Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cool Relief Even Within the Hardships of Life

WHERE do we seek our relief?
From the wiles of life that stretch us and seek to conform us to their image — in the face of our resistance — we do well to be gentle. To be realistic. To be generous of spirit to ourselves. To land in a second, and better a minute or two, of stillness, in spite of the difficulties at hand.
Learning to live our new lives now could be an anthem for life.
Learning’s the grandest achievement of humility from whence we cannot go wrong.
Learning to live is a process never perfected, which sends ripples of peace through us to our core of soul. Never perfect and never expected to be perfect. Perfectly imperfect, indeed. Learning to live is the acceptance of the many mistakes, failures and foibles that intrude all over our pride. Humility is the better way. Say sorry. Prove we understand. Make it right, if we can. If we cannot, promise to try better next time. Seek forgiveness. It’s all we can do and it’s all anyone should require of us.
Our new lives begin now, in the picturesque harmony of brokenness that, in Christ, not only doesn’t ruin us, it makes us the unconquerable warrior God knows we are.
Every day we wake up a new creation capable of blessing God and others by being a blessing just because we can be! Oh how good is life when we realise that we were given a mind to overcome, and hearts to embody the passion to compel our mind.
Now is the ordinance of hope for a brighter moment, yes, even now. Even in the hardship, to take one’s poise and enjoy the matters of God that no one can ever know. Our experience is ours, and the secrets of the Kingdom are dwelt in our hearts.
What cool relief it is to know we can learn to live this new life now: that life starts again at the flick of a switch — a decision to turn and go and love!
May it be to you that you are blessed in the heavenly realms as you decide for joy.
May it be to you that you find hope from your soul’s insistence on gratitude.
May thankfulness be your song as your hum a hymn.
And may the inspiration of the ancient’s be your inspiration as they breathe old life — eternal life — into your new life.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Apostle Paul’s Threefold Ministry of Spiritual Warfare

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretentiousness that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we have real power to punish every act of evil’s disobedience.
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NIV modified)
THE Apostle Paul had more on his hands than invisible powers of evil. The Corinthian churches had ways about them that effused the flesh and the world, not primarily spiritual warfare. Indeed, Paul’s challenge was to fight a threefold sophistry — a spiritual trinity — the spiritual person’s common enemies — evil, three-in-one — with an abundantly more powerful threefold ministry of spiritual warfare.
The World, the Flesh, and Satan are beaten by an approach to war that Paul calls us to in the above passage. The steps are simple. They are ninefold (3 x 3).
1.     We demolish strongholds — which, for Paul, are presented as fraudulence and arrogance, as presented in the flesh. When people are intentionally dishonest to us and are arrogant about it, what do we do? We must find a way to demolish the stronghold of their bitterness by grace — for grace will smash anything through the most powerful thing in all eternity — love. But there are strongholds we need to demolish, in Jesus’ name, that are from the world: habits, greed, addictions, etc. There are also strongholds we must demolish that we can never see; those temptations to sin from Satan. These latter two strongholds are demolished by “taking every though captive…”
2.     We rescue every thought — again, for Paul in his situation, these thoughts were presented as the persecutions against him. Many times in our lives we have had people definitely against us; bullies, people who were envious of us, even people who were afraid of us. That’s why many of us have ended up at the very end of ourselves — broken, confused, and started on a bad road. But we demolish every argument and pretentiousness that sets itself up against the knowledge of God — that is, every good thing — by taking captive the very destructive thoughts we have as a consequence. It’s the same when the enemies of this world and Satan close in; they always close in on our minds. We are courted by the world and we are seduced by the Devil. This is why we are to train our awareness, by the coaching and mentoring — the very wisdom — of those who’ve gone before us; those who got through who will show us how to get through. We need to learn the skills of taking thoughts captive — routinely, promptly, effectively. Others who have learned these skills will teach us if we will fall under their guidance.
3.     We punish evil’s disobedience — Paul had to take issue with the Corinthians, and he was doing so in his letter as it’s recorded for us. Paul was meek in Christ and the Corinthians saw that as weakness. It wasn’t weakness, but humility — the very noblest of virtues. Our concern is to punish not the persons who do evil against us, but to punish the evil behind these persons. We see that the people who do us wrong are motivated by fear or greed or inadequacy. Maybe they are jealous. They think that offending us or even abusing us will make us buckle. And to fight them at their own game would be to not only defeat the purpose, but it would defeat us in their midst. We would certainly buckle. The only way to punish evil’s disobedience against the knowledge of God is to fight the way that evil cannot win — because it cannot understand it. Evil is shrouded in fear and so it cannot conceive of love’s grace. When we trust love as a response to fear or hate or jealousy or slander we trust something that cannot be worn down or defeated. This works whether it’s our flesh we are dealing with — we love ourselves with acceptance. It works whether it’s the world we are dealing with — we love God and the things of God more than the world that competes for our allegiance. It works whether it’s Satan inciting his rage from within us — again, we remind ourselves that the enemy is up to no good. We love ourselves through acceptance. We go gently. And we get alongside others who will help; our mentors, good friends, counsellors, confidants, and coaches.
A threefold ministry of Spiritual warfare: 1) demolish enemy strongholds; 2) take captive every thought; make it obedient to Christ; and 3) punish evil’s disobedience by unconquerable love.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Caring for the Carer – Making Care Sustainable

