Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You Will Never Possess What You Are Unwilling To Pursue

“You Will Never Possess What You Are Unwilling To Pursue.”
— Mike Murdock
The day I decided to knock,
At God’s door,
To knock and knock and knock some more,
That day, finally, he opened that gate,
And to my wonder,
I wasn’t harmed,
As he had me wait.
We cannot have God unless we truly want him. God cannot be discovered – as if a long lost land – unless we are willing to search and plumb the depths and continue to do so.
The person that knocks and knocks and knocks some more, that person, most certainly, opens God’s door.
The title of this article is a truth that fits not only in this context, but in perhaps all contexts. But the most astounding thing about this truth in the present context is that it blows all other truths away. To know God – to have ready experience of the Divine – is to have no other need that God cannot provide.
When we are willing to pursue the Source of All Life, and to do so because we listen to what others have gleaned and gained from God, we truly put life in its best perspective, even though the world will tell us we are mad. Pursuing God is the best decision we could ever make. Knocking continually at God’s door will not only facilitate the opening, but it will reveal life itself, and a whole lifetime of life-loving experiences.
And the person who has knocked and knocked and knocked and still hasn’t found God, there is but one option: to continue to knock and knock and knock. God will be found, and perhaps more intimately to you than to most; not that that is to cause pride to well up.
The greatest lesson for all humanity about God is that he wishes to be continually sought. We make the mistake, all too often, to become dispassionate about things we should remain passionate about.
The more we pursue God the more we will know God. There is no limit to how much we might be blessed by God because of our plain pursuit.
The person that knocks and knocks and knocks some more, that person, most certainly, opens God’s door.
God will be known, if we wish him to be known.
If we have no true need of God, we may never know God.
The more we enjoy God, the more God enjoys us, showing us the way to joy.
A continual desire to experience God is the experience of God’s continual desire.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

‘Yet’ Is a Very Important Word

‘Yet’ is a very important word.”
— Sy Rogers
“There are more ‘yets’ out there for me,” I said when I addressed an AA meeting over ten years ago now. ‘Yet’ stood for, “You’re Eligible Too.” That meant anyone was eligible to backslide into drinking and disastrous lifestyle that runs with it. We are all eligible for a life that runs south by association with the wrong types of people and of not dealing with our junk.
But there’s another thing we are eligible for: the success of contentedness, the living of a hope-filled life, and growth through the pain of the present and past.
‘Yet’ is a very important word.
It should inspire hope in every single person who abides to the truth – not denying the truths of their lives, and deciding to grow not only through the hellishness of their personal circumstances, but to transcend them.
The Wisdom of the Negative Y.E.T.
A mentor of past would say to me, “What is the best question ever?” “It’s easy,” he’d say. “What’s the wise thing to do – in this situation, with what I have, etc?”
It’s true. We need wisdom on a moment by moment basis, for every moment is rich with the power for decision. Make good decisions and life goes well and better and better. Make poor decisions, however, and we tend to go backwards.
You’re eligible too. The proud person who thinks they are beyond making a certain error, may, when they least expect it, be sucked into that same error.
We are all eligible to suffer the consequences of our sin – or any sin for that matter.
The Freedom of the Positive Y.E.T.
You may not have achieved something you dearly want to achieve yet. ‘Yet’ is the most operative word in the sentence. Believe and you can achieve. Believe, because if you truly do you will ensure you leave no stone unturned that could possibly help you get to where you are going.
We throw off all restraint when we believe in a good plan for our lives, even though we don’t see it clearly. The less clearly we see that vision, the more faith required to keep stepping, especially where there might also be a void of hope.
Whatever we have not ‘yet’ accomplished stands there as a future possibility. ‘Yet’ is a very important word. Having faith means we believe that, through God working in us, we can do things we may struggle to conceive as possible.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Reconciling Broken Voices and Visions

