Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy in Our Perfect Brokenness

We are our hardest critics. We make simple lapses, forget to do things, and make mistakes by intention to do better, and we are so hard on ourselves. But there is a fundamental matter we cannot change about our humanity: we are perfectly broken. We will have slips—embarrassing and pitiful and damaging—as well as errors of judgment, for which we can call mistakes. No matter how hard we try we are condemned to this condition of perfect brokenness. The good news is everyone else is too!
That’s not the end of the story, however. Failure is actually the beginning. Failure we can rejoice in, simply because out of failure and our handling of such disasters comes opportunities to glorify God.
Hear this powerful truth:
“A virtuoso is not someone who never makes an error, but someone who detects and recovers from the error.”
    Professor James Reason CBE
(Human error expert)
When we are mindful we can detect errors before they occur. But time after time we will be absent-minded. On these occasions our task is recovery, for the damage is often already done. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. Indeed, it won’t be the last error or mistake we make, and recoveries are glorious to the revealing of our characters.
Think of the last time you were in the kitchen, making a pot of tea or brewing coffee. Ever lose count along the way? Ever put water in the teapot without having put the tea in? Ever pour someone coffee when they wanted tea? Ever made a coffee and put the milk back in the fridge before you had actually used it? These are common errors where our minds take seconds-long vacations. No wonder so many accidents happen.
Receiving God’s Grace, Not the Devil’s Condemnation
A crucial idea to master in the walk toward Christian maturity is this idea of receiving God’s merciful grace upon our own understanding, such that we can laugh at ourselves in nice ways instead of berating ourselves for the errors and mistakes we make.
This is a big leap for some, but something relatively easy for others.
If the devil cannot crush our sense-of-self for the slips, lapses, and mistakes we make, we make a resilient servant of God. In not letting the devil have a foothold we engage with God through Divine merciful grace; to the ends of tranquil inner peace.
We are commensurately blessed with humility. That is, we neither get behind nor get ahead of ourselves. Our thoughts of ourselves stay right where God wants them. We are to be even-minded in our judgments of ourselves. Neither are we totally brilliant nor completely inept.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Everyone has slips, lapses, and all make mistakes. No matter who we are we are fallible. It’s a great thing when we can go easier on ourselves when things go wrong, whilst having the courageous poise to put situations right.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

7 Ways to Take C.O.U.R.A.G.E.

Courage can be seen as the basis for the very best of life. As far as virtue is concerned, courage is the asset that facilitates real progress in godliness.
There are seven ways life takes courage, and these may be seen in the acronym, C.O.U.R.A.G.E.
Curiosity about our own fear: when we can be curious about our fear we become honest about our felt lack, and in becoming acquainted with it, that curiosity leads us to a choice for courage. Through curiosity we become open.
Open—mentally and emotionally: being open both mentally and emotionally takes courage but it also delivers courage. This is aided by being conscious, where we harness our energies, and we manage our fatigue. Through openness we take courage.
Understanding: it’s important that we are open beyond our fear, in order to receive the insight we need to develop what it takes us, individually, to take courage. Understanding leads to awareness, which precedes action.
Resilience in the face of challenging situations: this is to bear the strains of the moment. It’s in the hardest of moments that our resilience needs to come to the fore. We take courage this way when we decide by the power of our will to hold on when we want to let go or give up.
Action to do what must be done: taking courage is not just about making decisions; it’s also about having the poise to implement those decisions. We need to take courage in going forward, even though we may not know what exactly to say or how exactly to do what we need to do. If we are courageous, and praying for wisdom, God will lead us in the appropriate action.
Grace in order to temper the moment: just as steel is hardened but becomes brittle and needs to be tempered for toughness, grace works in our lives by helping us take courage by a subtle strength. Such grace is prepared to take the longer road in order to go the right way.
Empathy for all and to sacrifice ourselves: taking courage is helped when we understand other people’s perspectives properly. Empathy is available to us when we have sacrificed our own needs enough to see others’ needs.
Taking courage is helped by curiosity, openness, understanding, resilience, action, grace, and empathy. By these seven virtues, the Gallant Prince of Virtue itself—courage—is activated. Courage ignites all other virtue.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, October 29, 2012

