Monday, April 28, 2014

Two Degrees of Wisdom

SMALL GROUP time is precious in my sight. Times when a group of relatively like-minded people meet for a common purpose are encouraging, equipping and empowering. Times like these, as the group parts ways, are reflected on as uplifting, inspiring, and to a good degree, challenging.
One such challenge a group I’m connected to pondered recently was, “What is wisdom, and how do we attain it.”
We talked about role models in life; those who exuded what we observed to be wisdom. We talked about faith, humility, stability of personality, and character – amongst other things – in the characterisation of wisdom in a person.
But two defining degrees I came away with.
Two degrees of wisdom were these: 1) to be a learning person – fundamentally open to learning the whole of our lives, and 2) to be an effective and shrewd decision maker (which is a harder degree to aspire to than the first).
The first is a commitment to being; the second, a commitment to becoming.
Being a Learning Person
It’s not hard to be a learning person if we will let God humble ourselves in the midst of daily life. It takes a daily commitment before God, to allow the Lord to be truly Sovereign, such that we might see the opportunities for learning as they present themselves. They are all around us.
If we can see that life is the learning ground for the life to come, we will study our lives and the lives of others with new eyes – and a fascination. We want to learn from our mistakes as well as from our successes. We also want to replicate those things in others that we admire, without falling into consternation of people for the things we detest. We focus on what can be learned. It is a fact of being.
Becoming an Effective and Shrewd Decision Maker
Setting our sights on something we can all grow in is a good plan. We can all become better, more effective and shrewd decision makers. This, again, is about being surrendered in the moment before God, weighing the known information before us, and deploying the best thoughts with the best of intent, with the commitment to monitor the decision made. Faith allows us to trust the decision enough to see it thrive or fail. Humility allows us to return to the decision and make further decisions without being anchored, necessarily, to the initial decision.
What is wisdom? Two degrees of commitment are 1) to be a learning person and 2) to become an effective and shrewd decision maker.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Honesty With Baggage for Growth and Healing

“You can avoid having ulcers by adapting to the situation: If you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish.”
— Author Unknown.
We all have it: baggage. If we don’t watch it, however, the baggage creeps up on us insidiously and actively and harms our relationships, even at an intrapersonal level – we begin to live with indifference.
There must be no limit to the amount of baggage we can carry; we just load it on, over, within, and through the existing luggage, latticing complications and emotional effect—to the jettisoning of our spiritual health.
But, what creates baggage?
Relationship outcomes gone wrong and inappropriately coped with... losses and life blows that are destined to make us stronger weaken us as we take the wrong road to “healing”... crushing experiences from childhood... theft of our souls... abuse, neglect, sorrows, death, divorce, bullying, inauthentic rapport, lack of love, fear etc.
This list is endless. One common denominator, however, is the coping mechanisms we choose to implement. Go the wrong way and we attract only more baggage, and such intricate little and bulky large bags, packages, cartons and parcels of fear-producing anxiety. Go the right way—the narrow path many do not take, for it involves its own pain—and we alleviate baggage, learning to live, eventually, a free existence.
And this is everyone’s destiny; at least as far as the vast majority are concerned—those ones who have the capacity to be honest with themselves. This, of course, is a famous AA truism, enshrined by the biblical schema.
Honesty is always the best policy when unloading baggage.
We all have it—more or less: baggage. The greatest gift for the person seeking to offload excess, fear-producing baggage is to simply be brutally honest about their life; this is to be humble within themselves as to where they’re truly at.
Seeking the truth in relational outcomes is crucial. Reflecting over our initiated actions and responses, continually and habitually, calling ourselves to account, is the only way. Our relationship outcomes are our biggest indicator of success and failure.
Let’s be honest about the baggage we are so willing to carry, which does us only harm. Honesty promotes healing.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Journey Beyond Tyranny of Self

“Self is one of the toughest plants that grows in the garden of life.”
— A.W. Tozer (1897–1963)
BOASTING and belittling of ourselves is a temptation of pride and we are all tempted. Whilst both are at opposite ends of the spectrum, both occur because of the focus on self.
It can seem that boasting and belittling of ourselves is a highly visible thing where we prove ourselves prone to one or both in the normal flow of life. It’s not actually the case most of the time, especially with those who partake in analyses of self (truthful or otherwise).
Many of us will do these things unconsciously. Others will obtain ‘data’ from real life and assimilate it as a performance record – “How am I going?” There are reams of other ways we engage in this priory of self.
The Spiritual Discipline of Self-Awareness
In emotional intelligence terms, there is great personal and interpersonal benefit in engaging in what I call the spiritual discipline of self-awareness.
There is less of a problem with this focus on self when there is self-awareness – when we are aware that we are boasting or belittle of ourselves.
Indeed, as we become more and more self-aware we will take up the cudgels of God’s correction – to spurn this focus on self (apart from what might be gleaned for self-esteem purposes) and use such focus to concentrate on others.
And I guess there is no use in spurning this focus on self when God intends us to use it to a certain extent to gain relief from belittling ourselves.
But we must surely know that as we journey with God through his Word and through spending time with him in prayer our self-esteem tends to take care of itself, because we are bathing in his Presence all the time.
The journey beyond tyranny of self takes its mark from a focus on God.
The more we focus on the things of God – to lose ourselves in God – the more we lose interest in the things of the self. This is truly a blessing. There is nowhere near the allure about the self, or selfish things, when we bear thought for the things of God.
The journey beyond tyranny of self takes its mark from a focus on God. The more we focus on God the fewer burdens we carry for ourselves and the lighter and more joyful we come to be.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