What happens, what happens,
What happens in the mind,
When voices and visions,
Come in, to be defined?
GOD’S intent for humanity is so often not met, and one of these areas is how our minds work quite involuntarily. We are ashamed to acknowledge the sorts of thoughts – presented as ‘voices’ and ‘visions’ – we are subject to, thinking we are the only ones who are subject to such imaginatively dark fancies.
Of course, notwithstanding schizophrenia and other psychoses, these voices and visions are usually not audible and we take them not so much as reality, though we may discern there is a spiritual aspect to such communication. We take them much the same way as we take a bad dream – these experiences are unsettling, but easily refutable.
Whenever God’s intent to humanity isn’t realised we can call those situations broken. They may or may not be fixed. They may simply need to be recognised as broken. And many horrendous thoughts, manifest in voices and visions, can afflict the believer who now dwells firmly in the spiritual realm. Because of their belief in God they are now subject to quite a discernible spiritual battle. Even those yet-to-believe have their own battles, but they may not recognise the spiritual dimensions, or they will seek help from all sources other than God.
It is important as believers not be too concerned about the ideas the devil might unexpectedly thrust before our consciousness. He hates it that we believe in God, and will do anything to push us ever so subtly off the path of God’s delightful will. When the devil uses the mind, and furnishes it with voices and visions that are uncharacteristic to our regenerated souls, what are we to do?
First, we can see the attack for what it is; we would not mean harm against anyone and we wouldn’t carry it out. We wouldn’t hurt ourselves and we certainly wouldn’t knowingly or wantonly disobey God. These voices and visions are apparitions we rebuke in the name of Jesus Christ.
Second, we are honest with ourselves. The devil would love us to think we are going mad. To attest to the faithfulness of God, if we are in any doubt, we will seek professional or pastoral consideration. Many times we think we are ill, when, in fact, we are much more normal than we think we are.
Third, we prepare for the next time we receive a mental flash – a voice or a vision. We don’t stress and we calm ourselves by the Spirit of God within us.
Many times we are worried about voices and visions and where they come from. It is normal to the human condition to receive thoughts that are quite ungodly. God doesn’t condemn us for these, because he knows where they are from (Satan). We just get our thinking back on track, and with a smile.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: I write this acknowledging and hopefully honouring those who do hear voices and see visions that are very real to them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

3 Voices of God for Life

PACKAGING faith for easy bite-sized helpings, and for a comprehensibility we can handle, is an awfully enticing temptation. Articles like this attempt to package faith. I would normally steer well clear of providing ‘answers’, but this construct, like others I’ve ‘packaged’ is, I believe, sound and reliable.
Voices of Eternity
There are three quite essential voices that God speaks resoundingly from eternity and these voices can be heard eternally, through the fabric of life itself. These voices of God cannot change and do not ever need to change. They satisfy the human hunger and provide physical sustenance, truth for the mind, and love for the soul (the heart ‘representing’ the soul).
Three Voices
The voice for the body is physical sustenance – to keep the body alive and healthy through the intake of good food. The voice for the mind is truth – to receive God’s truth and accommodate it; the intake of good truth (is there any other kind?). The voice for the soul is love – to receive God’s love and make it known; the intake of good love (again, is there any other kind?).
Voices are spoken, and God speaks with a silent tongue, but we may know the voices of God by what the free mind may freely observe.
Good food, good truth, and good love propel a person toward a free life – the abundant life of God’s blessing; not a life devoid of hardship, responsibility, and sacrifice, however.
All throughout life we need to be on our guard for voices other than God’s. These represent the voices of bad food, bad truth, and bad love – of kinds there are all through life. These counterfeit voices look like the real thing, and so much so, many are confused – they appear to have life when their lives are spiralling. (Grief experiences are the exception; they have the appearance of spiralling, but we can and do recover from grief and often are made better for it.)
God’s intent for creation as far as we are concerned is that we live.
Good food nourishes the body. Good truth nourishes the mind. Good love nourishes the soul. We need all three, and God provides all three. This is to be our striving: to make our own, each of these three.
The voice for the body is physical sustenance – to keep the body alive and healthy through the intake of good food. The voice for the mind is truth – to receive God’s truth and accommodate it; the intake of good truth (is there any other kind?). The voice for the soul is love – to receive God’s love and make it known; the intake of good love (again, is there any other kind?).
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement to Sy Rogers.