PATRONAGE is a role that has its nexus in the moment that a person or a couple or a group feels more than adequately cared for. It’s a moment. It’s a moment because people are prone to shift from a state of wellbeing into a state of need without much warning, and quite unexpectedly. But that is the nature of someone needing care. Most people needing such care need it intermittently, for a season. They are not characterised in being overly needy; unless it pertains to caring for an elderly parent or grandparent, or a relative with a disability. This article is aimed primarily at the care of only emotional and spiritual needs.
If we are in a situation of helping a person, or we help people, more generally, we will need to attend to our own care needs — if we wish that our care might be available for those who need it when they need it.
‘Caring for the carer’ can become a rather tired and worn out cliché. But it is healthy licence for some freedom related to contemplation, retreat, rejuvenation, and replenishment.
Finding what works for you and finding the time to get what you need; these are the concurrent challenges that are faced. We then also need to ensure we take the time when the time arrives. Too many of us have worked through a window of opportunity — usually for good intents — only to find we used the time we should have taken.
How we use the time is important. Some of us enjoy ‘downloading’ with others, relationally. Others will choose a good book. Others, again, choose to get some quiet time alone in nature. Especially supercharged people will want to balance the needs of other family.
The important thing is noting the moment that you feel free. It might only be five minutes. Sometimes we spend hours getting to that blissful five minute period — the climax to reach. Strangely enough, even five minutes of breathing normally can inspire a great deal of empowerment for the next interaction of care. Even better if we can replicate this each day.
Such a time of spiritual bliss, where the emotions are lifted into a smiling ether, is palpable, if such a time is repeatable.
Feeling enabled to retreat and having the capacity to reflect are what all carers need.
Our ability to help others is compromised if we don’t learn to help ourselves.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Healthy, Resigned Loneliness in Loss and Grief

