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Friday, November 29, 2013

What Pushes Us Too Far and What To Do About It

“Without apologies, anger builds and pushes us to demand justice.”

― Dr. Gary Chapman, The Five Languages of Apology

INJUSTICE is rife over the earth in dimensions we merely scratch the surface on. And, yet, we cannot get over the injustices that invade our lives. They swarm in and take over. And we are left seemingly defenseless. But there has to be a safe way out.

When a person takes matters into their own hands we can assume, most of the time, there is some validity to their anger – their anger is an indignant one. What they are truly angered by is the transgression at the hand of a hurt person, for:

Hurt people hurt people

When hurt people are in a position of influence – and we all have positions of influence, e.g., the parent over the child – the opportunity to transgress a person is palpable. The formula for oppression could well be: hurt person + influence = relational transgression.

And, the fact is, we all get hurt from time to time. We transfer our unconscious anger onto people, sometimes without even wanting to. We have to be wary of ourselves when we are in positions of influence (all the time) in relational settings. We have power and the motive, and therefore the opportunity, to transgress.

Now we can see how it is that another person has transgressed us, and, without an apology that fits our requirements, that we have been pushed too far. The battle field is resentment, even though we may hate even being there – the ‘pacifists’ we are.

It is obvious: for very rational reasons we can often be pushed too far.

Protection Against Being a Hurt Person

Gird this advice in tension with the fact that we are all only minutes from being hurt, especially if our relationship with the Lord isn’t particularly safe and strong.

We are hoping to be people who can operate in a way that we can get beyond the hurt position – so we will need protection, which I see is an anointing from God that we can pray over our lives, such that the Spirit can avail us to power in this regard.

This was the idea sown into me ten years ago now; it has worked a vast majority of the time: “I can neither hurt, nor be hurt. I cannot damage anyone, nor be damaged. I am against nobody, and nobody is against me.”

Whether these statements agree with the facts you know about yourself or not is irrelevant. The key is our willingness to come under the Spirit’s protection – to be anointed to love and be loved – to truly become a peacemaker, a peace-creator, a peace-sustainer. We can promote peace when we are so protected in love that the enemy’s barbs just cannot stick.

We face a spiritual battle; not one with the flesh.


Hurt people hurt people and we are incensed by the lack of apology regarding the injustices we experience. But, just as much, we can climb to a position above being hurt, by simply being aware that God’s Spiritual protection can be invoked. This is about seeking God to become the person who has no enemy and can be no enemy.

© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Men, Women Prefer Small (In fact, we all do)

AN ISSUE for all couples is this: How do we make a big difference at the right time when the relationship is really struggling? A more poignant issue for all couples, however, is this: How do we, as individuals, show we love our partner in meaningful ways every single day?
Relationships survive on the small things that 1) are directed toward our partner’s need, and 2) address the issues about us that annoy our partner. Yes, even in the context of major blowups, these are the little things.
But little things can be difficult to shift. They say the devil’s in the detail...
They say the devil’s in the detail,
And that may be true of contracts,
But love is an exception to this rule,
Because thoughtfulness attracts.
Thoughtfulness is the demonstration of love by way of doing the smaller, more detailed things. A person evidences their love by doing the little things – without complaint, grandeur, or need of recognition.
How and Why Thoughtfulness Focuses on ‘the Small’
There is no sense to love without thoughtfulness. In fact, thoughtfulness is a sort of weighed sense of reason, involving the heart, toward an act of love.
Thoughtfulness focuses on doing the small things because that’s the character of thoughtfulness – and there’s a plethora of small things that might be done. I remember a recently separated father-of-two who boarded with us one night putting our dishes away. Had he been asked? No way! He was a guest. He not only found where everything went, he put all the dishes away very early in the morning whilst we were still asleep. He was so quiet!
Thoughtfulness doesn’t up the ante for its own pride sake. It raises the bar because it has considered, “How can I bless him/her.” This addresses ‘why’ thoughtfulness does the small things. It’s nothing about what it can, of itself, gain. If anything, thoughtfulness wants nothing for itself.
How does this fit in the context of marriages and relationships? It should be a rhetorical question.
First and foremost, marriages and couple relationships ought to be about love – not simply romance. It’s great that thoughtfulness is thought of as romantic, but that’s not its inspiration. Its inspiration is blessing – being a blessing to the other. In this way, the thoughtful person is blessed by God.
Relationships survive on the small things that 1) are directed toward the other partner’s need, and 2) address the issues that annoy the other partner. Yes, even in the context of major blowups, these are the little things.
It’s in the small things of life where thoughtfulness comes to bear. When we do the small things well, the big things look after themselves, because actually, there are no big things.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: this article was inspired by Kenny Luck’s video, Men, How to Begin to Develop a Healthier, Stronger Marriage.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Has Sarcasm Got To Do With Speaking the Truth In Love?