For Your Sacrifice, My Gratitude

He stood there barely able to stand,
That rifle grip formed in his hand,
He was doing what he’d always done,
From the rising to the setting sun.
He had fought yet another long day,
His role to wait, to lie, and to stay,
When his minute had finally come,
He gave what he had, it all in sum.
He is our Anzac, our proud tradition,
He obeyed his country on a deadly mission,
For us we can never repay that debt,
Long shall we say, “Lest we forget.”
Their courage was inspiring. Their mateship was legendary. Their sacrifice is enduring. Their endurance should never be forgotten.
Lest we forget.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Building a Kingdom Foundation of Eternal Value

We achieve ‘so much’,
When we shut ourselves off,
Or so it seems,
Until we end up in a trough.
Then finally we come,
Face to face,
With the glory of God,
And he reveals,
“Life’s not that kind of race.”
There’s an eternity to life,
That must be respected,
If we are to get it right,
With blessings to be collected.
Many build their houses in vain. We all have. Many burn themselves out on the kingdom of approval. We all have. Many stake their lives on a wafer of a chance. We all have. We all fall short.
Success in life is the daily retention of the eternal perspective, trusting God to lead from that simple premise.
To build our house – the foundation of our lives – on vanity and approval and on luck is to build with sand or paper. But when we build on the rock solid dependability of God we can be sustained through the worst of disasters, because we know grief doesn’t prevent our advancement in the Kingdom. Indeed, grief may well facilitate the ordination of grief in our experience.
God’s kingdom, ushered in through the glorification of the Messiah, is a kingdom of no sense to the world. It is other-worldly. And to build within this Kingdom, and to advance, is to build as if we are allowing the destruction of what has been built. It bears re-reading: things of the world that are destroyed – empires of the sun – are necessary in bringing forth the Kingdom to come.
If this Kingdom we build on is a coming kingdom, and it is, because God has engineered it, then we are propagators of Divine work. What is valued in this world must pass away, so that which is truly valued may come and find God glorified through us for them.
There is an eternity to life that must be respected.
When we respect this eternal aspect of life – that ‘life’ and ‘eternal’ must fit in the same phrase – then we give up our petty flagrant desires, our own straining efforts, our need of approval, our striving for a fortune of any other bounds but God’s.
Nothing we build makes any sense or has any purpose unless we build a Kingdom foundation of eternal value. Why we do what we do counts much more than what we do. The heart makes the difference. A heart oriented toward the Kingdom will ensure things of eternal value have primacy.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

God’s Compensation of Growth Because of Loss

Loss is the experience,
Of a reality under fire,
Where the acid rain of despair,
Will come and chillingly conspire.
Loss of itself is not so untenable,
Nor is the presence of fatigue,
But finally, ultimately, undeniably,
There is spiritual growth into intrigue.
Though grief seems to take too long (yes, it takes too long) there is an invisible learning that takes place, the recognition of which is afterwards. Growth is part of God’s compensation for what we have been through. Through growth we are shown we are more than conquerors, through Christ who saves us.
If this were not true, the gospel of God, as expounded by Jesus and the apostles, would also not be true. But there is nothing more true. Growth is the point of loss, as is the restoration of our relationship and reliance upon God.
For, in loss we are reminded starkly that we have nothing dependable left other than God. Not that we know it at the time, but God is enough, though nothing seems enough at the time.
But the point is pain. And that sounds crass, but it is the truth. Pain will force us to come to know God more intimately. Pain will conjure notions in us to connect with others who will give us support, love, and guidance. Pain is a humbling reality, and we can all do with humbling. Through pain we come to know the essences for true life in a much more meaningful way. Pain drives us to question things; to get to and gather the kernel of truth and to throw away the chaff.
All these truths about pain are important to see and understand, for this life is replete with pain. It is evident everywhere we go.
Pain will take us into growth – though again it’s not to be immediately recognised. As we endure pain it will necessitate faith, which is borne on the wings of hope – a hope for a long time that is invisible.
Growth is the point out of loss, where grief is the vehicle taking us away from the trappings of this world we don’t want to let go of. Such growth is a fresh opportunity to escape such trappings – even those perceived of as ‘good’ – and to journey onward with God.
Though grief is long and tiresome, God ensures a good reward for diligent endurance. The pain suffered hopefully – though it doesn’t feel anything like hope – is ventured into by faith, and faith facilitates growth. When we grieve well we grow.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When ‘Life’ Is Not About Life At All