Missing those departed is such a normal thing,
Memories of loss would have us reach,
To heaven in order to cling.
There’s a reason we can’t let go,
Not entirely can we release our memories,
To give them to the wind and thereby throw.
Memories of loss make life what it is,
Until we make that journey ourselves,
It’s those we’ve lost who we will miss.
There are notions of grief inter-latticed within the nuances of acceptance that produce an interesting meld of healthy, yet resigned loneliness in loss and grief.
We cannot help but be changed irrevocably by the death of our loved ones. The loss of our infant son merely underscores how important his life was to us. Yet everybody’s loss is equally mysterious. They are gone forever from our sight and reach.
Our memories of loss, whilst they feel they can initially choke us, will eventually and ultimately be our badges of gain and of growth and achievement.
Such memories of loss can threaten to end life as it was—indeed, this is often the case. For the afraid it’s time to take some refuge.
When death’s come close on by,
When loved ones become strangers,
When we breathe a solemn sigh,
Loss is tragic, we cannot deny.
Breath of life, given to hope,
Breath of life, with no strength to cope.
We miss this loved one, oh so we do,
But eternity’s gain is comprehensively true.
Not long now, it tarries not a spark,
Not long now, God will call us to light from dark.
We clearly have the same hope; to go our loved one’s way, such that we will one day reunite with them.
We have no idea in the meantime what that transition will look or feel like. We have no idea what is just over the horizon.
The healthy, resigned loneliness in loss and grief is the place of unparalleled acceptance. We will never like the idea that we loved and lost, but we can hope to reach a place where mention of it won’t do anything other than nurture a sense of peace within us.
What cannot be changed will never be changed. There is a sanctified dignity to that.
When we arrive in the place of the spirit where nothing can floor us we have accepted something we can never change. It’s the best we can do. God understands.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Two Positive Ways to Bring the Prosperous Life

LONG ago I discovered there are two ways of living life positively no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in — in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, for better and for poorer.
These two ways are hence:
1.     Live as if there is no tomorrow. In other words, we would live as if we would die this very day — today! Now for a secular person that might mean living it up, spending up big, doing every sordid thing possible. But that’s not how to live if you believe there is a life beyond this life. We might use our final hours to say our appropriate goodbyes, ‘I love you’ to loved ones, and to forgive all the grudges that remain.
2.     Live as if today is the start of the rest of our lives. This way we put whatever has held us back in the past behind us. We move ahead unrestrained and unconstrained into a future replete with blessings of relational treasure. A future with a vision for spiritual prosperity.
The criticisms of the first method are few, if we take the latter attitude — eyes focused on eternity. The criticisms of the second method are also few, if we honestly repent of past transgressions against others. Hopefully we are prepared to live in the light only of eternity.
If we live as if there is no tomorrow, we are not plagued by fear for the future. If we live as if today was the start of the rest of our lives, we depart from guilt and shame for the past.
If we integrate both these we have the solution to most of our problems — if, indeed, the past or the future are problematic for us in any way.
Living as if there were no tomorrow, yet, living as if life starts from today, motivates us to make the most of the present.
We are neither hemmed in by fear nor guilt or shame. We take the present moment just as it’s presented — so totally uninvolved with emotion one way or the other.
Living for today and living as if life starts today is living grounded in the present.
Nothing can harm us if we are so dedicated to making this moment work. Nothing can disempower us if what was behind is firmly behind, and if what is ahead is left ahead.
Live for today, yet in light of eternity. Life starts today, yet don’t forget it may end today, too.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Existential and Psychodynamic Experience of Grief

WHILST those who experience grief are vulnerable, grief, in and of itself, isn’t set on keeping us vulnerable. There is a cool irony — a paradox of the ages — as, with grief, comes strength.
Facing that terrible existential loneliness — living as if we weren’t — leaves us, at least in our thoughts, backwashed and driven to escape. But the loneliness, when it’s fully felt, sanctifies us and grows us. We are found more intimate with our inner selves in accepting a mystery — a phenomenon that cannot ever now be changed.
Psychodynamically, there is something going on within the fissures of our emotional systems at a soul level. Deep calls to deep and only in the depths is there an answer.
Such a product is this: for the depths endured there is a cosmic compensation — a divine restitution that will serve us well. The grief is an existential phenomenon, but we have been forever won to the magic and mystery of the unfathomable. Somehow, the prospect of never knowing, of coming to the end of ourselves, teaches us a lot about life and a lot about God. We come to accept that our happiness is secondary, and we learn also the irony: when our needs are secondary in our reflections with God our contentment then is primary, and only then. We must give up what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose.
Out of the backdrop of an existence that is purgatory, we learn the simpler things of life that have the profoundest importance. We no longer sweat the small stuff. Everything of earth is fleeting; like smoke through a keyhole.
A grief encountered that made us well also makes us better. Not only is the present healed, the future bristles with possibility and the past has double meaning. A grief endured really does help us know what is important in life, and it is hardly the easy lessons that prove most valuable. Treasured acquisitions require hearty tussles!
Grief is at once an existential challenge that floors the best of us. Grief is also a psychoanalytic calamity, but with an incentivised driver; the purpose for going through hell is to keep going.
Grief will take us through intense feelings of pain for a purpose; to re-establish (or maybe establish) the bonds of intimacy which are borne of attachment.
Proper adjustment through grief is forwards and backwards. Existence comes to be scary, but psychodynamically we are never closer to a personal revival than when suffering comes.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Four Eternal Images of Life-Abounding Grace