Friday, February 21, 2014

2 Key Things to Know About Anxiety and Depression

“Severe depression is often beyond description.”
— Dan Blazer
We are somewhat easily discouraged by things we cannot explain, but there is a paradox in a mystery. Paradoxes appear as contradictions, and much mental illness presents as a contradiction. Many people appear to be happy and to ‘have it all together’ when in fact they can feel emptier by the day. That is a paradox. Another paradox is how the healing opportunity presents. Whenever we confess the mystery that we are overwhelmed by grief or sadness or worry and we don’t know what to do, there in full view at times is the healing opportunity.
At the end is the beginning.
Opposites are sometimes very close to each other.
(These are examples of paradoxes.)
But a hardening of our hearts, because we need things in ways that make sense to us, doesn’t do us any favours. We can’t just ‘snap out’ of anxiety or depression. They are too true to life and our experience for that. Many paradoxes are mysteries that cannot be explained and need only to be accepted.
Such things as anxiety and depression demand an effective response. And one of those effective responses is to come to an acceptance of the mystery before us: this illness may be beyond description. That doesn’t mean we have to give up.
Much Mental Illness Can Be a Mystery
We don’t need to be able to explain everything to understand that things are what they are. Could it be that there is a paradox in the mode of mental illness? That it is surrender and release, and not holding onto our strength, that is the key?
When we accept the mystery, and that takes us into surrender and release, our hearts and minds suddenly open to the options for help. Our shame is overcome, and we may even understand that there is nothing to be ashamed about – it’s not God’s will that we feel inadequate at all. It is actually God’s will that we surrender before him in the presence of knowledge we cannot know.
When we give up trying to understand what may be incomprehensible we are open to God’s leading and the help he can provide through various clinical means. We should trust those who have a backable credibility for helping.
Acceptance of the Mystery Opens the Door of Hope
One of the main keys of life is that of acceptance, and, better still, the acceptance of those mysteries we simply cannot explain.
But acceptance, as an outcome, is a journey. The more we can accept these mysteries that can’t be explained, the more we have matured. And maturity, as the goal, and growth, as the process; these are truly the real goals of life.
When we are stuck within a hole that is depression, or we are continually beside ourselves in an anxious flurry of chaotic head-and-heart-space, aspects of growth and maturity seem beyond us.
As we accept the mystery we open the door to hope, and it is hope we need to gird our way into the future; into a manner of being that is safe and reliable and trustworthy. Such hope begets peace.
Accepting that sometimes anxiety and depression are mysteries helps a great deal. In fact, it can open the door to hope. And though acceptance may be a difficult place to reach, hope is what gets us all the way there along the journey.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

God Loves You and It’s Not Just a Stupid Cliché

LET ME share with you about my experiences of coming to experience God.
It was out of brokenness that I fell to my knees, weeping uncontrollably, praying that believer’s prayer. It was in the midst of a tormented mind when I sought advice from an AA sponsor. It was when I went to Bible school and discovered I wasn’t the only person with a broken past that God had redeemed. It was in service when nobody was watching. It was in looking back over my past years and noticing God’s faithfulness in my growth; that he had changed me ever so gracefully. It was when I felt discouraged, disappointed, distrusted, and done-over and when I saw these things as material for learning and not resentment.
It was all these things above, and so many more, but when I experienced God’s power and Presence and peace most was in those times of surrender.
Surrender was something I learned was good, but not only most essential, and now most confusing. Surrender before God can be no bad thing. Surrender before God is the allowing of God’s Spirit to empower us to be real in our own beings.
We need to be real, which in itself is a cliché.
But I have found that being real is dependent on accepting myself. It took me a long time to achieve that! And accepting myself was dependent on a belief that God loves me. And God showed me in countless experiences that that faith was founded truly. The more I surrendered to God my total being, the more God scooped me out of the gutter of my filthy circumstances, the more I saw his love living and active, incisive and decisive, in my life. God proved his love for me, and all the more because I was a sinner who didn’t even deserve saving.
How could I not love God in return for having saved me for this new second chance of a life – to do my works of ministry in his name by faith?
When we finally surrender all of our baggage at the feet of the one on the Throne of Grace, we stand amazed at what he does. He pours out his love and redeems us in the practicality of the moment.
God loves broken, messy, awkward, ragtag, not-got-it-together people. When we experience the true Personage of the Lord, then we are convinced. It’s not about religion; it’s about relationship. God’s love accepts and transforms.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Valuing and Vitalizing Your Essential Loneliness