God’s Here, Near, With Me, All Around

God is here,
God is near,
God is with me,
All around,
God you cannot see,
Unless faith to believe is found.
We can see God only by faith. To the uninitiated or the unsaved this may seem ridiculous; that we could see God, and that, by faith. For, what sort of instrument for visibility is faith?
Yet when we consider that the only real hope for life and spiritual abundance and a peace beyond our own understanding is based in a decision to commit to believe in God by faith, we really do see. We see life, for the first time, in the way it is supposed to be lived.
Seeing the Signs of God + Our Faith
Besides the decision to live not by sight but by faith, we can actually see the movement of God in our world, through the slow but steady action of justice, through the regenerative processes in creation, through a thriving human race that cannot but explode in growth, or through the majestic myriad wonder of scientific mystery through a universe much of which we still cannot explain.
There are so many signs of God in our world.
And then when we merge in our faith, in conjunction with the proofs of God that are extant upon our sight, we live by faith and sight. We don’t quibble about a ‘lack of evidence for God’; that would show our enormity of ignorance. A lack of evidence for God is a feeble argument, when we can consider we still have not much of an idea, comparatively, about many things.
But we still come back to faith! How can life be possibly lived any better than by faith? The truth is nothing compares to faith. And faith relies on a knowledge that God is here, with me, all around.
God Here, With Us – Justification for Our Faith
God is Spirit and God is here, with us, eternally, active in all creation, and ever determined to take all creation into glory.
God is here, with us, all around, and no matter what we think these facts remain.
Taking such facts on board means faith is meaningful, and even more than that, never more relevant. Because God is real and relational and relevant and realistic so far as divine interest and interaction is concerned, we approach by faith. Faith is our medium for relationship with the Divine.
The facts of God are justification for our faith. Because God exists and that fact is meaningful to us, we need an appropriate approach. That approach is faith.
Faith is our breath of the Spirit and our very means for life in a world where God is real.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Experiencing Grief Without Turmoil

When Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, contracted breast cancer and subsequently recovered after more than a year of treatment, and, then having lost one of her children tragically to suicide, her faith was tested. Anybody would have forgiven her for having given up on Jesus at that point. But that is the very point; throughout such a period of enormous pain and heartrending grief, she attests to a peace that transcended her own understanding, because of her faith in Jesus.
She experienced the full pain of grief without so much of the confused sense of turmoil we would normally associate with recovery from loss.
What was her secret? What can we learn from her experience?
There are many things any of us could say. But the resounding power in Carly’s message, for me, is that this peace that transcends understanding can be experienced, such that the enormity in something like grief could occur without turmoil, so that these transcendent capacities might speak all the more for the glory of God. Indeed, this is my personal experience, having recovered from divorce and the associated losses of family. The realities of God, as we can learn, surpass all other realities.
Believe This to Be the Case: Grief and Peace Can Coexist
This, for some people, will be a controversial matter to discuss. Never making light of the experience of loss, we must respect the struggle the individual has in mastering their new reality. It takes longer, and requires more of us, than most of us think.
For a few, this task of recovery—let alone peace—is too much. They die physically or spiritually. For some others, the experience of peace in grief is unconscionable, though they do go on to recover. For many, it is possible to believe that grief and peace could coexist, maybe sufficiently that God might be sought with the fullness of surrender in order that that peace might be their personal reality.
For a few, furthermore, there is the distinct possibility that the shackles of burden might be thrown over the cliff of the old self. As the new self is welcomed, and we thank God for the old self as we let it go, this new self we carry, along with peace, into a future without burden—a future that honours the past in such integrity of honesty that the only way forward is through a strength that only God can provide. This is a new life beyond any manner of previous conception. It is the true glorious life.
Going Onward With the Lord of Glory
Still not making light of such heavy issues—the calamitous falling of personal worlds (the structures of our entire selves)—we honour what we are leaving behind.
We can go back there in an instant. We are neither held back by the past nor are we scared for the future, because our new selves, our Christ-selves, are hidden with Christ in God.
This all-consuming sense of ourselves in God honours the past, is at peace about the present, and is quietly and patiently hopeful about the future. Life is explorative in this state, even from within the grip of grief, but some days this peace that transcends our understanding allows us just simply to rest, for the bombardment of sorrow and fatigue are occasionally too much. Still abiding, however, is peace.
Peace can coexist through grief, but only through a personal relationship with God, who gifts us this peace through the Spirit of Christ. No matter the pain of sorrow or fatigue, peace is found abiding, such that grief may be experienced without turmoil.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