ATHIESTS and many others are cut off from a vitalising life truth:
Grace. One word. What a flourishing concept. An inexhaustible quality. The answer to every conflict. The word we have in assimilating a mystery.
Grace walks in simplicity.
Our postmodern existence pushes us irrepressibly into the realm of complexity — just to keep up. But grace is in simplicity. When we take the power upon us to simplify we overcome. Grace is the ever-present reminder. Simplicity is eternally on the horizon, and reachable. Simplicity has the majesty of wisdom about her. Every important thing is ordered. Every unimportant thing is relegated. It is such a pity that we place such a huge stock in unimportant things. We can do better. Walk in simplicity.
Grace turns away from all appearance of evil.
Holiness is such an ordination of the embodiment of grace we can hardly separate them. To be full of grace is to be one, and at the same time, with holiness. To be one with holiness is to be one with God. To act this way — without thought — is to be gifted in the heavens whilst here on earth. Grace in us teaches us to become acutely and viscerally aware of even the appearance of evil. Aversion is our implicit response.
Grace offers no deceits.
There are no lies in grace. Therefore, as we act gracefully we stop short of offering opinions and answers that have a surety about them that we cannot, and can never, fully know. When we know the truth about our inherent deceitfulness, we begin to understand that even as Christians we shoot ourselves in the foot many times. Silence is many times more appropriate than speaking. Listening is much more blessed than speaking.
Grace does all purely for God.
Grace has no motive for action or inaction other than to do the will of God. When we actually mean what we say — “Use my whole life, Lord, any way You want” — God will honour our prayer. Then grace becomes us if we are exigent. If it is impressed upon us we will do only what God wants us to do — what we want is no longer important. We trust God, wholeheartedly, to provide. And he does.
We are great in the greatness of God. And such a greatness should always be enough.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Prayers God Answers “Yes!” Every Time

Let’s think about prayers that God answers every time.
Too often we find ourselves thinking that God doesn’t answer our prayers or that when he does answer us we are told, “No!”
What about the prayers we pray that are sincerely Christlike prayers:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing?” They do not know what they are doing when they infringe against us; they may not see any fault their side of things, nor the repentance needed, nor the reparation to be made. But when we pray, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (against us)” we are praying a Christlike prayer. God will honour that prayer. He will forgive them. And we ourselves are glorifying God, which is all that matters.
What about when we pray, “Lord, I am truly committing everything unto you. Bring whatever before me, and I will do it.” God will honour that prayer and there may be something horribly testing that might come our way. It’s a God-honouring and Christlike prayer, “Not my will, Father, but your will be done.” We will need to be ready for any possibility that life might pass our way — and we truly don’t know the half of it. Yet, it is to God’s glory that we can even utter such a beautiful prayer of godly personification.
When we pray our prayers for patience and strength and wisdom, God will give us opportunities to show patience that will probably anger us, and he will bring us to weakness so we rely on his strength, and we will be pushed to folly so we can learn true wisdom. God is not sadistic, but he takes our growth seriously. There is no easy ground in growth. Each inch must be taken through monumental struggle.
All discipleship prayers can be expected to be answered in the affirmative.
God will answer them with a resounding “Yes!” all the time — if he discerns we are very serious about them. If we are just playing with God we can expect no prayer to be heard.
When we are serious in our prayer, and our prayer is set in the context of changing us, God will assist. God will answer. And he will not tarry.
There are certain prayers God answers with a “Yes!” every time. They are the very serious prayers. They are the prayers we pray for our own growth. They are prayers that glorify God.
We should pray seriously, for our growth, and to the ends of God’s glorification. And that’s all. God will answer us “Yes!” each and every time.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Joy, Happiness, Bliss, and Delight, and Other Possibilities