“No one was ever corrected by sarcasm — crushed perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.”
— Frederick William Faber (1814–1863)
SENSE OF HUMOUR, seemingly always a gift, especially in this age of light-speed communication, so often reveals the heart beneath the jibe, no matter how gift-worthy the humour is to the various hearers.
The dictionary says that sarcasm is a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt. It has the tending of passive aggressiveness about it, like, with what is said, because it’s couched in humour, it is okay to be said. But sarcasm is aggressiveness and never foreseeably born of love.
Of all the “one another” phrases in the New Testament, there is a common theme. It relates to love, to building up, to nurturing other souls. When we don’t love, or where we tear people down (even silently), or we fail to nurture them; we are not simply missing the mark, we are sinning against the Lord.
We should know it’s never acceptable to hide behind the truth, as if to say, “It doesn’t matter how it’s said; it’s what’s said that’s important.” No, the Lord looks to the heart – the heart of someone speaking the truth, but not in love, is a heart far from God in that moment and their opportunity is to repent immediately. Such a person fails to understand that the person they are harsh with is made in the image of God. Would they openly sin against the Lord, suchlike?
Truth Perhaps, But No Love
Sarcasm may be used to present the truth in a humorous way, and, by that, to make it ‘easier’ to handle – but for who; certainly not for the recipient.
Somehow the people who are around this humour – both those laughing (because they lack the courage not to) and those not laughing – know the sarcasm is inappropriate. It can never be God-honouring if it hurts someone, or doesn’t build them up.
True Christians are motivated from hearts within them to love first and foremost – to fit the truth within the frame of love. To speak the truth in love is about speaking truth, but only when it can be spoken of in a loving way.
Speaking the truth in love is both a privilege and a necessity in Christian life, but sarcasm can never be thought of as a way of speaking truth. Sarcasm may sound witty but it does nothing to build the other person up. Speaking the truth to others has no value unless that truth is spoken in love.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Love Is Blindness to Everything But Kindness

Love is blindness,
To everything but kindness,
So let’s see this come true,
In everything we do.
Love is blindness,
To everything but kindness,
When this is our sole hope,
We have strength to cope.
Love is blindness,
To everything but kindness,
For kindness is the key,
In how to truly see.
Love’s the Higher & Most Excellent Law
Let’s see love come true,
In everything we do.
Abiding to love as if it were a law – and it is, but not in punitive terms – means we exalt it. When we see love come true in all we do – perhaps in one day as a snapshot – we are encouraged by God; we are inspired.
Love is a standard that meets and exceeds all standards. It has no fear and it does not shrink. When we meet love’s standard – and we can’t always – we see and we experience what is most excellent.
Love Bears, Believes, Hopes and Endures
When love is our sole hope,
We have strength to cope.
Coping is about these four things. With love we can bear patiently what would normally infuriate us. With love we believe the things of God – we see a bigger perspective of reality and we are sufficiently open-minded. With love, hope thrives. With love, endurance has both reason and poise.
Love Never Ends / Love Never Fails
Kindness is the key,
In how to truly see.
When we finally see that unconditional kindness is our license to life – that kindness, all on its meek own, is the solitary thing that sustains our love – then we see why love never ends; why love never fails.
If we do not give up on love – loving those who even might despise us, with hardly a mention of those who have hurt us – we will see this truth in the fullness of its eternal glory. And kindness is how we do this love; by being incessantly kind – no matter what.
Who points us to love other than the Saviour – our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ? Such eternal kindness he has poured out through the Father’s grace on the cross; and, to share his Holy Spirit with us.
Now, there is also tough love: a real love. A topic for another article. But even tough love can be seen as kindness. Even tough love has a kind intent; for the betterment of someone though a growth opportunity.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Giving the Gift of Receiving