A Peace Transcending Understanding

Let’s discuss peace; that quality of mind and heart people search long, high and low for, but so often don’t find. True peace cannot be found as if we could find it by searching. True peace—a peace that transcends our understanding—can only be acquired through the gifting of God’s Holy Spirit.
There is a peace that transcends our understanding.
This peace we can take anywhere.
It’s a loving peace we can be thankful for, in Jesus’ name.
Peace is like a butterfly,
Let it come, be our guest,
By peace we identify,
With a state of soul at rest.
Such rest in peace is an outcome. It comes after we have obeyed God. Such peace is a product.
The Peace That Is Product
As people, we often make the mistake by searching for peace in the wrong areas or ways of living. Peace is not something we find by seeking it out. Peace comes as a product of the virtuous work we put into play within our lives.
As we sow into the work of God—which is the opposite of our natural inclination—by sowing into other people, we gain a gift we could not receive otherwise. Or, by our surrender before God, as we note the provision of grace over our lives, the Lord gives us peace.
This gift is the peace of the Lord—a peace transcending our understanding.
No matter what comes into our lives in an attempt to disrupt this peace, well that falls short; this peace that transcends our understanding is not easily perturbed, disrupted, or dissolved. It’s a superior peace.
It’s a peace we cannot, of our own, procure.
A Peace That Cannot Be Bought
We cannot buy a gift for ourselves; we can only buy gifts for others. Likewise, only God can buy this gift of peace for us. And the Father did that two millennia ago.
So if we accept that the thing we want most of all—to live happily peaceful lives—is obtainable only through the obedience of faith to enter into others’ lives through love, we will do that.
The common tragedy of life, however, is we only realise the truth of a peace that transcends our understanding serendipitously. By that I mean, we find out by accident; usually as a product of deep suffering. And that is an important gospel message.
What often appears to be the end of life itself, can, through faith in God, be the most wonderful beginning. This most wonderful beginning is punctuated by a solemn and resilient peace that transcends our understanding.
Peace comes as a new beginning, when Christ comes into our lives through the Holy Spirit. No matter what comes against us, this smooth vein of tranquillity pervades our souls. We still feel, but a gentle hopeful strength persists through us.
With a peace that transcends understanding we are, now, free to live.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stay Faithful. Be Patient. Don’t Be Hurt.

