone in the position of being human. It proves us normal, thinking, feeling, responding persons.

This is not about saying depression or depressive episodes should be left as they are. By no means!

But there’s a point at which we accept depression is normal, as part of the human experience. It touches far too many to not be. Not only are depression and depressive episodes to be destigmatised, but they’re to be accepted, indeed welcomed, in the folklore of phenomena—life happens and we cope the best way we can. Sometimes it’s enough; sometimes it’s not. In all of it we’re learning.

Is it our fault one of an unlimited number of painful things has occurred to us? No, it could never truly be. Could it just be that Jesus, in John 16:33 and other such verses, is giving us a spiritual ally in the cases of depression? Here Jesus reminds us that he has overcome the world; that faith in his name is sometimes the only way through.

Experiences Of Being

The halcyon state is pure ‘being’. What a hard thing to describe and how much harder, again, to experience.

But being encapsulates whatever ‘is’ about us, just now, and it faithfully accepts a safe place within itself, beyond estranging fear—even though stimuli for such fear is experientially present. The fear doesn’t affect us so much. Oh, this is a salubrious thought—and to stay here, bliss! Nothing can overwhelm us.

So, where is this going in the context of feeling not okay?

Sometimes the experience of pain feels good, beyond a sadistic delight—only when we know the pain’s good for us. Stretching a tired muscle can be painful, but that pain reminds us that we’re doing a good thing for the muscle.

Likewise, when we feel to the outer edges of our being, even when we’re depressed, we know that by tapping into our real issues, the future will go well, eventually, for us. Good is being made out of the present challenges.


Given the commonality of depressive episodes, could it just be that such pain will work, eventually, for our good? There’s a purpose beyond all such mental ills. Just now, though, we invest whatever energy we have in just being real. God will do the rest.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Written under a bridge.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nurturing a Gentler Worldview

Is there a connection between the hustle and bustle of life and a lack of gentleness we’d otherwise wish to embody? That’s the thesis here; that the gentler worldview can only be nurtured when life is made to slow down.

The gentler worldview forces us to relax. When we seek to be gentle our decision-making is influenced positively and we wrest a personally-available control. Genteel, as is our encroaching way, we begin to care by actualisation. By our gentleness we begin to reject parts of the busy world and its hold over us.


Flitting here, flitting there,

Shouting fear, cannot care,

Not now; perhaps not ever.

Life’s run thin, no time to spare,

A deafening din, no climb to dare,

But... stop... now... be gentler.


Like most poems, they need to be unpacked.

Most of us relate with the ‘flitting here, flitting there’ nature. In just trying to keep up, in trying not to fail, and by trying not to forget, inwardly we’re shouting in fear; we cannot care when we feel this way—out of control. And whilst we continue peddling on the mouse-wheel of life there’s no real chance for the gentler us to emerge.

A life like this is run thin; like an internal combustion engine running lean for fuel, we are starved of the quality that brings any meaning for life. A life run thin has no time to spare. At times like this life’s a deafening din; a humming mirage of unhelpful noise. We would hardly climb to dare, by faith, with such an onerous worldview.

When Time Comes To STOP – Going A Gentler Way

By noticing how futile the busy life has become... we stop. We take the time to reassess life. We bow out of the rat race for long enough to get perspective.

At such a time when clarity re-emerges, we perhaps note that being gentler within ourselves and within our world is tending toward a more controlled life. With courage we take the bit between our teeth and we propose and execute some adjustments. Our genteel approach is marked in a higher sense of maturity; we begin to respect ourselves, our environment, and other people significantly. Time is no longer the enemy. We’ve made space, daily, and within our moments, for a gentle frame of mind and a calmer heart. ‘Gentle’ is now a byword.


An out-of-control life compels us to a gentler worldview. Being gentle with ourselves helps us be gentle in our environment and with others. Being gentle and calm we enjoy significant control. Life is happier, better, and more meaningful.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.