“I would like to voice loudly and clearly what might seem unpopular and maybe even disturbing: The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932–1996)
BREATHING fresh spiritual air is the name and game of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – that is, the reality of an abundant life so brimming with answers to life’s mysteries that it truly does reveal the Gospel as humanity’s true hope.
Answers to life’s mysteries: the attesting of God’s Presence and faithfulness in and through all human experience, yes, even the worst, with the average, with the best – all of it.
It bears remembering that the Christian life is no golden experience of unrivalled joy without the pain everybody else experiences. No, Christian life simply prepares us to live those painful realities without denying them, whilst giving us the strength in our weakness to embrace our brokenness.
Valuing Your Essential Loneliness
To understand that existence in human form carries with it an essential loneliness – as part of the human condition of being away from the Lord – is an invitation to accept it. Accepting something means we can take on an additional challenge – to value it – and to truly embrace a reality many loathe their whole lives long.
Valuing your essential loneliness is about knowing it’s the very reason we need God; that there’s futility and insanity in resenting the loneliness or God for allowing it.
God knows we have loneliness to enhance our experience of the Divine – that’s how the Lord has brought something of life out of the very remembrance of death: that is, loneliness, brokenness, isolation, separation, alienation.
Vitalizing Your Essential Loneliness
Having accepted our essential loneliness, we go on into the reality of vitalizing it – bringing it to life and into practical use. Not just an invitation into God himself, this essential loneliness grants us the opportunity to make use of it.
Vitalizing our essential loneliness is about wearing it on our sleeves with availability for ourselves and others. We don’t shy away from it, but we talk about it, we radically accept it, and honour God that it drives us into the very heart of the Divine.
Loneliness is central to the human condition, but God turns what is bad into something good by using it to turn us toward him. Loneliness is essential in bringing us into God, that our Lord might show us protect and cherish it as a precious gift.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

‘Welcome’ to the Club Nobody Wants to Belong To

There’s a harsh reality,
In the mode of grief,
We can know that it’s loss,
When occurrence is a thief,
Thieved of our rights,
To life indeed,
Putting life on hold,
Because of sorrow’s bleed.
It’s a life of death,
Or so it seems,
What on earth happened,
To all of my dreams?
Oh it’s happened,
Life’s sought to snub,
What did I do,
To qualify for this club?
Of course I’m uncertain,
Of course I care,
But this club could help me,
Understand why life’s unfair.
Grief entitles us to membership in a club none of us want to belong to: the Grieving. But as twosomes gather together, with similar backgrounds of loss, there is a sweet ministry that occurs through the power of God’s healing Spirit.
There is the coherence between loss and the ministry of connection. Experiences of loss are complete mystery so far as their meaning is concerned – the comprehensive nature of the harrowing pain involved. But by the ministry of connection, and if sharing life with the like-minded, even if that means sharing membership in a club nobody wants to belong to, there is healing – as journeys are enjoined and meaning is slowly made.
It is one of the beautiful rules-of-thumb of life that we do far better in community in the face of hardship, loss and grief, significant life adjustment, recovery, and even in trying to achieve what we previously haven’t. Other people give us perspectives that we cannot always glean for ourselves. And it’s not just any other person. The people we need are other people who will understand, or who will attempt with all they have to come to an understanding that complements ours. Their interest is in what we need, and we are grateful for their care.
There is safety and oneness in community where understanding blossoms. In such an environment new friendships emerge and take to the shape of what life has now become. This is how God works in and through people to assist our recoveries.
It therefore bodes us well to find the right aspect of community to cling to in loss; to not become isolated, even if that means we now belong to a club nobody wants to belong to.
It bears repeating. Grief entitles us to membership in a club none of us want to belong to: the Grieving. But as two or three gather together, with similar backgrounds of loss, there is a sweet ministry that occurs through the power of God’s healing Spirit.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Transforming Adversity Into Healing Through Serving