It’s said it’s more blessed to give than to receive,
It’s certainly the biblical mandate,
But there is also a blessing – this to conceive,
To receive the gift in ways to relate.
What a gift it is to the giver of a gift to receive the graciousness of the recipient who can enjoy receiving, not feeling guilty about receiving the gift. There is a gift to the giver in the recipient receiving something well.
It’s not a natural thing to receive something well, for we may sense the obligation to reciprocate, and worse, to do it prematurely.
When someone has genuinely and thoughtfully given us a gift there is no need to return the favour quickly. It may actually be a hindrance, relationally, stifling the sense of intimacy that is being nurtured, to want to give back.
Becoming Better Recipients
It is certainly a good indication of our comfort within ourselves to enjoy the gift and to receive it graciously, foregoing the temptation to shy away from the courage of receiving well. To receive well is not selfishness – it is a gift in its own right.
Becoming a better recipient – for God wishes us and wills us to be gracious receivers – is more about how we relate with ourselves than how we relate with the giver of the gift.
Where we compose ourselves in the moment of receipt we are able to be somewhat courageous by giving eye contact, a genuine gesture of surprise and joy, and a sincere ‘thank you’.
Once the gift is received with unabashed delight, the giver of the gift has received what they may have subconsciously expected to receive. Their giving of a gift has an inherent reward in it; God blesses us in the giving of gifts.
The key of returning the favour is waiting for sufficient time to pass that the return gift might be given out of a good opportunity, be given creatively, and elicit an element of surprise itself.
Being a diligent steward of joy is about being relational, acknowledging the flow of giving and receiving, and being in tune with the fact that even in receiving we give a gift.
It isn’t just more blessed to give than to receive. It is also blessed – a blessing for the giver of a gift – when we receive the gift well. Receiving gifts graciously is the doing of God’s will. Graciousness is a gift in its very own class. Who’d have thought that to receive a gift graciously might be a significant gift in itself?
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Is Intense, Lifelong Grief Really Like?

“Grief is crippling; an experience tearing and shredding your soul, your deepest core... it hits like a tidal wave, throws us upside down/inside out... and you still have to deal with life.”
— Viv Harvey
DEFINITIONS like the one above, descriptions of such deep and unrelenting anguish, juxtaposed with the reality that ‘life goes on!’, decree that life is a lot harder for some than it is for others.
Grief normally has something of a journey about it. We traverse a chasm without knowing beforehand its length. This is both frightening and frustrating. It’s a period of identity obliteration or deformation, and it takes longer than we ever expect it for our souls’ reformation to occur. Of course, soul reformation is about doing much grief work. Grief occurs amidst a flurry of highly intensive emotions of all kinds, predominantly negative, and most of them severely debilitating. The intensity of grief lasts a certain time – months, a year at most.
But some grief lasts... and lasts... and lasts a lifetime.
The Ambiguity in Lifelong, Unreconciled Grief
Within psychological science there is the phenomenon of ambiguous grief – a sort of grief that is as palpable as it is intangible. It is arresting yet irresolvable. This is a lose-lose situation.
It is very hard, perhaps impossible within one’s perception, to fully recover from such grief. In some cases it involves the reliving of trauma. In others it is simply the case that a certain ever-groaning sadness is inescapable. Probably in most cases of ambiguous grief it is difficult to control the pendulum as it swings between these two manifestations.
Hope... through Enabled Management of Life
But there is hope as we move our perspective from a state of acknowledged yet debilitating sadness to a state of enabled management of life.
We have our minds and we have our hearts – our spiritual possessions of capacity. We are good guides for ourselves when we are open to the revelation of the Holy Spirit – for only we can say how we truly feel.
Enabled management of life within a person’s ambiguous grief, it seems to me, to be about accepting the continuity of the affliction (the rolling flux of good days – bad days – good days, etc) and simply managing it through an ever-growing-and-abounding suite of coping tools. Such coping tools include exercises, routines of peace, hope, and joy, connection with mentors, nature connection, desiring God, prayer and silence focused on eternity, etc.
Enabled management of life is the gift, also, of an enhanced form of living. This is about the belief that we have been scourged for a reason – a purpose. This is not about resentment. If it is, we are rendered useless for the Kingdom. But even in resentment we may bring glory to God. No, enabled management of life is about two core things: 1) knowing a spiritual enablement that means 2) we can manage our lives with the Spirit’s help. Power is experienced despite the pain.
If we believe these words, then they have power. There is no power where there is no belief. But words also have to be true. We will only believe what we know within ourselves to be truth, as we encamp with God’s Spirit and he confirms it.
Some experiences of grief are irresolvable. Such unresolved soul-loss can, however, be managed in an enabling way, though it is never ‘easy’. Sufferers ought to be treated with compassion and grace and kindness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why They Cannot Hear You Just Now