This title is the exact wording I felt God usher into my heart immediately upon reflecting over a message by Craig Groeschel called, The Strongest Link. It is a personal message, but one worthy of sharing.
In this connecting-the-generations message, where the older generation were encouraged, “if you’re not dead, you’re not done,” and to sow into delegating authorities to empower and equip younger leaders, and younger leaders were encouraged to not feel so “entitled”—as the younger generation tends to feel—and honour those of the older generation, I was inspired to recognise that I fit between these two groups—in a season of ambassadorship. Soon enough it will be my turn to hand over authorities. But in the now, people of my mid-aged generation can connect the younger generation to the older generation and vice versa.
But I am getting distracted. The three phrases above meant so much as God shared his Spirit’s anointing for my life.
Whatever We Do We Aim To Stay Faithful
Even though God may be calling us away from our present place and into a new reality of Kingdom service, our responsibility is to stay faithful in the meantime.
Faithfulness is the ability to apply our faith in such a way as to remain on track with what we are already doing. For many of us this is a hard enough call; we may despise our day jobs.
Not forgetting that God has called us, to join his work that is already in progress, and has been from time immemorial, our key role is to remain faithful.
At Times Of Slow Progress, and Always, Be Patient
Notwithstanding the need to be faithful, we all struggle with impatience—though some more than others. God may deliberately take us into a slow time to test our patience, to grow our characters, and to refine our virtue, in preparation for the bigger tasks ahead.
Patience is one thing we can never have too much of. Particularly when things are discernibly slower, we have the opportunity to be curious in our frustration. Curiosity will heal frustration every time. Curiosity will replace anger with the sense for wonder.
Don’t Fall for Being Hurt
In a relational world there is always potential to be hurt; to feel hurt, especially by perceptions of conflict, ambivalence and rejection. We can feel rejected, engage in conflict, and have to deal with ambivalence just as much in the church as anywhere.
Adding to the relational dynamics, some of which we cannot control, are the frustrations that come emergent from within us. If we or the other person is the slightest bit ‘off’ there will be conflict, including the content of hurt.
Our task as new creations under Christ is too firmly resist feeling hurt, to forgive, and to rally hard—in peaceable ways—for reconciliation.
When we are faithful regarding what we’re already doing, patient in enduring tough seasons, and we resist temptations to become resentfully hurt, we please God by our faith.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Accepting the Way Things Turn Out

“Things turn out for the best, for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”
— Canon J. John
This is a particularly hard word; a difficult article to write, because it treats a heavy subject in the non-reality of words. The ‘things’ of life turn out beyond much of our control, and even though many lives go a long time without significant suffering, many other lives have more than their fair share of horrible realities to constantly contend with.
But there is a gospel truth to be heeded in every horrible, yet common, reality. Things eventually turn out for the best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out.
The difficulty is that time-lapse between the inception of problematic situations and the conclusion of matters. Many harsh realities take much longer in the resolution than we realise. Indeed, many of these harsh realities continue on and may never be rectified to the extent we would desire—for instance, the deaths of loved ones.
But there is still a great deal of merit in honouring every common reality that we are blessed by or stricken by—and all between. In responding to the ups and downs of life, however, we will tend to trip up.
Tripping Up, First
I liken myself to that of an early adopter, yet a slow learner. I get on board early, yet I usually still struggle to completely adopt change. Whether we are early or late in adopting things probably matters little, but most of us will find adjusting to change a slow, and, at least initially awkward, process.
We trip up, perhaps many times, initially. We might condemn ourselves for these failures, but we needn’t.
Adjusting to change can be a slow process involving grief.
Being Gentle with Ourselves in Adjusting to Change
The gentler we can be with ourselves in dealing with the way things have turned out, the smoother our transition period is.
Being gentle with ourselves is really about allowing ourselves the space we need without applying unnecessary pressure to ourselves. We all adjust to change much better when it’s not forced on us. We are most motivated to accept change when we have some say over when and how we will accept the change.
Major change comes into all our lives, and we are favoured most when we resist the change least, despite our need to recoil in initial grief. When we are gentle with ourselves, we have the ability to give ourselves the space we need to eventually adjust.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When Sorrow Is Better Than Laughter

“Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of expression the heart is made glad.”
— Ecclesiastes 7:3
In another sweeping biblical paradox, where the Bible suggests something that seems on the surface, unfitting, there is great wisdom in the truth that sorrow is better than laughter. The fool laughs in their frivolity, as thoughtless amusement frees their heart, but the wise are generally found more serious of demeanour; able always to discern all the truths of life.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with humour or laughter, it is an inferior emotional state in a broken world (though it’s still much desired, which is understandable). In a broken world sorrow connects us with the silent suffering majority—even as they suffer within the bounds of their existence.
Where the Real Life Resides
Connection is the keyword in terms of our existence, and how we find that experience of existing. Existing has about it mental and emotional constructs that, at least in some ways, prevail themselves over us. Things happen and we get a choice as to how we respond.
When life runs well, and we are enjoying a good run, there is little, truly, to be learned. Sure, we may learn to plenty of things in a satisfying season, but true learning depth comes about more so through a challenging season.
Of course, we all hate the irony of this.
But that’s life. At least when we are in a challenging season, and we are given opportunities to respond well, we stand to learn much more than we would have if most things were easy.
Where the real life resides is in difficulty. In difficulty we are connected, because we need connection, and because we need to think about connection and meaning.
So it may be wrong to begrudge the sorrowful time, though there are many sorrows we might endure that we would not wish upon our enemies. And begrudging attitudes and behaviours are understood by God as something normal of human response.
Experiencing Joy During The Low Season
This is another biblical concept that has the world in a spin. We may be a source of derision to suggest that joy is available during times of sorrow.
Sometimes it is a stretch to experience joy, especially in the realm of acute loss. But there is always, eventually, a complex thread of meaning that emanates out of the worst situations. At times we may not be able to call this joy. But as we do our grief-work of adjustment we are almost certainly working toward joy.
Reality is a harsh lesson, but it’s a very effective teacher. Truth is an ally, if we don’t fear it. With courage, we can accept reality. When we can grapple with any reality, we are blessed most of all. We learn these truths during the hard times. God should be praised for what he is doing in, through, and for us during the hard times.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Surreal Joy In Letting Go

Not everywhere in the world is blessed with many sunny days in a row, so I feel myself fortunate to live in a bright and sunburnt land (most of the year). As I walked one day recently I felt God usher these poetic words into the vessel of my spirit.
About 2 PM one sunny day,
As I strode outside—no sign of grey,
There I was, and in quietness, stood,
“For life to stay like this—if only it would!”
A wondrous sky, foreboding above,
Ventured inward thoughts of love,
Stilled the heart—cherishing glee,
How is this life, to be so free?
Watching others enjoy each event,
Of their lives, and how each is spent,
Loving this time is the task at hand,
A glorious reality in which to stand.
This very moment seemed so surreal,
As if my spirit was saying, “Oh, what a deal!”
Such fleeting presences unfold bliss,
Times when our joy simply can’t miss.
Then quicker than belief this now time ends,
No point really rejecting reality’s lens,
The wonders of life come and go,
In patience, more come—we should know.
Life under the blue dome has its good and bad,
Why on earth should we feel so sad?
Joy is patience—to bear the harder time,
To endure the horrors of life, that bark “Crime!”
Life under the blue dome, or perhaps ours is grey,
The choice we have is to choose our say,
Joy is a thing most personally relevant,
Oh what a benefit it is to feel so benevolent.
Enjoying Surreal Times for What They Are
It’s true, these times of internal benevolence, where we are just thrilled to be alive, do come and go. They appear oh so fleeting. And we are tempted to grasp at them, to retain them, and to relive them.
Life under the blue dome, or under a grey dome, or inside, or underground; it doesn’t really matter where we are. Appreciating the significance of golden moments as they arrive is all we can do with them—to just stay present.
Enjoying surreal moments for what they are, without feeling robbed and resentful as they disappear from view, is the object of maturity, of acceptance, of the ability to let go. Just like recovery from loss—eventually we are best blessed when we come to the right form of letting go. And when we let go we discover the beauty of going back, freely, as much as we wish, without needing to stay there.
The joy of life is letting go. When we can let go, the experience of the beauty in the things we let go of is again attainable. Suddenly we are able to go back without needing to stay there.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.