THINGS we have no idea about are all around us — things we have yet not experienced.
Because we are so wound up in the things of this world we lose sight of the wonder just over the horizon that we might otherwise see.
Many of us use what we have with no thought for the future. Yet, there is that still small voice in us saying, “Stop it, already… get down, and understand me.”
Many of us have resigned ourselves to the sadness in our sadder days instead of taking God there with us into the resonances of eternity in every true thing. Maybe God is showing us something we have never seen before. Openness accedes to surrender and through surrender is peace.
Many of us parachute into our daily existence, delaying the deployment of our main chute in favour of ripping rampantly at our escape chute. There is too much rush and hurry. Too much anxiety. Too much panic. Not enough space, joy, or hope.
Many of us wait not-so-patiently for our time off, without making the most of our time on. There are blessings to be had here, now, in the midst of the strains of life. Think laterally. Think like God.
Many of us have decided what we will do and we stubbornly stick to the plan, even when it’s clear it’s not working. Many of us, also, have no plan at all, and there is winsome wastage in knowing there is a choice to be made, yet we wait and wait and wait without committing to something.
Many of us are out in the rain without our umbrella, raincoat, or galoshes. Just as many of us are inside, dry and safe, fully adorned for a hailstorm. Being safe is superfluous if there is no danger. Taking risks is foolish if hazards are all about.
Many of us never realise the rainbow immediately behind us. We don’t think to turn and look and be blessed. We don’t look for the rainbow. But rainbows are everywhere, eternally.
As consistently as the sun sets and then hours later it rises again we have junctures of joy, happiness, bliss, and delight all around us — even intermittently in grief and concern and weariness.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Don’t Give Up

This is a simple article to tuck away for one of those times we all have when we find we cannot go on.
Don’t Give Up…
When emotions seem all too wrong,
And feelings are all too strong,
When issues have come to grate,
And there’s a very real sense of hate.
When we’ve no way to steady or hold on,
And it’s all taking far too long,
When we richly need to create,
And instead there’s a perilous fate.
Don’t give up.
When things get far too deep,
And we cannot afford any longer to keep,
When we richly need renewal,
And we worry we haven’t the fuel.
When the deluge begins to inwardly seep,
And we do not like what we reap,
When we recognise life is a duel,
And that many outcomes are cruel.
Don’t give up.
When we know we haven’t the space,
And we can no longer afford the chase,
When we can’t even hope to get through,
And we’re overwhelmed in feeling blue.
When horror fills our face,
And we cannot help count the waste,
When our capacities are all too few,
And we hope still ever to hold lovingly true.
Don’t give up.
I am easily overwhelmed. Feelings of giving up frequent the mind. But I’ve found these emotional lapses into hopelessness go as quickly as they come. And the sense for resignation that I carry everywhere now never entirely shuts God out.
We all face crises at the least expected junctures of life, and when God finally has us ‘weak’ then he is able to bring us to a more adequate and speedy surrender. To be ‘weak’ serves God’s purpose. He knows we are never stronger nor safer than when we rely on him.
Giving up is inevitable. We will all give up. We will all try on sackcloth and live for many trials in the ashes.
But the time comes for getting back up and dusting ourselves off a little once our self-pity is exhausted. This is the moment not to harden our hearts as mentioned in Psalm 95.
Don’t give up, not ultimately. Though we are excused if we do give in for a time, we are not blessed by God nor anyone when we stick to our stubbornness.
We have strength to get through — and it is safely God’s strength that prevails.
Do not ever, ever give up,
Though things can at times get rough,
Remember whose you are,
That till now you’ve come so far.
You’ve stood the tests in the past,
And you have what it takes to last,
God’s got your future and it’s clear,
But he needs you now to draw near.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.