THE more we have the less satisfied, generally, we are.
This is a perplexing truth that God uses to show us that things other than his very self are meaningless, futile, but a chasing of the wind, without him front and centre.
So we can see, that life – true life, which is the portent of the Gospel – is not about life at all; not the way we typically see life.
We see life as a lottery to win, a car to acquire, a home to buy, a family to build, and a career to develop, with status to attain. But such meaning for life is never really life, because we never get there. We are never truly satisfied with what we have. There is always something over yonder. The thing attained is always nice for a little while, then there’s a quick departure into a hankering for the next thing.
True life – the life that Jesus came to give and does give when we accede – is not in the acquiring of things. It is in the acquiring of the gift of unrolling salvation as it takes its place in our daily life. This salvation is an acquisition of skilled access – the less want for things, the more want for the things of God.
This is not a ridiculous thing to understand; a lie of a truth, as if there was ever the possibility. This is about a truth that cannot ever fail. It does not fail.
As we approach life with no agenda for ourselves – having died to the self – we receive as life this life that God alone gives. It comes as a miracle, because we cannot have even anticipated we could feel this way, blessed in the holy cognisance of a thing so eternal as not really to make sense to those wedded to this life. It must be experienced to actually be believed, and then still, others will not believe it until they have experienced it for themselves. This is why it might seem like a lie.
But the gospel is paradoxical; it is a holy reversal of the trends of this world.
Our thoughts on life do not agree with God’s thoughts for life. When we jettison the envying, straining, driving, and striving life for the life that God has eternally for us, then we receive this one and only true life, because we have proclaimed death to the feverish, never-to-be-satisfied self.
At our end is God’s new beginning.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 21, 2014

This Is Your Life

Then one day you find,
ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run,
you missed the starting gun.”
   Pink Floyd, Time
OLD AGE is a benefit in that a whole life may be seen for what it has been. But the disadvantage is people on their deathbeds so often rue a life they feel was wasted, or, worse, was a source of harm for others. Why is it that at the end of life we see what we should have seen so clearly all along? It’s because our death encircles and suddenly we are poised to surrender to it. There is no more benefit in ignoring the inevitable. The inevitable comes, and it stalks, taking no prisoners.
We stand or sit or lay down in this day – our very moment – and we are beset by many forces that hold us in the place we are in. But at any given moment we may challenge one or more of these forces; some of these forces we will not what to challenge, but some we are fools not to.
We want to challenge those forces for addiction and habitual patterns we find it hard to escape from. We have great reason to overturn the control these have over us – we don’t wish to hold above our heads and over our shoulders that regret to be faced in those final days.
Then, what about the sudden death? No opportunity for regret is available. The next thing we may know is the fact of Judgment, as we are whisked away to face God in some ethereal way.
This is your life. This is my life. We live in this time because God ordained for us to live and to make our mark on humanity and life in this here-and-now.
Without creating an unnecessary urgency, this day beckons, because death and the afterlife both beckon – and let’s not miss this, they beckon in their immediacy eternally. None of us can defeat physical death like Jesus did, but we can take seriously the promise of the end of the physical life, and, with it, make the most of it we can.
This is your life. This is my life. But when life takes on a post-mortem perspective we begin to understand how truly important our deeds in the body are. From the day of our death we may visit, take a look back, and decide where our lives are heading now.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Making the Most of Rejection