THERE is sometimes a reason people cannot hear us when we want to be listened to; when we just have to be heard. Sometimes we have exhausted all their energy and we have consumed all their goodwill. They could be our best friend, our spouse, one of our children, a parent, a boss, or a subordinate. But when we have gone over and over and over again on an issue – as they finally tire of our complaints – then we will hear what will be a stern discouragement: but it’s a rebuke we need!
I have found my wife this way when she has become completely worn of my complaints. There is no empathy left. I’m left thinking, “You heartless wife!” When, in all truth-inspired reality, I’ve been the one to exhaust her upon my insistence to travel that well-worn and foot-beaten track of selfish pride. I’m deluded, of course, and she will patiently wait for God to catch up with me.
Rarely do I stride willingly into a place of derision against God – where God will say, “You shall never enter my rest” (Psalm 95:8-11) – but I do, by my words and actions, occasionally get tempted and somewhat seduced.
One place where empathy just does not fit is in the presence of self-pity born of pride.
Opening Their Ears Again
There is a way we can be listened to; a way we can be reasonably heard.
We step down from the podium of pride and we take on the armour of a servant willing to serve the person we come to speak with. Relationships cannot subsist on a one way flow – one always giving, the other seeking to be received all the time. It’s just unsustainable.
Opening the ears of those who once cared but now perhaps don’t at the moment is about repentance – acknowledging the source of our self-pity (fear, envy, jealousy, anger, etc) – that self-pity was there and it was taking us to death.
Repentance works!
People cannot help but turn back to us when we have acknowledged the truth – that we did wrong – we abused their goodness and grace – and we now wished we hadn’t.
One place empathy just doesn’t fit is in the presence of self-pity born of pride. How can someone continue to support us when we are so completely and so conceitedly full of ourselves? But when we acknowledge our wrong, repenting of it, it is amazing just how caring the one who used to care becomes.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When Fear or Sadness Turns to Anger

WE LIVE in a cause-and-effect world. Things that happen have what Isaac Newton called an equal and opposite reaction. Emotional processes are certainly not exempt. Whatever happens to us has an effect. We can neither deny it nor can we make more of it than we’d wish.
It is what it is – our emotional process.
What goes inward must, of a sense, be processed, where meaning is made; where meaning rummages around in the vessel, sometimes coming out in unexpected ways.
There are times when we can’t possibly predict how we will feel as a result of something that has happened. We can always explain it better from the aspect of hindsight, but hindsight is not a gift we get in advance.
So, we are left with our emotions – those that result for our perception of justice.
Justice, of course, is clearly another matter. But we can be sure that our justice is faltering in contrast to true justice: reality. Pride – the ego – tends to twist our realities in favour of us and those we are kin with. So, our emotions can be ransomed. The closer our relationship with God – that sense of vertical self – the better is our awareness and our ability to receive the truth humbly.
When Anger is an Indication of Relief Needed
We should judge our anger much less than we do, in my opinion. We are too harsh on ourselves, and, as a result, we get despondent and then we are more likely to get angry – it’s a vicious cycle.
When we have a bearing or a gauge for our anger – when we feel the heat rising – we then stand on a precipice. If we act to deal with ‘us’ by enquiring “What is going on here,” we may then simply take a short time out to reflect, which is safety. That’s all our higher minds need in bringing some sense of integrity to our thinking – to take the pressure off.
When we are especially sad or fearful we are more prone to anger. It’s the process of transference at work. What builds up must find expression, and safe expression is unlikely to be found in the actual direction of our sadness or fear, unless we are aware and okay to travel truthfully in its direction – ah, that’s in the direction of healing!
This is why we take our anger out on those we love; they won’t reject us, or at least they will take more of our garbage than some would. But the better way is to recognise why the anger presents in the first place. It’s not about them, but it’s about our own lack. That acknowledged – that it’s our own lack and not really about them at all – we can call our presenting emotions for what they are. There is no need to spew our anger over others in ugly transference.
Anger is the indication of relief that’s needed. We are more prone to anger when we are sad or fearful. Simply knowing that anger is caused by sorrow or fear helps. It helps us control our emotions so others won’t be damaged; so that we have options like reflecting instead of ranting.
Our best ally regarding anger is self-understanding – an understanding that God can pour into us by his Holy Spirit.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Mysteries of Life, Loss, Pain, and God