Loss is a heavy burden,
One pushing the grieving to rest,
Having nothing left is certain,
As grief puts you to the test.
Out of such adveristy,
Is there anything we can do?
Think with all diversity,
And something comes out true.
Flip this despair on its head,
Commit now to serve,
Commit now to get out of bed,
And chase the destiny you deserve.
“Everybody can be great... because anyone can serve.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)
SOMEONE once asked me, “What is the best way to deal with the grief of loss?” I had to think for a while, but in the end came an answer true to my own experience. The answer in truth is captured in the above quote; this is no new answer; it is as old as the ancients and anyone may apply its wisdom.
The way we get through loss is to serve, but we do not serve to deny our grieving reality. We serve out of acknowledged brokenness. Indeed, serving out of the brokenness of loss is the compelling avenue to God’s help – a highway to healing – because we must surrender and rely. But just because we serve doesn’t mean the truth in the loss won’t come back to eventually nibble at our ankles. It will. But as we serve we counter-attack. As we serve we practice resilience. As we serve we cajole ourselves toward joy even in the midst of mental and emotional chaos. What we can withstand holds us in good stead.
By serving we have redefined personal greatness. Personal greatness isn’t greatness according to world’s standards, but it is fabulous in God’s eyes. Every moment we push our lack into the background in order to serve with a smile, yet still not denying our arduous reality, is a moment of personal victory. Personal victory is personal greatness. And personal victories are achieved one victory at a time.
When we have grasped the connection between serving and greatness we have understood the secret of life that Jesus revealed in the Gospels. We must lose our lives to save them. We must serve with a heart to serve, and then this special God-blessed greatness is ours, in the instant.
Out of loss we have our destiny in our own hands. The secret to the best recovery is serving. We bounce back by serving. It is very hard to feel self-pity when we are busy serving other people. And though we will still have massive struggles, we will get through them all by serving, because, in that, we are connecting meaningfully with people.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

As Expectations Decrease, Contentedness Increases

“There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
― Gen. George C. Marshall (1880–1959)
As we get rid of our expectations
Our eyes begin to see
The possibilities to serve others
Then finally we are free.
When we beat past the ego and insist upon serving others, God ushers us into His glorious Presence, and at last we have freedom from self.
What is this ‘freedom from self’? It is the self that berates us with demands to be satisfied, but, by the nature of those demands, can never be satisfied. It is the self that seems convincing to us, until we realise where the pressure’s coming from – like, “Where did this pressure come from, and why, and why is it so demanding?” None of this self is from God, but there is a version of ‘self’ that is inherently God-destined and God-oriented. This version has others at the centre. This version sees what others need and what we might be blessed to do in order to help – yes, we might be blessed to help. Helping is a delight, and, from here, we derive a sense of freedom from the other self.
The more we are freed, the more good we may do; which need never be counted. Counting and assigning is not the point. Counting and assigning have more to do with expectations and the limiting – or an end-point time – of our help.
One of God’s invitations
Is to lower our expectations,
For when we expect less
Then He may readily bless.
Expectations that run ahead of reality are the ruination of our contentedness. Let us allow our selfless selves to run ahead of thought for gain or loss.
When our expectations have faded into the distance, and our consciousness is invaded by a sense for what might be done in God’s name, living is sublime.
Somehow our contentedness is no longer linked with what might be expected to disappoint us. Suddenly our contentedness may be linked with something so strangely simple – something bizarre – like a rainbow, a beach scene, an ice cream, or one spare moment to soak up the reality of being alive – no matter the trials faced.
Imagine the freedom of having nothing within us that needs satisfying; contented without a single ‘thing’ to make life better. This is the potential reality for the person who has despatched their expectations from present thought.
Expectations that run ahead of reality are the ruination of our contentedness.
Lowered expectations + focus on others = increased contentedness.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.