It speaks to our human nature, but none of us like being rejected.  Our expectations are sown-in at one level, yet we get feedback that suggests we’re not there or we’re not wanted.  For a moment, if truth be known, we feel crushed.  And these moments can linger and recur.  
But this is an important clue for how we see ourselves.  
If rejections do have a way of being taken hard there are both consequences and limiting mindsets that come against us, the limiting mindset being one consequence of handling rejection inappropriately.
But, first, this classic truth:
Not everyone, or every situation, will approve of us, our abilities, or what we have to offer.  Everyone gets rejected.
Negative consequences are the mark here, especially when the rejection meets us hard.  Hard rejections are never really expected.  They hit us harder because the thing we were rejected for meant more to us than we realised, or if all rejections are meeting us hard, then we know we’ve got an approval complex—we need approval.  (The person with a healthy self-esteem can survive without everyone’s approval.  They’re free as a result.)
Consequences will vary from person to person, but an obvious consequence is we feature for the theme of situational emotional and spiritual death—our whole is subsumed in this one event... calling us to the limiting mindset.
Limiting Mindsets
The biggest issue with rejection is not the pain and anguish of being shut down, but the problem of the immediate handling of life.
Like pupils under light, our thinking constricts.
We become rather constrained to what we don’t have, and what we’re missing out on, as opposed to the vast resources we still do have.  Distraction becomes us as we replay the what’s happened over and again.
Ways Forward
Can we ever get to a position where we might celebrate our rejections?  Perhaps this is seen as one door slamming shut in our faces, yet inviting a better and more appropriate door to open to us.
Can we have an, “It’s their loss” mentality (without establishing it in resentment)?
However we handle rejection—and learning from it is the purpose, not languishing in it—we ought to see it as part of life.  It always will be.  We will not please everyone, and we’ll not attain to everyone’s standards.
The way forward is to keep going.  Go onto the next revelation; go with the flow of the river... don’t get caught up a muddy creek of resentment.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Wind of Peace and Its Influence Over Anxiety

The causing of anxiety,
Never really changes,
But at least through faith,
Our peace rearranges.
And what’s rearranged,
Is the handling of our coping,
Because joy’s eternally available,
And with peace it fuels our hoping.
PEACE is a wind – the Spirit – as it tends over, through, and in the human being entering into it; what is embraced is accepted and that is also integration. By the desire for peace, the search is initiated, and the discovery is made, for we will do what it takes us to receive peace. And the reception of peace is a great celebration, because we have just enough access to holy resources to get through the anxiousness we bear right now. For, this peace cannot and will not change our circumstances – for that is life – but peace is acceptance, and that, of itself, is the miracle – a thing we cannot understand.
PEACE is a wind – God-breathed – that changes things. It takes the anxious burden into the ethereal, and a fresh and divine perspective may be applied to the circumstances of the day. Peace transcends our perceptions of our ability to contend in the anxiety. With peace, our dimensions for peace are expanded. Peace redefines peace. As we partake, we learn more about what it truly is from what it isn’t – the wind; the Spirit blows into us fresh knowledge from our experience. Such knowledge empowers us and gives us a confidence that we can, through God, sustain ourselves, even in spite of the present degree of anxiety.
PEACE is a wind – the Presence of Christ – as we gaze wistfully into his face in the midst of the trial. For, as Christ suffered, and promised us, each human being, a suffering, we bear the reality of that – and the fact that Christ is with us never more than through our hardships. We may find the perspective alluring and amazing, that, whilst we bear this groaning all day and night long, there is a part of us so intimately connected to the Lord, it doesn’t really matter any more. We are found, within ourselves, to be more than conquerors through Christ, who is risen in us by his Holy Spirit.
Peace is a wind – the Holy Spirit. The Wind is what occupies the entire space beneath our wings of confidence in the midst of trial. Quelling fear, anxiousness, and discouragement, the Wind stabilizes, lightens, and restores.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Anguish of Love Lost In Grief

TEARS are the attempt at reconciling such a depth of emotion that cannot ever be understood. When that one is lost – that father with a young son, the father who was needed for some decades to come, the father whose life is cut way too short, so suddenly – it leaves us completely bereft of viable response. What can be done? What can possibly be done.
Nothing can be done in the midst of anguish; love lost, to the point of everything, in grief.
Life is a tragedy waiting to happen and we can very well wonder what is going on. We can wonder what point there is. We can wonder what God is doing. Why is life so hard, so enticingly perplexing, so bitterly ingratiating?
We have no have answer for the life ripped right away – except the cold comfort of glory. I say cold comfort because it is good for the one we lost to be away with the Lord – HOME – but, as we remain in the body, it is grief we are left with.
The anguish of love lost in grief is unparalleled as a flipside for all the best things enshrined in love.
It is always children that bring me to tears out of loss – a parent gone prematurely, and why? We can well ask. Those innocent children. They grow up without a dad; the one who loves them like no other person possibly can. And what about what he misses out on? It is unfair.
But there is a point in grief.
Grief is the requiem of love gone wrong, for all love that is lost is somehow wrong to our human sense for things. Anguish is passion taken all the way to its extremities of pushing the human will to survive. Anguish strains every emotional sinew to breaking point.
But anguish is just the thing that can bring us into the definitive Presence of the living God. Only as we are touched with the death of Jesus can we begin to see his life. And we see that in grief. As loss occurs to us and we grieve there is an untenable anguish that catapults us to God; the fool resists what should never be resisted.
The only way death can possibly be understood is through the eyes of God.
As anguish is revealed in the form of loss, and the blackened clouds of grief roll in, there is an open door to God; to receive a healing dose of his Spirit that will eventually help us understand – why this, why now.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.