At least once it’s going to happen in life:
To be placed in the furnace of grief.
But how are we to see God in this?
How do we get our relief?
We must know it’s a trap,
To think God’s brought this about,
Because the devil intends,
To take us through a resentful route.
There, we may stand there,
In the reality of our pain,
We should know God is for us,
And know it’s not about blame.
God cannot save us from pain in this broken, fallen existence, but He can give us something infinitely better as a reward for not having given up. Even if we have given up, God desires to resurrect us, for it’s never too late as we live and breathe. All the things we endured in this life, the pain, the rejection, etc, will be made relevant and understandable in the life to come. Though it doesn’t seem to make sense, all will make sense eventually.
This is the manifesto we must believe in: the one that makes sense in a nonsensical scenario that is our entire existence in the cast of grief.
The Perennial Question: Why Does God Allow Suffering?
This is a hard question to answer, and there are several valid ideas of response that make theological sense, yet I’m not going there.
I prefer the mystery of holding something indigestible and seeking God in any event. We, therefore, have no cause to stumble when our theology has to hold to a limited understanding of what’s really happening.
It may be a moot point, though it isn’t for so many who are stuck irreverently in their resentment toward God – a God who is supposed to bless them for their inherent goodness.
Well, none of us is that good, really. We all deserve death, yet we have life in Jesus, for the cosmic sacrifice two millennia ago that has eternal ramifications for the resurrecting of humanity. What we experience in loss and grief and pain is what Jesus experienced – a taste of what our Lord went through. So we have a God who understands and grieves along with us.
But all will make more sense in eternity. Blame is irrelevant.
All the things we endured in this life, the pain, the rejection, etc, will be made relevant and understandable in the life to come. Though it doesn’t seem to make sense, all will make sense eventually.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why We Judge and Why We Shouldn’t

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”
— Romans 14:10 (NRSV)
One of our greatest human struggles in becoming the people of God, and as individuals becoming persons of God, is our propensity to judge people and situations. We know we shouldn’t judge, and yet we still do.
As people, we’re all so different—in many ways, per Paul’s context, weak or strong. Our views make sense to us, but not necessarily to others. Theirs we find fickle, too.
The apostle Paul put it plainly in Romans 14:12 that we, each of us, as individual persons, “will be accountable to God” before the Divine Judgement Seat. That, and that alone, is the reason that judgments are wrong. Who are we to judge?
But still, we do judge. Still we condemn. And if we don’t act in these ways we certainly think in these ways. God knows there is good reason to explain this struggle we have. But, has not God provided a way out of this struggle?
Historical Reasons We Judge
Biblical theology argues a compelling case for the reason we judge: sin entered the world.
Now by nature humanity sins, and our particular struggle, one that is currently in focus, is that by instinct we judge. Our minds and hearts are assessing all the time. Sometimes we’re even paid to assess. It’s our nature to judge, and some of these judgments will lead to indifference, criticism and condemnation.
We have such a strong battle on our hands to defeat this human default to find fault. We know we shouldn’t judge and yet we still do. What can possibly help us?
Embracing New Creation Life Through Repentance
If we can admit that there is a historical reason that we judge people and situations, and that we often cannot help doing this, we can recognise our need of God’s grace through repentance. To recognise how far we’ve strayed in our judgments is the godly portion of a consecrated consciousness.
Living life as a new creation, which is a New Covenant reality for the born-again believer, is a thing we enjoy by status, but we still frequently fall short. We do not always act like we are born-again.
The way out of the mire of the old life, that makes fleeting returns, is habitual repentance. It’s the intentional merciful, just, and humble life eloquently stated in Micah 6:8.
For a born-again believer, who is also a sinner, the process of repentance is a fundamental necessity. Only by repentance can we be forgiven for our judgments; so better to be forgiven now than to be held to account before the Judgment Seat of God.
Judging people is a very human thing to do.  When we understand this we know we need God’s help.  The Lord will hold each of us to account.  It’s better to be forgiven now, by our repentance to turn back to God having usurped his role.  All judgments may be forgiven by drawing close to God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.